Saturday, April 29, 2017

Review & Giveaway: Bone White by Wendy Corsi Staub

Bone White (Mundy's Landing, Book #3)
by Wendy Corsi Staub
Release Date: March 28th 2017
2017 William Morrow
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062349774
Genre: Fiction / Suspense / Murder
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

The town of Mundy’s Landing was founded on a horrifying secret, but stark white bones of the dead never lie…

“We shall never tell.” Spurred by the cryptic phrase in a centuries-old letter, Emerson Mundy travels to her ancestral hometown to trace her past. In Mundy’s Landing, she connects with long lost relatives—and a closet full of skeletons going back centuries.

In the year since former NYPD Detective Sullivan Leary solved the historic Sleeping Beauty Murders, she—like the village itself—has made a fresh start. But someone has unearthed blood-drenched secrets in a disembodied skull, and is hacking away at the Mundy family tree, branch by branch…

My Thoughts
Bone White is the third book in the Mundy's Landing series, and although all of them connect in some way, and you would have a better sense of the characters involved, it could still be read as a stand alone simply because the author talks so much about the previous books in this one she almost gives away the what and wherefore of the previous mysteries.  Luckily she stops just short of doing so or I would have shut the book then and there as I am not a fan of such a technique.  Quite honestly, while I enjoyed the writing and the characters in this one, I was not overly crazy about the mystery, especially as it didn't occur until almost two-thirds into the book, and I felt like I was reading a contemporary women's novel rather than a mystery novel.

First of all, I do like this author's writing style; it's crisp, clear, and she knows how to make her characters interesting.  I have always like the witty dialogue, and especially looked forward to the rapport between Barnes and Sully in this one, although it was not quite there due to a change in their relationship.  If this novel was a contemporary women's fiction novel, the continuing development of the characters would have been great, but at some point, I was wondering where the mystery was going to actually pop up, and to my disappointment, it took quite a long time.  Yes, there was some mystery as to Emerson's background and what really happened to her father and her mother, but that was just the typical knowledge one lacks when getting to know a new character, not the mind-bending suspense of characters who need to sleep with one eye open at night because someone is stalking them, or they don't know what is happening to them, something the author did quite well in the previous books.  

I did really enjoy the way the novel was set up and by that I mean that there were historical letters interspersed with the actual chapters and these letters explained what the settlers in the original settlement went through during that horrible winter when most of them died, and the aftermath of that struggle.  While we were given glimpses during the first two books, it was finally good to find out what exactly happened 400 years ago and why, and to try to understand the struggles the people faced.   It was also good to find out how that horrible situation trickled down through the generations and impacted the current generation of Mundy's.  It also led to an interesting discussion on heterochromia in my household as I have a son who is interested in genetics and research, heterochromia being the inherited gene of having one eye colour different from the other.  

I am a huge fan of Ora Abrams as she was a delightful character, but I was really disappointed that more wasn't done with her character's illness. I know the onset of dimentia is really difficult to detect in people who are living alone, but when the author describes the conditions in which she was living, I just wish more was done with this story line than someone should have checked up on her more often.  Just a thought!

Bone White definitely had its interesting moments in that you learned so much more about the early days of the settlement and what really happened, something I've been waiting for for a long time.  I do feel like the murder/suspense part of the novel was sacrificed for the explanation of the town's history and that was a shame really, as this author is known for her exciting and suspenseful novels, something that was definitely lacking in this one.  I do like the characters very much, and it felt like the author actually left the door open for another novel in this series, even though it's been earmarked as a trilogy, perhaps featuring Barnes?  I certainly hope so.  As for this one, I'm not sure I'd recommend it, but I would definitely recommend the first two in the trilogy, Blood Red and Blue Moon.

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

July 20, 2016
Los Angeles, CA

We shall never tell.

Strange, the thoughts that go through your head when you’re standing at an open grave.

Not that Emerson Mundy knew anything about open graves before today. Her father’s funeral is the first she’s ever attended, and she’s the sole mourner.

Ah, at last, a perk to living a life without many—any—loved ones; you don’t spend much time grieving, unless you count the pervasive ache for the things you never had.

The minister, who came with the cemetery package and never even met Jerry Mundy, is rambling on about souls and salvation. Emerson hears only We shall never tell—the closing line in an old letter she found yesterday in the crawl space of her childhood home. It had been written in 1676 by a young woman named Priscilla Mundy, addressed to her brother, Jeremiah.

The Mundys were among the seventeenth-century English colonists who settled on the eastern bank of the Hudson River, about a hundred miles north of New York City. Their first winter was so harsh the river froze, stranding their supply ship and additional colonists in the New York harbor. When the ship arrived after the thaw, all but five settlers had starved to death.

Jeremiah; Priscilla; their sister, Charity; and their parents had eaten human flesh to stay alive. James and Elizabeth Mundy swore they’d only cannibalized those who’d already died, but the God-fearing, well-fed newcomers couldn’t fathom such wretched butchery. A Puritan justice committee tortured the couple until they confessed to murder, then swiftly tried, convicted, and hanged them.

