Saturday, July 20, 2019

Review: No Safe Place by Patricia Gibney

No Safe Place (D.I. Lottie Parker, Book #4)
by Patricia Gibney
Release Date: March 22nd 2018
2018 Bookouture
Kindle Edition; 440 Pages
ISBN: 978 -1786814098
ASIN: B078JZZPFJ
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
As funeral mourners stand in silence at Ragmullin cemetery, a deafening cry cuts through the air. Lying crumpled at the bottom of an open grave is the bloodied body of a young woman, and Detective Lottie Parker is called in to investigate.

Knowing the body can’t have been there long, Lottie wonders if it could be Elizabeth Bryne, a young woman who vanished without trace just days earlier. And with a new boss who seems to have it in for her, Lottie is under pressure to solve both cases quickly.

As two more women go missing from Ragmullin, Lottie and her team fear there is a serial killer on the loose. And the disappearances are strikingly similar to a cold case from ten years earlier. Could history be repeating itself?

As journalists begin to interfere with Lottie’s investigation, she fears the killer is about to strike again. Lottie is in a race against time to find the missing women, but the killer is closer than she thinks. Could Lottie be his next target?


My Thoughts
No Safe Place is the fourth book in a very good police procedural series feature Detective Inspector Lottie Parker. I actually have the next two books in this series for review, but having read this series from the beginning, I thought I should go back and read this entry before continuing the series in order to get the full scope of Lottie's continuing story.  And that is something that I would recommend for anyone interested in this series, start at the first book.

I love police procedurals but am always hesitant when trying a new author as they can be a bit of a hit or miss situation.  So when I do find a new one I like, I tend to be very loyal and this author does a great job at describing a complex mystery but also intertwining the personal lives of the investigators into the story.  Lottie is a favourite of mine and I think it's because of her flaws that she is so likeable. Don't get me wrong though, she can be just as tough as any lead investigator; I don't think you can be a lead investigator without having some bite, but there is a softer side to her as well, one who is struggling with managing her family after her husband's death and I like this about her.  The earlier books focus a lot more on Lottie's personal life, so it was good to see a bit more emphasis put on the case and the investigation in this one and I like the better balance here.  And Lottie has a lot on her place this time; an annoying boss, rape, women disappearing, fires, and an aggressive crime reporter who seems to have it out for her.  The author also takes the time to develop the secondary characters although I would love to know even more about them as they seem pretty interesting. 

Lottie is definitely the focus of the book and I like her a lot.  She is a bit of a mess in this one, popping anti-anxiety meds to help her get through the day and I wondered when it was all going to come to a head but that didn't quite happen so I need to wait for the next book.  The investigation itself however, kept me interested enough that Lottie's issues weren't at the center which was kind of nice.  And while there is always closure for the investigation, the reason I tell readers to start from the first book is the author has this way of keeping some things dangling at the end and this book is no exception.  However, the concept was started in earlier books and people may not fully understand the significance unless they had read the earlier books.  Normally I'm not a big fan of these types of endings but it seems to work in these books. 

Verdict
No Safe Place was a pleasure to read and I am looking forward to continuing this series.  The plot was fairly intricate and I really enjoy the secondary characters, although I would like to see even more character development with them as the series continues.  It also moved fairly quickly, with lots of twists and turns, and although I figured out who did it fairly early on, it didn't diminish my enjoyment one bit.  I highly recommend this series to anyone who likes good police procedurals.
Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Review: A Glimmer of Hope by Steve McHugh

A Glimmer of Hope (The Avalon Chronicles, Book #1)
by Steve McHugh
Release Date: April 1st 2018
2018 47North
Kindle Edition: 332 Pages
ISBN: 978-1503951808
ASIN: B01LW3WQ6K
Genre: Fiction / Urban Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Layla Cassidy has always wanted a normal life, and the chance to put her father’s brutal legacy behind her. And in her final year of university she’s finally found it. Or so she thinks.

But when Layla accidentally activates an ancient scroll, she is bestowed with an incredible, inhuman power. She plunges into a dangerous new world, full of mythical creatures and menace—all while a group of fanatics will stop at nothing to turn her abilities to their cause.

