4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, MMD Book Club, R, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: The Gown by Jennifer Robson

The Gown
by Jennifer Robson

The Gown

 

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 371

Read: June 1 – 10, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Library

 

 

 

 

Blurb: London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.


Review: This book is the June selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy online book club. I had had it on my radar since it came out but I wasn’t entirely sure that I would like it. I was drawn by the cover, but historical fiction (while I do generally enjoy it) is not necessarily something I go out of my way to read. But I also have a fascination with the Royal Family so I kind of enjoyed that connection with this book (although that connection ends up being very, very small).

So what did I ultimately think? It was good. Somewhere between good and really good, probably. For the most part I enjoyed it, but I had some issues with one of the characters. How could Heather’s mother (Ann’s daughter) not have a few more questions about why she didn’t know more about her mother? She knew nothing about her father. She couldn’t even answer whether or not Hughes was her married or maiden name. And yet – she didn’t even seem to have any curiosity regarding the huge gaps of information she knew about her mother and her own familial history! I just cannot imagine not wanting to know more. As the reader gets the answers to those questions I can certainly understand why Ann chose to keep so much to herself, but it still irritated me.

There were some pretty heavy scenes throughout the book. Definite trigger warning right here. And honestly … I didn’t really feel like some of it was really all that necessary. It could have gone a completely different way. It almost felt thrown in there for the shock factor. It just didn’t fit with the rest of the book itself.

So now that I’ve gotten the negative out of the way, I can say that the rest of the book was really good. I enjoyed how the story unfolded, going back and forth between Ann and Miriam and Heather. I was rooting for both Ann and Miriam individually and I was sad to see that they were not able to continue their friendship long-term.

I really don’t know what else to say about this book. I enjoyed it. It’s an interesting look at the post-war years in England – something that I personally have not read much about. This book is definitely not my usual reading style, but I’m glad that I gave it a go and I would definitely recommend it!

 

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4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, G, Kinsey Millhone, RATING, Read in 2019, SERIES

Review: H is for Homicide by Sue Grafton

H is for Homicide
by Sue Grafton

H is for Homicide

 

Copyright: 1991

Pages: 256

Read: May 27 – 30, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

Blurb: His name is Parnell Perkins, and until shortly after midnight, he’d been a claims adjuster for California Fidelity. Then someone came along and put paid to that line of work. And to any other. Parnell Perkins had been shot at close range and left for dead in the parking lot outside California Fidelity’s offices.

To the cops, it looked like a robbery gone sour. To Kinsey Millhone, it looked like the cops were walking away from the case. She didn’t like the idea that a colleague and sometime drinking companion had been murdered. Or the idea that his murderer was loose and on the prowl. It made her feel exposed. Vulnerable.

Bibianna Diaz was afraid for her life. If there was one thing she knew for sure, it was that you didn’t cross Raymond Maldonado and live to tell the tale. And Bibianna had well and truly crossed him, running out on his crazy wedding plans and going into hiding in Santa Teresa – light years away from the Los Angeles barrio that was home turf to Raymond and his gang. Now she needed money to buy time, to make sure she’d put enough space between them. And the quickest way she knew to get money was to work an insurance scam – just like the ones Raymond was running down in L.A. The trouble was, Bibianna picked California Fidelity as her mark. And it wasn’t long before her name surfaced in one of Parnell Perkins’s open files and Kinsey was on her case. But so, too, was her spurned suitor, Raymon Maldonado.

He had a rap sheet as long as his arm, a hair-trigger temper that was best left untested, and an inability to take no for an answer. He also had Tourette’s syndrome, which did nothing to smooth out the kinks in his erratic and often violent behavior. All in all, Raymond Maldonado was not someone to spend a lot of time hanging out with. Unfortunately for Kinsey, she didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. Not after the love-sick Raymond kidnapped Bibianna. Like it or not, Kinsey was stuck baby-sitting Bibianna along with Raymond and his macho crew. You might say she was a prisoner of love.

It may be Kinsey Millhone’s most complicated and risk-filled case.


Review: This is the 8th book in the Kinsey Millhone series. It had been a while since I had read “G” but I remember really enjoying it, so I was looking forward to falling back in with Kinsey.

This one read a lot differently than any of the previous books in the series. It definitely had a grittier feel to it. Kinsey was in a more precarious position than I feel like she ever has been in previous books. It was a good read, I enjoyed it.

It read quickly and easily. It kept me interested in the storyline. I felt like all the characters were well-developed – even the less important characters had good development. I really liked this book.

Recommended. And I’m looking forward to “I”.

