Great Reads

The Twelve Dice of Christmas by Gail Oust

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Publish Date :
 11/13/18
Author: 
 Gail Oust
Started:  12/18/18
Finished: 
12/22/18
Pages:
275
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐

Thanks to Netgalley and Beyond the Page Publishing for a copy of this book.

Goodreads Summary:

In the new Kate McCall Mystery from the author of Death Rolls the Dice, when Kate stumbles on the skeletal remains of a man who disappeared decades ago, she’ll have to solve the coldest of cold cases to nab a killer before the holidays really go south . . .

My Review:

I picked this up with very little expectations. I read a Cozy Mystery earlier this month and did not enjoy it all that much. I was under the impression that Christmas novels lack what makes a good story. I feel like they are definitely cheesy and mostly forced in order to stay catorgorized under the holiday genre. So with little expectations, I picked this up wanting to finish it before Christmas of course.

This was different than my earlier read this month. Although it centered around Christmas, it wasn’t cheesy or unrealistic. This was a cute and quick read. I did not read the previous mysteries in the series so I didn’t understand some character dynamics but it didn’t necessarily hinder the read. It did get a little confusing trying to remember all of the multiple charactrs, however. The Bunco Babes run deep! The characters were all very quirky and quite funny. I enjoyed their personalities and were drawn to their hysterics.

This was overall a solid read. I had a little issue because I figured out the murderer quickly and I enjoy more of a suspenseful twisty mystery usually. Although I pinned the murderer down, it was harder for me to understand the motive so that was okay at least. I must say that it wasn’t overly corny like many cozy mysteries can be so that was a plus.

All in all, a decent read! I actually want to go back and read some of the other books in the series.

Great Reads

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

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Publish Date :
 08/07/18
Author: 
 Fiona Davis
Started:  12/11/18
Finished: 
12/18/18
Pages:
368
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

In her latest captivating novel, nationally bestselling author Fiona Davis takes readers into the glamorous lost art school within Grand Central Terminal, where two very different women, fifty years apart, strive to make their mark on a world set against them.

For the nearly nine million people who live in New York City, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.

For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future, which she is certain will shine as the brightly as the constellations on the main concourse ceiling. It is 1928, and twenty-five-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. A talented illustrator, she has dreams of creating cover art for Vogue, but not even the prestige of the school can override the public’s disdain for a “woman artist.” Brash, fiery, confident, and single-minded–even while juggling the affections of two men, a wealthy would-be poet and a brilliant experimental painter–Clara is determined to achieve every creative success. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they’ll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression, an insatiable monster with the power to destroy the entire art scene. And even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.

Nearly fifty years later, in 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay’s life. Full of grime and danger, from the smoke-blackened ceiling to the pickpockets and drug dealers who roam the floor, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor hidden under the dust, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece–an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.

My Review:

I had seen mixed reviews on this one which is why I think it took me so long to pick up but I am glad that I finally did. I really enjoyed this one. First things first, I enjoyed both Clara and Virginia’s perspectives. Both of their POV’s and chapters in the different time periods proved to be interesting. I was never bored with either of them which happens often for me when books are told by different characters. I also admired these two women. For Clara in the 1920’s, she was a very forward woman character as a woman who had a career during the Depression and before. Women often did not have careers at this time obviously and I admired the feminist perspective of this. I also admired Virgina in the 1970’s as she too was forward. As a newly divorced woman, she did what she could to try and provide a familiar lifestyle for her and her daughter, Ruby. She also was a character who I admired due to her past and how it helped her grow even when it was an issue for her.

The plot revolving around art and Grand Central Station was interesting. It was a blast through past to be reminded how important train travel was in the past and how the terminal was described in such luxorious ways. I also learned quite a bit about the history of the terminal and how it was so much more than just a business designated for travel.

You don’t have to be a fan of art to enjoy the book. It does not center directly on art to the point where you must be familiar with art but it is a central theme. Even if you aren’t a fan of art, the it isn’t overbearing to the point which would make it unenjoyable. I knocked down one star because although I was satisfied with the ending, it was a little overwhelming for me. I felt as if everything was building up to be awesome where the ending, although it tied everything in, had less enthusiasm that much of the book otherwise. Still, I loved the book. I enjoyed reading it and will truly enjoy looking at Grand Central Station in a brand new perspective during my next visit. I would pick this book up if you have not already!

