Category: Guest Post

Sophia Rose Review: Fatal Finds in Nuala by Harriet Steel

Posted May 20, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 10 Comments

Sophia Rose Review: Fatal Finds in Nuala by Harriet SteelFatal Finds in Nuala by Harriet Steel
Series: The Inspector de Silva Mysteries #4
Published by Stane Street Press on July 11th 2018
Genres: Historical Mystery, Cozy Mystery
Pages: 212
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

In this fourth instalment of the Inspector de Silva mysteries, it is monsoon season in the Hill Country. One stormy night, a ghostly encounter on a lonely road leads de Silva into a case of murder, and a mystery that stretches back to Ceylon’s distant past. To uncover the truth, he will have to face death and his inner demons. Fatal Finds in Nuala is another absorbing and colourful mystery in this series that vividly portrays Sri Lanka’s Colonial past.

I have come to really enjoy this engaging historical cozy mystery series set in Ceylon of the 1930’s. In this installment, Shanti, Jane, and Archie Clutterbuck engage in an archeological mystery in the jungle outside Nuala that involves murder during the height of the Monsoon season.

Fatal Finds in Nuala is the fourth of the Inspector de Silva mysteries. This is a series that is enjoyed best when read in order, but is versatile so it can easily be treated as a series of standalones, too.

There is a lovely blend of exotic location, time period, engaging characters, and a clever mystery. I love that the detective is non British and a native Singalese of middle-age. Shanti is thoughtful and clever. He respects others and struggles to be patient when he isn’t accorded the same and it interferes with his work.

A chance breakdown begins the chain of events that leads him to investigating a villager’s murder that seems to be connected with curious, but not necessarily priceless coins from the Kandy empire era. Or are they worthless? Shanti’s instincts are aroused even with few facts. His boss, Archie, is in an expansive mood, so he pursues thread-like leads.

Unlike some cozies, this series have some pretty exciting moments of danger and action. I do enjoy seeing Shanti get himself out of some tight situations and the setting of jungle and the poor weather adds to the suspense. And, it’s fun when the lightbulb comes on and he nails the villain. This was one where there is some foreshadowing that puts the reader onto some of the truth before the facts got there for the reveal. That said, I didn’t have it all figured out.

There were a few sweet moments when Jane comes along with Shanti to find clues in the jungle and a trip on the train to visit the city where they met.

So, it was another solid entry in the series and leaves me eager for more. Definitely a recommended series.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Sophia Rose: Who Slays the Wicked by CS Harris

Posted April 15, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 16 Comments

Sophia Rose: Who Slays the Wicked by CS HarrisWho Slays the Wicked by C.S. Harris
Series: Sebastian St. Cyr, #14
Published by Berkley Books on April 2, 2019
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars

The death of a fiendish nobleman strikes close to home as Sebastian St. Cyr is tasked with finding the killer to save his young cousin from persecution in this riveting new historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Why Kill the Innocent....
When the handsome but dissolute young gentleman Lord Ashworth is found brutally murdered, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is called in by Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy to help catch the killer. Just seven months before, Sebastian had suspected Ashworth of aiding one of his longtime friends and companions in the kidnapping and murder of a string of vulnerable street children. But Sebastian was never able to prove Ashworth's complicity. Nor was he able to prevent his troubled, headstrong young niece Stephanie from entering into a disastrous marriage with the dangerous nobleman.
Stephanie has survived the difficult birth of twin sons. But Sebastian soon discovers that her marriage has quickly degenerated into a sham. Ashworth abandoned his pregnant bride at his father's Park Street mansion and has continued living an essentially bachelor existence. And mounting evidence--ranging from a small bloody handprint to a woman's silk stocking--suggests that Ashworth's killer was a woman. Sebastian is tasked with unraveling the shocking nest of secrets surrounding Ashworth's life to keep Stephanie from being punished for his death.

When a murder hits too close to home, Sebastian finds himself investigating the death of the man he most reviled. The difficulty is that it turns out everyone hated the man and the man’s wife, Sebastian’s niece has the most reason.

In this fourteenth installment of the Sebastian St. Cyr historical mystery series, I found myself transported once again to Regency Era London on the eve of the Napoleonic War coming to an end when a sadistic fiend who raped and murdered young children, took advantage of every trades person and servant he encountered, and lived as the ultimate profligate turns up dead. Very dead. As in someone stabbed him so often that blood flowed everywhere.

