Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: Murder in the Afternoon by Frances Brody

Description (from cover):

'An intricate plot in the post-WWI English countryside and Frances Brody's 'refreshingly complex heroine' (Kirkus) combine in Murder in the Afternoon, an absorbing mystery.

Dead one minute...

Young Harriet and her brother Austen have always been scared of the quarry where their stone mason father works. So when they find him dead on the cold ground, they rush off quickly to look for some help.

Alive the next?...

When help arrives, however, the quarry is deserted and there is no sign of the body. Were the children mistaken? Is their father not dead? Did he simply get up and run away?

A sinister disappearing act...

It seems like another unusual case requiring the expertise of Kate Shackleton--and Mary Jane, the children's mother, is adamant that only she can help. But Mary Jane is hiding something--a secret from Kate's past that raises the stakes and puts both Kate and her family at risk.'

My thoughts:

I discovered this series a couple of years ago as it was recommended to me because I enjoyed the Maisie Dobb's series. I am so glad that I found something similar, yet different at the same time to enjoy. Kate Shackleton's character reminds me somewhat of Maisie Dobbs, but at the same time, she is her own character and not someone that the reader will not enjoy. She is smart, sassy and clever and she uses these talents to help solve mysteries. However, this mystery hits Kate a little too close to home and it is interesting how the author shows us a side of the character that we haven't seen before. 

Kate is woken up in the middle of the night by Mary Jane, whose husband has gone missing. Kate opens the door to Mary Jane and listens to her story not knowing what the impact will have on her own life. Kate cannot refuse to help Mary Jane and is soon tramping across the English countryside to discover just what happened to Mary Jane's husband. She encounters Mary Jane's children and builds a relationship with them that spurs her to action. Kate must learn to separate her heart and her mind in this mystery in order to stay one step ahead of the game.

This was a nice little cozy read that kept me immensely entertained. I have really come to enjoy this series in its own right and have really stopped myself from comparing it to the Maisie Dobbs series. They are very similar, but the characters are the main difference. The author has created a mystery series that has intrigued me and one that I will stick with. Can't wait to read the next installment in the Kate Shackleton mystery series and find out what she gets herself into next.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  Murder in the Afternoon
Author:  Frances Brody
Series:  Kate Shackleton Mystery #3
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  February 11, 2014
Pages:  400
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.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: London by Edward Rutherfurd

Description (from cover):

'With its fast-moving plots, packed with information, London tells a two-thousand year tale of families in England's capital, from Roman to present times.

Segovax, a Celtic boy with webbed fingers and a white flash in his hair, who tries to save his father from Julius Caesar and his Roman legions, is the ancestor of both the poor Doggets and the aristocratic Duckets., Saxon Bulls and Carpenters, Viking Barnikels, Norman Silversleeves, Flemings from Flanders, Merediths from Wales, the Protestant Penny family, Huguenots from France, Scottish Forsyths--as they interact and intermarry, reflect the rich genealogy of the British, a nation of immigrants.

As the city grows, we witness London's Roman amphitheatre, Chaucer's London Bridge, the building of the Tower of London, of Shakespeare's Globe and might St. Pauls, the growth of the mean streets of Dickens and the fashionable West End.

The family saga involves the characters in the Norman Conquest, the massacre of the Jews, magna carta and Parliament's rise, and the Peasant's Revolt. We watch the martyrdom of St Thomas More, the beheading of Charles I, the visit of Pocahontas, and the sailing of the Mayflower. We experience the Plague and Fire of London, and Hitler's Blitz. Through Rutherfurd's rich research, we learn about the workings of medieval whorehouses, the College of Heralds, cockney rhyming slang, the South Sea Bubble, the great run on the banks of 1825, and the scandal caused by the suffragettes.

Aristocrats and stonemasons, brewers and grocers, alderman and prostitutes, forgers and bodysnatchers, every class and type is to be found in the great river of life that, like the river Thames itself, flows ceaselessly though London.'

