Death Comes to the Fair by Catherine Lloyd

death-comes-to-the-fairDeath Comes to the Fair by Catherine Lloyd
Series: Kurland St. Mary Mysteries #4
Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: Kurland St. Mary and Kurland St. Anne in England
Published by Kensington
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: November 29, 2016)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
304 pages
Grade: A-
Synopsis: It’s harvest time in the village of Kurland St. Mary as Lucy and Robert prepare to take their vows—but a murderer has taken an unseasonable vow of vengeance . . .

As Miss Lucy Harrington, daughter of the village rector, and Major Sir Robert Kurland plan their nuptials, the major is beginning to wonder if he’ll ever hear wedding bells. He’s seen complex military campaigns that involved less strategy, and he’s finding Lucy’s meddling family maddening.

When the body of Ezekiel Thurrock, the church verger, is discovered crushed by a stone gargoyle that has fallen from the bell tower, the tragic death strikes a somber note and the wedding is delayed. But the evidence suggests this was no accident, and Lucy wonders if bad blood at the village fair had anything to do with the man’s mysterious demise, since there was much bitterness over Ezekiel’s prizewinning vegetables.

As Lucy and Robert uncover long-standing village feuds, the town’s dark secrets begin to take their toll and the couple soon finds they too are in grave danger . . .

Initial impressions

  • Best book in the series so far. The mystery is more complex and the story is more than just the mystery.

Pluses

  • I like how the series moves the personal lives of the characters forward even as mysteries unfold. In this case Robert and Lucy are planning their wedding. They are frustrated that they must take into account many other people. They would like to keep things simple!
  • I like the regard and love Robert and Lucy show for each other. I also like how Robert has grown and changed throughout the series in his regard and respect for Lucy. Lucy has also come to respect Robert and realize what a good person he is.
  • I wasn’t sure how the mystery would be solved for quite some time!
  • During the fair Robert judges the area produce. He judges it without regard for who wins and loses even though Lucy tries to tell him it’s serious business to the area residents and can cause feuds. He doesn’t heed her warnings and awards most of the prizes to one person. He’s very surprised at the anger, grumbling and talk about a “rigged” system from those who didn’t win!
  • I like the different attitudes Robert and Lucy have. Robert is idealistic–he believes giving the prize to the best carrot or turnip is the right thing to do. Lucy is pragmatic–she understands the politics of the villages, that the villagers have long memories and that spreading the prizes among many people will give everyone something to brag about. Who is right?
  • The murders look like they could be accidents and no one seems to believe or care when Robert and Lucy think they could be murders. At first it’s hard to see why the murders took place.
  • The story shows the importance of knowing the history of the people and their region when those people live in an area for a long time–even when no one seems to know the origin of feuds and resentments.

Minuses

  • The book is named after the fair, but the fair is only in the first few pages of the book. However, what happens at the fair does seem to cause some of the events.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • I hope there are more books in this series!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • (from Goodreads): “Catherine Lloyd was born just outside London, England, into a large family of dreamers, artists, and history lovers. She completed her education with a master’s degree in history at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and uses the skills she gained there to research and write her historical mysteries. Catherine currently lives in Hawaii with her husband and youngest daughter.. ”

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The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders

the-secrets-of-wishtide-by-kate-waundersThe Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders
Series: Laetitia Rodd Mystery #1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: 1850-1851 England
Published by Bloomsbury USA
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: September 13)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
352 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Mrs. Laetitia Rodd, aged fifty-two, is the widow of an archdeacon. Living in Hampstead with her confidante and landlady, Mrs. Benson, who once let rooms to John Keats, Laetitia makes her living as a highly discreet private investigator.

Her brother, Frederick Tyson, is a criminal barrister living in the neighboring village of Highgate with his wife and ten children. Frederick finds the cases, and Laetitia solves them using her arch intelligence, her iron discretion, and her immaculate cover as an unsuspecting widow. When Frederick brings to her attention a case involving the son of the well-respected, highly connected Sir James Calderstone, Laetitia sets off for Lincolnshire to take up a position as the family’s new governess—quickly making herself indispensable.

But the seemingly simple case—looking into young Charles Calderstone’s “inappropriate” love interest—soon takes a rather unpleasant turn. And as the family’s secrets begin to unfold, Laetitia discovers the Calderstones have more to hide than most.

