Sunday, January 3, 2016

Review: Death at the Abbey by Christine Trent

Description (from cover):

'While on a much-needed respite with her husband Sam in Nottinghamshire, undertaker Violet Harper is summoned to Welbeck Abbey by the Fifth Duke of Portland to prepare a body. His Grace is known as the "mad duke," and Violet has more than an inkling of why when she arrives at the grand estate and discovers that the corpse in question is that of the duke's favorite raven, Aristotle. Many of the duke's servants believe a dead raven is a harbinger of doom, and the peculiar peer hopes to allay their superstitious fears with an elaborate funeral for his feathered friend.

But Aristotle's demise is soon followed by the violent murder of one of the young workers on the estate. Wishing to avoid any whisper of scandal, the reclusive duke implores Violet to conduct her own discreet investigation. In her hunt for evidence, Violet wonders if the manner of the raven's death might provide a crucial clue in solving the crime...before someone else--including herself--risks an untimely fate.'

My thoughts:

I like this series because it is dark and unusual. Not many people can write about death and undertaking and not make it morose and depressing, but this author can. Violet Harper is a well-known female undertaker in Victorian England. She has a knack for solving murder mysteries while seeing to her undertaking duties and it is no surprise when the Duke of Portland asks her to see to the funeral of his pet raven. The death of the raven is a catalyst that sets off several murders on the Duke of Portland's property. Violet is in perfect position to assist the duke with murder investigations.

This book is the fifth installment of the Lady of the Ashes Mystery series. I enjoyed the other books in this series much more than this one. This one wasn't as well developed as its predecessors and I was a little disappointed in the outcome of this book. It wasn't a bad read because I have come to enjoy reading about the characters, it just wasn't up to par as the others in this series. I love the idea of a Victorian undertaker who solves mysteries. I think it is a brilliant idea and one that merits interest. 

Not the greatest in the series, but a good read nonetheless that had me wishing for a little something more. I think that the author plans to continue the series and I hope that the next one is a little better. I would hate to think that a series I enjoyed was starting to become a little stale. Not quite ready to let this series go yet, but will need a little more something to endear me to this series again.

Overall Rating: 2.5

Title:  Death at the Abbey
Author:  Christine Trent
Series:  Lady of Ashes Mystery #5
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  October 27, 2015
Pages:  432
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.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Review: Writing All Wrongs by Ellery Adams

Description (from cover):

'The New York Times bestselling author of Lethal Letters returns to the North Carolina coast, where aspiring novelist and amateur sleuth Olivia Limoges discovers that crime doesn't take a vacation...

After Olivia and Chief Rawlings enjoy a brief honeymoon on Palmetto Island, they're joined by the rest of the Bayside Book Writers for the Legends of Coastal Carolina Festival. The festival's highlight is Silas Black, celebrity screenwriter and TV producer, who is currently working on a popular show in North Carolina.

As the festival gets under way, a trickster seems to be bringing famous local ghost stories to life. But when the body of a woman close to Black is found on the beach, Olivia and her friends must deduce who on the island could resort to murder--before the sands of time run out for someone else...'

My thoughts:

I have long been a fan of this series. The Books by the Bay Mystery series is set in my home state of North Carolina and features detective extraordinaire Olivia Limoges. Olivia is from Oyster Bay, North Carolina and she and her new husband, Chief Rawlings, are honeymooning on Palmetto Island off the North Carolina coast. Olivia and the Chief arrive to Palmetto island and begin learning about the Island and its historic past. It seems that ghost legends are all the rage and even more so when someone begins reenacting the local ghost stories. Olivia puts this down as a prankster with too much time on their hands, but when a woman turns up dead on the beach, well that changes everything.

A woman who has been linked to celebrity, Silas Black, is found murdered and people are starting to act very suspicious. Who wanted this woman dead and why? Olivia and her friends embark on a new murder mystery and learn some interesting things along the way. I enjoy this series immensely because it is one that continues to draw me back in as a reader. I love the setting, the characters and the way this author writes. With all those factors in the mix, this book was sure to delight this reader. I was not disappointed. I am always happy to return to Oyster Bay and catch up with the characters.

