Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tiny House on the Hill - Contemporary Romance Review

Tiny House on the Hill by Celia Bonaduce (Amazon)

Rating: Good
Source: NetGalley

Description: Home is where the heart fits . . .

Summer Murray is ready to shake things up. She doesn’t want to work in risk management. She doesn’t want to live in Hartford, Connecticut. So she plans a grand adventure: she’s going to throw out all the stuff she doesn’t want and travel the country in her very own tiny house house shaped like a train caboose. Just Summer, her chihuahua-dachshund Shortie, and 220 square feet of freedom.

Then her take-no-prisoners grandmother calls to demand Summer head home to the Pacific Northwest to save the family bakery. Summer has her reasons for not wanting to return home, but she’ll just park her caboose, fix things, and then be on her way. But when she gets to Cat’s Paw, Washington, she’s shocked by her grandmother’s strange behavior and reunited with a few people she’d hoped to avoid. If Summer is going to make a fresh start, she’ll have to face the past she’s been running from all along . . .

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  I've watched more than my share of Tiny House Hunters on HGTV so I thought it'd be fun to read a book set in a tiny house.

My Impression: I'm so torn on this one!  This book reads super fast and is fun but at the same time several elements left me rolling my eyes. So that this doesn't become too convoluted I'm going with a list format for this one!

The Good:
The pacing is super fast and it's a really light read - this would be a good sick in bed read or a stress relief book.

The parts of Summer's journey where she's learning how to travel in her tiny house were pretty fun and I enjoyed seeing her confidence grow as she went along.

Summer's relationship with her grandmother, Queenie was interesting.  We get hints that Queenie is not quite so serious and rigid as she seems and that's really fun.

Summer's dog, Shortie, was really cute and I loved his friendship with the much bigger Andre.  That's a visual image that really gave me a lot of giggles.

The Not As Good:
I had a hard time believing that Summer was really 28.  She seemed so very immature and unsure of herself.  It got better in the middle of the book but towards the end flared up again.  She makes assumptions based on things that happened 10 years ago and it never occurs to her that things could have changed since they were teenagers.  As well I struggled to really get behind her new plan when she had yet to really successfully make a purse.

The romance isn't developed.  For a good 3/4 of the book I would have considered this just really light contemporary fiction.  Nothing is really resolved at all until the last few pages.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Since this book was so readable despite my irriations I'd give this author another try but only if the premise really grabbed me.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you're in the mood for a really light read and the premise appeals to you this is a fun read.  If you're in the mood for a good romance I'd skip this one.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Cottingley Secret - Blog Tour Fiction Review

About The Cottingley Secret

• Hardcover: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (August 1, 2017)
  “The Cottingley Secret tells the tale of two girls who somehow convince the world that magic exists. An artful weaving of old legends with new realities, this tale invites the reader to wonder: could it be true?” — Kate Alcott, New York Times bestselling author of The Dressmaker
One of BookBub's Most-Anticipated Books of Summer 2017! 

 The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home turns the clock back one hundred years to a time when two young girls from Cottingley, Yorkshire, convinced the world that they had done the impossible and photographed fairies in their garden. Now, in her newest novel, international bestseller Hazel Gaynor reimagines their story. 1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told. One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Thoughts:

I've wanted to read Hazel Gaynor's books for years but somehow the timing was just never right and I never got around to it.  This had a few irresistible topics for me - an old bookshop in Ireland, an old manuscript, and a main character who is trying to learn to believe in herself - and of course the gorgeous cover didn't hurt!  This was one of those special books that was exactly what I wanted when I wanted it.  I loved Olivia and I loved watching her learn to give herself permission to be happy.  I could relate to her struggle with trying to keep things together after two of the most important people in her life are gone in body or in spirit.   I really loved watching her as she learned more and more of Frances' story and I couldn't wait to figure out the connection and how it all works out.  I loved Frances' story when told through her own words as well.  This is one of the few dual timeline books where I enjoy both timelines equally and love both main characters.  This was my first introduction to Gaynor's work but it most definitely won't be my last!  Rating:  Loved it!

About Hazel Gaynor

HAZEL GAYNOR is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel The Girl from the Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. The Cottingley Secret and Last Christmas in Paris will be published in 2017. Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages. Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland. Find out more about Hazel at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books for New Mystery Readers

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from the Broke and the Bookish is 10 Book Recommendations for --.  Since I'm in a bit of a mystery phase right now I thought I'd do 10 Book Recommendations for New Mystery Readers.

Children's Mysteries

1.  The Boxcar Children Great Adventure: Journey on a Runaway Train by Gertrude Chandler Warren -  The Tornado (now age 7 but probably starting at age 5) is a huge Boxcar Children fan.  In fact the audio books were what really got him reading on his own.  I'm not usually a fan of rebooted series but this one is so much fun!  There's history and a bit of a treasure hunt and all kinds of fun antics.

