Blog Archive

Monday, July 26, 2021

The Wind Chime- Book Review

The Wind Chime by Alexandra Walsh

Timeshift Victorian Mysteries, Book 1
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Historical, Contemporary, Dual Timeline

4.2 Stars

The story begins in 2019, Windsor when Amelia has just buried her mother. She had seen three deaths in two years and is looking for a way to come to terms with her. Her mother leaves her with a quest that takes her to Pembrokeshire.

Amelia not only goes to the Cliffside house with the mysterious wind chime but also travels to the past to connect the missing links between her mother and the Welsh family of Attwaters and Stones.

As the narrative shifts between the past and the present, we see events unfolding and secrets being uncovered. How will these secrets affect Amelia’s life? Why did her mother want her to trace the roots and find things that have been left buried for a reason?

First of all, I would like to highlight that this book is not a mystery. It sure has elements of mystery and discovery but calling it one would create a different impression on the readers. Luckily, I went into the book, considering it Women’s Fiction. That helped me enjoy the storyline better.

The narration is beautiful, especially when dealing with the past. I loved Osyth’s character. She’s dreamy, determined, a bit pampered, and yet good at heart. While she does make some stupid decisions, it fits her age and temperament.

The shift between the past and the present is seamless. I like how the present acted as a breather when the past got too heavy and took the story forward to spare us excessive details. That said, the story does drag a little in the middle. Guess it was necessary with so many characters involved.

Here’s one book where it’s easy to get confused by the people waltzing in and out and their relationships with each other. That said, the primary characters are easy to identify and track. Family trees are fascinating for the secrets they reveal, and this book has plenty of them.

What I loved the most was the inclusion of faerie and fae folklore, the sound of the wind chime that can be heard across the spaces, and the hint of a magical atmosphere. As someone who loves faeries, the talk of the legend of Tylwyth Teg and the stone circle made me very happy.

The mystical wind chime plays a role throughout the book. I could picturize the wind chime each time Osyth mentioned it. I appreciate the cover design even more after reading the story. Such a clever inclusion of vital elements! The author’s note was just as lovely to read. 

To sum up, The Wind Chime is a beautiful, emotional, and heartwarming story that spans across generations and locations. Pick it up for the feel-good feeling you get when you read a bittersweet book.

I’ve ignored a couple of typos and errors as this is an ARC.

I received an ARC from NetGalley and Sapere Books.

#NetGalley #TheWindChime

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Burglar's Ball- Book Review

The Burglar's Ball by Julia Golding

Series: Jane Austen Investigates, Book #2, Standalone

Publication Date: 22nd Oct 2021

Genre: Historical cozy mystery, Middle Grade

4 Stars

Jane Austen is back at sleuthing, and this time it’s at the school’s ball. When the headmistress invites Cassandra, Jane’s elder sister, to join the ball at the end of the term, Jane has no option but to go along. Cassandra is excited, and why not? She’s the headmistress's favorite and can dance like a graceful swan.

Jane, well, she is more content being at home and stealing sugar plums, reading, and writing. Of course, a mystery or two wouldn’t hurt. Luckily for Jane, though unlucky for a few others, the diamond necklace of a wealthy would-be pupil gets stolen during the ball.

When the girl’s father, a collector who returned from India, blames Brandon (the dance master’s employee and an African boy), Jane takes up the task of finding the actual thief. What she unearths could cause a problem to a lot of people. When did that stop Jane, though?

I’ve recently read the first book in the series, so picking this up was inevitable. The story moves better in this one. There is enough focus on the mystery, and everything around more or less is connected to the case in some way.

Arjun and Deepti from book one are seen again and have a role to play in helping Jane. What I like the most is the author’s way of showing the other side of the story. Many historical works use the British version where India is nothing more than an ‘exotic’ land with people who need to be ruled.

The author uses Jane’s character to question and think about how the Indians feel about being ruled by a foreign company that was only supposed to do business with the locals. African slavery has been touched in this book. Not much, but enough to push the young readers to do their research and find out more.