If you have not discovered this series, I highly recommend that you do. Adams is a fantastic cozy mystery writer and I love a lot of her different series. If you like this author's other series, then this one is sure not to disappoint. An engaging cozy mystery that had me guessing until the end and reading late into the night.

Overall Rating: 5

Title:  Writing All Wrongs
Author:  Ellery Adams
Series:  Books by the Bay Mystery #7
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  November 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.

Review: Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey by Countess of Carnarvon

Description (from cover):

'Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the setting for Julian Fellowes' Emmy Award-winning PBS show Downton Abbey, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Catherine Wendell. In this transporting companion piece to the New York Times best seller Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, Catherine, a beautiful and spirited American woman who married Lady Almina's son, the man who would become the 6th Earl of Carnarvon, presides over the grand estate during a tumultuous time for the British aristocracy. Following the First World War, many of the great houses of England faded as their owners fortunes declined in the new political and social world of the 1920's and 1930's. As war loomed, Highclere's survival as the family home of the Carnarvons was again in the balance--as was peace between the nations of Europe.

Using copious materials--including diaries and scrapbooks--from the castle's archives, the current Countess of Carnarvon brings alive a very modern story in a beautiful and fabled setting, paying particular attention to the staff who provide Highclere Castle with continuity between generations.'

My thoughts:

I am not a huge fan of nonfiction books, but when it comes to history and clever writing, well I can read anything. This book was a great read and it was jam packed with information and historical details. I thought that Catherine Wendell was an interesting person and I enjoyed learning about her life. Catherine was born in America and her parents have taken her on an European tour in the hopes of finding a titled husband. As luck would have it, Catherine ends up meeting and falling in love with the Earl of Carnarvon. This book is the story of Catherine and the 6th Earl of Carnarvon and it was wonderful to read from the first page until the very last.

I have read The Countess of Carnarvon's previous book Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey and enjoyed that one immensely and knew that I would enjoy this one as well. I find it interesting that the current Countess of Carnarvon would want to write about her family's past. I also find it interesting that they have so much information about their ancestors. Highclere Castle has become famous over the past couple of years due to the filming of Downton Abbey and I like learning about the castle's storied past. 

If you love Downton Abbey and want to learn more about the castle where the series takes place, I would highly recommend this book and its predecessor as good reads to inquire about. The writing is engaging, creative and not one bit boring. The people that this book is focused upon are interesting and I found learning about them to be quite fun.

Overall Rating: 5

Title:  Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey
Author:  Countess of Carnarvon
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Broadway Books
Publication Date:  October 29, 2013
Pages:  368
Genre:  Nonfiction
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, December 8, 2015

Review: Away in a Manger by Rhys Bowen

Description (from cover):

'It's Christmastime in 1905 New York City, and for once, Molly Murphy Sullivan is looking forward to the approaching holidays. She has a family of her own now: she and Daniel have a baby son and twelve-year-old Bridie is living with them as their ward. As Molly and the children listen to carolers in the street, they hear a lovely voice, the voice of an angel, and see a beggar girl huddled in a doorway, singing "Away in a Manger." Bridie is touched by the girl's ragged clothes and wants to help her out if they can. They give her a quarter, only to watch a bigger boy take it from her. But Molly discovers the boy is the girl's older brother. They've come from England and their mother has disappeared, and they're living with an aunt who mistreats them terribly.

Molly quickly realizes that these children are not the usual city waifs. They are well-spoken and clearly used to better things. So who are they? And what's happened to their mother? As Molly looks for a way to help the children and for the answers to these questions, she gets drawn into an investigation that will take her up to the highest levels of New York society.

This is another compelling and richly drawn mystery from New York Times bestseller Rhys Bowen.'

My thoughts:

The Molly Murphy mysteries have long been one of my favorites in the historical mystery genre. I love the way that Rhys Bowen writes and I know that I will never be disappointed in any of her books. I love when I find an author that I can't wait to read. I adore Bowen's other series, the Lady Georgiana mysteries as well. I like how the characters are very strong and independent women who are smart and have a knack for finding themselves in the middle of a mystery investigation. I have heard a lot of great things about this author and her series and I know why I keep coming back for me. I feel a real connection with the characters and I truly care about their development and where the author is taking them next. Since I've started this series a couple of years ago, Molly has come a long way.

