Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen

Dear Fellow Reader,

This is the 12th in the Royal Spyness Mysteries by Rhys Bowen. Since I have read all of them so far, you might get the impression that I like them. And I do.

I will say that these are light-hearted mysteries. The stories are told in first person by the protagonist, Lady Georgiana Rannoch. In this story, Georgiana is getting ready to marry her love, Darcy O’Mara. She is having wedding issues because her relative, the Queen, feels that all the European Royals should be invited to the wedding but Georgiana doesn’t have any money to pay for a wedding – especially one that includes people she doesn’t know or like.

Not only that, but she and Darcy have yet to find a place to live. Darcy has been off working and barely has time to look at suitable places with her. When they do go out, the places they can afford are awful. They keep hoping that the next one will be better.

Just when things are looking bad, Georgianne’s globetrotting godfather, offers them his house, Eynsleigh. Georgianne has wonderful memories of Eynsleigh. Darcy is off on another assignment so Georgianne sets off to Eynsleigh by herself. When she arrives, she finds things very different from the way she remembered it. The house and grounds are not being taken care of the way they should be and there is a whole new staff in the house. The greeting she receives is not warm and she finds that the gas tap has been left on her fireplace the first night. Thank goodness she sleeps with the windows open. Georgianne’s suspicions keep rising the longer she is in the house.

These books are easy fun reads. There is nothing heavy involved at all. I enjoy them. If you are looking for a quick weekend read, these are great books for that. You get some insight into the period  between the two world wars and how people lived.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Talking Books | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

It All Comes Back to You by Beth Duke

woman in hammock

Dear Fellow Reader,

My first book club book of the year! I have even finished it before the meeting! Woot!

44055711._SR1200,630_

It All Comes Back to You by Beth Dukes combines the stories of Ronni Johnson, a current-day nurse who works at a senior residence and the story of her recently deceased patient, Violet. Violet was wealthy and has left some of her money to Ronnie with the proviso that she will receive most of the money IF she completes a book about Violet’s life in a year.

While Ronnie has wanted to write, she has never written much and certainly not a book. She isn’t really sure she can do it. And she isn’t sure how she will do it and work full time. But Violet’s story is appealing to her and she decides that she has to try.

Violet appears to have led a life of a southern belle. She was the homecoming queen and had men always fawning over her. Was her life really as easy and wonderful as it seems?

The chapters in the book rotate between Ronni’s current story and Violet’s history. The two characters are so different that there isn’t a problem following which character is speaking in the chapter.

When I read the description of the book on Amazon, I was not excited about the book. Once again, those descriptions can be deceiving. While Violet had her bad points, she was a more sympathetic character than I thought from the description. Both main characters have flaws and there are times that you just want to be able to grab them and tell them not to make the mistake you see coming. I think that is a good thing. If the author can get you to care that much about the characters, she has done a good job.

My one irritation with the book? The title. I know that is odd but when I can not remember the title of the book I am reading then I think that the author didn’t do a great job with the title. There is a kind of subtitle – “I’m gone and the world can know everything…” which does fit with the Violet character but I’m not sure about It All Comes Back to You. This is a pretty minor complaint about the book, but I do find it irritating when I can’t remember the name of the book and I like the book. (NOTE:  We discussed this in my book club and figured out how the title could apply to one of the characters. That did help.)

I enjoyed the story and there were a few twists and turns to keep your attention. Some of them were better than others but I thought that Violet’s life was full of twists that you would not expect.

 

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Miscellaneous Thoughts | Leave a comment

The Last Man by Jane Harper

2019-05-16-17-09-26-1200x800

 

Dear Fellow Reader,

When my library book club had The Dry by Jane Harper on the list, I was not very excited. It didn’t sound that good. But the librarian kept telling me that it was supposed to be good.

And it was.

If you haven’t read it, I suggest you read it. Jane Harper’s second book was Force of Nature, which has the same lead character as The Dry. I didn’t understand how that was going to work but it worked perfectly. (Okay, you have to read The Dry to understand. The lead character is not a detective by trade, he is just called into a mystery involving his old friend.)

The Dry is also being made into a movie starring Eric Bana.

the Lost manAnd now we have The Lost Man. All of Jane Harper’s books take place in Australia, which gives her a physically unforgiving setting. In The Lost Man, there are three brothers working the land. Two brothers live on the family homestead and the other lives on an adjacent parcel, but the homes are three hours away from each other.

As the book opens, a pilot is flying over an area that is mostly sand except for one month out of the year when it is flooded. There is a grave out in the middle of this deserted area. The pilot sees what he doesn’t expect. There is a body in the sand by the grave.

