Sunday, June 2, 2019

Review: Fatal Promise by Angela Marsons

Fatal Promise (D.I. Kim Stone Book #9)
by Angela Marsons
Release Date: October 19th 2018
2018 Bookouture
Kindle Edition; 409 Pages
ISBN: 978-1786816924
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

When the body of a doctor is discovered brutally murdered in local woodland, Detective Kim Stone is shocked to discover the victim is Gordon Cordell – a man linked to a previous case she worked on involving the death of a young school girl. Gordon has a chequered past, but who would want him dead?

As the investigation gets underway, Gordon’s son is involved in a horrific car crash which leaves him fighting for his life. Kim's sure this was no accident.

Then the body of a woman is found dead in suspicious circumstances and Kim makes a disturbing link between the victims and Russells Hall Hospital. The same hospital where Gordon worked.

With Kim and her team still grieving the loss of one of their own, they’re at their weakest and facing one of the most dangerous serial killers they’ve ever encountered. Everything is on the line. Can Kim keep her squad together and find the killer before he claims his next victim? 

My Thoughts
Fatal Promise is the ninth book in the stellar Kim Stone detective series, but this one broke my heart.  It took me along time to read this one simply because the events in the previous novel were devastating and heartbreaking and I just didn't have it in me to read the next installment until this week.  However, I am so glad that I did as it continued the story set up in the previous novel and dealt with some major issues that needed to be dealt with.

First of all, if you have not read the previous entry in this series, you should do so in order to really get a good grasp of the person who was murdered and to understand the importance of the events in this book, otherwise you will be left completely in the dark. At the beginning of the novel, which picks up several weeks after the events in book 8, the team is dealing with a tragic loss and are devastated.  I truly love how the author dealt with the loss and how she developed the scenario, especially when a new team member arrived to replace the hole left vacant.  While my heart was broken, I could still smile through a lot of the situations in which the team found themselves, and the banter that is usually there slowly found its way back as the novel progressed.  I though the author did a wonderful job showing how each person dealt with their grief and developed throughout the novel. This could not have been easy for her to write and I commend her for it.

The plot itself was great, as usual; fast, interesting, with a lot of twists and turns.  There was actually a secondary plot line that Stacey was investigating which really had nothing to do with the murder and it was interesting in itself, simply because of the ethics involved.  I think I actually enjoyed Stacey's story line more than the original murder scenario as I have always been fascinated by the concept, but both were compelling.  I like how the author tries to incorporate a theme into each of her novels, but also continues the story from the previous novels. Simply, if you had to make a choice, what choice would you make? And could you live with the consequences of that choice for the rest of your life? And should you have to make that choice when circumstances are dire? It was an interesting concept and left me thinking about it for a couple of days.  Having the story continue from previous novels allows for great character development and good interaction between the characters.  I have been following the series since book 1 and love how much they have grown as people and as friends.  

While the events in the previous novel were quite upsetting, I am so glad I finally read this book and had closure to what happened.  I was able to follow the characters in their journey through their grief and healing and really empathized with them as they continued to do their jobs.  I thought the novel was well-thought out, interesting, and well-written.  As always, I am a huge fan of Kim and her team, and look forward to continuing their story in the next book.
Sunday, May 5, 2019

Review: The Angel in the Glass by Alys Clare

The Angel in the Glass (Gabriel Taverner Mystery, Book #2)
by Alys Clare
Release Date: October 1st 2018
2018 Severn House Publishers
Kindle Edition; 240 Pages
ISBN: 978-0727829641
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

June, 1604. When the emaciated body of a vagrant is found on the edge of the moor, it's the verdict of physician Gabriel Taverner that the man died of natural causes - but is all as it seems? Who was the dead man, and why had he come to the small West Country village of Tavy St Luke's to die cold, sick and alone? With no one claiming to have known him, his identity remains a mystery.

Then a discovery found buried in a nearby field throws a strange new light on the case ... and in attempting to find the answers, Gabriel Taverner and Coroner Theophilus Davey unearth a series of shocking secrets stretching back more than fourteen years.

My Thoughts
The Angel in the Glass is the second book in the Gabriel Taverner Mystery series and while I enjoyed it a lot, I really felt like I was reading about a modern man during modern times rather than a historical mystery, which is rather unusual by this author as I am a huge fan of her Hawkenlye books simply because I love the historical information she infuses into those books, making me feel like I am there.  I didn't really get that feeling from this book.

First of all, I did enjoy the plot, but it was very much a plot-driven book.  There is a lot of information thrown in, with a lot of subplots, but it is woven together in the end, although I still felt like something was missing.  I was really looking forward to the historical element surrounding the religious upheaval during this time period, and while it was there, it was not the central plot theme of this book, which was somewhat disappointing.  I really felt like the turmoil surrounding Henry VIII and his religious wars would have made the better story rather than the one that became the central plot in this book which, although sad, didn't actually sit well with me as it didn't seem to flow very well with the rest of the story,  The story about the poor monk though, that was fascinating. 

Because this book was so plot-driven, I do think the author lost sight of character development so it was hard to really empathize with most of the characters.  And while their stories were rather sad, I definitely didn't connect with any of them.  I would have liked to have seen the story about the poor monk play a deeper role in this book as his story could have been the focus of this book which would have made it really interesting.  I really did see a good opportunity lost and instead, we got a story about a man and his desires and another story about a noble who destroys people simply because he feels entitled - boring.  Don't get me wrong though, I liked Gabriel and his sister, who really had no role in this one, but it would have been nice to see his forensic skills in action a bit more.  The plot should not revolve around his mishaps and what he always misses during an inspection, it gets old, fast. 

