The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

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The Remains of the Day is a profoundly compelling portrait of the perfect English butler and of his fading, insular world postwar England. At the end of his three decades of service at Darlington Hall, Stevens embarks on a country drive, during which he looks back over his career to reassure himself that he has served humanity by serving “a great gentleman.” But lurking in his memory are doubts about the true nature of Lord Darlington’s “greatness” and graver doubts about his own faith in the man he served.

Review 

Such a beautifully written novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve never got to watch the movie version of this title and I’m glad I haven’t. I read this book with no pre-conceived expectations and I believe that has made a big difference in the way I experienced this novel.

This is a story about Stevens, a British butler who after years of service at Darlington Hall is offered his first vacation. He sets out to explore the English countryside and meet Miss Kenton, who had worked with him in the heyday of the Darlington Hall.

“A ‘great’ butler can only be, surely, one who can point to his years of service and say that he has applied his talents to serving a great gentleman — and through the latter, to serving humanity.”

Duty and dedication are at the heart of this novel and although in today’s day and age it’s hard to conceive the role of such a dedicated butler. This is a very bittersweet recollection of a life full of sacrifices and missed opportunities. I have to say I ended this novel feeling pretty sad. My heart ached for this man who spent his entire life in pursuit of service to this house and this employer and in doing that he lost his opportunity for true love.

“I do not think I responded Immediately, for it took me a moment or two to fully digest these words of Miss Kenton…their implications were such as to provoke a certain degree of sorrow within me. Indeed — why should I not admit it? — at that moment, my heart was breaking.”

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


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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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Review: The Lake House by Kate Morton

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Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever. A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.

This is a novel I felt started really strong and somehow I lost some interest. I really wanted to love this book, but in reality, I didn’t. I liked it. I just couldn’t bring myself to love it. The narrative alternating between past and present is a technique that works for some novels, but one that also gets very tiresome to me. The book is long, but that was not the reason I couldn’t love it. The writing was beautiful and the characters were very well crafted. The plot is definitely unpredictable but difficult to understand at times. I can’t truly pinpoint why this novel didn’t do it for me except that the jumping back and forth between eras made it really hard for me to keep track of the story.

3 star

Review: The Travelers by Chris Pavone

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It’s 3:00am. Do you know where your husband is?

Meet Will Rhodes: travel writer, recently married, barely solvent, his idealism rapidly giving way to disillusionment and the worry that he’s living the wrong life. Then one night, on assignment for the award-winning Travelers magazine in the wine region of Argentina, a beautiful woman makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Soon Will’s bad choices—and dark secrets—take him across Europe, from a chateau in Bordeaux to a midnight raid on a Paris mansion, from a dive bar in Dublin to a mega-yacht in the Mediterranean and an isolated cabin perched on the rugged cliffs of Iceland. As he’s drawn further into a tangled web of international intrigue, it becomes clear that nothing about Will Rhodes was ever ordinary, that the network of deception ensnaring him is part of an immense and deadly conspiracy with terrifying global implications—and that the people closest to him may pose the greatest threat of all.

It’s 3:00am. Your husband has just become a spy!

I don’t usually gravitate towards spy novels, however, I must admit I was extremely curious to read this book after the buzz I had heard about Chris Pavone’s debut novel The Expats. I’m glad a took a chance and stepped outside my “safety zone” and ventured into the uncharted territory of this genre. I’m going to start by saying what worked for me about this novel, and pretty much everything did. I loved the plot! First and foremost. It was fast-paced and intriguing. The story just flows very naturally. It is intense and a lot of action happens on every page, so you are hardly able to put the book down.The characters were interesting and engaging. I didn’t particularly care for the character of Will, but not by any fault of the author. The book is suspenseful and the ending is not a huge surprise, but all the action in the book more than make-up for it. 5-stars! I highly recommend it.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

5 star

Review: Arsenic With Austen by Katherine Bolger Hyde

cover82927-mediumArsenic With Austen is my first book by Katherine Bolger Hyde. The novel starts with the return of Emily Cavanaugh to the little town of Stony Beach, Oregon to inherit a fortune from her great-aunt Beatrice. What Emily is not counting on is having to solve a murder mystery and face and old flame, Luke, who she hasn’t seen in 35 years.

Hyde’s novel has a great premise with a whodunit style of crime and a love story. There is, however, very little Austen in the book except for the fact that each chapter opens with a quote from Jane Austen’s more famous novels (Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility…). I’m a huge Austen fan and I think that had a lot to do with my first interest in this book, however, the Austen connection ends there. The characters although nice are a bit flat and stereotypical, the love story between Emily and Luke seems unrealistic and the murder mystery, although cozy, is quite predictable.

Arsenic With Austen is book number one in a series called Crime With The Classics, and although I couldn’t rate it more than 3-stars I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next books in the series.

I’d like to thank NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book is scheduled to be published on July 12, 2016.

3 star

Review: Before The Fall by Noah Hawley

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On a foggy summer night, eleven people–ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter–depart Martha’s Vineyard headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the passengers disappear into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs–the painter–and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of a wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.

The book starts with a small plane that falls in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with 11 people on board. Scott, a struggling middle-aged artist, and a four-year-old boy are the only survivors. The crux of the book is finding out the cause of the crash and events that led to the disaster.

I really enjoyed reading this book by Noah Hawley. The first couple of chapters are suspenseful and impossible to put down. There is a great message about the ridiculous power of media covering tragedies. It does slow down a bit as it alternates between the aftermath of the crash and the lives of the passengers before the accident (the fall), but overall a great summer read.

Before The Fall by Noah Hawley is one of those great suspenseful books that you can read in one sitting. A fast-paced, page-turner that keeps you guessing until the end. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of the genre.

