Book Review

Cozy Corner: Agatha Raisin by M.C. Beaton

It’s time again for another installment of Cozy Corner! This time, I am recommending the fabulous Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton. This series is set in the English Cotswolds where retired PR guru Agatha Raisin is struggling to enjoy her retirement and winds up becoming an amateur sleuth and solving lots of village murders.

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This series is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, and I’ve been listening to a lot of the audiobooks recently (read by Penelope Keith who does an amazing job). I love Agatha as a protagonist. She’s endearing but very flawed which makes her both funny and relatable. Agatha can be petty, vain, and jealous, but she also has a big heart and a lot of wit. I love following her and the cast of side characters (especially Bill Wong and Toni Gilmour).

The mysteries themselves are not always the coziest, especially in the later books. While I would absolutely classify this series as a cozy series, there is occasional foul language, reference to sex, and some of the deaths are described in grisly detail. That being said, there’s still a light, whimsical tone in the books and Agatha is an amateur detective. These are two big parts of traditional cozies.

There is a companion television series that recently came out in the US, and it was just as fun as the books! I think I’ve seen every episode three times already, which is kind of insane actually. So far, only one season has aired, but I desperately hope that they make a second season. Agatha is played wonderfully by Ashley Jensen, who was the seamstress sidekick in Ugly Betty.

Some cozy series can be read in any order, but I would highly recommend these being read in the order they were published. While Agatha never seems to age, the drama of her personal life is complicated and will make more sense if the books are read in order. If you’re looking for something British and cozy and funny, I definitely recommend this book series and the TV show!

Book Review

Book Review: In the Kingdom of Ice 

I rarely review nonfiction, but recently my library book club read a really great nonfiction book: In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides.

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Before reading this book, I had never heard about the USS Jeannette and I can’t say I was terribly interested in learning more, but I really loved this book and felt so invested in finding out what happened. This was both a tragic event and a demonstration of human strength an resilience. After their ship was irreparably damaged, the captain and crew forged ahead in an attempt to reach Russia and civilization.

The beginning of this book was very slow, and I found it hard to pay attention to the details about naval history and the designs of various ships. However, once the expedition actually started, I felt sucked in and really engaged with the arctic adventures of the captain and crew. Additionally, there are many examples of letters that the captain’s wife wrote during his journey. These added a great human element, and I enjoyed learning more about her as well.

I would definitely recommend this book to history lovers. It was informative and engaging and deals with an interesting historical event that I don’t think most people know much about.

Book Review

Book Review: Libriomancer 

I’m not a huge science fiction/fantasy fan, but every so often I get in the mood for something other worldly! I decided to pick up Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines because I really enjoyed his Princess Series (a retelling of some classic fairy tales). I was so impressed by this book, and I can’t wait to read more in the series! It was incredibly unique and fast-paced.

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Libriomancer is jam-packed with action and adventure, and it really sucked me in from the very beginning. I would classify this book as magical realism because it takes place in our world, but there are definite elements of magic. I loved the way that magic was set up in this book – certain types of magicians called Libriomancers can literally pull out items from books and use them. (Just think of how cool it would be to pull out the sorcerer’s stone from Harry Potter!) The structure of the magical world in Libriomancer was well-defined and developed: there is a secret society that governs how magic can be used (led by Gutenberg himself – who has gone missing). There are also vampires and nymphs and spiders that emit fire. A LOT happens here, but it all really works and was so entertaining.

The main character, Isaac Vainio, is a disgraced libriomancer who now catalogs  magical tomes as a librarian instead of practicing magic. However, when a band of rogue vampires get him entangled in the mystery of where Gutenberg has gone, he must face his past and rediscover the magic within. He’s a great main character with many complexities. I enjoyed his personal, internal journey as well as the vivid, exciting plot. I would highly recommend this book to someone who loves magical elements and is looking for something plot-driven!

 

Book Review

Book Review: Come Sundown by Nora Roberts

I’ve recently been trying to expand the types of books I read. As part of this experiment, I decided to try some Nora Roberts books. I had always avoided her books because I don’t love books with lots of romance, but I ended up really liking several of her books because there are elements of other genres too. Her latest book, Come Sundown, is a novel of romantic suspense, and I really enjoyed it!