My thoughts:

This book is massive. I love Edward Rutherfurd's way of weaving history and storytelling, but man, his books are huge. This one topped out at 1000+ pages and it took me forever to read this one. Of course, it would have went a lot easier, had I not been in the process of buying my first house and going on a work trip to Puerto Rico. That really didn't help the fact that it took me so long to read this one. If you don't mind the size of the book or the daunting nervousness of reading a book this huge, this is an excellent read if you want to learn more about the history of London. I am an anglophile and anything having to do with London or England, makes me very excited to read. 

At times with this one, I got confused with who was who and how everyone was related. Of course, this probably had a lot to do with the fact that I went a couple of days without picking up this book to read and not so much the author's fault. There are a lot of characters and families to keep up with though, so putting this book down and not reading for a few days is not recommended. Rutherfurd offers his readers a slew of historical information that overly intrigued me as a history lover. I feel like I got something out of this book with historical knowledge and have to say that this author is a fantastic story teller. He uses real historical events and people and weaves a story based around them. I find this to be utterly amazing.

If you want to read something that is based on real history, that shows a lot of research and dedication, then this is definitely a book for you. Don't expect that this one will be one that you will breeze right through. There is a lot of information to learn and you should take the time to savor all of the rich history and detail that this author provides to the reader. Another wonderful read by Edward Rutherfurd.

Overall Rating: 4

Title:  London
Author:  Edward Rutherfurd
Series:  N/a
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Publication Date:  October 29, 2002 (Reprint)
Pages:  1152
Genre:  Historical Fiction
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.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Blog Tour Post & Review: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman by Tessa Arlen

Description (from cover):

'Lady Montfort has been planning her annual summer costume ball for months, and with scrupulous care. Pulling together the food, flowers and a thousand other details for one of the most significant social occasions of the year is her happily accepted responsibility. But when her husband's degenerate nephew is found murdered, it's more than the ball that is ruined. In fact, Lady Montfort fears that the official police enquiry, driven by petty snobbery and class prejudice, is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect.

Taking matters into her own hands, the rather over-imaginative countess enlists the help of her pragmatic housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case, track down the women that vanished the night of the murder, and clear her son's name. As the two women search for a runaway housemaid and a headstrong young woman, they unearth the hidden lives of Lady Montfort's close friends, servants and family and discover the identity of a murderer hiding in plain sight.

In this enchanting debut sure to appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, Tessa Arlen draws readers into a world exclusively enjoyed by the rich, privileged classes and suffered by the men and women who served them. Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is an elegant mystery filled with intriguing characters and fascinating descriptions of Edwardian life--a superb treat for those who love British novels.'

My thoughts:

I love a good cozy historical mystery and this one was a treat to read. It is set around the same time that Downton Abbey is set and it was nice to read while I am waiting for the hit show to return. I particularly like to read books set in this time period, because England has just left the Victorian era and modernization is taking a hold. It is interesting to see how the landed gentry and people who have relied on them for hundreds of years have to adapt to the changing world. This author did a fantastic job of creating a sense of the time period in this novel and it was an enjoyable read.

Teddy, Lord Montfort's nephew, has been found dead on his estate under mysterious circumstances. It seems that everyone had motive and means and no one liked Teddy. Teddy was known to be a troublemaker and to always be mixed in with the wrong sort of people. No one is really shocked by his death, but they all want to know who the murderer was and if it was someone that they know. Teddy is killed during the Lady Montfort's summer ball and all sorts of aristocrats are in attendance. It seems like everyone is a suspect and no one knows who the actual murderer is.

Like I stated before, I enjoyed this novel. I thought that it was well-written and enjoyable. It was a little long in some areas and there were parts where I would have enjoyed some more elaboration, but overall, I found this to be a delightful debut novel. I am interested to see what the author has in store for these characters, as I know she has plans to continue the series. I think the series needs a little work, but I typically state that for most debut novels. Overall, I think it was a fine attempt and I am anxious to see what this author comes up with next.

Overall Rating: 4

Title:  Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman
Author:  Tessa Arlen
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  January 6, 2015
Pages:  320
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

About the Author:

Tessa Arlen, the daughter of a British diplomat, had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Cairo, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as an H.R. recruiter for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is Tessa's first novel. She lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington.

