The London House

November 2, 2021

 


The London House
By: Katherine Reay
Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary:
Caroline Payne's old college friend, Mat Hammond calls her to get a comment for a story he's writing- about her family. Mainly her Great Aunt Caro. She was always told her Great Aunt died as a child of polio, but Mat's research says otherwise. Was she a spy? Did she run away with a German lover? And why is her father so against her looking into her family's history to get answers. What if Mar's right? What if he's wrong? What if they're both wrong? 

World War II stories have long been a historical fiction staple. I mean, there's so many stories to be told! However, this one stood out to me because it was different than most of what I've read involving this war. I loved the idea of uncovering family secrets and histories. And let me tell you, Katherine Reay told an incredible story. I was gripped from the start. She's a gifted storyteller who unraveled a plot I didn't want to end.

After Mat drops the bombshell of Aunt Caro's past, it doesn't take long for the plot to thicken. Nor does it take Caroline long to get to London where she begins going through letters and journals from her Grandmother and her Grandmother's twin sister. Through their words, you get glimpses of their bond and life growing up. You see their worlds take a dramatic 180 degree turn when grave illness comes into their lives- and the way it changes them. 

I loved reading the letters and journals. I loved seeing everything unfold. Just when I thought I knew how the story was going to go, I'd be wrong. Reay kept me guessing and eager to see what would happen next. 

There were numerous layers to the story: what Aunt Caro's true story was, the family dynamic between Caroline's immediate family, the tense friendship between old college friends. As the stories unfolded, the tension began to, as well. You watched the characters grow and change as the truth is uncovered. 

If you're looking for a book to curl into, look no further than The London House. I was under the weather for several days, so I curled up with a cozy blanket and warm hot chocolate as I got lost in the latest story Katherine Reay had to tell us. It was so good. I was glad to see how it ended, but sad to leave the characters. This book will be on by bookshelf soon and had become one of my favorite historical fiction books. I hope you keep it in mind during your next library or bookstore trip. You won't be disappointed!

A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale

October 5, 2021

 


A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale
By: Karen Schaler


Summary:

A charming Christmas village, a storybook castle, a royal ball, and a gorgeous prince are the last things New York City reporter Kaylie Karlyle expects to find on her holiday freelance assignment to Europe. But when the family she's interviewing turns out to be the royal family of Tolvania, Kaylie has a meltdown when the quirky queen wants her to write a Christmas fairy tale for the spunky, young princess. Kaylie must battle the princess's father, who doesn't trust the media, and her own insecurities about writing anything beyond the news. --bn.com


The latest Christmas has arrived and it's got Princess Diaries at Christmas vibes. While I don't think this year's book is as good as previous years offerings have been, you will still want to crawl into the story. If not just to live amongst Tolvania during Christmas, you'll love the characters.

Kaylie Karlyle's career looked like it was going in the direction of a major promotion- until it doesn't and she gets let go instead. With his hands tied, her boss, Bob, informs her of a freelance assignment she could take while she looks for another permanent job. With no other prospects, Kaylie agrees to write do a feature on a family's Christmas traditions. However, there were a few things he left out: the family is a royal family and the feature is more of a fairy tale the Queen wants written for her Granddaughter. But those details come to light once she lands at a remote area of Eastern Europe.

Kaylie's holiday is about to take a turn she couldn't possibly see coming when she meets said royal family and quickly likes them. Although, the Queen's son may have gotten the wrong impression when Kaylie fell into his lap. (It was an accidental falling when the wind pushed her into the wrong car. I swear.) As things get to a bumpy start everyone learns more about each other as the Queen has said Prince Alexander walk Kaylie through a list of family Christmas traditions.

I loved the characters more than the story. I have to say, I wasn't a big fan of Prince Alexander. Queen Isabella was my favorite. She was so sharp, discerning and loving all in one. The Prince's daughter, Anna was adorable, too. I loved reading the descriptions of Tolvania! I just wanted to climb into the book every time they went around the town. I wanted to be there with the characters.

