Review: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs

My book club this month read Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. I listened to the audiobook on Hoopla, and–full disclosure–I suck at retaining audible information. I’m very much a visual learner, but I’m so busy that I don’t get to read just for fun anymore unless it’s while I’m shuttling children around town or cooking dinner or going for a jog (walk, really…). Anyway, my point in sharing this is that I don’t focus very well when I listen to audiobooks, but I still loved this story. I couldn’t tell you all the finer points of the plot, but Maisie Dobbs is a kicka** private detective just oozing with coolness.

I loved this book for a few reasons. First, Maisie is a good role model. She’s smart, resourceful, brave, intuitive in her work, and lives with integrity. Second, this book covers a period of time which I’m not as familiar with as others. Maisie goes off to serve as a nurse during World War I. I’ve read many books about WWII, but not as many about WWI, and it was nice to experience this period through a new perspective. Third, it provided a great blend of cozy murder mystery, plot, history, and a touch of love story. The ending was heartbreaking and unexpected, but somehow fit the book and mood perfectly.

The only thing I didn’t like was the transitions to the many flashbacks. I didn’t mind the flashbacks themselves or jumps in the story, but there was no indication that the scene or time had changed, which made it especially hard for me to keep track of things in the audiobook. A note of the year at the beginning of each flashback would have been helpful.

I’ve learned that there is a whole series of Maisie Dobbs adventures and I hope to read some more someday! I definitely recommend this one!

4.5 stars out of 5

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Stony Kill: A Novel by Marie White Small

Stony KillHello readers! I am going to try to be more consistent about posting book reviews here. I received this book, Stony Kill: A Novel, from the author, Marie White Small in exchange for an honest review. I feel bad because she gave this to me about 16 months ago. I remember because it was a week or so before I had my baby, who is now 15 and a half months old. As anyone who has children knows, life gets a good shake-down when a baby arrives, and on top of that I had some complications afterward. Everything is ok now, it just took me a year of off-and-on reading to finish this book!

For backstory, here’s the summary from Amazon:

“After the sudden death of her mother, Joss Ryckman finds herself running away from everything—the life she did not choose of managing the family bakery in Brooklyn, the troubled relationship with her sometimes violent father, and her conflicts with Wyatt, a lover who always wants more. But when she flees to the country farm of her childhood in upstate New York, will she finally find the truth of dark events in her family’s past? Or will all that she has held at bay for twenty years come crashing down? As Joss comes to terms with her loss, she is forced to confront memories of a childhood steeped in both joy and sorrow. As the past seeps in through the rich farmland and the landscape of the treacherous, churning Stony Kill, Piecing together the broken past and her family’s dysfunction, the dark secrets of a family submerged in a history of violence and regret begin to take shape, and the reality of two brutal killings can no longer be denied. Joss must make her own choices and, ultimately, let go.Rich with beautiful language and immersed in powerful descriptions of Joss’s feelings, Stony Kill tells a powerful story of the heartbreak and suffering from violent acts of a dysfunctional family, and ultimately her hope and choice of a better life.”

Overall, this was a beautifully written book: the perfect lazy summer read. I liked how thoroughly I got to know the characters, who were quite well-rounded.

The main criticism I had was that I wanted to pick up the pace–quite a bit. I enjoyed the meandering pace for awhile, but by about halfway through, I started to get a little impatient, which is probably my personality showing through more than anything. The book starts out with a murder that happens at Stony Kill, then flash-forwards to our main character. In my opinion, this murder scene is misleading. It makes it seem like the book will have an element of whodunnit mystery, when in reality, it’s a very different type of story. I spent the rest of the book wondering what that scene had to do with the story I was reading, and honestly, the main reason I stuck it out and finished the book was because I stubbornly wanted to know the resolution for the opening scene.

My criticisms, however, are not indicative of the quality of this book. The writing is strong and beautiful and is probably the perfect fit for many readers. It’s not exactly my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean it’s not someone else’s!

4 stars out of 5

Guest post: Topaz Reign Character Interview by Teresa Richards

Blog TourTopaz Reign, the latest novel by Teresa Richards and sequel to Emerald Bound, is out! To celebrate, here’s a guest post by the author to give insight into her characters, and perhaps even do some foreshadowing into book 3… Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for some awesome prizes! a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is the prize pack for the giveaway. Some cool stuff here!!

Check out the full blog tour schedule here.

