Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

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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 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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A Tiding of Magpies (A Birder Murder Mystery #5) by Steve Burrows

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When his most celebrated case is suddenly reopened, Detective Chief Inspector Jejeune‘s long-buried secrets threaten to come to light. Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Lindy, faces an unseen threat of her own, one from which even Jejeune may not be able to protect her. Between fending off inquiries from the internal review and an open murder case that brings more questions than answers, Jejeune will have to rely on the help of the stalwart Sergeant Danny Maik more than ever. But Maik is learning things that cause him to question his DCI‘s actions, both past, and present. In the current case, and in the former one, the facts seem clear enough. But it is in the silences, those empty spaces between the facts, that the truth is to be found.

Review

This is book 5 in the Birder Murder Mysteries series. I must admit that I’m always fearful to read books in a series, especially when I haven’t read the previous books. Occasionally books can stand on their own and you don’t really need to have read the previous books.

Unfortunately, that was not the case with this novel. What first attracted me to this book was the fact that I’m also a bird watcher and I thought it would be cool to read a mystery that brought together both of my passions.

The book starts with Detective Chief Inspector Domenic Jejeune working together with Sergeant Danny Maik to resolve a murder of a young man in a Polish community in Canada. The positive aspects of this book are the fact that the mystery starts off strong and really picks up midway through the book. The extensive descriptions of birds, and I particularly enjoyed the explanation on Eurasian magpies.

Unfortunately, the fact that most of the important characters had been introduced in previous books really made understanding and even sympathizing with them extremely difficult to me. Jejeune seemed flat and unrealistic as a character, and I spent most of the book trying to understand the references to events from previous books. It is almost unfair to properly rate a book that I could have enjoyed better had I read at least one of the previous books. My advice is to read the other books in the series to get a better appreciation for this novel.

It is in the silent spaces between the facts that the truth often lies.”

I’d like to thank NetGalley for providing me with a free early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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Curtain by Agatha Christie

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The house guests at Styles seemed perfectly pleasant to Captain Hastings; there was his own daughter Judith, an inoffensive ornithologist called Norton, dashing Mr. Allerton, brittle Miss Cole, Doctor Franklin and his fragile wife Barbara, Nurse Craven, Colonel Luttrell and his charming wife, Daisy, and the charismatic Boyd-Carrington. Hastings was shocked to learn from Hercule Poirot’s declaration that one of them was a five-times murderer. True, the aging detective was crippled with arthritis, but had his deductive instincts finally deserted him?

Review

I don’t know why it took me so long to read this book. I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan and I just love Poirot. I’ve read most of his stories and I even watched the old BBC series with David Suchet. Somehow, Curtain was never a book I really gravitated towards. One day while perusing my favorite used bookstore, I came across the book and decided to give it a try.

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To say that this novel is bittersweet is an understatement. First, Poirot and Hastings find themselves back at Styles, the house from the novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles where we were first introduced to the eccentric detective and to his friend Arthur Hastings. The other sad part is that we now find Poirot much older and in a wheelchair.

“Nothing is so sad, in my opinion, as the devastation wrought by age.
My poor friend. I have described him many times. Now to convey to you the difference. Crippled with arthritis, he propelled himself about in a wheelchair. His once plump frame had fallen in. He was a thin little man now.”

Despite Poirot’s crippled appearance, his “little gray cells” are working just fine and soon enough Poirot declares to Hastings that one of the guests at Styles has committed five murders and is about to commit one more.

I personally liked the book. I don’t think I would ever truly love any book that narrates Poirot’s last case. The end was sad, almost brought me to tears, but didn’t completely surprise me. This was also Christie’s last published book before she died. For fans of the genre, this novel will not disappoint you a bit. For Agatha Christie’s fans, this book is a must.

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate. And they sing. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.”

But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery’s massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. One of the brothers, in this life of prayer and contemplation, has been contemplating murder. As the peace of the monastery crumbles, Gamache is forced to confront some of his own demons, as well as those roaming the remote corridors. Before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.

Review

I absolutely loved this book. I have been reading Louise Penny for quite some time and one of the things that really impress me about her books is the richness of her characters. I love that all the characters have so many layers. This book reminded me a little of Umberto Eco’s The Name of The Rose. Probably because it’s set in a monastery. Unlike Eco’s long and drawn out novel, Penny’s novel is full of twists that keep you guessing until the end. Don’t let the theme of a monastery full of monks and Gregorian chants scare you away from this novel. This is a very well-plotted mystery! I highly recommend it.

