Book Report {March 2015}

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Are you in need of a good book to sink your teeth into?  If so, then I have some awesome suggestions for you today! I'm a voracious reader, so I typically finish several books a month.  When I read a good book, I want to share it with the world and this month, I have SIX books to share with you in my Book Report for March 2015!

Last month, I didn't have a book report to share with you guys, because I didn't finish a single book in February!  I can't remember the last time that happened, but what can I say...it was a BUSY month!

This month, while also busy, found me laid up in bed with the flu for a week and flying home to Atlanta for a weekend for a visit with my family and a friend's wedding. Soooo....I had oodles of time to read!  Since I lucked up with numerous good books, I tore through several of them pretty quickly.

The Masque of a Murderer (by Susanna Calkins)

The Masque of a Murderer is the third part in the Lucy Campion Mystery series.  I've reviewed Part 1 (A Murder at Rosamund's Gate) and Part 2 (From the Charred Remains) previously, so I was excited to read the third book in the series!

All three books are set in 17th century London.  Parts 1 and 2 take us through the Great Plague and the Great Fire where Lucy, a chambermaid turned printer's apprentice, gets bitten by the detective bug.  She assists the local constable in investigating key murders.  

In The Masque of a Murderer, Lucy once again gets involved in a murder investigation.  This time, the victim is a friend of Sarah, the daughter of the magistrate she used to work for.  As she accompanies Sarah to the deathbed of her fellow Quaker, he reveals to her a potential threat to his family and insists his 'accident' was an intentional act of someone else.

Once again, Lucy works closely with the constable and the magistrate to uncover the clues and catch the killer before they can harm the dead man's family.  But can they catch the killer in time?

***

As with the first two books in this series, I really enjoyed Lucy's character and the story.  With the first book, I guessed the killer before it was revealed, but not so in this book!  I was kept in suspense until the end, so I thoroughly enjoyed the surprise!

In the interest of full disclosure, I was contacted by the author and asked if I would like to review the book in preparation for the release of the new book.  I was provided with an advance copy and this book will go on sale April 14.  All opinions are mine and completely honest.  Since you have two weeks until this book goes on sale, that gives you plenty of time to grab the first two books and read through them in preparation for the release of this one!  If you love a good mystery, you won't regret it!

After the War is Over: A Novel (by Jennifer Robson)

After the War is Over is the continuation of the book Somewhere in France that I reviewed back in September 2014.  As with the first book, this was awesome!  The first book focused on the story from Lady Elizabeth's perspective with Charlotte Brown being her friend and former governess.  The book continues the story, but this time from the perspective of Charlotte.  

It's just after the end of World War 1 and the world is trying to get back on their feet.  Charlotte, a former military nurse back from the trenches, works for an organization that helps war veterans and their families.  She sees the heartache and destitution daily.  Eventually she reaches out to a local newspaper to voice her concerns and begins writing on a weekly basis bringing attention to the cause.  

Meanwhile, Edward, her former employer, sister of her dear friend Lady Elizabeth, and the love of her life is recuperating from a serious war injury.  He's tired, bitter, and feeling quite sorry for himself.  With Charlotte's help, he is finally able to start life fresh and do good for his fellow veterans.  On the personal front, his feelings for Charlotte are alive and well, but their difference in social classes prevents them from moving forward with any type of relationship.

***

This story is a mix of love and disappointments.  It's written in such a way that the story moves along quickly and pulls you in until you turn the last page.  Without spoiling anything, I will say I loved the ending, despite it's rather abrupt conclusion.  I would've loved to  have a little bit more and I'm hoping for a third book in the series!

The Accidental Empress (by Allison Pataki)

The Accidental Empress was amazing!!!  This was easily the best book I've read in the past several months.  This is the second book by Allison Pataki and it was just as good as her first book, The Traitor's Wife.  

It's the mid-1800's in the Austrian Empire of Eastern Europe.  Elisabeth, better known as Sisi, is the spirited 15 year old Duchess of Bavaria.  Her older sister, Helene, is summoned to Vienna as a potential bride for their cousin, Franz Joseph.  

Franz is the young, handsome Emperor of the Austrian Empire and it's time he marries and produces heirs.  Sisi accompanies her sister and mother to Vienna for the meeting and impending engagement.  Helene, a quiet introspective girl, isn't overly excited about the idea of being forced into marriage, especially to a marriage that would be so public and require a lot of social engagements.  Upon meeting the Emperor, however, he is immediately taken with Sisi.  Sisi, not realizing the handsome 'guard' is actually the Emperor is equally taken with him.  What was supposed to be a courtship between Franz and Helene turns into a one between Franz and Sisi.  Against his mother's wishes, he selects Sisi and her life turns upside down.

The rest of the story chronicles her marriage to Franz and her dealings with the royal life in Austria and Hungary, leading up to the union of Austria and Hungary.  Despite the passionate love both Sisi and Franz initially felt in their marriage, it was a very difficult union for both.

***

I found it fascinating to read how royal life was at the time.  I loved the rich detail, the colorful backdrop on which the story unfolds, and each of the characters.  I now have a huge desire to visit Vienna and Budapest!!

The Girl on the Train (by Paula Hawkins)

The Girl on the Train was a gripping who-done-it that pulled me and didn’t let me go until the last page!  It’s set in modern London (2012-2013 to be exact) and the story is told from the perspective of three women who’s lives are completely different, yet tragically intertwined with one another - Rachel, Megan, and Anna.

