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Category: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Review: The White Princess by Phillipa Gregory

[ 8 ] August 1, 2013

12326627Reviewed by Krista Castner

Phillipa Gregory has delivered a tautly paced book of historical fiction with The White Princess, the fifth book in her Cousins’ War series. The book is set in the years after Henry VII defeats Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. After his victory, Princess Elizabeth of York is forced to marry Henry Tudor. Princess Elizabeth York is the eldest daughter of King Edward IV, and the niece of Richard III. By joining the houses of Lancaster and York in this way he hopes to end the period of conflict now known as The War of the Roses.

This book is told from Elizabeth’s perspective as she watches her unconfident husband try to win the hearts of the English people. He doesn’t have the easy charm of the Yorks. He’s constantly looking over his shoulder for new threats to his crown. His mother, Margaret Beaufort who insists on being called, “My Lady the King’s Mother” resents Elizabeth and is wary of her and every remaining York family member.

After all, Elizabeth’s two brothers Edward, (Prince of Wales) and Richard (Duke of York) were the two little princes who were sent to the Tower of London by their Uncle Richard, and were never seen again. What happened to the boys? Did either one of them survive? Does Elizabeth know anything about whether one or both of the boys are still alive? Where will her loyalties lie when York “pretenders” to the throne appear? Will she recognize a long-lost brother who could steal her children’s inheritance? Her son Arthur, Prince of Wales is next in line to the throne and her younger son Henry was named Duke of York when he was just three years old. Will she support the new Tudor dynasty, or her York heritage?

Those are all the fascinating questions posed in The White Princess. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it was surprisingly suspenseful. There were a few times when I got annoyed with the repetition of key sentences several times on a page as if I couldn’t grasp the concept the first time it was presented. Henry VII isn’t painted in a very flattering light, but I think that the portrayal was accurate. Elizabeth seemed long-suffering to put up with all his and his mother’s paranoia. But really, what other option did she have? She was a royal princess in a political marriage in a time when women didn’t have control over their own destiny.

I appreciated the accurate depiction of the historical era, and the interesting theory about what might have happened to the York princes. Gregory skillfully illustrated how the threat posed by this mystery would have formed the outlook and actions of the first generation of the Tudor dynasty.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Touchstone. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Joyland by Stephen King

[ 4 ] July 31, 2013

JoylandReviewed by Marcus Hammond

There are special moments in life when we get a chance to reminisce about all the wonderful, stupid, and heartbreaking experiences from our adolescence. These special moments shine when things get too dark and heavy. The nostalgia of this situation is a focal point for Stephen King’s new mystery, Joyland. The novel is one part detective novel and one part coming of age tale that proves King is not just a master of horror and suspense, but also of capturing the human condition.

Devin is a college student who tries to navigate the complex world of emotion that surrounds him while finding an identity that fits. In an attempt to get away from his stagnant social life and his first broken heart, Devin takes a job at an amusement park in coastal North Carolina. As he begins to find separation from the heartache of the past, Devin begins to unravel a murder from Joyland’s past that has long gone cold.

A much older and wiser Devin, who looks back on his summer at Joyland with the wisdom and clarity only afforded those who have had many years to contemplate life lessons, narrates the entire story. This retrospective approach helps convey significance to each event in the story. Early in Devin’s experience at Joyland he dons the mascot costume, which is the most hated of all the amusement park jobs. Devin, however, excels at playing the hound dog and he begins to learn how important creating, sharing, and experiencing happiness is. This lesson eventually links to other significant events, when Devin begins caring for a young crippled boy and his mother. This event helped Devin both leave his broken heart in the past and begin living in the present.

The surprisingly emotional and realistic character development seamlessly enhances the secondary mystery/suspense theme that works into the story later in the novel. While Devin’s maturing process is central to the story, the years old murder that he begins to investigate allows King to include a bit of the violence and horror that he is most well-known for. Devin’s curiosity about the murder eventually leads towards a violent climax that is best described as classic Stephen King writing.

It was surprising to find such emotional depth within what was publicized as a straight out mystery novel. It is easy to connect with Devin as well as many of the secondary characters as King develops this descriptive, entertaining tale of personal growth and murder.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Hard Case Crime. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Tainted Angel by Anne Cleeland

[ 2 ] July 7, 2013

images (8)Reviewed by A.D. Cole

In the time of Napoleon’s exile on Elba, there is a growing sense of unease; a fear of a second war, should the emperor escape. It is during this tense phase that Anne Cleeland’s novel, Tainted Angel, takes place. Gold is going missing in both France and England. England’s economic stability rests in the hands of one man, who owns far too many government-issued bonds. And it is the task of the lovely spy, Vidia, to keep track of this man.

