Review: A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

A Dangerous Collaboration
  • Series: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery (Book 4)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (March 12, 2019)

A Dangerous Collaboration (A Veronica Speedwell Mystery) by Deanna Raybourn is the fourth Veronica Speedwell mystery. Normally, I don’t read series books, but I’m glad I read this one.  I’ve added A Curious Beginning (A Veronica Speedwell Mystery Book 1) to my reading list.  I understand book 5 is underway!

A Dangerous Collaboration takes place in 1888 at a castle on an island in Cornwall, England.  This is a terrific setting for a who-done-it mystery.

Veronica is a feisty women for her time.  She is independent and vows never to marry.  Stoker is her colleague/love interest.  I enjoyed the sexual tension between the two of them.

The mystery is entertaining.  The lord of the castle gathers various people together to find out what had caused his new bride to suddenly disappear.

This was my first read on the Kindle Paperwhite.  The ability to look up words on the fly came in handy while reading this novel.  Not being familiar with some of the words did not hamper my enjoyment of this novel.  The Kindle Paperwhite has a Vocabulary Builder feature.  I’ll share part of the definitions of a few words here:


n. <DATED> a women in charge of a large house.  <SPECIAL USAGE> HISTORICAL a set of short chains attached to a women’s belt, used for carrying keys or other items.

<ORIGIN> mid 19th cent.: from French chatelain, from medieval latin castellanus


1 CHIEFLY HISTORICAL a woman’s small handbag, originally netted and typically having drawstring and decorate with embroidery or beading.

<ORIGIN> easy 18th cent.:from French reticule, from Latin reticulum.


n. a British nobleman ranking above a baron and below an earl.

<ORIGIN>late Middle English: from Old French visconte, from medieval Latin vicecomes, vicecomit

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Review: Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

once upon a river

Once Upon a River: A Novel by Diane Setterfield begins, (circa 1887) at the Swan at Radcot, a pub along the Thames River where folks regularly gather to drink and tell stories.  One night something considered impossible occurs at the pub.

“For another hour they talked.  Every detail of the day’s events were gone over, the facts were weighed and combined, quantities of surmising, eavesdropping, and supposition were stirred in for flavor, and a good sprinkling of rumor was added like yeast to make it rise.” – Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield  – p. 158

Each chapter in the novel becomes almost a story in itself.  I enjoyed the novel, but took breaks between chapters as the writing was intricate and I needed to take extra time to let the chapters settle in my mind.  I did indeed enjoy each chapter and looked forward to picking up the book for the next epesode as I knew I would be in for a treat.

As the novel continues and we learn about the lives of people along the river,  various tangents begin to relate to one another, the suspense builds and I did not want to put the book down.

The author asks us to suspend disbelief.  If a thing is impossible, does that mean it didn’t happen?

“just ’cause a thing’s impossible don’t mean it can’t happen.” – p. 301

Once Upon A River checked off some of the things I especially like.  It is historical fiction and the characters are fully developed.

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Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

little fires everywhere
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 11 hours and 27 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio
  • Release Date: September 12, 2017

My Review ( 5 Stars: Loved it!)

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is a well written, well thought out story.  The first half is devoted to laying ground work and building characters, the second half is to the engrossing plot.

Set in the time period around 1980, I’ve tagged this novel as Historical Fiction as it describes the times of that period (making me feel old).  I remember the history and time period well.

I read/listened to Little Fires Everywhere in starts and stops and found it was no problem picking up where I left off and no problem enjoy each and every chapter.  The narrator, Jennifer Lim, did an excellent job.

At the heart of this story are two families, at different sides of the spectrum, one very domestic and middle-class with a mother, father, and four children and the other a mother and daughter who are nomads.  The children are adolescents.  The focus of the novel is the mother/child relationship.  I am amazed at the number of perspective Ng manages to bring into this story.

While I have marked this novel as Historical Fiction, the 1980s were not too long ago and the issues at the heart of this novel have not changed much.

In Ng’s previous, debut, novel, Everything I Never Told You, family dynamics and disconnects were central to the story.  So far, this is common theme in her work.

