Wednesday, August 21, 2019

And Then They Were Doomed - Cozy Mystery Review

Goodreads:  And Then They Were Doomed (A Little Library Mystery #4) by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli

Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Little Person author Zoe Zola believes that one of the unluckiest things in life is to receive an invitation—in the form of a letter edged in black—to an Agatha Christie symposium at an old Upper Peninsula hunting lodge. Her reluctance dissipates when she learns that the organizer is named Emily Brent—the name of a character poisoned by cyanide in Christie’s And Then There Were None.
As a dreary rain soaks the U.P., Zoe and nine other Christie scholars—each of whom bears a vague resemblance to one of the classic mystery novel’s characters—arrive at the lodge. At the opening night dinner, arguments flare over the experts’ discordant theories about Christie. Next morning, the guests find one particularly odious man has gone—whereabouts and reasons unknown. Such a coincidental resemblance to a work of fiction is surely impossible; therefore, it appears to be possible.

As the guests disappear, one by one, Zoe resolves to beat a hasty retreat—but her car won't start. She calls her friend, amateur sleuth/little librarian Jenny Weston, but Jenny will have to wait out a storm off Lake Superior before she can come to the rescue. If Zoe’s to stay alive to greet Jenny when she eventually arrives, she’ll have to draw on everything she knows about Agatha Christie’s devilish plots in Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli’s fourth tantalizing Little Library mystery.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  How could I resist a cozy about an author writing a biography of Agatha Christe AND a retelling of one of my favorite Christie books?

My Impression:  This is the third book I've read in this series and I really think that it's going stronger.  The characters are a bit different from the norm - Zoe is an author that focuses on biographies of different authors.  She loves her fairy gardens and there always seemed something a little dark hiding in her past.  Jenny is a bit of a hand wringer and while she's very smart she tends to make rather terrible personal decisions.  Jenny's mother Dora is frequently the voice of reason though she doesn't feature quite as much in this book as she has in the past. 

This is the first book that has really taken place outside of Bear Falls and between the isolated location and the constant rain there's an oppressing eerie feel that runs through the book.  While this series has never been a lightweight cozy the themes here seem a bit darker.  We do get Zoe's backstory and wow is a backstory!  I loved the Agatha Christie themes but think this would be enjoyable even if you're not a big Christie fan - though it probably is a bit more fun if you're familiar with And Then There Were None.  This was a quick read and a compelling one at that.  I enjoyed that other characters found Jenny's indecisiveness annoying at times and had no problem speaking their mind.  I also really loved seeing Zoe more up front and center.  She's a bit of an odd ball character and isn't always likable but I always find her interesting.

This is a unique series that is a bit quirky and a bit dark and one I always enjoy.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I've missed a book in the series and I'm looking forward to catching up.  I'll also be looking forward to anything new.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy cozies then I definitely think you should give this series a try.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Favorite Tropes

Today I'm linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl which is all about lists.  Since lists are one of my favorite things this is one of my favorite linkups!  Today's topic is about your favorite tropes.  I had a bit of a hard time separating tropes as many of mine end up connected to the discovering of family secrets through various methods but I tried!

1.  The Life Explosion - I do love a book where for whatever reason the main character's life has exploded and the book is all about recovering and figuring out what they're going to do next.

2.  A Fake Relationship - When I see a romance involving a fake relationship I know I can't resist it!  You know it'll only be fake for so long.

3.  The Inheritance - Be it a trunk or a crumbling old house anytime anyone inherits something I know family secrets are about to become front and center and I can't wait.

4.  A Missing Person - Someone is missing?  Be it a cozy or a thriller that book will be on my TBR.

5.  A Cold Case - I find cold cases almost as fascinating as missing persons cases.  And honestly the cold case can be who stole a jar of jam 25 years ago and I'll still be reading it!

6.  Gruff Person's Life Changed by Optimistic Person - I love this in all of it's forms because each character really brings out the best in the other and it's lovely.

7.  Country House Mystery - I love a good mystery at a country house regardless of genre.  There's something about country houses that just take the fun up a notch.

8.  Dysfunctional Family Relationships - Especially if it's sisters and especially if they're going to come together for whatever reason (See #6, 3, or 1).

9.  Small Towns - I don't know what exactly it is about a small town but I always seem to enjoy stories set in small towns and can never resist them.

10. Project Memoir - Not sure if this really counts since it is nonfiction but I love a memoir type book based around a project - 12 months to be happier, cooking through an entire cookbook (that one was a bit of a disappointment), learning how to bake the perfect loaf of bread, or restoring a house from top to bottom.  If you are tackling a massive project and writing a book about it I'm in.

What are some of your favorite tropes?

