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REVIEW: Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear


Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Release Date: April 8, 2014

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4 out of 5

In the latest Maisie Dobbs mystery, Maisie has become restless with her life in England. She wants to remain independent, but she also loves her longtime friend and companion, James Compton. Just as she is thinking of heading on a tour of the globe, Scotland Yard comes to her in need of help with the murder of an Indian woman, Usha Pramal. As a former governess, Usha was a rare woman who had gone to college and traveled to London with an English family to teach their children. When they fired her without aide to get home, she found lodgings and a job and was seemingly on her way back to India. Yet, when she is found in the river with a gunshot to the head, Scotland Yard can only turn to Maisie with no leads in the case.

I have loved the Maisie Dobbs series for quite some time, and this latest addition to her story is excellent. I do highly recommend reading the previous novels in the series first, as there is much background knowledge that would make the book easier to follow. Over the years, Maisie has changed so much as a woman that it is through her cases and trials in life that we see who she becomes. In this book, she is dealing with a particularly difficult decision. How does she maintain her identity while remaining a partner to James? This case will also test her relationships with her employees, Billy and Sandra, as they try to find a balance between kindness and overbearing control.

I am always excited to read a new book in this series, and Leaving Everything Most Loved is no exception. I will say that the last few books have been very serious with little release in term of moments of happiness. Most of Winspear’s books contain a bit of silver lining in the storm clouds, but as we approach the era of World War II, each book has taken on a new gravity. I highly, highly recommend this book, but I also would recommend reading it on a bright sunny day with some chocolate at hand :)

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me host this book. For more information, click here.

REVIEW: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen


Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: January 21, 2014

Source: publisher

Rating: 5 out of 5

Kate has had a hard time in life. Her husband has just died, and she and her eight-year-old daughter, Devin, need time and space to try and heal. What better place than Lost Lake? Kate spent so many magical moments throughout over a summer with her aunt at this wonderful resort, but once she returns with her daughter, she soon realizes that Lost Lake has lost its magic and only she can help get it back.

Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favorite magical realism authors. I’ve read and loved all of her previous books, and this one is even more magical since she wrote it during and after such a difficult period of her life. Allen battled cancer and own, and in interviews she states how writing this book helped her to heal and become herself again. I found Kate’s journey to be so inspiring and true to all women who have faced such hardships. More than anything, she wants to create a safe place for her daughter to build a new life and recuperate after such life-changing events. Allen shows how even at our lowest points in life we can always rise to the challenge for those we love.

I also love each little tiny bit of magic Allen adds to her stories. It is never enough to be distracting or out of place – it always fits in just the right spot to show you just how magical ordinary life is as well. That small mystic touch adds some fun and dreamlike qualities that we all have no trouble believing in when we are children.

There is a small love story when Kate connects with a man from her past. The novel is not a romance, but I think in connecting with this man, Kate is able to see what she really wants out of life for herself and her daughter. The southern atmosphere and charm always add a brilliant glow to Allen’s stories, and this one is no different. I’ve always loved southern fiction, and this book made me want to drive all the way to Georgia the minute I finished it. I highly recommend this book, especially to get you in the mood for Spring.

Lost Lake is also the March pick for She Reads book club. For more information, click here.

REVIEW: Steeped in Evil by Laura Childs


Steeped in Evil by Laura Childs

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Release Date: March 4, 2014

Source: library copy

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Theodosia Browning runs her own tea shop in the middle of historic Charleston, South Carolina. She has a knack for tea and scones as well as solving murders. When she gets an invitation to a wine-tasting, she can’t say no to such a fun night. Fun… except for the dead body in the wine barrel. The vineyard owner’s son has been murdered, so the owner asks for Theodosia’s help in solving the case.

I’m not going to lie. A few books ago in this series, I thought I was going to give up on it. This is the fifteenth book in the series, and I was worried it was going to get old. After taking a break from the series for a few years, I decided to pick it back up, and boy, was it like running into an old friend. The talk of tea blends and the many treats they are going to serve in the shop is fantastic. The descriptions of Charleston’s locals are hilarious and fascinating at the same time. I so enjoy reading cozy mysteries, and this series always includes recipes and tea party ideas in the back. I do recommend starting the series from the beginning, as many there are many characters and idiosyncrasies to remember.

I will say that the chase scenes are a little overused, and the dialogue can be a bit stuffy at times, but overall, I really enjoyed this addition to the series and do recommend it.

REVIEW: The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths


The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Release Date: March 11, 2014

Source: personal copy

Rating: 5 out of 5

The sixth book in the Ruth Galloway archaeology mystery series is just as good as the first. In fact, each book just seems to get better. Ruth Galloway lives in northern England and is the head forensic archaeologist at a small university. Her current dig takes her to the grave of a woman thought to be an urban legend: Mother Hook. Mother Hook was said to be a woman who had a hook for a hand and killed children whom she was meant to protect. A TV show finds out about the dig and wants to feature Ruth and her crew on their program. Meanwhile, DCI Nelson is working on a missing child case that may be hitting too close to home.

