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Category: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Blog Tour: A Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb

[ 4 ] June 17, 2013

images (6)Please join Katherine Webb, author of A Half Forgotten Song, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Reviewed by Kathie Smith

Katherine Webb masterfully intertwines the past and present in A Half Forgotten Song.

Zach Gilchrist has fallen off course somewhere along the way. An aspiring artist specializing in Charles Aubrey, with whom he may or may not share a biological connection, Zach finds himself divorced, facing the reality of his much-loved daughter moving to America, and selling art in a floundering gallery.

His one hope is the advance he received to write a book about Charles Aubrey. He realizes that this cannot be yet another book about Aubrey’s work and life. This book needs an angle, a catch. Blacknowle, England was the summer vacationing spot for Aubrey’s family for several years and this small village along the Dorset coast is where he met Dimity “Mityz” Hatcher – a frequent subject for his prized artwork. Zach believes this is the one place he may find answers concerning the mystery of Charles Aubrey.

Surprisingly, Dimity “Mitzy” Hatcher is still alive yet has never been interviewed by any previous writers of books about Aubrey. Zach is instantly fascinated by an unusual woman whose eyes hold promise of endless possibility. As Zach builds a tenuous relationship with Mitzy, he slowly learns the story of the summer of 1937: Aubrey’s last summer in Dorset before unpredictably entering the war after the death of his daughter and mysterious disappearance of his wife.

Mitzy was a beauty as a child but outcast and ridiculed due to her ragged appearance and unloving mother’s reputation. When Aubreys arrive one summer and Mitzy is quickly befriended by the children, Delphine and Elodie, she feels her heart open with hope and possibility. It is not long before Charles takes notice of Mitzy’s beauty and begins to sketch her. The attention leads to what appears to be a young crush on a handsome man who has, unlike so many others, taken an interest in her.

Mitzy’s relationship with Charles and the rest of the Aubrey family is complex and fascinating. The world is opened for her during a vacation to Morocco, yet she returned to Blacknowle where she remained for life. Mitzy no longer cares that she is considered the odd spinster recluse as she lives with memories, and ghosts, of her past with the seemingly misguided notion that her relationship with Aubrey came to fruition and remains a strong reality for her to this day.

The startling, haunting, heartbreaking and hopeful truths begin to emerge and allow Mitzy to release the ghosts of her past while allowing Zach to see new possibilities for his future. Everything is nicely wrapped up at the end, but it is impossible not to ponder the possibilities of what may come next. Elizabeth Webb has created a captivating modern gothic novel in A Half Forgotten Song that will satisfy fans of Kate Morton, Daphne du Maurier and countless others.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Kathie is a writer, wife, mother and volunteer living in the beautiful Appalachian mountains. Her passion for the written word is fulfilled by creating her own fictional work, freelancing, acting as an adviser to another author, and reading with her six year old daughter.

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 Messiah Matrix by Kenneth John Atchity

[ 1 ] June 14, 2013

messiah-matrix2Reviewed by MaryLu McFall

If it weren’t for the continuing interest in the wickedness of the Catholic Church and the on-going variety of plots imagined, we would be forced to find another perpetual villain. Fortunately for those of us who enjoy a good thriller with romance thrown in, the never-ending variety of writers’ imaginations keeps giving us new ones.

The Messiah Matrix has a plot with all the ingredients to keep us turning pages. A lovely archaeologist with two assistants finds a treasure in the harbor by the ancient port of Caesarea. It is a rare gold coin. Emily Scelba is convinced the coin is authentic, but calls upon a former lover (probably never a really good idea to trust one of them) for help in proving her find authentic. In a somewhat obvious move, he disappears when the value of the coin is deemed to be priceless.

Then we have Father Ryan McKeown, S.J., the tousled brown-haired priest (a Jesuit—in a bit of rather timely choice), who is in his cassock and life of celibacy somewhat reluctantly. He is drawn into a rapidly escalating plot of murder, Vatican politics, and danger. When he meets Emily after the one man they both knew turns up dead, the road to a solution to the many problems presented becomes rocky indeed. Make no mistake about this book; it’s a well-written thriller with a deep secret which would shock the world. Although at this point in history, nothing the Vatican or the Catholic Church does shocks all that much.

This secret has been kept for hundreds of years; the Jesuits (known as the scholars, educators, and sometime rebels of the church) are hell-bent to keep the secret until such time….well, such time that it would be convenient for a power grab.

Emily and Ryan try to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. It’s hard to tell who that is and it seems to depend on the mood of the day. Ryan struggles with his crisis of faith and his attraction to Emily. She moans to herself that the sexiest man she has met in years is a man who has sworn his life to his order and to a life of celibacy. Thankfully, the author does not descend to prurient tastes and manages to escalate the sexual tension without resorting to anything other than the sins of thought and withheld desire. Although the two are trapped once (more than once) and do end up in each other’s arms exchanging a smoldering kiss. Much to their individual dismay.

