The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

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Flavia de Luce is an eleven year old girl who lives in the grand estate of Buckshaw in England in the 1950’s. She lives there with her widowed father, and her two older sisters. She spends her days antagonizing her sisters and doing chemistry experiments. Until one day, when a dead bird is found on the back doorstep with a postage stamp stuck to its beak, then the next morning she finds a man dead in the cucumber patch.

QUICK GLANCE

– #1 in the Flavia de Luce series

– Cozy mystery

– References to chemistry, stamp collecting, books

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

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I often struggle with books when the main character is a child because so often I don’t feel like the child acts, or talks, or behaves like a child. In The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Flavia definitely does not act, or behave like any children I know. She is extremely smart, loves chemistry and knows more about chemistry than anyone I know. She is extremely independent, to the point of continually leaving her home on her bike and riding to different towns miles away with no one in her home having any idea where she is. She is forward and has no problem speaking to adults. She has no fear and thinks she can solve all the problems she faces. She is a character I really should not like but for some reason she works for me and I really enjoyed her. I didn’t always like her, she was so mean to her sisters and sometimes to others. She had a complete disregard for adults and authority. And there were some situations that didn’t seem very feasible. But I found the story and the mystery a fun read anyway. Maybe because Flavia isn’t ever suppose to be like most children her age. I enjoyed the setting of England in 1950 and the small country towns. I enjoyed the bits of English history and I learned about stamp collecting and lots about chemistry, which to be honest went right over my head. I liked the looks at a home when a mother has died and though this wasn’t a huge part of the book I think it did have an affect on the characters. I actually look forward to continuing with the series.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Guy Montag’s job as a fireman is to burn books. When he meets a new neighbor, Clarisse, and begins talking to her, he learns that the world he knows is different than it once was. He begins to question the changes and wonders if life was better before. Then he must decide if he can live with the way life is now or if he must do something.

QUICK GLANCE

– classic

– Science fiction

– Happiness

– Knowledge

– Books

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

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I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed Fahrenheit 451. I enjoyed the world that Bradbury built and I was shocked when I discovered he wrote it in the 1950’s. While things like the TV walls and the seashell radio do not seem that far fetched today, I imagine it must have seemed unbelievable in the ‘50’s. When I have read other science fiction books written in the past that have come true in many depressing ways, I find the books discouraging. I loved how Fahrenheit 451 gave me things to think about, especially about this world that I do live in now, but also showed hope in humanity. I only wish there was more of Clarisse and that their relationship was developed a bit more. It felt a bit rushed to me and far to short.

The Quilter’s Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini

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When Sarah struggles to find a job in a small town she agrees to help seventy-five year old Sylvia prepare her family estate for sell, while she continues to look for work. The estate has been neglected and much work is needed. In exchange for the help Sylvia, a master quilter, agrees to teach Sarah how to quilt. Along with the quilting lessons Sarah also receives fascinating stories about Elm Creek Manor which cause her to fall in love with the estate. Sarah then seeks to find a way to keep Sylvia from selling the estate.

QUICK GLANCE

– #1 in the Elm Creek Quilts series

– Quick, easy read

– Family

– Friendship

– Art, creativeness

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

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I loved the look into Elm Creek Manor and the stories Sylvia told of the people that have lived there and the things that happened there. I also really like the relationship of Sarah and Sylvia. They were friends who helped one another and I loved that idea of a friendship between two women of such differing ages and experiences. Sarah joins a quilter’s guild which also showed friendships between women of different ages, personalities and experiences. I also loved the theme of creativeness and it’s importance in our lives and in society.

I struggled a bit with the main character Sarah. I listened to this on audiobook so I don’t know if that had something to do with my problems with Sarah, but I got annoyed with her. She seemed to complain and whine a lot and I just never really connected with her.

I will continue with the series but probably in book form and hopefully I’ll like Sarah better.

