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My Mother’s Silence–devastating secrets

My Mother’s Silence

by Lauren Westwood

My Mother's SilenceI find genres and categories useful up to a point. When it comes to Lauren Westwood’s My Mother’s Silence, the designator “Women’s Fiction” seems to fail. It is definitely fiction, but I think a lot of men would like it too. The subtitle is A Gripping Page-Turner Full of Twists and Family Secrets. I usually associate “gripping” in this context with a thriller, a genre which doesn’t usually attract me. I am happy to report that “gripping” in this case could be defined as a plot that draws you in more and more tightly as you progress. It is full of secrets, life altering secrets—bombshells that explode after lying dormant for fifteen years.

Skye Turner leaves the little Scottish town of Eilean Shiel to fulfill her dream of making it big as a songwriter and musician in America. She carries a heavy weight, however, as her twin sister Ginny has passed away, and it is presumed that she slipped off a cliff and drowned. Skye returns home at the urging of her brother Bill. She hopes to be able to work things out with her mum and her brother, but she arrives to find her mother in mental disarray. Things don’t add up about her sister’s disappearance or the car accident Skye was in on that same evening.

Skye is not a perfect woman, but it seems she has made a lot of decisions based on the lies was fed. She tries to uncover and untangle the fabrications and piece them together with the help of a former DCI who is renting a cottage from her mother.

This book has a Christmas setting that is incidental to the plot but provides a reason for the family to gather. Westwood weaves a web with her amazing storytelling skills. The reader needs to discover what happened to Ginny as much as Skye does. Some romance is woven into the story as old boyfriends and new are included as important threads. There are several mysteries to be solved and parts of the book can claim to be called police procedural. Without a doubt, this book is a page-turner that made me glad I escaped from my comfort zone to find a new happy place.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: Sprinkling of vulgar language

Publication:   November 11, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

…the land doesn’t care that I once went away, or that I’ve come back again. My life is small, my little dramas and struggles unimportant against the vastness of sea and sky.

But there’s something about this land that gets in your blood. Even when I thought I might never come back, I still felt the pull of this place. No matter where I was in the world, if I listened hard enough, I could hear the whisper of home.

I can still remember what it’s like to be in a teenage strop. That feeling of isolation—that everyone else in the entire world is against you and complete morons to boot. But it’s only worth keeping up as long as there’s an audience.

A Highlander in a Pickup–steamy, hot romance

A Highlander in a Pickup

by Laura Trentham

A Highlander in a PickupIf you’re looking for a clean, heartwarming romance, A Highlander in a Pickup is not for you. The main character, Anna Maitland, owner of a dance studio in Highland, Georgia, is a lithe spitfire desiring to prove her competence. She has been left in charge of the Highland Festival by her friend Izzy who has moved to Scotland. She unsuccessfully fights falling in lust with Iain Connors, sent from Stonehaven Castle in Scotland to help Anna. Much of the story revolves around their competitiveness and sexual attraction and is not even PG ratable.

There are many positives in this book. Laura Trentham has good plot ideas and weaves in complications skillfully. She also has a way with words that results in setting descriptions that paint great visuals for the reader. She adds humor to the romance that helps the book not get bogged down in the repeated sexual encounters. She has created interesting characters including minor ones that flesh out the tale. Trentham includes just enough of the character from the first book in the Highland, Georgia Novels to provide a sturdy frame for the new romance without making the new dependent on the old. As in the first book, the author has shown that she excels in providing in the epilogue a hook to entice readers to accompany a minor character from the current story into a new tale. 

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to St. Martin’s Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Notes: 1. Everyone approaches individual books with different expectations. For some a romance without steamy sexual encounters is a disappointment. Others appreciate a romance for meaningful conflict, likable characters, and a satisfactory resolution. I tried to present in this review enough information for readers to make an appropriate choice, but I also tried to rate this book based on the author’s skills as a wordsmith and success with plot, characters, and setting rather than my personal taste.

  2. #2 in the Highland, Georgia Novels. OK as a standalone.

  3. The first Highland, Georgia Novel had one chapter that was offensive to me and could easily have been omitted without hurting the story. I was hoping that the sequel novel would not follow that pattern. It didn’t. Unfortunately, it sprinkled bedroom scenes throughout the book making it difficult for readers to just skip over the part they did not want to read.

Publication:   February 25, 2020—St. Martin’s Press

Memorable Lines:

While Anna was generally good at navigating the teenage minefield, Gabby’s problem was more like an atomic bomb with an unseen trip wire.

