Monday, October 5, 2015

Review: This House is Haunted by John Boyne

Description (from cover):

'Written in Dickensian prose, This House is Haunted is a striking homage to the classic nineteenth-century ghost story. Set in Norfolk in 1867, Eliza Caine responds to an ad for a governess position at Gaudlin Hall. When she arrives at the hall, shaken by an unsettling disturbance that occurred during her travels, she is granted by the two children now in her care, Isabella and Eustace. There is no adult present to represent her mysterious employer, and the children offer no explanation. Later that night in her room, another terrifying experience further reinforces the sense that something is very wrong.

From the moment Eliza rises the following morning, her every step seems dogged by a malign presence that lives within Gaudlin's walls. Eliza realizes that if she and the children are to survive its violent attentions, she must first uncover the hall's long-buried secrets and confront the demons of its past. Clever, captivating, and witty, This House is Haunted is pure entertainment with a catch.'

My thoughts:

Gothic ghost stories were a huge fad in the 1800's among women in society. Women were known notoriously for reading these novels and sharing all the juicy details among their friends and family. It is rare these days to find a gothic ghost story that can truly reminiscence of times past. John Boyne has done just that. In this book, I felt that I was reading something that Jane Austen or other ladies of that time period would have read. Jane Austen is known for her love of the gothic ghost novel and even writes about them in her novels. John Boyne creates a gothic masterpiece in this book that is truly remarkable. 

Eliza Caine has lived in London her whole life. When her father suddenly passes away, she decides to leave the city behind and take a position as a governess in the countryside. She arrives at Gaudlin Hall determined to be an excellent governess and to take care of her new charges, Isabella and Eustace. She adores the children, but something seems very odd about Gaudlin Hall. First of all, no one is there to greet her when she arrives at the hall. She is met by the children, but their parents are nowhere to be found. Thinking that perhaps the children's parents are traveling, she sets about settling into her new surroundings. That first night, Eliza is awakened by a bone-chilling experience. It seems that there is something dark and sinister in the house and Eliza is determined to keep the children safe and deal with whatever is causing the issues on her own.

This book was a page turner and impossible to put down. It was spooky and chilling at just the right times and had me cuddled up under my covers late at night. I thought that this book was a great historical ghost story and I enjoyed it a lot. The only thing that bothered me a little about this book was that it had a hint of Jane Eyre in it. Maybe it was just me, but I thought I could sense a little of that novel in this book. If you love historical fiction but with a phenomenal ghost story, then do not skip this book. A great and chilling read that will keep you up at night reading despite being terrified at the same time. 

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  This House is Haunted
Author:  John Boyne
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Other Press
Publication Date:  October 8, 2013
Pages:  304
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.

Review: The Suspicion at Sanditon (Or, the Disappearance of Lady Denham) by Carrie Bebris

Description (from cover):

'Suspicion at Sanditon, a new adventure in Carrie Bebris's award-winning Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery series takes Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy to Sanditon, the setting of Jane Austen's final work. There, accompanied by their friend Miss Charlotte Heywood, they encounter an array of eccentric villagers and visitors. Among Sanditon's most prominent residents: Lady Denham, a childless, twice-widowed dowager with a fortune to bequeath and a flight of distant relations circling for a place in her will.

The Darcys have scarcely settled into their lodgings when Lady Denham unexpectedly invites them to a dinner party. Thirteen guests assemble at Sanditon House--but their hostess never appears. As a violent storm rises, a search for Lady Denham begins. The Darcys, like most of their fellow attendees, speculate that one of her ladyship's would-be heirs has grown impatient..until the guests start to vanish one by one. 

Does a kidnapper lurk in the centuries-old mansion, or is a still more sinister force at work? As the night grows short, the dwelling's population grows thin, and tales of Sanditon House's storied past emerge, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy find themselves leading a desperate effort to discover what has happened to Lady Denham and the missing guests, before they all--perhaps even Elizabeth and Darcy themselves--disappear. 

The Regency era's answer to Nick and Nora Charles, the Darcys once again demonstrate their quick wits and signature wit as they search for the truth--universally acknowledged and otherwise.'

