Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: Murder at the Brightwell

Murder at the Brightwell
By Ashley Weaver
Published: October 14, 2014

Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman who regrets her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo. Looking for a change, she accepts a request for help from her former fiancé, Gil Trent, not knowing that she’ll soon become embroiled in a murder investigation that will test not only her friendship with Gil, but will upset the status quo with her husband.

Amory accompanies Gil to the Brightwell Hotel in an attempt to circumvent the marriage of his sister, Emmeline, to Rupert Howe, a disreputable ladies’ man. Amory sees in the situation a grim reflection of her own floundering marriage. There is more than her happiness at stake, however, when Rupert is murdered and Gil is arrested for the crime. Amory is determined to prove his innocence and find the real killer, despite attempted dissuasion from the disapproving police inspector on the case. Matters are further complicated by Milo’s unexpected arrival, and the two form an uneasy alliance as Amory enlists his reluctant aid in clearing Gil’s name. As the stakes grow higher and the line between friend and foe becomes less clear, Amory must decide where her heart lies and catch the killer before she, too, becomes a victim. 

Murder at the Brightwell is a delicious mystery in which murder invades polite society and romance springs in unexpected places. Weaver has penned a debut in the tradition of Jacqueline Winspear.

My review:

Murder at the Brightwell appealed to me because of the setting (1930s) and the way it reminded me of a country house murder mystery (where one of the guests is a killer) only set in a hotel. I also liked the main character although sometimes she came across as naive. 

Amory is brave and cultured and a little devil-may-care. She is the kind of young woman who attracts male attention easily and indeed both her husband and Gil as well as other hotel guests are drawn to her charm and beauty. While Amory is intelligent she does jump to some wrong conclusions and take unnecessary risks. In that way she reminded me of the heroines of Deanna Raybourn's novels and her impetuousness just adds to the suspenseful feel of the story.

There is some romance as Amory deals with her old feelings and "what ifs" for Gil as well as her feelings about her husband and marriage. This worked well with the story since Gil is a suspect anyway and I thought Amory's interactions with Milo were fun and added a touch of humor. If the romance subplot was fairly obvious and predictable, the mystery was not.

I enjoy historical mysteries and I particularly enjoy mysteries when I can't figure out who the killer is. The murder was not easy for me to solve because we see everything through Amory's eyes and the author does a good job of making multiple suspects look very suspicious. I didn't know who the killer was till Amory did and that was kind of fun for a change.

Overall I really liked this historical mystery and I hope the author will write more. I would suggest this novel to fans of Deanna Raybourn's books, the Miss Fisher mysteries (I've watched the show but not read the Phryne Fisher novels), and Rhys Bowen.



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





Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (144)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.


This week, I'm waiting on:

A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes
Release date: October 28, 2014

It's 1924 and there have been many changes at Downton Abbey since the family and their servants first welcomed us there twelve years ago. A generation of men has been tragically lost at the front; children are once again breathing new life into the great house; a chauffeur now sits at the Grantham dinner table; and skirt hems continue to rise.
Still, in the midst of all this upheaval, many things at Downton remain largely unchanged. Nanny still holds sway in the nursery, and there are still summer fetes to be organized, menus to be planned, and farms to be run.
This gorgeous book explores the seasonal events and celebrations of the great estate—including house parties, debutantes, the London Season, yearly trips to Scotland, the sporting season, and, of course, the cherished rituals of Christmas. Jessica Fellowes and the creative team behind Downton Abbey invite us to peer through the prism of the house as we learn more about the lives of our favorite characters, the actors who play them, and those who bring this exquisite world to real life.
A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey is packed full of exclusive new photographs, with a delicious array of traditional British recipes adapted for modern kitchens: kedgeree, orange marmalade, asparagus tarts, cream of watercress soup, Irish stew, lemon barley water, meringues with red berries, parmesan straws, Christmas pudding with brandy butter and more. From the moment when the servants light the fires against the chill of January, through the last family game of charades and the servants' Christmas ball, this magnificent book invites us to take part in twelve months in the life of Downton Abbey.
I think this sounds like an entertaining book and going by the description and past Downton Abbey books by the author it should have loads of beautiful pictures from the set. I suspect there will be some very minor spoilers for season 5 as well (mention of new characters, etc.). I am also intrigued by the recipes.

