The Antique House Murders

The Antique House Murders Cover

The Antique House Murders by Leslie Nagel (Cozy Mystery)

This is the second book in the Oakwood Mystery Series, the first being the entertaining The Book Club Murders which we reviewed in October, 2016. Amateur sleuth Charley Carpenter, the indomitable young owner of a vintage clothing shop, is back, this time intent on solving the murder of a friend during an apparent break-in and robbery gone wrong.

Tempers are flaring in Oakwood, Ohio. Plans to demolish an historic old mansion to make way for development are hotly contested, and folks in town are taking sides, sometimes with violent results. With her personal connection to the murder victim, Charley can’t stay out of the action, even though her snooping defies angry warnings from her police detective boyfriend and puts their relationship at risk.

Familiar friends from the first book are here, but we see less of them as Charley takes on more of a solo approach this time that gets her into plenty of trouble. There are enough twists and turns and potentially guilty people to keep the reader unsure of who the perpetrator might be right up to the end. The author does a good job of moving things along while providing an appropriate amount of description that puts us in close contact with the smells, sights, and sounds of the formerly elegant but now decrepit old house and all the secrets it holds. Charley, her long-suffering boyfriend, and her two best friends are likeable characters who keep things fun and interesting, and Book Two in the Oakwood Mystery Series does not disappoint.

Grandma gives The Antique House Murders five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and participation in the post-release blog tour.

The Eye of Nefertiti, A Pharaoh’s Cat Novel

The Eye of Nefertiti

The Eye of Nefertiti by Maria Luisa Lang (Fantasy)

This is the second book in the Pharaoh’s Cat series but is a stand-alone tale in itself. The cat’s voice is very fun, which makes this a light read with some tension and a nice trip to ancient Egypt thrown in. This is a cat that can talk and walk on its hind legs when it’s with those in the know but must lower himself to true cat-like behavior in the presence of others and suffer the indignities that represents. He’s been around for a very long time, living in current-day New York City as well as ancient Egypt, hanging around with pharaohs.

The beginning is a little slow as the cat describes what the reader should know about his past and how he got to New York. However, his playful attitude toward his owners lightens the exposition part as it does the rest of the story. There’s magic and trips through time, and we meet Nefertiti herself. The details about life in ancient Egypt are very interesting but not overdone, giving the story authenticity. A few twists and turns keep things interesting, and while there’s never a sense of real peril, it has enough mystery and unknowns to keep one reading. All in all, it’s a nice, light read with a fun narrator.

Bella gives The Eye of Nefertiti four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book of Spells

Book of Spells

Book of Spells by Bill Lucas (Urban Fantasy)

This is a fun tale full of elves, hobgoblins, gnomes, and other denizens of the Fae as the narrator, Pete Marsh, discovers when he inherits a bookstore and all the weirdity that comes along with it. The story itself is engaging and the characters are fun. Pete is a likeable young man who finds himself dealing with all sorts of unexpected events and individuals and becomes the unwitting defender of humanity’s future. Readers who enjoy the likes of Harry Potter and Bilbo Baggins will find this full of adventures, places, and goings on that meet their approval. The world created by the author pulled me in, and much of it is very clever.

My complaint is that this book needs better proofreading and line editing. Too many misplaced commas and semicolons are distracting, as are the incomplete sentences and wrong punctuation of dialogue tags. Pete describes Kate as his girlfriend sometimes and, at other times, as his wife. The writing itself is good, and the author is doing himself a disservice by not polishing his work. If you can look beyond these things, however, you will enjoy this book.

Bella gives Book of Spells four stars for content but two for proofing. 3 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Hello, Sunshine

Hello Sunshine

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave   (Women’s Fiction)

Sunshine Mackenzie is a social media lifestyle guru whose fabricated life is coming apart. She has achieved and maintained her celebrity status by pulling the wool over the eyes of her adoring fans, and she is about to lose everything at the hands of an unknown truth-teller.

The directness with which Sunshine tells this very enjoyable story is ironic, considering the lies that have brought her to this point, and I quickly became her biggest fan, not for who she claimed to be but for who she must become — herself. What I appreciated most about this telling is how real it felt. No one is transformed overnight, and wronged friends and estranged family members don’t leap to forgive. We don’t know who has outed her, and there are lots of possibilities. And we don’t know who she will become next, because neither she nor the people around her are clichés.

