Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: From the Charred Remains Susanna Calkins

Description (from cover):

'It's 1666 and the Great Fire has just decimated an already plague-ridden London. Lady's maid Lucy Campion, along with pretty much everyone else left standing, is doing her part to help the city clean up and recover. But their efforts come to a standstill when a couple of local boys stumble across a dead body that should have been burned up in the fire but miraculously remained intact--the body of a man who died not from the plague or the fire, but from the knife plunged into his chest.

Searching for a purpose now that there's no lady in the magistrate's household for her to wait on, Lucy has apprenticed herself to a printmaker. But she can't help but use her free time to help the local constable, and she quickly finds herself embroiled in the murder investigation. It will take all of her wits and charm, not to mention a strong stomach and a will of steel, if Lucy hopes to make it through alive herself. 

Susanna Calkins delivers another atmospheric historical mystery that will enchant readers with its feisty heroine and richly detailed depiction of life in Restoration England.'

My thoughts:

After reading A Murder at Rosamund's Gate, I had a feeling that I would find myself reading another book by this author. I really enjoyed that book and the historical accuracy and depiction that the author brought to the written page and I knew that I had found a new author to love. The author recently released the third book in this series, The Masque of a Murderer and I knew I had some catching up to do as I never read a series out of order. From the moment that I opened this book, I was in love with the story. The author has a fantastic way of weaving history and fiction to make a book that is delightful to read. I could not put this one down to save my life. I was engrossed with the characters, the mystery and the rich historical detail that the author put into this book. 

Lucy has remained in the magistrate's household even though there is really a place for her anymore. She hates being bored and having nothing to do, so she begins helping the city rebuild itself after the devastation of the Great Fire of 1666. While she is helping with that, two young boys discover a body in a barrel. And it appears that it wasn't the fire or the plague that caused this person's early demise. Lucy, of course, is intrigued with the mystery and sets out to discover who this person was and who wanted him dead all while beginning an apprenticeship with a local printer. 

The author introduces the reader to some new characters that I am sure will play a part in the continuation of the series. I thought that this book was well developed and rich in detail. I know that this author is a new and emerging force in the historical mystery genre and I cannot wait to see where the author goes next. I definitely think that this author has the potential to do some big things in this genre and I can't wait to read whatever she creates next. A fantastic novel in a phenomenal series that will have me coming back for more I am positive.

Overall Rating: 5+

Title:  From the Charred Remains
Author:  Susanna Calkins
Series:  Lucy Campion Mystery #2
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  March 17, 2015
Pages:  352
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was selected from the library by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Review: Ladle to the Grave by Connie Archer

Description (from cover):

'By the Spoonful is Snowflake, Vermont's most popular soup shop, but owner Lucky Jamieson doesn't have any time to enjoy her success--she's too busy trying to keep a lid on false accusations against her loved ones...

It's almost May, and some of the local ladies have organized a pagan celebration in the woods to welcome spring. But the evening goes terribly wrong when one of the attendees winds up dead, apparently poisoned by an herbal concoction prepared by Lucky's grandfather, Jack.

Lucky's sure her grandfather could not have made such a tragic mistake. But before she can clear him of suspicion, her best friend, Sophie, is diverted from planning her wedding to By the Spoonful chef Sage DuBois when she finds a dead man floating in the creek on her property. Now it's up to Lucky to get both Sophie and Jack out of hot water before a killer stirs up more trouble...'

My thoughts:

I typically enjoy this series, but for some reason I found that this book just didn't strike me the same as the others in this series. I felt that the mystery was a little obvious and that there were not a lot of suspects or clues to help the reader. I felt a little disappointed in that because normally this series is a winner in a book, but this book just sort of fell flat. Lucky's grandfather has been accused of poisoning a local lady at a May festival. Lucky, of course, believes adamantly that Jack would not make such a careless mistake and sets out to discover just who had motive to want this lady dead. Of course, the lady isn't what she seems and it seems that she had a somewhat sinister past. While she is on the trial of a poisoner, Lucky's best friend Sophie comes across a dead body in the river behind her property. It seems that Lucky has a double murder investigation on her hands.

