Murder in the Oval Library by C. M. Gleason

EC092ECA-ECC4-41B2-8893-B99471676759 Murder in the Oval Library by C.M. Gleason is the second book in the Lincoln’s White House Mystery series. As Lincoln waits for the Confederate Army to begin its attack on Washington DC, about a hundred men, the Frontier Guard, are in the White House awaiting for the attack. One of these men is found dead in the Oval Library. Is there a murderer among them? President Lincoln, knowing he can trust Adam Quinn, asks him to catch the killer. 

Adam once again uses his friends, Sophie, Dr. Hilton, and Miss Lemagne to help him. I really enjoyed getting to know the characters better in this second book. We learn more about their pasts and come to understand them better. 

By far my favorite aspect of the book were the historical elements. Author Gleason does a great job of describing events while still caring a story forward. I learned so much about the beginnings of the Civil War from this book. There were so many things I did not know and I was constantly doing further research to see if it was fact or fiction. Gleason describes these events in a way that I could easily picture Washington during this crucial time in our history. Washington then is not the Washington we see when we go there now and Gleason did a great job in placing me in the correct Washington. We are also shown this time period from the perspective of not only North and South, but race, and class. 

Murder in the Oval Library is a quick, engaging murder mystery. Though the setting of the beginning of the Civil War could be heavy, the story provides lots of information without weighing down or getting lost in a murder mystery. 

Murder in the Oval Library is the second in a series, and I do think it would be beneficial to read Murder in the Lincoln White House first, though it isn’t necessary. I love to get to know characters really well and so reading the first book gives more of that information, but it wasn’t necessary to the storyline.

My copy of Murder in the Oval Library was provided by Kensington Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!

There are many great books centered around the Civil War. As I read this book I realized that most of those books have taken place in the South. Have you read any great Civil War books that take place in the North?

Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen

B407BF7F-3936-4BA0-91F2-666B9F102EA8 When Harry’s wife dies, while he is buying a lottery ticket, he is overcome with grief and guilt. He leaves his job working for the Forest Service and finds his way to a remote wood in northeastern Pennsylvania. While finding himself among the trees his life becomes intwined with a young girl name Oriana and her mother Amanda who are also dealing with a loss. The characters find themselves involved in a real life fairy tale that changes their lives as only a fairy tale could. 

Harry’s Trees was often a heartbreaking experience. The grief felt when someone dies is devastating and Harry, Oriana and Amanda all experiences that grief and struggle to find their place in their new world. They each have different ways of dealing with their grief and they each learn to open their hearts once again to other people. Jon Cohen does a fantastic job in describing not only the grief and the emotional aspect of the book but also in describing the forest and the trees. Descriptions of trees can easily become boring in the wrong hands but Cohen made them interesting and in some ways the setting of the forest becomes a personalized character and not just a place for the story to take place.

This is a story about fairy tales, grief, books, quests, death, love, living life, riches, healing, regret, deliverance, magic. I’m not one to look for symbolism in books but there were so many times when I just couldn’t help myself thinking, “hmmm flowers opening, new beginnings”. There are many narrators in the book. Harry is the biggest narrator but I think every character gets an opportunity to narrate at some point. This enabled me to really look into a character and understand a bit about the decisions they made and the way they were. 

The book would be perfect if it wasn’t for the men in the town and their views of Amanda. Every man in town looked up to Amanda, but not in a motivational way but in a sexual way. I quickly grew tired of hearing every single man in town wanting Amanda. I think Amanda was suppose to be portrayed as a strong woman but by making her the object of every man’s sexual desire I felt like that became her purpose in the book. 

 Except for my problems with the Amanda character and storyline I loved everything about the book. It was slow paced, reflective, descriptive and character driven. 

This is a great book to discuss with others. So many themes and ideas to explore. For instance, even though I did not like the way Amanda was portrayed I have my suspicions as to why it works. 

