Sunday, October 30, 2022

With the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II, the royal family has been in the news once again. While fascination with the royal family rarely wanes, the younger generations tend to grab all the headlines.  The Queen Mother, who died in 2002 at the age of 101, led a fascinating life where she encountered many of the well-known people of the day. She, like her daughter, had a great belief in "doing one's duty" and continued to participate in royal duties until just a few months before her death. This book takes a look at her life, decade by decade, to show the woman who tried (not always successfully) to avoid publicity.

I thought from the somewhat comical cover, that the book might be less substantial and focus more on the quips and (perhaps) public gaffs that the Queen Mother was known for. Instead, the book was a very in-depth look at the life of the woman who was born while Queen Victoria was still on the throne and died a century later. Not only are well-known sources quoted, but also people who knew or met the Queen Mother and also private letters and diaries were consulted to form a more rounded picture of the QEII's mum -- warts and all. 

Anyone who is interested in the royal family will enjoy reading about the long and mostly happy life of the woman referred to as Buffy (by her siblings) and Cake (by her enemies in society). It was interesting to learn so many details that I hadn't known, such as the fact that the future King George VI had to propose 3 times to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon before she accepted. She was something of an "it girl" and had no interest in giving up her partying lifestyle for a life of duty and being in the public eye. But eventually, true love prevailed, and she and "Bertie" began their lives together. Everything changed when his brother, King Edward VIII, famously renounced the crown to marry Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth never forgave either of them as it meant her shy, anxious husband with the speech impediment was suddenly thrust into a role he had not really been prepared for. Elizabeth's long-standing grudge with the Duke and Dutchess of Windsor (as they became) throughout their lifelong exile in Paris is one of the more interesting events in the book.  Neither brother (Kings Edward VIII or George VI) comes across in a very positive light, both being described as not overly bright, quick to throwing temper tantrums, and spoiled. But at least Bertie had the same dedication to the job as his wife did and he was surprisingly successful in his time as king. His somewhat unexpected death would leave his wife to live as a widow for the next 50 years. 

There are plenty of funny stories about encounters with the Queen mum, most revolving around her love of a "little drinky-poo" (or twelve) before, during, and after lunch. Many people who had meetings with the Queen mum missed later appointments as she convinced them, quite cheerfully, to just have one more. Her kindness to servants who were employed long after they ceased to be able to perform their duties was also mentioned, as was her willingness to take the blame when things went wrong (so people wouldn't lose their jobs). The criticism of her weight gain was mentioned all throughout the book, but it never seemed to dampen her love of good food and drink, nor dim her cheerful good humor. The book is a fascinating look at the entire twentieth century and events that Elizabeth witnessed first-hand. A particularly poignant scene describes how she was interviewed by a historian about her recollections of Tsar Nicholas II's mother Marie, since Elizabeth was "the only person left alive who remembered her." All in all, a very entertaining book about a formidable woman. 

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.

Sunday, September 18, 2022


People who are arrested for serious crimes today look for any mitigating factors to deflect blame from themselves. Murder by the Book proves that this tactic is nothing new. In 1840 the elderly Lord William Russell was found murdered in his bed when his servant came to wake him up one morning. His throat had been cut but all of the blood had soaked down into the mattress. The police quickly arrived and detected valuables missing but no signs of any intruders. There had been an attempt made to look as if one of the doors had been forced open, but it was determined this had been done from the inside. With no intruders to blame, interest turned to the servants in the house. There were not that many: a female cook and housemaid as well as a male valet were the only staff who "lived in." When some skirting boards in the valet's room were noticed to be askew, some of the missing valuables were discovered hidden there and the valet was quickly arrested.

The valet, François Courvoisier, was originally from Switzerland and had been employed by Lord Russell for only a month. On the day of the murder, Lord Russell had been angry with his valet for forgetting to send a coach to pick him up at his club. This and the missing valuables were seen as enough of a motive to keep him locked up for trial.