Today I’m sitting down with my characters from Topaz Reign for a little round table discussion. With me are Maggie, Garon, and Lindy, whom you all know and love from Emerald Bound. Joining them are Trevin and Thumbelina, new faces from the groups’ most recent adventure.

Me: So, Maggie, here we are again. Round two of your adventure.

Maggie: Yeah, why did you have to do that? Garon and I were perfectly happy with the way our summer was going until you showed up and threw things out of whack.

Me: Um, I didn’t throw things out of whack. That was Oliver, thank you very much. And you got some pretty amazing news as a result of the whack-throwing so it’s not like it was all bad.

Maggie: *bites her lower lip, but can’t hide the smile stretching across her face* Well, that’s true. I am glad about that.

Me: Okay, so let’s talk about the new adventure. Thumbelina, why does it take you so long to enter the picture?

Thumbelina: It doesn’t take me all that long, really, you just don’t recognize me at first. Keeping my true identity a secret is what’s gotten me this far.

Me: But don’t you feel the tiniest bit of remorse? Deceiving people like that?

Thumbelina: No. I did what I had to do and I would do it again. If being alive for so long has taught me anything, it’s not to trust strangers.

Me: Speaking of strangers … Lindy, what made you trust Trevin?

Lindy: *ducks head, but not before I see her blushing* Well, it helped that he was the son of my most trusted bodyguard. *darts a glance at Trevin and he grins* And when he offered to teach me how to swordfight, that just sealed the deal, you know?

Me: That’s right. Your brother refused to help you, didn’t he? And that’s when Trevin stepped up.

Garon: Hey, to be fair, I didn’t think I’d be sticking around long enough to teach her anything. *darts a longing glance at Maggie, who holds his gaze*

Lindy: Trevin was the first man to treat me as his equal. Before I became Queen, I was just a silly girl to them. And after, despite the fact that most men treated me with the respect due a queen, they also treated me like some fragile thing. I’m not fragile. I can do hard things, and I can make difficult decisions. And it’s nice having someone around who supports that. It makes me even stronger. *reaches over and grabs Trevin’s hand*

Me: *swooning*

Maggie: Learning to swordfight was one of my favorite things about this adventure. Unfortunately, it’s not a skill I can use much back at home.

Me: No, I imagine not.

Maggie: But I found this cool group in DC that teaches sword fighting to people who need it for entertainment purposes. Like traveling Renaissance fairs and actors involved in medieval plays and movies. I’ve been volunteering there a couple times a month and I think if I get good enough they might give me a job.

Me: That’s amazing! I’m so glad you found a way to use your skills back at home.

Maggie: Me, too. It’s really fun.

Me: *turning to the group* Let’s talk for a minute about the altered gemstones. First we had an Emerald, now a Topaz and a Pearl. Seriously guys, are there any more gemstones I need to be aware of? And where did Oliver get all of them anyway? Did he have a hidden cache of pirate treasure or something?

Garon: He found the Emerald while traveling during his days as a medicine man.

Thumbelina: And the Topaz was brought to him by the witch, who probably stole it from some traveling nobleman.

Me: And the Pearl?

Thumbelina: He spent a lot of time by the sea. Out of all the stones he used, the Pearl was by far the easiest to come by.

Me: So did he have others?

Thumbelina: Pearls, you mean? Sure. He collected them.

Me: *raising an eyebrow*

Thumbelina: But he did not alter them.

Trevin: *leaning forward in his chair* Are you sure? If he did, it would be helpful to know now before another crisis arises.

Thumbelina: I’m sure. One hundred percent sure. There are no more altered stones.

Me: *eyeing Thumbelina* We don’t really get to say good-bye to you at the end of this adventure—you kind of sneak off during the night.

Thumbelina: I left early in the morning. Not at night.

Me: Still.

Thumbelina: I had to find my husband, you know that. Make sure he was okay.

Me: And did you? Is he okay?

Thumbelina: I found him, yes.

Me: Well, good. So what’s he like? We didn’t learn anything about him at all during your latest adventure with the Topaz.

Thumbelina: It’s hard to describe someone you love so much in a way that does them justice, you know? I’d rather have you meet him and see for yourself.

Me: Really? We can meet him? Did he come in with you today?

Thumbelina: No, he’s not here. But I’ll introduce you to him soon.

Garon: I’ve met him. You’ll like him.

