Friday, March 31, 2023

Friday Five - Five Short Reviews for Books I've Read Recently

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much. This week I'm sharing 5 quick reviews for books I've read recently.

1. Circle of Innocence by Annette Dashofy - This is the first book in the Zoe Chambers mystery series that focuses on Paramedic and Deputy Coroner Zoe.  It's kind of in between a procedural mystery and a cozy mystery because some of the topics explored are a bit darker and the language used is occasionally a bit stronger.  I really loved the paramedic angle as it isn't really something I've seen before and is interesting to read about as well as it making sense for Zoe to be on crime scenes and part of the action.  I liked the mystery and Zoe as a main character and am adding it to my ever growing series list.  My Rating: Liked It (3.5 Stars)

2.  Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn -
I have been a fan of Raybourn's books for years so I was excited to pick up this book which is completely unlike any of her other books that I've read.  This was a fun concept - a group of assassins on a all expense paid retirement trip learns that they are the next target.  This puts this group of older women with a collection of quite unusual skills on the run having to learn just who wants them dead and why.  I really enjoyed both the flashbacks as well as the present day journey.  It did drag a bit in the middle but other than that I really enjoyed it!  I really liked that the characters are a bit older and that they were seriously good at killing people.  It was definitely a unique read!  My Rating: Really Liked It (4 Stars)

3.  A Good Day for Chardonnay by Daryinda Jones -
This is the 2nd book about Sunshine Vicram, a quirky sheriff of an even quirkier town in New Mexico.  In this book we make some progress in a series long mystery involving Sunshine's abduction as a teenager and her complicated relationship with Levi.  There's also a stabbing, a years old child abduction, and a town wide secret society that must be investigated.  As well, Sunshine's daughter has her own cold case to investigate as well as dealing with changes in her own relationship.  This is a fun book with interesting characters and very much kept me entertained.  There are times when the dialogue between characters feels a bit too artfully clever but for the most part this is a fun read and a series that I'm very much looking forward to continuing.  My Rating: Really Liked It (4 Stars)

4.  Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas -
I've been really enjoying the Ravenel books and Kleypas has long been one of my favorite authors.  I was a bit surprised that Pandora's book was so early in the series as in the previous books she seemed so childish.  Unfortunately, my feelings on this continued well into her story.  I really loved Gabriel and I loved seeing his parents who were the main couple in one of my favorite romances The Devil in Winter.  I also really enjoyed seeing the characters from the previous books.  My main problem was that Pandora just seems like such a child for much of the book and it made it a bit hard for me to really root for her HEA when she seems about 14.  She did grow up quite a bit as the story went on and by the end I was definitely pulled into the story and treally enjoyed it but I just wish some of the maturity could have happened before the story started.  My Rating: Liked It! (3.5 Stars)

5.  The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs -
I have really enjoyed previous books by Susan Wiggs and I enjoyed this one though maybe not as much as I expected.  The book starts out with Natalie Harper going through a tragic loss which forces her to reevaluate her life.  She finds herself running the family bookstore and trying to figure out how best to deal with her grandfather who is starting to slide into dementia which is just the opposite of the stability she craves - especially with the bookstore in crisis.  As the story progresses Natalie finds more of herself and learns more about her family.  I really enjoyed Natalie discovering more about her family and the discoveries in the walls of the store.  I also really enjoyed her relationship with Peach and just Peach as a character.  What kept me from absolutely loving this is that it felt like there was just a lot of blank space in between all the good moments which slowed the pace a bit too much for me.  My Rating:  Really Liked It (4 Stars)

What books have you read recently?

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Books from the Backlog - The Faraday Girls

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:  The Faraday Girls by Monica McInerney

Blurb:  As a child, Maggie Faraday grew up in a lively, unconventional household with her young mother, four very different aunts and her eccentric grandfather. With her mother often away, her aunts took turns to look after her - until, just weeks before Maggie's sixth birthday, a shocking event changed everything.
Twenty years on, Maggie is living alone in New York City when a surprise visit from her grandfather brings a revelation and a proposition to reunite the family. As the Faradays gather in Ireland, Maggie begins to realize that the women she thought she knew so intimately all have something to hide .

Why It Needs to Come Off the Shelf:  This book has been sitting on my shelf gathering dust for years.  I've been really loving family secret type stories lately and this feels like a book I'm in the mood for right now!

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Year of Reading Books I'm Excited About - Withering Heights + First Frost

In 2023 my reading goals were to focus on reading books I was excited to read or had been looking forward to reading.  Here are two recent reads that met that criteria.