The Angel in the Glass definitely had a lot of potential, and it had its interesting moments, but I was a bit disappointed in the plot and wished the author had focused on some of the other elements rather than the one did ultimately did as they were much more interesting.  I really enjoy the main characters and would like to see a bit more character development rather than the book being so plot-driven otherwise they seem plain and lack quite a bit of depth.  The author does have a way of writing that is quite engaging however, and I will recommend this book to anyone who is interested in historical fiction.  I would also recommend they take a look at her Hawkenlye books as they are more character-driven.
Sunday, April 7, 2019

Review: The Black Ascot by Charles Todd

The Black Ascot (Inspector Ian Rutledge, Book #21)
by Charles Todd
Release Date: February 5th 2019
2019 William Morrow
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062678744
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

An astonishing tip from a grateful ex-convict seems implausible—but Inspector Ian Rutledge is intrigued and brings it to his superior at Scotland Yard. Alan Barrington, who has evaded capture for ten years, is the suspect in an appalling murder during Black Ascot, the famous 1910 royal horserace honoring the late King Edward VII. His disappearance began a manhunt that consumed Britain for a decade. Now it appears that Barrington has returned to England, giving the Yard a last chance to retrieve its reputation and see justice done. Rutledge is put in charge of a quiet search under cover of a routine review of a cold case.

Meticulously retracing the original inquiry, Rutledge begins to know Alan Barrington well, delving into relationships and secrets that hadn’t surfaced in 1910. But is he too close to finding his man? His sanity is suddenly brought into question by a shocking turn of events. His sister Frances, Melinda Crawford, and Dr. Fleming stand by him, but there is no greater shame than shell shock. Questioning himself, he realizes that he cannot look back. The only way to save his career—much less his sanity—is to find Alan Barrington and bring him to justice. But is this elusive murderer still in England?

My Thoughts
The Black Ascot is the 21st entry into a very interesting series, and I see no sign of stopping anytime soon, thank goodness.  This mother-son writing team have definitely created an interesting group of characters, and to keep it up for this long is quite extraordinary.  But when you hit on something good, why change, and the stories are always personal and interesting.

Because these stories occur directly after the Great War, there is so much information for the authors on which to draw, and each story is interesting in its own right, but definitely revolves around the personal struggles and frustrations of Inspector Ian Rutledge as he continues to deal with shell shock and trying to keep a job that is his only real safety line back to this world after the war.  Constantly fearful that his superiors will discover his secret, he walks a tight line every day.  And this is what draws me back to these stories again and again; this flawed character struggling to live a normal life after devastating losses during the war, attempting to make personal relationships work, all while keeping a secret that people didn't really understand during this time period.  It can really be heartbreaking at times.

The plot, yet again, sends Rutledge around England searching for clues, but his driving around to different areas is one of the things I love about this series.  He runs into so many different, and rather quirky characters, that I look forward to his meanderings, always wondering what, and who, he is going to run into.  The procedural work is so different from modern murder mysteries considering the lack of communication and I rather like that.  I feel the authors have done a great job at maintaining authentic settings, moods, attitudes, and reactions in their work which makes me feel like I am sometimes there with Rutledge, feeling his frustration and his indignation.  He can be rather quiet, but boy, he can forceful when he wants to be and I love it when that happens.

And no matter what, the impact of the war is always there, the authors giving few explanations, just details, allowing you to judge for yourself what is happening or not happening.  There are definitely underlying themes at play, but they are subtle and require some thought; friendship, alliances, loyalty, judgement, betrayal, and so on.  

The Black Ascot may not be the best book in this series, but it definitely holds it own with an interesting plot and a lot of quirky characters.  The relationships between all the characters was a bit complicated, but I liked the twists and turns, and I definitely liked the aspect that all secrets will eventually out themselves; kind of makes me wonder what is in store for our esteemed Inspector in the future.  While this could be read on its own, I do recommend that you begin at the beginning as there are lots of relationships being built as well as names tossed around with the assumption to having read the previous books. 
Saturday, March 30, 2019

Review: The Book Artist by Mark Pryor

The Book Artist (Hugo Marston, Book #8)
by Mark Pryor
Release Date: February 5th 2019
2019 Seventh Street Books
Kindle Edition; 272 Pages
ISBN: 978-1633884885
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Hugo Marston accompanies his boss, US Ambassador J. Bradford Taylor, to the first night of an art exhibition in Montmartre, Paris. Hugo is less than happy about going until he finds out that the sculptures on display are made from his favorite medium: books. Soon after the champagne starts to flow and the canapes are served, the night takes a deadly turn when one of the guests is found murdered.

Hugo lingers at the scene and offers his profiling expertise to help solve the crime, but the detective in charge quickly jumps to his own conclusions. He makes an arrest, but it's someone that Hugo is certain is innocent. Meanwhile, his best friend, Tom Green, has disappeared to Amsterdam, hunting an enemy from their past, an enemy who gets the upper hand on Tom, and who then sets his sights on Hugo.

My Thoughts
The Book Artist is the eighth installment in the Hugo Marston series and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  There is something really solid about this series that draws me back into Hugo's world time and time again; interesting characters, good story lines, and intrigue that is rather intriguing.  These are also the type of books you can finish in one sitting which is nice if you're just finished something daunting and challenging and want something easy and quick to read.