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Book Brief: Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Pope Joan

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 19 hours and 24 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Recorded Books
  • Release Date: September 24, 2009

Barbara Rosenblat (Narrator)

My Review (3 Stars: Liked it)

I listened to Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross.  It is about a women, in the 9th century who becomes the Pope.  It is historical fiction that has gotten high marks, but I struggled getting started with it.  However, even though it has difficult vocabulary and even many words in Latin, I enjoyed the story and wondered how much of it is based on believed truths.  Almost toward the end, I was compelled to look up information about this pope and got a clue to how the story ended.

At the center of this novel is the stark contrast between men and women’s places in society.

The narrator had a gruff voice and I wasn’t sure I liked it.  However, she did represent the various character’s voices distinctly which helped in following the narration.

There is a movie based on this novel, that got less than stellar marks.

Movie Trailer

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Book Review: My Notorious Life by Kate Manning

My Notorious Life

My Notorious Life: A Novel by Kate Manning

Terry Donnelly (Narrator), Simon & Schuster Audio (Publisher)

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 19 hours and 59 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Audible Release Date: September 10, 2013

My Review (5 Stars – Loved it!)

My Notorious Life: A Novel by Kate Manning is historical fiction and takes place mainly during the second half of the nineteenth century in New York City.  The protagonist, Axie Muldoon, daughter of Irish Immigrants, becomes an orphan and then becomes the notorious Madam X, searched out for her superior mid-wife skills as well as treatment for other female troubles.

This is a long novel (approximately 20 hrs.); however, I breezed right through it.  I must admit, having my own Irish ancestry, grandparents arriving in NYC in the early twentieth century, I was automatically fond of Axie.  She tells her story in the most interesting and fun way, even though the main topics are very serious.

I am also fond of Historical Fiction.  The author, Kate Manning, does a suburb job in representing this era.  Women of all classes come to Axie for help under their dire circumstances.  Axie does not turn them away, despite the peril she places herself in.  I doubt I will ever forget Axie.

Whatever side of women’s issues you find yourself on, I think you will enjoy this novel.

I highly recommend the audio version of this novel.  Axie has an Irish/New York accent and way of speaking which adds to the enjoyment of this novel.

Purchase From Amazon

What Others Are Saying

“Axie’s profane Irish brogue is vividly recreated with virtually no anachronistic slips, and though a certain degree of polemical crusading is unavoidable given Axie’s proclivities, her voice never fails to entertain. – Kirkus Review

“Kate Manning has written a compelling novel about the plight of women and reproductive rights, and of course, the battle over these issues continues today. Highly recommended!” – Book of Secrets

Video (From The Author’s Website)



Review: Lust For Life by Irving Stone

 by Irving Stone

My Review (4 Stars ~ Liked it a lot!)

If you are curious about the famous man who created famous art work, Vincent Van Gogh, then this book is for you.  The reason I rated it four stars instead of five is that it seemed a little too long.  Other than that, it was very insightful and entertaining.  This is historical fiction largely based on facts.  The novel was initially published in 1934.

The author, Irving Stone, based his story on Vincent’s letters written to his bother Theo.  Theo was Vincent’s benefactor and supported him throughout his life.

Vincent wrote Theo over 600 letters during his short lifespan.

In the novel, it is mentioned that Van Gogh wanted to know his subjects more so that he could better paint them.  Knowing more about Van Gogh helps to better understand his art.  I didn’t know much about Van Gogh and feel now, after reading Lust For Life, I can understand his art work much better.

The narrator kept my interest, however he used the same type of voice for several of the different female characters.  The time periods were distinct, so it really didn’t matter much.


Read More or Purchase from Amazon
Read More (Currently out of print.)

I wanted to see some of the works described in the  novel and so purchased the hard copy – (coffee table book) – Vincent by Himself: A Selection of Van Gogh’s Paintings and Drawings Together with Extracts from His Letters.  I highly recommend this book, if you can find it, or one like it, as a companion to Lust For Life.

