Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Review: The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig

Description (from cover):

'In the final Pink Carnation novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, Napoleon has occupied Lisbon, and Jane Wooliston, aka the Pink Carnation, teams up with a rogue agent to protect the escaped Queen of Portugal.

Portugal, December 1807. Jack Reid, the British agent known as the Moonflower (formerly the French agent known as the Moonflower), has been stationed in Portugal and is awaiting his new contact. He does not expect to be paired with a woman--especially not the legendary Pink Carnation.

All of Portugal believes that the royal family departed for Brazil just before the French troops marched into Lisbon. Only the English government knows that mad seventy-three-year-old Queen Maria was spirited away by a group of loyalists determined to rally a resistance. But as the French garrison scours the countryside, it's only a matter of time before she's found and taken.

It's up to Jane to find her first and ensure her safety. But she has no knowledge of Portugal or the language. Though she is loath to admit it, she needs the Moonflower. Operating alone has taught her to respect her own limitations. But she knows better than to show weakness around the Moonflower--an agent with a reputation for brilliance, a tendency towards insubordination, and a history of going rogue.'

My thoughts:

I absolutely hate it when a great series has to come to an end. This is one of those series. I loved this series from the very first book until the very last. This book did justice to the series and was a great conclusion to a phenomenal series that really impacted my love of historical fiction. I just hate knowing that there won't be another book released in this series. It was a series that I always looked forward to reading and waiting for new installments to be released each year. This writer is a charm to read and I always have known that she will deliver and that I will love the newest story. I think I am depressed now.

In this last installment of the Pink Carnation series, we get to see Jane at her best. She has lost a lot due to her spying for England. She hasn't had the same chance of love and life that her friends and family have been able to have. She has always put her loyalty to her country and her spying organization first and she feels that she might have missed out on life a little. When she is forced to leave Paris, she heads to Portugal to meet rogue agent Jack Reid, the Moonflower, to help locate the missing Queen of Portugal who many believe has left Portugal en route to Brazil to escape the French army. Intelligence suggests that the Queen of Portugal is still in the country and it is up to Jane to discover her whereabouts before the mad queen becomes a pawn in Napoleon's quest for conquering all of Europe. But can Jane trust the Moonflower who has been known to switch sides depending on whatever suits him at the time?

This book was a great end to a series that I have come to love over the years. I am glad to see how things worked out for the characters and the series was wrapped up nicely. I had a hard time reading this book because I didn't want to put it down, but I also didn't want it to end either. I am truly sad that such a great series is ending, but it did end on a good note before the series got stale if that is even possible. I will always think fondly of this series which helped propel me into a love of historical fiction.

Overall Rating: 5+

Title:  The Lure of the Moonflower
Author:  Lauren Willig
Series:  Pink Carnation #12
Publisher:  NAL
Publication Date:  August 4, 2015
Pages:  528
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.

Review: The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini

Description (from cover):

'New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini is back with another enthralling historical novel set during the Civil War era, this time inspired by the life of "a true Union woman as true as steel" who risked everything by caring for Union prisoners of war--and stealing Confederate secrets.

Born to slave-holding aristocracy in Richmond, Virginia, and educated by Northern Quakers, Elizabeth Van Lew was a paradox of her time. When her native state seceded in April 1861, Van Lew's convictions compelled her to defy the new Confederate regime. Pledging her loyalty to the Lincoln White House, her courage would never waver, even as her wartime actions threatened not only her reputation, but also her life. 

Van Lew's skills in gathering military intelligence were unparalleled. She helped to construct the Richmond Underground and orchestrated escapes from the infamous Confederate Libby Prison under the guise of humanitarian aid. Her spy ring's reach was vast, from clerks in the Confederate War and Navy Departments to the very home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. 

Although Van Lew was inducted posthumously into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, the astonishing scope of her achievements has never been widely know. In Chiaverini's riveting tale of high-stakes espionage, a great heroine of the Civil War finally gets her due.'


My thoughts:

This book was truly riveting and rich in historical detail. I normally tended to not read Chiaverini's books before, but this is the second one that I have read and I have to say that she has a rich voice in the historical fiction genre. This book features the life of Elizabeth Van Lew and her actions during the Civil War in Richmond, Virginia. Elizabeth is a staunch Unionist and when Virginia secedes from the nation to join the Confederacy she is devastated that the state that she loves so much could join a cause that she detests to the bottom of her heart. She passionately believes in the rights of slaves and is determined to do all that she can to help further the Union cause in a world surrounded by people who oppose everything that she believes in.

