HFVB Tour Review: THE UNQUIET BONES by Mel Starr

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So happy today to be taking part in Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour’s Blog Tour for Mel Starr’s THE UNQUIET BONES. If you read me regularly, you know I love historical fiction and I also love mysteries, especially cozy mysteries. This book combined both of those loves in a fun and fast read. And – it’s just the start of a series centering on this main character and his mystery solving in medieval England.

Hugh of Singleton is an educated and intelligent man or somewhat noble birth (but not wealthy). He chooses to work as a surgeon after attending training in Paris and is making a small living doing this when he is called to administer to a local, powerful lord. Lord Gilbert then calls upon Hugh to solve the mystery of some bones found in his cesspool – bones that are distinctly human. Hugh sets about solving the mystery or the bones found (which appear to belong to a teen age girl) and in doing so, unearths more forgotten secrets. Will he be able to find the killer? According to Lord Gilbert, he is going nowhere until he does!

I really enjoyed this book and am thrilled that it is just the first in a series. I could see this fitting so well on the BBC as a weekly series! Hugh is a likable character and the medieval setting will surely make you happy you live now! I always love to learn new things when reading historical fiction, and this book seemed very well-researched. When you think of all the things you could die from back then – things that are rather easily managed today for the most part – it does make one stop and pause (and be thankful for anti-biotics!). I found the mystery well-plotted (even though I did figure it out!), and the extraneous characters served to move the plot along.

I would love to read more of Hugh de Singleton’s adventures! Thank you so much for having me be part of the tour and for my review copy (which I swiftly gifted to my husband as I know he will love it!).

Read more about Mel Starr on his website:

http://www.melstarr.net

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Review: AS CHIMNEY SWEEPERS COME TO DUST by Alan Bradley

Oh that Flavia is at it again!

If you read me you know I love this series about young scientific genius Flavia at her decaying manor house in 1950’s England with her morose and distracted father and self-absorbed older sisters. Flavia’s voice makes me laugh out loud. Her antics are always fun to read. Her genius is quite amazing. Yes, she is one of those characters I wish could just come to life!

In this installment, twelve-year-old Flavia has been “banished” to her mother’s old boarding school in Canada. She makes the Atlantic crossing via ship with a rather dour couple (members of the board of overseers for her new school). Poor Flavia has hardly arrived, exhausted and lonely, when a dead body falls from her chimney and she is thrown into the middle of an unsolved mystery. Of course Flavia has not yet learned to let sleeping dogs lie, and she begins to uncover secrets and past misdeeds that some would prefer to keep buried…

What can I say? I love this series and I love Flavia. It combines mystery, humor, and a protagonist you can’t help but like along with a setting in the past. Love, love, love — that is all!

Find it at an Indie!

I am an Indie Bound Affiliate

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Review: VANESSA AND HER SISTER by Priya Parmar

I saw this come up on Net Galley and realized how little I knew about Virginia Woolf so I requested it. This was a truly fascinating account of Virginia and her sister Vanessa and their lives in London in the early 20th century, along with their highly gifted friends. This group came to be known as the Bloomsbury Group.

Please note the following may have some plot SPOILERS.

Parmar does an excellent job of portraying Virginia’s genius intellect, coupled with her extreme emotional neediness and her mental instability. Both women had suffered severe loss in their family and were quite devoted to each other. However, Virginia’s connection to her sister bordered on the unhealthy and was almost obsessive. At times reading this novel, I felt so sorry for Vanessa. Virginia pretty much worked to take over anything she had, and then she usually destroyed it (including Vanessa’s marriage). Vanessa herself was a gifted artist, but her life and relationships and talents were hindered, in my opinion, by her sister’s overpossessiveness.

Throughout the book we are treated to glimpses into the social interactions of their partners in the group of intellectuals (writers and artists mostly) that became the Bloomsbury Group. The story is told from Vanessa’s point of view but also through telegrams, letters, diary entries, etc. I really enjoyed this book, though it was a bit depressing. I could have kept reading for about another 10-15 years of their lives! Kudos to Ms. Parmar on what I believe is her debut novel.


