Slow plot, characters uninteresting except for one

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Mercy McClain joined the school board to protect the children of Teaville, Kansas, from the bullying she experienced as a child. When the worst offender from her school days applies for a teaching position, she is dead set against it. Yet Aaron Firebrook claims to be a changed man. Can he earn Mercy’s trust–and her support for the challenges to come? (From Goodreads)

 

I really tried to like this book, and to be fair it was good at the first third of the story. I was hoping the plot would pick up, and there would be more development throughout, but it just wasn’t there. Which is unfortunate because although this type of plot has been done in so many countless novels, it still had the potential to be good.

There wasn’t much to the characters in the book although Mercy seemed to have been the only interesting one and the only one with personality.  The chemistry with Aaron and Mercy isn’t that great and as you progress throughout the novel it’s always back and forth with them. You feel like you’re watching a never ending tennis match between these two where they’re not doing anything to gain advantage in the game. And well, to be frank it’s pretty dry.

Aaron  seemed like an all right character to read about, a guy out for redemption and feels bad for his past treatment of a lot of people (he was the town bully so to speak) and although it was nice to see part of his development and him trying to redeem himself it didn’t quite work out as I had hoped, he ended up being mopey, weepy but to the point where you have to wonder if he’s suddenly become emo. True, he’s had some pretty awful things done to him in the past but his constant mood changes from feeling good about changing, to moping on past regrets got old pretty fast, and this contributed more to the never ending tennis match I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

The secondary characters surrounding our main ones have each their own issues and problems and although Jimmy’s story was a good one, it just wasn’t enough to give this book justice. The plot was slow moving and dry with minor events happening in which it doesn’t make much of a difference to the story. Sad to say this book just didn’t quite cut it for me.

I give it a 2 out of 10.

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Rich Historical Setting in a So-So Mystery

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Oxford University, in 1264, the savage murder of a young girl kindles a frenzy of suspicion between privileged students and impoverished townspeople. And when one of Falconer’s students who may have witnessed the crime narrowly escapes being beaten to death by a lynch mob, the Regent Master rushes to his defense. (From Goodreads)

 

This is a pretty short mystery to read through. Looks can be deceiving though. Despite being short, it’s packed in with some heavy duty stuff.

The setting for example. Very rich in detail and gives you a sense on how it was back then in William Falconer’s time. Add in some political intrigue, a Jewish Quarter, and some rioting and it gets pretty exciting. I really can’t get over how great the setting is. It’s so descriptive you can feel the darkness and the dampness that permeates throughout the novel. Morson also does an excellent job to stay close to historical accuracy here in this novel as well. Forensic pathology is frowned upon, and you even get to see Falconer try on a strange contraption that looks a lot like Medieval opera glasses at the time. 🙂

The plot is pretty straight forward although there is not much of a secret mystery element in it. The suspect list is not extensive (thankfully! You’ll see why as you read further into this review) and when revealed it’s not much of a surprise or an a ha! Moment. There isn’t much personality to the characters except Falconer and his student Thomas. Thomas is a particular dolt. A Farmer boy who managed to be gifted and chosen to study and be a Scholar, well, for all the idiotic moves he makes, you have to wonder how the University chose this guy to let him attend their school. He fumbles and stumbles at the worst times and always manages to get himself into some life threatening situations (and doesn’t learn from it). It was funny the first few times, but after a while it gets annoying and you want to slap this boy upside the head. (You don’t deserve Hannah’s attention, you twit).

I’m going to assume it will get better with other books in this series, and this one serves as an introduction to the series. Since I really do love the historical aspect I will stick with this series and see where it takes me. Historical mystery lovers will love the setting and theme of this book, the mystery part, not so much.

I give it a 5 out of 10.

Ghost story and asylums? Awesome! Romance and Dragged out Ending? Boo!

