Death in Kew Gardens by Jennifer Ashley

41867421In return for a random act of kindness, scholar Li Bai Chang presents young cook Kat Holloway with a rare and precious gift—a box of tea. Kat thinks no more of her unusual visitor until two days later when the kitchen erupts with the news that Lady Cynthia’s next-door neighbor has been murdered. Known about London as an “Old China Hand,” the victim claimed to be an expert in the language and customs of China, acting as an intermediary for merchants and government officials. But Sir Jacob’s dealings were not what they seemed, and when the authorities accuse Mr. Li of the crime, Kat and Daniel find themselves embroiled in a world of deadly secrets that reach from the gilded homes of Mayfair to the beautiful wonder of Kew Gardens.


Death in Kew Gardens is Jennifer Ashley’s third book in the Below Stairs Mysteries, featuring the fantastic Kat Holloway. The book starts with Kat, a cook who works for a wealthy family in Victorian England. One day Kat receives a gift from a mysterious Chinese man in return for an act of kindness. It is a rare box of tea, and that same night Kat’s next door neighbor, Sir Jacob Harkness is found dead. The secret Chinese man becomes a prime suspect, and now Kat and Daniel must run against time to find the murderer.

I did not read book one or book two and some of you, who have followed my reviews, know that I don’t particularly enjoy reading books that belong to a series I’ve never read before. Let me tell you that Death in Kew Gardens is an exception to that rule. Although it would’ve been lovely to know more about Kat and Daniel, I felt this story holds on its own just fine. Kat is such a robust character that I was able to get a sense of her even though I barely knew her background.

Death in Kew Gardens reminded me of both Downton Abbey and Grand Hotel, with a touch of Agatha Christie. I will definitely be reading the forerunners in this series and anxiously await for book number four.

I would like to thank Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: e-ARC
Published: Expected publication June 4th, 2019 by Berkley
ASIN: B07H73KSQT
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction

Emily, Gone by Bette Lee Crosby

42774228When a music festival rolls through the sleepy town of Hesterville, Georgia, the Dixon family’s lives are forever changed. On the final night, a storm muffles the sound of the blaring music, and Rachel tucks her baby into bed before falling into a deep sleep. So deep, she doesn’t hear the kitchen door opening. When she and her husband wake up in the morning, the crib is empty. Emily is gone. Vicki Robart is one of the thousands at the festival, but she’s not feeling the music. She’s feeling the emptiness over the loss of her own baby several months before. When she leaves the festival and is faced with an opportunity to fill that void, she is driven to an act of desperation that will forever bind the lives of three women. When the truth of what actually happened that fateful night is finally exposed, shattering the lives they’ve built, will they be able to pick up the pieces to put their families back together again?


The book starts forty-seven years ago in the small, fictional town of Hesterville, GA, where a music festival akin to Woodstock is about to take place at Harold Baker’s farm. The townspeople, apprehensive about the festival and the type of audience it will attract, try to prevent the festival from happening to no avail.

The Dixons live close to the farm where the festival is taking place. Rachel, George and poor baby Emily have endured several nights of loud music and very little sleep. On the last day of the festival, when the music seemed to be dying out, Rachel tucked in baby Emily in her crib and went to bed exhausted. Unbeknownst to Rachel and George, their paths were about to cross with hippies Vicki and boyfriend Russ Murphy who were driving back from the festival stoned and starved.

Vicki asks Murph to stop to get her something to eat, but when he fails to find a place that’s open late at night, Vicki convinces him to pull over by a house where she can trespass and get something to eat. Although Murphy is initially not on board with the idea, he agrees to it as long as Vicki can go in and out of the house without raising anyone’s attention. When Vicki enters the Dixon family’s home, she finds a lot more than food, and a crime of opportunity presents itself in a way that will change the course of the Dixon’s and Vicki’s life forever.

I loved this book. As much as I hated Vicki, I could also understand her pain and where she was coming from as a woman and a mother. Things are never as simple as they seem and this book will have you question your preconceived notions on this topic.

This book is a page-turner that had me crying. The theme of this book is every parent’s worst nightmare, and Crosby did a fantastic job of telling such a compelling story with love and compassion. A heart-wrenching, beautiful story about forgiveness and ultimately love.

Emily, Gone is scheduled to be published on April 30th, 2019. I want to thank the author for providing me a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.


