Monday, January 21, 2019

Review: Rules for Visiting

Rules for Visiting

Rules for Visiting
Jessica Francis Kane

May Attaway is a forty-year-old woman with a job as a landscape gardener on a university campus. She lives at home where she looks after her aging father. When the university acknowledges her work over the years by giving her a mini-sabbatical she decides to visit several of her friends. Friends she hasn't seen in a while. And while she attempts to navigate the modern world as a guest in other people's homes May is also trying to find meaning in her own life as well as identify who she is and how she appears to those around her.

Initially, I wasn't sure about this book, which seemed more than a little melancholy to me, but as I kept going, I saw that it was filled with little pearls of wisdom and I realized that May wasn't as depressed as I had thought. She was more a sensitive soul with a love of plants, trees and animals trying to find her way in a world full of people, people she didn't quite connect with as quickly as others around her appear to do. The more I read, the more I felt a connection with May, or found that it was easier to relate to what she was feeling, a sense of being unconnected in a world of change. In the end, I was pleased to see that the visits to her friends led to a transformation in May's ability to open up a little more and find what she's been missing.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Review: Dying on the Vine

Dying on the Vine: A Mystery (Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries #2)
Dying on the Vine
Marla Cooper

Kelsey McKenna has taken on new clients, Haley and Christopher, at her wedding planning business. The father of the bride fired the former wedding planner, Babs Norton. Now it's up to Kelsey to sort out all the details initially organized by Babs. When Kelsey sets up a meeting with Babs to smooth things over and to make sure she isn't upset about Kelsey taking over, she finds Babs dead in her office. If that weren't enough Babs's partner Stefan, openly accuses Kelsey of murdering Babs, leaving Kelsey feeling she has to clear her name if she wants to stay in business.

This cozy mystery set in California wine country will delight with its fun, bubbly charm, quirky characters, and twists and turns throughout. Kelsey is the perfect amateur sleuth, ready to take on weddings at a moments notice, not afraid of local gossip or secrets; she is intent on rooting out the murderer. She not only wants to clear her name but to find out why Babs Norton, the self-proclaimed Queen of Wine Country Weddings had to die.

This review was written by me and originally published by City Book Review.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Review: The Splendor Before the Dark

The Splendor Before the Dark (Nero, #2)

The Splendor before the Dark
Margaret George

This historical fiction novel opens with Rome burning. The emperor Nero has been away from the capital enjoying time alone with his wife Poppaea, when he is called back to Rome to deal with the fire. A fire which is growing out of control, leaving a path of destruction in its wake and multitudes fleeing the city. While the fire is a disaster, Nero also sees it as a chance to recreate a city into one full of wide boulevards, parks and gardens for the people to enjoy. But not everyone is thrilled with his new construction projects, his focus on the arts or the costs involved. Nero alone seems to be filled with a dream to recreate Rome in the image of ancient Greece he so admires. Grumblings among the elite turns into an outright conspiracy against Nero's rule. When it is exposed Nero is forced to take action against those he once trusted the most, his closest friends and allies. More alone and isolated than ever he takes refuge in the arts and music, hoping for peace and glory and an heir to continue the dynasty.

The Splendor Before the Dark picks up where Margaret George's fist book about Nero, The Confessions of Young Nero, leaves off. In this book we are treated to a leader who has to mature and take on more responsibilities while grappling with the complex realities of life as Emperor. This is a well written fictional account of Rome that transports readers to another time and place which is fascinating and entertaining.

Thanks to Berkley Publishing for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Review: The Reek of Red Herrings

The Reek of Red Herrings: A Dandy Gilver Mystery

The Reek of Red Herrings: A Dandy Gilver Mystery
Catriona McPherson

Dandy Gilver and her assistant Alec Osbourne have taken on a case for Mr. Birchfield who owns a fish cannery in Gamrie, Scotland, a quaint fishing village on the Banffshire coast. Body parts have been turning up in barrels of packed herring, and they have been engaged to find out who the body parts belong to and to locate any missing parts that haven't surfaced yet.

