Saturday, November 23, 2019

Review: The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

The Vanished Bride (Bronte Sisters Mystery, Book #1)
by Bella Ellis
Release Date: September 10th 2019
2019 Berkley Books
Kindle Edition; 293 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593099056
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson's daughters--the Brontë sisters--learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent "lady detectors." Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, "detecting is reading between the lines--it's seeing what is not there."

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman's place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril...

My Thoughts
The Vanished Bride is the first book in a new series featuring the Bronte sisters and I was thrilled to receive an ARC of this book.  I have been a huge fan of the sister when I first discovered them years ago during my Gothic literature phase having devoured Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.  This story actually takes place before any of the sisters became famous and had actually written their famous works and due to circumstances beyond their control, has them all at home again. The author has taken actual facts from their lives and woven them into an interesting tale of intrigue and deception.

First of all, we meet the sisters who are all at home again struggling to find their purpose in life, unmarried, independent women who were striving to achieve something more than simply getting married and raising a family and living by the dictates of a man.  Being intelligent, with strong opinions, and a desire to learn and seek out adventures, the sisters quickly became interested in an intriguing local case involving a close friend as they learn the friend's mistress has simply vanished in the night leaving behind a lot of blood.  The sisters declare themselves 'detectors', something of which they recently read, and seek to solve the case.  What really intrigued me about the story was the way the women were treated by those around them and how they accomplished their 'detecting' which was often by being sneaky and bold.  Being unaccustomed to lying, they quickly realized they had to withhold the truth from their father and others in order to pursue their investigations, something with which they struggled.  I thought the author did a fantastic job showing a woman's limitations through the sisters' actions and how they interacted with others.  As women, finding ways to be sneaky in order to get one's way, seemed to be quite common.  Being independent, having to present oneself as meek and mild to men simply to get on in the world would have been frustrating for someone who was strong-willed, like the sisters.

The plot itself was quite interesting, with many more twists and turns than I expected, some of which I did not figure out.  The way the author wrote at the beginning, I thought it would be easy to figure out, but I was very, very wrong which totally intrigued me.  When you read a lot of mystery novels, it's easy to pick up on the red herrings after a while so I love it when I get 'caught', so to speak.  Turns out the mystery was more complex than I originally thought and enjoyed every minute of the explorations and investigations.  The meticulous research that went into the plot and the book is quite evident and how much the author cares about her subjects is quite evident.  I also thought the author did a great job showing how Emily and Charlotte may have gotten their inspiration for their books which was quite interesting.  

The Vanished Bride had a very subtle layer to it that was intriguing, a layer that explored women's rights and independence, or lack thereof, through the sisters investigations and explorations.  While the 'detecting' may have seemed light, the theme behind it was definitely not light at all and worthy of further exploration.  It was fun getting to know the sisters and their lives and I thought fact and fiction worked very well together in this book.  I am definitely looking forward to further 'detecting' adventures by this trio.  
Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Review: This Son of York by Anne Easter Smith

This Son of York
by Anne Easter Smith
Release Date: November 10th 2019
2019 Bellastoria Press
Kindle Edition; 504 Pages
ISBN: 978-1942209638
ASIN: B07YD63877
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from HF Virtual Book Tours

5 / 5 Stars

Richard III. A man. A king. A legend.

He ruled England for only two years, but the legacy of Richard III remains both fascinating and divisive.

From his childhood in the intensely loyal and close-knit York family to his rise as a thoughtful but troubled ruler, This Son of York is a passionate and deeply personal account of the life of Richard III. A man who loved his family and his country. A king who struggled to overcome the challenges not only of a turbulent time but his own human frailties. A legend whose true life is only now coming to light.

Inspired by the discovery of Richard III's grave and its revelations, award-winning author Anne Easter Smith brings together her decades of intense research, five celebrated novels on the Wars of the Roses, and her sustained passion for Richard III in this culminating book on the last Plantagenet king. 

My Thoughts
This Son of York was a fabulous entry in Anne Easter Smith's War of the Roses series and follows the trials and tribulations of Richard III from his childhood to his death after serving only two years on the throne.  I have admired this author for many years after having discovered her book, A Rose for the Crown, and was looking forward to the day when she would tackle Richard's story, especially after his bones were discovered in 2012.  And here it is!!

Anne Easter Smith's latest historical story is quite brilliant.  It takes a close look at the tumultuous life of the last king to die in battle which effectively ended the War of the Roses as well as the Plantagenet dynasty.  I am quite familiar with Richard's life and I was amazed at the meticulous research that went into this book as the descriptions of the people, the events, and the scenes were amazingly done.  The author made Richard seem human which is not easy to do and I appreciated that.  Richard was a controversial figure, with quite a legacy despite his short stint on the throne, and despite the author's own historical twists on some of the narrative, managed to fit all the historical facts with fiction quite seamlessly.  

