THE HOUSE BETWEEN TIDES by Sarah Maine

house between

3 out of 5

In Sarah Maine’s The House Between Tides, a deceased painter’s Scottish summer house is inherited by Hetty. Her attention is immediately brought to the bones discovered under the centuries-old manor, and the story of the manor’s previous owners is slowly woven together. Theo Blake and his young wife Beatrice had a happy start, but their relationship soon grew troubled as the house and its memories haunted the artist. What happened that led to the body under the floorboards?

Like Theo Blake, Maine is a painter in her own right, sucking the reader in through the picturesque Scottish landscape. Beatrice’s storyline throbs with intensity and keeps the story alive. In contrast, Hetty and company are far from fully formed characters; it is clear that Maine cared more for the characters of the past and neglected to bring the same interest and tension into the present storyline. Additionally, the plot does little to build suspense in the reader until the end. Not that the novel is boring, but rather Maine carries the reader along a horizontal path that suddenly spikes with fifty pages left to go. A slow read that would have worked better had Maine focused on the stronger storyline and done away with the other all together.

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WE THAT ARE LEFT by Clare Clark

we that are

4 out of 5

This story about how the haunting nature of World War One permeated all generations after it and the everlasting scars that the war left behind follows Jessica Melville and Oscar Greenwood (née Grunewald) as they navigate the pseudo-purgatory that encased Europe immediately following 1918. Being the same age as the boys who fought, Jessica and Oscar are surrounded by the ghosts of war. Jessica finds solace in the London nightlife, but reminders of the dead eventually seep into even those dingy underground rooms. Oscar, always the intellect, feels it to be his duty to continue the work that the dead were robbed of before an intense love affair distracts him from his studies. Clark writes dialectic turns of phrase that are at times captivating, at others awkward, replicating actual speech well. In her surprising word choices that create a rich and melodious prose, Clark expresses a depth of understanding for the youth of this period who were left behind as the war raged on the continent that is rarely matched. Though the beginning did not metamorphose well into the ending—Oscar, in particular, seamlessly transformed from an incredibly frail, perhaps even obsessive, child into a largely faultless Prince Charming in his adulthood—the experience of reading We That Are Left was quite pleasant in its entirety. Fans of Downton Abbey should not hesitate to pick this up as a balm for their withdrawal, as Clark offers another look into the worlds of upper- and middling-class England during the war years that is perhaps more realistic and definitely juicier.

THE DETECTIVE’S DAUGHTER by Lesley Thomson

detective

4 out of 5

Lesley Thomson’s The Detective’s Daughter is first-rate detective fiction. Following the life of Stella Darnell after she learns about the death of her father, the plot is interwoven with threads of loss, forgiveness, and grief which make Thomson’s prose gentle and addictive. The novel is interspersed with the points of view of other characters working either together or against each other to solve the murder of Kate Rokesmith, which haunted Terry Darnell until his death. Through the unsolved case, Stella reconnects with the father she felt she never had in life. While the majority of the novel leaves the reader guessing who the culprit might be, I had it figured out by the last quarter of the book, which was ultimately disappointing; when it comes to detective fiction, I long to be surprised at the end. Circumstances also seemed to fall into place too easily, causing me to wonder just how likely it would be to solve a case like this in real life. That being said, Thomson is the bar to which other authors, and not just those writing detective fiction, must measure up. The prose comes with such ease that I was transported to those cold winter days in England by the sea. The characters are endearing and the mystery troubling. Overall very well done.

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Check out this book on Goodreads.

Book Love: Best Drink & Book Pairings

Some things just go so well together. Junk food and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Knitting while listening to podcasts. Tea and Downton Abbey. And there’s nothing better than curling up in a comfy spot with a good book and the perfect drink to go along with it.

Most people probably associate reading with warm drinks, but this list will include all sorts (though all the beverages will be virgin for our non-legal friends).

detectiveBook: The Detective’s Daughter by Lesley Thomson
Drink: Warm milk with honey
This is one of the main character’s, Jack’s, favourite drink and it constantly comes up throughout the book. It had me craving one even though I’m lactose intolerant. This book also takes place in the wintertime across a span of time where there is endless snow, and the thought of a warm drink was soothing in this otherwise edge-of-your-seat detective story.