The next day, all of Anna’s nerve endings vibrated like she’d plugged into an electrical source. Even her skin was supersensitive, her T-shirt more like a Brillo Pad than cotton. Her stomach felt like it was hosting a battle of the bands. Her mind struggled through a bog, thoughts falling away to be lost in black water, and her usual high energy dipped to an all-time low. Had she even gotten four hours of sleep the night before?

His laugh was like hot chocolate on a cold day or being covered in wriggling puppies or a BLT made with sun-warmed freshly picked tomatoes. In other words, it made her feel good and might qualify as one of her favorite things.

A Highlander Walks Into a Bar–romance in Highland, Georgia

A Highlander Walks Into a Bar

by Laura Trentham

A Highlander Walks Into a BarWhen your mom goes to Scotland and brings home a surprise, you don’t expect it to be a handsome Highlander…or that a younger version will follow. These two men, Gareth and Alasdair, along with Rose and Izzy (Isabel) are the main characters in A Highlander Walks Into a Bar by Laura Trentham. The setting is not Cairndow, home of the Blackmoor family, but Highland, Georgia, where Rose and Izzy try to keep their beloved Stonehaven, as well as the entire town of Highland, solvent through a Scottish festival every summer. The secrets the characters keep to themselves, even as their intimacy as couples grows, make for some uncomfortable and humorous situations. They all wonder, as does the reader, how there can ever be a positive outcome for the two couples given their respective responsibilities an ocean away from each other. There is resolution, of course, but the book ends with an epilogue that can obviously segue into another tale involving the same characters and a new one. Lots of potential fun lies in store for readers of this new series. 

I would like to extend my thanks to Carla (https://carlalovestoread.wordpress.com) and to St. Martin’s Paperbacks for gifting me with this book. I won this book in an online raffle after reading Carla’s review which you can enjoy yourself on her blog.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Notes: A Highlander Walks Into a Bar is a good, fun romance. If you don’t want the details of a hot and heavy passionate union, skip chapter 11. Omitting these details will not in any way hinder your enjoyment or understanding of this book.

Publication:   July 30, 2019—St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Memorable Lines:

More bagpipes joined in, and the march they played made her heart ache with an emotion she couldn’t categorize. Sometimes it was better to feel than to understand.

“Are you and Gareth in love?” The question popped out, and not for the first time Izzy wished she had a speedbump between her brain and her mouth.

“It is easier to tally who is right and wrong and hang onto your resentment and turn your back, because forgiveness and understanding are difficult. What you should tally are laughs and kisses and how many times you are made a better person because of your connection.”

Death and Daisies–magic and murder in Scotland

Death and Daisies

by Amanda Flower

Death and DaisiesFiona, who has inherited a home in Scotland, a magic garden, and most importantly the position of Keeper of the Garden from her godfather, Ian, is joined in the book by her much younger, at-loose-ends sister Isla. Fiona is opening her flower shop named the Climbing Rose Flower Shop after the 300 year old rose growing in her magic garden in Duncreigan. Some townspeople are welcoming and friendly like Raj and Pasha, twins in their sixties with calming and wise ways. Others view the sisters with suspicion for their strange Tennessee accents and ways and their association with the magic garden. The local minister is so opposed to Fiona that he publicly bans her from the church.

Death and Daisies by Amanda Flower centers around a murder, threatening notes, an abusive spouse, and drugs. Fiona is compulsive about investigating despite a scary vision that might potentially foretell her death and the warnings of Chief Inspector Neil Craig who is afraid she will be hurt.

Death and Daisies is a fun and fascinating cozy mystery you will not want to put down. Filled with interesting characters and lots of twists and turns in the plot, this tale has room for character development and an interesting setting. The murderer and the reason for the murder surprised me. The author has another surprise for Fiona and the reader toward the end of the book on a very personal level. There is closure to this book, but also several issues that deserve further attention. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Magic Garden Mystery Series but works well as a standalone

Publication:   November 23, 2018—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

St. Thomas Church, as it stands today, is much younger. It was built in the seventeenth century.” She said this like the seventeenth century was last week. If anything was over one hundred years old back in Nashville, they turned it into a museum and built a fence around it. In Scotland, “old” had quite a different definition than I was accustomed to.

I didn’t want to break it to her, but no one had their life figured out at twenty-two. I didn’t have it figured out at thirty, and I wasn’t expecting fifty to be much better.

“But no one should make an apology expecting one in return. That ruins it for both parties. It is better to say you are sorry and be at peace.”

Royally Dead–sewing, Scotland…and murder

Royally Dead

by Greta McKennan

Royally DeadDaria, a seamstress in little Laurel Springs, Pennsylvania, expanded her business to include historical sewing. As Royally Dead opens, she is at the First Annual Highland Games where she and her friend Letty, who owns an antique shop, are manning their booth to make sales, let people know about their businesses, and support the local community. The reader is introduced to a lot of interesting characters, and Daria and Letty get into  more than they bargained for as they witness a manly contestant who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble: flirting with an underage girl, arguing with a famous author, angering one of Daria’s roommates, and continuing a long-standing conflict with another contestant.