My thoughts:

I have a love of all things Jane Austen. I love her novels and her writing and most definitely the Darcys. I was absolutely thrilled to have found this series years ago and was quite sad when I thought that this author was done writing this series. It was a several years gap between books, but this newest installment was released in July of this year and I couldn't have been more happier. I love the thought of two of my most favorite literary characters acting as sleuths and solving Regency-era mysteries. Sanditon is the only novel written by Jane Austen that I have not yet read so it was a little hard to gauge this book with the original. With the other books in this series, the author tends to mix parts of the real story with her version of events. It was hard to do that with this book having never read Sanditon to compare it with.

Darcy and Elizabeth have decided to take a little vacation to a resort town of Sanditon. Little do they know that their vacation will turn out to be anything but. Upon their arrival, they are invited to dine with local noblewoman, Lady Denham at her residence, Sanditon House. When they arrive to the dinner, they discover that their hostess is missing under mysterious circumstances. It seems that the other guests that have been invited all have motive for wanting Lady Denham out of the picture or worse. Darcy and Elizabeth begin an full investigation into the other guests and the mysterious circumstances of Lady Denham's disappearance. They are shocked when several other guests start to disappear throughout the night.

I liked this book because I like the series. I will say that this is probably my least favorite of the series. I can't tell if it was because of this book or because it has been so long since I have read a book in this series. I like the characters of course, but this mystery was a little too easy to figure out and it lacked the elements of its predecessors. Not a bad read, just not what I have come to expect from this author and this series. I am hoping that this series will continue and that there will be other Darcy and Elizabeth mysteries to read in the future.

Overall Rating: 3.5

Title:  The Suspicion at Sanditon (Or, the Disappearance of Lady Denham)
Author:  Carrie Bebris
Series:  Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries #7
Publisher:  Tor Books
Publication Date:  July 14, 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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

Description (from cover):

'From the instant #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Thirteenth Tale comes a "poetic and mysterious" (Booklist) ghost story that will haunt you to your very core.

Caught up in a moment of boyhood competition, William Bellman recklessly aims his slingshot at a rook resting on a branch, killing the bird instantly. It is a small but cruel act, and is soon forgotten. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to have put the whole incident behind him. It was as if he never killed the thing at all. But rooks don't forget...

Years later, when a stranger mysteriously enters William's life, his fortunes begin to turn--and the terrible and unforeseen consequences of his past indiscretion take root. In a desperate bid to save the only precious thing he has left, he enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner. Together, they found a decidedly macabre business.

And Bellman & Black is born.'

My thoughts:

I am still trying to figure out why this book is considered to be a ghost story. There is no ghost and there isn't a sense of the supernatural spirits anywhere in this book. I am not sure if it is a publisher's description gone wrong or what, but I am still trying to figure out where the ghost story label comes from. This book is decidedly dark and mysterious, but still no ghost. The story begins with William Bellman as a young boy spending time with his friends one afternoon. Bellman takes a slingshot and a smooth pebble and shoots and kills a rook in a tree. Little does he know that that one small action will change the course of his life from that moment on. As the reader continues with the story, we watch Bellman grow from a young boy to a young man, to a husband and a successful business man. We follow Bellman's story from his youth until his ripe old age. This book spans years and several decades in its story and it flowed consistently well.

I liked this book at times and at other times, I didn't. I thought that the way that the author takes the reader from Bellman's youth through his life was interesting and flowed together very well. There were some times where I was a little confused by the writing style. This author has a unique writing style that works for some and I am sure can confuse some readers. It is dreary and dark and yet captivating at the same time. It is really hard to explain, but at times it worked for me and then sometimes not so much. This isn't a feel good type of book. It is one that is dark and mysterious, but deeply moving and rich at the same time. This is a story that makes you think and analyze and look at things differently. 

I haven't yet read this author's The Thirteenth Tale even though it has been recommended to me numerous times. I am not really quite sure what to expect with that one. Is it like this one? I know it has rave reviews and yet I am not quite sure what to think about this author and her writing style. I will say that it is definitely unique and something that I am not quite used to. This is a book that really made me think and I kind of enjoyed that at the same time. This is not your average book, but it was an enjoyable read. I read it in two days and was captivated until the very end.

Overall Rating: 3.5

Title:  Bellman & Black
Author:  Diane Setterfield
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Atria
Publication Date:  November 5, 2013
Pages:  336
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.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: No Comfort for the Lost By Nancy Herriman

Description (from cover):

'In this atmospheric historical mystery series debut, a courageous nurse and a war-scarred police detective in 1860's San Francisco champion the down-trodden and fight for justice...