Normally, I lap this series right up, but I struggled somewhat with this book. I am not sure if it was the plot, the mystery or just everything combined, but I wasn't much impressed. I have come to love this author's writing and perhaps it was just that I was expecting a little something more and it wasn't delivered. The characters are quaint and I enjoy reading about them, so I don't think it was that. I did start to figure out things about halfway through the book and that kind of put me off a little. I like a good surprise. I really did enjoy the way that this book ended as it was monumental to the characters and I am anxious to see what is in store next for these characters.

Normally, I can pinpoint what part of a book that I didn't like. For this one, it was a little harder for me. I think generally it was everything overall and not just one specific thing that stuck out to me. I hope that this is just a fluke, as I really tend to enjoy this series and that the next one will be better. I am such an optimistic reader and have a hard time letting a series go. I usually stick it out until I can't stick it out anymore. I am not anywhere near that point with this series, so hoping that the next book is just phenomenal.

Overall Rating: 2.0

Title:  Ladle to the Grave
Author:  Connie Archer
Series:  Soup Lover's Mystery #4
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  March 3, 2015
Pages:  304
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was selected from the library by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Blog Tour Post, Review & Giveaway: The Final Reveille by Amanda Flower

Description (from cover):

'As the director of Barton Farm, a living history museum in Ohio, Kelsey Cambridge is underpaid and under-appreciated, but she loves every minute of it. Determined to keep the struggling Farm open, she plans to impress the museum's wealthy benefactress, Cynthia Cherry, with a four-day Civil War reenactment on the Farm's grounds, complete with North and South encampments, full-scale battles, and an Abraham Lincoln lookalike spouting the Gettysburg Address to anyone who will listen. Unfortunately, the first shot in the battle isn't from a period rifle but from Cynthia's greedy nephew, Maxwell, who plans to close the Farm when he inherits his ill aunt's wealth.

On the first day of the reenactment, Cynthia and Maxwell stop by and Kelsey and Maxwell have a public argument over the Farm's funding. The next morning, things go from bad to worse for Kelsey when she discovers Maxwell dead in the brickmaker's pit. Now Kelsey is the police's number one suspect, and she must start her own investigation to save the museum...and herself while the War Between the States rages on around her...'

My thoughts:

History is sort of my thing. I love history and love to read books that feature history in them. I have read a couple of Amanda Flower's books in the past and I learned that she was writing a new mystery featuring history, well I wanted to read it. Kelsey Cambridge is the director of Barton Farm, which is a farm in Ohio that is a living history museum. Kelsey has just planned a Civil War reenactment on the farm's lands and is stunned when her benefactress' nephew turns up dead right in the middle of it. Of course, having a fight with him the night before, doesn't do such good things for Kelsey's image as she is now the number one suspect.

Of course, with a slew of reenactors and visitors alike, Kelsey has a murder investigation on her hands and no lack of suspects. Who had means, opportunity and motive to want Maxwell dead? It's up to Kelsey to find out before she ends up in jail for a murder she didn't commit. I adored the setting of this book. I would love to be able to have a place like this nearby so that I could visit. The author did a fantastic job of creating a scene that sucked me right in. However, the mystery was a little obvious and it was easy for me to figure out the murderer. 

I enjoyed this book somewhat, but would have liked to have seen a little more complex of a mystery. If I can figure it out before the conclusions, well that means I am going to be disappointed. I typically love this author's works, but this one was just okay for me. I think I was expecting so much more and was a little upset that I didn't really get what I was expecting. Not a bad debut overall, just needed a little more plot and suspense to make me fall in love with it. Hoping the next one is better and a little more engaging.

