Lady Luck Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Lady Luck Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

Sometimes books give me earworms. Sometimes it’s because of the book’s title. I’ve been having an earworm of Frank Sinatra’s version of the song “Luck Be a Lady” and wondering what that was about. So, naturally I looked it up.

Some of it is clearly inspired by the name of this hop. The rest, quite possibly as a result of reading Mastering the Art of French Murder last weekend as I was setting up the Sunday Post. “Luck Be a Lady”, although not Frank’s rendition, was one of the songs that came out of the then-popular hit musical, Guys and Dolls. In 1950. Exactly the year that Mastering the Art of French Murder is set.

So there was a reason. At least sorta/kinda. And we are lucky, at least here in Atlanta, to be experiencing spring – at least off and on – as March seems to be coming in this year like a rather wet lion. Your local mileage may definitely vary on that part.

What song is stuck in your head this early March? Answer through the rafflecopter for you chance at winning the usual Reading Reality hop prize of the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 in books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To test your luck further, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

A- #BookReview: Feed Them Silence by Lee Mandelo

A- #BookReview: Feed Them Silence by Lee MandeloFeed Them Silence by Lee Mandelo
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: climate fiction, science fiction
Pages: 105
Published by Tordotcom on March 14, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

Lee Mandelo dives into the minds of wolves in Feed Them Silence, a novella of the near future.What does it mean to "be-in-kind" with a nonhuman animal? Or in Dr. Sean Kell-Luddon’s case, to be in-kind with one of the last remaining wild wolves? Using a neurological interface to translate her animal subject’s perception through her own mind, Sean intends to chase both her scientific curiosity and her secret, lifelong desire to experience the intimacy and freedom of wolfishness. To see the world through animal eyes; smell the forest, thick with olfactory messages; even taste the blood and viscera of a fresh kill. And, above all, to feel the belonging of the pack.
Sean’s tireless research gives her a chance to fulfill that dream, but pursuing it has a terrible cost. Her obsession with work endangers her fraying relationship with her wife. Her research methods threaten her mind and body. And the attention of her VC funders could destroy her subject, the beautiful wild wolf whose mental world she’s invading.

My Review:

Considering that it’s recommended that doctors not treat themselves or their loved ones because they lose their objectivity, while lawyers are told that any who represent themselves have a fool for a client, then what should be said about scientific researchers who go into their supposedly objective study fully intending to use themselves as one of their subjects? There was that strange case regarding Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…

Not that Dr. Sean Kell-Luddon actually becomes a monster – or even turns into the wolf her experiment intentionally bonds her with. And not that, occasionally, her wife doesn’t think that Sean’s being more than a bit of a monster to her.

When Sean manages to tear herself away from her research to be physically, intellectually and emotionally present in their marriage. The one that’s falling apart around her. Just as it turns out, she is.

The year is 2031, and between climate change, coastal erosion and habitat encroachment, species are going extinct at an alarming rate. To the point where, for entirely too many species, it’s a tide that can no longer be turned – merely documented.

That’s particularly true for the charismatic megafauna, not just the really big animals like elephants and lions, but species much, much closer to home, like the gray wolves of Minnesota and neighboring states. Today.

Sean and her research team have submitted a controversial proposal to enmesh the brain of a member of one of the few surviving wolf packs in Minnesota with the brain of one of the scientists on her team. From Sean’s honest perspective, the one that she does her damndest never to display to her academic colleagues, this entire project is a dressed-up, scientific gobbledygook-filled last chance for her to live out one of her childhood dreams – to run with the wolves – before its too late.

For the wolves, that is. And, quite possibly, for Sean herself.

However, just as her research was proposed with ulterior motives on Sean’s part, the cutting-edge technology company that has chosen to fund it AND to provide the equipment that will make it possible, has a hidden agenda of their own.

An agenda that puts both Sean, and her wolf, in crosshairs that neither of them knew existed.

Escape Rating A-: I admit it, I had a bail and flail this week because yesterday’s book just wasn’t working and I didn’t get out early enough. But that cloud absolutely had a silver lining, because I bounced straight into this book and it was terrific.

To the point that I’m wondering what took me so long, but I’m quite happy to have gotten here in the end – even if this is a far from happy story. Which is exactly the way it should be, because species extinction is tragic, the fate of the wolves and other wildlife species is awful and Sean’s marriage isn’t doing well either.

But that’s what happens when one partner eats, sleeps and breathes their work to the point of obsession. Sean is entirely too realistic in that regard – as is the fate of the wolves and the corporate greed that condemns Sean’s one and only chance at fulfilling her lifelong dream.

Feed Them Silence had me hooked from the first time Sean interfaced with her wolf, Kate, through a machine that was intended to give her an inside track on the wolf’s thoughts and feelings, even if it unintentionally did quite a bit more on both sides.

The process of becoming one with her wolf sounded exactly like the process portrayed in the Assassin’s Creed game series that allows someone to live through the day to day memories of one of their ancestors at a pivotal point in history. But the result, that Sean sees and experiences Kate’s world through Kate’s eyes and mind and heart and memory, felt even more like the mammoth experiment in the awesome – and awesomely bittersweet – The Tusks of Extinction by Ray Nayler. That the experiments in the two books are markedly different in design and purpose doesn’t stop them from being more in dialog with each other than expected – because the experiments have become necessary for the same set of all-too-real reasons of climate change, habitat shrinkage, and humans so greedy they are willing to ignore the laws designed to protect the animals they are hunting for sport.

So the entry points for this story literally pulled me in, as I adored The Tusks of Extinction and the Assassin’s Creed series makes GREAT television – meaning that I get to watch the action while someone else plays.

But what really made this story work for me was how plausibly its science fiction encompassed so very much of the real world. Not just the present and predictable future of species elimination, but also the grind of academia, the damage that one partner’s obsessive hyper-focus on work can do to ANY relationship, the way that the entire world feels like that mythical frog in the pan of heating water – and then the complete immersion and identification of Sean’s identity with that of her wolf.

