Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Review: Avelynn:The Edge of Faith by Marissa Campbell

Avelynn: The Edge of Faith (Avelynn, Book #2)
by Marissa Campbell
Release Date: September 26th 2016
2016 Marissa Campbell
Kindle Edition;
ISBN: 978-0986627217
ASIN: B01KUC6N9Y
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from HF Virtual Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
It's the year 871. Charges of treason, murder, and witchcraft follow Avelynn into exile as she flees England with Alrik. Arriving in Wales, they find refuge among Alrik's friends in the Welsh nobility. Cast out by his half-brothers, Alrik seeks to regain his honor and earn favor with the gods. When war threatens, Alrik embraces gold and the opportunity for his crew to become mercenaries, aiding the Southern Welsh kings in their fight against Rhodri the Great.

Desperate to return home, Avelynn seeks to find a way to prove her innocence, but she is pitted against Alrik as their desires for the future clash. With battle looming, Avelynn's faith in their relationship is further tested through a bitter struggle with Marared, a jealous lover from Alrik's past. Marared's threats turn deadly, and Avelynn runs afoul of magic and sorcery, causing her to question her beliefs and role as priestess.

When Avelynn and Alrik are betrayed, Avelynn is captured and Alrik is charged with regicide. The two become separated, a chasm of greed, deceit, and ambition driving them apart. In an act of harrowing faith, Avelynn will stop at nothing to find her way back to Alrik and break them both free from Wales's bloodthirsty grasp.


My Thoughts
Avelynn: The Edge of Faith is the second book in the Avelynn series and so far, I like this book far more than the first one.  It is edgier and grittier than the first, and the author did a great job with the descriptions, creating vivid ones, making you feel like you were part of the story.  I also thought it was much faster-paced than the first one, although that is not the reason why I liked this one better.

Avelynn is a very determined character and I have grown to like her independence and her spirit quite a bit.  She doesn't whine about her situation, but takes aggressive control of whatever spot she is in and fights really hard to stay on top without really hurting those around her, even giving second chances to those she really shouldn't.  Fortunately, she has a band of very scary Vikings behind her, led by her lover Alrik, who is also fighting to regain his previous power and position in his home land.  I like how Alrik and Avelynn come to blows at times, and it is not always Avelynn who gives in; it is just so much more realistic for someone who has known her whole life she was being brought up to rule to win a few of the battles against Alrik, showing her inner strength and force.  She is also learning how to wield her power and I found this learning process to be quite interesting.  

There were many themes in this novel including loyalty, friendship, strength, power, ambition, friendship, and politics, but one of the ones I liked the most was the subtle one involving women and power.  Women didn't seem to have a lot of power during these times, but the author shows how deceptive this was because the type of power women yielded was through their knowledge, their intelligence, and their skillful manipulations of men.  Avelynn and many of the women in this story used very clever manipulations to solve problems or to get men to do their bidding while making it seem as if it was their idea in the first place and I found it quite fascinating, often holding my breath wondering how the situation would turn out.

Verdict
Avelynn: The Edge of Faith was a very satisfying read, with many twists and turns, although it does have a more satisfying ending than the first book did.  I liked the descriptions of the various pagan rituals as well as the descriptions of daily life, but that is something that I enjoy.  While I wasn't a bit fan of Alrik at the beginning, and am still feeling ambivalent towards him, he has grown on me somewhat as his character has developed and I am hoping to learn a bit more about him in the next novel as I feel there is still to much of a shadow regarding him and his life to be satisfying.  If you like medieval historical fiction though, I do recommend that you pick up this series and give it a try.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Book Spotlight: Girl of Glass by Megan O'Russell




Girl of Glass
Megan O'Russell
Fiery Seas Publishing
Young Adult
December 6, 2016

Book Description:
Two worlds...one glass wall...no turning back.

The human race has been divided. The chosen few live in the safety of the domes, watching through their glass walls as those left on the outside suffer and die. But desperation has brought invention, and new drugs have given the outsiders the strength to roam the poisoned night unafraid – but it comes at a price.
Seventeen-year-old Nola Kent has spent her life in the domes, being trained to protect her little piece of the world that has been chosen to survive. The mission of the domes is to preserve the human race, not to help the sick and starving. But when outsider Kieran Wynne begs for Nola’s help in saving an innocent life, she is drawn into a world of darkness and danger. The suffering on the other side of the glass is beyond anything Nola had imagined, and turning her back on the outside world to return to the safety of the domes may be more than she can stand. Even when her home is threatened by the very people Nola wants to help.






