Saturday, January 13, 2018

Review: A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray

A Strange Scottish Shore (Emmeline Truelove, Book #2
by Juliana Gray
Release Date: September 19th, 2017
2017 Berkley Books
Kindle Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 9780425277089
ASIN: B01MT32RL8
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Time Travel
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Scotland, 1906. A mysterious object discovered inside an ancient castle calls Maximilian Haywood, the new Duke of Olympia, and his fellow researcher Emmeline Truelove, north to the remote Orkney Islands. No stranger to the study of anachronisms in archeological digs, Haywood is nevertheless puzzled by the artifact: a suit of clothing, which, according to family legend, once belonged to a selkie who rose from the sea in ancient times and married the castle’s first laird.

But Haywood and Truelove soon discover they’re not the only ones interested in the selkie’s strange hide, and when their mutual friend Lord Silverton vanishes in the night from an Edinburgh street, the mystery takes a dangerous turn through time, which only Haywood’s skills and Truelove’s bravery can solve…


My Thoughts 
I have to admit that I had no idea what the book was about when I first started reading it, and for some strange reason, I actually thought it was a mystery novel.  However, A Strange Scottish Shore was anything but as it turned out to be a time-traveling historical novel. Then I got really excited as I love history, and add a time-travel element to it with some mystery, and I should have been really hooked.  And although I did enjoy, there was something about it that never really sunk its hooks into me as I read.  

First of all, the book did have some really good things going for it.  The overall story was rather interesting and I definitely loved the mystery element to the time-travel as Truelove and Haywood had rather little idea as to what was going on and were kind of feeling their way through everything.  As there was a nice legend involving the ancient inhabitants of the castle, it really doesn't take much to figure out that Truelove or Haywood would have something to do with that legend.  So when the actual time-travel element did appear in the book, I wasn't really surprised at the events that transpired.  But it was fun to follow along as Truelove slowly figured it all out and realized what the legend actually meant.  The world-building, both the early twentieth century and the mid-fourteenth century, was really good and I enjoyed the descriptions of daily life that were mentioned.   I love that stuff so the more descriptions there are, the more I tend to enjoy it so I can picture it all in my head.  The author was really good at doing that here.

Unfortunately, I wasn't a big fan of Truelove as I found her to be a bit too straight-laced and I couldn't really empathize with her most of the time.  It's not that I didn't like her character, I just wish there was more to embrace.  Silverton however, I adored.  I liked his personality, the mix between serious and cavalier was very attractive and I was really hoping to see more of him in the novel when he disappeared.  I did have a hard time connecting the mid-fourteenth century Silverton to early twentieth century Silverton, but I just went with it.  

I also had a few issues with the plot.  Overall, it was enjoyable and fun, but when you really look at it, there were too many loose ends that just didn't make sense.  And I'm not talking about those ends that lead into the next book as those I get, but just some things that were glossed over and not really explained, but were integral to the book.  I think I would have enjoyed the plot more if it was a bit more organized and more tightly woven.  And there was the paradox involved in time-travel; the author kind of glossed over it all, but the questions are still there nonetheless, without the answers. 

Verdict
A Strange Scottish Shore definitely had some very interesting elements as well as some intriguing characters.  I did find the plot to be a bit loose as if the author wasn't quite sure where she was going with it, but otherwise I did enjoy the story.  I haven't yet read the first book in this series, and right now it's up in the air as to whether I will or not, I haven't decided.  For those who like time-travel and romance with a little bit of mystery thrown in however, this book is definitely for you. 
Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review: Insidious Intent by Val McDermid

Insidious Intent (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, Book #10)
by Val McDermid
Release Date: December 5th, 2017
2017 Atlantic Monthly Press
Kindle Edition; 424 Pages
ISBN: 978-0802127167
ASIN: B06XWH8SFW
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
In the north of England, single women are beginning to disappear from weddings. A pattern soon becomes clear: Someone is crashing the festivities and luring the women away--only to leave the victims' bodies in their own burned-out cars in remote locations. Tony and Carol are called upon to investigate--but this may be the toughest case they've ever had to face. Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Paula McIntyre and her partner Elinor must deal with a cruel cyber-blackmailer targeting their teenage ward, Torin.