I have been fascinated with Richard for quite a long time and I was never sure if I quite believed that he was capable of murdering two young boys for the sake of the throne.  However, things were quite different during this time period and many people were quite ruthless and I don't think Richard could have survived the way he did without being ruthless himself.  It was simply too dangerous to allow enemies their freedom and allow them the chance to gain support elsewhere.  Smith has made Richard quite a sympathetic fellow and through her eyes I saw events in a much different way which had made me wonder, yet again, if he could be capable of such an act.  It would be nice to think it was done to discredit Richard, but who knows.  I did like the approach the author decided to take in this novel though.  And I have to say, even though I knew the outcome of certain events, I still read with bated breath, flipping quickly through the pages, hoping for a different outcome, knowing in my heart that events could not change because it was history, but still hoping nonetheless because I liked Richard.

Richard is portrayed as loyal and loving to his family and friends, but also as someone who made terrible mistakes which came to haunt him later.  However, Richard is also portrayed as a complicated, complex man, raised during difficult and turbulent times, having watching his father and brother die needlessly, growing up in a court where intrigues and backstabbing abounded.  I would think in such circumstances, one would grow up quickly and learn how to manipulate as well as protect oneself from being a victim.  Richard would have learned essential skills that he would have needed on the throne in order to keep it.  And I have a lot of admiration for what he actually accomplished during those short two years.  He changed so many laws in Parliament, some of which still exist today, and tried to protect the common people from being used and abused.  I wonder what he would have been able to accomplish had he lived; he definitely had the makings of being a great king.  

This Son of York was a treat to read and I was so happy to return to the world of the Nevilles, Plantagenets, Yorks, and so on.  I have been fascinated for years with the War of the Roses and this book is a welcome addition to my library.  It was certainly a violent time in English history, with loyalties constantly changing and people never knowing what would happen, but Anne Easter Smith brings it all alive through her words and her descriptions and I have to thank her for that.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in history and this time period.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

Anne is the award-winning author of The King's Grace and the best-selling A Rose for the Crown, Daughter of York, Queen By Right, and Royal Mistress. She is an expert on Richard III, having studied the king and his times for decades. Her sixth book, This Son of York, will be published soon. She grew up in England, Germany and Egypt, and has been a resident/citizen of the US since 1968. Anne was the Features Editor at a daily newspaper in northern New York State for ten years, and her writing has been published in several national magazines.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Review: A Better Man by Louise Penny

A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, Book #15)
by Louise Penny
Release Date: August 27th 2019
2019 Minotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 437 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250230881
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

It's Gamache's first day back as head of the homicide department, a job he temporarily shares with his previous second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Flood waters are rising across the province. In the middle of the turmoil a father approaches Gamache, pleading for help in finding his daughter.

As crisis piles upon crisis, Gamache tries to hold off the encroaching chaos, and realizes the search for Vivienne Godin should be abandoned. But with a daughter of his own, he finds himself developing a profound, and perhaps unwise, empathy for her distraught father.

Increasingly hounded by the question, how would you feel..., he resumes the search.

As the rivers rise, and the social media onslaught against Gamache becomes crueler, a body is discovered. And in the tumult, mistakes are made.

My Thoughts
A Better Man is the fifteenth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, and I felt a bit let down in this book.  I am a huge fan of this series and have appreciated the tension and suspense in the earlier books, such that I have stayed up late reading them to find out what happened.  That tension was lacking in this entry however, which made the book seem a bit lackluster to me as it didn't have that edge these books tend to have.

First of all, I am a huge fan of Armand and am in awe as to how he can pull off the near impossible. He is one of those people who always gives someone else a chance despite having done something to him as he easily forgives, but he never forgets.  Having risen to chief of Surete, he has a lot of experience in the field which is why I had a hard time believing that someone of his caliber could make some of the mistakes he made in this book. Furthermore, some of the careless behaviour by others would never have been tolerated by Gamache so I couldn't understand why he would tolerate some of the stuff in this book.  His personality just, and I didn't like it, not one bit.  And you couldn't blame the issue with his son-in-law, Beauvoir, for it either.  For the record, I wasn't crazy about Jean-Guy in this one either and the two of them have created fireworks in previous books together.  