We see it all happening and are with her as she can’t help herself and we understand exactly why – even as the rest of her world falls apart. And it’s awesome and captivating and heartbreaking every step of the way.

Especially because even though the exact story isn’t happening right now – it really is.

#BookReview: Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-Reum translated by Shanna Tan

#BookReview: Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-Reum translated by Shanna TanWelcome to the Hyunam-Dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-reum, Shanna Tan
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: books and reading, literary fiction, world literature
Pages: 320
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on February 20, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

The Korean smash hit available for the first time in English, a slice-of-life novel for readers of Matt Haig's The Midnight Library and Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of AJ Fikry.
Yeongju is burned out. With her high-flying career, demanding marriage, and busy life in Seoul, she knows she should feel successful, but all she feels is drained. Yet an abandoned dream nags at her, and in a leap of faith, she leaves her old life behind. Quitting her job and divorcing her husband, Yeongju moves to a small residential neighborhood outside the city, where she opens the Hyunam-dong Bookshop.
For the first few months, all Yeongju does is cry, deterring visitors. But the long hours in the shop give her time to mull over what makes a good bookseller and store, and as she starts to read hungrily, host author events, and develop her own bookselling philosophy, she begins to ease into her new setting. Surrounded by friends, writers, and the books that connect them all, she finds her new story as the Hyunam-dong Bookshop transforms into an inviting space for lost souls to rest, heal, and remember that it's never too late to scrap the plot and start again.

My Review:

The title of the book makes the point of the story, as 30something, utterly stressed out Yeongju transforms herself into an independent bookstore owner in a close-knit but off the beaten path community.

Just as her high-pressure job and her equally pressured marriage once consumed Yeongju – sending her into a spiral of depression – opening the bookstore and returning to her childhood love of reading starts out as the antidote to those feelings.

Not that either the reader nor her concerned customers are entirely aware of that at first. We’re all aware of her depression, as her initial months of opening the store consist of her sitting on a stool inside the store with tears running down her face.

She’s clearly hit bottom in a whole lot of ways, but neither the reader nor her potential customers know precisely why. Not that her customers necessarily should, at least not until she’s willing to tell someone, but she’s drowning so hard that she’s closed off her internal life to the reader as well.

Which is similar in a lot of ways to the opening of the utterly charming and absolutely marvelous Days at the Morisaki Bookshop – with one critical difference. The reader gets a much more thorough picture of that protagonist, Takako, and her internal, utterly depressed, life because even though Takako isn’t talking much her mother and her uncle talk at her, to her, and about her enough for the reader to see inside her slough of despond and start to feel for her even as she starts to pull herself out.

At first, we know very little of what brought Yeongju to the bookshop or much of why she’s sitting in the midst of it weeping. But we do see the bookshop-owning butterfly emerge from her dark and tattered cocoon to take stock of the life she actually has and start looking towards its sustainability – for herself and for the people who come to see her bookshop as part of the warp and weft of their lives as much as she does.

And as Yeongju invests herself in welcoming others to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop, we finally begin to see glimpses of what drives her, what occasionally drives her back into her shell of depression, and the way that once she begins reaching out to others, they all begin to sustain each other.

Escape Rating C: I fell in love with both last week’s The Kamogawa Food Detectives and Days at the Morisaki Bookshop and picked this up hoping for something similar – or even in a sweet spot in between the two.

Sadly, that was not to be.

As much as I love books about books and reading, especially stories about bookstores and bookstore owners, I had a hard time getting into this one. It took me a while – entirely too long for the sake of my own personal reading schedule, in fact – to figure out that what was missing here that both of those books I hoped it would be a readalike for had was a central character or characters to carry the story.

Not that Yeongju isn’t there, but, well, for the first half of the book she really isn’t all there. She’s going through the motions, but we don’t see inside her nearly enough to be certain about what has brought her to that initial, depressing pass or get truly invested in how she gets herself out.

As she comes back to herself, and the bookshop reaches out to its community and the wider world as a result, we do start getting glimpses into what brings the other characters in the story to become part of the shop and the stories within, but Yeongju uses the increasing busy-ness of the shop and the life she has focused around it as a way of not looking back at what brought her there in the first place.

In the end, this was okay but not what I was hoping for. It has some of the elements of the two books that brought me here, that journey from depression to healing through the power of books and reading and community that is at the heart of Days at the Morisaki Bookshop and the loosely linked slices of life stories of The Kamogawa Food Detectives, but it doesn’t have the strong, central linchpin character to carry the book as a whole the way that both of those books did.

Which leaves me looking forward that much more and harder to the follow-up to Days at the Morisaki Bookshop, titled More Days at the Morisaki Bookshop, coming in July. Because I do, still, very much, love books about books and reading and the transformative power of the two and have high hopes that the second book in that series will hit the same sweet spot as the first.

