Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Review: The Last Heir to Blackwood Library by Hester Fox

by Hester Fox
Release Date: April 4, 2023
2023 Graydon House
Kindle Edition; 334 Pages
ISBN: 978-1525804786
Audiobook: B0B8QDXB7K
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Gothic

2 / 5 Stars

With the stroke of a pen, twenty-three-year-old Ivy Radcliffe becomes Lady Hayworth, owner of a sprawling estate on the Yorkshire moors. Ivy has never heard of Blackwood Abbey, or of the ancient bloodline from which she’s descended.
The abbey is foreboding, the servants reserved and suspicious. But there is a treasure waiting behind locked doors: a magnificent library. Despite cryptic warnings from the staff, Ivy feels irresistibly drawn to its dusty shelves, where familiar works mingle with strange, esoteric texts. And she senses something else in the library too, a presence that seems to have a will of its own.  

Rumors swirl in the village about the abbey’s previous owners, about ghosts and curses, and an enigmatic manuscript at the center of it all. And as events grow more sinister, it will be up to Ivy to uncover the library’s mysteries in order to reclaim her own story—before it vanishes forever.

My Thoughts
The Last Heir to Blackwood Library definitely had all of the elements that I love in a gothic story; forboding house, magnificent library, secrets galore, sinister servants, strange and veiled warnings, too friendly strangers, and the list goes on.  And until about 50% into the story, I was really enjoying it as I enjoyed all of those ambiguous warnings, the sinister housekeeper, and trying to figure out what was happening with Ivy.  The old manor was a wonderful place to set a story, with those haunted moors, the fog, the eerie happenings, and of course, that library.  Unfortunately, the so-called independent heroine takes a nose-dive into dependency, does a deep-dive into her alter-ego, and for the rest of the book she becomes so annoying I almost didn't finish it. 

Ivy is the main character in the story and the author tries to push how independent she is by talking about these things that she does, like set up a library service for the townspeople who like to read but can't afford books.  Yes, that is fine and dandy, and I did admire that action, but the first man who enters her life and pays her just a smidgeon of attention? Well, she becomes engaged to him because she doesn't like to be lonely and thinks she needs his wealth in order for others to appreciate her in society.  And this is after she notices his fixation on her house and her library.  And then she just allows his family to walk all over her and do what they want with her house. She is, in essence, a character in a story who doesn't really do all that much so character development is almost nil, and her actions don't really progress the story; in fact, she almost becomes a secondary character in her own story.  I almost would have preferred the story to be told from another person's POV, anyone else's POV.  Every time something happens to her, she just gives up. She doesn't fight for her house, for her rights, for her sanity, for nothing. Every time something is done to her, she just gives in and I grew so frustrated with her character. 

The plot itself actually started rather strong and I did enjoy the first third of the book.  There were a lot of things happening and I was enjoying myself trying to figure them out.  I like these types of plots, even if they can be a bit formulaic as they are a lot of fun. But when she became engaged, everything went flat. The author had her making terrible decisions, despite the fact the author constantly told us what a great person Ivy was through the various characters, but nothing she did actually verified that concept, so it got old, fast.  I don't know how this descended into a helpless woman scenario, but there were so many things that Ivy could have done to protect and save herself.  Making women seem weak and helpless just seems like a lazy way to go about things, you know?

The Last Heir to Blackwood Library could have been a good book about women saving each other and overcoming curses, but instead the plot was spoiled by a weak main character controlled by men who made poor decisions and couldn't problem-solve her way out of anything that was happening to her.  Grrr.  I thought the characters were bland and boring, and the plot did not have a lot of nuance to it which meant the further into the book we went, the less interesting it was.  It's a shame as there was a lot of potential here, but I had to force myself to read the last 100 pages or so. 


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Review: Homecoming by Kate Morton

by Kate Morton
Release Date: April 13, 2023
2023 Mariner Books
Kindle Edition; 547 Pages
ISBN: 978-0063020894
Audiobook: B0BWNX2L36
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher 

2.75 / 5 Stars

Adelaide Hills, Christmas Eve, 1959: At the end of a scorching hot day, beside a creek on the grounds of the grand and mysterious mansion, a local delivery man makes a terrible discovery, a crime that shocked the nation. 

