Posted in Book Review

The Murder at Redmire Hall – J.R. Ellis

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In this 3rd book in the Yorkshire Murder Mysteries series, a man dies while performing a trick on live TV. This book can be read as a standalone.

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Lord Redmire, the most recent successor to the Redmire Hall has a gambling addiction that has placed him in serious debt. Recently, he discovered the secret to the locked-room illusion that his father once used to perform to a private audience. He sees this as an opportunity to make money and is determined to raise funds to get his estate out of debt. Lord Redmire has invited family and friends to witness his performance on live TV.

He has also invited DCI Jim Oldroyd and his sidekick DCS Steph. As the cameras roll, something goes wrong and Lord Redmire reappears in the locked room dead with a knife in his back.

Following Frederick’s death, two long-term employees are found dead on the estate, and DCI Jim realizes he has a tough case on his hands.

As he questions Lord Redmire’s family and staff, DCI Jim Oldroyd learns that Lord Redmire was a womaniser and was running his estate to the ground with his compulsive gambling habits. DCI Oldroyd now believes this to be an inside job as someone close to Lord Redmire has a grudge against him and wants to stop him from gambling away his fortune.

This is a beautifully written book that draws you in from the start. The story is easy to follow and full of well-drawn characters that were interesting. The pace is steady as the story builds and the identity of the killer is revealed. This is a traditional police procedural set in Yorkshire, a county steeped in rich history. The descriptions of the Yorkshire countryside easily transport you to the setting in this book.

  • Pages: 300
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (13 September 2018)
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Posted in Book Review

The Lady in the Cellar – Sinclair McKay

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Set in the 18th century, The Lady in the Cellar is a gripping story based on real-life events following the discovery of a woman’s body in the basement of a reputable boarding house in London.

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When the novel opens, in May 1879, a woman’s body is found in a coal cellar of a basement of a boarding house on number 4 Euston Square. The boarding house belongs to Severin Bastendoff, a bamboo cabinet maker who runs the lodge with his wife Mary and several employees. This disturbing discovery raises questions and there are speculations surrounding her death.
Who is she? How did she get there? How did she die? Was she strangled? Did she commit suicide?

Inspector Charles Hagen of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate this gruesome death. The police attempt to identify the victim by tracing her dental history. Their leads are promising when an orthodontist near Euston Square tells them that a female client had come in to get new dentures and he had taken a cast of her mouth and remaining teeth. He says the woman never returned for the dentures but he kept the cast. Surprisingly, the cast matches the victim’s teeth.

Shortly afterwards, an elderly gentleman, Edward Hacker finally comes forward and relays his concerns to the police after reading about the Euston Square mystery in the papers. He identifies the victim as his sister, Matilda Hacker, whom he has not heard from in two years. It appears some of Matilda’s personal effects are missing, in particular, a gold watch, which Edward claims is a family heirloom. Hagen follows the trail of the gold watch and it leads him to a pawnbroker, who runs a pawnshop in Euston Square. The pawnshop owner identifies a Hannah Dobbs as the person who pawned the gold watch.

We soon come to learn that Hannah Dobbs once worked as a maid in the boarding house but was discharged on account of stealing from the lodgers. She’s currently serving a prison sentence in London for petty theft. The inspector also gathers evidence that puts Hannah Dobbs in the lodge at the same time, where the victim once stayed while in London.
Why did Hannah pawn Matilda’s gold watch? More important, why did she pawn the watch under the name of one of Severin’s daughters?

Inspector Hagen gathers more evidence that proves that Matilda was murdered, and this raises more questions: Who killed Matilda? Was it the maid? Was it the owner of the lodge or one of his brothers? Or maybe an employee? Was it a fellow lodger? How come the occupants of the boarding house have no idea there was a decomposing body in the cellar for two years?

As the story progresses, we get some insight into the history of boarding houses in the 18th century and how they were run, citing a few incidents that occurred between lodge owners and their tenants. The reader also learns about Matilda Hacker’s background: a rambunctious and wealthy lady in her mid-60s and a native of Canterbury who moved to London following her sister’s death, how she finally took up residence at the lodge on number 4 Euston Square, and the events leading to when she was last seen in the boarding house.

Hannah, now a prime suspect in the murder of Matilda Hacker has been arrested and is put on trial. During the court proceedings, witnesses are called to the stand to give an account of any evidence that might shed some light into the death of Matilda Hacker. Severin and his wife, Mary are also called to the stand.

There are gaps and inconsistencies in their testimony: Mary claims she has no idea who the victim is and has no recollection of seeing any woman who matches the victim’s description in her boarding house. Severin goes on to recall one or two incidents where he saw a drunk woman who stumbled on the footsteps of his home but he sent the woman away. The reader gathers more about the case from the courtroom scenes and snippets from the Press.