Me: That would be amazing.

Thumbelina: I think he’d like to meet you, too.

Me: I’m going to hold you to that.

Me: Well, guys, that’s all we have time for today. Thanks so much for sitting down with me. I hope to see you all again soon.

 

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Book Review: Topaz Reign by Teresa Richards

Topaz Reign.jpgCalling all fairy tale fans: here is a book for you! Book one of this series—Emerald Bound—gives us an interpretation of the princess and the pea. Topaz Reign continues this tale and introduces the story of Thumbelina.

Lindy—the princess who slept on an enchanted emerald, or “pea”—is back in her native land and time. As she tries to learn how to lead her country, a topaz that grants its wearer unmatched beauty and power threatens to overthrow her family, country, and even the world. With help from friends and family, Lindy must figure out the secret of the topaz and destroy it, before it destroys everyone she loves.

Lindy is my favorite character from Emerald Bound, so I was very excited to see her grow into a confident, powerhouse woman in this book. Maggie and Garon are also significant players in this story, and Tanner has a more important role in helping take down the wearer of the topaz.

I loved trying to figure out which character was Thumbelina, because it’s not obvious at first! Thumbelina is another fairy tale that, like the princess and the pea, is not one that I’ve heard many times. I feel like Hollywood and mainstream books redo the same fairy tales over and over—Cinderella, Snow White, the “classic” princesses—and I love the author’s ability to bring lesser-known fairy tales to the limelight and give them a twist.

Like Emerald Bound, Topaz Reign is so much fun, full of action, and sure to keep you turning pages!

5 out of 5 stars

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Cover reveal: Topaz Reign by Teresa Richards

Topaz ReignCheck out this beautiful new cover for Topaz Reign, sequel to YA novel Emerald Bound by Teresa Richards! Topaz Reign will be available at the beginning of October, so stay tuned!

Topaz Reign

Fairy tales are simply tales, told and re-told, but changed over time.

It has been four months since Maggie learned the dark truth behind the tale of the Princess and the Pea and freed Princess Lindy from the cursed Emerald. Lindy is now back in the past where she belongs, queen of her tiny Scandinavian country, and Maggie is a fully reformed ex-stalker. 

Except… she can’t stop doing internet searches on Lindy and her country.  

One morning, Maggie wakes to find history turned on its head. Apparently, you can’t destroy a centuries-old curse without consequence. In order to prevent the changes in history from wiping out the present, Maggie resurrects her stalking gene and learns that fairy tales don’t stay dead for long. 

Or at all. 

Back in 1623, Lindy is juggling a threat to her family, a handsome new guard she’s not supposed to have feelings for, and a cursed Topaz with ties to the tale of Thumbelina. When past and present collide, Lindy and Maggie are brought together again, and another of Andersen’s tales turns from twisted fiction to chilling fact. 

Author Bio

Teresa Richards writes YA, but loves anything that can be given a unique twist. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, got a degree in Speech Pathology from Brigham Young University, then moved to the greater New York area for a little adventure. Now she’s settled somewhere between coasts with her husband and five kids, and has realized that writing is her passion. When Teresa’s not writing, she can be found chasing after one of her littles, driving one of her teens around, or hiding in the house with a treat she’s not planning to share. She is represented by Mallory Brown of Triada Literary Agency. You can connect with Teresa on twitter @BYUtm33,  Facebook  @AuthorTeresaRichards, and Instagram @authorteresarichards.

Check out the first book, Emerald Bound, on Amazon.

Book Review: Dead by Morning

dead-by-morningI know I haven’t reviewed much (read: any) horror on this blog, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t read much of the genre. While it’s not my primary genre of choice, a good dark read can be a fun break from the happy stories I typically choose. Dead By Morning by Kayla Krantz is a young adult horror story with psychological thriller elements and was recommended to me by a friend. 

Synopsis

Luna is a social outcast at her high school. She doesn’t mind; it’s her senior year and she’s looking forward to bigger and better things, like college. Her only problem is that super-popular Chance, whom she despises, won’t leave her alone. What starts as a seemingly ordinary story of a high school romance quickly turns dark when Luna discovers Chance is a Satanist full of deadly secrets. To make matters worse, someone–or something–begins to haunt her dreams, giving nightmares that soon become reality. Luna must figure out how to survive her dreams and convince everyone that pretty-boy Chance is not as innocent as he seems.