The author has an impressive background as a scholar. It is obvious in the history that is part and parcel of this story. Augustus Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Roman history of the time of Jesus, and Jesus himself are brought together. But that is the part of the novel that may cause many readers to pause. The parallels between the life of Augustus and Jesus are clearly intended to shock and surprise. The Roman Emperor had himself declared a god, his birth a miracle of conception, and supposedly pulled off miracles of his own.

The introduction of historical facts is covered rather slickly by having Emily tell the skeptic Father Ryan all the “facts” in the form of stories. Emily herself went to a school taught by Jesuits, but has long since left the church. She has a great deal of historical knowledge which continues to shock Ryan. The plot proceeds at a good pace right down to the last chapters. The ending struck me as contrived, and the stretch when the secret is revealed is almost too unbelievable to consider. But that’s from one who also left the church. Those first eight grades in Parochial Catholic School leave an indelible mark.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

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 Kenneth John Atchity. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: Afloat by Erin Healy

[ 2 ] June 14, 2013

afloat1Please welcome Erin Healy, author of Afloat, who is touring the blogosphere with Litfuse Publicity!

Reviewed by Marcus Hammond

In Erin Healy’s Afloat, a large group of people becomes stranded on a developing condominium complex after a series of man-made and natural disasters cut of all their routes of escape. The power of forgiveness and love is contrasted with the power of selfishness and greed as the group tries to escape and survive the uncertainty of the situation.

The central character of the story is Vance Nolan. Vance is the architect of the Eagle’s Talon condominium complex. Eagle’s Talon is meant to be the first floating condo resort. The buildings are designed to float on steel support beams in the waters of a quiet cove. Chaos soon enters Vance’s life when one of the docks suddenly breaks apart and falls into the cove. Vance’s dream of creating something wonderful begins to fall apart as his project financier begins to push for Vance to lay off his workers in response to the accident. Before that happens, however, rain moves in and creates an end of the world scenario for all those working and living at the site. With all escape routes flooded, each person stranded in the cove begin to show their true colors. Some of the people who are stranded wish to help each other wait out the catastrophe, while others seek self-preservation.

Afloat is a complex tale of human emotion that links directly into the power of spirituality. For Vance, the catastrophe brings a flood of early childhood memories while others try to figure out how to survive at any cost, human or emotional. Each character is faced with physical, emotional, and spiritual danger; however, it is faith in God that helps those who survive find strength.

While the novel is strongly rooted in the Christian inspiration style of writing, Healy does a great job of making the struggles Vance and the other characters face feel universal. God and faith are ever-present as certain characters experience a divine force working within the group, but each action and reaction to whatever new adversity arises is entirely human and believable. The emotions portrayed are believable even for a reader who is not a fan of the genre.

The one problem with the novel could be seen in Healy’s narrative strategy. During the chaos of the multiple catastrophes that occur on Eagle’s Talon, Healy breaks the action to develop Vance’s character. As Vance’s childhood and adolescent experiences are expanded on the quick pace of the narrative is slowed to a crawl. While the back-story is important to the overall narrative, it may seem like it could have been organized differently.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

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 Thomas Nelson. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Stoker’s Manuscript by Royce Prouty

[ 2 ] June 11, 2013

stokers-manuscriptReviewed by Amanda Farmer

Stoker’s Manuscript by Royce Prouty was not quite what I expected. The story starts out with Joseph Barkeley, a book dealer and authenticator, being asked to look at what seems to be the original manuscript of Dracula by Bram Stoker complete with an alternate beginning and ending. From the moment he agrees to look at the manuscript to the end of the story we’re thrown into a whirlwind of deceit, dark family history, murder, and of course, vampires. They don’t sparkle when sunlight hits them. Joseph brings the manuscript to Romania to Vlad Dracul’s son Dalca, someone you don’t want to mess with on a good day. Dalca has eyes everywhere and ensures Joseph’s cooperation with looking at the manuscript for clues about his long dead wife’s burial site. Dalca is feared throughout the Romanian town of Dreptu and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Even turning Joseph’s own brother, Bernhardt, into a human slave (someone who the vampires take blood from) to get the answers Dalca wants.

As the reader is drawn into the story, we are given a lot of history behind Bram Stoker and his manuscript, along with the family history of Vlad Dracul (a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler), and some dark family history of Joseph’s, which he would love to forget. The reader is led on the journey of discovery with Joseph and we are able to see what makes each character in the story tick and what drives their decisions.

Overall, I found the story to have an interesting concept but it fell short for me. I found myself struggling to finish it. I wanted to like it, but found myself losing interest near the middle before being drawn back in near the end. The story was well written but had too many places where Mr. Prouty got a tad bit wordy. I would recommend this story if you’re looking for some history behind the novel Dracula and Romania.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Amanda loves spending time at home with her husband and their dog, Oreo. She loves reading, playing puzzle games, beading and watching movies. When she’s not reading, she’s working on her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.