This has been a stop on the Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman Blog Tour hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. Make sure that you make a stop on all the tour sites as some of the stops are giving away copies of this book!

Monday, January 5
Review at Reading the Past
Review at Back Porchervations
Review & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf

Tuesday, January 6
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 7
Review & Giveaway at To Read, Or Not to Read
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Thursday, January 8
Review at Buried Under Books

Friday, January 9
Review at Mel’s Shelves
Guest Post on The Writing Desk
Interview at Back Porchervations

Saturday, January 10
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Monday, January 12
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, January 13
Review at Girl Lost in a Book
Spotlight & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, January 14
Review & Giveaway at The Book Binder’s Daughter

Thursday, January 15
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Friday, January 16
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Monday, January 19
Review at Beth’s Book Book

Tuesday, January 20
Review at The Lit Bitch
Spotlight & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, January 21
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Thursday, January 22
Review at Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Monday, January 26
Review at A Literary Vacation
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Tuesday, January 27
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Wednesday, January 28
Review at A Book Geek

Thursday, January 29
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Saturday, January 31
Review & Giveaway at The Calico Critic

Monday, February 2
Review at Book Nerd

Tuesday, February 3
Spotlight at I Heart Reading

Thursday, February 5
Review at Layered Pages

Friday, February 6
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

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

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Blog Tour Stop, Review & Giveaway: Feta Attraction by Susannah Hardy

Description (from cover):

'Georgie Nikolopatos manages the Bonaparte House, a Greek restaurant and historic landmark in beautiful upstate New York rumored to possess ghosts and hidden treasure. But when her husband disappears and her main competitor is found dead, it's up to Georgie to solve a big fat Greek murder. 

With her husband, Spiro, gone for days on one of his trips, Georgie has her hands full running the restaurant and dealing with the crew of the TV show Ghost Squad, called in by Spiro to inspect the house for haunting. So when she has a chance to take a boating excursion on the St. Lawrence River with her friend Keith Morgan, she jumps on it. But their idyll is quickly ruined when they discover the body of rival restaurant owner Domenic "Big Dom" DiTomasso floating in the water.

When the police start asking questions, it doesn't help that Spiro can't be found--and with Georgie on their suspect list, it's up to her to find her missing husband and find out who killed Big Dom before someone else's order is up.'

My thoughts:

I have some serious issues when it comes to the first book in a new series. I never can seem to get into them and it tends to take more than one book to warm me up to the series. It seems to be an endless problem that I have continuously as a vigorous reader. Usually, by the third book or so, I can usually tell whether I want to continue with the series or not. If I can't wait to see what is in store for a character and it feels like reuniting with some friends that I haven't seen in some time, then usually it's a keeper for me. I have to say, I was skeptical going into reading this one. Would I like it, hate it or just tolerate it?

Well, I was shocked to find that I loved this book. The first book and I am hooked. The main character isn't the brightest crayon in the box, but you know what, it really worked for me. I enjoyed the author's writing style and I found myself laughing at the whims and silliness of the characters. Georgie isn't your average sleuth who is just nosy and too smart for their own good. She seems so humble and down to earth, that it's really hard not to be able to relate to her and enjoy her antics. She has an eccentric Greek mother-in-law and a husband who wants out of the marriage as bad as she does. I have to say that the author hit one out of the park with this one and I know that I will be continuing with this series. In fact, I can't wait for the next one to be released.

The mystery conclusion was a little bit of a shocker for me too. I was stunned to learn who was behind the murder in this book. I have said it a million times, and I will probably say it a million more, but if an author can keep me guessing and then stun me with the revelation, well that's a great mystery in my book. It seems that there is no lack of cozy mysteries that feature food or a restaurant in their novels, but this one was different. It had it's own color and I was thrilled to have read it. If you are looking for a cozy mystery that will knock your socks off, then please do yourself a favor and do not skip this one.