At the same time as this scandal was rocking the city, a book and play about another famous criminal were dominating the social life of Victorian London. Jack Sheppard was a young thief who became famous when he repeatedly escaped from various jails before eventually being hanged for his crimes.  In early 1839 the author William Harrison Ainsworth, who was one of the most popular authors of the day, published his "romance" called Jack Sheppard. It was so popular that it was printed in numerous editions and variations, while plays loosely based on the book were popping up all across London, to the delight of theatregoers. Some other writers, including Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray, became disturbed by the glamorization of the criminal and his illegal lifestyle. 

Once Courvoisier was convicted of the murder and sentenced to hang in only a few weeks, he offered several different versions of what happened the night of the crime. In one of his later confessions, he said that he had become consumed with the idea of turning to a life of crime after reading the book Jack Sheppard and seeing the play several times. He wasn't the only one to blame the book for his crimes, as petty crimes and thefts increased after the publication of the story of the daring criminal.

The book was very enjoyable and took an in-depth look at the crime, the accused, and the literary firestorm that raged around the author and the subject matter. Many interesting figures of the day are also drawn into the fray, including Dickens, Thackeray, and even Edgar Allan Poe. The disgust at the behavior of the crowd during the public execution was also something that disturbed many of the authors of the day (although they, too, turned up to witness the spectacle). The possible motive for the crime and the possibility that Courvoisier didn't act alone are also discussed in fascinating detail. A very interesting Victorian true crime mystery!

Wednesday, September 14, 2022


Everyone who goes away to begin college or university can relate to the feelings of wanting to fit in and "find your tribe." Clare is no different. She heads to Edinburgh to begin her studies not knowing anyone in the city. Clare's background is also rather murky with something having happened in her past that caused her parents to disown her. She has two roommates, but she doesn't really feel any close connection with either of them. In one of her classes, she becomes intrigued by a striking girl, Tabitha, and is soon thrilled to be befriended by her and her group of friends. Ava and Imogen live in Tabitha's house, and her old friend Samuel is also around frequently. They all seem rather wealthy and Clare can't imagine at first why they want her to join their circle. When Tabitha invites her to France with the rest of the group, Clare is excited but also wary -- especially when she's told there is a "project" the group wants to propose to her.

The book moved at a glacial pace while Clare was taken into the circle of friends. Chapter after chapter of her wondering what every glance or phrase meant or didn't mean. It was very tedious. Things picked up about 1/3 of the way through the book when the group's interest in Clare was finally revealed. It took way too long for anything to be explained, and the events played out in such a drawn-out fashion that there was no tension. It's one of those books where you really don't like anyone, so there's no real investment in how any of them end up.

I received a copy of The Things We Do to Our Friends from NetGalley

Monday, September 12, 2022


The 1986 unsolved murder of then Prime Minister Olaf Palme has remained one of the world's great mysteries. It is the backdrop of Blaze Me A Sun, where the first in a series of murders takes place on the same evening in a small Swedish village. Local police officer Sven Jörgensson is called to the scene when a young woman's body is found in a car at a remote farm. He quickly drives her to the hospital, but she doesn't survive. The murder is overshadowed by the more prominent murder in Stockholm, but Sven does his best to investigate a case that will soon consume him completely.

The book begins in 2019, when the writer "Moth" comes back to his hometown after a bitter divorce. He's living in his old familial home, next door to elderly retired police officer Evy Carlén. Thirty-three years earlier, there had been three murders and an attempted murder that were never solved in the village of Tiarp. Now the perpetrator has been found and the writer knows this will be the story to break through his writer's block. He begins talking to people in the area to hear their memories of the time of the events thirty years before. He also talks to Vidar, the now deceased policeman Sven's son, who also worked for a time on the police force. Sven died with the murders still unresolved and his failure to find the killer contributed to his early death (so many of the townspeople believe). 

