The Manor House Murder by Faith Martin

Image result for the manor house murder by faith martin
Monica Noble and her husband Graham, the local vicar, are invited to participate in a high-flying church conference being held at a swanky manor house hotel in their village.

At the Saturday night dinner, the ambitious female cleric Celia Gordon tragically dies, seemingly of a peanut allergy.

But when Chief Superintendent Jason Dury arrives on the scene he quickly discovers that it’s a case of murder.

AND MONICA’S HUSBAND IS THE PRIME SUSPECT

Other suspects include an eminent bishop, an archdeacon viciously opposed to female clergy, and his wife, the curator of a local museum, who is definitely up to something.

But if Monica is to find out who killed Celia, and free her husband from suspicion, she must grapple with a very ruthless — and increasingly desperate — killer, putting herself and those around her in mortal danger. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is available to purchase now.

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the first two books in this series. I was able to pick up on things very easily, however.

This is one of those fun and cozy mysteries that are good to pull out on a rainy day. A simple read, it held my attention and made me smile. The characters aren’t all that developed, and I called the ‘who dunnit’ before the reveal, but it didn’t dim my enjoyment of the book. In a story like this, the fun is how you get to the end.

I didn’t love the setup: the multiple uses of the words “whore” and “prissy bitch” in the prologue grated on me. I do understand that the whole purpose was to point out how bad the baddie was. It still irked me, though. It didn’t jive with the feel of the rest of the story.

It’s a small complaint, and the rest of the book was highly enjoyable. I kind of loved the glossary of English terms that was added for us Americans. I found it helpful and a ton of fun to see the differences in language.

Have you read this? What did you think?

Secrets of the Great Fire Tree by Justine Laismith- Blog Tour

Today is my spot on the blog tour for Secrets of the Great Fire Tree by Justine Laismith. I’m so excited to talk about this magical little tale, one that is both charming and touching. My thanks go to Olivia at

This book is about a boy named Kai, who is told that his mom will be leaving to work for a family in the city, in order to provide for their family. He will stay in their village with a neighbor, and won’t see his mom for a year. The story follows his choices, and what he’ll do to bring his family together again.

In many ways, this book was very sad. Kai is dealing with many changes, and misses his mother terribly. It’s balanced well, though, and never becomes too much. The caring people in Kai’s village help with that.

Being an American, there were some cultural things that I wouldn’t have understood without the glossary of words, and short explanations that were scattered throughout the book. I found it very interesting, and it’s always cool to learn about the way things are in other places.

The magic is more of the everyday kind than fire-breathing dragons, but it was magical nonetheless. This is a great book for upper elementary aged kids.


 Q and A with author Justine Laismith

– Who are you?

I grew up in Singapore and studied Chemistry in London. After my PhD, I worked in the pharmaceuticals industry. Since then I have also worked in the chemicals and education sectors. I’ve always enjoyed writing. When I was in industry, I wrote scientific papers. While I did write fiction occasionally, it really only took off around the time I returned to Singapore in 2010. Then I entered a local writing competition. As a winner, my children’s book The Magic Mixer was published. It’s a chapter book about two women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.) At that time, I was already in the midst of writing Secrets of the Great Fire Tree. This was the encouragement I needed to keep going.

– When did you want to become an author?

I first wanted to be a writer when I was seven. However at school I never did well in languages or literature. When it came to choosing subjects, I would have had to make the difficult decision of choosing what I liked, or what I was good at. My teacher saved me from this. She had expected me to take the Art/humanity subjects because ‘girls are better at them, and boys are better at Math and Science.’ Right there and then I chose the science options to prove a point. Over the years, even though I pursued a science career, the enjoyment of turning blank pages to words never left me. I continued to write poems and stories as and when they came to me, but they were for my eyes only. I also channeled this into my work and wrote scientific papers on my research. After some years, I took a career break. With a break from science, the logical part of my brain took a back seat and let the creative side of my brain dominate. I started writing in earnest.

-What inspires your work?

My inspiration comes from all around me. I now pay a lot of attention to my surroundings and how it makes me feel. Then I challenge myself to describe it in words. When I watch a movie or show, I don’t just take a seat and enjoy the ride. I think about what makes me root for the characters, or hate them. I also analyse how and why two personalities who started off with nothing in common come together as the story develops. When I’m out and about, I take pictures of nature and buildings. You can check them out on my instagram account (www.instagram.com/justinelaismith). The collection might seem like random lots of pictures, but they help me crystallize my thoughts on the setting in my stories.

