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Review: The English Wife: A Novel, by Lauren Willig. St. Martin’s Press

Book Description (from NetGalley)

 

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life in New York: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor house in England, they had a fairytale romance in London, they have three-year-old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and named it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to try to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

 

My review:

This is an enthralling tale, told in two story threads, one in 1899, the other a flashback starting a few years earlier. This is a saga of a powerful family and the many secrets it carries, set in a time and place where appearances and status were everything to some. It is a murder mystery set in a world where many things, and people, are not what they seem. As the two threads move forward and ultimately converge, a shocking story appears. Ms. Willig has spun for us a magnificent yarn.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: Carnegie’s Maid: A Novel, by Marie Benedict. Sourcebooks Landmark.

Book Description (from NetGalley)

From the author of The Other Einstein comes the mesmerizing story of love, power, and the woman who inspired an American dynasty. 

In the industrial 1860s at the dawn of the Carnegie empire, Irish immigrant Clara Kelly finds herself in desperate circumstances.  Looking for a way out, she seeks employment as a lady’s maid in the home of the prominent businessman Andrew Carnegie.  Soon, the bond between Clara and her employer deepens into love. But when Clara goes missing, Carnegie’s search for her unearths secrets and revelations that lay the foundation for his lasting legacy.

With capturing insight and sunning heart, Carnegie’s Maid tells the story of one lost woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist into the world’s first true philanthropist.

My Review:

We are ushered into the world of 1860’s America, walking in the shoes of impoverished Irish immigrant Clara Kelley. Though this is the New World and our freedom-loving USA, we soon realize that this was far from a classless society. I am reminded that many of my ancestors had a similar sea voyage to America from Europe, and I wonder anew at how they survived the rigors of that journey and lived to thrive in their new home.

 

Woman today largely take for granted the freedoms that we have, but Clara’s story reminds us that it was not always thus. Marie Benedict gives us an eye-opening view of our past. She uses the fictional character of Clara to present the story of Andrew Carnegie, who did so much to endow free libraries for Americans of all classes. This is an absorbing and fascinating read.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: The Mindful Way to a Good Night’s Sleep: Discover How to Use Dreamwork, Meditation, and Journaling to Sleep Deeply and Wake Up Well, by Tzivia Gover. Story Publishing.

Book Description: (from NetGalley)

 

This accessible guide to cultivating deep, restful sleep — naturally — combines author Tzivia Gover’s expertise in both mindfulness and dreamwork. Along with a healthy dose of encouragement, Gover offers practical lifestyle advice, simple yoga poses, 10-minute meditations, and easy breathing exercises, plus visualization and journaling activities. You’ll also learn how to set the scene for safe, productive dreaming and cultivate your dream recall. This holistic approach extends into your waking hours with tips on morning routines to ensure that sound sleep leads to refreshed, more conscious living all day long.

 

My Review:

 

As I’ve mentioned before in my reviews, I am a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. And there is one thing I hear constantly from patients–that they don’t get a good night’s sleep.

 

Well, this book should help with that! It is full of practical and useful ideas to help with sleep.   The design of the book is very appealing, in shades of blue, with frequent glimpses of fluffy cloud patterns. The organization is very clear, and the book is easy to read. It is a very kind and gentle book.

 

I think it is a truly elegant aid to sleep and I recommend it highly.  I plan to order copies for use in my practice.

My thanks to author, publisher, and  NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: Alpha Alpine: An Emma Lord Mystery, by Mary Daheim. Random House Publishing Group – Alibi.

Book Description (from NetGalley):

 

Emma Lord is back and better than ever! This time around, the amateur detective partners up with a rookie sleuth to investigate a string of murders in her beloved Alpine, Washington.

For a small town nestled in the Cascade Mountains’ foothills, picturesque Alpine provides more than enough headlines to fill the pages of editor and publisher Emma Lord’s Alpine Advocate. The Labor Day edition’s lead story features controversial timber baron Jack Blackwell’s scheme to become Skykomish county manager. But the recent strangling deaths of two young women are all anyone can talk about.

After a third body is found, Emma’s husband, Sheriff Milo Dodge, suspects there’s a serial killer in their midst. The latest victim is the sister of a dashing newcomer rumored to be working for Blackwell. “Black Jack,” as he’s known to his non-admirers, has a long-standing rivalry with Milo. To discover if there’s any connection between the mogul and the murders, Emma recruits the Advocate’s receptionist, Alison Lindahl, to do a little digging.

