Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review: A Virtuous Death by Christine Trent

Description (from cover):

'Queen Victoria, still mourning her long-dead husband Prince Albert, has found solace in John Brown, an enigmatic palace servant who dabbles in the occult and keeps the grieving queen entertained with his tarot card readings. Undertaker Violet Harper is invited to attend one of Mr. Brown's infamous readings, during which he implies that Buckingham Palace will soon be shrouded in death's dark veil. Well acquainted with death, Violet shrugs him off as a charlatan--until his sinister divinations begin to prove true...

Violet wonders if something foul is in the cards when the aristocratic young friends of the queen's daughter begin to due under mysterious circumstances. Her suspicions only grow when one of London's "moralists," a group bent on repealing the law that forces prostitutes into hospitals, suffers a similar fate. The deaths merely buttress the queen's enthusiasm for Mr. Brown's ominous talents, and, concerned by the fortuneteller's influence, Violet races against time to unearth the truth before the killer strikes again. But as she closes in on a murderer with an unearthly motive, Violet realizes she may be digging her own grave...

By turns heartwrenching and hopeful, A Virtuous Death is a gripping tale of fortitude besieged by vengeance inside the extraordinary world of Queen Victoria's court.

My thoughts:

So I tried and I tried to get into this book, but I had quite the hard time doing so. It just couldn't keep my focus like the others in this series did and I have to say that I enjoyed the storyline, but it was an okay book for me. Nothing really made me excited to read this and when it was over it was sort of a relief. The writing was good and the characters are endearing, however, I just couldn't get into this one like I did with the others in this series. I think part of the reason is because I find Queen Victoria to be quite annoying. Of course, this is not the author's fault as she is writing about the way a historical person really was. 

Queen Victoria simply annoys the crap out of me because she is still grieving Prince Albert who has been dead for quite a long time. I simply want to shake her and be like get over it already. But that is historical fact. She also speaks in the third person which is incessantly annoying. I believe that for the most part I was bored with this book because I am able sick of Queen Victoria and her weirdness. I really enjoy Violet's character and all the things I learn about Victorian undertaking in this series, but somehow Queen Victoria puts a damper on the whole book for me.

Nevertheless, if we can get Violet away from the annoying Queen then perhaps this series would really pick up for me. I just don't know how much I can put up with it right now. I think that if I had read the books in this series separately and not back to back it might have made a difference. I will just have to wait to see what happens in the next installment in this series and hope that Violet stays away from Victoria and we get to see Violet doing what she does best.

Overall Rating: 2

Title:  A Virtuous Death
Author:  Christine Trent
Series:  Lady of Ashes Mystery #3
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  October 24, 2014
Pages:  288
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Review: Stolen Remains by Christine Trent

Description (from cover):

'After establishing her reputation as one of London's most highly regarded undertakes, Violet Harper decided to take her practice to the wilds of the American West. But when her mother falls ill, Violet and her husband Samuel are summoned back to England, where her skills are as sought-after as ever. She's honored to undertake the funeral of Anthony Fairmont, the Viscount Raybourn, a close friend of Queen Victoria's who died in suspicious circumstances--but it's difficult to perform her services when his body disappears...

As the viscount's undertaker, all eyes are on Violet as the Fairmonts and Scotland Yard begin the search for his earthly remains. Forced to exhume her latent talents as a sleuth to preserve her good name, Violet's own investigation takes her from servants' quarters, to the halls of Windsor Castle, to the tombs of ancient Egypt--and the Fairmont family's secrets quickly begin to unravel like a mummy's wrappings. But the closer Violet gets to the truth, the closer she gets to becoming the next missing body...

Wrought with both heartfelt bravery and breathtaking suspense, Stolen Remains is a captivating tale of death and deception set against the indelible backdrop of Victorian London.'

My thoughts:

I have never pictured myself to be someone who is interesting in the undertaking and mortuary business. However, this series really intrigues me and opens up a world that I would have never found myself to enjoy. The Victorians were quite sentimental about death and it is interesting to see how they handled the death of loved ones and how it differs from how funerals are held today. Some people would say that the Victorians were quite morbid about death, and in a way they are right. I can't even fathom creating jewelry or keepsakes from the hair of a dead person, but this was quite a common practice in those days. The author of this book does a wonderful job of informing the reader of the culture and the practices surrounding death in the Victorian era and I find it to be quite interesting at the same time.

I enjoyed the first book in this series and I enjoyed this book. I will say that there was one time in this book that I was a little frustrated at something that I felt would never had happened in real life and it annoyed me. I like to read books that seem to be true to real life in a sense, and this event was a little farfetched and it kind of made me not like this book quite as much. I like to read something that I can find to be believable and when something happens that strays from that, it does irk me and tends to make me question the whole story and plot line. 

Overall, I find Violet's character to be engaging and the storyline to be intense and captivating. I will say that Violet does irritate me that she talks to the dead in the way that she does, but never being someone in that position, I can't say if that is what really happens or just something that the author wanted to add to this book. I just can't see myself comforting the dead, especially someone who is a stranger to me. Anyways, not the best in the series, but enough to keep me interested and wanting to see what happens next.

Overall Rating: 3

Title:  Stolen Remains
Author:  Christine Trent
Series:  Lady of Ashes Mystery #2
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date: April 29, 2014
Pages:  Kensington
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

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

Monday, February 9, 2015

Review: Keeper of the Castle by Juliet Blackwell

Description (from cover):

'A job to die for.

San Francisco contractor--and reluctant ghost buster--Mel Turner has been worried about finding enough historic-renovation work. But while Turner Construction is in need of a project, Mel's boyfriend, Graham, has his hands full managing the reconstruction of an ancient building shipped over from Scotland.

