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Tag: "mystery"

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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Review: Unremembered by Jessica Brody

[ 3 ] April 18, 2013

9780374379919Reviewed by Amanda Farmer

Unremembered opens with a plane crash with the only survivor being a sixteen year old girl who is uninjured except for having amnesia. Seraphina must discover who she is all over again, discover why she has lost her memories, and find out why people are after her. She also has to figure out why she has some amazing abilities, decide if she can trust Zen (a young man who says he loves her), and try to fit in in a world that she doesn’t understand.

Seraphina must do all of the above without being discovered and with only fragments of her memories that come and go. She only knows that she loves Zen unconditionally and will go to all lengths to stay with him no matter what. Seraphina is forced to live with a foster family until her real family finds her, and constantly has the feeling that she is being followed. Seraphina finds friendship in her foster brother, Cody. Throughout the story Sera is forced to make hard decisions that not only affect her but the lives of her foster family and Zen. She also discovers that there is more to her than meets the eye, when she meets and remembers her life with Alixter and Rio (two scientists who had a part in her creation) and the compound where she grew up and met Zen for the first time.

I found Unremembered to be a great start to a wonderful series. I can’t wait for the next one to be released as this one of course ended with a cliff hanger. This was my first book by Jessica Brody and definitely will not be the last. The reader is able to watch Seraphina develop and grow as she discovers who she is and what she can do. I loved how she was able to love Zen no matter what happened. Sera went through a lot to be with Zen and he was always patient each time she forgot him then remembered him again. The reader will not be disappointed with Unremembered and I highly recommend it.

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 Farrar, Straus and Giroux. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Angelguard by Ian Acheson

[ 4 ] April 8, 2013

9781782640028Reviewed by Marcus Hammond

On three separate continents, unsuspecting people go about their daily lives. They take their families on vacations, to soccer matches, and go about their days like normal. As they enjoy the normalcy of the day a sinister plot begins to unfold. Angelguard by Ian Acheson begins with three devastating bomb attacks on highly populated areas of London, Sydney, and Los Angeles and slowly develops into an inspirational and spiritual action/mystery that shows the power prayer can have on even the worst of situations.

Leopold Grosch, a multi-billionaire industrialist, hatches a plot to bring the world to its knees through a series of overwhelmingly violent terrorist attacks. He, however, could not foresee the role a group of survivors from the first three bombings and their angelic guardians would have in foiling his plans for global dominance.

The plot of the novel places the power of faith and prayer in direct contrast to the evil that is perpetrated throughout the world. Jack Haines, the main protagonist of the story loses several family members in one of the first terrorist attacks. He, through the power of his own faith in God and his mother’s dedicated prayers, finds the strength to move forward with his life. In doing so, he finds himself uncovering Grosch’s final plot to attack the G8 Summit in Berlin, Germany.

The novel has a good message as seen through the various characters’ selflessness and faith that God will provide for them. The added supernatural element that is supplied by having an unseen world of angels and demons fighting each other in support of the major characters is also entertaining. The two biggest issues with this novel, which can be found in the forced and slowly developing dialogue and Acheson’s attempt to keep the story fairly clean, while trying to describe pure evil, completely derail the enjoyment. As evidence of these two issues, the good characters are often found committed to (at times) lengthy prayers for help and expressing themselves through exclamations of “gosh, golly, gee!”, while the evil characters portray a desire to murder, rape, and in one specific section demean a character through the use of a racial epithet. This stark and unnecessary contrast feels forced and unnatural in a novel about the power and inspiration that prayer and faith can have in one’s life. Overall, I enjoyed small parts of this novel, but felt the dialogue and extreme characterizations of evil completely derailed the intended objective.

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 Ian Acheson. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: A Plain Scandal by Amanda Flower

[ 2 ] March 24, 2013

Fall landscapeReviewed by Charity Lyman

I have to tell you, A Plain Scandal is one of the best Amish mysteries I have ever read. A Plain Scandal is the second installment in the Appleseed Creek Mystery series and even though I have yet to read the first one, it is now on my wish list.

This story once again centers around Chloe. She is an Englischer who is a computer specialist turned small-scale detective. If you have read the first book you will recognize many of the same characters but you will also be introduced to some new faces. The small town of Appleseed Creek is under attack. From people who are not only cutting off the men’s beards and the ladies’ long hair, but are also in the habit of murdering Amish men. There are a lot of things dealt with in this book including the customs of the Amish. Granted, they are different, but at the same time you have to respect their traditions and opinions.

I personally fell in love with Chloe. Not only is she trying to work things out with her Amish neighbors, but she happens to be in love with an ex-Amish man, Timothy. Of course, he is very sweet as well. I had to laugh at the cat, Gigabyte! Only a computer techie would name their cat that. Another favorite was Chief Rose. The woman chief has her hands full trying to figure out who killed these men while also deciphering who is telling the truth or speaking a lie.

Overall, A Plain Scandal is a very good cozy mystery that leaves you breathless to figure out who-dun-it. You get little clues along the way and you think you have everything figured out but then all of a sudden you find out that you were wrong. A little bit of romance is included but is not a big part of the story. Great plot and likable characters will leave you waiting for the next installment, A Plain Disappearance. This was an excellent introduction to Amanda Flower’s works and I will definitely be on the lookout for her other books.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Charity lives in Illinois and is the oldest of 6 children. The family also has 3 dogs and a cat. Reading is a hobby when not cooking, baking, sewing or enjoying music. She reads many different genres but Christian fiction is a favorite. Charity can be found often at her blog, Giveaway Lady

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

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Review: Helsinki Blood by James Thompson

[ 3 ] March 20, 2013

15815341Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

Helsinki Blood is the fourth book in the Inspector Kari Vaara series. I have read books one, three and now four. The first one was a good noir mystery; the reviews suggest the second book was a descent into madness. The third book was dark, gritty and violent and the protagonists realized they had fallen and wanted to find a way out. Now, here in the fourth book, they are trying to find a path clear. They just might succeed.

At the end of the last book Vaara was shot twice by a rather sadistic sociopath while his wife was forced to watch. This along with other acts have had a very negative impact on Vaara, his wife and their relationship. Kate moved into the hotel she manages and took their child with her. One day, while Vaara is sitting at home feeling sorry for himself, someone tosses a brick into his living room window with a message. Shortly after a teargas canister is sent bursting through the newly repaired window; this time his infant child is in the house. Obviously something is going to have to be done in order for Vaara to protect his family. These are just warnings…

Vaara discovers that not only did his wife drop off their little girl and not come back, she ran off to Florida in the States to live with her drugged out brother. With the child and his own physical ailments, Vaara is in no condition to go after her. So he asks Milo to get her and bring her back home.

During all this, he is approached by an Estonian woman, who claims her daughter – who has Down Syndrome – has been abducted and brought to Finland to be forced into the sex trade under the guise of a secretarial job. She pleads with Vaara to find her. Kari agrees even though it is just asking for more trouble on top of the pile he is already under.

I think Helsinki Blood was better than the last book. While it was still gritty and dark, there was at least a ray of hope in the end. Also, while once again the team was playing fast and loose with the laws, they were acting more like vigilante cops and less like mob enforcers. I suggest starting this series with the first book, but if not then this one would be the second best in my opinion. Not for the faint of heart.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Also by James Thompson: Helsinki White Snow Angels

Caleb is a software engineer and amature 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 Putnam Adult. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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