Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Description (from cover):

'Some secrets never die.

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a place of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house, just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Townspeople say that Sara's ghost walks the streets after midnight, and some still leave offerings on their doorsteps to prevent her from coming inside. 

Ruthie Washburne has never put much stock in West Hall's rumors. Having grown up in an isolated farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn, she dreams of leaving her sleepy town and escaping her mother's odd insistence that they live off the grid without Internet or even a listed phone number. But when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace, she begins to wonder if her mother's eccentricities have a deeper reason--especially when she finds a copy of Sara Harrison Shea's diary hidden beneath the floorboards of Alice's room. 

The diary tells the story of a mother on the edge, a mother who is willing to do the unthinkable in order to hold her daughter in her arms once again no matter the consequences. And as Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara's fate, she will discover that she's not the only one looking for someone lost--nor is she the only person desperate to unlock the secrets that the diary contains. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.'

My thoughts:

There are a lot of books that you will read in your lifetime that you will finish, put away on a shelf and forget about. Then there are other books, that you will finish that will utterly leave you astonished and moved by their brilliance. This is such a book. I cannot even tell you how much I enjoyed this book. I couldn't put it down to save my life. I wanted to do nothing, but curl up and read this book. The author has a fantastic way with words and creating a sense of the unknown that it was simply breathtaking. This book is part mystery, part ghost story and partly inspiring all at the same time. Who would have thought that a ghost story could be so drastically motivational at the same time?

This story is the tale of several people, but mainly Sara Harrison Shea and Ruthie Washburne. They are separated by a hundred years, but they have a bind that time does not diminish. Sara loves her daughter, Gertie, dearly and when Gertie dies, she is left devastated. She will do anything in her power to spend a few more moments with her precious child, even the unthinkable act of raising the dead. She raises Gertie from the dead and sets into action a chain reaction of events that no one could see coming. What she does from the desperation of her soul, will change the lives of many people and leave an impact that even time cannot erase. 

This book makes the reader think about life and about mourning the death of a loved one. Having lost someone dear to me in my lifetime, it made me think about the grieving process and how at one point and time, I wanted to spend a few more moments with the person I lost. It is a book that changes how one looks at life and death and how one should cherish every moment in life no matter the circumstances. I thought this book was absolutely beautiful and eerie at the same time and I highly recommend this one to everyone. It is a touching tale of love, death, and the mourning process that will open your eyes to a different side of things. This simply was one of the best books I have read in a while and it leaves me with a sense of having my life impacted. Few books can do that, but this author simply left me stunned with this book.

Overall Rating: 5+

Title:  The Winter People
Author:  Jennifer McMahon
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Doubleday
Publication Date:  February 11, 2014
Pages:  336
Genre:  Fiction
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.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Review: Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson

Description (from cover):

'In the dark and dangerous days of World War I, a daring young woman will risk her life to find her destiny.

Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, pursue a career, and marry for love. But in 1914, the stifling restrictions of aristocratic British society and her mother's rigid expectations forbid Lilly from following her heart. When war breaks out, the spirited young woman seizes her chance for independence. Defying her parents, she moves to London and eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the newly formed Women's Army Auxiliary Corps--an exciting and treacherous job that takes her close to the Western Front. 

Assigned to a field hospital in France, Lilly is reunited with Robert Fraser, her dear brother Edward's best friend. The handsome Scottish surgeon has always encouraged Lilly's dreams. She doesn't care that Robbie grew up in poverty--she yearns for their friendly affection to become something more. Lilly is the most beautiful--and forbidden--woman Robbie has ever known. Fearful for her life, he's determined to keep her safe, even if it means breaking her heart.

In a world divided by class and filled with uncertainty and death, can their hope for love survive...or will it become another casualty of this tragic war?'

