Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Review: Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

Description (from cover):

'A sweeping story told in letters, spanning two continents and two world wars, Jessica Brockmole's atmospheric debut novels captures the indelible ways that people fall in love, and celebrates the power of the written word to stir the heart.

March 1912: Twenty-four-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland's remote Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when her first fan letter arrives, from a college student, David Graham, in far-away America. As the two strike up a correspondence--sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets--their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. But as World War I engulfs Europe and David volunteers as an ambulance driver on the Western Front, Elspeth can only wait for him on Skye, hoping he'll survive.

June 1940: At the start of World War II, Elspeth's daughter, Margaret, has fallen for a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Her mother warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn't understand. Then, after a bomb rocks Elspeth's house, and letters that were hidden in a wall come raining down, Elspeth disappears. Only a single letter remains as a clue to Elspeth's whereabouts. As Margaret sets out to discover where her mother has gone, she must also face the truth of what happened to her family long ago.

Sparkling with charm and full of captivating period detail, Letters from Skye is a testament to the power of love to overcome great adversity, and marks Jessica Brockmole as a stunning new literary voice.'

My thoughts:

If you have read and loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society odds are you will enjoy this book as well. They are very similar, yet different at the same time. This book focuses more on a few characters, while the other seems to focus more on the whole island and how the war affects them. Still you can compare the two and see that they have a lot of the similar themes, but this book was more about love in wartime versus how war effects society as a whole. This book switches back and forth from World War I and World War II and shows the readers the similarities of the wars, but how different they really were. World War I was mostly fought away from England, while in World War II, England was constantly bombarded with bombs.

Elspeth Dunn begins a strange relationship with an American after she receives David's first letter congratulating her on her poetry book. Soon they strike up a friendly correspondence and over time they fall in love. It is interesting to see how an ocean and a war cannot deter true love. This book also features Elspeth's daughter Margaret and how she is coping during the beginning of WWII. Margaret is a lot like her mother, but she doesn't realize it because her past was kept secret by her mother. Her mother kept her in the dark about her father and her mother's life before having Margaret. There is a lot of mystery in this book because when you're reading it, you can help but want to know what happened. The author did a fantastic job of making this reader want to read through the pages as fast as possible to find out how everything happened.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It was a short and quick read and I was able to read it in one day. I hate that it was so short, but I can imagine how hard it is the for the author to write in nothing but letters. This book is told through the character's letters to each other. I enjoyed the different approach that this book took in telling its story. I think that this is a great read for people who love to read about WWI and WWII and encourage others to discover it for themselves.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  Letters from Skye
Author:  Jessica Brockmole
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Publication Date:  May 13, 2014
Pages:  320
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review: The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson

Description (from cover):

'London, 1727. Tom Hawkins refuses to follow in his father's footsteps and become a country parson. His preference is for wine, women, and cards. But there's honor there too, and Tom won't pull family strings to get himself out of debt--not even when faced with London's notorious debtor's prison.

The Marshalsea Gaol is a world of its own, with simple rules: Those with family or friends who can lend them a little money may survive in relative comfort. Those with none will starve in squalor and disease. And those who try to escape will suffer a gruesome fate at the hands of its ruthless governor and his cronies. The trouble is, Tom has never been good at following rules, even simple ones. And the recent grisly murder of a debtor, Captain Roberts, has brought further terror to the gaol. While the captain's beautiful widow cries for justice, the finger of suspicion points only one way: to the sly, enigmatic figure of Samuel Fleet. 

Some call Fleet a devil, a man to avoid at all costs. But Tom Hawkins is sharing his cell. Soon Tom's choice is clear: get to the truth of the murder--or be the next to die.

A dazzling evocation of a startlingly modern era, The Devil in the Marshalsea is a thrilling debut novel full of intrigue and suspense.'

My thoughts:

This one has been making the rounds on a lot of the blogs that I follow and because it looked interesting, I snagged it at my local library. I am glad that I had the chance to read this one. It is an eye-opening to experience into a historical world of debtor's prisons. I haven't read anything that portrays the debtor's prisons and what they were really like for all who lived in them. At times this book was downright gruesome and while I really didn't care for that all that much, I understand that the author wanted the reader to see how life was really like. 

