About me

My name is Ivlia and my hobbies are arts, books and crafts. I paint, weave, sew, design dresses and tops, and read books. This blog will be a mixture of all of the above but mainly about books.

Why books?

 
 

 I have been editing, proof reading and reviewing for many years but it has recently become much harder for a writer to make themself known. Partly because of the number of new writers out there, self publishing can be a great tool but it also means that you have to advertise your books, proofread and edit your books and arrange a site to sell them and to put reviews up on. Not a problem you might yell, Amazon do that. 

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Well, yes they do sell books but they have strict rules for those reviewing books. First you have to spend a certain amount each year on amazon, not a problem if you a) use a credit card, b) want to buy what they sell, at their prices, with their delivery fees and c) live in a country where they will deliver the items you want to buy to. As a reviewer this is a nuisence because I don't like credit cards, a quick look in any paper will make this one self explanatory, and while there are items I would buy - even at Amazon's prices - they can't be shipped to where I live. Which leaves both reviewer and writer back at the beginning to nowhere.

First I must say, I do not pay for every book that I review. I am an ARC (advanced reader copy) reader for a number of writers but I also read, a lot, of books from writers who have probably never heard of me. But if I enjoy a book then I see no reason why it should not be publicised so that others can also enjoy the book if they choose.

WEEKLY  TIMETABLE

 

 

Because I am now being asked to read a review a growing number of books it was suggested that I try and review a different genre each day.  It was also brought to my notice that the name also includes arts and crafts yet it seems to be only books that I am concentrating on.  Thus I will display a photo of one of the paintings I dabble in as well, and Sunday will be reserved for either a review or a craft, either sewing or nail art which is practiced by my daughter. As such the new list is as follows:

 

Sunday  -  either a book, painting or a craft, either sewing based, nail art or caligraphy

 

Monday  -  Cozy murder and mystery

 

Tuesday  -  Historical, either romance or murder and mystery, this will stretch from books written and set in the 1950s back to the mists of time

 

Wednesday  -  photo of a painting

 

Thursday  -  Police or private investigator/eye based novel

 

Friday  -    Foreign Climes, generally excepting the US and UK but including all other countries

 

Saturday  -  Reference or general non-fiction

 

 

Mrs. Jefferies Dusts for Clues by Emily Brightwell

A Victorian Mystery 

 

 

 

I have reviewed three books in this series recently because after reading the first book, The Inspector and Mrs. Jefferies, I enjoyed it so much that I reserved as many others as I could from my local library.  I have recently spent every evening reading and as a result a number of books by the same author(s) have been read and reviews written.  I only hope that you enjoy them as much as I do.

 

 

This is the second book in the series about Inspector Witherspoon and his household staff led by Mrs Hepzibah Jefferies the widow of a police constable from Yorkshire.

 

The story begins with a grisly discovery of a body in the cellar of a house which has been demolished in nearby Magpie Lane to make way for the new underground railway. At the same time Mrs. Jefferies and the rest of the staff are approached by Luty Crookshank and asked to find a missing girl, a maid at one of the local houses who disappeared about two months before. As this is about the same time the body had been buried it appears they may be one and the same. However it doesn't take long for them to discover that more than one girl is missing, and they not only worked in the same house but the same group of men knew all of the girls.

 

It takes a certain amount of deception on the part of Mrs. Jefferies and fellow workers not only to hide their activities but also to carefully guide Inspector Witherspoon in the right direction to ensure that, with the aid of Constable Barnes, he makes the same discoveries as they have. It is only when one of the girls is found safe while another is found dead that it all comes together and with the help of Luty Crookshank they can point the Inspector in the right direction. As the case is brought to a successful, if unpleasant, end Mrs. Crookshank stakes the staff out to a music hall as a thank you for listening to and helping her to discover what happened to the original missing girl.

 

A great read and a worthy follow-on to the first book in the series, The Inspector and Mrs. Jefferies. A series that is different enough to make for great reading.

 

10.10.2018

Diana Flowers Cozy Mystery Series by Ruby Loren

 

Declaration: I was invited to read and review both books below by the writer after reading a couple of her books in the Madigan Amos series and writing to say how much I had enjoyed reading them. The views expressed below are my own and at no time did I accept monetary reward for reviewing them other than in the form of a free manuscript (epub form) which was offered slightly earlier than it was to the general public.

 

 

The Florist and the Funeral

 

A prequel to the series I have often read books by a writer in one specific series and thoroughly enjoyed them only to read books by the same writer only in a different series and to find myself disappointed because the characters/storylines are nowhere near as good. This time I am pleased to say that there appears to be no chance of this happening. Ruby Loren sets the scene, an English village and the local allotments with some of the myriads of vastly different fellow gardeners, the family background of the main character as well as her educational background and current employment plus her future dreams which unexpectedly blossomed from total ignorance coupled with a knowledge of her horticultural expertise, or lack thereof, and a growing disenchantment with her job and future prospects. The unexpected death of the one person who had helped her to realise there was the possibility of different life to the one she was currently leading and to whom she had confided her dreams leads her to the discovery of the “villain” behind the death, a bewildering meeting with the heiress to the victim's will who accuses her of stealing her entitlement, a pet dog who somehow adopts her and a new home for both her and her new companion plus the means, mont monetary, to follow her dream.

