Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

02197D1A-DFA6-4B23-BB47-958BAE7A7F80In Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh I think the less you know going into the book the better. So, in short, you have a serial killer who isn’t on trial, he is on the jury. You have a defendant who is a rising movie star who is on trial for killing his also rising movie star wife and their chief of security. You also have a defense lawyer who used to be a con artist. 

I had so much fun reading this book! I got sucked into the story pretty quickly and I stayed sucked in throughout. I found the plot very engaging and though maybe a bit far fetched at times it was just so much fun to read that I didn’t seem to mind. I could not wait to see how it was all going to play out and I was completely caught off guard a few times at the end. Though this was a plot driven book I did still find the characters engaging. So much so that as this is the fourth book in the Eddie Flynn series I will be going back to read the other books. I wasn’t ever confused by not reading the earlier books and you can definitely read this one first. 

This book is about the killings of a serial killer and while I did not find the descriptions of his murders overly graphic they are there. 

My copy of Thirteen was provided by the publisher, Flatiron Books, in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!

The Alchemist of Lost Souls by Mary Lawrence

56427B14-D16F-4FB1-9F57-1BD4B823044DIn The Alchemist of Lost Souls, the fourth book in the Bianca Goddard mystery series, by Mary Lawrence, Bianca agrees to help her father who she has a strenuous relationship with. Her father, Albern, an Alchemist, created a powerful new element and it has been stolen. Along with trying to placate her father, she finds herself helping in the murder of a women and dealing with the loneliness she feels after her husband, John, is sent off to help in King Henry the VIII’s army. 

This is my favorite book so far in the series. I felt like the plot moved at a good pace. I was intrigued as Bianca searches for the element and tries to discover who the murderer was. We find out a bit more about the Rat Man and how he became the Rat Man and what his purpose is now. I liked Bianca so much more in this book. She actually seemed to love her husband and she seemed less selfish than I felt she was in previous books. She struggles with her relationship with her parents and we learn a bit more about that relationship. She befriends a barmaid, Cammy, who I hope to see in future books. I continued to love the setting and love the look into life in the 1550’s. I also really like learning about what early scientific pursuits might have looked like. 

This is a great cozy mystery but involves alchemy and is set in the 1550’s, both of which are unusual and make the book series different than so many others in this genre. 

Thanks to the publisher Kensington for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

DC0A3870-6645-405C-9097-E626FEC53C82There isn’t much for me to say about Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Between the book itself, book adaptations, movies, movies adaptations, I think everyone pretty much knows the story that is told in Pride and Prejudice. I loved the book. Everything was so perfect. The writing was beautiful, I fell in love with the characters and though written over 200 hundred years ago, it was easy to relate to the characters and I felt like I knew them. I love the look into human nature, families, and I was drawn to the themes of recognizing our faults and changing and growing to become better. I can see how, then and now, shy, socially awkward people are so often misunderstood. And I loved the reminder that we just don’t know what other people are thinking or feeling. We may think we do based on what they say, or how they act, but we just don’t. 

I have tried a few times the past few years to get into audiobooks. There are so many books out there and so little time they have seemed liked a great way to get more reading done. But, I just haven’t been able to get into it. They wouldn’t hold my interest and I often found myself thinking about something else and then realizing I had no idea what was going on in the book. I have been doing a lot of work on my home this summer, a lot of mindless work and when I started getting bored with podcasts I decided to try an audiobook once again. I picked Pride and Prejudice and not only did I make it all the way to the end, I loved the whole experience! I’m not sure if it was because it was a story I was familiar with so when my mind wandered I was able to still know what was goin on, or if it is just the perfect book, or if I have matured enough to listen, or what. But I quickly found myself excited to work on my house so I could get reading. I found myself wanting to do all the little mundane things we do like putting away groceries,or doing dishes, or folding laundry, because that meant I could pop in my ear pods and listen to my story. I actually liked hitting red lights! My attention held and my mind stopped wandering. I am so excited to keep listening to audiobooks and hope I continue to love the experience. 

Pride and Prejudice has turned me into an audiobook listener. If you listen to audiobooks which book turned you into a listener?