Initial impressions

  • I really enjoyed this book. It’s similar to a number of historical mysteries taking place in Victorian England, but has enough freshness to create a fun, memorable mystery.

Pluses

  • I like that Laetitia (Letty) is an older protagonist (52 years old) than most female protagonists in books.
  • The relationship between Letty and her brother is a nice one. And the antagonism between Laetitia and her sister-in-law is not unexpected. I also think that Laetitia and her brother working together makes sense. I also like the image of Letty’s brother Frederick–a renowned criminal barrister–at home with his wife and ten children!
  • Mary Bentley–Letty’s landlady–is a down-to-earth character and has become Letty’s friend as well as helping with Letty’s investigations.
  • I like that this isn’t the first investigation Letty has done for her brother. This provides more background for the book.
  • The book doesn’t pull any punches.
  • The book has a satisfying mystery.
  • The Calderstone family is interesting and it’s clear to Letty when she becomes a governess to the family that they have lots of secrets. I didn’t figure out all that was happening and was surprised several times during the book.
  • I like the little touches the author adds: that John Keats once lived in the house where Laetitia lives now, for example.
  • The way Laetitia remembers her husband is so nice to read about. They truly loved each other.

Minuses

  • By the end of the book there are many threads to the story. That might bother some readers. It didn’t keep me from enjoying the characters, story and mystery, however.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  •  I’m glad this is the first book in a new series. I look forward to the next book!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info (from Goodreads)

  • Kate Saunders (born 1960) is an English author, actress, and journalist. The daughter of the early public relations advocate Basil Saunders and his journalist wife Betty (née Smith), Saunders has worked for newspapers and magazines in the UK, including The Sunday Times, Sunday Express, Daily Telegraph, She, and Cosmopolitan.
  • She has also been a regular contributor to radio and television, with appearances on the Radio 4 programs Woman’s Hour, Start the Week, and Kaleidoscope. She was, with Sandi Toksvig, a guest on the first episode of the long-running news quiz program Have I Got News For You.
  • Saunders has also written multiple books for children and for adults.

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Stalking Ground by Margaret Mizushima

stalking-groundStalking Ground by Margaret Mizushima
Series: Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #2
Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural
Setting: Timber Creek, Colorado–the high country in Colorado
Published by Crooked Lane Books
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: September 13, 2016)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
320 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: When Deputy Ken Brody’s sweetheart goes missing in the mountains outside Timber Creek, Mattie Cobb and Robo are called to search. But it’s mid-October and a dark snow storm is brewing over the high country–and they’re already too late. By the time they find her body, the storm has broken and the snow is coming down hard.

While Brody hikes down to bring back the forensics team and veterinarian Cole Walker gathers supplies to protect them from the storm, Mattie and Robo find themselves alone, guarding the gravesite overnight in the dead of the early winter. And that’s only the first long, dark night in a series of them, because as their investigation develops, Mattie, Robo, Brody, and Cole find themselves in the middle of the killer’s stalking ground–with no way out unless they can catch a predator more deadly than any natural threat.

Initial impressions

  • A very good addition to the series.

Pluses

  • Mattie and Robo make a great team. I like that they’re coming to trust each other more.
  • Mattie has trouble trusting and relating to people sometimes, but I think because of Robo she’s growing more confident and making more friends.
  • When Mattie hears that Deputy Ken Brody’s girlfriend is missing she wonders if Adrienne didn’t just leave. Mattie finds Deputy Brody difficult to get along with and can’t imagine that being his girlfriend is easy.
  • However, the evidence mounts that Adrienne didn’t disappear on her own. And when her body is found Mattie finds herself beginning to understand Brody better and realize he loved Adrienne.
  • There’s a scary scene where Mattie and Robo are alone in the Colorado wilderness overnight guarding Adrienne’s body while Brody goes back to guide the forensic teams and others to the site.
  • I like that Mattie is beginning to make more friends and learning that friends will help–that she doesn’t have to do everything herself.
  • This isn’t a very gritty, dark mystery–and for me that’s a plus as I don’t like dark mysteries too much.
  • I like many of the characters in these books. And there are hints of romance to come in future books. But that doesn’t take over the story.