In this latest installment, Molly is preparing for Christmas. She is out one day when she sees a young girl singing Christmas carols in the street. Molly gives her some money and is appalled when an older boy takes the money right out of the little girl's hand. Molly starts talking to the children and learns that they are siblings that have just arrived from England. They are staying with a relative in a boarding house and they have not seen their mother in months. Molly's curiosity is instantly piqued and she is concerned about the children's mother. Why would someone go through the trouble of bringing them across the Atlantic ocean and then just dump them on someone's doorstep? That doesn't sit well with Molly and she begins investigating the young mother's mysterious disappearance.

I enjoyed this book just like I have enjoyed all of the others in this series. As I stated before Molly has come a long way and I find it nice to see Molly in a different role. I am trying to not reveal a lot of things because I don't want to spoil the series for other readers. Bowen has done a phenomenal job of creating a series that flows well and continues from book to book in a remarkable manner. There is just something about this series that has me coming back time and time again to read a stunning tale.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  Away in a Manger
Author:  Rhys Bowen
Series:  Molly Murphy Mystery #15
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  November 17, 2015
Pages:  256
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.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Review: The Lake House by Kate Morton

Description (from cover):

'From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Secret Keeper and The Distant Hours, an intricately plotted, spellbinding new novel of heart-stopping suspense and uncovered secrets. 

Living on her family's idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure...

One midsummer's eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guest to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo's case has never been solved, through Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather's house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate--now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.

My thoughts:

Cornwall, England has been recently popping up in different places here lately. In books and television a lot here lately. There is something mystical and enchanting about Cornwall and Kate Morton has captured the essence of that in this book. A family in turmoil in wild and captivating Cornwall, England. The world as they know it has suddenly come to a screeching halt when the youngest child is kidnapped and never found. Decades pass and the mystery is still alive. What happened to young Theo Edevane? Was he killed? Kidnapped? No one knows exactly what happened. That is until London police detective, Sadie Sparrow enters the picture. Nothing and no one is what they seem and it seems that everyone is guilty.

Kate Morton has a way with words that it is almost hard to describe other than fantastic. She is an amazing storyteller and weaver of time and history. I always know that when I read one of her books that I will be traveling through time and learning about secret histories and things people have kept hidden their whole lives. Kate Morton is one of the most well-rounded authors I have read. She connects the reader with her characters and it is almost impossible to stop reading her books. I have really enjoyed every book that I have read by the author and this book was no different.

If you love a good story that weaves both the present and the olden days, then Kate Morton is definitely an author worth checking out. You should read this book if you want to find yourself indulging in a wonderful story that will keep you on the edge of your toes and have you reading late into the night because you just can't stop. I don't think that this book is my favorite of Morton's books, but it is a charming and delightful read that one will enjoy from the very first page until the very last.

Overall Rating: 5

Title:  The Lake House
Author:  Kate Morton
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Atria Books
Publication Date:  October 20, 2015
Pages:  512
Genre:  Historical Fiction
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.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Blog Tour Post & Review: The Illusion of Innocence by Jacqueline Jacques

Description (from cover):

'Three people on a crowded train, brought there by the same crime.

Archie Price, painter and police artist, blessed with a photographic memory, is traveling to Chelmsford to testify in a murder trial. The accused, Freddie Porter, is under police escort in the guard's van.Freddie's sister, Polly, is desperately trying to escape her brother's gang before they realize what she's done, unaware he's on the same train.

When the locomotive is derailed, Archie and Polly are injured, and put up by the same local family while they recover.Where is Freddie? Polly is so terrified she is driven to desperate measures and Archie finds himself being drawn into her nightmare...'

My thoughts:

There is something about historical mysteries that make me want to read every single one of them. I was offered this book as part of the TLC Book tours, and I jumped at the chance, because, well I love historical mysteries. This book is set in a small rural town in England where nothing ever happens. That is until there is a train crash and a convicted killer escapes during the melee of the crash. Archie Price is a police artist and just so happens to be on the train during the crash. Polly porter is also on the train and her brother is the escaped convict. Together they use their wits and smarts to unravel a mystery steeped in murder.