The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore

19054409-4404-412F-BA61-0F931028CD56 The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore takes place in New Orleans during the Reconstruction after the Civil War. The story follows Effie Jones, who as a young girl escapes to the North and is brought up by an embalmer and his wife. The story begins as Effie returns to New Orleans as a grown woman. She finds works, doing what she knows and is comfortable with, assisting in embalming. The story then follows Effie as she learns about friendship, love and her past. 

I really loved the character of Effie. She is not comfortable with societal rules and often speaks and does what she wants. I enjoyed watching her grow from someone who pushes down all emotions and thinks in logical terms to someone who lets her emotions come through and even starts to act on them. She meets Adeline and learns about friendship and all the complications and sometimes pain that come with relationships. She falls in love and learns really what love is. 

I also found the history of New Orleans after the Civil War fascinating. The Reconstruction is an interesting time period in our country and not one I have read much about. The setting of New Orleans made that period even more fascinating with the conflicts between not only the white man and the newly freed black man but also the Creoles. 

Along with the great storyline and the fascinating history I loved the writing. The author, Skenandore, has a writing style that draws me in. I can see and feel everything that Effie does. I feel the upsets, the happiness, the struggles that she feels. I did find that I needed to slow down my reading a bit to really enjoy what was happening and become immersed in the beautifully detailed writing.

My copy of The Undertaker’s Assistant was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I also won a copy from the author in a giveaway. 

Cardington Crescent by Anne Perry

AC90B150-DB88-43A4-A044-52F8254ECD7A Cardington Crescent is the 8th book in Anne Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mystery series. Thomas Pitt is a police inspector in Victorian London and his wife Charlotte often involves herself in the murder mysteries Pitt is investigating. I don’t want to say to much about Cardington Crescent because there is something that happened that took me completely by surprise and I loved that experience. If you also love something happening that you did not see coming at all I would suggest not reading any descriptions of the book anywhere. 

Charlotte’s sister Emily, and her husband, George, are spending the month with relatives of George. The book includes 3 murders, a look into the lives of upper class, family secrets, scandal, expectations and at times reminded me of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. 

There were a few plot details that I did not understand, that seemed a bit unrealistic and had me questioning why these characters were making these decisions. Also, I was left wondering why some things weren’t in the story that I felt should have been. Though these things left me a bit confused they didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story. I felt the time period was very well described, its very easy to picture everything and to feel apart of that time. The characters were engaging and I found myself really feeling for them, and their grief, and their frustrations and fears. The ending was gripping though left in such a way that you know who committed the murders but not entirely sure why. There are a couple of reasons why, but Perry does not tidy it all up for you. I was left thinking about the novel and trying to figure out why I thought the murders happened. This is a book I will probably reread to see if I can find any clues and I also think it would be a very fun book to buddy read or read in a book club just to debate the ending. 

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

F6E4A17E-D9A3-49D3-AE44-97E10B916404  The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is the story of a group of teenage boys struggling to find their place in a world that judges them based on where they live and what they look like. They stick together and support one another as they each come up against their own obstacles. 

I enjoyed The Outsiders. I was familiar with the story, though I don’t remember if I read it in high school or not. It is a quick moving plot and an easy read. I felt drawn to these boys and felt for them and their circumstances. I found myself wishing they would make different decisions, wishing those around them would make different decisions and also cheering them on and cheering others on who chose to be kind to this group of boys who didn’t look or act like they were worth anything. But, as the novel shows, they are worth it. 

I found themes of life as a teenager, fear, love, heroes, death, and judging others. 

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

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Love and Ruin by Paula McLain is a book I enjoyed so much more than I was expecting. It is a fictional  story about Martha Gellhorn and her travels around the world as a journalist and her relationship and marriage to Ernest Hemingway. 

I was interested in the story but also a bit leery. Often fictional books about real people come off as fake and trying to hard and I often find myself really not liking this person who really did live. But Love and Ruin was luckily not at all like that. I was sucked into the writing and the character of Martha pretty quickly. 

Martha had depth and I found myself over and over not necessarily agreeing with her decisions but feeling like I understood her enough to understand why she made those decisions. I loved her development as a person throughout the story and that growth felt very true to real life. The story is told with Martha being the narrator and it really did feel like she wrote the book. I loved the descriptive details of what she was feeling and thinking and seeing. Martha is sent to cover many war zones and I found the information about the various wars and countries she covered fascinating and I learned a lot. The descriptions of her experiences in war zones seemed so realistic I could easily picture what she was seeing and living through. 