Hugo has been a favourite of mine for quite a while now and he has been through a lot, this book being no exception.  I enjoy his personality and of course, the fact that he loves books has absolutely nothing to with it. ☺ He has also developed quite a bit and seems more relaxed in his personal relationships; he also doesn't take them for granted and appreciates the time he has with everyone, which is kind of nice.  Hugo is also a former FBI agent who is head of security for the local American embassy in Paris, so naturally, there is a lot of interesting things happening.  I continue to enjoy the dialogue between the embassador and Hugo as well as their developing friendship; it's also interesting to follow Hugo and learn more about what his job entails and some of the things he has to do.  Unfortunately, there is one nasty twist I wasn't expecting, and really didn't like, only because it was a bit upsetting.   While these books are interesting, I don't usually find them to be unpredictable so I wasn't expecting this little twist and it caught me off guard.  

The plot therefore, was quite predictable and it was fairly easy to figure out the culprit in this mystery.  While the author really does try to set some red herrings for the reader, I don't think they worked very well, but it didn't stop me from enjoyed the book.  The rather nasty twist didn't have anything to do with the actual mystery in this book but actually had to do with something that happened in a previous novel so if a reader wasn't familiar with that situation they may be a bit confused as to the seriousness of what was happening. The author did mesh the two story lines together just fine towards the end, although at first I was a bit skeptical they would work as they were completely different things.  There was this feeling though, that the author was just using this previous character as a way to fill up space in this book because there wasn't enough material for the mystery that was happening in Paris.  Just a thought.

The Book Artist is a book that will entertain you, but if you are looking for an in-depth, complicated mystery, then this may not be for you, even if the events are not necessarily light-hearted.  I really enjoy the characters in these books which is why I return to them and have read every book, but I do read them because they are easier to read.   That is not necessarily a bad thing, and I recommend this book, and series, to anyone looking for something lighter to read, but still want something enjoyable.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Review: The Witch Elm by Tana French

The Witch Elm
by Tana French
Release Date: October 9th 2018
2018 Viking
Kindle Edition; 464 Pages
ISBN: 978-0735224636
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who's dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life: he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family's ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden - and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

My Thoughts
The Witch Elm totally caught me off guard as I didn't really care for it at all; I think the only reason I read it through to the end was because it was a Tana French novel, and I was waiting for it to get better, but it never really did.  It saddens me to say that because I look forward to her novels, for the intricacy of her characters, and for the police procedural work involved, but not a lot of that was evident in this one.  The only reason the rating is three stars is because of her exemplary writing skill, still very much in evidence.

Now why would I think this of a beloved author's book?  For a couple of reasons.  Mainly, the main character was an ass, to put it mildly.  Typically, that doesn't bother me in main characters as they can be complex, flawed, and rather interesting.  Toby, however, was just...meh.  He's just one of those people who walks around convinced he's born under a lucky star, and that bad things shouldn't happen to him just because of who he is.  What this does is make him obnoxious, condescending, and very, very annoying.  Pair that with good looks and you've got the type of guy who thinks the world is just there for him, and owes him something just because of who he is.  What his girlfriend sees in him is beyond me.  Normally, Toby's complete ignorance of what is happening around him would make him interesting, especially when things start to get tough and he has to face reality, but even when that does happen, he takes on this affronted air as if he just can't believe anyone would dare accost him, or how dare they touch the almighty golden Toby.  His flaws don't actually make him interesting in this case, they make him seem petulant and childish.  Too bad, as this was a golden opportunity wasted on the author's part as she certainly has the writing skills to be able to sink her teeth into something like this, and do it well.

I actually preferred Toby's cousins to him and looked forward to their appearance in the story.  Flawed, yes, interesting, yes. annoying, no.  There was so much more meat to their personalities that I liked their stories and wanted to know more about what made them tick and why they had an issue with Toby, other than just wanting to clobber him for who he was, that is.  Whenever things got really interesting though, the author would turn it back to Toby and I would be left deflated and bored.  The author has this way of writing that makes you want to read pages and pages of dialogue, and the way she wove the cousins' disgust and mistrust of Toby throughout their discussions was quite fascinating, probably my favourite parts of the book.  I think she was trying to show that Toby was flawed so you would be sympathetic towards him, but all it did was make me like the cousins even more and detest Toby.  

The story itself was one of the weakest parts however, as the mystery didn't really get going until halfway through the book. I'm not even sure why the event at the beginning happened as it wasn't even necessary to the plot; I kept waiting for the big reveal and nothing happened.  If it was just to show that events could happen to Toby just because he was human and not born under this lucky start, well, it kind of failed on my part as it almost made me shut the book and DNF.  

The Witch Elm is not one of her books I would recommend to others. I get the point of the novel, how our actions, whether we realize it or not, have an effect on everyone around us, sometimes for years, and how people can hold resentment for a long time for something you did.  How you can go blithely along, completely unaware, wrapped up in your world, a kind of narcissistic world.  I think the problem is that it didn't quite succeed in this book.  Toby was not a likeable character, it took too long for the central mystery to appear, with another one throwing confusion along the way, and I really felt like the author kind of lost the main thread/theme of her book.  Would I read another of her books? Yes, but I will stick to procedural ones for now.
Monday, March 11, 2019

Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Broken Girls 
by Simone St. James
Release date: March 20th 2018
2018 Berkley
Kindle Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0451476203
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Vermont, 1950. There's a place for the girls whom no one wants--the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It's called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it's located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming--until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she's tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister's death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister's boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can't shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

My Thoughts
The Broken Girls was an interesting mystery with a bit of a paranormal twist that I wasn't expecting. While I love paranormal stories, I don't usually like them mixed into a murder investigation like this, but for whatever reason, it seemed to work without being tacky.  When rumours that an old, run-down boarding house about to be renovated actually become reality, it can't be helped that an old murder from twenty years ago is brought up in the media drawing further attention to the project because the old murder happened on the house's grounds.  Naturally, being old and run-down, stories persist about it being haunted. Now this is definitely my kind of thing to read. 

