Audio Book Review: 13 Treasures

13 Treasures13 Treasures (Thirteen Treasures #1)
by Michelle Harrison
Narrator: Nicola Barber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blurb: While visiting her grandmother’s house, an old photograph leads Tanya to an unsolved mystery. Fifty years ago a girl vanished in the woods nearby – a girl Tanya’s grandmother will not speak of. Fabian, the caretaker’s son, is tormented by the girl’s disappearance. His grandfather was the last person to see her alive, and has lived under suspicion ever since. Together, Tanya and Fabian decide to find the truth. But Tanya has her own secret: the ability to see fairies. Can it help them to unravel the mystery? Soon they are facing terrible danger. Could the manor’s sinister history be about to repeat itself?

My Review: Again, I only picked this up from the library because I liked the cover. So, yes, covers are important and will get authors new readers; or in this case, listeners.

Firstly, I want to comment on the narrator. She was excellent. Her voice suited the story and the main character. Her narration held me to the story, just as much as the author’s writing. And I think it’s important to mention that.

The main character in this book is 13, which suggests the book is written for younger readers. However, it felt to me that she was more mature and sophisticated. Half the time, I forgot Tanya was only thirteen. That doesn’t mean that I think young people are not or cannot be mature and sophisticated, it means that the story (I feel) will appeal to young adult, and even adults too.

The supporting characters are placed well and compliment the main character. The plot was well thought out and kept me guessing. The mystery was realistic and believable. In fact, I enjoyed this story a lot more than I thought I would. I will definitely be looking for the next book in the series. And I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading books filled with mystery, adventure, and fantastical elements.

Highly recommended.

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Audio Book Review: I’ll Walk Alone

I'll Walk AloneI’ll Walk Alone (Alvirah and Willy #8)
by Mary Higgins Clark
Narrator: Jan Maxwell

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

It’s strange, but the books I would not read, I enjoy listening to. I don’t get why that is the case, but I’m discovering new authors and books as a result, so it’s a win-win situation as far as I’m concerned.

Blurb: Thirty-year-old Alexandra Moreland, a prominent interior designer, already heartbroken at the disappearance of her toddler, Matthew, in Central Park two years earlier, now is facing a different tragedy. She is about to be indicted for identity theft and is considered a “person of interest” in the murder of a woman she barely knew. What she cannot surmise is that she has become the target of a vicious plot to destroy both her sanity and her life.

My Review: I didn’t realise this was book eight until this very moment, as I was about to write the review. With that in mind, I have to admit that I had no idea there have been seven previous books. And to me, that is a good thing because it makes this book a stand alone story.

I listened to the audio version of the book. The narrator was excellent; easy to listen to and very clear.

This story itself was good to listen too. Predictable. Pleasant. Comfortable. Easy listening while driving to and from work. Even though I knew where it was going, I was keen to keep listening. I did feel that in all honesty, the plot was too convenient in places, but I let that go and just tried to enjoy the moment. I certainly didn’t regret picking this audio book up from the library and I would listen to more from the author.

eBook Review: The Mystery of Hollow Inn

The Mystery Of Hollow Inn (Samantha Wolf Mysteries #1)The Mystery of Hollow Inn (Samantha Wolf Mysteries #1)
by Tara Ellis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb: Twelve-year-old Samantha Wolf, and her best friend Ally, are excited to spend part of their summer break in the mountains of Montana. But unknown to them, Hollow Inn is bathed in mystery and legend. After arriving, they soon discover that things are not going well for Sam’s Aunt and Uncle, who own the Inn. There’s vandalism, ghostly sightings, and rumors of lost treasures. Determined to help, Sam and Ally embark on a challenging journey to discover the truth.

My Review: Being the first book in a mystery series, it’s important to set up the characters so that the reader wants to return to the series. Naturally, this is for younger readers, but as I enjoy books for all ages, I thought I’d give it a go and see what I thought.

Sam and her best friend visit Sam’s aunt and uncle for the summer break. They find themselves stepping in to a mystery and, of course, the two girls have to find out what’s going on. The two main characters worked well together, although they were a bit two dimensional at times. But nothing that took away from the story line. The mystery itself was put together well and kept me interested. I liked the way the author spun the modern world of technology into a setting that I believe most parents would not mind their children/preteens reading.

