Tag Archives: review

Book Review: Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham



Eleven year old Catherine Ann Benson is whisked away from her privileged, wealthy home after her parents were killed in a car accident. She only has one family member left who is willing to give her a home, her paternal grandmother Emma Benson. Emma Benson lives in a small Texas town called Kersey. Her modest house is on the opposite side of the spectrum that Catherine Ann was accustomed to. Her less than extravagant home was only part of her worries because her granddaughter, whom she has never me, has gone temporarily mute.

Before bringing her granddaughter to her new home Emma went to her longtime friend for a favor. Mabel Church was in Emma’s situation about seven years ago. Mabel’s nephew, Trey Don Hall, was left on her doorstep abandoned by both of his parents. Emma’s favor involved Mabel’s nephew and his best friend, John Caldwell. She asked them to watch out for Catherine Ann on her first day at her new school. At first the boys were apprehensive, but once they caught their first glances at the young blonde haired, blue eyed new girl their minds changed. As the two “leaders” of the sixth grade Trey and John were well loved by the teachers, envied by the boys, and sought after by the girls. Even at eleven years old both the boys were handsome, intelligent, and incredible at football. All of these attributes followed them into their high school careers.

It didn’t take long for Cathy, as she preferred to be called, John, and Trey to become an inseparable threesome. By the time they were in their last years of high school they already had the rest of their lives planned out. The three planned to go to the University of Miami. Trey and John planned to go to the school on a sports scholarship and play for the Miami Hurricanes while Cathy would get an academic scholarship and participate in the school’s medical program. Everything seemed perfectly planned, but when do plans ever pan out just the way they are envisioned?

Tumbleweeds follows Cathy, John, and Trey on their tumultuous journeys through their life until their early forties. Even though their teenaged years breezed by almost with a hitch, their adult years are filled with drama that involve; lying, cheating, and even murder. Along with the main trio the characters in this novel are easily likable and are easy to become attached to. The plot can be a little a little dry at first, but it does become immensely captivating. Leila Meacham’s first novel that does not take place in the world showcased in her successful novel, Roses, is a fantastic novel about how the slightest change can shift one’s entire world.


Book Review: The Observations by Jane Harris



The Observations starts on a dusty road in Scotland where a 15 year old Irish girl is traveling. The young girl, named Bessy Buckley, has just left her previous employer and is looking for new work. Her previous employer, the old Mr. Levy, has passed away, leaving his distant brother to handle all of the affairs of his estate, wealth, and his servants. Mr. Levy’s brother was none too thrilled to discover that someone from such a degenerate background would be mixed up in such a prestigious household. With no job and no home, Bessy’s initial idea was to head to the city of Glasgow to find work, but her plans come to a halt when she passes a house where a lady is chasing a loose pig.

Bessy is a character with strong curiosity that is, at times, relentless and is unable to ignore the situation. She helps the woman secure the rebellious pig into its pen. The woman, who introduces herself as Mrs. Reid, is very grateful for the help. She inquires about Bessy’s current situation. When Bessy explains that she is looking for work Mrs. Reid perks up. After asking a few personal questions such as inquiring whether Bessy can read and write, Bessy turns back on her way. Suddenly Mrs. Reid call for her to wait, she has a proposition for the young girl. She proposes that Bessy come to work for her as a maid. The two come to terms in regards to wages until Bessy agrees.

Working for Arabella Reid turns out to be an odd experience; and experience that Bessy was not expecting. On her first night, Mrs. Reid wakes up her new maid in the wee hours of the morning in anger. She barks at Bessy to meet her in the kitchen. Horrified that she had somehow done something wrong in the few hours had had been in the Reid home, Bessy quickly dresses and rushes into the kitchen where her ‘missus’ was sitting at the small table, waiting. Amazingly, her good nature has returned. It was as though a flip was switched. A few other events follow were her behavior was odd and as stunned as Bessy was, she couldn’t help but strive to please her ‘missus’.

On a rare occasion where both Mr. and Mrs. Reid were away for the evening, Bessy takes the time to do a little snooping. She had noticed that Mrs. Reid keeps a small key on her person and she has a hunch that the key opens a drawer in Mrs. Reid’s desk. Locked away in the drawer, Bessy discovers a manuscript entitled “The Observations”. She discovers that Mrs. Reid is writing a book on how to find the perfect servant. There are years of different types of research that Mrs. Reid as written about. Can a potential employer determine if a servant will be of high standards by just looking at physical aspects, such as the length of their arms or the turn of their nose? Baffled, Bessy turns to the last few pages to find out what Mrs. Reid has written about her. She is horrified to find that her section is entitled “The Most Particular Case of a Low Prostitute.”