After serving as a nurse in the Crimea, British-born Celia Davies left her privileged family for an impulsive marriage to a handsome Irishman. Patrick brought her to San Francisco's bustling shores but then disappeared and is now presumed dead. Determined to carry on, Celia partnered with her half-Chinese cousin Barbara and her opinionated housekeeper Addie to open a free medical clinic for woman who have nowhere else to turn. But Celia's carefully constructed peace crumbles when one of her Chinese patients is found brutally murdered...and Celia's hotheaded brother-in-law stands accused of the crime.

A veteran of American's civil war, detective Nicholas Greaves is intent on discovering the killer of the girl, whose ethnicity and gender render her as powerless in death as they did in life. Nicholas's efforts are complicated by Celia, who has a knock for walking into dangerous situations that may lead to answers...or get them both killed. For as their inquiries take them from Chinatown's squalid back alleys to the Barbary Coast's violent shipping docks to the city's gilded parlors, Celia and Nicholas begin to suspect that someone very close to them holds the key to a murderous conspiracy...'

My thoughts:

San Francisco in the 1860's was a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. Everyone in San Francisco has emigrated from a different country or a different part of the United States. This wasn't a very old city, but it is rich in its cultures and its people. There was an intense hatred of the Chinese during this time period because business owners could pay them less and get more work out of them. Therefore others were being laid off and turned their anger to the Chinese as a way to take out their frustrations. There were clubs and associations that fueled this hatred and helped to incite riots and chaos. It is at this point that this book opens and sets the scene for the reader.

Celia Davies is a nurse who runs a free clinic for the poor of San Francisco. She is willing to help anyone no matter their race, background or profession. She has helped numerous prostitutes with their medical needs and doesn't judge them. When one of her Chinese clients ends up murdered, Celia is determined to seek out justice for this young lady because no one else will. Or so she thinks. She comes into the path of Detective Nicholas Greaves who is on the San Francisco police force. He is going against his superiors for investigating a death of a Chinese woman, but he feels that justice should be for all no matter a person's race or background. Together, Celia and Nicholas make a formidable team.

This book was a little slow at the beginning and towards the middle, it started getting really good. It was a good story, it just felt like something I have read before. It wasn't really all the unique, but towards the end I felt my views change a little. It was a good debut. Not a strong one, but I think it will lead to a good series. I will have to read the next book in this series to see if this is something that I would like to stick with, but this series does have a lot of potential. I really liked that the author did her historical homework and it showed in the story. I learned a lot from reading this book and hope that the next book in this series will build upon that and make this a series that I come to love.

Overall Rating: 3.5

Title:  No Comfort for the Lost
Author:  Nancy Herriman
Series:  Mystery of Old San Francisco #1
Publisher:  NAL
Publication Date:  August 4, 2015
Pages:  384
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.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Review: The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

Description (from cover):

'The international bestselling author of Into the Wilderness makes her highly anticipated return with a remarkable epic about two female doctors in nineteenth-century New York and the transcendent power of courage and love...

The year is 1883, and in New York City, it's a time of dizzying splendor, crushing poverty, and tremendous change. With the gravity-defying Brooklyn Bridge nearly complete and New York in the grips of anti-vice crusader Anthony Comstock, Anna Savard and her cousin Sophie--both graduates of the Woman's Medical School--treat the city's most vulnerable, even if doing so may put everything they've strived for in jeopardy.

Anna's work has placed her in the path of four children who have lost everything, just as she herself once had. Faced with their helplessness, Anna must make an unexpected choice between holding on to the pain of her past and letting love into her life.

For Sophie, an obstetrician and the orphaned daughter of free people of color, helping a desperate young mother forces her to grapple with the oath she took as a doctor--and thrusts her and Anna into the orbit of Anthony Comstock, a dangerous man who considers himself the enemy of everything indecent and of anyone who dares to defy him.

With its vivid depictions of old New York and its enormously appealing characters, The Gilded Hour is a captivating, emotionally gripping novel that proves Sara Donati is an author at the height of her powers.'

