Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday Post (66) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

Not much going on this past week though it was cold and rainy. I was a little sad that I had to get my sweaters out of storage so early. I hope we actually have a fall instead of going from warmer weather to an early winter. No snow on the forecast though!

At work I am still trying to figure out what my last program of the year will be. I had thought of doing a cookie exchange but due to the possibility of germs I am considering a craft night instead. I am also working on ideas for a cookbook club I hope to start next year. I am trying to decide what format to use (we all read the same cookbook and make a recipe from it, we use different cookbooks based on a theme like chocolate or comfort food) and when and how often we'll meet. This Friday I'm going to a programming round table so hopefully I'll get some fresh new ideas for next year. 

Last week on my blog:

A Most Novel Revenge by Ashley Weaver (review)

Books read:

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

I liked this book though I'd had some misgivings after reading other reviews. It reminded me of The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas which I loved.

Amy Snow by Tracy Rees

This book started off really well and I did like it though I admit I was a bit let down in the end. I liked Amy and thought she was a sweet character who had to deal with a lot of cruelty. I was happy to see her bloom and find happiness though I felt a little let down in the end.

The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

This series is really interesting and I learned more about magic, the library and various worlds. I can't wait for The Burning Page which is set in an alternate fantasy version of the French Revolution.

Currently reading:

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

I am really excited about the PBS series coming this January and I find this book to be fascinating. I do think Victoria seems really naive and unprepared for being a queen and at times I found her annoying because of her immature behavior. This book focuses on the very beginning of her reign but I hope the author will write more so we can see how Victoria matures and changes.

Currently listening to:

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (reread)

On my TBR pile:

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills

New books received:

Alterations by Stephanie Scott (for review) 

A Most Extraordinary Pursuit by Juliana Gray (library book)

The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies (library book)

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan (library book)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review: A Most Novel Revenge

A Most Novel Revenge
By Ashley Weaver
Published: October 11, 2016

With two murder investigations behind them and their marriage at last on steady ground, Amory and Milo Ames intend to winter quietly in Italy. The couple finds their plans derailed, however, when Amory receives an urgent summons to the English countryside from her cousin Laurel. At Lyonsgate, the country house of Laurel’s friend Reginald Lyons, Amory and Milo are surprised to discover an eccentric and distinguished group of guests have also been invited, led by the notorious socialite Isobel Van Allen.
After years of social exile, Isobel has returned to England to write a sequel to her scandalous first book, the thinly fictionalized account of a high society murder at the very country house to which the Ameses have been called. Her second incriminating volume, she warns the house’s occupants―all of whom were present when one of their companions was killed years ago―will tell everything that really happened that fateful night. But some secrets are meant to stay buried, and when a desperate person turns to murder, it’s up to Amory and Milo to sort through a web of scandal and lies to uncover the truth, and the identity of a killer.

My review:

This third book in the Amory Ames mystery series has two intriguing questions to solve: Was Edwin Green murdered years ago or was his death an accident? Who killed one of the current guests and why? The setting also gave it an almost Agatha Christie like feel as the guests at the country house (minus Amory and Milo) are all suspects. 

Amory is definitely an amateur sleuth and she sometimes makes mistakes but she puts her charm and her intelligence to good use to assist in the investigation. In this case, she meets Reginald Lyons and his sisters Beatrice and Lucinda as well as the scandalous Isobel Van Allen and other house guests. They were all present years ago when Edwin Green died. Isobel wrote a novel about the incident, changing the names but barely disguising the real people behind the characters. In her novel, she says that Edwin Green was murdered and she points her finger at another guest, Bradford Glenn. He committed suicide over the scandal that was caused. Now Isobel is back, claiming to be working on another novel that could reveal even more. When another murder happens, Amory decides to get involved.