Bessy Buckley is one of the most outspoken characters that I have ever come across. She has the spunk of a girl who has been through so much negativity and is unsure how to act around those who are wealthy. After being exposed to the raunchy acts of a streetwalker at the tender age of nine, by none other than her own mother, she has been forced to grow up without having the chance to have a childhood. She acknowledges that she had always known that her mother’s ‘profession’ was wrong and holds great shame of her not too distant past. Although those thoughts come from a character is mature, there are some instances in the novel where her young age shines through her tough exterior. After discovering that her ‘missus’ doted on a maid who was in her service before Bessy, she decides to pull some seemingly harmless pranks on her employer that take a turn for the worse.

The Observations by Jane Harris was a refreshing change from the last two novels that I’ve posted about. A novel filled with dark pasts, unhinged minds, and mystery make for an entertaining read. Written in her point of view, Bessy is an easily likable character and leaves the reader yearning to know what she will do next.

Book Review: La Cucina by Lily Prior

la cucina


La Cucina is written in a first person narrative told by an Italian woman by the name of Rosa Fiore. She recounts the tale of her three loves: Bartolomeo, a foreign British man she refers to as l’Inglese, and finally cooking.

With a title like La Cicina, it’s only natural that the novel be laced with cooking vignettes. Rosa recounts that her love of cooking started at a very young age. When she was around four years old she was helping her mother bake desserts and pasta. She found that pounding out the dough was strangely therapeutic. As she grew older she found that she could get completely lost in her cooking, which sometimes caused fatal accidents. What’s interesting is that the narrative gives full detailed recipes for certain dishes. Rosa tells the reader how to create the perfect homemade pasta or how long to bake a crust until it is a flakey golden brown.

When Rosa was 17 years old another love took over her life. Bartolomeo had a strong hold on her heart. The two young lovers had planned a romantic getaway to the United States to get married and start a new, successful live. Unfortunately, Bartolomeo’s family had already chosen another girl to be his wife. Once his family got word of his love with Rosa, they were distraught. So distraught about their family’s name being besmirch that Bartolomeo’s father murders his own son.

After the death of Bartolomeo, Rosa moves out of her family’s home out in the country to the city where she finds herself an apartment near a market and a job as a librarian. Twenty five years pass. Rosa has never married. She has kept the same job and lived in the same apartment. The only love in her life is cooking. By living near a market, she has the privilege of purchasing the freshest food for her dishes. It isn’t until a seemingly normal day at work when a man turns her simple, quiet life upside down.

A foreign man walks into the library requesting to see some old manuscripts for a cookbook he is writing. The moment Rosa and, who she refers to as, l’Inglese set eyes on each other their world changes. The next few months are rocked with a sensual love affair that opens up feelings that Rosa has never felt before. Some of the scenes can be quite graphic. The most graphically detailed scene comes from a meal prepared by l’Inglese in which he eats off of Rosa’s naked body. Her attitude changes are missed by no one. Everyone wants to know what man can bring out such a change in the spinster Rosa Fiore. Rosa’s life has new meaning since she met l’Inglese, but things are never what they seem. She must prepare herself to experience another loss. However, she has no idea whether the loss will come at work, to her love life, or to her family back home.

La Cucina is a very easy read, there are only about 250 pages. The main plot is straightforward. Rosa’s love for cooking helps her get through the tough times in her life, whether it be an argument with her mother or the murder of her first love. There are a few subplots that seemed to be placed haphazardly in the novel, perhaps to make the novel longer. Lastly, the ending leaves the reader asking questions. The ending event raises the question; is this real or is this one of Rosa’s daydreams?

Book Review: The Lightkeeper’s Bride by Colleen Coble

the mercy falls collection


The Lightkeeper’s Bride continues where the The Lightkeeper’s Daughter left off. Instead of following Addie’s story the focus turns to her new friend, Katie Russell. While at work, Katie is a phone operator, she accidently overhears an argument at her friend, Eliza’s. After hearing the argument and a mysterious noise Katie becomes fearful for her friend’s safety. She rushes to Eliza’s house, meeting Addie on the way. The two of them arrive at Eliza’s house to find the door unlocked and a strange man watching over Eliza’s baby daughter, Jennie.