Sixty years later, Jess is a journalist in search of a story.  A phone call out of nowhere summons her back to Sydney, where her beloved grandmother, Nora, who raised Jess when her mother could not, has suffered a fall and been raced to the hospital.

At loose ends in Nora's house, Jess does some digging of her own. In Nora's bedroom, she discovers a true crime book; when Jess skims through the book she finds a shocking connection between her own family and this once-infamous crime.
My Thoughts
Homecoming is one of those books that I really wanted to love, but in the end, I had to admit defeat.  Don't get me wrong, there is a really good story within these pages, and the written prose, as always, was great, but the presentation was lacking and I don't think the book within a book worked very well in this situation.  
First of all, I had a really difficult time empathizing with any of the characters, especially the grandmother.  I didn't mind Jess most of the time, but even she seemed to be stunted emotionally and I would have liked to have seen some emotional development as she discovered all of her family history and realized her grandmother had been keeping so many secrets from her her entire life. Or even be able to empathize with her as her grandmother lay dying in the hospital.   I did want to see more of Jess's mother Polly, as I felt she was the more interesting character of the two and I did like the mother/daughter dynamic that was being developed throughout the story.  I wish their relationship had been explored a bit more as I think there was so much more to tell, but the author seemed to draw out things that I thought were less necessary and skipped over the more interesting things.

The author chose to use the technique of a book within a book in order to further plot and personally, I don't think it worked.  While I thought it was interesting, it was meant to come across as non-fiction, but unfortunately, it didn't come across that way and I found the scenes to be very unconvincing.  I also found myself wondering how the author (the author within the story) could know so much.  I feel like this is a trend that authors try, and while it can work rather well in horror novels, I don't necessarily feel it works well in all types of genres.  Unfortunately, every time these sections came up, I was thrown out of the story simply because these excerpts read more like fiction than non-fiction. I wish the author had focused more on the generational trauma that these murders had on the family and simply told the story.
 I felt the length of the novel created some major issues with the plot.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good, chunky, historical novel, but not when so much is filler fluff.  Yes, the prose was beautiful and I loved the descriptions of the Australian outback, but when you look at the actual story, so much could have been edited out, and the actual writing style of the story was a bit of a mess. I also had an issue with the many incongruities in the plot, in particular the death of Nora's parents and the entire description of the birth of Nora's baby.  I was so detached from some of these scenes whereas sensitive me, should have been bawling.  It was incredibly easy to figure out the big plot twist, and honestly, the lack of communication between characters is one of those things that drives me crazy as a plot trope. I'm not a huge fan of the telling type of storytelling as opposed to letting the reader figure things out as you go along as I feel it's insulting to a reader's intelligence and this was a big tale of telling.  
Homecoming was a difficult book to get through, but I am glad to see that so many other people loved it.  Personally, I had trouble connecting with the characters and it was very easy to figure out the big plot twist for the mystery.  I found the overall plot to be somewhat convoluted and the story within a story didn't work for this type of book.  I didn't actually mind the flowery prose as I enjoyed the descriptions of the Australian outback, but the author chose to use that style excessively for all aspects of the story which made the overall plot seem messy and murky.  Some interesting themes in this book, but again, not fully explored. I loved The Forgotten Garden, but this one was a miss for me.


