Sunday, July 30, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #10

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Hope you find something that looks interesting to you or that makes you remember a favorite book you need to finish. Enjoy your reading this week :) 

I was excited to join Kindle Unlimited for free for three months! This book is one I really wanted to read but didn't want to buy just yet. So now I have it ready to go with my trial membership. If I read fast enough maybe I can finish the others in the series too. The first one, Murder In Venice, was a cute cozy mystery and I love anything set in Cairo. This is book three but I like this setting more than book two's Paris so I'm probably going to read it first. 

There are so many series that take place during the Second World War that when I find one surrounding World War I it is refreshing. From what I've read of Harrod-Eagles she is solid with her research and an entertaining storyteller. I'm not sure how much of this one will focus on the actual history versus romance (which I'm not big on) but it looks like it could be a good one. There are six books total which cover the entire war period. 

This book looks very original. It's another one I have access to through Kindle Unlimited. It takes place in a setting I'd never heard of...Farallon Island off the coast of California in 1859. Also, the main character is a teacher to the lighthouse keeper's children and that relates to me as I begin my 20th year in education this Monday. Hoping it is as good as the cover promises :) 


Friday, July 28, 2023

Murder At Marble House by Alyssa Maxwell (A Gilded Newport Mystery: Book 2)


Publication Date: September 30, 2014

Length: 336 pages

This is the second book in the Gilded Newport Mystery Series and the second one I've read. I love this time period and all the beautiful mansions and scenery described by Maxwell. The Gilded Age is not covered nearly enough in novels in my opinion and I don't know why as it is such an amazing time in history. These cozy mysteries are a great fit for those of us interested in glimpsing the lives of the rich and the societal norms that governed their daily lives. 

Emma Cross is living her life as  independently as she is able, being a distant Vanderbilt relative in 1890's Newport, Rhode Island. Her parents have left her and brother Brady to fend for themselves, providing monetarily, but little else. Emma is a reporter for the local paper, although she chafes under the restrictions doled out to her by the mostly male staff and is relegated to writing puff society pieces. She longs for more serious articles and is always looking for an angle to get her noticed and taken as a "real" reporter. 

When her cousin, Consuelo Vanderbilt calls her distressed and begging for help, Emma rushes to the family's mansion, Marble House to find Consuelo distraught about being given in a promise of marriage to the soon to be arriving Duke of Marlborough. Consuelo's mother, Alva Vanderbilt is unsympathetic to her daughter's unhappiness and bewildered that she isn't grateful for the chance to marry royalty. Emma is privy to a gathering in which a fortune teller, Madame Devereaux, is called in to read the future of Consuelo and other society ladies present at the mansion. Alva hopes Madame Devereaux will convince Consuelo that all is well and the right decisions are being made. Unfortunately, all goes awry when she doesn't give the answers sought and ends up murdered, strangled with a silk scarf on the veranda. Horrified by the turn of events, everyone is stumped as to why anyone would want to kill the fortune teller. Emma smells something rotten and as a reporter is eager to investigate. 

Shortly thereafter, Consuelo disappears and no one knows where she has gone. Frantic to find her, the search begins as all fear the murder and Consuelo's absence are somehow related. When another society woman staying with the Vanderbilts is also killed, real terror sets in that they might not be able to keep everyone safe and find out what has happened to Consuelo. Emma, her brother Brady, and her love interest, Derrick Andrews, a wealthy newsman himself, all work to follow the few clues and discover what is going on.

I enjoyed this story more than book one. I think part of it was I had to get used to the writing style, (I mentioned in my first review of Murder At the Breakers, that I felt the author had a bit too much of a 21st Century "voice") but I was more prepared to  accept the way Emma is presented in her time. There was a definite attempt to show the realism of Consuelo and Emma, one forced to marry, and one trying to marry without losing all her independence. This time around Emma seems more authentic in that she is realizing she loves Derrick and might possibly need to come down from her rather lofty perch of having absolutely no one to answer to, yet no love to grow old with either. 

The mystery was fun and there were lots of twists along the way. I did begin to suspect who early on but was kept in the dark as to the how and the why. So it was a great ending in that I thought the back story of the murderer and how things transpired was pretty interesting. 

What made this book best though was the real history, real historical characters like Alva and Consuelo, and the ending afterword in which Maxwell explains some events surrounding the real Consuelo Vanderbilt and how she was able to weave true events into the story. I love when authors are able to do this effectively, imagining what they might have done, but also staying fairly true to historical facts. 

Maxwell also includes other minor characters like maids and gardeners and shows how their stations kept them separated from the rich and details of their lives are included so we see things from both sides. The descriptions of the mansions, clothes, and culture of the time are captivating. I will be continuing with this series as I think this book made me a fan. If you are looking for a light, quick read set during the Gilded Age with a solid mystery thrown in, you will enjoy this one!