Katie is not a woman to shy away from conflict. She demands the man to tell her the whereabouts of Eliza. Taken by surprise the stranger introduces himself as Will Jeperson. He explains that he is the new lighthouse keeper and called on Eliza for his brother, Phillip. Will arrived at the house to receive no answer, but he heard the baby crying. Finding the door unlocked he had gone in. There was neither sign of Eliza nor a sign of struggle. The woman is just gone. While waiting for the Constable to arrive, Katie and Addie searched Eliza’s home looking for any clues that could show what had happened. No clues were recovered.

Katie notices immediately the resemblance between the strange young and the toddler. Will denies the parentage when she voices her suspicion. After the Constable arrives and concludes his own search, Katie asks what should be done with young Jennie. The Constable states that since a terrible fire has destroyed the orphanage, Jennie will have to be places in a foster home until they locate her mother. Both Will and Katie insist on taking the girl in their care. Will believes that Jennie is his younger brother’s child. He claims that she is the spitting image of Phillip. Despite Katie’s protests Will is given temporary custody of the little girl.

In a series of unfortunate events involving multiple attacks on her life, an outbreak of small pox, and a small band of pirates commandeering multiple ships close to the shore, Katie finds herself temporarily housed at the lighthouse with Will and little Jennie. Similar to The Lightkeeper’s Daughter, it’s plainly obvious that Will and Katie will fall in love. Even with a minor love triangle involving Will and a wealthy young man picked out by her parents, Katie and Will’s love can withstand anything. Their love story was almost exactly the same as Addie’s and John’s. After a few meetings they feel that spark that they can’t explain and each time they’re in contact they push their blossoming feelings aside in a not so subtle manner. Even the plot of a pirate invasion gets put into the love story and how these two have never felt this strange feeling before.

As mentioned in the previous review on The Lightkeeper’s Daughter, Colleen Coble’s writing style is simple. The simplicity continues in this novel. These novels are perfect for a guilty pleasure read, a read where no thought is needed. The characters have no depth, even the ones who have dark secrets. It seems as though they have these secrets solely for adding something more to this love story. However, Katie can be praised for being a strong, independent woman. Something that was not common in the early 1900s. She’s quick to take charge of any situation, even those that may cost her to lose her life.

Review on The Virgin’s Lover by Phillippa Gregory

the virgin's lover


It’s the late 1500s and Queen Elizabeth has just taken the throne. She is young, she is impressionable, and she is in need of friendship. Her Royal Court consists of many people, but only two have the means to call themselves her true friends. Her advisor, William Cecil, helps her make the right decisions in order to keep the country of England prosperous. Although Elizabeth’s family have either died or deserted her, she looks to Cecil as a much needed father figure. The other friend comes from her not-too-distant childhood, Robert Dudley.

Robert Dudley comes from a family born to be on the throne. His father before him was considered to be the King of England in everything but name. The Dudleys were not much liked and were soon named traitors to the crown. Robert spent many years of his childhood locked away in the Tower where he watched one of his brothers succumb to sickness. It seemed almost impossible for the Dudley name to become clean again.

However, once young Elizabeth takes the throne, Robert sees this as an opportunity to reclaim the status for his family’s name. It doesn’t take him long to make himself the Queen’s favorite. For Robert, making women to exactly what he wants isn’t hard. With a handsome face, a seductive smile, and dark looks that have given him the nickname “Gypsy”, Elizabeth and all the women he comes in contact with obey his every word.

Soon rumors begin to floats around that Robert and Elizabeth have become lovers; a scandalous, treasonous rumor to spread since Robert is a married man. At age 16 he married Amy Robsart, a 21 year old soft spoken, loyal, and innocent woman. Neither Robert’s or Amy’s families wanted the two to marry, but young love prevailed. Understandably after hearing these rumors of Robert’s adultery Amy becomes upset. She seeks solace in the church, asking God for advice and to forgive her for her feelings of jealousy and anger. As much as she asks for forgiveness and the strength to stay a loyal wife, her husband’s lover begins to take over all aspects of Amy’s life. Elizabeth changes the entire church. As the newly appointed head of the church she takes away anything that she considers blasphemy including priests that don’t comply with her orders. Amy finds that her church must continue the old ways in private.

As Elizabeth’s and Robert’s affair become more and more serious it becomes clear to those closest to the Queen that something must be done to break these young lovers apart.

One feature that was quite despairing was the grammar mistakes throughout the novel. There were a few misspelled words and misused punctuation. This was very surprising because whoever proofread/edited the novel didn’t catch these hard to miss mistakes. Honestly, it was these mistakes that brought the overall rating low. Other than the grammar mistakes The Virgin’s Lover is another interesting addition to Gregory’s historical novels. Although it wasn’t as captivating as The Other Boleyn Girl, it is an indulgent read.