Tom Hawkins is a character the reader loves to gripe about. He is smart, but at times he makes the worst possible choices. I really enjoyed this book and found it really hard to put down. I wanted to see how everything turned out. The author did a fantastic job in creating the world of the debtor's prison for the reader and the characters are all so untrustworthy. One minute you think you've found a friend, but in reality the reader has found a foe. No one is what they appear and I loved that aspect of this book. I also really enjoyed Fleet's character, who everyone loves to hate. He is the scapegoat of a lot of people, but he is also not what he seems.

I enjoyed the suspense and thrill ride that was this novel. I could have done without the more gruesome scenes and for that I will rate it a little lower. However, if you can put that aside, you will find that this is a beautifully written story of betrayal, intrigue and murder. I was amazed at how much research the author appears to have put into the novel as it really shows and the reader is left feeling as they are apart of something different.

Overall Rating: 4

Title:  The Devil in the Marshalsea
Author:  Antonia Hodgson
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Mariner Books
Publication Date:  June 10, 2014
Pages:  400
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was selected from the library by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Review: The Serpent and the Scorpion by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Description (from cover):

'It's nearly two years since her father's death and Ursula Marlow is embroiled in personal and professional struggles. Her relationship with Lord Wrotham has cooled since she rejected his marriage proposal and she continues to fly in the face of society's conventions as to the appropriate role of a woman in Edwardian England. Now she is besieged on all fronts as she struggles to succeed as an independent businesswoman, despite financial difficulties, labor unrest and arson attacks on her mills and factories.

While on a business trip to Egypt, Ursula witnesses a friend's murder in Cairo's Khan el-Khalili bazaar, and embarks on her own investigation, convinced the Egyptian police and Scotland Yard are mistaken in assuming the death was politically motivated.

Days later a young woman dies in a fire in one of Ursula's factories in England and Ursula returns to discover the woman was already dead before the fire started. Driven by her need for justice and the dictates of her conscience, Ursula must rely on her own powers of detection and a growing interest in cryptography to discover a possible connection between the deaths, the return of her Bolshevik ex-lover and disturbing events in the Middle East.'

My thoughts:

This book was immensely better than the first one in this series. I enjoyed this one a lot. The author seemed to stepped up her game when writing this one. This one embroils the reader in political and emotional turmoil. This is a murder steeped high in politics and greed. I have to say that this one was a hard one to put down. Ursula character goes through a dramatic change from the first book to this one. She is more independent, more level headed and more mature. I have to say that this Ursula beats the other Ursula hands down. She knows what she wants and she is not afraid to fight tooth and nail for it.

I do wish that this book was set more in Egypt. The author did a fantastic job of laying the scenery when Ursula was in Egypt and I would have loved to see everything play out in the Middle East instead of in England. The author was able to portray the exotic and curious being that Egypt is and it made me want more. Of course, I love a book set in England, but I think the author did a phenomenal job and would love to see a book set fully somewhere full of intrigue.  This book is a complete 180 from the first book and it has become a series that I am fully engaged and interested in.

Ursula has to make some tough decisions in this one, but it shows the reader the dramatic change from spoiled heiress to a businesswoman in her own right. This was a fantastic read that was well worth the money I spent on the Kindle edition. If you haven't discovered this gem of a series, I encourage you to find it if you love history and a plucky main character.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  The Serpent and the Scorpion
Author:  Clare Langley-Hawthorne
Series:  Ursula Marlow Mystery #2
Publisher:  Penguin Books
Publication Date:  September 30, 2008
Pages:  304
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was purchased by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Review: Consequences of Sin by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Description (from cover):

'For the fans of Maisie Dobbs, a riveting new Edwardian mystery series featuring detective heiress Ursula Marlow...

Ursula Marlow, the star of this richly detailed, beautiful paces, deeply romantic mystery, is a strong female heroine with whom fans of Dorothy Sayers, Sarah Waters, Anne Perry, and Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series will instantly fall in love. 

An Oxford graduate active in the battle for women's suffrage, Ursula is not your typical Edwardian heiress. Her once-charmed life takes a frightening turn when a fellow suffragette and friend is accused of murder. 

As Ursula digs deeper to discover the truth and clear her friend's tarnished name, she is drawn into a mystery that raises troubling questions about her own father's connection to the murder victim.'