Grade A #BookReview: Mastering the Art of French Murder by Colleen Cambridge

Grade A #BookReview: Mastering the Art of French Murder by Colleen CambridgeMastering the Art of French Murder (An American In Paris, #1) by Colleen Cambridge
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: culinary mystery, foodie fiction, historical mystery, mystery
Series: American in Paris Mystery #1
Pages: 304
Published by Kensington on April 25, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

Fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Marie Benedict, Nita Prose, and of course, Julia Child, will adore this magnifique new mystery set in Paris and starring Julia Child’s (fictional) best friend, confidante, and fellow American. From the acclaimed author of Murder at Mallowan Hall , this delightful new book provides a fresh perspective on the iconic chef’s years in post-WWII Paris.
“Enchanting…Cambridge captures Child’s distinct voice and energy so perfectly. Expect to leave this vacation hoping for a return trip.” – Publishers Weekly
As Paris rediscovers its joie de vivre, Tabitha Knight, recently arrived from Detroit for an extended stay with her French grandfather, is on her own journey of discovery. Paris isn’t just the City of Light; it’s the city of history, romance, stunning architecture . . . and food. Thanks to her neighbor and friend Julia Child, another ex-pat who’s fallen head over heels for Paris, Tabitha is learning how to cook for her Grandpère and Oncle Rafe.
Between tutoring Americans in French, visiting the market, and eagerly sampling the results of Julia’s studies at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, Tabitha’s sojourn is proving thoroughly delightful. That is, until the cold December day they return to Julia’s building and learn that a body has been found in the cellar. Tabitha recognizes the victim as a woman she’d met only the night before, at a party given by Julia’s sister, Dort. The murder weapon found nearby is recognizable too—a knife from Julia’s kitchen.
Tabitha is eager to help the investigation, but is shocked when Inspector Merveille reveals that a note, in Tabitha’s handwriting, was found in the dead woman’s pocket. Is this murder a case of international intrigue, or something far more personal? From the shadows of the Tour Eiffel at midnight, to the tiny third-floor Child kitchen, to the grungy streets of Montmartre, Tabitha navigates through the city hoping to find the real killer before she or one of her friends ends up in prison . . . or worse.
“Part historical fiction, part mystery, Mastering the Art of French Murder is totally delectable entertainment.” – The Washington Post
“Certain to appeal to a broad readership, especially fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Rhys Bowen, and Cambridge’s own Phyllida Bright series.” –First Clue, STARRED REVIEW

My Review:

“Drama is very important in life: You have to come on with a bang. You never want to go out with a whimper. Everything can have drama if it’s done right. Even a pancake.” So said the real Julia Child, whose larger-than-life fictional persona has barged into the life of her neighbor in Paris, fellow expat Tabitha Knight, just a few months before a murder in Julia’s building bangs into both of their lives.

It’s the murder of a very recent guest in the apartment shared by Julia, her husband Paul Child, her sister Dorothy (Dort) McWilliams on the “Roo de Loo” as Julia called it. A murder committed with one of Julia’s distinctive chef’s knives, making Julia, at least initially, the prime suspect in this tragedy.

But Julia is not the amateur sleuth – she was too busy with what became her lifelong obsession, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” as evidenced by the title of her first cookbook.

The amateur sleuthing is left to Tabitha Knight, a former “Rosie the Riveter” living across the street with her elderly French grandfather and her honorary “oncle”, his equally elderly best friend (and probably lover).

Tabitha and Julia have already bonded over their shared infatuation with French food and French cooking – the difference being that Julia is already extremely capable at that art while Tabitha is lucky not to burn or otherwise ruin the meals she attempts to make for her elderly ‘messieurs’ and their two spoiled pets, Oscar Wilde the tiny papillon dog and Madame X the slinky cat.

But the murder isn’t merely a curiosity for either of the women. The victim died just after leaving a party in Julia’s apartment, a guest of Julia’s sister Dort, killed by one of Julia’s knives. Tabitha rode down in the elevator with the woman, and was the last to speak with her other than her killer.

The police, in the steely-eyed persona of Inspecteur Merveille, seem convinced that either Julia or Tabitha committed the foul deed. Or so it seems to Tabitha, who grew up on a steady reading diet of Nancy Drew and other mystery stories as well as her police detective father brought home. Julia is just certain – and Julia was always certain if she was anything at all – that Tabitha will be able to solve the murder ahead of the police – and pushes her into trying.

Not that it takes much arm twisting to get Tabitha on the case. A case that leads from one murder, to a second, and a third – and even a first before the one that dragged Tabitha and Julia into the mess. A mess that, surprising to everyone but the two old men yearning for Julia’s cooking rather than Tabitha’s, leads back to the war late war in which they all, in their own way, served.

And the colder war that has just begun.

Escape Rating A: First, and most important, this was an absolutely charming, utterly lovely read as well as a captivating mystery. The way that evokes post-World War II Paris, just as the lights came back on in the City of Light draws the reader and keeps them mesmerized every step of Tabitha’s way.

And I could hear Julia Child’s voice in my head in every single bit of her dialog. She was such an iconic figure in the 60s and 70s, and so ubiquitous in seemingly EVERY promo that PBS broadcast during those decades, that even though I never watched any of her programs I STILL heard her distinctive voice every single time she barged into a scene. The character as fictionalized sounded and behaved very much as at least her public persona did and swept the reader along in her wake.

But Julia was not the star of this show, no matter how often she seemed to hold center stage in any individual scene. That honor – even if she didn’t always see it as an honor – was reserved for Julia’s fictional friend and neighbor, Tabitha Knight.

And Tabitha turned out to be a terrific point-of-view character for this story. She’s impish, impulsive and intelligent, and can’t resist being the fool who rushes into a crime scene where police have barred the way and angels rightfully fear to tread.

As much as the blurbs for this book invoke Jacqueline Winspear and her Maisie Dobbs, the character that Tabitha reminds this reader of is Mabel Canning in her first outing, A Body on the Doorstep. Both Tabitha and Mabel’s stories are set just after the ending of a World War, although not the same war, at a point where their worlds are changing and new possibilities are opening up even as others close down. Both young women choose to uproot themselves from the familiar and chart a new course for their lives, and are still in the exploratory stage of that new life and new opportunities.

And both have a fortunate knack – one that often seems unfortunate as it occurs – of tripping over murder victims and being unable to resist poking their own noses into investigations that should be left to the police.

At the same time, Tabitha’s post-war Paris is a place that, if given the opportunity at the right time, It’s almost impossible not to imagine taking that opportunity and running with it to a new life in a storied city just as it is coming back into its own after the darkness of war.