I think the story was so successful for me because it wasn’t just about her and Hemingway. It was the story of Martha Gellhorn, who also happened to be married to Ernest Hemingway but her marriage to him wasn’t the whole part of her. She lived an adventurous life and was definitely her own person who was trying to discover who she was. She was constantly searching for her place and for who she was. Many of the choices she makes is because of that search. Really it was the story of the struggle of finding yourself and what it means for relationships and those you love when what you love to do takes you away from those who need you. How do you choose which to cultivate?

My copy of Love and Ruin was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Death at St. Vedast by Mary Lawrence

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Death at St. Vedast is the third book in the Bianca Goddard Mystery series by Mary Lawrence. When people start behaving in really strange ways and then dying, Bianca investigates to see what is causing these strange behaviors. When Bianca’s husband John’s employer Boisvert, is accused of giving his new wife poison which causes her to act strangely and then die, John becomes involved in helping Bianca. Bianca and John are soon investigating St. Vedast, a nearby village and various Guilds. 

This was probably my least favorite in the series. I found the plot hard to follow and was confused about the Guilds, the Brown Baker’s Guild, Goldsmith Guild, etc. I was confused about what exactly they were and what their purpose was and how much power and influence they had in the community. I found Bianca annoying in this book. Especially her lack of care for what her husband thinks and feels. I also felt that the character of Boisvert, who plays a larger part, did not have the same personality as in past books. 

I do enjoy this series though. It is a look at what life was like for the common people during the ruling of England’s Henry VIII and how his decisions and ruling affected people.

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson

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The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson is the historical fiction story of Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown and the women who made it. The story focuses on two women, Ann and Miriam, who were embroiderers. We follow them as they begin work on the gown, learn of the hours of work on the gown and get a behind the scenes look at what it was like to be working on something that the entire country had an interest in. I think it is a must to search for a good photo of the gown so you can really look at the amazing work that these embroiderers did on the gown.

I really enjoyed the premise of the book and I found the making of the gown fascinating. The story is told through Ann and Miriam and Heather, Ann’s granddaughter. Ann has recently died and Heather receives some samples of beautiful embroidery work and some old pictures of her grandmother. I found her search to discover a part of her grandmother’s past that she knew nothing about engaging. 

I did struggle connecting with either Ann or Miriam’s personal stories. Their work on the gown was fascinating but their personal story was something I struggled with. I just could not let interested in it and I never really connected with either one of them. A tragic event happens and I didn’t seem to find myself really caring and I think that was because even though the event was and should have been devastating I never felt like the character thought it was. I was also bothered by the theme throughout the book that you are only loved and found interesting if you are beautiful or handsome. Your nature, or personality or talents don’t seem to matter. You can’t find love based on those things, only by what you look like.  

I think the story is a great look into people who made something beautiful that millions of people have seen and yet they are not really known or acknowledged for their work on it.

The Great Unexpected by Dan Mooney

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As someone who is almost 50 years old, most of the books I read are about characters younger than I am and situations that have happened, or could have happened in my past. The Great Unexpected by Dan Mooney was a refreshing look into my future and what some of the struggles I might have will be. 

The Great Unexpected takes place in a nursing home where Joel and Frank are roommates. Joel and Frank are complete opposites. Joel is a grumpy old man who was a mechanic with a wife and daughter. Frank was a soap opera and theater actor. They are both lonely and as they become friends share some hilarious adventures together and are able to help one another with struggles they each face. 

I loved this book so much! The characters were great and I fell in love with each one of them. They were strong characters and even though old, they both grew and developed as the story progressed. I loved their friendship and the trouble they got themselves into. I could very easily see their personal struggles as being struggles many elderly face. I was sad for the story to end and sad to have to say goodbye to them. I think this will be a book I read again so I can visit with the characters over and over.

Even though this book is about elderly men I think it is a book that all ages can read. It has themes of not only getting older and the feelings that come with that but also themes of depression, loneliness, grief, regret, life, happiness, family and friendship. 

My copy of  The Great Unexpected was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.