I believe young girls especially will enjoy these books. I will certainly read the next book in the series. In fact, I’ve already got in on my device ready to read.

eBook Review: The Cat, the Mill and the Murder

The Cat, the Mill and the Murder (A Cats in Trouble Mystery, #5)The Cat, the Mill and the Murder by Leann Sweeney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As is my way, I spotted this book in the local Salvo’s store. I don’t usually read cozy mysteries, but I liked the sound of this book so bought it. Besides, tastes change over the years and I recently find myself reading a number of books I never used to look at twice. Thing is, surprise, surprise, I’m enjoying them!

Blurb: When cat lover and quilter Jillian Hart volunteers to help a local animal shelter relocate a colony of feral cats living in an abandoned textile mill, she never expects to find a woman living there, too. Jeannie went missing from Mercy, South Carolina, a decade ago, after her own daughter’s disappearance.

Jeannie refuses to leave the mill or abandon Boots, her cat who died years ago. After all, she and Boots feel the need to protect the premises from “creepers” who come in the night. After Jeannie is hurt in an accident and is taken away, those who’ve come to town to help repurpose the mill uncover a terrible discovery… As the wheels start turning in Jillian’s mind, a mysterious new feline friend aids in her quest to unearth a long-kept and dark secret.

My Review: The Cat, The Mill and The Murder is a cosy mystery — a subgenre of crime fiction where sex and violence is downplayed and the crime is usually solved by a member of the public instead of police officers, detectives and the like.

What attracted me to this story is the ghost cat. I liked the sound of that and felt it would make for a different read (for me, at least). I enjoyed the interaction of the main character and the ghost cat. In fact, I enjoyed the main character’s interaction with all the other characters too. She seemed like a real, decent person; even with her quirks. Her obsession with her own cats was nice, they were her babies and I get the attachment there. I have a dog that I feel the same way about.

The plot was well crafted, in my opinion. I liked the way it came together in a natural way. All the players had good reasons for what they felt and what they did. The mystery was believable and the clues given out at just the right moments to keep the reader interested.

This is the first book I’ve read in the series, and the first book I’ve read by this author. I’d definitely read others.

Recommended.

eBook Review: The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the WindowThe Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My son and his fiance gave me an iTunes gift card for Christmas. They know I love reading and thought I’d be able to purchase books for myself, rather than try to decide what I might want to read. So far I’ve purchased two ebooks. The first one was The Last Hours by Minette Walters and the second was this one. Both have been five star reads, so I’m doing well (so far) with my selections.

Blurb: What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

My Review: The Woman in the Window was purchased on a whim. Something about the blurb intrigued me. I’d also read some reviews that made it look promising.

In all honesty, this book didn’t grab me from the first page. In fact, it felt difficult to read at first. First person. Fragmented sentences. I was confused about what was happening and put it aside before the end of the first chapter. A few days later I picked it up and tried again and this time, the storyline grabbed me. By the end of the second chapter I was hooked.

The writing style needs to be gotten used to, in my opinion. But once accepted, the flow becomes easy and the characters draw you in. It felt a little like I was reading someone else’s diary, when I knew I shouldn’t be. And the reading gave me an insight into things I shouldn’t know.

There were two sections of this book that affected me immensely. Without giving anything away, one made me want to know more, made me want to keep reading, devouring every word. I couldn’t get enough of the book. I thought about it when I put it down. I couldn’t wait to get back to it.

The other section stopped me in my tracks. It was like I’d been punched in the face. I had no choice but to put the book down at that moment and let the words swim around in my mind and settle down. I was so affected that I found myself looking for some one to tell the story to, just so I could talk about it. Then, after that, I raced back to the book to discover what the outcome would be.

I haven’t read a book that affected me like this for a very, very long time. I was sad when it finished. I actually put the book down twenty pages from the end, just so I could return to it the next day — simply because I didn’t want to reach the end that day. It sounds stupid when I type that, but it’s the truth.

The Woman in the Window is excellent. It teaches you things you didn’t know, it warns you of other things you should know and remember, and it feeds the curiosity (very slowly) which keeps you coming back for more.

I really enjoyed the storyline. I believed in the characters. And I would whole heartedly recommend this book to anyone. Highly recommended.

eBook Review: Summer of the Woods

Summer of the Woods (The Virginia Mysteries #1)Summer of the Woods by Steven K. Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I saw this on Bookbub for free. The cover grabbed my attention, the blurb sealed the deal. This is the first book in a series called The Virginia Mysteries.