Great Reads

Slay Bells by TC Wescott

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Publish Date : 11/23/18
Author: 
 T.C. Wescott
Started:  12/8/18
Finished: 
12/11/18
Pages:
273
Rating : ⭐⭐

Goodreads Data:

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the village, the night settled in over swirling-smoke chimneys; the air was alive with pine and holly, with sugar and cinnamon and cider, by golly!

Along snowy lanes and through shadows it crept, past windows behind which each villager slept, where sleeping dogs lie and cats rest a’purring—

Tonight, in Christmas Village, a killer is stirring.

Welcome to Christmas Village, a magical hamlet where even in December the roses hold their luster and bees buzz among the bluebells. You’re just in time for the week-long Christmas Festival, and nowhere is Christmas celebrated with such unrestrained merriment as the village which bears its name. Mayor Cobblestone and Sheriff Fell will be somewhere nearby, doing all they can to make sure you’re safe during your stay.

Provided you haven’t booked a room at Plum Cottage.

Nestled betwixt an opulent garden with meandering footpaths and an ancient grove of plum trees, Rose Willoughby’s boarding house is plum-full with lodgers. There are no vacancies, but just wait. Soon there will be one…and another…and another.

Presently lodging at the cottage are: the juggler, the acrobat, the magician, the psychic, the strongman, the manager, and the pretty assistant. In town as festival entertainment they’ve each brought their own bag of tricks. And a closetful of skeletons.

When the entertainers begin dying in inexplicable ways, some villagers believe a beast from old village lore is the culprit. The sheriff knows better, but he’s just as helpless to catch the invisible killer as are the town folk with their eyes to the sky in search of a flying creature. But our mysterious murderer hasn’t counted on yet another lodger coming to the cottage: Maribel Claus.

Short as a stump, round as a wheel, sweet as a candy cane, and a sharp as a whip, Maribel loves a good puzzle. But has she finally met her match at Plum Cottage?

Can you figure out whodunit before Maribel does? If you’re up to the challenge, here’s your first clue—the key to unlocking the secret of the murderer’s identity lies in figuring out how the murders were committed. Good luck!

If you’re looking for a fun, baffling read that’s cozier and more mysterious than the usual fare, replete with diagrams of the murder scenes and a one-of-a-kind BOOK GROUP CHALLENGE, then Slay Bells is the perfect gift to buy yourself this Christmas.

My Review:

I felt like there was so much in this book that was not necessary and it was a bit boring for me.  I was skimming a little too much and was getting so frustrated trying to get to something of magnitude. I also felt like the resolution was not satisfactory for me. I had an inclination about who the murderer was the entire time but didn’t have enough information about the characters themselves to really figure out more of it.

I found the book a little corny but most cozy mysteries really are. I also felt the Christmas Village and our Clause character was too a bit corny but again, expected. I did love the village traditions and found myself wishing I lived there (just not when a murderer is on the loose).

Even with my issues and me skimming through quite a bit, I was still interested in finding out how the murders happened as the murder itself was a bit mysterious and hard to comprehend. This won’t be a read that I read again but I would recommend it to someone who enjoys a cozy mystery.

Great Reads

This is Cuba – ARC OUT TODAY!

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Publish Date :
 12/11/18
Author: 
 David Ariosto
Started:  12/5/18
Finished: 
12/8/18
Pages:
304
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐

I was sent an advanced readers copy to read and review this from Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press. All opinions are my own.

Goodreads Summary:

Fidel Castro is dead. Donald Trump was elected president. And to most outsiders, the fate of Cuba has never seemed more uncertain. Yet those who look close enough may recognize that signs of the next revolution are etched in plain view.

This is Cuba is a true story that begins in the summer of 2009 when a young American photo-journalist is offered the chance of a lifetime—a two-year assignment in Havana.

For David Ariosto, the island is an intriguing new world, unmoored from the one he left behind. From neighboring military coups, suspected honey traps, salty spooks, and desperate migrants to dissidents, doctors, and Havana’s empty shelves, Ariosto uncovers the island’s subtle absurdities, its Cold War mystique, and the hopes of a people in the throes of transition. Beyond the classic cars, salsa, and cigars lies a country in which black markets are ubiquitous, free speech is restricted, privacy is curtailed, sanctions wreak havoc, and an almost Kafka-esque goo of Soviet-style bureaucracy still slows the gears of an economy desperate to move forward.

But life in Cuba is indeed changing, as satellite dishes and internet hotspots dot the landscape and more Americans want in. Still, it’s not so simple. The old sentries on both sides of the Florida Straits remain at their posts, fists clenched and guarding against the specter of a Cold War that never quite ended, despite the death of Fidel and the hand-over of the presidency to a man whose last name isn’t Castro.