Thursday, July 20, 2023

Review: Murder at Haven's Rock by Kelley Armstrong

by Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: February 21, 2023
2023 Minotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250865410
Audiobook: B09YJ39RL4
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Deep in the Yukon wilderness, a town is being built. A place for people to disappear, a fresh start from a life on the run. There’s only one rule in Haven’s Rock: stay out of the forest. When two of the town's construction crew members break it and go missing, Casey and Eric are called in ahead of schedule to track them down. When a body is discovered, well hidden with evidence of foul play, Casey and Eric must find out what happened to the dead woman, and locate the still missing man. The woman stumbled upon something she wasn’t supposed to see, and the longer Casey and Eric don’t know what happened, the more danger everyone is in.
My Thoughts
Murder at Haven's Rock is the first book in the series and one I am so glad to read as I was upset upon learning the 'Rockton' series was ending.  This series sets our favourite people on a new path, onto new adventures, deeper into the Yukon wilderness, and this book does not disappoint. The town is not even built, but Casey and Eric are called to discover the whereabouts of a missing woman hired as part of the construction crew and discover much more than they expected.
This was an interesting book as the town has yet to be functional, but people being people, it was inevitable that drama would happen right from the get-go.  As always, I enjoy the banter between Casey and Eric and have enjoyed watching their relationship develop and grow.  It was nice to see new characters in this book and I spent the time trying to figure out how they were going to fit in this new environment, something I enjoyed. I may sound cryptic here, but I don't want to mention any of the characters as I think it is better if you go in without knowing anything or anyone, as I did, and just enjoy the ride. I am happy that some of the characters from the 'Rockton' series will be returning for this series, and look forward to seeing how the new and the old will interact.  There should be some interesting times ahead.  I was also happy that April was in this book as I love her character. I really feel the author has done a great job depicting a character with functioning autism.
The plot was far more complex than I thought it would be originally. There was one main rule, don't go in the forest, and naturally, that rule got broken.  The Yukon is a beautiful place, and I enjoyed the setting, but it can also be extremely dangerous, not just weather-wise. There are a lot of predators roaming those woods and a lot of nefarious goings-on, some of which is hinted at in this book.  The action moves fairly quickly and as soon as something happens, something else happens.  I actually needed to stop and process once in a while just to take in what I learning.  It is a whole new world our characters are entering, with different rules and expectations, much rougher even than what they are used to, and I think Casey and Eric are going to have to tread very carefully.
Murder at Haven's Rock introduced some new characters and a brand new setting. This book was a lot of fun to read and I thought the plot moved along rather quickly, although it was more complex than I thought it would be at first, introducing some possible future conflicts, even if this one had a more than satisfactory resolution.  Even though the town is half-finished, Casey and Eric learn there are already people who will shortly be arriving due to their emergency situations, setting up some interesting scenarios.  But there is just something about those woods, that call to enter despite being told they are forbidden. I, for one, would have broken that rule as well.   Even though this is a spinoff series, it felt fresh with a mix of new and old characters, and interesting twists and turns. I am looking forward to the next book.


Review: All The Queen's Spies by Oliver Clements

by Oliver Clements
Release Date: March 14, 2023
2023 Atria/Leopoldo & Co.
Kindle Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-1982197469
Audiobook: B0B5Z14LWN
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

With rumors of the end times swirling, philosopher and astronomer John Dee travels to Prague in an effort to prevent one of Catherine de Medici’s seductive ladies-in-waiting from luring the Holy Roman Emperor into a crusade against England.

To convince the famously occult-loving Emperor to join his side, Dee entices him with the esoteric Book of Secrets, a volume that, if decoded, could provide the chance to control the levers of heaven and earth. But Dee faces enemies at every turn, including a female codebreaker who could be the undoing of Dee and the British Empire.
My Thoughts
All The Queen's Spies is the third book in this series, and while I enjoyed it as I love stories about John Dee, I did struggle with the pacing and some of the actual writing.  Rich in historical detail, this book takes us to a time that is not as well-known about John Dee's life so I found the author's descriptions to be fascinating. Despite this, some of the descriptions were a bit murky and I felt as if the author didn't quite know what to do with some of the historical details and the story he was trying to tell.  
First of all, Dee is an interesting character during this time period.  Interested in the occult and in divination, he made himself useful to Queen Elizabeth I when his services were required, something that was not that unusual during this time period when science was kind of wrapped up in the supernatural and was slowly making its way towards the more factual study we know today.  People were quite superstitious and often looked at Dee for answers to things they couldn't explain; such things however, also made him a scapegoat and when people didn't like his answers, he would also be to blame for when things went wrong.  Personally, I couldn't imagine living on the whims and desires of someone else all of the time and the stress that would cause.  But the author managed to capture the essence of that time period quite well, and even though I know John Dee's fate, I still felt tense every time he had interactions with the rich and wealthy.
The secondary characters were also fascinating, most based on historical figures, and I especially loved the addition of Christopher Marlowe and seeing some of his adventures as a spy. It has been speculated he was a government spy, so I loved having him a such a character in this book and although the intricate politics with France were murky the way they were explained in the book, I am very familiar with them so I enjoyed them quite a bit. I do think they would be confusing for someone who doesn't know very much about them though, as European politics during this time period are not easy to untangle.

