The Opium Smuggler by Celine Jeanjean

If you’ve followed my book reading advice over the last years you have already read The Viper and the Urchin series. If you need another reminder of that recommendation the series starts here: The Bloodless Assassin.  Quick, go read those books.

On that?

Great, now that you are caught up The Opium Smuggler takes a step back from the series and gives the backstory for Adelma, everyone’s favorite heavy-drinking, ax-wielding smuggler.

If I were to be at all critical of this story it would be to say that it seems that the messages, and even a bit of a moral, is laid out with a heavy hand. And I did feel that way for a bit and then I realized that this book is about Adelma. The woman who does anything she pleases, as she pleases, with two axes to back up her decisions, all while drinking men under the table and running her own smuggling ship. Adelma knows no way of approaching a situation other than head on. There is no subtlety about her (unless she’s sneaking something through customs), no pretense.  So why should I be surprised when the same is true of her finding her way earlier in life? So, if this book approaches those life lessons with the heavy hands used to brawl and work, I forgive it. This is Adelma’s story and it wouldn’t ring true any other way. 

Would I recommend it? While this book could be read as a stand alone, I think it would be best to read it in conjunction with the rest of the series. However if you have read any of The Viper and The Urchin book and have met Adelma, you will absolutely want to know how she started her smuggling journey and her relationship with Radish!

Art & Soul by Claire Huston

The main character of this book, Becky, is of those people that has their finger on the pulse of the world around them. One that can plan and deftly manipulate situations around them, pick up on subtle nuances that others miss and act before anyone else realizes there may even be a problem. A master mind.

In my past readings I have found master minds to be either criminal in nature or Holmesian. Never have I found a master mind to be a single parent, working as a life coach and when those jobs run dry working in the background at the fanciest weddings to make sure everything runs smoothly. But Becky makes it work. In fact she makes everything work.

But, alas, like all masterminds, sleuth, criminal and otherwise, she has her own blind spot. And, as I’m sure you could guess from the title and cover alone, it’s her personal love life. And that is what makes the book a sweet romance that is just a little different than any other I have I read.

Would I recommend it? Also she eats a lot of cake.

(That means yes!)

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

In A Pickle by Cindy Dorminy

Every time I tell someone about a romance novel I think of my favorite Janet Evanovich quote.

“Romance novels are birthday cake and life is often peanut butter and jelly. I think everyone should have lots of delicious romance novels lying around for those times when the peanut butter of life gets stuck to the roof of your mouth.”

– Janet Evanovich 

I don’t know about you but someone’s been putting the peanut butter on my life sandwich with an awful heavy hand lately. I have been in need of birthday cake.

As it turns out not only am I a decent baker but now I’ve taught the children and nightly dessert is pretty much a thing now. But as wonderful as a steady diet of chocolate chip cookies made with hard boiled eggs (it really is a thing and they are delicious!), molasses cookies, cakes, cobblers and ice cream sundays is, what me and my nutrition needed was a break from the news and some birthday cake for the soul.

The same small town I fell in love with while reading In A Jam is back. The residents are funny and sassy, the heroine is tiny while her man is huge and muscly. Old love rekindles and things get a bit steamy (but never in a raunchy way). Town gossips and meddlers do their thing and, spoiler alert, it has a happy ending. Which is good because it just wouldn’t be birthday cake without a happy ending, would it?

Would I recommended it? Who doesn’t need a bit of cake for the soul these days?

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

Madam Tulip and the Serpent’s Tree by David Ahern

Welp, here we are, all pandemic-y together.

Many of us are practicing some form of isolation/shelter in place/ quarantine and there seem to be a lot of people touting that they are going to write/read/create out of paper mache an epic novel. Meanwhile I’m grateful to have far too much to do as well as three whole acres available when I’m trying to hide from my children but even with those blessings I am not in the mood for epic anything right now. Right now I’m more in the mood for something fun, easy, engaging, humorous and which involves not a single bit of hand washing. If you are feeling the same, I have got you covered – at least in the book department.

Would I recommend it? Why yes, yes I would, but it is in fact book four of the Madam Tulip series and while it would stand alone just fine, I think it would be much more enjoyable if you started from the beginning.

The good news is that gives you four of just the right kind of books to read mid-pandemic before you think about doing something foolish like ripping the carpet off your stairs (P.S. Please someone stop me if I try to rip my old, dirty, ugly carpet off the stairs no matter what reasons I give you, now is not the time!).

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

A Shifting of Stars by Kathy Kimbray

The words you guys. The words. Yes, I know, you are thinking. “Uh, excuse me Jessie, books are literally made of words.” But these words describe places in such lyrical ways they roll around in my head painting vivid pictures. I was only on page two…  “Beside me, buildings cringe with moss. Walkways glisten with dirty puddles. Teetering balconies slouch from walls with garments strung between casements like cobwebs.” …and there I was, in love.

I’d like to think it’s more than personal preference that makes this setting of such a vivid scene so important. Thrown into a whirlwind of a fantasy world where the heroine is being marched away in chains by the end of the first chapter you’ve got to be able to get your bearings quickly.  And the beautiful descriptions make sure you do.


