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!

 

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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!

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

The first half of this book was a slog.

Ostensibly in English the book is sprinkled with so much Latin, French, Spanish, Old English (“..And as the chekker schawis us yis forne…”) and 16th century Scottish colloquialisms (“I never saw so many weel-kent faces all in the one place; the most of them chowed off and in no state to give the sort of snash you get from half of them when they’re upright.”) that I started to wonder if I was fluent in any language, particularly English. It took awhile, a long while, before I caught the rhythm of the language enough that I didn’t have to re-read it, learned to skim the other languages for words I knew, and just keep moving through it.  By the time I had the language in hand I had pretty much learned all of the names of the important characters (everyone seems to have at least two) and their titles so I knew who was who and then…

And then the second half of the book flew by in a whirl of spying, dying and lying mixed with jokes (I thoroughly enjoyed the ones in English) and general sixteenth century drama.  And I didn’t want to put it down.

Would I recommend it? It is not a book for the faint of heart, a week ago I would have told you maybe not.  But now that I’ve made it through I’m thinking about getting the next one in the series… or re-reading the first half again.. or both.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

I know there are a lot of WWII books around but this is the one you really need to read:

 

Would I recommend it? Technically a middle grade book I’ve been recommending this to everyone from my 10 year old daughter to my 92 year old granny.  So, yes, you should read it too. (And you should really have the sequel The War I Finally Won on hand to follow it up with!)

The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James

“Finis.”

I read the last line, sighed happily and mentally hugged the digital book to my heart (It’s a true downfall of e-readers, they just don’t snuggle like paper does).

This novel flipped between excerpts from Mrs. Darcy’s diary (yes, that Pride and Prejudice Mrs. Darcy) and the 2014 hunt for the lost diary. On the surface that sounds like it could be, well, boring.

It wasn’t.

The chapters switched between time frames in a way that I was never lost in one time yearning for another. I loved the romance, (of the happy sighing kind) and the hard to put down suspense of it all (I know, lost document suspense, believe it!). My only regret is that e-readers just don’t accept hugs like paperbacks do.

Would I recommend it? I have already told everyone who’s been willing to sit and listen that they should read this and you should too! If you’ve ever shown even a passing interest in Pride and Prejudice, historical fiction, sweet romance, contemporary drama or detective stories, try this book! I absolutely loved it and have moved the authors other book to the top of my “to be read” list!

Rosie's Book Review team 1

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 Doctor’s Daughter by Vanessa Matthews

It’s the 1920’s in Vienna, the women are breaking out of molds, the men aren’t ready for it and the psychologists are analyzing it all.  This is truly, “A dark and fascinating historical tale.”

A cover both beautiful and perfect!

The characters were dark. Very dark. They were dark with anxiety, dark with evil and dark with sadness and loss. Many of them were hard to like, some of them I loved to hate and all of them were dark.

The plot was fascinating, dark people, dark desires and dark motives made for more than a few surprises.

The historical time was equally fascinating and frustrating. “He was not convinced that women, even well-educated ones like Marta, could cope with consequences and accountability.” – The doctor of The Doctor’s Daughter was not my favorite person.

My only wish is that it had been longer. The characters and their motives were complex but there were still times that I wished the author had filled in a little more of what was in her head. Those were times that the characters’ actions didn’t seem to quite add up to what I had been told about them. I’d find myself stepping back from the flow of the story as I internally debated the believability of their actions. But, given the richness of what was told, I feel certain that information was there. It was within a backstory or a side note hiding in her mind and just didn’t make it into print.

Would I recommend it? Have I mentioned that this book was dark? It made for a hard read. Not a bad read mind you, just hard. The main character suffers from anxiety and self harms as her way of coping – it’s not for everyone. But those who are up for it will get treated to a very rich snapshot of history.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

This honest review was given in return for a free copy of the book from its author.