I thought the author does a good job of making various people seem suspicious and I didn't guess who the killer was till nearly the end. It was also great to see how the relationship between Amory and Milo has grown stronger. Unlike other historical mysteries I've read (notably Rhys Bowen's Lady Georgiana series and Susan Elia MacNeal's Maggie Hope series), we don't really get to know any secondary recurring characters. The focus instead is on Amory, Milo and the suspects that are introduced. I didn't mind too much though as it kept things moving at a good pace. All in all it was an enjoyable mystery and I look forward to the next one. I think readers who like the works of Rhys Bowen and other similar mystery authors would like this series too. They are great for fall reading.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Top Ten Characters I'd Name A Pet After

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's theme is "Top Ten Characters I'd Name a Child, Pet, or Car After".

I am not a pet owner but my sister has three fur children, a cat named Kitty and two dogs named after Green Bay Packers players-- Raji (after B.J. Raji) and Jordy (after Jordy Nelson). I decided Kitty needs a creative name to match her siblings so here are some (tongue in cheek) character inspired names I came up with for her.

Catness Everclean 
after Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games

Voldekitty (or Lord Voldecat)
after Voldemort from the Harry Potter series

Katnaerys Storm Cat, the Mother of Kittens
after Danaerys from Game of Thrones

from The Lord of the Rings



Some other names:

Catdalf the Grey after Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings
Her-mew-one, after Hermione Granger from Harry Potter
Percy after Percy Weasley from Harry Potter
Minerva after Minerva McGonagall from Harry Potter

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunday Post (65) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

Last weekend I was out of town visiting my sister. We went to a food festival and then to the movie theater where we watched The Girl on the Train. I hadn't read the book and I'm glad I didn't. The movie was slow at times (at one point I wished I could just leave) but it definitely picked up at the end with that twist. My sister felt the same way about it (she probably liked it less since she'd read the book and knew about the twist) but her friends enjoyed it more.

This past week was my murder mystery dinner at the library. The theme was Murder in the Library and I played one of the suspects. My boss also played a suspect (he was the "head librarian") and so did several of my coworkers. We had a lot of fun with it and even though we had less of a turnout than usual, the library patrons really enjoyed it. Part of the fun was being in the library after it was closed. Now I will be getting things ready for the end of the year with my budget requests for next year, some purchases I need to catch up on and maybe one last program. 

Last two weeks on my blog:

The Queen's Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal (review)

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (review)

Books read:

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden

I liked this historical romance about a female sheriff set in the "Wild West". I think Paisley would have made Annie Oakley proud and I'm hoping there will be more books about this town and its quirky citizens.

United by Melissa Landers

I thought United was a mostly satisfying conclusion to the Alienated series. It was great to see Cara become a better leader and while it wasn't as lighthearted as the previous books (especially the first one), I still really liked it.

A Most Novel Revenge by Ashley Weaver

This was another enjoyable entry in the Amory Ames mystery series. I liked that the mystery took place at a country house with plenty of suspects.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

This is one of those charming books that are perfect to read when you want something light and fluffy and Hallmark movie-like. I liked that the main character is a librarian though she does lose her job and end up opening a bookshop in a van that she drives around in a small village in Scotland. There is also some romance and some fun quirky characters. 

Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson

Hi. My name is Christina and I am a Rae Carson fangirl :)

I loved Walk on Earth a Stranger especially with the wagon train setting and in Like a River Glorious we get to see Leah and her friends establish a gold mining camp and a new life for themselves in California while also dealing with the threat of her evil uncle. 

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

This is such a fun fantasy novel. It had an almost steampunk feel (but I liked it more than Gail Carriger's books which are over the top) and I loved the intelligent and capable main character, Irene. I am curious to learn more about the Library, the characters and the various worlds. 

Books listened to:

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (reread)

Currently reading:

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

So far this reminds me of The Burning Sky, another YA fantasy novel I loved. I've heard so many good things about this book and hopefully it won't disappoint.