Elizabeth decides that she will help the Union prisoners of war who are being housed in prisons in Richmond. No one understands why she would want to help the enemy and she faces being shunned by friends she has known all of her life. Not to mention, she has to avoid being named a spy or traitor to the Confederate army which is all around her. Elizabeth is determined to do the right thing at no matter what the cost. Soon she has built up a network of Unionist believers who help slaves and Union prisoners. Soon friends and family come under suspicion and Elizabeth must use her wits to help those around her survive the treacherous turmoil of war.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I thought that the plot was powerful and wrought with suspense. I was always concerned for Elizabeth's safety and how things would turn out. I found it even more interesting to learn that Elizabeth Van Lew was a real person and really did the things that the author describes in this book. I think that this was a wonderfully written book about a woman who help shape the course of the Civil War.  

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  The Spymistress
Author:  Jennifer Chiaverini
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Dutton
Publication Date:  October 1, 2013
Pages:  368
Genre:  Historical Fiction
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, August 25, 2015

Review: The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

Description (from cover):

'The latest novel from New York Times best-selling author Jennifer McMahon is an atmospheric, gripping, and suspenseful tale that probes the bond between sisters and the peril of keeping secrets.

Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper's kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel's past, something that ruined their friendship forever.

Now adult, Piper and Margot, have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Sylvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock's next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds--revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.'

My thoughts:

After reading this author's The Winter People, I was looking for a good scary book to read. This author does have a way with words and plots that can send shivers down your spine. I love reading books like this late at night as it really just helps set the atmosphere and gives a little thrill. This book was good, although, I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I did The Winter People. That book was absolutely fantastic and I still think about it sometimes. This book was good but it really didn't compare. There were times in this book that were spooky and thrilling and caught me off guard. I loved how the author switched back and forth from present day to the summer that Amy, Piper and Margot played at the Tower Motel and to the 1950s when Sylvie and Rose were children living at the motel. It set the scene and it was nice to see how all these characters were woven together through time.

Piper now lives in California and is awakened one night by a frantic phone call from her sister, Margot. Margot and Piper's childhood friend, Amy, has just been accused of murdering her family and then killing herself in a horrific murder-suicide. Piper cannot believe it and catches the first flight home to be with her sister. Both of the ladies are shocked by their former friend's behavior and are deeply concerned as to what drove Amy to do something so horrifying. Piper begins investigating Amy's life and the events that led up to the tragic event only to find that something from their past has arisen from the ashes of time. Piper returns to the motel to do some investigating only to find that things are not quite what they seem. 

This book was full of suspense and thrill. I did enjoy reading it and I have to say overall it really wasn't that scary. There were scary parts, but the mystery of what happened in the past is what really drew me in and kept me reading to the last page. I wanted to see what it was that entwined these characters together and what the secret was of the Tower Motel. This was a nice read into a genre that I enjoy but rarely get the time to read. The ending was a little strange and took away from the story a little. I would have liked to see something a little different for the ending, but it is what it is. 

Overall Rating: 3.5

Title:  The Night Sister
Author:  Jennifer McMahon
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Doubleday
Publication Date:   August 4, 2015
Pages:  336
Genre:  Mystery/Thrillers
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, August 22, 2015

Review: Murder in the Paperback Parlor by Ellery Adams

Description (from cover):

'The New York Times bestselling Book Retreat mysteries feature Storyton Hall, the perfect getaway for literature lovers--except when a guest tries to get away with murder...

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Jane Steward is organizing a week of activities for fans of love stories at her book-themed resort. But her Regency readers barely have time to brush up on their Jane Austen before tragedy strikes Storyton Hall. Rosamund York, one of the most celebrated authors in attendance, is killed.

Rosamund had as many enemies as she did admirers, including envious fellow novelists, a jealous former lover, and dozens of angry fans. It's up to Jane, with the help of her book club, the Cover Girls, to catalogue the list of suspects and find a heartless killer quickly--before the murderer writes someone else off...'

My thoughts:

It seems that I really enjoyed this book's predecessor, Murder in the Mystery Suite, as I gave it a high rating. This book didn't quite live up to the other one. I did figure out the mystery pretty early on and that is always a big disappointment for me. I do, however, love the setting. This series takes place at Storyton Hall, which is a book-themed resort. Everything is book related and catered to the book lover. Who wouldn't want to be at a place like that. It sounds like heaven for this bibliophile. While I simply cannot get enough of the setting and Storyton Hall, the mystery fell flat in this one.