The body is the missing Cameron Bright, one of three Bright brothers. The other two brothers drive out to where the body has been found and find it hard to believe that their brother is dead out by the grave. Where is his car? The car is full of supplies, how could he have left the car to die out by the grave? What happened to Cameron?

The story is told from the standpoint of Nathan, the brother who does not live at the family home but at his own neighboring farm. Nathan has his 16-year-old son with him when they go out to respond to the pilot’s findings. His son is visiting for the Christmas holidays. After the third brother, Bub, arrives and looks over the situation with Nathan, they all go back to the family home.

Through the story, we find out more about Nathan and his checkered history and then we learn more about all the members of the family and their interactions. Nathan is unsettled by his brother’s death and feels there is something wrong.

Once again, Jane Harper crafts the flawed hero. She uses the backdrop of the barren lands of Australia to bring out the nature of the character flaws. The physical location is part of the story. She shows us that the isolation of the family farms can hide people’s true natures.

Yes, I think you should read this book. I think you should read all three books. Jane Harper will give you great descriptions, character development, and will keep you wondering what will happen next.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Talking Books | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh, Those Cozies – Three Cozy Mysteries

woman-reading-vintage-drawing-1564317818gY6

Dear Fellow Reader,

I read on vacation. There really isn’t any other way to say it. We recently were on vacation and in the 12 days that we were away, I read 10 books. This is a little below my average – I generally like to keep it at a book a day but I read a nonfiction book that was HEAVY and I listened to an audiobook. (For some reason, I am pushing myself to try audiobooks. So far, I am not sold. I understand that some people find them great and can listen all the time but I just have not found that spot for me. But I am trying to give them a fair shake.)

You would be right if you assumed that I was not reading War and Peace in a day. I generally have a selection of fiction that I need to read on my iPad. Some of the books come as ARC (Advanced Reader Copies) from publishers because they want a review. Some of the books come from Amazon. Did you know that if you have Amazon Prime and a Kindle (not the app but the actual Kindle) that each month they send you an email with several new titles of which you can pick one book to read free? To be honest, it can be worth buying a basic Kindle to get the books. I am on my second or third year of getting a free book a month. I also get the daily email from Book Bub with the eBook deals of the day. While I am trying not to buy books, sometimes I can’t resist the deal. Yes, my Kindle library overflows. On vacation, I try and cut that back.

I also like to have an easy-to-read cozy mystery for the plane ride. I like to get through a flight as fast as possible and reading helps that.

Before I left on my trip, I selected several (what I thought were) about to be published  ARC cozy mysteries to read. Today, I will tell you a bit about three of them.

9781984800299Southern Harm by Caroline Fardig was the first book I read. I was able to get this book as an ARC copy, but it was already published. I picked it because I had read other books by Caroline Fardig before and enjoyed them. (She wrote the Java Jive series) I also have a soft spot for books that take place in the South. There usually is an entirely different set of rules for those Southern ladies. Generally, they are portrayed as very polite and a bit nutty. This book did have its share of characters. The main plot revolves around the body that Tucker and Quinn find when they are digging a new firepit for Tucker’s Aunt Lela. The body turns out to be Esther Sinclair, who was Aunt Lela’s neighbor.  She was thought to have run off years before to escape her rather religious parents. Aunt Lela is a bit outspoken and has a penchant for drinking. While Tucker’s “proper” relatives don’t want anything to do with Lela, Tucker has a soft spot for her. Quinn doesn’t want Tucker (her new love interest) upset about his Aunt nor does she think that Aunt Lela killed the girl. (Even though Lela had set the girl’s car on fire years before…) So Quin and her sister Delilah set out to discover who killed Esther Sinclair.

This book was the second in the Southern B&B Mystery series. I did not read the first in the series and while it was referred to in the book, it did not put me at a disadvantage. The book was okay. It was certainly not a “WOW, you need to read this book!” but it was fine to take my mind off the plane ride.

19561924Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver. In this cozy mystery, Amory Ames, is a wealthy young woman with what appears to be a philandering husband, Milo. Milo is frequently traveling, and stories circulate about his exploits. Amory is tired of it. She desperately loves her husband but is tired of him traveling and not paying attention to her. As the book opens, Milo has just returned home but Amory is not feeling very welcoming. Then a surprise guest comes to the door. It is Gil, the man Amory was engaged to when she met the dashing Milo. She feels bad about how she treated Gil. Gil has come to see her to ask if she would go to the Brightwell Hotel with him to join a group of friends. Part of the group is his sister, Emmeline and the man she is crazy about, Rupert Howe. Gil thinks that Amory can convince Emmeline that she should dump Rupert because of her experience with Milo. While there are some warning bells that this is not a good idea, Amory decides to go not as much to be of help and to get away from Milo. She finds that when she gets to the hotel that perhaps this was not a good idea because everyone thinks that she is back with Gil. She does try and talk to Emmeline but she can see that Emmeline is so taken with Rupert that she doesn’t think that she will be able to dissuade her.