“Do you think we’re related?” Emerson asked her father after learning about the Mundys back in elementary school.

“Nope.” Curt answers were typical when she brought up anything Jerry Mundy didn’t want to discuss. The past was high on the list.

“That’s it? Just nope?”

“What else do you want me to say?”

“How about yes?”

“That wouldn’t be the truth,” he said with a shrug.

“Sometimes the truth isn’t very interesting.”

She had no one else to ask about her family history. Dad was an only child, and his parents, Donald and Inez Mundy, had passed away before she was born. Their headstone is adjacent to the gaping rectangle about to swallow her father’s casket. Staring that the inscription, she notices her grandfather’s unusual middle initial.

Donald X. Mundy, Born 1900, Died 1972.

X marks the spot.

Thanks to her passion for history and Robert Louis Stevenson, Emerson’s bookworm childhood included a phase when she searched obsessively for buried treasure. Money was short in their household after two heart attacks left Jerry Mundy on permanent disability.

X marks the spot…

No gold doubloon treasure chest buried here. Just dusty old bones of people she never knew.

And now, her father.

The service concludes with a prayer as the coffin is lowered into the ground. The minister clasps her hand and tells her how sorry he is for her loss, then leaves her to sit on a bench and stare at the hillside as the undertakers finish the job.

The sun is beginning to burn through the thick marine layer that swaddles most June and July mornings. Having grown up in Southern California, she knows the sky will be bright blue by mid-afternoon. Tomorrow will be more of the same. By then, she’ll be on her way back up the coast, back to her life in Oakland, where the fog rolls in and stays for days, weeks at a time. Funny, but there she welcomes the gray, a soothing shield from real world glare and sharp edges.
Here the seasonal gloom has felt oppressive and depressing.

Emerson watches the undertakers finish the job and load their equipment into a van. After they drive off, she makes her way between neat rows of tombstones to inspect the raked dirt rectangle.
When something is over, you move on, her father told her when she left home nearly two decades ago. She attended Cal State Fullerton with scholarships and maximum financial aid, got her master’s at Berkeley, and landed a teaching job in the Bay Area.

But she didn’t necessarily move on.

Every holiday, many weekends, and for two whole months every summer, she makes the six-hour drive down to stay with her father. She cooks and cleans for him, and at night they sit together and watch Wheel of Fortune reruns.

It used to be because she craved a connection to the only family she had in the world. Lately, though, it was as much because Jerry Mundy needed her.

He pretended that he didn’t, that he was taking care of himself and the house, too proud to admit he was failing. He was a shadow of his former self when he died at seventy-six, leaving Emerson alone in the world.

Throughout her motherless childhood, Emerson was obsessed with novels about orphans. Treasure Island shared coveted space on her bookshelf with Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, The Witch of Blackbird Pond

She always wondered what would happen to her if her father died. Would she wind up in an orphanage? Would a kindly stranger take her in? Would she live on the streets?

Now that it’s happened he’s down there, in the dirt … moving on?

She’ll never again hear his voice. She’ll never see the face so like her own that she can’t imagine she inherited any physical characteristics from her mother, Didi—though she can’t be certain.
Years ago, she asked her father for a picture—preferably one that showed her mother holding her as a baby, or of her parents together. Maybe she wanted evidence that she and her father had been loved; that the woman who’d abandoned them had once been normal—a proud new mother, a happy bride.

Or was it the opposite? Was she hoping to glimpse a hint that Didi Mundy was never normal? Did she expect to confirm that people—normal people—don’t just wake up one morning and choose to walk out on a husband and child? That there was always something off about her mother: a telltale gleam in the eye, or a faraway expression—some warning sign her father had overlooked. A sign Emerson herself would be able to recognize, should she ever be tempted to marry.
But there were no images of Didi that she could slip into a frame, or deface with angry black ink, or simply commit to memory.

Exhibit A: Untrustworthy.

Sure, there had been plenty of photos, her father admitted unapologetically. He’d gotten rid of everything.

There were plenty of pictures of her and Dad, though.

Exhibit B: Trustworthy.

Dad holding her hand on her first day of kindergarten, Dad leading her in an awkward waltz at a father-daughter middle school dance, Dad posing with her at high school graduation.

“Two peas in a pod,” he liked to say. “If I weren’t me, I’d think you were.”

She has his thick, wavy hair, the same dimple on her right cheek, same angular nose and bristly slashes of brow. Even her wide-set, prominent, upturned eyes are the same as his, with one notable exception.

Jerry Mundy’s eyes were a piercing blue.

Only one of Emerson’s is that shade; the other, a chalky gray.
Excerpt from Bone White by Wendy Corsi Staub. Copyright © 2017 by Wendy Corsi Staub. Reproduced with permission from William Morrow Mass Market. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Wendy Corsi StaubNew York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub is the award-winning author of more than seventy novels. Wendy now lives in the New York City suburbs with her husband and their two children.

Catch Up With Wendy Corsi Staub On Her Website , Goodreads , Twitter , & Facebook !



