Tag Archives: Books

The Little Bookshop of MURDER by Maggie Blackburn

Summer Merriweather’s career as a Shakespeare professor hangs by a bookbinder’s thread. Academic life at her Virginia university is a viper’s pit, so Summer spends her summer in England, researching a scholarly paper that, with any luck, will finally get her published, impress the Dean, and save her job. But her English idyll ends when her mother, Hildy, shuffles off her mortal coil from an apparent heart attack. Returning to Brigid’s Island, NC, for the funeral, Summer is impatient to settle the estate, sell her mom’s embarrassingly romance-themed bookstore, Beach Reads, and go home. But as she drops by Beach Reads, Summer finds threatening notes addressed to Hildy: “Sell the bookstore or die.” Clearly, something is rotten on Brigid’s Island. What method is behind the madness? Was Hildy murdered?


Little Bookshop of Murder is the first book in a new series by Maggie Blackburn. The story follows Summer Merriweather (no kidding!) as she returns to a small island off the coast of North Carolina after the death of her estranged mother. Upon arriving at Brigid’s Island, Summer finds her mother’s sudden death a little suspicious, so with the help of her aunt Agatha, they start an investigation of their own.

I like to start my reviews by pointing out the positives in a book. This book has all the right elements for a sweet cozy mystery. An excellent (although not novel) premise, a lovely cover, and who can resist books about cute bookstores? So, you are probably wondering why I gave such a dismal rating?

The first issue I had with this book was the fact that I could not relate to nor like Summer. It could be because this is book number one, and the author is rushing to introduce all the main players and somehow forgot to elaborate on her main character. But Summer is just simply put the flattest and most unsympathetic character in this book. Here we have a woman whose mother just died. She spends the entire book reminding us of how hard it is that her mother is dead, however, very little–if any, emotion is elicited from the pages. The reader does not get a feeling that this character is missing her dead mother, nor that she even truly cared about her mother. To make matters worse in the likeability rating, we get information early on in the story that Summer left some poor chap standing in the altar, but very little explanation as to why.

So, after you decide you are just going to ignore the poorly written main character and plow through the rest of the book, what you end up with is a very so-so mystery and a complete feeling of disappointment.

On a more optimistic note, this book is number one in a series, and the author has plenty of chances to make it up in the subsequent installments.

Little Bookshop of Murder is scheduled to be published on July 7th, 2020. I want to thank Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: Kindle edition
Published: July 7th, 2020 by Crooked Lane Books
ASIN: B0818ZX2NY
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 2 ½ stars
Genre: Mystery, Cozy-mystery

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

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Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance, she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft. Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.


The Familiars by Stacey Hall was an interesting work of fiction based on events and people from the real Pendle Witch Trials of 1612. The story is told by Fleetwood Shuttleworth’s point of view. Fleetwood is a noblewoman who is anxious to have a baby after having had several miscarriages.

Fleetwood soon meets Alice Gray, a midwife who assures Fleetwood she can help her carry her pregnancy to term. They start a friendship in the midst of the Witch Trials and Alice is accused of being a witch and practicing witchcraft.

This book had several very good points from a feminist point of view. It elicited issues of female powerlessness in a society that expected women to behave in a certain way and the power that a patriarchal society exerted over them. I also really enjoyed Fleetwood and Alice’s friendship.

Where the book fell short for me was in the slow pace of the narrative. Divided into four parts, I struggled with the pace until the middle of part two. Also, Fleetwood’s alienation and naivete got on my nerves at times.

Overall, I recommend this book to anyone interested in witch trials, and the oppressive rules women in 17th century England were subjected to.

She is a midwife, like her mother before her. Are you like the king now, thinking all wise women and poor women and midwives are carrying out the Devil’s work? Why, he must be the largest employer in Lancashire.