Minuses

  • I did have ideas of who the murderer is, but wasn’t sure of the motive. I still enjoyed the mystery and story.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • I’m hoping for a third book in this series. I hope it comes soon!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Margaret Mizushima has a background in speech pathology and practiced in an acute care hospital before establishing her own rehabilitation agency. Currently, she balances writing with assisting her husband with their veterinary clinic and Angus cattle herd. Her short story “Hay Hook” was published in the 2014 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers anthology Crossing Colfax. She enjoys reading and hiking, and she lives on a small ranch in Colorado where she and her husband raised two daughters and a multitude of animals. She can be found on Facebook/Author Margaret Mizushima, on Twitter @margmizu and on her website.

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Stripped Bare by Shannon Baker

stripped-bareStripped Bare by Shannon Baker
Series: Kate Fox #1
Genre: Contemporary Mystery
Setting: Grand County, Nebraska (Nebraska Sandhills)
Published by Forge Books
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: September 6)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
288 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Kate Fox is living the dream. She’s married to Grand County Sheriff Ted Conner, the heir to her beloved Nebraska Sandhills cattle ranch, where they live with Kate’s orphaned teenage niece, Carly. With the support of the well-connected Fox Clan, which includes Kate’s eight boisterous and interfering siblings, Ted’s reelection as Grand County Sheriff is virtually assured. That leaves Kate to the solitude and satisfaction of Frog Creek, her own slice of heaven.

One night Kate answers a shattering phone call from Roxy at the Bar J. Carly’s granddad Eldon, owner of the ranch, is dead and Ted has been shot and may never walk again. Kate vows to find the killer. She soon discovers Ted responded so quickly to the scene because he was already at the Bar J . . . in Roxy’s bed. And to add to her woes, Carly has gone missing.

Kate finds out that Eldon was considering selling his ranch to an obscenely rich environmentalist. Some in town hate the idea of an outsider buying up land, others are desperate to sell . . . and some might kill to get their way. As she becomes the victim of several “accidents,” Kate knows she must find the killer before it’s too late. . . .

Initial impressions

  • I like this book a lot. A good first book in a series.

Pluses

  • Lots goes on in Kate’s personal life during this book. There’s a mystery, but also a personal journey for Kate. She has to make decisions and decide what she really wants.
  • I really like Kate and can understand all the emotions she goes through. It’s a rough ride for her, but once she begins figuring out what’s going on she doesn’t flinch.
  • I like the way her family–especially her siblings are portrayed. I felt that was pretty true-to-life.
  • The mystery was puzzling especially at first as Kate and the reader don’t get all the information.
  • There are lots of suspects.
  • I love the setting of the book. I feel the author must really understand the Nebraska Sandhills country.
  • The mystery is solved at the end, but there are lots of loose ends to find out about in future books.

Minuses

  • It was hard to keep track of some of the characters in the book. Kate has eight brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles. Lots of names at first. However, I think the author made the right decision to leap right into the story.
  • After reading the synopsis I was impatient for Kate to find out some of the circumstances for the  shootings at the Bar J–such as her husband’s infidelity!

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • I’m really looking forward to the next book in this series!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Shannon Baker announces the Kate Fox mystery series, to debut with Stripped Bare, releasing September 2016 from Tor/Forge. A modern western described as Longmire meets The Good Wife.  Now a resident of Tucson, Baker spent 20 years in the Nebraska Sandhills, where cattle outnumber people by more than 50:1. 
  • She is also the author of the Nora Abbott mystery series from Midnight Ink. A fast-paced mix of Hopi Indian mysticism, environmental issues, and murder. Shannon is an itinerant writer, which is a nice way of saying she’s confused. She never knows what time zone she’s in, Timbuck-Three, Nebraska, Denver, or Tucson. Nora Abbott has picked up that location schizophrenia and travels from Flagstaff in Tainted Mountain, to Boulder in Broken Trust and then to Moab in Tattered Legacy. Shannon is proud to have been chosen Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2014 Writer of the Year.