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Review: Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum (audiobook)

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum (audiobook)

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 15 hours and 56 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Recorded Books
  • Release Date: September 15, 2009

My Review (3 Stars: Liked it!)

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum is a Jewish holocaust story focused on the question of the culpability of Germain citizens.  The author uses great vocabulary and descriptions.  However, like these stories are, it was upsetting and disturbing to listen to.  These descriptive stories of atrocities tend to make me sleep less well.

The narrator, Suzanne Toren, has a pleasant voice and added a nice touch of reality, using the German language and accent in different parts.

While listening to the ~16 hours, I fell asleep a couple of times and needed to backtrack.  The story goes back and forth in time.  My audible version of this novel does not have chapters label correctly, which made it difficult to  backtrack.

First Paragraph

HarcourtBooks, 2004 (from my local library)


Trudy and Anna, 1993

The funeral is well attended, the New Heidelberg Lutheran Church packed to capacity with farmers and their families who have come to bid farewell to one of their own.  Since every seat is full, they also line the walls and crowd the vestibule.  The men are comically unfamiliar in dark suits; they don’t get this dressed up for regular services.  The women, however, wear what the do every Sunday no matter what the weather, skirt-and-sweater sets with hose and pumps.  Their parkas, which are puffy and incongruous and signify the imminent return to life’s practicalities, are their sole concession to the cold.  …

Anna and Max,

Weimar, 1939-1940


The evening is typical enough until the dog begins to choke.  And even then, at first, Anna doesn’t both to turn from the Rouladen she is stuffing for the dinner that she and her father, Gerhard, will share, for the dachshund’s energetic gagging doesn’t strike her as anything unusual.  The dog, Spaetzle, is forever eating something he shouldn’t, savaging chicken carcasses and consuming heels of bread without chewing, and such greed is inevitable followed by retching.  Privately, Anna thinks him a horrid little creature and has ever since he was first presented to her five years ago on her fourteenth birthday, a gift from her father just after her mother’s death, as if in compensation.  It is perhaps unfair to resent Spaetzle for this, he is also chronically ill-tempered, snapping with his yellowed fangs at everyone except Gerhard; he is really her father’s pet.  And grossly fat, as Gerhard is always slipping him tidbits, despite his hallowed admonitions to Anna of Do not! Feed!  The dog!  From!  The table!

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Review: Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

 by Anna Quindlen – Unabridged – purchased ($14.95) via iBooks – presented by – from Brilliance Audio.

Narrator: Brittany Pressley

Length: 8 hr 9 min


Advance Reader’s Copy (via NetGalley), Random House, 2016

My Review (5 Stars: Loved It!)

I received an ARC e-book for review, free of charge from NetGalley, but due to a back injury decided to purchase the audio version.

Listening to audiobooks is new to me.  Miller’s Valley was the first one I chose to listen to on my new iPod.

It was an excellent choice.  I did not expect a production, but it was one, by narrator, Brittany Pressley. She voiced each character differently.  I think I am hooked now on audiobooks.

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Review: The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

 by Lynda Cohen Loigman

St. Martin’s Press, New York, First Edition March 2016

My Review (5 Stars: Loved it!)

In The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman, there are many memorable and touching scenes.

This is a story about two Jewish families; two brothers, their wives and their children.

Brothers, Mort and Abe, couldn’t be more different.  Abe is outgoing, Mort is introverted.  Abe has four sons, Mort has three daughters.

Abe and Mort run a box company together in Brooklyn.  Their families were always close.  They shared a duplex with Abe’s family living upstairs and Mort’s family living downstairs.

One night, after a winter blizzard, the family dynamic changed.  Abe and Mort’s wives were once close friends, but became estranged.  During that night, stranded at home, they each gave birth to their youngest child (one-girl, one-boy).

The story begins in 1947.  The changes taking place during the next 21 years or so after the storm are totally engrossing.  We are left wondering about the nature and uniqueness of families.

Loigman, in her debut novel, shows us there is usually more than one side to a story and pulls at our heart strings as we read this family saga.

