Tag Archives: book review

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

What a disappointment

If there’s one thing I like, it’s browsing a bookshop. Walking along the aisles, picking up books, reading the synopsis. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s browsing books online. If one of my favorite authors has a new book out, it’s easy, I just type in the name and within minutes the audiobook gets downloaded to my reader. If none of my favorite authors has something new out, I’m groping in the dark, and finding something suitable is a nightmare. How will I find something interesting?

Sappy love stories are not for me. It’s always the same. Boy meets girl, some problems arise, the couple’s happiness is in jeopardy, but in the end, they live happily ever after. Such baloney.

Stories set in the olden days are fine, but preferably no further than the 1800s.

The setting of the story is also rather important. Stories set in Turkey, Bangladesh, or Nicaragua also get a miss.

I want a mystery, I want a murder or kidnapping, something that has me on the edge of my seat and keeps me awake at night.

After nearly searching for nearly two hours for my next read I noticed the name Alex Michaelides. Bingo, I’d struck gold. I loved his first book ‘The Silent Patient’ and thought I was in for another great story. I was wrong. I abandoned his second book ‘The Maidens’ after four chapters. Boring, boring, boring.

The story starts off rather promising. Two murders have been committed and the lead character, Mariana, is set on catching the killer.

The story quickly takes a turn for the worse though. Mariana is a wimp. She’s lost her husband and now all she does is either cry, whimper, or whine. While I understand her traumatic loss, does Michaelides have to go on and on about how she mourns the loss of her husband? The man went swimming in a gale storm for heaven’s sake, what did he expect? Every person with half a brain knows that you avoid the water when a storm is raging.

Fine, so now she returns to Cambridge to assist her niece whose roommate has been murdered. Another whimpering female.

If Michaelides writing got on my nerves, the narrator of ‘The Maidens’ drove me up the wall. There are two narrators, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith and Louise Breadley. I was familiar with Louise Breadley’s voice (she also narrated ‘The Silent Patient’), which is why I was so stunned when I heard her in her portrayal of Mariana. The way she talks … OMG, after four chapters I just couldn’t take it anymore.

So I’m afraid I’ll never know the storyline of ‘The Maidens’. It might be a good book, it might not. One thing is for sure, it’s nowhere near as good as ‘The Silent Patient’, which was excellently written and narrated. 

As someone once said, ‘Whether a book character is good or evil, the reader has to care about him or her.’ And that was precisely the problem with ‘The Maidens’, I didn’t care about Mariana and I didn’t care about her niece, Zoe.

Michaelides’ portrayal of campus life also leaves me wondering. The students party day in day out and are either drunk, high, or recovering from a hangover. When do these people actually study? How does any of them ever graduate? Are these the students of today, a bunch of alcoholics and dopeheads?

The critics can as usual not be trusted. They are being paid to give a glowing review. When I noticed the line “Listeners will not be disappointed with this suspenseful and intelligent thriller.” I rolled my eyes … listeners will most certainly be disappointed. I was. More than disappointed actually, Louise Brealey’s voice was the reason I abandoned the book.

So I’m on the prowl again, looking for a good book. Any suggestions?

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I did just that when I came across ‘A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder’ by Dianne Freeman. I didn’t even bother reading the synopsis. I took one look at the title and the cover art of the book and clicked to purchase.

Since I’m a multitasker with limited time for reading, I switched to listening. Over the months I have sampled close to 100 audiobooks, many of which I dismissed. Some were from authors I have followed for years, but the narrators of the stories got on my nerves.

Some narrators read too slow, some too fast. Some put too much emotion in their reading, others not enough. Some pronounced their T’s and P’s too profoundly. Some smacked their tongue while reading, while others suffered from dry mouth. All details that made listening to them unbearable.

Not ‘A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder’ read by Sarah Zimmerman though. This narrator’s diction and delivery was absolutely perfect. She spoke neither too slow nor too fast, she put just the right amount of emotion in her speech and didn’t make any annoying sounds. In fact, in her portrayal as Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh she even spoke as a countess.