I’ve enjoyed this series- which, incidentally, must be read in order. Watching Sebastian come to terms with his father and the secrets that hurt Sebastian deeply when they were hidden and then came out in brutal ways. In the last few years, he has happiness in his own life with his courageous and strong-willed wife and son. That said, he careful stays one step ahead of the political intrigue and danger swirling around his father in law that threatens him occasionally, and he is still determined to discover the last of the secrets surrounding his own enigmatic history. But, through it all, Sebastian has become a keen consulting detective for the London police with his military background, keen personal abilities and clever ability to not just look, but actually see when it comes to people and events. It doesn’t hurt that he has entre into places in the upper classes that the police can’t help to go.

Lord Ashworth was a repulsive, evil being. Sebastian’s need to get to the bottom of it is driven by his fear that his intrepid niece might have taken the knife herself- and many clues and facts do point her way. However, they also point toward a powerful and ruthless Russian princess whom his father in law warns him away from and also toward a despairing furniture maker who has been ruined because Ashworth wouldn’t pay a large bill. Oh, and let’s not forget the dangerous criminal hired by Ashworth as an assassin who also got angry over overdue bills. And, that is just the short list.

Meanwhile, Sebastian’s wife, Hero, is working on treatise about the poor and their lives who make their living as rag and bone men, pure pickers, and night soil men. She hopes to rouse the powers that be to social reform by exposing the lives of so many eking out their existence right under the noses of the affluent. Hero is unable to shake the worry over her distant cousin Victoria scheming with Jarvis, Hero’s father. Jarvis is the power behind the throne and will stop short of nothing to achieve the results he desires which seems to be the case with Victoria and the shadows around her past life and the significant glances she shares with Jarvis now and then.

Sebastian doesn’t even feel guilty for the relief he feels at Ashworth’s killing and no one else does either beyond the man’s father, an old family retainer, and an actual best friend. This was a case of too many suspects and too many motives. It also rounds out the story arc begun in the previous book when Sebastian solved the case, but didn’t get full satisfaction at the results. Sebastian also learns what drove Stephanie all this time (it’s been a mystery through a few books).

I am always keen on historical mysteries that provide as much authentic historical flavor as a clever well-developed mystery and engaging characters. This series continues to stand the test of time and keep me riveted with each new book released. The main mystery was good, but I also enjoy the background series-long ones as well. All historical mystery fans should try this series and join me in anticipating each new book.

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Sophia Rose Review: Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence

Posted April 4, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 14 Comments

Sophia Rose Review: Holy Sister by Mark LawrenceHoly Sister by Mark Lawrence
Series: Book of the Ancestor, #3
Published by Ace on April 9, 2019
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 368
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The third installment in a brilliant fantasy series from the international bestselling author of Prince of Thorns.
As a young girl, Nona Grey was saved from the noose by the Abbess of Sweet Mercy. But behind the convent’s walls she learned not a life of prayer and isolation, but one of the blade and the fist. Now she will serve as the convent’s fiercest protector as the emperor moves to destroy the last bastion that stands against him.

I wouldn’t have missed this one for the world. The thrilling conclusion to Nona Grey’s story and the grand finale for the story of all the people living on a planet facing a dying sun.

In the face of the end, people learn what truly matters to them. Holy Sister paints a beyond desperate situation for everyone living. Some seek to grab up power and will slaughter as many as it takes to have this. Some will do anything to survive on the winner’s side even if it means betrayal. And, for the strongest, it means doing whatever it takes to benefit the all.

The trilogy is all one story broken into three parts and must be taken in order. It starts with the focus on one girl with Red Sister. Then, the reader starts to realize that a whole chess board is in play by deft hands in Grey Sister. But, Holy Sister? It takes the machinations of a great mind orchestrating the events that occur to a new level. I found it an interesting blend of guided future with free choice playing a role, too.

I’m not trying to be mysterious, but that was how I felt as I was reading this one. Plus, there is only so much that I can say without running into spoiler territory. I’ll say what I feel that I can.

The setup is simple. The Durn are pushing in and raiding from one side and the Scithrowl are mowing down all in their path from the east. As the sun continues to die, the narrow corridor of land not covered by ice grows smaller and makes people fight to hold or take. Between the two others is the weakening empire where Nona and her fellow Sisters of Mercy live and do their work. The Emperor’s sister planned to betray him and her people to take up with the Scithrowl Queen. People are being forced to take sides and watch their backs even within the walls of the abbey.