Format: Paperback, 398 pages
Published: expected to be published April 30th, 2019 by Lake Union Publishing
ISBN:1542044928
Source: ARC provided by the Author
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

About The Author

Bette Lee Crosby

Bette Lee Crosby is the USA Today bestselling author of twenty novels, including The Twelfth Child and the Wyattsville series. She has been the recipient of the Reader’s Favorite Gold Medal, Reviewer’s Choice Award, FPA President’s Book Award, and International Book Award, among many others. Her 2016 novel, Baby Girl, was named Best Chick Lit of the Year by the Huffington Post. She laughingly admits to being a night owl and a workaholic, claiming that her guilty pleasure is late-night chats with fans and friends on Facebook and Goodreads. The Summer of New Beginnings, published by Lake Union, Took First Place in the Royal Palm Literary Award for Women’s Fiction and was a runner-up for book of the year. The sequel, A Year of Extraordinary Moments, is now available.

Website | Twitter |Facebook|Amazon

The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

2495567Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature.


The book starts with the protagonist, Kvothe, living a low-profile life as an innkeeper at the Waystone Inn and going by the name of Kote in the fictional world of Temerant. Kote runs the inn together with his assistant Bast. When Kote saves a traveling scribe known as Chronicler from being attacked by spider-like creatures called scrael, the Chronicler immediately recognizes Kote as the renowned Kvothe—an unequaled sword fighter and magician. The Chronicler asks permission to record Kvothe’s story. After pondering about it, Kvothe agrees to tell his story to the Chronicler but warns him that it will take three days to tell his story. The Name Of The Wind corresponds to day one of Kvothe’s story in the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy.

It’s hard to believe that a book of this magnitude was Patrick Rothfuss’s first novel. Granted it took him several years to write it while he was pursuing his B.A. in English. The Name Of The Wind is not only an incredibly creative fantasy book, a coming-of-age like nothing I had read so far, but it is also a very well-written book. I loved the narrative, the poems, and songs in the story. Rothfuss’s use of a story-within-a-story format is what sets this book apart. To imagine an entire six-hundred-and-sixty-page book being day one in Kvothe’s story is mind-blowing, but it works because Rothfuss is so creative and descriptive with every scene in the book. I felt like I knew Kvothe on a personal level. You follow him from his early beginnings with his family—a troupe of traveling performers, through meeting his first teacher—Abenthy (Ben) to his years in the University. I’m not going to deny that as much as I loved Kvothe as a character, at times, I was annoyed by how good he was at everything. Even with this small flaw, Rothfuss still manages to make Kvothe a likable character who endures many challenges. Kvothe’s life is far from easy. He loses his family at the hands of evil mystical beings, the Chandrians, at a very early age, and his early life is plagued with violence and hunger.

When I first decided to read this novel, I remember being extremely skeptical. The Name Of The Wind is probably one of the best-rated fantasy books on Goodreads, right along legends such as Tolkien’s LOTR The Fellowship Of The Ring, with a rating of four and a half stars and more than five hundred thousand ratings. I have to admit after finishing book one in this trilogy that the hype is real and very well-deserved.

I’m definitely reading book two, The Wise Man’s Fear, and together with the fandom, I will anxiously await the release of the third book.

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” 


Format: Hardcover, 662 pages
Published: April 2007 by Penguin Group DAW (first published March 27th, 2007)
ISBN: 075640407X
Source: Library loan
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

The Book Supremacy by Kate Carlisle

41832575Newlyweds Brooklyn and Derek are enjoying the final days of their honeymoon in Paris. As they’re browsing the book stalls along the Seine, Brooklyn finds the perfect gift for Derek, a first edition James Bond novel, The Spy Who Loved Me. When they bump into Ned, an old friend from Derek’s spy days, Brooklyn shows him her latest treasure. Once they’re back home in San Francisco, they visit a spy shop Ned mentioned. The owner begs them to let him display the book Brooklyn found in Paris as part of the shop’s first anniversary celebration. Before they agree, Derek makes sure the security is up to snuff—turns out, the unassuming book is worth a great deal more than sentimental value. Soon after, Derek is dismayed when he receives a mysterious letter from Paris announcing Ned’s death. Then late one night, someone is killed inside the spy shop. Are the murders connected to Brooklyn’s rare, pricey book? Is there something even more sinister afoot? Brooklyn and the spy who loves her will have to delve into the darkest parts of Derek’s past to unmask an enemy who’s been waiting for the chance to destroy everything they hold dear.