For those who need a little persuasion, this is the Amazon synopsis:

Frances Wynn, the wealthy Countess of Harleigh, enjoys more freedom as a widow than she did as a wife. With her young daughter in tow, Frances rents a home in Belgravia and prepares to welcome her sister, Lily, arriving from New York—for her first London season.
 
But no sooner has Frances begun her new life than the Metropolitan police receive an anonymous letter implicating Frances in her husband’s death. Frances assures Inspector Delaney of her innocence, but she’s also keen to keep him from learning the scandalous circumstances of Reggie’s demise. As fate would have it, her dashing new neighbor, George Hazelton, is one of only two other people aware of the full story.
 
While busy with social engagements on Lily’s behalf, and worrying if Reggie really was murdered, Frances rallies her wits, a circle of gossips, and the ever-chivalrous Mr. Hazelton to uncover the truth. A killer is in their midst, and Frances must unmask the villain before Lily’s season—and their lives—come to a most unseemly end
.

As soon as I reached the end of ‘A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder’, I looked for the sequel ‘A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder.’ A rare occurrence for me as I hate book series with a passion. I read all the Harry Potter books of course, but other than that I never ever read a series. As much as I enjoy certain books, when I’m done with them, I’m done with them. For Dianne Freeman I’ve made an exception. Her first book made me want more. Her main character is completely loveable, her side characters interesting, her storyline captivating, with a satisfying ending.

In her second book, ‘A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder’ nearly all the original characters are back with a few additional ones. This is the Amazon synopsis, not that I bothered with it, just knowing that I was about to get reacquainted with Francis Wynn was enough for me.

Though American by birth, Frances Wynn, the now-widowed Countess of Harleigh, has adapted admirably to the quirks and traditions of the British aristocracy. On August twelfth, otherwise known as the Glorious Twelfth, most members of the upper class retire to their country estates for grouse-shooting season. Frances has little interest in hunting—for birds or a second husband—and is expecting to spend a quiet few months in London with her almost-engaged sister, Lily, until the throng returns.

Instead, she’s immersed in a shocking mystery when a friend, Mary Archer, is found murdered. Frances had hoped Mary might make a suitable bride for her cousin, Charles, but their courtship recently fizzled out. Unfortunately, this puts Charles in the spotlight—along with dozens of others. It seems Mary had countless notes hidden in her home, detailing the private indiscretions of society’s elite. Frances can hardly believe that the genteel and genial Mary was a blackmailer, yet why else would she horde such juicy tidbits?
 
Aided by her gallant friend and neighbor, George Hazelton, Frances begins assisting the police in this highly sensitive case, learning more about her peers than she ever wished to know. Too many suspects may be worse than none at all—but even more worrying is that the number of victims is increasing too. And unless Frances takes care, she’ll soon find herself among them.

Fortunate for me and all other Dianne Freeman fans, there is a third book, ‘A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder.’

Amazon synopsis:

London is known for its bustle and intrigues, but the sedate English countryside can host—or hide—any number of secrets. Frances, the widowed Countess of Harleigh, needs a venue for her sister Lily’s imminent wedding, away from prying eyes. Risings, George Hazleton’s family estate in Hampshire, is a perfect choice, and soon Frances, her beloved George, and other guests have gathered to enjoy the usual country pursuits—shooting, horse riding, and romantic interludes in secluded gardens.

But the bucolic setting harbors a menace, and it’s not simply the arrival of Frances’s socially ambitious mother. Above and below stairs, mysterious accidents befall guests and staff alike. Before long, Frances suspects these “accidents” are deliberate, and fears that the intended victim is Lily’s fiancé, Leo. Frances’s mother is unimpressed by Lily’s groom-to-be and would much prefer that Lily find an aristocratic husband, just as Frances did. But now that Frances has found happiness with George—a man who loves her for much more than her dowry—she heartily approves of Lily’s choice. If she can just keep the couple safe from villains and meddling mamas.

As Frances and George search for the culprit among the assembled family, friends, and servants, more victims fall prey to the mayhem. Mishaps become full-blooded murder, and it seems that no one is safe. And unless Frances can quickly flush out the culprit, the peal of wedding bells may give way to another funeral toll.

I already know that as soon as I’ve finished Dianne Freeman’s second book I will purchase this one too and every other book that follows.

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Three books by Dianne Freeman.