My Thoughts
Insidious Intent is the latest thriller featuring Tony Hill and Carol Jordan as they negotiate the emotional terrain of the previous year.   I am a huge fan of this author and her books, and I was looking forward to discovering how Carol would deal with the aftermath of her brother's death and her alcoholism.  I was definitely not disappointed as I thought the author wove an interesting mystery despite the heavily invested character development of her main characters.  I, personally, really like the way the books are going and I have to say, I was definitely not prepared for the ending in this book.

The REMIT team is finally being tested in this book as the previous one dealt more with the recruiting and development of the people who were to be part of this new centralized force.  When a car was found engulfed in flames, the police were not prepared to find the body of Kathryn McCormick in the interior.  Although a lot of evidence had been destroyed in the fire, the coroner was able to confirm that Kathryn had been strangled before being placed in the car.  With very little to go on, the REMIT team looked for clues and leads.  When a second and then a third victim died in very similar situations, the REMIT team was under a lot of pressure to find a killer before he killed anyone else, but the team was stumped and looking for that one lead.  I really enjoyed the characters in this novel, and I thought they fit in well together, but it was almost too seamless and perfect.  The suspense of previous novels was not there as the tension was missing.  Sometimes you need that antagonistic character as it makes things so much more interesting.  

DCI Carol Jordan receives a lot of attention in this novel, and I was definitely not unhappy with that. A recovering alcoholic with plenty of pressure on her back for the REMIT team to be successful, it was interesting to see how the pressure got to her and how she dealt with it.  To be honest, I was glad to see a bit of human frailty in her character these past few books as she always seemed to indomitable.  I enjoyed the way her character developed in this book as she tried to deal with having her drunk driving charge eliminated and the ensuing chaos that ruling created in her life.  With the weight of several deaths on her shoulders, and a serious case, Carol spent a lot of time thinking about her goals and the consequences she had to deal with because of her actions and those of others.  However, I wasn't as crazy about Tony in this book as I felt his character development was off and he didn't seem like the same person.  I did like how he dealt with Carol as well as the situation with Torin, but still something didn't sit well with me.  I just can't quite put my finger on it though.  

Although the author writes her books with the intention of being standalones, I really feel that one needs to begin at the beginning in order to really understand the motivations of the characters in this book.  I like McDermid's style of writing, and although you know who the killer is because she tells you, a technique I normally dislike, it actually worked in this novel and I found myself wondering what the clue/lead would be when it finally came.  And I can tell you that I was not prepared for the ending of this book.  No more can be said as it would ruin the book, but I was almost disappointed knowing I would have to wait for a while before finding out what comes next.  

Verdict
Insidious Intent is interesting with a lot of dark humour, some character development in long-standing characters, and a clever narrative, but somehow it didn't seem to capture that magic of the previous books.  While I find the antagonist more interesting than the main characters, I have to ask myself why and the answer is simply because nothing really new was added in this novel.  The team kind of plowed their way through the investigation and there was none of the suspense and intensity that is usually present.  However, the author still writes a good novel and I have come to trust her ability to make unbelievable scenarios believable, so I am really hoping the ending of this book, while a bit out of place for the characters, leads to a whole different level of intensity in the next one.
Sunday, December 31, 2017

2018 Challenges

2018 Challenges

To be honest, I didn't do very well last year with the challenges.  Life has this way of turning everything upside down, and what you expected to do gets turned on its rump.  My husband, who is in the military, got promoted, and naturally posted, leaving me to deal with two teenagers and a very hectic schedule.  Unfortunately, the stress of this dealing with this, plus my job, made me realize I am not Super Woman, and I had to take a break from blogging.  With the intention of only taking off one month, turned into a very well-needed six months, and with that came the realization that I can not possibly do it all or I will lose my mind.  I think that's the hardest thing to deal with, the fact that we're only human and need to give ourselves a break once in a while.  With two children growing into adulthood of whom I couldn't be more proud, it's time to take the plunge into the next chapter of our life as the oldest heads off to university next year and leaves the nest (tear, tear!).  So, I will try these challenges again, and if I don't succeed, there's always the year after that one.

