Monday, August 15, 2022

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus


This book was well written and will go down as one of my favorites for the year. I had been in a reading slump but this book - wow.  Couldn't stop and finished in two days.

If you have ever seen the television series Mad Men and wondered why women would allow themselves to be cast as second class citizens, you will love this book. Chemist Elizabeth Zott takes on the male dominated science field and won't be held back. She's intelligent and driven, not a ball buster as you'd think a woman had to be to take up for themsleves.

Elizabeth is smarter than her male coworkers, won't be pushed into making them coffee, sharing her research or leaving her name off a professional publication because she is a woman. I could rehash the many great conversations and scenes but this has been done by many already so I won't do that.
There were many laugh out loud moments, many times I read passages to my husband and can highly recommend reading this novel.

I saw some who listened to book had some issues but I can not comment on the audio versions as I never could get into that format.  Read this on my Kindle in two days.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

I, Mona Lisa by Natasha Solomons

I wasn't sure what to expect from this novel about Mona Lisa but I liked the description so I bought it on a sale from Amazon. 

The odd parts, for me, was how Lisa spoke of being in love with Leonardo.  A fantasy tale of how the centuries passed and what the painting experiences. She tells how she was brought to life, how she was kidnapped, the lonely existance of sitting in her glassed prison in the Louvre as people wander by and only comment how small the painting is in real life.

 Listen to my history. My adventures are worth hearing. I have lived many lifetimes and been loved by emperors, kings and thieves. I have survived kidnap and assault. Revolution and two world wars. But this is also a love story. And the story of what we will do for those we love. (From Goodreads)

Overall I enjoyed the novel.  If you like historical fiction and reading about the Renaissance era you may well enjoy this book.  Natasha Solomons is a British author and as I liked her style, I will add her other books to my to-read list.  The House at Tyneford is set in England, another historical fiction, and I'd like to read that soon.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday and Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the Historical Fiction Readng Challenge.

Monday, August 1, 2022

The Family Game by Catherine Steadman

Harriet Reed (called Harry by her friends) is engaged to Edward Holbeck, a handsome man with a super rich family.  Harry is a best selling novelist and Edward is a businessman.  He is estranged from his family because, as you're led to believe, they are self entitled, eccentric and controlling. Eventually Harry agrees to meet the family and the games begin from there.

Harry has a secret from her past but it just about pales in comparison to Holbecks.  Edward brings her to the family home for the first time at Thanksgiving.  During that visit Edward's father meets with her privately, eventually giving her a tape of a "novel in progess" for her to evaluate.  Is it a thriller or is it a murder confession disguised as fiction? Harry researches the information and realizes she is involved in a potentially deadly situation.

The prologue starts with Harry coming to on the floor on the estate of the Holbeck mansion.  Wiping the blood from her face she makes a plan to survive this dangerous treasure hunt, a family game played every year at Christmas.  The stakes are high and the scenes are brilliantly written.

Near the end of the book this scene picks up so you know exactly how crazy a family game this was.  I could not put this down after the twists were revealed - dinner was late on two evenings while I read on! This is the fourth book I have read by Catherine Steadman and I loved it.

Publication date is November 8, 2022 by Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine.  Genre: General Fiction Adult, Mystery and Thrillers, Women's Fiction.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Walking Through History

If you are interested in history and most especially in English historical landmarks, I highly recommend the Walking Through History series. Check out this link HERE for an introduction to this exceptional series.

"Most of the walks Tony Robinson follows are around 100km long, and although he doesn't walk the full extent for the camera, he reckons he covers at least that distance during filming. "I walk my arse off," he says. "Every shot we do needs three or four takes - so I go up a mountain, come back down, and go up again."

The scenery is stunning and we enjoyed each episode. The photo below is from Cornwall, snapped from our TV as we watched.  This one detailed smuggling in the area and I learned the sayings "the coast is clear" and it's "all above board" originate from those times.

How I would love to be in shape and walk these trails. The history and walsk near Hadrians Wall was of particular interest to me.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

Monday, July 25, 2022

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins


This story has two separate story lines.  Mari's story is from 1973 and Emily's story is set in present day. Seems all our main characters are writers, both past and present.