Like I said, this wasn't my favorite of Karen's Christmas books, but i enjoyed it. She has a gift with creating a Christmas scene! She makes the Christmas season come to life on the pages of whatever story she's created.

The Bookseller's Secret

August 17, 2021

 


The Bookseller's Secret
By: Michelle Gable
Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary:
In 1942, London, Nancy Mitford is worried about more than air raids and German spies. Still recovering from a devastating loss, the once sparkling Bright Young Thing is estranged from her husband, her allowance has been cut, and she’s given up her writing career. On top of this, her five beautiful but infamous sisters continue making headlines with their controversial politics.

Eager for distraction and desperate for income, Nancy jumps at the chance to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war. Between the shop’s brisk business and the literary salons she hosts for her eccentric friends, Nancy’s life seems on the upswing. But when a mysterious French officer insists that she has a story to tell, Nancy must decide if picking up the pen again and revealing all is worth the price she might be forced to pay.

Eighty years later, Heywood Hill is abuzz with the hunt for a lost wartime manuscript written by Nancy Mitford. For one woman desperately in need of a change, the search will reveal not only a new side to Nancy, but an even more surprising link between the past and present… -- amazon.com

Once again, Michelle Gable has crafted an engrossing story that you love watching unfold. She gives you two lead characters, Nancy and Katie, who area as different as they are similar. Both are having to pick up the pieces when life took a detour. Both are learning to navigate their lives on their own terms, all while learning what those terms are. Michelle created Katie with her own distinctive personality, and she captures Nancy just as she was described by people who knew her. 

I loved Nancy!! She was spunky, sassy and marched to the beat of her own drum. She wasn't afraid to live life according to her rules- not society's. From her extra-marital relationships to the friends she surrounded herself with. I loved her! She was the breath of fresh air her world needed. I loved reading about her friends and family. Her sisters were flawed, but fun to read about. Nancy's group of close friends were a blast to get to know!! 

Katie's story has her picking herself up after her life seemingly falls apart. Her relationship is over and she's caused a big scene at the family Thanksgiving. Accepting her best friend, JoJo's, invitation to stay with her in London is just what she needs. I warn you: Katie's has a rather foul mouth. She's very familiar with curse words and not afraid to use them. But, that aside, I enjoyed reading her discover more about her beloved author. A chance trip to the G. Heywood Hill Bookshop brings more than just future friends to her life- it gives her a treasure to help hunt for. Could there be an unpublished memoir left by her beloved author?! She joins forces with Simon, the grandson of someone who was connected to Nancy, to find it. Not only do they navigate the past, but they get to know one another as they look for the memoir.

While The Bookseller's Secret isn't a keep you on the edge of your seat novel, it's one you enjoy reading. This book was like a pile of puzzle pieces that slowly revealed the picture with each chapter. It was like a cozy blanket and hot chocolate on a rainy day. You just loved spending time getting to know the characters- main as well as supportive. You just loved seeing what each chapter revealed. You were sad to leave the group when you read the last line, but you were so glad you met them. 

Thank you, Michelle, for another great read. Thank you for creating an inviting world for the reader to crawl into. Thank you for being the gifted writer you are to bring all these characters to life. I look forward to our next adventure!

Stories to Tell

August 1, 2021

 

Stories to Tell
by: Richard Marx

Summary:
For most of the people who knew and loved singer, songwriter & performer, Richard Marx, he showed up on our radar in the late 1980s. What we wouldn't know was that he had already made a name for himself in the music industry before that. In his book, Stories to Tell, Richard tells you how his career came to be. You'll get to hear about the successes he had before he ever had a record deal. He gives you a front row seat to him unpacking his professional life- with a little of his personal life thrown in. You won't believe the career he's had!!

