Thursday, February 7, 2019

Review: Vintage 1954

Vintage 1954

Vintage 1954
Antoine Laurain

Hubert Larnaudie lives in a beautiful Paris apartment that his family has owned for generations. One evening he invites an art restorer, Magalie, a bartender Julien and an American visitor Bob, all residing in the same building, to his apartment for a glass of wine. By morning they have all been transported back to the year 1954.

Finding themselves in vintage Paris, the four discover former inhabitants of the city, see monuments in a new light and encounter personal memories of people and places that have meaning in their lives today. They will have to use their wits and the help of another man who drank from the same 1954 vintage if they want to get back to their own time again.

Vintage 1954 is a tale that will take you on a heartwarming journey into the past with four people from different backgrounds who are all able to find meaning in their lives as a result of this journey back in time.

I always feel Laurain has the power to take everyday incidents and turn them into something extraordinary. Anyone who has read one of his books knows that he is a delightful storyteller with a gift for creating charming and captivating tales. After reading this one, I can't help but wonder what he will come up with next. Whatever it is, I can't wait to read it.

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Review: Carolina of Orange-Nassau

Carolina of Orange-Nassau: Ancestress of the Royal Houses of Europe

Carolina of Orange-Nassau
Moniek Bloks

Princess Wilhelmina Carolina of Orange-Nassau was born in 1743 to William IV Prince of Orange and Anne of Hanover. When her father was made Stadtholder to the Dutch Republic, she was included in the line of succession, in the event that there were no male heirs. But as a little brother was later born, he eventually took the position of his father although Carolina did act as regent for him until he came of age.

I have to admit, probably like a lot of readers I didn't know anything about Carolina of Orange-Nassau before reading this book. And I agree with the author that she has been largely forgotten by history, which is a pity because she seemed to play such an essential role in her brother's early life and when acting as regent on his behalf. But what struck me most was the fact that by the time she was 43 years old she'd had sixteen pregnancies that resulted in fifteen births of which only seven children survived to adulthood. Of course, this wasn't unusual at the time, and the author points out the numerous pregnancies and deaths of Carolina's mother and others. However, it is so difficult to imagine the hardships these women and especially Carolina endured. Despite the numerous pregnancies and changing circumstances, Carolina was able to run a household, take an interest in her husband's affairs and find time for promoting the music she loved. At one point while organizing a concert, she took an interest in Mozart and his sister. Both were ill at the time of their visit, and due to her care and attention, they were able to recover in her home, perhaps shaping the history of music in the course.

This account of her life is fascinating on its own but also noteworthy due to the fact that her descendants are scattered across the Royal Houses of Europe. I was also happy to learn that the author runs a blog devoted to the history of royal women.

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

Monday, February 4, 2019

Review: Killer Librarian

Killer Librarian (Killer Librarian #1)

Killer Librarian
Mary Lou Kirwin

Minnesota librarian Karen Nash has always wanted to go to England, and with the success of her boyfriends plumbing invention she's finally going on the trip of a lifetime to London. The only problem is: boyfriend Dave dumps Karen hours before they are scheduled to leave. Distraught, she decides to go alone. But Dave has also decided to go, only not alone.

Once in London, Karen checks into a bed and breakfast. Its charming, handsome owner is only to pleased to show Karen the sights, especially since she told him she is a mystery writer, which she most definitely is not. But, when another guest at the bed and breakfast is found dead, Karen thinks it might be more than an accident. Complicating matters Karen might have asked a hit man to “take care” of Dave after one too many drinks at a local pub.

Killer Librarian is a lighthearted cozy mystery with a bit of drama, mystery and a pinch of romance. I would say this is a tale best spent with a nice cup of tea and a few biscuits.

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.