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In the Land of Milk and Honey by Jane Jensen

in-the-land-of-milk-and-honeyIn the Land of Milk and Honey by Jane Jensen
Series: Elizabeth Harris Mystery #2
Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural
Setting: Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Published by Berkley
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: August 2)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
304 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: With its peaceful, hardworking Amish population, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is a rural paradise. But former NYPD homicide detective Elizabeth Harris knows that evil lurks there—it’s just easier to hide…

By solving the murders of two local girls, Elizabeth has gained some trust in the Amish community. So, she’s the first person its members turn to when a fast and fatal illness takes hold, though many believe that the sickness stems from a hexerei—a curse placed by a practitioner of old-world folk magic. Elizabeth doesn’t believe in curses, and when an entire Amish family is found dead, she begins to suspect something far more sinister…

As the CDC is called in to investigate, customers of a Philadelphia farmers market selling Amish raw milk start dying. Amid rapidly escalating panic, Elizabeth must peel away layers of superstition and fear to save the livelihood—and lives—of an entire community. Because what has happened isn’t an accident of nature or an act of God, it’s the handiwork of someone who has only just begun to kill…

Initial impressions

  • I’m so glad the publisher gave me a chance to read this book! A very good mystery.

Pluses

  • I really like the characters in this book–especially Detective Elizabeth Harris. Grady, Elizabeth’s boss, is also a well-rounded character. I like that he listens to Elizabeth even when he doesn’t agree with her.
  • The setting in rural Pennsylvania in a county where a large number of Amish live makes for an interesting and different setting.
  • Even though this is the second book in the series I didn’t have any trouble getting into the story. It did make me want to read the first book which I did almost as soon as I finished this book!
  • I felt the horror the police feel when they find an entire family dead. And the need to call in the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • I like that this story is about solving the mystery. The author does a great job of fleshing out the story and showing people’s lives, but the focus is on the mystery and the police trying to solve it.
  • Elizabeth is living with Ezra, a former Amish man so there is a little romance in the story. As well as temptation. . .
  • Ezra is feeling very alone in this story. He feels he made the right decision to leave the Amish, but he misses his large family. They will have nothing to do with him even when he tries to warn them about the sickness in the Amish community. Ezra appreciates Elizabeth’s work with the police, but she is so busy with this case she doesn’t have a lot of time to listen to him.
  • The Amish characters in the book are portrayed as real people. (Or so it seems to me.) Their relationship with the land and their animals seems very real. I could understand the pain and anger they feel when the safety of their cow’s milk is questioned.
  • I like that the mystery has a number of layers. Many possibilities:
  • –Is this a contagious disease? Hence the need for the CDC.
  • –Is this just a problem with the Amish? If so, why just the Amish? Is there a poisonous plant growing in their pastures the cows eat? Is it because the Amish sell raw milk? Does the raw milk make the milk dangerous?
  • –Is the sickness caused by a curse? Or someone wanting to make it look like a curse?
  • –Lots of political ramifications with raw milk. Some people feel it’s healthier. Others feel milk isn’t safe if it’s not pasteurized.
  • I like that the Amish aren’t portrayed as an ideal group of people. Many are doing the best they can; many have blind spots. They tend to have a an us vs. them mentality so they close ranks against outsiders–the English. Most are just people trying to live their lives as best they can.
  • That doesn’t mean the Amish won’t turn their back on their fellow Amish if they judge that they aren’t following their rules. Shunning is a harsh judgement.
  • I love the covers they’ve used for the first two books. I hope the publisher continues with this type of cover.

Minuses

  • There is almost a love triangle in the book.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • The author does a great job with the mystery, characters and setting. Even before I finished this book I looked for the first book in the series! I hope Ms. Jensen writes many more books in this series.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Jane Jensen is the game designer of the popular and critically acclaimed Gabriel Knight adventure games and author of the novels Judgement Day and Dante’s Equation.
  • Jane Jensen was born Jane Elizabeth Smith, the youngest of seven children. She received a BA in Computer Science from Anderson University in Indiana and worked as a systems programmer for Hewlett-Packard. Her love of both computers and creative writing eventually led her to the computer gaming industry.
  • Jane Jensen owns a farm in Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband, composer Robert Holmes, who composed the music for the Gabriel Knight series and for Gray Matter.

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Borrowing Death by Cathy Pegau

borrowing-deathBorrowing Death by Cathy Pegau
Series: Charlotte Brody Mystery #2
Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: Cordova, Alaska Territory, 1919
Published by Kensington
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: June 28, 2016)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
210 pages
Grade: B-
Synopsis: Suffragette and journalist Charlotte Brody is bracing herself for her first winter in the frontier town of Cordova in the Alaska Territory. But the chilling murder of a local store owner is what really makes her blood run cold. . .