Downton Abbey: Rules for Household Staff
by Charles Carson, Butler at Downton Abbey (introduction)
Release date: November 25, 2014

The household staff of Downton Abbey carries out their duties with effortless dignity, finesse and pride. Yet how do they know how exactly to lay the table, when to leave the room to give Lord and Lady Grantham their privacy, how to care for Lady Mary's furs and which uniform to wear when? This recently recovered and fascinating staff handbook answers all of these questions and more.
Covering all the main positions of the Downton household—footman, lady's maid, housekeeper, groundsman and more—and with a general introduction for new members of staff from Carson the Butler, this book tells you everything you need to know about working below stairs in the grand estate of Downton Abbey.
I think this book sounds even more fascinating! I wish it was written by Mrs. Hughes though. She is one of my favorite characters from the show and I love her sense of humor.




Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: Evil Librarian

Evil Librarian
By Michelle Knudsen
Published: September 9, 2014

He’s young. He’s hot. He’s also evil. He’s . . . the librarian.

When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie,
falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon. Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety).

My review:

I thought Evil Librarian was fun and entertaining. Cyn is a great protagonist. She is brave, snarky, and a loyal friend. Annie can be a frustrating character because she is so blinded to Mr. Gabriel's true nature but Cyn still wants to help her even when she is behaving like a brat. Cyn loves musical theater so while she is busy trying to save her best friend and the school, she is also trying to design the best set for the school's performance of Sweeney Todd (a favorite musical of demons according to the book). I like that Cyn had a fun and quirky personality. Cyn's love interest and eventual ally is Ryan, her longtime crush and the star of Sweeney Todd. I like their awkward friendship that slowly becomes something more. 

I liked the villain(s) of the story too. Mr. Gabriel is suitably evil though a bit cartoonish as a villain and the other demons are equally creepy or stupid in some cases which adds to the humor. I would say that this book is horror lite. It is more comedic with some suspense rather than truly spine chilling like The Diviners

I wanted to read this book because it featured a librarian as a villain and because I knew it was supposed to be a horror/comedy of the Buffy variety. Evil Librarian did not fail to deliver on that promise. However I do wish there was more depth to Mr. Gabriel's character (and I kind of wanted him to be more librarianish by talking about research databases and Dewey decimals but I'm probably the only one who felt that way...)

If you are looking for a good Halloween novel that also has a lighthearted tone, give Evil Librarian a try. This story reminded me of a cross between Rachel Hawkins's Hex Hall and the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent (though with less angst and romance). I was also reminded of the Disney Channel movie, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior because of certain scenes at the school and the way a seemingly ordinary teenage girl has to take down an evil threat. I think fans of Rachel Hawkins and Buffy the Vampire Slayer would really like Evil Librarian. I do not know if there will be a sequel though the author leaves some room for one.


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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (143)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:


First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
Release date: January 20, 2015

From the New York Times bestselling author of GARDEN SPELLS comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves...
It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly.  As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.
Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies.  Though her handcrafted confections—rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds—are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.
Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby— a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.
Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?
When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before.  And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.
Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen's enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.
I really liked Garden Spells and I look forward to reading about the Waverly family again. I enjoy Sarah Addison Allen's descriptive writing style and Southern settings.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (194)



It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I had a very productive afternoon of reading today and I finished two books and read another from beginning to end. Now I don't know what I'm in the mood to read next. I have a lot of ARCs to get caught up on still but I also have some library books I've been wanting to read. October is National Bullying Prevention Month and I have a copy of the biography Positive by Paige Rawls, who was bullied as a young teen when her classmates found out she is HIV-positive. I also have some sequels to books I really enjoyed last year.



Books reviewed:


The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion


Books read:


The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

I loved this book and I am sad that this series is finished. I am hoping however that Percy and his friends will somehow make an appearance in the Norse mythology series. Rick Riordan has hinted that the main character Magnus Chase is somehow related to Annabeth.



Boomerang by Noelle August

I liked this more than I thought I would. It reminded me a little of both chick lit and contemporary romance novels like those written by Jill Shalvis only with younger characters and no charming small town setting. I guess it is part of a trilogy but I'm not sure I'll read the rest of the books.


Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis

While there are some obvious similarities and comparisons to Cinder, Stitching Snow is its own self-contained novel. I don't know if there is a sequel in the works but this can be a standalone book which I really appreciated. It is also not a faithful retelling of Snow White and more loosely based on the source material than Cinder was.


All Lined Up by Cora Carmack

This book took me by surprise. I only read it because of a positive review from Christina at Confessions of a Book Addict. I had tried one of Cora Carmack's other New Adult series and didn't like it but I read All Lined Up in one afternoon and I plan to pick up the sequel. 



