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Tag: "mystery"

Review: The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey

[ 1 ] September 13, 2013

9780062188274.340x340-75Reviewed by Amanda Farmer

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Widows of Braxton County. I was expecting the book to have more of a paranormal aspect to it. We are introduced to Kate, who has had a rough childhood. She grew up with a conniving manipulative grandmother and therefore jumps at the chance to marry someone she met over the internet. Kate meets Joe Krause and is instantly in love; they are quickly wed and are to live on Joe’s family farm (which has been in Joe’s family for 140 years).

After the wedding, Kate is in for a rude awakening. She is to share her home with her mother in law, Trudy, who gives most mother in laws a bad name. Trudy is judgmental and can’t handle losing her only son to his new wife; she stops at nothing to get what she wants, which is for Kate to leave. As they progress through the marriage, she finds out that the family is cursed and the whole town knows about the curse but her. She also finds out that the neighbors have never truly gotten over Hannah and Jacob’s story (the first of the Krauses to live in the farmhouse). The men in the Krause family die horrible deaths at a young age and their wives are to blame… or are they? Kate’s determined to find out all she can about the curse from the beginning starting with Hannah.

I wanted to like this book but had a hard time liking the main character. She forgave too easily and never questioned anything, especially when her new family kept saying that she needed to remember her place (a woman’s place is in the home). And she didn’t bat an eye when her husband struck her. Although at the end she did finally find her strength and “fought” back. I really liked the aspect of Hannah in the story and how she did what she had to to save her son.

This story was well written and flowed nicely. I just didn’t care for it overall. I like stories with strong female characters, not ones who are whipped by their husbands. This story will appeal to those who like a good mystery though.

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

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Review: A Case of Doubtful Death by Linda Stratmann

[ 3 ] September 4, 2013

9780752470184Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

A Case of Doubtful Death is the third book in the Frances Doughty series but the first one I have read. This was very much a cozy mystery and it had an excellent Sherlockian feel… if Holmes and Watson had been women.

Frances Doughty had the profession of private investigator thrust upon her. Her expected profession of being a chemist and dispensing medicine from the family shop was cut short when her father died unexpectedly and left her with too much debt. She investigated and solved a mystery for some important people and so she decided to try her hand as a private investigator. This is 1880s London so women doing investigations is a borderline scandalous undertaking, not to mention that the general consensus is that women should leave such matters in the hands of men who are ‘more capable’ of dealing with these things. Needless to say, Frances and her partner Sarah are supporters of the women’s suffrage movement.

Frances and her friend Sarah have been building their business and are getting enough clients to keep them living comfortably in a flat of their own, but they are a long way from being independent. Frances is the brains of the operation and Sarah is the brawn. They take cases from missing persons to missing pets, though the pets are generally taken on reluctantly.

The sister and future brother-in-law of Henry Palmer come to Frances. Henry has been missing almost a week and they are afraid something awful has happened. It seems a little too coincidental that his employer Dr. Mackenzie died the same night. Frances agrees to take the case to find the missing man. The more that Frances digs into the disappearance the less it appears to be a simple case. More and more characters are drawn into the tapestry of the story being woven by a master. Frances is determined to find the truth, no matter how often people keep lying to her.

To me, the story started off a little slow and it took some effort to get into the book. However, it was like a train leaving the station as it just kept picking up speed. It was an excellent mystery and it had some VERY good twists and turns. I also liked how Frances was more like a real PI where she has multiple cases overlapping all the time. Stratmann even added a little humor by crossing some of the cases in inventive ways. Highly recommend this cozy mystery series.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

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

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Review: A Question of Honor by Charles Todd

[ 1 ] August 29, 2013

downloadReviewed by Caleb Shadis

A Question of Honor is the 5th book in the Bess Crawford mysteries. In my opinion it is the best one so far. The Charles Todd duo can write an excellent English cozy mystery. I’ve been trying to read each one as it comes out and was very happy to get this one as I enjoyed it from beginning to end.