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Wendy Corsi Staub and William Morrow. There will be 3 winners of one (1) Print copy of Bone White by Wendy Corsi Staub. The giveaway begins on March 30th and runs through May 2nd, 2017. This giveaway is for US residents only. Void where prohibited by law.
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Blast & Giveaway: Occult and Battery by Lena Gregory

We welcome Lena Gregory's OCCULT AND BATTERY Book Blast today! Lena will be giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card at the end of her tour. Leave a comment on this blog for extra points!

Author: Lena Gregory
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 304
Genre: Cozy Mystery
A murder mystery weekend becomes a little too real in the latest Bay Island Psychic Mystery from the author of Death at First Sight—

Cass Donovan uses her skills as a former psychiatrist to get away with pretending to be psychic, but she’s not about to let anyone get away with murder...

The outlook is not so good for Cass’s psychic shop, Mystical Musings. With winter winds discouraging tourists from riding the ferry from Long Island to Bay Island, Cass hopes to draw in more customers by hosting a murder mystery weekend, complete with a séance, in a supposedly haunted mansion.

But Cass begins to lose her spirit when her ex-husband shows up, along with his fiancée—Cass’s ex-best friend. Then, after one of the guests is found dead, a blizzard blows in, trapping everyone inside with a murderer. Now Cass must divine who did the deed before her reputation and her livelihood fade away.


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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Review: The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

The Enemies of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy, Book #3)
by Sally Christie
Release Date: March 21st 2017
2017 Atria Books
Kindle Edition; 416 Pages
ISBN: 978-1501103025
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.

After decades suffering the King's endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.

My Thoughts
The Enemies of Versailles is the third book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, and to be honest, it is my least favourite of the three books.  I did enjoy it however, but having enjoyed the first two in the trilogy so much, I just felt like there was something lacking in this one, although I still can't quite put my finger on what exactly it is; the writing was still superb, the characters were interesting, and the lead-up to the Revolution was fascinating.  Yet, there was still something missing.

 In the first two books of the series, there was an edge to the writing that made the stories more intense; as lovers to the King, the women were constantly fighting to keep him interested as well as fighting the bevy of courtiers who were trying to convince him to send them away.  I found this constant fighting and the ensuing disruption of politics to be quite fascinating; the intrigues, the politics, the infighting, the betrayals, and the constantly changing loyalties kept things so interesting.  And the scandals, told from the perspective of the women, were very suspenseful. I have a lot of knowledge of this time-period, and couldn't help but be impressed with the author's meticulous research and descriptions that were included throughout the stories.  In the third installment, the research was there as were the amazing descriptions, but it was the story that I think faltered a bit. Du Barry was a kind woman who used her wiles and charm at court, but wasn't interested in politics in the slightest.  Her main enemies were the daughters of the King and Marie-Antoinette, influenced by the daughters.  For whatever reason, the dispute between them lacked the same tension that was in previous books and seemed more childish and selfish rather than seeped in politics and intrigue - and much more boring to read about.  

The story was told in two different points of view, du Barry's and the King's daughter Adelaide, a person I rather disliked which made reading the story a bit more difficult.  There is only so many times you can read about her being a King's Daughter and that she should be above everyone before it gets rather old. I get that she considers herself important and why, but her constant internal dialogue about her self-importance made her seem petulant and selfish, not appealing at all.  She did change quite a bit towards the end of the book as her world crumbled around her, and I do admire her fortitude in surviving as she did so I definitely liked her a lot more towards the end - wish I had seen more of her personality earlier on rather than her grumbling.  Du Barry's chapters were more fun to read, but really lacked intrigue and suspense, unlike those of the Pompadour and the Nesle sisters, which were full of tension and suspense.  There were definitely some interesting historical events that were great to read about from du Barry's perspective, for example, the King's illness and death, but I would have preferred the tension and the betrayals.  

I did find it interesting to read about Marie-Antoinette as a secondary character and how du Barry and the daughters fought constantly for her loyalty and her sympathy.  That she was used as a tool in many an intrigue and faction is no secret, and you can't help but feel sorry for her, especially knowing what was going to happen to her.  I liked how she matured from child to woman, and helped those when things really went sour for her and her family - she was a tough woman, and I thought the author portrayed her character quite well.  To be honest, I am really hoping this author will write about her as she has a way of making historical characters come alive.  

The Enemies of Versailles as an okay book to read, but I really, really enjoyed the first two books in the series more than this one.  I thought it lacked the tension, intrigue, and suspense of her previous books, and I wasn't crazy about Adelaide or even about du Barry at times; I just didn't empathize with the characters as much in this one, and knowing most of them would die by the Guillotine, I should have been more sympathetic. But the author has a way of writing that makes you feel you are right there, and I could visualize myself at Versailles along with the characters.  Her descriptions of the time period are so vivid and I really enjoy them, something which shows the incredible amount of research she would have had to do for this trilogy.  I would love to see her tackle Marie-Antoinette's story next, or even Louis XIV, or Catherine de Medici.  But whatever she writes, I will read.  For anyone interested in this trilogy, although I would recommend starting with the first book, all three are stand-alones, so you could read this one first if you wished.