The story actually alternates between two time periods, 2014 and 1950.  The first is told from Fiona's point of view, which is kind of the one I found the most interesting simply because Fiona's sister was the one murdered twenty years ago and I found her story fascinating.  I liked how her grief wasn't pushed aside but rather acknowledged as real even though it's been so long. I also liked how it's woven throughout her friendships and in her relationship with her dad, a famous journalist himself.  The moments when they confront their grief as they discover new clues in their hunt for the truth are well-written.  I liked how the author doesn't just gloss over how difficult it was for everyone and how life was like when something like that happens.

The other story line, in 1950, was told from multiple perspectives, but it was woven quite seamlessly into the first which made the jump back and forth quite easy.  And while I found the first story line more interesting, that isn't saying much because I pretty much devoured this book in several hours. You were able to understand the points of view of the four girls who were friends and roommates and of course, their secrets were revealed as the story progressed, woven into the first story line, as clues were discovered.  Quite well done actually.  And there are a lot of secrets to discover, some of which I figured out and one main one which I didn't.  I still love that element of surprise, makes the reading experience so much richer.

Interesting enough, the paranormal aspect to this story actually became my favourite part of the book.  It definitely gave it a gothic feel, making the whole thing feel spooky.  The atmosphere kept me immersed in the book and I loved the mystery feel of it.  However, I will have to say that I was kind of disappointed in the end  as I felt too many coincidences were happening, and it felt like the author was losing control of the story, like a runaway train with you trying to jump on.  I'm all for coincidences, but when too many are used as plot points, it gets old, fast, and then the writing gets all mixed up and confused.  

The Broken Girls is a good, entertaining story with a gothic feel. I enjoyed the characters and thought the story flowed quite nicely, until the end, with a nice paranormal aspect thrown in for good measure.  Definitely recommend this book for those of you who like dual story lines, good writing, interesting mystery, and an intriguing mystery.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Review: Tombland by C.J. Sansom

Tombland (Matthew Shardlake, Book #7)
by C.J. Sansom
Release date: October 18th 2018
2018 Pan MacMillan - Mantle
Kindle Edition; 866 Pages
ISBN: 978-1447284482
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Revew copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars


Spring, 1549. Two years after the death of Henry VIII, England is sliding into chaos . . .

The nominal king, Edward VI, is eleven years old. His uncle Edward Seymour, Lord Hertford, rules as Protector. The extirpation of the old religion by radical Protestants is stirring discontent among the populace while the Protector's prolonged war with Scotland is proving a disastrous failure and threatens to involve France. Worst of all, the economy is in collapse, inflation rages and rebellion is stirring among the peasantry. 

Since the old King's death, Matthew Shardlake has been working as a lawyer in the service of Henry's younger daughter, the Lady Elizabeth. The gruesome murder of the wife of a distant Norfolk relation of Elizabeth's mother, John Boleyn - which could have political implications for Elizabeth - brings Shardlake and his assistant Nicholas Overton to the summer assizes at Norwich. There they are reunited with Shardlake's former assistant Jack Barak. The three find layers of mystery and danger surrounding the death of Edith Boleyn, as a second murder is committed. And then East Anglia explodes, as peasant rebellion breaks out across the country. Barak throws in his lot with the rebels; Nicholas, opposed to them, becomes a prisoner in Norwich Castle; while Shardlake has to decide where his ultimate loyalties lie, as government forces in London prepare to march north and destroy the rebels. Meanwhile he discovers that the murder of Edith Boleyn may have connections reaching into both the heart of the rebel camp and of the Norfolk gentry . . .

My Thoughts
Tombland is the seventh book in an amazing series, but I don't think it was one of his better ones.  While I liked this book, I don't necessarily think it was his best. And as a reviewer I also have to look at it critically and as the book is listed as a mystery novel, not just historical fiction,  it needs to be evaluated as such.  And while the historical parts to the novel were great, the actual mystery did kind of take a back seat to the rebellion and kind of got lost a bit in the midst of what was happening.  However, the writing is mesmerizing and you feel like you are right in the midst of everything; the sweat, the fear, the blood, the misery, but also the excitement and hope people felt at fighting back.

What can I say?  I love Matthew Shardlake as a character and have since the first book.   I really felt like he got the short end of the stick on this one though, as how he could investigate the murder of a relation to Princess Elizabeth without rousing undue attention was utterly beyond me.  Of course he's going to attract the attention of the powers that be and get caught up in events of which he has no understanding as yet again, he was not being told the whole picture.  It does get frustrating at times because you would think, after everything he has done for them, that they would at least give Matthew some understanding of exactly what was happening and not just the undercurrents.  And then expect him to complete everything in a matter of days on top of it, frustrating.  So the nuances at play here are brilliant; you really do need some understanding of history though to be able to put it all together and understand a lot of the political intrigues that are happening here.  I really felt that Nicholas was the most developed character in this book, Barak just kind of got on my nerves, and you could tell that Toby would be the one who would cause problems later, just because there has to be that kind of character, you know?  A bit predictable. 