To protect those she loves most, Layla must take control of her new powers…before they destroy her. All is not yet lost—there is a light shining, but Layla must survive long enough to see it.


My Thoughts
A Glimmer of Hope is the first novel in a new series set in the same world as The Hellequin Chronicles.  While I loved  The Hellequin Chronicles and was happy to see appearances by some of the characters in this book, I'm a bit on the fence about this book.  It ook a long time for me to really get into this book and I really can't put on the reason why.

First of all, there was a lot going on.  That doesn't really bother me as it usually comes together in the end and I am also not afraid of being introduced to a bunch of new characters and trying to figure it all out; in fact, I tend to look forward to the challenge. When you are introduced to too many characters however, without fully understanding their purpose or how they fit in, but they suddenly appear and have major parts, that's when it gets confusing.  And I have  the benefit of being familiar with this author's writing style to boot.  That being said, I do think the story was somewhat original and I did like the concept; I am curious as to what the author will do with Layla and her abilities in the future as there is so much potential here.  And the story definitely picked up towards the end, with quite a bit of action, even if the suspense was not quite as high as I was expecting. And I have to admit, I liked a story with no romance in it. I still enjoy the magic system and am quite intrigued by the world building.  I would love to see more of the characters from the other series continue to play a role as I wasn't quite ready to let them go.

Layla, at first, is your typical heroine, tough, smart, tormented, and ...well, boring.   However, as she came into her powers and had to deal with a world with which she was unprepared, she became a bit more interesting, and more vulnerable, making mistakes, seeming more human.  I grew to like her a lot more as the book progressed.  Luckily, Layla's powers seem to be a lot more complex than originally thought and I am looking forward to the development of those powers and what that might mean, both for Layla and the world. The author usually spends time developing his secondary characters. and while I have grown fond of Layla's friends and look forward to their continuing impact, I did feel they were a little flat without a lot of personality.  

Verdict
A Glimmer of Hope was one of those books that just missed the mark for me overall.  First of all, I didn't really care for the villain and while I know that sounds odd, I still like my villains to have personality or to have something going for them.  The magic system however, was very interesting and I am curious enough about it to want to read the next book in the series, A Flicker of Steel. Because I had read the author's previous series, I felt very familiar with the world so I am not really sure if it is a necessity or not for this book.  It is worth taking a look at though.


 


Monday, July 15, 2019

Review: Murder in the Reading Room by Ellery Adams

Murder in the Reading Room (Book Retreat Mysteries, #5)
by Ellery Adams
Release Date: April 30th 2019
2019 Kensington Publishing
Kindle Edition; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-1496715654
ASIN: B07G6NJKSW
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Storyton Hall, Virginia, is a paradise for book lovers who come from all over for literary getaways. But manager Jane Steward is temporarily leaving for another renowned resort—in hopes of solving a twist-filled mystery . . .

Jane’s boyfriend is missing, and she thinks she may find him at North Carolina’s historic Biltmore Estate. Officially, she’s there to learn about luxury hotel management, but she’s also prowling around the breathtaking buildings and grounds looking for secret passageways and clues. One of the staff gardeners promises to be helpful . . . that is, until his body turns up in the reading room of his cottage, a book on his lap.

When she finally locates the kidnapped Edwin, his captor insists that she lead him back to Storyton Hall, convinced that it houses Ernest Hemingway’s lost suitcase, stolen from a Paris train station in 1922. But before they can turn up the treasure, the bell may toll for another victim...


My Thoughts
Murder in the Reading Room is the fifth entry in the Book Retreat Mysteries and while it sounded like it may be the last one, I wondered if perhaps the author thought this arc was finished and wished to take it in another direction. I really enjoyed this book, and this series, and hoped that was the case. (Update: After writing this, I just learned there will be a sixth book in the series, Murder in the Storybook Cottage.  Yoohoo!!) I do recommend you read these books from the beginning in order to fully understand what is happening in this one as I think it would be rather confusing otherwise.