Goodreads:  Withering Heights by Dorothy Cannell

Blurb:  Ellie Haskell, sleuth and Gothic romance addict, visits Yorkshire moors Cragstone House with her husband Ben and sidekick Mrs Roxie Malloy, on behalf of his young cousin Ariel. The kindly cook Mrs. Cake fell downstairs, a visiting vicar dies drinking tea, and one of the neighbors is a glamorous old flame of Mrs Cake's husband.

My Thoughts:  First off I'm not entirely sure the person who wrote the blurb actually read anything about the book.  Second off, this probably should have been a DNF.  It wasn't a DNF because I've really been enjoying cozy mysteries lately and this had an old manor house on the Yorkshire moors and a missing person and I kept expecting to fall in love with this any moment.  Unfortunately, I never did.  To start off with I didn't like any of the characters but what really did it in was that the interesting aspects of the mystery seemed to get buried in a surplus on meaningless details, pithy comments, or some Gothic-esque handwringing making this a bit of a boring read.  Add in an anti-climatic end to the missing persons case (and a somewhat confusing timeline) as well as never really getting the answer to the friend of the vicar who suddenly dropped dead in the conservatory and I was glad to see the last page of the book.  My Rating: Just Okay (2 Stars)

Goodreads:  First Frost (Waverley Family #2) by Sarah Addison Allen

Blurb:  It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.
Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections — rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds — are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby — a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to.. if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

My Thoughts:  I have really enjoyed all the books I've read by Sarah Addison Allen and I adored the first book about the Waverley family.  I went into this book with super high expectations and at first it didn't quite live up to them.  Claire and Sydney are both a bit unhappy and off-kilter and are both flailing to try and figure out how to fix it.  Neither are exactly willing to ask for help or to really do some self reflecting.  For the first bit of the book Allen's usual magic felt a bit dimmer than in previous books.  It read quickly and I really enjoyed getting to know Bay as a teenager but it just didn't make me fall in love quite as much as previous books.  However, about halfway through the book things started clicking and that familiar magic returned.   And the ending left me with all the warm and fuzzy feelings that I could ever have asked for.  I think I went into this book with impossibly high expectations which kept me from enjoying the first book fully at first and I do think it dragged a bit at first.  However, once I got over it and the plot picked up speed I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It's been awhile since I read a book by Sarah Addison Allen but I won't wait that long again!  My Rating: Really Liked It (4 Stars)

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books to Read if You Want to Read a Cozy Mystery

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 Books for People Who Like Author x but since I'm not great at author comparisons I decided to recommend books for people who like cozy mysteries or want to try the genre.

1.  Paging the Dead by Brynn Bonner - If you are a fan of family secrets, investigative teams, and genealogy this is a series for you!

2.  Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson - If you love historical stories - especially those that take place in the US and involve interesting and complex characters this series is perfection and very long running.

3.  Twelve Slays of Christmas by Jacqueline Frost - If you're in the mood for a Christmas-y mystery you can't go wrong with this series that takes place on a Christmas tree farm full of Christmas-y goodness and a delightful mystery.  

4.  The Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sofie Ryan - If you like investigations headed by a multi-generational group of characters, a clever cat, and some vintage furniture this series is fantastic and fun from start to finish.  

5.  Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay - If you enjoy bookish cozies with a full community of characters this is a great series that just gets better with each book.  

6.  Death Overdue by Allison Brook - This is another library cozy but not so bookish as the main character is more involved in community events than books.  However, if you enjoy reads with a cat with lots of personality and a ghost than this is a fun take on it.

7.  Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews - If you're looking for a long running cozy series with some laugh out loud scenes, and a weird number of birds and random family members this series is one that can't be beat and each book is better than the last!

8.  By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates - If you like bookish cozies, coastal living, and would love to actually live in a library this series is for you!

9.  Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander - If you love food and Shakespeare you can't do better than this series set in Ashland, Oregon which has an amazing bakery and a Shakespeare festival.  If you're more of a craft beer and Oktoberfest kind of person try the Sloan Krauss series by this same author.  Both are fantastic!

10. Caught Dead Handed by Carol J. Perry - If you're looking for a supernatural cozy with a cat with big personality this series set in Salem, Massachusetts in such fun!