Review on The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

the silkworm

Rating: 5/5

Cormoran Strike’s detective business has picked up after the success of the Lula Landry case (learn more about the death of the popular socialite in Robert Galbraith’s debut novel The Cuckoo’s Calling). Eight months after he solved the case a plain woman in her fifties, Leonora Quine, seeks his detective services. Her husband has gone missing; in fact he’s been missing for quite some time. Leonora’s husband is a writer who is notorious for pitching fits followed by disappearing for a few days. However, Leonora is convinced that this disappearance is different. Moved by an unknown force, which Strike blatantly describes as “being knackered”, Strike agrees to take the case.

Owen Quine’s disappearance doesn’t rouse alarm in any of his literary coworkers, including his agent which he argued with publicly just days before disappearing. After learning about a house that Quine owned with another writer, his disappearance turns down a grisly path. Strike enters the shared home that had supposedly not been used for several years to find Owen Quine’s body horribly mutilated. This missing persons investigation quickly turns into a horrifying murder.

Strike must comb through the secret life of a man who not only enjoyed pushing the buttons of his fellow writers, but had a kinky sex life that ventured away from his plain wife. It doesn’t take long for him to discover that Quine’s newest, unpublished book shared the same grizzly ending as its author. With a plethora of eccentric suspects Strike must uncover the truth or prove that Quiene’s murder was a twisted form of publicity.

Throughout the novel, Strike’s relationship with his assistant, Robin, is severely tested. Even though the two of them have been working together for almost a year, they aren’t completely comfortable with each other. Moments of awkwardness flitter between Strike and Robin when their personal lives seep into the office. As the novel progresses, it’s plain that Robin and Strike need each other. Strike needs Robin to organize his life, both professionally and personally. She keeps his world running smoothly especially when his ex attempts to storm back into his life. On the other hand, Robin needs Strike in order to break her nature of second guessing her courage. Working alongside Strike, something that didn’t occur in the first novel, has shown her that plans can change drastically within a few short moments. The two of them do prove to make a good team.

As a whole, The Silkworm dives in a much darker world than The Cuckoo’s Calling. This macabre literary world is filled with betrayal, obsessions with death, and the calm nonchalance of a few major suspects. The novel whips readers around with enticing new directions to who killed Owen Quine and why.

Clinique Acne Solutions Clear Skin Stystems Review



Acne, blemish, pimple; whatever you refer to those annoying spots that sprout on your face and other parts of your body, they are frustrating. I’ve suffered from mild acne for about ten years. I’ve tried so many different face washes over the years: Clean and Clear, Neutrogena, Yes to Tomatoes, and ProActive just to name a few. None seemed to work. Some dried out my skin, others did absolutely nothing. In my freshman year of college, I was talking to one of my friends who also suffered from acne. She recommended Clinique. Even though it was expensive she swore by it. Since I was a mere poor college student, I scoffed at the almost $70 price.

Two years ago my Mom gave me a trial size Clinique acne solutions clear skin systems for Christmas. I was so anxious to try it. After using the solution for three days I started to see a difference in my face. There were a few stubborn pimples that had popped up out of nowhere were already almost completely gone. Thoroughly impressed, I continued to use the kit until it was gone. When I went to purchase the full size version I was disappointed that the price hadn’t changed. Foolishly, I was determined to find a cheaper acne solution. So here I am again, I’ve tried even more drugstore acne solutions that either caused more break outs or simply sat on my face doing nothing. I’ve decided to bite the bullet and order the full size kit because it works. Really works.  

The Clinique acne solutions clear skin systems comes with three treatment steps. Step one is a cleansing foam. The cleansing foam is supposed to help clear and prevent acne. It also removes dirt and excess oils, unclogs pores, calms, soothes and reduces redness. All of this leaves your skin feeling soft, smooth, and comfortable. Step two is a clarifying lotion. This is a medicated formula that exfoliates to clear dead surface cells and reduces excess oil that can lead to breakouts. Like step one, step two unclogs pores. The clarifying lotion also boasts to soothe irritation and redness without drying. Step three is the all-over cleaning treatment. This benzoyl peroxide lotion helps treat existing acne and help prevent future breakouts.

Clinique recommend using this kit twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. However, my skin is too sensitive to use twice daily. So I use it once a day before I go to bed and still have amazing results.

Hopefully this review will aid some of you into trying Clinique for your acne troubles. Please be aware that all skin is different. What works for me may not work for you.

Take care!