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In 1919, Kitty Weekes, pretty, resourceful, and on the run, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House, a remote hospital for soldiers left shell-shocked by the horrors of the Great War. Hiding the shame of their mental instability in what was once a magnificent private estate, the patients suffer from nervous attacks and tormenting dreams. But something more is going on at Portis House—its plaster is crumbling, its plumbing makes eerie noises, and strange breaths of cold waft through the empty rooms. It’s known that the former occupants left abruptly, but where did they go? And why do the patients all seem to share the same nightmare, one so horrific that they dare not speak of it? Kitty finds a dangerous ally in Jack Yates, an inmate who may be a war hero, a madman… or maybe both. But even as Kitty and Jack create a secret, intimate alliance to uncover the truth, disturbing revelations suggest the presence of powerful spectral forces. And when a medical catastrophe leaves them even more isolated, they must battle the menace on their own, caught in the heart of a mystery that could destroy them both. (From Goodreads)

Anything to do with a horror ghost theme and an asylum has to be good right? Well, yes and no. The book was somewhat enjoyable to read but it had its’ moments.

The plot itself was good. It  had the elements of a good gothic theme – not scary enough to make people read it in daytime (seriously?) but it had some good decent creep factor in it. It’s enough to set the mood and theme of the book but nothing to make the skin crawl. The element of mystery was also there and the ghost story aspect was good – nothing to blind side you – except perhaps for a little twist in the end (with where the ghost was and who was it manipulating etc etc). It’s pretty much a stable plot with all the main points closed (or is it? *queue creepy organ music*) so I’d have to say the gothic ghost story was what was in it for me.

Character wise. Kitty is likable. She’s resourceful, and a survivor from horrible abuse. Big applause for her for being strong and able to stand up and survive through various ordeals. Captain Mabry stood out for me because I enjoyed reading about his character. He seemed to be the strong stable silent type in the asylum where you have various patients with various issues (most were casualties of World War One) and there was a certain calmness about him that made him likable.

It’s pretty much obvious Kitty and Jack were to be together. The romance aspect in the book was all right. Necessary? I’m not sure perhaps. It’s not really for me. When their romance was more cemented was where the book was starting to take a slight turn downhill.

So near the ending when everything was revealed, all plot holes start to close. Sometimes, depending on the writing, you can stretch it out and make it interesting. Or you can make it drag. This one, unfortunately drags. We’re done with the ghosts, everything was answered, and the last 30 pages or so I just wanted the book to end. The romance of Kitty and Jack intensify and this is where intense eye rolling is also induced. Dear Lord, am I reading this just to see if there’s a scary twist at the end? Or am I wasting my time? Well sadly, I wasted my time. It was good to see what happened to characters like Mabry, and even Matron, but it just dragged way too much. Yeah okay we get it Kitty and Jack forever. Why do we need so many pages of this, am I suddenly reading a romance now?

Other than the ghost story in this book, the romance nearly killed it for me and a dragged out ending. Perhaps a nice twist in the ending would be nice. Or maybe skim the 30 pages and be done. I would say take it or leave it with this book. It was moderately enjoyable for me.

I give it a 5 out of 10.

A lot of characters, but still a good mystery

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1773: Massachusetts colony is torn between patriots who want independence from British rule and loyalists who support the King. At the center is the educated and beautiful Abigail Adams-wife of John Adams, a leader of the Sons of Liberty, the secret organization opposing the Crown. When her husband is accused of murder, she will clear his name. (From Goodreads)

 

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I would! It was a great mystery with a hefty set of characters (historical and otherwise) with an underlying theme of political tension playing throughout the plot.

I think that’s what made the book enjoyable, was despite the mystery being the main hook, the political tension and bickering between the patriots and the British was always in the forefront and mentioned when need be as it was central to the story. Every so often you had mention of Abigail’s refusal to drink tea for example, or minor scuffles happening between citizens and the Redcoats.

Despite the tensions however, Abigail puts her ideas and beliefs aside and works alongside the British to solve this mystery. I enjoyed reading her character. She’s strong willed and has a good retort every so often when she needs to speak out, which shocks other characters as it wasn’t considered “proper”. I enjoy Abigail’s unorthodox behavior and it may seem as if she gives an air of an annoying stubborn woman, but it’s because of her personality that things get done no matter whose side you’re on or who you support.