In the succeeding chapters, the reader gets a glimpse into Severin’s personal life: a native of Luxembourg who moved to London with his sister and his brother-in-law, his foray into furniture making, his thriving business which he runs with his brothers, how he met his wife, Mary Pearce in London, and finally acquiring the lodge from its previous owner, a sculptor named Mr. Milnes.
From his backstory, the reader can surmise everything about Severin Bastendorrf; a decent family man who works hard to provide for his wife and four children. Wonderful isn’t it? Well, no it isn’t, because under this veneer of modesty lies something very dark.

As trial finally comes to an end, Hannah is acquitted and the story takes an unexpected turn. 

Following her release, Hannah returns to her home in Bideford, Devonshire. The reader learns about her background: her birthplace, her family, her dreams and aspirations, and circumstances leading to her working as a maid in the boarding house on 4 Euston Square.

Back in Scotland Yard, the investigating officer, Inspector Hagen is not satisfied with the court ruling and tries to gather more evidence for a retrial. He even offers £100 to anyone who would come forward with any relevant information that could be used to convict Hannah.

But Hannah Dobbs makes a preemptive move that shocks everyone. With the help of a ghostwriter, she shares a chilling account of what really happened to Matilda Hacker in number 4 Euston Square. In her tell-all memoir, she also divulges some bizarre incidents that occurred during her stay in the lodge, revealing some dark secrets about the occupants of the boarding house on number 4 Euston Square, including her clandestine meetings with one of the brothers, and providing fresh new insights into their behavior. But are her stories entirely true?

To say more would be giving away spoilers.

The Lady in the Cellar is a blend of history and historical crime steeped in mystery. I enjoyed reading this book and had a hard time putting it down. There are so many twists and turns and even the aftermath of this case was shocking.

I admire McKay’s work and the amount of research he has undertaken in writing The Lady in the Cellar. This is my first book by the author and I will definitely read more from him. If you like true crime mysteries set in this era—even if this isn’t your genre of choice—give this book a try. You will not be disappointed.

  • Pages: 320
  • Publisher: White Lion Publishing (30 October 2018)
Posted in Book Review

A Boy and a House – Maja Kastelic

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A Boy and a House is a short wordless and whimsical picture book that tells the story of a boy following a cat.

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On the first page, we see a little boy leaving his house on Grimm Street at dusk and is walking down a dimly street. There’s a woman walking ahead of him; she’s wearing a red dress and a green hat. Apparently hearing his echoing footfalls, she glances back at the boy.

The lights are on in the houses on the street and we see their occupants going about their evening. Some are chatting, a man is having dinner, a woman is gazing at herself in front of a mirror and a girl is gazing out the window dreamily.

The boy walks past a man walking his dog and an elderly man riding his bicycle. A few blocks away, on Andersen Street, he approaches a black cat sitting in front of a door standing slightly ajar. The black cat appears to have been waiting for the boy in front of the house. The boy follows the cat into the house.

The hall is cluttered with flyers on the walls, a baby pram and graffitis scrawled across the walls. There’s a sign on the wall just by the entrance that says, “Close the doors”. Another sign on the wall says, “Kindly ask you all to take care of this house…Keeper”. Below this message is the author’s name, Maja. A red umbrella is propped on the wall by another door that’s been left slightly ajar, at the west wing. There are six mailboxes on the wall and a discarded drawing on the floor. The drawing is of a girl in the sun.

The little boy picks up the drawing and follows the cat up a series of staircases. The cat patiently waits for the boy on the landing of the first staircase. The boy follows the cat through a room with a bookcase stacked with books. The cat walks ahead and waits for him behind a lantern atop a stack of tomes on the floor. The boy follows the cat into a dining room and bends to retrieve another drawing on the floor.

The cat gallops up ahead of him, looking back every few leaps to make sure the boy is behind him. The boy runs down a corridor lined with huge paintings in gilt frames. He walks past more bookcases, framed pictures on the wall, birdcages, a red wingback chair, a red unspooled yarn, a vinyl record player, a globe, and bric-a-brac littered around. He picks up more discarded drawings on the way.

Finally, the cat leads him up another spiral staircase to an attic where he finds a little girl making paper planes. Together, they climb up onto the roof of the attic to watch their paper planes and birds soaring on thermal updrafts. By now, we see it’s sunrise.