Holy Sister tells its story in split time line of present day and three years before. The three years before follows the direct events of book two, Grey Sister, while the present drops one into the desperate times of a kingdom on the verge of annihilation from all sides. Nona and the efforts of her small band are the key. The reader is led through a complex series of missions and close, intense situations. It is twisting and turning and keeps the reader wondering constantly. The promised buildup to confrontations do come and it was breathtaking. War is costly so there is that, too. It was an interesting finish that left me pondering several things after the last page. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I can’t deny that it doesn’t fit.

So, all in all, I am sorry to be looking back on the end. It was one exciting and engaging ride from page one and I can highly recommend this book and the whole trilogy to those who enjoy intrigue, character growth, a good feel for setting, and gritty action in their fantasy reading.

I rec’d this book through Net Galley to read in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Sophia Rose Review: Ghosts Gone Wild by Danielle Garrett, Narrated by Amanda Ronconi

Posted April 1, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 22 Comments

Sophia Rose Review: Ghosts Gone Wild by Danielle Garrett, Narrated by Amanda RonconiGhosts Gone Wild by Danielle Garrett
Narrator: Amanda Ronconi
Length: 5 hours 58 minutes
Series: Beechwood Harbor Ghost Mystery, #2
Published by Tantor Audio on September 30, 2017
Genres: Paranormal, Cozy Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

There’s never a good time for a ghost crisis.
However, it's particularly inconvenient while I'm trying to tackle my first wedding season. Between twelve hour days, an assistant with a case of butter fingers (not the chocolate kind), and the flood of tourists in town, I’m struggling to keep a grip on my sanity.
All I want is three months of peace from the spirit world.
But when local ghosts start going missing, I have to do something.
After all, it’s not like they go to the Hamptons.
Missing ghosts, a posthumously alimony-hungry divorcee, and a raging bridezilla. Yup, my bingo card is officially full. Can I get a prize and go home now?
Ghosts Gone Wild is the second book in the Beechwood Harbor Ghost Mystery series. Spooky paranormal cozies with a twist! Perfect for fans of Kristen Painter and Angie Fox. Come explore the harbor with Scarlet Sanderson, Beechwood's own ghost whisperer!

The title is definitely apropos in this one. Two she-devil ghosts tug back and forth at Scarlett to solve their otherworldly problems, Gwen starts seeing another ghost leaving poor Hayward devastated, and now ghosts are going missing. Meanwhile, Scarlett gets a visit from Lucas on his vacation and she starts to panic because she’s out of her depth. And, her flower shop assistant is a constant calamity. Has the world gone mad, she wonders?

Ghosts Gone Wild is the second of the Beechwood Harbor Ghost mysteries. The first book set up the world and connected things to the earlier series while establishing this ghost-filled side world of mysteries with Scarlett in the lead. Scarlett has two live in ghosts- her former cat, Flapjack, now gifted with speech that is sarcasm 24/7 and does the job of both stirring things up and grounding them when necessary. There is Hayward, a Victorian era ghost, with Old-World gentleman charm who has a crush on Gwen and is so devastatingly sweet and reticent that he can’t bring himself to approach her. Gwen, a once hippie, ghosts around the town keeping up with the local gossip, human and ghostly, and is friends with Scarlett and the others at the flower shop.

I thought it was interesting to see the relationship dynamics play a larger role in this one including the glaring issue that Scarlett is more in tune to the ghost world than her own human world. She is terrified that Lucas will pull back so she nearly self-sabotages her own relationship to save him the trouble. I foresee this staying an ongoing problem because Scarlett looks for reasons to back away when none exist. I hope she can get over it soon.

The mystery in this one was actually more than one with bridezilla Kimberly’s murder, devil divorcee wife’s blackmail haunting of her ex, and then Gwen bringing up that ghosts are disappearing.

I confess that I felt Scar was somewhat all over the place in this one. She’s back and forth with Lucas who has been honest and open all along. She’s helpful to the most obnoxious ghosts and ignores her old ghost friend’s genuine concern. I liked the story well enough, but I did give Scarlett a few side-eyes. We’ll see what happens in the next book.