Debut Author Challenge

This one is to introduce readers to this year’s wonderful group of debut authors and to challenge readers to read 12 or more (or less! It’s up to you!) middle grade, young adult, and new adult debuts this year.








RMFAO Challenge


RMFAO 2018 Genre-List:
‣ January - Science-Fiction
‣ February - Mystery-Thriller
‣ March* - Women's Fiction or Westerns
‣ April* - YA or Graphic Novels
‣ May - Classics/Literary
‣ June - Non-Fiction
‣ July - Dystopian/Apocalyptic
‣ August - Contemporary Fiction
‣ September - Humour
‣ October - Horror
‣ November* - Historical or Steampunk
‣ December - Adventure/Fantasy

British Book Challenge


The British Books Challenge is a reading challenge that will be running on Tales Of Yesterday between 1st January 2018 to 31st December 2018 and the main focus of the challenge is reading and reviewing books by British authors.

This challenge is available for all bloggers and/or booktubers who review books on their blogs, YouTube channels or readers who review on other websites such as Goodreads.

If you sign up for the challenge you will be aiming to read at least 12 books by British authors (which works out to one a month).


1. Choose the level of which you would like to participate:
Levels
  • Peckish – 1 – 10 Cozy Mysteries
  • Famished – 11 – 30 Cozy Mysteries
  • Yearning – 31 – 50 Cozy Mysteries
  • Starving  – 51 – 75 Cozy Mysteries
  • Ravenous – 76 – 100 Cozy Mysteries
  • Voracious – 101 – 125 Cozy Mysteries 
  • Completely Satiated – 126 – 150 Cozy Mysteries
  • Overindulged – 151 – 200 Cozy Mysteries
  • Pigged Out – 201 or more Cozy Mysteries
2. You can Feed Your Need To Read with print, digital or audio books.
3. You do not have to post a review but the authors would appreciate it if you did. If you need help just let me know. 

4.  You do not need to have a blog to participate. If you do have a blog, take the button above, put it on your blog and post about the challenge. 

 This challenge begins January 1, 2018 and ends Dec 31, 2018 will count. 
  •  You may sign up anytime during the year. 
  • Books must be young adult or new adult genres.
  • Books may be horror, romance, dystopian, paranormal, graphic novels, etc. 
  • You may include books of any format including traditional books, ebooks, or audiobooks.
  •  Books may count towards other reading challenges. 
  •  Use the hashtag #2018YARC 
Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Each month, a new post dedicated to the HF Challenge will be created. To participate, you only have to follow the rules:

  • Everyone can participate! If you don't have a blog you can post a link to your review if it's posted on Goodreads, Facebook, or Amazon, or you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish.
  • Add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post (please use the direct URL that will guide us directly to your review)
  • Any sub-genre of historical fiction is accepted (Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, History/Non-Fiction, etc.)
During the following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels:

20th Century Reader - 2 books
Victorian Reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History - 25 books
Prehistoric - 50+ books



  • You can read any book that is from the mystery/suspense/thriller/crime genres. Any sub-genres are welcome as long as they incorporate one of these genres.
  • You don’t need a blog to participate but you do need a place to post your reviews to link up. (blog, goodreads, booklikes, shelfari, etc.)
  • Make a goal post and link it back here with your goal for this challenge.
  • Books need to be novellas or novels, please no short stories. (At least 100 pages +)
  • Crossovers into other challenges  are fine.
  • The Challenge will  be from Jan. 1st to Dec. 31st. (Sign up ends April 15th)
There will be a monthly link up so that others can check out your progress and look at your reviews. At the halfway mark and at the end we will have a giveaway for those participating.