Emily is having trouble in her marriage as well as her writing career.  Her best friend Chess, also a writer, invites her on a 6 week vacation staying at an Italian villa.  It is mainly set in Italy and the villa sounds amazing. The setting and genre were my initial attractions to the book.

I found there were too many plots going on, back and forth between Mari and Emily's time period.  The toxic relationship development was not surprising between the friends so after a while I became distracted. I would not describe this book as a thriller at all.  It was a mystery but a predictable outcome.

Previously I enjoyed The Wife Upstairs and so I would read more by this  author.

Publication date January 3, 2023 by St. Martin's Press  Genre: General Fiction Adult, Mystery and Thrillers.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Friday, July 22, 2022

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Tom Hazard is  very old man; he is 429 years old.  He has only aged one year for each fifteen years in passing. Tom looks for meaning in life as he can never have a lasting relationship or let his guard down.  

As it turns out there are others in the world with the same condition and eventually they are discovered by a covert society called Albatross.  The society protects them, allowing them to live in a normal setting for eight years before getting an assignment, then relocating with a new identity. One thing that keeps Tom motivated to live (as he could kill himself to end this existence) is a desire to find his daughter Marion. She apparently inherited his genetic disposition and may be somewhere in the world trying to hide her identity. 

In his long life Tom has met F. Scott Fitzgerald, Captain Cook and Shakespeare among other historical figures. The book is divided by time periods and places.  Recently I read Benedict Cumberbatch has acquired film rights to star in the production.  For what it's worth, I prefered The Midnight Library to this book but I never considered abandoning the book.

Matt Haig was born in Sheffield England. His website may be found HERE

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday and Marg the Intrepid Reader for the 2022 Historical Fiction challenge.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Ashton Hall by Lauren Belfer

This book is a historical fiction based on the real Ashton Hall built in 1856 in Lancashire England.

Hannah Larson is researching her doctoral dissertation and the subject matter of Ashton Hall plays in.  There is a dark history about the house and a mystery about a  skeleton which was found in a locked room. You will eventually discover who that person was. The backstory on that and the house history is revealed at the end. This is not a ghost story and just about all of the book is set and present time. 

Hannah's life is basically a dumpster fire with a marriage in trouble and her son Nicky having emotional difficulties. I don’t mean he’s unruly or acting up, but more like a medical condition which causes him to become unpredictably violent.  Yet he is bright and it's Nicky who discovers the skeletal remains.

Hannah's research brings the Elizabethan era to life as she goes through old account ledgers and diaries.

Publication date is June 7, 2022 by Random House Publishing - Ballantine Books.  Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mysteries and Thrillers.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday and Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the Historical Fiction Readng Challenge.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Cold Grave by Jenny O'Brien
{book 6 and the final in the series}


I just love Jenny O'Brien.  She writes a great series which brings the characters to life and doesn't overdo the personal entanglements at the expense of the police investigation.

Detective Gaby Darin is a Welsh detective of Italian background, fiercely loyal to her team, job and a woman you'd want in your corner.

After a few DNF books it was a great pleasure to sit back with one of my favorite authors and series. I am sad to see this series end but what a way to tie things up.  Hoping we see the team back together again in the future as I loved watching these characters develop.

Gaby, Mal, Owen, Marie, Jax and Rusty are well fleshed out. I feel as if I know them and can certainly get a mental image of them all. If you are looking for a series which involves police procedurals, a little bit of the detectives' personal lives and is grittier than a cozy - this is your series.  

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Elly Griffiths books
(I'll be taking a break from Ruth and Nelson)


The next two books in the Dr Ruth Galloway series may wrap it up for me.  I was very enthusiastic about a series with so many books and the first book grabbed me immediately.  This one was....meh.

Ruth is having a hard time with balancing motherhood and an active career.  She feels relief when someone takes Kate so she could get in the trenches and dig, fully immersing herself in her job. The author writes about Ruth's love of her work, mentioning the constant calling in of a child minder to babysit a few hours longer so she can work, making her feel alive and fulfilled.  Yet, she won't allow Kate's father to take a hand in her upbringing.