About the Author:

Megan O’Russell is the author of the young adult fantasy series The Tethering, and Nuttycracker Sweet, a Christmas novella. Megan’s short stories can also be found in several anthologies, including Athena’s Daughters 2, featuring women in speculative fiction.

Megan is a professional performer who has spent time on stages across the country and is the lyrist for Second Chances: The Thrift Shop Musical, which received it’s world premiere in 2015. When not on stage or behind a computer, Megan can usually be found playing her ukulele or climbing a mountain with her fantastic husband.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8061709.Megan_O_Russell


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Monday, January 2, 2017

Review: Fiona by Meredith Moore

Fiona
by Meredith Moore
Release Date: April 5th 2016
2016 Razorbill
Softcover Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-1595147844
ASIN: B013D6667S
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
Fiona, an independent loner with wild red hair, leaves her fractured home in Texas for a brand-new life in the Scottish Highlands to be the au pair for Poppy Mackenzie, the young daughter of her mother’s recently deceased childhood friends. Fee, as she’s called, is thrilled to be free of her less-than-ideal home life. But there’s another motive driving her eagerness to flee to the Highlands: the desire to reconnect with her mother, who succumbed to suicide after a long battle with schizophrenia when Fiona was only twelve, leaving her to live with distant relatives of her absentee father.

Fee doesn’t have much time to settle into her new home—a castle maintained by the Mackenzie family fortune—before a series of strange events starts to make her question her sanity. As the attacks on her mental health become more and more intense, Fee finds herself both the pawn and the target in a ruthless, greed-driven plot with roots that go all the way back to her mother. Alone and friendless in a foreign country and half-convinced she’s losing her mind—just like her mother—Fee must rely on her wits and her street smarts to save not only herself but also the lives of her newfound Scottish family.


My Thoughts
Fiona, I learned afterwards, is a loosely based rendition of the classic Jane Eyre, but I didn't really see it as such, especially as Charlie, the love interest, is such a different personality than Mr. Rochester.  I am always drawn to the creepy and twisted dark stuff so I enjoyed this book for its own sake.

Fiona, or Fee as she likes to be called, is an interesting character, one I liked very much.  I could identify with her loneliness as she traveled to Scotland to become a nanny in an area of the country where her mother grew up.  Having lived with her mother's mental illness her entire life, she was ready for a change and a new start at life; however, when she arrived at the castle, she discovered the the parents of the girl had been killed in a terrible car accident, and she was left to deal with a young traumatized girl and a family picking up the pieces of a devastating tragedy.  I thought Fee handled it all with creative dignity and did the best she could in a situation into which she walked but did not fully understand.  

Naturally, you can't have a retelling without using some of the elements that were present in Jane Eyre so of course there was the strange laughter at night, the voices, and the general eeriness of Charlie's home, causing Fee to think she was developing symptoms of the same mental illness of which her mother suffered.  Panicked and alone, she didn't know what to do other than trust her general instincts telling her something was wrong in the house.  Because of this, you know she is going to fall for Charlie, but I liked their romance, and I am glad he was much closer to her age than Mr. Rochester was to Jane.  While that may have worked in the time period of Jane Eyre, I don't think it would have been as appealing here.  I don't know however, what Charlie ever saw in Blair and that is something that kind of wrung a sour note in this story; the relationship between them didn't ring true, especially with Charlie's reformation from bad boy to hard-working businessman and I feel like the author was grasping for a reason as to why Blair should be around.  