That said, the book also reminds of me a post I read on Instagram. It was about the white-savorism theme in books. I wouldn't classify this one entirely in that genre, but there's no denying that Jane is the one who solves the crimes and saves the innocent. Even when the accused do their bit to help Jane, they still end up being thankful to Jane.

This isn't a criticism per se, but something the author could think about when plotting the next book in the series. I'm starting to have high expectations from her.

Jane’s creative letters are another plus point of the book. Though I confess that when Jane is busy solving the mysteries, I end up imagining a younger version of Agatha Christie. Can’t help it. They are both my favorite authors.

The mystery isn’t complex or confusing. Most readers will figure it out before Jane. That should be fun for middle graders who like to sleuth.

To sum up, The Burglar’s Ball is better than book one in the series and can be read as a standalone (for the mystery). It’s cute, light, and engaging.

I received an ARC from NetGalley and Lion Hudson Ltd.

#JaneAustenInvestigatesTheBurglarsBall #NetGalley

Saturday, July 10, 2021

The Rainbow- Book Review

The Rainbow by Carly Schabowski

Publication Date: 28th July 2021
Genre: WWII, Historical Fiction, Inspired by True Story

4 Stars

Isla grew up listening to her grandfather’s stories from his childhood. Whether it is the magic man who could summon rainbows or the hardships he faced as a Polish soldier during WWII, Isla knew her grandfather as a caring, loving, and brave man who fought against the Nazis.

A chance trip to the attic in his home challenges all that Isla ever knew about him. What is his picture in a German uniform doing in the attic? Why did her grandfather fight for the Nazis? And who does that lovely rainbow scarf belong to?

Isla knows her grandpa is in no position to answer her questions. His dementia is worsening. Her Gran insists that the picture doesn’t belong to grandpa. Unable to resist her doubts and uncertainties, Isla starts her quest for truth.

Was her grandpa really a part of the German army? Why did he join their side? What happened in his life that no one wants to talk about it? Why is grandpa's elder brother distant from them and doesn’t want to meet his own brother?

As Isla digs more, she understands how life can tear apart families, break lovers, and crush a man while still giving him hope for a new dawn.

Based on a true story, The Rainbow shows us the past of the grandfather, Thomasz, an ordinary child who was forced to grow up at gunpoint and make a choice that changed his life forever. But could that choice have been avoided? No one knows the answer.

After reading the author’s previous book, The Watchmaker of Dachau, I knew I had to pick this one as soon as possible. The Rainbow is better when it comes to narration and execution of the delicate plot. The pace is decent, even if the author could have done without a certain track.

Despite so many characters and people involved, the story seamlessly flows between the past and present. We get to read the POV of more than one character (but only when necessary), and that adds depth to the narration.

We don’t know much about Isla, but we do know her important her grandpa is to her. She doesn’t jump to conclusions or worry about what it would do to her life and career. Her focus is on emotions. Such heroines are rather pleasing to read. However, for me, the heroine of the book would be Zofia. My, she’s just so good even if limited presence.

Thomasz is not your regular hero. In fact, he doesn’t even consider himself a hero. He’s an ordinary man with flaws. A man who is afraid; someone who has to make a choice and knows he could be wrong. There isn’t any remarkable about him, but everything he has lived through is beyond imaginable.

The plight of the Polish boys forced into the German army is hardly documented, and the author writes about such boys, drawing references and details from a true story (that belongs to her family). The author said she worked on the story for 7 years, and her dedication shows.

The emotions have still been artfully balanced, and finally, leave the reader with a bittersweet experience. The book was almost a 5-star until the author introduced a new track I could do without.

To sum up, The Rainbow is a heartwarming story of life, choices, love, betrayal, and a faint hope to keep going in search of a better life.

I received an ARC from NetGalley and Bookouture.