The story goes from the present, back to the events surrounding the murder, then on to Vidar's time on the force, before coming back to the present. One thing that was somewhat annoying in the book was the way so many town names were thrown around. For instance, the first page of chapter 43 talks about Halmstad (the city where the story takes place) but then mentions Tiarp, Ringenäs, Villshärad, Valläs, Åled, Kvibille, Haverdal, and Tylösand. All of these various place names add nothing to the story and the overall impression is that the author is trying to work in every town name in Sweden into the narrative. Every chapter threw around all these place names -- people living in one but working or going to school in another; the bus passing through this town and then that one, and then another one before turning around at a different one and passing back through; cops studying maps and feeling compelled to point out various towns where the killer might be from or have passed through . . . why??? It made for an alphabet soup of town names that were meaningless. I even asked my Swedish husband if he knew what this or that town meant (in case it had some significance that a non-Swede would miss) but he didn't know most of them either. Other than that, the story was interesting and contained enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing how it would all turn out in the end. 

I received a copy of Blaze Me a Sun from NetGalley

Tuesday, September 6, 2022


Poor Queen Victoria is 80 and really not amused this time. Just as work is beginning on the extension that will become the Victoria and Albert Musuem, a man is found dead at the construction site. Luckily for her, the museum detectives, Daniel and Abigail Wilson, are available to take the case. This is the 8th book in the "Museum Mysteries" series.

When the body of museum pottery curator Andrew Page is discovered at the museum construction site, Queen Victoria becomes concerned that the negative publicity and scandal will taint the memory of her beloved dead husband Albert.  She calls in the Museum Detectives to investigate. As Daniel and Abigail begin to investigate the dead man's life, they discover many possible motives for murder: someone is stealing from the museum's budget; Andrew has many mistresses which his wife knows about but can't be too happy about; and Andrew's German brother-in-law has been staying with him and relations between Germany and England aren't too friendly at this point in time. There are many routes to investigate, all while the police chief remains incensed that these "amateurs" are stealing his limelight.

The story and setting were quite intriguing, but I thought the story got bogged down at times by all the history lessons. There were long passages about the history of the Victoria and Albert Museum, how museums are funded, the English/German/Boer conflict in South Africa, Queen Victoria's children, etc. It was also a bit annoying how smug Daniel was when he was waving around a letter from the palace instructing people to talk to him with regards to the murder case. The middle of the book got quite muddled and off-track, I thought, but the resolution was satisfying.

I received a copy of Murder at the Victoria and Albert Museum from NetGalley

Friday, September 2, 2022


Picture it: Paris 1949.  The city is still recovering from the devastation of WWII.  Julia Child and her husband Paul have recently moved to Paris due to his job with the diplomatic service. Once in Paris, Julia experiences the delights of French cuisine for the first time, and the rest is history. Shopping for ingredients for her latest culinary masterpiece at a local market, Julia encounters fellow American Tabitha Knight. Tabitha is half-French, so after the war, without many prospects at home in Detroit, she moves to France to stay with her grandfather. The two American ex-pats strike up a friendship and Julia attempts to help Tabitha with her cooking skills and her love life.  Sharing a flat with Julia and Paul is Julia's sister Dort. Dort works in the theatre and often brings back her pals for long boozy evenings. One night, Tabitha leaves one of these parties at the same time as a young woman she just met, Thérèse. Tabitha only lives across the street, so she bids Thérèse farewell and leaves her to wait for a taxi. The next morning, Thérèse is found murdered in the stairwell of Julia's building. Even worse, the murder weapon turns out to be Julia's favorite chef's knife. This means that someone who attended the party that night must be the killer.

Handsome Inspector Merveille doesn't believe that Tabitha is telling him all she knows about the mysterious Thérèse, especially after a handwritten note containing Tabitha's name and address is found in the murdered woman's pocket. Tabitha's father is a policeman back in Detroit, and she grew up listening to his stories of crime investigation. She's also an avid reader of mystery novels, so it doesn't take much persuading from Julia to convince her to do some investigating on her own. Julia sometimes helps out in the sleuthing (and she definitely wants to hear all about it), but she spends most of the novel cooking up delicious concoctions that keep everyone occupied as Tabitha goes about Paris looking for clues. Julia also has her own mystery to solve: why does her mayonnaise only work on certain days?  It's a puzzle . . .

