24 January 2022

The Maid by Nina Prouse

3 out of 5 stars

 I'll start by saying that I enjoyed this book, but was not able to give it more than three stars. 

When I read a mystery, I like to look at it as a puzzle. Part of the fun for me is figuring out who are the good guys, who are just pretending to be good, who are the likely suspects and why, and who are the unlikely suspects. What are the connections between the characters that may come into play. In the case of The Maid, by Nita Prose, I was not able to do this. The plot was a good one. Molly the maid finds a dead body in one of the rooms she is cleaning and ends up being the prime suspect in the murderer. It wasn't that pace of the story, or the lack of twists, there were plenty of those. It wasn't even that I was able to figure out the puzzle too easily, although I did figure most of it out, including who was the actual killer, early in the book.

The big thing for me was the characters. Unlike most of my book buddies, I was not able to really connect with the maim character, Molly. Instead of the sympathetic character that most saw her as, to me she just seemed pathetic. The investigating detective to me seemed mean and rigid in her thinking, with a total lack of empathy, which made it hard for me to have any empathy for her. The dead man's wife just seemed shallow, as did a number of the other characters. It turns out that I just had a hard time connecting with any of the character. That said, I think I am the only one of the people I know who has read this book that thought it was just okay. And the book is showing up on quite a lot of "must read" lists in websites and blogs that I follow, so I figure I must just be missing something.

I do want to thank the publisher for making this book available on Netgalley and giving me a chance to read and review it. I enjoyed the book and I'm not sorry I read it, but for me it was an average read.

22 May 2018

Review: Lies by T. M. Logan

4.5 of 5 stars

I don't think that I have read a more appropriately titled book in a long time.....if ever.  The title [book:Lies|33652433] ( St. Martin's Press, September 2018) certainly says it all.  The book begins with a snap decision made by the main character, which leads to a little lie, which leads to bigger lies....and so it goes.  I was mesmerized by this book from beginning to end, and yet the story was highly believable.  I could see myself, or others falling into the trap that Joseph and his wife Mel found themselves.  In addition, the reactions of those around them were true to life.   The characters were definitely interesting and well thought out.   The author's portrayal of the villain was exceptional. 

In addition to fascinating characters, the flow of the story really intrigued me.  The plot was full of interesting plot turns and twists, some of which I could see coming, but most of which I did not.  That is what drew me to the story the most.  I confess, I am a sucker for plot twists, especially when they surprise me and as each one was revealed, I found myself more and more intrigued.  By the time that I got into the meat of the story, I had a hard time putting the book down.  This book definitely will go onto my highly recommended list and is one of the best books that I have read so far in 2018. 

The only downfall, if any, was my desire to skip ahead a few time, hence the 4.5 and not 5 star rating.  In all truth, though, that rating might be more due to my desire to know if I was on the right track figuring out the next twist rather than any problem with the way the author laid out the story. 

T. M. Logan is a "first time" author for me, and I would definitely give him a high five.  I am putting his first book [book:29 Seconds|36217426] on my list of books to find and look forward to reading more by this author.

I received a copy of this book from through Netgalley and would like to thank St. Martin's Press  and the author for the opportunity.

24 October 2017

The revival post and October Witchy books

It has been forever since I blogged, and I have really missed it.  Under the old format I was mostly blogging reviews, which I still enjoy doing, but it seemed like it was getting to be a chore in some ways and I think I just got burned out.  At any rate, I have been thinking about reviving my blog for most of this year, and I have been trying out different scenarios in my head of ways to make a comeback and have come to the conclusion that I should just jump in and take the plunge.  So here I am plunging away. 

The biggest difference that I intend to make with the blog is to blog about things other than reviews.  Many times when I am reading a book and I have comments I want to make about the book, the writing style, the author in general, the type of book.  I start all of these conversations in my head and I have decided that I should just write them down here.

Writing a blog is a weird thing because unless people comment on what you write, you really have no idea whether people are reading your thoughts or not.  I think to be a successful blogger, you have to do it for yourself as much as anything else. So here goes my second attempt.  Hopefully you will like the new format and find things that interest you to read about.  And if you feel like leaving a comment, I will certainly try to get back to you.  I love Conversations. 

