Thursday, December 8, 2022

Book Review: Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

Her Royal Spyness (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries, #1)Her Royal Spyness (Her Royal Spyness #1). Rhys Bowen.  Berkeley Publishing Group (2007). 324 pages. Genre: Mystery.

First Line: "Castle Rannoch, Perthshire, Scotland. April 1932. There are two disadvantages to being a minor royal."

Summary:  Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter of the Duke of Glen Garry and Rannoch, is thirty-fourth in line for the throne of England.  As such, she is expected to behave in certain ways and do certain things.  One of these things is marrying into a noble family.  Being that she has already come out in society, this is at the top of everyone's mind.  Everyone being her brother, her sister-in-law and the Queen.  

When her brother cuts off her allowance, she decides it is time to make her own way in life.  She decides to go to London and stay in the family house there.  The problem is she can't afford a maid.  She has never had to dress herself or cook her own food before.  She decides the only thing to do is to get a job, which is unheard of for a member of the royal family no matter how distant the throne is.  

After a hard day's work as a maid, she returns to the family home to find a corpse floating in the bathtub.  Concerned that her brother might have been involved and concerned that her secret life as a maid might be revealed, Georgie hesitates to notify the police.  Her fears are realized when she does notify the authorities - both she and her brother are suspects.  With the help of her friend Belinda, she tries to discover who this man in the bathtub is and who might want him dead.  

My thoughts:  This is one of those books that is so easy to read.  The writing style is witty and sharp, the dialogue is humorous and the storyline is well paced.  

Lady Georgiana is a brave woman.  She is willing to do things she has never done, such as collect coal from the cellar to start a fire, attempt to make herself a meal, and reside in a big, old drafty house by herself.  But often times her courage and bravery get her into trouble. At times she had to invent lies about the lies she had already told.  While she was unwilling to compromise in some areas, in others she readily did things she ought not do.  Georgie is an entertaining main character and I enjoyed her narration.  

The supporting cast is equally well developed.  Her friend Belinda is always there for her, unless she has been out late to a party.  Her constant talk about sex did get annoying.  Fortunately, it wasn't overly graphic.  One of my favorite characters was Georgie's grandfather on her mother's side.  He is definitely not in the royal line and is a little rough around the edges.  I love the relationship he has with Georgie.  And then there's Darcy, who is a good friend to Georgie and maybe more. 

The mystery wasn't overly strong and was kind of overshadowed by Georgie's life, but since this was the first book in the series, that is somewhat expected.  There is definitely a mystery to be solved and it held my interest and surprised me with its outcome. 

I enjoyed learning about the expectations of the royal family and of society in general in 1932 London.  Times were tough and belts needed to be tightened even in the royal family.

There was a lot to like about this one, but I don't think I liked it as much as I thought I would.  I was a little underwhelmed probably due to the fact that I had heard so many great things about this series and had high expectations. It was a light,  fun read and one that I would recommend.

Quotes:

"There is nothing as lovely as a London Park in springtime.  Daffodils among the trees, new green emerging on those spreading chestnuts, elegantly turned-out horses crossing from the riding stable toward Rotten Row, and courting couples strolling hand in hand or sitting rather too close to each other on the benches."

"Lunch was a huge success - lovely leg of lamb, crispy roast potatoes and cabbage from Grandad's back garden, followed by baked apple and custard."



Monday, December 5, 2022

Book Review: A Seaside Wonder by Melissa Tagg

A Seaside Wonder (Muir Harbor #2)A Seaside Wonder (Muir Harbor #2). Melissa Tagg. Larkspur Press (2022). 383 pages. Genre: Inspirational Contemporary Romance.

First Line: "If not for the proprietor's name on the little shop's window, Philip might never have thought of it again."

Summary:  Indi Muir has never recovered from the decision she made eleven years ago.  Since then her life has seemed to be a series of distractions to help her forget.  When her ex-fiance returns to Muir Harbor with news that is going to force her to face what she has been running from, Indi begins to feel like her carefully constructed world is falling apart.  To top it off, someone has been sneaking around Muir Farm looking for something.  

When his mother died, Professor Philip West was ,made guardian of his half-sister, Holland.  This caused him to move back to Maine and into his grandfather's house, a place that feels cold and lonely.  Holland doesn't seem to want Philip around and is sure she can take care of herself.  Encouraged by a friend to get away for a while and take Holland with him, Philip decides to return to Muir Harbor, a place that made him feel at home.  It all sounded ideal in theory, but in practice it is more complicated than he imagined.

My thoughts: Melissa Tagg is quickly becoming a favorite author.  A Seaside Wonder drew me in from the very beginning.  This is the second book in the Muir Harbor series and we step into the story at a place overlapping with the previous book, but from a different perspective.  Autumn by the Sea was told from Neil Muir and Sydney's perspective.  This book is told from Indi Muir and Philip's perspective.  Stepping into part of the story we already knew was a unique and interesting twist.