After three months in Cordova, Charlotte is getting accustomed to frontier life. She is filing articles for the local paper–including a provocative editorial against Prohibition–and enjoying a reunion with her brother Michael, the town doctor and coroner. Michael’s services are soon called upon when a fire claims the life of hardware store owner Lyle Fiske. A frontier firebug is suspected of arson, but when Michael determines Fiske was stabbed before his store was set ablaze, the town of Cordova has another murder to solve.

Her journalist’s curiosity whetted, Charlotte begins to sort through the smoldering ruins of Lyle Fiske’s life, only to discover any number of people who might have wanted him dead. As the days grow shorter, Charlotte’s investigation turns increasingly complex. She may be distant from the trappings of civilization, but untangling the motives for murder will require plumbing the very depths of Charlotte’s investigative acumen. . .

Initial impressions

I enjoyed this mystery set in the Alaska Territory though I did have a few problems with it.

The story

  • The story continues from the first book with Charlotte living in the Alaska Territory in Cordova.
  • Charlotte works as a journalist for the town newspaper.
  • She’s excited that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution (giving women the right to vote) is being ratified by the states. (Twenty states had ratified the Amendment.)  Charlotte is interested in women’s rights as well as other political issues.
  • The hardware store in town burns down and someone inside the store dies.
  • Charlotte is at the scene of the fire so she can write about it in the town paper.
  • An arsonist has been setting fires around Cordova though nothing as big as this. Did the arsonist set the fire?
  • Charlotte feels she needs to figure out who set the fire.

Pluses

  • I love the time period and the setting in the Alaska Territory.
  • The descriptions about using hot lead to set the type for the newspaper are fascinating.
  • I like that Charlotte writes unpopular articles in the newspaper. An article about the prohibition of alcohol and the harm that could do brings out the angry temperance movement in Cordova.
  • I like the mystery. There are twists and turns and everything and everyone isn’t always happy with the outcome.
  • A beautiful cover–though Charlotte is dressed a little too fancy for the Alaska Territory.

Minuses

  • It would have been better if the members of the temperance movement weren’t stereotypes. There are valid points on both side of the alcohol issue–though prohibition didn’t work.
  • I felt Charlotte trades too much on her friendship with Deputy Marshal Eddington.
  • I’m not sure what happened in book 1, but Eddington doesn’t show himself in the best light in this book.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • I haven’t read the first book in the series, but was able to enjoy this book. I do think I might have appreciated this book more if I had read the first book.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

From Cathy Pegau:

  • “Writing was not the career path I chose when the time came. I thought the arts, while enjoyable, was not the way to make a living. So I went into science. Wildlife biology, to be exact. Yep, plenty of prosperous biologists wandering about in the woods, you know. Obviously money was not high on my list of job perks. But I enjoyed the course work (how many college students can say THAT?) and managed to get short-term positions for a few years. It was fun, hard and sweaty work, and gave me the chance to see and do things I wouldn’t have if I had chosen accounting or even writing. Like get lost in the woods overnight. But that’s another story.
  • I got engaged, then married–to a scientist, assuring perpetual financial uncertainty. We lived in Oregon for a while, and when he was offered a job in Alaska we jumped at it. So, now we live here with our kids and critters and the occasional moose strolling through the yard. I can’t afford therapy, so I write. I want to do what I want to do, so I write. I want my kids to know that pursuing dreams is important, so I write.”

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Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

missing-presumed-by-susie-steinerMissing, Presumed by Susie Steiner
Series: Unknown
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Cambridgeshire, England
Published by Random House
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: June 28)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
368 pages
Grade: C+
Synopsis: At thirty-nine, Manon Bradshaw is a devoted and respected member of the Cambridgeshire police force, and though she loves her job, what she longs for is a personal life. Single and distant from her family, she wants a husband and children of her own. One night, after yet another disastrous Internet date, she turns on her police radio to help herself fall asleep—and receives an alert that sends her to a puzzling crime scene.

Edith Hind—a beautiful graduate student at Cambridge University and daughter of the surgeon to the Royal Family—has been reported missing for nearly twenty-four hours. Her home offers few clues: a smattering of blood in the kitchen, her keys and phone left behind, the front door ajar but showing no signs of forced entry. Manon instantly knows this case will be big—and that every second is crucial to finding Edith alive.