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Can't Wait Wednesday: Murder at the Merton Library by Andrea Penrose (A Wrexford and Sloane Mystery Book 7)


For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa  at Wishful Endings, I'm featuring Murder at the Merton Library by Andrea Penrose. I have seen this series of books before and wanted to read the first one. And of course when I see "library" in the title I'm interested. This time period and cover drew me in so maybe I need to just jump in and read this one out of series order. That's hard for me but this one looks pretty intriguing. There seems to be a lot of interesting subplots and hidden agendas too. Hoping you have found something you can't wait to read this week!

September 26, 2023

Historical Mystery/Thriller

Description courtesy of Amazon books

Responding to an urgent plea from a troubled family friend, the Earl of Wrexford journeys to Oxford only to find the reclusive university librarian has been murdered and a rare manuscript has gone missing. The only clue is that someone overheard an argument in which Wrexford’s name was mentioned.
At the same time, Charlotte—working under her pen name, A. J. Quill—must determine whether a laboratory fire was arson and if it’s connected to the race between competing consortiums to build a new type of ship—one that can cross the ocean powered by steam rather than sails—with the potential to revolutionize military power and world commerce. That the race involves new innovations in finance and entrepreneurship only adds to the high stakes—especially as their good friend Kit Sheffield may be an investor in one of the competitors.
As they delve deeper into the baffling clues, Wrexford and Charlotte begin to realize that things are not what they seem. An evil conspiracy is lurking in the shadows and threatens all they hold dear—unless they can tie the loose threads together before it’s too late . . .

Friday, July 21, 2023

A Christmas Promise by Anne Perry (The Christmas Stories: Book Seven)


Publication Date: October 13, 2009

Length: 209 pages

It's time for a little Christmas in July! I only have two more Anne Perry Christmas books to read and with her recent passing, that will be all that is left. Normally I read them during the holiday season, but I was able to get this one now and wanted to go ahead with it. 

Having read several books in the Thomas Pitt series, this was an interesting backstory featuring their maid, Gracie Phipps as a young girl of thirteen and seeing her humble beginnings before she joins the Pitt household. Shortly before Christmas, Gracie finds little Minnie Maud Mudway, just eight years old, alone on a snowy street, frantic to find her beloved Charlie, a donkey that serves to pull the cart of her Uncle Alf. Charlie and Alf are missing and Minnie Maud worries something terrible has happened to them. Gracie feels an immediate instinct to help and doesn't want to leave Minnie Maud on her own. 

As the two girls start to do a little digging into what might have happened, they find that Alf didn't take his usual route and aren't sure why. It appears that whatever befell him it was something unplanned and since it is an unfamiliar path, they aren't sure who would recognize him or be able to assist them. They set out to follow the scant clues they have and eventually are given some insight into what Uncle Alf was carrying in his cart and that the mysterious object could be something sinister. It is a golden box, but what is inside is anyone's guess. How is the box related to Alf's disappearance? And how would anyone have known the different route he would take with Charlie?

Like all of Perry's Christmas novels, this one is short and has a fairly simple storyline. It also has a sweetness to it that makes it very endearing. Gracie and Minnie Maud's relationship blossoms as they work to find Alf and Gracie has a protective, mothering way with her even as she becomes exasperated with trying to protect Minnie Maud from her naive, childlike way of being too trusting with venturing out on her own to investigate. We are given insight into the home life of both girls and as always in these Victorian stories, are shown the harshness of life in 1800's London for those less fortunate. Perry has a way of depicting both the desperation of this time and place while demonstrating the resilience and scrappiness of the people. I always find myself simultaneously sad and admiring of the children in her stories. Gracie and Minnie Maud are so young but are expected to take on so much in order to survive. But this was the reality of the times. And very few adults have the time or patience to want to help them. It is made very clear how fast children had to grow up and learn to do for themselves. 

I enjoyed this story very much. The plot wasn't super detailed but there was enough to make it intriguing and mysterious until the end. And the ending is what makes her Christmas stories worth it. They can be dark and gritty but the last page will always put you in the holiday spirit. It was fun to read one in the summer for a change. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Can't Wait Wednesday: Blood On the Tiber by B.M. Howard (The Gracchus and Vanderville Mysteries Book Two)

 For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa  at Wishful Endings, I'm featuring Blood On the Tiber by B.M. Howard. I really hope I can get an ARC copy of this one! It's a mystery set in the 1700's with an exotic location and taking place during the Napoleonic Wars...everything good about an historical mystery. This looks like one to watch for sure. Hope you have found something you can't wait for this week :) 

August 10, 2023

Historical Mystery/Thriller

Description courtesy of NetGalley

When Rome falls, so too will the world…

Christmas, 1797. Erstwhile magistrate Felix Gracchus wakes in the French embassy beside the Tiber after a serious bout of malaria. Despite his poor health, the intricate puzzle of a local inheritance scandal proves irresistible.

