Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James

Description (from cover):

'London, 1925. Glamorous medium Gloria Sutter made her fortune helping the bereaved contact loved ones killed during the Great War. Now she's been murdered at one of her own seances after leaving a final message requesting the help of her former friend and sole rival, Ellie Winter.

Ellie doesn't contact the dead--at least, not anymore. She specializes in miraculously finding lost items. Still, she can refuse the final request of the only other true psychic she has known. Now Ellie must delve into Gloria's secrets and plunge back into the world of hucksters, lowlifes, and fakes. Worse, she cannot sake the attentions of handsome James Hawley, a damaged war veteran who has dedicated himself to debunking psychics.

As Ellie and James uncover the sinister mysteries of Gloria's life and death, Ellie is tormented by nightmarish visions that herald the grisly murders of those in Gloria's circle. And as Ellie's uneasy partnership with James turns dangerously intimate, an insidious evil force begins to undermine their quest for clues--a force determined to bury the truth and whoever seeks to expose it...'

My thoughts:

I sometimes like to read books that feature ghosts and the supernatural. I have read a couple of the other books by this author and when I came across this one, it sounded interesting. I will say that I was left a little disappointed. At times I felt confused and that the story was rushed. The ending was a little confusing and seemed to be thrown together at the last moment. Overall, I enjoyed the writing style, just the plot was a little spastic towards the end. I thought that this was going to be more of ghost story, but it really wasn't. It features Ellie Winter who is a psychic who is solving the murder of her former friend and rival, Gloria Sutter.

Gloria was well-known as a psychic with real powers. She had numerous well-known clients and was quite successful. Right before Gloria was murdered, she sent a cryptic note to her former friend and psychic rival to help solve her murder should anything happen to her. Of course, by the time Ellie receives the note, Gloria is dead by the hands of a silent killer. Even though Gloria and Ellie had their ups and downs, Ellie feels that she owes it to Gloria to help try to hunt down her killer and seek justice for her one-time friend. Ellie starts to investigate and then is joined by handsome psychic investigator, James Hawley. Hawley and Ellie have a tumultuous past and they must put aside their differences to help solve a heinous crime.

I was disappointed in this book. I enjoyed the author's book An Inquiry Into Love and Death and enjoyed it so I guess I was expecting something along that caliber. I won't say that this book was horrible, because it was an easy read and drew me in at first, but the ending was so jumbled and rushed that I really felt that it didn't make a lot of sense. I was expecting somewhat a different ending and was a little shocked as how scattered everything was. I am curious to see how others felt about the ending of this book and wonder if they thought that it made sense or left them confused like I felt?

Overall Rating: 2

Title:  The Other Side of Midnight
Author:  Simone St. James
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  NAL
Publication Date:  April 7, 2015
Pages:  336
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.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner

Description (from cover):

'She revolutionized fashion and built an international empire...all on her own terms.

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her sisters are sent to a convent orphanage after their mother's death. The nuns of the order nurture Gabrielle's exceptional sewing skills, a talent that would propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Burning with ambition, the petite brunette transforms herself into Coco, by day a hard-working seamstress and by night a singer in a nightclub, where her incandescence draws in a wealthy gentleman who becomes the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, Coco's sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920's modern woman. As her reputation spreads, her couture business explodes, taking her into rarefied circles of society and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her always.

An enthralling novel about an entirely self-made woman, Mademoiselle Chanel tells the true story of Coco Chanel's extraordinary ambition, passion, and artistic vision.'

My thoughts:

I think that I can say that pretty much everyone knows who Coco Chanel is. If you don't, then perhaps you've been living under a rock. Chanel has to be one of the names in fashion that is synonymous with couture and high fashion. The brand is still world-famous today. So who was the woman who started the business? She was a force unto herself. Coco Chanel was not your average fashion designer. She started from nothing and worked her way up the chain and made a name for herself. She fought the struggles of poverty and class, yet determined and with her sights on higher things, she became a legend in her own right.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it to be fascinating and captivating. I knew of Chanel going into this book, but I did not know who she was or anything about her life. This book was phenomenal. It has to be one of the best books that I have read all year. I could not put it down.  To watch someone make something from nothing, it was a reading adventure I will not soon forget. Coco had ups and downs in her life, but she never let anything or anyone hold down her dreams. She was determined to make the best out of the worst and she succeeded in ways that many never can. I admire her steadfast ambition and her drive to make things happen. She truly was a remarkable person and a creative genuis.