 

saint anythingBook: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Drink: Orange Pop
Most people reference the food when talking about this book, but what goes better with pizza and French fries than a bottle of pop? Even though this book has darker themes, I do think orange pop is the best choice because it goes along with Layla’s bright personality so well. However, you could mix it up with Coke or Pepsi too. Anything fizzy works, in my opinion.

 

wishful drinkingBook: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Drink: Shirley Temple
Considering this book is about alcoholism and drug addiction, an innocent Shirley Temple is the perfect virgin drink that will still pack a punch. The fruity and sweet flavours will complement Fisher’s spunky and witty style and will help to lighten the mood during some of the darker aspects of the book.

 

 

 

all the rageBook: All the Rage by Courtney Summers
Drink: Coffee (black)
This drink was selected in consideration of the dark themes in this novel. I also think that Romy shows incredible maturity for her age, and I imagine that this would be her drink of choice a few years down the road.

 

 

 

 

 

bureauBook: The Bureau of Holiday Affairs by Andi Marquette
Drink: Cinnamon Spice Latte
This book was so fun and saucy that I thought a cinnamon spice latte would be the absolute match. Feminine yet strong in flavour, this drink is the ideal representation of the characters sprinkled throughout the novel.

 

 

 

 

call the midwife 1Book: Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
Drink: Tea with milk and sugar
This is a memoir written about the experiences of a midwife in the East End of London, England during the 1950s. OF COURSE tea is the perfect drink for it! The milk and sugar are important for making the drink sweet; the memoir has heavy moments but is overall incredibly warm and endearing.

 

the miniaturistBook: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Drink: Hot Chocolate
Nella, the main character of this novel, has a sweet tooth, and I just know that she would be caught sipping hot chocolate by the fire if given the chance. This book needed a warm drink because it, too, takes place in the wintertime, and the descriptions of the cold had me positively shivering. Hot chocolate would do all of its readers good!

December Book Haul

Boy, December kept me busy. On the plus side, I have a handful of new books that I’m looking forward to reading.

The Detective’s Daughter by Lesley Thomson
detective
I’m so excited to read this one. I’ve been reading this group of books out of order but I wouldn’t call it a series necessarily, so things still make sense. I can’t wait to post a review of it for you guys in the coming month. I’m sure it will be glowing!

 

 

 

 

 

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley
chimney
I’m in the mid-beginning of this one, and while it started off promising, my interest in it is beginning to wan. Hopefully I’ll finish it up quickly though and be able to bring a review to you soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stolen Remains by Christine Trent
stolen remains
It takes place in the Victorian era and is a mystery novel. What more do I need to say? This is also a part of a series but my bookstore had not had the first book in stock for over a month, so I just grabbed the second. It seems as if they work as stand-alones, so that’s good.

 

 

 

 

Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
call the midwife
After reading the first in this series of memoirs (review here), I am so excited to dive into this next installment. I absolutely love Worth’s storytelling and I adore the show, so I know this book will just make me so happy.

 

 

 

 

 

Downton Abbey: A Celebration by Jessica Fellowes, foreword by Julian Fellowes
downton
You guys, I am obsessed with this show, and so while I’m only finishing up season 4 as of today (no spoilers please!) I just had to have this book. I refuse to read it until I’m all caught up, as I don’t want to give anything away (though I already have trying to sneak a peek inside). Hence the fact that it is now sitting on my shelf where it will not be touched for the next little while.

 

I also received Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth, which I originally read as an eBook. I now have the physical copy which makes me very, very happy.

What books did you guys get over the holiday?

Happy reading!

Book Love: A CHRISTMAS CAROL Theme Party

December is all about the holidays. One of my favourite Christmas stories is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I’ve already watched the Disney animated adaptation twice, and plan on watching it many more times before the holidays are over. It’s inspired in me visions of the perfect Victorian Christmas tree. So for Dickens aficionados like me, today’s Book Love post is all about how to throw the perfect A Christmas Carol theme party, from the cutlery to the music, all the while hoping that the ghost of Jacob Marley doesn’t decide to crash-land in your dinner table.