The story moves right along, and the characters rise up off the page. I knew and understood her sister, I loved her niece, and I wanted to meet Chef Z for myself. I recognized the fair-weather friends, the co-workers who were quick to distance themselves, and the wronged individuals from her past who were reticent to trust her again. And I came to understand how someone could get so caught up in her own lies that she no longer knew who she was. Sunshine is the biggest victim of her own lies, and Laura Dave made me want to make sure that Sunshine would be okay.

Grandma gives Hello, Sunshine five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free advanced reader copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Hello, Sunshine will be released by Simon & Schuster on July 11, 2017, and is available for pre-order.

Making the Most of Your One Life: Guest Post by Pat Abercromby, author of “Just One Life”

The first thing about my life you might want to know is that I have been on the planet for seventy two years and hope to be around for at least another twenty years of active and healthy life.

I have been extraordinarily lucky as I have been able to pursue several varied, interesting and very fulfilling career pathways. These include medical research, journalism, recruiting agency business, holistic massage therapy, establishing a training school for teaching acupressure chair massage, setting up a First Aid training company and just recently starting up Wellbeing Direct with my business partner Davina. We have a team of therapists going into corporate companies offering chair massage treatments.

I have no intentions of retiring which I think helps you to forget the rapid passing of the years. Occasionally, when I wake up feeling a bit stiff  I do feel ‘finite’ then.  My weeks just fly in with a variety of activities. One day a week I visit my husband in his nursing home where he has been for just over two years. He had a massive stroke ten years ago and for the first eight years I was his full-time carer which was tough for both of us. Now he has dementia as well and needs residential nursing care. I suppose in some way, I want to claim those lost years back. Just One Life was written as a result of going to a creative writing class and being encouraged and inspired to expand my first 10,000 word effort into a novel. I have a non-fiction book and another novel in the pipeline. Maybe I will end up like Barbara Cartland still writing in my nineties, but not reclining on a chaise longue swathed in pink chiffon! I am more comfortable writing in a tracksuit and T shirt!

Every morning regardless of the weather, I walk Molly my little Schnauzer who is 14, for almost an hour in the nearby fields and woods. I still go to a creative writing class once a week as it keeps my ‘writing brain’ tuned up and I enjoy the company and stimulation of my fellow writers in the class. I belong to two book clubs so always have a couple of novels to read and discuss at our meetings (in the pub, very convivial). I am very blessed to have a few good friends living locally, so I usually meet up with one of other of them every week for a coffee and catch-up chat. Another old friend is in a local retirement home and I visit her once a week or take her out walking if the weather is fine. I have Glaucoma and had to give up driving about ten years ago, so I go everywhere by bus. My husband’s nursing home is two bus rides and a long uphill walk away. The bus pass is useful!

I treat a few private clients at home which is very fulfilling as they always leave feeling loose and relaxed, all the muscle tension eased out. The acupressure chair massage is a great treatment as it is done through clothes and only takes 20 minutes to do a full session which does not tire me out!

These are my own personal tips for making the most of what is left of my life. They work for me, but everyone is different of course.

Friendships are unbelievably precious, nurture them and be sure to let your friends know that you care about them. Keep in touch with your long distance friends and family, preferably by phone ( isn’t WhatsApp great!!) or if you must, by Facebook. Don’t get addicted to Facebook, it can be a terrible time waster watching videos people have posted of cute animal antics etc.

Laugh as much as you can, laughter releases wonderful endorphins in the brain (although so does eating chocolate!) Reminiscing with old friends on earlier funny experiences is always a good way to have a laugh. Shared laughter is the best kind)

I am a vegetarian because I don’t like the taste of meat or chicken (never have) but I do eat fish and lots of fruit and vegetables every day. My best kitchen accessories are my Nutribullet, my soup maker and my steamer.

I walk every day, often ride my bike and do pilates and yoga (I confess I have just started the latter two but already feeling the benefits)

Getting out in nature. Water, woods, trees, fields, mountains.  All uplifting. I went to the bluebell woods at Easter. Acres and acres of them. Absolutely stunning. Tending my garden gives me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction.

