signatureI’ve read several books by Elizabeth Gilbert but had not read The Signature of All Things yet, so it was about time! I had no idea what it would be about, and I was surprised to find that this was historical fiction. The other novels I’d read by Gilbert were all set in current times.

This is a novel about the life of a female botanist, Alma Whittaker, born at the end of the eighteenth century and follows her from birth to the grave (and even before birth, as we learn how her father acquired such wealth as he did). Alma is more interested in her father’s work, botany, than in becoming a socially acceptable girl. This means she prefers her research over settling down with a husband. During the story, we follow her struggles with becoming accepted as a female botanist, with love, and her adventures abroad, taking her into a very different, spiritual, world.

I very much enjoyed reading Alma’s story – it felt like this was a woman who had really existed. She’s completely fictional, though (I checked). This is both a story about a woman quietly doing research at her large estate, as a story about adventure, tropical islands and sea captains. Five stars from me. I loved this!

The publisher says: “Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.”




Read: Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson

hitmanI got an e-copy of this book from the publisher for review (via Netgalley).

In this new book from the writer of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, a priest and a receptionist (the former female, the latter male) plot a scheme so they can share in the money a hitman (Hitman Anders) makes. The priest – who does not believe in god and needs a new job – creates a business plan in which she and the receptionist find assignments for Anders. He’s done killing, but he’s happy to break bones and knee caps. They make a lot of money. But then they change their tactics a bit and find themselves the target of Stockholm’s most violent gangsters. No problem, the priest comes up with a viable new business plan and, while staying out of the hands of the gangsters, they earn a lot of money in a different, charitable, way. The hitman becomes quite famous and the priest and receptionist have trouble keeping the not-so-clever hitman out of view.

This was a fun read, but nowhere near as funny as The Hundred-Year-Old-Man. The couple think of a new type of business several times and it felt a little repetitive after a while. Anders was the main character of the book, according to the title, but the reader never got to know him very well. He remained a quirky person that played a secondary role to the priest and the receptionist. I’d have love to know what he himself thought of it all, but that never became clear.

Still, it was fun and if you enjoyed Jonasson’s other books, you should definitely try this one.

Read: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

brokenwheel A book about books always attracts my attention. This was a quick and fun read about a Swedish woman going to the US on holiday and being adopted by the town she ends up in.

The publisher says: “Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy’s funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor—there’s not much else to do in a dying small town that’s almost beyond repair.

You certainly wouldn’t open a bookstore. And definitely not with the tourist in charge. You’d need a vacant storefront (Main Street is full of them), books (Amy’s house is full of them), and…customers. The bookstore might be a little quirky. Then again, so is Sara. But Broken Wheel’s own story might be more eccentric and surprising than she thought.”

I say: A fun, lighthearted, and definitely unrealistic story about a woman without a work permit opening a bookstore. Sara discovers that Amy, the friend who she came to visit, might have been one of the very few people in Broken Wheel who actually enjoyed reading, but the people are very friendly and help her set up the bookstore even if they have no intention ever to buy a book there. Sara (and the reader) find out about the history of the town, and some romances blossom up around her. But she’s not in love herself, oh no!

Although the story was rather unlikely and a little bit simplistic, I enjoyed reading it. There were references to books, although mainly from a previous correspondence between Amy and Sara, from before Sara came to visit. The letters from Amy to Sara were scattered through the book, touching upon issues that played at that particular moment in the story. It was a bit disconcerting how little the residents cared about books. But they all do show up at the bookstore when residents from a neighboring town come and visit. No one is going to think that the Broken Wheelers aren’t literate!

A good book to take with you on holiday. Charming and not too taxing, it’s an ideal beach read.


Read: Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

daisyI got an e-copy of this book from the publishers for review (via Netgalley).

I was reading Sharon Bolton (S.J. Bolton, as she was then known) when ‘no one’ had even heard of her. She was a great find! I’ve not read all her books, but quite a few.

The publisher says:Famous killers have fan clubs. Hamish Wolfe is no different. Locked up for the rest of his life for the abduction and murder of three young women, he gets countless adoring letters every day. He’s handsome, charismatic and very persuasive. His admirers are convinced he’s innocent, and that he’s the man of their dreams.

Who would join such a club? Maggie Rose is different. Reclusive and enigmatic; a successful lawyer and bestselling true-crime writer, she only takes on cases that she can win. Hamish wants her as his lawyer, he wants her to change his fate. She thinks she’s immune to the charms of a man like this. But maybe not this time . . . Would you?

My view

Lawyer Maggie Rose is more or less stalked by the mother of Hamish Wolfe, a man who is in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, according to the mother. Maggie has no intention to do what the mother wants, which is to represent him and get him out of prison, until she gets a letter from Hamish that piques her curiosity. She goes and visits him but still refuses to be his lawyer. That’s the start of the story.

Before we get to know Maggie Rose well, we hear others gossip about her. And it’s not good. She meddles with everything and is a difficult person to work with. It’s odd, because when we learn more about her, she seems quite a reasonable person, with friends happy to support her all the way.

Hamish is a little odd, too. Although he claims to be innocent, he doesn’t really do much to push this point. He seems OK in prison, and just likes Maggie’s visits as an interruption of the daily grind. So, could he really be innocent? He doesn’t seem to behave that way.

Maggie Rose, whether she wants it or not, gets more and more involved in the Wolfe case. So much so, that her house is broken into, the beginning of a gripping story.

Overall, the book is a good mystery. We learn a few things on the way, and a suspicion slowly creeps in, but until close to the end, it’s hard to grasp it. Then, when the mystery is finally resolved, it suddenly becomes rather unbelievable. At that point, the magic of the book goes, the lights come on and that’s it. I found it hard to accept and I really didn’t like this ending. At all.

So, that was a pity, because the earlier parts of the book were great! I ended this book with mixed feelings.

Books I read before by Sharon BoltonNow You See Me, Sacrifice, Awakening, Dead Scared and probably one or two more.


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