Arsenic for Tea

Title: Arsenic for Tea (Wells and Wong #2)
Author: Robin Stevens
ISBN: 9780552570732
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK Children’s
Source: Advance copy via NetGalley
Release Date: January 29, 2015
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: 

Schoolgirl detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are at Daisy’s home, Fallingford, for the holidays. Daisy’s glamorous mother is throwing a tea party for Daisy’s birthday, and the whole family is invited, from eccentric Aunt Saskia to dashing Uncle Felix. But it soon becomes clear that this party isn’t really about Daisy at all. Naturally, Daisy is furious.

Then one of their party falls seriously, mysteriously ill – and everything points to poison.

With wild storms preventing anyone from leaving, or the police from arriving, Fallingford suddenly feels like a very dangerous place to be. Not a single person present is what they seem – and everyone has a secret or two. And when someone very close to Daisy looks suspicious, the Detective Society must do everything they can to reveal the truth . . . no matter the consequences.

Review:

Arsenic for Tea was one of the books I had been excited to read. I thoroughly enjoyed Steven’s first book in the series, Murder Most Unladylike so I was delighted to find Arsenic for Tea on Netgalley.

This is a cute book with a cosy murder. It is the second in the Wells and Wong series, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong – schoolgirl detectives. They are at Daisy’s house for the school holiday. For Daisy’s birthday, the entire family, a few friends and relatives are invited for a splendid birthday tea party. At the party, someone falls ills mysteriously.

A closed house mystery, motley of people – all with reasons for doing the bad deed, stuck in the house due to bad weather (another Christie style mystery – could it get any better!). Everybody seems to have secrets and it’s upon the Detective Society to solve their second case before something very bad happens.

Daisy and Hazel are delightful characters – witty and quirky. Daisy’s father, mother, uncle and Miss Alston provide further layers to the plot.

The second book in the series is always compared to the first one will the plot be as good, will the characters grow mature or appear pale? Arsenic for Tea is deeper and stronger. Daisy and Hazel are settling well into their role of detectives, the setting of the murder is charming and cosy and the mystery is very interesting indeed.

I am now a fan of this series.

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Butterfly Season

Title: Butterfly Seasonbutterfly-season-200x300
Author: Natasha Ahmed
ISBN: 9781927826553
Publisher: Indireads Inc.
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

On her first holiday in six years, Rumi is expecting to relax and unwind. But when she is set up by her long-time friend, she doesn’t shy away from the possibilities. Ahad, a charming, independent, self-made man, captures her imagination, drawing her away from her disapproving sister, Juveria.

Faced with sizzling chemistry and a meeting of the minds, Ahad and Rumi find themselves deep in a relationship that moves forward with growing intensity. But as her desire for the self-assured Ahad grows, Rumi struggles with a decision that will impact the rest of her life.

Confronted by her scandalized sister, a forbidding uncle and a society that frowns on pre-marital intimacy, Rumi has to decide whether to shed her middle-class sensibilities, turning her back on her family, or return to her secluded existence as an unmarried woman in Pakistan.

We follow Rumi from rainy London to a sweltering Karachi, as she tries to take control of her own destiny.

Review:

Butterfly Season is a story of a contemporary Pakistani girl Rumi, who has spent the last years caring for her ailing mother. Now after her mother’s death, she has come to London to visit her younger sister and some old friends. Rumi has been a dutiful daughter, loyal friend, yet independent and hard working.

She has been the typical girl next door until she falls in love with Ahad, a Pakistani man living in London. Even though both come from the same cultural background, their lifestyle and perspectives couldn’t be more different and this creates a complicated situation.

Rumi’s dilemma now is to decide whether to drop her usual way of thinking (traditional and conservative) or adopt a more bolder and refreshing approach to love and life with Ahad. The story develops among the family and cultural issues and is an interesting view on the Pakistani expats and society.

This is a bold and refreshing take about the Pakistani culture, expectations and way of life among the women in Pakistan. I loved reading about the independent Rumi, who is willing to realise her dreams even if it comes at a price.

Butterfly Season has well fleshed out characters. I loved all the characters in the book, their conflicts and different perspectives create a multilayered drama the story. This can be the story of almost any woman living in today’s society, be it India or Pakistan. Butterfly Season is an enjoyable read wih great engaging writing style and interesting plot.