 

The End of The Affair by Graham Greene

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According to the narrator, Maurice Bendrix, this book tells a story about hate much more than about love. Bendrix is an author who decides to write a true story and he decides how much of it he will tell, at what point he will begin, and at what point he will end it. The tale begins with the night he encounters Henry Miles, the husband of Sarah, the woman with whom Bendrix had an affair. Henry, however, has no idea that Bendrix was once involved with his wife. Henry reveals to Bendrix that he believes his wife is seeing another man. Pretending to be a friend to Henry and jealous of the fact Sarah may be seeing someone rather than him, Bendrix offers to hire a private investigator to find out the truth.

Bendrix narrates in first-person for the majority of the story and by interpreting situations according to his personal feelings and bias renders Bendrix a very unreliable narrator. He allows his negative feelings to color his telling of the story. The remainder of the narrative is flashback allowing readers to gather more information to interpret the story.

Loved this book. I absolutely loved the writing, and what Greene did to the story and the characters.

“The sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of happiness. In misery we seem aware of our own existence, even though it may be in the form of a monstrous egotism: this pain of mine is individual, this nerve that winces belongs to me and to no other. But happiness annihilates us: we lose our identity.”

“Love had turned into “love affair” with a beginning and an end.”

“She had always called me ‘you.’ ‘Is that you?’ on the telephone, ‘Can you? Will you? Do you?’ so that I imagined, like a fool, for a few minutes at a time, there was only one ‘you’ in the world and that was me.”

“So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one’s days.”

I highly recommend this classic.

Review: Strange Things Done by Elle Wild


As winter closes in and the roads snow over in Dawson City, Yukon, newly arrived journalist Jo Silver investigates the dubious suicide of a local politician and quickly discovers that not everything in the sleepy tourist town is what it seems. Before long, law enforcement begins treating the death as a possible murder and Jo is the prime suspect.

Review

Strange Things Done is Elle Wild’s debut album and what a great debut! The story starts in the in the small town of Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. I love the dark and tense atmosphere that builds up in her narrative. I liked the way Elle Wild developed her characters, but I have to admit that I never quite warmed up to Jo. The chilling small tall narrative reminded me a bit of some of Stephen King’s great classics such as Salem’s lot. For that same reason, at times the story was a little slow for my taste. Overall, I highly recommend this dark and chilly novel.

I would like to thank Dundurn and NetGalley for allowing me to read an early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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Review: Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani

When her father falls into a coma, Indian American photographer Sonya reluctantly returns to the family she’d fled years before. Since she left home, Sonya has lived on the run, free of any ties, while her soft-spoken sister, Trisha, has created a perfect suburban life, and her ambitious sister, Marin, has built her own successful career. But as these women come together, their various methods of coping with a terrifying history can no longer hold their memories at bay. Buried secrets rise to the surface as their father—the victim of humiliating racism and perpetrator of horrible violence—remains unconscious. As his condition worsens, the daughters and their mother wrestle with private hopes for his survival or death, as well as their own demons and buried secrets.Told with forceful honesty, Trail of Broken Wings reveals the burden of shame and secrets, the toxicity of cruelty and aggression, and the exquisite, liberating power of speaking and owning truth.

Review

Trail of Broken Wings is a beautifully written novel about a horrible topic–domestic abuse. I personally don’t gravitate towards books that deal with abuse, domestic or sexual. However, Trail of Broken Wings was recommended to me by a dear friend and I’m so glad I gave it a chance. The book tells the story of an Indian family living in America. The chapters alternate between the accounts of the three sisters and the mother. Marin, the oldest daughter and the overachiever of the family, Trisha is the middle child and the beloved one, and Sonya the youngest of the sisters. Each one of them recounts their lives, their memories, their abuse under the hands of their father, and how they have come to cope with it. I loved Badani’s writing. She makes it almost easy to read about domestic abuse because her prose is so beautiful.

“Heroes are not born or created. They become so in the passing moments of life. When something or someone demands you be more than you have been, when you must put aside your own needs and what is best for you to fight for another, no matter the cost. The past, the day-to-day living becomes irrelevant. All that matters is that instant when the ticking of the clock is louder than an ocean’s wave hitting the rocks, when time does not stand still, but slows, every second longer than the last one. This is when the decision becomes the only thing you can hear and see. When the choice falls out of your hand and fate intervenes. When your life is no longer yours but conjoined with another’s, each dependent upon the other to survive and thrive.”

The book has some description of violence but it is not too graphic. My only complaint about this novel was the ending. It felt rushed and unrealistic. Overall, it is a beautifully written book.


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