Monday, January 15, 2018

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I very much enjoyed the The Other Side of Midnight, which was the first book I read by this author. That led to this book, which can now be listed among my favorites. I can’t really put it in a category, but in the end I’d go ahead and say mystery/historical mystery, with some paranormal elements and bit of gothicness.

Beware -- there be spoilers ahead -- marked when you get there. Several reviewers thought is was a poorly done ghost story. It’s not a ghost story. A ghost plays a role in the story, but it is essentially Jo’s story and somewhat Alex’s story and shows how some people can wind up living in limbo.

We meet Jo Manders after she has been in the employ of Dottie Forsyth, her aunt by marriage, for several months, accompanying Dottie on a trip across the continent to collect artwork to sell. Dottie is a shrewd, if somewhat cold, woman. She takes advantage of the disasters wrought by the war to make a little money. Jo’s husband, Dottie’s nephew, is missing in action, under somewhat mysterious circumstances. This leaves Jo in a limbo of sorts -- not really a wife, but not a widow and with no government pension. She takes the job with Dottie out of necessity, since she is also supporting her mother, who is in an insane asylum.

Upon arrival at Dottie’s home, we learn it has been closed for several years following the suicide of her daughter, Frances, who was 15 at the time. They are anticipating the return of son Martin, who has been away at hospitals trying to recover from grievous injuries received in the war. Dottie’s goal is to marry Martin off -- to Jo. This is something neither wants and as Jo points out, something that can’t happen due to her murky legal status as a not quite widow (she’s still married in the eyes of the law). Fortunately, neither participant wants to marry and suitable arrangements are made by Dottie (they seem odd at first, but in the end it works for everyone). From here, though, a friendship develops between Martin and Jo and is one of the many things I liked about this book.

Upon arrival at Wych Elm House, Jo sees the ghost of Frances and from there odd things happen. Jo realizes these happenings are Frances and that Frances is trying to tell her something. She comes to realize that all is not what it seems with Frances’ death and sets out to find what really happened to Frances. Along the way, she discovers photography, thanks to Alex’s camera - the one thing of his she could not give away.

**Spoilers if you continue** Alex, it turns out, is not dead. This comes as somewhat of shock to the family and to Jo. There were clues hinting at this in the book, but everyone believes since he was missing in action he must be dead. It takes Jo a bit to come to terms with this. Not surprising - what she has learned during her time at Wych Elm House and in her talks with Martin and a Colonel Mabry, her husband had not be totally honest with her about his wartime activities. His three year disappearance cost her everything and forced her to work for Dottie, who was never kind. And, she’s not sure if he came back for her or to finish the one mission he couldn’t. Most women would hesitate under these circumstances, however, she loves him, so eventually she listens. And, it turns out their goal is the same -- find out who killed Frances.

There’s much more to this book -- too much to touch on in a review. Many little undercurrents that all connect. Several threads run this story, but nothing seems extraneous. It's as much about getting on with living as it is about finding out what happened to Frances. The “reveal” is a bit dramatic, but I appreciated the fact that it was not the end. We got a bit more -- not quite total closure, but close. Jo and Alex have two options for the future (well - two options for Alex’s future job), but we don’t know which one they picked. I know which one I hope they pick, but there’s a small part of me that says it’s the other one, with a twist. The person responsible for Frances’ death was not who I expected, but it made sense and wasn't at all farfetched.

One thing I was left to wonder about and will for a while: If Frances was mad because of what she saw, are Jo and Alex mad because they saw what Frances saw? Frances, I think, was schizophrenic, but I think maybe she saw what others couldn’t (i.e. spirtis/ghosts) and had no way to make sense of what she saw. So, she was mad. Jo felt like everything was being erased on her last visit to Wych Elm House, which made me wonder if the strange occurrences really happened or if it was imagined by Jo. The ending seems to says yes, it happened, so I’m going with that. 


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Recipe Review: Bacon and Egg Cups

So, the goal this weekend was to start Whole30. Let's just say I thought I had prepared, but, well, it turns out not very well. Sigh. So, I'm accepting failure and still trying to get going. My original goal was to ease into it over a couple of weeks, but family emergencies and work craziness meant that didn't happen. I'm also having doubts about doing Whole30 and giving up Diet Coke at the same time. Mind you, I've made great strides in the Diet Coke department (I'm learning to drink Seltzer water), but alas, maybe not that good. Weather related headaches did not help this weekend, either. But, such is life.