Currently listening to:

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (reread)

On my TBR pile:

The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

I've already read an excerpt of this sequel to The Invisible Library and I can't wait to dive in. The book is partly set in an alternate Venice where every day is Carnival.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I'm hoping that I will like this book about The Queen of Hearts before she went bad. I loved The Lunar Chronicles (except for Fairest) so hopefully this will be good too.

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

I'm excited about the TV miniseries Victoria that will be on PBS next year and Daisy Goodwin is the person who created and wrote it. 

New books received:

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan (purchased)

The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman (library book)

Heartless by Marissa Meyer (for review)

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin (for review)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Review: Small Great Things

Small Great Things
By Jodi Picoult
Published: October 11, 2016

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

My review:

Ruth is really good at her job as a labor and delivery nurse. She is also a loving mom to her son Edison. Life has its ups and downs but she is pretty happy. She loves her work and even has some good friends there but then an incident happens that calls everything she'd believed into question. A white supremacist family asks that Ruth be taken off their baby's case and her supervisor puts a note on the baby's file that African American nurses cannot care for the baby per the family's request (Ruth is the only African American nurse there). When Ruth is watching the nursery for another nurse, the baby has trouble breathing. Ruth is later accused by the father of murdering the baby and much to Ruth's shock, her so-called friends don't exactly stick up for her.

Small Great Things looks at race relations, racism and hidden racism in America through the eyes of Ruth, her white lawyer Kennedy and Turk Bauer, the white supremacist father of the baby. Kennedy believes she is not racist but the time she spends with Ruth and working on the case causes her to question her own beliefs and behavior. Turk is a nasty character but through him the reader gets a view of the white supremacist movement. 

I think the author does a good job of presenting the various viewpoints but it was Ruth who really captured my attention. I felt so bad for her and what she was going through and I admired her as well. I liked Kennedy as well though I felt frustrated with her as well. She had a good heart but she had a lot to learn about the world. Turk was almost a flat character in comparison and I found it hard to buy into the resolution of his storyline. One interesting thing was that in the courtroom, it is inadvisable to bring up race as supposedly justice is colorblind. That seems crazy to me and Ruth felt the same way. She just wanted a chance to share her story and have the truth be heard.

Jodi Picoult's books are definitely hit or miss with me. I was pretty disappointed by Leaving Time but I still wanted to give Small Great Things a try. I was relieved to find it was one of her better books. It definitely made me feel some strong emotions, mostly anger on Ruth's behalf.  Small Great Things was a thought provoking and "unputdownable" story.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Review: The Queen's Accomplice

The Queen's Accomplice
By Susan Elia MacNeal
Published: October 4, 2016

Spy and code-breaker extraordinaire Maggie Hope returns to war-weary London, where she is thrust into the dangerous hunt for a monster, as the" New York Times" bestselling mystery series for fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Anne Perry continues. 

England, 1942. The Nazis relentless Blitz may have paused, but London's nightly blackouts continue. Now, under the cover of darkness, a madman is brutally killing and mutilating young women in eerie and exact re-creations of Jack the Ripper s crimes. What's more, he's targeting women who are reporting for duty to be Winston Churchill's spies and saboteurs abroad. The officers at MI-5 quickly realize they need the help of special agent Maggie Hope to find the killer dubbed the Blackout Beast. A trap is set. But once the murderer has his sights on Maggie, not even Buckingham Palace can protect the resourceful spy from her fate. 

My review:

Maggie is back in London after traveling with Winston Churchill to the U.S. and helping Eleanor Roosevelt in the previous book (Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante). Now she is working for a chauvinistic new boss who thinks little of women in the workforce, even the highly trained and intelligent members of the Special Operations Executive. He orders Maggie around (mostly to pour tea) and won't listen to her concerns about benefits and pay for women in service or the safety of a female spy abroad whose latest transmissions have been odd. Maggie is frustrated so she jumps at the chance to help MI-5 on their latest case. It also has personal stakes as some of the women who have been killed are people Maggie knows.