I am so glad this author wrote about this period of time as he did it wonderfully, bringing to light the English Rebellions, a time period where there were many violent responses to land enclosures against the rich and wealthy landowners.  And while I do agree that this was a time of great importance, and the story was engaging, the author did lose sight of the main issue, which was to find the killer of Edith Boleyn.  It was quite easy to figure out what happened to Edith, but I could see how the reader might have got lost amid all of the events surrounding the rebellion and the events that occurred because of it. And if you aren't interested in history, and the day-to-day workings of what happened, this book could have a tendency to drag on. Half of the book is devoted to the rebellion so people may not find that interesting if you are looking for a mystery novel.  And while I was glad that Matthew got what he deserved in the end, I wasn't actually too impressed with the how; was it really necessary? And yes, it felt a bit contrived.  When you read the book, you will know what I am talking about as I don't want to give too much away.

Tombland is one of those books that I enjoyed tremendously when it came to the historical aspect, but was a bit disappointed in when it came to the mystery and the character development.  I adore Matthew as a character, but really felt that, although he was in the midst of a lot of events, he also seemed to take a back seat to a lot of things too.  By that, I mean that he seemed to wait for things around him to happen which is not the character with which I am familiar in previous books, one who took charge and made things happen.  In other words, it seemed like he just couldn't make a firm decision on anything and it was a bit frustrating.  And although I understand the context in which he found himself, I am pretty sure he could have done more to stand up for himself and those he cared about.  Overall, the story was interesting, but definitely not on par with some of the author's previous novels, and the character development was a bit flimsy at best. Will I read another book by this author? Oh, yes, simply because I enjoy his writing style and I love Matthew, so hoping for a better mystery next time.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Review: The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

The Lost Girls of Paris
by Pam Jenoff
Release Date: January 29th 2019
2019 Park Row
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0778308614
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.5 / 5 Stars

Grace Healey is rebuilding her life after losing her husband during the war. One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, she finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a ring of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

My Thoughts
The Lost Girls of Paris definitely had a lot of potential: the story of young women during WWII, recruited to spy on the Germans in France simply because they (the powers that be) thought the Germans would not pay as much attention to them and their actions.  Also loosely based on true events, this should have been great. Unfortunately, the novel did not live up to its potential and I although I enjoyed aspects of it, overall I was somewhat disappointed in this one.

First of all, I really preferred the parts about Marie and Eleanor and felt the author should have focused on their story.  To be honest, I'm really not sure why she included the alternating story lines as there was really no purpose to Grace's; her story just got in the way and I felt it was irrelevant.  If it was just to show how a woman could be independent after the war years if she worked hard, in my opinion, it failed.  I found Grace to be rather annoying as a character, more concerned about her reasons why she slept with her dead husband's best friend.  And this is not really a spoiler as it pretty much happens on the second page of the book, another reason why I should have stopped reading at that point..  I guess I just really wished the author would have come up with a better reason than 'compuslsion' for Grace wanting to pursue the matter of discovering the identity of the girls when she discovers Eleanor's suitcase New York. It kind of meandered and was somewhat unnecessary.

And while I said I liked the chapters about Marie and Eleanor better, that is not really saying much considering I disliked the chapters about Grace.  While I enjoyed what happened in Occupied-France, I just couldn't for the life of me accept that they (the powers that be) would put someone, who had so many issues during training, in such a key position.  And then Marie's behaviour when she actually landed in France? As the leader, I would have slapped her.  She pretty much put everyone in danger by her indignity.  Hello?  It's war?  What part during training did you miss that this was dangerous and everyone's life depended on you and your training?  I just didn't buy it.  Oh, I know that all countries used all types of people for their missions.  I teach History.  But to specifically train someone for a job, and then have them act as if they've been put out because they had to land in the middle of the night and then sleep somewhere other than in a nice comfortable bed blows me away.  Bothered me to no end.  I began to wish that we could follow more of the others' stories as they seemed so much more interesting.  And to throw in a love story on top of this?  You've got to be kidding me!! Why does she need to fall in love to make her story interesting? I was actually somewhat insulted by this turn of events.

The Lost Girls of Paris is not a book I would recommend to anyone who knows a lot about WWII. As a history teacher, there were so many things I just could not swallow in this one.  The way Eleanor recruits Marie is not that unusual as they would have been searching for those women who spoke fluent French, but to send someone in the field who is inept? Somewhere else maybe, but not in France.  And while I know the author has an extensive background in history, I just felt she missed the mark on this one.  Perhaps those who don't know anything about WWII might enjoy this, but for those of us who do, I should never have continued past the first chapter.  This was definitely an opportunity wasted.
Sunday, February 24, 2019

Review: Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside (Founders, Book #1)
by Robert Jackson Bennett
Release Date: August 21st 2018
2018 Crown
Kindle Edition; 512 Pages
ISBN: 978-1524760366
ASIN: B077RG422Z
Genre: Fiction/ Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

5 / 5 Stars

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic--the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience--have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them. 

My Thoughts
Foundryside is the first book in new series by Bennett and I enjoyed it tremendously.  Having read The Divine Cities trilogy, I was a bit anxious about whether the author could live up to those books which is why it took my awhile before attempting this one; luckily, it more than lived up to the expectations put upon it.  