Amanda Ronconi was a great narrator as usual. I love the way she voices each ghost and person in the cast both male and female. She has a knack for the comedy elements and the blend of paranormal and mystery.

This was light and fun with a few nice little series developments and some excitement in the big confrontation scene. The mystery of who killed Kimberly was not that tough, but the disappearing ghosts was one that came out of left field. I enjoyed both.

I can recommend this series to those who enjoy paranormal cozy mysteries. I’m doing fine jumping in with this spin off, but I can see how starting with the earlier Beechwood Harbor Magic series would probably be even better.

My thanks to Tantor Audio for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Sophia Rose Review: Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff by Dana K. White

Posted March 23, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 20 Comments

Sophia Rose Review: Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff by Dana K. WhiteDecluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff by Dana K. White
Series: Standalone
Published by Thomas Nelson on February 27th 2018
Genres: Non-Fiction, Self Help
Pages: 240
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars

You don't have to live overwhelmed by stuff--you can get rid of clutter for good!
While the world seems to be in love with the idea of tiny houses and minimalism, many of us simply can't purge it all and start from nothing. Yet a home with too much stuff is a home that is difficult to maintain, so where do we begin? Add in paralyzing emotional attachments and constant life challenges, and it can feel almost impossible to make real decluttering progress.
In Decluttering at the Speed of Life, decluttering expert and author Dana White identifies the mind-sets and emotional challenges that make it difficult to declutter. Then, in her signature humorous approach, she provides workable solutions to break through these struggles and get clutter out--for good!
But more than simply offering strategies, Dana dives deep into how to implement them, no matter the reader's clutter level or emotional resistance to decluttering. She helps identify procrasticlutter--the stuff that will get done eventually so it doesn't seem urgent--as well as how to make progress when there's no time to declutter.
Sections of the book include
Why You Need This Book (You Know Why)Your Unique HomeDecluttering in the Midst of Real LifeChange Your Mind, Change Your HomeBreaking Through Your Decluttering DelusionsWorking It Out Room by RoomHelping Others DeclutterReal Life Goes On (and On)As long as we're living and breathing, new clutter will appear. The good news is that decluttering can get easier, become more natural, and require significantly fewer hours, less emotional bandwidth, and little to no sweat to keep going.

For the last few years, I’ve been on a mission that I call ‘Simplify’. This generic term covers all aspects of my life, but one of the primary ways has been a decluttering of my living space. I came across this title in my Prime Free reading options this month and I thought I’d see if there was more I could be doing or do it more efficiently in my ongoing pursuit of simplification through decluttering.

I really enjoyed the author’s approach to the subject matter. She approaches this as a mental state of being- a decision that change must take place- and warns of the hardships ahead of parting company with ‘treasures’, but then she leaves the esoteric behind to provide a solid winning formula.

How do I know it’s solid? Well, (pats self on the back) I was already doing most of that without the snazzy labels and steps and it was working. Okay, so I was doing a lot of it, but yes! Yippee! Woohoo! There were indeed some additional, practical steps and tips that I had not considered incorporating or that made some of the agony go away.

Without giving away the spoilery stuff (the actual formula- Decluttering at the Speed of Life), I’ll say that she approaches her house in a layer approach: Daily Stuff, Clutter, and Cleaning. This book addresses that second layer of Clutter. Her formula involves a four-step process and is designed for any space and any amount of time frame so it’s flexible for each person’s unique situation.

She suggests starting with the ‘visible’ and ‘living areas’ of the home first. This means where guests will see and where people do most of their living and are hampered by clutter. Her approach is simple- deal with the least agonizing (like trash or daily drop pile stuff) and working up to the big decision stuff. It’s easiest in the living space rooms that guests see. Then progress to bedrooms, closets, and storage. Hobby or Craft or game rooms that are the most likely to be turned into dumping areas.

Incidentally, I thought a tip that was helpful about decluttering a space is to first determine its function like in those guest/office/hobby rooms that end up catch-alls because the space hasn’t been defined (and this makes it hard to oust the clutter because it has no set primary purpose).

She also carefully says not to deal with ‘dream’ clutter until the last. I thought this was interesting because I figured it would be best to clear a space and move to the next space. But, then I got it. Dream clutter is the toughest to let go of. It’s best to start with the easiest to toss or donate and then get used to the idea and get used to the wonderful feel of functional space before heading into emotional attachment territory.

