Friday, July 29, 2016

Review: The Hidden by Heather Graham

The Hidden (Krewe of Hunters, Book #17)
by Heather Graham
Release Date: September 29th 2015
2015 Mira
Ebook Edition; 301 Pages
ISBN: 978-0778318583
Genre: Fiction / Paranormal / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars


Estes Park, Colorado, is a place of serenity. But it wasn't always so serene. Shortly after the Civil War, Nathan Kendall and his wife were murdered there, leaving behind a young son. The crime was never solved.

Now…historian Scarlet Barlow is working at a small museum attached to a B and B, the same building where that murder occurred. She recently came to Colorado, reeling after her divorce from FBI agent Diego McCullough. Diego—who's just been asked to join the Krewe of Hunters, a unit dealing with "unusual" situations…

When Scarlet unwittingly takes pictures of people who've been murdered—just like the Kendalls a hundred and fifty years before—the police look at her with suspicion. Then the museum's statues of historic people, including Nathan Kendall, begin to talk to her, and she knows it's time to call her ex-husband. Diego heads to Estes Park, determined to solve the bizarre case that threatens Scarlet's life—and to reunite with the woman he never stopped loving.

My Thoughts
The Hidden is the next book in the Krewe of Hunters series, a series that I have enjoyed quite a bit.  Reading these books is a guilty pleasure of mine, and I tend to indulge in between the heavy hitters as a way to relax and get my mind off those deeper novels as let's face it, these novels tend to be light, beach-worthy material, but they can also be a lot of fun too.  I do have to admit that I was a bit disappointed in this one though as it felt like Graham's usual magic wasn't there; too many cliched moments, too many coincidences, a lack of Graham's trademark paranormal skill, and a missing chemistry between the characters just didn't make me like this one as much as the others.

First of all, I couldn't wait to find out Scarlet and Diego's story having met Diego in a previous novel. While I definitely understood their issues which are common in a lot of marriages, I didn't quite get their reunion and how quick they were to jump into bed without resolving any of the issues; and the resulting internal monologues were actually a distraction from the story.  Do I or don't I?  How about the characters sitting down and discussing the issues that tore them apart in the first place?  Don't get me wrong, I love the romance in Graham's books, but here it seemed forced and phony and I wasn't too keen on the way it was done and resolved.

Most of the characters were likeable, but again, nothing really stood out for me in this one.  While I can clearly remember the first few books in this series, I doubt the same thing will happen for me here.  While I like Diego, I think I actually preferred him in the previous novel as I thought he was more interesting.  My biggest character issue had to do with one of the local police officers; he had a total change of personality part-way through the book and I still can't figure out why.  I actually thought he was more interesting when he was questioning Scarlet or questioning the people at the B and B rather than completely caving in and agreeing with everything.  At least it shows he was thinking events through rather than just aimlessly following the FBI agents along like a puppy.  I've never minded tough or strong characters as long as it's justified and makes sense and not just thrown in the novel to create tension.

The Hidden is definitely not the strongest entry in this series. Overall I thought the writing was not on the same level as the previous entries and the mystery left me questioning a lot of things at the end; you tend to leave a certain level of believability behind when you read paranormal novels but Graham has usually been pretty good at tying up loose ends and making things sound pretty credible. I don't think she really succeeded with this one, and I don't think the ending helped.  There was definitely an intriguing premise though, and it's too bad the novel didn't quite live up to it.  Will I read another one by this author?  Of course.  I've read quite a few that I've enjoyed tremendously, and I'm hoping the next one will be up to her usual standards. 


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Review: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

The Murder of Mary Russell (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, Book #14)
by Laurie R. King
Release Date: April 5th 2016
2016 Bantam
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0804177900
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Mary Russell is used to dark secrets—her own, and those of her famous partner and husband, Sherlock Holmes. Trust is a thing slowly given, but over the course of a decade together, the two have forged an indissoluble bond.

And what of the other person to whom Mary Russell has opened her heart: the couple’s longtime housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson? Russell’s faith and affection are suddenly shattered when a man arrives on the doorstep claiming to be Mrs. Hudson’s son.

What Samuel Hudson tells Russell cannot possibly be true, yet she believes him—as surely as she believes the threat of the gun in his hand. In a devastating instant, everything changes. And when the scene is discovered—a pool of blood on the floor, the smell of gunpowder in the air—the most shocking revelation of all is that the grim clues point directly to Clara Hudson.

Or rather to Clarissa, the woman she was before Baker Street.

The key to Russell’s sacrifice lies in Mrs. Hudson’s past. To uncover the truth, a frantic Sherlock Holmes must put aside his anguish and push deep into his housekeeper’s secrets—to a time before her disguise was assumed, before her crimes were buried away.