For some reason I like serial killer mysteries so that aspect was appealing though I do not like gory descriptions. Thankfully this wasn't as bad as some of the books I've read. Maggie is pretty brave but it is also really hard for her to see what has been done to these women and when the killer starts to taunt her personally, things get worse.

In addition to trying to discover who the killer is and save his latest victim, Maggie also has to contend with worry over her half-sister Elise who is in Ravensbruck and issues in her friends' lives. Although the serial killer plot is resolved, there are some threads left loose in the other storylines to be continued in the next book which looks to take place in Occupied France.

This is the sixth book in the Maggie Hope mystery series and although I figured out who the killer was early on, I thought it was a good page turner. The story was fast paced and it was nice to see the return of some familiar characters as well as the introduction of DCI Durgin, a character I ended up really liking. Even though the next book will primarily take place in France I hope we get to see him too. I would have liked it if the killer wasn't so obvious to me but I still enjoyed the book because I like the characters and the suspenseful tone. I would suggest this series to fans of historical mystery and shows like Foyle's War.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sunday Post (64) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I can't believe October is already here! It seems like just yesterday it was summer. Of course it was pretty warm for most of September. This was the first week that I wore a jacket again and wore long sleeves. Hopefully I won't have to get the sweaters out soon :)

This past week was busy with a visit from my parents and some relatives from Sri Lanka who are staying with them. Because my relatives like animals a lot, we went to an area farm that has exotic animals and a tour where you ride around in a wagon and the animals come up and eat out of your hand. I got to hand feed a deer and a llama. There were also various other animals including giraffes and zebras (we were told not to feed the zebras as they bite). I also worked more evenings due to my book group meeting on Tuesday and a kids clothing swap program. It was a three day event but the only donations we took in were from a coworker. Finally one man stopped by yesterday (the last day) and he took the donations and left. 

Lately we have felt pretty dejected over our library program attendance for adults, teens and kids. It is hard when you put a lot of effort and time into planning a program only to have poor attendance. My next program is a murder mystery dinner a week from Wednesday. Those are my most successful programs (aside from Bigfoot) but even that doesn't have the number of participants I usually get. I'm still excited about it and think it will be a good program. We may even have some last minute signups this week.

Last week on my blog:

The Smoke Hunter by Jacquelyn Benson (review)

Books read:

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

I enjoyed this historical novel though it took a little time to get past the initial writing style and diary entry format. I love reading about wagon trains and prairie life and my book group members mostly liked the book too. I'm interested in reading the sequels someday.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

I think this may be on my list of favorite books of 2016. I never know with Jodi Picoult if I will like her books or be annoyed but this one really exceeded my expectations. I hope to have my review up next week.

The Queen's Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal

This was a very quick read and even though I knew who the killer was early on, it was still interesting and enjoyable. There are some other story lines mixed in that will be followed up in the next book which will be set in occupied France. I can't wait!

The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen

I wanted to read something different after reading two historical novels so I picked this since it came out over the summer and I still hadn't read it. Wow, I liked it and it was another fast read. It reminded me of Liane Moriarty's books quite a bit. I had expected it to be more like Desperate Housewives but it didn't have that gossipy scandal feel. It was more thoughtful and I liked that.

Currently reading:

United by Melissa Landers

I only just started this and so far it is good. It is such a fun series and I will be sad when I read the last page but all good things must come to an end.

Currently listening to:

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (reread)

I loved Walk on Earth a Stranger when I read it last year and I wanted to familiarize myself with the story again before I read Like a River Glorious. Listening to the audio book is a different experience. I still love the story and enjoy the author's narration for the main character. She can do a convincing male voice too but unfortunately all of her male voices sound the same. 

On My TBR pile:

A Most Novel Revenge by Ashley Benson

I am looking forward to book three in the Amory Ames series. This time Amory and Milo are at a country house where a novelist has invited several people who were present years ago when a murder occurred at the same country house. Of course another murder takes place...

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden

This sounds like a pleasant historical romance and I like the idea of a female sheriff.