Verdict
Fiona was a fun retelling of Jane Eyre, but I was glad I didn't know about it when I was reading the book as I think I would have spent too much time comparing the two and not enough time just enjoying the book for itself.  And I do think there was enough that was different to make it its own anyways.  I liked the characters, even Blair, though I felt the author was floundering a bit trying to find a good reason for her inclusion in events. Visiting for months on end may have worked in the 19th century, but it doesn't really work in the modern era as the time periods are so different.  So while some things were a bit frustrating, overall I enjoyed the story, liked the creepiness and the setting, and would recommend it to anyone interested in eerie romances.
Saturday, December 24, 2016

Review: The Trespasser by Tana French

The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad, Book #6)
by Tana French
Release Date: October 4th 2016
2016 Viking
Ebook Edition: 449 Pages
ISBN: 978-0670026333
ASIN: B01COJUFIQ
Genre: Fiction / Murder
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Being on the Murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed to a shine, and dead in her catalogue-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her—except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.

And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette's road. Aislinn's friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?


My Thoughts
The Trespasser is the sixth novel in the Dublin Murder Squad mysteries, and I have to say, I tend to feel very safe reading a Tana French novel, knowing that she usually delivers a good, police procedural novel, one that I always enjoy, and this one is no exception, except perhaps the pacing was somewhat slower and different.

First of all, I will mention right away that I was not a fan of the main character, Antoinette Conway, as she had a huge chip on her shoulder, thinking everyone was out to get her. What I found fascinating in all of this is perspective; I am always talking about perspective to my own students, but how one perceives things, and how something truly is, can be quite different, and the author was a genius at demonstrating this in this novel.  Also in true Tana French fashion, who is a master at her craft, Detective Conway has this way of getting under your skin, and I soon found myself looking forward to her scenes, especially her interviews, appreciating her witticism, wondering what she was going to do next.  That does not mean that I enjoyed everything she did, and didn't cringe on occasion; I mean she is capable of taking sarcasm to a whole new plane of existence, but her character development was fantastic, and I am extremely curious as to where the author is planning on taking this character in the next book.  

This book was about the exploration of that fine line that cops have to take every single day of their lives; how far does one go to protect a colleague who may have overstepped the line, and where does one draw that line for oneself.  It's such a complicated thing, yet the author manages to delve into that complexity with finesse, slowly exposing the corruption and the difficulty of the main players when they finally discover the truth.  I really like when a novel is about the character development of the detectives as much as about the crime itself, and there were lots of twists and turns to confuse the reader as to the actual mystery itself.  I really enjoyed the interview scenes, and while they may seem slow and pedantic, I found them fascinating and interesting.  To be honest, I found this whole novel to be quite a bit slower than previous novels, but it seemed to work in the end, and I liked it quite a bit.  

Verdict
The Trespasser has so many things to recommend it: lots of surprising twists and turns; complex, stubborn, funny, and sad characters; biting sarcasm and wit; an interesting mystery; and great writing.  I happen to be a sucker for police procedurals and character driven stories, and this one had bother elements to recommend it.  While you don't necessarily have to start at the beginning of the series in order to understand this book as the author tends to introduce her main characters in her previous novels, I would recommend them anyways just because they are worth reading.  And that's the sad thing about this as I'm not sure we're going to see Conway and Moran featured as main characters again in future novels as that hasn't been the author's way of doing things, but there's always hope.

 
Friday, December 23, 2016

Book Spotlight and Contest: Oubliette by Vanta M. Black




Have a Very Scary Christmas

This time of the year is often happy, filled with cheer and the spirit of giving. For those who enjoy something a little darker, though, there are plenty of thrills on the movie front.

If you like things that are twisted and dark, then here are the top five scary holiday movies you can watch:

Jack Frost

Nothing like a killer snowman named Jack Frost to get you in the mood for the holidays, right? This 1997 thriller is a classic holiday romp you are sure to enjoy. The movie takes place in the fictional town of Snowmonton, where a truck carrying serial killer Jack Frost to his execution crashes into a genetics truck. The genetic material causes Jack's body to mutate and fuse together with the snow on the ground. As you can imagine, what happens next is pretty freaky and fun!





Gremlins

As cute as those little buggers are when they are soft, fuzzy Mogwai, they are delightfully evil as Gremlins. They wreak havoc during Christmas when a boy inadvertently breaks three important rules about getting his new pet wet. This is a family favorite and if you’ve never seen it, now it is the season.





Thursday, December 22, 2016

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Heartbeat Thief by AJ Krafton


No matter which holiday you observe at year's end, they all share something in common: traditions. 