I’d also like to give a nod to the historical aspects of this novel.  I felt transported to that time period.

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Review: Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon


Flight of Dreams: A Novel by Ariel Lawhon

Double Day a Division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2016

My Review (4 Stars: Liked It A Lot!)

In Flight of Dreams, author, Ariel Lawhon puts us on the Hindenburg, from it’s majestical take off to it’s disastrous landing.
Lawhon presents a suspenseful fictional account, character driven, that shows us the luxury flight was all but ‘uneventful.’

The flight from Germany to New Jersey took approximately four days.  In Flight of Dreams we count down these days.

It took awhile to get into this novel.  There are a variety of passenger stories that intertwine.  We are cleverly moved along in the story by chapters (sub-stories) of the characters, including, but not limited to, The Stewardess, The Journalist, The American, The Cabin Boy, and The Navigator.  By the conclusion, we gain a greater appreciation for the tragedy that occurred on that fateful day in May and the humanity that was lost.

I think many people, at least my age, have heard of the Hindenburg tragedy.  Before starting this fictional account,  I wanted to see how people actually traveled in the Hindenburg, and learn a little more about the facts.  So, I checked the Internet and found some interesting photos and information, which gained more meaning after reading this novel.  Here are a couple of links: A Dirigible and Zeppelin History Site: The Hindenburg’s Interior: Passenger Decks

Hindenburg disaster:

The Hindenburg disaster took place on Thursday, May 6, 1937, as the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast at Naval Air Station Lakehurst in Manchester TownshipNew Jersey, United States. Of the 97 people on board (36 passengers and 61 crewmen), there were 35 fatalities (13 passengers and 22 crewmen). One worker on the ground was also killed, making a total of 36 fatalities. – Hindenburg disaster:

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Review: The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris


The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris

Kensington Publishing Corp., 2015

My Review (5 Stars: Loved it!)

This story begins in Dublin, Ireland – March 1919.  We follow, orphaned, twelve-year old, Shanley Keagan’s journey to America and his life, from the shores of New York City, across the country, to the California shores of Alcatraz.

Author, Kristina McMorris paints an amazing story of how Shan, with the love and support of others, is given a second chance at living the American Dream in New York.

This is a story of second chances and then maybe third and fourth, as Shan has many ups and downs during his journey.  There are multiple twists before reaching the end of the novel.

Being second generation – Irish American, I was intrigued by the beginning of Shan’s story in Ireland, how he got to America, how he lived in New York and what his fate was.

It is unusual for me to read historical fiction, in a day, but that is what I did with The Edge of Lost.  Author, Kristina McMorris does historical fiction during that time period well.  I was introduced to her writing in The Pieces We Keep.  I also read her work in a collection of short stories in Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion.  All three of these works are rated five stars in my book.

I would like to thank the author Kristina McMorris, Kensington Publishing Corp. and the SheReads organization for sending me this book, free of charge, for review.

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Review: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Emily Bestler Books, Atria, 2013

My Review (4 Stars: Liked it a lot!)

I liked The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult a lot.  However, it is about the Holocaust and is violent and graphic in detail at times.  After reading Part I, I was disturbed by the story and questioned whether I would continue.  I did continue as the author’s writing style is engaging and it was my local book club’s selection.

There are basically three stories going on in this novel.  Part II, is Minka’s story where she is a Polish, Jewish adolescent during the Holocaust.  Part I and Part III is the story about Minka’s granddaughter, Sage, a baker, and her friend, Mr. Weber, a man in his nineties, who was a German SS soldier, and is hiding in America.

The third storyline, and probably the most disturbing, is the fictional story written by Minka during the German occupation of Poland.  It is about an upiór  (vampire).  This story is told in italicized parts at the beginning of sections throughout the novel and pulls together many threads in the end.

This book raises a lot of questions about war, good vs. evil, family, love, forgiveness, justice, revenge, mercy and more.  There is, in my opinion, a lot of symbolism in this novel.  I am looking forward to a lively discussion at my book club meeting.  I’m glad I continued reading it.

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