And now, a crisis is brewing.

In This Is Cuba, Ariosto looks at Cuba from the inside-out over the course of nine years, endeavoring to expose clues for what’s in store for the island as it undergoes its biggest change in more than half a century.

My Review:

I love reading about Cuba but have only done so in fictional stories. I do not read a ton of nonfiction but I love to learn. I picked up this book with expectations to learn a lot more about Cuba and the US but to be honest, I don’t know much about the US and Cuba. I’m a bit ignorant on the Cold War, The Bay of Pigs, and other actions we have had in the past that led us to the relationship we have now. At no fault to the author, I feel like I didn’t know enough about that history to understand Everything but it was still interesting enough to see to the dynamics between the islanders and our author, David. I learned a decent amount from this book but I took away how much the Cubans actually loved their country. There was a particular chapter about some Cubans that escaped Cuba and were living in Florida. Their reactions to the new country were astonishing and helped me recognize that it is important to not always assume that a group of people are suffering because they are living differently from your norm. It also helped me recall the age old adage “The grass is always greener…”.

If you’re looking for a quick nonfiction read, I suggest giving this a try. I really enjoyed it and I am interested in reading some more about this country I know so little about.

Great Reads

The Vanishing Box – by Emily Griffiths

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Publish Date :
 10/09/18
Author: 
 Elly Griffiths
Started:  11/21/18 (for ten minutes) Picked back up on 12/1/18
Finished: 
12/4/18
Pages:
368
Rating : ⭐⭐

I was sent an advanced readers copy to read and review this from Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All opinions are my own.

Goodreads Summary:
In a nail-biting hunt for a missing loved one, DI Edgar Stephens and the magician Max Mephisto discover once again that the line between art, life, and death is all too easily blurred.

It’s the holiday season and Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby have landed a headlining gig at the Brighton Hippodrome, the biggest theater in the city, an achievement only slightly marred by the less-than-savory supporting act: a tableau show of naked “living statues.” But when one of the girls goes missing and turns up dead not long after, Max and Ruby realize there’s something far more sinister than obscenity afoot in the theater.

DI Edgar Stephens is on the case. As he searches for the killer, he begins to suspect that her fatal vanishing act may very well be related to another case, the death of a quiet local florist. But just as he’s narrowing in on the missing link, Ruby goes missing, and he and Max must team up once again to find her.

My Review:

This was my first Elly Griffiths novel but I’ve heard some rather good things about some of her other mystery series. This was definitely not a total flop for me but I did have some issues with it. I had a hard time with the writing style. The author went from character to character without any warning and it was hard to follow because many times, the character change would also result to an entire different setting change as well. Without warning, I found myself many times rereading paragraphs when I was realizing that there was a setting/character change. I don’t necessarily believe that every single setting or character change needs a new chapter but some kind of forewarning would have been nice. I also had a little hard of a time with the setting as a whole. The morals of the story seemed to read at a earlier time frame than the 1950’s for me. This may be a personal issue for me but I felt like this was taking place much earlier than the 1950’s and I sometimes had a hard time imagining the setting of Brighton during this time. As I said, it would be my fault but I always thought of boarding houses and tableaux shows earlier in the century. This sometimes made it difficult for me to actually paint the scenes in my head.

There were many characters involved that took me a bit of time to get straight. The book for me fluctuated where I would be super interested for a few pages and lose interest for a few after as character relationships were focused on a bit too much for my liking. I feel like the book could have been a much quicker read for me had the pace matched the suspenseful plot. I noticed that even the summary didn’t match what I was reading even at 50% in which was an issue for me as I was waiting for what I thought the book was going to be about for some time.

I did however admire Emily as a career woman. Being a female police officer would have been difficult during the time period but I wish I would have gotten more of an understanding of her character. She is not very girly, seems to live in a very whealthy family (having a father who takes out the Rolls Royce to drop her off at the theater). Her involvement in the case could have been easier understood with some more background about her. Her thoughts about the other characters, the show itself, and even the way she works could have been easier understood if she was more of a dynamic character.

This book lacked serious emotion for me. I feel like the mystery could have been so interesting but the book focused more on characters interacting that barely made sense of the mystery. In fact, I was extremely disappointed with who was responsible for our mystery as it made zero sense to me. Also, the unfolded romance for me also fell flat and was unemotional. How is this even happening and are you sure you’re even in love? Besides that romance, Max’s attachment to Florence also felt weird. As said, I haven’t read the other books in the series and that may be a factor but all in all, this fell short for me.