Thursday, October 9, 2014

Review: The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project
By Graeme Simsion
Published: October 1, 2013

THE ART OF LOVE IS NEVER A SCIENCE

MEET DON TILLMAN, a brilliant yet socially challenged professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. And so, in the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers. 

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She also is strangely beguiling, fiery, and intelligent. And while Don quickly disqualifies her as a candidate for the Wife Project, as a DNA expert Don is particularly suited to help Rosie on her own quest: identifying her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on the Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you. 

Arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, Graeme Simsion’s distinctive debut will resonate with anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of great challenges. The Rosie Project is a rare find: a book that restores our optimism in the power of human connection.

My review:

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I picked up The Rosie Project but having read an excerpt, I thought it at least looked promising. Don is a likable character and his bumbling attempts at dating are both funny and endearing. He has a very analytical mind and so he approaches relationships in a very original way. He also doesn't seem to have a filter and he is very forthright in sharing his thoughts which leads to some humorous situations. 

It is implied that Don might be on the Autism Spectrum but while he realizes he sees things differently than those around him, he does not seem to think he might have Asperger's Syndrome. As Don interacts with Rosie, the reader learns more about his life and way of thinking. What I found interesting is that though Rosie is so different from him and she pushes him to live outside his comfort zone, Don genuinely likes to spend time with her. He goes along with the changes that she brings to his life.

Rosie is not as fully formed a character as Don. She is quirky and I liked her but I felt that the reader does not get to know her as well as Don perhaps because his character has so much presence. Rosie is very much her own person and in a way this makes her perfect for Don. They both have issues to deal with but they fit together well and complement each other. 

I could easily see this book adapted as a romantic comedy (and indeed I think the rights have been optioned). I thought this book would be funny but I was surprised by how thoughtful it was too and how much I enjoyed the character of Don and his unique worldview.  I have since learned that there is a sequel, The Rosie Effect, to be published this December and I can't wait to read it.

My book group read this for our February book discussion and the members all really liked it. Although it was mostly a lighthearted book it did provoke discussion on relationships, friendships, and what constitutes "normal" behavior. I would suggest The Rosie Project to readers who like quirky romantic comedy (I've heard this book compared to The Big Bang Theory but haven't watched the show...). It also reminded me of the writing style of Jojo Moyes and Rainbow Rowell (particularly her books for adults). If you decide to give this book a try, prepare to be charmed :)


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


Sunday, October 5, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (193)



It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I had a major disappointment last week. I am trying to find an apartment in the town where I work so I don't have a scary commute or car accident this winter like I did last year. It is really hard to find apartments there and this one would have been perfect but it turned out to be too expensive. I am hopeful that this week will be much better and that things work out for the best. 

October is going to be a very busy month and I have a feeling it will fly by. I have a Wild West murder mystery dinner program for the library coming up towards the end of the month and next week I have to help give a presentation at our staff development day. I hate public speaking but I have the reward of Tim Horton's donuts to look forward to afterwards.

I was excited to realize today that The Blood of Olympus will be released on Tuesday. I preordered my copy ages ago and forgot the release date. Now I have something fun to look forward to on Wednesday when I have the day off. I had just planned to do laundry and some of the cleaning I neglected this weekend but now I have something fun to do as well.


Books reviewed:


Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn


Books read:


The Help by Kathryn Stockett (reread)

I thought this audio book was excellent. I'd forgotten some of the incidents that happened in the book (I'd only read it once before but I watched the movie several times) and some of the differences between the book and film.


My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, etc.

I mostly liked the stories in this holiday themed collection though there were a few that were weird or just didn't quite work for me. Surprisingly some of my favorite stories were by Matt de la Pena and Myra McEntire, authors I've never read before. I guess that is the beauty of trying a short story collection. You discover new authors :)


Made For You by Melissa Marr

I didn't mean to finish this book today. I was supposed to be reading Boomerang but I picked this up to try it as a possible book for later this week and I just couldn't put it down till I finished it. Very suspenseful but I do wish I hadn't figured out who the killer was as early as I did.


Currently reading:


Boomerang by Noelle August

My goal is to finish this book by Tuesday because otherwise it is going on the back burner when The Blood of Olympus downloads on my Kindle...


What I plan to read next:


The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

I am so excited that this book is finally here! I was also happy to find out that next October, the first book in Riordan's Norse Mythology series will be released.


Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis

I am looking forward to this one and I hope I will be able to put aside my Lunar Chronicles comparisons and just enjoy the story.


The Young Elites by Marie Lu

I don't know if I will get to read this book yet but I put it on my list anyway. I decided to move it down the TBR pile a little because I'm not sure I'm in the mood for it yet. I've heard it is pretty dark.