I was one of the many listeners of the radio that heard Richard Marx's tunes play. While I wasn't a die hard fan who bought all the albums or went to the concerts, I did enjoy listening to his music whenever I heard it on the radio. I was among the many who watched his videos on MTV. In fact, my first broken heart had his song "Right Here Waiting" in the background. He was a big part of the music scene in the late 80s. But, like many others, I had no clue just how talented he was. I had no clue that he had a career in the music industry before we ever heard a word from him. Stories to Tell was such an eye opening read  that showed just how widespread his talent was and is.

Did you know he was nominated for a Grammy before he ever had a record deal? I didn't?! Did you know that he's worked with some of the biggest names in music- long before he had a record deal? (think Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, Madonna- just to name a few.) I didn't! You will learn who got him started, who all he worked with before and after his own record deal, and the career achievements he garnered before the mass majority knew who he was.

Richard Marx will tell you stories of life on the road, stories behind his biggest hits, and why you should never EVER let the Chinese Mafia have anything to do with financing a part of your tour. And you will love every story he has to tell you. He takes you behind the curtain on his career and it's a fascinating read. I couldn't put it down.



A Deadly Deletion

July 27, 2021

 


A Deadly Deletion
By: Lorna Barrett
Genre: Mystery, Cozy Mystery

Summary:
 Tricia Miles has just received a second marriage proposal within fifteen minutes. The first was from her friend with benefits, Marshall Chambers, and the second from her ex-lover, police chief Grant Baker. Tricia's got some serious thinking to do.

She's still weighing her options when she hears the sound of an engine roaring down Main Street. It's a big white pickup truck that aims for and hits Marshall as he's walking back to his apartment. Tragically, he's killed, leaving Tricia feeling bereft and guilty. She retreats to her sister, Angelica's, apartment to wait for Baker to update her on what happened. While there, Tricia takes Angelica's dog out for a comfort call behind the building, and the same white pickup roars up the alley and just misses hitting Tricia.

Still shaken by that news, Tricia returns to Haven't Got a Clue and is met by federal marshal Kirby, who tells her that Marshall had been in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Everything Marshall told Tricia was a lie—in particular, that he was a widower. Was his death an act of revenge?

Tricia's on the hunt for a killer, and it seems like she might be next on the list. ---bn.com


I hope you're ready, because A Deadly Deletion has a lot going on within it's pages. For starters, it literally picks up where it's predecessor, handbook For Homicide leaves off. So, right off the bat Tricia gives her answers for the two marriage proposals she's just received. As this story unfolds, people Tricia thought she knew turn out to be the opposite. By the time you read the last word, secrets are uncovered and a long standing character from the series dies. All of this leaves Tricia dazed and confused. 

Marshall's death leaves her emotions raw. She was very confident in the answer she gave him and knew it was the right one. But that was all before he died and secrets from his past- and present- come to life. As it turns out. she didn't know Marshall at all. It doesn't take long for those secrets to unravel in the form of government officials and people from his past to show up with answers to the questions she never knew she needed to ask. 

But all those revelations still don't explain who killed him and why? was it even connected to his past, or could it just be an accident? Turns out that answer comes with it's own mind blowing revelations. Ones with deadly ends. By the time the climax of the story arrives, Tricia has no clue who she can trust. Family was always her safe place, but a falling out takes that away from her.

This was a great story, but a heavy one. A Deadly Deletion isn't a light hearted addition to the series. The ending was not what I thought it would be. The "bad guy" wasn't who I thought it was going to be. I was shocked to see the ending play out. It didn't leave me warm and fuzzy, but it did what a mystery is meant to do: keep me guessing and turning the pages. 

Little Black Book

June 29, 2021

 


Little Black Book
By: Kate Carlisle
Genre: Mystery, Cozy Mystery


Summary:

When Brooklyn and her husband, Derek, are sent a mysterious package they have no idea they're about to be involved with a missing persons case with a few murders thrown in the mix. Their crime fighting skills even take them to Scotland. And all of this involves the beloved gothic classic, Rebecca. 