I am not lonely now living by myself. I have a lovely family, two daughters and grandchildren. Sleepovers for the grandchildren sometimes, love their company but nice to have the house quiet again when they leave.

I love classical music and go to concerts as often as I can with a friend. I usually have Classic FM on but still enjoy listening to some of the old pop favourites from my early years as well.

I try to be ‘a cup half full’ person and stay optimistic in spite of the personal and global challenges facing us these days.

I am saving (might take a while) for an overseas trip to America, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand to visit friends and family while I am still young enough and fit enough to travel. As I will be gone for a few months, I may have to wait until Molly, my 14 year old dog passes on. Not too sure what to do about my husband… but I can’t wait too long before I go, so I will have to risk it, knowing that my girls will take on the weekly visits for me.

PatAbercromby_AuthorPhotoAbout the author: Living in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, Pat Abercromby has enjoyed a varied career – from recruitment consultant to journalist in Saudi Arabia and massage therapist – eventually setting up a training school for Seated Acupressure Massage. Today she continues to work within the field of corporate wellness with her business partner Davina Thomson with their joint company Wellbeing Direct. She also co-wrote and published Seated Acupressure Massage with Davina Thomson in 2000. In her spare time, Pat enjoys being an active member of her local creative writing group, classical music and the outdoors.

Just One LifeJust One Life

When you realise you have just one life left to live, how do you make peace with the mistakes of your past?

Fran should be looking back on her life with pride. She’s risen to the top of the job ladder, having left behind a council housing estate in post-war Glasgow, to forge a colourful, fulfilling career and enjoy all the trappings of success.

But instead, Fran is consumed by regret. A shocking revelation has cast her life, and her thirty-year marriage, asunder. She finds herself the full-time carer for her husband, a man she now accepts, she has never loved. The sacrifices she has made, the personal freedoms she has lost, have left Fran crushed. Her free-spirited friend Iona is her one salvation. Their friendship has survived the storms of conflict and loss since childhood, their deep affection for one another the only constant remaining in Fran’s life, a life she no longer recognises as her own.

Her husband’s new brush with death will give Fran the chance to reflect on what she has left, the choices she has made and the two men she has loved and lost.

Can Fran find a way through the ruins of her marriage and find inner peace, to make the most of what remains of her life’s journey?

Amazon UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Just-One-Life-Pat-Abercromby-ebook/dp/B06XXZ7BP7/

For our review of Just One Life go here.

 

Just One Life

Just One Life

Just One Life by Pat Abercromby

This was a difficult book to read, not because of the writing, but because of the subject matter. We follow Fran through roughly sixty years of her life, over half of it married to a man she never truly loves, a man for whom she settles because of his physical appeal but who lacks a sense of humor as well as a moral compass, is a poor communicator, and never provides the quality of companionship she craves. We watch her give up more than one satisfying career to live in places she doesn’t enjoy in order to accommodate her husband’s career, and we learn about the men she sleeps with and the ones she loves but cannot have. We know early on that she will become her husband’s reluctant caregiver after he has a debilitating stroke, and we experience her resentment about giving up all personal ambitions to take care of him in her old age. In short, we’re reading about the life of a woman who comes to regret how it all plays out. It’s not a very jolly topic.

We also follow, on the periphery, the story of her lifelong friend, Iona, who has issues of her own with the men in her life. We see Fran’s and Iona’s daughters grow up, and we learn about the difficulties and joys they bring and how the two women’s lives continue to intertwine. Because of the timespan to be covered, multiple years often pass in a single sentence, which can leave the reader feeling left in the dust. We know Fran well in some ways, but mostly we’re just voyeurs peeking through her windows, watching someone whose days and life are whizzing by without much detail, and we don’t feel particularly involved.

Without involvement, there’s little investment. Add to that the lack of any type of story arc, mystery, or real tension, and you have what is basically a human interest story. Upon reading the author’s guest post, I am guessing that this book is more autobiographical than not (emphasis on “guessing”), which would explain a lack of riveting plot points.

The writing is fine. The story has its interesting aspects. Would I have finished the book if I hadn’t promised to participate in this blog tour? I’m not sure.

Grandma gives Just One Life three stars. 3 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review and participation in the blog tour.

For our Guest Post from author Pat Abercromby, go here.