The blurb: When ten-year-old Derek and eight-year-old Sam move with their family to Virginia, they have no idea what adventures the summer will bring. As the brothers explore their creaky old house and the deep surrounding woods, they uncover a sixty-year-old mystery of a valuable coin collection stolen from the local museum. Join the boys as they spend their summer running from danger and searching the woods, secret caves, rushing waters, and hidden passageways for treasure and the rare 1877 Indian Head cent coin!

My review: As you can tell by the blurb, this is a story about children, written for children. I’m not a child but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Derek and Sam are likeable kids who have moved to a new area and go exploring and find themselves having an adventure. It’s a light, quick read. I felt the circumstances around the mystery came across as valid and the boys acted as most boys would.

I liked that they knew when they had done the wrong thing, and why. And the consequences of their actions were acknowledged by all and suitably dealt with. Young boys (and girls) will enjoy the adventure, will learn a bit about Virginian history and learn some lessons in life too (without even knowing they have been taught these lessons).

Recommended for young readers, or parents of young readers. Or, if you’re like me, older readers who just want a change of pace and a reminder of our younger days.

eBook Review: The Last Hours

The Last HoursThe Last Hours by Minette Walters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I believe the author usually writes crime fiction or thrillers and this book is a step in another direction for her. To be truthful, I do have one of her crime fiction books on my shelf that I have not read (yet). But crime fiction isn’t really my thing. Books involving the plague are right up my alley. The Last Hours is one of these books.

The Blurb: June, 1348: the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in the county of Dorsetshire. Unprepared for the virulence of the disease, and the speed with which it spreads, the people of the county start to die in their thousands.

In the estate of Develish, Lady Anne takes control of her people’s future – including the lives of two hundred bonded serfs. Strong, compassionate and resourceful, Lady Anne chooses a bastard slave, Thaddeus Thurkell, to act as her steward. Together, they decide to quarantine Develish by bringing the serfs inside the walls. With this sudden overturning of the accepted social order, where serfs exist only to serve their lords, conflicts soon arise. Ignorant of what is happening in the world outside, they wrestle with themselves, with God and with the terrible uncertainty of their futures.

Lady Anne’s people fear starvation but they fear the pestilence more. Who amongst them has the courage to leave the security of the walls?

And how safe is anyone in Develish when a dreadful event threatens the uneasy status quo..?

My Review: I gave this book an easy five out of five stars. The Black Death or Plague has always been of great interest to me. I read Doomsday Book by Connie Willis some years ago and loved it. And when I saw The Last Hours and realised what the theme was I instantly purchased the ebook. I have no regrets.

The history, the period, and the characters were excellent. I had no issues believing the facts as recorded in the book and I cared about the characters and their plights. Then add the blood and gore, in appropriate measures to the plot, and you end up with a story that keeps you rivetted. It did me anyway. The story pulled me in from the first page and held me to the last. Not many books do that. They usually waver in the middle somewhere for a short time, but not this one. The pace was constant, the secrets compelling, and the action surprising and heart breaking at times. You’ll have to read the book to find out why I say that.

In all honesty, there is only one thing about this book that irritated me. The ending. I was shocked to turn the page to find the book ended but the story didn’t. We have to wait for the sequel to be published later in the year (October 2018) to read more and find out what happens. This one thing almost made me give four stars, but I quickly pushed that notion away as being spiteful. The book is brilliant and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys following the lives of believable characters in a world that once existed, but thankfully does not any more. Now, we have other issues to contend with, but as they say, that’s another story.

eBook Review: Gregory and the Grimbockle

MagykGregory and the Grimbockle by Melanie Schubert is a middle grade book. What am I doing reading middle grade books, you may ask. Well, I write for middle graders so I should read books for middle graders. It’s that simple. Plus, I enjoy them.

This book was offered for free through Bookbub, which is a place where they email you great deals each day. I’ve got some great books through them, so it’s worth an email per day. (No, this is not an affiliate link.)

It was a classic case of judging a book by its cover. I saw it, liked it, downloaded it. Yes, it was free, but I don’t download every free ebook offered to me. If it doesn’t appeal to me, I just keep going straight passed it. In this case, I downloaded it and a few days later when I finished the book I was reading at the time, I decided to read this one.