 

An excellent start to a new series and I truly look forward tor reading the next instalment in the life of Diggery and his new human Diana Flowers. This is helped by the fact that British (Australian and Canadian) English is used through the book which helps to properly set the scene and enables readers to appreciate that they really are reading a story set in the English countryside.

 

 

 

Gardenias and a Grave Mistake Book One in the series

 

Diana Flowers was a respected research chemical analyst in the prequel but one who had suffered the end of a long term relationship, transferred to a different laboratory near the rural village where she had grown up, rented an apartment and taken on an allotment which came with the apartment for a small extra fee. Discovering her true love, flowers or rather growing flowers, she was left with an unexpected legacy. This book opens after the prequel and she has now moved into the new home she was left in a will and begun to grow flowers in one of the fields attached to it. But it soon appears that she may have been left more than just a property, it also seems that the solicitor who handled everything may know more about the property than she is letting on, especially with regard to an unexpected find made on the premises and a number of strange burglaries in local houses, hers included, in which nothing is stolen and a deal of care is taken to make it look as though nothing was moved.

 

This is a really enjoyable cozy mystery, well up with her Madigan Amos series, and may well inspire you to plant some flowers in your own garden, or failing that to start a window box or indoor garden depending on where you live. This is a series I will be reading and have already, as a result, started planning what flowers I can grow in the windows of my living room (jasmine, kalinkoes, Christmas and Easter cacti, spider plants which are now planted and thriving in my front window) I really urge you to try this book, the premise is different to the majority of cozy mysteries which seem to be fixated on baking and sweet foods in general in that it concerns a central character who is ditching a promising career (which took time to gain the qualifications for) to begin a new small business growing and selling flowers to both the public at the local market as well as local florists and arranging them herself for local events such as funerals and weddings. A new and different series from an established writer whose other series is equally different. Highly recommended.

 

01.10.2018

The Aristotle McCreadie Series by Andrew Culver

 Mai Tais and Murder

 

Book One in the series

 

Set in an undisclosed time period it is only when you are a fair way into the book that you discover that is is actually set somewhere in California, near Sacramento. The main place where the action is set is a tiki bar, something I suspect is peculiar to the US, and which seems to be a bar decorated in a general polynesian theme where the main focus is apparently “to have an unreasonable, obsessive, totally unnecessary maniacal, economically stupid fixation on the integrity of the ingredients”. They also appear to specialise in cocktails and the ingredients used include fresh nutmeg, fresh passion-fruit and an incredible selection of rums (and presumably also gins and vodkas). These go with the secret recipes which are known only to the barman who invented the drinks. Add in a décor consisting of “waterfalls, tropical fish, vintage south pacific travel posters, giant bulbous blowfish hanging from the ceiling, old fishing gear, nautical ropes hanging all over” and you can imagine the locale.

 

While most of the story takes place in the above described tiki bar in a place called Pirate's Cove the real story is of an old murder seemingly unsolved, which turns out to have its roots deeply entwined in local bureaucracy and wealthy landowners who are all greedy, the exception apparently being the murder victim. The usual story of a beautiful location and developers who want to to make a mint while destroying all that made it beautiful in the first place. Seen all round the world (a good example is to compare photos of Ibiza taken in the late 1950s/early 1960s and again in the present time. Sixty years ago a really beautiful tourist spot and now full of hotels and drunken students/20 some-things who have only one thing in mind, and its not scenic beauty).

 

Aristotle McCreadie is a fan of tiki bars and while visiting the one in Pirate's Cove he hears about the old unsolved murder and becomes interested in it. Meeting up with a local girl, platonic as her boyfriend studies a long way away, they decide to investigate together with no idea of the corruption and greed behind it all. Between drugs, money to be made from tourism and property development, valuable antiquities and artefacts plus the inevitable pirate's treasure trove of gold – is it mythical or real – this a cracking good yarn which manages to make you forget most of the the time that it is based on the west coast of the US rather than in some exotic polynesian island location of sun, sea, sand, and cocktails.

 

This is a book that nowadays in unusual because it is the traditional length for a book instead of the usual short story, cozy mystery so often to be found. If you are a fan of cocktails then you will love this and may even be inspired to try out some of the recipes for yourself (although I would recommend using cheaper rum/gin/vodka to begin with). This applies also if you are keen on the environment and keeping beautiful areas out of the hands of multi-millionaire developers who price the locals out of their homes and turn what was a unique and beautiful spot into just one more millionaires playground.

 

This is the first in a series and as it leaves Mr McCreadie on the cusp of an extended nationwide travel plan I have no doubt that the following book(s) will be just as interesting. Definitely to be recommended.