That leads me to say that she deals with our struggles with guilt when it comes to holding onto stuff. This can be pantry items because we feel guilty tossing food or clothes when someone may be going without. She kept bringing it back to ‘will you eat it or wear it NOW?’ No? Then get rid of it. Leaving it on your shelf or in your closet is not doing that nameless needing person any good. Use the guilt to shop to intentionally meet actual needs and bring home less next time.

She also covers the guilt of keeping something put away that was gifted by a good friend or relation when you don’t really like it and/or don’t ever use it. Aunt Susie made those pot holders to be used. Grandma Anna is gone and won’t know that you passed on her turkey platter because you prefer the one you bought. And, I saw myself doing ‘x, y, z’ rather than what your true reality is. Yep! This area was my big epiphany one.

She also addressed the Useful vs Actually Using issue which is another weak spot for me. If there isn’t space and it isn’t in immediate use then it must be donated. Freeing the space to use the things you actually use is more important than keeping tons of extra on the outside chance it will someday find use. This also led to the understanding of cutting clutter off before it even comes inside the door by not buying bulk or because it’s on sale for future potential use, but only if it will, in fact, be used.

Then, after going over her method and steps and how to address different types of household spaces, she went over how to deal with other’s clutter. This was: friends, kids, older family, spouses, moving, and clearing out the home of someone gone. I found the reminders of how to navigate the complications of helping others to be where I hit pay dirt because I do share my living space with others and I have been asked to come help others or help clear out for others.

Through and through, this was practical and helpful. She has another book about getting organized around the house that sounded like it was a good pairing to go with this one. She also has a blog that might also be helpful. My takeaway is a sense of renewed motivation and plans for working at my goal smarter and not harder.

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Sophia Rose Review: A Quiet Life in the Country by T.E. Kinsey, Narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden

Posted March 22, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 10 Comments

Sophia Rose Review: A Quiet Life in the Country by T.E. Kinsey, Narrated by Elizabeth KnoweldenA Quiet Life in the Country by T E Kinsey, Elizabeth Knowelden
Narrator: Elizabeth Knowelden
Length: 7 hours 43 minutes
Series: Lady Hardcastle Mysteries #1
Published by Brilliance Audio on October 4, 2016
Genres: Historical Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

7 hours and 43 minutes
A Lady Hardcastle Mystery, Book 1
Lady Emily Hardcastle is an eccentric widow with a secret past. Florence Armstrong, her maid and confidante, is an expert in martial arts. The year is 1908 and they've just moved from London to the country, hoping for a quiet life.
But it is not long before Lady Hardcastle is forced out of her self-imposed retirement. There's a dead body in the woods, and the police are on the wrong scent. Lady Hardcastle makes some enquiries of her own, and it seems she knows a surprising amount about crime investigation...
As Lady Hardcastle and Flo delve deeper into rural rivalries and resentment, they uncover a web of intrigue that extends far beyond the village. With almost no one free from suspicion, they can be certain of only one fact: there is no such thing as a quiet life in the country.
©2016 T E Kinsey. (P)2016 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.
Listening Length: 7 hours and 43 minutes

I started with book three in this series, progressed forward, and finally took the opportunity to go back and get the first book in the series. The cozy mystery paired with historical Edwardian setting was light and whimsical.

Actually, when I started listening, I realized that the first book introduced Lady Hardcastle and her ladies’ maid, Florence Armstrong along with their new home and the other regular characters, in such a way that it didn’t feel like the first book so much as the first of the stories that had been recorded. There are hints of their unusual, dangerous work abroad and no big explanation why the pair happened to be set upon ‘a quiet life in the country’ or why Lady Hardcastle and Florence have a relationship that is nearly family rather than an employer and servant from separate classes. The author trickles out the details and the reader/listener must catch them and piece them together as they go. Because I had experienced later books, those pieces stuck out easily to me. The meeting with Inspector Sunderland and the local villagers and neighborhood was fun. I do enjoy the amusing banter between the two women and hints of darker matters and sorrow from their shared past.

There are two murder mysteries that have interesting crossover people and facts. One seems to involve a dead man from the village cricket team whose death was meant to appear like a suicide and then later, the death of a rag-time band trumpeteer that played at the engagement party of the local squire’s daughter. A theft is tossed in for good measure.