I hit the unveiling of the big plot point and found myself in an unexpected conundrum of not knowing whether to complain to the book (sometimes I talk to my books) that “Your characters “big news” is the same thing everyone says and does” or yelling “OH MY… You did what now?!?” which brought me right up to the end where I still was in a conundrum because I couldn’t decide if I was so mad the book ended because I just really wanted to know what happened next or that a reader should seriously and legitimately not be left hanging at such a point.

Would I recommend it? Fellow YA Fantasy readers I suggest you give this one a read and then call me so we can talk about that ending!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

An Empty Vessel by Vaughan Mason, Written by JJ Marsh

Warning: This is not a happy story.

I’m sure you’ll figure that out as quickly as I did when you read the first page and see that Nancy the main character is sentenced to be “hanged by the neck until you are dead.” However as this fairly short novel backtracks into the lives of the condemned woman and those around her, it paints a rich scene with well developed characters making it a worthy read despite its macabre topic.

Would I recommend it? Yes. The book explores topics ranging from war time jobs for women during WWII, abuse, women’s roles in the home afterward, family obligations, innocent until proven guilty, the death sentence and the advantage that being “pretty” gives you in life all without lecturing on any of them. I think it would make an excellent book club choice!

 

But what’s with that book title Jessie?

So glad you asked! JJ Marsh has taken a fictional character out of her Beatrice Stubbs Series and written his book! How cool is that?!? You can find more info about this on her website: http://www.beatrice-stubbs.com/relaunch/2019/03/10/an-empty-vessel/

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

 

The Doll Maker by Celine Jeanjean

Sometimes stepping back into a fictional world is like coming home or snuggling under a cozy blanket. Reentering the world of Damsport with Longinus and Rory is more like slipping on your favorite summer dress. But then, as you pull on the comfortable fabric, ready for a sunny day of adventure, you absently slide your hands down your side and discover that your favorite dress, the one you’ve worn again and again, has pockets that you had never even noticed before!

Would I recommend it? Yes! In case the pockets in dresses reference wasn’t for you, let me be plain. I have always enjoyed this series but as it goes on and the characters continue to grow, I fall more in love with the world, the characters and Jeanjean’s writing. Start with The Bloodless Assassin and enjoy the ride!

Tom Wasp and the Seven Deadly Sins by Amy Myers

A Victorian London murder mystery being solved by a chimney sweep?

You have my attention!And once my attention was captured, this book kept it!

The characters were rich enough that I thought in the back of my mind that this must not be the first of the Tom Wasp books (Great news, it isn’t!) but wholly contained enough that I didn’t feel I was missing anything. The chimney sweep lifestyle and idioms were so well done I went out and found another book on chimney sweeps just so I could learn more. And the mystery was different enough to keep me flipping pages past bedtime.

Would I recommend it? A page turner that sent me to the library looking for more on the subject? Oh, and did I mention that it made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion? Really, what’s not to love?

Just in case it was unclear the answer to all those questions is, “Yes, get the book!” (Though perhaps you should start with the first one, it wasn’t necessary but it is definitely now on my “to read” list!)
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

The Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence Westwood

One might classify this book as an Ancient Chinese murder mystery, complete with a mysterious love interest, and, technically, it is. Because the story does take place in ancient China (as in the year 1085 ancient) set in a remote border town of China near where the “barbarians” are still causing trouble.  And indeed the finding of a murderer is central to the plot line. And there is a handsome female of certain interest. However in reading it I would say it was much more about the new town’s magistrate finding his way through the moral and practical pit falls of guiding a city rather than the solving of a mystery.

“So officials grew to believe clerks were obstructive, and clerks grew to believe that officials were mostly tyrannical and impractical. That anything was ever achieved in China at all was a miracle.”

And while it was not what I would call action packed, the characters (even the minor ones) were excellently portrayed. They always called each other by their full names (a mouthful if your full name is Trainee Legal Secretary Li) but they all exuded their unique personalities with not a bit of wry humor sprinkled throughout so well, I couldn’t fault them a bit for it.

“I have never heard such nonsense! Every man needs a wife. How else is he to make good decisions?”

Would I recommend it? I would say this book is for the deep thinker and the history buff rather than one looking for a murder mystery and a love story but if that sounds like your cup of tea, check it out!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

Five Snowy Books With A Family Connection

Winter comes with more than it’s fair share of holiday and family traditions but here are five books that celebrate family connections on ordinary days.

 

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen illustrated by John Schoenherr

A girl and her father go out looking for owls in a book that brings magic to an ordinary snowy night.

Snow Sisters by Kerri Kokias illustrated by Teagan White

 

Two sisters with very different ideas about what makes the perfect snow day.

 

What if Butterflies Loved Snow? by Jessie Stevens and Madhawi Karaya

 

A girl and her mother snuggle in bed and wonder what it would be like if butterflies brightened up the winter.

Snow Comes to the Farm by Nathaniel Tripp illustrated by Kate Kiesler

 

Brothers spend the day together watching the woods fill up with snow.

The Mitten by Jan Brett 

 

Grandmother knits her grandson a pair of snowy mittens in this silly winter story.

 

What’s your favorite winter book? Does it also celebrate a family connection?