Monday, August 19, 2019

Ramblings from the Stacks - Book Buying Habits

Lately I've been thinking about my book buying habits.  Unlike a lot of readers I've never really spent THAT much on books.  I relied heavily on libraries and when I was a bit older used bookstores.  From there I graduated to paperbackswap and then started blogging and got caught up in review books and started visiting my library again.  I've very rarely bought new books though.  For the most part it was necessity.  I just couldn't afford it - especially when I was a bit younger and was reading up to 200 books a year. 

But now I'm not reading quite so fast and my budget has a little more breathing room and I'm reevaluating my book acquiring habits. So I've made the very difficult decision - I'm going to buy more books new and I'm going to pre-order new books from my favorite authors whenever possible.  It was a tough decision but somehow I made my peace with it!  I figure that's the best way to tell my favorite authors (especially when they're writing my favorite series) to keep doing what they're doing. 

I'm still going to do my best to keep my local library and my local used bookstore in business and I'm sure I'll keep ending up with way too many review books but I'm going to add in buying new books as well.

Do you buy books?  Where do most of your books come from? As long as we're reading I don't think there's a wrong answer (unless you're pirating - that's not okay).

Sunday, August 18, 2019

This Week in Reading - August 18

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

Cookies and Clairvoyance by Bailey Cates - I don't know much about this series though I do think I might have read the first book years ago but I've really enjoyed other books by Bailey Cates and any book with the world Cookies in the title has to be good.  (Publisher)

Silent Night, Deadly Night by Vicki Delany - Another later book in the series but I've heard good things and I'm looking forward to getting a little early Christmas.  (Publisher)

A Night's Tail by Sofie Kelly - I read the last book in the series and enjoyed it so I'm looking forward to this one too.  (Publisher)

Word to the Wise by Jenn McKinlay  - I love this series and I'm so excited about this one!  Any book that takes place in a library is a win.  (Publisher)


Reading:  Funerals are Fatal by Agatha Christie and And Then They Were Doomed by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli

Listening: Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt

Watching:  Not much but it is time to start watching the season finales of my favorite shows before the series premieres start.  I dislike cliffhangers so much that when I see a season finale story arc start I stop watching until I'm within weeks of the series starting back up.

Off the Blog:

This week was a bit less complicated than last week.  I think we've narrowed down the assisted living places for my grandparents and my mother and I are going done this coming week to go over everything with them and get them medically evaluated.  We've also been moving forward on switching to home schooling for the Tornado.  I still have lots of conflicted feelings about it but the program we've found is a hybrid that I think could work really well.  He'll have a mix of classroom, online and traditional home school type classes.  It's essentially a flexible private school.  A friend has her daughter there and has loved it so I have high hopes though I must admit it's a bit scary.

I went to my first appointment with my spine doctor and got good news and a plan going forward that seems like it'll really help with the pain.  The big relief is that the damage in my neck is minimal which is a huge relief. 

Other than that I'm getting ready for a trip down to my grandparents at the end of the week to start getting going on the move.  I'm not sure how it's going to go but I think the end result will be really positive for everyone.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Rambling from the Stacks - Book Buying
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Tropes
Wednesday:  And Then They Were Doomed - Cozy Mystery Review
Thursday:  Books from the Backlog 
Friday: Friday Fives
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Secret Sister - Mystery/Fiction Review

Goodreads: The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak

Rating:  Good
Source:  NetGalley (and Audible Escape Package)

Description:  Did she once have a sister? Has her mother lied all these years? Why?

After a painful divorce, Maisey Lazarow returns to Fairham, the small island off the North Carolina coast where she grew up. She goes there to heal—and to help her brother, Keith, a deeply troubled man who's asked her to come home. But she refuses to stay in the family house. The last person she wants to see is the wealthy, controlling mother she escaped years ago.

Instead, she finds herself living next door to someone else she'd prefer to avoid—Rafe Romero, the wild, reckless boy to whom she lost her virginity at sixteen. He's back on the island, and to her surprise, he's raising a young daughter alone. Maisey's still attracted to him, but her heart's too broken to risk…

Then something even more disturbing happens. She discovers a box of photographs that evoke distant memories of a little girl, a child Keith remembers, too. Maisey believes the girl must've been their sister, but their mother claims there was no sister.

Maisey's convinced that child existed. So where is she now?

Genre: Mystery or maybe Fiction?  A bit of both?

Why I Picked This Book:  A forgotten sister?  A box of photographs?  How could I pass that up?