Find Vanessa and Her Sister at an Indie (I am an Indie Bound Affiliate)

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We Interrupt this Program…

Okay – so you might have noticed that my Amazon links are not really looking like links these days. The frustrating thing is that they look fine in my editor – and sometimes even when I preview – but then I see on my blog that they look like broken icons. After extensive research (believe me – I am finding my way through this technology on my own in a “hunt and peck” fashion or with an occasional library book), I find out that WordPress “strips the code” when I publish Amazon images. A plug-in exists to handle this, but apparently it’s not for the free version of WordPress which I use. At the same time I read a looong time ago that Amazon discourages image copying by those who are not affiliates. So – what to do what to do what to do???

I’ve decided to go with the Amazon Affiliate title links and then post a picture off Net Galley (or from wherever I got the book). The cover of the book is really important and you need to see it! Then today I discovered indie bound. I had heard of it (seen it on other blogs) but had no idea what it is. It’s a great website with lots of bookish things, but also another affiliate program where you link people to indie bookstores for getting books. I like the sounds of that, so I applied. I’m a big proponent of indies, but honestly I will never criticize a person for using Amazon because books cost a lot of money and Amazon is about as cheap as you can find them (well, except for the library).

So you should see some changes around the ole website. Please let me know your thoughts and feedback. And I apologize for the crummy look of all those broken links.

Just another note – in case any of you are thinking I make lots of money from being an affiliate. In the six years I’ve been blogging I’ve received less than $100 in Amazon affiliate fees (and that was only because someone bought a book I recommended and a computer at the same time!). I get like 4 cents when a kindle copy is sold. It’s kind of funny in a way. Maybe the indie program will be more lucrative because heaven knows I spend a lot of money on books!

Review: WE SHOULD HANG OUT SOMETIME by Josh Sundquist

I picked up a copy of this book on Net Galley. I thought it would be a fun mix of Wimpy Kid meets Seinfeld. WE SHOULD HANG OUT SOMETIME: EMBARRASSINGLY A TRUE STORY is Josh Sundquist’s story of how he never had a girlfriend and his quest to track down significant girls from his past to find out why exactly that was. Sounds funny, right?

However, this little book was a whole lot more. First of all, Josh is a cancer survivor, having had cancer at the age of nine and having his leg amputated at that time. He also comes from a strictly religious family that homeschooled him until high school. His story is about how he comes to terms with his identity as both a person and as an amputee. Josh is funny and has a great style of writing that flows easily and is quick to read. He adds little graphs and curves to illustrate his points. However, the pain of his self-consciousness, especially when he is in middle and high school, flows through so poignantly that at one point I turned to my husband and said, “This book better have a happy ending because my heart is breaking for this poor guy”. Well, SPOILER ALERT, there is a happy ending (thankfully!). Josh finally realizes that his own worst enemy is himself and also learns self-acceptance.

I had not heard of Josh before reading his book, but he is a well-known and popular personality. He is an amazing paralympic athlete and motivational speaker. However, when I started reading this book I knew Josh only as a young boy who had lived a fairly sheltered life that had been overshadowed by cancer. I felt for his parents, who I have to assume had real difficulty in letting go of this son that they had almost lost. Josh’s portrayal of them is rather funny, but as a parent, I can see where their protectiveness comes from.

So glad you got the happy ending you deserve, Josh!

Thanks, Net Galley, for my copy!

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First Book of the Year Reading Challenge!

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It’s another challenge – again by my friend Sheila from Book Journey.

What’s the book you will be reading on January 1st?

You can link up with the title and also send her a picture of you reading the book.

I have a book that I am just waiting to read. It’s an ARC from Net Galley of a title out in May:

THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN by Sarah McCoy!

I love, love, love Sarah’s writing (The Baker’s Daughter) and met her when she spoke at my favorite indie (Concord Bookshop). I am more than excited about this upcoming title which focuses on John Brown’s daughter, Sarah, and her work in making maps for the Underground Railroad, along with a present day woman, Eden, who discovers that her house was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Here’s the link to Sheila’s page about the challenge with sign-ups:

First Book Of The Year 2015

Happy Reading!!