My first read of 2020! A book filled with intrigue and murder in 19th century Guatemala City

The Woman on the Windowsill: A Tale of Mystery in Several PartsThe Woman on the Windowsill: A Tale of Mystery in Several Parts by Sylvia Sellers-García

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved reading The Woman on the Windowsill: A Tale of Mystery in Several Parts. It reads as an account of life in Guatemala in the 1800s. I appreciate the author’s in-depth analysis of crime, social thought and class/gender divisions within the culture at the time. As I was reading, I found myself considering how much time and effort Sylvia Sellers-García must have spent researching for this book. Her research goes beyond the events surrounding the severed body parts and encompasses many of the aspects of everyday life in Guatemala at the time. Having a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, I am fascinated by many of the avenues Sellers-García explores when considering gender roles, the concept of violence and the role colonialism played in the formation of Guatemala city’s criminal governance. The descriptions of Guatemala City, the San Juan de Dios Hospital, the residential areas and cemetery help to develop a setting that makes you feel like you are walking through 19th century Guatemala. The brief glimpses of the past from the hospital records and criminal cases also really caught and held my interest as a reader.

The historical information and the evaluation of viewpoints at each stage of the investigation deserves a 4/5 for me on my overall rating of this book. It was historically fascinating to read and taught me many things about Guatemalan history that I was not aware of. On one side, I absorbed all of the intriguing the content in this book, but on the other side, the format left me wanting more of a narrative to keep it cohesive. I will be honest in saying it reads more like an essay or a research paper, than a novel or book. The chapters are almost irrelevant; the last chapter especially deviates too far from the core investigation to keep the narrative cohesive. The epilogue brings it back somewhat, at least in my opinion. I was hoping for more of a narrative fictional or non-fictional from this book which is why I have only given it 4 out of 5 stars.

I would still highly recommend this book to people, especially those who share my passion of history in Central and South America. I have been to Guatemala City and Antigua and The Woman on the Windowsill: A Tale of Mystery in Several Parts really brought me back to recalling my own experience in these cities. I had the opportunity to stay for a night in the home of a resident of Guatemala City. Their home’s vast and elaborate interior was exposed upon entering through large wooden doors fronting an otherwise average street. I recall being amazed at how large and welcoming the home was and how I never would have been able to guess what it held inside just passing by on the street. So I want to thank Sellers-García for bringing back some of those memories for me. I also want to thank NetGalley and Yale University Press so the opportunity to read and review this book!

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Coming Soon: Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Christmas ShopaholicChristmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

~Expected Publication October 17, 2019

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I will definitely be recommending Christmas Shopaholic to my friends this Christmas (and will probably gift a few copies to people too). It is a fun, energetic Christmas story will all the right elements of the seasonal shopping fiasco! Every family experiences similar holiday challenges of what gifts to get, how to decorate, a menu that will please everyone and Becky goes through all of that and more. It is definitely all about Becky and includes her usual unrestrained spending habits only elevated to match the Christmas shopping frenzy and Becky’s desire to try to please everyone. There are food planning disasters, family fighting and Christmas concert mishaps.

My two biggest critiques about the novel would be the setting and the predictability. When I think about the story, nothing about the setting jumps out at me or was particularly memorable, it seemed to fall short of the normal holiday ambiance one might expect in a Christmas novel. In addition, the events in the novel are predictable and maybe too much so for my taste. I like the silly, OMG moments Becky has, I am just not sure they need to be as predictable and foreshadowed as much as they are because it takes away from some of the humour.

However, despite my criticisms, I still would highly recommend Christmas Shopaholic to my friends this Christmas. It is festive and witty novel that brings a joyfulness to the crazy shopping season we all experience.

I also want to thank NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for a chance to read and review this book!

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A Perfect Summer Read Leaving You Dreaming of the French Riviera

 

Fatal InheritanceFatal Inheritance by Rachel Rhys

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fatal Inheritance checks off ALL of my “summer read” boxes! This story is light-hearted with an adventurous heroine who is off to discover the secret behind her unexpected inheritance. The setting is the delectable French Riviera and the author definitely delivers on character development, plot and setting. The scenery enticed me and left me dreaming of the Mediterranean coastline and the essence of the holiday lifestyle of the elite.