Format: Paperback, 420 pages
Published: February 4th, 2019 by Zaffre Publishing
ISBN: 1785766139
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction

The Outsider by Stephen King

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When a hideous crime happens to 11-year-old Frank Peterson in the fictitious town of Flint City, police immediately suspects the town’s little league coach Terry Maitland. Maitland is an upstanding citizen of Flint City, and his public arrest causes a significant amount of commotion. On the surface, it seems like a straight forward case and detective Ralph Anderson is confident of his arrest and Maitland’s guilt. But when Maitland comes up with an irrefutable alibi, detective Anderson will have to expand his investigation and face horrifying answers.

I initially struggled with starting The Outsider. I don’t particularly gravitate toward books with themes of sexual violence and rape, especially regarding children. But I couldn’t pass on the opportunity of reading one of Stephen King’s latest books. I love Stephen King’s seemingly easy way he tells his stories, his dark creativity, his wild imagination, and vivid scenes. The Outsider at times reads like an episode of Law and Order, but being Stephen King, you know that is not going to last very long, and pretty soon an element of the supernatural will rear its ugly head.

Although The Outsider is a hefty 560 pages novel, the amount of suspense and horror keeps you well engaged for a good ¾ of the book. The topic of the book, although dark, does not dwell too much on sexual abuse as it does in the investigation process. I didn’t feel the end was necessarily rushed; quite the opposite–he could have shaved off a few pages as it felt like it dragged a bit.

Overall The Outsider does not disappoint one bit, and if anything it solidifies my admiration for an author I’ve been reading for nearly 25 years, and which continues to be in my humble opinion the master of horror. I highly recommend this book to both fans of this genre as well as fans of well-written fiction.


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Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own. Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In 1920s Mexico, Caseopea lived a very unhappy life cleaning floors of her wealthy grandfather and dreaming of a better life away from her chores. One day she comes across a mysterious wooden box and accidently frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death who takes her on a journey in hopes of regaining back his throne from his treacherous brother.

Part Jane Eyre and part Cinderella story, Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow is a beautiful fantasy tale based on Mayan mythology. In a time with so much negative emphasis on Mexico, it’s easy to forget that Mexico is a country with a very rich heritage, mythology and folklore. Moreno-Garcia successfully retells this myth with a beautiful prose and description of a Mexico of the 1920s.

I highly recommend this novel which is scheduled to be published in August 2019.

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


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The Island Villa by Lily Graham

 

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When Charlotte’s husband James tragically dies, he leaves her an unexpected gift – her grandmother’s beautiful villa, Marisal, on the Spanish island of Formentera. As she begins to explore her new home and heal her broken heart in the warm golden sunshine, Charlotte discovers that her grandmother Alba has been keeping secrets about her life on the island. Intrigued by her family’s hidden history, Charlotte uncovers a devastating love affair that put many lives at risk and two sisters torn apart by loss. Can the heartbreaking truth of the island’s dark history finally be laid to rest? Or will the secrets of the past shake the new life and love that Charlotte is close to finding? 

Review

The book starts with Charlotte grieving her husband’s death and finding out that she has inherited a villa in the beautiful Spanish island of Formentera. The first part of the book started out slow and I thought the story was going to revolve around her grieving until she finds out that her grandmother Alba had some secrets Charlotte was about to discover. What attracted me to this book was the cover and the idea of reading a “feel-good summer read” and although the book was quite enjoyable, at times the narrative felt repetitive and stereotypical of what one thinks a Mediterranean island should look and smell like. Having lived in the Balearic Islands I thought a book about Formentera was going to transport me back to that time in my life, but it really didn’t. The historical part was very interesting, but overall I felt that the characters landed a bit flat on the pages and the middle of the story dragged a bit.

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


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Stacking The Shelves

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Stacking The Shelves is hosted at Tynga’s Reviews and is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

This was my first week on full blogging mode. After years of WordPress, I have finally started using the scheduling option for posts and it has been really easy to organize and schedule my reviews. Having splurged on books last week, I decided to take it slow and only acquired a few titles.