 

14.09.2018

Red City Blues by Tom Fowler

This is the third novella in the C T Fergusson series.

 

Declaration: I was asked to read this by the writer and to give an honest review. I have not been paid for doing this and this review will also be published on Good Reads.

 

 

 

The book opens with the visit to CT Fergusson of grieving relative who appears to have lost a daughter and grandson to gang violence. She refuses to believe her grandson was a gang member while the daughter was shot in an apparently unrelated incident outside the funeral home while her son's body lay within. The grandmother had come to CT as a last resort because the police, as well as others, were all too keen to write the deaths off as gang related. A further death draws CT in even further although apart from the relatives of all the victims he is the only person who seems to believe the deaths are not gang related.

 

Again the author, via his character CT, shows just how unprotected much of the information we give so freely to be kept on computer systems is available to unscrupulous hackers, in this case it is kept in unsecured files by public institutions, namely the local secondary school. It is these small insertions that raise Mr. Fowler's books above the many others that are currently available, and given the plethora of choice it is small extras such as this that, apart from the excellent writing and a private detective with a difference, that makes the CT Fergusson books so enjoyable. This is the third novella by Mr. Fowler that I have read and reviewed, and I really hope that it isn't the last.

 

20.09.2018

Mrs. Jefferies Stalks the Hunter by Emily Brightwell

A Victorian Mystery

 

The book opens with Mrs Hepzibar Jefferies and her willing band of helpers, who now include Luty Crookshank and her butler Mr. Hatchett in addition to the regular household staff, having their daily meeting which is held in the kitchen of Inspector Witherspoon's house. We also learn a bit ore about the Inspector himself as well as some of the staff, all of whom are united in their high regard for their employer.

 

The Inspector gets called out very late one night after a body was found in the street, shot three times in the heart. Robbery as a motive is quickly ruled out and they soon learn that his engagement had just been announced at a party only hours before his death. We also learn that Mrs. Jefferies also now gets assistance from from Constable Barnes, who assists the Inspector, and Dr. Bosworth, who works in the local mortuary. Meanwhile Inspector Witherspoon remains oblivious to all the extra help he receives although he is aware that talking things over with Mrs. Jefferies usually leaves him with good ideas to investigate.

 

The dead man appeared to have no friends and a lot of, if not enemies, then people who wished him ill. This included his fiancée who admits she isn't upset by his death but equally didn't wish him dead. However there is also an unknown stalker who apparently terrified him, the nameless American, unhappy creditors and sundry fathers and brothers who had/were threatening murder, he had something of a reputation as a cad.

 

During the telling of the story we learn more about various household members, how and why they work for Inspector Witherspoon and discover that he is as popular with many of his fellow police officers as he is with his employees. Finally, after those searching for the truth had almost given up in despair, a chance discovery and a new means of keeping track of her thoughts by Mrs. Jefferies as well as all their discoveries, leads Mrs. Jefferies to the real culprit in time for Inspector Witherspoon and Constable Barnes to act. A full confession finishes the case leaving the Inspector with a success rate much higher than those of his fellow officers and the members of his household bask in his reflected glory, whilst knowing they will surely be needed again in the near future to help solve yet another crime in the fast growing metropolis that is London in the 1890s.

 

If you enjoy historical crime series then this is series with a difference, a series which is brilliantly written and well worth following.

 

 06.10.2018

Death from Abroad by Nikki Haverstock

 A book in the Target Practice Mysteries

 

Declaration: I was asked to read and give an honest review of this book. At no time was I offered monetary recompense for doing so, and did so because I have read and enjoyed the previous books in this series.

 

For this story we are once again back at the Westmound Training Facility in Wyoming. Liam and Di are now officially a couple but have agreed to keep it secret for the moment. The story opens with the arrival of a mixed archery team from Bordistan, some of whom appeared in the novel Deal in the Casino set in Las Vegas. The problems start when Di discovers one of the visiting archers used to be involved with Liam and has apparently decided that wants him back again. Then, as seems to happen on a regular basis, Di finds another dead body. This time it is the coach of the visiting team, and she seems to have been not only unpopular but a deeply divisive person with regard to other coaches and archers. With the worry of the centre getting a bad name – it does have rather a high ratio of unnatural deaths on the premises – as well as what went on between Liam and and Ivana plus the project she is trying to complete for work Di (and friends) get involved in trying to work out the real motive from the many possibilities, plus the real culprit. Although the possibilities are rather more limited here for the murder.

 

Alibis that turn out to be worthless plus suspects who are innocent give Di and friends (minus Mary who is with her family at home for her mother's birthday but managing to keep up over the phone) a good mental workout before finally working out the real culprit. Finally, after a confrontation, when Di inadvertently lets the entire centre know one of her secrets, Ivana leaves having accepted that Liam isn't interested in coming back to her.

 

Another enjoyable visit to the Wyoming archery centre, which wouldn't be complete without the boisterous and loveable Moo, and a great story to while away that spare afternoon or evening. If this is your first encounter with either the Westmound Training Facility or with Nikki Haverstock look up her other books because they are enjoyable and written by someone with an in-depth knowledge of her subject.