The investigation starts with Edith’s loved ones: her attentive boyfriend, her reserved best friend, and her patrician parents. As the search widens and press coverage reaches a frenzied pitch, secrets begin to emerge about Edith’s tangled love life and her erratic behavior leading up to her disappearance. With no clear leads, Manon summons every last bit of her skill and intuition to close the case, and what she discovers will have shocking consequences not just for Edith’s family, but for Manon herself.

Suspenseful and keenly observed, Missing, Presumed is a brilliantly twisting novel of how we seek connection, grant forgiveness, and reveal the truth about who we are.

Initial impressions

  • Interesting, but not exactly the book I thought it was going to be. I thought it was more police procedural. Ended up more thriller and psychological.

The story

  • Edith Hind is missing. A small amount of blood is found in her house. Her door is unlocked, cell phone, car and personal items are left behind.
  • When her boyfriend returns from a weekend away and finds her gone, he notifies her parents and the police.
  • A huge search finds no sign of Edith alive or dead.
  • As the hours, days and weeks go by and the police find no real clues to her disappearance the police believe she must be dead.
  • Where is Edith and is she alive or dead?

Pluses

  • I don’t really enjoy thrillers or psychological mysteries which this book is more than it is a police procedural.
  • The book is told in a mix of present and past tense and from many points of view. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw is probably the main character, but we find out about the story from many others, too. At the beginning of each chapter the present tense aspect and switch in point-of-view jarred, but after a couple of paragraphs I got used to it. I think the author shows quite a bit of skill to write the book this way.
  • I found the story suspenseful and quite well-written.
  • It is more character study than mystery.
  • I don’t like Manon very well–which isn’t necessary for a book–though I like to connect with characters.
  • My favorite character is Davy, Manon’s partner. I like the way he views the world and how he see’s Manon. Though he certainly has his blind spots.

Minuses

  • Manon is a mess during much of the book. She’s 39 years old, but she hasn’t learned some of the basics of working in a team in the workplace, let alone as a detective sergeant in the police force. And her personal life is a mess. She does some stupid things both professionally and personally.
  • I thought the end of the book ties up all the strings in this book much too easily. And I’m offended by one of the characters at the end of the book.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • This isn’t really the type of mystery I enjoy. I think that’s at least part of the reason I didn’t like the book as much as other readers.
  • I did find parts of it interesting and suspenseful. However, this is not quite my chosen genre.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Susie Steiner grew up in north London and studied English at York University, which is when she first fell in love with north Yorkshire, in particular the north York Moors national park, which was the setting for her first novel, Homecoming. Homecoming was published by Faber & Faber to critical acclaim in 2013.
  • She worked for national papers as a news reporter. She left reporting when her first novel sold.
  • Her second novel, Missing, Presumed, is a bestselling thriller with Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw at its heart. Missing, Presumed is based in Cambridgeshire. She worked closely with Cambridgeshire police during the writing of this and the next Manon book.
  • She lives with her husband and two sons in north London.

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The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

the-invisible-library-by-genevieve-cogmanThe Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
Series: The Invisible Library #1
Genre: Fantasy
Setting: Inside the Library and in alternate worlds
Published by Roc
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: June 14)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
352 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen.

London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself…

Initial impressions

  • So many things caught my attention about this book–the Library aspect, the adventure of finding books and bringing them back to the Library. I enjoyed the book–with a few caveats!

The story

  • Book begins with Irene in an alternate world stealing a book for the shadowy Library. She gets away and back to the Library, but not before she is chased to the portal to the Library.
  • She reports in and immediately receives a new assignment. And she is assigned a student to mentor. She had hoped for some down time in the Library, but she heads off into the Library to meet Kai, the student she must take with her and mentor.
  • When she meets Kai he is rather mysterious. Their assignment is to an alternate London which is chaos-infested. Irene is puzzled that she is being sent there with a student.
  • In a chaos world reality is changed enough to allow supernatural beings and magic. This makes the world unpredictable and dangerous.
  • On their way to the portal for the alternate world they are intercepted by another spy who wants Irene to hand over her assignment. Irene has a history with this spy and doesn’t trust her.
  • Irene and Kai enter the alternate London, meet their colleague stationed in this world who briefs them about the world and start trying to retrieve the book.
  • They immediately run into problems which escalate–mostly because of the chaos in this world.
  • Irene tries to figure out exactly what Kai is hiding as well as trying to unravel the mystery of where the stolen book is. Can she trust Kai?
  • She receives an urgent message that a dangerous renegade Librarian is present in this alternate London.
  • Irene and Kai must unravel the mysteries, decide who to trust and survive to get the book back to the Library.

