Book Review: A Baffling Murder at the Midsummer Ball by T.E. Kinsey

About the Book:

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A locked room. A mysterious death. Just another gig for the Dizzy Heights.

When London’s finest jazz musicians, the Dizzy Heights, are booked to play the glitzy Midsummer Ball at a country house in Oxfordshire, they expect a weekend filled with flappers and toffs having a roaring good time.

But the festivities at Bilverton House take a turn for the worse when the group are stranded by a summer storm. And when a member of the Bilverton family turns up dead in a locked room in an apparent suicide, Skins, Dunn and Ellie realise this is going to be a much tougher gig than they thought.

But here’s the lick. What if it was in fact cold-blooded murder? And what if the killer is still at large? It’s up to the Dizzy Heights to once again put down their instruments and get improvising if they want to solve this confounding mystery.

My Thoughts:

Note: A huge thank you to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing UK for providing me with an ARC of the book.

This is  the first book that I have read by author T.E. Kinsey. Of course this is the second book in the Dizzy Heights Mystery series, but it can be read as a stand alone book. This story follows the Dizzy Heights band as they arrive at Bilverton House to play at the Midsummer Ball. What is expected to just be a band performance for an evening turns into a situation of house arrest due to the rains. With the Bilverton family members and the Dizzy Heights band stuck together, the plot becomes more interesting when there is a death – in a locked room that is almost ruled a suicide.

As the story progresses, we are introduced to the various members of the band as well as the Bilverton family. It is indeed quite a mix of interesting characters, each with their own quirks, personalities and habits. It also looks like everyone in the Bilverton family is up to something and is keeping secrets. When Ellie hears a gunshot and finds the dead body, she along with Skins and Dunn agree that the circumstances are suspicious and suspect murder.

This turns into an interesting investigative few days for them while the band also plays music and mingles with the family to pass the time. I love how the plot unravels and Ellie’s perceptive nature. She is one of my favourite characters in this story. The author has done a great job in building up the atmosphere and describing each situation and person to the readers! It feels as though we are involved in the investigations and discussions along with the band. I would also like to point out that there are some great references to music from the time period of the setting ( a lot of which I don’t even know), but I felt like I could relate anyway due to how it was described.

This is one murder mystery I would recommend to all fans of the genre and I cannot wait to join the Dizzy Heights band on their next performance and adventure!

WWW WEDNESDAY – 21/07/2021

This is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

All you need to do is answer the following three questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Also, do follow the host and other bloggers who participate!

It is wonderful to know what everyone is reading and recommendations are always welcome!

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What are you currently reading?

A variety of genres actually!

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I am hoping to get started with my brand new copy of The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. The book has an amazing cover and spray painted edges! Considering that this is one of the most talked about books, I am excited to join the fan club!

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Do stop by to share your thoughts or posts!

Book Review: An Ordinary Life by Amanda Prowse

About the Book:

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From the bestselling author of The Girl in the Corner comes a tale of love, loss—and one last extraordinary dance.

Christmas Eve, 2019. Ninety-four-year-old Molly lies in her hospital bed. A stroke and a fall may have broken her body—but her mind is alive with memories.

London, 1940s. Molly is a bright young woman, determined to help the war effort and keep her head up despite it all. Life becomes brighter when she meets and falls in love with a man who makes her forget everything with one dance. But then war forces her to make an unforgettable sacrifice, and when she’s brought to her knees by a daring undercover mission with the French Resistance, only her sister knows the secret weighing heavily on Molly’s heart.

Now, lying in her hospital bed, Molly can’t escape the memories of what she lost all those years ago. But she is not as alone as she thinks.

Will she be able to find peace—and finally understand that what seemed to be an ordinary life was anything but?

My Thoughts:

Amanda Prowse brings to us yet another powerful story of first love, loss, war and the endurance of a woman through all of this. This is a story that brings out all the emotions and one of the few books that made me shed a few tears.

Molly’s story starts off in the 1940s in London and goes on until 2019, as she lies in the hospital thinking back to her life. We follow her as she experiences her first love, the loss of her love, her efforts to contribute to the war effort, her experiences with different people and in the midst of the war. In all this, she gives birth to a wonderful baby boy, born out of wedlock and shunned by her mother. With no other choice, Molly requests her sister and brother-in-law to care for her baby while she earns enough money to support herself.