First of all, to say I was surprised by what happened in this one is an understatement.  There were quite a few twists and turns that I did not see coming at all, and I'm still not too sure what to think about them as one of them, in particular, is a bit sad, but it was a doozy.  I was curious as to how Jane would finally prevail against the Templars in their continuing battle for supremacy in the book world as she headed into enemy territory in order to find her boyfriend who went missing. The plot moved rather quickly, and I really do enjoy this author's style of writing.  I feel like the characters have grown tremendously and I have developed a kinship with all of them. I am particularly fond of Jane's group of friends and love the scenes where they gather for their book club meetings. So much fun!  I really enjoy the concept of the Fins although I definitely understand Jane's wish to be 'normal' and not have to worry about her children and the type of world into which they will grow.  Jane is such a strong woman, a woman who had to deal with a lot of adversity, but with a strong support group around her.  I love how the author really plays on the ties of friendship and support.

Verdict
Murder in the Reading Room was an excellent addition to this series and I am so happy to learn there will be another book in the series, although it will be interesting to see where it will go based on the ending in this one.  Storyton Hall is a place I would love to visit (and perhaps stay permanently?); I enjoy the characters, the setting, and the story.  I highly recommend this book and this series.
Sunday, July 14, 2019

Review: Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

Age of Swords (The Legends of the First Empire, #2)
by Michael J. Sullivan
Release Date: July 25th 2017
2017 Del Rey Books
Kindle Edition; 512 Pages
ISBN: 978-1101965368
ASIN: B01LWZU1E3
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhune make it all but impossible to unite against a common foe. And even if the clans can join forces, how will they defeat an enemy whose magical prowess makes the Fhrey indistinguishable from gods?

The answer lies across the sea in a faraway land populated by a reclusive and dour race who feels nothing but disdain for both Fhrey and mankind. With time running out, Persephone leads the gifted young seer Suri, the Fhrey sorceress Arion, and a small band of misfits in a desperate search for aid—a quest that will take them into the darkest depths of Elan. There, an ancient adversary waits—an enemy as surprising as it is deadly.


My Thoughts
Age of Swords is the second book in a planned six-book series.  The story is set thousands of years before the Riyria Revelations and explores how the empires in those books developed and who the major players were.  It is a fascinating look at the legends and people who shaped the events in one of my favourite series.

There are many things happening in this book, many of which will definitely continue into the next book, but I like how the author does kind of give you closure for each book while still giving you tantalizing clues as to what could happen in the next one.  This book is full of heroes, but what I especially liked, was the involvement of women and how women features in this book.  The book was full of strong women, each different in their own way, with different weaknesses and strengths, but they all worked together to pull of the impossible. First of all, there is Persephone, a born leader, always pushing herself for her people no matter the cost to herself. My favourite character, Moya, who has to prove herself over and over again that she is just as brave and talented as any man, someone who can train hard and learn good weapons skills to defend her land and her people. And then Brin, who is developing a written language so their deeds are never forgotten. And even though I have to sort of look the other way on this one, I loved the concept of how it developed. Roan, so brilliant, but so...broken? My heart goes out to her so much. And then there is Suri, poor Suri.

The story has several different POV, all of them interesting in their own way.  I really liked Raithe's POV as he continued to struggle with taking on a leadership role and what that would mean both for him and his people, and if it could cost his people everything.  It was interesting to see the byplay of thoughts among the different groups of people as to the possible outcomes so when an unexpected solution came up, I was a bit caught off guard though I thought it was perfect.  Mawyndule's story line was a bit harder to read simply because he was so young and didn't have a lot of experience so he was quite gullible.  He was also spoiled and a bit petulant about his circumstances which is why it was easy to predict what would happen to him.  I don't dislike his character but he is a bit annoying, which is how I think he is supposed to be.  

Who I can't quite figure out at the moment is Nyphron and how he fits into the whole story line.  I think the author is really playing with the idea of how history changes so if you are familiar with the Riyria Revelations, you can see the changes from the true history to what is believed in those books, and that is how it should be.  I am really curious to learn about Nyphron and Persephone but so far, nothing.  