My thoughts:

I think that I have to disagree with the blurb that this book would appeal to Maisie Dobbs fans. I can see how it would in a way, but for me this book reminds me so much more of Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily Ashton series. Even though the time periods are different, they are still very similar. They both have very headstrong characters who have to deal with the upper class of English society. Maisie Dobbs focuses more on World War I and is a different character all together. This book reminded me a lot of the first book in the Lady Emily Ashton series and I think that is what drew me in.

The beginning of the book was a little hard to follow and all over the place, but once I figured who everyone was and the different story lines, it didn't take too long for me to get interested. I will say that the reader is left in the dark about a lot of things and at times that annoyed me, but I understand that the author was trying to create suspense. I am just an impatient reader who likes to know everything up front. The author doesn't give me that satisfaction in this one, but that was also a part of the thrill. I was dying to know all of the secrets and was glad when I was finally let in on them. The ending was a little different than I expected. Nothing too bad, just a little odd. 

The author does a fantastic job of laying the groundwork for the series in this book. Ursula goes through some pretty dramatic things in this book that bodes well for the series. I really enjoyed Ursula's character and I appreciate the strong female lead in this book. In the Edwardian period, a strong-willed and independent woman was rare and it is nice to see how the author uses this against Ursula and helps to create depth within her character. The romantic part in this book was just right and not overly done. I have to say that the author did a fantastic job of creating drama, romance and mystery in this book.

Overall Rating: 3.5

Title:  Consequences of Sin
Author:  Clare Langley-Hawthorne
Series:  Ursula Marlow Mystery #1
Publisher:  Penguin Books
Publication Date:  January 29, 2008
Pages:  272
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was purchased by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Review: The Advent of Murder by Martha Ockley

Description (from cover):

'Faith Morgan, former policewoman and vicar of the small English village of Little Worthy, goes to visit one of her parishioners at his farm, only to discover the house surrounded by police cars. A body has been found in the local river and farmer Markham is charged with murder.

Though busy with preparations for Christmas, Faith is called on to investigate when it's found out that the victim is also a member of her congregation--Lucas Kemp, a member of the choir.

Faith's informal inquiries lead her to uncover a hotbed of tensions and romantic rivalries in the choir, questions about drugs, and a run-in with an unsavory uncle--which leads to a dramatic rescue by Ben, Faith's former detective partner and ex-boyfriend.

In the tradition of Father Brown and Miss Marple, The Advent of Murder brings readers an authentic picture of English rural and church life combined with a satisfying mystery that will keep readers guessing until the end.'

My thoughts:

Who doesn't love a quaint English mystery? This book is the proverbial English cozy mystery that I love. I enjoyed this one immensely as Faith's character is flawed, yet very engaging at the same time. I really enjoyed the first book in this series The Reluctant Detective and I had a feeling that I would find this one to be equally charming. I was correct, of course. Faith was a former police detective who turned in her badge to become a vicar. Even though she is no longer fighting crime, she cannot help but sneak back into her past ways when a murder investigation lands on her doorstep.

The thing that I hated most about this book was that it was too short. I wish the author would write more and give the reader a longer mystery. This mystery had some suspects, but not a slew of them. I would have liked to have seen more suspects and more motive for the murder. I had a hunch who the murderer was about halfway through this novel and I was correct. That in itself was a little disappointing as I like to guess the murderer but I also like a surprise. 

I like this series because of the quaint setting and the characters. Everything is so charming that it is almost impossible not to enjoy reading this one. I enjoyed this one, but wish that it would have had more clues, more suspects and more overall in the mystery department. Still a cute read that wasn't poorly written or boring, so that's a plus. I'm anxious to see what happens next in Little Worthy and what crimes Faith will face next.

Overall Rating: 3.5

Title:  The Advent of Murder
Author:  Martha Ockley
Series:  Faith Morgan Mystery #2
Publisher:  Lion Fiction
Publication Date:  July 19, 2013
Pages:  258
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was given to me, by the publisher through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Review: Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran

Description (from cover):

'Nestled in the barrier islands of Florida's Gulf Coast, Fort Myers Beach is home to Mary 'Sassy' Cabot and Bridget Mayfield--owners of the bookstore cafe, Read 'Em and Eat. But when they're not dishing about books or serving up scones, Sassy and Bridgy are keeping tabs on murder.

Read 'Em and Eat is known for its delicious treats and colorful clientele. There's Miss Augusta Maddox, who enjoys lecturing tourists on the rumors of sunken treasure among the islands, and her cousin Delia Batson, a regular at the Emily Dickinson table who is painfully shy...which makes the news of her murder all the more shocking.