As time passes, Molly becomes a wonderful aunt to her son, who never learns of the truth, but loves her as much as any child could love a mother. Carrying the weight of her decisions, the separation from her son and the horrors of the war, Molly, a very very strong woman faces a life filled with so many secrets. She perseveres on, working for a living whether it is playing her part in the war efforts or supporting herself after the war ends.

The bond Molly shares with her sister is a strong one and something that is great to read about. The strength, support and even jealousy all come together showing us a glimpse into each of their thoughts and in the end how they are there for each other. This is a wonderful example of what family is all about and the bonds that siblings share. The author brings to us the irony of the whole situation under the guise of the character having lived “an ordinary life”!

Amanda Prowse’s writing is powerful and will draw the reader in from page one. There is no stopping until the reader gets to the bottom of it all, finds out all the secrets and how the story ends. This book will stay with me for a long time and I highly recommend it to all fiction lovers out there. The book cannot be put into any one genre, it encompasses so many and in the end is just worth it!

Book Review: The Christmas House by Victoria James

About the Book:

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Victoria James is back with a heartwarming story about three generations of women trying to reconcile for the holidays.

It’s Christmas in the small town of Silver Springs which is bursting with holiday spirit. The downtown shops boast twinkling lights, and the town square features an enormous Christmas tree. Every Christmas Eve for the past fifty years, Ruby Harris, the owner of the historic B&B, The Christmas House, has opened her doors to strangers in need, showing them the compassion once denied to her.

When Ruby invites her family home for the holidays, including her two adult grandchildren, Charlotte and Olivia, she hopes they will be able to put the past behind them. However, her plans for reconciliation implode as the women unravel secrets from the past that force them to confront the impact they’ve had on their dysfunctional family. As Charlotte grows closer to Wyatt, the neighbor next door and a friend from the past, old memories resurface that the women would rather forget. they’re reminded of a man they want to forget.

As the clock inches closer to the New Year, can the magic of the season bring the family closer? Or will a surprise guest threaten their tentative truce and test newly formed bonds?

This light-hearted Christmas tale draws inspiration from Victoria James’s own historical fixer-upper, offering plenty of warmth and holiday cheer.

My Thoughts:

The Christmas House is a lovely story of a dysfunctional family, with a whole lot of secrets who come together for Christmas. This is a story of second chances, unraveling the truth and finding your peace with the past. 

The reader is introduced to Ruby, the current owner of The Christmas House and the matriarch of the family. We are told her story as flashbacks interspersed with Charlotte’s story. Charlotte and her younger sister Olivia have dealt with their father leaving (without any explanation), being left at their grandmother’s doorstep and hardly any contact with their mother. The characters are wonderful and each one has a story to tell that we discover as the story progresses.

Charlotte has grown up resenting her parents and confused about everything that has happened. In addition, she feels the loss of the one friend she has in Wyatt when he suddenly disappears from school. In the present, she turns up at her grandmother’s place only to discover that Wyatt lives here with his teenage daughter. As sparks fly, old emotions and memories surface and Charlotte has to confront her feelings. Additionally, she has to deal with the recent fallout with her younger sister and try to find middle ground to reconcile.

With everyone’s emotions running high, there are so many decisions to be taken and chances to be considered. It is not everyday that one gets to rekindle an old love which could just be the one. The story is a roller-coaster of emotions and it will make you laugh, cry and eventually be happy. New bonds are formed, old ones are renewed and a family comes together for Christmas in the hopes of reconciliation. This is definitely worth a read especially for those who believe in second chances and strong family bonds and it is happening at The Christmas House!

Book Review: Under A Sicilian Sky by Lisa Hobman

About the Book:

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Global box office sensation, Ruby Locke, is a long way from her Yorkshire roots. Together with her fiancé, movie heartthrob Tyler Harrison, they are Hollywood’s new glitterati.

Overnight, however, Ruby’s life implodes when her social media accounts are hacked with a multitude of vile posts, turning her into an international pariah. Even Tyler breaks off their engagement.

Confused and heartbroken, Ruby escapes to the beautiful island of Sicily to avoid the media scrutiny and clear her name. With only a Yorkshire Terrier to comfort her, Ruby is befriended by a handsome neighbour and slowly begins to heal.

But who is this mysterious man and what are his intentions?

When her Sicilian hideaway is compromised, Ruby is once again forced to relocate, this time to the stunning Isle of Skye.