 

24.09.2018

Mandalas to Print Out and Colour In

Mandalas for mindfulness by Frank van Uytrech and Nathan Lynch

 

This is a preview ebook which gives you ten different mandalas which can be printed out and coloured in to help relieve stress. This book is free, and although you will have to pay for the complete version, the ten images in this preview are plenty to start with. Ideal for when you are sitting the car waiting outside the school for a latecomer or at a sportsground in the lashing rain waiting for a game to finish. Print out an image and colour it in using pencils, pens or even water colours and feel those frust4rations fade away. Available through kindle/amazon.

 

 

Nature Mandalas from The Coloring Therapists

 

This colouring book is aimed at teenagers and adults and is based around images from nature rather than merely random shapes. There are birds, animals, fish and flowers so you can choose which you feel the most affinity to print out the page and begin to colour in. Don't just do this in the car as it is also a great way to unwind last thing at night leading to a more peaceful sleep.

 

 

Mandala Colouring Book for Teens

 

Like the first book this one is a preview although here each page contains two images, each a slightly different version of the other inviting you to colour each in differently. Aimed at teenagers it is an excellent way to reduce exam stresses or to unwind before bed after an evening of study. While the preview is free the front of the book makes it clear that if interested in a full printed edition you will have to go on line to purchase a copy. However, the free edition should be plenty for you to start with. These three mandala books are all free to download although two are only previews of the entire book. They will give you in idea of what is involved in teenage or adult colouring in and should you be interested in taking things further then a visit to your local newsagent or book shop will doubtless have a number of different options, many on different subjects such as Celtic patterns, birds, sea creatures, mythical animals and the like. Once you start, and many will come with colouring pencils or pens included, you will find them a great, and cheap, way to release all that tension and frustration at the end of the day giving a peaceful nights sleep without expensive medications or lighting/scents.

 

22.09.2018

 

The Purloined Pelt by Tegan Maher

While this is the first in this series I have read a couple of other books by this writer so I thought I had an idea of what to expect. Instead I was drawn into an ordinary yet exotic holiday resort for paranormals.

 

Have you ever wondered where all the werewolves, vampires, witches etc. go for their holidays? The answer is probably a beachside resort on the Gulf of Mexico. Read this and discover an entire world of seemingly mythical beings from angels to mermaids, all enjoying themselves and having fun, although the cocktails on offer at the tiki bar are slightly off putting for many. In fact, some of the mythical beings on holiday obviously travel fro Europe to visit, just as normal beings do.

 

The story revolves around a stolen pelt. Anyone who has read Scottish folk lore (especially that from the Orkney and Shetland Islands) will be familiar with the folk who look like seals but can change into humans. Stories abound of stolen pelts forcing them to stay on land, captive to the person who has their pelt (there are also similar stories in Icelandic folk lore of seal women). I won't go into all the arguments as to whether a selkie is a shape shifting mermaid or merman but it is apparent that they have different names in different countries, although the common denominator seems to be the Vikings.

 

This is a lovely short story which has many features common to all folk whether they be normal or otherwise. I haven't read any more in this series yet but as soon as I have time I shall sit down and have a quiet time delving into the world of, and lives of those working in, a warm holiday resort on the Gulf of Mexico with a difference.

 

21.09.2018

The Inspector and Mrs. Jefferies by Emily Brightwell

A Victorian Murder Mystery

 

This is the first in a series of books (thirty so far) in which a not very bright or experienced but extremely kind Detective Inspector is aided, surreptitiously, by his staff in solving the cases which come his way.

 

After years in the records room at Scotland Yard his apparently phenomenal powers of deduction have resulted in him being taken from the peace of the records room and into the front line of detection. However, unbeknownst to his superiors as well as to himself, it is actually the quick mind of his housekeeper, Mrs. Jefferies, along with the willing assistance of the cook, maid and footman as well as the groom who are all behind his baffling successes. Having gone from being a mere records clerk to becoming the owner (through inheriting) of a relatively spacious house complete with fortune, footman and groom it was only after hiring his new housekeeper, Mrs. Jefferies, that his amazing detection skills had been discovered. Mrs. Jeffries is the widow of a police officer from Yorkshire and more than willing to put her talents to use in aiding Inspector Witherspoon with the willing help from the staff he has no real need of but keeps on because they have nowhere else to go.

 

A local doctor is found dead, poisoned apparently by deadly mushrooms, and Mrs. Jeffries and staff decide to assist in his enquiries. In the process they meet a neighbour of the dead doctor, the American widow of one of the doctor's neighbours. She proves to be an invaluable fount of information both on the doctor and the apparent means of death. With the hidden assistance of staff and the indomitable Luty Belle Crookshank Inspector Witherspoon discovers the dead doctor's secrets and manages to sort through an enormous list of suspects to find not only motive but also the means. Having followed the suspect home they find him ready to confess although he has beaten the hangman.

