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Tag: "mystery"

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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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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