Overall Rating: 2.5

Title:  The Final Reveille
Author:  Amanda Flower
Series:  Living History Museum Mystery #1
Publisher:  Midnight Ink
Publication Date:  May 8, 2015
Pages:  336
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

About the Author:

Amanda Flower, a three-time Agatha Award-nominated mystery author, started her writing career in elementary schools when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris whee;. She knew at that moment she'd found her calling of making people laugh with her words. She also writes mysteries as national bestselling author Isabella Alan. In addition to being an author, Amanda is an academic librarian for a small college near Cleveland.

This has been a stop on The Final Reveille blog tour hosted by Great Escape Virtual Book Tours. Make sure that you stop by all the stops as well. The author is giving away one copy of The Final Reveille, one paperback copy of one of her Isabella Alan mysteries, and an Ohio country gift. Good luck!

May 7--Melina's Book Blog
May 8--Shelley's Book Case
May 8--View from the Birdhouse
May 9--Booklady's Booknotes
May 9--Lisa Ks Book Reviews
May 10--Marie's Cozy Corner
May 10--Nadaness in Motion
May 11--readalot
May 11--Christa Reads and Writes
May 12--Laura's Interests
May 12--3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy & Sissy, Too
May 13--Brooke Blogs
May 13--LibriAmoriMiei
May 14--Carstairs Considers
May 14--Frankie Bow
May 15--StoreyBook Reviews
May 16--Girl Lost In a Book
May 16--MysteriesEtc

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through Great Escape Virtual Book Tours and Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Review: Murder at Beechwood by Alyssa Maxwell

Description (from cover):

'For Newport, Rhode Island's high society, the summer of 1896 brings lawn parties, sailboat races...and murder.

Having turned down the proposal of Derrick Andrews, Emma Cross has no imminent plans for matrimony--let alone motherhood. But when she discovers an infant left on her doorstep, she naturally takes the child into her care. Using her influence as a cousin to the Vanderbilts and a society page reporter for the Newport Observer, Emma launches a discreet search for the baby's mother.

One of her first stops is a lawn party at Mrs. Caroline Astor's Beechwood estate. But an idyllic summer's day is soon clouded by tragedy. During a sailboat race, textile magnate Virgil Monroe falls overboard. There are prompt accusations of foul play--and even Derrick Andrews falls under suspicion. Deepening the intrigue, a telltale slip of lace may link the abandoned child to the drowned man. But as Emma navigates dark undercurrents of scandalous indiscretions and violent passions, she'll need to watch her step to ensure that no one lowers the boom on her...'

My thoughts:

I have returned to summer in Newport, Rhode Island with my dear friends the Vanderbilts and the Astors. Emma Cross is a lesser relation to the glorious Vanderbilt clan and she resides in Newport year round. She is surprised one morning to wake up to find a baby on her doorstep. Apparently, word is in town that she takes in people cast out from society, so it's no wonder that this baby ends up at her house. It of course is a little shocking to Emma, as who wouldn't want to keep their baby, but nevertheless, she welcomes the young child into her home. Of course, it doesn't end there and Emma attends a afternoon party at the Astor's estate of Beechwood. While she is there a boat race turns tragic and a man is thrown overboard and presumed to be dead. Nothing makes sense and soon Emma finds herself at the helm of a murder investigation

I have continuously sung praises for this book series. I adore this series, the characters and the historical detail. I simply cannot get enough. Maxwell creates a story rich in detail and suspense and it is impossible to put down. The amount of research that this author does for these novels shows on every single page. The author stays true to real events that occurred in the lives of the Vanderbilts and the Astors as true as she can. She, of course, has to take literary liberties where necessary, but nevertheless, the story is flawless and completely engaging. Emma is humble despite her families richness and glamor and I truly enjoy her for that. She is the anchor in the storm and she can always be counted on to be reliable and level headed. 

I've said it one time before, you are missing out on a phenomenal series if you have not read this series yet. I always know that when I read a book in this series that I will not be disappointed and I will always end the installment wanting more. Another job well done by a new and emerging literary force in the historical mystery genre. Do not miss out on this author as I have a feeling that she has a lot more in store for her readers and for the series and I cannot simply wait.