I enjoyed reading this book. This author is one that I have never heard of, but I didn't let that get in the way of reading this book. At the beginning it was a little slow and hard to keep up with, but I stuck with it and I am glad that I did. I enjoyed learning about the past of the main characters, Archie and Polly and what led them to be on the train at the time of the crash. Once, the story line began picking up pace, I had a hard time putting this one down. I wanted to know how things would turn out in the end. 

I found this book to a be a nice read and it was certainly an interesting read. I enjoyed the characters, the plot and the mystery. The author did a fantastic job of creating an engaging story and I hope that she writes more featuring these characters. I would like to see how things turn out for them and how this catastrophic event changes their lives. I recommend this book for readers who love historical mysteries that offer something a little different from the norm of the genre.

Overall Rating: 4

Title:  The Illusion of Innocence
Author:  Jacqueline Jacques
Series:  Archie Price Mystery #2
Publisher:  Honno Press
Publication Date:  November 1, 2015
Pages:  304
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

This has been a stop on the TLC Book Tours for The Illusion of Innocence. Please make sure that you stop by all of the other stops for other reviews of this book!

Monday, November 30th: Helen’s Book Blog
Tuesday, December 1st: Girl Lost in a Book
Tuesday, December 1st: Dwell in Possibility
Wednesday, December 2nd: Raven Haired Girl
Thursday, December 3rd: BoundbyWords
Thursday, December 3rd: FictionZeal
Friday, December 4th: From the TBR Pile

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

Friday, November 27, 2015

Review: Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson

Description (from cover):

'The author of Murder on Amsterdam Avenue returns to nineteenth-century New York City to find Christmas in the air, a police detective and a midwife with love in their hearts, and a wealthy newlywed with blood on her hands...

Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy and Sarah Brandt are not the only ones who have recently tied the knot. Family friend Mrs. O'Neill was delighted when her daughter Una wed the seemingly wealthy and charming Randolph Pollock. She didn't wonder why such an affluent man would want to marry a poor Irish girl, no matter how pretty she was. But now Mrs. O'Neill has a problem.

Pollock's servants have found their employer bludgeoned to death with Una cradling his body. Rendered mute by the horror of her husband's death, Una cannot explain what happened, so the police have charged her with murder and locked her away in the Tombs to await trial.

Mrs. O'Neill would like Frank to investigate the case and save Una, yet with Frank and Sarah still on their honeymoon, it's up to the other members of their newly formed household to do some detective work. But solving the mystery behind Pollock's death means first discovery the truth about who he really is...'

My thoughts:

**Spoiler Alert**

This series is one that I continuously come back to over and over again. I simply adore the characters and know that when I read a book in this series, I will love it and be certainly amused. This book of course was true to that idea and I was not disappointed. This book is a little different from the others in the series as it features the secondary characters and Frank and Sarah are not the ones solving the mystery in this one. It was a nice surprise and it was well done. Frank and Sarah's absence did nothing to hurt the book and I found it most definitely to be a great installment to an already fantastic series. I like how the author tried something new with the series and it really was nice to see the secondary characters take the forefront in this novel.

Frank and Sarah are on their honeymoon in Europe and everybody else has remained behind in New York City and are anxiously preparing for their return and for the upcoming Christmas holiday. That is until a friend of Mrs. Malloy shows up unexpectedly at the front door. Her daughter has been arrested for brutally killing her husband and she needs Frank's help immediately. Of course, with Frank and Sarah out of the country, they cannot help, however Maeve and Mr. and Mrs. Decker cannot let someone who needs help go without. They have participated in enough murder investigations and decide that they will help Mrs. O'Neill. 

This book was hard to put down and was a nice read. I enjoyed the development of the characters and can't wait to see how the author uses them in the future installments of this series. Things certainly have changed from the way it was in the books in the beginning of this series and I feel that the series is on a pivotal point and will change the characters from this point forward. A fantastic read all around and one that surely hit the spot.

Overall Rating: 5+

Title:  Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue
Author:  Victoria Thompson
Series:  Gaslight Mystery #18
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  November 3, 2015
Pages:  320
Genre:  Historical Fiction
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.
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