The author did a fantastic job of creating a story that was remarkable. The story and the characters wove together perfectly and created a wonderful historical masterpiece. I have read several others of Gortner's previous books and I enjoyed those too, but this one was in a class of its own. I am so glad that I read this as I almost passed it up. By far one of the best books of the year for me so far.

Overall Rating: 5+

Title:  Mademoiselle Chanel
Author:  C.W. Gortner
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  William Morrow
Publication Date:  March 17, 2015
Pages:  416
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.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: A Grave Matter by Anna Lee Huber

Description (from cover):

'Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her dear friend, Lady Kiera Darby is in need of a safe haven. Returning to her childhood home, Kiera hopes her beloved brother Trevor and the merriment of the Hogmanay Ball will distract her. But when a caretaker is murdered and a grave is disturbed at nearby Dryburgh Abbey, Kiera is once more thrust into the cold grasp of death.

While Kiera knows that aiding in another inquiry will only further tarnish her reputation, her knowledge of anatomy could make the difference in solving the case. But agreeing to investigate means Kiera must deal with the complicated emotions aroused in her by inquiry agent Sebastian Gage.

When Gage arrives, he reveals that the incident at the Abbey was not the first--some fiend is digging up old bones and holding them for ransom. Now Kiera and Gage must catch the grave robber and put the case to rest...before another victim winds up six feet under.'

My thoughts:

I just recently discovered this historical mystery series and I have to say that I have come to quite enjoy it. I like the characters and the storyline has a good rhythm to it. I have to say that I did enjoy the first two in the series more than this one. This one was good, but not quite as exciting as its predecessors. Lady Kiera is a great character because she doesn't fit the mold of historical mystery heroine. Kiera has a dark past and is still struggling to come to terms with the darkness in her past. I like this the best because it shows that the main character is flawed and has some internal conflict.

Lady Kiera has returned to her childhood home to spend some time grieving a childhood friend with her brother. Little does she know, that she will be sucked into yet another murder investigation. When a local caretaker is found dead and grave is found to be empty, Kiera cannot help but follow the clues to discover dark deeds. Who is going to random graveyards and stealing remains? Who would dare disturb the eternal rest of these souls? Kiera and inquiry agent, Sebastian Gage, set out to discover who is the culprit and what is the reason behind these sinister crimes.

I have to say that this book was very developmental in the relationship between Kiera and Gage and that was nice to finally get some action there. I will say that parts of this book were a little too mushy and romantic for me, but I have read worse. Overall, not a bad book, just not quite as good as the other in this series. The next installment of this series will be released next month and I am quite curious to see what happens next and what Kiera and Gage find themselves investigating next.

Overall Rating: 3.5

Title:  A Grave Matter
Author:  Anna Lee Huber
Series:  Lady Darby Mystery #3
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  July 1, 2014
Pages:  432
Genre:  Historical 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.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: Mortal Arts by Anna Lee Huber

Description (from cover):

'Scotland, 1830. Lady Kiera Darby is no stranger to intrigue--in fact, it seems to follow wherever she goes. After her foray into murder investigation, Kiera must journey to Edinburgh with her family so that her pregnant sister can be close to proper medical care. But the city is full of many things Kiera isn't quite ready to face: the society ladies keen on judging her, her fellow investigator--and romantic entanglement--Sebastian Gage, and ultimately, another deadly mystery.

Kiera's old friend Michael Dalmay is about to be married, but the arrival of his older brother--and Kiera's childhood art tutor--William, has thrown everything into chaos. For ten years Will has been missing, committed to an insane asylum by his own father. Kiera is sympathetic to her mentor's plight, especially when rumors swirl about a local girl gone missing. Now Kiera must once again employ her knowledge of the macabre and join forces with Gage in order to prove the innocence of a beloved family friend--and save the marriage of another...'

My thoughts:

Lady Kiera Darby is not quite like your other historical mystery heroines. She has a dark past and society has shunned her for it. The author has created a lead character that is mysterious in her own right and the reader is left in the dark about some things in Kiera's past. It definitely makes for good reading. The reader knows just enough detail to get by, but the author seems to keep some things from Kiera's past close to her chest. I am anxious to learn what they are and cannot wait for them to be revealed. I like this about Kiera's character because it shows the reader that she has a had rough life and not everything was handed to her. She had to fight for who she is and that endears her to me a little.