Still recovering from a recent breakup, Alison welcomes the distraction. But when the investigation puts the eager protégé in the line of fire, Emma worries that the cub reporter’s career will be over before it even begins.

 

My Review:

 

I always know I can count on a good read with a Mary Daheim book. She has a way of providing stories filled with characters we can relate to, because they are just people–not perfect, not forever perky or clever. They can be grumpy. They can have a bad day. They can be irritated with their spouse, or their friend. Just like us. So we like them, and we like the stories because they have an air of real life about them.

This current book continues the tradition with a good mystery and lots of intriguing action from Emma and her community in Alpine.  My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Blog Tour & Review: A Kingdom Falls (Ravenmaster Trilogy), by John Owen Theobald. Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus.

Book Description:

In the dramatic conclusion to the Ravenmaster Trilogy, Anna Cooper must find the strength to face her greatest fear in Britain’s darkest hour.

 

London, 1944. War is raging across Europe and Hitler’s terrifying secret weapons, V1 rockets, transform life into a nightmare.

 

After her mother was killed in an air raid, Anna Cooper was sent to live with her uncle, the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London. Now, he too is dead and Anna must seek help from her estranged father to discover her only chance of fighting back.

 

Commandeering a Spitfire, Anna leads a crew of fearless pilots to intercept the deadly rockets. But Hitler has one final secret weapon, against which there is no defence… At the eve of a devastating war, Anna must confront the ghosts of her past and do what she can to survive in a world forever changed.

 

My Review:

 

England has given us such rich subject matter in the World War II years; this book offers a somewhat different perspective–women who made a significant contribution to the war effort, despite the limiting attitude toward women’s appropriate roles in that day and time. Here we have a tale of a dedicated and gifted group of woman aviators who made their way into combat service against formidable odds.

 

Our heroine is Anna Cooper, whose story is a continuing one begun in parts one and two of this Ravenmaster Trilogy. I did not read the first two books, and although I was able to follow the story and this book works as a stand-alone effort, I do feel I would like to read the first two books, and will probably do so.

 

Part 3 of the trilogy is told by four different narrators. The primary one is, as one might expect, Anna Cooper herself. But other voices we hear are those of Anna’s sweetheart, young soldier Timothy Squires, as well as RAF officer pilot Cecil Rafferty, and Anna’s nurse friend Florence Swift. These multiple viewpoints, taken together, give us a rich view of the story as it unfolds. It is riveting and thrilling, also tragic and heroic. This is a fine effort by author Theobald.

 

On a personal note, I felt a particular kinship with this story as my uncle Robert Hunter was an American serviceman stationed in England during those war years. He was an aviation mechanic. He didn’t talk much about the war, but on one noteworthy day he related to me his feelings about seeing his buddies go up; some did not come back, but he was obliged to patch up the planes so that more brave young pilots could go into the fray again. I think he would have loved this story.

 

Author:

Born and raised in Eastern Canada, John Owen Theobald moved to the UK to study the poetry of Keats, and in 2009 received a PhD from the University of St Andrews. He lives in London, England.

Review: Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the Museum, written and illustrated by Carolyn Bracken. Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

Book Description (from NetGalley)

 

Mr. Owliver loves his job as nightwatchman for the Animaltown Art Museum, partly because he’s an owl and is up at night anyway, but mostly because he’s proud to protect such beautiful works of art. His friends think he must be lonely, but he has the company of the all subjects in the paintings. One in particular, the lovely Ms. Wren in Auguste Wrenoir’s The Loge, is his favorite. One night on his birthday he has a feeling things aren’t as they should be. That’s when he makes a startling discovery that begins a night full of surprises. This is definitely a birthday Mr. Owliver will never forget! This book is designed to introduce children to some famous masterpieces while entertaining the adult reader with visual puns.

 

 

 

My Review:

 

This is an utterly captivating book. The art is clever and amusing, the story is charming. This would be a marvelous way to introduce young children to the world of fine art. It would also be a great birthday book, as Mr. Owliver does have a most entertaining birthday party.