And while I enjoyed the characters, the actual plot left me somewhat frustrated. I felt like the author wasn't quite sure where he was going with the plot, whether he wanted to display the dangerous political nature of the time period, or how John Dee was involved in what happened, but neither felt fully developed, not really explained how dangerous the situation really was as the characters just seemed to react in this dreary fashion.  It's not that it wasn't interesting, but there definitely was a tension missing that should have been there for such a scenario.  

All The Queen's Spies was an enjoyable book overall, but it did lack tension and suspense as the plot was a bit murky; it felt like the author was having difficulty pulling all the many strands together which made the overall story seem dreary and slow at times.  Because this is the third book in the series, some readers may wish to read the first two books to get a richer understanding of John Dee and his life, but if you have any knowledge of the time period, I don't think it's necessary and you can read as a standalone. 


Monday, July 10, 2023

Review: A Good Day for Chardonnay by Darynda Jones

by Darynda Jones
Release Date: July 27, 2021
2021 St. Martin's Press
Kindle Edition; 416 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250233110
Audiobook: B089XV8SLF
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

All Sunshine really wants is one easy-going day. You know, the kind that starts with coffee and a donut (or three) and ends with take-out pizza and a glass of chardonnay (or seven). Turns out, that's about as easy as switching to decaf. (What kind of people do that? And who hurt them?)

Before she can say iced mocha latte, Sunny's got a bar fight gone bad, a teenage daughter hunting a serial killer and, oh yes, the still unresolved mystery of her own abduction years prior. All evidence points to a local distiller, a dangerous bad boy named Levi Ravinder, but Sun knows he's not the villain of her story. Still, perhaps beneath it all, he possesses the keys to her disappearance. At the very least, beneath it all, he possesses a serious set of abs. She's seen it. Once. Accidentally.
My Thoughts
A Good Day for Chardonnay is the second book in the Sunshine Vicram series and I enjoyed it quite a bit. There are a lot of quirky characters in this town which made for some entertaining moments, but there were also some cringe-worthy moments as well where it is hard not to roll your eyes.  I'm not really into all that romance, so I don't really care who ends up with who therefore, all of the pining for a certain set of abs sort of washes right over me, even if I can appreciate it.  
I don't mind Sunshine as a main character as she's both funny and sarcastic. Dealing with a variety of things from a small town can't be easy, everything from an escaped raccoon to the more serious drug laundering stuff, certainly keeps her hands full. A rebellious daughter also keeps her busy, but only in the sense that she keeps getting herself into trouble by checking into things herself rather than letting the police officers do the work, setting herself up for some serious shenanigans. I like Sunshine's daughter, but as smart as she is, she doesn't seem to learn from any of her mistakes and escapes far too easily from her grandparents' watch.  And there never seems to be consequences for her actions, something that does rub me the wrong way.
There was actually a lot going on in this book, but my biggest concern is the cavalier way with which most of it was dealt. You have mob affiliations, past murder, secret alliances, characters dealing with PTSD due to traumatic events in their past, characters who are not quite was they seem, people who were paid off, and the list goes on.   Personally, I didn't find it overwhelming or anything, but you certainly have to pay attention to the details.  I understand the story line is supposed to come across as lighter, but the lack of accountability rubbed me the wrong way throughout the book, I don't care how whimsical the plot.  Even humourous, cozy mysteries have consequences, and this one seemed to tread on the light side of that line.  

A Good Day for Chardonnay had some interesting moments, but it also some moments that I was questioning.  I'm not a fan of the whole abduction story line and the way it's being played out, but I would like to see how his Uncle Clay is taken out at some point.  And while I didn't mind the banter in the story, I did think it tried too hard to hit that lighthearted note, that it went a bit too far and didn't exact enough consequences for those who actually crossed the line.  So, while I did enjoy it, I'm not sure I will be rushing to read the next book in the series. 


Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Review: Sister, Maiden, Monster by Lucy A. Snyder

by Lucy A. Snyder
Release Date: February 21, 2023
2023 Tor Nightfire
Kindle Edition; 265 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250825650
Audiobook: B0B1KR1XKZ
Genre: Fiction / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

To survive they must evolve.

A virus tears across the globe, transforming its victims in nightmarish ways. As the world collapses, dark forces pull a small group of women together.