If you tweet about your progress or reviews please use the hashtag #CloakDaggerChal so others can see it.
Levels:
5-15 books – Amateur sleuth
16-25 books – Detective
26-35 books – Inspector
36 – 55 – Special agent
56+ books – Sherlock Holmes
Sunday, December 24, 2017

Review: A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert

A Murder for the Books (Blue Ridge Library Mysteries, Book #1)
by Victoria Gilbert
Release Date: December 12th, 2017
2017 Crooked Lane Books
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1683314394
ASIN: B072396CZL
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
Fleeing a disastrous love affair, university librarian Amy Webber moves in with her aunt in a quiet, historic mountain town in Virginia. She quickly busies herself with managing a charming public library that requires all her attention with its severe lack of funds and overabundance of eccentric patrons. The last thing she needs is a new, available neighbor whose charm lures her into trouble.

Dancer-turned-teacher and choreographer Richard Muir inherited the farmhouse next door from his great-uncle, Paul Dassin. But town folklore claims the house’s original owner was poisoned by his wife, who was an outsider. It quickly became water under the bridge, until she vanished after her sensational 1925 murder trial. Determined to clear the name of the woman his great-uncle loved, Richard implores Amy to help him investigate the case. Amy is skeptical until their research raises questions about the culpability of the town’s leading families... including her own.


My Thoughts
A Murder for the Books is the first in a new series, the Blue Ridge Library Mysteries, and I thought it was a nice start to what could be an interesting series.  After catching her ex-boyfriend in a compromising position at a party, Amy reacted in a way that forced her to make a hasty retreat from a beloved job, move in with her aunt, and take over the job as a local librarian in the small town in which her aunt lives.  Being a fan of such scenarios, I was looking forward to simple who-dun-it, and it didn't disappoint in that regard.

I think my biggest issue with the cozy mystery genre is the way they often treat the local police and their lack of ability to solve crimes: you know, you have to suspend you disbelief a bit too much and accept the fact that police officers can't find the clues on their own, or aren't capable of interrogating suspects or witnesses capable, and I get really frustrated by this.  And sometimes it's a little too much suspension for my liking.  This novel however, didn't treat the police that way as Amy used her research skills to help her neighbour work on a personal project and discovered information through that research, which she shared with the police.  This is something that I liked and found much more convincing.  It really made the story much more credible, and because of that, I found the research and the subsequent activities and actions to be quite interesting and entertaining.  There were a few twists and turns that I wasn't expecting, and even though I guessed who the murderer was quite early on, those research twists made the novel, and the resulting research that Amy and Richard did, quite fascinating.  And I suppose it was the research for me that made this book so interesting; that is why we read, isn't it?

As for the characters, while I didn't quite connect with either of them, I did find them charming and interesting.  I did develop a particular fondness for Amy's Aunt Lydia, and interestingly enough, the local policeman, Brad, who was actually allowed to shine during the investigation instead of looking like a bumbling idiot.  The writing was really good though, clear and concise, and I have to admit the plot was at times, quite clever.  

Verdict
A Murder for the Books was an entertaining first novel, and definitely set up the characters for some interesting times ahead; I am looking forward to learning more about some of the other characters introduced in this novel.  This was an easy read, and I am definitely looking forward to the next book in this series, Shelved Under Murder, to be published July 2018.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Spotlight & Giveaway: ICED: A Resort to Murder Mystery by Avery Daniels

ICED: A Resort to Murder Mystery

Avery Daniels

June 20, 2017 Book Blast

Synopsis:

Iced by Avery Daniels
Julienne has her ideal job as an event planner at a prestigious resort. During a luncheon event she coordinated, a renowned celebrity pastor is killed next to the buffet. All eyes turn to her as the suspect. If she wants to stay out of jail or even keep her job, Julienne needs all the help she can get to solve the crime.