 

I do wish that images of the original versions of these art works might be included in the informative appendix that provides information about the art works and where the originals are to be found. Perhaps it was too challenging to get approval to show these images? But this book offers a great opportunity to provide children with some quality education in an appealing way. What a great gift!

 

My thanks to author, publisher and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: Accessories to Die For (A Mystery), by Paula Paul. Random House Publishing Group – Alibi.

Book Description (From NetGalley)

 

Good old-fashioned murder lurks behind the Old World charm of Santa Fe, New Mexico. And nobody knows that better than former attorney turned consignment-shop owner—and part-time amateur sleuth—Irene Seligman.

When New York assistant DA Irene Seligman moved home to take care of her demanding mother, Adelle, she thought she was leaving a world of corruption and violence behind. But after opening her store, Irene’s Closet, and getting reacquainted with the locals, she learns that something’s rotten in sunny Santa Fe. Even upstanding citizens like her friend Juanita Calabaza, a Native American artisan, can’t seem to escape the decidedly unfashionable surge in crime.

Juanita’s handcrafted jewelry has been known to catch the eye of many a tourist on the plaza in Santa Fe’s historic district. But lately she’s been attracting the wrong kind of attention . . . from the police. With her son missing after falling in with a bad crowd, Juanita foretells the death of one of his associates—which comes back to haunt her when the scumbag actually turns up dead. Now Juanita’s trading in her turquoise beads for an orange jumpsuit, and Irene will need to call upon all her old investigative skills to clear Juanita’s name—before her friend pays the ultimate price.

 

My Review:

 

This is actually my second review of a Paula Paul Irene Seligman mystery. I reviewed the first book in this series, A Killer Closet, which introduced Irene and described her move from Manhattan Assistant DA to Santa Fe, New Mexico seller of gently used haute couture.

 

I was impressed with that debut book, and I am delighted to see that Irene’s adventures are continuing. I found myself surprised by the book–from the title, I expected an entertaining, witty mystery filled with fashionistas. But this book rises far above that. It is filled with the world of the Native Americans of the Santa Fe area, and their long history and significant culture. Ms. Paul wastes no time setting the stage for this episode, and we are swept along through an adeptly related saga. I found this book absorbing and thoroughly entertaining. I look forward to reading more in this series.

Review: The Corpse in the Snowman (A Nigel Strangeways Mystery) by Nicholas Blake. Ipso Books. Kindle Edition.

Book Description (from Amazon.com)

 

In middle of a cold snap, with snow swirling round the imposing Easterham Manor, Nigel and Georgia Strangeways enter the warmth of the Victorian estate. But upon their arrival, the couple quickly learn that all is not as cozy as it seems. The whole house is pervaded by a sense of foreboding: a room is haunted, the cat is possessed, and the specter of the enigmatic Elizabeth Restorick looms.

Confounded by the guests’ strange reactions to the very mention of Elizabeth’s name, Nigel never gets the chance to form his own opinion of the young woman. The next morning, Elizabeth Restorick is found hanged and naked in her room, a hint of a smile playing on her painted lips.

Could her apparent suicide be more than just that? Would this beautiful girl, sensuous, compassionate, full of vitality, have taken her own life? Or did someone take it from her?

With too many loose ends to count, planted evidence, and motives mounting, Nigel must delve into Miss Restorick’s colourful past to solve this tragic mystery.

 

About the Author (from book introduction)

 

Nicholas Blake was the pseudonym of Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, who was born in County Laois, Ireland, in 1904 and raised in London after his mother’s death in 1906. He was educated at Sherborne School and Wadham College, Oxford, from which he graduated in 1927. Blake initially worked as a teacher to supplement his income from his poetry writing and he published his first Nigel Strangeways novel, A Question of Proof, in 1935. Blake went on to write a further nineteen crime novels, all but four of which featured Nigel Strangeways, as well as numerous poetry collections and translations.

 

During the Second World War he worked as a publications editor in the Ministry of Information, which he used as the basis for the Ministry of Morale in Minute for Murder, and after the war he joined the publishers Chatto & Windus as an editor and director. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1968 and died in 1972 at the home of his friend, the writer Kingsley Amis.

 

My review:

 

Well, I must say I was surprised by several elements of this book. For one thing, although set in England in 1941, the World War raging at that time warrants only the occasional passing mention. The people in this story seem little affected by the war’s events. The second thing I found intriguing was the prominence of a drug culture in that day and place, as marijuana use figures prominently in the plot.