Indi Muir was adopted by Maggie Muir when she was a baby, so this is the only family she has ever known.  Just after high school, she made a life changing decision.  Since that time she has done all she can to make up for it.  If she stays busy, she won't have time to think or feel.  Indi thinks her family and others see her as a mess - as someone who doesn't think before she acts and gets herself into difficult situations.  The reality is that her family sees her as a talented, creative and kind young woman who has the confidence to take risks.  I loved the way the author took us along on Indi's journey of growth.

You couldn't help liking Philip from the very beginning.  He is generally quiet, shy, studious and some would say boring.  But he is also funny, kind, practical and thoughtful.  After his best friend's wife describes him as "shy and bookish", he had this conversation:

    "'Shy and bookish are not insults.  Not according to my wife.  She says it makes you endearing.'

    'I don't want to be endearing and I don't want to be having this conversation.'"

The opening scene where Indi and Philip meet - the meet-cute - is hilarious.  

While there is romance, there is so much more to the story.  There are themes of abandonment, family - birth family, found family, who is your family - , grief, love, faith, loyalty, prayer, loss, failure, and being thankful for what you have.  Once again, this story has a little romance, a little mystery and a little family drama.  Together they made a wonderful story full of depth and humor with a satisfying ending.  There were several story lines that were begun in the first book that continue in this one.  Some are brought to conclusion, some are advanced and some have not yet been finished.  

If this book sounds interesting to you, I would recommend you start with the first book, Autumn by the Sea.  It is a story you won't want to miss and you will be introduced to the Muir family and Muir Harbor.  Now I will be eagerly awaiting spring because that is when the next installment of Muir Harbor will be available.  

Quotes:

"The night air felt fragile somehow, a crystalline moon tucked into black velvet, the morning's mild temps lost to a brittle breeze that wisped its way in and around the bare branches of Muir Farm's backyard trees."

"... no, none of this had been chance.  All of it had been a gift from the God who was teaching him how to wonder again.  Teaching him through the beauty of a seaside farm and a tiny town at the edge of a lit-up harbor.  Through all the ups and downs of finding his place in Holland's life."

"'Look at Maggie.  She doesn't pretend she doesn't have holes in her heart where Robert and Diana and her granddaughter should've been.  But she still has beauty and joy and love in her life.  She's figured out how to live in the tension between honest heartache and steadfast hope.  She's put her trust in a God who...who maybe doesn't make every crack disappear, but who holds all her broken pieces tenderly.  Who heals her simply by being with her.  Staying with her.'"

Thursday, December 1, 2022

November Reading Wrap-Up

Thanksgiving, Fall, Pumpkin, Flowers

November was beautiful weatherwise.  We did get some snow, but it melted.  And then we got some more snow and now the ground is covered in white and it is starting to look a lot like Christmas.  We had a lovely Thanksgiving and then the following day, I got the Christmas decorations out.  The tree is up, the village is in place and the wreath is on the door.  Now I can sit back with a good book and enjoy the twinkling lights.  

In November I read 8 books.  Here's the breakdown:

Mystery: 4
Suspense: 2
Classic: 1
Contemporary Women's Fiction: 1

Mystery:

This Side of Murder (Verity Kent, #1)

 







This Side of Murder (Verity Kent #1) by Anna Lee Huber


A Christmas Candy Killing














A Christmas Candy Killing (Killer Chocolate #1) by Christina Romeril

Castle Deadly, Castle Deep (A Dinner and a Murder Mystery, #2)













Castle Deadly, Castle Deep (A Dinner and a Murder Mystery #2) by Veronica Bond

Her Royal Spyness (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries, #1)

Her Royal Spyness (Her Royal Spyness #1) by Rhys Bowen (review coming soon)

Suspense:

Sundown (Sky King Ranch, #3)













Sundown (Sky King Ranch #3) by Susan May Warren

Hostile Intent













Hostile Intent (Danger Never Sleeps #4) by Lynette Eason

Classic:

The Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia, #7)













The Last Battle (The Chronicles of Narnia #7) by C. S. Lewis

Contemporary Women's Fiction:

A Seaside Wonder (Muir Harbor #2)

A Seaside Wonder (Muir Harbor #2) by Melissa Tagg (review coming soon)

In this month that we celebrate Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for all of you!  I hope you all had a great November.

~ Gretchen


I am linking up with The Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight. 


Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2022 Wrap-Up

 

Yvonne at Socrates' Book Reviews hosts the Cruisin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge.   I participated at Level 2 (Investigator) - reading 20 books of my choice.  Here's what I read:


1. The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs. Pollifax #2) by Dorothy Gilman

2. Reserved for Murder (Booklover's B&B #2) by Victoria Gilbert

3. Death at High Tide (Island Sisters Mystery #1) by Hannah Dennison

4. Dead Wrong (Agatha's B & B #1) by Vannetta Chapman

5. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency #6) by Alexander McCall Smith

6. The Highland Fling Murders (Murder, She Wrote #8) by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

7. Plain Deception (Amish Inn Mysteries #2) by Tara Randel

8. Clause & Effect (Deadly Edits #2) by Kaitlynn Dunnett

9. Partners in Lime (Seaside Cafe #6) by Bree Baker

10. Danger at the Cove (Island Sisters Mystery #2) by Hannah Dennison

11. Body on the Bayou (Cajun Country Mystery #2) by Ellen Byron

12. Murder with Darjeeling Tea (Daisy's Tea Garden #8) by Karen Rose Smith

13. Murder on the QE2 (Murder, She Wrote #9) by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

14. Blue Shoes and Happiness (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency #7) by Alexander McCall Smith

15. Chained (Kate Turner, DVM #3) by Eileen Brady

16. Books Can Be Deceiving (Library Lovers #1) by Jenn McKinlay

17. Peg and Rose Solve a Murder (Peg and Rose #1) by Laurien Berenson 

18. Hot and Sour Suspects (Noodle Shop #8) by Vivien Chien

19. A Tourist's Guide to Murder (Mystery Bookshop #6) by V. M. Burns

20. A Christmas Candy Killing (Killer Chocolate #1) by Christina Romeril

Monday, November 28, 2022

Book Review: Hostile Intent by Lynette Eason

Hostile IntentHostile Intent (Danger Never Sleeps #4). Lynette Eason. Fleming H. Revell Company (2021). 320 pages. Genre: Suspense, Christian Fiction.

First Lines: "Beginning of April. New Mexico. Today, the watching ended and the killing started."

Summary:  FBI Special Agent Caden Denning has seen many crime scenes during his career, but this is one of the most difficult.  An entire family has been murdered. As he and his partner are searching the house for clues, he comes across a photo of Ava Jackson as a child.  Ava and his sister, Sarah, have been best friends since they were children.  But why is there a picture of Ava in this home?

Ava Jackson left the military when her mother got ill.  She had lost her father a few months earlier and is not willing to let her mother suffer alone.  She spends several hours each day at the nursing facility where her mother lives.  Caden Denning often visits her there.  When he shows her the picture he found at the crime scene, she is stunned.  She remembers the picture, but didn't know the family that was murdered.  As Caden and Ava begin looking for a connection between the murdered family and Ava's, they discover there were a lot of things Ava didn't know about her dad.  Will they be able to discover the killer before another family is murdered?

My thoughts:  This was a thrilling finale to the Danger Never Sleeps series.  Each of the books in the series has been a page turner filled with interesting characters.  However, I think this one was my favorite.

I really liked Ava as a character.  She is smart and talented, but not overly sure of herself.  Her dad was a travel writer and was often gone for weeks at a time.  So when he was home, Ava liked to spend as much time as possible with him.  They often worked on jigsaw puzzles together, not because Ava wanted to, but because this was a favorite pass time of her father.  Because of this, Ava became very good at solving puzzles of all kinds.  She eventually became very skilled at computers. Her father also taught her how to defend herself.  That, combined with her military training, makes her quite capable of defending herself.

Ava and Caden become closer as they work together to catch the killer.  As is always the case in Eason's books, the romance never takes over the story, but is just a background thread.  There were lots of secrets to uncover, but their combined skills and areas of expertise made all the difference.  There were lot of surprises, complications and injuries along the way.  I enjoyed being immersed in the world of puzzles, hacking and figuring out how a criminal thinks. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this hard-to-put-down book.  There are some heavier topics covered - serial killer, suicide, torture - however the descriptions are never graphic, but are dealt with realistically while keeping the overall tone light.  This could be read as a stand alone without missing too much, but I would highly recommend the entire series.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Crusin' Thru the Cozies Reading Challenge 2023


Yvonne at Socrates' Book Reviews is hosting the 13th annual Crusin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge.  The link to the sign up is here.  I will be participating at Level 2 (Investigator) - reading 20 cozy mysteries of my choice (option A). I will be keeping track of them here.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving, Fall, Pumpkin, Flowers

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!" I Chronicles 16:34

Happy Thanksgiving to those who are celebrating!

I will be hosting Thanksgiving this year and have been busy preparing food.  I like to prepare my mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and turkey ahead of time.  This makes for a much more relaxed day for me.  

Here's what I will be reading over the weekend:

A Seaside Wonder (Muir Harbor #2)

 A Seaside Wonder (Muir Harbor #2) by Melissa Tagg

Isn't that a beautiful cover?

We are hoping to watch this over the weekend:

See How They Run (2022 film).jpg

See How They Run

I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving weekend!

~ Gretchen



Adrien Brody, Sam Rockwell, David Oyelowo, Saoirse Ronan, Ruth Wilson, Pearl Chanda, and Harris Dickinson in See How They Run (2022)