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019, T

Review: Monkeewrench by P.J. Tracy

Monkeewrench
by P.J. Tracy

Monkeewrench

 

Copyright: 2003

Pages: 404

Read: May 13 – 24, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

Blurb: People are dying for the new computer game by the software company Monkeewrench. Literally. With Serial Killer Detective in limited release, the real-life murders of a jogger and a young woman have already mimicked the first two scenarios in the game.

But Grace McBride and her eccentric Monkeewrench partners are caught in a vise. If they tell the Minneapolis police of the link between their game and the murders, they’ll shine a spotlight on the past they thought they had erased – and the horror they thought they’d left behind. If they don’t, eighteen more people will die…


Review: This is the first book in the Monkeewrench series. I have had this one on my shelf for quite some time so I was excited to finally get to it.

For the most part I enjoyed it. But it had a pretty slow start for me. I’m not sure exactly why, but I struggled to get to the halfway point. I think it was the bouncing back and forth between two distinct storylines that kind of held me up. They were completely different and I had no idea what on earth was going to tie this two plot lines together. But then it finally came together as to what the connection was. And from that point on it was a race to the finish to find out exactly what had happened and why.

I am on the fence about whether or not I want to continue on with this series or not. Part of my issue is that this one felt like a standalone, the storyline wrapped up nicely. I assume it’s because this book was not written with the intention of being the first in a series.

Either way this particular book was enjoyable enough. Once you get past that slow start the book itself is enjoyable and I liked it.

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, F, Non-Fiction, Presidential Reading Challenge, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: John Adams: A Life by John Ferling

John Adams: A Life
by John Ferling

John Adams-A Life

Copyright: 1992

Pages: 454

Read: April 20 – May. 19, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Abebooks.com

 

 

Blurb: John Ferling’s masterful John Adams: A Life is the most comprehensive single-volume biography of the man who succeeded George Washington in the presidency and shepherded the fragile new nation through the most dangerous of times. Drawing on extensive research, Ferling depicts a reluctant revolutionary, a leader who was deeply troubled by the warfare that he helped to make, and a fiercely independent statesman.


Review: This is my 4th book on John Adams. And I have to say, if you are looking for a really good single-volume biography of Mr. Adams – read this one! I wish I had read this book first, because it was extremely readable and provided just the right amount of information to give a pretty good broad overview.

I personally thought this book was easier to read than David McCullough’s work. But I think that is just my personal preference – I struggled that McCullough’s book kind of jumped around here and there at times. Ferling’s book was linear in the timeline and I just preferred the writing style of this one.

For the most part I found Ferling to be quite fair in his analysis of John Adams. I was glad that I finally read a book where the author finally called Adams out for basically being an absent husband for a good 3/4 of his married years. I wouldn’t say that he was over-critical of that, but it was refreshing to finally have it pointed it, not just swept under the rug like it was no big deal.

The book itself reads easily. I personally struggled to get through the diplomatic years. But that has nothing to do with this book. I struggled with those same years in the previous books I’ve read. (Just like I struggled through the war years in the George Washington books I read).

Honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It’s well-researched and well-written. I think it can appeal to casual readers as well as students of history. This one is definitely going to be a stand-out for me as far as the John Adams books I’m reading go. And like I said – if you’re looking for an easy-to-read single-volume biography on John Adams, I would highly recommend this one.

4/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, E-Book, Fiction, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Tell Me Three Things
by Julie Buxbaum

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Copyright: 2016

Pages: 336

Read: April 29 – May 5, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Library e-book

 

Blurb: What if the person you need the most is someone you’ve never met?

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week as a junior at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short) offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?


Review:

My mom once told me that the world is divided into two kinds of people: the ones who love their high school years and the ones who spend the next decade recovering from them. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, she said.

But something did kill her, and I’m not stronger. So go figure; maybe there’s a third kind of person: the ones who never recover from high school at all.

–p. 12

This book is the May selection in the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. I thought it sounded like a decent read and I saw that I could get it in an e-book through my library. I figured if I didn’t like it after so many pages I’d just turn it back in and that would be that. But what I wasn’t expecting was to be really taken by this book! I don’t know why I say that – more often than not I really enjoy the books selected by Anne.

This book took me right back to high school. I personally didn’t have the greatest high school experience (I moved schools in 7th grade and the day I graduated high school I was still known as “the new girl” even though I had been there for over 5 years at that point). So I totally understood what Jessie was going through with that new school thing. I only wish I had had a “Somebody Nobody” to guide me through those early few days, weeks and months.

Enough reminiscing about high school, back to the book. I found it to be easily readable. And even though I am far removed from high school I still enjoyed the book. I was anxious to see who SN ended up being – and I had it totally pegged correctly. So while that part wasn’t necessarily a surprise, I personally thought the ending was just right.