Have you read Harry’s Trees? What would you love to discuss?

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

5D658F4E-88DC-4F42-BF32-51164EE31524 The cover of The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye caught my eye and the story was just as catching.

The book begins with Alice, nicknamed Nobody, on a train to Portland with a gunshot wound. Max, a porter helps Alice and when they arrive in Portland takes her to the Paragon Hotel, the only all-black hotel in the city. As the novel unfolds we discover Alice’s past, why she fled Harlem with a gunshot wound and we learn about those Alice has befriended in the Paragon Hotel. 

I enjoyed The Paragon Hotel. The storyline goes back and forth between Alice’s past and her present. I found the back story of Alice growing up in Harlem an intriguing story and I was hooked wondering what happened that made her flee. I loved the unique characters that lived in the Paragon Hotel  and I found myself caught up in the struggles they each faced. I also learned a lot about the Ku Klux Klan in Portland during this time period of 1921. There was also a bit of a mystery as the characters living in the hotel search for a missing orphan child. I found Alice’s past with the Mafia and her present with the Ku Klux Klan fascinating as the author explored their differences and similarities. 

The Paragon Hotel was a quick, fast moving story and the time period of 1921 was well showcased. It was a fun read while also tackling issues of the time period and I learned more of what life was like during this time for people of different races and groups. 

My copy of The Paragon Hotel was given to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!

Murder in the Lincoln White House by C.M. Gleason

fd019c19-1e3b-483a-a293-50e153a7fbbb I have been reading a lot of mysteries set in England lately. So when Murder in the Lincoln White House by C.M. Gleason came across my path, I was excited to read one set in America. 

The story is set in Washington DC and begins on March 4, 1861, the day of Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration. Attempts on Lincoln’s life have been suspected and so security during the evenings ball is high. Despite this, a man is found stabbed to death in a room not far from the president. Adam Quinn, a friend of Lincoln’s from Kansas is asked by Lincoln to discreetly investigate. Quinn has no experience investigating a murder. But, he does have experience tracking animals which makes for a really interesting and new way of gathering clues in a mystery novel. I liked the character of Quinn and his frontier characteristics set among the political drama of Washington DC. 

I thought Murder in the Lincoln White House was a fun mystery with lots of suspects and motives. There was a great cast of diverse characters who kept things moving and had me guessing as to who committed the murder. I realized reading this book that I do not know much about America right before the Civil War when Lincoln is put into office. I enjoyed learning more about that history and really enjoyed the depictions of Washington during that time period. Who knew pigs roamed the streets! The city itself has come a long way. 

Murder in the Lincoln White House is the first book in a series and I’m looking forward to more books. The character of Quinn had events in his past that were referenced and I’m looking forward to learning more about those events and more about him as a character. I’m also looking forward to reading more about this time period and doing so in the setting of a mystery sounds like fun. 

My copy of Murder in the Lincoln White House was provided by Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!

The DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution by Marla Heller, MS, RD

507b3e93-3c5b-41d3-a132-467a685fd46b There are many diet and eating plans everywhere! I was looking for something that would help me with my weight and also improve my health as I’m getting older and my health is becoming a bigger concern to me. I also love food and don’t want to feel deprived. I was really intrigued by The DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution by Marla Heller, MS, RD. I have dappled a bit into Mediterranean meals and that is what grabbed my attention first. I had never heard of the DASH Diet and I can’t believe it. As I read this book I did more research into the DASH Diet and learned that it is the leading recommended way of eating by doctors and nutritionists as it reduces inflammation, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. 

The DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution did a great job providing information on both the DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diet and the benefits from both. Heller explains the benefits of combining the two diets and how they compliment each other. I didn’t feel the information was over my head and I really learned a lot. Heller gives a great pep talk on why we should be healthy and it was just what I needed to start off the new year. There was also a lot of focus on what to include in eating instead of what to limit. I loved this and have not felt sad about all the things I shouldn’t be eating. Instead I’m able to just focus on what I get to include. The last half of the book includes eating plans, recipes and how to use the DASH Mediterranean diet in your everyday eating – even when eating out or at parties. 