I figured out one of the murders and part of the theft and the second murder, but the ultimate solution took me by surprise. Loved seeing the intrepid Flo able to get in some of her martial arts ability, use her cache of being a member of the serving class to get their help and take on things, and spend time trailing along as her ladyship teased out the solution alongside Inspector Sunderland using old fashioned detection methods.

Elizabeth Knowelden is an absolute gem of a narrator and the voice of this series for me. She laid out the Edwardian country village world, the variety of genders and accents, and kept the pace and tone for this series just right.

All in all, I thought this first entry was as fabulous as the later books and do not hesitate to put it out there as a good bet for historical cozy mystery lovers.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Sophia Rose Review: There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt

Posted March 12, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 14 Comments

Sophia Rose Review: There Will Be Sun by Dana ReinhardtTomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt
Series: standalone
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on March 12, 2019
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A private Mexican villa is the backdrop to this smart, absorbing story of a milestone vacation in a tropical paradise gone wrong, wrong, wrong.
Two families arrive in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Jenna has organized the trip to celebrate her husband's fiftieth birthday--she's been looking forward to it for months. She's sure everything is going to be just perfect--and the margarita refills delivered by the house staff certainly don't hurt, either. What could go wrong?
Yet as the families settle into their vacation routines, their best friends suddenly seem like annoying strangers, and even Jenna's reliable husband, Peter, is sharing clandestine phone calls with someone--but who? Jenna's teenage daughter, Clem, is spending an awful lot of time with Malcolm, whose questionable rep got him expelled from school. Jenna's dream of the ultimate celebration begins to crack and eventually crumbles completely, leaving her wondering whom she can trust, and whether her privileged life is about to be changed forever.
Readers of Emma Straub, Meg Wolitzer and Delia Ephron will love this sharply funny novel. Whether you're putting it in your carry-on to read on the beach or looking to escape the dead-of-winter blues, Tomorrow There Will Be Sun is the perfect companion.

Once in a while, I get in the mood for something far outside my usual reading habits.  This general fiction piece about two families of friends sharing a vacation villa in Puerta Vallarta and showcases that a truly horrid vacation story might be the one you never tell and never leaves you the same.

 

Jenna is the narrator of this story and she turns out to be an everyday, average middle-aged woman who has a penchant for needing control over everything, lots of worrying, and a confidence of being settled and satisfied in her life.  Okay, so she wished her husband, Peter, would be a little more assertive when it came to Solly getting his way and she wished she had a closer relationship with her daughter in the form of friendship, but nothing really beyond what she could handle in all that.  Unlike one of her good friend’s, Solly’s first wife, her husband isn’t planning to leave her for a younger model and her daughter wasn’t caught dealing drugs in school.

 

Yep, anyone can tell that poor Jenna, who has her faults though not dastardly ones, is being set up and this vacation trip is when it all starts to unravel.

 

The blurb might make this sound like a thriller or that it might be a humorous comedy of vacation errors.  Um, no, not even. Don’t get me wrong, there are a couple funny bits and there some real excitement happening that reminds me why I’ve shied away from this sort of vacation. The exciting stuff comes late and ends up in the background of what starts to happen in Jenna’s personal life.  That, my friends, is where the tension and crisis hits.

 

The reader goes through a long set up, getting to know the characters as the vacation gets rolling, and a lot of a middle-aged woman’s introspection to get there.  I won’t say its boring since the author writes in a way that kept me reading. I wasn’t exactly bored, but I wasn’t riveted, either, and I did get impatient. I was only so-so about Jenna or any of the characters for that matter.  They’re just… people. Nothing extraordinary. That is their appeal, but also not something that will keep ones interest indefinitely, as a result.

 

I think the part that struck me and probably will make this story stay in my mind longer than I thought when I was reading it, was the choice for the ending.  After all that came before it, the ending is open-ended though the reader can make an educated guess what will come after. Jenna has to decide what she wants to do with what she now knows about herself and about the others.

 

So, this was gently-paced, mostly introspective story of a middle-aged woman who goes on vacation thinking one thing about her life and comes back quite different.  An easy read with sunny setting turned out to be an engaging fiction that I can recommend to those who reach for slow and easy character-driven books.