My thoughts:

This book was quite long at some 700 plus pages, but it was a good read. It didn't feel like I was reading such a big book and it was quite the riveting story. It has some romance in it, but it was tastefully done. I loved the characters, the setting and more importantly, the plot. This was a beautiful story about two women doctors in the big New York City. These doctors are considered to be outcasts because they are woman and Sophie is treated even more so because she is half African-American. Both Sophie and Anna are passionate about women's rights and healthcare and have to really test their morals and medical learning when poor women come to them asking for birth control or other methods of preventing pregnancy. At this time in history, birth control was considered to be a crime and no doctor could tell a patient how to prevent a pregnancy.

Sophie and Anna soon find themselves embroiled in legal troubles and face up against Anthony Comstock who believes himself to be the moral leader of the city. Will Comstock destroy Anna and Sophie's careers and everything that they worked so hard to gain? This book has a little bit of everything in it: a murder mystery, romance, suspense and historical fiction. It was hard not to stay up late during the night reading this book to see what happened next. I have enjoyed several of Donati's books in the past and this one did not disappoint. I love her writing style and her rich historical detail that really sets the tone for her novels. 

Historical fiction and suspense collide in this book and make it one that is truly remarkable. This was a beautiful story that I simply couldn't get enough of. This book really wants to make me explore the way medicine and women were treated in the medical profession at this time in history. The author provided a lot of books in her historical note that explained where she got her research from and I think I might end up checking into some of those books. Another fantastic read by Sara Donati that you will not want to miss.

Overall Rating: 5+

Title:  The Gilded Hour
Author:  Sara Donati
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  September 1, 2015
Pages:  752
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.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Blog Tour Post, Review & Giveaway: Be My Banshee by Joyce and Jim Lavene

Description (from cover):

'The Purple Door Detective Agency is hiring. Those without magic need not apply. Salary commensurate with experience. Apply at the agency on Brooke Street, No phone calls or psychic links.

Sunshine Merryweather is a young witch with a passion for colorful clothes and good food. She is the owner/operator of the Purple Door Detective Agency. Her partner, John, was brutally murdered three days ago, and she won't stop until she finds his killer.

Aine is only interested in one thing when she walks into the building with the purple door--locating the last man alive in the branch of the O'Neill family she haunyt as a beane sidhe. She has been asleep for more than 200 years in a ruined Irish castle and realizes that the world has moved on without her. She needs to find the O'Neill heir and encourage him to start a family or she will pass from existence when he dies.

Sunshine sees a potential partner when she looks at the powerful beane sidhe--they could be the next Dynamic Duo! But Aine isn't interested in Sunshine's schemes--until the witch agrees to help her locate O'Neill. Even then, it will be a short-term association at best from Aine's point of view. She has no need of witchcraft.

Neither woman is aware of the danger they face as an ancient assassin stalks the old port city of Norfolk, Virginia. It will take more than simple witchcraft or beane sidhe magic to stop the killer. They will have to work together and combine their talents. But can Sunshine and Aine put aside their differences to stop the murders without tearing each other apart?'

My thoughts:

I tried really really hard to like this book. I really did. It just didn't work for me. I love these authors and their writing and all of their other series and I thought that I would like this one too, but it really wasn't my cup of tea. This book is geared towards readers who enjoy paranormal mysteries. I am not really someone who enjoys that genre and this book fell flat for me. It was a little chaotic and hard to keep up with. With different creatures that interact with one another it was a little confusing. I typically like witches but this book was a little bit of a stretch for me. I did get into the book a little towards the ending, so there is hope for my liking this series. I am willing to give the next book in this series a shot, but don't know how I will be receptive to it. 

It wasn't the writing in this book that threw me off. It was the paranormal part as it is something that I don't typically read. I really think that this book will appeal to readers who like paranormal mysteries. It just wasn't for me. Sunshine Merryweather is the owner of the Purple Door Detective Agency and when this book opens she is searching for an associate to fill an opening at the agency. The position is open because Sunshine's partner, John, was brutally murdered three days prior. Sunshine is still grieving her friend's loss and is determined at any cost to bring his murderer to justice. With the help with several paranormal creatures, she sets out to see that her friend's murder is vindicated. 

Overall, this book just wasn't for me. I thought that the writing was good and that the characters were well developed. It just wasn't something that I typically read or enjoy reading. I feel bad because I really wanted to like this book because I really like the authors' other books. I will have to read the next book in this series to see if it is something that I want to continue with. I am curious to see how others received this book.