It’s a cute book. I’m glad I gave it a shot. And I still find it amusing that every time I read a young adult I enjoy it – even though I never would have touched a young adult book when I was actually part of the target audience for that genre. It’s a fun and easy read. It’s really just a cute, sweet book. It didn’t feel fake – the teenage voices felt “real” to me. So yeah, I’d recommend it!

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E-Book, Fiction, H, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard

The Liar’s Girl
by Catherine Ryan Howard

The Liar's Girl

 

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 332

Read: April 3 – April 24, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Barnes & Noble Serial Reads

 

Blurb: Will Hurley was an attractive, charming, and impressive student at Dublin’s elite St. John’s College-and Ireland’s most prolific serial killer. Having stalked his four young victims, he drowned them in the muddy waters of the Grand Canal. Sentenced to life imprisonment when he was just nineteen, Will is locked away in the city’s Central Psychiatric Hospital.

Freshman Alison Smith moved to the Big Smoke to enrol in St. John’s and soon fell hard for Will Hurley. Her world bloomed … and then imploded when Liz, her best friend, became the latest victim of the Canal Killer-and the Canal Killer turned out to be the boy who’d been sleeping in her bed. Alison fled to the Netherlands and, in ten years, has never once looked back.

When a young woman’s body is found in the Grand Canal, Garda detectives visit Will to see if he can assist them in solving what looks like a copycat killing. Instead, Will tells them he has something new to confess-but there’s only one person he’s prepared to confess it to. The last thing Alison wants is to be pulled back into the past she’s worked so hard to leave behind. Reluctantly, she returns to the city she hasn’t set foot in for more than a decade to face the man who murdered the woman she was supposed to become.

Only to discover that, until now, Will has left out the worst part of all …


Review: This book was the April selection on Barnes & Noble’s Serial Reads program. Sometimes the books interest me and sometimes they don’t. This particular book really caught my attention so I was excited to give it a go!

I had never even heard of this author before, but I could not get through this book fast enough. I found it really difficult to not be able to read enough of this book every time I picked it up. First thing I did every single morning when I woke up was to open up my Nook app and read that day’s chapter(s). It was really tough and honestly, had my library had it available (either print or e-book) I definitely would have gone and checked it out just so I could read it faster! It was that good of a book for me!

Let me just say that when the ending was finally revealed it was a kind of like, “whoa!” I didn’t really see it happening the way that it did, but I felt like it was a good way to end the book. Intriguing is the word I would use for the ending – but it was satisfying as well.

I’m definitely glad that I got a chance to discover this author and I look forward to following her work in the future!

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Non-Fiction, Presidential Reading Challenge, RATING, Read in 2019, S

Review: John Adams Vol. 2 (1784-1826) by Page Smith

John Adams Vol. 2 (1784-1826)
by Page Smith

John Adams (Smith)

 

Copyright: 1963

Pages: 537

Read: March 21 – April 19, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: abebooks.com

 

Review: This book is the second in a two-book series by Page Smith. Volume 2 covers Adams’ life from the point when Abigail joins him in Europe during his overseas diplomatic years until his death on July 4, 1826.

I personally felt like this book was the stronger of the two books. I think that was more because I had a lot more interest in the time period it covered than the first book. I can say that I enjoyed learning more about his vice presidency and presidency.

Overall, I enjoyed reading these two books. It gives a lot more detailed information on Mr. Adams. There were times when it wasn’t necessarily easy reading, but I thoroughly appreciated getting a more in-depth look into John Adams, his personal life and public career.

Even though these books were written in the 1960s, I feel like they are still easily read and highly informative and enjoyable. I would definitely recommend these two books for those wanting more information on John Adams than a single volume can provide.

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, L, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door
by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door

 

Copyright: 2016

Pages: 308

Read: April 15 – April 17, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Book of the Month Club

 

Blurb: Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all – a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one hot summer night they are invited to a dinner party next door, and a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the Contis’ curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family – a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.


Review: This book was a Book of the Month Club pick back from like September of 2016. It’s definitely my M.O. to let books sit unread for years. This is just one of way too many that fits that bill.

I will say that I devoured this book. I read it as fast as I possibly could – sneaking in pages as often as I could. It was compulsively readable. As a mother I couldn’t fathom leaving my 6-month-old baby alone in a crib while I was next door – baby monitor or not.

I was suspicious of everyone in this book at some point in this book. And I was really liking where the book was going … until it hit a really strange curve. And then it kind of went from “holy cow” to “um… yeah … no.” It just kind of veered off course to me personally and I felt like it wasn’t necessarily believable. It was just too much of a stretch in my opinion.

I felt like the first 3/4 of the book was really good and then the last 1/4 was just a little lacking. Overall I still enjoyed the book, but I felt like it could have been a little stronger in places. Still a good and entertaining read though.