In the tranquil cove of Glentorrin, Ruby is left questioning not only who wants to destroy her career, and why but also if celebrity lifestyle is really for her…

My Thoughts:

Note: I requested for and received a copy of this book on NetGalley. The below review reflects my own thoughts.

This is the second book by Lisa Hobman that I have read and I must say that I am thoroughly enjoying her books. What stands out is the setting. I am falling in love with the Isle of Skye and would love to visit someday all thanks to her vivid descriptions.

This book follows Hollywood star Ruby Locke as she navigates the world of the famous. A well loved star, she falls from grace the moment her social media accounts are hacked and nasty posts are put up in her name. From here on it is a downward spiral and she needs to get away for some time. The thing about Lisa’s stories is that not all characters are bad. Some of them do bad things but can actually turn out to be quite okay. The same thing happens and Ruby finds friendship and support from unlikely sources thus enabling her to escape to Sicily to wait out the storm.

As she tries to work out how to clear her name, she also faces a moment of uncertainty about her choice of career. All things aside, we also meet some interesting men and women who bring more life to this story. As we follows Ruby, the reader is in for a delightful journey of ups and downs, secrets, truths, friendships and even love. For we cannot journey to the Isle of Skye without encountering some romance and falling in love with not just the place but the people too.

This book is a pleasant read that is perfect for the beach or a summer evening in! Either way, it is wonderful and can be finished in one sitting! Be prepared to come and fall in love all over again with this beautiful place!

Book Review: Dreaming Under An Island Skye by Lisa Hobman

About the Book:

Dreaming Under An Island Skye

Is there really such a thing as a second shot at true love?

After three wonderful years of marriage, librarian Juliette Fairhurst’s heart is shattered when her husband, Laurie, is taken from her much too soon.

Devasted, Juliette decides to take a sabbatical and reconnect with her mother’s birthplace, the village of Glentorrin on the picturesque Isle of Skye.

Welcomed by most of the villagers, Juliette throws herself into an idyllic community life, taking on the role of temporary summer guardian at The Lifeboat House Museum; a role that offers her the perfect escape from the tragedy of her real life.

During her time on the island, Juliette clashes with brooding single dad and artist, Reid Mackinnon and is befriended by his son Evin and dog Chewie. It’s clear that divorced Reid is struggling and scarred by his own painful experiences.

Can these two lost souls find a lifeline to rescue each other?

Or will their pasts scupper their second chance at real happiness?

My Thoughts:

This is a delightful story of love, loss and second chances. The story follows Jules as she struggles to deal with the loss of her husband, the love of her life. Having a wonderful support system in her best friend Millie and brother, Dex, she copes pretty well, but there is always something missing. When a first date post her husband’s passing ends up in disaster, Jules decides to take a holiday and visit the Isle of Skye. This is where her mother grew up for some part of her childhood and for some reason Jules feels a pull to visit and explore.

Taking the scenic route, Jules drives down over two days, reaching her destination in awe of the beauty of the place. It doesn’t take long for Jules to find friendship and kinship among the people of Skye as she makes a small space for herself in the community. We are also introduced to Reid Mackinnon, father to the adorable Evin. Evin and his dog Chewie slowly endear themselves to Jules while Reid struggles to deal with his life. All the various characters in the story are amazing and well thought out. Everyone has a story to tell, but in the end they come together as one.

I love how the author has delicately handled the different forms of loss a person feels, introducing us to Mr Hamish, grieving for his wife for more than thirty years, Jules, grieving the loss of her husband but with the determination to try to move on and Reid, dealing with an ex-wife who cheated on him and then left him. There is also beauty in the way people come together to help one another and it is not a community but one very big family.

As the story progress, Jules immerses herself in the history of the place while volunteering to run The Lifeboat House Museum. The experience is cleansing and everything she needs to relax and refresh and find herself once again. This is a heart-warming tale filled with some sad and a lot of bright moments that will light up the reader’s day! I thoroughly enjoyed this story and loved being a part of Jules and Reid’s journey! In the end everyone needs support from their loved ones in different forms and this is well portrayed in this book. I recommend this light but emotional read to all those who love a good story, especially ones about healing and second chances.

Round-up 2020 – Books with a lasting impact!

Hey guys!

As you might have observed, I have been doing round-up posts with a focus on genres read this year.