2.  Summer of the Woods by Steven K. Smith - This is another series with a history element but in the best way possible.  This is the story of 2 brothers and their friend getting into all kinds of hijinks in Virginia and it's a lot of fun.  The mysteries are fun and the history is fascinating.  I've even picked up a few tidbits that I didn't know!

3.  The Mummy with No Name by Geronimo Stilton - Geronimo Stilton mysteries are so much fun and are fun for readers just starting chapter books.  There's lots of gorgeous illustrations, colorful text and hijinks and mayhem galore.

4.  Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison - This is one that I stumbled on almost by accident at the library and it's one I think my girls would have really enjoyed in 4th to 6th grade or so.  Gilda's an interesting character who has a talent for getting into trouble.  This wasn't the best mystery but the characters make up for it.

5.  The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin - I just reread it and remembered just why I loved it so much as a kid.  It's a great mystery and a fun read as well.  While a murder is discussed the bulk of the mystery is more of a treasure hunt and a wonderfully done one.  It was one of my favorites from about 5th grade and up and one of my daughter's has read it so many times her copy has fallen to pieces!

Mysteries for Adults

1.  A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie - This is a super solid police procedural with really great characters and fascinating mysteries.  They get more serious as the series goes on but if anything this series just keeps getting better!

2.  Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie - Of course I had to have an Agatha Christie book!  This is a great one to start with because it's Poirot at his most likable and it's a great cast of characters.

3.  The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King - If you're looking for a historical setting and love a twist on the Sherlock Holmes story than you can't go wrong with King's Mary Russell series which features an older Holmes and his young wife Mary Russell.

4.  The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala by Laura DiSilverio - I couldn't make this list without including a cozy!  There are so many great cozies to choose from but this very bookish mystery which involved book club chat, a dead body, and a really fun mystery is one of my favorites!

5.  The Hexed by Heather Graham - If you like a little paranormal in your reading the Krewe of Hunters by Graham is one of the best and The Hexed is one of my favorites.  This is a fun series involving ghosts, witches, history and a very modern day murder.  Don't let the size of the Krewe series scare you.  You can jump in where you want and almost all feature different main characters who are connected by paranormal investigations only.

What mysteries would you recommend to new mystery readers of all ages?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Reviews From the Children's Section - The Westing Game

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.  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 week's book is an old favorite but one I haven't read in decades.  It was nice to revisit it.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Description:  A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing's will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger - and a possible murderer - to inherit his vast fortune, one thing's for sure: Sam Westing may be dead... but that won't stop him from playing one last game!

My Thoughts:  Reading an old favorite is always a little bit of a risk.  Will a book I loved as a child still be a decent read for an adult?  How much will nostalgia affect my reading experience?  Will reading it now ruin it for me?

The Westing Game exceeded my expectations and was really just a joy to read.  There's quite a large cast here and while the book does seem to center around adolescent Turtle Wexler we get a peeks of all the other characters too.  It's fun seeing the different ways each team investigates the clues they are given as well as the development of the different relationships.  The characters while not super developed are surprisingly complex with hidden secrets and weaknesses.  As part of the game each character is partnered with another making some unlikely allies and it was entertaining to watch.  The mystery isn't scary but is definitely puzzling and really a solid mystery.  Raskin isn't dumbing anything down because this is a Middle Grade book!  Even knowing the ending I really enjoyed watching the investigation and seeing the conclusion be revealed.   There are two epilogues which show what has happened to the characters 5 years from the end of the mystery and then again even more into the future which I really enjoyed but might make some readers who don't like super tied up endings a little eye rolly.

While this book was published in 1979 very little feels dated except for the occasional decor description.  There are some mentions of race and gender role issues but Raskins handles it all beautifully and with an unexpected flair.  There was one mention of a character's daughter that was born with some sort of disability (possibly Down Syndrome) that made me cringe a bit but this was literally one mention.

The plot is fairly complex and there are a lot of subtleties that I think might bore younger readers but I think any reader - especially one who loves mysteries - who is 10 or older would love this.  If you're an adult who has never read this or if this was a favorite childhood read it's definitely worth a visit.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.  Rating:  Loved it!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

This Week in Reading - August 13

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:

Just one this week!  Though I may have 2 pending requests out there lurking.

Say No Moor by Maddy Hunter - A tour of travel bloggers through Cornwall goes horribly wrong and the tour organizer finds herself running an inn and trying to save the day to keep her travel company going.  This is the beginning of a new series and this is a new to me author but it's a cozy I'm really looking forward to trying!  (NetGalley)


Reading:  I'm finishing up The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor for a blog tour stop later this week and am about to start Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent.  For Kindle reading I'm reading Tiny House on the Hill by Celia Bonaduce.

Listening:  Still waiting for A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas but until that gets here I'm listening to podcasts.