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book until it got about three-fourths of the way through. The ending seemed rushed, a little too rosy and unbelievable. This book started off telling the story of Lilly Ashford, an aristocratic socialite right at the beginning of World War I. Lilly is tired of the life she lives and all the restraints that are placed on her. She has a crush on her brother's best friend, but her mother considers him to be completely unsuitable for her and she is warned off chasing that romance. Then war breaks out on the European continent and Lilly cannot stand to be idle and not do her part. She has a fight with her family and soon becomes a member of the WAAC and is shipped to the front lines of the war.

This book was a little too convenient for my tastes. It is war, yet everything is rosy in a sense and Lilly just so happens to "accidentally" end up at the same station as Robbie. That would never happen in the chaotic madness that is war. I was even fine with that to a certain extent, until the very ending and I was shocked at how the author ended the story. It was the most unbelievable ending ever. I mean, it could have happened, but the likelihood was very slim and I prefer my books a little more believable and a little more realistic to the actual events of that time period. The author does do a fantastic job of creating characters that have to face war and face their own flaws. I will give her that. 

If you like Downton Abbey, this more than likely is something that you will like. I will point out that if you want an honest-to-goodness realistic war novel, then this is not the book for you. I loved the story of Lilly and Robby and thought the author did a fantastic job on that level, I just can't get past the fact that the plot was a little farfetched at times. Perhaps you as a reader can see past this, but I just couldn't and it really effected the way I looked at this novel. I am curious to see what this author can do in the future and will be keeping my eye on her.

Overall Rating: 3

Title:  Somewhere in France
Author:  Jennifer Robson
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date:  December 31, 2013
Pages:  400
Genre:  Historical Fiction
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.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: Murder at Westminster Abbey by Amanda Carmack

Description (from cover):

'1559. Elizabeth is about to be crowned queen of England and wants her personal musician Kate Haywood to prepare music for the festivities. New to London, Kate must learn the ways of city life and once again school herself as a sleuth.

Life at the center of the new royal court is abuzz with ambition and gossip--very different from the quiet countryside, where Kate served Elizabeth during her exile. Making her way among the courtiers who vie for the new queen's favor, Kate befriends Lady Mary Everley. Mary is very close to Elizabeth. With their red hair and pale skin, they even resemble each other--which makes Mary's murder all the more chilling.

The celebrations go on despite the pall cast over them. But when another redhead is murdered, Kate uncovers a deadly web of motives lurking just beneath the polite court banter, and follows the trial of a killer who grievance can only be answered with royal blood.'

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Murder at Hatfield House, and I thought that the second would be an enjoyable read as well. I have to say that I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first. The first one had more of a mysterious air about it and this one was just mediocre at best. With the first one it seemed that it kept me on my toes more so than this one with treasonous plots and murder at every turn. I expected the same from this book and was sadly disappointed. 

Queen Elizabeth is finally be crowned Queen of England and her trusty and loyal musician, Kate Haywood is to take part in the coronation ceremonies. When several red-haired ladies turn up dead, Kate is worried that someone has it out for the queen. She must use her sleuthing skills to find out just who has a grudge against the queen and why they are so hellbent on murder. Elizabeth's temper makes appearances in this novel and she is determined to not let a killer destroy the hopes and dreams she had for being queen. She puts on a stoic and steadfast face and shows England that it takes more than a few murders to bring her down. I have to admire Queen Elizabeth I's steadfast determination to rule her country and make it a better place for all its residents. 

There wasn't a lot of suspects, clues or intrigue in this one and the plot was simply too easily figured out. I like to work on figuring my mysteries out and this one was basically handed to me on a platter. I love the time period and the characters, but the author is going to have to really bring it with the next book to convince this reader to continue with the series. I just expected so much more from the way the first book was and was left seriously disappointed with this one. Hoping the next one is much better.

Overall Rating: 2

Title:  Murder at Westminster Abbey
Author:  Amanda Carmack
Series:  Elizabethan Mystery #2
Publisher:  Signet
Publication Date:  April 1, 2014
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.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith

Description (from cover):

'Jane Lambert, the quick-witted and alluring daughter of a silk merchant, is twenty-two and sill unmarried. When Jane's father finally finds her a match, she's married off to the dull, older silk merchant William Shore. Marriage doesn't stop Jane from flirtation, however, and when the king's chamberlain, Will Hastings, comes to her husband's shop, Will knows King Edward will find her irresistible. 