My Impression:    I love a good Gothic-y novel with family secrets and sinister figures and Novak definitely delivered!  Maisey was a sympathetic heroine who has gone through a terrible few years.  Her indecision at times annoyed me but there's so much going on around her and she's still dealing with the aftermath of her entire life falling apart so that's fairly understandable.  Her conflicted feelings regarding her relationships with both her mother and her brother seemed very realistic and I loved her affection for Laney.  Rafe is a little too perfect but with all the dysfunction going on in the rest of the book it worked. 

I was enjoying the book - Maisey getting settled and getting to know Rafe, figuring out what she wants to do with her life and how she wants to deal with her family, as well as struggling to heal from her past takes up a bit of time and is enjoyable. The promised pictures take awhile to show up and when they do things really start moving.  However, it wasn't a slow read before that happened.  I really wanted to find out just what had happened to that little girl and what other secrets are lurking in Maisey's past. 

This was an enjoyable read/listen and makes me want to get my hands of more of Novak's more suspenseful titles.  I've very much interested in the next book in this series which centers around Maisey's brother, Keith. 

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would!  I've enjoyed Novak's more traditional romance but I really enjoyed this one.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy Gothic-y reads this is a good choice.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Friday, August 16, 2019

Friday Fives - Five Books I Want My 9 Year Old to Read This Year

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  Michelle over at Because Reading is Better Than Real Life   used to do a Five on Fridays that I always enjoyed and I've seen a few other variations on the theme.  As well I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd give start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much.  This week is a little different.  For various reasons we are kicking around the idea of pulling our 9 year old out of school and switching to a more hybrid program - a mix of classroom time, online classes, and traditional homeschool.  There are some subjects that I don't feel confident teaching but reading is not one of them.  Here are 5 books I would put on his reading list (and might if we switch over at the end of the semester).

1.  The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan - Not only is this an action packed read but it would be perfect to pair with an online mythology course that is offered.

2.  Guts and Glory: The American Revolution by Ben Thompson - Not only would this dovetail with American history but it'd be perfect pre-reading before a trip to Williamsburg, Virginia which I'm in the process of planning.

3.  Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein - I've been wanting to read this for awhile so it seems like it'd be fun to read together.  Plus, anything that makes a library seem magical is always a good thing.

4.  The 39 Clues Series by Rick Riordan and other authors - I've had this series recommended a number of times and it sounds interesting and hopefully would pull him in and keep him reading.

5.  Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet - This book is recommended to those who like puzzles and mysteries which he does.  I also love that this book talks about actual art but in a fun way.  Might be good for an early art history lesson. 

What would you put on your reading list if you were teaching reading?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Books from the Backlog - Dead and Gone

Today I'm linking up with Carole from Carole's Random Life of Books for Books from the Backlog.  I really enjoy the chance to feature a book that's been hiding in the piles of books for far too long! 

Goodreads:  Dead and Gone by Dorothy Simpson

Blurb:  During a small and uncomfortable dinner party, Virginia Mintar, wife of a prominent lawyer, disappears, and is found hours later in the garden well of her estate. Inspector Luke Thanet and his partner, Sergeant Mike Lineham, quickly discern that Virginia's scandalous behavior had earned her the rage of family, friends, and lovers. Who had been finally driven to kill her?

Why It Needs to Come Off the Shelf: I do love a good British mystery and this is an author I remember reading and enjoying years ago.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Singapore Sapphire - Historical Mystery Review

Goodreads: Singapore Sapphire (Harriet Gordon #1) by A.M. Stuart

Rating:  Very Good
Source:  Publisher

Description: Singapore 1910--Desperate for a fresh start and to distance herself from her tragic past, Harriet Gordon finds herself in Singapore at the height of colonial rule. Hoping to gain some financial independence, she advertises her services as a personal secretary. It is unfortunate that she should discover her first client, Sir Oswald Newbold--explorer, mine magnate and president of the exclusive Explorers and Geographers' Club--dead with a knife in his throat.
When Inspector Robert Curran is put on the case, he realizes that he has an unusual witness in Harriet. Harriet's keen eye for detail and strong sense of duty interests him, as does her distrust of the police and her traumatic past, which she is at pains to keep secret from the gossips of Singapore society.

When a second body is dragged from the canal, Harriet feels compelled to help with the case. She and Curran are soon drawn into a complex web of stolen gemstones and a mysterious gang of thieves who have no qualms about killing again to protect their secrets.

Genre: Mystery - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:  I've been loving historical mysteries lately - especially those with strong female leads - so I couldn't resist this one!

My Impression:  Well that was a good start to a series!  We're thrown into the action right from the beginning when we meet Harriet just as she discovers a body.  And not just any body but a body who has clearly had a violent death.  As the investigation goes on we learn more about Harriet and her rather interesting backstory.  She's not your usual heroine other than she's smart and quick on her feet.  Inspector Curran is an unlikely perfect match.  She's not to keen on him - especially not at first - but he recognizes just how practical and observant she is right from the start and takes her seriously which was nice. 