I really liked the of the illustrations of this book. I loved how the author uses only pictures, leaving the book to the reader’s interpretation. The ending left me wondering if the boy left his house in the early hours of the morning or at nightfall. Brilliant!
I thought the concept of the muted tones the author used in the book and the subtle messages she left in each room were well done. I loved the atmosphere and was curious to find out what or where the black cat was leading the little boy. I read this book several times over to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

This is a debut novel by the author and I would love to read more of her books in future. Highly recommended to kids and those who appreciate well-crafted picture books filled with underlying messages and subtle beauty.

  • Pages: 32
  • Publisher: Annick Press (11 September 2018)

 

Posted in Book Review

Girls on the Line – Aimie K. Runyan

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Girls on the Line is a beautifully written story that revolves around Ruby Wagner, a telephone operator who applied to serve with the US Army Signal Corps as an army telephone operator after the death of her brother, Francis, a soldier with the Eleventh Engineer Regiment.

I enjoyed this book very much and found it hard to put down. The story flowed so well I devoured it in one sitting. I love the characters and admired the strength and courage of the women who enlisted to serve the Signal Corps as telephone operators during WWI. I love how they supported one another. I came away from this book with a smile seeing as everything worked out pretty well for everyone in the end. I warmed up to Ruby’s mother knowing she meant the best for her daughter.

The author’s note at the end of this book is a must-read—It’s obvious that Aimie did a great amount of research in writing Girls on the Line. The book is full of information and details to draw the reader in.

This is my first book by Aimie K. Runyan and she has become one of my favorite historical fiction writers. I look forward to reading more from her. Highly recommended to lovers of historical fiction.

  • Pages: 368
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (6 November 2018)
Posted in Book Review

The Insatiables – Brittany Terwilliger

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The Insatiables centers on Halley, a young and ambitious woman, who is a level 1 Service Staff in her company. She is desperate to climb the corporate ladder and wants to experience more from life than what she has in Dayton, Ohio. She doesn’t want to remain stuck like the rest of her family.

An opportunity soon presents itself, and she gets selected to go to France as part of a team that will plan and execute a product launch. She almost gives up the most important things in her life for this job.

France is everything she dreamed it would be and at first, Halley seems content living there. Then things begin to escalate from unacceptable to outrageous. Halley then realizes that the promotion she’s been working so hard for may have just cost her a lot. She has to decide whether or not the job is worth the price of her soul.

The Insatiables is a fun, entertaining debut novel and is perfect for an afternoon curled up on a sofa with a hot chocolate. This book is filled with interesting and quirky characters and an interesting storyline. Halley as the main character was well developed and relatable. The descriptions of France were evocative and the rest of the characters were sympathetic, funny and likeable. There were some characters I couldn’t warm up to. Highly recommended.

  • Pages: 338
  • Publisher: Amberjack Publishing (18 September 2018)
Posted in Book Review

Fromage à Trois -Victoria Brownlee

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What’s not to like about this book? I loved everything about this book!
Fromage à Trois was an absolute delight, filled with cheese, humor, romance, and all things French. For a debut novel, I have to say that I am very impressed.

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The story revolves around Ella, a 29-year-old, whose boyfriend of 8 years suddenly decides to go on a retreat in Thailand to find himself, unsure of where their relationship is headed. She’s left with no choice but to break up with him. Heartbroken and hoping for a fresh start, Ella books a one-way ticket to Paris. We follow her through her adventures while living in France.

The writing complements the story with detailed descriptions of Paris and authentic dialogue. The characters were diverse and I enjoyed the whole cast. Ella as the main character was well drawn and highly relatable. The author portrays her so vividly that the reader could easily imagine themselves in Paris with her.

The characters are brilliantly crafted to feel real and consistent. They were sympathetic, funny,  likeable and quirky. Ella’s friend Billie—and her voice-of-reason—is adorable. Her colleague at Flat White, Chris, is funny—what with his obsession with French women. Clotilde, ever the quintessential Parisienne, was a very good friend and housemate. I loved how their friendship developed as the book progressed. Serge, a cheese connoisseur —and owner of the fromagerie, which Ella frequents—was very likeable.
Then there’s Ella’s former weird housemates, an elderly French woman who still lives her 40-year old son. Gatson is a handsome narcissistic and a jerk, and Ella’s ex, Paul will make your blood boil.

The descriptions of France and the food were evocative and I came away from the book knowing a great deal about French cheese; their origin, texture, and more. You could literally smell the aroma of cheese emanating from Serge’s cheese shop.

Fromage à Trois is a fun, entertaining read that is perfect for an afternoon curled up on the sofa with a glass of Vin de Paille 🍷and a slice of Comté. I highly recommend to everyone.

  • Pages: 280
  • Publisher: Amberjack Publishing (9 October 2018)

 

Posted in Book Review

How to Look and Feel Younger for Longer – Ellen Joubert

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How to Look and Feel Younger for Longer is an informative read that includes detailed information and recommendations on skin care and ageing gracefully.

