Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley



What better way to heal from a tragedy than to go back to a time and a place when life was good.  Julia had lost her husband and her son in a tragic accident in France and decided to return to England to begin healing and to begin re-acquainting herself with her family.

Julia was having a difficult time with her grief, but luck came her way one day when she was given a diary that belonged to her grandfather. 

The diary had been found under the floorboards in one of the cottages on the Crawford estate, Wharton Park.  Along with the diary, Julia also had Elise, her grandmother, to help her remember the good times and to explain firsthand about the past and what actually happened at Wharton Park when Elise worked as a lady's maid for Olivia Crawford.  The memories and a few of the characters, one in particular,  helped Julia begin to bring herself back.

Wharton Park was where Julia helped her grandfather in the estate's hothouses where he grew orchids....orchids that had come from Thailand where her grandfather had been held captive during WWII.   Being with her grandfather was the best part of her childhood.  The diary brought back memories, and Julia's grandmother brought forth the truth about the family's history along with all its unspoken secrets.

Remembering the past and finding hidden secrets are a part of THE ORCHID HOUSE that is very appealing.  You will follow the lives of  the Crawford family where Julia's grandmother and grandfather were part of the staff of Wharton Park.  The secrets revealed in the diary and those secrets revealed firsthand by Elise will keep you turning the pages. Knowing that there is a secret between the aristocratic Crawfords of Wharton Park and the household staff which included Julia's grandparents made the book intriguing and one that will keep your attention.  

Don't miss this alluring story with its captivating characters who have secrets that span 70 years and a family that makes a full circle with Wharton Park being the beginning and the end.
 
I truly enjoyed the book because of its historical fiction and the style of going back and forth in time. The secrets that are revealed, the lies that kept the secrets unspoken, the twists and turns, and the surprise ending make this book one I couldn't read quickly enough.   ENJOY!!!!  5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.




Friday, February 15, 2013

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

TLC Tours presents:  

THE UNINVITED GUESTS 
by 

Sadie Jones  




What else could happen on Emerald's birthday....her step-father leaves for one day to try to save their home, a friend isn't coming for her birthday, a suitor who isn't anyone she likes gives her a gift, a train accident that causes twenty or more "uninvited guests" to stay at their home, grumpy servants, and then Smudge's decision to carry out a ridiculous undertaking.

The Torrington family definitely had a situation on their hands mostly caused by the folks who have been in the morning room all day from the accident site and had only been given tea.  Would they be staying there for more than that evening or would the railway station drop by and take them to their original destinations?  No communication from the railway station was bad enough, but if the Torringtons thought the uninvited guests were a bad situation, wait until they find out what Smudge has done...their uninvited guests may not be considered a bad situation.


This book was filled with the propriety of an English household along with things that were not.   The descriptive writing style of Ms. Jones is phenomenal....you feel as though you are right on the scene and can see all the details of the surroundings and furnishings.  The characters are devilish, fun, and of course proper....well proper for the most part.  You will feel each character's mood whether it be fear, pleasure, anger, or irritation.  Most of the characters were filled with irritation at the things going on except Smudge who was in a world of her own.  

Smudge is loveable and comical, but I felt sorry for the poor neglected girl.  I can see why she did the things she did.  Clovis was lazy, Charlotte was helpless and whiny and had a secret that became revealed to the horror of her family, Emerald was the responsible one, and the servants worked but complained.  Charlotte couldn't handle anything out of the ordinary and would hide in her room....Charlotte was the mother of Clovis, Emerald, and Smudge.  The children were more able to handle things than she could.

The book took a few pages to get going, but don't put it down....it is humorous and a bit odd.  I enjoyed the book because of its being a bit absurd and because the proper English household wasn't a usual proper household.  You will love the characters as I mentioned above.  There is one chapter that is frightening because of the behaviors of one of the uninvited guests who was allowed to associate with the family, but overall it was an amusing look into an English household.  4/5 

This book was given to me free of charge by the publisher and TLC Tours without compensation in return for an honest review.