Whole30 will change the way I've eaten breakfast for years. It should be in all caps, because for years I've done similar versions of the same breakfast and none of them are Whole30 or even Paleo compliant.

This afternoon, I tried Bacon and Egg Cups (earlier, I could even think of trying this due to the headache).  But, it turned out pretty good. Basically, it's a baked egg wrapped in a slice of bacon. I'll see how it overnights in the fridge and warms up in the AM (I'm a take my breakfast to work kind of girl).

At any rate, it comes from Seasonal Cravings and is fairly easy to do. I already have ideas for modifications and if I carry through with trying them, I'll post here.  In the meantime, enjoy.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Book Review: The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

The Twelve Clues of Christmas (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries, #6)The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the sixth book in the Her Royal Spyness series, but the first I have read. It was this year’s Christmas read. I am hooked. I loved Georgiana, as well as the other characters, though there is not as much development of them - her mother, grandfather, Darcy - as some of the other characters.

Georgie is faced with spending Christmas with her brother and his wife, Binky and Fig (I’m not going to say anything about the ridiculous names) at the family’s castle, with Fig’s family. Georgie’s mother is going to be spending Christmas at Tiddleton-under-Lovey. Desperate not to spend Christmas where she’s not wanted, she looks for a job and finds an ad for a lady of high breeding to help host a party in Tiddleton-under-Lovey of all places. She applies and gets the job.

The Christmas party and events are a setting that are reminiscent of Agatha Christy and Ms Bowen did it wonderfully. The characters range from an American couple and their two children (teenagers) to a colonel and his wife just recently from India. Plus, a cast of characters from the town, including what amounts to a village idiot (though he managed to have jobs) to a trio of spinster sisters, and the Vicar.

The day Georgie arrives the first murder has already occurred, but it is ruled a hunting accident or a suicide, though one doesn’t usually shoot themselves in a tree. From there, there is a death just about everyday, though none of them appear to be anything other than accidents or natural causes. What is unusual is the daily occurrence. Georgie finally connects the the deaths and from there it moves rather quickly. The ending was climatic and not what I expected, but it all pulled together well.

I loved the book. I loved the setting of the Christmas party in a small town with her mother and Noel Coward nearby along with her Grandfather, who is a retired beat cop (the local police mistakenly thought he was a detective and sought him out for advice with the deaths). I liked that the local cop looked to the Grandfather for help and didn’t rule out help from Georgie.

There was also her relationship with Darcy O’Mara. It was the only drawback to not having read the previous novels as I was a little lost (though it did not detract from the novel). He is smitten, but thought she should leave it to the local police, though he seems supportive of Georgie.
If you like historical mysteries a la Agatha Christie with a tiny bit of romance, this book is for you. I’m ready to read the first books in the series and hope they are as good.


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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Book Review: Death & the Brewmaster's Widow by Loretta Ross

Death & The Brewmaster’s Widow (An Auction Block Mysteries, #2)Death & The Brewmaster’s Widow by Loretta  Ross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book in this series and presents a wonderful mystery. One of the hardest things about this series to me is the main character’s name - Death, pronounced Deeth. But, once you get into the story, you know how to say the name and the oddness goes away a bit. There are plenty of wonderful things about this series, compared to others out there (and many that I enjoy). First, is the lack of antagonism from the local authorities with Death’s character - a wounded Warrior turned private investigator/bounty hunter and Wren, the auctioneer from the series title. Death is indeed a wounded warrior, which is the second refreshing thing about this mysteries. While I hate that he is wounded, it is true to the times we live in. Next is the closeness of the characters in this book, from Wren’s employers (it’s their auction company) to the police to other towns folk. Now, not all small towns may be like this, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if they were.

Next is the fact that Death learns to rely on Wren and not sell her short. He definitely considers an equal. He may not like his disability, but he’s not in denial about it either. He recognizes Wren’s strengths and adds those to his own. In this book, the support also comes from Death’s brother’s fire department and friends as he and Wren look in to the oddness of getting a badge that did not belong to Death’s brother, who died in a fire. The numbers on the badge don’t match. At first, it’s just a curiosity, but as they continue to look into it a mystery unfolds. I figured it out right about the same time the characters did, but that didn’t detract at all. In fact, it’s not a traditional mystery in the end, which makes it even better.

The final climatic scenes are among some of the best I have read, alternating between Wren and Death. Quite well done. The epilogue was also very satisfying. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series. I recommend reading these books in order as they do build upon each other. Recommended if you enjoy a good mystery with all likable people.


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