She has her work cut out for her with a vengeful high school rival now reporter, the public demanding she be fired, plus family who know what's best for her, and a boyfriend who doesn't understand her. She turns to friends and a new ally to uncover who wanted to put the pastor on ice.

Julienne goes undercover and investigates a local swingers group as she follows the trail of clues before they go cold. Can she gather enough suspects and motives to convince the police to her widen their investigation? Can she do it before the killer sets his murderous sights on her? Will her personal life ever be as simple as unveiling a murderer?

Book Details:

Genre: Amateur Sleuth
Published by: Blazing Sword Publishing, Ltd
Publication Date: May 31st 2017
Number of Pages: 296
ASIN: B071LFD6JV
Series: A Resort to Murder Mystery, 1
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Kindle Unlimited  | Goodreads 

Read an excerpt:

Today everything in my life changed.

I’m the events coordinator and membership manager, in training that is, at a five star resort in Colorado. Some days, like today, it feels like I was sacrificed to some sadistic little idol somewhere. Coordination of conferences and meetings of all sizes in the resort’s convention center facility was part of my training. But this particular event, a Leadership Luncheon that brought together the town’s community leaders to network, was a challenge from the first minutes this morning.

"Julienne, this event must be executed with precision and perfection." Those are the favorite words of my boss, Chad. This particular event is a daylong exercise in patience.

Every job has its great parts and it’s not so great. Today encompassed one of the more unpleasant aspects of my job. Occasionally, okay usually, the hardest part of my job is the customer relations and today was particularly difficult. Some customers just can’t be satisfied and some events are riddled with issues.

We were only serving a modest seventy-five attendees, but I had already been assailed with special requests and numerous complaints. Picky doesn’t begin to cover it.

“How hard would it be to setup for a video presentation with a large screen and surround sound?”

“There are windows. It’s too distracting, people will be watching the hotel guests walking around.”

“Can we change the setup of room C from an L configuration to a U shape? But only for that one session, then move it back.”

“Can we get the Lobster for the buffet flown in that morning? Scallops are out….Can we have the scallops after all?”

“Music piped in during the breaks?”

“No music piped in at all.”

“Red tablecloths with white napkins.”

“Royal blue tablecloths with white napkins.”

“White tablecloths with yellow napkins.”

“Candles on mirrors for lunch centerpieces.”

“Fresh flowers for centerpieces.”

The changes continued even after the event started.

The Convention Center, with its classic European décor had a small lobby area with a few potted trees and plants on column stands. The rest extended down a hallway with two large areas on each side that could be divided into smaller rooms via partitions that extend from the walls as needed. The space could be up to eight small rooms, four on each side, or any combination from one to four rooms per side of the hallway.

The hallway was wide with several half-circle console tables including marble tops holding large dried floral arrangements and a few elegant chairs. The walls displayed large paintings of the Italian countryside and vineyards with carved gold gilt frames.

I was in a partitioned room overseeing the set up of the lunch buffet. The Italian Renaissance architecture was accentuated with interior details and décor that created a European elegance, all lit with the warm glow of a massive amber glass chandelier.

The room was a rectangle with the entrance from the hallway to one end and the door to the catering staging area at the opposite end. The buffet table was along the wall next to the staging door so wait staff could easy restock food items. The six-person round tables covered in rich golden linens were scattered strategically throughout the room to allow easy traffic flow. The thick carpet felt plush and cloud-like under foot.

I was surveying the buffet table with a critical eye. The five foot long ice sculpture of a swordfish occupied the center of the table and looked as though it was caught in mid leap, frolicking in a wave and ready to dive back into an unseen ocean. My stomach growled as the succulent smells of seafood teased my nose. The attendees would be returning to this room for their lunch and keynote speaker shortly.