 

Oh, there’s actually one more thing. The title is by way of a spoiler of sorts.

We do indeed meet the corpse in the snowman early on, but it takes the rest of the book to offer an explanation for this gruesome discovery.

 

It is frequently the case, especially in the “golden age” books, to offer alternate theories and comment on each of them at some length before finally getting to the solution. This device is, I expect, to allow the reader to attempt to arrive at a solution before the author gets around to providing one–perhaps it gives them a chance to exercise their “little grey cells.” But this is a process that I do not enjoy, and in this book I felt there was rather too much of this if … then exploration.

 

Still in all, there is much to like about this book and I found it an enjoyable read. It is inventive, the characters are well-drawn, and the story is masterfully told.

 

My thanks to Crime Classics Advance Readers Club for providing a copy to read and review.

Review: Much Ado About Murder: A Shakespeare in the Catskills Mystery, by Elizabeth J. Duncan. Crooked Lane Books.

Description (from NetGalley)

 

The show ruthlessly goes on as costume designer-turned-amateur sleuth Charlotte Fairfax investigates the death of a disagreeable director in award-winning author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery. Costume designer Charlotte Fairfax has another murder on her hands as she prepares for the latest performance of the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company, Much Ado About Nothing. The company’s steady growth enables them to cast star British actress Audrey Ashley, who arrives on scene to play the lead role of Beatrice. But things immediately get more complicated when Audrey insists the company replace the current director with new, up and coming British director Edmund Albright. Edmund plans to change the popular romantic comedy, which alienates several people associated with the production. And the list of people he upsets only grows: the laid off former director, the hotel owner’s secretary, and even Audrey herself. Just as Edmund’s plans are about to come to fruition, his body is discovered on his sofa, holding a gun in his hand. His death is quickly ruled a suicide but Charlotte thinks otherwise. Why would Edmund, on the brink of greatness, kill himself? And in such an American way? With a whole cast of characters to investigate, Charlotte is determined to unmask each one before it’s final curtain call on the whole production in award-winning author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery, Much Ado About Murder.

 

My Review:

 

I find this is the third book in a series, but this is the first that I have read. The setting is refreshingly different–I’m afraid I knew very little about the Catskills so I have expanded my horizons a little while being entertained. I love the theatrical setting, and also that the characters are a bit more mature. I’m going to have to look at the earlier books in this series!

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

 

Review: A Deadly Éclair: A French Bistro Mystery, by Daryl Wood Gerber. Crooked Lane Books

Description (from NetGalley)

It’s always been Mimi Rousseau’s dream to open her own bistro, but it seems beyond her grasp since she’s been chased back home to Nouvelle Vie in Napa Valley by her late husband’s tremendous debt. Until her best friend Jorianne James introduces her to entrepreneur Bryan Baker who invests in promising prospects. Now, working the bistro and inn until she’s able to pay it off and call it her own, Mimi is throwing the inn’s first wedding ever. The wedding will be the talk of the town, as famous talk show host Angelica Edmonton, daughter of Bryan’s half-brother, Edison, has chosen the inn as her perfect venue. Anxious, Mimi is sure things are going to turn south, especially when Edison gets drunk and rowdy at the out-of-towners’ dinner, but by the evening, things begin to look up again. That is until six AM rolls around, and Bryan is found dead at the bistro with an éclair stuffed in his mouth. And the fingers point at Mimi, whose entire loan is forgiven in Bryan’s will. Now it’s up to Mimi to clear her name and get to the bottom of things before the killer turns up the heat again in A Deadly Éclair, the scrumptious series debut by Agatha Award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber.

 

My Review

We live just south of the Napa Valley, close enough to visit it and savor its beauty. It’s nice to have one of my favorite places become the setting for a tantalizing cozy mystery. There is a fine array of characters and a number of gourmet red herrings to keep us guessing and lots of lovely food to tempt our palates. All in all, this is a delicious tale. For us locals, though, just now the setting is bittersweet, as our treasured Wine Country has been through trying times with a destructive earthquake and, more recently, a truly heartbreaking cluster of deadly wildfires. But we, like our heroine Mimi, are a resilient bunch.

 

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.