Monday, February 11, 2013

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

From 1852 to 2004....from one artist to another....from a farm in Virginia to the hustle and bustle of New York City.

THE HOUSE GIRL flawlessly switches between these two time periods telling of the life of Josephine, a slave girl, Lina, a New York City attorney, and Lina's father, Oscar, an artist.  The book leads you through the life of Josephine as she struggles with her decision to "run, it leads you through the life of Lina who is researching families who may benefit from wrong doing during the period of slavery in the United States, and it leads you through the life of Oscar trying to make amends through his artwork.   


The most significant question, though, along with finding descendants is that of who really did create the paintings found in Lu Anne Bell's home?  Was it really Lu Anne or was it Josephine?  Corresponding with this painting mystery and the mystery of Josephine's descendants is that of Lina's mother...what really did happen to her when Lina was only four?  

You will get caught up in both stories because of the great detail Ms. Conklin uses and because of the research.  I love "digging" for historical information.  As you switch between the two stories, you will ask yourself to choose which life you were more interested in....Lina's or Josephine's....it may be difficult to choose since both were appealing and drew you in, but for me Josephine's story wins hands down for interest.

It took a few chapters, but you will become so involved, it becomes difficult to stop reading....you want to know what will become of the characters and the answer to the mysteries.

Each character comes alive with the vivid detail Ms. Conklin uses, and she puts their feelings out in the open...you can feel the tension, the pain, the frustration, the longing, and the fleeting happiness they experience.  I really enjoyed this book because of the history and the research and of course the detailed descriptions of the characters.

The historical aspect and the fact-finding kept me up late.  It is very interesting how the farm's kitchen records, crop records, and births and deaths of every person including the slaves was kept. I thoroughly enjoy these types of
findings.  I also wonder how these records were not destroyed and who would have thought to preserve them.  Such foresight....something to be grateful for. 

Don't miss this book especially if you are a historical fiction buff.  This book pulls you in and will cause you to pause and reflect on the human race and have you wondering about the reasons why we do what we do, have you wondering what the reasons are that lead us to make the choices we make, and have you wondering about the reason we turned out to be the person we are. 5/5

This book was given to me without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review. 

Winner of THE CONFESSION


AND THE WINNER IS:

PATTY - #19

CONGRATS!!!!

I WILL SEND YOU AN E-MAIL!!!

 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Saturday Snapshot - 2/9/2013


SURPRISE

My mother as we celebrated her 90th birthday party last June.  She is such a sweetheart.

She was VERY surprised and teary-eyed as we all were.
 


Standing next to her cake and her favorite flowers.




Our BEAUTIFUL Mom.


  
 Opening up some cards.


We all had a great time and are grateful we still have our spunky 90-year-old mother.

Isn't she adorable?  

Could it be that eight kids
fifteen grandchildren
and three
great-grandchildren keep her young?  :)

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books.  It’s easy to participate – just post a picture that was taken by you, a friend, or a family member and add your link on Alyce’s site.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Proof of Guilt by Charles Todd AND a Giveaway of his book The Confession


__________________________

Giveaway Form For THE CONFESSION is Below The Review
Ian Rutledge is back....solving another murder, and what a murder it is.  Rutledge is left with nothing but a body in the middle of the street, questions about how the body got there, and no identification but a gold watch inside a coat pocket...a gold watch that could only belong to a gentleman.

The gold watch did give Rutledge some leads, but he kept finding dead ends with each investigation....the criminal was quite clever.  Who could this body be?  Without any identification and only a gold watch that lead to the prominent French family, this was going to be a difficult case.  Thankfully good old Hamish was there to help.

And, of course, who could have done it? Was it self-staged, was it Lewis French 's jilted fiancĂ©e, was it Mr Belford a retired military man who gave his own ideas too perfectly of what he thought happened, or was it Lewis's sister who wasn't too happy with her brother?  No answer could be found, and the search continued in London, St. Hilary, and Dedham. 