Monday, March 27, 2023

Murder in PostScript - Historical Mystery Review

Goodreads:  Murder in Poscript (A Lady of Letters Mystery) by Mary Winters

Rating: Liked It! (3.5 Stars)
Source:   Publisher

Description:  Amelia Amesbury--widow, mother, and countess--has a secret. Amelia writes for a London penny paper, doling out advice on fashion, relationships, and manners under the pen name Lady Agony. But when a lady's maid writes Amelia to ask for advice when she believes her mistress has been murdered--and then ends up a victim herself--Amelia is determined to solve the case.

With the help of her best friend and a handsome marquis, Amelia begins to piece together the puzzle, but as each new thread of inquiry ends with a different suspect, the investigation grows ever more daunting. From London's docks and ballrooms to grand country houses, Amelia tracks a killer, putting her reputation--and her life--on the line.

Genre: Mystery - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:  I love historical mysteries and this sounded like an interesting read!

My Impression:  This starts with an interesting premise.  Amelia was a country girl and daughter of an innkeeper when she was swept off her feet and married an earl.  And not just any earl - a very wealthy dying earl.  Within months of her wedding she finds herself a wealthy widow living in London and guardian of her late husband's orphaned niece.  Amelia is not used to a life of luxury and most of the household management is left to her husband's opinionated elderly Aunt Tabitha so Amelia ends up working as Lady Agony - answering anonymous questions that are sent in to her childhood friend's newspaper.   

Each chapter starts with a letter and the reply from Lady Agony which I very much enjoyed.  There is a lot of setup in this story which bogged down the writing a bit and slowed the pace.  This often happens with the first book in a series though and I'm hoping this gets better with upcoming books.  My other main issue with the book is that at times Amelia's actions drove me crazy.  Amelia is intelligent and loves her niece dearly.  She's also very aware of her responsibility as her niece's guardian.  However, she regularly seems to act impulsive to the point of lunacy such as the visit to the ask questions and her insistence of investigating with no real reason in the first place.

That said, the mystery kept me guessing until the last minute.  I loved Amelia's relationship with her niece and I love Aunt Tabitha.  I'm hoping she plays more of an active role in investigations in future books.  While this wasn't my favorite read of the month I did enjoy it overall and will be looking for the next book in this series.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author? I would.  I'm looking forward to seeing where this series goes.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would though with the reservations I mention above.  This is a bit of a slower paced mystery with the setup and if you have no patience with impulsive heroines than this may not be the book for you.  But, overall, this is a fun read and an interesting start to a new series.

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

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish - Classic Mystery Review

Goodreads: Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish (Mrs. Pollifax #9) by Dorothy Gilman

Rating: Loved It! (5 Stars)
Source:   Library

Description:  Mrs. Pollifax is on hand in Morocco to back up an inept CIA agent, and it's a good thing. Their first informant is killed, and Mrs. Pollifax begins to get the idea that her colleague is not who he says he is. Still, she forges ahead, checking out suspicious informants, and coming to the conclusion that someone is an imposter and someone wants her dead....

Genre:  Mystery - Classic

Why I Picked This Book:  I love this series and have been slowly working my way through them.  When I started to hit a bit of a reading slump I just knew Mrs. Pollifax was the answer - and of course she saved the day!

My Impression:  It's been awhile since I visited Mrs. Pollifax and I didn't realize how much I missed her until I started this book!  Mrs. Pollifax is trimming her geraniums in a bit of a slump when her old friend Bishop shows up and sends her off to Morocco.  Because this is Mrs. Pollifax nothing is as simple as it seems and because she is is Mrs. Pollifax she is unfailingly pleasant, curious and resourceful.  
Getting to the bottom of just what is going on was fascinating and entertaining with a bit of 1980s Moroccan politics and lots of danger and intrigue.  There's a cameo by a reoccurring character that I enjoyed  seeing and watching Mrs. Pollifax get herself and the people she collects along the way out of trouble is always a delight.
This book reads perfectly fine as a standalone but is definitely enhanced by reading the series in order.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author? Of course.  Gilman is one of my favorite authors and I always enjoy her books.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Definitely!  If you're in the mood for a fun adventure series with the most likable main character of all time you really should try this series.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Friday Five - Five Books on My TBR Set in Ireland

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much.   One of my themes for March is Ireland and here are 5 books on my TBR set in Ireland.

1.  The Lilac Bus by Maeve Binchy - Somehow I've only read one Maeve Binchy book but I absolutely loved it and have been meaning to read more by her for literally years.  This sounds wonderful.

2.  The Likeness by Tana French - I read the first book in the Dublin Murder Squad series and while I liked it I couldn't quite forgive it for not wrapping up the older mystery mentioned in the book.  I've heard great things about this one and need to give the author another chance.