The book is a wonderful love letter to the sights, sounds and smells of Paris. Even though it's a large city, Tabitha and Julia live in a small neighborhood where everyone knows everyone, and the gossip is gentle.  Julia is forever gathering ingredients for delicious meals she makes whirling around in her kitchen like a tornado. The story is very cozy, featuring grandfather and his partner "Uncle Rafe" and their spoiled pets, Oscar Wilde the dog and Madame X the aloof black cat. I also enjoyed the plucky Tabitha, complete with her trusty Swiss army knife, who fearlessly takes on danger in pursuit of the truth.

I received a copy of Mastering the Art of French Murder from NetGalley in exchange for this review

A delicious Christmas mystery set in a spooky isolated old house with a group of estranged cousins will certainly get us all in the mood for the holiday season. The Christmas Murder Game brings together the cousins of the Armitage family to play a game to see who will inherit the old mansion. Every day from Christmas day to the 6th of January, a clue will be revealed. The 6 cousins who are in the running to inherit must decipher the clues and be the first one to find one of 12 keys hidden around the house. Only one of these keys will unlock a secret door, and the cousin holding the lucky key will be the winner.

The cousins are: Lily, whose mother Mariana died in the house's outdoor maze when Lily was a child (suicide or murder?); Sara and Gray, who are the children of Mariana's sister Liliana, who took in Lily after the death of her mother; and siblings Ronnie, Tom and Rachel, whose parents were killed in a car accident when they were young.  Aunt Liliana has recently died under possibly mysterious circumstances, but before her death she devised the Christmas inheritance game for the next generation. The six cousins are summoned to Endgame House to play the game, and the housekeeper/cook, Mrs. Castle, will be left with them. They must surrender their cell phones and the Wi-Fi is disabled to keep anyone from possibly cheating during the challenges (which is odd since all the challenges refer to the house or family history, so it's unclear how the Internet could help). When a snowstorm traps everyone in the house, blocks the roads with downed trees, and knocks out the single landline at the house, the participants are well and truly trapped. Of course, then the bodies start to pile up . . .

I enjoyed the story and the setting, but the main character, Lily, was a bit of a letdown. She really doesn't like the house, since she was living there when her mother died, and since the death occurred in the maze, she really, REALLY doesn't like the maze. We know this because at least once on every page, she tells us.  Lily is a costume designer/dressmaker, and when she's not whining on about the maze, she's going on about her amazing corsets that she wears every day (despite being pregnant and starting to show) or rubbing her "tummy." She's always tired, or upset, and claims to have no interest in inheriting the house, although she races to solve every clue first so that everyone will know how clever she is. Annoying character aside, the story would make an interesting and atmospheric film!

I received a copy of The Christmas Murder Game from NetGalley

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Mma Ramotswe and her friends are back solving problems big and small in the latest visit to Botswana and the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.  The book begins with Mma Makutsi, partner in the firm, suddenly ordering stationery, name plates, and office upgrades which make it seem SHE is in charge of the first detective firm run by ladies in that country.  Mma Ramotswe, the founder and force behind the company, is alarmed but decides to see where all this is going before confronting her friend about the situation.

The orphan farm, run by the well-known and beloved Mma Potokwane, gets a new bookkeeper in the form of a young woman named Patience. It turns out that Patience, like Mma Makutsi, comes from the village of Bobonong.  Since everyone knows everyone there, the two ladies are acquainted with each other and happy to reconnect in the relatively cosmopolitan city of Gabarone.  While catching up, Patience reveals that she has moved to town with her 14-year-old son because she was escaping a bad relationship but has fortunately met a very nice man.  Her son, however, is making all of their lives difficult with his surly behavior.  Mma Ramotswe may just have a plan to solve the problem . . .

At the same time, Mma Makutsi's husband, Phuti Radiphuti, is also facing worrying times.  His furniture store is being undercut by a new, flashy furniture company in town.  While they don't sell the same type of furniture, exactly (the new store places more worth on style than comfort), Phuti's business is in serious decline.  It doesn't help matters when everyone's nemesis, the glamorous but evil Violet Sephotho is hired to be a model and CELEBRITY OPINION FORMER for the rival company.  But once again, Mma Ramotswe can outmaneuver dirty business tricks with her own brand of wholesome revenge.