ARCs for Review

Our House by Louise Candlish (NetGalley)

Dead Pretty by David Mark (First to Read)

Tin Man by Sarah Winman (First to Read)

Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron (NetGalley)

The Circle Game by Tanya Nichols (NetGalley)

Purchased

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton 

Death Comes for the Archbishop

Library Loan

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Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

What about you? Leave me a comment and let me know what you’ve added to your shelves. Happy reading! 🙂

 

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

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Stacking The Shelves

stacking-the-shelves

Stacking The Shelves is hosted at Tynga’s Reviews and is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

This week has been a pretty busy one. Having just come back from a very long hiatus, I felt the need to start restocking my shelves. I started out with a trip to my local library, my local and favorite used bookstore, acquiring some ARCs for review, and accepting author’s request for a review.

ARCs for Review

A Brush With Death by Ali Carter (Edelweiss) – check out my review

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll (NetGalley) –check out my review

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier (NetGalley)- check out my review

Secrets, Lies & Crawfish Pies by Abby L. Vandiver (NetGalley)

The Hawkman by Jane Rosenberg LaForge (Edelweiss)

Purchased

Warriors -Into the Wild by Erin Hunter

Death in Venice and Other Tales by Thomas Mann

Library Loans

The Remains of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – check my review

Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens

Author’s Request for Review

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The Burning by S.O. Esposito

 

Happy reading! 🙂

 

A Brush With Death by Ali Carter

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In the village of Spire, murder is afoot. Wealthy landowner Alexander, Earl of Greengrass is caught with his trousers down in the village graveyard before meeting a gruesome end. Luckily Susie Mahl happens to be on hand. With her artist’s eye for detail and her curious nature, she is soon on the scent of the murderer…

Review

Susie Mahl is an artist who specializes in pet portraits. While staying with friends, the Earl and Countess of Greengrass at their beautiful house in the village of Spire, the Earl is found dead and Susie with her witty and inquisitive nature quickly starts her own investigation into the murder.

I really enjoyed this light-hearted cozy mystery. Susie Mahl is a great detective. She is funny and witty and I loved how Carter combined a little bit of a country house murder as well as giving us some insight into the life of an artist. This is a great read for fans of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple with a dash of Downton Abbey.

This is Ali Carter’s first novel and the first book in the new series about pet portraitist and super-sleuth Susie Mahl.

I would like to thank the author and Edelweiss for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 


About The Author

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Ali Carter was born in Scotland in 1983. She read art history at St Andrew’s, followed by an eclectic career before settling in for the long run as a fine artist. She specializes in oil paintings from life with an emphasis on color. Writing, walking and cooking all accompany her painting. Ali lives in East Sussex with her husband Sam. Ali’s first novel, A Brush with Death comes out 7th June 2018.

Website


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The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

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When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder…
Brett’s the fan favorite. Tattooed and only twenty-seven, the meteoric success of her spin studio—and her recent engagement to her girlfriend—has made her the object of jealousy and vitriol from her castmates.
Kelly, Brett’s older sister, and business partner is the most recent recruit, dismissed as a hanger-on by a veteran cast. The golden child growing up, she defers to Brett now—a role which requires her to protect their shocking secret.
Stephanie, the first black cast member and the oldest, is a successful bestselling author of erotic novels. There have long been whispers about her hot, non-working actor-husband and his wandering eye, but this season the focus is on the rift that has opened between her and Brett, former best friends—and resentment soon breeds contempt.

Review

I’m probably one of the few people who did not rave about Jessica Knoll’s debut novel The Luckiest Girl Alive (you can read my review from 2015 here). I decided to give Knoll another try and I’m glad I did.

Knoll doesn’t seem to write warm and fuzzy characters, but her style of writing is pretty unique and gritty. The Favorite Sister starts off a little confusing. With the introduction of several different characters in the very beginning of the book, I found myself having to take notes to keep up with the story. Once you get over the initial introduction, you are led through a series of bickering and backstabbing catty drama that is actually very entertaining. I’m not particularly fond of reality TV, but Knoll did a superb job capturing that world. This is a suspenseful story full of twists. I can’t say I particularly loved the characters, but that is exactly the point. Kudos to Knoll’s novel for being authentic and creative and for keeping you immersed in this twisted drama. I highly recommend it!

I would like to thank Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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