1. Candles.
A Christmas Carol takes place in the Victorian time period, well before electric lighting. If you want your party to have the right mood, tone down the lighting with some romantic, non-scented candles (scented candles can be too overwhelming for some guests). These will really take you back in time and give the party a cozy feel.
candle

[Source: http://www.techlicious.com/tip/tips-for-taking-great-low-light-photos/%5D

2. Decorate your tree accordingly.
Back in the day, they didn’t have electric lights to string about their trees. They also didn’t have plastic figurines boasting #1 DAD hanging from their Christmas tree branches, either. For your party, put away the corny ornaments and go for a natural, simplistic look. Wooden or glass ornaments (or ones that look like them), ribbons, a string of popcorn, and pinecones are what you’ll want for this special night.
victorian tree

[Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/110549365824765571/%5D

3. Centrepieces and other décor.
I love stuffing hurricane vases, and you can absolutely do that for this party, but if you want to really replicate the period, perhaps consider filling a bowl or wicker basket with oranges. Oranges were very popular during this period to give out at Christmas. If you want to tone down the orange scent, consider making packets of ginger, cinnamon, and allspice to set amongst the oranges in order to fill the air with holiday scents.
orangeorange2

[Source: https://www.google.ca/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjik7Lno9TJAhWRsoMKHZ7oBsMQjB0IBg&url=http%3A%2F%2Ftopyaps.com%2Ftop-10-quick-centerpiece-ideas&psig=AFQjCNEZHnbnMslsYWwMebLWyg1dZGqxfQ&ust=1449939527581148%5D
[Source: http://betweennapsontheporch.net/christmas-holiday-centerpiece-you-can-make-in-15-minutes/%5D

4. Music.
I would recommend finding a friend who can play the piano (or, even better, the harpsichord), but if your friends lack skills you can always find a CD or iTunes station that plays classic, instrumental Christmas carols. You’ll want to stick with the classics—it’s doubtful that Scrooge would be caught jamming to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas.” To really get a feel for the times, consider gathering your guests in the living room after dinner for a round of caroling.
carolers

[Source: http://www.artline.vaxxine.com/brochures/greenwich/01october/hol01_morrissey.html%5D

5. Cutlery and dishware.
A Christmas Carol takes place in the Victorian period. If you can find Victorian-style cutlery and dishware, that’s great, but your best bet is finding cutlery with rounded handles, usually carved, and simple china dishes. A little gold embellishment wouldn’t hurt, either.
victorian table

[Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/14284923793921062/%5D

6. Food.
Turkeys were expensive back then, and if you relate more to Tim Cratchit than Ebenezer Scrooge, perhaps mixing things up a little by buying a Christmas goose. Try avoiding chocolate for desert and have a guest bring a fruitcake. Remember to give out oranges to the children, and roasting chestnuts or popcorn over the fire can be a fun and social activity.
christmas goose

[Source: http://christmasdinnerrestre.esy.es/goose-christmas-dinner/%5D

I hope these tips have given you all some inspiration for your A Christmas Carol themed party. I want to emphasize lighting and scent as the main aspects that will really transport you and your guests back in time. A few other holiday tips: put a cap of vanilla extract in the oven at 350 degrees F for a few minutes to make your house smell like baked goods; if you don’t have a real tree, consider buying a candle or spray that smells like pine; avoid using the television for entertainment—break out a pack of cards or play some charades to get the party going instead.

Feel free to share your own tips and suggestions in the comments below.

Happy Holidays!

-Ember Book Reviews

THE BUREAU OF HOLIDAY AFFAIRS by Andi Marquette

bureau

4 out of 5

Marquette takes the reader on a journey through a modern interpretation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with a spunky, lesbian twist. Working towards being a CEO at Frost Enterprises, Robin, in her own words, has turned into a bit of an asshole in her climb up the corporate ladder. The Bureau of Holiday Affairs decides to pay her a visit, and Robin’s journeys into Christmas Past, Present, and Future—with a butch surfer girl, a drag queen, and none other than Mr. K. Rampus himself as guides for each—give her the chance to make things right. Her biggest opportunity presents itself in a meeting with her former lover Jill, and it is this very mature and well thought-out relationship that becomes central to the plot. With a badass and endearing narrative voice, and a surprising touch of relatability to the characters and storyline, the adventure that Marquette takes us on is exciting and full of holiday warmth. While the novel drags on a bit (I strongly believe that this should have been a novella), Marquette exudes writing savvy. The Bureau of Holiday Affairs will make you crave more of her work, and will perhaps leave a little less of the Scrooge in us all.

-Ember Book Reviews

[ARC provided by Netgalley and Book Enthusiast Promotions in exchange for an honest review.]

Check out this book on Goodreads.