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This novel takes place on a ranch in Montana, where a woman named Alice disappeared years ago. She is assumed to have run away, but when she suddenly shows up in a disheveled state, they realize that she’s been held captive somewhere nearby for all these years. There’s a mystery here as they try to figure out who is responsible, but there’s also a lot of internal conflict as Alice has to try to cope with what has happened to her, and her family has to readjust to her sudden reappearance as well as the fear that this could happen again if they don’t find the man responsible.

I really enjoyed reading this book, although it was hard to read in some parts because of the captivity subject matter. I definitely thought this was one of Nora Robert’s darker books. There are elements of romance for some of the characters, but they definitely take a back seat to Alice’s story and journey. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who enjoys romantic suspense, and for anyone who enjoyed the book Room by Emma Donoghue (which has similar subject matter).

Personal

My MFA Experience So Far 

Well, my summer break is up! Two more classes start for me tomorrow (a novel chapter workshop and a contemporary poetry class). I’ve made it a quarter past the halfway point, and I’m on track to graduate in March, so I wanted to check in and write about my MFA experience so far.

I’ve been really pleased with my decision of choosing Lindenwood University for my MFA. I can complete the entire thing online, which is so ideal because I have a full time job and other time commitments. The work is still rigorous, but I’ve also loved that this school has been genre-friendly. We’re not just writing literary fiction. All genres are encouraged, as long as we’re writing well. The online format is also really conducive to workshopping. We’re able to critique each other’s writing online really well. I think that the fact that we’re not meeting face-to-face means that everyone is just more honest (and this is helpful because future publishers won’t spare our feelings).

I’ve grown a lot as a writer throughout this program already. Someone once told me that I’ll know I’m no longer an amateur when I start writing characters that are nothing like me. I thought this was silly advice at the time, but I completely understand it now. I feel like I’m finally able to start writing characters who have different personalities and experiences than myself because I am comfortable writing stories other than my own and I no longer need to be my own protagonist.

Throughout the past year, I’ve been struck with so many ideas for future novels (plus the one I’m currently writing for my thesis project). Lindenwood has just been so great at fostering creativity. Sure, like any school, there are pros and cons and professors I love and professors I really don’t like, but I can honestly say that I’ve grown as a writer and learned something about myself during every single class.

Pursing this degree has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. I grow in confidence every day, and I’m ready to finally finish a novel that’s good enough for other people to read. Each day is a new step in my journey towards becoming a novelist, and if you’re reading this post, I just want to thank you for coming along for the ride and supporting me.

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

Book Review

Book Review: Watch Me Disappear 

Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of the forthcoming book Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown.

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This was a great, character-driven mystery that centers around the disappearance of Billie, a mother who has disappeared after going on a hike. Her daughter Olive is trying to cope with her disappearance when she begins to hallucinate that she is seeing her mother alive. She and her very worried father then try to unravel what has happened and what is real.

I found this to be a great balance of fast-pace and insightful character development. Olive was a character that you could definitely root for. I wanted her to find out what was going on so that she could find the closure she desperately needed. Her father Jonathan was also a great character. He seemed very realistic, flaws and all, but he was someone I found myself wanting to know more about.

I can’t get too much into the plot without revealing anything, but I will say that I found the plot progression and end to be quite satisfying. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who liked The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl. This one definitely had that sort of vibe, although I found this one less dark and with more likeable characters.

Finally, happy Independence Day to any of my fellow Americans who might be reading this! I hope that you’re having a fun holiday with friends and family.

Personal, Update

Life Update: Poem Published

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I just wanted to thank Outcast Poetry for publishing my poem “Dreaming.” You can read it HERE if you’d like. It’s been about two years since I’ve had something published, which is definitely my fault. I went for a whole year and a half where I didn’t send anything out for submission. I went through a big slump! Part of this was because life was so busy and part of it was just due to being discouraged. I think discouragement is a big part of life for most writers because it’s hard to edit and send things out and get rejected over and over again.

Thankfully, since beginning my MFA program at Lindenwood University, I’ve been a lot more productive. I think I’ll do a whole post about my experiences there soon because it’s already impacted my life quite a bit.

Anyway, over the past two months, I’ve sent lots of things out to journals. Now, I’m waiting for those inevitable rejection letters and maybe another acceptance somewhere!