3.  Tears of the Moon by Nora Roberts - The first book in this trilogy is one of my absolute favorite Roberts books but for some reason I haven't read the second book more often.  I'd really like to reread this one soon.

4.  The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy - A woman getting her life back together in a small village in Ireland and a library about to close.  Yes please!

5.  Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch - I've seen good reviews for other books by this author but didn't know this one existed and it looks so sweet.

Do you have any books set in Ireland on your TBR?  Or any favorite reads set in Ireland?

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Books from the Backlog - Fairy Spell

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:  Fairy Spells: How Two Girls Convinced the World That Fairies Are Real by Marc Tyler Nobleman and Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

Blurb:  The true story of British cousins who fooled the world for more than 60 years with a remarkable hoax, photographs of “real” fairies. Exquisitely illustrated with art by Eliza Wheeler as well as the original photos taken by the girls.

Why It Needs to Come Off the Shelf:  I loved the Hazel Gaynor book based on this real life event and this would take me about 20 minutes to sit down and read.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The Raven Thief - Cozy Mystery Review

Goodreads:  The Raven Thief (A Secret Staircase Mystery #2) by Gigi Pandian

Rating: Really Liked It (4 Stars)
Source:   Publisher

Description:  One murder. Four impossibilities. A fake séance hides a very real crime.

Secret Staircase Construction just finished their first project with Tempest Raj officially a part of the team—a classic mystery novel-themed home interior. Their client is now ready to celebrate her new life without her cheating ex-husband, famous mystery author Corbin Colt. First up, a party, and Tempest and Grandpa Ash are invited to the exclusive mock séance to remove any trace of Corbin from the property—for good. It's all lighthearted fun until Corbin's dead body crashes the party.

The only possible suspects are the eight people around the séance table—a circle of clasped hands that wasn't broken. Suspicion quickly falls on Grandpa Ash, the only one with actual blood on him. To prove her beloved grandfather’s innocence, Tempest must figure out what really happened—and how—or Ash will be cooking his delectable Indian and Scottish creations nevermore.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I've enjoyed other books by this author and liked the first book in the series though it wasn't a favorite.

My Impression:  I really enjoyed the concept of the magicians and secret staircases in the first book but felt the execution was a bit lacking with all the different topics crammed into the book.  My fingers were crossed when I started this book and it more than exceeded my expectations.  With all the setup from the first book out of the way we could focus on Tempest and her family and friends, the intricacies of the amazing spaces her family creates, and the mystery itself.  

This mystery was especially interesting with an impossible murder in an impossible situation.  There are several intriguing side issues the investigation goes into and every single one was fascinating and kept me hooked.  There is also a series long mystery involving Tempest's mother and a family curse and seeing how this was woven into the plot was interesting.  

The characters are unique and highly specialized.  There are magicians, craftsmen, and researchers and each character brought so much to the story.  This is a fun and unusual read with a great concept and interesting if not always likable characters.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I will definitely be looking more from this author and will be picking up the next book in the series.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would.  It is better if you read the first book before this one as it does explain a lot.  

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday - Books From My Favorite Authors That I Still Need To Read

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 a Top Ten Tuesday rewind so I've chosen the topic - Books From My Favorite Authors That I Still Need To Read.

1. Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts - I love Nora Roberts' stand alone stories and this one looks great.  Plus, it's been sitting on my shelf since it came out in paperback which was years ago!

2.  The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor - This was the book that made me notice Hazel Gaynor in the first place.  Since then I've read and loved a number of her books but somehow never read this one!

3.  The Blind Side by Patricia Wentworth - I love Patricia Wentworth's mysteries and have read all the Miss Silver books but haven't read all the Ernest Lamb books.  This is one I'm missing.

4.  The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton - I have had the audio of this one since shortly after it came out but have stalled on getting to it.  

5.  A Nun in the Closet by Dorothy Gilman - I have read and adored the Mrs. Pollifax books but haven't read any of Gilman's stand alones.  This one sounds absolutely delightful!

6.  Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn - I love Deanna Raybourn's books but somehow never read the first book in her earlier Lady Julia Gray mystery series.

7.  Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick - I really enjoy Quick's romantic suspense but somehow I have never read this one.

8.  The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell - This book was the first book by Jewell that ever ended up on my TBR but while I've read a lot of her books I somehow have still not read this one.

9,  Hello, Stranger by Lisa Kleypas - Kleypas is by far one of my favorite romance authors but for some reason I haven't gotten all the Ravenell books read and still have this one to go.

