Monday, August 31, 2015

Julie's Review: The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster

Author: Scott Wilbanks
Series: None
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pages: 400
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Fantasy, Mystery
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Magic door = time travel = time well spent
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Annabelle Aster doesn't bow to convention-not even that of space and time-which makes the 1890s Kansas wheat field that has appeared in her modern-day San Francisco garden easy to accept. Even more peculiar is Elsbeth, the truculent schoolmarm who sends Annie letters through the mysterious brass mailbox perched on the picket fence that now divides their two worlds. Annie and Elsbeth's search for an explanation to the hiccup in the universe linking their homes leads to an unsettling discovery-and potential disaster for both of them. Together they must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen...and yet somehow already did.  

Review: The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster is a fantastical book that uses time travel to solve the a murder. Well that's a one sentence summary of a pretty complex book. I don't tend to read time travel books because frankly I find them confusing at times. It takes a deft author to have it make sense and be plausible. Mr. Wilbanks does this well by using a beautiful red door as the portal. Somehow it ends up attached to the back of Annabelle Aster's house in 1995 and plopped in the back 40 acres of Elsbeth Grundy's farm in 1895. Why are these connected? What is the purpose of these two women to meet?

Annabelle is headstrong and caring. She has a way of making people feel comfortable around her and bringing them under her wing. She is also pretty reclusive for being her age. She has certain places she will go but she doesn't have much of a life. Her best friend Christian is a bit of a loner himself but he's the perfect match for Annabelle.

Then there's Elsbeth who is a bit lost since her husband died and her daughter left home only to never return. She's lonely and a bit stuck in her ways. To say that she was less than pleased to see this door with a letter slot show up in her back 40 acres is an understatement. She begins to come around as Annabelle, aka Annie, and her correspond via letters. They are both a little amazed that the are communicating through time and more than a little curious about how it works.

What unfolds is a story about family, love and figuring out just how you fit into the world. Each character in this book is a piece of time travel puzzle. There were a couple of things I figured out quickly but a few more things that surprised me. Each character is well developed but I wouldn't say that there were any of them I liked more than the other. I was happy that Christian was finally able to accept his past and move on to a future.

I enjoyed how time travel solved the murder-mystery of David Abbott in a creative way. I can't say I always understand time travel but I can at least suspend belief to enjoy it!

Can I just mention the cover? Seriously the picture doesn't do it justice. It is the perfect shade of lemon yellow with the perfect shade of green for the vines. It is simply stunning. Sometimes a book just needs a beautiful cover to get sold.

 The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster is a great blend of wonderful characters and an equally wonderful plot. If you enjoy time travel and murder mysteries, then this one is for you.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Julie's Review: The Univited

Author: Cat Winters
Series: None
Publication Date: August 11, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 368
Obtained: Bookslapped
Genre:  Gothic, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: Atmospheric, stunning novel with quite the twist
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days. But Ivy’s life-long gift—or curse—remains. For she sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War. Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.

Review: The Uninvited is an atmospheric story about a young lady who was holed up in her family home because she was afraid to live her life. This all changes one night when a crime occurs and Ivy has decided that she needs to leave. She wanders into town to look for boarding but Buchanan, IL has been struck with the Spanish Influenza; it has pretty much been deserted. She finds refuge with May Dover, widow of an old classmate Eddie Dover.

With Ivy's new found freedom, she tries to right the wrong of her family by helping the brother of the German who died in town. She feels extremely guilty that her family could cause another one such pain, that she literally feels it in her body. She tries to help Daniel clean up the business including the blood that her family shed but he, obviously, isn't exactly welcoming of her. For someone who has been a shut in, Ivy really is pretty persistent. Not only does Ivy end up helping Daniel but she also ends up helping some volunteers at night who are trying to help those afflicted with the flu in the poorer areas of town.

It is the jazz music that begins to work its way into Ivy's soul. It is through the music that she finds the courage to start to take control of her life. It is also her relationship with Daniel that helps her "come into her own" as well.  She begins to act in ways she never had before. Even her taking up with Daniel is out of character for her.

What I loved about Ivy was her innocence but she wasn't so naive or innocent that she didn't understand what was going on around her. It didn't stop her from finally deciding she had enough of her life as it was on the farm. Although having been raised and worked on a farm did come in handy when she needed to assist Addie and Nela with the crank on the ambulance. Ivy finally felt needed and wanted. It was something she never felt while living with her own family. She was the caretaker of her brothers or the protector of them from their alcoholic father.