Teatime for the firefly

cover29059-medium

Title: Teatime for the Firefly
Author: Shona Patel
ISBN: 9780778315476
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Source: Advance copy via NetGalley
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

From Shona Patel’s blog:

My name is Layla and I was born under an unlucky star. The time and place of my birth makes me a Manglik. For a young girl growing up in India in the 1940’s, this is bad news. The planet Mars is predominant in my Hindu horoscope and this angry, red planet makes people rebellious and militant by nature. Everyone knows I am astrologically doomed and fated never to marry. Marriages in our society are arranged by astrology and nobody wants a warlike bride. Women are meant to be the needle that stitches families together, not the scissor that cuts.

But every thing began to change for me on April 7th, 1943.

Three things happened that day: Boris Ivanov, the famous Russian novelist, slipped on a tuberose at the grand opening ceremony of a new school, fell, and broke his leg; a baby crow fell out of its nest in the mango tree; and I, Layla Roy, aged fifteen years and three days, fell in love with Manik Deb.

The incidents may have remained unconnected, like three tiny droplets on a lily leaf. But the leaf tipped and the drops rolled into one. It was a tiny shift in the cosmos, I believe, that tipped us together—Boris Ivanov, the baby crow, Manik Deb, and me.

I loved this book! It is such a beautifully written book that I couldn’t put it down but somehow I made myself stop to just let the words wash over me and to feel the characters and live with them for some more time. Shona Patel’s storytelling and writing ability is so powerful that it transports you and you can’t get out of that magical place. While reading the book, I felt nostalgic for an era I didn’t even live in. Is it even possible?

In Teatime, we follow Layla’s journey from her laid back life with her grandfather, Dadamoshai to the turbulent times she faces during India’s independence and thereafter. Layla is born under an unlucky start and is orphaned at a very young age. Yet, she is brought up by her wise and forward thinking grandfather to be a smart, educated and independent thinking girl. After marrying Manik Deb, Layla moves to the borders of Assam to live in the tea plantations where her husband works. Overnight she finds out that she is a now a memsahib with a fully staffed bungalow at her disposal and has to look and act accordingly. Soon we see that her relaxed life with her grandfather is over and she has to face many issues arising out of the changing economic situations at that time. Set against the spectacular backdrop of tea plantations, Shona Patel remarkably portrays the contrasts of an idyllic exotic location and it’s flawed society. Through Layla we see the life and times of the local plantation workers as they face racism, poverty, superstition and even politics.

I fell in love with Layla first and with her grandfather a little later – but these are not the only people who are delightful to read. The other motley of characters that Patel weaves in this story are equally captivating and touching – from Layla’s extended family to her servant staff, her husband’s colleagues and their wives and mistresses – every character is a joy to read – they are real, believable and you can easily picture them in your head with their nuances.

Shona Patel’s prose is lush and lyrical. It transports you to the India in the 1940’s and completely immerses you in that time and place . Layla’s story is funny, adventurous, dangerous and courageous. You would at times wish to stop and savour the moments yet find yourself distraught at the thought of staying away from the beautiful place and characters of this book. A coffee addict myself, after reading this book, I craved for a cup of tea…

Highly recommended! Can’t wait for her next book!

The Best of Us

Title: The Best Of Uscover22132-medium
Author: Sarah Pekkanen
ISBN: 9781451673517
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Source: Advance copy from publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: April 9, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

Following a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, a group of old college friends leap at the chance to bring their husbands for a week’s vacation at a private villa in Jamaica to celebrate a former classmates’ thirty-fifth birthday. All four women are desperate for a break and this seems like a perfect opportunity. Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie needs to escape from the shattering news about an illness that runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her husband an unforgettable birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks that have already formed in their new marriage. The week begins idyllically, filled with languorous days and late nights of drinking and laughter. But as a hurricane approaches the island, turmoil builds, forcing each woman to re-evaluate everything she’s known about the others—and herself.

My Review:

This is an idyllic novel on the surface of it. Four best friends are on a tropical getaway and for three of them it’s totally free of charge. Tina, Allie, and Savannah are the best of friends. They are very different from one another and very complex characters. Life isn’t easy for them at the moment and each one of them is going through some rough times and thus this getaway seems to be a great idea to sort out their thoughts and life. The trip gives them a chance to confront their problems.

Tina is a stay at home mum who feels she is holding herself together by a thread. The never-ending tasks at home and demands of her kids have taken a toll on her and she never seems to find a quiet moment to herself. I could totally relate to her. Savannah is vivacious and beautiful. Her husband has just left her for a younger woman and instead of confiding in her best friends, she acts up. Allie, on the surface is the most stable of friends, but she has received some devastating news. Instead of sharing it with her husband she keeps it to herself and acts totally out of character during this trip.