10. Unfinished Portrait by Agatha Christie - This was technically published under the Mary Westmacott name but it's still an Agatha Christie book that I somehow haven't read!

Do you have books by a favorite author that you have yet to read?

Monday, March 20, 2023

Strike Out 4 Murder - Cozy Mystery Review

Goodreads:  Strike Out 4 Murder (A Sophie Kimball Mystery #11) by J.C. Eaton

Rating: Really Liked It (4 Stars)
Source:   Publisher

Description:  When softball fever overtakes Sun City West, foul balls and foul play add up to murder . . .

When a member of the local pinochle club rallies everyone in the community to come cheer on the softball team he’s joined, Sophie “Phee” Kimball can’t imagine a worse way to spend a free afternoon. But before anyone can take them out to the ball game, her mother’s friend Shirley spots a dead body, only to have it vanish before anyone else sees it. Soon Shirley and her friends can’t decide whether she’s losing her marbles or being stalked by the living dead—until an attempt is made on her life.

Wondering if the body Shirley saw belongs to a missing ballplayer who may have been murdered, Phee begins to suspect that Shirley’s in danger from a menacing killer. Following the clues at the ball park and eyeing the crowd for a likely perpetrator, she devises a clever scheme to sniff out the culprit, but she’ll have to act fast before she strikes out for the last time!

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  This is one of my favorite cozy mystery series so of course I had to pick this one up.

My Impression: I am undecided as to whether I want to retire to some place like Sun City West.  The good thing is I would never ever be bored and the bad thing is I would never ever be bored!  There is always something going on and lots of gossiping and in between all the events and clubs and gossip there are frequently murders.  In this new adventure book club member Shirley seems to be tripping over dead bodies but the problem is they don't seem to be staying put.  Since Shirley is one of Phee's mother's more reliable friends Phee takes her seriously and is soon plunged into an investigation trying to figure out just what is going on.  

With Phee's husband Marshall and boss Nate (the Private Investigators of the business) are out of town Phee is mostly investigating on her own with the help of Phee's friends Augusta and Lindy and book group and pinochle club from Sun City West.  Chaos ensues though Phee's mom's dog, Streetman, isn't even responsible for most of it!  Paul and Lindy have been side characters in most of the books of this series but in this book they take more active roles and we get to know them a bit better which was fun.  I did guess some of what was going on before the end but I had such a good time getting to the reveal it didn't bother me.

If you like quirky cozies with plenty of hijinks and chaos this is a fun series that is always enjoyable!  

Would I Read More of this Series/Author? Absolutely!  These mysteries aren't perfect but they're always such fun and I will always grab the next book.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would!  This is a quirky series but lots of fun.  It's probably better when read in order but the mysteries do stand on their own.

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

Sunday, March 19, 2023

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 Murderous Type by Sue Minix -I don't know much about this book but I love the cover and can never resist a bookish cozy.  (Publisher)


Reading:  Murder in Postscript by Mary Winters and Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish by Dorothy Gilman

Listening:  The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

This was another good week.  We are really starting to gain traction with finding our new normal when it comes to homeschooling.  We have an appointment with Will's pediatrician to get a prescription for physical therapy and just a regular post-treatment check in.  He's feeling pretty good and his energy level is way up which is nice.  We also are trying to get his No-Mo Chemo party scheduled at the affiliate.  We had it scheduled but then Will and I got Covid and had to cancel.

Dog classes have started again and this week we will have a new group of puppies which I'm so looking forward to.  The scent work trial is over and went really smoothly and I'm finally caught up rest wise!  Dog events are hard work!  

I've been in a bit of a reading funk - mostly because I've been tired but also because most of what I've read has really pulled me in.  I've enjoyed all the books I've read but I've been ready for them to be done if that makes sense.  I'm hoping the Mrs. Pollifax book will kick things back into the gear.  If anyone can save the day it's Mrs. Pollifax!

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, March 18, 2023

The Unexpected Guest - Classic Mystery Review

Goodreads:  The Unexpected Guest by Agatha Christie and Adapted by Charles Osborne

Rating:  Liked It (3.5 Stars)
Source:   Purchased

Description:  When a stranger runs his car into a ditch in dense fog near the South Wales coast, and makes his way to an isolated house, he discovers a woman standing over the dead body of her wheel-chair bound husband, gun in her hand. She admits to murder, and the unexpected guest offers to help her concoct a cover story.