Ms. Winters sets the stage early in the book for the ghostly visits for both Ivy and her mother. I was actually expecting more of a ghost story but was very pleasantly surprised while there are supernatural elements most definitely a story about finding out who you are and who you truly want to be. It's about breaking free from those things that bound you and experiencing the things you have missed.

For those who are fans of supernatural novels, then you won't want to miss The Uninvited. To those of you who might think the "ghost" aspect isn't for you, I heavily encourage you to read it anyway because you will be pleasantly surprised.

To check out more on this great novel click here to see USA Today's Happily Ever After excerpt.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Julie's Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Author: Rachel Joyce
Series: None
Publication Date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: Random House Audio
Length: 9 Hours 57 Minutes
Narrator: Jim Broadbent
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: Slow to start but so worth it in the end
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack is a letter addressed to Harold from a woman he hasn't seen or heard from in 20 years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye. Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person.  

Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a book that I passed on several times. I just didn't have an interest in the story.With the release of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and my mom reading it, I decided to give it a whirl but in audio. Also, the fact that Jim Broadbent narrates it sold me it on it.

This novel is purely character driven with alternate points of views, Harold and his wife, Maureen. Harold is a bit of an ordinary man. He's just retired with no real hobbies and kind of unsure of what to do with himself. While him and Maureen are still married, they truly are estranged and have been for years. They sleep in separate rooms and maintain different lives. What drove them apart? Can their lives be woven together again?

Harold's walk to Queenie met with some interesting people along the way. Each inspires him in a different way to continue his walk to Queenie. As he walks he reflects on his life and the mistakes he made. He looks back as his childhood, his relationship with his mother and father.The relationship that he reflects on the most is that with his son, David. It is evident that they never connected and struggled to even be in the same with each other. It was Maureen who developed a relationship with David and cared for him.

Maureen harbors some ill feelings toward Harold and how he never tried to work on his relationship with their son. She blames him for all of their issues with David and doesn't remember the good times. The time away from Harold allows Maureen to reflect on her life and how she's treated Harold.

The book will affect everyone on some level or another. You will find yourself laughing and tearing up/crying. There are tremendous life lessons in this novel. It it about forgiving yourself, forgiving others, letting go of the pain and letting yourself heal.

Mr. Broadbent is the perfect narrator for this novel. He's wonderful as Harold, Maureen and all the other characters. His inflection is spot on and he really embodies where Harold is in his life. He does an equally great job with Maureen.

I'm sorry it took me so long to listen to this but sometimes a book it meant for you at certain times in your life and this was good timing for me. 


Tuesday, August 18, 2015


It's truly hard to believe that we have been at this little thing called blogging for 8 years! 8 years!! We've had some changes but I like to think of them as evolution. We've added another addition this year to our contributors and we are looking at some other great things in the future!

We want to thank you for allowing us to share our passion of reading, books and authors with you and we will continue to do so in the future.

 photo Wine and Books_zpsj7naohym.jpg


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Alice's Review: The Lobster Kings

Series: None
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Blackstone Audio/W.W. Norton and Company
Length: 11 Hours, 27 Minutes
Narrator(s): Cassandra Campbell
Obtained: Library
Genre:  Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Intriguing family drama.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library

Summary:  The Kings family has lived on Loosewood Island for three hundred years, and they’ve been blessed with the bounty of the sea. But for the Kings, every blessing comes with a curse. Woody Kings, the leader of the island’s lobster fishing community and the family patriarch, teeters on the throne. Cordelia, the oldest of Woody’s three daughters, stands to inherit the crown after the death of her brother. To do so, however, she has to fend off meth dealers from the mainland while navigating sibling rivalry and the vulnerable nature of her own heart when she falls in love with her sternman.  A love story and a modern epic in the grand Shakespearian vein that introduces a fiery and unforgettable heroine, The Lobster Kings is the story of Cordelia’s struggle to maintain her island’s way of life in the face of danger from offshore and the rich, looming, mythical legacy of her family’s namesake.