Rachel, the girl on the train, is in her early 30s, divorced, and an alcoholic.  You could say she’s a bit of a mess and she’s our main character.  Anna is the woman that stole her husband and is now the new wife of Rachel’s ex-husband and a new mother.  Rachel hasn’t quite gotten over her ex-husband and pretty much drives Anna crazy by forcing herself to still being in the picture.  Megan is Anna’s neighbor and one of the main players in Rachel’s fantasy world (even though Rachel has never met her).

Rachel rides the train to and from London every day to go to work.  About half way in the journey, the train stops for a signal change, which is right outside her old neighborhood.  Not only can she see her old house that she shared with her husband (who still lives there with Anna and their daughter), but she can also see the home of Megan and her husband, Scott.  

Megan and Scott are routinely outside when the train passes and over time, Rachel creates a story about their lives to fill her boredom on the train.  In her mind, they have the perfect marriage and the perfect lives.  She looks for them everyday and one day, she spots something a little off.  The next day, Megan goes missing.  

Rachel can’t help but to want to get involved and devises a way to meet Scott by pretending she was friends with Megan.  As she gets further and further involved, she unknowingly puts herself in danger.  Overriding all of this, is the ongoing issues with her ex-husband and Anna.

***

This book was a fast read and one that surprised me in the end!  The story was well developed while keeping the suspense!  Rachel is not a likable character, but you can’t help but root for her and hope she finally catches a break in life.  All of the supporting characters, from Anna to Megan to Scott and Rachel’s ex-husband are all a pretty nasty group of people, but thrown into the mix together and they form a very engaging story that will have you flipping pages until you get to the last paragraph!  

If you love an intriguing crime mystery, then add this one to your ‘must read’ list!

Secrets of a Charmed Life (by Susan Meisner)

Sharing my favorite reads from March 2015 in my monthly book report.

I loved Secrets of a Charmed Life so muchthat I finished it in 24 hours…I just couldn’t put it down!  Secrets of a Charmed Life is told from the perspective a 93 year old woman named Isabel.  She’s retelling her experiences during World War II as a child that was evacuated from London with her younger sister.  The story flips between modern times where she’s recounting the story to a young college student named Kendra that is using her experiences as part of a term paper, to those dark and difficult times of the war.  

It’s a story of 2 sisters - one 15 and the other 8 - at the beginning of the blitz.  They were evacuated to the English countryside where they lived for the summer of 1940.  On September 7, 1940, the blitz on London began.  Unbeknownst to the two sisters, they had ran away from their foster home to return to London for the day.  

After the bombings began, the sisters were separated and had no way to find each other.  Isabel, the oldest sister, spent years searching for her younger sister Isabel.  While I won’t tell you if she actually finds her or not, the story spans a life of loss, regret, and love found.  

While the story doesn’t spend too much time in London during the blitz, it was enough to recount the horrors of the early days when the Germans bombed London almost daily.  Tens of thousands were killed, hundreds of thousands lost their homes, and families were separated.  

***

If you love historical fiction, this book is one that will stay with you after reading the last page.  The characters are so well developed you feel you know them.  The description of the places is so well done, I can easily see them in my mind, and the feeling of the characters jumps right off the pages and into your heart.  It’s a fantastic read!!

Blue Heart Blessed (by Susan Meisner)

Sharing my favorite reads from March 2015 in my monthly book report.

The Blue Heart Blessed is a quick read and a very sweet story.  It's set in Minnesota in current times and centers around the owner of a lovely wedding gown shop who also manages the apartment building that's above her shop.  The cast of characters come from the residents of the apartment building with a few other interesting folks tossed in the mix.

Not too long ago, Daisy was planning the wedding of her dreams, complete with the dress of her dreams.  All of that was shattered when the fiance she adored broke things off shortly before the big day.  Devastated and trying to piece her life together, she decides to open a wedding dress shop with the inspiration of finding homes for used (or unused, in her case) wedding gowns.

One of her neighbors and tenants in her building is retired Episcopal priest, Father Laurent.  Father Laurent fills a fatherly role for Daisy.  He listens and offers words of wisdom when she needs it most.  He also blesses little blue silk hearts that she sews into each wedding dress as an attempt to bless the dress and allow the new owner a chance at happiness and love.

Just as she starting to feel life balancing out, Father Laurent suffers a heart attack.  His son, Ramsey, sweeps into town to help him on the path of recovery, but Ramsey, too is trying to mend his heart as well.  He's trying to get over his wife leaving him for another man. 

As Daisy and Ramsey butt heads, they start to see a different side to each other, but will they have an opportunity to explore these sides before Father Laurent is back on his feet?

***

I loved this book.  Yes, there were some sad story lines related to their past lives, but I loved the sense of hope in this book.  I also loved the idea behind Daisy's wedding dress shop and could easily envision it while reading this story.  I hated to finish this one and even after I had read the last word, I kept thinking of the characters. 

While I felt the story was a bit predictable, I still enjoyed it.  It was a light read and perfect for a quick weekend indulgence!

Your turn friends!  What books have you read lately that you loved?  I'm always on the prowl for good reads, so leave me a comment and let me know!