Overall Rating: 5

Title:  Feta Attraction
Author:  Susannah Hardy
Series:  Greek to Me Mystery #1
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  January 6, 2015
Pages:  304
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

About the Author:

Susannah Hardy is a member of the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime, the Romance Writers of America and the Connecticut Chapter of RWA. Susannah is originally from Northern New York State (Way north! Only a few miles from the Canadian border), graduated from St. Lawrence University, and now lives in Connecticut with her husband, teenaged son, and Elvira the Wonder Cat.

This has been a stop of the Feta Attraction blog tour hosted by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. Make sure that you stop by the other stops!

January 3 – Community Bookstop
January 4 – Cozy Up With Kathy
January 5 – Carstairs Considers
January 6 – deal sharing aunt
January 7 – a chick who reads
January 9 – Griperang’s Bookmarks
January 11 – Girl Lost In a Book

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

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Review: Maple Mayhem by Jessie Crockett

Description (from cover):

'In Sugar Grove, New Hampshire, people are serious about their maple syrup--especially Dani Greene, whose family owns the Greener Pastures Sugarhouse. But when murder disrupts the small-town sweetness, Dani pores over clues to draw out a killer...

Despite being a fourth-generation syrup maker, Dani isn't stuck in the past. She's starting a new agricultural cooperative that reduces costs for every syrup producer who joins. Everyone considers it a sweet deal except the die-hard curmudgeon Frank Lemieux--and when a saboteur starts targeting supporters, everyone suspects Frank.

But it turns out they're barking up the wrong tree when Dani finds Frank murdered in his own sugarhouse. As the sabotage continues, she realizes that Frank was framed. With the help of her family, and a handsome official from the Fish and Game Department, Dani must catch the killer before another syrup maker kicks the bucket.'

My thoughts:

Who would have thought that I would enjoy reading a cozy mystery about maple syrup? I mean it does sound kind of boring. However, the way Jessie Crockett writes has me coming back for more. I dearly enjoyed Drizzled with Death, the first book in this series and you can read my review here. As in the first book, Dani's character is hard not to like. She is a short and sassy sleuth, but she really has a big heart. She cares deeply about the small town of Sugar Grove, New Hampshire and her family's maple syrup making business. In this book, she is trying to create a cooperative for the local maple syrup makers that will benefit everyone involved. However, someone is desperately trying to make sure that it doesn't happen.

Dani is shocked when she discovers the body of Frank Lemieux, the lead complainer of the cooperative. She thought that Frank was behind a string of sabotage, but realizes after his murder, that someone else is being sinister. Who would be against something that could be so positive for the small community? As Dani tries to wrap her mind around this, she soon finds that in order to save her dream of the cooperative, she has to solve who is behind the sabotage for herself. Using her smart wits and her friends and family to help, she sets out on a hunt for a murderer.

As I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, I had a feeling that I would enjoy this one as well. I was not disappointed. Crockett delivered in this book just as she did in the first. I never thought that reading about maple syrup and how it is made and how it is such a way of life for all of the people involved, could be such an interesting thing to read about. If you have been looking for something quaint and charming to read, well this just might be something worth looking into.

Overall Rating: 5+

Title:  Maple Mayhem
Author:  Jessie Crockett
Series:  Sugar Grove Mystery #2
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  July 1, 2014
Pages:  305
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

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

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review: Royal Inheritance by Kate Emerson

Description (from cover):

'Audrey Malte is illegitimate, though her beloved father--tailor to King Henry VIII--prefers to call her "merry-begot," saying there was much joy in her making. Then Audrey visits the royal court with her father, and the whispers start about Audrey's distinctive Tudor-red hair and the kindness that the king shows her.

Did dashing Henry perhaps ask Malte to raise a royal love child? The king's favor, however, brings Audrey constraint as well as opportunity. Though she holds tender feelings for her handsome music tutor, John Harrington, the king is pressuring her to marry into the family of treacherous, land-hungry Sir Richard Southwell.

 Audrey determines to learn the truth about her birth at last. The answer may give her the freedom to give her heart as she chooses...or it could ensnare her deeper in an enemy's ruthless scheme.'