In the beginning, Eve, the main character is slightly naive, trusting and vulnerable. However, through her journey we see a new Eve emerge who is quite audacious and self-sufficient. She meets so many fascinating people along her journey and Eve discovers the world can offer her so much more than she has imagined. I almost envision this novel as a coming of age book; Eve is realizing the world is much bigger and more exciting than she has been lead to believe. The author does a great job at integrating each of the supporting characters into the plot and making them unique and memorable. Noel is brooding and mysterious while at the same time he makes the reader want to know more about him. And don’t even get me started on Sully! I love his quirkiness and his ability to connect everyone who comes in contact with Villa La Perle.

I generally judge a book by the way in which I am captivated by the story as well as how I feel after finishing it. With Fatal Inheritance I was sad to have the story end; I wanted to find out more about Eve’s adventures and what else lies ahead for her. I also read the novel quite quickly which is often a good sign that it is entertaining enough for me to want to keep reading. The plot is full of twists, secrets and excitement. There are dinner parties to attend with famous people whom Eve has never imagined she would ever cross paths with. I also appreciated the theme of “love” throughout; it was definitely something people lost hope in during this time in history.

If you are looking for an enchanting, adventurous read while sitting at the beach this summer, I would highly recommend Fatal Inheritance!

I appreciate being able to read an ARC of Fatal Inheritance and I would like to thank NetGalley and the Publishers Simon & Schuster Canada / Washington Square Press for the opportunity to read and review it.

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A Historical Fiction for Outlander Enthusiasts!

The LairdThe Laird by Virginia Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Laird was an unexpected delight to read. I imagine this novel will be scooped up by Outlander and Historical Fiction enthusiasts alike. The characters are complex and genuine. Virginia Brown does an excellent job describing the Scottish history and landscape leaving the reader dreaming about life in the highlands. Judith Lindsay is the heroine of the novel. Judith is a widow and has yet to find a place where she really feels a sense of belonging. Because of her past, Judith sets her expectations high and holds her ground even when she doesn’t have a reason to have hope. The confident and ambitious Robert Campbell is an equal force to reckon with. Rob is determined to stay true to his morals and obligations no matter what the cost. He is limited it seems, only by his physical body, which occasionally fails him.

My one criticism for this novel is the excessive use of figurative language in the first few pages. The flowery prose was a bit unnecessary and as a result the sentences did not flow as naturally as they could. Although, once you trek on past the first few pages the writing style becomes more natural and effortless to read.

Overall I thought The Laird was a wonderful and after reading it, I am excited to delve into more of Virginia Brown’s novels to see what they are like. I would definitely recommend reading this book!

I also want to thank NetGalley and Bell Bridge Books for the opportunity to have an advanced e-book of The Laird to read and review.

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My First Impressions of the New Mystery Series: The Addie Foster Mystery Series by Kimberley O’Malley

Death Comes in Threes (Addie Foster Mystery Series Book 1)

Death Comes in Threes is my first time reading one of Kimberley O’Malley’s novels. I was intrigued by the story from the beginning and Addie is a very fun, witty and likeable character. Grey is Addie’s supportive and easy going BFF who is there for her on a moments notice. Throughout the short time period taking place in this book, Addie has some very frightening and unexpected events happen. She rides through them like a trooper and seems to come out unscathed. The inserting of a handsome Detective also always helps! 

Some of the things I like about this novel are the energetic and funny characters. I love the Aunties and the dogs; albeit the thread of the two dogs I felt might have been overdeveloped. The novel was easy to read and the dialogue flows smoothly and naturally. The cover is also eye catching and makes you want to pick it up to see what it’s about.

Some of the areas of Death Comes in Threes which fall flat for me are the mystery plot development, the overuse of some narratives and the length of the book. The mystery in the book isn’t very deep and could use a bit more complexity and intrigue. I want to know more about the three strangers and their deaths and not just a quick note saying they died, end of the story. I also wish there were a few more chapters. The third death was rushed and seemed like the author just wanted to end the book so #3 mystery man is found dead. If the story is called “Death Comes in Threes” I want to know about what happens to them, not in a weird way, but have more of a story behind it. 

Secondly, certain elements in the narrative were overused. Addie doesn’t need to stand by the door to dismiss the dark brooding Detective every time he comes to see her. Furthermore, every character in the story doesn’t need to stop and say how cute her dogs are, we get it. 

And thirdly, I just found the story too short. Add in more detail about the mystery. Lengthen the time between events and add a bit more meat and potatoes (this is entirely just my own opinion). 

All in all I would love to read the rest of Addie’s adventures to solve the mystery which this novel started. I feel like I have only read half of the story. 