 

An excellent first book in this series (I enjoyed it so much that I have since read several more in this series courtesy of my local library) and different to anything similar in this genre that I have read recently.

 

25.09.2018

Nocturne for a Widow by Amanda DeWees

 Book One in the Sybil Ingram Victorian Mysteries

 

Set in 1873 this is the story of a relatively young actress who still finds herself being overtaken by a younger actress better suited for ingenui roles. She decides to take up an offer from an admirer and travels to the US to become his bride, only to find she becomes a widow very shortly thereafter. Having discovered that her late husbands affairs are an utter shambles and most of his New York property is to be sold she retreats to his country house determined to become a good step mother to a child she has only just heard about. Once there it seems the house has a spirit and her first night is disturbed by happenings which are clearly not of human origin. Then she meets the step son, who is considerably older than she was led to believe as well as angry that his inheritance is apparently being g taken by the widow. The book is an entertaining read and while Sybil soon comes to an agreement with the spirit which inhabits the house she quickly finds that others are a target for the unseen occupier. Despite a period of calm, in which Sybil finds friends in the local village but also one who sees her as an adversary and someone competing for the attention of the step son Roderick. It is also quickly made obvious that while the spirit now looks upon Sybil as a friend and ally the same cannot be said for local resident Miss Dove, who is determined to show up Sybil at every opportunity from the musicale she holds to trying to cut her out with Roderick (activities which she has previously successfully used against others in the locale who she sees as competition). However Sybil and Roderick finally come to a sort of armed neutrality after the discovery that the death of his mother a number of years previously may not have been the natural occurrence it seemed at the time. In fact Sybil suspects that the spirit is in fact his deceased mother, Margaret, who wants vengeance and to prevent the guilty party from profiting from her death. Everything comes to a head when Sybil is persuaded to hold a séance at the house by the local Reverend's sister who is still in mourning for a fiancée killed in the civil war. She is hoping to receive her late fiancées approval for finding another husband and can't move on with her life until successful. Between them Sybil and the spirit of Margaret unveil the guilty party and reveal the reason behind the murder as well as the means. The guilty party makes one last unhinged action, giving up their life in the process. As all involved agree that there is nothing more that can realistically be done, and the accomplice to the guilty party agrees to make amends somehow for unwittingly becoming involved, Sybil and Roderick decide to return to Europe, this time as an unbeatable team of musician and singer/actress.

 

This is the first book in this series and is a full length novel rather than the more usual shorter cozy mystery. However, it is well worth taking the time to read and the book covers the time honoured problem of what to do when a younger woman starts to take the major acting roles from beneath you in an era when the only other real option was finding a husband or lover to support you. A different and enjoyable read where the paranormal runs parallel to a romance and a whodunit without any of them overriding the others. A writer worth looking our for and I will certainly be looking to read other books in the Sybil Ingram series with interest. 

 

18.09.2018

The Reverend Annabelle Dixon Series by Alison Golden

 Death at the Cafe

 

A prequel to the Reverend Annabelle Dixon series proper This is the first in the Reverent Annabelle Dixon series and is a prequel to the series proper. It opens with a brief description of the Reverend Annabelle Dixon up to and including her present task which is to meet a life long friend who is briefly back in England (she is a nun and a nurse who works in a hospital in Africa which is run by her order) for lunch. This is a great start to the series, and while I read it after the book reviewed below it gives an excellent background to Reverend Dixon which includes her first posting as a vicar in central London. The way in which both her friend and the Reverend Dixon appear to be dogged by bad luck, how her quick wits work out what is going on and, more importantly, who the guilty party is as well as the reasons behind both the crimes and why Sister Mary and the Reverend Dixon were targeted is very well written for a short story – which are notorious for being short on real information due to shortage of words and space. The only real flaw is that given the story is set in London (and the subsequent books set in rural Cornwall) the language and spellings used are USA English rather than British (Australian or Canadian) English which shows up both in spellings and some of the phrasings. Otherwise a most enjoyable short story giving a great start to the series.

 

 

 

Murder at the Mansion Book One in the Reverend Annabelle Dixon Series

 

This is the first book in the Reverend Annabelle Dixon series and it opens with her driving around her new rural parish, near Truro in Cornwall, in her faithful blue mini. After hearing about a newcomer the the village, albeit one who apparently has lots of young female visitors, she agrees to visit him to both welcome him and to find out more about him to lay at rest the minds of the villagers before their imaginations run completely wild and he is greeted one morning by a delegation bearing the ubiquitous pitchforks. Upon arriving she is welcomed by a young girl but as she enters the house she is greeted by a blood-curdling scream. As is inevitable, given the title, the scream is the harbinger of murder, and very quickly thereafter the small Cornish village is away with rumours from werewolves to a Robin Hood type figure to the most logical, that a newcomer whose first order of business in a new locations wasn't to visit the local pub had to be shady, and it was this shadiness that had caught up with him (a form of typical British logic). Running parallel to this larger mystery is a somewhat smaller, but still as inexplicable, mystery about the missing cupcakes. Was the Vicar eating them without knowing or admitting it, was her parish secretary making less than she thought or was there someone else secretly stealing them from under their noses.#Strangely, in attempting to solve the bigger mystery the Reverend Dixon, unwittingly at first, finds the real culprit of the second mysterious happening. Having then also solved the murder and knowing that the guilty party, not a local villager, will be paying for the crime for a very long time, the book has a happy ending in that the death of one member of an investment circle didn't prevent the others from continuing with the plan (even if they did rather muddy the waters for the police and Reverend Dixon at the time) and the village ends up with more inhabitants and jobs for those already there. A truly excellent book whose only real flaw is the continued use of USA English rather than British (Australian or Canadian) English.