To his delight Lieutenant Vanderville has been assigned to the embassy intelligence section, tasked with pacifying the rabidly pro-revolutionary local patriots who seek to overthrow the state and install a republic in Rome.

But a sudden, terrible development threatens to bring disaster upon the whole embassy. Can the pair resolve it before Napoleon Bonaparte brings the full force of the republic down upon Rome in vengeance? Will Vanderville succeed in persuading the patriots from setting the city aflame? And why, amidst all this chaos, is Gracchus more interested in finding a missing nurse?

An engrossing historical mystery rich in period detail and fascinating characters, perfect for fans of Steven Saylor and C. J. Sansom.

A title in the Gracchus & Vanderville Mysteries series

Friday, July 14, 2023

Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie: A Hercule Poirot Mystery, Book Twenty-Three (Read Christie 2023 July)


Publication Date: June 1941

Length: 256 pages

I had heard of this book before and one friend said it was her favorite Christie book. So I was excited to finally read it. I liked the title too, as you don't normally think of "evil" in broad daylight. 

Arlena Marshall is the kind of woman other women don't like. She is beautiful and flirtatious, always the center of attention in any room she walks into and generally vapid of real substance. When Hercule Poirot travels to Devon on holiday he encounters her along with several other vacationers at the seaside hotel they are staying in. When Arlena is later found strangled on a secluded beach, Poirot suspects jealousy as the motive. He begins investigating her suspicious death, along with the local inspector. There are many suspects to choose from.

Staying at the hotel and interacting with Arlena are her husband Kenneth and her step-daughter Linda, Rosamund Darnley, who used to have a relationship with Kenneth, Patrick Redfern and his wife Christine, Odell and Carrie Gardner, the Reverend Stephen Lane, Horace Blatt, Major Barry, and Emily Brewster. There are triangles to be explored: Linda loathes her step-mother , Rosamund has a past with Kenneth, and the others all have their opinions of Arlena which are anything but flattering. Her death, while shocking in its brutality, is not surprising to any of the guests gathered there.  

As Hercule interviews them all and zeros in on his theory of the likely culprit, he finds everyone had a seemingly plausible alibi. From typing letters to recreational activities, all those present seem to have been unable to have followed Arlena and killed her. Patrick Redfern and Emily Brewster were the two who found her body and therefore the most likely to have been involved, although at the outset it doesn't appear they are guilty of anything other than trying to help. Strange happenings also bother Poirot, such as a bottle being thrown out of a window, narrowly missing Brewster, and the sound of someone running a bath around noon, an odd time to be sure. As he continues his investigation, Poirot realizes the little details are all linked and add up to a clever plan that is difficult to prove. 

This book was fun to read. I enjoyed the mystery and the ending is really ingenious. I would never have figured it out. There are so many little red herrings along the way that I predicted the ending two or there times and was wrong on all of them. The guests' discussions about Arlena Marshall and her "type" of woman were something you'd still hear today in a circle of gossip, and the relationship of the Gardners was comical. Mrs. Gardner talks incessantly and when she asks her husband anything his reply is always, "Yes, dear." It becomes cute and endearing throughout the book. Poirot was great as usual and he really is my favorite out of all the detectives Christie created.

This was a great summer read for the Read Christie challenge. Looking forward to the next one!


Sunday, July 9, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #9


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Hope you find something that looks interesting to you or that jogs your memory of something you want to read. Enjoy your reading this week :)

I have become very interested in the lives of the rich and famous during the Gilded Age. The Vanderbilts, the Astors...they are just fascinating families. This story chronicles the rise and fall of a family trying to marry their daughters into the upper crust of New York society circa 1870's and how they find out things aren't always as golden as they seem. 

This is the Amazon Prime Historical Fiction free read choice for July. It is about a woman escaping the Irish famine of the 1840's, a subject that always interests me. She goes to America and has to make hard choices to survive. Yes, it's been done many times, but I thought it looked worth giving a try. Just skimming through it so far it may be a little dark and gritty for me though.

This is one of my favorite cozy mystery series. I am a sucker for the colorful covers and the cute characters. The mysteries are always great fun to solve too. This is book 13 and I am only on book 7 so it will be awhile before I read this one. I can't help it...I'm going in order because they do build on one another with Ellie's love life especially. But this one was absolutely free this week! So of course I had to buy it. 

Friday, July 7, 2023

The Secrets of Ashmore Castle by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (Book One of the Ashmore Castle Series)


Publication Date: August 30, 2022

Length: 526 pages

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles has an extensive collection of works and seems to be historically accurate so I wanted to give this series a try. Also, it is set during a time and place that I love with a Downton Abbey feel. I am definitely a fan of series books, so knowing if I liked it there would be more was a plus.

