Book Reviews · Recommendations

Her Royal Spyness (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries, #1) by Rhys Bowen

Her Royal Spyness
(Her Royal Spyness Mysteries, #1)
By: Rhys Bowen

Published: July, 2007
Published by: Berkley Publishing Group
Format Read: eBook, Library Book, Libby App
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Rating: 3.5/5
♥♥♥.5 

Synopsis

Georgie, aka Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, cousin of King George V of England, is penniless and trying to survive on her own as an ordinary person in London in 1932.

So far she has managed to light a fire and boil an egg… She’s gate-crashed a wedding… She’s making money by secretly cleaning houses… And she’s been asked to spy for Her Majesty the Queen.

Everything seems to be going swimmingly until she finds a body in her bathtub… and someone is definitely trying to kill her.

My Thoughts

Her Royal Spyness is book one in Rhys Bowen’s mystery series, that follows Georgiana the fictional great granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

Set in the midst of the Great Depression, it tells of how the most elite of British aristocracy saw their fortunes dwindle with the crash of the stock market. The golden age is over and many including Georgiana and her family are forced to fend for themselves in ways they never had to before.

This was also a period of great change in values and moral decorum. It was becoming more common for young unmarried women to be unchaperoned. Our main character takes advantage of this newfound freedom and moves to London, where mystery ensues.

Her Royal Spyness was a quick and entertaining read, with a humorous tone. I enjoyed the time period and the inclusion of the royal family. However the mystery was quite predictable. Still, I look forward to reading the second book in the series.
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Challenges · Personal Post

Back to the Challenges in 2019

Last year, for the first time since I started book blogging I took a break from participating in blog hosted challenges. The only one I did participated in was the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Looking back I am happy with my reading progress from 2018 and the selection of books I read, however I miss the structure that different challenges bring. So for 2019, I am going to jump back on the bandwagon and create some challenges for myself. 

Here are the challenges I will be participating in this year:

The TBR Jar Challenge 

In an attempt to read the piles of books I own on my physical shelf, I have decided to try out the TBR jar method. I have put all the names of the books on my shelf into a jar and I will select one that I must read each month. If the selected book turns out to be a sequel of another book I have yet to read, I will have to read the previous book first. My ultimate goal is to read one book from my physical shelf per month. Which will add up to 12 for the year. Naturally I will get to this goal faster if I am required to read more than one book off it in any given month. 

Any additional physical books that I add to my collection I will put on my shelf backwards (providing that there is room), unless they are 2019 releases, in which case they will qualify for my next challenge. 

The New Release Challenge

I would really like to keep up with the newer books being released this year. So to do so I have decided to do the New Release Challenge. 

Like the previous challenge, I hope to read at least one book per month that is released in 2019. These books may be in the form of ARCS, Library books or any physical books I may buy. 

2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge

Like every year, I will be participating in the Goodreads Reading Challenge once again. I have decided to keep with my same goal for 2018 and attempt to read 40 books this year. 

Will you be participating in any challenges this year? Have you set a goal for a certain number of books you’d like to read? Leave me a message in the comments. 

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce

Dear Mrs. Bird
By: A.J. Pearce

Published: July, 2018
Published by: Scribner
Format Read: Trade Paperback, Library Book
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 4/5
♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

A charming, irresistible debut novel set in London during World War II about an adventurous young woman who becomes a secret advice columnist—a warm, funny, and enormously moving story for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Lilac Girls.

London 1940, bombs are falling. Emmy Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent seem suddenly achievable. But the job turns out to be typist to the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.

Mrs Bird is very clear: Any letters containing Unpleasantness—must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant letters from women who are lonely, may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men and found themselves in trouble, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding. As the German planes make their nightly raids, and London picks up the smoldering pieces each morning, Emmy secretly begins to write letters back to the women of all ages who have spilled out their troubles.

Prepare to fall head over heels with Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, who are spirited and gutsy, even in the face of events that bring a terrible blow. As the bombs continue to fall, the irrepressible Emmy keeps writing, and readers are transformed by AJ Pearce’s hilarious, heartwarming, and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times.

 

My Thoughts

AJ Pearce’s debut novel Dear Mrs. Bird is a world war II historical fiction set during the London blitz. Although it does focus on the terrors of living in a city at war, it is written with typical British humor that is rare for this genre. I immediately took to Pearce’s style of writing and was reminded of more contemporary authors.

Dear Mrs. Bird was an entertaining read with a main character bursting with optimism. Along with such themes as friendship, morals and dreams it also brought gems of wisdom courtesy of Emmy’s mother. Some of my favorite quotes include:

“My mother always said that a lot of men think that having bosoms means you’re a nitwit. She said the cleverest thing is to let them assume you’re an idiot, so you can crack on and prove them all wrong.”
“Mother always said it wasn’t just about keeping going, but about standing up for what you believed in as well.”
I would highly recommend Dear Mrs. Bird and hope to read more from this author in the future.
Book Reviews

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread
By Anne Tyler

Published: February 2015
Published By: Bond Street Books
Format Read: eBook, Kobo, 
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5
♥♥.5 

 

Synopsis

A freshly observed, joyful and wrenching, funny and true new novel from Anne Tyler

“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon.” This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. from Red’s father and mother, newly-arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor.