#TheRainbow #NetGalley

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The Ice Swan- Book Review

The Ice Swan by J'nell Ciesielski

Genre: Historical Romance, Russia  
4 Stars

The Great War has wreaked havoc in Russia as the Bolsheviks swore to get rid of the aristocrats from the land. Svetlana escapes to Paris with her younger sister and mother in an attempt to stay alive. Life is tough for the princess as she has to come to terms with the lack of food and proper accommodations. Her mother’s aristocratic extravagance seems to be causing more harm.

Wynn MacCallan is a Marquis, the second son of a Scotland Duke, and a surgeon working long hours treating the war patients and making giant leaps in the medical world.

Wynn and Svetlana don’t have a smooth start. The situation is grim, and the ice princess needs no one to help. But life doesn’t work according to her wishes. Svetlana gets into a marriage of convenience with Wynn when he offers a way out of the mounting troubles.

The Great War appears to have ended but is the threat really gone, or are the Bolsheviks still crossing borders to hunt Svetlana and her family? Can the couple find love for each other and save their marriage and lives?

The Ice Swan is an apt title for the book. We see Svetlana as the ice princess who is not easily charmed by anyone. Even as she feels a connection with Wynn, she keeps him at a distance.

The book is 400 pages long and takes quite some time to finish. The beginning is a bit slow (expected, though), but it picks up a moderate pace afterward.

The first half of the book takes place in Paris, where Wynn meets Svetlana, her family, and Leonard’s powerful father. The second half moves to Scotland as the princess tries to adapt to her new life and takes more interest in social causes.

From being a bored princess to become a responsible and capable duchess, Svetlana’s progress seems steady enough. Her relationship with Wynn is another matter, though. The second half focuses on their marriage, and things do get a little predictable from here.

We know things will happen, and the couple will have to go apart before they can confess their love and unite again. Luckily, the pace picks up at this stage, and the author doesn’t throw in too many twists. Wynn is a steadfast character and remains so for most of the book.

The epilogue neatly ties up all knots and eases the wrinkles to give us a happy ever after. As other reviewers have mentioned, I’d love to see two side characters from the book have their own books and (love interests). They are rather cute and heartwarming people with good intentions. Not revealing the names, but will say that they are both males.

Overall, The Ice Swan is a good book with elements of war, history, and romance. The elements have been balanced well, so the book makes a good read.

I received an ARC from NetGalley and Thomas Nelson.

#TheIceSwan #NetGalley

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Caroline and Mordecai the Gand- Book Review

Caroline and Mordecai the Gand by Jeff Gunhus

Genre: Magic Realism, Middle Grade, Fantasy
4.5 Stars

*Trigger warning: Parental death and grief* 

Caroline is a sad thirteen-year-old grieving the loss of her beloved dad. Her mother and her friend, Abby, are doing their best, but Caroline can’t find a way out of their grief weighing her down.

Then one day, she spies something like a window in her favorite lake and climbs the old tree on the bank. Her curiosity gets better, and she slips and falls through the window. The new world is different. It’s a neverending forest with magic and mystic.

She meets Mordecai the Gand, who agrees to help her get back home. As they travel through the mysterious land, Caroline must decide what home is and how she wants to live her life. She sees things in a different light even as she battles with the grief she wants to avoid.

Caroline understands that she needs to help the people she meets on the journey. Helping them is a way to help herself. She has to choose between being brave or retreating into her shell. Her decisions can change her life and others.

What does Caroline do? How does this adventure help her?

The book starts with a forty-year-old Caroline writing a letter to her young son. She has learned of her illness and needs to share the news with him. She’s afraid of what her absence would do to her son and writes about her adventure in her childhood to help him.

The story is beautiful! It is filled with doubts, vulnerabilities, uncertainties that give way to courage, realization, acceptance, and hope. The narration is smooth and flows like a river. The imagery is so vivid, I could see myself traveling with Caroline and the Gand.

I was teary-eyed more than once. The ending goes straight to the heart, and it’s easy to see why. The author wrote this story when he was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. He wanted to leave something for his five children to help them sustain the grief if anything happened to him.

I’m so, so happy for the author that he has celebrated this fifth cancer-free year. I wish him and his family the best of health and loads of happiness.