If you’ve read the book before this one in the series, you know that Griffiths’ suspense building can just about kill you. Every time you think that everything is okay, she just turns it back on you in another way. I freaking love it. I love the archaeology she incorporates into the story. I feel like I’m always learning something new without even having to try. The atmosphere of northern England alone is enough to make me want to read this book again. The dark, rainy gloom is always followed by a wonderful day by the shore.

BUT, I must say that my favorite part of this book is the character development. Ruth has always had social anxiety, but she learns to work through it in this story. I have always identified with her character since she is an introvert, a little bit overweight, and extremely self-conscious. She seems to be able to become a more whole version of herself. We also see more of Judy, Tim, and the rest of Nelson’s team. Judy, particularly, gets a wonderful breadth to her character as a mother and wife.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this book, and this entire series. For my review of the first book, click here.

REVIEW: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld


The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Publisher: Harper

Release Date: March 4, 2014

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4 out of 5

“This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it, but I do.” The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs with the devastating violence of prison life. Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners’ pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honesty and corruption—ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own. Beautiful and transcendent, The Enchanted reminds us of how our humanity connects us all, and how beauty and love exist even amidst the most nightmarish reality. – from the publisher

It’s really hard to put this book into any sort of genre or category. The disgusting reality of prisons with a magical realism realized through the imagination of a man on death row. The country dreams of the lady who is supposed to help him take her away from the horridness she sees everyday. I have to say that the prose in the book is absolutely fantastic. It’s almost ethereal the way Denfeld makes the world inside the prison seem to float inside of its own universe while describing the most terrible things imaginable.

York is a criminal of the worst sort. He’s tortured innumerable women, and yet, as the lady tells his story, somehow you start to feel compassion for him. Not understanding, but a compassion out of pity builds as we learn his history. We also learn the history of the lady as she explores York’s past. She is a normal women living her life, but she becomes exceptional over the course of her journey.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a philosophical, enchanting, and meaningful read.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a stop on this tour. For more information, click here.

REVIEW: Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck


Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck

Publisher: NAL Trade

Release Date: March 4, 2014

Source: Publisher

Rating: 5 out of 5

I have to say that Erika Robuck is one of my favorite historical fiction authors. She wraps up an historical figure’s life with that of a character she creates and tells a beautiful biography and a new tale all at the same time. She is also one of the sweetest people I have ever met!

In Fallen Beauty Rock illustrates the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, the famous and fabulous poet, through the story of Laura Kelly, a seamstress trying to keep foo don’t he table for herself and her child. Their lives connect on a fateful night in 1928 at a wild party where Millay becomes obsessed with a man and a performance of the Ziegfeld Follies where Laura has a magical night with a man she is not married to. Yet, this connection is not fully realized until two years later when Millay enlists Laura’s help to secretly sew costumes for Millay’s next tour. Each woman is at her lowest when she must decide what it truly right in trying to create her own destiny.

I think this is my favorite book by Robuck yet. Call Me Zelda wrought emotions over mental illness and Hemingway’s Girl changed my perception on war and tragedy, but Fallen Beauty really impacted by own feelings on the hardship of being a woman. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character, bringing an omniscient magnificence to the storytelling. I did not know much about Millay before reading this book, but it did not take anything away from my reading experience. I definitely want to go to the library ASAP and find more books about her because of this novel! This is the perfect read if you are looking for something deep and meaningful, but readable at the same time.

REVIEW: Starter House by Sonja Condit

Starter House by Sonja Condit

Starter HousePublisher: William Morrow

Release Date: December 31, 2013

Source: Publisher

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

In the vein of Heart-Shaped Box and The Thirteenth Tale, Starter House is a haunting and skillfully told debut novel about a newlywed couple and their first home-a home that seems to be haunted by a very malicious ghost.

Lacey Miszlak grew up homeless; her crazy mother dragged her from one terrible living situation to the next. But now she thinks the pieces of her life have finally come together. She’s pregnant with her first child and she and her husband Eric have moved into the home of their dreams. She knows soon its beautiful sunlit rooms will be filled with the joy of the new family she will build there.

But there’s a strange darkness on the stairway and an odd little boy who won’t leave Lacey alone and soon she’s forced to realize that a danger she never suspected is lurking in the hallways of her beautiful new home. She’s going to have to solve a decades-old mystery to save her family from an evil that has lingered in wait for them for years. - from the publisher

I am obsessed with The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and I loved Heart-Shaped Box  by Joe Hill, so I was really excited to pick up this book.  It is a great creepy and gothic read that will keep you reading with a flashlight under the covers late into the night.  Lacey, like many gothic heroines, has experienced a difficult life already, but when she starts communicating with a ghost and her husband starts acting like a jerk, Lacey learns that she must fight for her life and the life of her unborn child.