It is a pleasure to revisit all the characters and to find them pretty much the same as always:  Mma Ramotswe enjoying red bush tea, Mma Makutsi and Charlie, the apprentice detective, sniping away at each other, Violet up to her old tricks, and Mma Potokwane baking and eating her fruitcake.  It is lovely to step into their gentle and kind world and to know that everything will work out in the end, and the reader will have an enjoyable journey getting there!

I received a copy of A Song of Comfortable Chairs from NetGalley 

Sunday, August 7, 2022


If you ever think you're having a bad day, it's nothing compared to the day Amber Jamison is having at the start of Killing Me. Just a few months shy of graduating with a degree in psychology, Amber is abducted on her way home from class. When she regains consciousness, she's tied up in an unfamiliar basement. She knows what's happened: she's the latest victim of the serial killer known as the Pikachu Killer, who sends news outlets GPS coordinates to find the bodies.  Amber is, of course, terrified, but at the same time has a plucky, almost upbeat attitude when confronted with her upcoming fate of being dismembered by an insane killer. Luckily, before that can happen, a tall blonde woman enters the situation from nowhere. It turns out that her savior, Grace, spends her time tracking down serial killers -- anonymously. This is just fine with Amber, who doesn't want to speak to the police due to some questionable events from her past.  When Amber has to quickly leave town, it becomes apparent that her interactions with Grace have caught the eye of the most dangerous serial killer of all.

When the book started out in nearby (for me) Johnson City, TN, I was excited to read a book set in this area. However, soon after escaping the Pikachu Killer, Amber and all the action moves to Las Vegas.  Once in Vegas, Amber, Grace, and an assorted group of colorful characters set out to trap a serial killer, without becoming his next victim. I really enjoyed the suspense of the book and the somewhat humorous tone, which lightened up the serious and violent subject matter of the book. There is something of a twist at the end that leaves the reader guessing about all that has happened up to that point. The afterward by the author promises a sequel, so I am looking forward to seeing what Amber gets up to in that one! 

I received an Advanced Readers's Copy of Killing Me from NetGalley

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Things aren't looking too good for Callie in The Lying Wife as she informs us in the first few sentences of the book that she's a wife, mother, friend and murderer.  She's being interviewed by police about the aforementioned murder when the book opens.  The chapters alternate between Callie in the interview room being questioned and the events leading up to that.

Callie was coming out of a relationship and working in a coffee shop when she met widower James.  He sweeps her off her feet and they soon marry.  She moves into his house, but his sons 15-year-old Dillion and 12-year-old Luke aren't so thrilled to have a new step-mother.  The boys make life miserable for Callie, especially when James is at work, which is most of the time.  Callie is studying to be a counselor but doesn't seem to have many ideas on how to deal with her own difficult situation.

As the situation with the boys continues to be difficult, Callie struggles to cope.  Her father is suffering from mental health issues, and she sneaks off from time to time to visit him, since she's not told James about him.  She fears that James will think she has inherited her father's mental instability (in truth, she worries about this herself).  Her struggles with the boys, trying to keep up with her father, and continuing her studies all put Callie under so much pressure that she does some things that, with a clearer head, she would certainly not have done. 

It's hard to know if we can trust everything Callie says.  Are the boys really so terrible, or does she just take everything the wrong way? Is her husband James faithful, or are her suspicions about his relationship with a co-worker well-founded? I liked the way the story kept me guessing and trying to figure out just what was true.  The story is certainly a page-turner and has a twist at the end, but after I thought about it a little, I was quite annoyed.  Callie seemed to be taken advantage of by everyone and never really put herself first.  James, her husband, was never home and seemed to want her only as an unpaid babysitter.  She was the one keeping up with everything and doing all the heavy-lifting, while all the male characters around her were sullen and entitled.  I was very angry on Callie's behalf by the time I finished the book!