And then there is a murder. And Milo arrives at the hotel. Why? And who committed murder?

Overall, it was not a bad story. This book is the first in a series of 5 Amory Ames mysteries. I would read the rest. Here is the part that I don’t understand – this book was given to me as an ARC (advanced reader copy) but it came out in 2014. Not exactly an advanced reader copy when the book has been out for 5-6 years and there are 4 books in the series that came out after this one. So, I am a bit befuddled by this and slightly irritated that I didn’t notice this. BUT overall, I think that if you are looking for an English mystery, this would be a good choice.

519PpcgZvGLMurder She Encountered by Peg Cochran is the third cozy that I read via an ARC. In this story, our main protagonist, Elizabeth Adams,  is a Manhattan socialite who works for the Daily Trumpet as a photographer. The 1939 World’s Fair is the location for the murder of a woman who had been working at the Fair demonstrating the newest thing, nylon stockings. Elizabeth Adams and her partner, Ralph Kaminski are hot after the story and think that the police have made a mistake with the quick arrest that they made to close the case. It is a slightly tricky situation since Elizabeth has been dating the handsome police detective, Sal Marino.

Not only is Elizabeth out on a limb working in general but also working for a newspaper. Her family is not exactly supportive of her work. She also knows that they would not be in favor of her dating the handsome policeman. Add to that her wanting to get the story and find out “who done it” and there is a plot with several twists and turns.

I felt that the book had good descriptions and interesting characters. This book is also part of a series – it is the third book in the series. You would never know that there are other books in the series. This book absolutely stands alone.

I would recommend this book as a cozy mystery. It is a fairly quick read and it has a good plot.

There you go – three books reviewed in one post. All three are available now. As I said before, I was given these books by the publisher to give an unbiased review.

Thanks for reading!

 

Posted in Miscellaneous Thoughts | 3 Comments

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

woman-32819_1280

Dear Fellow Reader,

Happy New Year! Are you as amazed as I am that it could be a new year already? What happened?

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I do. No, I am not that great at keeping them. (I bet you knew that because I keep saying that I am going to post more here and then I don’t.)  I have decided this year that instead of looking at it as resolutions that I am going to try and build some new habits. I made a laundry list of things that I would like to change or improve upon and from that I am going to try and make new habits that will help me incorporate the changes.

One of the things I learned several years ago from a neighbor was the value of having a quarterly planning session. The idea was to try and plan out what I want to accomplish in the next quarter. I have found this to be helpful, but I think I also enjoy just getting ready for the planning session. Now, I have always had these sessions with myself at home but my neighbor really felt that you needed to get out of your space and so you could concentrate. I used to go to another room in the house that I could “junk up” for a couple of days while I worked on my plans. This time, I just stayed in my office but went over to the “reading corner” and set up a TV tray to hold all the stuff I dragged over there. Somehow, I got caught up in doing things that had nothing to do with planning – or did they? I sat down and decided that I needed to clean out my bookcase. There were books that I was never going to read or books that needed to find a new home. In doing this, I found Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better than Before. It is a book about building habits! How perfect, right? Did I know that I had that book? Okay, kind of a tossup on that but the book was right there when I needed it!

811XSefzoQL

Gretchen Rubin has a very conversational style of writing that is easy to read. She includes personal observations along with research and statistics to back up her information. The book starts out talking about how important self-knowledge is in the process. Ms Rubin’s theory is that if you know what kind of person you are, you can form habits that will go along with your personality and it will make it easier for you. This makes sense, right? The four types of personalities described by her are as follows:

The Upholder – meets outer expectations, meets inner expectations

The Questioner – resists outer expectations, meets inner expectations

The Obliger – meets outer expectations, resists inner expectations

The Rebel – resists outer expectations, resists inner expectations

Once you know where you fit, then you can adapt your habit formation so that your new habits will appeal to your personality type. I will say that I had a bit of a problem defining myself. I felt I was a blend of types but that is probably because I wasn’t crazy about the sound of being an Obliger.

I felt that it was one of those rare moments that a book was in front of me that was exactly what I needed to read. I have a feeling that one read won’t be enough – I have the book totally marked up – that there is plenty of information there to warrant additional visits. If you are looking to kick start your new year or improve some of your habits, this book could be of help. A quick read with lots to think about.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Talking Books | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments