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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Review - The Bride's Guide to Marriage and Murder

 I have come to love this delightful series and started with the first in the series.  Here are the prior books in the series and my reviews.

1)  A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder (click here)

2)  A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder (no review)

3)  A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder (click here)

4)  A FiancĂ©e's Guide to First Wives and Murder (click here)

In this outing it is Frances and George's wedding and you can bet there is murder and mayhem.  Read on to find out more.

Author: Dianne Freeman

Copyright: June 2022 (Kensingtom) 322 pgs

Series: 5th in Countess of Harleigh Mysteries

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Historical

Main Character: Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh 

Setting: 1889, London England

Obtained Through: Publisher via Netgalley for honest review

 Book Blurb:  "On the eve of her marriage to George Hazelton, Frances has a great deal more on her mind than flowers and seating arrangements. The Connors and the Bainbridges, two families of American robber barons, have taken up residence in London, and their bitter rivalry is spilling over into the highest social circles. At the request of her brother, Alonzo, who is quite taken with Miss Madeline Connor, Frances has invited the Connor family to her wedding. Meanwhile, Frances’s mother has invited Mr. Bainbridge, and Frances fears the wedding may end up being newspaper-worthy for all the wrong reasons.

On the day itself, Frances is relieved to note that Madeline’s father is not among the guests assembled at the church. The reason for his absence, however, turns out to be most unfortunate: Mr. Connor is found murdered in his home. More shocking still, Alonzo is caught at the scene, holding the murder weapon.

Powerful and ruthless, Connor appears to have amassed a wealth of enemies alongside his fortune. Frances and George agree to put their wedding trip on hold to try and clear Alonzo’s name. But there are secrets to sift through, not just in the Bainbridge and Connor families, but also in their own. And with a killer determined to evade discovery at any cost—even if it means taking another life—Frances’s first days as a newlywed will be perilous indeed . . ."

MY Thoughts:

Frances Wynn, soon to be Hazelton, is one of my favorite sleuths with her quick mind and intrepid spirit.  I've loved George Hazelton from the instant he was introduced and they were always perfect for each other.  

Add in Frances' mother and father bickering, aunt and her beau helping the investigation by scouring financial documents, her brother's impatience and stubborness as just some of the complications, plus her deceased husband's brother being a suspect.  Frances has her hands full. Naturally their wedding would have plenty of Frances' family drama and a murder, but this takes the cake.

I read this through easily as the pace was quick even with everything and kept my interest. The plot had plenty of viable suspects that presented a challenge in itself without the family complications.  I do have to say I figured out the murderer, more lucky guess than anything.  The killer confrontation was suspenseful and harrowing while the denoument was sweet.

If you want a historical cozy with a believable yet independant woman with a good mystery, enjoyable story, and a sweet romance then this if for you.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

Thank you for reading this blog and please recommend to friends and family who will enjoy it.

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Monday, May 27, 2024

Mystery Movie Review - Murder Is Easy

This is based on the third of Agatha Christie's lesser known Superintendent Battle books (4 in series).  There was a 1982 adaptation made with Bill Bixby starring as an American in England. Also a 2009 TV version that changed it up to have Miss Marple investigate, which wasn't part of the original book, but features a young Benedict Cumberbatch.  This 2023 adaptation is in two "episodes."  When I saw this advertised I couldn't wait to see it on BritBox.  Full disclosue, I haven't read the book.

Movie Blurb:
Based on the classic Agatha Christie mystery, "Murder Is Easy" follows the story of Luke Fitzwilliam who finds himself on the trail of a serial killer after meeting Miss Pinkerton on a train to London.

What's It About?:
  How can three people be murdered in an English village and nobody notice?  Miss Pinkerton (played by Downton Abbey's Penelope Wilton) is on a train to London with the sole purpose of getting Scotland Yard to investigate three deaths in her village that are all being dismissed as accidents.  She shares her concerns with fellow traveler Luke Fitzwilliam. Fitzwilliam is relocating to London for an aid job in the British government.  Shortly after exiting the train, Miss Pinkerton is run over on a London street and Fitzwilliam goes to the small town to investigate. 

Released: March 2024
Director: Meenu Gaur
Writer: Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre and Agatha Christie

David Jonsson as Luke Fitzwilliam 
Mathew Baynton as Dr. Thomas
Nimra Bucha as Mrs. Humbleby
Morfydd Clark as Bridget Conway 
Penelope Wilton as Miss Pinkerton 
Phoebe Licorish as Rose Humbleby
Douglas Henshall as Major Horton

"What the writer Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre has done well here is to create the strange eeriness of an insular community, ostensibly genteel and polite but in other ways hostile."  Carol Midgley Times UK

"Sian Ejiwunmi-Le Berre’s adaptation of Murder is Easy falls between two stools. Too bland to excite the violent impulses of the Line of Duty generation, yet insufficiently zippy or playful to stir Christie aficionados."  Nick Hilton
Independent UK

"It's hard to take the novel seriously, and it’s impossible to take this silly... adaptation at its own estimation." Melanie McDonagh London Evening Standard

Trivia (From IMDB):
Filming locations: Sorn Castle, Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland, UK (Lord Whitfield's House)

Title comes from Miss Pinkerton saying "Murder is easy for a certain type of person."  Another version has it "Murder is easy when nobody thinks it's murder."

Douglas Henshall (playing Major Horton) and Mark Bonnar (playing Rev. Humbleby) appeared together for 7 seasons as key characters in the crime drama Shetland

Tom Riley (Lord Whitfield) previously appeared in episodes of Miss Marple and Poirot

My Thoughts:
David Jonsson's acting as the lead character is stellar and I'll be watching for more from him!  The story is modernized a little by Fitzwilliam being from Nigeria and the remaining prejudices that come with that.  With that said, I hadn't read any of the reviews included here prior to watching, which I'm glad I didn't.  Critics said it remained fairly close to the book, which many didn't like the book to begin with so there wasn't much chance they would like the movie then anyway.

This had wonderful cinematography with great countryside views and interesting camera angles.  Acting was well done.

There are two criticisms I have.  One is the director's vision for Luke Fitzwilliam, actually all the characters, was clearly reserved and lackluster when the actor was giving so much more in the simplest of scenes.  You shouldn't cast fine actors and then hamstring them.  Secondly, there is a lack of zip for the storyline and it's the screenwriter's fault.  This could have been combined and shortened into one feature-length movie and accentuated the danger of a murderer among them to heighten the suspense. 

But with that said, I did enjoy it and was entertained.  That's more than I can say for many movies I ended up wasting time on.  I recommend with caveats that you know what to expect and take it in stride.
Thank you for reading this blog and please recommend to friends and family who will enjoy it.


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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Review - Death at a Scottish Christmas

I have read all of the books thus far of this new series based in Scotland, always fun.  

1)  An American in Scottland (click here

2)  Death at a Scottish Wedding (click here

 This book releases Oct 15, so here is an advance review so you can put this on your holiday reading in several months!

Author: Lucy Connelly

Copyright: Oct 2024 (Crooked Lane Books) 256 pgs

Series: 3rd in Scottish Isle Mysteries

Sensuality: Adult topics, mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy, amateur sleuth

Main Character: Dr. Emilia McRoy, American ER Doctor, now all purpose country physician and coroner

Setting: Contemporary, Sea Isle, Scotland

Obtained Through: Publisher via Netgalley for honest review

 Book Blurb:  "Sea Isle, Scotland, is magical during the holiday season, and Dr. Emilia McRoy can’t wait to enjoy everything her village has to offer. But when the lead singer of a famous band is murdered in the village, just as they were about to launch a world tour, her holiday instantly comes to a halt. 

As the band’s future hangs in the balance, Emilia discovers that the victim was working on new music that has since disappeared. Were these new lyrics worth killing for? And if so, who is the culprit? It seems more than one person wanted this music star dead. Shockingly, beloved constable Ewan Campbell becomes the prime suspect in the investigation, putting a damper on the town’s festivities.

With an ever-growing list of suspects, Emilia will need all the help she can get to figure out who is framing poor Ewan. Between a secret Santa that wants her dead, stalkers, and killer holiday celebrations, Emilia must see the devil in the details and discover the truth before it’s too late."

MY Thoughts:

Dr. Emilia McRoy is one of my favorites. She's a mix of smart and practical with a vulnerability that makes her stand out among cozy mystery main characters.  

