Mystery Monday | The Mitford Scandal (Mitford Murders #3) by Jessica Fellowes

Mystery Mondays is an occasional review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (occasionally  thriller) genre that I am currently reading and my thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what I should read and review next.

Who is it by? Jessica Fellowes is an English author and freelance journalist. Before The Mitford Murders series, she wrote several official companion books to the television series, Downton Abbey. The Mitford Scandal is the third book in The Mitford Murders series. Interestingly enough, her uncle Julian Fellowes is the creator of Downton Abbey and a well-known English novelist, film director and screenwriter, and actor. She currently resides in Oxfordshire with her family.

What is it about? Louisa Cannon is a woman who longs for more than her impoverished life thus far. While working at a glitzy society party, another maid is found murdered and amidst all the chaos fortune heir Bryan Guinness decides to propose to prettiest of the Mitford sisters, Diana who is only 18 years old. Despite being free from the Mitford family, Louisa ends up leaving her shop job to become Diana’s lady maid joining Dian in her newly wedded life. A couple years later a similar murder has Louisa thinking the two could perhaps be connected…

Where does it take place? Partly in Paris, France and partly in London, England during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Why did I pick this book? I love a good historical mystery and the plot of The Mitford Scandal had me intrigued. What I didn’t realize was that the Mitford sisters were real historical figures who were all truly fascinating people in their own right. In The Mitford Scandal, Fellowes does two things quite well. The first is she is great at setting the scene and capturing the emotional states of all her characters. The other thing I enjoyed was the writing which was both sharp and witty. I also loved how detailed the descriptions were. That being said, I found that I wasn’t all that invested in the story. I only found Guy’s chapters to be interesting and he wasn’t even the protagonist! For a book that was supposed to be a murder mystery, I was disappointed with the lack of focus on any of the investigations. The majority of the book instead revolved around Diana Mitford, who was the employer of Louisa, the protagonist. We get to see Diana’s life, both before and after her marriage while all the disappearances, deaths and murders were relegated to being side plots. The pacing of the book was also a bit weird with all the time jumps and it was difficult to remain invested in a mystery that was stretched over such a long time frame. Recommended for those who want more of a historical and less of mystery read as well as those who are curious about Diana Mitford and her sisters.

When did it come out? January 21st 2020

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Mystery Monday | Foresight (Uncle Chow Tung #2) by Ian Hamilton

Mystery Mondays is an occasional review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (occasionally  thriller) genre that I am currently reading and my thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what I should read and review next.

Who is it by? Ian Hamilton, a Canadian authour of the now 11 novels in the Ava Lee series. His Ava Lee series has recently been green lit to be adapted into a TV series by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Foresight is the second book in his newest Uncle Chow Tung series which stars a younger version of Ava Lee’s mentor and former business partner.

What is it about? The betting shops run by Fanling Triad gang are losing money because of the competition from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Chow Tung’s men are starting to lose trust in him and are turning towards other means to make their money. In an effort to increase their profits, Chow Tung aka “Uncle” decides to take a risk by quickly investing in the textile industry in Shenzhen. By doing so he will not only create new partnerships but also encounter enemies both new and old along the way.

Where does it take place? 1980s Hong Kong and China in particular Shenzhen which is directly across the border from Hong Kong.

Why did I like it? Following the events of Fate, Chow Tung aka “Uncle” is now head of the Fanling triads. I was looking forward to see more of his adventures since Ian Hamilton has two more books lined up in his Uncle Chow Tung series, Foresight and Fortune which is due out in 2021. Unfortunately, it took some time for me to get invested in Foresight’s plot compared to Fate and this may be because of all the financial and business “talks” that occur in the book. The book does eventually pick up and there are a few interesting twists and reveals especially with regards to the political loyalty and government in China. Hamilton’s writing is of course also as sharp as always, and he does an excellent job at capturing the small details and showing the emotional turmoil of his characters. I’m not sure if I will pick up Fortune as its clear, especially after this book that I’m much more interested in Ava Lee’s journey compared with Uncle’s past.