I loved the main character, Sancia, who really set the tone for the entire book, even though it was told in different POVs.  A thief, living in really difficult conditions, takes on a job that anyone else would be crazy to do, putting herself in extreme danger and involving herself in a major conspiracy involving the big houses in her realm.  She is tough as nails on the outside, capable of doing amazing things, but has a very soft spot on the inside as well, which I loved.  To be honest, I never really knew what to expect from Sancia as the story developed and I enjoyed that tremendously; the author did a fantastic job developing her character, revealing important information piece by piece as the story progressed.  In fact, I could say that about all of the characters in this book, all of whom I liked very much, even the villains.  Sancia is smart, capable, and very different from the typical main character, to the point where I definitely rooted for her throughout the book and sympathized whenever I learned about her past..  

The plot itself was great. As soon as one tricky situation resolved itself, another one popped up almost immediately so you don't really have time to catch your breath.  The novel opened up with a bang, literally, as Sancia attempted to steal a precious object for a job.  That things didn't quite go as planned sets up the plot for the rest of the book, very nicely too I might add.  All of this is wrapped around a plot that includes major heists (so fun), sacrifice, betrayal, long-buried secrets, and so many hints, that it just becomes so fascinating to read and you want to find out more and more.  

All of the above though, is wound around a unique magic system that kind of took me awhile to figure out.  And I'm still not sure I fully understood it.  The magic system is one involving scriving, a system of codes embedded in objects to make them behave in a different manner for which they were meant to behave.  It's complex and so, so interesting.  I loved it when things when wrong and there are consequences; not that I am happy to hear about people being killed or anything, but it was interesting nonetheless and I am so glad the author included these kinds of things in the story, and so cleverly done as well. The author actually, quite cleverly I thought, showed how the use of innovative technology becomes immeshed in one's society and what happens when it is no longer there, kind of mimicking out own world and what would happen if we were suddenly without something on which we depend.  A bit scary that!!

Foundryside was a fantastic start to a new series and I had a hard time putting it down.  I enjoyed the characters a lot, thought the plot was amazing, and loved the magic system.  I am definitely looking forward to the next book in this trilogy. 
Monday, February 18, 2019

Review & Giveaway: Past Due For Murder by Victoria Gilbert

Past Due for Murder (Blue Ridge Library Mysteries, Book #3)
by Victoria Gilbert
Release Date: February 12th 2019
2019 Crooked Lane Books
Kindle Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-1683318743
Genre: Fiction / Cozy
Source: Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours / Publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Spring has sprung in quaint Taylorsford, Virginia, and the mayor has revived the town’s long-defunct May Day celebration to boost tourism. As part of the festivities, library director Amy Webber is helping to organize a research project and presentation by a local folklore expert. All seems well at first―but spring takes on a sudden chill when a university student inexplicably vanishes during a bonfire.

The local police cast a wide net to find the missing woman, but in a shocking turn of events, Amy’s swoon-worthy neighbor Richard Muir becomes a person of interest in the case. Not only is Richard the woman’s dance instructor, he also doesn’t have an alibi for the night the student vanished―or at least not one he’ll divulge, even to Amy.

When the missing student is finally discovered lost in the mountains, with no memory of recent events―and a dead body lying nearby―an already disturbing mystery takes on a sinister new hue. Blessed with her innate curiosity and a librarian’s gift for research, Amy may be the only one who can learn the truth.

My Thoughts
Past Due for Murder is the third book in the Blue Ridge Library Mysteries series and while I definitely liked this one better than the previous entry in this series, with a cast of pretty interesting characters, I still felt like it wrapped up way too early, leaving an ending that felt far more like a fiction novel than a cozy mystery.

I personally feel the real strength to this series lies in the characters and their interactions with each other.  I really liked Amy far better and felt like her character had really grown in this one, becoming much more confident and able to tackle things (and people) without coming across as whiny, which was sometimes the case in the past.  Even though she had some small problems with Richard, they were able to work them out in a mature way rather than yell and scream at each other, or sulk, something which drives me nuts, and something which Amy used to do.  Amy is very relatable and I liked that in a character.  She's not perfect, which makes her more fun.  We also got to learn a bit more about her past relationship with Charles, which just made me wonder what she saw in that man or why she would stay with someone like that.  It was a great way to learn more about Amy and how much she had changed since coming back home.

I did enjoy the mystery, but it was very easy to figure out.  I do like that the action can be typically more sinister than in a typical cozy mystery, which makes it a bit more fun to read, but I do have to admit that the pacing is somewhat off at times, and sometimes the plot feels a bit forced in order to keep the action moving forward.  However, the relationships, the drama, the interactions, and the dialogue all work very well together which sort of makes up for the feeling of being forced.  I was not too impressed with the way the story ended however, as I felt it dragged on quite a bit and also, the resolution came way too early.   

Past Due For Murder was overall, an enjoyable read.  While I suppose this one could stand on its own, I don't recommend you start with this one as there are references to previous novels which kind of give away important plot points from previous novels, something of which I am not a fan.  While it was easy to figure out the mystery, there were enough layers to it that it did keep my interest and I definitely liked the folklore aspect to it.  The Blue Ridge Mountains has so many interesting tales that it was nice to see some of them incorporated into the story, even if I have no idea if any of it was real or not, although I am sure there are lots of tales like it that are.  I do recommend this book, but I would start with the first book in the series.


a Rafflecopter giveaway
Sunday, February 10, 2019

Review: Carless Love by Peter Robinson

Carless Love (Inspector Banks, Book #25)
by Peter Robinson
Release Date: February 12th 2019
2019 William Morrow
Kindle Edition; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-1444786996
ASIN: B0746LN968
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.5 / 5 Stars

A young local student has apparently committed suicide. Her body is found in an abandoned car on a lonely country road. She didn't own a car. Didn't even drive. How did she get there? Where did she die? Who moved her, and why?