"Brad, where are the crab leg metal crackers and little forks? Can you grab a few dozen and bring them right away?" Brad, slim and serious, had joined the team only two months ago and was picking up extra hours at every opportunity. He had asked to work this event as soon as I blocked out the time on the schedule. This would give him a good paycheck. He was lanky and took off with an easy loping stride to the staging area through the back door.

The door to the staging area had barely closed when I felt a hand grab hold of my derriere with an iron hard grip.

"This is more like it honey. I haven't had any fun today."

I whirled around and stumbled back. "Don’t touch the staff. That includes me Pastor Tom." I practically shouted. Pastor Tom Drake was well known around town, and getting national attention lately with his mega church. He was included in the luncheon due to his influence, but he was just Pastor Tom since he was a local guy who started his church and radio ministry from his garage.

I had contended with bad behavior before, but never this grabby. I think I was going to have a bruise left from his vicious hand.

"You’re not being very fri…friendly." I noticed his eyes were droopy and then I caught a whiff of the scotch he must have gotten at the Gilded Hornet pub next to the convention center building.
I decided to alert security we needed a person to monitor the rest of the event and turned to go. His iron hand grabbed hold of my arm and yanked me to him. Without a thought I took my knee to his groin and enjoyed watching his mouth form an "O" as his breath whooshed out. I broke free and backed away. I wasn’t turning my back on him again.

"I will see you fired for that you bitch." He whispered with a jagged voice.

He couldn’t do that, at least I was pretty sure he couldn’t. I guess I’d find out. I rubbed my still smarting arm where he grabbed it. Brad would be back or the event participants would start to wander in so he couldn’t do much more, but I didn’t want to stay and find out. I backed out the door to the hallway toward the lobby and took my cell phone from my pants pocket.

"Hey Ron, we have a person under the influence at the luncheon in Convention Center. Can you spare someone for the afternoon?"

"I’ll make sure somebody’s there immediately Julienne. How bad is this guy?"

"Well, I’ll probably have a black-and-blue handprint on my arm and …my backside." I took a deep breath.

"Son of a … I’ll be right there. You stay away from him." Like I would go near that Neanderthal again, pastor or not.

The other participants were starting to exit the smaller break out session rooms and meander to the banquet room and bathrooms. The noise level began to creep upward from multiple conversations competing to be heard.

There was a loud crash of metal from the banquet room and a participant jerked open the door and froze in place. "Oh sh…" The participant’s mouth gaped and his eyes were large circles.

I ran over to the open door and saw Pastor Tom impaled through the chest with the sharp end of the Swordfish ice sculpture, from his back right through to the front. His head was forward against his chest. Blood, running down the swordfish tip that jutted from his chest, dripping to the carpet. Drip, drip, drip in a macabre but surreal scene.

***
Excerpt from Iced by Avery Daniels. Copyright © 2017 by Avery Daniels. Reproduced with permission from Avery Daniels. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Avery Daniels Avery Daniels was born and raised in Colorado, graduated from college with a degree in business administration and has worked in fortune 500 companies and Department of Defense her entire life. Her most eventful job was apartment management for 352 units. She still resides in Colorado with two brother black cats as her spirited companions. She volunteers for a cat shelter, enjoys scrapbooking and card making, photography, and painting in watercolor and acrylic. She inherited a love for reading from her mother and grandmother and grew up talking about books at the dinner table.

Catch Up With Our Author On: Website , Goodreads , Twitter , & Facebook !


Catch This Awesome Giveaway!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Avery Daniels. There will be 1 winner of a $15 Amazon.com GiftCard and 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Iced by Avery Daniels. The giveaway begins on June 18 and runs through June 26, 2017.
a Rafflecopter giveaway  


 


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
ASIN: B01HXJT7N6
Genre: Fiction / Suspense / Murder
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
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!

Verdict
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 !

 

Giveaway:

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!


Title: OCCULT AND BATTERY
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
ASIN: B076M3V6O
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
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.  

Verdict
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.