Friday, October 30, 2015

Review: Recipes for Love and Murder (Tannie Maria Mystery #1) by Sally Andrew

Blurb from Goodreads:
A bright new talent makes her fiction debut with this first novel in a delicious crime series set in rural South Africa—a flavorful blend of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and Goldy Schulz, full of humor, romance, and recipes, and featuring a charming cast of characters

Tannie Maria ("tannie" meaning auntie, the respectful Afrikaans address for a woman older than you) is a middle-aged widow who likes to cook—and eat. She shares her culinary love through her work as a recipe columnist for the local paper, until the Gazette decides its readers are hungrier for advice on matters of the heart than for lunch and dinner ideas.

Tannie Maria doesn't like the change but soon discovers she has a knack—and a passion—for helping people. Of course, a recipe is always part of the remedy she offers. Assisting other people with their problems, Tannie Maria is eventually forced to face her own issues, especially when the troubles of those she helps touch on the pain of her own past—like a woman who contacts her desperate to escape her abusive husband.

When the woman is murdered, Tannie Maria becomes dangerously entwined in the investigation, despite the best efforts of a handsome detective named Kannemeyer, who is determined to keep her safe. Suddenly, this practical, down-to-earth woman is involved in something much more sinister than perfecting her chocolate cake recipe . . . 
My Review:
Reading this book I was instantly transported to South Africa, which I'm afraid to say is not somewhere I had thought about much before.  I could picture the landscape and the descriptions of the recipes and food were so immaculate.  What I mean by that is that the recipes fit so well into the book and Tannie Maria making each of them were some of my favorite parts of the book.  I truly cannot wait for more books to come out in this series -- I was so intrigued and so hungry reading this one!!

I definitely recommend this for anyone that likes murder mysteries as well as books involving food.  I was reminded a bit of Tumbling by Diane McKinney-Whetstone when reading this -- something about the feeling and the descriptions.

Recipes for Love and Murder comes out next week on November 3, 2015, and you can purchase HERE!
"If you are honest with yourself," I said to the potato salad, "is the feeling of love really any better than the satisfaction you get from a good meal?"  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Blurb from Goodreads:
Set in gilded age New York, These Shallow Graves follows the story of Josephine Montfort, an American aristocrat. Jo lives a life of old-money ease. Not much is expected of her other than to look good and marry well. But when her father dies due to an accidental gunshot, the gilding on Jo’s world starts to tarnish. With the help of a handsome and brash reporter, and a young medical student who moonlights in the city morgue, Jo uncovers the truth behind her father’s death and learns that if you’re going to bury the past, you’d better bury it deep.
My Review:
Unfortunately what could have been a really interesting concept and book did not work for me.  This was so predictable -- sheltered rich girl longs to explore the gritty streets of New York and falls in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks that is hell-bent on destroying her rich family.  I could appreciate Jo's motivation -- she seemed to have a good heart and really just wanted to solve the mystery of her father's death -- she was so infuriating in how she went about it.  Had this actual been dark like the description and cover promised, it may have been better.  Instead, this book was a light mystery, heavy on the cheese factor and "romance" and I was extremely bored reading it.  The writing wasn't bad and the historical accuracy seemed to be well done but they couldn't save the plot for me.

I would recommend this to fans of light historical fiction -- although this is, ostensibly, a mystery, it felt really fluffy to me.  These Shallow Graves was released earlier this week, and you can purchase HERE!  
"Don't worry, my darling," Trudy said.  "You'll only get a few days' detention, I'm sure.  Unless Sparky expels you."  
"You're such a comfort," said Jo.  
Trudy smiled ruefully.  "What can I say? I merely wish to smoke. Sparky can forgive that. You, on the other hand, wish to know things.  And no one can forgive a girl for that."

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian

 "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that you are eagerly anticipating.

Today, I am waiting on:  
The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian

From Goodreads:
From the critically acclaimed author of The List comes a stunning new novel about a girl who must say goodbye to everything she knows after a storm wreaks havoc on her hometown.

Aberdeen is drowning. 

Keeley Hewitt always has a joke to crack. Except there is nothing funny about her life right now. Her hometown of Aberdeen has always been known for flooding, but after one last terrible storm, the entire town has been told they must evacuate by the end of the summer--for good.

How will she say goodbye to everything and everyone she has ever known?

Most of the Aberdeen residents happily take the generous payout and look forward to starting over someplace new. But Keeley's dad isn't swayed by the overtures of officials or the sheriff's threats. He refuses to evacuate their family, and Keeley goes from being the funny girl in school to the last girl in Aberdeen.