Bethlehem Road by Anne Perry

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Inspector Pitt investigates members of the Parliament who keep turning up dead tied to a lamp post. On investigation, they are all good, kind, strong family men who shouldn’t be found murdered. So why are they?

QUICK GLANCE

– #10 in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series

– Victorian London

– Women’s suffrage movement

– Mystery

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

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I really enjoyed Bethlehem Road. The mystery had me stumped and after hearing evidence against many people I enjoyed the final answer and the reasons why. Bethlehem Road tackles the issues of freedom and the choices given to people. I found the different explorations of these themes fascinating. Thomas and Charlotte continue to grow and develop and I felt this book had a bit more about the personal struggles they each face.

Celine by Peter Heller

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Celine is a private eye who specializes in finding missing people. When Gabriela comes to Celine to find her father who went missing over twenty years ago in Yellowstone National Park, Celine is off to Yellowstone with her husband Pete, hoping to be able to reunite father and daughter. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • Great descriptive setting
  • Older main character
  • Slower descriptive read
  • Mystery
  • Teenage pregnancy 

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

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As a reader who is nearing into the older side, I have started to love books with older main characters. Celine was a great older character. She had so much complexity that I think comes with a longer life. She was a compassionate woman who has one of those personalities that people find themselves comfortable around and opening up to. Yes, this is a mystery and we follow Celine to Yellowstone to go with her as she researches and hunts for clues to find what happened to this missing man. But, the story felt not so much about a mystery but about Celine. The mystery was the way for us to get to know Celine and understand her. I really loved this flip on a mystery and I found myself wanting to know more about Celine and wanting to observe her as much as I wanted to know what happened to Gabriela’s father. 

Before going to Yellowstone Celine flies to Colorado, were her son lives, to borrow his camper which she then drives to Yellowstone. I grew up in Colorado and as a child we took many family vacations camping in Yellowstone. Author, Peter Heller, brought all those memories alive for me with his descriptive writing. I could see The Colorado Rockies and I could picture that drive to Yellowstone as you travel through sparse Wyoming. Then to arrive in Yellowstone and see the animals everywhere, the trees, the people, it was all as I remembered it. 

This book had me with an older main character, Colorado and Yellowstone. And it kept me hooked with the mystery, Celine and the descriptive writing. 

Bringing Down The Duke by Evie Dunmore

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In England in1879, Annabelle is among the first female students to attend Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement by recruiting men of influence to help their cause. Things become complicated when she meets the Duke of Montgomery, who opposes everything she stands for, but who she can’t stop thinking about.

QUICK GLANCE

– #1 in the A League of Extraordinary Women series.

– Women suffrage movement

– Forbidden love

– Steamy scenes

– Historical fiction/ romance

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

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I really enjoyed the historical fiction aspect of Bringing Down The Duke. I liked learning more about the women’s suffrage movement, what was done and some of the reasons it was done. I really enjoyed reading about Annabelle, a woman who loves to learn and working hard to be able to do so. The friends she makes while working with the suffrage movement were all fun and varied. I liked how the women had different reasons for supporting the movement, I would have enjoyed going more into depth about these women. I enjoyed Sebastian, the Duke of Montgomery and reading about the challenges of being a young Duke and the responsibilities that he had and felt.

I had a really hard time with the romance between Annabelle and Sebastian. It happened so fast that I just didn’t buy it. There were steamy scenes that felt forced to me, they did nothing to add to the characters or the plot and they were to explicit for me. I feel like they could have been cut out and wouldn’t be missing at all.

I found Bringing Down The Duke to be a great historical fiction read and not a great romance.

The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett

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Carole discovers a dead body on the beach early one morning. She tells the police, but when they investigate they find no body. When Carole realizes the police do not believe her, she soon finds herself investigating what happened to the body with her neighbor Jude. Jude is new in town and Carole and Jude are complete opposites. Carole typically would not even befriend Jude beyond what is socially expected, but the two women become friends as they investigate what happened to the body on the beach.