My thoughts:

To be honest, I am surprised that I actually decided to read yet another book about the infamous Tudors. I have spent many years reading numerous historical fiction novels based on this notorious family. Almost to the point, that I am entirely sick of the whole bunch and cannot fathom reading another book about them. I was given a chance to read this book by the publisher and even though the thought of reading about the Tudors again literally makes me want to hurl, I decided to give this one a chance. Historical fiction novels about the Tudors seem to be utterly distasteful to me, but I can't seem to give them up. 

So I embarked on reading this book with the thought in my head that I would hate it and would despise it by the time I finished it. However, this book held many surprises. Even though this book is set in the Tudor era and features them, it really didn't focus so much on them as I thought it would. This book featured Audrey Malte and her "adopted" family and her interactions with the Tudors, but it was actually tastefully done. It wasn't too much and it really didn't make me want to toss it across the room in frustration. I actually enjoyed this one. Audrey's character is one that is hard not to like and the author has a way with weaving a story that left me entranced and breezing along through the pages.

If I had to read another book about the Tudors, this was the perfect book in my mind to do so. I simply couldn't put it down as Audrey's character was so entrancing and engaging that I just had to see how things turned out. It was interesting to learn at the end that she was a real person and that she lived somewhat like the author portrayed. I am so glad that I gave this book a chance as I simply wasn't disappointed. I enjoy reading Emerson's books as they always seem to be really good and entertaining reads. I was actually impressed by this novel.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  Royal Inheritance
Author:  Kate Emerson
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Gallery Books
Publication Date:  September 24, 2013
Pages:  344
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

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

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Review: The Abbot's Agreement by Mel Starr

Description (from cover):

'A new and disturbing puzzle for the medieval surgeon-turned-sleuth...

Master Hugh de Singleton is making his way toward Oxford when he discovers the corpse of a young Benedictine not half a mile from the nearby abbey.

The abbey's novice master confirms the boy's identity; it is John, one of three novices. He had gone missing four days previous, and yet his corpse is fresh. There has been plague in the area, but this was not the cause of death--the lad has been stabbed in the back. To Hugh's sinking heart, the abbot has a commission for him.

With realistic medical procedures of the period, droll medieval wit, and a consistent underlying sense of Christian compassion, the seventh in the chronicles of Hugh de Singleton will delight medieval history and crime fiction fans alike.'

My thoughts:

Long ago when I first picked up this book series, I was very impressed. I haven't read a lot of medieval mysteries and when I discovered this series, well I was ecstatic. I love the medieval historical period and I love a good cozy mystery. This was the best of both worlds. I quickly read through the first four books and knew that I had found a new series to follow. I went a couple of years before picking up the fifth book and was surprised at how easily I picked everything back up. Mel Starr does a fantastic job of creating memorable characters and plot lines that it was easy for me to pick up where I left off. 

In this book, we see Hugh is traveling once again and he stumbles across yet another dead body. Of course, his inquisitive mind cannot rest and soon he finds himself being asked by the abbot of a monastery to look into the death of its novice. Hugh's sense of justice and need to discover a murderer lead him on a merry chase. Of course, nothing ever goes according to plan and Hugh soon finds himself in trouble for heresy. This makes the murder investigation next to impossible, but if you know Hugh de Singleton, he always finds a way. 

I enjoyed this book a lot more than the two I have recently read. This book puts me in mind of the earlier books in this series and what drew me into it in the first place. Although, I do like the books that are set in Bampton, Hugh's hometown, more so than the one's where he is traveling, this book still was really good. I can't wait to see what is next in the series for Hugh and his friends and family. I always seem to give this series the benefit of the doubt, and in this case, I am so glad that I did. Another remarkable and engaging read by this author that I found hard to put down.

Overall Rating: 4

Title:  The Abbot's Agreement
Author:  Mel Starr
Series:  The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon #7
Publisher:  Lion Fiction
Publication Date:  October 8, 2014
Pages:  252
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.
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