Brimming with all the insight, humour, and generosity of spirit that are the hallmarks of Anne Tyler’s work, A Spool of Blue Thread tells a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity. It is a novel to cherish.

My Thoughts

Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread was one of my most anticipated books of 2015, so I began the novel with very high expectations. Unfortunately I wasn’t as intrigued by the plot as I was upon initially reading the synopsis.

I wasn’t able to connect to any of the characters and found their family dynamic more frustrating than not. The arrangement of how the story was told jumped from one time period to another randomly which was quite odd.

There was one quote from A Spool of Blue Thread that perfectly summed up my thoughts…
‘Maybe it was just further proof that the Whitshanks were not remarkable in any way whatsoever.’
Although I wouldn’t recommend this book, I would suggest readers try other titles by this author.
Currently Reading · Recommendations · Wrap-ups

Monthly Wrap-up: November 2019

Total Books Read in November: 4

Total Books Read in 2018: 33
The Enigma

The Enigma by T.C. Badcock
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 3.5/5

15713049

Shattered (Alaskan Courage, #2) by Dani Pettrey 
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance, Suspense 
My Rating: 4/5

13337342

The Shoe Box (A Christmas Story) by Francine Rivers 
Genre: Christian Fiction, Audio Book
My Rating: 4/5

13547154

The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Christian Fiction
My Rating: 5/5

The Stats


Total Number of Books Read: 4
Total Number of Fiction: 4
Total Number of Non-Fiction: 0
Total Books Sent for Review: 0
Total Books Read from My Shelves: 2 
Total Library Books Read: 2

Formats Read


Physical Books: 2
eBooks: 1
Audio Books: 1

Currently Reading

10426868
25057909

December TBR

6420
Book Reviews · Charlie's Corner · Recommendations

Charlie’s Corner: Book Review: Deadly Voyage

Welcome to Charlie’s Corner, named after my little boy. Here I will share baby/children’s product and book reviews.

Deadly Voyage: RMS Titanic, Jamie Laidlaw, April 14, 1912 (I am Canada)
By: Hugh Brewster

Published: September, 2011
Published by: Scholastic Canada
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Canadian Fiction

Rating: 4/5
♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

Fourteen-year-old Jamie Laidlaw is returning to Canada from England aboard the Titanic. In his four days on board, he busies himself with new friends, finding ways to explore the ship’s forbidden areas, and generally landing himself in trouble.
When disaster strikes and the horrifying scramble for survival ensues, Jamie is on the front lines — struggling to help free the lifeboats and get people on board them. When a huge wave washes over the ship’s sloping deck, it’s time for Jamie to take action — and take his fate into his own hands. With hundreds of others, he dives into the sea, hoping he will find a way to survive.
Since its launch in Fall 2010, the I Am Canada series has been praised for its accurate and energetic exploration of fascinating moments in Canadian history, through the eyes of young men who lived through them. In Deadly Voyage, awardwinning
author and noted Titanic historian Hugh Brewster draws from his vast knowledge of that fateful journey to create an enthralling tale of historical fiction — the ultimate adventure, whose terrifying end we know all too well.

My Thoughts

For young readers who are interested in learning more about historical events and time periods, there are several different series that offer fictional retellings from the perspective of children their age. In Hugh Brewster’s Deadly Voyage, which is apart of the I am Canada series, he tackles the sinking of the Titanic.

Readers follow a young Canadian boy named Jamie Laidlaw as he embarks upon the maiden voyage of the ship. It felt as if we were being taken on a private tour along with the man whose photos of the Titanic would become famous; Father Frank Browne. Some of these photos are included in the back of the book, among other bonus material. Jamie would also encounter other characters based on real people including; the Astor’s and the Molson’s.

The foreshadowing and superstitions many passengers had was interesting and eerie. As someone who has had a longtime fascination with the sinking of the Titanic, I appreciated the coverage of the events that occurred after the tragedy, including being rescued by the Carpathia and resulting inquiries.

I would highly recommend Deadly Voyage to middle grade readers and Titanic enthusiasts. I hope to have the opportunity to read more from the I Am Canada series.
Book Reviews

Baby Proof by Emily Giffin

Baby Proof
By: Emily Giffin

 

Published: June 2006
Published By: St. Martin’s Press
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

Rating: 3.5/5
♥♥♥.5

Synopsis

From the author of the smash hits Something Borrowed and Something Blue comes a novel that explores the question: is there ever a deal-breaker when it comes to true love?

First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes . . . a baby carriage? Isn’t that what all women want?

Not so for Claudia Parr. And just as she gives up on finding a man who feels the same way, she meets warm, wonderful Ben. Things seem too good to be true when they fall in love and agree to buck tradition with a satisfying, child-free marriage. Then the unexpected occurs: one of them has a change of heart. One of them wants children after all.

This is the witty, heartfelt story about what happens to the perfect couple when they suddenly want different things. It’s about feeling that your life is set and then realizing that nothing is as you thought it was—and that there is no possible compromise. It’s about deciding what is most important in life, and taking chances to get it. But most of all, it’s about the things we will do—and won’t do—for love.

