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Tag: "mystery"

Review: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

[ 1 ] May 18, 2013

the-madness-underneath-pic1Reviewed by Krystal Larson

Readers will be happy to be reacquainted with Rory, the main character from the first book in the series, The Name of the Star. Rory was nearly a victim of the Jack the Ripper copycat and helped to bring about his downfall. She is still suffering from the ill effects of being in the horrible murderer’s presence. She sees a therapist and frequently highlights her fear and doubts to the reader. Rory discovered a lot about herself after the first book’s ending and she matured as well. The reader will love this new, open Rory.

The plot of The Madness Underneath is much like the first book’s. Around halfway through the book, Rory stumbles upon a murder that occurs near her school. Clearly, Rory must help track down and eliminate the culprit. She discovers that the murder has a supernatural hint to it and ends up learning about yet another ability that she possesses. The story continues with Rory acting as a sleuth.

Overall, The Madness Underneath was a good book, however, the reader has to appreciate the slow pace of the novel. This book felt like one of those winding brooks, where the plot slowly develops and unravels and the characters delve into the mystery bit by bit. This book reminded me of a Poirot or Agatha Christie novel; the suspense is built up ever so slowly and the author takes the time to acquaint the reader with every aspect of the novel. There might not have been constant action (though there is plenty towards the end!), but this book is sure to leave readers satisfied.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Krystal is a young college student who loves meeting new authors and finding great books! Her favorite place to read is the Botanic Gardens.

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

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Review: Tenzing Norbu Series by Gay Hendricks & Tinker Lindsay

[ 1 ] May 13, 2013

imagesReviewed by Drennan Spitzer

The First Rule of Ten and The Second Rule Of Ten are the first two volumes of Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay’s Tenzing Norbu series. Tenzing, or “Ten,” Norbu is a former member of the Los Angeles Police Department who, in his early 30s, has left the department in order to become a private detective. Significantly, Ten spent his formative years training in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in India. Accordingly, Ten struggles to integrate his Buddhist practices with a fast-paced life in the seemingly superficial world of Southern California.

In many ways, Hendricks and Lindsay write a typical detective character in Ten: he has difficulty with interpersonal relationships, particularly romantic ones; he feels alienated from the culture that surrounds him; he may even be tottering on the edge of alcoholism. Rather than making this series feel derivative, however, this gives readers a sense of familiarity. We know what to expect from Ten as a character, because we know what to expect from this genre. This series is like a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Ten’s literary hero, and the Los Angeles film noir.

Keeping in mind these literary antecedents, it’s also worth noting what it is that Hendricks and Tinker do to push the genre of the detective novel in new directions. Specifically, in Tenzing, the authors have created a character who, in his attempt to merge Buddhist philosophies and practices with a Western way of life, gives us a portrait of what a practicing Buddhist might look like in our own culture. Ten meditates, eats vegetarian, muses on philosophy and metaphysics, and seeks his own kind of enlightenment. At the same time, he is anything but perfect as he struggles with the issues he has with his parents, his own selfishness, and even a kind of materialism, all elements that provide a challenge to his Buddhism. The authors’ incorporation of Buddhist thought could easily become forced and heavy-handed, but for the most part, this works well because it’s simply a natural extension of Ten’s character.

Well written, this series should appeal to the reader who appreciates a good murder mystery. This is not the cozy mystery of Agatha Christie, however, but a new take on the Los Angeles noir detective in the tradition of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, with a healthy dose of Buddhism.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Drennan Spitzer is a writer and blogger from California who now resides in New England. She writes creatively, blogs publicly, and journals privately. You can find her at

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Gay Hendricks & Tinker Lindsay. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The King’s Jar by Susan Shea

[ 2 ] May 12, 2013

kingsjar_207x315Reviewed by Amanda Farmer

The King’s Jar is the second in the Dani O’Rourke Mystery Series but don’t be alarmed, you won’t be lost if you haven’t read, Murder in the Abstract, as I have not. The King’s Jar is a story about a priceless artifact from Kenobia, Africa that has suddenly gone missing in the midst of the murder of Dr. Bouvier (the man who found the jar many years ago).