But is it possible that Laura Warwick did not commit the murder after all? If so, who is she shielding? The victim's retarded young half-brother or his dying matriarchal mother? Laura's lover? Perhaps the father of the little boy killed in an accident for which Warwick was responsible? The house seems full of possible suspects ...

Genre: Mystery - Classic

My Impression:  Huh.  I'm not quite sure what I thought of this one.  This starts out looking like a very simple straightforward mystery but quickly spins out of control.  Is the obvious suspect the killer or is she covering for someone or was it simply wrong place wrong time?  And just who is the unexpected guest and what are his real motives?

This is a play written by Christie and much later adapted into a novel by Charles Osborne who is an actor and Christie lover.  He does a good job making this into a novel though there are times when the prose does feel like stage directions.  I was easily able to visualize the setting and characters and in some ways the stage directions enhanced this as I could see just how this would take place in play form.  

This is clearly Christie experimenting in the play format.  There's a bit more uncertainty as to just what happened and the atmosphere is much more unsettling with heavy fog and multiple motives.  When I finished this I couldn't quite decide what I thought of it but as a little time has gone by I've gotten more and more positive about it.  I would definitely enjoy seeing this in play form and will probably reread this though it may be a bit.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author? Of course!  Agatha Christie is one of my favorite authors and I have one more of the adapted plays left.

Would I Recommend this Book?   Maybe?  If you're a big Christie fan than definitely if you're not than this probably isn't the book I'd recommend starting with.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Friday Five - Five Magical Books on My TBR

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much.  One of my reading themes or focuses this month is magic so here are 5 books with magical realism on my TBR.

1.  South of the Buttonwood Tree by Heather Webber - I absolutely loved Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by this author and really want to read more from her.

2.  Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen - This is one of my favorite authors and this book sounds absolutely fantastic yet I missed it when it first came out.

3.   The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna - I've heard this described as a hug in book form and it sounds absolutely like such a good read.

4.  The Glass Kitchen by Linda Frances Lee - I haven't read anything by this author but it has sisters, people getting their life together, food, and a bit of magic.

5.  The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag - I have several books by this author on my TBR and this one looks really intriguing.

Have you read any of these or do you have any magical books on your TBR?

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Books from the Backlog - Omens

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:  Omens (Cainsville #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Blurb:  Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.
But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.

Why It Needs to Come Off the Shelf:  This is an author I've been wanting to read for years and this falls into magical realism which fits my theme for the month of March.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

A Tempest at Sea - Historical Mystery Review

Goodreads:  A Tempest at Sea (The Lady Sherlock Series #7) by Sherry Thomas

Rating: Really Liked It (4 Stars)
Source:   Publisher

Description:  After feigning her own death in Cornwall to escape from Moriarty’s perilous attention, Charlotte Holmes goes into hiding. But then she receives a tempting offer: Find a dossier the crown is desperately seeking to recover, and she might be able to go back to a normal life.

Her search leads her aboard the RMS Provence, sailing from Southampton for the eastern hemisphere. But on the night Charlotte makes her move to retrieve the dossier, in the midst of a terrifying storm in the Bay of Biscay, a brutal murder also takes place on the ship.

Instead of solving the crime, as she is accustomed to doing, Charlotte must take care not to be embroiled in this investigation, lest it become known to those who harbor ill intentions that Sherlock Holmes is abroad and still very much alive.

Genre: Mystery - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:  I've long been a fan of this series and just couldn't resist that cover!

My Impression: Charlotte and Mrs. Watson along with Lord Ingram and Olivia Holmes are out for a nautical adventure.  Throw in the disastrous Mr. Shrewsbury, an Australian brother and sister, and the unexpected decidedly unwanted arrival of Lady Holmes herself (Charlotte and Olivia's mother) and it is very clear that they are not going to have smooth sailing.  

Charlotte is on a recovery mission with her friends and colleagues looking for a tiny portfolio believed to be being carried by a governess who is onboard with her charges.  Unfortunately, right in the middle of her mission a murder happens onboard causing the focus to go from the recovery to protecting Charlotte's identity.  

The pace of this book is lightening fast from beginning to end and kept me absolutely hooked.  I loved this version of a locked door mystery and trying to figure out the motives of all the players.  I was completely in the dark as to just what was going on until the end.  There are some flashbacks which don't always work for me but they were very cleverly done here giving the reader just the right amount of information.

My only real problem with this story and this series in general is there are a lot of moving parts and major players.  There are some people on Charlotte's team and some on Moriarty's and since I've read more than a few books since I read the previous book in the series I sometimes struggle to remember who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.  Luckily, the main characters are so well developed, interesting, and unique that I'm always able to engage in the story even if I'm a little confused on the whos who of the side characters.  