QUICK GLANCE

– 1st book in the Fethering Mystery series

– Friendship

– Small town with quirky characters

– Older main characters

– Cozy mystery

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

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I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed The Body on the Beach. I loved the small town of Feathering and the people who lived there. I came to have my favorites and I hope they return in future books. I loved how Carole and Jude were in their fifties. I don’t come across very many books where the main characters are older and it was fun to read the perspectives of older women. I loved watching Carole and Jude go from strangers to friends. They are very different from one another and they often had me laughing. The mystery had me guessing until the end and I enjoyed watching Carole and Jude investigate. Neither one is a professional investigator and it was fun watching them make mistakes, feel uncomfortable and develop new skills. I can’t wait to continue with this series.

The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes by Leonard Goldberg

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Dr. John Watson, his son Dr. John Watson Jr, along with the help of Joanna Blalock, the daughter of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, solve the mystery behind a man Joanna and her young son saw falling from a building. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • #1 in The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Mysteries
  • References to cases of Sherlock Holmes
  • Light reading

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

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This was a book I was excited to read. I thought a mystery with the daughter of Sherlock Holmes was a great premise. It is a great premise and it is a good book for light, easy reading. I was hoping for a bit more substance and found myself rolling my eyes often. My first eye roll occurred when I realized that all of the original characters’ children went into the same careers as their parents. Even Detective Lestrade’s son is a detective and the murderer is a son of a murderer from Sherlock’s time. As the detective work progressed everything came so easily to the trio. Every person they interviewed gave them the information they needed and they didn’t really seem to come against any obstacle. I found these characters lacked substance and I found myself not interested in them at all. 

His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal

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After going through training Maggie is ready to start her first assignment as a spy where she will be dropped into Germany and gather information from top Nazis. But is she really as prepared as she thought she was? 

QUICK GLANCE

  • #3 in the Maggie Hope Mystery series
  • World War ll
  • Historical mystery
  • Woman spy
  • Nazis euthanasia of those they saw as defective, including children
  • Ongoing storylines from past books in the series

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

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I had about an even amount of things that I loved about this book and things I didn’t.

I had trouble connecting with the characters even though this is the third book in the series. Many of the characters, old and new, seemed to do things out of the blue that didn’t really fit with the rest of their actions and there wasn’t any explanation for it. There was also a storyline with a very side character that didn’t really fit with the rest of the book and I’m not sure what the point of it was. The plot moved a bit slowly for me and when it would pick up something would very conveniently happen that then slowed it back down. 

I did really love the historical aspects of the book. I had no idea the Nazis were killing children that were ill. There were many other mentions of things the Nazis were doing that had me doing research to see if it was true. I love learning about things I didn’t know before especially with the many World War ll books there are. I enjoyed the unique looks into some of the things happening. 

The things Maggie experiences in Germany leave her broken. I do look forward to the next book to see how, and if, Maggie recovers. 

Penny For Your Secrets by Anna Lee Huber

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Verity and her husband, Sidney, continue to adjust to the end of the war. While their relationship is sturdier now, Sidney continues to struggle with demons. They soon find themselves involved in investigating two deaths. First, is the death of Verity’s friend Ada’s husband, Lord Rockham. Then the death of a former Secret Sister colleague’s sister. Though the two deaths seem to have no connection, Verity begins to wonder if they are in fact connected. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • #3 in Verity Kent series
  • Look into upper class England in 1919
  • Historical fiction/ mystery

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

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I found Penny For Your Secrets engaging and fun to read. I loved the look into what life is like after a war.  Not just for individuals but also society as all have changed and people must decide if things will go back to the way they were before or if the changes are good changes that should continue. 

I continue to enjoy Verity and Sidney and their relationship. Because of the war they have both changed and were not together as those changes happened. I enjoy watching them as they navigate who they each have become while also adjusting to who their spouse has become. 

The mysteries were engaging and had me guessing and I really loved the historical looks into 1919 and learning about a British cargo ship whose crew vanished during the war. 

I received a copy of Penny For Your Secrets from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.