Erin, once quiet and closeted, acquires an appetite for a woman and her brain. Why does forbidden fruit taste so good?

Savannah, a professional BDSM switch, discovers a new turn-on: committing brutal murders for her eldritch masters.

Mareva, plagued with chronic tumors, is too horrified to acknowledge her divine role in the coming apocalypse, and as her growths multiply, so too does her desperation.
My Thoughts
Sister, Maiden, Monster was a decent book that follows three women as they navigate a new pandemic hitting the world, one that is extremely different from the previous one.  Considering our current climate with regards to pandemic thinking, I think it is very difficult to write about, but I thought the author handled it quite well and I enjoyed that aspect of the book.  Where I had difficulty was with the repetitive narrative and the lack of character development; all of the characters just started blending in together and I think to really pull this off, the women needed distinct voices and not just because one was into BDSM or the other one liked to eat brains.  
While I did like each of the characters, I did feel like the author used what they were to make them seem distinct as opposed to who they were. This didn't allow for a lot of character development as there wasn't really much to define them with regards to their personalities to begin with.  And if you are looking for queer lust and power in your novels, this one definitely has it in spades, unchecked and uncontrolled at times.  Personally, I enjoyed Erin's story the best, but I wonder if it's because it was first and I had no idea what was happening when I started the book so it had a deeper impact on me for that reason.  I think this is why the other two women really needed powerful voices to be heard as the story kind of went sideways for me when I started Savannah's POV. 

The plot itself was definitely interesting for the first half of the book and I had a hard time putting it down.  The other two women don't get as much attention as Erin and the stories aren't interconnected the way I thought they would be. I get what the author was doing, but execution-wise, I don't think it quite worked. I really wanted to enjoy the second half more than I did, which was a shame as that half had most of the horror elements in it, elements that I love.  I also felt like some descriptions were thrown in for shock purposes rather than for story substance and I found it jarring, throwing me out of the narrative, which was sometimes difficult to stay focused on anyways due to the repetitiveness of it.  I think I liked the idea of what was happening rather than on what was actually happening and I found myself drifting off at times, reflecting on the social impacts of what was occurring, another aspect I think the author could have developed a bit more.  

Sister, Maiden, Monster had a lot of potential, but ultimately it was a bit disappointing.  There was a lot going on in this novel, and I think the author missed the mark by not focusing on character development as well as cultural impact and social commentary. The horror aspect of this novel was actually interesting, involving both cosmic and body horror, but the world is falling apart, so shouldn't there be more focus on existential crisis? Great ideas, but overall, missed the mark. 


Monday, July 3, 2023

Review: The London Seance Society by Sarah Penner

by Sarah Penner
Release Date: March 7, 2023
2023 Park Row
Kindle Edition; 352 pages
ISBN: 978-0778387114
Audiobook: B0BHFFB8NB
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

1.75 / 5 Stars

1873. At an abandoned château on the outskirts of Paris, a dark séance is about to take place, led by acclaimed spiritualist Vaudeline D’Allaire. Known worldwide for her talent in conjuring the spirits of murder victims to ascertain the identities of the people who killed them, she is highly sought after by widows and investigators alike.

Lenna Wickes has come to Paris to find answers about her sister’s death, but to do so, she must embrace the unknown and overcome her own logic-driven bias against the occult. When Vaudeline is beckoned to England to solve a high-profile murder, Lenna accompanies her as an understudy. But as the women team up with the powerful men of London’s exclusive Séance Society to solve the mystery, they begin to suspect that they are not merely out to solve a crime, but perhaps entangled in one themselves…
My Thoughts
The London Seance Society is one of those books that I should have DNF halfway through the book, but because I enjoyed the author's previous book so much, I thought I would stick it out to see if it got better, but unfortunately, it was sluggish the entire way through.  The premise was interesting enough and I definitely enjoy reading about women and their involvement in seances during this time period, and I appreciated the author's research that went into this, but it didn't make up for a story that rambled and had characters that were just not all that likeable.
The first half of the book was extremely slow, and it didn't help that the story was told in multiple POV, one in first person, the other in third. This was supposed to add some suspense and I think allow one to connect to the main character, but all it did was make me despise those chapters and wonder why they were included.  Don' get me wrong, I don't typically have a problem with multiple POV, and they can be used quite effectively, but I don't feel that was the case in this book.  In the first half, the male POV was half-decent and I didn't mind it too much, but at the halfway point, the voice changed for whatever reason and became much more disturbing.  Again, not typically an issue, it's the way it happened as it was jarring and didn't flow with the previous narrative.  Either make his narrative disturbing or not, but this one-eighty didn't work and gave me a bad vibe.  I read a lot of horror, including extreme horror, and there's not a lot of stuff you can throw at me that I won't be able to take in stride, but changing personalities just to create a villainous atmosphere or to make a character seem darker just...doesn' Subtlety is the name of the game.  
The plot itself had potential, but the writing was clumsy as if the author didn't really know in which direction she was going, and the character development was all over the place.  The dialogue seemed forced and was so cliched, I was constantly rolling my eyes, and I guess you could say the romance was this way as well, seemingly written in to make sure the author has ticked off those things that she feels should be necessary to include in her novel.  And while I loved the setting, I didn't really didn't feel like I was in the 19th century.   