Greta McKennan’s Royally Dead is full of sewing, historical mysteries, and Scottish dancing woven throughout a good whodunit. Suspicion falls on four characters, all of whom have both motive and opportunity. So, in this cozy mystery we have four interesting stories playing out as Daria tries to help people and solve the murder. Her friend, Sean McCarthy, a congenial newspaper reporter, is always willing to help and accompanies her on many of her adventures. He affectionately refers to her as the “nosy seamstress.” 

There is lots of information about Scottish customs, clothing, and traditions, as well as history surrounding Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Battle of Culloden. Just as interesting, is the information about sewing and some of the difficulties inherent in hand sewing without a pattern. Also I was excited to pay a visit with Daria to the local museum to see a kilt worn in the battle in 1746 and a bridal gown from the 1750’s in an archival room in the basement of the museum.

This cozy mystery provides a good time right up to the end as the spotlight shines on various suspects. There are even some surprises as backgrounds and relationships come to light.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Royally Dead is #3 in the Stitch in Time Mystery Series. When the first two books in this series were published, I passed on the opportunity to read them as ARC’s. What a mistake! Although I had no problem reading Royally Dead as a standalone, I really liked the characters and would enjoy learning more about them in the previous two books. Author Greta McKennan achieved success in the difficult task of combining interesting characters with a good plot.

Publication:  September 11, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

…the old-fashioned handwriting was very hard to read. I was glad I had persisted in learning cursive writing in the third grade, even though my teacher had made it optional because he didn’t see much use for beautiful penmanship when a computer could do the trick. But my cursive training certainly helped me to read this historical document.

Aileen set down her glass and looked me in the eye. I tried to keep eye contact without flinching. After a couple of hours—or maybe just thirty seconds or so—she picked up her sandwich again.

If small-town life was like living in a fishbowl, living in Laurel Springs was like taking that fishbowl and setting it up on a table in the middle of the most popular restaurant in town on a Friday night.

Upstaged by Murder–mystery play with deadly consequences

Upstaged by Murder

by C.S. Challinor

Upstaged by MurderUpstaged by Murder turned out to be more interesting and complex than I had imagined. I was treated to a theatre setting embedded in an English setting. The main character is a Scottish barrister with quite a reputation as a private detective. Full of Britishisms such as “gone for a burton” and “you finally twigged,” the production’s actors have diverse backgrounds as the cozy mystery’s focus is on a community theatre play.  Thus they have their own natural personas in addition to the roles they play on stage where fictional detectives are assembled to solve a fictional crime.

Rex Graves is attending the play Peril at Pinegrove Hall written by his new wife’s friend when Cassie, the actress with the lead in the play, is killed. Rex is invited to assist the investigation in an informal capacity, and the reader gets to watch his efforts to discover not only who committed the crime and why, but also how it could possibly have been done.

I stayed engaged in the story as I followed Rex through his investigative efforts, interviewing the cast and crew and assembling a worthy timeline that eventually, along with other clues, leads him to discover the identity of the murderer. Join Rex as he pursues his passion and talent in detecting in C.S. Challinor’s latest mystery.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Midnight Ink for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: #10 in the Rex Graves Mystery Series, but I enjoyed it as a standalone.

Publication:   July 8, 2018—Midnight Ink

Memorable Lines:

A decorative wind chime on the door tinkled as he entered the shop, and he was immediately assailed by the heady scent of cut flowers, which abounded everywhere in an explosion of colour, tinted rows of almost every variety arranged in transparent plastic buckets.

Often a coincidence spelt a clue.

…that was the nature of investigations; they rarely took the course of a straight line.

Conan Doyle for the Defence–real life detection

Conan Doyle for the Defence

by Margalit Fox

Conan Doyle for the DefenceAs a lover of mysteries, I enjoyed reading Conan Doyle for the Defense. Be forewarned, however, that this book is not light reading. It is the recounting of Arthur Conan Doyle’s application of Holmesian deductive skills to the real case of Oscar Slater, wrongfully found guilty of the murder of an elderly lady.

In the process of relating the details of the case, the author Margalit Fox puts the events in context. She discusses the Victorian era and the development of crime fiction, including, of course, the Sherlock Holmes mystery series. She also addresses the life and character of Arthur Conan Doyle as well as Scottish politics, police, and the penal system. Fox presents an in-depth discussion of the different types of reasoning that might be used in trying to solve crimes.