The secondary characters introduced in this first book do an excellent job of drawing the reader into and filling out the corners or Tabitha’s Paris, from her charming, elderly messieurs, their equally idiosyncratic pets, the even more idiosyncratic members of the Child household, to the implacable, unreadable Inspecteur Étienne Merveille, who looks like he will become both a thorn in Tabitha’s side – and vice versa – in the books ahead.

If not, perhaps, something more.

And then there’s Julia Child herself, much too boisterous to ever be considered merely a secondary character and certainly not a sidekick, who draws readers in with her true-to-life mannerism, her real, documented history working for the OSS in the war, and her larger-than-life presence on so many wonderful pages of this story.

The alchemy of all of the above makes this reader so very glad that a second book in this An American in Paris series, A Murder Most French, will be coming out in April. I’m anticipating its arrival with nearly as much pleasure as Tabitha’s messieurs look forward to their next delicious repast from the kitchen of Madame Child.

It’s impossible to leave this story behind without one final word from that famous chef. Fortunately for the fictional Julia Child, this quote postdates her post-War years by a considerable margin. If this had been attributed to her at the time, Tabitha might have had considerably more difficulty convincing the Inspecteur that Julia was not guilty of the murder.

According to Julia Child, “The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded, and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit.”

TLC

TLC tour schedule:

Monday, February 19th: @books_old_and_new

Tuesday, February 20th: @diveintoagoodbook

Tuesday, February 20th: @suethebookie

Wednesday, February 21st: @mrsj_readsbooks

Wednesday, February 21st: @dianas_books_cars_coffee

Thursday, February 22nd: @abookwormwithwine

Thursday, February 22nd: @amys_book_addiction

Friday, February 23rd: @bookapotamus

Friday, February 23rd: @bookgirlbrown_reviews

Saturday, February 24th: @nissa_the.bookworm

Sunday, February 25th: @pineshorelittlefreelibrary

Monday, February 26th: @donasbooks

Tuesday, February 27th: Reading Reality and @reading_reality

Wednesday, February 28th: @the.caffeinated.reader

Thursday, February 29th: @aneedleinmybookstack

Friday, March 1st: @oilycaffeinatedmama

Friday, March 1st: @whatkarinareads

Saturday, March 2nd: @cmtloveswineandbooks

Saturday, March 2nd: @ablueboxfullofbooks

Sunday, March 3rd: @lyon.brit.andthebookshelf

A- #BookReview: Always Remember by Mary Balogh

A- #BookReview: Always Remember by Mary BaloghAlways Remember (Ravenswood #3) by Mary Balogh
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical romance, regency romance
Series: Ravenswood #3
Pages: 366
Published by Berkley on January 16, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

Lady Jennifer Arden and Ben Ellis know that a match between them is out of the question. Yet their hearts yearn for the impossible. Discover a new heartwarming story from New York Times bestselling author and beloved “queen of Regency romance” Mary Balogh.Left unable to walk by a childhood illness, Lady Jennifer, sister of the Duke of Wilby, has grown up to make a happy place for herself in society. Outgoing and cheerful, she has many friends and enjoys the pleasures of high society—even if she cannot dance at balls or stroll in Hyde Park. She is blessed with a large, loving, and protective family. But she secretly dreams of marriage and children, and of walking—and dancing.When Ben Ellis comes across Lady Jennifer as she struggles to walk with the aid of primitive crutches, he instantly understands her yearning. He is a fixer. It is often said of him that he never saw a practical problem he did not have to solve. He wants to help her discover independence and motion—driving a carriage, swimming, even walking a different way. But he must be careful. He is the bastard son of the late Earl of Stratton. Though he was raised with the earl’s family, he knows he does not really belong in the world of the ton.Jennifer is shocked—and intrigued—by Ben’s ideas, and both families are alarmed by the growing friendship and perhaps more that they sense developing between the two. A duke’s sister certainly cannot marry the bastard son of an earl. Except sometimes, love can find a way.

My Review:

At the beginning of the Ravenswood series, back in Remember Love, I compared the late and more or less lamented Earl of Stratton, Caleb Ware, with the late and entirely unlamented Humphrey Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, the discovery of whose marital perfidy kicked off that series, and found both of them wanting in only slightly different ways and degrees.

As that earlier series continued through the stories of all the family members impacted by the lies that were shockingly revealed upon Westcott’s death, the man was never redeemed – not even in memory. In fact, as the impacts of his lies rippled out in the years after his death, the worse a character he became.

Therefore, one of the fascinating things about Caleb Ware, Earl of Stratton, is the way that his memory has been redeemed in the years after his death. Not that he wasn’t unfaithful to his wife from the very beginning of their marriage, and not that he didn’t constantly seek love, approval and attention wherever he went, but the reasons behind his actions become clearer with each book – even though that book is centered around another character entirely.

That is especially true of this third book in the series, after Remember Love and Remember Me, because the male protagonist of this story is Ware’s illegitimate oldest son Ben, whose mother was, as it turns out, truly, the love of Ware’s life.

A woman of his own class who he would have married if he could have, but that would have made her guilty of the same sin as Humphrey Westcott. It would have made Lady Janette Kelliston, who her son only knew as plain ‘Jane Ellis’, a bigamist.

But this is, after all, Ben’s story and not the story of his parents, although his discovery of the truth about that relationship and so much more is a central part of his story. While he does not discover those truths until well into this story, it does set the stage for the things he already does know about himself.

That in spite of his complete and thoroughgoing acceptance by Caleb Ware’s legal family for all of Ben’s life, he is, and always will be, the Earl’s bastard. And therefore, not eligible to marry any of the girls – and now women – he meets as part of his membership in the Ware family.

Which means that when widowed Ben and his three-year-old daughter Joy come to Ravenswood Hall to celebrate the revival of the annual Summer Fete, even though he has marriage on his mind he does not expect to find anyone who would consider him suitable among his family’s aristocratic guests.