I want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher Laurie White / Carolina Blue Publishing for an e-copy of Death Comes in Threes to read and review. 

Also upcoming “Dyeing for Change” by Kimberley O’Malley (Addie Foster Mystery Series Book 2)

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Christmas is coming! A new book in the CookBook Nook Mystery series; available November 8, 2018

Wreath Between the Lines (A Cookbook Nook Mystery 7)Wreath Between the Lines by Daryl Wood Gerber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a newcomer to the Cookbook Nook Mystery Series by Daryl Wood Gerber, I found Wreath Between the Lines a fun, engaging Christmas read. There was plenty of action to the plot and Jenna is a friendly and sweet character with maybe more than her share of curiosity. Because I am new to the series I didn’t fully understand Jenna and her father’s relationship but her father seems to be supportive of all her investigative actions even while he is away on vacation.

The plot jumps right into a murder which happens at Jake Chapman’s home, a rich millionaire who happens to be a friend of the family. Suspicion about the motive for the murder, Jenna jumps right in to solve the case and find out why it appears Jake was the intended target of the attack. This is the point in the story where I find my first major critique. I am surprised at how quickly Jenna accuses everyone around her. She doesn’t seem to have a filter in who she suspects as a criminal and often confronts people directly. I think the story loses a bit of its credibility with Jenna’s immature investigative tactics. This is the first reason I have only given the novel a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

My second major critique would be wordiness. There are too many descriptions and unnecessary details added which downplay some of the action in the plot. For instance, when Jenna is running to help Jake whose friend has been murdered and strung up by Christmas lights, why do we get a description of Jake’s detached garage? I just feel as though some long descriptions of characters and places are unnecessary or awkwardly placed. The writing is overly detailed to the point where it is excessive. Some of these things might still be edited out before the final copy so I haven’t given too much weight to that in my rating.

All in all, I think I would be happy to give another one of Daryl Wood Gerber’s books a try and would definitely not hesitate to recommend this as a quick and spirited Christmas read.

I also want to thank NetGalley and Beyond the Page Publishing for an advanced copy of this e-book to read and review.

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E-Books or Traditional Books?

I read an interesting statistic today… approximately 4,000 e-books are self-published on Amazon EVERY DAY.

Thats crazy!

I looked into it and Amazon doesn’t actually share e-book stats with anyone, never mind sharing their sales numbers to the publishing industry but it seems like the actual number might even be higher than 4,000. Interesting.

I read this article too and it poses a lot of questions about how and why Amazon might be keeping book sales information to themselves. Here is a similarity compelling article on the topic from GoodReads.

Of course, they also say most statistics are 
MADE-UP on the spot.
What do you think of this? Would you self-publish an e-book if you knew you could make a few thousand dollars this year off of it? Or would our wait until you had a really good idea for a book and hope a publisher picks your story?

On another topic: What have you been reading lately?

Here are my most recent reads for 2018:

Screen Shot 2018-10-13 at 4.14.30 PM

“The Last Mrs. Parrish” by Liv Constantine

“The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton

“The Golden Egg” and “The Jewels of Paradise” by Donna Leon

“The Prisoner in the Castle” by Susan Elia MacNeal

“Earthly Remains” by Donna Leon

“The Clockmakers Daughter” by Kate Morton

“The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

See my full READ2018 list so far and any reviews I have posted for them @ GoodReads

Happy Reading!

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A Moody Fall Read: An Old Manor House, A Tragic Mystery and a Missing Family Heirloom – “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” by Kate Morton

The Clockmaker's DaughterThe Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Expected Publication October 09, 2018

Birchwood Manor is a brooding historic home with more than a few stories to tell. Birdie, one of the main characters acts like a narrator for the story. We get to know fragmented parts of her story but we also get to see all of the other lives inexplicably drawn to the home as well. Throughout the years people have come and gone, each person unknowingly becoming part of the home’s story.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is my first read by Kate Morton and I have mostly only positive things to say about it. The novel has such a picturesque setting and who doesn’t love a large historic home just waiting for someone to unravel its mysterious past? As readers we get multiple points of view which gives us a birds eye view of Birchwood Manor throughout its history. However, the alternating points of view can also be occasionally difficult to navigate from chapter to chapter. Some reviewers have mentioned that the story was hard to follow, but I actually enjoyed getting to hear all about the lives of each of the characters. I think Morton did an excellent job at navigating the complex plot while still being able to give us enough about each character to be able to connect with them. Some of the branches in the plot did die off, but I didn’t really miss them and did not feel they added to the success of the book overall.