When did it come out? January 21st 2020

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

Authour:
Robin Ha
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 28th 2020 by
Publisher:
Balzer + Bray
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
 Almost American Girl is a graphic novel memoir written and illustrated by Robin Ha. Though it resembles a YA novel, it is also based on the creator’s life experience. The book starts with Ha Chuna aka Robin being told by her mother that they are going to the US to visit a friend. However, shortly after they arrive, she learns that she and her mother will not be returning to South Korea as her mother will be marrying her “friend”. The rest of the book follows Robin’s journey as she struggles to adjust to her new life while dealing with the challenges you would expect she’d face including difficult step-siblings, unpleasant food, bullying, and trying to adapt to a new culture and language.

While Almost American Girl is Robin’s story, it also reads as a “love letter” to her mother who over the course of the novel faces several setbacks but shows enormous strength and resilience. Furthermore, while Robin’s passion for art is central to this book, her love and admiration for her mother is just as obvious. I do however wish we had more time with “adult” Robin as the jump from her high school years to her adult years felt a bit rushed near the end. It would have been interesting to get more of a glimpse of her time in Korea as an adult as well as her life in the “present”. Though I understand why this was not the case since the book is meant to be more for a YA audience and of course there is not enough room to fit everything in.

This being a graphic novel, I can’t forget to talk about the illustrations. As a result of reading and reviewing the ARC, my copy of the book was mostly in black and white with only the first few pages in full colour. Personally I did not mind this as it felt as if I was reading manga plus it also helps keep the focus on Robin’s story. Other than that, I found the artwork to be simple and clean throughout. However, the art is also incredibly detailed when it came to the backgrounds and in highly emotional moments as both the detailed facial expressions of the characters and the backgrounds helped to set the mood for these scenes. Another interesting visual element in this book, which was also an example of visual elements replacing words was how scribbles and symbols were used to show the words and the occasional conversations that Robin couldn’t fully understand.

A worthwhile read, Robin Ha’s Almost American Girl is for the kid (or adult) who feels or has ever felt like an “outsider” and can relate to the awkward and painful moments of growing up in America.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Authour:
Abigail Hing Wen
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 7th 2020
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
I love exchanges, especially ones where my travel expenses are mostly covered, so I would have killed to have the opportunity that was forced upon Everett aka “Ever” by her parents. Fortunately with Loveboat, Taipei I felt I was right by Ever’s side experiencing her culture and “freedom” from her parents for the first time.

Those who are children of immigrant parents, myself included will find that they are able to relate to at least part of Ever’s story and the pressure and guilt trips she faces from her parents, especially her mother. While my brother and I were never pressured by my parents to become doctors, we both were “encouraged” to pick “safe” majors and careers. This may be why I couldn’t help be root for Ever, as it was clear that she was incredibly passionate about dance and that it was obvious that this was what she was meant to do.

In addition to Ever, we are also introduced to Rick and Sophie who are cousins as well as Xavier, who at first glance appears to be your typical wealthy, playboy. In Abigail Hing Wen’s hands these teens become more than your ordinary character archetypes. For instance Xavier’s life isn’t perfect and he actually hides a sensitive and caring side while Sophie, who befriends Ever has her own issues and isn’t just a fun, ditzy, cheerleader who only exists to support Ever. Both Xavier and Sophie have their own problems and agendas and they’re not immune to reacting and taking action in the heat of the moment. The same can be said for Rick who is seen as the “golden boy”, while it’s true that compared to the others, he has a charmed life it’s not without its own stresses that mostly come from his family’s disapproval of his girlfriend as well as her dependence on him.

As with any excellent contemporary YA novel, there is both drama and romance in Loveboat, Taipei. I knew from the start who I wanted to end up together and since I was satisfied with the romance so I did not mind the love triangle. That being said, I do believe that since Loveboat, Taipei tried to tackle countless serious topics at once including parental pressure and guilt, mental illness, harassment, leaking of nude images, parental abuse and abandonment they often weren’t addressed properly due to lack of space and time in the book. Furthermore, with the drama I felt like some characters got off too easily for example, Sophie who I felt was quickly forgiven for her actions. While I was sympathetic to her character I did not fully buy into her “redemption” and wished she faced more consequences.