Because he is NOT suitable, as the rest of the world is all too willing to remind him. The question is whether he, and the woman with whom he falls in love in spite of all the whispers against it, are willing to damn the consequences and the social opprobrium likely to follow in their wake.

Escape Rating A-: I came into Always Remember with high hopes after a bit of disappointment with Remember Me. I liked the characters of that book well enough, but Lady Philippa Ware was a bit TOO perfect and too privileged to identify with and that affected my reading of her story quite a lot.

The heroine of this entry in the series, Pippa’s now sister-in-law Lady Jennifer Arden, is far from perfect – although she fakes it well. Not the perfect beauty that Pippa absolutely does have, but rather, a perfect amiability – or at least the appearance of it – that allows her to find as much happiness and fulfillment in the life that the lifelong disability that remains after a childhood illness (most likely polio) has left her with as is possible. Which is quite a lot if one puts their mind to it, which Lady Jennifer absolutely does.

So this is a romance between an unconventional hero – at least for a Regency romance – and an equally unusual heroine – for any romance at all. That it is their differences from the others around them that brings them together – even as their differences in social position pulls them apart – that made even the possibilities of this story something I was definitely looking forward to.

Ben Ellis and Lady Jennifer Arden find a bond because they are able to see behind each other’s masks to find the real person within. Both are in positions where they ‘should’ be grateful. He because his father’s family took him in and made him their own – as much as they could and considerably more than he knew he had any right to expect. Lady Jennifer’s entire family has rearranged itself, and continues to do so, in order to make sure that she is taken care of, has as much freedom and opportunity as they believe is safe for her, and in general has a good, well-privileged life with friends and opportunities and someone always available to take care of her.

But they are both in pursuit of the missing pieces in their lives. Ben needs to know about his mother’s family, for the sake of his own identity as well as that of his daughter. Lady Jennifer is twenty-five years old, she needs to find out what her OWN limits are. From her perspective, she has one blighted leg but the rest of her, including most definitely her heart and her brain, are just fine. She is an adult and needs to forge her own path – even if that path is navigated on crutches or in a wheelchair.

Ben sees possibilities for her. She sees answers for him. Together, they forge a path that no one expected, and that some would have preferred they not even begin to try. I half expected the author to contrive a solution that would make Ben legally legitimate no matter the actual circumstances of his birth in order to clear that path, but it made for a much better story that the easy solution was not taken after all, making this a deeply earned HEA that kept me up late because I had to find out how it ended.

Speaking of endings, this could be the ending of the Ravenswood series, but I sincerely hope that it is not. The late – and now reasonably lamented – Earl of Stratton and his Countess had several more children who have yet to find their own HEAs. I’d LOVE to see their stories added to this series!

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 2-25-24

Today’s picture may be George at the vet, but George isn’t the cat who actually went to the vet this weekend. That would be Mr. Lucifer, who gets a shot every month to help him with his arthritis – along with a claw trim because he’s not doing that job nearly well enough himself in his senior years. And he’s a sweet old man and doesn’t protest at all when the vet does it – although he probably would mightily if we did.

George was actually FINE during this visit – he just believes that he’s been betrayed because he got taken in and wasn’t happy about it. Neither was the vet because George is so salty and spicy at the vet’s that they need to drug him to do the exam. George is just a LOT and has a lot of sharp and pointy bits to protest with when he wants to. Lucifer, at this point in his life, just can’t be bothered.

Speaking of things that should be bothered with this week, the Love is in the Air Giveaway Hop ends TOMORROW! and the Wish Big Giveaway Hop ends on Thursday – just in time for the Lady Luck Giveaway Hop to begin on Friday.

Believe it or not – and I’m having a bit of trouble believing it myself – Friday is the first day of MARCH. It feels like this year is already flying by. Also flying by, the number of years that Reading Reality has been part of my life – and hopefully yours as well. Reading Reality’s Lucky 13th Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week begins one month from Friday, on April 1, 2024. Time really does fly when you’re having fun!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Love is in the Air Giveaway Hop (ENDS TOMORROW!!!!!!)
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Wish Big Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Winter 2024 Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop

Blog Recap:

Presidents’ Day 2024 (Guest Post by Galen)
B #BookReview: Village in the Dark by Iris Yamashita
A- #BookReview: The Kamogawa Food Detectives by Hisashi Kashiwai, translated by Jesse Kirkwood
Grade A #BookReview: The Lantern’s Dance by Laurie R. King
B #AudioBookReview: Glory Be by Danielle Arceneaux
Stacking the Shelves (589)

Coming This Week:

Always Remember by Mary Balogh (#BookReview)
Mastering the Art of French Murder by Colleen Cambridge (#Blogtour #BookReview)
Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands by Heather Fawcett (#BookReview)
Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-Reum (#BookReview)
Lady Luck Giveaway Hop

Stacking the Shelves (589)

An interesting batch of covers that should be twice as big, but half the books I picked up this week don’t have cover art yet! So what you see is not exactly what I got.

This is another eclectic batch of covers as well, particularly House of Open Wounds with its extremely busy cover. Then again, based on the first entry in its series, City of Last Chances, I suspect that cover is a case of ‘truth in advertising’ and that it will be an extremely busy book as well! Although at the time I reviewed City of Last Chances for Library Journal it read as if it was a standalone. Before I read the second book, I’m planning to go back and listen to the audio to try and figure out what clues I missed.