No one is more distraught than Augusta. She wants Delia's killer found--and she's not taking no for an answer. Now Sassy is on the case, and she'd better act fast before there's any more trouble in paradise.'

My thoughts:

This one actually started off slow and took me a little while to get into. Eventually, I did get there and began to enjoy the characters and the storyline. I loved the setting in this one, which is a small island in Florida's Gulf Coast, where everyone knows everyone and the town is full of suspicious characters. I enjoyed Sassy and Bridgy's characters, I just wish that the author could have came up with some not-so-old sounding names. Sassy and Bridgy are in their thirties, but with names like that, you would think that they were much older in their sixties or something.

I also have somewhat of an issue with the name of the cafe being Read 'Em and Eat. Really? There were no other names that sounded more unique? I enjoyed the literary theme of the book as of course, I love to read books and love everything literary, but this one for some reason just didn't go so well for me. I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It is the first in a new series and as I have mentioned on this blog a million times, it's either hit or miss. There seems to be no middle ground with me when it comes to debut books in new cozy series. I either love it or hate it. Unfortunately, this one landed in the "hate" pile.

As I stated earlier, the beginning was slow but the conclusion was just lame. It was very predictable and not very exciting. I expected more as I was reading this one, because in the middle or so, I started to enjoy this book a lot more and then the ending happened and ruined the whole book for me. I think that I will give the next one in this series a shot, but I'm not really holding my breath.

Overall Rating: 2.5

Title:  Well Read, Then Dead
Author:  Terrie Farley Moran
Series:  Read 'Em and Eat Mystery #1
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  August 5, 2014
Pages:  304
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was purchased by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Review: Tempest in a Teapot by Amanda Cooper

Description (from cover):

'Tucked away in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is the charming town of Gracious Grove, where time moves slowly, gossip spreads quickly and the scones are to die for...

When her fashionable Manhattan restaurant goes under, Sophie Taylor retreats to her grandmother's cozy shop, Auntie Rose's Victorian Tea House, where serenity is steeped to perfection in one of her many antique teapots. The last thing Sophie expects is a bustling calendar of tearoom events, like her old friend Cissy Peterson's upcoming bridal shower.

Not everyone is pleased with the bride-to-be's choice of venue--like Cissy's grandmother, who owns a competing establishment, La Belle Epoque, and has held a long-simmering grudge against Rose for stealing her beau sixty years ago. Tensions reach a boiling point when Cissy's fiance's mother dies while sampling scones at La Belle Epoque. Now, to help her friend, Sophie will have to bag a killer before more of the guest list becomes a hit list...'

My thoughts:

Typically, when a new series is released, I tend to read them and then either love or hate them. Nothing really in between. For some reason, I have the worst luck when it comes to the first book in debut series. I usually tend to hate them and then really get into the series by reading the books that are later released. This one was different. I love it from the very first page. The main character, Sophie, has a great head on her shoulders. She's not like some other sleuths who make horrible decisions. She seems very educated, very smart and quick on her feet. I love her background and what she brings to the cozy mystery genre. 

Sophie returns to Gracious Grove, New York, the place where she spent her summer vacations while growing up to assist her grandmother with Auntie Rose's Victoria Tea House. Sophie had an upscale restaurant in Manhattan that unfortunately was a flop. Nursing her hurts, she returns to Gracious Grove anxious to move on with her life and to plan how to exactly move forward. Well, that was her plan, until someone ends up dead at the rival tea house in town. Sophie uses her old friends and her new connections to help her solve this perplexing crime. Who wanted the victim dead and why? She doesn't have much faith in the local law enforcement and she realizes that it is up to her to solve the crime before someone else gets hurt or worse.

I liked this one because it has something a little different. I would have never thought that I would enjoy reading about tea shops and teapots, but this one was delightful. It was a leap of faith to try something new and I am very glad that I did. I most definitely will be following this series as the author does a fantastic job of keeping her readers engaged and perplexed. This series shows a lot of promise and intrigue in the future and I cannot wait to see what is in store for the characters and the townspeople of Gracious Grove, New York.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  Tempest in a Teapot
Author:  Amanda Cooper
Series:  Teapot Collector Mystery #1
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  June 3, 2014
Pages:  304
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was purchased by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.
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