While I found the plot moderately interesting, it definitely didn't have that explosiveness that one is used to in a Louise Penny book.  There really wasn't a lot to like about the various characters and that is saying a lot as I have enjoyed previous characters in all the books, even the bad guys.  The author usually has this nice touch she is able to put on character development that makes you feel sympathy for even the bad guys, but that didn't come across in this book.  What's more, the mystery didn't really get fully investigated until almost two-thirds into the book, at least in a full investigation, and I wasn't crazy about the moral lessons that abounded everywhere.  Let people make their own minds up about what they read rather than trying to get a reader to agree with everything an author wants as it doesn't sit very well. I do have to say that the author's writing skill are still up to par and she is a whiz at descriptive scenes, but those broken up sentences did grate on my nerves after a while. As well, when is Armand finally going to fight back for what was taken from him? Where did his fighting spirit go?  I want the fiery Armand back.

A Better Man is one of the weaker entries in this series, at least in my mind.  I just couldn't wrap my head around the mystery and why everyone seemed to take it so personally.  Don't get me wrong, what happened to Vivienne was absolutely terrible, but these are seasoned policemen and Armand was Chief of police and has seen things that are far worse (one of which was brought back in this book).. So, it just seemed out of character and didn't make sense, especially if you have read all the previous books in this series. If I had not read any other books in this series, I probably would not have noticed anything wrong, but having been a fan since the beginning, it was noticeable, even the writing.   While I can't bring myself to part ways with Armand as of yet, I was disappointed in this one and sincerely hope the next one is more explosive and interesting.  If you have not yet read any books in this series, start at the beginning as you are in for a treat.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Review: Dachshund Through the Snow by David Rosenfelt

Dachshund Through the Snow (Andy Carpenter, Book #20)
by David Rosenfelt
Release Date: October 1st 2019
2019 Minotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250237682
Genre: Fictiion / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Lawyer Andy Carpenter and his wife, Laurie, have started a new Christmas tradition. Their local pet store has a Christmas tree, where instead of ornaments there are wishes from those in need. One poignant wish leads Andy to a child named Danny, whose selfless plea strikes a chord. Danny asked Santa for a coat for his mother, a sweater for his dachshund, Murphy, and for the safe return of his missing father.

It turns out Danny’s father doesn't want to be found, he’s on the run after just being arrested for a murder that took place fourteen years ago – a murder that Danny’s mother swears he didn’t commit.

With his trademark humor and larger-than-life characters – including a police officer and his K-9 partner, Simon – Rosenfelt never fails to deliver as Andy and his eccentric crew dash to reunite a family in time for Christmas.

My Thoughts
Dachshund Through the Snow is the first Andy Carpenter book I have read and I enjoyed it quite a lot.  What I really liked was Andy's witty, sarcastic, deprecating sense of humour often coming through his thoughts about other people and events and his observations of what was happening around him.  There were a couple of times I actually laughed out loud at some of his irreverent thoughts which always makes my husband look at me oddly.

I really enjoyed Andy as a main character and I definitely think I was drawn to his sarcastic outlook on things the most.  He has this way of looking at events and people around him that makes him suspect everyone that I think comes from his years as a defense criminal lawyer.  I have not read the previous books in this series, but I get from this story that Andy is rather good at his job and has put a lot of people away so I get why he looks at the world this way.  And the way the author writes his observations is rather humorous.  You can't help but like the guy.  His wife, Laurie, is a perfect complement to Andy as she is more serious being a police officer but I feel that Andy puts on this big act.  You definitely can't be a successful criminal defense lawyer by being a complete wimp, that's for sure.  The supporting characters were as much fun as Andy and company.  I particularly enjoyed the little byplay with a police officer and his sidekick, Simon, and the court case to decide Simon's fate. Rather interesting! Species discrimination!

I was drawn to this book as I thought it was a Christmas story but that, I am afraid, it is not.  That did not take away from the story however, and I thought the plot was well-written and enjoyable.  There were plenty of twists and turns and I definitely was not expecting a court case so that was rather nice to see.  This book is not a cozy mystery but it has the feel of one.   However, I get the feeling, through comments and through people Andy meets and deals with, that many of the cases with which he dealt in the past were complicated, difficult, and dangerous so it has made me curious enough to go and pick up a couple of them and yes, they involve drug trafficking, gang-related stuff, tech thefts, and other such fun stuff.  So, definitely not cozy. I did figure out who the murderer was, but the author was definitely tricky and it was fun to try and manoeuver the various twists and red herrings written into the book.

Dachshund Through the Snow was a fun and delightful book to read and I am so glad I have discovered a new series in which to sink my teeth.  Luckily, the author doesn't give away previous books in this one so I am already through the first book and can't wait to read the others.  I really enjoyed Andy and the other characters and thought the plot twists and turns were fun and interesting. I am really looking forward to the next entry in this series and can't wait to read the other books in this series. Oh, and I am a great speller but I have since learned that I would fail a spelling bee if I had to spell 'dachshund' in it. That word is my Waterloo to spell, for whatever reason.