For Review:
A Body at the Dance Hall (London Ladies’ Murder Club #3) by Marty Wingate
Death on the Tiber (Flavia Albia #12) by Lindsey Davis
Haunted Ever After by Jen DeLuca
Januaries by Olivie Blake
She Who Knows: Firespitter by Nnedi Okorafor

Purchased from Amazon/Audible/Etc.:
The Book of Phoenix (Who Fears Death #0) by Nnedi Okorafor (ebook and audio)
House of Open Wounds (Tyrant Philosophers #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (ebook and audio)

Borrowed from the Library:
Ghosts of Honolulu by Mark Harmon and Leon Carroll


If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

#AudioBookReview: Glory Be by Danielle Arceneaux

#AudioBookReview: Glory Be by Danielle ArceneauxGlory Be (Glory Broussard Mystery, #1) by Danielle Arceneaux
Narrator: Bahni Turpin
Format: audiobook
Source: supplied by the publisher via Spotify
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, mystery
Series: Glory Broussard Mystery #1
Pages: 272
Length: 8 hours and 47 minutes
Published by Pegasus Crime, Spotify on October 3, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

The first in a vivid and charming crime series set in the Louisiana bayou, introducing the hilariously uncensored amateur sleuth Glory Broussard. Perfect for fans of Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club.
It’s a hot and sticky Sunday in Lafayette, Louisiana, and Glory has settled into her usual after-church routine, meeting gamblers at the local coffee shop, where she works as a small-time bookie. Sitting at her corner table, Glory hears that her best friend—a nun beloved by the community—has been found dead in her apartment.
When police declare the mysterious death a suicide, Glory is convinced that there must be more to the story. With her reluctant daughter—who has troubles of her own—in tow, Glory launches a shadow investigation into Lafayette’s oil tycoons, church gossips, a rumored voodoo priestess, nosey neighbors, and longtime ne'er-do wells.
As a Black woman of a certain age who grew up in a segregated Louisiana, Glory is used to being minimized and overlooked. But she’s determined to make her presence known as the case leads her deep into a web of intrigue she never realized Lafayette could harbor.
Danielle Arcenaux’s riveting debut brings forth an unforgettable character that will charm and delight crime fans everywhere and leave them hungry for her next adventure.

My Review:

Like most amateur detectives, Glory Broussard begins her first investigation because it’s personal. Her best friend is dead, and the police have ruled that death a suicide. A decision that Glory refuses to believe.

Glory had known Amity Gay since they were little girls in pinafores, and for all the 60-some-odd years of their lives that followed. Glory knew Amita Gay as well as she knew herself, and her friend was looking forward to life, not running away from it.

And through bitter experience, Glory is all too aware that the police, in Louisiana and elsewhere but perhaps especially in Louisiana, discount and disregard the deaths of black people in general and black women in particular.

Because that’s the way it always has been, and in spite of changes on the surface, that’s the way it still is.

So Glory, amateur detective, professional busybody and successful bookmaker (yes, I mean gambling and not bookkeeping) does a bit of surreptitious reconnaissance in her late friend’s apartment and discovers a whole lot of paperwork about a chemical plant that the big company in Lafayette wants to construct right next to a poor black town so they can make even more money and spread more cancer – not necessarily in that order to Glory’s cynical mind.

While the police might have left the paperwork behind because it wasn’t an actual part of the crime scene, Glory knows they didn’t search at all because she found a box of fentanyl-laced lollipops in the back of Amity Gay’s closet. Something that would definitely have been found and confiscated in even a cursory search.

Which means that obviously no search was done, that the police are rushing to judgment because its easier for them – and possibly for the big company with those chemical plant plans.

Glory will just have to nose her way around Amity Gay’s old friends, Glory’s own new enemies and figure out which of the possible parties and motives is responsible for the death of her best friend.

The last thing Glory needs to add to her already overwhelming to-do list is figuring out what her daughter, a successful New York City attorney, is doing back in Lafayette, minding Glory’s business and cleaning up her house. Or, for that matter, figuring out what has the city all fired-up to condemn her house.

Or even, heaven forbid, whether or not her dearest friend, a professed Catholic nun, had been doing something unholy. Again.

Escape Rating B: Glory Broussard does not hold back. Ever. Not within the confines of her own head as she tells this story, and not out loud, either. She’s certainly an acquired taste for her friends and neighbors, and quite possibly for the reader as well.

Glory does not suffer fools, neither does she let said fool out of her sight without telling them that she thinks they are one. Sometimes in great detail. In other words, Glory is a lot, and not exactly universally beloved – or even respected.

To the point where it’s easy to understand why her daughter, successful New York City attorney Delphine, wishes she could get her mother to just shut up now and again, especially when faced with city officials who want to condemn Glory’s house. Not that Glory doesn’t get the best of that situation – along with a whole lot else – in the end.

But part of Glory’s charm, and certainly part of the charm of the story as a whole, is Glory’s bone-deep authenticity. It’s certainly not Glory’s honesty, because she doesn’t seem to have an honest bone in her body – not even in reference to herself and the depression she has sunk into over the years.

What does ring true, particularly in audio, is the relationship between Glory and Delphine, that ‘roses and thorns’ kind of love that can exist between mothers and their adult daughters. Part of both the compulsion to finish this mystery and the difficulty of doing so for this reader is that I heard the echo of every single argument I had with my own mother in the exchanges between Glory and Delphine. That roses and thorns observation was heartbreaking because it felt so very true.

But the story, the mystery, and the eventual, hard-won mutual respect that arises between mother and daughter, follows Glory’s stubborn pig-headedness from something that everyone told her should be left well enough alone to a conclusion she almost wishes she’d never uncovered.

She’s left with the realization that too many of the people she believed in have feet of clay up to the knees. And to console herself, in the end, that justice has been done, along with the new lease on life that becoming an amateur detective has brought her.

Readers, on the other hand, can console themselves with the fact that Glory will be back on the case in another mystery this coming fall!