The London Seance Society wasn't a horrible book in principle, but when you put everything together there are so many issues, it was just so dang hard to get through.  A lack of developed plot and characters made the story seem jumbled and I had a hard time getting past the repetitiveness of it all. And when you have characters do stupid things over and over again, it's hard not to give your head a shake.  Overall, this one was a big miss for me. 


Review: Antimatter Blues by Edward Ashton

by Edward Ashton
Release Date: March 14, 2023
2023 St. Martin's Press
Kindle & Audiobook Editions; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250275059
ASIN: B09Y45J7S1
Audiobook: B09YG3V8BR
Genre: Fiction / Science-Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.75 / 5 Stars

Summer has come to Niflheim. The lichens are growing, the six-winged bat-things are chirping, and much to his own surprise, Mickey Barnes is still alive―that last part thanks almost entirely to the fact that Commander Marshall believes that the colony’s creeper neighbors are holding an antimatter bomb, and that Mickey is the only one who’s keeping them from using it. Mickey’s just another colonist now. Instead of cleaning out the reactor core, he spends his time these days cleaning out the rabbit hutches. It’s not a bad life.

It’s not going to last.

It may be sunny now, but winter is coming. The antimatter that fuels the colony is running low, and Marshall wants his bomb back. 
My Thoughts
Antimatter Blues is the second book in the Mickey7 series and features an expendable human. The concept is pretty unique, and it meant that Mickey's job was to do the ones that would likely kill you as his consciousness and memories would be regenerated into a new body if he is killed.  The previous book dealt with him getting his independence, so I was curious as to how he was doing in this sequel. I loved the fact that they were now in what is their version of summer, enjoying the fresh air, figuring out how they were going to survive the next winter cycle when Mickey learns they are running out of energy and he needs to recover the antimatter bomb he has secreted away with the Creepers. 

I don' really feel like there was a lot of character development in this book, but I was so focused on the first contact business that it didn't really matter.  Mickey had contact the Creepers and open communication with them if he was to be successful and I found this part fascinating. I feel like a lot of books make contact look so easy, but the author made Mickey struggle with understanding and communication was a challenge with the Creepers, something I enjoyed.  It also made their lives difficult and put them in dangerous situations due to misunderstandings, something to which I could relate. With differing customs and ways of doing things, this is exactly how it should be.  

Now, with all of that being said, Mickey is ...a bit of an a**hole.  He can be snarky and doesn't really think through his actions before doing them, often putting himself and others in danger.  It actually makes for some interesting dynamics between himself and his friends, and he definitely doesn't endear himself to the rest of the crew.  To have Mickey play diplomat to the Creepers would have given Commander Marshall nightmares, but there was no one else to do it so you can imagine some of the things that happened in this book because of Mickey's recklessness.  

The plot itself began rather slowly and I was worried it would continue in that vein. Luckily, it picked up about one-third into the book and never let go, and I really enjoyed the creepers and learning a bit about their really fascinating culture. And then we learn there is another group of aliens on the planet, so it just ramps up even more and I loved it, the dynamics.  A lot of this was only touched upon in the first book, so I was happy to learn more in this book.  However, it did not disguise the fact that the plot was pretty basic and simple; this is not a bad thing as I think plots can be too convoluted and sometimes a more simplistic narrative is the way to go as it allows the author to focus on other things, such as the Mickey's meetings with the alien species and its consequences.  