Elodie is another one of the stories main characters and she is easy to connect with right away. She seems like she is a down to earth girl who just gets drawn into the history of Edward Radcliffe and his family’s story. Edward Radcliffe came from a wealthy family and was an aspiring artist. But how did his life become surrounded in tragedy and what caused his seemingly sudden demise? Elodie finds a leather satchel that hides clues to the Radcliffe family’s tragic history and leads Elodie down a path she can’t help but follow.

I would definitely recommend this book to my friends and think it will be a book which will stay in my memory bank for a while.

I want to thank NetGalley and the Publishers Simon & Schuster Canada and Atria Books

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Happy Reading!

Mantelpiece Clock

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“What She Gave Away” by Catharine Riggs; Should you trust the person sitting next to you?

Coming September 4, 2018!

Are you looking for a mild thriller that will not leave you too psychologically disturbed? Or maybe a Fall book for your Book Club? After reading this upcoming novel, you’ll never look at the library computer patrons the same way again and will want to go shred all those notes with computer passwords on them.

Here are my impressions on Catharine Riggs debut novel:

What She Gave AwayWhat She Gave Away by Catharine Riggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In my opinion, What She Gave Away by Catharine Riggs is a mild psychological thriller. This story is packed full of murder, suicide, banking fraud and even more lies and manipulation. But who is at fault or is it just a series of unfortunate tragic events? The main characters, Crystal and Kathi, are both unreliable narrators which slightly complicates matters.

Crystal is an intelligent, conniving banker who seems to leave a trail of destruction behind her. Her actions are motivated by an underlying hate for everyone she comes in contact with. Crystal quietly plays a psychological game of “whats the worst that can happen” to anyone that might upset her. Often Crystal will manipulate circumstances resulting in harm to those around her.

Kathi is a naive trophy wife who drinks so much that she doesn’t even know how to formulate her own opinions much of the time. She struggles to survive and conform to society’s expectations of her. In the midst of complete financial disaster Kathi strives to keep some sense of normality in the life she has created. Her world is slowly collapsing around her and she has no idea how to help herself or who to trust.

The main conflict in the story is manipulated by Crystal’s actions. She is the catalyst behind everything that happens. Psychologically traumatized during her childhood, Crystal just wants to internally rage and secretly plot to destroy the lives around her. As the story progresses, Crystal gets more and more brave and her actions cause more and more harm. Add in a probation officer who has connected a few dots and is keen on investigating suspicious suicides and you have a story!

What are my overall impressions? I think the writing style is on point despite other reviewers complaints about the alternating point of view. That being said, I would have liked to know more about what Kathi was actually thinking. The novel has a first person point of view for Kathi but yet she doesn’t even seem to have an opinion much of the time so I found it hard to connect with her character. The length of the novel was appropriate and didn’t seem too lengthy. Crystal was sneaky and manipulative, but she could have come across as being more paranoid; she was too confident.

My two big criticisms of the novel are the suspense and the conclusion. There wasn’t enough drama and suspense for me to really say it was a huge thriller. It was more on point with say a John Grisham novel than of a nail bitting thriller.

Secondly, the conclusion was too lengthy and tidy for me. I would have omitted the Epilogue completely and just wrapped up the novel without it. And why jump to 2020? Without giving away the ending, why tie things up so neatly? Leave something for the imagination or unknown and don’t give us a happy, we are all friends ending to a story starring two characters who are morally corrupt and have a distorted sense of reality.

If thrillers are your thing, I say give it a chance! I enjoyed reading What She Gave Away by Catharine Riggs and if it were not for the ending and a bit more suspense, I would have given it 5 out of 5.

I also want to thank NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the chance to read and review the Kindle copy of this book.

Happy Reading!

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A quick cookbook recommendaton coming in Fall 2018

Grow Happy, Cook Happy, Be HappyGrow Happy, Cook Happy, Be Happy by Bryony Hill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Release date: 01 September 2018

I received a short 7 page preview of this book and I think the finished copy will be inspiring. I would definitely recommend it if you love great food and have a passion for gardening. Bryony Hill demonstrates an appreciation for good quality local produce and creating beautiful meals. I love the pop of color on each page and the fresh close to nature presentations of the dishes. I truly believe that Grow Happy, Cook Happy, Be Happy is an inspiring cookbook which many readers will enjoy.

I want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher for a free sample copy of this cookbook to read and recommend.

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