This is not a crack at single mothers and the balancing act, it's just that it's mentioned so many times in the books.  

Here is a loose breakdown of the plot separating the police investigation and the personal side stories.  

Investigative storyline: There is a house situated near the sea which is in danger of being overtaken by the rising waters.  Every year more beach is shaved off so it's inevitable the house will tumble in the future. The house is owned by a rich family with deep roots in the community.

A group of archaelogists are roaming the coastline near this house as they research coastal erosion.  They discover six bodies a crevice of a cliff.  The bodies are actually skeletal at this point, hands tied behind their backs and evidence of an execution style death. Ruth is called in as the senior archaeologist and bone expert.

DI Harry Nelson arrives to handle the situation in case as it's clear the remains are not from Roman times.  Lots of suspects and secrets.

Personal side stories:

Detective Sergeant Judy Johnson is about to be married to Darren, a man she's known since childhood.  But then she is attracted to Cathbad (for whatever reason) and goes to bed with him.

DI Harry Nelson is attracted to Ruth and concerned for their baby.  He continues to lie to his wife and wants to take a part in Kate's upbringing. Ruth always refuses, yet she seems to yearn for his attention whilst simultaneously pushing him away. 

Ruth's good friend Shona is seeing another married man and this time, Shona gets him to leave his wife. 

My thoughts on continuing:  The first book grabbed me with the excavations, Roman history and the vividly depicted Saltmarsh in Norfolk. As I mentioned in my review of The Janus Stone, the romantic and personal stories as a subplot was fine but I didn't want it to dominate the series.  I want mystery and police investigations.  Alas,  the relationships are getting an equal share of page time and I think I will take a break from the series.

So many books here at the house as well as on my Kindle so if I get back to this series it might be a while.  It had promise.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Paul McCartney is 80!
{Sharing my experience at a Wings concert and Beatle memorabilia}

 I have always been a fan of the Beatles but am too young to have been to one of their concerts.  My first experience with them was their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. 

Magazines seem to be a thing of the past these days when you can access just about anything online but I had to have these two publications.   

I have been fortunate enough to have seen Paul McCartney and Wings in concert when they were performing in Germany in 1977.  They performed in the Olympic Village in Munich and it was amazing.  It was also my first laser light show. I was 21 years old and completely besotted.

It's been enjoyable to flip through and read about the early start of their musical careers. I learned that Ringo was hospitalized early in childhood and went into a coma, later getting tuberculosis and admitted to a sanatorium for two years. 

Paul was a scholar winning prizes in Latin and English literature but his love of music sent him down a different a path.  There is quite a bit of information in the magazine to make it well worth the price if you are a fan of the Beatles.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths


I like the archaeology topics which  are an important part of the plot but I am wondering how many old bones can be discovered in this part of the world.  The series has 14 books so I am looking forward to reading more.

I learned about radiocarbon dating while reading.

It tests the amount of carbon in the bones. When we’re alive, we take in carbon fourteen. When we die, we stop. By estimating when these bones stopped taking in carbon fourteen we’ll be able to estimate the age of the skeleton.”

Colleagues from the Archaeolgy department at Norfolk  University have been digging on a hill for days.  They have uncovered not only evidence of a Roman villa but also earlier Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements. 

The other side story is about a wealthy family with plans to demolish an old children’s home to build luxury apartments. A child’s skeleton is found beneath a doorway which halts all work. An excavation team is brought in to remove the skeletal remains. It’s discovered the head is missing so this is looking more like a scarification from an early age. Or is it?!

The romantic subplot is fine so far, in my opinion, but I am hoping it won't eventually dominate the mystery and investigative side of the stories. I liked the first book more than this one but will read the next in the series so I can see where our characters are developing.

I am a series addict and love getting to know characters and seeing how they grow personally  and professionally. 

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

  This book was well written and will go down as one of my favorites for the year. I had been in a reading slump but this book - wow.  Could...