These friends deal with some of life’s heavy problems in a frustrating yet realistic manner. This is a light yet complex read.

Daughter of Jesusalem: a novel

Title: Daughter of Jesusalem: a novelcover20948-medium
Author: Joan Wolf
ISBN: 9781936034673
Publisher: Worthy Publisher
Source: Advance copy from publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

Daughter of Jerusalem is a fictional story of Mary Magdalene  In this novel, Mary Magdalene is portrayed as an ordinary woman who goes through some very unfortunate events in her life which put her in the path of Jesus.

My Review:

Mary Magdalene is perhaps the most famous woman from the Bible and hers is the most fascinating story. Who was she and what was her relationship with Jesus? Daughter of Jerusalem shows her as an unfortunate woman who tries to make the best of her circumstances. She is kind, generous, intelligent and is perhaps ahead of her time. She is sold into an unhappy marriage when she is in love with another man. We read about her experiences in her own words and you instantly relate to this woman.

We see the world through her eyes, travel with her and learn about her experiences and adventures. She eventually meets Jesus of Nazareth and meeting him changes her life.

This is a work of fiction and I don’t know how accurate this is to facts but nevertheless it is a positive portrayal of Mary who is often depicted negatively. It is an interesting read.

Run To Me

Title: Run to Mecover22416-medium
Author: Diane Hester
ISBN: 9781742756424
Source: Advance copy from publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

It’’s been two years since Shyler O’Neil’’s beloved son Jesse was killed –but his final moments are as vivid to her now as they were that dreadful day. Suffering from post-traumatic stress and convinced she did not do enough to protect him, she retreats to an isolated cabin in the woods of northern Maine. Meanwhile, Zack Ballinger –a ten-year-old boy who has never known a mother’’s love – finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’’s seen too much and is now running for his life. Fleeing into the woods, Zack soon finds himself at Shyler’’s cabin. He’’ll take whatever help she can give –even though, for some reason, she keeps calling him Jesse . . . With the pursuers hot on their heels, ‘mother’ and ‘son’ go on the run. Protecting Zack may well be Shyler’’s one chance at redemption. Either that, or she is the child’’s greatest threat . . .

My Review:

This is a very well written novel. There is no mystery here but it is suspenseful. The characters are brilliant, especially Shyler. Shyler has been through a lot, the death of her son has scarred her and she has withdrawn from people and reality. Shyler’s character is very well nuanced and Hester does a superb job articulating Shyler’s thoughts and what all goes on in her mind.

Zack is another damaged character due the circumstances he has faced in his short life. Zack has grown up in foster homes and is mature beyond his age, yet there is a small child within him who yearns for a home and mother’s love. So he holds on to Shyler even after knowing that she is a bit unhinged and damaged.

The novel is written from the perspectives of Shyler, Zack and Dr. Chase Hadley. I couldn’t help but smile at that name! While Zack and Shyler are dealing with their own hells, Dr. Hadley is stuck in between them and offers to help. I loved the dialogues between Dr. Hadley and his father. There are parellel stories going on in this novel and yet it all comes together in a suspenseful climax. Do read this one! Highly recommended.

Book Review: The Hog Murders

Title: The Hog Murders
Author: William L. DeAndrea
ASIN: B00AEGIGEC
Source: Advance copy from publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: December 18, 2012
Rating: 3 out of 5cover23532-medium

Synopsis: World-renowned criminologist Professor Nicolo Benedetti is called to the small, unassuming town of Sparta, New York, to solve a series of brutal murders. The only lead is a succession of notes delivered to the local newspaper, taunting the police, and enigmatically signed “HOG.” Originally published in 1979, The HOG Murders received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

My Review:

The Hog Murders, the first in the Niccolo Benedetti series, was first published in 1979 and won an Edgar. It featres the brilliant and eccentric Italian professor, Benedetti and his protegee Ron who is a private detective. Thanks to Mysterious Press for publishing digital copies of many of the old books, I could get my hands on this one through Netgalley.

Professor Benedetti is called into the small town of Sparta, New York to solve a series of brutal murders that take place in a span of three weeks. The only clues are the notes that taunt the police and are delivered to a local newspaper reporter and signed ‘HOG’.

This is a classic whodunit filled with twists and turns and interesting plot. The mystery is satisffying enough but I expected to be blown away by it but ended up with an ‘Oh’. I liked the characters of the detectives, though they are completely different from Poirot and Marple, they are charming in their own way and I woud definitely like to read more of their adventures.