TLC

TLC tour schedule:

Thursday, February 15th: @booksandthemes

Friday, February 16th: @naesreadingnook

Friday, February 16th: @booksandcoffeemx

Saturday, February 17th: @bookitqueen

Sunday, February 18th: @laura_cover_stories

Monday, February 19th: @idreamofthelibrary

Tuesday, February 20th: @books_and_biewers

Wednesday, February 21st: @simplyreadwithv

Thursday, February 22nd: @booksnbikram

Friday, February 23rd: Reading Reality and @reading_reality

Saturday, February 24th: @spaceonthebookcase

Saturday, February 24th: @thereadingchemist

Sunday, February 25th: @kristis_literary_corner

Monday, February 26th: @karen_runwrightreads

Monday, February 26th: @sometimesrobinreads on TikTok

Tuesday, February 27th: @paperbacksandsketchbooks

Wednesday, February 28th: @readthisandsteep

Thursday, February 29th: @djreadsbooks

Grade A #BookReview: The Lantern’s Dance by Laurie R. King

Grade A #BookReview: The Lantern’s Dance by Laurie R. KingThe Lantern's Dance (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #18) by Laurie R. King
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss, supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, mystery
Series: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #18
Pages: 300
Published by Bantam on February 13, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, hoping for a respite in the French countryside, are instead caught up in a case that turns both bewildering and intensely personal.
After their recent adventures in Transylvania, Russell and Holmes look forward to spending time with Holmes' son, the famous artist Damian Adler, and his family. But when they arrive at Damian’s house, they discover that the Adlers have fled from a mysterious threat.
Holmes rushes after Damian while Russell, slowed down by a recent injury, stays behind to search the empty house. In Damian’s studio, she discovers four crates packed with memorabilia related to Holmes’ grand-uncle, the artist Horace Vernet. It’s an odd mix of treasures and clutter, including a tarnished silver lamp with a rotating an antique yet sophisticated form of zoetrope, fitted with strips of paper whose images dance with the lantern’s spin.
In the same crate is an old journal written in a nearly impenetrable code. Intrigued, Russell sets about deciphering the intricate cryptograph, slowly realizing that each entry is built around an image—the first of which is a child, bundled into a carriage by an abductor, watching her mother recede from view.
Russell is troubled, then entranced, but each entry she decodes brings more questions. Who is the young woman who created this elaborate puzzle? What does she have to do with Damian, or the Vernets—or the threat hovering over the house?
The secrets of the past appear to be reaching into the present. And it seems increasingly urgent that Russell figure out how the journal and lantern are related to Damian—and possibly to Sherlock Holmes himself.
Could there be things about his own history that even the master detective does not perceive?

My Review:

As Holmes himself once said, “Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms,” but as this 18th book in the continuing chronicles of Sherlock Holmes and his apprentice-turned-wife Mary Russell opens, Holmes is considerably more worried about the form that blood might take spilled from his son’s veins on the floor of the French cottage where Holmes adult son, Damien Adler, his young daughter Estelle and his wife-to-be Dr. Aileen Henning have set up house and home in Damien’s inheritance from his mother Irene Adler.

Someone, a man Adler described as a ‘lascar’ broke into his home in the middle of the night, kukri in hand, to do who knows what damage or cause who knows what type of mayhem.

Adler does his best to convince himself it was all a prank gone wrong. But Holmes, with too many enemies still lurking in his shady past and even his more circumspect present, is not nearly so sanguine about the whole thing. There are, after all, plenty of criminals who would like to put the squeeze on Sherlock Holmes by threatening his son and his granddaughter, and most likely even more powers and potentates who would be interested in having some leverage against that puller of the British Empire’s strings and minder of its webs, Mycroft Holmes, by kidnapping his nephew and great-niece.

Holmes’ primary concern, desire and dilemma, all in one gordian knot of emotions he is reluctant in the extreme to untangle, is to get Damien, Aileen and Estelle somewhere safe so that he can run the meager clues about the break in and its elusive perpetrator to ground. Possibly to put them in that ground if necessary.

Damien wants to continue his work as an up-and-coming surrealist artist – AND he wants his father to explain what the hell is going on. In other words, Damien Adler wants to be treated as the adult he is as well as protect his family.

While Russell is, at least at the outset, a bit of a ‘fifth wheel’ in this family drama of which she is more of an appendage that a central part. Unfortunately for her, an appendage with a sprained ankle, hobbling around on crutches, in the house where her predecessor, the famous and famously beautiful Irene Adler, once ruled. If her ankle wasn’t already making her miserable enough, this entire situation has more than enough undercurrents to discomfit even Russell.

So the dust on the initial break in settles with Damien in Paris, Holmes following behind to check for traps, tagalongs and any possible gathering of confederates, while Russell is left behind in Irene Adler’s old house, going through the detritus of codes long left unbroken and old family secrets. Only to discover that the reason for the break in has been hidden in plain sight, and that too many of the truths that Sherlock Holmes has believed all his life were lies all along.

And that more of that art in the blood that his son received in full measure from his mother’s well-known artistic family bore other, more mysterious fruit much closer to its source.

Escape Rating A: This one begins slowly, as Russell languishes – a bit – alone in the countryside while Holmes hares off to Paris and points beyond. At first, it felt like the story was creeping along, much as Russell is doing with her crutches. But Russell’s temporary infirmity forces her to sit still – something that chafes at her no end.

But that stillness – and the lack of ability to rush about after Holmes – forces her to take the time to explore her briefly confined circumstances. And thereby, quite literally, hangs this tale.

Also, and fascinatingly so, as Russell’s leg gets better, as she graduates from crutches to a cane to walking unaided, as she picks up her pace the story increases its pace in tandem. By the time she is able to unravel all of the mysteries, she is searching Paris on foot, chasing down leads and putting the pieces together at her – and her story’s – usual brisk pace.

So initially, while Holmes is the active partner and Russell is stuck in place, he’s actually spinning his wheels, trying to safeguard someone who refuses to obey orders, looking over his shoulder at every moment, and always operating at an information deficit as he’s forced to react to circumstances rather than think first and then act.