Sunday, July 31, 2022

The events in the novel go back and forth between 1994 and 2019 in the small town of Wakarusa, Indiana. In the 1994 chapters, the events and aftermath of the disappearance and murder of 6-year-old January Jacobs are described. In 2019, reporter Margot Davies returns to town to look after her uncle Luke, who is in the early stages of dementia. When Margot was a child, January was her best friend. Now working as a reporter, Margot has never gotten over the death of her friend. When another young girl goes missing in a nearby community, Margot is eager to connect the event to the still-unsolved murder of January. Her boss at the newspaper, however, has grown tired of Margot's obsession with the Jacobs case and fires her. Margot is dismayed to lose her job, but secretly thrilled, since she can now work on investigating the two cases without worrying about deadlines. Young January is obviously based on Jon-Benet Ramsey, as her provocative dance costumes quickly draw the condemnation of the media. Like Jon-Benet, January also has a brother her parents quickly come under suspicion. The family appears on a well-known true crime show after January's death, and every gesture and word are scrutinized (well, almost, the boy makes some questionable remarks that apparently are never followed up). In going back to 1994 and reading what January's mother Krissy was going through at the time, several possible explanations for events that follow are suggested. I enjoyed trying to guess what had happened to January, but I found the writing style exhausting. The author, for some reason, loves a comma, and every page has long and rambling sentences, separated by commas, that seem to go on forever, when surely a few better formed sentences, instead of all the commas, which, to be honest, are extremely annoying, would have helped the story move along faster, and therefore would have been much more enjoyable to the reader, who has to go back and re-read many of these sentences, since by the time you reach the merciful end of one, you have long since forgotten what was happening way back at the start. There are several ambiguous things that happen to major characters that are up to the reader to interpret. I also didn't understand what the author meant when she said the original name of the town, Salem, "invoked the killing of innocent girls." I'm not sure which Salem she's referring to, since the Salem Witch Trials all involved adults (girls were the perpetrators of those atrocities, not the victims).

I received a copy of All Good People Here from NetGalley

Saturday, July 23, 2022


Audrey Lavery has always had a bit of an unsettled life. Her actress mother has been successful on the stage, but not so much when it comes to long-term relationships. Due to her mother's constant need for new male attention, Audrey has spent her childhood adjusting to a parade of step-fathers. This lack of stability seems to have influenced Audrey's life as an adult, as she has been unable to form a steady relationship, finish her studies, or find a permanent job.  

While living with her best friend Clara and their flatmate Paul, Audrey meets Josh during one of their many parties. He barely registers with her (as she spends most of the party kissing another man), but Josh is smitten. When they keep running into each other, eventually they start a relationship.  

All of this is revealed in flashbacks since at the very beginning of the book, Audrey stumbles out of a church where her wedding to Josh has been interrupted. Through flashbacks, Audrey's past is revealed, including her one-day whirlwind relationship with Fred, which she has never gotten over. Audrey and Fred had a "meet cute" at an instant photo booth at Baker Street tube station and went out for coffee. They had an instant attraction and exchanged numbers.  Fred's number became smudged and he never called Audrey, so she had no way of finding out why he didn't turn up for their planned date the following day.  All these years later, Audrey is still pining after "the one that got away." Which is why she's stunned when Josh's sister Miranda turns up at their wedding with Fred as her date.  

The timeline jumps back and forth between "One Day Before I Do" and various times throughout Audrey's life. I was getting definite "Shopaholic" vibes toward the end with some of the more outlandish situations Audrey landed herself in! I really enjoyed the London setting and trying to figure out who Audrey would end up with. The only problem I had was with Audrey herself -- she was a total mess! At one point Josh's wise Granny Parker asks Audrey what she's brining to the relationship, and I had been asking myself that for the entire book. Closing in on 30, Audrey has no real job, no skills, no plan for the future, and seems helpless in nearly all situations (when Josh asks her to do something to help plan the wedding, she turns it over to her mother). Still, if you can get over wanting to slap some sense into Audrey, the story is quite engaging (even including the unexpected Epilogue!).