In the year 1901, Giles Stainton is happily living his life in Egypt, working among the archaeological ruins and far away from the family drama back in England. The son of an Earl, Giles has no wish to return anytime soon but when his father is unexpectedly killed in a hunting accident, he knows he must return to the family estate to take up the running of it and all the drama that goes with it. Upon his arrival he soon becomes aware that his father has not managed the money well and the home and its surroundings are in danger of being lost. Giles tries to find a way to salvage things but eventually comes to the conclusion that the only way forward is to find an heiress to marry who also possesses a large enough income to save the Stainton heritage. 

Meanwhile, the servants below stairs are dealing with their own issues. Newly arrived sewing maid Dory is tormented by the arrogant, ambitious footman, James, who fancies himself for grander things. She must work to fit in with all the many personalities she encounters and to not lose hope that she will be able to find her place in the intimidating world of serving a prominent family in style.

In addition to the family home, Giles has two sisters to look after and a wayward brother, Richard who returns to stay and help him run things. His newly widowed mother expects him to be practical and marry for the good of the family and his prospects seem to be many as the new "coming out" season is approaching with several promising debutantes. As Giles meets the young ladies he is introduced to two in particular, Kitty and Nina, who catch his attention. Nina he finds especially interesting but learns early on that she is not in fact an heiress with money but a companion of Kitty's, the one with the real income. Giles must decide if he can put aside his apathy for marrying anyone to fulfill his duties. 

The storyline in this book is minimal and from what I gathered it was really to set up the main characters and their roles in order to continue with the coming books. I felt like there was definite substance there though because you really got some insight into the thoughts and motivations behind the characters and their actions. As an example, there is a moment beautifully described in which Giles's sister Alice spends time with an unlikely love interest and the slow unfolding of their budding feelings is told in great detail. I came away from that chapter really feeling and seeing their surroundings in the countryside and the differences in their class as a barrier between them. So even though there wasn't a lot of action per see it was a deeper meaning that came through.

If you are looking for a book that wraps things up neatly in the end and then continues on with the next, new phase this probably isn't the book for that. But if you enjoy beginning the first of a series in which you become invested in the people and want to know what becomes of them you will enjoy reading this as a starting point and continuing with the following two books. Book three is out in August and I featured it on this week's Can't Wait Wednesday

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Mistress of Ashmore Castle by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (Book Three of the Ashmore Castle Series)

For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, I'm featuring The Mistress of Ashmore Castle, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. My current read this week is Book One of the Ashmore Castle series and I am really enjoying it. I was glad to learn there are two more after this one. I think Harrod-Eagles does a great job combining history with fiction and this series has a definite Downton Abbey feel to it. Happy Reading this week!

August 3, 2023

Historical Fiction/Romance

Description courtesy of Amazon

England, 1903.

Giles, the Earl of Stainton, has fled from his stifling duties to resume his research in Egypt, leaving behind his wife Kitty, and his infant son. Kitty, still reeling from Giles' sudden departure, struggles to keep spirits high in the castle and establish herself as the true mistress of the house, an impossible task given how many secrets the inhabitants are hiding from her...

The Earl's younger sisters, Rachel and Alice, are both pursuing forbidden romances, and his brother Richard begins a new business venture, spurred on by his clandestine lover. And below stairs, a shocking crime sends distrust rippling through the staff, more so when one of their own is accused.

Kitty must draw on her strength to keep the castle from crumbling around her, but with her marriage to Giles left uncertain, and a surprise of her own to conceal, can she ever take her rightful place as true head of her household?

The third novel in the Ashmore Castle historical family drama series, filled with heartbreak, romance and intriguing secrets waiting to be uncovered. The perfect read for fans of Downton AbbeyBridgerton and rich period dramas.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Stacking the Shelves #8


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Hope you find something that looks interesting to you or that jogs your memory of something you want to read. Enjoy your reading this week :)

I love watching this series on Ovation but didn't realize until recently it was first a series of books. This one is on sale for 99 cents through Amazon Kindle this week and even though I don't really like starting series books out of order, I went ahead and got this one, figuring I know the characters enough to read book three first. Hoping it is as enjoyable as the T.V. show.

I have read and reviewed one book by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, The Chevalier, that was more history based but this one looks intriguing. I started it yesterday and am loving it so far. It is like reading the story of Downton Abbey. So many interesting characters so far and I think it's a series I'm really going to like.

This is book one of the Scott-De Quincy mystery series. I loved the cover, it's so beautiful and mysterious looking. The author is entirely new to me and the premise of the story looks original. I'm thinking maybe a cross between an Anne Perry/Victorian vibe but with a main character of the nobility rather than the lower classes. Either way it is a historical favorite kind of book!

I hope you have found some new books to treasure this week!