 

My thanks to Pamela Dorman/Viking for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Sophia Rose Review: Offstage in Nuala by Harriet Steel, narrated by Matthew Lloyd Davies

Posted February 28, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 10 Comments

Sophia Rose Review: Offstage in Nuala by Harriet Steel, narrated by Matthew Lloyd DaviesOffstage in Nuala by Harriet Steel
Narrator: Matthew Lloyd Davies
Length: 5 hours 44 minutes
Series: The Inspector de Silva Mysteries #3
Published by Tantor Audio on October 24, 2017
Genres: Historical, Cozy Mystery
Pages: 224
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In this third instalment of The Inspector de Silva Mysteries, there’s great excitement when a professional theatre company comes to Nuala. However matters take a dark turn when the company’s actor manager is murdered. Inspector de Silva has a new case to solve and he has to consider some very unpalatable motives for the crime. He will need all his persistence, coupled with his wife, Jane’s, invaluable help to unmask the villain of the piece. Set on the exotic island of Ceylon in the 1930s, The Inspector de Silva Mysteries provide a colourful and relaxing read spiced with humour and an engaging cast of characters.

Shanti de Silva takes his wife Jane to the newly opened playhouse in Nuala when a traveling Shakespearean theater troupe arrive in town. It is not long before Hamlet is enacted in real life and Inspector de Silva must work out who brought the final curtain down on the lead actor.

This is the third of the Inspector de Silva mysteries set in 1930’s Ceylon with a Sinhalese detective who must always do a balancing act between the Colonial British government and the local peoples of whom he is one as he solves crime in Ceylon mountain city in the heart of tea plantation country. Shanti is a progressive and intellectual man who chose to marry warmhearted former governess, Jane. They share a tender and friendly loving relationship along with an interest in crime-solving, but also must deal with the nuances to their marriage that come from being an interracial couple.

Each of these historical cozy mysteries are a delight for the details of the 1930’s world of Ceylon and having the main character being non-British. This aids and hinders his work in turn.

The mysteries are not devilishly twisting, but they are not too easy to figure out, either. I enjoy seeing Shanti gather the facts here and there, consult Jane’s take, engage in other daily affairs, and then have an intense action-packed final scene when he exposes the killer.

The narrator, Matthew Lloyd Davies, does a stellar job of voicing gender, age, many international accents, and bringing out nuances in the story with a good handle on pacing and tone. I get lost in his storytelling each time I listen in to this series.

In summary, these are a wonderful escape to the past and an exotic setting with a clever murder and engaging characters. Definitely recommend to those who enjoy this genre.

My thanks to Tantor Audio for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley, Narrated by Jayne Entwistle

Posted February 12, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 18 Comments

Guest Review: The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley, Narrated by Jayne EntwistleThe Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
Length: 9 hours 50 minutes
Series: Flavia de Luce, #2
Published by Random House Audio on March 9, 2010
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 10
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

From Dagger Award–winning and internationally bestselling author Alan Bradley comes this utterly beguiling mystery starring one of fiction’s most remarkable sleuths: Flavia de Luce, a dangerously brilliant eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders. This time, Flavia finds herself untangling two deaths—separated by time but linked by the unlikeliest of threads.
Flavia thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacy are over—and then Rupert Porson has an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. The beloved puppeteer has had his own strings sizzled, but who’d do such a thing and why? For Flavia, the questions are intriguing enough to make her put aside her chemistry experiments and schemes of vengeance against her insufferable big sisters. Astride Gladys, her trusty bicycle, Flavia sets out from the de Luces’ crumbling family mansion in search of Bishop’s Lacey’s deadliest secrets.
Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What of the vicar’s odd ministrations to the catatonic woman in the dovecote? Then there’s a German pilot obsessed with the Brontë sisters, a reproachful spinster aunt, and even a box of poisoned chocolates. Most troubling of all is Porson’s assistant, the charming but erratic Nialla. All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head? 
From the Hardcover edition.

Another whimsical and captivating entry in the Flavia de Luce series pits eleven year old amateur detective Flavia against a new puzzling murder and a long ago death of a young boy that may have a bearing on the famous puppeteer’s demise.

Flavia is not just precocious, but rather a child protégé when it comes to chemistry, particularly poisons, and puzzling out a mystery. The de Luce household is somewhat ramshackle and eccentric both the estate and the family. It is a pleasure to slip into Flavia’s English countryside and village 1950-era world. She is both a terror and an engaging girl with a mind that observes and analyzes beyond the average adult.

