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. 

Death in the Devil’s Acre by Anne Perry

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Death in the Devil’s Acre by Anne Perry is the seventh book in her Charlotte & Thomas Pitt series. This book was similar to the other books in the series in that there is a murder that Inspector Pitt tries to solve and his wife Charlotte becomes intrigued and usually secretly tries to help him. In this book Perry explores how difficult society could be for some women. Superficial things are given such importance and noticed and discussed that it can be stifling for some women. I found this to be an interesting topic to explore and seeing where Perry is going becomes as page turning as learning who did the murder. 

One thing to note about Death in the Devil’s Acre is that it is a must to have read the second book, Callander Square. I had read it but it was awhile ago and I had a hard time remembering enough so there were parts that were confusing to me

Beyond the Green by Sharlee Mullins Green

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Beyond the Green by Sharlee Mullins Glenn is a story about the author’s childhood experience. In 1979 Britta has found that her foster sister, Dori, will be going back to her birth mother. Britta loves her foster sister and the story is about Britta trying to keep her sister and learning what family means. 

Beyond the Green tackles a difficult subject. Dori is from an Indian Reservation and was taken from her mother to live with a white foster family because of alcohol problems.  Britta learns not just to think of her own wants but to broaden her vision and think of other people and other cultures. Sometimes there was a bit to much lecturing. I like to be shown rather than told.

Britta was cute and I loved her spunk and her love for her family. 

My copy of  Beyond the Green was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Death of an Alchemist by Mary Lawrence

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Death of an Alchemist by Mary Lawrence is the second book in the Bianca Goddard Mystery series which takes place in 1543.  While I enjoyed the first book, The Alchemist’s Daughter, I did enjoy Death of an Alchemist more. Bianca befriends an Alchemist, Ferris Stannum, who teachers her. He has discovered the Elixer of Life and shows her the journal that shows his work. When Bianca returns the next day she finds him dead and the journal missing. When her husband falls dangerously ill Bianca not only searches to find who killed Stannum but also where the journal has gone in hopes that she can save her husbands life. 

While the mystery was engaging what I really enjoyed was the look into immortality and what effects that has on humanity. There is a very minor character from The Alchemist’s Daughter that shows up in a surprising way. 

One minor thing that bothered me a bit was Bianca talked about how much she loved John but she never seemed to spend much time with him and did not take into consideration his wishes. Yes, she wanted to save his life but that was really the first thing she did that showed she loved him.

I continue to like the look into a time period and class that I have not read much about

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

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There were some things I really loved about The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang and some things that I really did not love. Stella has a problem. Her mother keeps pressuring her for grandchildren and if Stella doesn’t find someone her mother will. The problem for Stella is that she has Asperger’s and relationships are not something she knows how to do. So she decides she first needs to improve in the bedroom. In order to do that she hires an escort to teach her. Luckily for her, she gets Michael. When things don’t go easily in the bedroom she hires Michael to be her practice boyfriend. Of course, they soon decide they like spending time together but both have issues they need to overcome. 

So for the things I did not love about The Kiss Quotient. First off I just didn’t see a need for the open door look into their sex life. I’m of the opinion that the imagination does just fine on its own and things can be alluded to without going into explicit detail. I also was very troubled with why Stella’s mom never talked to her about having a relationship. She wants Stella to be in a relationship and have children so she can have grandchildren and she knows Stella has Asperger’s so I was very frustrated with the mom for being so absent in teaching and helping Stella. 

I did find the story cute and Stella and Michael were a couple I was rooting for. What made the book for me was seeing their personal growth. They were different people at the end of the book than at the beginning and I love a book where the characters are growing. I also really loved how both Stella and Michael saw the good in each other. Their weaknesses or quirks didn’t matter. They were able to see the good and potential in one another. I also really loved the behind the scenes look into Asperger’s and what someone thinks or feels when they have Asperger’s.

I would really have loved this book and probably be recommending it to lots of people if it were not for the many detailed sex scenes. For me those just lowered the enjoyment of the book. 

Beneath the Book Tower by Steve Hamilton

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Beneath the Book Tower by Steve Hamilton is a short story that tells a story of Alex McKnight before his story in the Alex McKnight series begins. Beneath the Book Tower takes place one night in Detroit where Alex is a police officer. The story tells the reason he became a cop and his feelings about being a cop in Detroit. 

I enjoyed the story and the writing. I got a little taste of the character Alex McKnight and am looking forward to reading the series

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

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In Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Jessie is thrown into a high pressure prep school in Los Angeles when her father marries a woman and they move  from Chicago where Jessie has grown up. She doesn’t relate to her new step mother or step brother and is having a hard time navigating the students in her new school. Until one day when she receives an email from Somebody/Nobody (SN), offering to help her. They start a friendship and Jessie begins to rely on him for more than just school advice. She wants to meet him but will meeting in person effect the ability they have to share close, personal things?

This was a fun, cute story and as she meets different guys at school it was fun trying to guess who it was that was SN. Sometimes I have a hard time with YA for all the angst that is in them. There is some angst in Tell Me Three Things but it was tolerable for me. The ending was page turning and laughable and relieving. All in all for a YA not bad