October Books About Witches

I have a younger sister who knows me better than almost anyone, and she knows how much I love reading and books.  Often she will tag me on Facebook with links to articles about books and reading and I love getting them.  The other day she sent me this one: 

And I am passing it on to you.  It lists 18 Historical Fiction books about witches and there are some really great ones on the list.  Although I read all types of books, I would have to say Historical Fiction is probably my favorite genre.  Something about reading books about other times and cultures just fascinates me. So any list that has Historical Fiction in the title gets my attention. Of the 18 books on the list, I have only read four, I own 4 more and have them on my to read list, and I have not heard of 10. 

I read  The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spear while I was still in high school and it was probably my first fictional connection to the Salem/Colonial witch mania.  I remember being enthralled by the book.  The other three that I have read, The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Kaltherine Howe, and The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston have been read in the last few years.  I would recommend them all, but I think that the Kathleen Kent book was probably my favorite.  Another interesting tidbit, I believe that Kathleen Kent and Katherine Howe are both descended from Salem "withches".  

The four that I have to read are The Witches of New York by Ami McKay, The Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan, The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch, and The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown.  The Witchfinder's Sister is the next one on my list.  

As for the 10 that I have not heard of before...I will definitely by checking them out. There are a few books about witches that I have read that aren't on the list and should be, I think.  The most notable one is A discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.  Although it is a hefty book, it really held my interest and it read quite quickly.  I am anxious to see what they do with the TV/Movie adaptation that is in the works.  Another one that I would add to the list is Daughters of the Witching Hill  by  Mary Sharrat which I currently have checked out from the library.  

What is your favorite Historical Fiction book about witches?  What about witchy books from other genres?  Which ones do you recommend? 

21 October 2015

Review: Haven Lake by Holly Robinson

NOTE:  A copy of this book was provided by the author and publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I have read several of Holly Robinson's books over the last few years.  I started with The Wishing Hill  (Review Link)  the story of three women whose lives are linked in an unusual yet unbreakable way.  That was followed by Beach Plum Island (review link ) a story of three sisters whose lives are linked and who are just beginning to understand the meaning of the word  "family".  Recently I had the privilege of reading a third book by Holly, Haven Lake, published April 2015 by NAL, $15.00 US.   I am pleased to say that I think this is Holly's best work yet. 

Like all of Holly's books that I have read, Haven Lake is a story about people, the connections that they make, and what actually constitutes a family.  In this case, we are introduced to Sydney Bishop, a women who left home at the age of sixteen after a pair of tragic deaths tore her family apart, and her mother, Hannah Bishop, a sheep farmer who still lives at the family farm where Sydney grew up.  Sydney is currently a child psychologist working with troubled students and engaged to marry Gary, a top notch surgeon with a teenage son.   The story unfolds as Sydney tries to forge a bond with Dylan, Gary's son, and steer clear of her mother and their strained relationship.

As I stated in my other reviews of her books,  Holly Robinson's strengths are the characters that she develops in her stories, and the actual flow of the stories themselves.  In that respect, this book is no different.  The main characters, Sydney, Hannah, and Dylan are all amazingly complex characters with a lot of depth and many facets in their personalities.  In fact, even the minor characters, Sydney's fiancee Gary, her grandmother, Hannah's friend and neighbor, Liz, and Dylan's crush are all complex and interesting in their own right.  In fact, there is not a single character in this book that did not do something surprising at one point or another.  The fact that the characters in the story were unpredictable at times only made them seem more real and allowed me to connect with them all the more.  As for the story itself, Haven Lake is once again filled with plenty of emotion...love, loss, betrayal, and enough twists and turns to make the story a page turner.

There were, however, two big differences that set this book apart and made it, for me, the best effort from Holly Robinson yet.  First were the male characters in this book.  I felt that the male characters in this book were more developed and played a bigger role in the flow of the story.  I was especially happy with the character of Dylan, as he is the first male character that has been used as the stories focus among the Holly Robinson books that I have read, and he was an excellent one at that.  The second reason that this book resonated with me more than some of the others has to do with the last quarter of the book, and the ultimate ending.  There were so many things revealed about the characters in this section of the book that made for a fascinating read.  In addition, the ending of this book was so realistic.  One thing that I really appreciate, is authors who do not succumb to the urge to always give books an ending where everything works out perfectly.  Don't get me wrong, I love happy endings, but I also appreciate realistic endings where you see that the characters still have decisions to make and journeys to go through.   In this respect, I found the ending to this story very satisfying.