The Book Supremacy is the thirteenth book in the Bibliophile Mystery Series. I don’t usually read a book this far in a series if I haven’t read any of the previous books, but I decided to take a chance. I love cozy mysteries, and I kept hearing wonderful things about this series.

Indeed the plot was great! The mystery was good and not at all predictable. The pacing was just right with a narrative full of dynamic dialogues that made the story flow really smoothly. Brooklyn and Derek were great characters. Their relationship was cute–I just wished I knew more about their back story. I loved the fact that this book started in Paris and for the first chapters, I was really hooked. Having just visited Paris, it was a bit bitter-sweet for me, but Carlisle’s excellent descriptions of la Ville des Lumières really transported me back to one of my favorite cities in the world. Unfortunately, as the story went on, I just wasn’t as invested. The book has so many characters, friends, co-workers, and family members that had already been introduced in other installments, and since I’d never got to know these characters before, I had a hard time picturing them. I see why some people think this can be a standalone book. This book is a not a continuation of a previous story, per se, but I believe that for you to get into the story and appreciate these characters, you should read the earlier books in the series.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House First To Read in exchange for my honest review.


Format: e-ARC, 288 pages
Published: June 4th, 2019 by Berkley
ASIN: B07H72R95G
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Berkley, and Penguin Random House First To Read in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Cozy mystery

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

35721194Seventeen-year-old Stella Ainsley wants just one thing: to go somewhere—anywhere—else. Her home is a floundering spaceship that offers few prospects, having been orbiting an ice-encased Earth for two hundred years. When a private ship hires her as a governess, Stella jumps at the chance. The captain of the Rochester, nineteen-year-old Hugo Fairfax, is notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk. But with Stella he’s kind. But the Rochester harbors secrets: Stella is certain someone is trying to kill Hugo, and the more she discovers, the more questions she has about his role in a conspiracy threatening the fleet.


Stella Ainsley catches a break when she finally leaves her job as an engineer aboard the less than desirable Stalwart to become a governess on a private ship—the Rochester. Hugo Halifax is the captain of the Rochester and a drunk at nineteen. Stella is a great character, and I particularly liked the fact she was an engineer in space. Their romance was cute, but Hugo at nineteen was not as appealing to me as a forty-year-old Rochester.

I love retelling stories, such as Bridget Jones’s Diary, which have become as much a favorite as the original inspiration. Contrary to popular belief, retelling stories are not copycats. The reason so many retelling stories exist today is because the classics they are inspired by are great stories, with great characters that withstand the test of time. On that note, writing a retelling story can be incredibly daunting because now you are expected to produce a story that elicits the same, or very similar emotions to those experienced by readers who read those classic novels.

Brightly Burning is a lovely retelling of Jane Eyre set in space. Alexa Donne did a fantastic job at reviving the emotions of Brontë’s classic but to an entirely new YA audience who might have never read Charlotte Brontë’s novel. Brightly Burning is a creative and pleasant read.


Format: Hardcover, 394 pages
Published: May 1st, 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN:1328948935
Source: Purchased
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: YA, Scifi, Romance

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

 

30753630 When Dr. Louis Creed takes a new job and moves his family to the idyllic and rural town of Ludlow, Maine, this new beginning seems too good to be true. Yet despite Ludlow’s tranquility, there’s an undercurrent of danger that exists here. Those trucks on the road outside the Creed’s beautiful old home travel by just a little too quickly, for one thing, …as is evidenced by the makeshift pet cemetery out back in the nearby woods. Then there are the warnings to Louis both real and from the depths of his nightmares that he should not venture beyond the borders of this little graveyard. A blood-chilling truth is hidden there—one more terrifying than death itself, and hideously more powerful. An ominous fate befalls anyone who dares tamper with this forbidden place, as Louis is about to discover for himself.


There is a reason why Stephen King ranks Pet Sematary as one of the scariest books he’s ever written. The idea for the book came from his experience living in rural Maine. A worst-case scenario meets what if when his young son is almost hit by a truck on a busy street across from his house.

Louis Creed and his family, wife Rachael and children Ellie and Gage, move from Chicago to their new home in Maine. Life seems perfect with Louis’s new job as a college physician, a beautiful New England home with a large backyard that abuts a sacred Native American land, a Pet Sematary, and friendly neighbors–Jud and Norma. When Louis witnesses the tragic death of Victor Pascow, he is later haunted by Pascow’s ghost who visits him at night and shows him the barrier at the Pet Semetary that must not be crossed.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but needless to say that this Pet Semetary has more than meets the eye and when the family cat, Church, is run over by a truck and dies, Louis will consider the unthinkable just to make his family happy.