I’d like to thank NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book is scheduled to be published on May 31, 2016.

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Review: The Mine by John A. Heldt

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In May 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can’t use, money he can’t spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. 

Who does not love the concept of time travel? The chance to go back in time and maybe meet famous historical figures, or see our parents when they were little. I’ve been a huge fan of time travel stories since I first read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, and I still have very fond memories of my childhood, and watching Back to The Future.

The Mine is a time-travel novel, but unlike many novels of the same genre this story is also a beautiful love story. Joel Smith is a cocky twenty-something guy who walks into a mine and comes out in 1941. Joel is flawed, but a well-written character. The historical descriptions of America in the age of swing dancing really transports you to that period in time. My favorite character in this book is Ginny–witty and funny she is such a delight, and as you start reading the story you’ll know why she is so special. I have to say that half-way through the book I thought I had the story figured out, and I was very happy with how surprised I was at the end of the book. This story does not disappoint. I had a great time reading it. This is book one of the Northwest Passage series. Looking forward to the next ones.

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for my honest review.

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Book Details:

Title: The Mine/Author: John A. Heldt/Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance / ASIN:B0078S9B6G/Publisher: Self-Published/Rating: 4-Stars/Read: May, 2015.

Review: The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

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Title: The Enchanted April

Author: Elizabeth von Arnim

Pages: 222

Genre: Fiction/Classics

ISBN: 9780143107736

Publisher: Penguin Classics

Rating: 4-Stars

Read: May, 2015

Four very different women take up an offer advertised in the Times for a “small medieval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April.” As each blossoms in the warmth of the Italian spring, quite unexpected changes occur.

This is a lovely book by Elizabeth von Arnim! Four women decide to leave their dreary lives in London and rent a villa in Italy. A delightful afternoon read, and a great homage to friendship and most importantly, the power of traveling and how transformative it can be in our lives. I love Arnim’s descriptions of the landscape, the scenery and the flowers. I love flowers and I could almost smell them on the pages of this book. My only complaint, and the reason I didn’t rate this book 5 stars was the husbands’ part in the story (without giving too much away). I would’ve let them out completely and glorified the power of female friendship. Overall, a fantastic read.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest review. The new edition of this book is scheduled to be published on June 2, 2015.

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Wreckage by Emily Bleeker–Audiobook Review

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Unabridged (10 hours and 17 minutes)

Author: Emily Bleeker

Narration: Kristin Watson Heintz and Lucas Daniels

Release Date: 03-01-15

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Rating: 2-Star

Listened: April, 2015

Lillian Linden is a liar. On the surface, she looks like a brave survivor of a plane crash. But she’s been lying to her family, her friends, and the whole world since rescue helicopters scooped her and her fellow survivor, Dave Hall, off a deserted island in the South Pacific. Missing for almost two years, the castaways are thrust into the spotlight after their rescue, becoming media darlings overnight. But they can’t tell the real story—so they lie… 

This novel follows the story of Lilian Linden and David Hall, survivors of a plane crash that landed in a deserted island in the South Pacific. After spending two miserable years on the island, they are finally rescued and reunited with their families–and so the lies begin…

The plot’s themes of survival, secrecy, tragedy and redemption are well written. The problem with this narrative was that although the characters were believable and complex; the story was quite predictable, and the ending was dull as if the author was too tired to finish the book.

Bleeker managed to keep the book suspenseful for a good part of the story. The descriptions of the crash and life on the island were detailed and interesting—It brought me back memories of the television show Lost.

The narrative structure followed a back-and-forth flow with parts written in present time and flashing back to the past. This structure worked well and explained the lies they had to tell reporters once they were back home.

Unfortunately, this is the first audiobook that I wished I had read the book instead. The narration was absolutely awful. Lucas Daniels and Kristin Watson Heintz were not a good choice for this book, and I felt it really hurt my audio experience. Although Daniels has a distinctive voice, it was more akin to a newscaster than that of an actor. Heintz’s voice was too monotonous, and she had a hard time sounding convincing when narrating male characters.

I do not recommend this book as audiobook. You’d be better off reading it.

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2 star

Review: Don’t Turn Around by Caroline Mitchell

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Title: Don’t Turn Around

Author: Caroline Mitchell

Pages: 318

Genre: Paranormal Thriller/Crime

ISBN: 9781909490970

Publisher: Bookouture

Ratings: 3-star

Read: April 21, 2015-April 24, 2015

As D.C. Jennifer Knight investigates a routine stabbing in the quiet town of Haven, she is shocked at what seems like a personal message from beyond the grave. When more bodies are found, Jennifer is convinced the killings are somehow linked.

What she discovers is more chilling than she could possibly imagine. The murders mirror those of the notorious Grim Reaper – from over twenty years ago. A killer her mother helped convict. Jennifer can no longer ignore the personal connection. Is there a copycat killer at work? Was the wrong man convicted? Or is there something more sinister at play?

In this book, Caroline Mitchell introduces us to D.C. Jennifer Knight a well-written and complex character. She is more than just a cop; she hears voices inside her head. Her paranormal abilities have helped her solve cases in the past, and she will have to rely on them one more time in order to solve a string of crimes and stop a killer.

This is book number one in the Detective Jennifer Knight crime thriller series, and it was also my very first book in the paranormal/crime/thriller genre. I truly enjoyed the plot and storyline.

This novel had some extremely creepy and scary moments that worked really well together, and still kept me very interested. I particularly liked the narrative from the serial killer’s perspective–chilling and well-written. A great glimpse into a murderer’s mind.

I definitely recommend this book, and my only wish was that there was a bit more romance weaved into this great story. I’m hopeful that the next books will explore the relationship between detective Jennifer and Will.

I’d also like to thank Bookouture and NetGalley for allowing me to read an early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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3 star