Review | Mystery at Maplemead Castle (The Chapelwick Mysteries 2) by Kitty French

Another sparkling story from Kitty French. 4/5 stars.

Mystery at Maplemead Castle by Kitty French

Thank you to Bookouture and NetGalley for an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Maplemead Castle is crawling with ghosts, and the new owners need them gone. When Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency arrive on scene, they quickly identify the troublemakers swinging from the chandeliers… literally.

A century ago, stunning trapeze artist Britannia Lovell plunged to her death, and has done every night since. But did she really just fall, or was there something more to her demise?

Forced to work with Leo Dark, her scoundrel ex, and infuriating, irresistible reporter Fletcher Gunn, Melody’s investigative powers are under strain (i.e. lost in a pink mist of lust and confusion). She needs her team on top form, but best friend Marina’s cake pipeline goes AWOL, assistant Artie’s distracted by a giant sausage roll, and the pug is scared witless by a lion.

Somewhere, hidden in the castle, is a heart-breaking secret, but what will it take to find it? And is there a chance it could set Britannia free, or is she doomed to repeat her last fateful act forever?

My take:

I recently caught up with book 1 of the Chapelwick Mysteries and thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t want to repeat the review for that book here, but safe to say that book 2 is another funny ghostbusting adventure with Melody and friends. If you enjoyed book 1, you’ll love book 2.

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Review | At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

Chevalier continues to be a master of historical fiction. 4/5.

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

Thank you to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: 1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.

1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert’s past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last.

My take:

I’ve enjoyed all of Tracy Chevalier’s books. I leapt at the chance to request her latest without even reading the blurb, so confident was I that it would be good. And she hasn’t disappointed me.

Chevalier excels at capturing the atmosphere of a time and place. At the Edge of the Orchard transports the reader to mid-nineteenth-century America, where we struggle through the mud of the Black Swamps of Ohio before being whisked away to the hills of California to marvel at the redwoods and giant sequoias.

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Review | Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister

A confident debut. Gillian McAllister is a talent to watch. 4/5.

Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister

Thank you to Penguin UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: It all started with the email.

Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him.

But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.

Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn’t Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

My take:

In her well-written debut, McAllister gives us a realistic portrayal of a romantic relationship tainted by secrets and suspicion. All the characters, even those who only appear for a few moments, are fully-fleshed out. The author also creates a pervasive atmosphere of doubt and distrust which gradually creeps into every corner of the story and has the reader questioning everything, turning the pages just as the main character trawls the internet, hoping to get to the elusive truth.

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Review | A Secret Garden by Katie Fforde

A story to pack for your holidays. 3/5 stars.

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Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: Lorna is a talented gardener and Philly is a plantswoman. Together they work in the grounds of a beautiful manor house in the Cotswolds. They enjoy their jobs and are surrounded by family and friends. But for them both the door to true love remains resolutely closed.

So when Lorna is introduced to Jack at a dinner party and Lucien catches Philly’s eye at the local farmers market, it seems that dreams really can come true and happy endings lie just around the corner. But do they? Troublesome parents, the unexpected arrival of someone from Lorna’s past, and the discovery of an old and secret garden mean their lives are about to become a lot more complicated…

My take:

It’s been quite a while since I read anything by Katie Fforde, so I jumped at the chance to request an ARC of her latest book from NetGalley.

A Secret Garden is a pleasant, predictable, light romance. It made me laugh out loud twice, and that’s impressive as most books just earn the occasional smile or snort.

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Review | The Mystery of the Painted Dragon (The Sinclair’s Mysteries 3) by Katherine Woodfine

The best kind of children’s book: one big and little kids can enjoy! 4/5.

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The blurb: When a priceless painting is stolen, our dauntless heroines Sophie and Lil find themselves faced with forgery, trickery and deceit on all sides!

Be amazed as the brave duo pit their wits against this perilous puzzle! Marvel at their cunning plan to unmask the villain and prove themselves detectives to be reckoned with – no matter what dangers lie ahead…

It’s their most perilous adventure yet!

My take:

The Mystery of the Painted Dragon is the third of Katherine Woodfine’s Sinclair’s Mysteries and is every bit as enjoyable as the first two installments in the series. And beautiful… look!

Katherine Woodfine Sinclair Mysteries book covers

I love these books. They are fun mysteries set in London at the start of the twentieth century. Our amateur sleuths are two independent young ladies – Lil and Sophie – who are smart, resourceful and tenacious. For me, how they take care of themselves and each other is the best thing about these stories. This book has added girl power with the appearance of the Suffragette movement, making the feminist message all the more obvious.

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Review | Making Faces by Amy Harmon

YA Nick Sparks – take that as you will! 3.5/5 stars.

making-faces-by-amy-harmon

Thank you to Spencer Hill Press and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The UK paperback of Making Faces will be published on 21st February. If you can’t wait that long it’s already available to buy as an e-book.

The blurb: Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore.

Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast where we discover that there is little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

My take:

Making Faces is a simple story containing a sweet, predictable romance. The strength of the tale is its characters who are pretty-much all likeable. However, I give particular praise to Harmon for making Bailey the stealth star of her book, his personality easily outshining those of the romantic leads. If Making Faces were refocussed so it was all about Bailey with everyone else as supporting cast, this could easily become a 5-star book. His character alone has earned this book an extra half star.

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Review (spoiler-free) | The Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown

An epic sci-fi adventure best enjoyed without any large breaks between volumes.

red-rising-series-review

Reviewing a series is tricky. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I do want to give you an idea what this series is about. So here’s the blurb for book 1 only. If you want to read those for the others, click on the cover images below to go to their Goodreads pages.

Red Rising (Book 1) blurb: Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

My take:

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ARC Review | The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

A quick, entertaining read. If you love gossip, this is one for you! 3.5/5 stars.

the-fifth-letter-by-nicola-moriarty

Thank you to Penguin UK and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The paperback of The Fifth Letter will be published in the UK two weeks today on Thursday 23rd February. But if you can’t wait, the good news is that the Kindle Edition is already available for download.

The blurb: Joni, Trina, Deb and Eden. Best friends since the first day of school. Best friends, they liked to say, forever. But now they are in their thirties and real life – husbands, children, work – has got in the way. So, resurrecting their annual trip away, Joni has an idea, something to help them reconnect. Each woman will write an anonymous letter, sharing with their friends the things that are really going on in their lives.

But as the confessions come tumbling out, Joni starts to feel the certainty of their decades-long friendships slip from her fingers. Anger. Accusations. Desires. Deceit. And then she finds another letter. One that was never supposed to be read. A fifth letter. Containing a secret so big that its writer had tried to destroy it. And now Joni is starting to wonder, did she ever really know her friends at all?

My take:

The premise for this book is solid and intriguing. When reading the blurb, the mention of Joni’s “great” idea to get the friends to share huge secrets anonymously already had me thinking, “Well, that’s not going to go well, is it?!” So I was surprised that The Fifth Letter turned out to be a lighter book than I’d expected, although the dark undertones are certainly there. Moriarty could easily have taken this story into thriller territory if she had wanted, and the narrative walks a fine line between domestic melodrama, mystery and psychological thriller.

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ARC Review | The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

Adam Sharp’s best = just ok for me. 3/5 stars.

the-best-of-adam-sharp-by-graeme-simsion

Thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The Best of Adam Sharp will be published in the UK this Thursday, 9th February.

The blurb: Can you define your life by a single song? Adam Sharp – former pianist in a hip Melbourne bar, now a respectable IT consultant in Norwich – can. And it’s ‘You’re Going to Lose that Girl’…

On the cusp of fifty and a happy introvert, Adam is content. He’s the music expert at his local pub-quiz and he and his partner Claire rumble along. Life may not be rock n’ roll, but neither is it easy listening. Yet something has always felt off-key.

And that’s his nostalgia for what might have been, his blazing affair – more than twenty years ago, on the other side of the world – with Angelina Brown, a smart and sexy, strong-willed actress who taught him for the first time, as he played piano and she sang, what it meant to find – and then lose – love. How different might his life be if he hadn’t let her walk away?

Then, out of nowhere, Angelina gets in touch. Adam has sung about second chances, but does he have the courage to believe in them?

My take:

I was delighted to get approved for an ARC of The Best of Adam Sharp as I’ve only heard good things about Graeme Simsion’s other books: The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect. Unfortunately, although it’s well-written, I didn’t like this book as much as I’d hoped I would.

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Review | The Skeletons of Scarborough House (The Chapelwick Mysteries 1) by Kitty French

A fun, funny, sparkling book! An absolute treat from start to finish. 4/5 stars.

the-skeletons-of-scarborough-house-by-kitty-french

Thank you to Bookouture and NetGalley for an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

** This book was previously published as Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency **

Scarborough House is haunted, and it’s not doing much for Donovan Scarborough’s investment portfolio. No one wants to buy a place with levitating crockery, or (the wrong kind of) rhythmic pounding throughout the night.

Luckily, Melody “I-See-Dead-People” Bittersweet has just launched her own ghostbusting agency with best friend Marina, geeky, keen Arthur, and a one-eared pug called Lestat. They’re quick to take the case, even if it has already sort of (definitely) been given to Leo Dark, Melody’s rakish, despicable ex.

Melody soon discovers the resident phantoms are three brothers, one who was murdered at twenty, while the others lived to old age. But did the family exile the right person, or did the true killer get away with it?

Donovan Scarborough doesn’t care who solves the case. Whoever gets rid of the ghosts gets paid. Can Melody and her new crew untangle the mystery, and bring the brothers peace, before Leo? Or will his distracting sexiness and Melody’s bonkers family cause the agency to fall at its first hurdle?

My take:

After a week of literary fiction and psychological thrillers, this book was a much-needed breath of fresh air. The characters are terrific, as long as you don’t mind quirky. If quirky sets you teeth on edge, this definitely isn’t one for you.

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