Book Review: Women Of the Dunes

By Sarah Maine

Historical Fiction / Cultural; Scotland


Libby Snow is an archeologist with a passion for a Viking legend her grandmother passed onto her from her grandmother. When work takes her to Scotland to excavate a site believed to hold a body tied to the Viking legend, Libby is excited to unfold the truth. Instead, she finds a Victorian age body from what appears to be a crime scene that may have actually involved her great-great-grandmother or someone who knew her.

The legend, the crime, and Libby’s family history are all tied together in a terrible knot. She tries to untangle her own family mystery, but she is also dealing with the family on whose estate this excavation & crime has taken place. Their dark secrets are blocking Libby from unveiling the truth of both the legend and of her family.


I was preparing for a trip to Scotland and brought two books with me: ‘Kidnapped’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, and this book. The idea was to stay in Scotland even as I read, and should I not finish the books by the time I returned, I’d still be in Scotland via the book. Also, I really enjoy historical fiction and certainly love a decent crime novel. This had a lot of my favorite things all tied into one.


My typical complaint; it was too slow to start. I remember saying to my sister one night in our lovely B&B in the highlands, “I don’t know if I’m going to finish this book. It’s just not going anywhere and I’m feeling a lame romance coming on.”  Not to mention it took a while for the story to even get to Scotland. I very rarely am quick to take to a book so this is nothing new for me, but I really did think I was going to stop reading this one. I just didn’t care about Libby or her curiosities. Also, as the story shifted from one age to another telling one of three stories, I (with my short attention span) had a bit of a time keeping up and becoming emotionally attached at all. If I hadn’t been on vacation in lovely B&B’s every night I may not have continued – boy am I glad I did!


The body. Obviously I can’t give anything away, but there is a point when what I thought was going to turn into a lame romance turns into an interesting crime novel (and more). Plus Libby finally got to Scotland. There were more characters, more secrets, I was more emotionally invested, and just like that, I couldn’t put it down. The back and forth between the three stories became more interesting to me as they slowly revealed their connections to each other.


This is a beautiful novel that not only takes you to Scotland, but it also explores a lot about family more so than it does history. There is mystery and action and plenty of odd twists and turns that kept me involved with so many of the characters. The relationships here are so real, the setting so vivid, Sarah Maine does a fantastic job putting you right there with the other characters to feel their hopes and fears. You finish the story and end up missing their home, their faces, even their voices. Fantastic writing that has me wanting more of this writer’s work.


I finished this book back here at home in Philadelphia but it was a great way to stay overseas just a bit longer. This book, regardless of what seemed like a slow start for me, kept me in a place for a long time. I visualize the island and the house in my mind more like a memory of somewhere I have been rather than as a fictitious place I read about. I highly recommend this book to lovers of travel, mystery, and family dynamics.


I just want to have a cup of tea in that kitchen please.


Goodreads Monday – “The Art Of Dying”

Goodreads Monday is a great way to talk about a book from your TBR list. Originally started by Lauren’s Page Turners, most people do these weekly, (such as Confessions of a YA Reader who partakes in several fun blog themes) I prefer to do mine monthly and this month I choose the second book of a two-part series.

“The Art of Dying” caught my attention simply with the title. As Tyler Durden says in “Fight Club” ;

“In the Tibetan philosophy, Sylvia Plath sense of the word I know we’re all dying.”  

I quite agree and with that, this title took my fancy. 

Rather than being about philosophical principles, this story is a historical crime novel. A historical crime novel that takes place in Edinburg Scotland. So many of my favorite things rolled into one.

I hunted down the first book (“The Way Of All Flesh” ) which I completed over the holiday break.  Without giving a full review on that book, suffice it to say I now want to read its sequel. Here is its blurb from GoodReads: 

art of dying.jpgThe Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry

Edinburgh, 1850. Despite being at the forefront of modern medicine, hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. But it is not just the deaths that dismay the esteemed Dr. James Simpson – a whispering campaign seeks to blame him for the death of a patient in suspicious circumstances.

Simpson’s protégé Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher are determined to clear their patron’s name. But with Raven battling against the dark side of his own nature, and Sarah endeavoring to expand her own medical knowledge beyond what society deems acceptable for a woman, the pair struggle to understand the cause of the deaths.

Will and Sarah must unite and plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets to clear Simpson’s name. But soon they discover that the true cause of these deaths has evaded suspicion purely because it is so unthinkable.


New Year, New Decade, Same Me.


“Be sure to poop before midnight so you don’t carry your old sh*+  with you into the new year.”

A bit much? Perhaps, but really there are just some things we can’t control. It’s a New Year AND a New Decade and everyone is filled with motivation for self-improvement and success, but what of those who are not or cannot? Some things aren’t as easily shed, some pasts, some habits, some hurts, are not as simple to dispose of. Read More

New Year’s Eve


This post is from last year. For reasons I will not go into, I have not been actively reading or writing any blogs. But I’ve updated this site and wanted to repost this particular entry from last year. I hope you enjoy. 

Today is the eve of a new year. We, together, say goodbye to the previous 12 months we have decidedly named one year. We measure time in years, months, hours, minutes and less. How do we measure that time spent? Is there a way to measure your moments, your events, your worth? Some will say that it’s just another year and there is no difference for them. This is understandable, yet something has changed somewhere and we must all admit this fact. Read More

GoodReads Monday (November)

Goodreads Monday is hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners. It’s a great way to talk about a book from your TBR list and just kind of show it off.  Instead of weekly, I do them monthly. Today I choose a picture book because I haven’t talked about one in a while even though that’s what I am currently writing! I read through them so fast I don’t always get to talk about them. This book, however, has been on my list for a while and I have yet to pick it up and it’s too new to be in a library. So here it is, my Goodreads pick of the month.



The Suitcase  by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

“At a time when over 65 million people are forcibly displaced around the world, this beautifully illustrated and wise, gentle tale of tolerance and kindness for fellow humans resonates deeply. I hope all parents share The Suitcase with their children.” – Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner

“A simple, powerful way to introduce the idea of kindness to strangers to young children” – Axel Scheffler, illustrator of The Gruffalo


Have you read this yet? What did you think about it? And what other new Picture Books are you looking forward to reading? I’d love to know.