Antimatter Blues was a worthy sequel to Mickey7. A light action-filled read, it focused on the Creepers and developing relationships with the species with whom they were sharing this new world. I did feel like the book got a bit repetitive and didn't think it was necessary to include so much from the first book which means that I do think you should read them in order simply to get a deeper understanding of Mickey and some of the relationships.  And while I enjoyed the action and contact with the Creepers as well as learning about their cultures, the story line was simplistic and there wasn't a lot of character development.  I do recommend this series to anyone looking for a lighter, fast-paced read, especially with the Mickey7 movie due to be released.


Sunday, July 2, 2023

Review: The Mitford Secret by Jessica Fellowes

by Jessica Fellowes
Release Date: January 17, 2023
2023 Minotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250819222
ASIN: B09Y4744HL
Audiobook: B0B64DQLYY
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.25 / 5 Stars

It’s 1941, and the Mitford household is splintered by the vicissitudes of war. To bring the clan together―maybe for one last time, Deborah invites them to Chatsworth for Christmas, along with a selection of society’s most impressive and glamorous guests, as well as old family friend Louisa Cannon, a private detective.

One night, a psychic arrives, and to liven things up Deborah agrees she may host a séance. But entertainment turns to dark mystery as the psychic reveals that a maid was murdered in this very same house―and she can prove it.

Louisa steps forward to try to solve the cold case. But with a house full of people who want nothing more than to bury their secrets, will she be able to unmask the murderer? And how deep does the truth lie?
My Thoughts
The Mitford Secret is the sixth entry in the Mitford Murders series, and although I said the last book would be my last one, I couldn't resist the setting; plus, this one is apparently the last one of the series, so I really needed to finish it. And to my everlasting surprise, this one happens to be my favourite of the lot.  A perfectly enjoyable country house mystery, with some interesting details from WWII thrown into the mix, and a nice group of historical figures  gathered together, there was a lot going on and I enjoyed reading about it all. Despite all of this however, I still felt like something was missing, something that would really draw me into their lives. 

First of all, I didn't find Louisa so irritating in this one and I definitely liked the interactions between her and her little daughter. With Guy in London, he wasn't really a part of the story, something in which I was disappointed as there was so much going on there I almost wish the setting had taken place there. However, it was nice to see the two of them be together once in a while. 

I think the problem with writing about the Mitfords is that they are so well known it can be difficult to do them justice and I don't really feel like the author allowed their individual personalities to really shine.  I still enjoyed the various characters, but I am familiar with who is who as well as what happened to each of them, but it makes me wonder what it is like reading about them if you have no knowledge of them and I think it could be confusing if read through these books.  Let's face it, the Mitfords were involved in all sorts of things politically, and I don't think the impact on the family went far enough in this book.  Furthermore, Chatsworth, what can I say? I did like how Deborah was portrayed and developed, as I can't even imagine the stress of what she was going through during this time period, but I don't think the others were developed enough.  It was interesting to read about the different relationships  in their adult years and how they manoeuvred through their political views during this difficult time.

The mystery itself was a bit weak, and considering the cast of characters staying at the house, it wasn't hard to figure out who was the culprit, I mean your choices were pretty limited.  I did feel like the author focused too much on the house and its goings-on rather than the mystery, something that also weakened the overall story.  I mean, how many times were they going to question Deborah's ability to host a Christmas party? Maybe just help her and move on.  But no, a lot of time spent discussing such trivial stuff, it slowed down the overall story.  

The Mitford Secret is the last book in the series, and while I enjoyed it, the mystery was the weakest element of the book.  It almost felt like the author was adding superfluous details to draw out the length, but all it did was make it feel like I was reading a historical fiction novel rather than a historical mystery.  However, the wartime details were well done, and I liked the glimpses of early Deborah, later to become Duchess of Devonshire and widely credited with the restoration of this magnificent home, Chatsworth. The details of the setting were really good and I enjoyed the descriptions of the home during this time period. It's too bad the mystery wasn't more exciting or compelling, and the rest of the characters weren't more developed, but overall, it was still fun and a nice way to end a series. I would love to see Guy and Louisa feature in their own mystery series in the future. Now that would be fun!