Strengths

This book hooked me right at the beginning and kept me reading through the end! The writing style is clear and easy to follow, but still provides adequate imagery so the reader can become fully immersed in the story. The author did a good job in creating conflict in her story; poor Luna is dealing with problem after problem from page one until the end! The pacing is great–the story moves along quickly and kept me interested throughout.

Weaknesses

There were a few issues I had with the overall story. It was really frustrating to watch Luna let herself be bullied by Chance. A normal person would have gotten help from the authorities–police, teachers, parents, ANYone. Her parents and best friend are so stupid and totally ignore the HUGE red flags about this guy. Normal parents would be more concerned about the safety and well-being of their daughter than pleasing some random kid from school. Her dad doesn’t seem excessively negligent, so I have to assume he’s oblivious to his daughter’s mental state. All of this behavior is a little hard for me to believe because it’s just not consistent with normal, healthy individuals.

Luna is constantly surprised at the horrible things Chance does. Don’t want to give away any spoilers, but she KNOWS he killed someone, yet is horrified when she sees an additional piece of physical evidence. That behavior is inconsistent.

The supernatural elements in the story are not fully explained and leave loose ends. There’s a character named Max who helps Luna deal with Chance. Max shows up with inexplicable knowledge of the whys and hows of her dreams. How does he know this stuff? It’s odd that Luna never questions how he knows what he does. Perhaps she didn’t wonder, but as a reader, I certainly did! Other supernatural stuff–like Luna’s vague ability to know the future, how Chance’s Satanism connects with the dream world stuff, and how Chance gained his abilities–are never really explained. 

Conclusion

Dead By Morning was definitely an entertaining read, especially if you enjoy the horror genre. The writing is strong and mechanically-sound; Krantz has a lot of talent as a writer. There were some loose ends and other issues with the overall story, and I think the supernatural element of the book needed some developing. But overall it was a fun, quick read that horror fans will enjoy. For those who haven’t read horror and want to try it out, I think this would be a good starting book. It’s not overtly gory or unnecessarily gross, but prepare yourself for unexpected character deaths! 

3.5 stars

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Book Review: The Bug Boys by Stewart Hoffman

I’ve just finished The Bug Boys and, oh, what a delightful read! This good tale can be found on Book Club Reading List.bug-boys

Synopsis

Alex and Ian are two ordinary middle-schoolers growing up in an ordinary small town in England. One afternoon they ate a lunch that made them feel peculiar. Little did they know, that peanut butter sandwich and apple were saturated in an ancient alien life form that turned their bodies into portals to a distant planet. They first discovered something was amiss when, after being forced to swallow a ladybug by the school bully, Alex grew 4 extra arms, acquired super-strength, and could understand the language of bugs–but only for about 20 minutes. With their newfound superpowers, Alex and Ian felt unstoppable. What better way was there to use their new abilities than to fight crime and become superheroes? After dealing with the local school bully, Alex and Ian find themselves tangled up in a corporate conspiracy far out of their league and soon long for the days before their problems became so complicated.

Strengths

This book is SO funny! I love the storytelling style and the humor that is woven so effortlessly throughout. The author has referenced his love of Terry Pratchett and I can see his influence in book’s sense of humor. I love the lighthearted, fresh twist on a superhero story, and I love that the main characters–Alex and Ian–behave exactly how you would expect pre-teen boys with superpowers to behave. They are absolutely believable and genuine characters that are so easy to love. While The Bug Boys is an entertaining read for anyone, if you have a son who might struggle with finding interesting books to read, you MUST give them this one! They will love it! Maybe I’m biased because I’m a girl (and therefore exposed to a plethora of interesting-to-girls literature), but I don’t think there are enough books geared toward middle school boys. The Bug Boys would be a fantastic addition to any young reader’s bookshelf.

Weaknesses

There were a few chapters where the action slowed down a bit, examining the story from a different point of view. While it was nice to get a different perspective, the change in pace during these chapters was a little slower than I preferred. But these chapters were generally brief before connecting back to Alex and Ian’s adventures.

Conclusion

This is a book you don’t want to miss. It has broad audience appeal, thanks to the easy humor and fun writing style, and will be enjoyed by readers of any age. I would especially recommend to middle school age boys, but again, everyone can enjoy this read. Go get yourself a copy and enjoy your next good tale!

5 stars

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Contact the author on Book Club Reading List

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