Watching:  We just finished Shetland on Netflix and we really liked it though I didn't love the last season.  I felt like the characters did a few things that they never would have done and few things that happened just din't feel like the rest of the series.  Now we're looking for something else to watch.  Right now it's between River on Netflix or Grantchester

Off the Blog:

Well the big news around here is that Eleanor got married this week!  She and her long time boyfriend had been talking about getting married for awhile and had been working on wedding planning but a few days ago they decided they didn't want to mess with all the wedding stuff and just wanted to be married.  So earlier this week we all met at the courthouse and watched them get married.  They're very excited and we're very happy for them and excited to see them start their life together.

Other than that it's been a busy but ordinary week.  The Tornado is getting back on schedule at school and so far really liking his teacher and the kids in his class.  The kitten is still adapting well though has not liked that I've been away from home quite a bit this past week.  He's made his displeasure clearly known by following me around and yowling at me until I sit down so he can sit on me.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Reviews from the Children's Section - The Westing Game
Tuesday:  10 Book Recommendations for Young Mystery Lovers
Wednesday: The Cottingley Secret - Blog Tour Review
Thursday: TBD 
Friday:  Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday:  At Wits End - Cozy Mystery Review

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Bellingham Bloodbath - Historical Mystery Review

The Bellingham Bloodbath (Colin Pendragon #2) by Gregory Harris

Rating: DNF'd 65%
Source: NetGalley

Description:  After a captain in Her Majesty's Guard and his young wife are brutally murdered in their flat, master sleuth Colin Pendragon and his partner Ethan Pruitt are summoned to Buckingham Palace. Major Hampstead demands discretion at all costs to preserve the reputation of the Guard and insists Pendragon participate in the cover-up by misleading the press. In response, Pendragon makes the bold claim that he will solve the case in no more than three days' time or he will oblige the major and compromise himself.
Racing against the clock - and thwarted at every turn by their Scotland Yard nemesis Inspector Emmett Varcoe - Pendragon and Pruitt begin to assemble the clues around the grisly homicide, probing into private lives and uncovering closely guarded secrets. As the minutes tick away, the pressure - and the danger - mounts as Pendragon's integrity is on the line and a cold-blooded killer remains on the streets...

Genre: Mystery - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:  I love a good historical mystery and this series was new to me.

My Impression:  Historical mysteries are really hit or miss for me.  When I love them they're my absolute favorite but when they don't work I tend to find them dry and tedious.  That unfortunately was the case with this mystery.  This takes place towards the end of Queen Victoria's reign which is a time period I haven't found very often in the mystery genre.  As well I was curious to see how Colin and Ethan's sexuality would affect their day to day life as it wasn't particularly socially acceptable at the time.  And I never can resist a nice bloody murder!

Unfortunately, it all fell about flat for me.  I didn't hate it - I just didn't care, which might be worse.  Ethan and Colin both seemed to speak in almost a presentation style.  I expect there was lots of throat clearing before they would make their paragraph length pronouncements.  I really couldn't tell the difference between the two men which made it hard to keep track of who was who.  Basically Colin seemed a little more arrogant and Ethan spent more time worrying about Colin and occasionally making foreshadowing statements.

For me this was one of those books that was completely out of mind as soon as I put the book down and it always took a minute to remember just what was happening and who everyone was when I picked up again.  So finally at about 65% when I realized I just didn't care who did what and why I called it quits.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Probably not.  While I like the time period the rest of the book just didn't work for me.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Probably not.  I mean it wasn't awful but if you want a historical mystery give Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series a try.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday LInkups - The Westing Game

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Do you participate in readathons and/or reading challenges?

My Answer:  
I love the idea of readathons and reading challenges but I'm terrible at them.  I pretty much mean to participate in every readathon that I see but it always seems to not happen at the last second.  As for the challenges I signed up for several for the first few years of blogging but I'm awful at remembering to linkup or really track the books so I finally quit doing them.  I do the Goodreads challenge but that's about all I seem to be able to manage.

This week's book is a childhood favorite that I've been really looking forward to reading.  I don't remember the last time I read The Westing Game but it's been at least 20 years and if I'm being completely honest probably more like 25!  No matter how long it's been I can't even begin to count how many times I read The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.  I'm almost done with it now and I've been really impressed with how well it's holding up!  It's just as much now as I remember it being.

The Beginning:
The sun sets in the west (just about everyone knows that), but Sunset Towers faced east.  Strange!

My Thoughts:
Not the most exciting beginning but it does set the tone for some of the weirder things that happen during the book!

The 56:
No matter how much fear and suspicion he instilled in the players, Sam Westing knew that greed would keep them playing the game.

My Thoughts:  
Greed is a pretty strong motivator so I think Sam Westing knows what he's doing here!

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  Do you have a childhood favorite you'd love to reread?