Overall Rating: 5+

Title:  Murder at Beechwood
Author:  Alyssa Maxwell
Series:  Gilded Newport Mystery #3
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  May 26, 2015
Pages:  304
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Review: Murder on Amsterdam Avenue by Victoria Thompson

Description (from cover):

'In this Gaslight Mystery from the national bestselling author of Murder in Murray Hill, midwife Sarah Brandt and Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy investigate foul play in the secretive high-society world of nineteenth-century New York City...

In the midst of Sarah and Frank's wedding preparations, Sarah accompanies her mother on a condolence call to the Upper West Side, where Charles Fairfax, the son of family friends, has died unexpectedly after suffering from a mysterious disease. It is a tragic and all too common story--or so it seems. Charles' father asks to speak with Sarah privately. He believes his son was poisoned and would like Sarah and Frank to look into the matter with the utmost discretion. 

Putting their own personal affairs on hold, Sarah and Frank soon learn that not everyone wants to know more about Charles' death, particularly if he was murdered. As they unravel secrets that reach back to the War Between the States, they also discover that they are in the company of a very present danger...'

My thoughts:

I hate it when a good book has to come to an end. Frank and Sarah feel like old friends and when the book ends, I tend to be a little sad. Normally, a book in this series is released once a year, but I am in luck as another installment is due to be released in November of this year. So not quite so long to wait, but I still will have to wait a couple of months. I adored this book. I adore this series. I get my hands on the latest installment as soon as they are released. This is a series that I willingly will spend money on in order to read as soon as possible. Victoria Thompson is a phenomenal writer and I simply cannot get enough of her books. I love historical mysteries and this author has to be one of my favorites in that genre. 

Frank and Sarah are in the midst of wedding planning. They have no plans to involve themselves in a murder investigation, but of course, one finds them. Sarah is visiting family friends with her mother when she learns that a childhood friend has died suddenly and under quite mysterious circumstances. When Charles' father asks for her and Malloy to investigate, well she feels like she must. Frank and Sarah have to deal with a high society family who likes to brush scandal and secrets under the rug where no one can learn about them. But it seems that those secrets are just dying to come to light. They must use their sharp wits and eye for detail to make sure that they solve the crime and put a murderer to justice.

I breezed right through this book. It was such a fun and entertaining read. This book ends on a good note and I cannot wait to see what the next installment will bring for my favorite characters. I have no idea how Ms. Thompson does it, but with each book the story grows and the excitement never fades. A lot of series have a problem of becoming stale after awhile and this is most definitely not a series like that. If you have not discovered this series already, I beg yourself to ask yourself why would you want to miss out on something so great?

Overall Rating: 5+

Title:  Murder on Amsterdam Avenue
Author:  Victoria Thompson
Series:  Gaslight Mystery #17
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  May 5, 2015
Pages:  304
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was purchased myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Review: Anything But Civil by Anna Loan-Wilsey

Description (from cover):

'Traveling secretary Hattie Davish and her trusty typewriter alight on a small town in Illinois, where the Civil War may be long over, but certain mysteries refuse to be buried...

Hattie Davish is delighted to be ably assisting her wealthy employer, Sir Arthur Windome-Greene, an English scholar who is fluent in Civil War history and hard at work putting together a definitive biography of General Cornelius Starrett. Their research takes them to Galena, Illinois, where they quickly learn that time has done little to heal old battle wounds. District and betrayal seem to linger in everyone's minds, none more so than the General's pompous son Henry. And Hattie is certain he has something to do with a string of bizarre incidents in town--especially when he turns up dead...

Between her work for Sir Arthur, preparing for Christmas, and unscheduled visitors from her past, Hattie hardly has time to investigate a murder, but soon she is lost in a labyrinth of secrets and deceit that leads to more questions than answers. Henry had a knack for finding trouble and making enemies, and there's no shortage of suspects--including Sir Arthur. Now, Hattie must uncover the truth while maintaining her civility in a most uncivil situation...'