4/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, E-Book, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: Wish You Were Here by Rita Mae Brown

Wish You Were Here
by Rita Mae Brown

Wish You Were Here.jpg

 

Copyright: 1990

Pages: 320

Read: April 3 – April 8, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Library (e-book)

 

Blurb: Curiosity just might be the death of Mrs. Murphy–and her human companion, Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen.  Small towns are like families:  Everyone lives very close together. . .and everyone keeps secrets.  Crozet, Virginia, is a typical small town-until its secrets explode into murder.  Crozet’s thirty-something post-mistress, Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen, has a tiger cat (Mrs. Murphy) and a Welsh Corgi (Tucker), a pending divorce, and a bad habit of reading postcards not addressed to her.  When Crozet’s citizens start turning up murdered, Harry remembers that each received a card with a tombstone on the front and the message “Wish you were here” on the back.  Intent on protecting their human friend, Mrs. Murphy and Tucker begin to scent out clues.  Meanwhile, Harry is conducting her own investigation, unaware her pets are one step ahead of her.  If only Mrs. Murphy could alert her somehow, Harry could uncover the culprit before the murder occurs–and before Harry finds herself on the killer’s mailing list.


Review: I did something that I never ever do – I checked out a library e-book solely for the purpose of fulfilling a Goodreads challenge. I needed a book with a cat on the cover. I have over 500 physical books on my shelves at my house and if you can believe it, not a single one of those books has a cat on the cover. Who knew?! So off I went in search of something easily obtainable that sounded somewhat interesting that would fulfill this challenge requirement. I knew that I would likely be looking for a cozy mystery, but I was ready for something a little lighter than my usual reading. This book is the one I found. It sounded interesting enough and I could immediately download it to my iPad for reading. Win-win in my book.

What I was not prepared for was to love the book! Like, seriously! I thoroughly enjoyed it! I found myself sneaking in pages when I shouldn’t have been, ha! And considering how much I dislike reading e-books, I know this book was good.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but I really loved them all. They all had a quirk (or two) and I loved the small-town vibe that the book has. The overall mystery itself was interesting – and I didn’t have the murderer even on my radar as the killer. It wasn’t necessarily a shock, but I was convinced it was someone else. Wrong! I loved the little conversations between Mrs. Murphy, Tucker and the rest of the animals in this little town. It’s not something that I ever would have thought I would enjoy, but it really worked for this book. I will say that while this book is technically a cozy mystery, there is some pretty strong language throughout it.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I picked it up on a complete whim and I’m really glad that I did! I hope I can continue on with this series sooner rather than later (I know, I know … I always say that). A good book that I’d definitely recommend.

4/5, A, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Purple Hibiscus
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Purple Hibiscus

 

Copyright: 2003

Pages: 307

Read: March 29 – April 3, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Library
Blurb: Fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound – and by her wealthy Catholic father who, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home.

When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a university professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority. The visit will, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways. This is a book about the promise of freedom, about the blurred lines between childhood and adulthood, between love and hatred, between the old gods and the new.


Review: This is the April selection in the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. I picked this one up quite hesitatingly. First, it’s billed as young adult, which is not my normal reading. But add on top of that the setting of Nigeria and then religious aspect and it’s really outside of my comfort zone. Let’s just put it this way – I would have never picked up this book on my own. But I wanted to at least give it a shot.

Long story short … it was good, but difficult reading. I struggled with the abuse described. I couldn’t believe the kind of household Kambili and Jaja were living in – they never even smiled/laughed, that just flabbergasted me. And I really struggled with the religion angle to the story. I’m not much on organized religion to begin with, but I just cannot accept a man who treated his family that way hiding under the guise of religion. Just. No. I also have trouble classifying this is young adult literature. To me it’s an adult book with teenage characters.

I thoroughly enjoyed the middle section of this book, it was definitely the strongest point. The beginning was slightly slow and the ending felt rushed. I would have liked to have seen the ending be fleshed out just a little bit more, but at the same time I can appreciate the fact that the book didn’t have unnecessary padding. I struggled with some of the Nigerian words scattered within this book. In some spots I couldn’t even decipher what the word even was. I understand why they were included in the text, but I didn’t feel like they helped me as a reader at all. I also had an issue with the relationship between the priest and Kambili. She was a fifteen-year-old girl, he was a grown man (and a priest!) … I can understand her “crush” on him, but I didn’t like how it was quite obviously reciprocated by him.

I’m not sure what else to really say about this one. I can definitely see where it makes a great book club selection – I am definitely looking forward to the forum discussions. I can’t say that I loved it, but I can really appreciate the story for what it was. I’m glad I read it, it got me out of my comfort zone and I’m learning that my reading interests go a lot farther than I had would have ever expected.