Best friends Mara, Angie, and Abigail are present providing friendship and support as always.  Jasper is an addition to the friends and I already am fond of him.  Ewan, the wealthy laird of the town and constable is more present than ever in this outing.   There is a hint of this slow burn perhaps heating up a tiny bit, which is delicious.  I love how this is a gradual building of interest.  All of the suspects are fleshed out well and seem complicated.

Any mystery with a band involved can be complicated with fans and industry shenanigans but this one has an interesting twist that gives this an added touch of reality.  I read this book quickly for me, I could barely put it down to do "real-world" things.  The author always makes the setting come alive and in this case we get the many varied customs surrounding the winter holiday which were fascinating.

The killer reveal was well done and satisfying, even sad.  I loved the wrapup with the holiday celebration and Ewan showing a touch of sentiment.

Overall, this is a wonderful story with heart, solid mystery with plenty of facets to keep you guessing, and a cast of characters that feel real.  I want to live in Sea Isle, it becomes so alive.  I already want the next book. 

Rating:  Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

Thank you for reading this blog and please recommend to friends and family who will enjoy it.

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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Review - A Botanists Guide to Society and Secrets

 I love that Ms. Khavari was a teacher once upon a time and as a child she spent a lot of time memorizing Sherlock Holmes’s and Poirot’s greatest quips.

This series has become an automatic read for me.  Here is the third in this riveting historical cozy.

1)  A Botanist's Guide to Parties And Poisons (click here

2)  A Botanist's Guide to Flowers And Fatality (click here

Kate Khavari

Copyright: June 2024 (Crooked Lane Book) 332 pgs

Series: 3rd in Saffron Everleigh Mysteries

Sensuality: Adult topics, mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth, Historical Cozy

Main Character: Saffron Everleigh, a brilliant botanist 

Setting: 1923, London England

Obtained Through: Publisher via Netgalley for honest review

 Book Blurb:  "Returning from Paris, botanical researcher Saffron Everleigh finds that her former love interest Alexander Ashton’s brother, Adrian, is being investigated for murder. A Russian scientist working for the English government has been poisoned, and expired in Adrian’s train compartment. Alexander asks Saffron to put in a good word for Adrian with Inspector Green. Despite her unresolved feelings for Alexander, Saffron begins to unravel mysteries surrounding the dead scientist.

As if a murder case weren’t enough, her best friend Elizabeth’s war-hero brother, Nick, arrives in town and takes an immediate interest in Saffron. Saffron learns Alexander has been keeping secrets from her, including a connection to Nick, who Saffron and Elizabeth begin to suspect is more than he seems.

When another scientist is found dead, Saffron agrees to go undercover at the government laboratory. Risking her career and her safety, she learns there are many more interested parties and dangerous secrets to uncover than she’d realized. But some secrets, Saffron will find, are better left undiscovered."

MY Thoughts:

Saffron Everleigh came from wealth but is making her own way in academia as a botanist like her father in an era when women were still to stay home having babies, cooking, and cleaning. She is an inspirational character with her intelligence and grit.  

Elizabeth Hale is her best friend and room mate who works as a secretary for a government official. Elizabeth's brother, Nick Hale, makes a surprise visit only to try and recruit Saffron to aid the government in investigating the scientist's murder.  Alexander Ashton, a fellow academia at the same university, is crazy about Saffron but had caused a rift between them insisting that she not assist the police with investigations, only to need her help now to clear his brother of killing the same scientist's murder.  Then there is Dr. Michael Lee who has grown very fond of Saffron and keeps helping her out on investigations. I particularly like Dr. Lee.

The plot continues to get more involved as the story develops. The pacing maintains a steady trot between everyone involved and the individual undercurrents.  The setting is London to begin, then transitions to the Path Lab in the small town of Harpenden.  The Path Lab makes a frightful setting with all the experiments and secrets.  

Elizabeth takes part in the exciting climax and brings some humor to the story. I enjoyed her greater involvement in this book. The climax and killer reveal was tense with quite a twist and was one of those just when you thought everything was done, ooops there's more surprise danger. 

This third book introduces a criminal mastermind and arch-enemy for Saffron.  This ups the ante significantly in these books.  The ending promises another match against this arch-villain.

Ms. Khavari's writing style makes each book more impressive than the last. Excellent and a must read series.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

Thank you for reading this blog and please recommend to friends and family who will enjoy it.

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Monday, May 13, 2024

Musings - Online Book Clubs

Online book clubs are big ever since Oprah exploded the idea back in 1996 and the phenomenon brings joy to my heart.  It helps to have a big name behind the book club to get exposure thus Reese Witherspoon and Good Morning America's book picks are successful.  But now we have a plethera of online book clubs to meet most every need.

The structure of an online book club typically includes: 
  • A reading schedule or deadline
  • Regular discussion sessions
  • Sometimes may even include guest appearances by authors  
The deadline ensures all members are at the same point in the book during discussions. Such structure can motivate regular reading while knowing there will be discussion promotes consistency and looking for deeper meaning while reading.  

The online factor makes it more convenient for today's busy people.   Discussions can take place in live video chats, discussion boards, or a comments section.  Technology allows authors to join these discussions and provide their insights into the book and a special opportunity for members to interact with the creators of the books is an added bonus.

Let's get into a few of the myriad online book clubs available.

Of course I have to feature the mystery book club: 

Murder and Mayhem Book Club uses the Fable app and features a "variety of exciting mystery and thriller titles over time, from classics to hot topics."  (Find them here

Big Library Read (click here).  first Global ebook club that utilizes Libby app for reading the book with no waiting to check out the book and the discussion.  It is the largest online book club with 1000+ participating.  On the website is the "Join the Discusson" tab where you answer the questions and then read other's responses. 

The Heavy Hitter Big Names:
  • Oprah Book Picks that Oprah has personally picked is a newsletter you join (click here) and then the disccusion takes place on Goodreads (click here)  
  • Reese Witherspoon  features books with a woman at the center of the story.  (click here)
  • Good Morning America Book Club takes place mostly on Instagram (click here)
  • Jimmy Fallon Book Club is back - follow @FallonBookClub on Instagram for the scheduled book and join the conversation (click here)
  • Los Angeles Times Book Club uses their newsletter to organize and communicate book picks and solicit recommendations. This is specifically for Southern California because they tend to arrange for a live author event with tickets because they get stars like LeVar Burton and Dean Koontz. (click here
  • Read With Jenna Book Club (Today Show) (click here)

Notable and Popular:
Teen Banned Book Club at NYPL
selecting young adult books that have been challenged or banned from schools and offering them free nationwide via digital access. The book club also hosts the authors for an event. (click here)  

NoName's Book Club featuring books written by POC with active chapters in 14 cites for incarerated. (click here)

Subtle Asian Book Club  
created in 2020 with the goal of uplifting Asian voices and storytellers. You can read along with the monthly book chosen, join on social media, and watch videos of their live author interviews. (click here)

Mocha Girls Read
Monthly book club of Black women who love to read. They currently have chapters in 14 cities across the U.S. Starting in 2024, anyone can join “an IG Live every first Saturday of the month at 5 pm PT.  (click here)

The Stacks Book Club
Began as a podcast that chats all about books, and added a monthly book club! The book chosen for the month is discussed on the podcast the last week of the month with a selected special guest. (click here

Between Two Books Book Club
with a vibrant online community of avid readers. The unique aspect of this club is that it features book recommendations from various artists, writers, and directors, allowing members to explore diverse voices and perspectives.  book discussions take place on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, where we feature readings and Q&As with authors. (click here)

Others you may find interesting: 

Rebel Book Club (Non-fiction) based in UK for live and virtual meetings. (click here)

Beth's Book Club is a subscription based community of thousands of women reading together all around the world. They set about creating a platform that would offer members plenty of community, fun, learning and self-care opportunities. They discuss the book of the month via Facebook, have a bookswap, and a newsletter. (click here)

Ladies Lit Squad (click here)

Girlfriend Book Club from AARP (click here)

Andrew Luck Book Club He's the quarterback for Indianapolis Colts (click here)

Addicted to YA Book Club on Goodreads (click here)

The History Book Club (Goodreads) (click here)

That is just a few, there are scores more of every type imaginable.  Share yours in the comments.  Let me know if you found one of these particularly good for you and you joined.

Thank you for reading this blog and please recommend to friends and family who will enjoy it.

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