Tag Archive | Book review

Cool weather, Cozy-ish Mystery: The Alchemist’s Daughter by Mary Lawrence

I have a pot of mulled apple cider simmering on the stove, and we turned the heater on for the first time yesterday. Fall is finally here. All I want to do is curl up with a good book and sip on something warm under a blanket. If only I had all the time in the world….

Here’s one if you’re looking for some fall reading to keep you warm. Now, The Alchemist’s Daughter isn’t your typical cozy mystery though it has elements of the cozy genre. It’s set in the 16th century, across the bridge from London in a slum town known as Southwark. Bianca Goddard is a not your typical amateur sleuth either. She is a smart independent young woman trying to take care of herself at a time and place when that was pretty unheard of. Her passion is herbal medicine, and she’s good at it. She’s curious and constantly experimenting and researching, a trait she inherited from her father, a well known and mistrusted alchemist. But she has no desire to be associated with her father or alchemy. She want’s to do something important, and help people.

When her friend, Jolyn, suddenly falls ill and dies, Bianca blames herself for not being able to save her, and the local constable blames her too, accusing her of murder. It appears to be a poisoning and she had just given Jolyn an herbal remedy. She has to outwit the constable, and prove her innocence by using her knowledge of herbs and healing . A cast of colorful characters turn up to help, and sometimes hinder her along the way. I can’t wait until the next installment in the Bianca Goddard Mysteries. I hope to see further development of Bianca’s character, more about her past and how she breaks away from her Alchemist father to become an independent herbalist.

I personally love this current trend of exploring the darker side of London. It makes for a familiar yet intriguing setting. It seems a little more realistic to me than reading about the lives of the rich and privileged. But I warn you, if you like cozy mysteries for their sweet settings and lack of graphic descriptions, this one may not be for you. Tudor London was not the most pleasant place to live for most, and Lawrence’s descriptions of sights and smells are not for the weak. If you’re feeling the cold that’s slowing getting colder…this book is sure to make you feel warmer, or maybe just grateful to live in the time of hot running water and electric heat.

Interested in Tudor England? There is more than a lot out there concerning the politics and Henry VIII and his wives. Some very good stuff too. I’m sure you’ll find something to pique your curiosity. I don’t think you need my help. However, there is a lot less about the lives of the poor throughout England’s History. I thought I’d recommend a few.

For something similar to The Alchemist’s Daughter (but a bit darker) check out The Thief Taker by C.S. Quinn.

Another alchemist’s daughter appears in Alchemy and Meggy Swan by Karen Cushman, set in Elizabethan England. Though it is a rather short children’s novel it takes a similar approach to The Alchemist’s Daughter in describing the conditions of daily life.

I also recently reviewed A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor which is turn of the century, and I’ve added some good links to non-fiction about London’s poor in the review.

I also am a fan of the children’s Victorian era books in the Montmorency series by Elinor Updale. There are no children in in the books, and it can be a bit dark, so I’d recommend them for older children, teens or adults.

Coffee vs. Tea: Dual book review! The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery vs. The Various Flavors of Coffee by Anthony Capella

image from teawitty.com

Coffee and Tea

Oh how I love thee

Ok, maybe I’m not a very good poet. I’ll stick to reading. And what better with a good book than a cup of something delicious and warm? One might proclaim themselves a “coffee person” or a “tea person”. I say: can’t we all just get along? I love you both. Both have long storied histories. Both are powerful plants, medicinally, historically, and often personally. Both have their merits and their dangers, both so bitter and alluring.

                        

Camellia sinensis vs. Coffea spp.

I couldn’t decide which book to review, so I decided to do both. Both very different, but maintaining the highest respect for these two similarly loved plants in a way I have rarely seen in fiction.

The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery is the captivating story of an American girl trapped and alone in Japan. It explores the nature of the Japanese tea ceremony from the perspective of both the american girl a family that has been practicing and teaching tea for centuries. It’s exotic in all the right ways, but the heroines struggles are very real and relateable; trying to find where you fit in,  learning to love and to trust.

The Various Flavors of Coffee by Anthony Capella is the story of a young passionate poet in London. Struggling to find paid work, he is hired by a coffee magnate to help write a guide describing the various attributes of different coffee beans. His new line of work takes him in and out of love, and into the heart of Africa. A journey in which he finds himself along the way.

So both are stories of self discovery, and of learning to love. One about a young man, one about a young woman. One takes place in London and Africa, and one in America and Japan. They are about as different, and as alike as coffee and tea themselves. Exotic, enticing, passionate and beautiful.

If you are a tea lover I think you’ll really enjoy The Teahouse Fire. It is the more gentle and subtly sweet of the two.

If you love coffee, try The Various Flavors of Coffee. It is bold, rich and intriguing.

Or if you’re like me, you like books and beverages of all flavors and you’ll enjoy both. Different but equally as satisfying.

 vs.

The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery vs. The Various Flavors of Coffee by Anthony Capella

Want to know more about the stories and histories of our two favorite hot drinks? Follow up with a few of these…

Tea:

Coffee:

Know any other wonderful coffee or tea fiction? I’d love to read more!