I found this book really useful and manageable. The information was easy to understand and motivated me to be more aware of what I eat. I loved the eating plans and recipes and I’m excited to implement better eating into my new year. 

My copy of The DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution was given to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!

When Falcons Fall by C.S. Harris

425cf0a0-4efb-4ffa-8bb7-ee4ca20e89ce When Falcons Falls, book eleven in the Sebastian St. Cyr series, by C.S. Harris finds Sebastian with his little family in a small village where they have gone to deliver something to Jamie Knox’s grandmother. While there a young woman is found dead. The village’s new magistrate asks Sebastian for help as he doesn’t think the young woman took her own life. Sebastian uncovers a village full of troubles. From young women who have apparently taken their own lives before, to the French Emperor Napoleon’s brother held captive under the British government to an ancient monastery. Sebastian must wade through the complicated village as he also grapples with his own demons in this village that may hold clues as to who his father is. 

I have really come to love this series and When Falcons Fall was just as wonderful as the past books in the series. I really loved the change in setting. The author, Harris, does a wonderful job in describing this little village and the surrounding lands. I enjoyed watching Sebastian navigate a place he was not familiar with. The mystery was intriguing as there were several suspects and motives. As Sebastian goes around the village talking to people and gathering facts I felt I was right there with him trying to figure out who killed the young woman. 

In When Falcons Fall Hero once again helps Sebastian. I love her insights and her involvement in discovering who the murdered young woman was. It was so much fun watching them work together. They make a great working pair and I hope when they return to London she will continue to be a part of what Sebastian finds himself involved in. Sebastian is trying to discover who he is and I love Hero’s patience as he goes on this painful quest. 

One of my favorite things about the Sebastian St. Cyr series is what I learn about British history. Each book seems to have some part of British history that I had no idea about and that leads me to doing more research to learn more. This time I learned about Enclosure Acts and the affect they had on poor people and who they really benefited. 

This is a wonderful series and one I hope you will read. The books do need to be read in order but they go quickly.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

2c153752-ad13-417b-b91d-b7c3be07c7f7 In The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan, Nina, a 29 year old, shy, librarian loses her job as the library closes. With no job options doing what she would love to do, she moves to Scotland and begins to run her own business selling books out of a van. 

Nina has always been quiet, observing life through books more than living life. In Scotland she finds herself living life, making mistakes, fixing them and moving on. 

I loved this book. I think it was the book I needed right now. I recognize that this is not the perfect book. Things came together a little to conveniently to seem realistic and the book was a bit predictable. But I didn’t seem to mind any of the book’s flaws because I was swept away. Reading this book was comfortable. It was calming and I think that is what made it such a perfect read for me. I could picture the small Scottish village with the vast openness in the land. A place where things are calm and not hectic and pressure filled. With the busyness of life right now this was a book that calmed me. I looked forward to picking it up because it took me away from a hectic life. It was exactly the book I needed right now and I think Nina would have been pleased. 

In The Bookshop on the Corner, author Jenny Colgan, creates a character, Nina, who loves books. Nina finds books for people to read that will connect their internal universe with the external. Colgan not only created a character with that ability but she did it with me. 

What is a book that was just what you needed at the time?

Murder Flies the Coop by Jessica Ellicott

94C68107-671F-488A-9DD4-76A58383F2C3Beryl and Edwina are back to solving mysteries in the second book of the Beryl and Edwina Mystery Series by Jessica Ellicott. In Murder Flies the Coop the vicar, who is also the Pigeon Racing Club President, approaches them to find out what happened to the treasurer of the pigeon club, who is missing, along with the club’s funds and several birds. 