The mystery was an interesting an usual one.  How many secrets were lurking in the famed explorers past?  And just who would want him dead?  The exploration of early 20th century Singapore was a fascinating one and something I've never come across before.  I love the world Stuart has created here and I'm so excited to see what Harriet Gordon and Inspector Curran get involved in next!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I'm already anticipating the next book.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would!  If you enjoy historical mysteries I think you'll really enjoy this one.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday - Book Characters I'd Like to Best Friends With

Today I'm linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl which is all about lists.  This week's Top Ten list is about characters I'd like to be best friends with. I"m doing 9 I'd like to be friends with and 1 I really really wouldn't.

1.  The Castle from Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George - So the Castle isn't really a person but I'd definitely like to be best friends with it.  All the new rooms and surprises seem like they'd be lots of fun!

2.  Sully from What We Find by Robyn Carr - Sully is a bit gruff and no nonsense but he's also incredibly kind and good at letting people be themselves with the occasional kick in the butt when needed. 

3.  Diesel from The Pawful Truth by Miranda James - Another non person but Diesel is a cat with more than a small personality.  I'm not really a cat person but Diesel sounds pretty great.

4.  Miss Silver from The Girl in the Cellar by Patricia Wentworth - Miss Silver is the sole of practicality and kindness and I bet the stories she could tell would be amazing.

5.  Kat Holloway from Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley - She's funny and smart and the food would be amazing.  Plus she always seems to stumble into adventures.

6.  Meg Langslow from Toucan Keep a Secret by Donna Andrews - I like Meg and she'd be great to be friends with on her own right but throw in her crazy family and her skills as a blacksmith and I don't think you could ask for a better bestie.  I'm not sure exactly what I'd use a blacksmith for but I'm sure I'd come up with something.

7.  Flora from The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan - Visiting a remote Scottish Isle sounds pretty great and I'd love to try some of Flora's baked goods!

8.  Randy from The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright - I'm not sure there could be a better childhood friend than Randy.  She's smart and adventurous and has a house that has a secret room.  What more could you want?

9.  Miss Marple from The Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie - I want to just sit next Miss Marple and listen to her stories.  She's got some great ones!

And One I Wouldn't:

Nancy Drew from The Secret in the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene - It's not that I don't like Nancy it's more that her friends have a tendency to get kidnapped or knocked on the head or knocked on the head AND kidnapped.  No combination of those sound fun.

Who would you want to be besties with?

Monday, August 12, 2019

Terns of Endearment - Cozy Mystery Review

Goodreads:  Terns of Endearment (Meg Langslow #25) by Donna Andrews

Rating:  Very Good
Source: Publisher

Description: Meg's grandfather has been booked to give lectures on a cruise as part of the education/entertainment itinerary, and he's arranged for a passel of family members to join him.
The passengers' vacation quickly becomes a nightmare when they wake up to find themselves broken down and in need of repairs. Things get even worse when a crew member announces to all that a woman has jumped overboard, leaving behind her shoes, shawl, and a note. The note reveals she's a disliked member of a writers' group onboard for a retreat, and the group is split on whether this is in-character for her.

The captain decides not to investigate, saying he'll notify American authorities when they reach their destination. But Meg's father decides they need to look into whether there was possible foul play while the prime suspects are all stuck on board. It'll be a race against the clock to solve this mystery before they make the necessary repairs and return to shore.

Donna Andrews' long-running Meg Langslow series continues to be beloved by its fans, who loyally buy every new installment. Terns of Endearment is a perfect new addition, full of laughter, adventure, and Andrews' wonderful cast of wacky characters.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I've really fallen in love with this series over the last few books so I knew I had to get this one.

My Impression:  This series has really become a must buy for me and this newest mystery did not let me down!  Meg's family has always played a role in the books but given the close quarters of the cruise ship they were very much front and center and lots of fun.  As well we had a group of writers who really had me sold on the book.  I have no interest in writing myself but I love the kind of behind the scenes feel of having a writer in the book.  In this book we have a group of authors who write in varying genres which was really fun. 

The mystery was solid which I've come to expect from Andrews and I wasn't let down.  The mystery does get a bit convoluted now and then with all the characters and their big personalities but while I usually found this frustrating it worked here.  I think it'd be impossible for Meg herself not to get distracted a time or two here having to run herd on her boys and her rather eccentric family.  Frequently when characters are eccentric they're a bit over the top but this wasn't the case here.  I can easily see Cousin Rose or Grandfather fitting into someone's family. 