Pluses

  • The chaos world Irene and Kai are sent to is interesting. I think there is lots more to learn about it in future books.
  • The ability to move through many worlds is very exciting to read about.
  • Reading about a huge invisible library is very awesome!
  • I enjoyed learning more about Irene and Kai during the book. Each of them have vulnerabilities, but lots of strength of character, too.
  • Lots of chaotic things happen during the book both because of the world they are in, the characters they meet in that world and the renegade from the Library who infiltrates the world.
  • There’s a steampunk vibe to the world Kai and Irene are in which I enjoy.
  • There’s mystery to the story and even a detective from the world they’re in whom they join forces with.
  • Kai is still mysterious by the end of the book and I look forward to getting to know more about him.
  • I want to learn more about the Library. I have a feeling the motives of the Library and some of the people working there may not be as pure as Irene thinks.

Minuses

  • This read more like a young adult book, but it doesn’t seem like it should be YA since Irene has lived quite a while already. Irene doesn’t seem as self-confident and experienced as I would expect and Kai acts like a teenager. I’m not sure the romance vibe between them works.
  • I feel like this first book throws lots of concepts and setup of the worlds at the reader which we will understand better as we read more books. This made things kind of confusing, but after a bit I just went with the flow!

And concluding thoughts . . .

  •  The next book in this series–The Masked City–comes out in the United States in September!
  • I want to find out what happens next!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Genevieve Cogman got started on Tolkien and Sherlock Holmes at an early age, and has never looked back. But on a perhaps more prosaic note, she has an MSC in Statistics with Medical Applications and has wielded this in an assortment of jobs: clinical coder, data analyst and classifications specialist. Although The Invisible Library is her debut novel, she has also previously worked as a freelance roleplaying game writer. Genevieve Cogman’s hobbies include patchwork, beading, knitting and gaming, and she lives in the north of England.

Reading Challenges

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

roses-and-rot-by-kat-howard

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
Series: Unknown
Genre: Fantasy — Dark Fairy Tale
Setting: New Hampshire at Melete — an artist’s colony
Published by Saga Press
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: May 17)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
336 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: Imogen and her sister Marin have escaped their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, be it art or love.

What would you sacrifice in the name of success? How much does an artist need to give up to create great art?

Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.

Initial impressions

  • Such an interesting and imaginative book! I love the fairy tale within the fairy tale feel of the book.

The story

  • The story of two sisters–one a writer and one a dancer–who attend an artists’ retreat (Melete) together.
  • They have been apart for a number of years. Their mother is worse than any stepmother in a fairy tale and Imogen (the writer) felt she had to escape from her mother before her mother killed her.
  • Marin (the dancer) is more favored by their mother, but she suffered, too, from her mother’s cruel attentions.
  • After the sisters’ arrival at Melete they begin to get reacquainted as they both pursue their art.
  • Slowly they begin to discover that not everything at Melete is as straight-forward as they thought.
  • Gradually they learn that both of them and others at Melete are chosen to compete for a very special prize. And they both want that prize.

Pluses

  • I like the mix of fantasy and modern, mundane everyday life.
  • This is a fairy tale, but a dark fairy tale.
  • I like the strange things at Melete–birds watching, leaves blowing into a room, getting lost trying to find some places in Melete, a bridge built only half-way across a river.
  • Imogen is a writer who has grown up reading fairy tales. She also writes them and the stories are sprinkled throughout the book. This gives the book even more of a fairy tale feel.
  • I like that Imogen is skeptical about Melete. She feels it just sounds too good to be true. Many people who attend Melete become famous and successful afterward. Almost everything she reads about Melete tells how wonderful the place is and how much everyone loves it. She’s very suspicious of that!
  • I didn’t know how the book would end. Throughout the book there is an ominous feeling.
  • Interesting characters in the book. Helena is one of the most interesting characters in the book.
  • The cover gives a brooding, gothic feel. From the descriptions in the book I didn’t feel Melete looked like this. However, a brooding atmosphere does come through in the story.
  • I love the title and the images that arise from that title–Roses (beautiful, flower, colorful, often sweet-smelling, sometimes with thorns, sometimes hidden thorns); Rot (something spoiled, smelly, corrupt, sometimes hidden below the surface, maybe even morally corrupt?) A dichotomy, but maybe the rose is rotten? Provides lots of imagery for the story.