Kiera and her family have stopped at Michael Dalmay's house during their journey to Edinburgh. Right off, there is something strange going on with Michael. He is cagey and when his engagement is called off by his fiance's mother, something doesn't seem right. Of course, that is when it comes out, that his presumably dead older brother has been locked in an insane asylum for the past ten years and is residing in the house. The situation is clearly not rectified when William has fits of rage and is seen as danger to everyone in the house. When word reaches the family that a local girl is missing, everyone has doubts as to whether William was involved in her disappearance. Kiera sets out to clear her good friend's name at no matter the cost.

I enjoyed the second installment in this series. I like the characters and the romance between Kiera and Gage is tastefully done. I am a little annoyed that they seem to be playing a cat and mouse game, but other than that, it is actually beneficial to the storyline. I really just want them to go ahead and figure everything out, but that is my impatience. Of course, nothing goes that smoothly in books. I like how the author leaves the ending open with a little foray into the future of the characters. I am now reading the next book in this series and cannot wait to see how everything plays out.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  Mortal Arts
Author:  Anna Lee Huber
Series:  Lady Darby Mystery #2
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  September 3, 2013
Pages:  384
Genre:  Historical 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.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Review: The Anatomist's Wife by Anna Lee Huber

Description (from cover):

'Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister's estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes.

Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage--a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. While Gage is clearly more competent than she first assumed, Kiera isn't about to let her guard down as accusations and rumors swirl.

When Kiera and Gage's search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim...'

My thoughts:

I dearly enjoyed this book as I found it to be overly engaging and quite exciting. From page one, I connected with Lady Darby and her unique character in the face of London society. It did take me a while to figure out why everyone considered her an outcast, but once I did, I felt sorry for her. I loved how she used her resourcefulness from her past to aid a murder investigation and help bring a killer to justice. I have to say that this book was one of the better historical mysteries that I have read in quite some time. I thought that the author did a fantastic job of creating a setting that the reader could really enjoy and the mystery was complex and engaging and keep me riveted to the pages until the very end.

I cannot wait to see where the author takes this character and because of that, I have begun the second book in this series. I found this book to be well-written and well-developed. I liked Lady Darby's character, even though she is considered a pariah in society. Normally, the historical mysteries that I read feature a prominent female character who is well-known in society. It was a breath of fresh air to read about a character on the different end of the spectrum. I have to say that the author created a beautiful story that I simply couldn't put down.

I typically don't like to read books where the main character is quite the social pariah. Normally, my tastes in historical mysteries are featuring well-known sociable characters and this book was little different for me. I really enjoyed it and cannot wait to read more about these characters in the upcoming installments of this series. As I stated before, I am currently reading the next book in this series as I couldn't just end the series with the first book. I cannot wait to discover what the author has in store for Kiera and her family in the future installments.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  The Anatomist's Wife
Author:  Anna Lee Huber
Series:  Lady Darby Mystery #1
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  November 6, 2012
Pages:  368
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, June 6, 2015

Review: Dying for a Cupcake by Denise Swanson

Description (from cover):

'When Devereaux "Dev" Sinclair hosts a cupcake contest at her five-and-dime store, she discovers that someone is just dying to win...

Kizzy Cutler finds it so delicious to be back in her hometown of Shadow Bend, Missouri, that she seems to have forgotten why she fled twenty years ago. For now, she's excited to kick off her new line of cupcakes with a competition, which Dev has agreed to host in her shop. But before the first yummy cupcake is even baked, Kizzy's assistant, Fallon, dies from a mysterious ailment.

While the medical examiner attempts to discover what killed Fallon, Kizzy declares that the show must go on. However, after Kizzy escapes several near misses, Dev is convinced that someone in Shadow Bend has it in for the cupcake queen. Is the secret from her past so dark that someone still wants to kill her for it?

With a list of not-so-sweet suspects, Dev's in a race against the time to solve the murder before someone else gets iced...'