Great Reads

Me Before You – by Jojo Moyes

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Publish Date : 07/30/2013
Author: 
 Jojo Moyes
Started:
  11/25/18
Finished: 
11/30/18
Pages: 369
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

Louisa Clark is an ordinary young woman living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

My Review:
I finished Me Before You and it’s taken me a few days to compile any thoughts on it. It was addicting and I really enjoyed the characters. I have a hard time writing a review on this because it’s hard for me to put how I actually feel about this book without giving away any spoilers.

Will as a person was hard to like at first but for extremely good reasons. I feel as if I would be cold and depressed had I been in his shoes as well. I really felt awful for him the entire time but felt just as bad for Loisa who was doing her best to not only be there for Will but understand her own feelings towards the entire situation. I could not relate however to the “solution” in Will’s head because of my own religious beliefs just like other characters in the story. This however did not steer me from being super involved and interested in the story.

I really enjoyed watching Louisa grow as a person in the story. What many would have viewed as weakness or lack of motivation, was what the Trainor family needed. Louisa was such a dynamic character not only helping Will but growing as a person herself. The story was also eye-opening as we as people often feel like we know what is best for someone. We often can make decisions and find it easy to solve another person’s problem but it’s  because we do not understand all the intricate dynamics that actually make a person who he or she is. This book was a great reminder that other people’s feelings will differ and you don’t truly know what is best for someone without living the same exact life that they do. Sometimes it is easier to support someone’s decision rather than try and understand every aspect of that person.

As you can see, I’m super struggling to put any of my thoughts into words because I don’t want to give anything who hasn’t read this away and I also am still trying find more sympathy and understand Will who decided to make a choice that would affect more than just himself. All in all though, I did really like the book. It was thought-provoking and I am looking forward to diving into more of the series.

Great Reads

November Wrap-Up and December TBR

I enjoyed my November much more than my October. All four or more stars for me so I’m super happy that my month turned out this way!

Here’s what I accomplished :

The Impossible Girl – This was so unique that I enjoyed it. It took me a little to get into it but because of how unique it was, I ended up loving it. There are no other books that I have read that are even close to being similar to this story. It was refreshing in an odd way even the material is heavy. Read the review here.

The Wartime Sisters- A quick and engaging read that I thoroughly enjoy and recommend. It comes out this January and my review will be found here on the blog at that time. (You’ll catch it the day before publication a.k.a January 21st).

Our Little Lies – This is a thriller that had me questioning myself the entire time. It was familiar yet unique in its own way and I definitely recommend this read. The review can be found here.

Auschwitz Lullaby – This was a great read and I learned so much. I really loved seeing this perspective from a Gypsy and oddly enough enjoyed seeing more of Mengele and his actions. This can be found here.

Circe – I am sooooo happy that I joined a buddy read for this. It was my most anticipated book of the year and then after I got it, it sat on my shelf for a bit as I had so much more to read. I took the time to read this and am so glad that I did. I’ll also be rejoining my buddy read group to tackle The Song ofAchillies but not until this January. I CANNOT wait for that one after Circe. Madeline Miller is also a native of Philadelphia so I’m so proud to support her. My review is found here.

Me Before You – I’ve been told a million and one times to give this book a read from readers and nonreaders alike. I finally got around to it and loved every moment of the book. The review will be posted soon if you’re one of the few who have never read it before.

There are quite a bit I want to accomplish next month. I am unsure that I’ll get though all of these as December is usually super hectic. I also decided to take on two buddy reads which I have never done before. It could be challenging for me to do so as there will be deadlines but I’m up for the challenge. Next month I hope to read:

The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths – I picked this up before Thanksgiving while getting a pedicure. It seemed promising BUT then I picked up Me Before You and never picked it up again lol. I’m excited to get into this because I really was enjoying the 6% I got through. Hey, only 94% left to go!

This is Cuba by David Ariosto – Being published this December 11th, I am rather ignorant on Cuban affairs. This definitely sparked my interest.

Slay Bells by T.C Westcott– Looks like a short read but a very interesting short read. I’m more excited for this one than I would have thought.

Children of Blood and Bone by Toni Adeyemi– I got my hands on this one finally and am reading this with my Popsugar group on Goodreads . I’m happy to be reading a physical copy of this.

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis – This has been on my TBR shelf for a bit of time. I’m looking forward to this historical fiction.

The Twelve Dice of Christmas by Gail Oust – This is a mystery by an author I have not read from yet although it is a mystery series. Her other mysteries have decent reviews.

What is on your TBR this upcoming month?