I grew up in the four seasons of northeast Pennsylvania, where Decembers were snowy and cheer-filled. We wore skiddoos and went sleigh-riding and came in the door pink-nose and snow-crusted. 

On Thanksgiving night, the borough would light the holiday street decorations for the first time. We'd sit at the front windows, cheeks against the glass, straining to see down the block to the main street, waiting for the moment the bells and candy canes would light up. 

Those lights meant one thing:  Christmas was almost here!  photo vintage_holiday_christmas_background_with_tree_and_light_and_moon_zpsxlwoxvsb.jpg

Some of my fondest memories are from our family Christmases, which were brimming full of special traditions. 

Many of them came from my Polish grandparents, involving the crèche and the special Christmas Eve dinner. I think that I will forever see Christmas through the lens of my dad's old 8mm camera, sounds of laughter and singing replaced by the whir of the projection reels and the occasional comment about our early-seventies fashion sense. 

Holidays have always held sentimental value, a sense of community and family and simple togetherness—not just for my Pennsylvania family in the plaid-stricken seventies, but for so many people and places, across the span of centuries.  

In my voracious research of the Victorian era (while writing my historical fantasy THE HEARTBEAT THIEF), I encountered an entirely new world of Yuletide traditions. 

Some are still widely celebrated (thanks to Doctor Who Christmas specials, my kids adopted a love for crackers) while some have largely fallen out of practice (such as a parlour game called Snapdragon, which seems like a good way to get a burned finger! Talk about dangerous drinking games…) 

One Victorian tradition that has always appealed to me is Wassail. A verb, to wassail means to go singing door to door, after which one is invited to drink punch from the family's Wassail bowl. 

A noun, wassail is the punch itself—and every family had their own recipe (kind of like Boilo recipes here in northeast PA). The punch was served in a wassailing bowl. A greeting, "wassail" was a wish for good health to those we cherish. 

Everyone would drink the hot spiced cider together, fostering a lovely sense of community and togetherness, which is the truest spirit of the holidays. Since immersing myself in the culture and traditions of THE HEARTBEAT THIEF, I wanted to find a recipe for my own family and promptly found about six million different versions (thanks, Google). 

They all seem to have a few elements in common, though: apples, spices, and warmth. Some contain ale or wine while others are more kid-friendly; some involve baking whole apples and placing them in the punch bowl; some even contain a whipped egg mixture (like this one from Alton Brown. Considering he is the Einstein of food, I would NEVER refute his wisdom.) 

wassail photo Depositphotos_59479031_original_zpsguvb9yxm.jpg I like this one the best, though—the tanginess of orange juice and the lemony zing of fresh ginger make my mouth water just thinking of it. 

Plus, the convenience of a slow cooker is a must with my crazy schedule…not to mention that it's like potpourri you can drink while warming your hands! All wonderful things, especially when the weather turns chilly and grown-ups are stuck in the house, too old to go sleigh-riding or playing outside in the snow. 

Recipe from A Spicy Perspective

Ingredients: 
• 1 gallon Musselman's Apple Cider
• 4 cups orange juice 
• 4 hibiscus tea bags 
• 10 cinnamon sticks 
• 1 tsp. whole cloves 
• 1 Tb. juniper berries 
• 1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into slices 
• 1 apple, sliced into rounds 
• 1 orange, sliced into rounds 

Directions: 

1. Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker and cover. 

2. Turn the slow cooker on high heat and cook for 3-4 hours, until the color has darkened and the fruit is soft. 

Remove the tea bags and serve hot. 

Maybe when my kids are older, I'll adjust the recipe to a more adult version. For now, I'd like to make something the whole family can enjoy. It's tradition, after all, and where's the fun in a tradition that excludes some of us? Happy holidays, everyone. Be sure to raise a glass to your loved ones!


Wassail...Drink Hale!


My Victorian fantasy THE HEARTBEAT THIEF follows the journey of the Forever Girl, Senza Fyne. Terrified of death, of growing old, of being forced into an arranged marriage, she makes a deal with the mysterious Mr. Knell and learns the secret of eternal youth and beauty…  photo Depositphotos_38746887_original_zpspujzbama.jpg I can picture Senza at a Christmas ball, in high London society, her hair upswept in a pile of curls the color of winter fire, her forever 18-year old figure trimmed out in a luscious gown of emerald silk and taffeta. 