My thoughts:

I haven't really been a fan of this series all that much, but I haven't quite given up on it yet. I read this book expecting to be bored and not really impressed and I have to say that I did actually enjoy this book better than the others in this series. I just can't get into the romantic love triangle thing and that does feature heavily in this book. I am not a huge fan of romance in novels and it seems like this series has that in droves. This book did tone down the romance issue a lot though as compared to the others. Dev's character is a little off for me as she seems to be fickle. Just choose a dude already and move on. I am sick of the back and forth and dragging of the feet. 

Kizzy Cutler was a small town girl from Shadow Bend, Missouri, however she left and now has created a name for herself in the cupcake bakery world. She is back in Shadow Bend to launch a new cupcake line and what better way to do that then to host a cupcake competition. Of course, Dev is in the thick of things and is hosting the event at her shop. It appears when Kizzy's assistant is found dead that someone wants Kizzy dead. And if her character is anything to go off of, well I can understand why. I think the author did a good job of making the reader dislike Kizzy and I can completely relate to the plot line of the mystery. I didn't get this one figured out right away, but I wasn't all that intrigued either.

I will say that this book is a huge improvement in this series. If we can work on the romance issues, I would enjoy these books a lot more. I get that some people like to read books like this, but it's really not my thing. I read mysteries for the mysteries not the soap opera romance things that go on. I feel like this series has potential, but I am not sure if that is going to work out. I have a feeling that the author likes the soap opera romance and I think I have to agree to disagree. I am curious to see what the next book brings, but if the soap opera goes on, it might be the last I read in this series.

Overall Rating: 3

Title:  Dying for a Cupcake
Author:  Denise Swanson
Series:  Devereaux Dime Store Mystery #4
Publisher:  NAL
Publication Date:  March 3, 2015
Pages:  272
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.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Review: The Mourning Bells Christine Trent

Description (from cover):

'One of Victorian London's most respected undertakers, Violet Harper has the new duty of accompanying coffins from various undertakers on the London Necropolis Railway for respectful funeral and burials in Surrey. But on the fateful first trip, the mournful silence of the train is shattered by the shrill ringing of a coffin bell--a device that prevents a person from being buried alive. 

Inside the noisome coffin Violet finds a man wide-eyed with fear, claiming he was falsely interred. When a second coffin bell is rung on another trip Violet grows suspicious. She voices her qualms to Inspector Hurst of Scotland Yard, only to receive a puzzling reply that, after all, it is not a crime to rise from the dead.

But Violet's instincts are whispering that all is not well on the London Necropolis Railway's tracks. Is this all merely the result of clumsy undertaking, or is there something more sinister afoot? Determined to get to the heart of the matter, Violet uncovers a treacherous plot and villains who will stop at nothing to keep a lid on her search for the truth...'

My thoughts:

I genuinely have mixed feelings about this series. Either I really enjoy the book or I really don't. This book was just okay. It was a little long and dry in places and not very engaging. I had a hard time staying focused on the story and I spent a lot of time wondering if I was ever going to make it to the end. This series started off pretty good, but I've noticed that the last couple of books or so, have been a little disappointing. This one took the cake though. I was bored. I was wondering why it was Violet's concern that there were two bodies that were buried alive essentially and why it really mattered. Yes, she is concerned about the other undertakers in the business and their quality of work, but who really cares? It just comes off that she is a pompous know-it-all really.

I am not quite sure if I would label this as a mystery. Yes, someone died, but it was just a hot mess from the beginning to the end. Mostly the story is the reader reading about Violet prancing around London basically telling her colleagues how to do their jobs and making everyone hate her for it. No wonder someone wanted her dead. I would too. It was annoying and I kind of lost respect for the main character. Maybe the next book should have Violet sitting down and have her shut her mouth for once. I don't think that would get us very far, but it does beat having her being a rude busybody to everyone.

I really felt that this book could have been a lot better. It really fell flat for me and I just could not get into it. It wasn't as bad that I couldn't finish it, but Violet's character in this book seems out of control. She needs to be reined in a whole lot in order for me to even like her again and enjoy reading about her so-called investigations. I sincerely hope that the next book shows improvement because I will not be reading this series anymore if the next one is anything like this one. I am just very disappointed in this book and this series at this point.


Overall Rating: 1.5

Title:  The Mourning Bells
Author:  Christine Trent
Series:  Lady of Ashes Mystery #4
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  March 31, 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.
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