However, in this post, I wanted to focus on books that left an impact on me that lasted well after finishing the book. This year, I discovered a lot of new books spread across various genres, but a few were just amazing! These books gave me something to think about, brought out a lot of emotions or just sent me on a wonderful adventure filled with fun and learning!

Click on the book image to read my review of the book

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Historical Fiction

The Violinist of Auschwitz The Lost Village

Fantasy Fiction

A Heart So Fierce and Broken (The Cursebreaker Series) Finale (Caraval, #3) A ​Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes, #4)

Middle Grade Fiction

 Sol Invictus (The Eye of Ra, #2)

General/Contemporary Fiction

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Do share your thoughts in case you have read the above books. If you have recommendations for such reads, please leave a comment so that I can add the book to my ever growing TBR pile!

Book Review: Midnight Train to Prague by Carol Windley

About the Book:

Midnight Train to Prague

An unforgettable tale of what we owe to those we love, and those we have left behind

In 1927, as Natalia Faber travels from Berlin to Prague with her mother, their train is delayed in Saxon Switzerland. In the brief time the train is idle, Natalia learns the truth about her father and meets a remarkable woman named Dr. Magdalena Schaefferová, whose family will become a significant part of her future.

Shaken by these events, Natalia arrives at a spa on the shore of Lake Hevíz in Hungary. Here, she meets the journalist and writer Miklós Count Andorján. In time, they will marry, and Natalia will devote herself to life on a rural estate in Hungary.

When war breaks out in Europe, Natalia loses contact with Miklós. She believes they are to meet in Prague, a city under Nazi occupation. She sets up shop as a fortune teller with a pack of Tarot cards. In this guise, she meets Magdalena Schaefferová’s young daughter, Anna. Accused by the Nazis of spying, Natalia is sent to a concentration camp. In April 1945, Natalia and Anna are reunited, and with courage and determination, find the strength to begin again in a changed world.

My Thoughts:

I found this book on NetGalley and am grateful to have been approved a copy. I know that my review is quite late considering that the book was released in April, but then again, better late than never.

Starting with the title, the book intrigued me and I was curious to know what happens. The synopsis also added to growing interest I had in the book. Set in the times before, during and after the WWII, the story follows Natalia as she first travels with her mother to Prague and then later as she navigates life under the Nazi rule. The first half of the story focuses on her, her family and the people they meet on the way including Miklós. The second half of the story introduces us to Anna, the daughter of Magdalena Schaefferová, a doctor whom Natalia had very briefly met many years ago. As the story progresses, their stories intertwine and diverge based on the situations they end up in.

The historical aspect of the story is spot on and I enjoyed reading about how Europe changed. The author also touches upon the horrors during WWII, families being torn apart and the loss that people dealt with. This was quite sad but very well portrayed. At some points the story became confusing for me as it jumped from location to location and character to character.

Also, I read this in many reviews and I agree that it was odd how most of the dialogues were maintained in passive voice. Though it did not bother me as much, it was a new style of writing which I had not encountered much before. In retrospect, I feel that this worked for the way the book was written and still conveyed the points across. I was also not able to correlate the title of the book with the story completely as the focus was on the lives of the people and their experiences during the war.

The characters went through a lot in this story dealing with love, loss, friendship, empathy and so many other things. The author does a good job in pulling the reader into the narrative. This book is a good read for the historical depictions with a focus on Eastern Europe and the enduring nature of the characters in the book!

Book Review: Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer

About the Book:

Before I Let You Go

Your sister needs you. But her child needs you more…

As children, Lexie and Annie were incredibly close. Bonded by the death of their beloved father and their mother’s swift remarriage, they weathered the storms of life together. When Lexie leaves home to follow her dream, Annie is forced to turn to her leather-bound journal as the only place she can confide her deepest secrets and fears…

As adults, sisters Lexie and Annie could not be more different. Lexie is a doctor, successful in her practice and happily engaged. Annie is addicted to heroin – a thief, a liar, and unable to remain clean despite the fact that she is pregnant. When Annie’s newborn baby is in danger of being placed in foster care, Annie picks up the phone to beg her sister for help. Will Lexie agree to help and take in her young niece? And how will Annie survive, losing the only thing in her life worth living for?