I received a digital ARC of Before I Do from Shelf Awareness

Wednesday, July 13, 2022


Grace Bernard has had a fairly rough life, even before she ended up in prison.  Her young French mother, who came to London to be a model, gets pregnant during a whirlwind affair.  It turns out the man is already married and wants nothing to do with Grace or her mother.  Very proud, Grace's mother is forced to work very hard to support her daughter and dies young.  Grace is taken in by a friend of her mother's (and eventually by her best friend Jimmy's family) but she grows up seething with anger that her father has rejected her.  Although the family that takes her in is very nice to her, she always feels like a guest in the home.  

Grace has always known her father is the extremely wealthy Simon Artemis, owner of the Sassy Girl fashion empire.  Grace decides to learn all she can about her father by getting a job in the business.  She eventually works her way up in the company in an effort to figure out how to get close to her father and his family.  Her plan is to kill the Artemis family one by one, leaving her father until last so she can let him know who she is and that she is responsible for the deaths.  Oh, and once they are all dead she can claim the Artemis fortune as the only surviving member of the family.

The book begins with Grace deciding to write her memoirs from prison.  She is currently incarcerated for murder, but not for anyone she actually killed.  She readily admits that she *has* killed quite a few people, just not the one she's in jail for.  She's hired a high-powered attorney to appeal her conviction, so in the meantime, to stave off boredom and avoid interacting with her perky, annoying cellmate Kelly, she decides to secretly write down how she put her plan into action.

Grace is an interesting character, full of snark and totally focused on her family annihilation plan.  That being said, from the start I was puzzled as to why she would put evidence of her crimes in writing IN A PRISON CELL that could be searched by her cellmate or guards at any time.  I did enjoy the story, if I could suspend that disbelief in a totally out-of-character premise.  There is a twist at the end with someone who shows up out of the blue, but overall, the story was quite enjoyable and I did, oddly, root for Grace to get her revenge on the (mostly) totally immoral and selfish Artemis clan.

Thursday, March 31, 2022


While Iona Iverson's second rule of commuting is "Never talk to strangers on the train," due to her flamboyant persona, she attracts a lot of attention during her daily train journey to her job as a magazine advice columnist.  She has a seat that she always sits in, and her French bulldog Lulu is usually in the seat beside her.  The layout of the seats includes a table for four people.  Iona notices the regulars and gives them all nicknames such as "Smart-But-Sexist-Manspreader." Iona is in her 50s and dresses to attract attention -- bright colors and patterns in a train carriage of browns and blacks.  Her fellow commuters also have nicknames for her, such as "Rainbow Lady" or "Magic Handbag Lady."

Some of her fellow commuters include: Sanjay, an oncology nurse with panic attacks; Martha, a teenage school girl dealing with a sexting scandal that's made her an outcast; Piers, the "manspreader" whose high-flying career isn't all it's cracked up to be; and Emmie, who is dealing with a possessive boyfriend.  As we get to learn more about the various characters and their problems, it seems that everyone must ignore the rules of commuting in order to make connections that will benefit everyone.

The story was very comforting and I enjoyed reading how all the characters came together to help one another with their issues.  The story dealt compassionately with subjects such as bullying, LGBTQ discrimination, age discrimination, etc.  An enjoyable story and tying up of all the storylines!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.

Sunday, March 6, 2022


I'm always thrilled to see there's a new No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency adventure.  Stepping into Botswana and into the gentle world of Mma Ramotswe is such a pleasure.  This new adventure features all the favorites (except we don't see much of part-time assistant detective Charlie, as he's on paternity leave).  The various problems facing detectives Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi are as perplexing and heartbreaking as usual:  a man who fears his father's caretaker has exercised undue influence to get the will re-written in the caretaker's favor and a new arrival at the Orphan Farm who claims she had been held as a slave and other children were still there.  The detectives must use their unconventional methods to learn more about the situation and to solve the problems as only they can.