Russell has that luxury. She’s stuck, she has time to think, and plenty to think about. While Holmes and the rest of the family are running, she’s questioning the locals and exploring the house, where she finds clues that lead her to the true heart of the mystery – and to its bittersweet conclusion.

In the end, I did love this entry in the series, although it took me a bit to get there because of that slow start. But now that I’ve finished, I’m left with the impression that this is more of a family story than it is the kind of mystery that has more often been featured in this series, and in the Holmes canon and Russell Kanon in general. On this, the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice – the story where Russell nearly tripped over Holmes on the Sussex Downs – it feels right that we go back to, not their beginning, but rather to Holmes’ own beginning, and get a much clearer picture of where he came from and the forces that made him – and Mycroft for that matter – the men they became.

In other words, The Lantern’s Dance feels like a story that will be utterly riveting for fans of the series, but would not make a good place for a newcomer to start. If you have not yet had the pleasure of Mary Russell’s acquaintance, I highly recommend that you begin at the beginning, with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and settle in for a long and delightful read.

A- #BookReview: The Kamogawa Food Detectives by Hisashi Kashiwai, translated by Jesse Kirkwood

A- #BookReview: The Kamogawa Food Detectives by Hisashi Kashiwai, translated by Jesse KirkwoodThe Kamogawa Food Detectives (The Kamogawa Food Detectives, #1) by Hisashi Kashiwai, Jesse Kirkwood
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, foodie fiction
Series: Kamogawa Food Detectives #1
Pages: 208
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on February 13, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

The Kamogawa Food Detectives is the first book in the bestselling, mouth-watering Japanese series for fans of Before the Coffee Gets Cold.
What’s the one dish you’d do anything to taste just one more time?
Down a quiet backstreet in Kyoto exists a very special restaurant. Run by Koishi Kamogawa and her father Nagare, the Kamogawa Diner serves up deliciously extravagant meals. But that’s not the main reason customers stop by . . .
The father-daughter duo are ‘food detectives’. Through ingenious investigations, they are able to recreate dishes from a person’s treasured memories – dishes that may well hold the keys to their forgotten past and future happiness. The restaurant of lost recipes provides a link to vanished moments, creating a present full of possibility.
A bestseller in Japan, The Kamogawa Food Detectives is a celebration of good company and the power of a delicious meal.

My Review: 

“We find your food” is all the advertisement that the Kamogawa Diner – and the office of the Kamogawa Food Detectives located in the back of the tiny restaurant – either needs or wants.

Because that combination of slogan, motto and raison d’être says all that this father-daughter duo needs to say, either about the food they serve or the unique service they provide.

Taste and smell are inextricably linked to memory in ways that we all know, but are hard to articulate. It’s why the right perfume is so evocative, and why dishes we loved when we were children evoke such powerful memories.

Nagare Kamogawa and his adult daughter Koishi own, operate and investigate the dishes served at their diner. When someone comes in needing their special services, Koishi asks the questions and her father, a police detective turned masterchef, provides the answers in the form of a dish that brings back the memory that their client has been chasing down so hard, to no avail. At least until now.

The stories in this delightful little collection are the stories of their clients, each with a particular sharp need for something like closure of a loss that happened yesterday or long ago. They are pursuing a chance to commune one more time with someone they lost, someone they left behind, or someone they need to let go of.

Each comes to the diner with a vague memory of a time, a place, a person, and a dish upon which it all hangs together in a faded memory. Through recreating the dish, the Kamogawa Food Detectives give their clients one more chance to reconcile, or mourn, the person in that memory, whether it’s someone they lost or merely a part of themselves they left behind.

Like the cuisine that is mouth-wateringly described in each and every story, the memories are, for the most part, not sweet unless that sweetness is tinged with the bitterness of loss. Rather, each story is one to be savored, as is this whole, entirely delicious, slice of life at the home of the Kamogawa Food Detectives.

Escape Rating A-: This was absolutely the right book at the right time. In spite of being a loosely linked collection of short stories, it hung together MUCH better than yesterday’s book, to the point where I finished this little volume in one – admittedly hungry – sitting. At the end, my only negative thought about the book was that it wasn’t nearly enough.

Don’t go into this one hungry, because the descriptions of the food are every bit as tantalizing as the stories are savory – even the ones that describe something that might not be to one’s own taste. If these dishes are half as good as the descriptions in the book make them, I’d be willing to try them all.

I also couldn’t help but think of similar dishes, not in cuisine but in my own memory. Dishes that my grandmother made that neither my mother nor I were ever able to replicate. Love and nostalgia are seasonings that are difficult to duplicate, no matter how many times one has tried. (If you’re wondering, I can replicate my favorite dishes that my mother made. But my grandmother’s, no.)

I want to say this was sweet but based on the utterly tantalizing descriptions of the food, it would be more accurate to say that this was wonderfully umami, in other words, marvelously savory and absolutely delicious.

This is, honestly, a book that kind of defies description. You have to be there, within its magic, to get the full flavor of just how lovely it is. All I can say is that it is absolutely, delightfully, worth the read.

Speaking of magic, however, if the taste of The Kamogawa Food Detectives is as appealing to you as it was to me, if you would like to try something similar with a more overt hint of magic (I say more overt because it could easily be claimed that what these food detectives do IS magic) you might want to try The Nameless Detective by Tao Wong. The Kamogawa Food Detectives is also frequently cited as a readalike for Before the Coffee Gets Cold. Which I have not read YET, but certainly plan to in the months ahead.

The above recommendations will hopefully tide you over until your next delicious visit to The Kamogawa Food Detectives. This book is the first in a series of seven in the original Japanese, and the second book, The Restaurant of Lost Recipes, will be published in English in October.

I’m already salivating for another taste!