My Thoughts:

 Before I Let You Go is a story that brings out the bond between family and sisters. There is a strong message of togetherness and trust, the effects of secrets and the power of love. The story mainly follows Lexie and Annie, giving us a glimpse into each of their minds and lives, sisters, who are so different in adulthood and who have drifted apart. Brought together by the death of their father, the girls forge a stronger bond with each other, but as time passes, they drift apart. The author weaves a strong plot of lies, secrets and things left untold which form the basis of the sisters’ relationship.

The story is well-written except for a few times when some points are repeated, driving in the difference in life styles of the sisters. When Annie seeks Lexie out for help and support, she is pregnant and still unable to avoid her drug addiction. Lexie has never been understand how or why her sister changed and when the addiction took over. In spite of this, she rushes to help her sister and agrees to take care of the baby in the time that it takes for her sister to attend rehab again. What follows is a confusing journey filled with strong emotions of anger, love, and togetherness.

As the story unfolds, the reader, along with Lexie, starts to learn a lot about the girls’ past, some of which Lexie had blocked out of her mind and some of it being the truth about her sister’s life that she never knew of. A lot of things bring people closer, but sharing secrets that were buried deep inside and telling the truth to someone you love, helps both of you to grow. That is exactly what happens with Lexie and Annie, during the process of the court-ordered rehab. It is also wonderful to read about Lexie’s fiance who as a supporting character adds more value to this story. However, the build up to the end leads to some unexpected twists that will both surprise and shock the reader, while also being realistic enough that they can understand the situations.

Overall an emotional page-turner, I particularly enjoyed how the author carried forward the plot and the depth of the characters and their emotions. The story may or may not end the way the reader may expect, but there is a lot to take away from this book which makes it worth the read!

Book Review: The Good Mother by Sinéad Moriarty

About the Book:

The Good Mother

Kate has been through the fire with her three children …

Having been left devastated and homeless after her husband’s affair and the break-up of their family, somehow she has pulled through. Though times are still tough, she’s beginning to see the start of a new life.

But when twelve-year-old Jesssica is diagnosed with cancer, Kate’s resilience is put to the ultimate test. She has an eighteen-year-old son consumed with hatred of his father, a seven-year-old who is bewildered and acting up and an ex-husband who won’t face up to his responsibilities. And in the middle of it a beloved child who is trying to be brave but is getting sicker by the day.

Kate knows she must put to one side her own fear and heartbreak and do right by her children, particularly Jessica. But maybe doing the right thing means doing the unthinkable?

My Thoughts:

Sinéad Moriarty brings us a thought provoking and heart wrenching story of love, loss and family. Kate, mother of three, is forced to deal with the break-up of her marriage. Her husband had an affair and moved out, deciding to marry the other woman. The first part of the story shows us how Kate and the children cope with this, the impact this has on the children, and how they all pull together to support one another.

The bonds between the siblings is very strong, and even though they act out in different ways, they come together to support their mother through this time. Jessica, the middle child of the three and the only girl brings a childish charm and a level of maturity that is common among children who are forced to grow up too soon. However, in her, this just makes her more likeable, and everyone’s rock. Her older brother has a more difficult time dealing with the family break-up, as he looked up to his father more than anyone else. His support system are his sister and his girlfriend, who becomes a very integral part of the family and the story. The youngest, hardly knows his father, and is confused most of the time, acting out in any way that only children can.

The beauty of the plot is that the author portrays her characters in shades of grey. There is no right or wrong in this, things just happen, and after a point, you accept that and try to move on. Forgive, learn and move on, but it is not necessary to forget. The story moves at a steady place initially, painting a picture of Kate’s life, her coping mechanisms, and the support she gets from her father. The plot thickens when Jessica, who is absolutely healthy, suddenly takes a turn for the worse, and is later diagnosed with cancer.

In reality, unless you have had to deal with such a situation by yourself, it is not easy to relate to the shock, pain and horror of someone having cancer. The author has brought out the feelings and emotions very well, making sure that the reader is able to understand them. We are taken on an emotional roller-coaster afterwards, as we follow Kate and her family as they deal with the cancer. The way it affects everyone and how Jessica deals with it form the crux of the later half of the story. There is a lot to learn from Jessica, who though a child, has an “old soul” and wisdom that goes beyond her years.

The final question that this book prompts is this: Would you love someone enough to let them go? and, if you do, can you live with the truth? These questions are food for thought and this well-written story is a gripping read to the end.