-Can you tell us how Secrets of the Great Fire Tree Came About?

I grew up in Singapore, a country proud of its multicultural identity. This exposed me to a plethora of languages and Chinese dialects. I’m also part- Paranakan, which is a unique blend of two cultures: ethnic Chinese who speak and practice Malay customs. To give my heritage its representation, I subtly incorporated these diversities in a story that’s supposed to be set in China. A native Singaporean might spot these ‘anomalies’. Nonetheless, because I wanted to make this story authentically Chinese, I carried out a lot of research. I enjoyed going right back to my roots. Ultimately, the Chinese diaspora’s experience of their culture will be different from the indigenous Chinese. Part of this research included a trip to China, where I made several notes about their lifestyles. I’ve documented them in a series of blog articles (www.justinelaismith.wordpress.com/great-fire-tree/setting).

What are you most excited to share when it comes to Secrets of the Great Fire Tree?

I am most excited about sharing the rural life in China. As I mentioned earlier, I see myself as a third-culture kid, who never really knew her roots. China holds a quarter of the world’s population and consists of over fifty ethnic minorities. Naturally, I cannot tell everything in one story, but I hope I managed to give a flavor of this fascinating culture. 

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas- Books that would make great gifts (picture book edition)

It’s getting to be that time of year. The time of year where, if you’re like me, you start to think about what book/s you’d like to give as gifts this year. I try to buy my children at least one book every Christmas. My youngest is a toddler, so I’m pretty well-versed in picture books. Here are a few that would make wonderful gifts.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce, illustrated by Joe Bluhm

Image result for mr morris flying books

This charming story is about the magic of books, so of course I love it. The language is pretty, yet simple, and the illustrations are absolutely wonderful. I love sharing this one with my kids.
The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems

Image result for the duckling gets a cookie

Our family loves the Pigeon books. There are several, but this one is my personal favorite. The words are simple and written largely, so new readers can follow along. All of Mo Willems’ books encourage participation from everyone listening, so story time is a lot of fun.
Frankenstein: A Babylit Anatomy Primer

All of the Babylit board books are adorable and fun. This one is no exception. There’s something funny about using Frankenstein’s monster to teach body parts. There are several other Babylit books that are equally great: The Hound of the Baskervilles Sounds Primer, and Dracula: A Counting Primer happen to be my three favorites.
U.S. Presidents: Oval Office All-Stars by Dan Green

Related image

My toddler has a surprising interest: he loves historical figures. He’ll say he wants to tell me a secret, then whisper “Ibn Battuta.” His favorites are the American presidents. He likes all of them, even dressing up as Abraham Lincoln for Halloween. He likes looking at adult history books and this is one of the few children’s books about presidents that passes muster for him.
The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

Related image

This book is flat-out awesome. It’s perfect for transitioning from picture books to chapter books. As the title suggests, there are no pictures, but the letters are brightly colored and the entire book is about how the readers’ parents have to say whatever is in the book even if it’s silly and ridiculous. This story is always accompanied by giggles and requests to read it again.

Here’s a short list of books that are winners in our house. Are you buying any picture books for little ones this year? What are some that you like to give as gifts?

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Image result for the starless sea
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world—a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life. (taken from Amazon)

           The word “exquisite” doesn’t begin to describe the beauty of this book. This book is the sweet melancholy of virgin snow, soon to be stepped in. It is the delight of a surprise package, the excitement of a first kiss, the mysterious possibility of change. It is perfection on pages.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is an excellent protagonist, sweet and a little unsure of himself. The story begins with a book found in a library, one that contains a tale about Zachary’s childhood. It’s a memory of something that really happened, something that no-one has been told about.  Zachary’s need to know more about the origin of the book leads him into labyrinthine tunnels, and the even more difficult -to- navigate maze of self-discovery.

The prose is gorgeous and the nonlinear way that the story unfolds is perfect. I love how Erin Morgenstern evokes not just sight and sound, but smell and taste with her writing. This book made me sad in that beautiful way that is so close to happiness that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Maybe I’ll do both. That will really freak my husband out.

The Night Circus, which is Erin Morgenstern’s first book, is on my “top five favorite books of all time” list. I have officially made it my “top six favorites” because this has found a place in my heart. Read this book.

“Each door will lead to a Harbor on the Starless Sea, if someone dares to open it.
Little distinguishes them from regular doors. Some are simple. Others are elaborately decorated. Most have doorknobs waiting to be turned though others have handles to be pulled.