Verdict
Age of Swords is a really good book and I really like where the story is going.  And while it is lacking the amazing banter of Royce and Hadrian, there is much to recommend both in the characters and in the story.  I have always enjoyed the author's writing style and while the pacing is a bit slower, it didn't really bother me as I enjoyed learning about the different characters as well as visiting the different places.  I am definitely looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Age of War.
Saturday, July 13, 2019

Review: Blackthorn Manor Haunting by Cheryl Bradshaw

Blackthorn Manor Haunting (Addison Lockhart, Book #3)
by Cheryl Bradshaw
Release Date: May 27th 2018
2018 CreateSpace Independent
Kindle Edition; 210 Pages
ISBN: 978-1720351412
ASIN: B07BB48W7J
Genre: Fiction / Ghost
Source: Review copy from publisher

2 / 5 Stars

Summary
A woman in black stares at the sea, her body transparent, eyes brimming with tears.

Hoping to get a better look at the woman, psychic medium Addison Lockhart leans out over the manor’s windowsill, gasping when she feels an intense pressure pressing down on her back—someone thrusting her forward. She grabs the side of the window to brace herself, but it’s too late. She’s already falling.

Who is the strange, melancholy woman haunting Blackthorn Manor? And why is someone out to keep Addison from unlocking the manor’s darkest secrets? 


My Thoughts
Blackthorn Manor Haunting definitely had an interesting premise and I am always up for a good ghost story, but I have to admit that I was not a big fan of this book. The main character comes from a long line of psychic women and has the gift to see spirits, but when she is pushed out of a second-story window at the beginning of the book, unhurt, with no recollection of where she was, I was ready to give up pretty much at that point.  

First of all, let me start with what I did find interesting, the overall story.  The premise was good, and I am always up for a good ghost story. It was quick to read and the action moved along quite rapidly, but to be honest, I wasn't really invested in the story or in the characters.  Having read the previous installments in this series, I was hoping for a bit more investment in the characters, but really could not get into the story or the characters; so little time was spent developing them or fleshing them out that I feel like I haven't really learned nothing new about them since the first book.  In fact, I actually found Addison more annoying than usual in this book.  You would think that by the third book I would be much more invested in the lives of the characters, but I only feel...disinterest.

Verdict
Blackthorn Manor Haunting is a quick read, and although I really liked the premise, I couldn't empathize with any of the characters, and I couldn't really invest in the story line.  I will probably not continue with this series, but I do urge you to judge for yourself and take a look.  Ghost stories are something I do have a lot of experience reading, and while this one was not for me, it may be for you.   
Friday, July 5, 2019

Review: The Never Game by Jeffery Deaver

The Never Game (Colter Shaw, #1)
by Jeffery Deaver
Release Date: May 14th 2019
2019 G.P. Putnam's Sons
Hardcover Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0525535942
ASIN: B07HDSGVMQ
Genre: Fiction / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
A young woman has gone missing in Silicon Valley and her father has hired Colter Shaw to find her. The son of a survivalist family, Shaw is an expert tracker. Now he makes a living as a "reward seeker," traveling the country to help police solve crimes and private citizens locate missing persons. But what seems a simple investigation quickly thrusts him into the dark heart of America's tech hub and the cutthroat billion-dollar video-gaming industry.

When another victim is kidnapped, the clues point to one video game with a troubled past--The Whispering Man. In that game, the player has to survive after being abandoned in an inhospitable setting with five random objects. Is a madman bringing the game to life?

Shaw finds himself caught in a cat-and-mouse game, risking his own life to save the victims even as he pursues the kidnapper across both Silicon Valley and the dark 'net. Encountering eccentric game designers, trigger-happy gamers and ruthless tech titans, he soon learns that he isn't the only one on the hunt: someone is on his trail and closing fast.


My Thoughts
The Never Game is the first book in a new series for Jeffery Deaver and I was quite excited to read this as I am a huge fan of his other work. I like that his characters tend to be unusual, and often come with unexpected surprises that make you think a bit differently about a situation.  This series introduces a different type of hero, one who makes a living solving crimes that offer rewards.  I was intrigued from the get-go.