I first read Pet Sematary when I was in my early teens. I remember being horrified by it. I remember watching the first Pet Sematary movie made in the early 90s and not being able to sleep at night. Re-reading it again in 2019 has been a completely different experience, but not any less horrifying. If anything, it scared me a lot more now that I have children and cats!

The book is structured in three parts all from Louis’s point of view. The climax comes closer to the end of the book, but as always, Stephen King is a master at building suspense. He spares no one of his descriptions full of horror and the macabre. The plot of this book is every parent’s nightmare, and the magic of this story is that King is so good at making all these characters so relatable. I recall reading parts of this book that seemed completely insane and thinking, “I can see why he’s doing it.”

Although there is a new Pet Sematary movie coming out this month. I feel less than thrilled about seeing it. The movie trailer showed that a central element in the plot is completely changed for this movie version.

Pet Sematary, the book, will still go down as one of the best pieces of horror fiction ever written, and it still ranks in my top five all-time best horror books.

“Sometimes dead is better”


Format: Mass Market Paperback, 560 pages
Published: January 31st, 2017 by Pocket Books (first published November 14th, 1983)
ISBN: 1501156705
Source: Library loan
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Horror

The Tell All by Libby Howard

35443185Kay Carrera is in her sixties and going through a lot. She is grieving the loss of her husband Eli and recovering from cataract surgery. Kay knows she can’t afford her house anymore and her only options are to either sell her home or have it repossessed. Luckily, her friend advises her to get a roommate to help pay for the costs. Judge Beck is going through a divorce and looking for a place to live with his children for a couple of years. It seems like the perfect solution for Kay’s problems, but when she accidentally finds a body, she is going to need all the help in the world to elude the killer who’s coming after her.

This is book one in the Locust Point Mystery Book series. At barely one hundred and fifty-three pages, this little story is interesting enough from a character development point of view but lacks substance for plot development.

One of the first things I noticed about the book was that the summary on Goodreads alluded to ghosts and Kay’s ability to see ghosts. I believe that might be something that will get covered in other books in the series, but this first book does not mention it at all.

The Tell-All is a cute, cozy mystery that gives an introduction of the main characters in this series. Kay is a lovable widow in her sixties who is just trying to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. She works part-time for a P.I., she finds a body and a mystery she needs to resolve. She owns a cat named Taco, and her best friend is Daisy. About half of the book is just about presenting these characters, and whatever is left of the book is rushed to explain the mystery.

I’m hopeful that the other books will have more room to develop an exciting plot and mystery.


Format: Kindle Edition, 153 pages
Published: July 24th, 2017
ASIN: B072R235GS
Series: Locust Point Mysteries #1
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Cozy Mystery

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

 

91gesYReZ1L It is 1887. London is a city preparing for the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, and Veronica is burying her spinster aunt. Orphaned Victoria is now free to resume her adventures and world travels. When she successfully defeats her own attempted abduction thanks to the help of a German baron, she is forced to seek sanctuary at the care of a man named Stoker. Shortly before the baron reveals what he knew about her attempted abduction; the baron is found murdered. Now, Veronica and Stoker are on the run searching for the truth about her assailant.

I’m going to start by saying that I’m probably in the minority here. I had read and heard raving reviews about this book and series, and I even bumped other books in my list to read this one first. So, what happened? Well, I’d like to start by saying that I love a strong female character. I have no problem reading historical fiction books that depict smart, independent women. The book, overall, is well written and I enjoyed the sparkling dialogue between Veronica and Stoker. However, the problem I found with Veronica Speedwell was that she just wasn’t that nice of a person. Witty, smart, and independent–yes. However, she was also extraordinarily narcissistic and insensitive. At the start of the book, she is attending the funeral of her aunt that adopted her, and she is lamenting the fact that she can’t even shed a tear over her aunt’s death? Another problem I found was with the mystery itself, which I found rather blah.

The book started slowly for me, and I struggled to get into it until chapter eight. After that, I was interested in the book for a while, and certainly enough to finish the book, but not enough to be looking forward to reading the next books in this series.


