Day: March 18, 2017

Review: Kale to the Queen

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Kale to the Queen My rating: 4 of 5 stars to Nell Hampton‘s Kale to the Queen, the first book in the new “Kensington Palace Chef” mystery series. I thoroughly adored this book and am very excited to see how this new series does in the coming years. A definite read for cozy fans, especially those who love a mystery set in England.


Story

Carrie Ann, a mid-20s American chef from Chicago, has a chance meeting with the English Duchess, and finds herself with an invite to become the royal family’s new personal chef. She moves to London and sets up shop in Kensington palace, where she serves the future King of England, in her own kitchen with two assistant chefs. After meeting several colleagues, and finding a few a bit too snooty and some with a grudge against her already, Carrie Ann settles in; however, she soon finds one of her assistants dead on her kitchen floor. She gets to know 5 or 6 key staffers at the palace, deciding for herself who to trust and who to steer clear of. After several days of minor sleuthing, trying to clear her second assistant who is accused of murdering the first assistant, Carrie Ann finds herself embroiled in quite a mess of black market gambling. As she learns the ways of the palace, she gets to know the victim’s family, learning his wife was in love with someone else and sick with cancer. When she comes closer to solving the case, and putting her job in jeopardy, Carrie Ann unwittingly stumbles upon the killer and finds a way to escape with little harm. Along the course, her boyfriend of 6-years, whom she took a “break” from at his suggestion when she moved to London, tries to maintain their relationship, but she’s finding others she might be attracted to in her new role. How will she get out of this dilemma? Just you wait…


Strengths

1. From the moment I picked up the book until the end, I found every page easy to read, every character interesting and each plot line solid. It’s a strong opening cozy. Not once did I stop to think “which character was that?” as each one is clear and memorable. And there are at least 10 supporting players to keep track of. Nice work, Miss Hampton!

2. You’d think it would be a bit tedious dealing with all of the rules in the palace. But it’s woven together in such an easy way, you find it believable. And kinda fun, trying to figure out how Carrie Ann would adapt to the barricades set around her entire day, from no men in the bedroom quarters, to home by 11pm or sleep elsewhere, to not speaking unless spoken to when near the duchess. Craziness!

3. The relationships between everyone are so fun! Carrie Ann battles with almost everyone on different levels, but she also bonds with everyone at some point, too. I can’t decide who I want her to end up with… the gardener, the royal chef, the head of security, the gardener’s brother! It’s a feast of options.


Suggestions

The ultimate culprit and plot were fine, but possibly a little weak. I’d have liked to see a few more layers of complexity thrown in. It was good, and I enjoyed it, but I think it could have been a little better. For example, maybe there were some different red herrings that led us further astray. Or maybe the family connections were a little more surprising.


Final Thoughts

I’m really surprised at how much I loved this cozy. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was very strong for a new series, and I’m a bit sad I’ll likely have to wait a whole year before the next one. Noooo!!!

View all my reviews

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365 Challenge: Day 6 – Old Soul

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Old Soul: spiritual person whom is wise beyond their years; people of strong emotional stability. Basically, someone whom has more understanding of the world around them.

In honor of my 40th birthday, I chose the word “old soul” as today’s celebratory characteristic. I debated whether to go with “historical” or “old soul,” weighing their definitions and word types. An “old soul” is really more of a noun while “historical” is the adjective; however, the definition of “historical” was weak — basically, it means “of the past.” While ever thou is truest, it didn’t do justice to what I’m attempting to say about myself. So screw consistency today (ha!), I’m going with a noun.

When I think of an old soul, I don’t initially picture myself as one. Iffy on the spiritual part. Iffy on the understanding of the world around me part. Let’s not get into the emotional stability part. I don’t think it’s fair to comment on my own emotional stability, especially on the day I turn 40, typically the age most people consider their mid-life meltdown crisis. (Note, I’m not having one and don’t plan to either.)

But so much of who I am and what I enjoy doing is connected to the past, you know, historical. I am a genealogist. I read historical fiction. I enjoy the transition of power between various kings and queens of the past. I adore American’s Gilded Age. I wish I grew up in the 1960s. I ultimately enjoy the quieter and slower times of sitting around and observing all around me rather than engaging with every new modern toy and game on the market. But it’s really beyond that…

To me, an old soul not only echoes the past (the way they dress, the music they listen to, the books the read, the words they use), but deeply understands the past. Someone who wants to learn from the past and determine the best course for the future. No matter what task I choose, I always need to start from the beginning. Not when the issue first became a problem, or when it first was known. How did it begin? Take me on a tour of its existence and paint a picture of everything surrounding it. Help me understand its purpose down to the very core of its creation. And embrace it.

If I’m walking on land that has some personal connection to the past, I yearn to know what it was like for those who walked before me. If I’m looking at picture someone painted, I create an image of the room in which it was painted and wonder what happened there. If I hear a two-century old piece of music, I wonder what the artist went through at the time to change the face of music and give the world what it has today.

What I lack as an old soul is that spiritual quality or essence that is rare in most people. Occasionally, you’ll see and feel it from someone without ever having exchanged a word. That’s not me. I have no hidden talents of getting feelings from someone unless it’s outwardly and specifically communicated. And even then, I am sometimes the one who says “Are you being sarcastic or did you mean that?” I lack this quality with people where I feel energized and full of it with places and things.

How is that possible to be both? To feel the power of things from the past but not from people? I think it comes down to subjectivity. With people, they can tell you if you are right or wrong. Things cannot. You can learn new information and change your opinion or feelings from things, but ultimately, what you feel from an object is your interpretation of its history and existence. The blanket your great-grandmother knitted… The glasses on your mantle brought from Victorian England… The doorstop cast during America’s colonial settlement.

What I enjoy having as an old soul are the feelings of having past lives. Every so often, when I’m performing some activity or visually seeing some historical site, it’s as if I can recall being in that place. I’m not exactly transported there, but I have a small connection that makes me remember I’m more than just Jay who was born in Florida on March 18th, 1977. And for those of us lucky enough to have those moments where you without question believe and sense what you conquered before you were born, it’s a feeling unlike any other.

I think maybe I will look further into past-life regressions… I’ve been looking for something new to study, to learn, to embrace. Learning what’s real and not real in this topic would be a challenging and interesting experience. For those of you who haven’t see “Defending Your Life,” with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep, please rent the movie. Not only does it speak volumes to me about how one should live a life, but it shows how the past can be connected to everything you do today.

So… whereas my post said I am not very spiritual in the beginning, perhaps I am more than I thought I was. And a bit closer to being that full old soul I want to be.