This one starts by going back into the past about a decade earlier and half a world away in India. Bess is a girl just blooming into a young woman when a letter arrives for an officer’s family in her father’s command. It is not bearing good news. As a matter of fact, it contains the worst news any parent can receive. The officer’s youngest daughter caught a terrible illness shortly after arriving in England and failed to recover. The girls’ father cannot swing leave, so another officer from the unit agreed to escort the girls’ mother back to England.

When the escorting officer returns to India, he falls back into his routine until the military police arrives at the outpost. He rides off to look for his ‘compass’ and never returns. Eventually, some reports surface of a body seen at the bottom of a ravine believed to be the missing man. The story then jumps forward ten years into the middle of the Great War.

Bess is working at an aid station when an Indian man speaking only Pushtu shows up grievously wounded, with a message he feels compelled to pass on. He has seen the Lieutenant who was supposed to be dead all those years ago fighting on the lines.

Bess is more than willing to let it pass as the ramblings of a death clouded mind, until she spots a man with a striking resemblance to the missing Lieutenant. That begins an investigation into the mystery that happened all those years ago and a question of how a perfect gentleman could do something so out of character as the brutal killings he was accused of.

A Question of Honor was an excellent story and it did have a pretty good twist in it. I enjoy reading the books in this series and as I said earlier, this is one of the best ones so far. Definitely worth the read.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

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

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Review: Fleeting Note by Sherban Young

[ 1 ] August 8, 2013

images (5)Reviewed by Jennifer Jensen

Fleeting Note, the third novel in Sherban Young’s light-hearted mystery series featuring Enescu Fleet and John P. Hathaway, brings the two sleuths together once again when Enescu invites Hath to attend a dinner party in honor of Romanian composer George Fleet–someone whom Enescu is not even related to. Each of the central characters has his or her own reasons for attending the party, but what no one expected was a dead body to “drop in” during dinner.

With his dying words being “Frank Sinatra,” John and friends find themselves with one potential clue and a murderer to catch. Could it have been Victoria, whose eyes are as blue as the crooner’s? Or Henry Pratt, whose mannerisms strongly resemble Frank Sinatra’s? Or what if the victim meant something else by his last words altogether?

While murder is no laughing matter, Young’s caper is filled with clever turns of phrase. As with Fleeting Memory, the first novel I read by Sherban Young, Fleeting Note has plenty of quirky characters, an intriguing mystery, and several side arcs to keep readers on their toes. I was especially amused by a musician who changed his name to something more exotic, and the kidnapped Maltese.

One of my concerns with reading Fleeting Memory had been some light punctuation errors, and I was pleased to see that Fleeting Note was nearly flawless. A great proofreader/editor helped make a good book even greater.

I recommend Sherban Young’s mystery caper series to readers who haven’t yet tried the genre, are looking for unique and fresh story lines, or who love to laugh out loud and who won’t get upset if they can’t figure out the killer’s identity before the sleuthing duo. I normally love to try to figure out “whodunnit,” but Hathaway’s narrative and his back-and-forth with Enescu is far too entertaining to simply gloss over; I like it so much I often have to back track to find out what happened with the killer.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

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

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gortner

[ 19 ] August 6, 2013

The Tudor Conspiracy USPlease welcome C.W. Gortner, author of The Tudor Conspiracy, as he tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy of the book below – open to US and Canada residents.

Reviewed by Colleen Turner

It’s the winter of 1554 and Mary Tudor is now the queen of England. While she took her throne with the support of her subjects, the fact that she is now contemplating marriage to the Catholic Prince Philip of Spain does not sit well with many. Many would rather see Mary’s half sister, the Protestant Princess Elizabeth, as queen and it is this fact that allows the seeds of doubt and betrayal to ferment in Mary. These doubts are helped along by the Spanish ambassador Renard who will stop at nothing to see Philip on the English throne and Elizabeth in her grave. So when Elizabeth is ordered to come to court and put under close watch, her adviser William Cecil must send someone to protect her.