She'd be the girl with whom every gentleman must dance, the one with whom everyone sought introduction. If you were lucky enough to speak with her, she might treat you a glimpse of her wit and wisdom, far beyond her years…to the sound of her charming laugh…and perhaps she'd touch your hand in a personal gesture.

 One touch, and your heart might skip a beat. An entire dance and you just may be left reeling, your senses spinning. Senza Fyne tends to have that effect on a person… 

Soon it would be time to gather around the wassail bowl, the spicy sweet scents of apple warming the air, reminding us all of the bounty of harvest and fortune, the cheer of friends gathered for Yuletide. 

You might be tempted to raise a glass to her in particular…but your wish for good health would be better spent on someone else. Senza Fyne had no need for wishes, not when her immortal youth, beauty, and perfection were secured by the strongest of magicks. 

 But you wouldn't know that because it's a secret she'd never tell. If she did, the heartbeat thief would be caught.
 photo tht 3d_zpsatpff1il.jpg
Seek out THE HEARTBEAT THIEF

Haunted by a crushing fear of death, a young Victorian woman discovers the secret of eternal youth—she must surrender her life to attain it, and steal heartbeats to keep it.


In 1860 Surrey, a young woman has only one occupation: to marry. Senza Fyne is beautiful, intelligent, and lacks neither wealth nor connections. Finding a husband shouldn’t be difficult, not when she has her entire life before her. But it’s not life that preoccupies her thoughts. It’s death—and that shadowy spectre haunts her every step.

So does Mr. Knell. Heart-thumpingly attractive, obviously eligible—he’d be her perfect match if only he wasn’t so macabre. All his talk about death, all that teasing about knowing how to avoid it…

When her mother arranges a courtship with another man, Senza is desperate for escape from a dull prescripted destiny. Impulsively, she takes Knell up on his offer. He casts a spell that frees her from the cruelty of time and the threat of death—but at a steep price. In order to maintain eternal youth, she must feed on the heartbeats of others.

It’s a little bit Jane Austen, a little bit Edgar Allan Poe, and a whole lot of stealing heartbeats in order to stay young and beautiful forever. From the posh London season to the back alleys of Whitechapel, across the Channel, across the Pond, across the seas of Time…

How far will Senza Fyne go to avoid Death?

 
 photo ch skull_zpsqpyav462.jpg


About the Author:

AJ (Ash) Krafton writes because if she doesn't, her kids will…and NOBODY wants that. A speculative fiction girl through and through, Ash writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels as well as poetry and short fiction. Her work has won a bunch of awards and was even nominated for a Pushcart Prize. When she's not writing, she's practicing Tai Chi, listening to loud rock and metal, or crushing on supervillains.

Most recently, she's re-released her urban fantasy trilogy THE BOOKS OF THE DEMIMONDE because she never really left the world of Sophie and her Demivamps.

Find out more when you visit www.ashkrafton.com

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Book Blast: Guarded by the Warrior by Eliza Knight


Aurora Publicity is pleased to bring you Eliza Knight's GUARDED BY THE WARRIOR book blast November 29 - December 2!

Inside the Book:

guarded-by-the-warrior 

Title: Guarded by the Warrior (Conquered Bride Series Book 5)
 Author: Eliza Knight
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Publisher: Knight Media, LLC
Genre: Historical Romance
A lady in need of protection...

Suffering through a short marriage to an enemy of Scotland, Lady Emilia MacCulloch manages to escape just before her husband dies. But the Ross Clan will stop at nothing to get her back, for she plays a big part in their plans to thwart Robert the Bruce. She fears not only for her life, but for her family who will be labeled traitors. Placed by her king as a governess in the household of a devastatingly handsome warrior, Emilia finds herself drawn to the man when she had previously sworn off love altogether. His passion, charisma, loyalty, and strength shake the very foundation she's built around her heart.

A warrior in need of saving...