John and Abigail’s relationship was also nice to read. They’re both equals and you can see a subtle quiet strength between them and they compliment each other perfectly. There’s a mutual respect between the two and if they were alive now, they would probably be a political supercouple 😉

The mystery aspect of the book was good and the intrigue is definitely noted. The setting is superbly done and very descriptive. The list of suspects was substantial and revelation of the culprit isn’t much of a surprise but the execution of obtaining the criminal and his background story was excellent to read , and was very satisfying to see the bad guys get their dues. The supporting characters are also well done – although I have to admit, there are just a little too many for me. Even minor characters have their personality and details and although it’s good and makes the world building more detailed and rich, sometimes it’s a bit hard to follow as to who’s who. (Perhaps a section of cast of characters would help in this case – especially when some characters share the same last name)

I’ll be picking up the next book to read. It’s definitely worth looking into for those that love historical fiction mysteries. The tea has been dumped!!! So you have to figure out what sort of chaos is going to happen and what mystery Abigail will solve next.

I give it a 7 out of 10.

Great Journey of Self Discovery with Lucy

48fc036cb417fe6596d4b637051434f414f4141.jpgOn the eve of Pearl Harbor, impetuous and overindulged, Lucy Stanhope, the granddaughter of an earl, is living a life of pampered luxury in Singapore until one reckless act will change her life forever. Exiled to England to stay with an aunt she barely remembers, Lucy never dreamed that she would be one of the last people to escape Singapore before war engulfs the entire island, and that her parents would disappear in the devastating aftermath. Now grief stricken and all alone, she must cope with the realities of a grim, battle-weary England. Then she meets Bill, a young evacuee sent to the country to escape the Blitz, and in a moment of weakness, Lucy agrees to help him find his mother in London. The unlikely runaways take off on a seemingly simple journey across the country, but her world becomes even more complicated when she is reunited with an invalided soldier she knew in Singapore. Now Lucy will be forced to finally confront the choices she has made if she ever hopes to have the future she yearns for. (From Goodreads)

So what I was expecting from this book is a typical journey of a young woman and a boy she finds along the way. I was expecting a serious journey, perhaps with a few tear jerker scenes along and a bit of romance to lighten the mood. I was happy to be wrong about it when I finally finished the book.

Besides the obvious journey to London, it’s also more of Lucy’s road to developing her true self and coming to terms with it. She comes across characters that have had a hand in impacting her life and assisting Lucy in finding self finding journey.

The plot here was steady and flowing, there were some lulls here and there but it’s pretty much cut and clear. I did like reading Lucy’s character development throughout the novel. She went from spoiled entitled brat to someone who really did have a soft caring heart. It was great to see her develop into a more caring loving person of not others but also of herself. No matter how much she tries to go back to her selfish ways something always gets her back on track to show her true caring nature and that it is more rewarding helping and caring for others.

Lucy’s chemistry with Bill and Michael make the book more enjoyable to read. Bill because he brought out the caring aspect in Lucy, Michael because he challenged her and made her see things in a different light (plus, well he managed to wriggle under Lucy’s skin which was nice and fun to read as he had caught her speechless in some moments)

What I didn’t expect from the book was the funny light hearted moments. I found myself laughing here and there with Bill’s behavior and his uncanny ability to involve himself and Lucy into potentially hairy situations, or the times where Lucy fights with Michael, and it seems Michael is the only one that can render Lucy speechless and flabbergasted. Those were great moments in the book and it kept the reading at a light hearted mood despite what was happening around them.

I enjoyed this book a lot and I do recommend it if you’re in the mood for something light despite the dark setting of WWII London.

I give it an 8 out of 10.

Thank you William Morrow for providing me with the review copy!

2018 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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I’ll be entering this Reading Challenge for the upcoming 2018.

This will probably motivate me to read more (hopefully!) as I’d like that for one of my goals for 2018.

So if any of you are interested in joining the challenge with me you can go here: http://www.passagestothepast.com/2017/12/2018-historical-fiction-reading.html 

There’s different tiers for the challenge. I’m going to be aiming for the Medieval level which is 15 books (any type of historical fiction is included)

I have a lot of books to go through so I’m hoping Reading Challenges like these will help me through it 🙂

Let me know if you’ve joined! I’d love to see what books you have in store for your reading list!