Jane Steward is planing a romance literary themed week for Storyton Hall. She has some of the biggest names in the genre presenting and appearing at the event. Rosamund York is famous for her Regency romance novels and she is a huge focus for this event. Rosamund arrives in her diva-like style and almost immediately there is trouble. Other authors attending the event are sick of her always being on top and getting all of the awards, her readers are angry that her latest book is so different than her others and a journalist keeps popping up around Rosamund. So when Rosamund turns up dead, Jane has a long list of suspects who had motive to kill the renowned author. It's up to Jane to seek out a murderer and save the day for Storyton Hall.

At times I felt that this book wasn't as good as the first book in this series. The mystery was too easily solved and I just couldn't get into it as much as I did before. The setting made up for a lot of the downfalls in this book and is really the reason why I gave it as high of a rating as I did. The ending hopefully sets up the next book to take over and it looks promising. I am hoping that the next book is better than this one. This series does have a lot of potential and I hate to see it go to waste. I have my fingers crossed that the next installment will revive this series to its glory. I can only hope that that is true.

Overall Rating: 3.5

Title:  Murder in the Paperback Parlor
Author:  Ellery Adams
Series:  Book Retreat Mystery #2
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  August 4, 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.

Review: Malice at the Palace by Rhys Bowen

Description (from cover):

'Lady Georgiana Rannoch won't deny that being thirty-fifth in line for the British throne has its advantages. Unfortunately, money isn't one of them. And sometimes making ends meet requires her to investigate a little royal wrongdoing.

While my beau Darcy is off on a mysterious mission, I am once again caught between my high birth and empty purse. I am therefore relieved to receive a new assignment from the Queen--especially one that includes lodgings. The King's youngest son, George, is to wed Princess Marina of Greece, and I shall be her companion at the supposedly haunted Kensington Palace.

My duties are simple: help Marine acclimate to English life, show her the best of London and, above all, dispel any rumors about George's libertine history. Perhaps that last bit isn't so simple.

George is know for his many affairs with women as well as men--including the great songwriter Noel Coward. But things truly get complicated when I search the Palace for a supposed ghost only to encounter an actual dead person: a society beauty said to have been one of Prince George's mistresses.

Nothing spoils a royal wedding more than murder, and the Queen wants the whole matter hushed. But as the investigation unfolds--and Darcy, as always, turns up in the most unlikely of places--the investigation brings us precariously close to the prince himself.'

My thoughts:

Rhys Bowen has done it again! She has created a wonderful and quirky mystery that is impossible to put down. I absolutely love this series. I love Georgiana and her struggles of being a royal relation who doesn't have the money to live up to the task. Georgie always seems to find herself in a spot of bother, but she is always determined to find a way out as well. She is so quirky and optimistic that it's so hard not to like her. I love everything about this series. It has to be one of my favorites and this installment was no different. I know that when I read a Royal Spyness book that I am going to love it from the very first page until the very last. I find myself laughing a lot when I read this book with Georgie's antics and her deplorable maid Queenie. 

Georgie once again has been asked by the Queen to do some work for her. The Queen's son, Prince George is engaged to be married and the Queen wants Georgie to be a companion to his fiance. Of course, Prince George's previous lifestyle is to be kept under wraps so that the fiance doesn't find out and cancel the royal wedding. Of course, matters certainly turn bleak when one of George's former girlfriends turns up dead at Kensington Palace where the fiance is currently living. Georgie must decipher a murder mystery that has international consequences at the heart of the matter.

As I stated previously, this was a lovely and engaging read. I love reading about Georgie and her antics and this book did not disappoint. Bowen is a phenomenal writer who never grows stale. This is book number 9 in the Royal Spyness mystery series and it never gets dull. That is a testament to the author and her wonderful writing style. Not many authors are able to pull that off. Bowen does it with ease. If you have not discovered this series, then you are seriously missing out on a fantastic series.

Overall Rating: 5+

Title:  Malice at the Palace
Author:  Rhys Bowen
Series:  Royal Spyness Mystery #9
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  August 4, 2015
Pages:  304
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, August 17, 2015

Review: Grace Cries Uncle by Julie Hyzy

Description (from cover):

'The New York Times bestselling author of the Manor House Mysteries and the White House Chef Mysteries shows how a blast from the past can spell trouble for Grace Wheaton...

When Grace's estranged sister Liza shows up on her doorstep, the timing couldn't be worse. Grace's beloved boss and benefactor, Bennett Marshfield, has finally gotten her to agree to a DNA test to establish if he is, in fact, her uncle. If so, Grace would move from being the trusted curator and manager of Marshfield Manor to Bennett's heir. And her duplicitous sister would be right behind her in the line of inheritance.

Liza is not the only mysterious visitor to arrive in town. A man claiming to be an FBI agent has shown up, and a swarm of avaricious antique collectors have descended on Emberstowne for a prestigious convention. When Bennett reveals he's in mind to acquire a secret antique and the FBI agent turns up dead, the plot thickens. And Grace can't help but wonder if Liza is at the center of it all...'