Loveboat, Taipei actually lived up to my expectations. The story was perfectly paced and the writing flow well. It also made me tear up a few times while warming my heart at other times. Sure there was plenty of drama, as expected when you have a large group of young people who are free from their usual family obligation and responsibilities, I personally found that the amount of drama was just enough to keep readers invested in the characters and the story.

Taiwan was never high on my travel bucket list, however having lived vicariously through Ever’s adventures I may be reconsidering it as a travel destination. I can’t wait for the next book and I am crossing my fingers that it will focus more on Sophie or Xavier or even both of them!!

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Authour:
Tara Sim
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 7th 2020
Publisher:
Disney Hyperion
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
In this gender bent retelling of the classic novel, The Count of Monte Cristo the “Count” is now a fierce and cunning young girl named Amaya Chandra who goes infiltrates the wealthy circles of Moray as the Countess Yamaa to get revenge

Scavenge the Stars was a compelling take on both the “girl gets revenge” trope and The Count of Monte Cristo. However, while I can appreciate the fact that Amaya was unskilled as she was still just a teen, I wish her motivation for revenge was more personal as it would have made for a more compelling story. Still, I did love her character’s journey. The same can’t be said about Cayo, I’m not sure what other characters saw in him, other than his family name and him supposedly being attractive but I was not a fan. Although, I did find his devotion to his sister admirable. As for the rest of the cast of characters, I liked the children who helped Amaya on her revenge request, though I felt like they weren’t truly fleshed out. Same with the villains in the book, they seemed like straight forward “scoundrels” which is unfortunate as I wish the conflict was more “grey” and Boon and Kamon Mercado had more redeeming qualities since the “heroes” in Scavenge the Stars definitely had their flaws.

While the plot, pacing and writing were solid for the majority of the novel, I felt that towards the end the story began to lose momentum and it did not pick up again until the last pages of the book. That being said, the ending did slightly redeem the story as the new twists introduced that are connected to the larger geography and politics in book’s world has me looking forward to the next book in this duology. So, if you’re looking for a well written, more diverse revenge story and do not mind the lack of romance or somewhat messy world building then consider picking up Scavenge the Stars.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Map from Here to There by Emery Lord

Authour:
Emery Lord
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
January 7th 2020
Publisher:
Bloomsbury YA
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
The Start of Me and You was probably my least favourite of Emery Lord’s books nevertheless I still loved the book and Paige and her friends so I was beyond excited when a sequel was announced!

The Map from Here to There picks up a few months after the events of The Start of Me and You, Paige is working at her local movie theater for the summer and excited for her boyfriend, Max’s return. Readers may want to re-read The Start of Me and You again along with the bonus chapter as a refresher is definitely recommended before diving into this book. One of the reasons I found it difficult to dive into this book initially was as I couldn’t remember everything that happened in the first book. However, once I remembered I did enjoy being back in the world of Paige and her group of friends.

The romance in this book was another matter. Paige and Max are no longer in the honeymoon phase of their relationship. The cracks are starting to form and while I appreciated how their relationship goes through the challenges that I’m sure countless couples in their last year of high school faced, I can’t help but feel that the majority of their conflict was just created to add drama and excitement to the story. Furthermore, I was a bit disappointed that they barely interacted with each other once Max came back, although this probably was why they encountered the problems that they did. Nonetheless, I did like where we leave them in the end.

What I liked about The Map from Here to There was its accurate portrayal of the struggle teens face when it comes to anxiety and senior year of high school in addition to thinking about what comes next. I also loved the correspondences between Max and Paige as those sections were probably the best part of the book.

If I’m being honest, my main complaint would be that not much happens in this book. Compared to Emery Lord’s other books, the pacing for The Map from Here to There was a great deal slower, and other than the relationship drama not much else happens in this book. The book also ends on a rather abrupt albeit hopeful note, and while it would have been nice to see what school, Paige ended up picking it was realistic for her not to have yet decided by the end of the book. So perhaps my expectations for this book were over the top, but The Map from Here to There was a bit of a letdown. And while I am curious to see where the gang ends up, I’m not sure I need read another book about Paige.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.