“These doors will sing. Silent siren songs for those who seek what lies behind them.
For those who feel homesick for a place they’ve never been to. 

Those who seek even if they do  not know what (or where) it is that they are seeking. 
Those who seek will find. 
Their doors have been waiting for them.”

The Perfect Book Tag

I was tagged in this fantastic post by The Orangutan Librarian. I’m not attempting to write a book, but I’ll give it a go. Huzzah for participation!

The Perfect Genre: pick a book that perfectly represents its genreImage result for the hobbit book

Of course, I’m going to go with fantasy. As much as I like many other genres, fantasy is always my favorite. I have to say The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien perfectly represents this genre. Tolkien’s world is fully realized, it has the hero’s quest, a great group of fascinating characters, and of course there’s Smaug. He’s the quintessential fantasy dragon.

The Perfect Setting: pick a book that takes place in a perfect place

Image result for the night circus book

I feel like I use The Night Circus in a lot of my posts, but I can’t help it. It’s so gorgeous. I’d love to wander through the Cirque de Reves. Anyone who hasn’t read this book, needs to add it to their (probably already overflowing) to be read pile.

The Perfect Main Character

Image result for kings of the wyld

This question was really hard on me, because I usually don’t love the main characters in books. Because they are often used to further the story, I find myself getting annoyed by how shortsighted or flat-out stupid they can be. I do love Slowhand, though.

The Perfect Best Friend

Image result for perks of being a wallflower book

Charlie is so sweet and considerate. He takes the time to get to know all his friends’ quirks, their likes and dislikes. He’s loyal to a fault, and he has a loving heart.

The Perfect Love Interest: pick a character who you think would be the best romantic partner
I’ve got nothing. I am bereft of any sort of interest in bookish romances.

The Perfect Villain: pick the character with the most devious mind

Image result for the order of the phoenix book

Dolores Umbridge is absolutely vile. What makes her so incredibly disturbing, though, is that she’s firmly convinced she’s right. She thinks she’s justified in everything she does, and people like that are very, very dangerous.

The Perfect Family: pick the perfect bookish family

Image result for harry potter and the chamber of secrets book

I didn’t want to post Harry Potter twice in a row, but the Weasleys are the perfect literary family. They pretty much adopted Harry. Not because he was “the Chosen One”, but because they saw a kid who needed love. They’re boisterous, fun, a little bit chaotic, but loving and sweet.

The perfect animal or pet: pick a pet or fantastical animal that you need to see in a book

Image result for skie from dragonlance art by matt stawicki

(art by Matt Stawicki)

I’ll always choose dragons. I actually collect dragons. I have figurines, stuffed animals, even a stained glass window hanging. This particular dragon is a favorite of mine, featured in Dragonlance.

The perfect plot twist

Image result for the seven and a half deaths of evelyn hardcastle

I loved every mind-bending moment of this book. Stuart Turton’s second novel, The Devil and the Dark Water will be coming out sometime next year. I have no idea what it’s about. I truly don’t care: I’ll still be in line to buy it as soon as it releases. His writing is astounding.

The Perfect Trope: pick a trope you’d add to your book without thinking

Does the whole “small group will goes on an epic journey” thing count as a trope? If so, then that’s the one I’d add without a second thought.

The Perfect Cover: pick a cover that you would easily put on your own book

Image result for the language of thorns

I love everything about this cover, from the gold-and-blue embossing, to the title. It has a mysterious, dark fairy tale feel to it that I can’t get enough of.

The Perfect Ending:

Image result for the ten thousand doors of january

I want to say The Night Circus again, but I’ll refrain. I love books that feel like they’re continuing on beyond the final page, and we can catch up with the characters years down the road and chat like old friends. Both Alix E. Harrow and Erin Morgenstern have captured that feeling perfectly in their novels.

So, there you have it. I’m not going to tag anyone here, although I might tag some people on Twitter. If you feel like participating, please do. I’d love to see what others think!

Leo’s Monster by Marcus Pfister- ARC Review

Thank you to Negalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on May 5th, 2020.

This little story is about two mice. There’s a country mouse named Zoe and, and her little buddy, Leo. Leo comes to visit Zoe, but discovers a terrifying monster. As he describes it to Zoe, she starts to suspect that the monster is, in fact, bovine in nature.