I enjoyed this gently paced historical mystery. The author’s carefully painted historical setting, dialogues, and characters make the book just sparkle. It may have a child detective, but this is very much an adult level series with themes and elements aimed at an adult audience. That said, Flavia is written so that the reader/listener is convinced of her age while also finding her abilities and deductions equally believable. It is fun how one moment she is clever and cunning when on the hunt to solving the mystery and the other she is cat-fighting and pulling pranks on her older obnoxious sisters while avoiding the stern censure of her father. She understands so much about facts, but finds adults act in unfathomable ways at times. I about died laughing when she went to her father’s manservant to explain what was involved in ‘having an affair’ because she deduced he was likely to be her best bet for an answer. Poor old Dogger!

I will say that this book/series are more of an acquired taste in that I don’t think this will have universal appeal. It will depend on if the reader/listener likes a story that takes its time and also has a mischievous eleven year old as the principle character.

Jayne Entwistle continues to deliver a brilliant performance as the narrator. She voices all the characters so well even the added voice of a male German accented voice along with Flavia’s girl exuberance. There is something that she does to make it feel like the right era, too.

All in all, I had a great time and even burst into laughter several times over Flavia’s antics. Dogger the family handyman continues to be a favorite character as he fights his post-war stress demons and takes care of the family and particularly Flavia. I can’t wait for more from this unique historical mystery series that makes me think of Sherlock Holmes mashed with Addams’ Family.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Guest Review: Pride, Prejudice, and Jasmin Field by Melissa Nathan

Posted February 8, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 16 Comments

Guest Review: Pride, Prejudice, and Jasmin Field by Melissa NathanPride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field by Melissa Nathan
Series: standalone
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on April 24, 2001
Genres: Chick-Lit, Womens Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars

It starts as a lark for Jasmin Field, the charming, acerbically witty columnist for a national women's magazine.  She joins a host of celebraties gathering in London to audition for the season's most dazzling charity event:  a one-night only stage production of Jane Austen's immortal Pride and Prejudice, directed by and starring the Academy Award -- winning Hollywood heartthrob Harry Noble.  And nobody is more surprised than Jasmin herself when she lands the lead of handsome Harry's love interest, Elizabeth Bennet.  But things start to go very wrong very quickly.  Ms. Field's delicious contempt for the arrogant, overbearing Harry Noble goes from being wicked fun to infuriating.  Her brief moment of theatrical glory looks as if it's going to be overshadowed by the betrayal of her best friend, the disintegration of her family and the implosion of her career. And suddenly she can't remember a single one of her lines.  But, worst of all, Harry Noble -- who, incidentally, looks amazing in tight breeches -- has started to stare hard at Jazz with that sort of a glimmer in his eyes...
Fresh, wild, wonderfully romantic and absolutely hilarious, Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field is Jane Austen as the great lady herself never imagined it.

 

So, Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field, a classic retelling within a modern retelling. Yes! We have a play adaption of Jane Austen’s P&P acted for a charity event with the players’ lives mimicking art in this one.

It is set in London and follows the life of women’s column journalist, Jasmin Field as she plays the part of impertinent Elizabeth Bennet across from top rated actor in the country, Harry Noble who set Jazz’s back up long before their first bad meeting.

Things progress in a marvelous comedy of errors type story as Jasmin is set in hate-mode toward Harry and it doesn’t help that she lets herself believe a charmer with lies on his lips. Harry got on her bad side so she has no trouble believing the worst. It is the shy, friendly side that startles her and throws her for a loop. Meanwhile, her sister falls for the cutie nice guy actor and her flat mate plays the role of the pragmatic friend who settles for what she can get.

But, it wasn’t just comedy. There were some deeper elements that came out: abuse, gaslighting, integrity in journalism, feminism in these fields of industry, and the downside of the entertainment world beside all the glitter and glam.

I had a good time with this one, particularly since I’m an American enjoying the completely British flavor of this one even down to the slang. There was some sparks flying and some memorable funny moments along with some good character growth and decisive moments.

I will say that while I had fun with the overall story; I was not as enamored with Jasmin as the main character. I found her character crossed the line from snarky into angry-bitter which wasn’t attractive. It did make her big ‘aha’ moment bigger, and it was great watching her work through her thoughts and choices after that. I didn’t have much respect for her and Harry at times until later- then I was rooting them on.

All in all, it was a fast and engaging retelling with some sparkle and shine to it.

 

Sophia Sophia 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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