While most mystery series can be read essentially as standalones this series is best read in order due to the complicated relationships.  Since each book has a solid mystery, good pacing, and fantastic characters this is absolutely not a hardship! 

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I'm looking forward to seeing Charlotte Holmes' next adventure and I'd really love to do a reread of this series.

Would I Recommend this Book?   I would very much recommend this series if you're a fan of Holmes stories or well written historical mysteries.  

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday - Spring TBR

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 my Spring TBR.  The seasonal TBRs are always my favorite Top Ten Tuesdays.  I very rarely read even most of the books on these lists but I love making them!

1.  An American in Scotland by Lucy Connelly - I'm excited about this one and I absolutely adore the cover.

2.  Cinnamon Twisted Ginger Bolton - This is a new to me cozy series that looks intriguing.  

3.  The Bride Wore White by Amanda Quick - I love this series and can't wait for the latest book

4.  Murder on Bedford Street by Victoria Thompson - This is a favorite historical mystery series and I always look forward to the newest book.

5.  Fiddling with Fate by Diane Kelly - I've really enjoyed the last couple of books in this series set around moonshine store in Chattanooga, Tennessee and am looking forward to seeing what catastrophe the main character ends up this time.

6.  The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams - I've read several books by Williams and really enjoyed them all but it's been a few years.  This one has been sitting on my shelf for quite awhile and it's one I'm looking forward to reading this spring.

7.  The Widow's Secret by Kate Hewitt - This is my last overdue review book from 2022 (we won't talk about the overdue review books from 2019 - 2014) and I've enjoyed the first 3 books in this series.  

8.  On Spine of Death by Tamara Berry - I have the 3rd book in this series coming up on my reading list for the end of May but I have yet to read the 2nd book.  Definitely need to get to this one soon!

9.  Close Up by Amanda Quick - I have the most recent book coming up in May (see #3) but am a couple of books behind.  These are all essentially stand alones but I'd still like to be caught up.

10.  Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews - I have loved all the recent books in this series but somehow missed the first 15 + books in this series.  I'm looking forward to picking up the first book and seeing where all the madness began.

What books are you hoping to read this spring?

Monday, March 13, 2023

Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice For Murders - Mystery Review

Goodreads:  Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Rating:  Loved It! (5 Stars)
Source:   Publisher

Description: Vera Wong is a lonely little old lady--ah, lady of a certain age--who lives above her forgotten tea shop in the middle of San Francisco's Chinatown. Despite living alone, Vera is not needy, oh no. She likes nothing more than sipping on a good cup of Wulong and doing some healthy detective work on the Internet about what her Gen-Z son is up to.

Then one morning, Vera trudges downstairs to find a curious thing--a dead man in the middle of her tea shop. In his outstretched hand, a flash drive. Vera doesn't know what comes over her, but after calling the cops like any good citizen would, she sort of . . . swipes the flash drive from the body and tucks it safely into the pocket of her apron. Why? Because Vera is sure she would do a better job than the police possibly could, because nobody sniffs out a wrongdoing quite like a suspicious Chinese mother with time on her hands. Vera knows the killer will be back for the flash drive; all she has to do is watch the increasing number of customers at her shop and figure out which one among them is the killer.

What Vera does not expect is to form friendships with her customers and start to care for each and every one of them. As a protective mother hen, will she end up having to give one of her newfound chicks to the police?

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  The premise sounded interesting and I do love a cozy with quirky characters.

My Impression: I loved this book.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect going in and in the first few pages.  Vera is a force of nature in the absolute strongest sense of the word.  Her morning routine included waking up at 4:30AM and promptly texting her (adult) son, Tilly, because he should be awake already.  I felt much sympathy for Tilly for the first part of the book because Vera is quite convinced of just the way she thinks things should be and sees no reason to pull her punches.  

When a body is found in Vera's teashop her life suddenly expands.  First by her plunging into the investigation ( the part with the body outline still makes me giggle thinking about it) and then by the introduction of 4 characters and a little girl.  As the story went on I absolutely fell in love with Vera and the rest of her world (except for Winifred and her fake French bakery even if her pastries are good).  Vera could have easily been made to be ridiculous but the author infuses her with the perfect balance of drive and heart that I couldn't help but love her.  

This wasn't the most restful book as Vera frequently made me feel like I needed to get up and call my mother or bring my father groceries but I enjoyed it from beginning to end.  