I thought the illustrations were cute, and the story was entertaining. My toddler, though had another opinion. He hated it. About three pages in, he looked at me and said, “It’s just a cow,” and the disdain with which he said it was actually a wee bit funny. I’m not sure what to make of his reaction. He gravitates toward history books anyway (seriously. This four year old has all the presidents memorized and can recognize them by face). Take his opinion with that in mind.

I guess that makes this review a mixed one. I liked the book, and think it would be great for toddlers. My toddler- the target demographic- seems to disagree. Take from that what you will.

Limbo by Thiago d’Evecque

Image result for limbo by thiago d'evecque
The Limbo is where all souls — human or otherwise — go to after dying. Some don’t realize where they are. Death is a hard habit to get used to. Gods and mythological figures also dwell in the plane, borne from humanity’s beliefs.

A forsaken spirit is awakened and ordered to dispatch 12 souls back to Earth to prevent the apocalypse. Many don’t take kindly to the return. Accompanied by an imprisoned mad god, the spirit must compel them.

Each of the 12 unlocks a piece of the forsaken spirit’s true identity. Memories unfold and past wounds bleed again.

The journey will reveal buried truths about gods, angels, humanity, and the forsaken spirit itself. (taken from Goodreads)

                            Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

This book is so stinking creative! I saw “mad god” in the description, and was immediately interested. One thing I loved about this was the way the book reads like a puzzle. That sense of questioning transferred over from the main character to me, and I couldn’t stop thinking through what I thought the possibilities might be. I was surprised by the way things culminated as well, which is always cool.

At times, the book felt a bit too descriptive but the descriptions themselves were amazing. The author had such a fully realized view of every last detail, from the way things looked, to how they were formed. Just read this:

There was no space or time. I strode without leaving the place, while, in fact, everything around me arranged itself to look like I was moving. The setting gradually changed. Small pieces climbed up to my feet and descended from where the sky should be. As in a puzzle, these pieces fit together and shaped the surroundings. The ground floated in blocks until they glued together in a perfect picture, an impeccable union.

Oddly enough, another thing I really enjoyed was reading the notes afterward to see what myths and religions the author pulled from and took liberties with. It’s obviously a passion project, and reads well because of it.

It’s a quick read, and one that I suggest to those who like new takes on old myths, legends, and archtypes.

The End of the Year Book Tag

The end of the year is rapidly approaching. I’m not sure why 2019 decided to move at a gallop, but it seems that it did. I’ve seen this book tag on several blogs and I’m not sure where it originated. The credit for this great tag goes to Ariel Bissett. Without further ado, here are my answers to some questions that no one has asked:

Are There Any Books You’ve Started This Year That You Need To Finish?

Ruthless Gods (Something Dark and Holy #2) by Emily A. Duncan: I started this long before its release date, which is April 7th, 2020. I obviously have plenty of time to read and review it before the release date, so I’m not stressing it.

Image result for ruthless gods

Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. They’re pieces on a board, being orchestrated by someone…or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet―those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

In her dramatic follow-up to Wicked Saints, the first book in her Something Dark and Holy trilogy, Emily A. Duncan paints a Gothic, icy world where shadows whisper, and no one is who they seem, with a shocking ending that will leave you breathless. (taken from Amazon)

Do You Have An Autumnal Book To Transfer Into The New Year?

Indeed, I do. I always reread the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman in the fall. I’m enjoying it even more than usual this year, since I’m participating in Offthetbr’s readalong.

Image result for dragonlance chronicles

Lifelong friends, they went their separate ways. Now they are together again, though each holds secrets from the others in his heart. They speak of a world shadowed with rumors of war. They speak of tales of strange monsters, creatures of myth, creatures of legend. They do not speak of their secrets. Not then. Not until a chance encounter with a beautiful, sorrowful woman, who bears a magical crystal staff, draws the companions deeper into the shadows, forever changing their lives and shaping the fate of the world.

No one expected them to be heroes.

Least of all, them. (taken from Amazon)
Is There A New Release You’re Still Waiting For?

Oddly enough, not really. My most anticipated new release just came out, so now I’m just enjoying discovering new books and rereading favorites.

What Are Three Books You Want To Read Before The End Of The Year?

The Audacity by Laura Loup: I’m starting this one soon, and I’m really excited to see where it goes.

Image result for the audacity by laura loup

May’s humdrum life gets flung into hyperdrive when she’s abducted, but not all aliens are out to probe her. She’s inadvertently rescued by Xan who’s been orbiting Earth in a day-glo orange rocket ship, watching re-runs of “I Love Lucy”.