My thoughts:

I read A Lack of Temperance a couple of years ago and found that I quite enjoyed that mystery. So when I had the chance to read the second installment in this series, I picked it up. I really like Hattie's character as she seems so intelligent and down to earth despite having to deal with the societal stigmas that the time period placed on women. Hattie is a traveling secretary, and however much that might set her apart from other domestic help, she is still looked upon as sort of a maid. She continuously has to struggle to set herself apart from the domestics and prove that she is smart and can take care of business on her own. Of course, during that time period, women were not seen as being involved in the workforce and their place was at their homes caring for their families. Of course, Hattie is not what society wishes her to be and she stands out.

Hattie stands out even more when she is tasked with solving a murder mystery. Sir Arthur places his trust in her to discover what happened and it seems that everyone around her has a problem accepting Hattie's intelligence. Of course, having a well-known scholar like Sir Arthur backing you, it seems that you can accomplish a lot more. This book is well rooted in the history of the Civil War and it was an interesting read on the historical level. I did spend the first part of this book being a little confused as there were a lot of characters and people to keep track of. I really have to say that is the part that I most disliked about this book, but other than that, I found myself to be entertained and engaged.

I love historical mysteries and I am so glad that I have found this series. I really like Hattie's character, but I wish that I could learn more about her. Hattie is cloaked in her own personal mystery involving her own past, and I am dying to learn what secrets she holds. I am hoping that the author will see fit to reveal those issues to the readers in the next installments to come. Overall, this book was a fun and light read and I found it to be very entertaining. Cannot wait to read the next one.

Overall Rating: 3.5

Title:  Anything But Civil
Author:  Anna Loan-Wilsey
Series:  Hattie Davish Mystery #2
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  September 24, 2013
Pages:  310
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Review: An Early Wake by Sheila Connolly

Description (from cover):

'Pub owner Maura Donovan may have Irish kin, but she doesn't seem to have the luck of the Irish. Who could have foreseen that bringing live music back to Sullivan's Pub would lead to a dead musician?

Summer is ending in County Cork, Ireland, and with it the tourist season. Expat Maura Donovan is determined to keep Sullivan's Pub in the black as the days grow shorter--but how? When she hears that the place was once a hot spot for Irish musicians who'd come play in the back room, she wonders if bringing back live music might be Sullivan's salvation.

As word gets out, legendary musicians begin to appear at the pub, and the first impromptu jam session brings in scores of patrons. But things hit a sour note when Maura finds a dead musician in the back room the next morning. It's going to take more than a pint and a good think to force a slew of potential suspects to face the music.'

My thoughts:

I personally tend to enjoy mysteries that take me to another place. This book is such a book. The setting is in a small country town in Ireland and features Maura Donovan, an ex-pat American who has inherited a little pub in small town Leap. Maura is still adjusting to her new surroundings and to the idea of being a pub owner. She is determined to make Sullivan's Pub survive and when a visitor plants a seed in her mind, she runs with it. Irish musicians used to use Sullivan's as a place to hang out and have jam sessions for the fun of it and she is determined to see if she can bring back the old magic to the pub. Of course, having a little extra cash flow doesn't hurt anything. That is until someone ends up dead.

I tried really hard to get into this book, but I struggled with it. I loved the setting, but to be honest, that was about all. The mystery was a little nonexistent and disappointing. There were hardly any clues or suspects and the solution was just lame. I prefer to have a mystery that keeps me on my toes and guessing until the very end. This just seemed like a story that just happened to have someone turn up dead in it. I was highly disappointed in this book and was expecting so much more. I hate when you love one aspect of the book and the rest of it doesn't really live up to your expectations.

It seems that I really didn't enjoy the first in this series and I enjoyed the second. I am sensing a trend here. Maybe I wasn't supposed to enjoy this book and the next one will be a little more entertaining. At least that is what I am hoping for. This author is a well-known cozy mystery author, so maybe it is just this series or this book, but I feel like I am missing something here.

Overall Rating: 1.5

Title:  An Early Wake
Author:  Sheila Connolly
Series:  County Cork Mystery #3
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  February 3, 2015
Pages:  304
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was purchased by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.
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