What I really liked about Colter Shaw is the fact that he is not a registered PI, he is not a cop, he is not a federal agent, but is a citizen, with some specialized talents honed by his father as he was growing up, trying to help people find/locate loved ones gone missing.  For a reward, yes, but as I began to realize as I was reading the story, there is definitely more to the story than meets the eye and all was definitely not revealed in this book.  Colter is a very clever man and as the story developed, I grew rather fond of him.  He's got this really dry wit, plus he's a little cynical, and I like that.  He's also a bit mysterious and the author introduces just enough about his past and his life to tantalize and wonder what is really going on with him.  He has this back-up team that he uses to help him find information and I would love to know how all of that came about.  

I have read enough Deaver books to be aware of the traps in his novels, but I have to give credit where credit is due as I realized the importance of the secondary story line a bit too late.  So, without giving too much away, there is actually a couple of things happening in this book and it was quite easy to get too focused on one and not pay attention to the other which actually sets up the next book in this series.  Clever writing on the author's part I'd have to say.  That being said, I did find it a bit slow in the middle section but I enjoyed learning more about the video-gaming world, something I know next to nothing about.  You can tell that a lot of research went into this story, a story that for the most part, moves rather quickly, and is full of quirky characters.

Verdict
The Never Game is an enjoyable first entry into a new series, and I am looking forward to seeing where the author takes future sequels.  Colter is a great new protagonist; I like his dry witticism and his intelligence (he did go to law school), plus the fact that he is very capable in the outdoors.  The story moved quite quickly with a couple of story lines, both of which you need to pay attention to, although it was quite easy to get wrapped up in the kidnapping case, forgetting about the other one. Done intentionally? Not sure, but interesting.  Definitely looking forward to the next book in this series, and highly recommend this one.
Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Review & Giveaway: Rogue Most Wanted by Janna MacGregor


Rogue Most Wanted (The Cavensham Heiresses, Book #5)
by Janna MacGregor
Release Date: June 25th 2019
2019 St. Martin's Paperbacks
Kindle Edition; 371 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250295996
ASIN: B07H7C1YZV
Genre: Fiction / Historical Romance
Source: HFVBT

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Lady Theodora Worth needs to marry fast in order to keep her estate. It’s been her heart and home for years, and she’ll not lose it to anyone. There’s just one problem—as a woman who was raised in isolation by her grandfather, she’s completely incapable of pouring a cup of tea, never mind wooing a man. She’ll need a little matchmaking help from her sprightly next-door neighbor in order to find a convenient husband…

Lord William Cavensham’s heart was broken years ago, and since that day he vowed to never love again. But his spirited Great Aunt Stella is determined he’ll marry or not inherit a single penny from her. And she’s got just the woman in mind—her beautiful and completely hapless next-door neighbor, Thea…

Thea and Will agree there’s no sense in marrying each other. Will wholeheartedly believes he’s incapable of love, and Thea refuses to marry the first man she’s practically met. But Will may be the rogue Thea wants the most after all…



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Twitter tags: @JannaMacGregor @StMartinsPress @hfvbt  

Facebook tags: @JannaMacGregor @stmartinspress @hfvbt

My Thoughts
Rogue Most Wanted is the fifth entry in The Cavensham Heiresses series and focuses on Will Cavensham, a man previously jilted and who has sworn off love for the foreseeable future.  Not the most original story line, but I have always liked the author's writing style so I stuck with it which I'm glad I did.  And while it was fairly predictable, I thought it was enjoyable.

I really liked Thea's personality and character and although you have the really strong feeling she will win everything in the end (it is a romance novel after all), I definitely was on her side in all of this. She had a strong will and was very positive in her outlook on life. I wasn't overly crazy about the romance aspect in this story as I didn't really feel that spark between them like in previous books, so I chose to focus more on Thea's fight to save her inheritance and the plight of women during this time period.  Women had so little rights during this time period, but Scottish women tended to have a bit more independence which is why I think I tend to prefer Scottish romances a bit more.  I always find the intrigues of who is who and what is what quite fascinating and will probably never tire of the endless rules and etiquette one had to learn in order to move among the ton successfully.  Thea, having grown up isolated on her grandfather's estate during his illness, had not learned a lot of the etiquette required of her in society so I found her instruction to be interesting.  And when I thought that was more interesting than the romance, I knew there was a small problem.