Brendan Prescott has been living quietly at Hatfield House in Elizabeth’s employ since nearly losing his life in protecting Mary and Elizabeth from the schemes of the now-dead Duke of Northumberland, the man who attempted to steal the throne from Mary and proclaimed her cousin, Jane Grey, as queen. But having sworn to serve Elizabeth, Brendan must return to the dangerous court he hates to protect his mistress once again. His job will be anything but easy, however, when he finds himself a double agent, working for Mary to try and find evidence that Elizabeth is plotting with others to place herself on the throne while trying to keep Elizabeth safe. In a world where it seems no one’s loyalty can be trusted, Brendan must use his skills as an intelligencer to try to not only discover the truth but to keep his mistress, himself and those he loves alive, something that will prove harder than he ever thought possible.

The Tudor Conspiracy is the second book in C.W. Gortner’s The Spymaster Chronicles and I would highly recommend anyone interested in this series start with the first book, The Tudor Secret. Without first reading The Tudor Secret the intricate and weaving relationships between the characters cannot be fully appreciated. Hinted at past wrongs and the heartfelt reunions just don’t seem as poignant when you haven’t read what happened before. For me, I like to feel fully absorbed in what is going on. And this is a great series to become absorbed in!

While Brendan Prescott is fictional he is a wonderfully entertaining character to have as that crucial person able to go between Mary and Elizabeth’s intimate circles as well as into the underbelly of London. He is intelligent, tough and snarky when he needs to be and it seems like he can blend in to most surroundings, even when he becomes increasingly injured in his dealings with those that would happily see him and the woman he serves dead. He is able to witness people in different lights – whether vulnerable behind closed doors or strong and determined in front of others – and this well rounded view allows the reader to see that most people Brendan comes into contact with are usually not all good or bad. This also makes it harder to determine who is telling the truth and who isn’t, as well as why they might be lying, all of which adds to the suspense and mystery permeating the story.

So much is written about the Tudors and it can be hard to find stories that haven’t been told a hundred times before. The Tudor Conspiracy deals with the immediate time before, during and after the Wyatt Revolt of 1544, a time and situation that has been discussed in other books I’ve read but not used as the central conspiracy. There is so much to love here, with suspense, action, history, intrigue and even a little bit of romance that it would be hard not to find something to enjoy. This is a must read for anyone who loves a dramatic Tudor story.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Griffin. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Rebel Spirits by Lois Ruby

[ 0 ] August 2, 2013

16082954Reviewed by Amanda Farmer

Rebel Spirits is a story about a young girl named Lori and her discovering she has the ability to see spirits or ghosts. Lori starts to wonder about her sanity when her folks move her to Gettysburg, PA to run a bed and breakfast. She discovers she can see spirits and one in particular, a Civil War soldier named Nathaniel, has her full attention. Nathaniel tells her she has only a short time to find out what really happened to him during the war. Lori sets out searching the internet, library, and historical places in Gettysburg to try to find out all she can about him. She enlists the help of two new friends, Evan and Charlotte. Together they discover there’s more to Nathaniel’s death than meets the eye. They find murder, lies, betrayal, and friendship along the way, both in the past and the present. Lori also finds out there’s much more to her new home of Coolspring Inn (the bed and breakfast her folks own) than she ever expected.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Rebel Spirits and found it to be a nice quick read. The story was well written and flowed nicely. I enjoyed reading about some of the Gettysburg history during the Civil War. I found myself really liking Evan’s character and how he was always there for Lori no matter what she said or did. He was a true friend to her. The only problem I had with the story was how quickly Lori fell in love with someone she just met. She’s only sixteen, recently relocated to Gettysburg, and discovers she sees ghosts; I had a hard time believing she was in love with either a human or a ghost. I also had a hard time believing a sixteen year old would do some of the things she did in the story; no one blinked an eye when she admitted to seeing ghosts or spirits, including her parents.

I recommend this story to both adults and teenagers who enjoy reading young adult books.

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 Point. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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