I’m also glad that those who read the story urged the author to publish it. This is a book that deserves to be read by everyone. It has the right balance of emotions and pace.

To sum up, Caroline and Mordecai the Gand is a must-read irrespective of what one’s age is or whether or not we’ve lost a loved one. It's a small book but has much to give to the readers.

I received an ARC from BookSirens, Seven Guns Press, and author Jeff Gunhus.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness- Book Review

How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness by Jessica Bell

Publication Date: 21st September 2021
Genre: Dystopian, Social Drama

3.7 Stars

*The review contains a few spoilers*

Icasia Bloom lives in a Globe that’s controlled by an elusive leader, Jacobson. They have to adhere to the Rules and follow the protocols. People like Icasia find a way to rebel without entirely breaking the rules.

However, for people to move from First Life Phase to Second Life Phase they need to find Happiness and a Letter that says they have been successful in finding happiness. It’s a dystopian world with rules of its own.

Icasia isn’t bothered much about her happiness. She only cares for her son’s happiness and future. Being a single mother isn’t easy either. She meets Selma, another woman who has been straddling the Rules.

Selma needs to find a way for Jerome to get his Letter of happiness before his 40th birthday. If not, he’ll lose his life and has no say in the matter. Nothing seems to be working, and Icasia promises to help. This results in some vital questions and rule-defying answers that change the way the Globe looks at happiness.

The title and the cover attracted my attention. Dystopian isn’t my genre, but I’m glad I requested this one. The story starts almost straight away and goes on to share details in bits and pieces. That prevented information dump and kept me interested.

The narration jumps from the second person to the third person to omnipresent. Luckily, the chapters are titled (Listen/ Watch/ Chronicles) to alert readers to this fact. The story walks a fine line between dystopian and philosophical. Things are different yet the same.

The characters are flawed, but most of them don’t appear silly or stupid. Leila, Selma's teenage daughter, was a typical teen, which meant some of her actions don’t make sense unless there’s a proper backstory and complete arc.

The theme of the book hinged on what happiness is and how one should find it. As with the dystopian trope, the government has a role to play in most decisions. It isn’t anything new, to be honest. The author makes it interesting to a major extent by using the setting to her advantage.

However, I felt she hasn’t delved deep into the concept. It could be because she didn’t want to risk being preachy. Lord knows how hard it is to maintain balance. Still, the characters needed more exploration. Some of the scenes feel disjointed, as if there’s a missing link. This link doesn’t appear elsewhere to complete the connection. Nor do we find answers to certain questions about why the Rules were established that way. (It sounds vague because I’m trying to avoid spoilers).

The premise is excellent, and the use of the bluebird is worth mentioning. The characters needed more effort. They are good, but they had to be better to elevate the story. Some of the scenes felt too distanced to feel for the characters. I don’t usually relate to most characters, so that’s not an issue. But I do like to feel for them.

It would sound better to call the swastika a Hindu symbol rather than a Sanskrit symbol. Sanskrit is our ancient language with a script and symbols of its own. There is no difference per se, but it’s important to us. It is a part of our culture; we like to not be disassociated from the sacred symbol or our sacred language the way it is being done with yoga.

That said, the presence of swastika adds no value to the story. It was used more of a prop to show that the character knew the difference between the Hindu swastika to the Nazi symbol and maybe to bring a sort of inclusivity in the book. After that, there’s no mention of it again. It doesn’t feature anywhere else in the book. I don’t think the book would be the least affected if that scene mentioning the swastika tattoo was removed.

And Eve could have been the reader. In fact, I preferred it that way. The last chapter could have been better without Eve being a victim of a car accident or losing her memory.

Also, the ending wasn’t too great. It sort of diminished the emotions evoked until then.

To sum up, How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness is a decent novel with multiple aspects to ponder about. The book is fast-paced and worth a read.

I received an ARC from NetGalley and Vine Leaves Press.

#HowIcasiaBloomTouchedHappiness #NetGalley