Meanwhile a man in his sixties is found dead in a gully up on the wild moorland. He is wearing an expensive suit and carrying no identification. Post-mortem findings indicate he died from injuries sustained during the fall. But what was he doing up there? And why are there no signs of a car in the vicinity?

As the inconsistencies multiply and the mysteries proliferate, Annie's father's new partner, Zelda, comes up with a shocking piece of information that alerts Banks and Annie to the return of an old enemy in a new guise. This is someone who will stop at nothing, not even murder, to get what he wants - and suddenly the stakes are raised and the hunt is on.

My Thoughts
Careless Love is the latest in a long line of Inspector Banks books and I usually look forward to these books with pleasure.  Lately though, it has been with a bit of trepidation as I just felt they weren't up to their usual snuff, and unfortunately, this one fell into that same list.  I tried to like it, I really did, but I just...didn't.

First of all, the actual story is intriguing, or perhaps I should say, parallel stories. If they were written in a different way, with less ho-hum procedural work that I normally love but just set my teeth on edge, the story could have been quite good and suspenseful. However, the first one was very easy to figure out, and the second one actually goes nowhere.  While I don't usually have an issue with secondary story lines continuing in a series, the way it was done didn't quite work out for me and I was left feeling a bit let down.  

Now, I have really enjoyed this series for years, and I am always willing to give a series another shot when there is a book that I don't really enjoy, but I really feel like this series has been going downhill for a little while. I have always enjoyed the issues this series has brought to attention, but lately, I am feeling a bit discouraged when it comes to character development.  I don't typically have an issue when it comes to relationships in books, but lately, it just feels a bit...ageist.  The author does try to justify the reasons behind why Annie's father is in a relationship with a young 30 something, drop-dead gorgeous Russian woman, while Annie herself has been interested in Banks for a long time.  Banks himself often ruminates over his old flames, a lot of them half his age.  It gets old fast, sorry for the pun.  

Normally, the actual procedural work is well done, and quite suspenseful, leaving the reader to figure out the events in the murder / mystery.  In this one, the suspense is lacking, and the interviews and procedural work felt a bit sloppy.  Banks seemed to spend an awful amount of time in pubs and the like, and I grew frustrated with what was happening.  Typically, the banter between the characters has been quite good, but everyone seemed to be on edge in this one.  When such high standards have already been set in earlier novels, I guess attaining those standards can sometimes be difficult.

Careless Love has some interesting and intriguing ideas, but they just don't work.  And while I love the setting, and usually love the procedural work in a Robinson novel, it just fell a bit flat in this one, losing focus in unnecessary details that I think were meant as an attempt to develop characters but ended up being more annoying than anything.  Every series tends to have its downturn and the last few books have definitely not been up to the par we've seen in earlier books.  And I definitely do not recommend starting with this book. Start at the beginning and see why so many people liked the earlier novels, including myself.  I am willing to attempt another novel and see what happens, but if it's the same as this one, sadly I think Inspector Banks and I will part ways. 
Saturday, January 19, 2019

Review: The Silent Games by Alex Gray

The Silent Games (DCI Lorimer, Book #11)
by Alex Gray
Release Date: March 13th 2018
2018 Witness Impulse (first published March 13th 2014)
Softcover Edition; 432 Pages
ISBN: 978-184744
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

DS William Lorimer has a lot on his hands. The Commonwealth Games will soon begin in Glasgow, and there’s been a credible threat of homegrown terrorism. 

When a big explosion, perhaps a trial run, causes extensive damage in a wooded area, Lorimer is seconded to help the counterterrorism force in their investigation. At the same time, he can’t resist an invitation to attend a school reunion run by his first love, Vivien Fox Gilmartin, whom he finds just as lovely as she was when she broke up with him to pursue an acting career. 

After their reunion, Vivien phones him hysterically to say that she’s found her husband, Charles, a famous theater director, dead in the flat they’re renting while he works to bring African theater groups to Scotland. His death appears to be a heart attack, but forensics show that he was poisoned. In addition, the police learn of the discovery of the body of a young African woman who has only a small tattoo as a clue to her identity. They suspect that she was part of a scheme to provide sex workers for the influx of visitors to the games. Since Vivien has no other friends in the area, Lorimer and his wife, Maggie, take her in while her husband’s murder is under investigation. Maggie berates herself for feeling that Vivien is less interested in her late husband than in Lorimer, who must hand off the case because he’s personally involved. 

Tracking down the tattoo leads to more stolen girls and a man who may be involved in both the trafficking and the terrorism, but Charles’ death remains a mystery.

My Thoughts
The Silent Games, the eleventh book in the DCI Lorimer series, definitely had an interesting premise which is what drew me to the story.  With all of the terrorism going on in the world and with recent bombings at important events, I was curious as to how this author would approach the subject in her story.  And while it was quite interesting, and took a turn I wasn't quite expecting, there were still elements I thought were left unexplored and I was not quite satisfied with the conclusion to this book.