My thoughts:

This book is the 6th installment in the popular Manor House Mystery series by acclaimed cozy mystery author Julie Hyzy. So far I have yet to read a book in this series that I did not like. This book however wasn't as good as the others in the series I felt. It felt a little rushed and jumbled compared to the other books. I probably would say that this is my least favorite in this series. I love the characters and it feels like returning to friends when I read a book in this series so it wasn't too bad, but I was expecting a little something more. I have come to expect more when I read a book in this series and I found that this book was little disappointing to me. Nevertheless, it was good to catch up with the characters and move forward on character development. I think that this book was a stepping stone for the future installments of this series.

Grace's estranged sister, Liza, has shown up at her house unexpectedly and without cause. Grace is a little wary because she knows how her sister is and she is a little concerned at why her sister is showing up under mysterious circumstances. Grace certainly is not one to ignore family, so she takes her sister in even though she is highly reluctant to do so. When a man who was pretending to be a FBI agent turns up dead while looking for her sister, Grace becomes alarmed. What did her sister bring to her house and is it dangerous and could cause harm to others that she cares about? Grace must put her feelings aside and discover exactly what is going on.

This series has become one of those series when a new book is released, I have to read it right away. I love Hyzy's way with her characters and her writing style. I did say that this book was a little disappointing and I hate that I feel that way, but this book just didn't deliver like the others in this series. I am hoping that the next book in this series will be a good one and will revive the series to its glory. I really have come to enjoy reading this series over the years and hate to give up on such a good series.

Overall Rating: 3.5

Title:  Grace Cries Uncle
Author:  Julie Hyzy
Series:  Manor House Mystery #6
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  July 7, 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.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Review: A Study in Death by Anna Lee Huber

Description (from cover):

'Scotland, 1831. After a tumultuous courtship complicated by three deadly inquiries, Lady Kiera Darby is thrilled to have found both an investigative partner and a fiance in Sebastian Gage. But with her well-meaning--and very pregnant--sister planning on making their wedding the event of the season, Kiera could use a respite from the impending madness.

Commissioned to paint the portrait of Lady Drummond, Kiera is saddened when she recognizes the pain in the baroness's eyes. Lord Drummond is a brute, and his brusque treatment of his wife forces Kiera to think of the torment caused by her own late husband.

Kiera isn't sure how to help, but when she finds Lady Drummond prostrate on the floor, things take a fatal turn. The physician called to the house and Lord Drummond appear satisfied to rule her death natural, but Kiera is convinced that poison is the real culprit.

Now, armed only with her knowledge of the macabre and her convictions, Kiera intends to discover the truth behind the baroness's death--no matter what, or who, stands in her way...'

My thoughts:

Time and time again, I read this series and fall in love with the characters and the plot. Huber has delivered a wonderful and delightful mystery in this newest installment of her Lady Darby Mystery series. Lady Kiera Darby is considered to be an outcast in Scotland's social circles due to her past of helping her late husband dissect bodies and the scandal that rocked Kiera's world. Now that she is engaged to society's most eligible bachelor, Sebastian Gage, more people are finding reason to dislike her. It doesn't help that every time she turns around, she is investigating a murder. Kiera by no means fits the mold of a society belle and it makes people distrustful of her even more. Of course, Kiera's sharp wit and knack for solving murders doesn't nothing but alienate her from the rest of her peers.

Kiera is painting a portrait of Lady Drummond and she is disturbed when Lord Drummond accosts his wife during a sitting. Kiera stands up for Lady Drummond and the next morning when she returns to the house to continue her work, she finds Lady Drummond dead. Was she the cause of Lady Drummond's murder? She certainly feels like everything is her fault and that she could have prevented the death somehow. Of course, it doesn't help when the physician and Lord Drummon insist that Lady Drummond died of natural causes. Kiera is not satisfied with this answer and enlists Gage to help her discover exactly what happened. 

I enjoyed this book a lot as I have with the others in this series. I love the setting and backdrop of a historical Scottish mystery. I don't really read a lot of books based in Scotland so in this series I find something a little different from the norm. The characters are well-developed and engaging and the plot always has me guessing until all is revealed. This book was no exception. I simply cannot wait to see what happens next. I am anxiously awaiting the next installment in this series. I think that this a wonderful historical mystery series that appeals to readers of all different sorts. 

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  A Study in Death
Author:  Anna Lee Huber
Series:  Lady Darby Mystery #4
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  July 7, 2015
Pages:  336
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.
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