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.