As the town empties out, two boys compete for her heart. One is a boy she's had a crush on forever and the other is one she thinks she could fall in love with. But the water is rising higher and higher, and Keeley is faced with losing everything she's ever known, and the promise of things she's only ever wished for.  
I love love love Siobhan Vivian and I keep hearing that her latest is amazing!  The Last Boy and Girl in the World is scheduled for release on April 26, 2016, and you can pre-order here!!

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday??

Monday, October 19, 2015

Review: First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett

Blurb from Goodreads:
A thrilling literary mystery costarring Jane Austen from the New York Times–bestselling author of The Bookman’s Tale

Charlie Lovett first delighted readers with his New York Times–bestselling debut, The Bookman’s Tale. Now Lovett is back with another brilliantly imagined mystery, this time featuring one of English literature’s most popular and beloved authors: Jane Austen.

Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of A Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.
My Review:
Just imagine if you discovered a first draft of your favorite novel that no one else in the world had ever read and, not only that, you discovered some family connection to the edition?  First Impressions sets off on such a course and is a brilliant narrative told in both the past and present points of view of this journey.  I loved this book and I could not put it down -- both the imagined history and the mystery in the present of trying to discovery the history were so good!! 

I highly recommend this to fans of Jane Austen -- it imagines an entirely different Jane Austen (with some truth) and an entirely new (with some truth) version of the way in which both Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice were written.  There is a great note at the end of the book explaining which portions are based upon real historical documents and which are imagined entirely.  I appreciated both the explanation and the transparency! 

First Impressions came out recently, you can purchase HERE, and I highly, HIGHLY recommend it! 
Sophie had never held a first edition of Pride and Prejudice.  She had never had the opportunity to run her fingers over those spectacular words as they had appeared in print for the first time.  Somehow seeing them here in this volume from 1824 brought home to Sophie that Jane Austen had actually written these words.  They had not simply appeared out of the ether.  Sometimes, she thought, sentence like that become so famous that we cannot conceive a time when they did not exist.  We can remember our own first encounters with those words, but that mankind should have a first encounter with them seems almost impossible.  But mankind did have a first encounter with Sophie's favorite sentence in all of literature, and she now held that first encounter in her hand.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Review: Bright Stars by Sophie Duffy

Blurb from Goodreads:
Four students are involved in a tragedy that rips their friendship apart. What happens when they are reunited 25 years later? 

Cameron Spark’s life is falling apart. He is separated from his wife, and awaiting a disciplinary following an incident in the underground vaults of Edinburgh where he works as a Ghost Tour guide. On the day he moves back home to live with his widowed dad, he receives a letter from Canada. It is from Christie. 

Twenty-five years earlier, Cameron attends Lancaster University and despite his crippling shyness, makes three unlikely friends: Christie, the rich Canadian, Tommo, the wannabe rock star and Bex, the feminist activist who has his heart. In a whirlwind of alcohol, music, and late night protests, Cameron feels as though he’s finally living; until a horrific accident shatters their friendship and alters their futures forever. Christie’s letter offers them a reunion after all these years. But has enough time passed to recover from the lies, the guilt, and the mistakes made on that tragic night? Or is this one ghost too many for Cameron?
My Review:
I hate to say it but although this book was (mostly) beautifully written, it was so, so depressing.  That is, this book is ultimately about looking back on your life 30 years later and realizing how horrible it is to get old and to have regrets.  Ostensibly, the characters' regrets stem from one night and a whole lot of lies but there was just this overarching sadness in the book concerning aging and death.  The beginning of the book really dragged on but it did get better as the event and secrets were revealed.  Ultimately, I couldn't help but feel sad at the end of the book since everything that happened was so heartbreaking.

I would recommend this to fans of contemporary British literature written by women -- it definitely had a similar voice as  other authors such as Susan Lewis Bright Stars was just released last week, and you can purchase HERE!  

By the end of the song, I'd slid down the wall, was slumped on the dirty fag-strewn floor, cross-legged, head in my hands trying to stop the small monkey pogoing around inside it.  I was back in the class room, the boy on the edge, listening to the popular kid reading out his work.  I didn't know why, but I was on the verge of tears.  
If only I drank like the other students.  If only I drank like a true Scot.  If only I drank properly, idiotically, paralytically, so I could reach that haven of oblivion. But I couldn't even do that.

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