I am so glad I did. Because this book was excellent. I had no idea what to really expect. Or what it was about. The first chapter was well written and pulled me in. And then the grimbockle arrived and I was hooked.

It’s a story about how our lives intertwine with other people’s. And shows what we do in our life and the decisions we make can affect others. It was brilliantly put together and a fun lesson for middle graders to learn. However, I suspect they wouldn’t even know they were being taught something valuable. The characters are rounded and believable. The plot is plausible, as far as I’m concerned. The writing style was excellent. Truly, if you have a youngster in your life who loves to read, get this book for them. If you haven’t got a youngster around who’d enjoy it, get it for yourself.

Highly recommended.

Book Review: The Clan of the Cave Bear

Originally posted elsewhere on 4 March 2015.

The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children, #1)The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The blurb: This novel of awesome beauty and power is a moving saga about people, relationships, and the boundaries of love. Through Jean M. Auel’s magnificent storytelling we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear.

A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by a woman of the Clan, people very different from her own kind. To them, blond, blue-eyed Ayla looks peculiar and ugly–she is one of the Others, those who have moved into their ancient homeland; but Iza cannot leave the girl to die and takes her with them. Iza and Creb, the old Mog-ur, grow to love her, and as Ayla learns the ways of the Clan and Iza’s way of healing, most come to accept her. But the brutal and proud youth who is destined to become their next leader sees her differences as a threat to his authority. He develops a deep and abiding hatred for the strange girl of the Others who lives in their midst, and is determined to get his revenge.

My review: I started reading this book in August 2013, but didn’t finish it until February 2015. That’s right, it took 18 months. In fairness, I did have a lot happening in my life which was a contribution; but, having said that, I read numerous other books during this time.

When I started the book, I was drawn in and held. I enjoyed the character of Ayla. I was fascinated by her situation and interaction with the Clan. However, half way through the book I got bored. I was tired of the never ending descriptions and the long lessons on how plants and roots were used. Honestly, I didn’t care to know these things and found myself skimming whole paragraphs and then whole pages until something appeared to be happening in regards to the actual storyline again.

I put the book down one day and didn’t pick it up again for twelve months.

Then in February I decided that as I had read half the book, I really should finish it. I didn’t hate the storyline, I just didn’t enjoy the author’s ramblings. So once again I visited the world of Ayla. And, yes, I did skim the rambling parts and only concentrated on the storyline itself. When I did this, I was fine with the book and was happy to read it. Sadly, I was even happier to finish it.

Although I do own the second book in the series, I have no desire to read it.

The Clan of the Cave Bear is not awful, but it is not for me. I cannot recommend this book.

Book Review: Still Alice

Originally posted elsewhere on 2 March 2015.

Still AliceStill Alice by Lisa Genova

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life—and her relationship with her family and the world—forever.

At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People.

My review: My mother has early dementia. Eight months ago I moved into the family home to become her primary carer. I would be lying through my teeth if I said it was easy, because it’s not. Sometimes I feel as if I cannot continue. Sometimes I feel as if I will let my father down (before he passed away I promised him that I would look after her). Often I feel I will let my Mum and myself down too.

Then, I was given Still Alice. What can I say? I needed to read this book, at this time. It helped me see things from Mum’s point of view. It showed me the confusion she must be experiencing, the total loss of control over her life, the sadness and grief she is going through. Yes, I include grief, because she is grieving her old self, just as I am grieving for that same person.

This book helped me to accept what was happening, and to find a new level of patience.

If you have a family member suffering from dementia then you should read this book too. But even if you don’t know anything with the disease you should still read the book because it is quite simply brilliant.

Alice is the top of her friend, in the prime of her life and then she starts forgetting things and getting confused. She thinks she’s working too hard, or perhaps she has started menopause, but she doesn’t think for a section she actually has something like early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. For heaven’s sake, she’s only 50.

But she does have the disease and once it takes hold, it progresses quickly. Before she knows it, she is forgetting how to get to the lecture room, let alone what she is meant to be lecturing. She is disorientated in places she has been visiting for decades. And the faces of people she should know are not recognisable.

Confused? Of course she is. Scared? Yes.

The story shows the effects of the disease as it slowly eats away her life. It shows how it affects the relationships she has with the people closest to her (family, friends and work colleagues).

It left me feeling sad for those affected and sad for the carers. But it helped me to understand and accept my own family’s situation.

Honestly, the book is brilliant and I couldn’t put it down. A must read.