My Thoughts
The Murder of Mary Russell is the fourteenth book in a very delightful series, and one which I somewhat enjoyed although it is very different than some of the previous Mary Russell novels. I do have to admit that I thought the mystery in this one was not up to par, and I do think the title is very misleading. 

Although I love the escapades of Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell, it was nice to read about Mrs. Hudson's background and how she got involved with Holmes; and it was not quite what I would have expected either. I mean, Mrs. Hudson has always just been there, whenever she was needed, and to be honest, I never really gave it much thought as to how she ended up there, but I should have known it would be something interesting. Most of the story is Mrs. Hudson's backstory, and while I did find it quite interesting, it didn't really draw me in like the previous novels in this series; there were times when I started flipping forward to see when we would get to the parts that involved Holmes and Russell, and I hate doing that.  I also thought the author tried too hard to make Holmes and Mrs. Hudson seem too naive and young during the earlier years, and it didn't come across the way I think it was meant.  I think the author was trying to show that Holmes was not always the cool, calculated person he was now, but in his youth was somewhat inexperienced and tended to panic, but somehow it didn't quite come out the way it was meant, and I found myself shaking my head a few times over some of the scenes.  

I normally love the Mary Russell mysteries and have enjoyed all of them, but sadly, this one was not for me.  Every author can have one of those books in a series that doesn't hit the mark, and this one is it for me; the mystery, the pacing, the clever dialogue, everything felt off.   I thought the mystery was poorly plotted, at least compared to the previous ones, and while Mrs. Hudson's relationship with Holmes is full of secrets, the mystery of Mary Russell is also one full of secrets, both of which kind of left a bad feeling in my mouth. I was a little disappointed in how Holmes and Mrs. Hudson's relationship was perceived by the author; Mrs. Hudson's value actually rose in my eyes after learning more about her and I'm not quite sure what to think about Holmes after this.

The Murder of Mary Russell is definitely not up to the quality we are used to seeing in a Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes novel; in fact, I was kind of disappointed.  While the writing was up to par, the clever repartee between the characters was missing, and I wasn't a big fan of the mystery.  And while I never really thought too much about Mrs. Hudson's background, I would have hoped for something a bit better than threats would have kept her at Holmes' side through the years, so I was a bit disappointed in her story line.  Because I have been a fan for such a long time, I am hoping the next book in the series will encapsulate what we all love about the Holmes and Russell series, and that this one was just a misstep, but one that I would definitely not recommend to others.    
Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Book Blast & Giveaway: As Death Draws Near by Anna Lee Huber

02_As Death Draws NearAs Death Draws Near (Lady Darby Mystery #5) by Anna Lee Huber


Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Berkley Harcover & eBook; 336 Pages
Series: Lady Darby Mysteries
Genre: Historical Mystery      

The latest mystery from the national bestselling author of A Study in Death tangles Lady Kiera Darby and Sebastian Gage in a dangerous web of religious and political intrigue.

 July 1831. In the midst of their idyllic honeymoon in England’s Lake District, Kiera and Gage’s seclusion is soon interrupted by a missive from her new father-in-law. A deadly incident involving a distant relative of the Duke of Wellington has taken place at an abbey south of Dublin, Ireland, and he insists that Kiera and Gage look into the matter.

Intent on discovering what kind of monster could murder a woman of the cloth, the couple travel to Rathfarnham Abbey school. Soon a second nun is slain in broad daylight near a classroom full of young girls. With the sinful killer growing bolder, the mother superior would like to send the students home, but the growing civil unrest in Ireland would make the journey treacherous.

Before long, Kiera starts to suspect that some of the girls may be hiding a sinister secret. With the killer poised to strike yet again, Kiera and Gage must make haste and unmask the fiend, before their matrimonial bliss comes to an untimely end...

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iBooks | IndieBound

Praise for the Lady Darby Mysteries

“Riveting…Huber deftly weaves together an original premise, an enigmatic heroine, and a compelling Highland setting for a book you won’t want to put down.”—Deanna Raybourn, New York Times bestselling author “[A] history mystery in fine Victorian style!”—Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times bestselling author “[A] fascinating heroine…A thoroughly enjoyable read!”—Victoria Thompson, national bestselling author “[A] clever heroine with a shocking past and a talent for detection.”—Carol K. Carr, national bestselling author

03_Anna Lee HuberAbout the Author

Anna Lee Huber is the Award-Winning and National Bestselling Author of the Lady Darby Mystery Series. She was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, and graduated summa cum laude from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN with a degree in music and a minor in psychology. She currently resides in Indiana, and when not working on her next book she enjoys reading, singing, traveling and spending time with her family.