The next Holly Robinson book on my list to read is Chance Harbor, which I highly anticipating.  Over the course of time as I have been reading Holly's books, I have become a true fan of her stories and look forward to much more from her in the future. 

19 October 2015

This week at a glance

This Week's Reading: 

The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

The first in a new trilogy centered around France's King Louis XV and four sisters who shared his heart and his bed.

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Elizabeth Grey is a witch hunter who ultimately is accused and convicted of being a witch herself in this debut YA fantasy novel

The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuk

The new novel from the author of Hemingway's Girl.  This novel centers around the marriage between author Nathaniel Hawthorne and artist Sophia Peabody.

The Reviews: 

Haven Lake by Holly Robinson
The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

Series Spotlight: 

The Stonechild and Rouleau Mysteries by Brenda Chapman

16 September 2015

Review: Tidewater: A Novel of Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony by Libbie Hawker

My copy of this book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my review.

I have always been fascinated by other cultures, and among the first that I sought out information on when I was in elementary school were the Native Americans.  Growing up in America I was told the story of Pocahontas and John Smith numerous times in my life, but it wasn't until I was an adult that I found out that Pocahontas and John Smith were never in love, nor were they ever lovers.  There is so much mythology and fairy tale attached to their story, that it is a true find to come across a book that tells a more likely, and to my mind likable, story of the two.  Tidewater: A Novel of Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony  by Libbie Hawker (Lake Union Publishing $10.95 in Paperback) is just such a book.   When I saw it being offered for review, I knew I had to read it, whether I was awarded the ARC or not.

The first thing that I noticed was that the  book begins with the arrival of John Smith and his cohorts from the Virginia Company in America and their decision of where to set up the colony of Jamestown.  In fact, although Pocahontas definitely plays a role in the first third of the book, the author mainly focuses on the developing relationship between the colonists at Jamestown and the Powhatan Indians.  Pocahontas' father Powhatan, her uncle Opechanacanough, John Smith, and various other colonists are the main characters for this part of the story.  Score one for both the book and the author.  As the story progressed, I was very impressed with the way that the author peppered the story with the actual names and customs of the Powhatan Indians.  In addition, she was meticulous in her descriptions of the colonists and the actual roles that each of them played, reminding us that John Smith was not the "leader" or president of the Jamestown colony at the time that he met Pocahontas.

As the story unfolds, we get to the part where Pocahontas saves John Smith from death and the resulting development of their relationship.  At this point in the book, Pocahontas takes on a more central role, as she most likely did in real life.  Although the book at this point details her relationship with John Smith and, in the last third, her life in the colony, conversion to Christianity, marriage to John Rolfe, and eventual trip to England, the author does a great job of continuing to let us know what is happening with the other characters, most notably, John Smith, Powhatan, and his brother. Through all of this, we get an excellent picture of Pocahontas, her true role in the Jamestown story, and her eventual life as a Christian and Englishwoman.

The one thing that struck me throughout this book, and perhaps my favorite thing about it, was the amount of detail and realism that the author included in this book.  It was apparent from the beginning that she had done a lot of research,  not only on Pocahontas her self, but on the Powhatan Indians in general along with the actual inhabitants of the Jamestown colony.  I was definitely pleased, although not really surprised, when I came to the end of the book and found listed there the titles of several non-fiction books that the author used to research and develop her story.  I definitely intend to check a few of them out.  

I ended up giving this book 5 out of 5 stars and am including it on my highly recommended list.  It is a true gem and I will am thankful to Libbie Hawker  for this more realistic glimpse of  this interesting woman who was caught up in history. I still love my fairy tale stories of princesses, but this book is so rich with great characters and interesting details that it is a must read for anyone interested in this time period.   It is my first book by this author, but it will not be my last!