Scotland Yard only had small bits of evidence besides the body and a missing Lewis French and then a missing cousin, Matthew Traynor, along with a handkerchief with pansies, a picture, a piece of cloth that matched the jacket of the dead man, two women close to Lewis, and a family who kept released prisoners as its household staff.   

There wasn't enough evidence to convict anyone because there wasn't enough "proof of guilt" for any suspect, but the search and investigation moved on with increasing danger to Rutledge himself.

PROOF OF GUILT is another marvelous mystery that Charles Todd always packs with splendid descriptions of landscapes and characters, appealing characters, and a thorny mystery to solve. Mr. Todd's books are
habitually filled with twists and turns that make you ponder, that keep you guessing, and that are always perfectly planned mysteries featuring Mr. Todd's favorite Inspector who makes it all happen.  5/5

This book was given to me free of charge without compensation in exchange for an honest review.
______________________________________
CONTEST HAS ENDED.

THE WINNER IS:

PATTY - #19

CONGRATS!!!

I WILL SEND YOU AN E-MAIL.

 
Giveaway of THE CONFESSION is open to US Residents only, and will be a paperback copy of the book.

Click here for my review of THE CONFESSION.

 
Complete this form to be entered in the giveaway. 

Good luck.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara

Cascade....a depression town that lost its playhouse.  A playhouse that was a wedding gift to Asa by his father-in-law, William Hart, when he married his daughter Dez.   Dez, who married not for love, but because she had no place to live and no money so she settled for Asa.  

Dez didn't realize that marrying Asa was a mistake until she wanted to be with another man and wanted to pursue her art career.  Dez and Jacob had more in common than she and her husband did...Jacob was an artist and Asa was a pharmacist who didn't have the same passions or want the same things out of life that Dez did.

Asa and Dez were the main characters and had the main role in what was hanging over the heads of every citizen of Cascade.  The citizens didn't know whether their town was going to be turned into a reservoir for Boston or if the town would be brought back to life by the re-opening of the playhouse that would bring people back to the town and that would fulfill William Hart's dreams.  The playhouse was what held the town together and was one of the major themes in CASCADE.

 
The book was a perfectly modeled description of  this era, and the characters were authentic for the time period. The depression-era wives were portrayed as wives that cooked, ironed, and were there when their husbands arrived home at night after work.  The town with its pharmacy and snack bar was perfectly represented as you picture the counter, the food, and the customers as you know they were at that time....very enjoyable. 

Each character had special qualities that kept your interest.  Dez was a very likable character, but one that needed to be more realistic and to realize she was in the best place she could be socially and marriage wise, but she thankfully didn't see that and had other dreams. Asa was a bit unlikeable because of his aloofness to his wife and other characters.  Jacob was representated as loveable, but one that caused heartache to Dez her entire life.

Ms.O'Hara's descriptions of the simplest things such as window blinds, building facades, landscapes, and even wooden floors were skillfully carried out.  Her descriptions of facial features and feelings were vividly pictured. The reader definitely will become a part of each character, the town's problem, and specifically the fragility of Asa and Dez's relationship....it seemed as though the story was purposely "painted" dramatically and theatrically for the reader along with a well-thought out, "flowing "plot.

You as a reader also undeniably cannot ignore the gorgeous cover that brings together the two most poignant features of the book....the river and Dez who mesmerize and represent the basis of the book.  The author explained the cover's meaning to me as this:  "The Penguin Art Department created the cover... the idea being that the cascading waterfall is a metaphor for all the turmoil going on in her head, as well as being a beautiful 'piece of art.' "

CASCADE is a beautiful book that will definitely make you think and will remain with you long after you turn the last page.  It is a book about life's choices and decisions.  Don't let the slow start keep you from continuing. The entire book is as spectacular as its cover.  5/5

This book was given to me by the author without compensation in return for an honest review.