 

 

 

Body in the Woods Book Two in the Reverend Annabelle Dixon Series

 

This book is set a couple of years after the first and the Reverend Annabelle Dixon has happily settled into the village and its life. The story begins when a young lad who is staying locally with his aunt – while his mother is ill – finds a bone sticking up out of the ground on his way home from school via the local woods. Having recently studied the human skeleton in school he is certain of what he has found and although shaken is sure enough to insist on his aunt calling the local police. Again, as in the previous book a parallel mystery runs alongside the bigger one concerning the parish secretary, although this time both mysteries appear to concern ghosts, either seen or heard about. It appears unrequited love is also another theme of the story line affecting characters peripheral to the central mystery (and one at least has a happy, if unexpected, ending and a new villager comes to live in the locale). Yet again the Reverend Dixon uses her wits and sharp mind to solve both problems, this time acting as a matchmaker as well. My only negative comment is that the books seem to be aimed specifically the US readers rather than people in general, not only with the spellings and improbably beautiful chocolate box perfection of the village (example the likelihood of a vicar living in a small thatched cottage is very slight given both maintenance and insurance costs which are well beyond the usual stipend for a rural vicar, especially a married rural vicar) but also in the lovely sounding recipes given at the end of the books. Graham crackers, powdered sugar and stick of butter aren't items generally found in local shops and the thought of purchasing them on line as suggested would be anathema to many readers, especially in England (or UK in general) or Ireland who generally prefer to buy from the nearest Tesco or equivalent. Overall though the books are very enjoyable and hint at a way of life many would probably enjoy over their current ones, one reason why books such as these are an ideal way for the reader to lose themselves away from reality into an almost perfect idealised way of life.

 

17.09.2018

Essential Oils for Beginners by Althea Press

The guide to getting started with essential oils and aromatherapy. A New York Times best seller. This is a book aimed at the novice who knows a bit about aromatherapy and probably burns scented candles but wishes to know more. The book is in three parts. Part one tells you the basics and this includes the different ways in which aromatherapy oils are obtained as well as giving the different ways that you can deduce the purity of the product on offer, and no, it isn't necessarily price that is the determining factor. Part two covers a range of the most commonly found oils and includes vital information such as basic description, origin, properties, applications, primary uses, what it can be blended with and safe uses. Part three gives a number of easy and safe blends yu can make for yourself to use against specific ailments. For example natural baby powder, flu prevention, sore throat gargle, natural disinfectant room spray, blend for bruises and another for wounds, several for headaches ranging from mild to migraine, a number of different air fresheners, bath soaks and soothing moisturisers. Definitely a book worth reading if you an an interest in aromatherapy and want to learn more. Having read the book I am definitely keen to learn more and will be looking for a local course to enable me to safely further my knowledge. A book well worth buying, and worth keeping for the simple basic recipes given at the end.

 

ps I have since spoken to a qualified aromatherapist and as a result of something read in the book now have a blend which was made up for me containing pure oils mentioned in the book for a specific ailment. The difference is I now have the blend in a form which is far easier to use than if I had purchased the pure oils for myself so paying slightly more was well worth it. But if I hadn't read the book I would never have thought to visit a qualified practitioner and buy an oil with many more qualities than you would commonly expect it to have (the oil is lavender for those interested).

 

15.08.2018

Death on Paradise Island by B M Alsop

 This is the first novel in a new series set in Fiji, mainly in Suva (capital city). Joseph Horseman was a member of the Fijian rugby team with a promising career ahead of him in both the rugby world and the police force until a bad injury to his knee knocked him out. After extensive surgery and time spent recuperating in the US he returns to Suva and his job.