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

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Review: The Da Vinci Deception by Thomas Swan

[ 3 ] June 8, 2013

717af66cc996bdb2ad3c885c7459d6f2Reviewed by MaryLu McFall

The Da Vinci Deception, an introduction of Inspector Jack Oxby, was originally published years ago, and re-published in paperback in late 2012 to more success. The untimely title was overshadowed by Dan Brown’s novel. The two are only comparable in the Da Vinci connection.

In this caper an art fraud is carefully planned by an art and antiques dealer who is described sounding as close to Sydney Greenstreet as one can imagine. Jonas Kalum gathers a group of specialists picked for their unique talents: Curtis Stiehl, a counterfeiter being released from jail; Tony Waters, a con man with a long history; Eleanor Shephard, a specialist in the histories of ink and paper; and Giorgio Burri, an Italian DaVinci collector. Months of planning and preparation include speeches by Kalum hinting at a new original work of DaVinci’s about to be found.

Well-laid plans begin to unglue in London where Tony has been planted in the Library where the Royals have several originals which Curtis needs and Tony must borrow over a weekend. Unfortunately, a female Scotland Yard plant becomes suspicious and oddly enough goes with Tony to have a drink. You guessed it—Tony realizes the whole deal will all be for naught unless he takes care of her by setting her up to have an accident which she does not survive.

All the art history is written with aplomb, but a little research might prove some inaccuracies. So, a little willing suspension of disbelief or raised eyebrow suspicion is in order. When Oxby finally enters the story it is confusing since the cover states it is an Inspector Jack Oxby novel. The two publishing dates explain that—so it helps to be aware of that otherwise you will wonder where the devil Jack is keeping himself. Actually, Inspector Oxby has been after Jonas for months. He heard of some of Jonas’ lectures and wondered what he might be up to in predicting the “discovery” of a new item by the famous artist. There are a couple of twists that show Oxby’s genius in both deception and disguise and it made the whole thing fun to read. If you’re into art and DaVinci and gangs that are basically screw-ups, you ought to love this one. Swan has also written other novels with art and art history as the hook.

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 William Morrow Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphreys

[ 4 ] June 7, 2013

Jack-Absolute-by-C.C.-Humphreys-e1367598941495Reviewed by A.D. Cole

Jack Absolute, by C.C. Humphreys, is historical fiction at its best. High stakes, high action, a dash of romance, all centered around Britain’s final end-run to suppress the American Revolution. We’ve got a dashing, clever, irresistibly charming champion. His classically educated Iroquois sidekick, named Até. The lovely, if occasionally mysterious, Loyalist American, Louisa. A vicious enemy in Count von Schlaben, who may or may not be a spy. With a cast of characters like this, how can you go wrong?

The story kicks off with a duel, in which we are introduced to Jack Absolute, who very much does not want to duel. His enemy is twenty years his junior and far more exuberant. But it’s his enemy’s second, Count von Schlaben, who catches Jack’s eye. This man will continue to be a thorn in Jack’s side. And because of this illegal duel, Jack finds himself being gently blackmailed by General Burgoyne into returning to the Army. Though it has been eleven years since he last served, and his life’s plans lay in the opposite direction, Jack finds a sense of relief and excitement at having this choice made for him.

Eleven years before, Jack lived among the Iroquois natives. He became one of them. It is his connections with the Iroquois, as well as his knack for counter-intelligence, that make him such a boon to General Burgoyne. But Jack’s faith in the General is misplaced as it slowly becomes evident that the General’s camp has been infiltrated by spies. Throughout the ensuing conflicts, Jack evades death more times than he can count, and sacrifices more than he ever wanted.

C.C. Humphreys lifted the character of Jack Absolute from Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play, The Rivals, first performed in 1775; you can read about this in the author’s note at the end. In Humphreys’ book, the action takes place twenty years after the events in The Rivals. Jack is no longer a brash young man; instead, now, he is a brash, older man, pushing forty and looking to salvage his family estate, which is in ruins. Richard Brinsley Sheridan is made a character in Humphreys’ novel so that we witness Jack watching himself being portrayed on the stage. An interesting way to handle the situation. Though I would have been perfectly happy had the author not acknowledged the original play at all.

If you haven’t seen or read The Rivals, I absolutely assure you that it isn’t necessary in order to enjoy this book (although I recommend it because it’s a funny play). All that’s required here is a love of adventure and an appreciation for historical backdrops. Although this isn’t a naval adventure, I’d compare it to the novels of Patrick O’Brian or C.S. Forester. I’m looking forward to the continuation of this series. What a fun read!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

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 Source Books PR. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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