Review:  I have a confession. The truth is I only choose this book because it was the first audio book that was available through my library’s digital files. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I received was an extremely dark novel that spoke to the vicious place inside me that fiercely protects my family, my heritage, and my birthright.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It was gritty and not pretty. This family was pickled in tragedy. It was heartbreaking to read. There was a knowledge that they chose some of that tragedy. The family accepted it, welcomed it even because it was their birthright to do so. Things could have been different but I really believed this was the only way they knew how to live.

This is my first time reading anything by Alexi Zentner. What I enjoyed the most about  is the expressiveness in the writing. Mr. Zentner is truly gifted. I love novels that transports me to a different place and time. I felt the boat rock under my feet, the sea spray on my face, and the calluses on my hands from a day’s hard labor.  I loved how the Brumfit Kings paintings were described. I don’t have a lot of knowledge of art and paintings but I did want to see his. I liked how the paintings were woven into the story, shedding light on the past to help guide us in the present.

I understood the longing Cordelia felt. I swear, Cordelia dang near drove me bonkers. I appreciated her strength and courage, but she was so stubborn, too. I enjoyed reading how her relationship with her sisters evolved, but I couldn’t shake the idea that she thought she was better than them, the only true Kings of the three. She was selfish and a martyr for her beliefs. So many times I wished I could take a boat ride to Loosewood Island and hand her a tiny violin. What’s interesting is that I really liked her, too. She was courageous to the point of walking that fine line between bravery and stupidity.

My other favorite character in the novel was Woody Kings, the patriarch of the family. Cordelia was very much like him. He did his best to guide them and provide them with the foundation they needed for a life on Loosewood and the sea. Sadly, I’m not sure he succeeded.

As I first time listener, I discovered the beauty of an audio book is the narrator's ability to carry you to a place and the different characters by the slight inflection of her voice. Cassandra Campbell was perfect.

As much as I enjoyed , I know this isn’t the kind of novel for everyone. It is very dark. These characters were put through the ringer and they didn’t come away unscathed. It was a cataclysmic tragedy.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Julie's Review: Plantation Shudders

Author: Ellen Byron
Series: Cajun Country Mystery #1
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
Publisher: Crooked Books
Pages: 286
Obtained: Kaye Publicity
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: Southerners even make a murder mystery fun
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: It's the end of the summer and Prodigal Daughter Maggie Crozat has returned home to her family's plantation-turned-bed-and-breakfast in Louisiana. The Crozats have an inn full of guests for the local food festival--elderly honeymooners, the Cajun Cuties, a mysterious stranger from Texas, a couple of hipster lovebirds, and a trio of Georgia frat boys. But when the elderly couple keels over dead within minutes of each other--one from very unnatural causes-- Maggie and the others suddenly become suspects in a murder. With the help of Bo Durant, the town's handsome new detective, Maggie must investigate to clear her name while holding the family business together at the same time. And the deeper she digs, the more she wonders: are all of the guests really there for a vacation or do they have ulterior motives? Decades-old secrets and stunning revelations abound in Ellen Byron's charming cozy debut, Plantation Shudders.  

Review: Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery is a great first book into a fun, cozy mystery series. What really makes the book are the characters; not only the family but the guests at the Crozat B&B. There are some very funny moments and some poignant ones as well. The mystery is intriguing, especially as more people begin to die.

Maggie is also struggling to find her place back at home. She moved back after a failed relationship and business in NYC. Her family's B&B is struggling a bit after Katrina and she wants to help them move back to a profitable and well-known place to stay. She's also trying to get her own art business going without making it seem too tacky to buy replicas of Pelican attractions.

What would a cozy mystery be without a curious, nosy protagonist? Here's Maggie. Of course she doesn't have confidence in the local sheriff to do his job right. Some of it has to do with the fact that it's a small town and the fact that their families have been feuding for decades.

Maggie is a hoot and she endears herself to the reader of the novel. She's only trying to help the investigation along while trying to stay out of trouble herself. I loved her family but it was her grand-mere that had me in stitches. I seriously hope I'm that spunky and hip as she is when I'm her age. It's also pretty evident that not only have the Crozat's had some financial difficulty but that Ninette has had some heath issues as well but this only strengthens their bond.

Ms. Byron has a great way of telling a story and developing her characters. She has a knack for writing dialogue, which makes sense since she was a TV writer. I can't wait to see what happens in the next Cajun Country mystery.