Danielle O’Rourke (Dani) finds herself thrust into another mystery, determined to find the jar before anyone else gets hurt. At the same time, Dani must try to bring in as much money as she can for the museum to keep it running. Dani has her hands full with the gala the Devor Museum is giving for the jar (even though it is missing), two murders (that may or may not be connected to the jar), her ex-husband’s repeated attempts at getting back together, trying to figure out where her relationship is with Charlie (a detective with the police force), being friends with Simon (a world famous anthropologist), and trying to stay on everyone’s good side to get their money for the museum. The mystery behind the jar runs deep and someone is working hard to keep it hidden and will stop at nothing to keep it that way.

The King’s Jar will draw the reader in with its history of the jar as well as the mystery leading up to what happened to the jar and the murders. The readers find themselves on the trail of the killer as Dani works to unravel the clues and find the missing artifact before anyone else gets hurt, including herself.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The King’s Jar by Susan Shea. I thought that this story flowed nicely and was well written. I didn’t want to put it down; I read it in almost one setting. This story has everything from murder and mystery to archaeology and friendship all thrown into one. I look forward to reading more by Ms Shea. I would definitely recommend this story to others.

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 Top Five Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington

[ 1 ] May 11, 2013

9396154Reviewed by Elizabeth Talbott

Jade and her family just moved into a large house near a big city. This had been Jade’s dream for a long time, but she was always told it would be much too expensive. She decides not ask why it’s suddenly possible and is so excited even though she’s moving to a new school for her senior year. She looks forward to a fresh start, but the reality is less than she expected. The other students frequently look at her and whisper to each other or suddenly stop talking when she walks into a room. Jade figures it’s because she’s new and chooses to ignore it. She also meets a boy with striking pale blue eyes named Donovan and makes friends with an intense yet accepting overachiever named Alexa. Then weird occurrences happen in her house: her stuff is moved by something unseen, chills and weird sounds come out of nowhere, and her brother claims to see a glimmering girl in his room. Jade finally accepts that her house is haunted and that she needs to find out who and why is haunting them before the ghost harms her family.

The Dead and Buried is a delightful old fashioned ghost story with a modern twist. This horror trope has been seen countless times. An unsuspecting family movies into a haunted house and gets terrorized by the ghost. The fairly typical haunted house contains possessions, eerie happenings, poltergeist-like events, and drastic temperature changes. All of these occurrences create just the right threatening atmosphere. The modern twist comes in with the ghost. One might expect a dead person in need of help to solve their issues in the living world, but we get a homicidal mean girl named Kayla who will do anything to get her way. We learn more about her and her back story over the course of the book as her diary entries (using numbers instead of people’s names) are interspersed between the chapters, allowing us to slowly put the pieces of the mystery together. Although her mean girl status is cemented from page one, I was a little surprised that she would go so far as to threaten the life of Jade’s adorable little brother Colby to get what she wants. This aspect gave an urgency to solve the mystery and an aura of fear to Jade as she frantically worked to get Kayla to leave her family alone.

Kim Harrington’s writing is awesome as usual and she creates some engaging and realistic characters that I grew to love (or hate) over the course of the book. Jade proved to be very relatable and fun. She misses her mother who died years ago and feels uncomfortable and an outsider in her own family. Her love and knowledge of gemstones is a nice touch and also turns out to be a connection to her mother. Jade is a fun heroine to follow and actually makes informed decisions. Donovan is interesting and not the typical bad boy love interest. He has his typical dark attitude, but it makes more sense because his girlfriend died under mysterious circumstances and everyone very publicly blamed him for it. I found his independence and vulnerability refreshing. I wish I could see more love interests like him in YA fiction.

The Dead and Buried is a well written light horror read with likable characters and plenty of twists and turns. Teen mysteries are usually extremely transparent and predictable, but the revelations at the end of the novel left me speechless! Kim Harrington certainly knows how to craft a dark, unpredictable mystery. I would highly recommend it to fans of her other work and ghost stories.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Elizabeth is a student at Cal State Long Beach. She laughs a lot, loves cats, and lives for music and books. You can read her blog here:

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

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Review: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

[ 5 ] May 9, 2013

15790842Reviewed by Jessi Buchmann

I enjoyed Life After Life so much that it made the daunting 529 pages breeze by. Atkinson writes so gracefully you can’t help but be spell bound by her story. Our heroine Ursula Todd is destined – it would seem – to die repeatedly throughout the novel. The setting is the English countryside World War II, where through her words Atkinson gives Fox Corner (home to Ursula, her siblings and parents Sophie and Hugh) a ‘character’ of its own. She describes the war so vividly you imagine she lived through it. Atkinson tackles these many frequent deaths with short chapters that often end with “darkness fell”. The following chapter continues on with Ursula living and seeing ‘premonitions’ that keep her alive until her next untimely death.

