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.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Review: Death of a Prankster

Death of a Prankster (Hamish Macbeth, #7)

Death of a Prankster
MC Beaton

Andrew Trent has invited his family to his Scottish Estate for an important announcement. Most if not all the members of the family can't stand Andrew Trent. Mr. Trent is the type of joker who most people would detest, with petty tricks designed to make the victim feel foolish or annoyed. Nevertheless, the family turns up because he's told them he's at death's door. Of course, they all want to know if they will inherit some or all of his vast fortune. If not for the hint of money there would be no reason for any of them to attend this dreaded gathering.

Upon arrival it becomes clear the Trent may not be on death's door, after all, it was just one of his pranks, used to entice them to Arrat House. But, the joke may be on Trent this time, when his body is discovered in a wardrobe in a guest bedroom. The twisted turn of events means Hamish Macbeth will have to search high and low to find out who wanted Mr. Trent dead.

As usual, M.C. Beaton has created a fun and entertaining drama. Hamish Macbeth, the officer responsible for the village of Lochdubh, with the help of his friend Priscilla will do all he can to find the answer to this puzzle before the police from Strathbane can take all the credit.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Review: Key Lime Pie Murder

Key Lime Pie Murder (Hannah Swensen, #9)
Key Lime Pie Murder
Joanne Fluke

Hannah Swensen owner of The Cookie Jar in Lake Eden Minnesota has been asked to stand in as a judge at a baked goods competition at the county fair. She is enjoying her task sampling and judging cakes and pies until she finds a body at the fairgrounds late one night. Unfortunately, that body belongs to another judge in the baking competition. Willa Sunquist, a teacher's assistant hasn't been back in town long, but Hannah has a feeling that Willa was spooked by something or someone she noticed at the fairgrounds while they were sampling baked goods. Hannah is determined to find out who at the fairgrounds is responsible for Willa's death. She will have the help of her family and friends and also from her two male suitors, Mike and Norman.

Key Lime Pie Murder is another installment in the Hannah Swensen series, where Hannah is not only determined to catch a killer but also determined to find the winner of Lake Edens best-baked goodies. And just so the reader doesn't leave this book feeling hungry, the author has included many of the recipes of the winning entries. For those who enjoy a lighthearted cozy mystery, this is one for you.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Review: The Other Woman

The Other Woman
The Other Woman
Sandie Jones

Emily thinks she found her Mr. Right. Adam is the man she never expected to meet much less fall in love with. Frankly, she couldn't be happier, until she meets his mother, Pammie. Emily can do nothing right in Pammie's eyes. Emily can't stand the way Pammie is kind to her in front of others but cruel and manipulative when alone. Eventually, the toxic relationship between the two starts to take a toll on Emily. Nevertheless, she decides to soldier on as she plans for her perfect wedding. Of course, if Pammie has anything to do with it, the marriage isn't going to happen.

When Emily thinks she's had enough of the insufferable family dynamics, she finds she hasn't begun to understand what lies behind the complex relations of her fiance's family. She may have misjudged things right from the start.

This fascinating story about tangled relations was one I couldn't put down. Every page made me wonder about Emily. What did she want, how she was going to get it and, was worth it? As the cover of this book promised, the ending was one I hadn't seen coming. Jones has managed to craft an intricate story that is not only well written and suspenseful but full of ups and downs. Which makes The Other Woman a book I would highly recommend if you like an unexpected end.

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

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Review: Adventure at Simba Hill

The Adventure at Simba Hill (Kari + Lucas Mysteries, #3)
Adventure at Simba Hill
Susan Runholt

Lucas and Kari are two 14-year-old friends and amateur sleuths from Minnesota, who get the chance to travel to Kenya with Kari's uncle. Uncle Geoff is an archaeologist studying ancient artifacts at a place known as Simba Hill. While he is working the girls will have the opportunity to go on safari and at some point visit the archaeological site and see more of Uncle Geoff's work.

Once they arrive, they learn from a colleague of Uncle Geoff that there has been trouble at the excavation site. When the driver at the game park and lodge where Lucas and Kari are staying is accused of the crime, the girls decide to investigate further, hoping to uncover the real culprit.

Adventure at Simba Hill is an excellent book for the young reader. It's full of fun and adventure, with good descriptions of Kenya, its people, culture, and environment. Kari and Lucas make this a memorable tale and one that young readers with interest in travel and adventure are sure to enjoy.