To be fair, I really liked both Will and Thea, but Will was a bit too syrupy for my taste.  He was sweet and kind, but really didn't do anything. And while they both had a history that clearly defined who they were, I don't really think it was used enough to develop the story and the attraction. And Thea felt like she could trust him so much upon meeting him that she could share her darkest secrets with him. It just didn't sit right with me. So what we have is a story that is interesting, but isn't steamy. There is little to no push-play between them and I think I just wanted to feel that physical attraction between them a bit more. There wasn't a whole lot of drama, and Thea's capitulation seemed a bit out of character for a lady during this time period, especially one who was focused on trying to save her childhood home and title. It is interesting to note that one of my favourite scenes is where Lady Avalon returns, the woman who jilted Will; you could just feel the tension and I was really fascinated by that scene, wondering where it would go.  For the first time, I felt real sparks happening.  


Review & Giveaway: Strangled Eggs and Ham by Maddie Day


Strangled Eggs and Ham (Country Store Mystery, Book #6)
by Maddie Day
Release Date: June 25th 2019
2019 Kensington Publishing Corporation
Kindle Edition; 295 Pages
ISBN: 978-163015749
ASIN: B075Z3JDKK
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
Robbie Jordan’s rustic country store is growing in popularity. But when a dead body appears, it turns out that Robbie’s home-style cooking attracts hungry customers—and murder!

While Robbie scrambles through breakfast orders for her expanding clientele at Pans ‘N Pancakes, tempers run as high as the sticky August heat in South Lick, Indiana. Real-estate developer Fiona Closs plans to build a towering luxury resort at one of the most scenic hilltops in Brown County, and not everyone can see the sunny side of the imposing proposition—including Robbie’s furious Aunt Adele, who doesn’t waste a minute concocting protests and road blockades. When tensions boil over and a vocal protester is silenced forever at the resort site, Robbie ditches the griddle to catch the killer. But if slashed tires are any indication, she’ll need to crack this case before her own aunt gets served something deadly next . . .


My Thoughts
Strangled Eggs and Ham is the sixth entry into the Country Story Mystery series, and although I had not yet read the earlier books in this series, I had no problem figuring out who was who as well as the relationships in the story; the author is not one who spends a lot of time speculating on past events, which is something I rather like as she also doesn't give away who-dun-its from previous books either, a bit of a pet peeve of mine.  This book was light but rather enjoyable, a quick read for those looking for something light and easy.

First of all, it is rather difficult to balance all the elements in a cozy mystery as they are so character driven, which means that often the mystery gets left behind or the characters.  This one manages to maintain a rather nice balance between the two without disparaging official figures either, and by that, I mean the investigating officers.  I tend to get turned off now by books that mock or downplay the importance of detectives and their role in solving crimes as well as ones where the main character seems to feel they should know everything about an investigation.  This one was full of quirky characters and I enjoyed them all.  I like how the author manages to give them all different personalities which really enhances the story and makes the dialogue and interactions between them rather fun.  

Robbie is one of those people who doesn't go out of her way to solve crimes and tries to stay out of people's business.  She just happens to run a restaurant where a lot of people come to eat and where she happens to overhear some interesting conversations.  She is smart and knows to report evidence when necessary.  When she does get into a jam, it's not because she broke into someone's house looking for evidence, but it just happened while out bike riding or doing her thing, something anyone could have done.   I really like her character and thought she was sensible and caring.  I just tended to identify with her spirit as someone who was simply looking to run her business, enjoy her friends, but have peace at the end of the day.  Sounds nice, doesn't it?  

The mystery in this book wasn't all that original as I've seen it come up in several cozy mysteries lately, but it was well done and certainly something that is a huge issue today nonetheless.  The tensions between the two sides are quite realistic and I could see how it could blow up quite easily. I definitely understood both sides and the reasons for why or why not and I'm not really sure if there is a solution that would have satisfied everyone.  I actually think the tensions could have become a lot more severe than this book but the author did a credible job outlining them in ways that were interesting and made you think about the side you may be on.