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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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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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“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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