Would I Read More of this Series/Author? Absolutely!  I am looking forward to reading more from this author.  

Would I Recommend this Book?  Yes!  Even if you aren't the biggest mystery fan I think you'd enjoy this book.

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

Saturday, March 11, 2023

My Life in Reading - March 12

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:

My Book Outlet order arrived!  Between this book and my haul of review books last week I need to take about a month off of getting new books.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King - I've been meaning to do a reread of this series for years so I picked up the first book.

A Trail of Lies by Kylie Logan - I enjoyed the first book of the series so I had to pick up the second book.

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot - I read this book in high school and remember enjoying it but have really been wanting to reread it since the series started.

Knot On Her Life by Mary Marks - This is a series I want to read.  I love books involving quilting even though I'm not a quilter and I've heard good things about this series.

A Deadly Chapter by Essie Lang - I read the second book in this series and enjoyed it and bought the first book so I figured I'd get the third book too!

Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton - I've been wanting to read Enid Blyton for ages and when I saw this book for just a couple of dollars I figured it was a sign.

Death at Greenways by Lori Rader Day - I know nothing about this book or this author but Greenways is Agatha Christie's home so I had to give it a try.

Murder on Mustique by Anne Glenconner - I feel like I've heard good things about this author and this looked interesting.

Gone for Good by Joanna Schaffhausen - I've heard good things about this author and this one looked interesting.

Dust to Dust by Audrey Keown - Another book I've heard nothing about but it looked interesting so I figured I'd give it a try.


Reading:  The Raven Thief by Gigi Pandian and First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Listening: Scheduled to Death by Mary Feliz

This has been another good and quiet week.  We got school done which included a Zoom class for forensic science and a service club meeting.  It was great for him to hang out with friends in person and work on a community project.  Other than that he's been having a fabulous time building Lego sets and has fallen down a rabbit hole on Star Wars and is watching all the Clone Wars episodes.

J and I went and saw Casablanca at the theater which was amazing.  I've seen the movie dozens of times but seeing it on the big screen was such a fantastic experience.  It reminded me of why it was one of my favorite movies of all time.  This weekend has been a scent work trial at the dog club and it has reminded me that I am not used to manual labor and am massively out of shape!  I have loved seeing all the different dog breeds and it's been a lot of fun.  I might sleep all next week though!

Have a great week and happy reading!

Rose Cottage - Classic Fiction Review

Goodreads:  Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart

Rating: Really Liked It (4 Stars)
Source:   Library

Description:  Rose Cottage, a tiny thatched dwelling in an idyllic English country setting, would appear the picture of tranquillity to any passerby. But when Kate Herrick returns to her childhood home she uncovers a web of intrigue as tangled as the rambling roses in its garden. 
It is the summer of 1947. Kate, widowed in the War and comfortably settled in London, travels to Rose Cottage to retrieve some family papers for her grandmother. Curious as to the changes and the welcome she'll find, she is relieved when, at first glance, everything seems just as she remembers it. But she soon finds disturbing evidence of a break-in. The papers are missing. The village is alive with gossip. Did her elderly neighbors, suspected of being witches, really see nighttime prowlers and ghosts in the cottage garden? Kate's search for the truth brings her together with many childhood friends and neighbors, some suspicious of her return, but most eager to help. It also leads her down a trail of family bitterness, jealousy, and revenge - and into an exploration of her own past.

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I've been wanting to read more Mary Stewart and I just picked this one up on a whim.  

My Impression:  This was a sweet story with a touch of intrigue at the beginning and middle.  Kate Herrick has come a long way since she was Kathy Whelland who lived at Rose Cottage with her grandmother and great-aunt.  However, Kate is not torn or hiding from her past in any way which was nice.  She had a good childhood except for the disappearance of her mother when Kate was a little girl and having to deal with her rather dour great-aunt.  
When she arrives back at Rose Cottage to pack up her grandmother's belongings she's happy to reunite with the places and friends of her childhood even though something is definitely amiss around the cottage.
Kate is a nice character as are most of the people who inhabit the village surrounding Rose Cottage and everyone has an opinion or sighting.  
I have read this and then listened to the abridged version.  Normally, I'm not a fan of abridged book but this one was read by Samantha Eggar and was absolutely fantastic.  The shortened form works nicely for this story and if you can find the version narrated by Eggar it's definitely worth it.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author? I would!  I've really enjoyed everything I've read by her so far and really want to finish all of her books.

Would I Recommend this Book? If you're looking for a sweet story with likable characters this is a nice quick read or short listen!