While this is book #25 in this series I really think you can jump in on this book without any problems.  It's fun, and crazy with big personalities and intriguing mystery. 

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  Not only do I love seeing what bird/crime pun she'll come up next but I love the mysteries themselves and Meg feels like a friend at this point.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would!  If you enjoy cozies this is a great series.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Sunday, August 11, 2019

This Week in Reading - August 11

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

The Last Seance: Tales of the Supernatural by Agatha Christie - I"m sure I've read all the short stories in this collection but I couldn't NOT request this.  Plus, there's always a chance I'll find one I've never read before. (Edelweiss)

Fatal Roots by Sheila Connolly - Connolly was one of the first cozy mystery authors I ever discovered and I really enjoy this one set in Ireland.  (NetGalley)

The Angel's Share by Ellen Crosby - I don't know much about this series but the blurb sounded interesting and I thought I'd give it a try.  (Publisher)

Owl Be Home for Christmas by Donna Andrews - I really enjoy this series and this may be the best pun-ish title ever.  (Publisher)

A Cup of Holiday Fear by Ellie Alexander - I really enjoy this series about a bakery in a theater town that always makes me want to eat delicious baked goods and try all kinds of different coffees. (Publisher)


Reading:  Funerals are Fatal by Agatha Christie and And Then They Were Doomed by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli

Listening:  The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak

Watching:  I'm almost embarrassed to admit but I've been binging Catfish on MTV.   All the commercials make it very clear that I'm far too old for MTV but I'm addicted to that show! 

Off the Blog:

It has been a crazy week.  We got back in town last Sunday after a wonderful vacation and I feel like I kind of jumped into the fire.  School started this week and it's going okay.  He's lobbying for home school/online schooling and I'm starting to consider it.  Like any major decision there are some serious pros and cons. 

But before I could really focus on that I hear the news that my grandparents who I visit fairly regularly and who live out in the country have decided that it is no longer for them to live so far out with no family close by.  This started a whole search into options where we finally landed on assisted living as they really wouldn't qualify for independent living based off some health issues.  So I've been learning state laws and researching facilities and scheduling appointments and then my mother and I have been visiting facilities.  We've found a place that is really lovely and I think would work well for them - it has two in house libraries that are maintained by resident volunteers and the local public library, restaurant quality food that is sourced as locally as possible and they can order of a fairly sizable menu, tons of outdoor space, private dining rooms we can reserve for family meals, and all kinds of other perks.   My grandfather is really struggling with this and my mother and I are going down in 2 weeks to go over everything with them.  If you've ever been in my shoes I would appreciate all the advice you have.  I can't imagine how difficult of a transition that this must be for them and I'm hoping to focus on the positives and the advantages of them being just 20 minutes away vs 6 hours.

I'm finished up with physical therapy after 2 months and in someways things are a lot better but now I've been referred to a spine doctor for the pain issues that just aren't getting any better.  I'm a bit nervous.  My appointment is this week and I'm hoping it goes well.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Terns of Endearment - Cozy Mystery Review
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - Book Characters I'd Love to Be Besties With
Wednesday: Singapore Sapphire - Historical Mystery Review
Thursday:  TBD
Friday:  Friday Fives
Saturday:  TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Life Among the Savages - Memoir Review

Goodreads:  Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson

Rating: Very Good
Source:  Purchased

Description:  Can this be the author of such chilling tales as The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House? An ordinary housewife stuck in a big, shabby house with three marvelous, demanding children and a charming husband who takes detached interest in the chaos they generate? Yes, it's Shirley Jackson all right: the precision of her observations and prose is familiar, even if her humor is something of a surprise. Not until Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions in 1993 would another woman write with such honesty about the maddening multitude of trivial, essential chores that constitute a mother's life. But Jackson nailed it first, 40 years earlier, in her hilarious chronicle of life in a small Vermont town, where getting the kids to school on time requires the combined gifts of a drill sergeant and a lady's maid. The saga of her son's bumpy adjustment to kindergarten, frequently anthologized as Charles, is justly famous, but Jackson's account of the Department Store Trip from Hell (two kids, two toy guns, one doll carriage and doll, mayhem in revolving doors and escalators) is even funnier. Although her memoirs are as merciless as her ghost stories, you may not notice because you're laughing so hard. --Wendy Smith

Genre: Nonfiction - Memoir

Why I Picked This Book:  I've read bits and pieces of this one over the year and decided it was time to read it start to finish.