Format: Hardcover, 337 pages
Published: September 1st, 2015 by NAL/Penguin
ISBN: 0451476018
Source: Library loan
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Mystery

Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier

915wEJd29NLDreamer’s pool is the first book in the Blackthorn & Grim series. It’s an easy fantasy book that tells the story of a healer, Blackthorn, who after being wrongly imprisoned, makes an agreement with a mysterious fey in exchange for help escaping prison.

Blackthorn travels north to Dalriada where she is bound to live and serve the population for seven years as part of her agreement. Unbeknownst to her, Grim, her prison neighbor follows her to Dalriada and together they will form a partnership.

Oran is the prince of Dalriada, and he’s engaged to beautiful Lady Flidais who he only knows through photographs and letters. Anxiously awaiting the arrival of his bride, Oran senses something is wrong when lady Flidais arrives, and she’s nothing like the sweet and sensitive woman he found in her letters. With the wedding imminent, Oran sees no way out of this engagement, and he will need the help of Blackthorn and Grim to get him out of this tight situation.

Dreamer’s pool is told by different characters with each chapter alternating between Oran, Blackthorn and Grim’s point of view. I liked the structure of this book as it allowed the reader to get to know a little more about the characters. The pace of the narrative is slightly slower than I would have liked, but not enough to ruin the experience. Fans of Daughter of The Forrest or any other book by Marillier will not be disappointed. The book has some mentions of rape and abuse, but nothing too graphic for sensitive readers. Blackthorn is a reliable and likable character, and I loved her quirky relationship with Grim.
I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship develops in future novels.


Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

 

25622780Wide Sargasso Sea is Jean Rhys’ account of Antoinette (Bertha) Mason (aka Cosway). Fans of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre will recognize her as Rochester’s insane wife from the West Indies he kept locked in an attic. Bronte never indeed developed the character of Antoinette, leaving readers to wonder what kind of life Antoinette had and had she always been mad? In 1966, Jean Rhys finally completed Wide Sargasso Sea after working on it for nearly twenty-seven years.

The novel is structured in three parts with Antoinette and Rochester’s alternating point of view. The first and second part takes place in the West Indies, and the third part is only Antoinette’s point of view while living in England.

The story starts with Antoinette’s description of her childhood and the difficulties her family faced living in Jamaica in the 1830s shortly after the end of slavery when racial tensions were at its highest. As a white Creole child, Antoinette lives with her mother and sick brother in poverty until her mother re-marries wealthy Mr. Mason.

481558

Racial problems are also one of the major themes of this novel. When racial tensions erupt during Antoinette’s childhood, black workers burn down her house, Coulibri, a plantation house and symbol of oppression. After the fire that culminates in the death of her sick brother, Antoinette’s mother goes mad, and Mr. Mason places Antoinette in a convent until the age of eighteen when she leaves to marry Rochester.

“They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did.”

Isolation is another strong theme in this novel, be social isolation, geographical isolation, as well as the isolation Antoinette suffers throughout the story. First, the abandonment and lack of love from her mother, the betrayal of her friend Tia, and ultimately the isolation she feels from Rochester. The entire novel has a very oppressive and claustrophobic feel to it.

The second part of the novel revolves around Antoinette and Rochester’s marriage. A marriage which is sour from the beginning. Rhys makes a point to demonstrate the couple’s incompatibility and inability to understand each other. Rochester’s failure to be flexible and to adapt to his new surroundings and new way of life, and Antoinette lack of communication skills.

“I hated the mountains and the hills, the rivers, and the rain. I hated the sunsets of whatever colour, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know. I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness. She had left me thirsty, and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I found it.”

In the third and final part of the book, Rochester and Antoinette move back to England after the death of Rochester’s father and older brother. The story changes again to Antoinette’s point of view. The move to England and the isolation from everything she’s ever held dear, including Rochester, drives her to insanity, and the novel ends with the house fire.

I really loved this book. I think because I also felt a need to know more about Antoinette and Rochester’s story. I loved the way she depicted the Caribbean with such rich and sensual imagery. This is indeed a masterpiece where Rhys was able to beautifully merge her story to a very known novel and do it all with immense style and sensibility.

“She’ll not dress up and smile at herself in that damnable looking-glass […] I’ll take her in my arms, my lunatic. She’s mad but mine, mine. What will I care for gods or devils or for Fate itself. If she smiles or weeps or both. For me.”

This novel is part of my list of books in The Classics Club Challenge


Format: Paperback, 171 pages
Published: January 25th, 2016 by W. W. Norton Company (first published October 1966)
ISBN: 0393352560
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Postmodern Literature