My Thoughts

Emily Giffin’s Baby Proof follows Claudia a successful, intelligent woman who has decided that she doesn’t want to have any children. It explores the expectations of society and the pressure that is put on women over a certain age to reproduce. This book also delves into relationships (marriage specifically) and how they evolve over time.

Unfortunately it took quite a while for me to get into this book. While I respect Claudia’s opinion and understood her reasoning behind not wanting children, I found her very hard to relate to. In fact her cynicism and lack of compassion made for an unlikable character.

Although Baby Proof wasn’t the most enjoyable book for me personally, Claudia’s reflections on society and its expectations were thought provoking. I think it would make for a good book club selection, as it would lead to some interesting discussions.
Book Reviews · Recommendations

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs, #1) by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs
(Maisie Dobbs, #1)
By: Jacqueline Winspear
Narrated by: Rita Barrington

Published: March 2005
Published by: Sound Library
Format Read: Audio book, Libby, Library book
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Rating: 4/5
♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Hailed by NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ as part ‘Testament of Youth’, part Dorothy Sayers, and part ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’, this astonishing debut has already won fans from coast to coast and is poised to add Maisie Dobbs to the ranks of literature’s favorite sleuths.

Maisie Dobbs isn’t just any young housemaid. Through her own natural intelligence — and the patronage of her benevolent employers — she works her way into college at Cambridge.

When World War I breaks out, Maisie goes to the front as a nurse. It is there that she learns that coincidences are meaningful and the truth elusive. After the War, Maisie sets up on her own as a private investigator. But her very first assignment, seemingly an ordinary infidelity case, soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force Maisie to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind.

My Thoughts

The first book in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series has been one of my most anticipated reads and it definitely lived up to my expectations.

Set after the first World War, it explores the lasting effects trauma had on the survivors, including the soldiers who fought and (in the case of Maisie Dobbs) the medics who saved their lives. Many of these heroes returned home with devastating injuries, both physically and mentally. This is the first time I have read about how their experiences at war have changed their opinions about society and their countries. I didn’t expect for this mystery novel to touch on a topic I would find so thought provoking.

I did find it odd when the main story was put on hold, as the author went into a very detailed section about Maisie Dobbs youth. Although her backstory was interesting and pertained to the main plot, it was oddly arranged.
Rita Barrington’s narrative of the novel was spot on and I enjoyed her interpretation of the different accents.

In closing Maisie Dobbs is a solid thought provoking, historical mystery that I would highly recommend. I look forward to reading book two soon.
Book Reviews · Recommendations

An Amish Kitchen by Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston & Kelly Long

An Amish Kitchen
By: Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston & Kelly Long
Narrated by: Heather Henderson

 

Published: December. 2012
Published by: Oasis Audio
Format Read: Audio Book, Library Book, Libby App.
Genre: Amish Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance

Rating: 4/5
♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

The Amish kitchen is the heart of the home – and the ideal setting for stories of love and hope.  Fall in Paradise, Pennsylvania, always brings a brisk change in the weather. This season also ushers in unexpected visitors, new love, and renewed hope for three women. Fern has a green thumb for growing healing herbs, but longs for love to bloom in her life. Then the next-door neighbor’s oldest son, Abram, comes running into Fern’s kitchen seeking help for his little sister. The crisis soon leads to a promise of romance — until mistrust threatens to end their growing attraction. Nearby, Hannah runs her parents’ bed and breakfast, Paradise Inn — but her life feels nothing like Paradise. She longs for a man of integrity to enter her life, but never expected him to knock on the front door looking for a room. Will she be able trust Stephen with her future once she discovers his mysterious past? When a storm blows a tree onto Eve’s farmhouse, she has little choice but to temporarily move her family into her parents’ home. Outside of cooking together in the kitchen, Eve and her mother can’t agree on anything. But this may be just the recipe for hope in healing old wounds. Three Amish stories — each celebrating love, family, and faith — all taking place in a tight-knit community where the kitchen truly is the heart of the home.

My Thoughts

An Amish Kitchen is a collection of three stories that highlights the fact that the heart of a family home is found in the kitchen. This is a important point in many different cultures including the Amish and one I can definitely relate to.

The first story A Taste of Faith was interesting in that it followed a young woman who takes care of the minor medical needs of her community using herbs and natural remedies. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite warm up to the male lead.

The characters in the second story (A Spoonful of Love) were wonderful with detailed backgrounds. Romance was depicted more passionately than I expected for an Amish novel. This was a pleasant surprise and added some spice to the book.

The final story (A Recipe for Hope) focused on the importance of sharing family recipes and passing down the memories attached to each one.

I thought the narrator Heather Henderson did a great job throughout. She was enjoyable and engaging to listen to. This is the first Amish fiction I have listened to on audio, so it was nice to hear the correct pronunciations of certain words that I had previously read in other novels from this genre.

An Amish Kitchen was a wonderful collection of stories that I would highly recommend to fans of Amish romance novels and family tales.