My Impression:  I've read several of Jackson's books over the years and she is truly the master of suffusing just the right mood into her books.  In most of her stories that mood is typically eerie and unsettling but in this one I can almost feel her mostly good natured exhaustion just oozing from the pages.  Between Laurie's stories about his mischievous friend and school and Jannie's herd of imaginary friends that all simply must be carefully escorted off an escalator in a very crowded department store there's plenty to laugh and plenty to identify with.  It's a quick read and one I can almost see Jackson shrugging at the stories as she writes them.  She's frazzled and exhausted but always manages to keep her very dry sense of humor out in front.

There's not much substance to this one and it's a bit dated in some ways but neither of those really bothered me.  This is a nice book to pick up when you need something easy and enjoyable to read - and it's very fun to contrast this with the work Jackson is better known for.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would!  I've been a fan of Jackson for years and always enjoy her work.  And I just learned that she actually wrote a sequel to this one called Raising Demons and I'll definitely be on the lookout for that one.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy family memoirs and are looking for a light read then this is a perfect choice.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Friday Fives - My Five Favorite Agatha Christie Mysteries

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  Michelle over at Because Reading is Better Than Real Life   used to do a Five on Fridays that I always enjoyed and I've seen a few other variations on the theme.  As well I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd give start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much.

1.  Lord Edgware Dies - This is Poirot story that really should have more attention.  It asks and solves the question - how can 1 person be 2 places at once?

2.  Three Blind Mice and Other Stories - I adore Christie's short stories and this is one of my favorite collections thanks to the primary story.  It's the ultimate house party/locked room mystery and is a short novella that is incredibly intricate but never feels rushed.

3.   Murder in Mesopotamia - This is one of Christie's "exotic location" books and I love seeing life on a dig site in the 30s and 40s.  There's also a practical and down to earth nurse which is one of my favorite Christie character types and the mystery itself is pretty fantastic.

4.  Sleeping Murder - This was the last Marple book published but it was written during the war and set aside to be published after her death.  It's a little bizarre to read the Marple series in order as several characters suddenly come back to life and Miss Marple has made miraculous strides in her health since the previous book.  The plot is one of my absolute favorites with family secrets and a house that may be driving the young wife crazy.

5.  The Secret of Chimneys - This is an early work and a stand alone.  While Inspector Battle is in it neither Poirot or Marple make an appearance.  I love her earlier more espinogage themed books and this one has one of my favorite Christie characters - Virginia who goes along with a blackmailer just to see what it feels like.  It's fun, a bit silly, and a super fast read.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Lost Vintage - Fiction Review

About The Lost Vintage

• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 6, 2019)

 “If you enjoyed Sarah’s Key and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, then this wonderful book by Ann Mah is for you.” -- Tatiana de Rosnay

 Sweetbitter meets The Nightingale in this page-turning novel about a woman who returns to her family’s ancestral vineyard in Burgundy and unexpectedly uncovers a lost diary, an unknown relative, and a secret her family has been keeping since World War II. To become one of only a few hundred certified wine experts in the world, Kate must pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine examination. She’s failed twice before; her third attempt will be her last chance. Suddenly finding herself without a job and with the test a few months away, she travels to Burgundy to spend the fall at the vineyard estate that has belonged to her family for generations. There she can bolster her shaky knowledge of Burgundian vintages and reconnect with her cousin Nico and his wife, Heather, who now oversee day-to-day management of the grapes. The one person Kate hopes to avoid is Jean-Luc, a talented young winemaker and her first love. At the vineyard house, Kate is eager to help her cousin clean out the enormous basement that is filled with generations of discarded and forgotten belongings. Deep inside the cellar, behind a large armoire, she discovers a hidden room containing a cot, some Resistance pamphlets, and an enormous cache of valuable wine. Piqued by the secret space, Kate begins to dig into her family’s history—a search that takes her back to the dark days of World War II and introduces her to a relative she never knew existed, a great–half aunt who was a teenager during the Nazi occupation. As she learns more about her family, the line between resistance and collaboration blurs, driving Kate to find the answers to two crucial questions: Who, exactly, did her family aid during the difficult years of the war? And what happened to six valuable bottles of wine that seem to be missing from the cellar’s collection?