If you are looking for a beach read, Conan Doyle for the Defence is not it. If you are interested in learning more about true crime detection, and how its principles apply to fiction, then this is the right book for you.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Profile Books/Serpent’s Tail for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: History, True Crime

Notes:  Includes a complete list of references, footnotes, and bibliography to support the information contained in the book.

Publication:   June 28, 2018—Profile Books/Serpent’s Tail

Memorable Lines:

First joining the case in 1912, he turned his formidable powers to the effort to free him, dissecting the conduct of police and prosecution with Holmesian acumen. But despite his influence and energy, Conan Doyle discovered, he wrote, that “I was up against a ring of political lawyers who could not give away the police without also giving away themselves.”

Holmes quickly became a global sensation, not only for his investigative prowess, unimpeachable morals and ultrarational cast of mind, but also for his exquisite embodiment of an age of Victorian gentility, and Victorian certainties, that was already imperiled.

Detection, at bottom, is a diagnostic enterprise, and the late 19th century was where the shared diagnostic concerns of medicine, criminalistics and literary detection first truly converged in public life.

Flowers and Foul Play–a magical read!

Flowers and Foul Play

by Amanda Flower

Flowers and Foul PlayFlowers and Foul Play is an appropriately magical read. Fiona Knox receives a surprise inheritance when her Scottish godfather dies in the war in Afghanistan and wills everything to her including his land, cottage, and a walled garden with a reputation for being magical. It seems Fiona, a florist by trade, is somehow connected to the garden. Unfortunately, after her long flight from Tennessee to Scotland, she tours her garden and discovers a dead body.

Everything about the story is enjoyable. The plot has a lot of twists and turns. The characters are interesting, including the welcoming Lee who owns the Bellewick pub, Hamish, the elderly garden caretaker, and Chief Inspector Neil Craig  who is not only very competent, but also very handsome. Of course, everything is very Scottish and the setting makes this cozy mystery even more interesting. Author Amanda Flower throws in a huge mehir in the garden, tales of an ancestor’s shipwreck, and a local controversy over a real estate deal with environmental implications. The result is a book I didn’t want to put down until the mystery was solved.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5 

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Magic Garden Mystery Series

Publication:   May 8, 2018—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

“If you think this is a rough night in Scotland, you are in for a rude awakening my lass, a very rude awakening indeed. We have storms that come off the sea that will curl your toes and make seasoned Highlanders hide under their beds.”

It reminded me again how old everything in Scotland was. In Nashville, the city practically builds a force field around a house that was built in the 1800s, to protect it from wear and tear. But the 1800s weren’t even a blip on the timeline in a place like Bellewick, where most of the buildings dated back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

“I think that is what his death has taught me the most: don’t count on someday because someday will never come. Too many people put off fighting for what they want until what they think will be a better time—after they’re married, after the kids are grown, after retirement—but the truth is, there is never a better time for anything.”

Queen of Flowers–so many elements

Queen of Flowers

by Kerry Greenwood

Queen of FlowersQueen of Flowers opens with Phryne Fisher’s extensive fitting for a dress to be worn in a Melbourne parade as the chosen Queen of Flowers based on her charitable support. The whole household is turned on end for the fitting, an elephant makes an appearance in her yard, and that day turns out to be the most tranquil in the book.

Queen of Flowers is a masterpiece of complex plot. The carnival and circus are in town along with a violin player from Phryne’s past. Adopted daughter Ruth begins to wonder about her parents. Phryne takes her four flower girls (young ladies) in hand and discovers interesting aspects of their backgrounds. As usual, Phryne shows herself as a force to be reckoned with in dealing with some of St. Kilda’s shadiest characters. My one problem with the book was that when one of her daughters goes missing, Phryne is much calmer than one would expect.

All of Phryne’s “minions” are called in to help with the various mysteries that are amazingly connected. I felt like standing up and clapping with a loud “Well done!” as Greenwood tied up the plot threads successfully and delivered justice as deserved.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #14 of the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries; could be a standalone but better if you have some background on the characters

Publication:   November 7, 2017—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

Phryne, the fiddler remembered, always existed as a still, self-possessed point in a maelstrom. Usually she had created the maelstrom herself.

Phryne…climbed the stairs in search of copious hot water to wash the Weston house off her skin. She had been in houses which ran black with fleas. She had been in rural cottages where the soot gloved the beams and the vulcanized grease on the kitchen walls had been classified by the National Trust. But she had never felt quite this grimy, and she didn’t like it.

He was a slick, hard-faced man with a chin on which one could break rocks, and thin red lips. His eyes were as compassionate and kind as chips of flint.

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