Ian Matheson has spent his entire life trying to prove himself. To belong. When his father passes away and his mother takes her vows at a nearby abbey, he is suddenly left in a position he was wholly unprepared for. And then his father's dozen illegitimate children arrive on his doorstep in need of a father figure of their own. They are adorable and reckless, and he's certain they'll drive him mad. Just when he thinks he might actually need to find a wife to help him, Lady Emilia is presented to him by the king. She needs his protection and he needs her help with the bairns. Ian is tempted by her angelic face, her fiery tongue, and the secrets that surround her. He must resist the growing desire that's laying claim within him. He must prove to his clan that he is a worthy leader. But maybe, just maybe, he can have the respect of his people and Emilia, too.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Review: The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd

The Shattered Tree (Bess Crawford, Book #8)
by Charles Todd
Release Date: August 30th 2016
2016 William Morrow
Ebook Edition; 287 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062386274
ASIN: B0191FR6JW
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
At the foot of a tree shattered by shelling and gunfire, stretcher-bearers find an exhausted officer, shivering with cold and a loss of blood from several wounds. The soldier is brought to battlefield nurse Bess Crawford’s aid station, where she stabilizes him and treats his injuries before he is sent to a rear hospital. The odd thing is, the officer isn't British--he's French. But in a moment of anger and stress, he shouts at Bess in German.

When Bess reports the incident to Matron, her superior offers a ready explanation. The soldier is from Alsace-Lorraine, a province in the west where the tenuous border between France and Germany has continually shifted through history, most recently in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, won by the Germans. But is the wounded man Alsatian? And if he is, on which side of the war do his sympathies really lie?

When the French officer disappears in Paris, it’s up to Bess—a soldier’s daughter as well as a nurse—to find out why, even at the risk of her own life.
 

My Thoughts
The Shattered Tree is the eight entry into the Bess Crawford mysteries and while I don't feel it was one of the better one in the series, it was okay.  What draws me to these stories is definitely the atmosphere that Todd creates, the impact of the Great War on everyone, not just on the soldiers and others manning the front lines.  I usually like Bess as a character and typically look forward to the stories and the descriptions of the places where she goes as well as the people she meets.

True to form, the atmosphere of hope was quite palpable throughout the novel as people were preparing for the end of the war, and although it could have gone either way at this point, most people were quite hopeful in a satisfying ending, and were now talking about reparations and the future and survival.  While some of the earlier novels could be quite bleak, the feeling was a bit different despite the sad soldiers' tales and the descriptions of life at the front.  I found the sniper story to be quite interesting as well, especially the dialogue around it - the gentleman's 'code of honour' was still quite strong during this time period and I find the whole thing fascinating.  At the same time, the horror of it lingers in every page that Todd writes - the scents, the smells, the food, the shortages, the fatigue, the injuries, etc...  

While I normally love Bess as a character, to me, she fell a little flat in this one.  I found her somewhat irritating, and had a hard time understanding her reasoning behind her continued investigations.  This is one time I really felt she should have just revealed her information to the proper authorities and let them investigate in their own way.  The author failed to convince me that Bess needed to investigate, and I thought she was interfering far more than she was helping. And even Captain Barkley, the American soldier, couldn't seem to help matters as he took on more of a secondary role; normally he is quite an enjoyable sidekick to Bess's adventures, and a good sounding board, but to me, I thought he was a whole different person from the normal Captain Barkley we are used to.  I even double-checked his name to make sure he was the same person because he seemed a bit different.  There is way more to Barkley than meets the eye however, but his secrets still remain secret and I was somewhat disappointed in this.  A bit more information to tease the reader would have been nice. 

Verdict
The Shattered Tree is one of those books that I enjoyed on a superficial level, but just didn't connect with on a deeper level.  I had a hard time empathizing with Bess and her reasons for investigating, which made her seem like a nose neighbour; she even had moments where she was quite insensitive, an unusual characteristic for Bess.  I have always liked Captain Barkley and Sergeant-Major Brandon and was glad to see them make an appearance in this one; I am still holding out hope for Bess and Simon and with the war ending soon, who knows? While I was not sold on the mystery in this one, and thought Bess solved the mystery far too easily given the facts she had, I still enjoyed the writing style and loved the descriptions.  I am curious as to what he authors have in store for our characters now that the war is almost over.