My Thoughts:  I feel like my family let me down!  Not one single relative has a cellar (or even an attic) crammed full of generations of stuff.  There are no hidden rooms or trunks full of clues or anything like that.   Though I guess reading about someone exploring a cellar full of clues and discovering family mysteries is really the next best thing!  This was an interesting read that I really thoroughly enjoyed.  Kate isn't the warm and fuzziest of characters and she made some choices that were a bit frustrating but she never slipped into a character I couldn't relate to.  The history was fascinating.  I had read one of the books that she mentioned reading for reference and had enjoyed that one very much.  It was really interesting to see the nonfiction really brought to life.  I'm looking forward to reading more from this author and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and dual timelines.  Rating:  Very Good

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About Ann Mah

Ann Mah is a food and travel writer based in Paris and Washington DC. She is the author of the food memoir Mastering the Art of French Eating, and a novel, Kitchen Chinese. She regularly contributes to the New York Times’ Travel section and she has written for Condé Nast Traveler,,, Washingtonian magazine, and other media outlets. Find out more about Ann at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Forgotten Bones - Mystery Review

Goodreads:  Forgotten Bones (Dead Remaining #1) by Vivian Barz

Rating:  Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  When small-town police officers discover the grave of a young boy, they’re quick to pin the crime on a convicted felon who lives nearby. But when it comes to murder, Officer Susan Marlan never trusts a simple explanation, so she’s just getting started.
Meanwhile, college professor Eric Evans hallucinates a young boy in overalls: a symptom of his schizophrenia—or so he thinks. But when more bodies turn up, Eric has more visions, and they mirror details of the murder case. As the investigation continues, the police stick with their original conclusion, but Susan’s instincts tell her something is off. The higher-ups keep stonewalling her, and the FBI’s closing in.

Desperate for answers, Susan goes rogue and turns to Eric for help. Together they take an unorthodox approach to the case as the evidence keeps getting stranger. With Eric’s hallucinations intensifying and the body count rising, can the pair separate truth from illusion long enough to catch a monster?

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:  This premise reminds me a bit of a TV show I used to like (I think it was Perception?  Whatever it was called it was on TNT a few years back)

My Impression:  I have some mixed feelings about this one.  For starters I really liked the characters.  Susan is smart and tough but still human and likable and I sympathized with Eric and liked him.  I found it to be an interesting combination of personalities and the mystery was really interesting.  It was very readable and the author did a great job of making the characters and the setting really come alive.

BUT, there's a LOT of setup.  Like a lot.  It took almost half the book for Eric and Susan to become the crime fighting duo I was hoping for.  Prior to that (and some during) we get a lot about Eric's divorce and dealing with his illness as well as Susan's struggles with internal politics.  All of this pushed the mystery out of focus at times and made the book just feel too long.  Because it is a fairly complicated setup I see why this had to happen but I feel like I'll enjoy the 2nd book quite a bit more because hopefully there will be more focus on the mystery.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I'll definitely be looking for the 2nd book in this series as I think there's so much potential for this series and I'm curious to see how it continues.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I think I'll wait for the 2nd book before I really recommend it but if you mentally prepare yourself for all the setup and side story I think you'll enjoy it.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Ten Summery Covers I Love

This week's topic over at Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl is about cover re-dos.  I love this topic but am terrible at keeping track of old covers and new covers and which ones I originally loved but hated the re-dos.  So for today I'm sticking with Summery Covers that I've enjoyed this summer.

1.  The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah - I just finished this one and loved the cover.  Something about the cover just says summer to me.

2.  A Beach Wish by Shelley Noble - Noble always has the best covers and this one is no different.

3.  The Sisters Hemingway by  Annie England Noblin - I love this going off in the sunshine look to this cover.  If this was a slightly more functional family I'd think they were going off for a picnic.

4.  The Goodbye Cafe by Mariah Stewart - It looks like it's hot in this photo but what a nice way to spend a hot day!

5.  The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore - Another hot looking day but this looks a little more angsty.

6.  No More Time by Suzanne M. Trauth - This one is pretty obvious I think!  I really love the idea of picnics on the beach but in reality it's never quite lived up to the vision!

7.  Suddenly One Summer by Julie James - This is another better in my imagination than reality.  I love the idea of of walking along the edge of the water but in reality that blue dress would be soaked at least knee high.

8.  Under Currents by Nora Roberts - This is a little different than the cover I have on my copy of this book but I like this one a little better.

9.  The Summer of Sunshine and Margot by Susan Mallery - I kind of burned out on Mallery years ago but lately I've been reading and loving her kind of stand alone women's fiction-y kind of books and this looks gorgeous.

10.  The Beautiful Strangers by Camille Di Maio - I really want to read this author and this book is especially calling to me and this one is set in the Hotel del Coronado in Southern California which is on my list of places we are staying when we finally make it out west.

What are some of your favorite covers this summer?