With the job plagued by rumors that the stones are cursed, Graham brings in Mel to look for paranormal activity. And while the ghost of a charming Scottish clansman does seem to be hanging around the site, the real shock comes when they stumble upon a body.

When the original construction crew starts running scared, Mel brings in her team to finish the job. Now all she has to do is nail down the killer and put the spirits to rest, before anyone else winds up heading for the Highlands...'

My thoughts:

I have previously lauded this book series on my blog and have come to really enjoy reading the newest installments. When the library finally got this book, I jumped at the chance to read it. I love paranormal mysteries that feature ghosts and while construction and home repair is not really my forte, I enjoy this series for what it offers. I really have come to enjoy Mel's character. I love her grittiness and her willingness to jump in and get what needs to be done completed. She's not the typical female mystery character, but I sort of like that about her. This author offers this reader of cozy mysteries something fresh and different and I really have come to enjoy this series because of that.

In this book, Mel finds herself embroiled in yet another murder mystery surrounding one of her building sites. Of course, there are ghosts who make their presence known and Mel has to use her paranormal abilities to discover just what is going on. In this one, we see a lot of character growth in Mel and on the relationship front. I can't wait to see what happens next in this series and waiting for the next book to be released just seems like torture. 

I will say that this book doesn't have a lot of the ghostly interaction that I have come to expect with this series. That in itself was a little disappointing. I was hoping to see a little more paranormal in this one than what was offered. The mystery was complex and not all that easy for me to figure out, so that of course is a plus. I am hoping the next mystery in this series will have a lot of displaced ghosts that Mel has to try to help. Nevertheless, a good mystery that kept me entertained from beginning to end. 

Overall Rating: 3.5

Title:  Keeper of the Castle
Author:  Juliet Blackwell
Series:  Haunted Home Renovation Mystery #5
Publisher:  Signet
Publication Date:  December 2, 2014
Pages:  336
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.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Review: The Laws of Murder by Charles Finch

Description (from cover):

'It's 1876, and Charles Lenox, once London's leading private investigator, has just given up his seat in Parliament after six years, primed to return to his first love, detection. With high hopes he and three colleagues start a new detective agency, the first of its kind. But as the months pass, and he is the only detective who cannot find work, Lenox begins to question whether he can still play the game as he once did.

Then comes a chance to redeem himself, through at a terrible price: a friend, a member of Scotland Yard, is shot near Regent's Park. As Lenox begins to parse the peculiar details of the death--an unlaced boot, a days-old wound, an untraceable luggage ticket--he realizes that the incident may lead him into grave personal danger, beyond which lays a terrible truth.

With all the humanity, glamor, and mystery that readers have come to love, the latest Lenox novel is a shining new confirmation of the enduring popularity of Charles Finch's Victorian series.'

My thoughts:

So after reading all of the books in this series and keeping up with the new releases, I have decided that I like this series, but I don't at the same time. Mainly the thing that keeps me returning is the fact that I have a connection with the characters. I genuinely have come to enjoy reading about them and want to see how things turn out for them. However, the author seems to have taken this series to another level than what was presented at the beginning. I am glad that Charles has left Parliament behind and returned to good old-fashioned sleuthing, but it still lacks the brilliance that the first couple of books in this series had at the beginning. I feel like something is missing, but I can't quite pinpoint what it is that makes me feel this way.

Charles' character has taken a drastic development since the first book, and part of me thinks that I prefer the old Charles better. Now that he is married and has been in Parliament, he seems to have lost his original charisma that drew me into his character at first. I still enjoy reading these books to see what happens with the characters, it just has lost its appeal somewhat for me. I hate to be saying that, because when I first starting reading this series, I really felt that this one that would always excite me and have me wanting more. 

While, this wasn't the best book in the series and I am a little disappointed in where the series is going, the writing is good and the characters are strong. I just wish that I could enjoy this series more, like I did in the beginning and I really hate that I feel this way, but optimist that I am, I am hoping that the series returns to the way it was before. I have my fingers crossed and will hope that the next book will not disappoint.

Overall Rating: 2.5

Title:  The Laws of Murder
Author:  Charles Finch
Series:  Charles Lenox Mystery #8
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  November 11, 2014
Pages:  304
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, January 26, 2015

Review: Murder in the Afternoon by Frances Brody

Description (from cover):

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

Dead one minute...

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

Alive the next?...

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

A sinister disappearing act...

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

My thoughts:

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  Murder in the Afternoon
Author:  Frances Brody
Series:  Kate Shackleton Mystery #3
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  February 11, 2014
Pages:  400
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: London by Edward Rutherfurd

Description (from cover):

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

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

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

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

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

My thoughts:

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 4

Title:  London
Author:  Edward Rutherfurd
Series:  N/a
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Publication Date:  October 29, 2002 (Reprint)
Pages:  1152
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

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

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

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

Description (from cover):

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

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

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

My thoughts:

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 4

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

About the Author:

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 8
Review at Buried Under Books

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

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

Monday, January 12
Review at Flashlight Commentary

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

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

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

Friday, January 16
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Monday, January 19
Review at Beth’s Book Book

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

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

Thursday, January 22
Review at Musings of a Bookish Kitty

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

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

Wednesday, January 28
Review at A Book Geek

Thursday, January 29
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Saturday, January 31
Review & Giveaway at The Calico Critic

Monday, February 2
Review at Book Nerd

Tuesday, February 3
Spotlight at I Heart Reading

Thursday, February 5
Review at Layered Pages

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

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