I found the mystery intriguing and was surprised by the ending. Though the mystery was intriguing I found Edwina and Beryl the best part of the book. I love their personalities, their differences and their friendship. Edwina tends to see things in black or white. Though rule abiding she stands up for something if it is more right than the rule. Edwina finds herself questioning the way the class system has worked. World War I has brought changes to that class system and Edwina finds herself questioning the way things have always been. Beryl is the opposite of Edwina. She sees no point in worrying and has the life philosophy of go with the flow and see how things turn out. Though the two friends are so different they respect each other and don’t try and change one another. It was fun to watch them work together despite their differences. 

Though this is the second book in the series you probably do not need to read the first, Murder in an English Village to enjoy Murder Flies the Coop. I enjoyed reading both as I liked reading about the growth of the characters between the two books but I don’t think I would have been lost or confused or missed out on important details had I read only Murder Flies the Coop.

This is a fun comfy mystery. It is not fast paced but instead filled with descriptions of English village life in 1921 and great characters.

My copy of Murder Flies the Coop was provided by Kensington Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!

One Day in December by Josie Silver

75354E20-DC23-406B-9EAB-3459FE310B49One day in December Laurie sees a man through a bus window. Their eyes meet and she falls in love. Feeling that he also sensed those sparks, she searches and searches for this man. A year later she finds him when her best friend Sarah walks into a Christmas party with her new boyfriend, Jack, that she is falling in love with. One Day In December by Josie Silver follows Laurie, Sarah and Jack through the next ten years of their lives. 

This is a story about three people growing up and figuring out love, friendship, life and what’s important to them along the way. 

The author did a great job in creating characters that I loved and was interested in. Laurie is often described as awkward. I am very awkward so whenever there is a good, believable, awkward character I’m sure to love that character. While I did not love Jack as a person, I thought he was a great character. I understood why he was the way he was and it added to my reading experience that at some points I didn’t want Laurie and Jack to ever get together.

As much as I really liked this book the amount of cussing and other crude comments did make it less of an enjoyable read for me. Though it made sense to the characters and I did feel it was true to them. 

I really wanted to talk about this book with others when I finished. So many great topics. The characters themselves would be so much fun to talk about. Do you believe in love at first sight? Is there only one life, one person for us?

This was a book I didn’t want to end. I was sad to be done with those characters. I would gladly have read about their next ten years. 

My copy of One Day In December was given to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!

Alaskan Holiday by Debbie Macomber

FC2A1997-74D9-459A-BCAE-5CF803F074EBIn Alaskan Holiday by Debbie Macomber, Josie meets Palmer in an Alaskan small town where Palmer lives and Josie is cooking at a lodge. After spending the summer together Palmer has fallen in love with Josie and surprisingly asks her to marry him. Though Josie has enjoyed her time with Palmer, she has been to focused on the job as a sous chef waiting back home for her to think about a relationship with Palmer. She is so conflicted by his proposal, which she turned down, that she ends up missing the last boat out of town for the winter. Can she find a way out of town in time to get to her new job? What exactly does she feel for Palmer?

I thought the book had a lot of potential. I really liked the idea of Josie being stranded in this small town with the person that she has just turned down. Can he win her back before she leaves? 

Unfortunately, once those questions are very quickly answered the book just fell flat for me. There was not much conflict and no one seemed to feel very much emotion. Though this is a holiday story I didn’t feel it was centered much on the themes of Christmas. Yes there were aspects of hope and love, but for me when those are hard to do the story means more to me. In Alaskan Holiday those themes happened so easily that they didn’t seem to matter as much. The characters did not interest me and by the end I didn’t really care what happened to them. There was one character, a local, who did not fit the Alaskan profile at all. I felt like his speech and his mannerisms felt more like a southerner than someone who withstands the brutal Alaskan winter. 

This was a very quick read and great if you are looking for something really light. Unfortunately I do need a bit more than this book had to offer me.

My copy of Alaskan Holiday was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!