 

No sooner than he lands at the airport the Deputy Commissioner sends an officer to meet him off the plane. Due to a shortage of officers he is required to go out to an offshore island which caters for tourists and where a body has been found. The island was recently renamed from the old name of Vula Island to Paradise Island, has a new manager for the resort there (he is a New Zealander) and is now a marine resort. At the same time the DC informs him that he has been promoted to Detective Inspector and has been assigned a sergeant to assist him. Vula Island/Paradise Island resort is situated in the Vula Lagoon off the coast of Viti Levu and has just been designated a Marine Reserve by Ratu Exekaia Tabualevu, Chief of lands and water of Vula Lagoon. As a result fishermen can no longer fish in the outer reef in an effort to repopulate the lagoon again although there are no restrictions outside of the lagoon. Upon arrival at the resort it is soon apparent that while the victim was popular there are a number of suspects, some of whom have money and influence but after some serious legwork, and a few red herrings including other victims, DI Horseman and Sergeant Singh work out who did what, when and why, much to the dismay of some at the island who were still hoping it had all been an accident or an outsider. However, an international involvement manages hold things up slightly as well as causing them to get slight sidetracked working out exactly who was responsible for what and if everything was related or separate. The identity of the guilty party(ies) and the various motives leave many devastated people in their wake but all agree they are determined to recover and work together to make the tourist resort and marine reserve a resounding success.

 

A really superb book, written with obvious knowledge and care for accuracy in dealing with Fiji, its people, Police Department and its marine and biological heritage. I am hoping that this is the first in a series based in a country which seldom gets any mention outside of a travel magazine or rugby match. A beautiful country with lovely people (a girl in my class at secondary was from Fiji and I learned a little of the country from her) and the writer has brought them to life.

 

NB I have just learned that a second book in this series is now available. Details available through Good Reads so if you read and enjoy this novel then I highly recommend you do as I am doing, and purchase the follow-up in the series.

 

28.09.2018

Bump in the Night by Colin Watson

 A Flaxborough Mystery by Colin Watson

 

This series is set in the fictional town of Flaxborough, which is situated in the flat fenland of Lincolnshire. This particular novel is set in the county town of Chalmsbury where the inhabitants are eccentric to say the least.

 

Note from the UK Publisher It's easy to guess why Colin Watson's novels have been overlooked in recent decades, they're 20th century police procedurals of a gentler pace than is fashionable today. It is just as easy to pinpoint now what makes them timeless. They are each and every one a genuine mystery; beautifully written and full of wry, satirical but ultimately kind-hearted humour. We hope you enjoyed this book in the series. If you did, we would be thrilled if you could leave a short review. Getting feedback from readers makes all the difference and can help others to discover the series for the first time.

 

This is a series I first discovered many decades ago when reading my way through the fiction (mystery and murder) section of my local library. This was when I lived in New Zealand and after moving first to England and thence to Ireland I have continued this practice, as well as the one of looking for books in this series that I haven't previously read (this was one) or just to reread others first read years ago. They are a series that once read entice you in to find and read more and I was delighted to find they are being put out as ebooks on kindle, although I have hopes that they will also be put out on the Kobo platform as well. If you are a fan of gentle, witty books filled with eccentric characters (and let's face it, we all know at least one person who fits into this category) with a sense of humour which is particular to England and especially then fen-lands. I have lived near this area and have visited the fens, indeed I have a lifelong friend who serves in the fire department in this area of Lincolnshire having been lucky enough to become one of the first women in the local fire brigade. Once you have seen the landscape (look it up on google, try towns like Boston – the original in Lincolnshire – or Ely which was originally an island before the fens were drained and cultivated to see the landscape which has given rise to a particular style of wit and humour which helps those there to live in an area where the land is literally flat as far as the eye can see.

 

This book introduces the characters of the series to the reader slowly, rather in the way of the one who is apparently spending his Tuesday evenings blowing up random items around the town of Chalmsbury. The local Inspector, fairly ineffectual or at least idle, is ably assisted by the inestimable Sergeant Worple who ensures that sundry bits and bobs are collected for later forensic examination. As a side note the first chapter also warns against offending your local occulist with a lovely description of the depths to which a vengeful optician can go to get his/her own back on a patient they have reason to dislike. After the first explosion there is quiet until the following week which sees another apparently random item suffer damage. However complaints are being made against the local police, especially the local Inspector, and his close relationship with various prominent members of the town (his wife being the daughter to one of them). This results in the the introduction to the readers of Inspector Purbright who features prominently in other books in the series. He is wry, patient, has a quick witted mind which sees a relationship between items or people which to others seem to have no connection at all and above all, he is patient. Having been called in because of the ineffectual Inspector Larch he slowly, with the aid of Sergeant Worple, succeeds in solving the mystery of who, and why.

 

This series will appeal to all those readers who enjoy the modern cozy mystery books but who want something a little bit different, a series that revolves around police officers rather than a member of the public who has decided to turn private detective (usually because they have been accused of the crime by the useless local police department) and one that will take slightly longer than a couple of hours to read so can comfortably be read over a couple of evenings or trips to and from work on the train or bus. They embody all the good parts of cozy mysteries – no real violence, no gore or vivid descriptions of murder scenes, gentle humour, colourful characters and a distinctive location – but with the good bits of more traditional books, full length rather than short story, characters who grow throughout the series, the time and space to give good descriptions of both people and location as well as a really enjoyable story which can only be gained from a book which isn't rushing to fit everything into a specific shorter length designed to be read in an afternoon or evening. I really do urge you to try and read this book, others are being put out on kindle all the time and by the time this is on my website there should be at least one more book available if not more (and yes I will be spending money on buying them, even if they are only available on Kindle although I hope they will also appear on Kobo) and once you start you may well find that they are a series that gently pulls you into its encircling arms and you become one of those who read one book only to go on and purchase the next and the next as you find you can't put them down until you know what has happened to the inhabitants of the area. And as the inhabitants are truly an eccentric bunch I am sure that you can work out just how interesting some of the following books will be. I have by no means read them all, but by the time they are all released as ebooks I will not only have read them but I will own them all as well.