Edward IV has everything: power, majestic bearing, superior military leadership, a sensual nature, and charisma. And with Jane as his mistress, he also finds true happiness. But when his hedonistic tendencies get in the way of being the strong leader England needs, his life, as well as those of Jane and Will Hastings, hangs in the balance. Jane must rely on her talents to survive as the new monarch, Richard III, bent on reforming his brother's licentious court, ascends the throne. 

This dramatic tale has been an inspiration to poets and playwrights for five hundred years, and, as told through the unique perspective of a woman plucked from obscurity and thrust into a life of notoriety, Royal Mistress is sure to enthrall today's historical fiction lovers as well.'

My thoughts:

For some reason this book seemed to drag on and never end. I had a hard time staying focused and I spent more time wishing it would be over soon than enjoying the actual tale. I find Jane to be a fascinating historical character, but this book was way too long and the story could have been shortened considerably. I had forgotten that Anne Easter Smith tends to ramble on and when I realized my mistake, I was already drawn into the story of Jane and her loving relationship with the amorous King Edward IV. Still the story could have been cut short in so many places, that it just didn't seem that it would end.

It's hard not to admire Jane Shore and her humble beginnings. She was the daughter of the merchant class and her beauty and wit set her apart from the rest of her class and made her noticeable by none other than the King of England. It was interesting to read more about her and her relationship with this king and how Queen Elizabeth was envious of her. Smith does a fantastic job of relating historical fact and weaving it with fiction. The only complaint was that this book was way too long. 

I think that if the author had stuck to the main points and not dragged on so much about King Richard III and the princes in the tower and the ups and downs with Queen Elizabeth, that this book really could  have been more enjoyable. I understand that the author really wanted the reader to understand the realities of what was going on during this time, but I would have liked to see more of Jane's interaction with the king and less of what else was going on at the same time. A good read to a certain extent, but one that seems to be forgettable.

Overall Rating: 2

Title:  Royal Mistress
Author:  Anne Easter Smith
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Touchstone
Publication Date:  May 7, 2013
Pages:  512
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was selected 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.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Blog Tour Stop, Review & Giveaway: A Roux of Revenge by Connie Archer

Description (from cover):

'Stirring up trouble...

Snowflake, Vermont is know for its skiing in winter--and its soup all year round, thanks to Lucky Jamieson's By the Spoonful. Autumn brings golden leaves, pumpkin rice soup, the annual Harvest Festival...and murder.

Lucky's soup shop is busier than usual this October, with groups of itinerant travelers in town to work the Harvest Festival. One newcomer seems to take a particular interest in Lucky's young waitress, Janie, spying on her from across the street. Is the stranger stalking Janie?

After an unidentified man is found murdered in a van by the side of the road, simmering suspicions about the travelers are brought to a boil. But when Janie is put in harm's way, Lucky must join forces with the travelers to turn up the heat on a killer...'

My thoughts:

I really love the small town atmosphere of this series. Snowflake, Vermont is my dream town. If only it was a real place, I would move there tomorrow. I love how everyone knows everyone and it seems like a small family. Of course there is the small problem of the murder rate being so high, but luckily for us, Lucky Jamieson is a resident and she seems to solve all the town's murders and crimes with a little help from her friends. This book is the third installment of this series and this is one of those series that I have to read right away. So glad that I was offered the chance to be a part of this blog tour as this series is fantastic.

This book really focuses on the small town atmosphere and how there are a few townspeople that everyone loves to hate and really likes. The townspeople are very wary of strangers and when a ragtag group of travelers comes into town to help out with the Harvest Festival, the town is on edge. Of course, it doesn't help the situation that a man is found murdered in a van. Suspicions run high and everyone is on the hunt for a murderer and no one trusts anyone, especially the newcomers. Lucky can't help but get interested in what is going on and when one her employees, Janie, is being stalked by one of the travelers, she feels that she must do what it takes to keep Janie safe.