Minuses

  • The ending felt a little too easy to me. The book is imaginative and has a great premise, but I feel it didn’t quite live up to that. Still a good read though.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • This is Ms. Howard’s debut novel. She’s a talented writer and I’m looking forward to reading more books by her.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Kat Howard lives in New Hampshire. Her short fiction has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, anthologized in year’s best and best of collections, and performed on NPR. Roses and Rot is her debut novel.

Reading Challenges

  • 2016 Goodreads Challenge
  • Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge–hosted by Falling for YA
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • New Release Challenge–hosted by Lexxie at Unconventional Book Views and Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews Oh My!
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy Bingo Reading Challenge–hosted by the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog — Fairy Tale Twist

Clouds in My Coffee by Julie Mulhern

clouds-in-my-coffeeClouds in My Coffee by Julie Mulhern
Series: The Country Club Murders #3
Genre: Historical Mystery, cozy
Setting: Kansas City, Missouri
Published by Henery Press
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: May 10)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
256 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: When Ellison Russell is nearly killed at a benefactors’ party, she brushes the incident aside as an unhappy accident. But when her house is fire-bombed, she’s shot at, and the person sitting next to her at a gala is poisoned, she must face facts. Someone wants her dead. But why? And can Ellison find the killer before he strikes again? Add in an estranged sister, a visiting aunt with a shocking secret, and a handsome detective staying in her guesthouse, and Ellison might need more than cream in her coffee…

Initial impressions

  • This series gets better and better. Ellison is a smart character and I’ve enjoyed reading each book to find out what Ellison and the other characters are doing in these books…plus the mystery is good, too!

The story

  • Ellison’s sister and her aunt are both in town and neither want to stay with Ellison’s mother so Ellison is stuck with them.
  • Her sister has decided to leave her husband. And then the husband arrives so Ellison has to deal with him, too, since her sister refuses to do so.
  • A woman seated next to Ellison at a dinner dies after she drinks from Ellison’s glass. Ellison is convinced it’s just an accident.
  • But more “accidents” happen until Ellison has to admit maybe someone is after her. But the question is why? Ellison decides she better investigate.

Pluses

  • This has quickly become one of my favorite mystery series since I began reading it about six months ago.
  • I love the historical feel of the 1970’s with country clubs, Watergate and Richard Nixon’s resignation.
  • The humor in these stories is spot-on. Humor isn’t easy to do well, but Julie Mulhern manages to get it right.
  • Even though there’s humor and this is a cozy series, it’s not silly. Ellison has been through serious problems and is stronger because of that. She’s discovering who she is and what she wants from her life.
  • I like the relationship Ellison has with her high school age daughter Grace. Life  hasn’t been too easy for them since Ellison’s husband and Grace’s father was murdered.
  • I love Anarchy Jones’ name! And he’s a good character, too.
  • There’s a bit of romance in these books, but Ellison isn’t ready to trust a man too far yet–plus she has two men she likes who would like to become her significant other.
  • Other characters are fun to read about, too. I really like Ellison’s father and, of course, Ellison’s mother is over-the-top, but she loves Ellison even if she doesn’t always like what Ellison does and tries to control Ellison’s life.
  • I love the covers for each book in the series.

Minuses

  • Ellison almost goes over the edge between being smart and being dumb when she refuses to believe someone might be trying to murder her.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • I’m looking forward to the next book!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Julie Mulhern always wanted to be a writer. She spent her childhood creating pen names and dreaming of exotic, mysterious, romantic places. To that end, she went to Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia (because, when you’re from the Midwest, the South is both exotic and romantic). There she earned degrees in politics and French. She even spent a year living in Paris. But the Midwest beckoned and she returned home. Now she lives with her husband, two daughters and a dastardly dog. It might not be exotic or mysterious but it is romantic.

Reading Challenges