Gwendolen by Diana Souhami – 4 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Gwendolen is written in the form of an undelivered letter to her love Daniel Deronda. The letter recounts her life beginning from roughly the time just before she makes eye contact with Deronda while gambling feverishly at a roulette table in Homburg, Germany, to when Gwendolen is probably in her late twenties to early thirties. Gwendolen Harleth is witty, bright, full of verve, beautiful and desirable to nearly every man she comes into contact with. Nevertheless, she’s aloof to the idea of marriage, but her family’s recent financial downturn resultant from their land agent’s negligence necessitates that she accept the proposal of Henleigh Mallinger Grandcourt, a man she neither loves or feels affection for, but whose riches can save her family from certain destitution. Repulsed and dejected by the idea of marriage to this man she runs away to Homburg with vacationing relatives and tries her hand at roulette where a man, Daniel Deronda, watches her scornfully and repulsively from a distance. Gwendolen is disturbed by this man’s judgment of her but is somehow equally charmed by him. She becomes so entranced by his gaze that her winning streak is lost along with her money. In a desperate attempt to acquire the much needed funds to help her family, she pawns a necklace given to her by her long deceased father, only to have it returned to her with a note from Daniel Deronda. Although she can’t seem to dismiss her thoughts related to this man, she is beckoned to return home immediately and face the inevitability of her circumstances, betrothal to Grandcourt. Gwendolen’s instincts are correct. Grandcourt expects subservience, is abusive and taciturn, and harbors a ghastly secret. As she goes about life with her brutish husband she retains hope by reflecting on her one true but unrequited love interest, Daniel Deronda.
Overall Gwendolen was an enjoyable read. I wasn’t initially pulled into the story, but as it progressed I found my interest piqued and was held almost to the end. The reason I say this is because there were characters introduced closer to the end of the book that I neither connected with nor particularly cared about. Perhaps this was because I wasn’t acquainted long enough with them, or they weren’t developed enough for me to become interested in them or see their relevance to the overall story. This is where the book began to drag a bit to me; to become disjointed. I would have appreciated it more had the last 40 pages or so of the book been condensed or perhaps omitted. However, I still think the book was well written and altogether noteworthy. The chronicling of Gwendolen’s adventurous life, along with the many initial friends and acquaintances that were a part of it certainly made for entertaining reading. Although she struggled much with decisions she’d made, I liked that by the end of the book she seemed to have matured to the point where she was finally at peace with herself and was able to put her internal demons to rest and get on with her life. If you enjoy historical novels you will probably like Gwendolen.
Thank you LibraryThing and Henry Holt and Company for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ THIS WAS AN AUDIOBOOK. Linnet Ridgeway has stolen her best friend Jacqueline de Bellefort’s fiancé, handsome Simon Doyle, and has become Linnet Doyle to Jackie’s dismay and astonishment. Linnet already had everything as a wealthy heiress with brains and beauty. How could she deliberately set out to steal her best friend’s man and marry him? Jackie was of meager means and Simon meant everything to her, so she seeks revenge by systematically stalking the new couple wherever they go, popping up and harassing them, including on their honeymoon vacation to Egypt. Jackie’s bent on making the couple miserable; punishing them for destroying her. She even threatens murder, and that’s exactly what happens while the Doyles are on board a paddle steamship on the Nile River. Linnet is shot dead and Jackie is the obvious suspect, only she has a solid alibi. Furthermore, as Hercule Poirot, who was also present during this trip, begins to investigate the murder he learns that Linnet had more enemies than just Jackie, and any one of them had motive for wanting her dead.
Death on the Nile was a clever mystery that was enacted orally in an entertaining way. The story was full of colorful characters that kept me guessing as to whether any of them could have committed the murder. The fact that this was an audiobook made it a lively and fun listen, and I chuckled many times at the British characters and their humorous anecdotes and witty sayings. Listening to Hercule Poirot is always a joy, and watching his keen intellect put to action in solving crimes is the icing on the cake. This audiobook was a BBC radio full-cast dramatization that I bought as a $0.99 Daily Deal at Audible.com and I truly enjoyed it. If you like relatively short mystery dramas (this one was 2.25 hours), Death on the Nile is definitely one to check out.
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State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Olivia “Ollie” Paras is Assistant chef in the White House kitchen. She aspires to become Executive Chef following the approaching retirement of highly esteemed Executive Chef and colleague, Henry. While on her way back from purchasing a retirement gift for Henry, Ollie witnesses an intruder running on White House grounds. Although Secret Service is unable to detain him, Ollie, hidden from sight, manages to clobber the intruder with the skillet she just bought for Henry. But there’s something odd about this man. Instead of wanting to harm the President, he seems to want to warn him of something. Stranger still he addresses one of the Secret Service by name and inquires about his family. Something’s fishier than the trout in the White House kitchen. Who is this man? Later, while watching the scene of the incident at home on t.v., Ollie notices that the footage has been altered. The man on t.v. is not the same man that she whacked with the skillet. When she tries to convince her Secret Service boyfriend Tom of this discrepancy, he’s incredulous and tries to convince her that she doesn’t know what she saw. Is he right? Are her eyes playing tricks on her? Can she trust Tom after all?
I loved this White House Chef Mystery!! I actually listened to it on Audible and it was a great experience. The narrator really brought the characters to life and I was enthralled by the story and thoroughly engrossed to the very end. It was so much fun hearing the voices of several of the characters that were from other countries; an added bonus to my listening experience. The descriptions of food being prepared in the kitchen made me hungry!! I’d read wonderful reviews about Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef Mystery series so I decided to check it out. I’m sure glad I did. If you’re a fan of cozy mysteries, I am rather certain you will love State of the Onion. I did!!
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Secret Refuge by Dana Mentink
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Keeley Stevens’s sister LeeAnn was murdered, stuffed in the trunk of Tucker Rivendale’s car. She’d still be alive if Tucker’s parole officer, Mick Hudson, hadn’t allowed him to roam free of a tracking device. He’d escaped, but now Tucker’s back in Silver Creek and he seems to be after Keeley. He wants what’s his, Keeley’s precious daughter June, her sister’s special needs daughter, Tucker’s child. Keeley will not allow him to take LeeAnn’s precious daughter, the child he didn’t seem to want anyway. Upon learning of LeeAnn’s pregnancy he’d urged her not to keep the baby. Furthermore, Mick Hudson, A broken man whose wife left him and didn’t bother to tell him he’d had a son that died before he’d even known about him; the man ultimately responsible for LeeAnn’s death, is everywhere she turns, trailing her as though he’s some cop who’s in charge of protecting her life, a job he clearly sucks at. But how can she protect herself and June from Tucker? Does she really need Mick Hudson’s protection after all? Dana Mentink is continually gaining my respect and admiration as a suspense writer. Secret Refuge was a riveting, fast-paced, action packed, page turner. There were so many things I loved about Secret Refuge. Some of my favorite things were that it was suspenseful and had twists and turns that kept me guessing. There was a sweet little romance that was tastefully executed in the storyline. I also liked the mention of various bird species since Keeley Stevens was an Avian Photographer. And I truly appreciated that there was no profanity or extreme violence of any kind. Secret Refuge was a great, quick read that I highly recommend.
I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review which I have given.
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