Overall Rating: 1.5

Title:  Be My Banshee
Author:  Joyce and Jim Lavene
Series:  Purple Door Detective Agency Mystery #1
Publisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date:  August 19, 2015
Pages:  224
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon

About the Authors:

Joyce and Jim Lavene write bestselling mystery fiction. They have written and published more than 60 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, and Charter Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family, Quincy, their black cat, Stan Lee their tabby and their rescue dog, Rudi.

This has been a stop on the Be My Banshee hosted by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. Make sure that you stop by the other stops as some of them are hosting giveaways of this book!

September 8 – Tea and A Book
September 9 – StoreyBook Reviews
September 10 – Socrates’ Book Reviews
September 10 – Babs Book Bistro
September 11 – A Blue Million Books
September 12- Shelley’s Book Case
September 13 – Cozy Up With Kathy
September 14 – Mythical Books
September 15 – Bubble Bath Books
September 16 – Girl Lost In a Book
September 17 – Brooke Blogs
September 17 – View from the Birdhouse
September 18 – fuonlyknew
September 19 – Laura’s Interests
September 20 – Moonlight Rendezvous

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclaimer: This book was given to 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.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Review: The Uninvited by Cat Winters

Description (from cover):

'From the award-winning author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds comes a stunning new novel--a masterfully crafted story of love, loss, and second chances. Set during the fear and panic of the Great Influenza of 1918, The Uninvited is part gothic ghost-story, part psychological thriller, perfect for those who loved The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield or The Vanishing by Wendy Webb.

Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days.

But Ivy's life-long gift--or curse--remains. For she sees the uninvited ones--ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother's chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy's older brother Billy in the Great War.

Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her "uninvited guests" begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.

The Uninvited is an atmospheric, haunting, and utterly compelling novel.'

My thoughts:

It is 1918 at the height of the "Spanish Influenza" epidemic in a small town in rural Illinois. Ivy Rowan wakes up from being sick and close to death with the flu. She awakes to her father and younger brother storming into the house with blood on their hands. Ivy's mother confronts the two and they learn that Ivy's father and brother have just beat a man to death with their bare hands. Ivy leaves the house devastated by this behavior and determined to get as far away as possible. She soon learns that the man murdered, was a local German shop owner in the nearby town. Ivy decides that she should atone for the sins of her family and sets off to face the German man's brother to do anything to make things right. She soon begins a confusing and guilt-ridden friendship with the brother, Daniel. Ivy learns about freedom and how limited that is with all of the sickness surrounding her. She soon meets a war widow that she rents a room from and begins volunteering with the local Red Cross helping the sick and needy. Ivy is haunted by the German man's death and the sadness and death around her. She begins seeing spirits more frequently and she becomes concerned. The spirits have only shown themselves when they are bringing news of death close to Ivy and her family. Does this mean that more death will hit close to home? Ivy struggles day in and day out with guilt and does anything she can to make that go away. 

This book was utterly amazing. Once I started, I couldn't stop. I read this book in one night. No lie. I stayed up late reading this book because I could not go to sleep without knowing what happened. The ending was a twist that I never saw coming. I highly recommend this book if you like historical fiction, paranormal fiction or just a great book period. This book will appeal to all readers because the words flow from the author's pen onto the page with such eloquence. This book was beautifully crafted and well put together. I am simply raving about this book because it was such a shock to read something so moving and powerful. It is a little different, but it is unique and beautiful in ways that I cannot even describe. If I lose sleep over a book, well that is saying something because I love sleep. 

The story of Ivy is rich in detail and emotions. Death surrounds Ivy at every turn and she has to learn to keep pushing through or be swallowed by the darkness. This story tells the tale of grief, survival and determination. The author did such a phenomenal job with this book that I was left utterly speechless. I was so sad to see it come to an end. I am not surprised that this author won awards for her other novel In the Shadows of Blackbirds. If that book is anything like this book, well I have found a wonderful new author to read. I placed In the Shadows of Blackbirds on hold at the library because well I just have to read it now. If you want to read a book that will captivate you and make you really think about life, then this is a must read for you. Do not miss out on reading this book.

Overall Rating: 5+

Title:  The Uninvited
Author:  Cat Winters
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  William Morrow
Publication Date:  August 11, 2015
Pages:  368
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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