Book restoration expert Brooklyn and her husband, Derek, no sooner walk through the door of their San Francisco apartment then discover Derek's been sent a mysterious package. A mysterious book package, nonetheless. A black covered first edition, signed by the author herself, of Rebecca not only has been mailed to him, but becomes the source of much confusion. It doesn't take long for the plot to thicken with the arrival of Claire Quinn on their doorstep. Her beloved Aunt Gwyneth is missing and a mailing receipt shows the Stones' address. She's searching for information to her whereabouts. 

And thus begins the latest mystery in the well loved Bibliophile mystery series by Kate Carlisle. This newest adventure not only brings Claire into the mix of characters, but also the several bad guys on her heels. Nicknamed Mr. peppermint and Fish Face, they're trying to retrieve the book and shut Claire up at the same time. Now, Brooklyn and Derek are trying to figure out how Rebecca plays into everything, but also are trying to keep Claire safe. Turns out Derek and Gwyneth worked together for M16, so dots begin to connect. But where is she? Why are people trying to kill Claire? And what does all of this have to do with the Rebecca book sent to Derek?

I enjoyed this book! More often than not, books in a long running book series start to suffer in content. Mysteries become thin and a smaller part of the story. I can honestly tell you, this isn't the case with the Bibliophile series. The action started right off the bat and continued to the end. I loved getting to know the new characters and was questioning if they were the bad guys throughout. I loved the connection between Derek and Gwyneth. The Scotland parts of the story was fascinating. Kate not only takes you there, but also brings it to life by giving you some of the history. I was glued and didn't want it to end. 

Long standing fans of the series will thoroughly enjoy book 15. New readers of the book will enjoy it, as well. While there are a few references to past things, a first time series reader won't be confused by them. A great summer read for cozy mystery lovers. 


Live Your Life

June 15, 2021

 


Live Your Life
By: Amanda & Anna Kloots
Genre: Memoirs

Summary:
When COVID came to the U.S. life as we knew it changed. The virus spread faster than the facts we needed to know about it. Amanda Kloots was forced to face this nightmare when it hit her husband. Facing the unknowns all while on lockdown and bringing up her infant son was nothing short of a nightmare. Here she shares the story of their life, his illness and the battle they desperately fought to the bitter, heartbreaking end.

2020 was a nightmare year. Life turned upside down with 5 letters: COVID. Life came to a scary, screeching halt as we watched hundreds of thousands get hit. While many recovered, many did not. And as the virus spread like the wildfire, the facts and information about it weren't as quick in coming. Fear reigned. Nick Cordero's case was one of the first that took early theories and threw them by the wayside. He was young- in his 40s- and had no pre-existing conditions. He was healthy. There was no reason to think he would get the virus and fully recover, if he did get it. Until he caught it and never recovered. What Amanda thought was  going to be an hour, or so, visit to the ER became the last time she ever talked to him again.

Amanda takes you on her emotional journey as they admitted him into the ICU- and he never left. 90+ days of him showing signs of improvement one minute only to take a turn for the worse the next. Times of doctors saying his numbers looking good and having hope of getting him off the machines. Times of medicines that helped other patients not helping him. Times of being told to get to the hospital as soon as possible because they didn't think Nick would survive a few more hours. The fight to get into the hospital to see him. The phone calls in the middle of the night. Amanda puts you right there with her. 

While she's in the fight for her husband's life, she also has a baby boy, Elvis, to take care of. You'll read how her family dropped their lives to come help her. You'll read how a neighborhood steeped up to help in any way they could. You'll read how celebrities got involved. These were my favorite parts to read. Her fight didn't stay just hers. A whole community of fighters was created in a time when it was needed. 

 Live Your Life is an emotional book. You'll be touched by strangers' generosity, you'll cry at the heartbreaking reality of this virus. You'll think he's going to get better. You'll be sad when he doesn't.  
You'll be shocked when you learn of the damage this virus did to his body. By the time you read the last word, you will have been all over the emotional map and have kept Kleenex in business. 

As devastating as Nick's story is, it's remarkably heartwarming, too. I smiled and cried my way through the pages. I thank Amanda and Anna for sharing their story as openly as they did. May every reader be blessed by it in some way.

 

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