This one kept me on the edge of my seat. I figured out who the murderer was, but it was right before it was revealed. The characters go through a lot of development in this one and I can't wait to see what happens for them next. I really adore this series and this book has me wanting more. Archer has a fantastic writing style that will suck the reader in from the very first page. This is cozy mysteries done right. If you haven't begun this series yet, then you're missing out on a real and rare treat. 

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  A Roux of Revenge
Author:  Connie Archer
Series:  Soup Lover's Mystery #3
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  April 1, 2014
Pages:  304
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

About the Author:

Connie Archer was born and grew up in New England, ice skating on neighborhood ponds, clamming on the beach at Cape Cod and skiing in Vermont. As a schoolgirl, she spent several years wading through Caesar’s Gallic War journals and the twelve books of the Aeneid. During her summers she performed in a children’s theater troupe that traveled the suburbs of Boston, mounting productions in parks and children’s hospitals. After majoring in biology in college, she did an about face and earned a degree in English literature. Since then she’s worked at many different jobs — laboratory technician, cocktail waitress, medical secretary, and dinner theatre actress, to name just a few. Connie lives in Los Angeles with her family and a cat named Basil.

This has been a stop on the 'Topped Chef' book tour presented by Great Escapes Book Tours. Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour as some are offering giveaways of this book!

 March 31, 2014--Mystery Playground
April 1, 2014--Books-n-Kisses
April 2, 2014--A Date with a Book
April 5, 2014--Booklady's Booknotes
April 7, 2014--Girl Lost In a Book
April 8, 2014--Deal Sharing Aunt
April 10, 2014--A Chick Who Reads
April 11, 2014--The Bookwyrm's Hoard
April 12, 2014--Kaisy Daisy's Corner
April 14, 2014--My Recent Favorite Books
April 15, 2014--Community Bookstop
 

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

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review: Eggs in a Casket by Laura Childs

Description (from cover):

'The ladies of the Cackleberry Club are always ready to serve--whether they're cooking up breakfast or sniffing out a bad egg.

While Petra handles the breakfast rush at the Cackleberry Club, the cafe's other two owners, Suzanne and Toni, head to Memorial Cemetery to help prepare for its 150th anniversary celebration. But as they search the winding paths for the Historical Society tent, they discover something else out of place: the body of ex-prison warden Lester Drummond lying facedown in someone else's freshly dug grave.

In the small town of Kindred, everyone knows everyone, and Lester was no exception. Suzanne knew him as the creepy guy who made unwanted advances on her friend Missy Langston. But now it appears the man was hiding a few secrets...and at least one of them was worth killing for.

As the case cracks open, there are plenty of suspects to consider--from recent parolees to Missy herself, who Suzanne and Toni saw speeding away just before they found the body. Now, with a cemetery celebration in the offing, and the local authorities in over their heads, it's up to the Cackleberry Club to unscramble the clues and clear their friend's name...'

My thoughts:

This series is really the only Laura Child's series that I have read. I have been interested in the tea shop series, but there are so many and I hate to read books out of order. So I started reading this series, maybe about two years ago, and have loved it ever since. I love the way Child's writes and her characters are so well-developed. She always has enough suspects to keep the reader guessing and you can't help but connect with the characters and hope that everything turns out for the best. Suzanne's character is the typical girl-next-door who lives in a small town and who everyone knows and knows her as the town's amateur sleuth. She is smart and genuinely has a good heart and wants to help people in troubled times. So when someone turns up murdered and her friend gets blamed for it, Suzanne takes the case with her usual gusto.