The book covers most aspects of skincare and hair care. With 68 color images and illustrations, Ellen guides the reader through a range of skincare routines including how to exfoliate properly and the right products to use.
She also provides useful insights into the effects of the sun on the skin and recommends the best sunscreen to use.

This book addresses common skin problems such as acne and how to prevent breakouts. It covers facial rejuvenation treatments and home remedies for the face and neck. It contains exercises that can help tone the face and neck, keeping them firmer and smoother, as well as the right diet for healthy skin. This is a book to be read and reread. I highly recommend this informative book to both men and women of any age.

  • Pages: 210
  • Publisher: BooksGoSocial ( 8 October 2018)
Posted in Book Review

The Hour of Death – Jane Willan

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In this 2nd book in the A Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery series, Sister Agatha investigates the death of a church member. This book can be read as a standalone.

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It’s Christmas time in Pryderi, a picturesque village set in the Welsh Countryside near the Irish Sea. The Pryderi Women’s Art Society is set to hold their annual Christmas gala in the St. Anselm Church. Tiffany Reese, a church member and president of the Art Society, is found slumped in the parish hall. A painting belonging to the victim is also missing. The coroner and the police believe she died of natural causes—but Sister Agatha is convinced that she was poisoned.

Sister Agatha is a nun at Gwenafwy Abbey and the abbey librarian. She also writes mystery novels and hopes to get published someday. She draws her inspiration from the likes of Agatha Christie and Louise Penny.

Someone is desperate to keep their past a secret. Sister Agatha enlists the help of her childhood friend and vicar at St. Anselm, Father Selwyn and they both investigate Tiffany’s death. As Sister Agatha digs deeper into the murder case she learns the seemingly perfect Tiffany had some secrets stewing in her personal life.

I absolutely enjoyed this book and was immediately hooked from the first page. The story flowed well and the characters were likeable and relatable. I enjoyed the dynamics between Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn, and how they worked together to solve the case. I loved the close-knit community and their sense of love and companionship. The other sisters at the abbey were warm and caring and I loved how they supported Sister Agatha.

I was easily transported to this beautiful setting, not to mention all the mouth-watering descriptions of the Welsh cakes, Welsh Tea, buttered scones, and other treats at Sister’s Agatha’s favorite place in the village, the Buttered Crust Tea Shop.

I enjoyed watching Sister Agatha piece together the puzzles using all the clues she gathered along the way. The twists and turns in the book were well done and the outcome was satisfying. I am looking forward to the next book by this author. I would highly recommend The Hour of Death to mystery lovers.

  • Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (9 October 2018)
Posted in Book Review

Philippa’s Farm – Louise Couper

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Philippa’s Farm is a humorous novel in an idyllic setting filled with fun, interesting and quirky characters and interesting storylines, my favorite being Agatha, Philippa’s sister and her love affair with gin.
Although Philippa, the main character, comes across as judgmental, one will warm up to her by the end of the book.

The descriptions of rural Ireland and Philippa’s farm were evocative and I was easily transported to this picturesque setting. I loved reading about her short getaway to Aran, her spinning course in Bath, and her two-week vacation in France with her friends.

There are a lot of “laugh-out-loud” scenes throughout, helping to keep the pace. The ending was a bit of a surprise and satisfying. I am looking forward to reading more by this author. Overall, an interesting read and I recommend this book.

  • Pages: 241
  • Publisher: BooksGoSocial (16 October 2012)
Posted in Book Review

Freezing Point – Grace Hamilton

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Freezing Point is a moving story of survival, family, and friendship.

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Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the earth’s axis has tilted and most parts of the world are submerged in snow. Business and shops are closed, and people are running out of food. Scavengers are on the hunt and people are seeking shelter and safety elsewhere. Nathan, a mechanic whose business has been affected by the tectonic shifts has to find a safe place from the unforgiving cold if he and his family have to survive.

His friend invites him to Detroit, with promises that it would be much better than New York, where Nathan lives. We follow him on his journey with his wife, his son, and his friend, Freeson. With enough food to survive and supplies to stay warm, he navigates the cold and harsh terrain, avoiding scavengers on the way. Enroute, he meets some interesting and quirky characters who are stranded and they all join him.
After a harrowing journey in subzero conditions, he arrives in Detroit, but Detroit is not what he thought it would be.

Freezing Point is an engaging dystopian book that gripped me from start to finish. The descriptions in this book were so vivid and realistic I felt as though I were living the scenes with the characters.

This book would make an excellent miniseries, and with realistic and believable characters and a cliffhanger, this would keep you entertained for hours. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

  • Pages: 294
  • Publisher: Relay Publishing (16 September 2018)