The book starts off quite slowly, but ends rather too quickly.  The majority of the book kept me in that creepy state-of-mind where you never know what will happen next with the ghost.  The end, though, I found was a bit wanting.  It was a really fun read for me since I am in the process of moving, so I could relate to the chaos and how stressful moving can be.  Overall, I really enjoyed the book – it is a fun, gothic read that will keep you guessing, I just felt the end could have been expanded upon a bit more.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a stop on this tour.  For more information, click here.

REVIEW: Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson

18090117Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: December 31, 2013

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4 out of 5

Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, pursue a career, and marry for love. But in 1914, the stifling restrictions of aristocratic British society and her mother’s rigid expectations forbid Lily from following her heart. When war breaks out, the spirited young woman seizes her chance for independence. Defying her parents, she moves to London and eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps—an exciting and treacherous job that takes her close to the Western Front.

Assigned to a field hospital in France, Lily is reunited with Robert Fraser, her dear brother Edward’s best friend. The handsome Scottish surgeon has always encouraged Lily’s dreams. She doesn’t care that Robbie grew up in poverty—she yearns for their friendly affection to become something more. Lily is the most beautiful—and forbidden—woman Robbie has ever known. Fearful for her life, he’s determined to keep her safe, even if it means breaking her heart.

In a world divided by class, filled with uncertainty and death, can their hope for love survive. . . or will it become another casualty of this tragic war? - from the publisher

Still need something to hold you over until the new season of Downton Abbey starts?  Robson’s novel takes the cake in my book.  I’ve read so many novels of the era at this point that many of them start to seem repetitive and dull.  This novel stands apart from the rest with an amazing female lead who is strong but realistic.  She shows her weaknesses, but also her lack of prejudice that so many of her era held.  I also love that the romance between Lily and Robbie didn’t overpower the rest of the book.  We experience Lily’s time as an ambulance driver with vivid description rather glossing over them as so many novels do.  I am also reminded of Charles Todd’s novels of Bess Crawford.  While Somewhere in France is not a mystery, it does have that same feeling of the period and how a woman who wants to be independent must be willing to do anything necessary.

I had so much fun reading this book, and it is definitely one that I recommend for book groups or just for a great read.  Thanks to TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to be a stop on this tour.  For more information, click here.

REVIEW: The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani

The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani

17888950Publisher: Harper

Release Date: November 5, 2013

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4 out of 5

We find ourselves back at the Angelini Shoe Company with Valentine from Trigiani’s Valentine books and the handsome, Italian Gianluca.  Valentine’s shoe company has relied on the leather imported from Gianluca’s leather company for over one hundred years, so when Valentine and Gianluca fall in love, it is as if their love was destined from the very beginning.  Right before Christmas, at the Feast of the Seven Fishes, Valentine gets surprising news that could force her to make a life-changing decision (sorry I can’t say more, I don’t want to spoil anything).

Trigiani’s books always make me feel like I’ve been wrapped up in a warm blanket and I’m drinking some hot chocolate by the fire.  I love how she takes us to all of her favorite places, from New York to New Orleans, and back to the magical Italy.  We follow Valentine’s life and her decisions over about two years, and every page is a delight.  One of the things I love most about Trigiani’s writing is her skill with description.  Her depictions of the meals alone are enough to get your mouth watering for some excellent Italian cuisine.  Each scene is captured in detail so meticulous that you feel as though you are in the same room as the characters.  Family hardships, business woes, and love’s challenges are all explored in this wonderful book.  Don’t worry – if you haven’t read any of the previous Valentine books, you can read this completely as a stand-alone novel and will easily fall in love with the characters.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a stop on this tour.  For more information, click here.

REVIEW: This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

17349222Publisher: Harper

Release Date: November 5, 2013

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors, so I jumped at the change to read her new essay collection.  These biographical essays have all been previously published, but I had only read a few of the more recent ones, so they most of her stories were new to me.  Patchett started out her career by writing for Seventeen magazine, working her way up in the world to the New York Times.  These essays describe every aspect of her life: a painful childhood, a failed marriage, and the creation of a bookstore in a world where bookselling is becoming increasingly difficult.

If you have ever read any of Patchett’s work, you know that she puts so much meaning into very few words.  Many of these stories will make you cry, some will make you laugh, but all will make you think about what it means to be a person in this crazy world.  Patchett has a unique perspective on life that never ceases to surprise me by making me think outside of my comfort zone, questioning how I make big decisions and seemingly mundane, everyday choices.  Sometimes it is easier to keep going with what we know than to stop and make a change where it is needed.  You can read these essays in any order – it is not a book in which you need to read straight through, but I did love just sitting down with a cup of tea and inhaling her stories.  I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to read a few good stories that will make you think.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a stop on this tour. For more information, click here.