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.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Review: Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII's Unwanted Wife

Anne of Cleves
Sarah-Beth Watkins

Anne of Cleves or Anna von Julich-Kleve-Berg was born in Düsseldorf, in what is today the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, the second daughter of the German Duke of Cleves. She became the fourth wife of Henry VIII when changing political alliances between England, France and the Holy Roman Empire necessitated the need for England to align closer with German allies. The marriage between Anne and Henry was arranged by Chief Minister Cromwell, but almost immediately after the wedding, Henry was searching for a way to end it. He was ready to marry Katherine Howard, a cousin of Anne Boleyn.

Once Anne was no longer Queen of England, she was given the title of Sister to the King. Perhaps not the role she had expected or wanted, it was one that allowed her to navigate her way through the chaotic and often treacherous court intrigue of Henry's reign. She not only managed to remain unharmed but amassed great wealth. Sadly, on the death of the King, her fortunes seemed to decline. While reading this account of her life, I couldn't help but think of a game of musical chairs. Everything that was given by one king could be disposed of by another which must have made life precarious, to say the least.

It's hard to fully imagine what life in those times must have been like. I love the fact that this book gave me a sense of the uncertainty and extraordinary circumstances Anne of Cleves and those around her encountered. So, if like me you are fascinated by Henry VIII and his court you will want to read this book to get a better picture of the life of this interesting woman.

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

Friday, November 2, 2018

Review: Cross Her Heart

Cross Her Heart

Cross Her Heart
Sarah Pinborough

Lisa seems like an ordinary woman with a teenager daughter and a stable job. But, she has a secret. One that she's kept from everyone around her including her daughter and her best friend, Marilyn. Marilyn has her own secret, an abusive husband. She'd like to tell Lisa about it but, overcoming the shame she feels is making it difficult for her to open up. Before she manages to do so, Lisa's darker secret is revealed, shocking everyone, who thought they knew her, even Marilyn. Then Lisa disappears, and not long after her daughter Ava disappears. It falls to Marilyn to find a way to help the woman she once thought of as a friend, even if the police insist on preventing it.

I'm in two minds about this story. On some levels, I think it works well, with a structure that held my attention by flipping back and forth between different characters and between the past and present. This allowed me to get details of all the main characters and understand the secrets they carried from the past. But it seemed to make the story feel like it went on and on and on. By the time Lisa's nemesis is revealed I really couldn't remember much about her. There was a lot going on in this complex tale, and although it was suspenseful, I couldn't help but feel that I got bogged down in too many stories. All of this is a pity because the author had a very nice writing style.

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

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Review: Family Trust

Family Trust

Family Trust
Kathy Wang

When Stanley Huang learns he has cancer he is determined to have his family near until the end. That's not a problem with his second wife, Mary. She seems content to serve Stanley's every need, especially since he has promised to look after her even when he's gone. Ex-wife Linda is another problem altogether. Linda divorced Stanley years ago, even though it wasn't the ideal solution to her marriage in the eyes of her Taiwanese-American circle. And while Linda wants to make sure Stanley has made his will in favor of his children, she has no interest in spending any more time with him than she has to. And why would she when she'd just discovered the joys of internet dating at 70.

Stanley's two grown children, Kate and Fred are busy with their careers. Kate has her own family, which includes two young children and a wayward husband, to deal with. All of which makes it difficult for them to look after Stanley the way he would like. But as Stanley's illness deteriorates they will have to find the time to sort out his affairs if they want to have an inheritance. The Huang family dynamics will be challenged and changed by the death of Stanley but not necessarily in the way they had imagined.

Family Trust is the intricate portrait of an Asian-American family, trying to create a life that reflects the American dream. But like in most families there will be love, joy, disappointment, and sorrow. And in the case of the Huang family, maybe there will be some money as well. A well-observed tale. I almost hated for it to end.

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