what I’m reading: jane and the twelve days of christmas by stephanie barron.

This is the 12th book in a series where Jane is an amateur sleuth. This book takes place in the later years of Jane’s life when she is about 39. Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park have all been published.

It’s the Christmas of 1814 and Jane, her sister Cassandra, and their mother are traveling to their brother James’ home for Christmas. On their way, their wagon has an accident and they are rescued by a Mr. West. When they arrived at James’ home, which we learn is Jane’s childhood home, they find his wife Mary who is prone to “megrims” and has a sense of melancholy about her (she seems likes a bit of a hypochondriac).

The Austen’s are invited the next day to join a Christmas celebration at The Vyne, home of William and Elizabeth Chute, an old friend of Jane’s. When they arrive, they discover other visitors including their rescuer from the day before, Mr. West, and the Gambiers. A snowstorm hits and the party becomes stranded at The Vyne for the next several days. A courier arrives bearing important political papers for Mr. Chute. However, after he departs, the courier is thrown from his horse and dies in what appears to be an accident. Jane however, is suspicious, and suspects he was murdered. Soon, one of the other party guests is found dead in an apparent accidental overdose. Jane is suspicious again and believes the young woman was murdered as well. Jane comes to the conclusion that someone at The Vyne must be the killer.

Narrated by Jane, this book is full of English customs and celebrations including a Yule log and a twelfth night celebration. I enjoyed all the little details about 19th century food and presents, especially Jane and Cassandra gifting their niece with a new doll outfit on each of the twelve days.

I thought this was a fun little cozy mystery. Because it is narrated by Jane, the book uses time period spelling for some of the words, which honestly I could have done without. It actually sometimes took me away from the story because I had to think about what the word was. I did think the mystery was interesting and I definitely didn’t know who the culprit was. Some of the conclusions and deductions made by Jane went over my head, but I guess that’s why I’m not an amateur sleuth.


what I’m reading: twelve days of christmas by debbie macomber.

It’s not Christmas until you read a Debbie Macomber holiday romance.

Julia’s neighbor Cain is the biggest Grinch. He’s grumpy, never smiles, and asks Julia to keep it down when she is singing Christmas carols. And to top it off, he has the nerve to steal her newspaper. Julia decides, that in the twelve days leading up to Christmas, to kill her neighbor with kindness in the hopes that she can change his Scrooge-like behavior. Julia starts blogging about her efforts and soon her blog goes viral.

What a fun and quick holiday read. This book was super short, about 200 pages, and the print seemed a bit large in the version I was reading. It was a typical Debbie Macomber book that contained all the elements of a holiday romance – a meet-cute in the elevator, Christmas cookies, a walk in the snow, Christmas carols. There was a grumpy boy and a sweet girl, with miscommunication between the two characters and a secret that could have been cleared up had they just been honest with one another.

The book does take place over 12 days, so some of the story lines seemed a bit rushed. I really liked some of the ways that Julia tried to win Cain over including baking him cookies, buying him coffee, delivering his newspaper to him personally, and bringing him soup when he gets the flu. Julia’s blog “posts” that detailed her endeavors and Cain’s reactions to them all were amusing and made me laugh. Of course, everything works out as it wouldn’t be a romance novel without a happy ending.

I did enjoy the message this book has of being nice to others and spreading kindness. Another entertaining Christmas read!

what I’m reading: chasing christmas eve by jill shalvis.

chasing christmas eve book coverIt’s December, and during the month of December, I like to read holiday themed novels.

Chasing Christmas Eve is the fourth book in Jill Shalvis’s Heartbreaker Bay series. I’ve adored this series since reading the first book last year. The cast of characters is so enjoyable and the neighborhood they inhabit in San Francisco is charming.

Colbie Albright is a bestselling young adult author who has a bad case of writer’s block. All the stress from her family and work has overwhelmed her so she decides to get away and takes a trip to San Francisco. She ends up literally running into Spencer Baldwin and falls into the fountain of the courtyard of the building Spence owns. The two hit it off but since Colbie is only in town for 2 weeks, just until Christmas, can they find a way to make a relationship work?

I really enjoyed this light and fun holiday romance. Many characters from the other books in the series made an appearance, but this book can also be read as a stand-alone. There is no real need to know the backstory of all the secondary characters in order to enjoy the book.

This is an amusing and quaint story and it was the perfect start to my holiday reading.

what I’m reading: snowblind by ragnar jónasson.

snowblind book coverAri Thór Arason is a rookie policeman who has taken his first job in Siglufjörður, a remote fishing village in Northern Iceland. When an elderly man falls to his death down a flight of stairs and then a young woman is found bleeding and unconscious lying in the snow, the town wonders if there is a killer loose in their midst.

This is a slow moving whodunit, in a town where anyone can be a suspect. The town is so close knit that everyone knows everyone and none of the townspeople want to believe that a person they’ve known since they were young can be a killer.