First of all, I enjoy DCI Lorimer as a main character.  He is definitely competent at his job, dedicated, and always means to do the right thing.  He is very aware of his position as a leader of men and tries to ensure that his behaviour is beyond reproach as he knows that his men look up to him and want to learn from him.  That being said, he is also no push-over and can be quite aggressive when he needs to be; he has just learned when to push and when it is necessary to take a different route to get the answers he needs.  I was very pleased to see a character from a previous novel show up in this one and is now playing a bigger role, Kirsty Wilson.  She is now working for Lorimer, learning the ropes, and is as dedicated to the job as her father and Lorimer.  It was kind of interesting to see how she is learning the job and her frustration at being held back at times simply because she dd not have the experience to be involved in certain delicate situations; and when she did mess up, she got into trouble.  I really like her character and hope to see much more of her in the future.

This story can be pretty gritty as it deals with human traficking so of the scenes are hard to read, but there is so much of this sadly going on in our society it is almost scary and I feel that we need to face the issue.  The scenes probably don't do the ordeal these girls face justice to be honest, but I honestly don't think I could read them if it was any more explicit.   Unfortunately, while I did like the story, I did feel like there were quite a lot of holes in it which was a bit frustrating to read, somewhat predictable, and I didn't like the ending.  I really felt like the writing was too light for the subject matter in this one.  Bombing and human trafficking are serious subjects and can't be written about lightly.  I also was not crazy about the whole ex-girlfriend scenario - I think the whole thing could have been written right out of the book and it wouldn't have made a difference.  Maggie, you are one amazing woman!

The Silent Games was no my favourite book in the series although there were definitely some good moments in it.  I enjoyed the continuing character development: I was happy to see more of Kirsty and Maggie in this one and learn more about them.  The overall plot was interesting but I just felt like there was too much going on and the author kind of lost track of some of the plot lines throughout which made it feel loose and unconnected at times.  Will I read another book by this author?  Oh, definitely.  There was enough good stuff in this one to keep me going and I am not finished with DCI Lorimer as of yet.
Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Review: Be Our Ghost by Kate Kingsbury

Be Our Ghost (Merry Ghost Inn, Book #3)
by Kate Kingsbury
Release Date: October 9th 2018
2018 Crooked Lane Books
Kindle Edition; 278 Pages
ISBN: 978-1683317845
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

The Merry Ghost Inn is well and truly open for business. Melanie West and her grandmother, Liza, are rapidly getting the hang of running their charming bed-and-breakfast inn on the rocky Oregon coast. Not that business goes without a hitch—when your hostelry boasts its own laughing resident ghost, you’d better be expect the out-of-the-ordinary. But Melanie and Liza take it all in stride…until a hotshot real estate developer arrives in Sully’s Landing, touting his plans to build a tacky amusement arcade smack dab in the middle of the tasteful cliff-side town.

No one in Sully’s Landing can stand the gaudy developer, but it’s still a shock when he ends up murdered. It’s even more shocking when Liza’s friend, Doug, emerges as the chief suspect. Melanie and Liza put on their sleuthing caps yet again and set out to clear Doug’s name.

My Thoughts
Be Our Ghost is the third book in a cozy mystery series featuring Melanie and her grandmother Liza. Unfortunately, I didn't like this one as much as the first two and while it wasn't a boring book or uninteresting, there were just too many things that bothered and distracted me throughout.

First of all, I really do enjoy Melanie as a main character but I am not yet sold on Liza.  I get that the author is trying to make Liza come across as sassy and scrappy and all that, but sometimes it rings a bit false and I was not always impressed by her personality. She could be a bit rude and obnoxious, and to be honest, I could do without her comments on someone else's dress style and habits. Perhaps a bit too much time was spent on discussing their assistant's clothing and bad eating habits and it got old, fast. I do like how the two interact with each other though, and you can tell that Melanie really cares about her grandmother and is willing to do anything for her.  But I really wish she would stand up to her once in a while!! And that ex of hers. Yikes!

Melanie and Liza own the Merry Ghost Inn which even comes with its own resident ghost.  I enjoyed the paranormal element but as of yet have learned almost nothing about Orville and why he is there which has been a bit frustrating.  I would definitely enjoy more ghostly encounters and would love to learn more about him.  While the tease was interesting at the beginning, it kind of gets irritating as the story moves along and you find out pretty much...nothing.  There are a lot of moments in the kitchen working on various recipes and things, but there was very little interaction with the guests.  And you would never know they were running an inn by their behaviour, that's for sure.  Melanie and Liza took off at a moment's notice to investigate and to do other things, sometimes leaving an assistant behind, sometimes not.  I actually began to wonder how they actually ran the inn if they were never there.  I think less details about breakfast and more interactions with their guests would make this a bit more realistic. 

The investigation was interesting but I feel like the duo needed to work on their approach with people when it came to investigating as the way it was written it was fairly easy to figure out the murderer. And I know that if Liza approached me the way she approached some of the people in this book, I would be a bit upset as well and tossed her on her backside out the door.  Sometimes age is not an excuse for rudeness.  And while the attempt was made to misdirect and twist things around, it didn't really work on me.  That being said however, it was definitely interesting meeting the people in this world and I would like to meet a lot of them again as I sense some interesting stories on the horizon. 

Be Our Ghost is one of those books that, while enjoyable on a superficial level, was a bit of a letdown in other areas.  I think having paying guests stay at a haunted inn and then having no interaction with them whatsoever in the book is a bit of a letdown.  While I understand the main mystery was not focused on the inn this time out, it really makes no difference; no ghostly activity at the inn means no ghostly haunted inn.  I also had a harder time accepting Liza and her personality in this one; I just couldn't get past her abrasiveness.  I did really like a lot of the other characters though, so I hope to see more of them in future installments of this series.  Would I recommend this series? I think so, and there is so much potential here that I am still interested seeing what happens next.