The main story running through the book, however, concerns Mr. JLB Matekoni and his apparent "male menopause."  After being persuaded to attend a conference and networking event for small businesses, Mr. JLB Matekoni encounters an old school friend who seems to have become very successful.  While previously happy enough with his life and small garage, the friend persuades Mr. JLB Matekoni that he should invest in a new business opportunity: a bus company.  Suddenly, Mr. JLB Matekoni becomes excited in a way he hasn't felt in a long time.  He begins to see the possibilities of expanding his business holdings and living up to a potential he didn't know he had.  Unfortunately, he doesn't have an unlimited supply of pula just lying around, so he uses the only asset he has:  he's going to take a loan on the building that houses not only Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, but also the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.  Although those around Mr. JLB Matekoni are dubious about his new plans, when the man from the bank arrives to value the property and gives his dismissive evaluation, the alarm bells really start to ring.

While I always enjoy reading the adventures of these characters, this book left me with a decidedly uneasy feeling.  Everyone seemed to be plotting and scheming behind Mr. JLB Matekoni to ensure he would not be able to invest in this new business.  While he wouldn't be the only one affected if the business did fail, it was very discouraging to see that absolutely no one supported him in this venture.  In the same manner, the case the lady detectives were investigating about the will and the undue influence also seemed to go in an unpleasant and unprofessional direction.  Another book I recently read talked about fanfiction characters behaving "OOC" (out of character) and it seemed to me that most of the people in this new book were OOC.  I can imagine it can be difficult to come up with new situations and dimensions for the characters to grow, but this felt as if every character (except the reliable Mma Makutsi) had gotten a personality transplant.  I didn't recognize them.  I hope the next book will have everyone back to their old selves, even if that means not a lot happens.

Sunday, February 6, 2022


Christine Donovan is living a complicated life. She's busy keeping up with her active toddler Heidi, recently married her long-term boyfriend Greg, and is carrying on a torrid affair with a married man.  In the twisty thriller She's Mine, Chrissy soon learns that betraying her marriage vows will have devastating consequences.  While out shopping with Heidi, Chrissy gets a phone call from her lover, telling her that their affair is over.  Distraught, she moves away from where Heidi is sitting in a stroller to get a better signal on her phone so she can try to plead with her lover not to end things.   When she eventually walks back to where she left Heidi, she's alarmed to see the child is not there.  Heidi has been kidnapped.  Although an immediate search is launched, the child is never found.

Fast forward 20 years, and Chrissy is a shell of her former self.  Although she and Greg are still married and eventually had two more children, Ella and Daniel, she's never recovered from the abduction of her firstborn daughter.  Due to that heartbreak, she has been an aloof and distant mother to her other children.  She has also become addicted to exercise and is extremely thin and underweight.  Greg has continued with his high-flying legal career, but he and Chrissy don't really communicate or even interact much anymore.  Chrissy's friends Miranda (who has her own history with Greg) and Janine convince her to start seeing a new psychiatrist, Dr.. Freya Cousins.  Although quite young, Dr. Cousins's direct and unsympathetic style resonate with Chrissy, whose guilt over losing Heidi has never abated. After so many years, it seems as if someone is trying to re-awaken the mystery of what happened to Heidi as anonymous notes, emails, packages and photos begin to arrive.

The chapters are told from varying viewpoints, and we get to hear from nearly all the characters who are mentioned.  We see what they are thinking, their histories with Chrissy and Greg, and how they all feel about the situation and each other.  I enjoyed the different voices, but sometimes I had to flip back to the beginning of the chapter to discover who the "I" and "you" were that were being discussed.  There are plenty of clues to lead the reader to several possible suspects.  Even though it's not too difficult to guess "whodunnit," there are some final twists at the end that are surprising.

I received this book as a subscriber from the monthly Tea and Book Box  from Quaintly & Co.  Each month I receive a lovely book along with a delicious selection of teas and snacks.  I have been really impressed with everything I've received so far, and am anxiously awaiting the next installment!

About Me

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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The Gherkin Scale

5gherkinsb Brilliant!

4gherkinsb Good, innit?

3gherkinsb Fair to middlin'

2gherkinsb Has some good points

1gherkin Oi! Wot you playin' at?

0gherkins3Don't be givin' me evils!

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