However, when she finds herself surprisingly (and not unpleasantly) seduced by her fellow spy, Lucien Carstairs, it becomes blatantly evident that her employer has begun to question her loyalty. She quickly ascertains that Carstairs’ primary motivation is the ferreting out of her every secret. What she’s unable to determine at the outset, however, is whether Carstairs also has true feelings for her. Unfortunately, she can’t adequately explore the depths of those feelings when, at any moment, he might be handing her over to the hangman.

What ensues is a complex plot full of twists and lies and romance. The beginning felt mired down in unanswered questions and it took what I considered to be too long getting going. I was probably a third of the way through the book when I finally felt I had a firm understanding of the characters and story line. In the end, though, it all made sense. Everything comes together nicely and you wind up with a very clear, vivid picture of what was going on. I would have preferred to know a few more things up front, though. Such as whether or not I could trust Vidia or Carstairs. With Vidia, I wasn’t certain, for a while, whether she was a heroine or an anti-heroine.

The characters were well developed. The author created rich and detailed histories for them all of which were given to us through brief, entertaining references and anecdotes. There weren’t any long, dull back stories.

Tainted Angel is a historical fiction. The author, in her dedication, refers to it as Regency Adventure. This is all well and good, but I would say the romance thread drove this novel just as much as the plot. So I’m not sure what tipped this into the general fiction category, unless it’s the lack of graphic description in the love scenes. Anyhow, if you absolutely don’t enjoy romance, you’ll likely not enjoy this book.

There was a lot I thoroughly enjoyed. I liked the duplicity in all the characters. The humor. The willingness on Vidia’s part to forgive being double-crossed, time and time again. The fact that she uses terms like double-cross, twigged (being found out), and grass (to tattle). Her willingness to follow her heart with her eyes open to reality. Her self-deprecation at her foolishness for following her heart in spite of reality. And the way everything comes together in the end.

I enjoyed this novel. The more it percolates in my mind, the more I’m pleased with it. But it was definitely slow going in the beginning. Fortunately, Vidia’s personality and her interest in Carstairs carry that part of the novel. So I think it’s worth a read, especially if you enjoy Regency era romance and adventure.

My favorite quote: “It is beyond vexing, she thought in annoyance as she slid between the silken sheets in her chemise–she couldn’t even have a warm night with a willing man without international repercussions.”

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Sourcebooks Landmark. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Fangs Out by David Freed

[ 3 ] July 4, 2013

Fangs-Out-Cover-Gif-compatible-1Reviewed by Jessa Larsen

When Dorian Munz, a dead man convicted of murder, is asked if he has any last words, he has more than a few. In the last remaining moment of his life, he spins a tale of innocence and wrongful conviction. Now, Hub Walker, a famous war hero and father of Munz’s victim, wants to hire the one and only Cordell Logan to prove that Munz’s last words were nothing but panicked nonsense.

Walker is married to a former playmate and resides in the luxurious end of San Diego. Logan is quick to take him up on his offer of ten grand to snoop around since he feels this won’t be anything more than a paid vacation and he can definitely use both the pay and the vacation. Unfortunately for him, this is not as cut and dry as it would first appear. Logan quickly finds himself spiraling into all sorts of trouble and danger. Who really killed Walker’s daughter and why? As Logan digs around, it turns out whoever was really behind the senseless violence has no problems engaging in more violence to make sure nobody finds that out.

Fangs Out is a riveting tale of mystery and suspense. Cordell Logan needs the money and inadvertently ends up looking like he’s digging his own grave. We follow Logan as he deals with shady lawyers, an ex-wife, an ex-playmate, a war hero, gangbangers, and local law enforcement. This is definitely a page turner and you become obsessed with finding out who really killed Ruth Walker and why. Logan is one of those characters you’d originally love to hate but end up loving him instead. You really root for him as the hero and hope he comes out on top.