I picked this book up because it takes place in Iceland and I love reading about Iceland. That said, Iceland and the city of Siglufjörður are one of the main characters in this book. The story takes place during January so there is not a lot of sunlight to be seen. The snow and the darkness and the fishing village history play such a part and by the end you feel as if you are right in Iceland with Ari Thór. As the book goes on and bodies are found, an avalanche cuts off the only road in and out of Siglufjörður. The sense of darkness and claustrophobia builds tension in the town until Ari Thór is not sure he can take the stress.

I have to confess this book was a bit hard to read because I couldn’t pronounce all of the Icelandic names. As a result, I ended up skipping over many person’s names which made it hard for me to remember who was who.

This book is the first in a series of Icelandic novels translated into English and I am curious to find out what happens next to Ari Thór.

what I’m reading: red queen by victoria aveyard.

book cover red queenMare Barrow lives in a world divided by blood, where Reds are commoners and Silvers are the elite. The Silvers possess superpowers and use these gifts to rule society. As a Red, Mare spends her day stealing and pickpocketing in order to get by. But when she is hired to work at the Palace, she discovers she has powers of her own. The Silvers are forced to fabricate a story to explain Mare’s power, declaring Mare to be a long-lost Silver princess. Mare soon finds herself navigating Silver politics while working with a covert Red militant group to overthrow the Silver government.

I didn’t love this book but I didn’t hate it. I thought there was so much potential here. I was intrigued by this world of two castes and hints of a revolution and rebellion, however it did have a lot of similarities with Hunger Games and other dystopian books.

I found the characters didn’t have any real development. No one really learns or changes and some of the storylines were a bit predictable. Plus, for someone whose goal is to overthrow the Silvers, I thought Mare was a little too trusting of everyone she came across at the Palace.

My main criticism is that I still have a lot of questions about what a Silver exactly is and how they came about. I was interested in the fact that all of them had some sort of “gift” but then, after reading more, I realized that their superpower gift could be anything and it kind of lessened the appeal for me. It was as if the author couldn’t decide on two or three superpowers to make the Silvers extraordinary so she just threw them all in. There are Silvers who can read minds, who can control fire, who can control metal, who are really strong, who are really fast, who can control the wind, who can control water, who are basically everything.

Plus, what is a Silver? Are they Gods? Are they genetically mutated? Have they always been around? In the book, they have been fighting wars for hundreds of years and yet their armies consist of Red soldiers. If the Silvers have all these superpowers, why are they sending lowly Reds who have no powers to fight in their army? Won’t they have a better chance of winning if they fight themselves? I have too many questions about this world that were not answered.

This is the first book in a series and I’m not sure if I’m interested enough to continue. I’m worried that a love triangle (or love quadruple) is developing and I’m not sure the world and characters were fleshed out enough for me to care to read the next one.

what I’m reading: the alice network by kate quinn.

In the aftermath of World War II, Charlotte (Charlie) St. John is unmarried and pregnant. Sent by her parents to Europe to have her “problem” taken care of, Charlie takes the opportunity to search out her cousin Rose, who disappeared during the war. The only clue Charlie has to Rose’s whereabouts is a note indicating the last person to have contact with Rose was Evelyn Gardiner.

In 1915, Eve Gardiner was a young woman desperate to prove herself. Recruited to work as a spy as part of the Alice Network, Eve worked to collect information the Allies could use to defeat Germany. But that was many years ago and now Eve spends her days drunk and alone, with only her driver Finn to keep her company.

I liked this novel immensely. The story is told in alternating points of view, and alternating time lines. As Charlie, Eve, and Finn set out in 1947 on their road trip in search of Rose, we are gradually told Eve’s story and learn more about her and her trials during WWI.

I enjoyed the development of the characters over the course of the story. Eve starts out as a hard, whiskey-drinking curmudgeon. Charlie is naïve and a little immature – she is only 19 and has led a sheltered life. But the friendship that forms on their road trip was lovely and each character evolves over the course of the story as long-buried secrets and events come to light.

As I said, both Charlie’s and Eve’s stories held my interest, but what made this book so good is that it is based on real people and actual events. The Alice Network was a real group of women that existed during WWI and at the end of the book, the author includes notes that detail the women that the characters are based on.

This was a fascinating novel.

what I’m reading: act like it by lucy parker.

The play that Lainie Graham is acting in on the London stage is not doing well. Despite having hot actor Richard Troy as one of its leading men, ticket sales and attendance are down. Could it be because of Richard’s arrogant and playboy public persona? When the producers concoct a plan to bring more publicity to the show, Lainie is on board, until she realizes it means staging a fake relationship with Richard. Lainie is a good actress but even she can’t pretend to be in love with someone she hates. However as the two are forced to spend time together, their relationship slowly changes from hate to love…

I love a romantic comedy and I thought this book was super cute! I enjoyed how the relationship between Lainie and Richard moved from them hating each other to becoming friends and more. It was a slow build, which made it all the more believable.

At first, I was hesitant and wondered how the author was going to make such a grouchy and grumpy character likable, but she did. Richard definitely redeems himself in the end and the relationship that formed between him and Lainie was charming and delightful.

There was a lot of British slang in this book and plenty of banter between the characters. Good banter always makes me smile and this book was a fun read.

This is Lucy Parker’s debut romance novel and I’m absolutely looking forward to reading more from her.