I will say that I was disappointed in the ending of this one and it really felt rush. I felt that a lot of things were left open and didn't feel like they were explained. For example, Suzanne's friend, Missy, is seen speeding away from the murder scene, but it really wasn't explained as to why she was there in the first place. Sure it could have been happenstance, but I felt that there should have been more of a reason provided. The murderer is completely someone unexpected, which I loved by the way, but it just didn't seem like it flowed all that well. The reasoning seemed so commonplace, which I don't really expect from this author, and it left me disappointed overall.

If you love this series, you will appreciate the usual banter between the characters and their own personal quirks. It's hard not to love these characters and they really do make the story. From Suzanne being the town sleuth and Petra being the motherly-type and Toni being, just well, Toni, this book really feels like returning to a bunch of old friends. That says a lot about this series, but the mystery in this one really fell short. Here's to hoping that the next one brings its normal punch and the series is back to its previous brilliance.

Overall Rating: 3

Title:  Eggs in a Casket
Author:  Laura Childs
Series:  Cackleberry Club Mystery #5
Publisher:  Berkley Hardcover
Publication Date:  January 7, 2014
Pages:  336
Genre:  Cozy 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, March 27, 2014

Review: Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth

Description (from cover):

'The last book in the trilogy begun by Jennifer Worth's New York Times bestseller and the basis for the PBS series Call the Midwife.

When a twenty-two-year-old Jennifer Worth, from a comfortable middle-class upbringing, went to work as a midwife in the poorest section of postwar London, she not only delivered hundreds of babies and touched many lives, she also became the neighborhood's most vivid chronicler. Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End is the last book in Worth's memoir trilogy, which the Times Literary Supplement described as "powerful stories with sweet charm and controlled outrage" in the face of dire circumstances.

Here, at last, is the full story of Chummy's delightful courtship and wedding. We also meet Megan'mave, identical twins who share a browbeaten husband, and return to Sister Monica Joan, who is in top eccentric form. As in Worth's first two books, Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times and Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse, the vividly portrayed denizens of a postwar East End contend with the trials of extreme poverty--unsanitary conditions, hunger, and disease--and find surprising ways to thrive in their tightly knit community.

A rich portrait of a bygone era of comradeship and midwifery populated by unforgettable characters, Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End will appeal to readers of Frank McCourt, Katherine Book and James Herriot, as well as to the fans of the acclaimed PBS show based on the trilogy.'

My thoughts:

I am quite sad to see this series end. I was a little disappointed at the ending, but it's hard to be upset, because this book isn't fiction, it's nonfiction and well it ended the way it ended. I love how Worth shares her hardest and darkest moments, but also shares glimpses of joy that she had while being a midwife in the East End of London. I loved reading about Chummy and her marriage to the policeman and was sad to see everyone move on with their lives and leave behind the neighborhood that I have come to enjoy while reading these books. It was interesting to read and now I have to catch up on the television show, so Call the Midwife isn't completely out of my life yet.

If you haven't read these books or watched the television show yet, I am telling you that you're missing out on a rare treat. I almost feel that all of these characters are a part of my family and I genuinely feel sad that I won't be reading about them anymore. Jennifer Worth has a way of bringing something so commonplace and making it seem so interesting. It was amazing to learn about how healthcare and maternity care has changed so much over the 70 years or so since the time these books occur. Doctors back then actually went to the patient and hospitals were considered places of death. It just really opened my eyes to how things used to be and how spoiled we are as a society these days with all the advances in medical care.

If it wasn't for people like Jennifer Worth and the people she writes about in these books, we wouldn't have an insight into the world the way it was back then and how they paved the way for future advances that we see everyday. I fell in love with these stories from the first page and now I am sad it is all over. I almost want to read about every single thing I can find about these people, but I know that it is impossible. Thank you Ms. Worth for creating a beautiful story that I found that I simply couldn't put down.

Overall Rating: 4

Title:  Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End
Author:  Jennifer Worth
Series:  Call the Midwife #3
Publisher:  Ecco
Publication Date:  March 12, 2013 (Reprint)
Pages:  336
Genre:  Nonfiction
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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