Fangs Out is the second book in the Cordell Logan series and after reading this one, I am definitely going to be grabbing the rest of the set. David Freed is impressively knowledgeable about both military and aviation (as he should be, having experience in both as well as law enforcement). I really got snagged with this one and couldn’t put it down until I finished the book.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, 2 sons, 2 dogs and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She is a full time mom and enjoys writing short stories in her spare time. She also likes watching anime, reading books, and playing video games.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Permanent Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: The Registry by Shannon Stoker

[ 5 ] July 2, 2013

51PkYxxu6kLPlease join Shannon Stoker, author of The Registry, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Reviewed by Christen Krumm

I have been hearing a lot about the new “New Adult Fiction” genre and I was slightly curious as to what it would entail. Shannon Stocker’s debut, The Registry, was my dive into New Adult Fiction. I am a lover of Young Adult Fiction and since this was just a tiny step up I figured I’d like it. My final assessment was that it was not that bad.

The Registry was super interesting—I am always fascinated with the worlds authors create for their dystopian novels. In this world, females are held in high regard—high regard only for the price they can bring in “the registry”. The registry is an online database of women where they are rated based on their beauty and smartness (however those smart women are rated painfully low with hardly any chance of ever getting chosen). From this database, men can choose a price range and purchase their brides. Mia Morrissey is looking forward to the day that she turns eighteen and is eligible for the registry until that fateful day when her sister storms through her door in a panic, badly beaten, and hints of Mia’s life to come—that it is not what she thinks.

Thus begins Mia’s dangerous journey to freedom. Leaving her home in a hurry and with hardly anything to her name, Mia, with the “help” of a farm hand and her best friend, starts the terrifying journey to Mexico with her with her new “husband” hot on her heels (and this game of cat and mouse will have you on the very edge of your seat).

This book sucked me in from the first page. Stoker’s easy writing and gripping story did not let me go. There were a few spots that were a little awkward, but that is simply personal preference. I love the world that Stoker created and I am excited to get to visit a second and third time. Of course it being the first in a trilogy you get to the end and realize it is the first and, if only for a few seconds, you panic because you are not going to get to finish the full story—and let me tell you, Stoker leaves you on a pretty dire note. Bravo for a debut well done. I am anxiously awaiting the release of book two (with is not until fall 2014!)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Christen is an aspiring author, book lover, and coffee drinker. She lives in Arkansas with her superhero husband and 2 mini people. Connect with her at her blog: ChristenKrumm.com or Twitter @christenkrumm

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

[ 5 ] June 25, 2013

9780670016648_p0_v1_s260x420Reviewed by MaryLu McFall

Peter Byerley loved old books and he adored his wife, Amanda. When her death left him totally bereft he thought he would never care about anything or anyone again. But months passed and he finally left for England, hoping to build some sort of life for himself with books—searching for them, collecting, and restoring, if necessary. When he found an old book about forgery and Shakespeare he found something that pulled him in several directions at once. A picture of a woman who looked exactly like his beloved Amanda.

That is only the beginning of absorbing twists and turns in this tale of a bookman, his new life, a woman named Liz, and enough clues to boggle his mind. The author tells tales within a tale within another tale, and while this can be a little difficult to follow at first, it does take us where we need to go. That’s to follow Peter in his search for proof of the authenticity of the book he has found, and back to Elizabethan England to where Shakespeare himself may have had a hand in more than a play or two.

Book lovers of all ages will love this engrossing novel. Did Shakespeare really write all those plays? There is not much proof that he did; furthermore he had absolutely no real education. Several alternatives are offered, some offered for decades, some truly off the Globe wall. Peter searches and finds evidence of forgery and fears what he has found is just that. He continues to seek information about the woman in the portrait. Amanda appears to him at odd moments and continues to support him a she did throughout their marriage.

The new woman in his life, Liz, finds the whole thing amusing and fascinating. Amanda lets Peter know she approves, and helps him to gain confidence. Then there’s a murder or two, and things really get tangled. Peter is prime suspect and he realizes just who is to blame, but cannot believe the evidence. He manages to protect Liz, while he keeps seeking answers.

The Bookman’s Tale is an absorbing book that I couldn’t put down; I spent one whole day and part of the evening just reading, turning pages, and being charmed by the characters, the twists of the plot, and the satisfying ending.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

MaryLu McFall is the author of A Little Karmic Murder, an eBook that is available on Kindle, Nook, and all other electronic readers. She lives, works part-time at an independent bookstore, and will soon have her Young Adult novel, The Family Lancaster, published as an eBook as well.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Viking Adult. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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