Monday, August 5, 2019

Reviews from the Children's Section - Thursdays with the Crown

One of my favorite genres and one that is the easiest for me to push aside is middle grade fiction. This year to make sure I get a little more children's and young adult fiction I thought I would designate the first Monday of every month Middle Grade Monday (though sometimes it doesn't end up working quite right) .  While a lot of my picks this year are classics I am trying to branch out a little bit and read new or at least recent releases.  This month's book is the third in a series I've really been enjoying - Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George 

Thursdays with the Crown (Castle Glower #3) by Jessica Day George 

Blurb:  Castle Glower has been acting weird, so it’s no surprise when two towers transport Celie and her siblings to an unknown land. When they realize that no one from home is coming to get them, the kids – along with Celie’s pet griffin Rufus – set out through the forest to figure out where they are and what’s happened to their beloved Castle. Instead, they discover two wizards and an entire lost people, the oldest inhabitants of Castle Glower. And it seems they may know more of the Castle’s secrets than Celie. But do they know how to get her back home?
This bestselling series continues with the story of the origin of Castle Glower. Readers who’ve been enchanted by the Castle’s moving walls will be delighted by the Castle’s rich and magical history.

My Thoughts:  This is a really delightful series and perfect for children who are interested in trying Harry Potter but aren't quite ready for the dark themes of the later books or the rather daunting page count.  There's magic, action, suspense, and griffins.  I really enjoyed that in this book Celie, her siblings, and friends are out on their own with only their own wits and their griffins (and an occasional touch of magic) to help them.  I really liked that we saw a little more depth to Celie's sister Lilah's character.  In the past she's been a bit prim and proper but in this book she showed a bit more grit without ever losing her character.  While I had no problem going quite some time between the first book and the second I do wish I had read this book closer to reading the second as it took me a bit to remember who everyone was and what had happened.  I won't wait as long to read the 4th. 

As a parent I think this would be great for ages 7 and above.  There isn't really any scary imagery to bother the more sensitive readers but there's enough action to keep everyone captivated.  As an adult it is well written enough to keep me entertained.  This would be a perfect bedtime story book or a family road trip audio book because I think everyone young and old would enjoy it.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

This Week in Reading - August 4

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey - I've read Tey's Daughter of Time a number of times but am not sure I ever read this one.  When I found it in used bookstore it had to come home with me.  (Purchased)

Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey - Pretty much same as above (Purchased)

The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart - I was very much on a classic mystery kick at my last used bookstore visit and Rinehart is an author I really want to read more of.  (Purchased)

The Haunted Lady by Mary Roberts Rinehart - See above (Purchased)

Murder, Served Simply by Isabella Alan - I can't remember much about this cozy other than it sounded nice and the food descriptions sounded amazing.  Apparently you shouldn't grocery shop OR bookshop while starving.  (Purchased)

Death in St. Petersburg by Tasha Alexander - I've been wanting to read this author for awhile and the cover on this one was gorgeous so I couldn't pass it up.  (Purchased)

The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs - I love Susan Wiggs and this one looks a little different but with the same qualities that I always enjoy from her books. 


Reading:  The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah and Terns of Endearment by Donna Andrews

Listening:  The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak

Watching:  We haven't watched too much TV this week or movies either.

Off the Blog:

Like everyone I was so saddened to read of the passing of Grace from Rebel Mommy Book Blog.  She's been such a presence in the book blogging world for so long and it was only recently most of us were living vicariously through her visit to BEA.  There's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said and said better but I will miss her dearly and I couldn't let her passing go unacknowledged. 

We're out of town this weekend trying to get in some last minute relaxing before school starts (we get out in mid-May but go back in early August and have a few decent breaks scattered about in between).  But hopefully I'll be around visiting on Monday and catching up everyone.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Reviews from the Children's Section - Thursdays with the Crown
Tuesday:  Summery Covers
Wednesday:  Forgotten Bones - Mystery Review
Thursday:  The Lost Vintage - Fiction Review
Friday: Friday Fives
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Reading in June and July

I thought May was a rough month for reading but it had nothing on June and July!  Nothing really terrible happened but between school being out and health issues and a few other things it was a scattered couple of months.  I did do a good push at the end of July and my audio book reading went up quite a bit.  I did some rereads which really boosted my reading and just my enjoyment of reading and I think August is off to a good start!

Month's Theme:  It was supposed to be family and then beach but that really didn't happen.

Books Read in June and July: 20 - 14 of those were in July

My Favorite Review Read:  Either Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter or The Pawful Truth by Miranda James.  Very very different books but both books that I really flew through.

My Favorite TBR Read:  Either Watching You by Lisa Jewell or What We Find by Robyn Carr.  Both were really fantastic audio reads.

Book Read That Has Been on My TBR the LongestA Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle.  I have the audio collection read by Stephen Fry who does a fantastic job.

Biggest Disappoint:  Ten Years a Nomad by Matthew Kepnes.  This just wasn't the book I wanted it to be.  I was looking for a travel memoir and this was more introspective on why the author travels and what he gets out of it.

How was your summer reading?