Seizing the opportunity for a better life, May learns how to race the Audacity and pilots her way into interstellar infamy. Finally, she has a job she likes and a friend to share her winnings with–until the Goddess of Chaos screws the whole thing up, and Xan’s unmentionable past makes a booty call. (taken from Amazon)
The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington: I love a good fantasy, and I think this book will deliver.

Image result for the shadow of what was lost

As destiny calls, a journey begins.
It has been twenty years since the godlike Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them — the Gifted — are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion’s Four Tenets, vastly limiting their powers.
As a Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and others like him are despised. But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he and his friends Wirr and Asha set into motion a chain of events that will change everything.

To the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian’s wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is…

And in the far north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir. (taken from Amazon)

The Jackal of Nar by John Marco: My husband recommended this book, and he has excellent taste in fantasy books.

Image result for the jackal of nar

His enemies call Prince Richius “the Jackal,” but he is merely a reluctant warrior for the Emperor in the fight for the strife-ridden borderland of Lucel-Lor. And though the empire’s war machines are deadly, when the leader of a fanatical sect sweeps the battlefield with potent magic, Richius’s forces are routed. He returns home defeated—but the Emperor will not accept the loss. Soon Richius is given one last chance to pit the empire’s science against the enemy’s devastating magic, and this time he fights for more than a ruler’s mad whim. This time Richius has his own obsessive quest—and where he hesitated to go for an emperor’s greed, for love he will plunge headlong into the grasp of the deadliest enemy he has ever encountered. . . .(taken from Amazon)

Is There A Book You Think Could Shock You And Become Your Favorite Book Of The Year?

I’m a big fan of surprise masterpieces, so I go into each book I read with an open mind and hope that it will be one I enjoy. It has been a year full of amazing books, and I know that I’ve only begun to discover all the incredible voices out there.

Have You Already Started Making Reading Plans For 2020?

I can’t even plan an outfit! I do have some ARCs that will be released in 2020, so my goal right now is to have them all read and reviewed before their release date. Other than that, my plan is to maybe remember to put eyeliner on both eyes if I’m going to put makeup on before leaving the house.

If you want to participate, feel free! This is a fun one.

Fowl Language: Winging It by Brian Gordon- ARC Review

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Image result for fowl language winging it
The world’s finest parenting cartoon featuring ducks presents a comprehensive view of the early parenting years in all of their maddening cuteness and sanity-depriving chaos. In addition to dozens of previously unpublished cartoons, Fowl Language: Winging It is organized into 12 thematic chapters—including “Babies: Oh Dear God, What Have We Done?”; “Siblings: Best Frenemies Forever”; and “Sleep: Everybody Needs It, Nobody’s Gettin’ It”—each of which begins with a hilarious, illustrated 500-word essay. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. It will be available to purchase on October twenty second.

Who knew that it would be possible for me to relate so much to a duck? I struggle with reading graphic novels, but I love a good web comic. Back in the day, I used to read Penny Arcade, and comics along those lines. Then, one fated night, long after…

View original post 170 more words

Divided States of America (the Galaxy series #3) by Aithal- ARC Review

Image result for divided states of america by aithal
The year is 2032. After traveling to a galaxy far far away, the three astronauts are back on Earth, but in the future. What they see shocks them. When they left Earth in 2015, America was united, but they come to a divided country.

 
The only way to stop this from ever happening is for them to travel back to the year 2015. And the only person who can take them back is the alien who flew back with them. They have already witnessed the powers he possesses. They know that no human on Earth can do what he can.  
 
Will he do it? (taken from Amazon)

                           Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on January 4th, 2020.

In the interest of full disclosure: I have not read the first two books in this series. However, I was easily able to follow the story.

As the title of suggests, politics are a very big part of this book. I expected a political sci-fi. What surprised me a bit was how much more politically-focused it is. In many ways, the science fiction takes a backseat. I honestly would be interested in reading a straight-out political novel by Aithal as that seems to be where his passion lays.

However, the science fiction is solid, and the story moves along well. The politics could get a little heavy-handed and if you lean toward the right, you might not appreciate this book as much. I think what took this book from a “love” to a “like” for me is simply that the state of American politics is a stressful subject for me. Trying to raise kids in a political environment that is so often charged with hatred can be a scary thing, and it sometimes dims my enjoyment of politically-minded books. That being said, this is a creative book, and a worthy addition to dystopian sci-fi.