For more information please visit Connect with Anna Lee Huber on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Tuesday, July 5

100 Pages a Day
Passages to the Past
Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, July 6
Layered Pages
Buried Under Books
CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, July 7
The Lit Bitch
The Book Junkie Reads
A Dream within a Dream
To Read, Or Not to Read

Friday, July 8
History Undressed
Diana's Book Reviews

Saturday, July 9
A Chick Who Reads
Reading Is My SuperPower

Sunday, July 10
Book Drunkard

Monday, July 11
It's a Mad Mad World
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Tuesday, July 12
The Reading Queen
Curling up by the Fire

Wednesday, July 13
Brooke Blogs
Queen of All She Reads
History From a Woman's Perspective  

Thursday, July 14
Book Nerd
A Literary Vacation

Friday, July 15
A Holland Reads
Beth's Book Nook Blog


To win a paperback copy of As Death Draws Near by Anna Lee Huber, please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below. Two copies are up for grabs!

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As Death Draws Near Book Blast

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Review: The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson

The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder
by William Anderson (Editor)
Release Date: March 8th 2016
2016 Harper
Ebook ARC Edition; 395 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062419682
Genre: Nonfiction / Historical / Memoir
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

This is a fresh look at the adult life of the author in her own words. Gathered from museums and archives and personal collections, the letters span over sixty years of Wilder’s life, from 1894–1956 and shed new light on Wilder’s day-to-day life. Here we see her as a businesswoman and author—including her beloved Little House books, her legendary editor, Ursula Nordstrom, and her readers—as a wife, and as a friend. In her letters, Wilder shares her philosophies, political opinions, and reminiscences of life as a frontier child. Also included are letters to her daughter, writer Rose Wilder Lane, who filled a silent role as editor and collaborator while the famous Little House books were being written.

Wilder biographer William Anderson collected and researched references throughout these letters and the result is an invaluable historical collection, tracing Wilder’s life through the final days of covered wagon travel, her life as a farm woman, a country journalist, Depression-era author, and years of fame as the writer of the Little House books. This collection is a sequel to her beloved books, and a snapshot into twentieth-century living.

My Thoughts
The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder was an interesting and absorbing collection of her personal letters to fans, family, friends, colleagues, and so on.  I will admit to being fascinated by the details they gave us about her later life, and couldn't get enough information about family and friends mentioned from the Little House books.  Having grown up on these books, to the point where they were so dog-eared I had to buy another set for my own children, I have always been fascinated by Laura's life.  I even got a chance to visit some of Carrie's old haunts while visiting Keystone several years ago, and often regret not stopping in De Smet while driving through South Dakota to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes Tour.  

What was nice about reading this collection was reconciling Laura as a child with Laura as a mother and author. You definitely got a much better understanding of the relationship between Laura and Rose as well as what Laura thought about a myriad of things, including simply the weather.  It was also nice, as an adult, to learn more about Laura's family and friends, and I definitely looked for those names I recognized from the novels, hoping for more information.  Unfortunately, as in a lot of families, including my own, so many things get thrown out over the years, including correspondence, and I am frankly amazed that so much was left from Laura's papers.  Although it was a shame that so much was destroyed, it is a reality; I didn't really take much interest in my own grandparents' letters and things although now I wish I had, especially as my grandmother tended to keep a lot of things.  In her letters, Laura seemed to live quite frugally and often commented on the materialism of young people, which I found quite interesting, and she found disturbing, often echoing the same thoughts going around today.

I thought Anderson did quite a good job putting together these letters and I imagine it wasn't very easy to do.  For the average person with little knowledge of Laura Ingalls, I don't think the collection will be very interesting, and some of the letters to fans were a bit repetitive, but to someone like me who adored the Little House books, I loved reading this collection.  It definitely gave you a new understanding of the adult Laura, some of her political and religious viewpoints, as well as what she thought of friends and neighbours. What I really liked was the writing process between Laura and Rose as she edited her books; I also liked learning about how the drawings were developed for the books as well, quite interesting. My only disappointment with the letters had to do with how little new information we learn about Almanzo, but it is possible many of those letters were lost over the years.  You do however, get a real appreciation for how attached she was to Manly and how much she adored him. 

The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder gives us a more in-depth understanding to Laura as an adult through letters written by her own hand.  I liked how Anderson laid out the book and gave little snippets of information in order to help understand the letters.  For anyone with an interest in the adult life of Laura Ingalls, I highly recommend this book; she was just as charming as the little girl we grew up with in her famous books.