First, the pair will have to pass themselves off as brother and sister philologists to get the villagers to open up about their daily lives. They soon discover that several strangers were spotted in the village the previous summer, but it's unclear if one might be the victim in question. A local fisherman also drowned during the summer, and Dandy wonders if there may be more to his story, especially since his betrothed disappeared not long after his death.

While I am always up for a good Scottish mystery, I have to admit that this one was not a favorite. It did have a good plot, and there were some surprises at the end, but it seemed too slow and dull to me at times. The historical tidbits were interesting, and the famous Scottish weather made for an impressive background; however, I just couldn't shake the feeling that it was a tad boring.

This review was written by me and originally published by City Book Review.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Review: The Songbird

The Songbird

The Songbird
Marcia Willett

The Songbird opens with Tim confiding in his friend and co-worker Mattie that he needs to get away on sabbatical. Mattie sends him to Brockscombe farm in the South of England where her family lives. Tim rents one of the cottages on the farm and falls into a slower paced life with Mattie's friendly family who like Tim are harboring a few secrets. It doesn't take Mattie long to feel she needs to make a move to be closer to Brockscombe Farm. And then there's Tim, she seems to be falling in love with him despite his reluctance to share his secrets.

While this was a charming story, it was a little on the sad side for me. I enjoyed Willett's previous book, Summer on the River, but The Songbird didn't have that electric current running through it that the previous one had. Having said that, if you like family stories with multiple story lines and a lovely picturesque setting, then The Songbird might be right for you.

Thanks to Library Thing and Thomas Dunne Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review: The Au Pair

The Au Pair

The Au Pair
Emma Rous

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny lost their mother, Ruth hours after they were born. Ruth Mayes jumped off the cliff at the back of the family's estate to her death, leaving the care of her first son Edwin, Seraphine and Danny in their father's care. Some twenty years later their father dies in an accident leaving the three siblings alone to mourn his loss with their grandmother Vera.

When Seraphine finds a photo of her mother holding just one baby the day she died she wants to know which baby Ruth is holding. If Ruth had twins why is there only one baby in the photo. To find an answer to this question, she seeks the help of her older brother's au pair Laura, who was there the day the picture was taken, the day her mother died. Seraphine is hoping Laura can answer some other questions as well. For instance, Seraphine has felt different, almost like an outsider in her own family her whole life. Getting answers from Laura won't prove to be easy since someone is trying to frighten Laura into keeping her distance from Seraphine and the Mayes family. Attempts to prevent Seraphine from learning the truth isn't going to dampen her desire to find out more about who she is, even if it threatens to destroy the family.

Right from the start, I sensed this was going to be one of those books I couldn't put down. The tension created by the author is what kept me glued to the pages and sometimes on the edge of my seat. I liked the fact that the story was told by alternating between Seraphine and Laura which gave me insight into the past and present as the story unfolds. My advice to anyone planning to read this book is, set aside some time because if you are like me, you won't be able to stop until they reach the end.

Thanks to Berkley Publishing for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Review: The Clockmaker's Daughter

The Clockmaker's Daughter

The Clockmaker's Daughter
Kate Morton

Elodie Winslow is an archivist in London, responsible for managing a collection of papers and documents of James Stratton a wealthy Londoner who traveled extensively during the 1800's. When Elodie finds a satchel, long forgotten in the back of a coat closet, she stumbles upon an artist's sketchbook with drawings that remind her of a bedtime story her mother once told her of an enchanted house within a dark wood. Elodie's mother died when she was young, so she is unable to ask her whether the house existed. Elodie can't help feeling that the house isn't just a figment of her imagination. She is certain that the house in the story is the same as the one in the sketchbook. So, she sets out on her own to find this mysterious house.

Birchwood manor does exist. It has seen numerous occupants over the years, and it therefore has it's own stories to tell. Among them is the sad story of an artist known as Edward Radcliffe and his muse Lily Millington, who were deeply in love until one-day tragedy tore their world apart. And Elodie may find that her own family also had a connection to the house as she delves deeper into its history.

This complex mystery weaves together tales of love and loss across decades and generations, creating a captivating story that is both beautifully written as well as suspenseful and atmospheric. At times I found it hard to put down.

Thanks to Atria Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.