 

Colin Watson is a more modern writer who embodies the gently humour shown in books of past times when life was allowed to proceed at a more gentle pace and hurriedly rushing from here to there and having to be somewhere yesterday could be ignored for a life which can only slowly and calmly follow the rules of the seasons.

 

13.09.2018

The Agora Society Short Stories Numbers One and Nine by Clay Boutwell

Two Tocks Before Midnight

 

This first short story begins with a brief overview of the Agora Society (see review below) giving the reasons it was set up and its aims and achievements.  This naturally leads into the mystery of why one of the more prominent members, who originally arrived rather suddenly, abruptly disappeared one winters morning showing how their iunconditional trust could be abused.  However, it is with his equally abrupt re-appearance, complete with unknown companion, which is the real beginning of the story.

I am not going to go into further detail as I have no desire to give the storyline away before you have had time to read it for yourselves.  All I can do is to urge you to read this, and the later ones as well.

The story is set in the manner of the great Sherlock HOlmes short stories, also originally released individually before being collected together into a number of compendiums.  Also, just as the Holm

d complex case is reealed at the end to be no more than greed and desperation when explained by the master detective.

A thoroughly good read and the beginning of a new and excellent series.

es stories were narrated by Dr Watson so too this story is narrated by Carl Brooke, while instead of the celebrated private investigator Sherlock Holmes there is Captain Barnwell of the local Police Department.  Like the Holmes stories what appears to be a strange and complex case is revealed at the end to be no more than greed and desperation.  A thoroughly good read and the first in a new and excellent series.

 

 

The Felled Crabapple Tree

 

Like the others in this series of short stories it is set in Boston and while the narrator, Carl Brooke, is retelling it in the  1890s it is actually set in the past, in a time shortly after the war between the states and occurs very shortly after the missive Eggs over Arsenic (not reviewed here yet).

This short story describes exactly how Carl Brook came to meet his future, and by the time of the narration late, wife Anne.  It begins with Carl reading the novel Ivanhoe by Walter Scott and pondering over the conundrum of whether Ivanhoe was a brave knight for honouring his childhood sweethear or a cowardly knave for neglecting his true, though illicit, love.

The real story begins with a visitor, a Miss Anne Scott, who comes with a rather peculiar story about her brother Arthur, recently returned from the war between the states, and the crabapple tree of the title.

Like all these stories previously written in the Agora Society series this is a riveting read.  They are truly the best short stories around at present in this particular genre, and I include those set in either the past or the present.  Clay Boutwell is indeed the best short story writer since Conan Doyle and it cana be no co-incidence that the comparison between Carl Brooke and Dr. John Watson shows them to be so much alike.

If you haven't already purchased, and read, the previous books in this series then I urge you to do as I have done, buy them and read them because just as Conan Doyle is still remembered, and frequently read - not even going into the many TV and film adaptations - then so too, in the future, will the Agora Society short stories, and compilations,  by Mr Boutwell be read.

 

11.09.2018

Remember Thy Oath, An Agora Society Short Story by Clay Boutwell

 

Story Number 8 in the Agora Society Short Stories

 

 

I as asked to read this story and give an honest review and to be truthful this is a series that I don't need to be asked to read.

 

After a humourous start it quickly becomes apparent one of the Agora Society members has a secret past which appears to have caught up with him in the form of a brief notice in a newspaper and a strange eastern priest. At first the efforts to find the by now missing man have no luck but after finally tracking him down with the aid of the priest the Agora Society finally gets to hear his story. The story is told and the assistance of the Agora Society promised.

 

This is a story of past brutalities but also of redemption and forgiveness, that despite a terrible childhood a person can be redeemed, more than one in this case, and lead a life of honour.

 

Again, a short story worth of the best, showing that above all there are still writers who can be compared to the great writers of the past, where a picture can be painted with words but where words used are as the difference between a painting by Monet and the daubs of a toddler, where the skilled writers whows a background as bad as any using adjectives with the skill and ease of Monet whereas another can only use the strongest, most violent, of adjectives to show a scene with the crudity of a toddler.

 

Clay Boutwell is undoubtedly, as a writer, comparable to Monet and ranks in the top tier of writers along with Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy Sayers, among others. This is a series of stories which should be on everybodies reading lists, and may even be more palatable to those of a school age than Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes given they are set in a similar time period but in Boston, USA.

 

31.08.18