There are so many facets to this story that the unfolding of events leaves you reeling. Through Atkinson’s use of imagery and allegory you know you’re reading a novel that will stand the test of time. I’m intentionally leaving out plot from this review because unfortunately it would give away what is better found for one’s self. Trust me when I say this book is well worth the rental, purchase or borrow. Just get your hands on it.

Remember Groundhog Day? Bill Murray’s character goes from thinking he’s a god to attempting to kill himself because he’s condemned to repeat the same day. In the end he spends his day’s do-gooding and eventually learns his ‘lesson’. Life After Life is not a comedy but it has a similar story line. I don’t believe Atkinson’s intentions were to leave the reader considering reincarnation or even the ‘possibility of’ rather I think she has provided options. In Atkinson’s own words ‘What if you had the chance to do it again and again, until you finally got it right? Would you do it?”

Life After Life is beautifully written. You will take a roller coaster ride of emotions from laughter to fear and back again. Don’t take the dust jackets modest write up at its word. This story is fabulous. I don’t give out reviews of five lightly; I believe they are reserved for masterpieces. Well dear readers, here is one.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Jessi Buchmann lives in Beaverton, Oregon and works as a Project Manager. When she is not reading she can be found: writing, painting or wreaking havoc on her house doing home repairs.

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

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell

[ 19 ] May 5, 2013

Murder as a Fine ArtPlease welcome David Morrell, author of Murder as a Fine Art, as she tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Enter to win a copy of the book below!

Reviewed by A.D. Cole

London, 1811, the most vicious set of murders in the country’s memory is perpetrated by a man named John Williams. Forty-three years later, Thomas De Quincy, famous for his memoir, Confessions of An Opium Eater, writes a series of essays. One of these essays is called On Murder As One of the Fine Arts. In this satirical essay, he details the artistry and skill involved in the infamous Ratcliffe Highway murders. The essay is merely dark humor. Just one writer’s way of managing the horror he feels knowing the atrocities his fellow man is capable of. Except now, the essay is more than that.

When a grisly set of copycat murders reawakens the terror of forty-three years ago, Thomas De Quincy is forced out of his laudanum haze and brought into the spotlight. At first, Detective Ryan and Constable Becker seek him out to question him about his essay. But a series of swift, surprising events quickly make apparent that Thomas De Quincy is at the center of this mystery. Not only is the killer modeling his art according to De Quincy’s prose, he is doing it for De Quincy. And he wants De Quincy dead.

With incredible historic detail and the fascinating ability to intertwine literary history and fiction, David Morrel spins a seamless, action-packed thriller with excellent twists and a satisfying ending. The characters are solid and compelling. Plot takes precedence over character development, though, so don’t be surprised if it takes you a while to warm up to Detective Ryan or Thomas De Quincy. As we get Emily De Quincy’s perspective directly from her journal writings, she’s a little easier to connect with right from the beginning.

The evolution of our understanding of the killer is also fascinating. I wasn’t immediately impressed with his “art.” I wasn’t immediately enthralled with the mystery. But as events unfolded, the conspiracy proved bigger and more intricate than I could have imagined. And the killer changed, in my mind, from a flat, cold-blooded murderer, to a complex and intriguing person with dark and disturbing motives.

Thomas De Quincy, his essays, and the Ratcliffe murders are the historical facts upon which this novel is based. The other notable aspect is the author’s emphasis on De Quincy’s belief that people sometimes do things for reasons they don’t understand. Before Freud was even born, Thomas De Quincy was espousing the belief that subconscious reactions to childhood experiences inevitably guide who a person becomes and how he behaves. This point is emphasized repeatedly throughout the novel. I’m reminded of Solomon’s dictum, “There is nothing new under the sun.” It’s always interesting to find that the person to whom we’ve attributed a particular advancement in knowledge or ideas, wasn’t in fact the first to discover it.

I could go on about all that I found intriguing or entertaining about this novel, but I think I’ve said enough. There are so many good reasons to read it. Historical fiction lovers or thriller enthusiasts are both target audiences. If you’ve ever read and enjoyed the novels of Matthew Pearl or Caleb Carr, then David Morrell’s Murder as a Fine Art is a book for you.

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 and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Mulholland Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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