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Tag: "mystery"

Review: The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

[ 4 ] April 7, 2015

long and faraway gone book coverReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Oklahoma City in 1986 might seem like forever ago to some, but for the characters of Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone, that period of time is forever burned in sharp memories. Wyatt Rivers, a private investigator from Las Vegas, is brought back to Oklahoma City on a job to discover who is harassing a local club owner and finds that in the process, he must face his own harassing memories of a time long ago. For the beautiful nurse Julianna, there was never an escape from the city and as a result, she has never been able to escape from the recollections and wonderings of her beautiful older sister Genevieve’s disappearance from a local fair all those years ago.

Wyatt was a young man working at a movie theater in 1986, the only survivor of a robbery that claimed the lives of five of his coworkers and friends. He can’t shake his survivor’s remorse, paired with the unanswered question of why he was spared, and all of his past comes flooding back to him as he finds himself tangled up in his Oklahoma City past. For Julianna, there are more questions than answers regarding her sister’s disappearance at the fair and she soon finds that she will face no limit too great, in trying to get to the bottom of what really happened to her sister that day. When the main suspect in the case, a seedy carnival worker named Crowley, comes back into the picture, Julianna finds herself thrown into a new level of obsession regarding her sister’s case.

Wyatt and Julianna do cross paths, but the novel is woven through with both stories, flush with memories, action, painful memories of fear and piled high with questions that no one can answer. The Long and Faraway Gone mixes the young versions of Wyatt and Julianna with their older selves and lets the past bleed into the present beautifully. Events often do shape lives and for these two characters, their pasts are very much a part of not only their presents but also are responsible for the way they view and live their lives.

Each chapter of the story is broken into character sections and while there is an urgency at times to reach the next unfolding of a particular plot within the text, there is no disconnect or lags in the novel as it switches perspectives. Author Lou Berney does an excellent job of breathing life into his characters and their pain, wonder, confusion and stress all come forth in engaging ways. The book acts as a reminder that relationships and the hardships people all face, past and present, all somehow end up connected and remain part of life no matter how much time has passed. Berney crafts a soulful story that connects all dots, but shows that sometimes even with answers, voids may still remain.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at

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

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Vostok by Steve Alten

[ 3 ] March 26, 2015

vostok book coverPlease join Steve Alten, author of Vostok, as he tours the blogosphere with iRead Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy of the book below – open internationally

Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

Vostok is the second book featuring Zachary Wallace, and large parts of it takes place in Antarctica, below the frozen ice cap, in a liquid lake, Vostok.  Steve Alten appears to like the idea of ancient Miocene predators and other animals hiding in the dark places of the ocean. This isn’t the only series he has dealing with supposedly long extinct species and there is a little cross-over with the others.

I will say that Alten does a pretty poor job when it comes to real science and double checking facts used in the story. I really started taking notice when he converted -25C to -87F in a conversation and no one seemed to notice the huge error (-25C is -13F…).  The next big error was saying that high energy electromagnetic waves (ultraviolet – x-ray, etc.) have longer wavelengths than red and infrared. This is completely backwards and would only take a quick Google search to validate. Then there is a marine biologist grad student discussing evolution with our Dr. Zachary (another marine biologist) and claiming that it is much more likely that whales evolved from large fish like sharks instead of ‘bears like Darwin postulated’ based solely on the similarity of size. There are so many things wrong with this statement that I almost stopped reading the book.

Dr. Zachary Wallace is considered to be the ideal candidate to travel all the way to the other end of the earth to Antarctica, where he will be sent under two miles of ice to explore a lake that has been covered for eons. It is a trip of a lifetime. It is also incredibly dangerous and has a smaller chance of success than everyone realizes.

The first issue is the variety of life they find left over from the Miocene, much of it dangerous to their small three person submarine. When they are coming through the ice they miss their mark and land a long way from anywhere useful to get themselves back. After they arrive at an ‘island’ – one of their objectives on the mission – things start getting strange. Wallace has an encounter that changes his life forever.

This book had more holes in it than a Dan Brown plot, however, despite all the issues I had with the the biology and physics, Alten can still tell a good attention grabbing yarn. Even with its faults, I give this book 3.5 stars. Vostok will definitely be more enjoyable for someone who doesn’t care about the science. A little fact checking can go a long way!

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 by Rebel Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau

[ 4 ] March 25, 2015

the tapestry book coverPlease join Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Tapestry, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Enter to win one of three signed hardcover copies of The Tapestry by completing the giveaway form below.

Reviewed by Colleen Turner

I think it’s important to first note that The Tapestry is the third book in author Nancy Bilyeau’s Joanna Stafford series. Having not previously read the first two books in the series before tackling The Tapestry, I would definitely advise others interested in the book to start at the beginning of the series. While it’s not completely necessary to do so, there is obviously a lot of backstory and history between the characters that, even with the author doing a very good job of trying to catch up new readers like me, just can’t be fully appreciated or understood when starting at book three. This somewhat diminishes the impact of the shocking turns of events that happen within the pages, which there are quite a few of. This being said, The Tapestry is still a very exciting and immersive dip into the dangerous world of the Tudor court.

When the novel begins our heroine Joanna Stafford is living a peaceful life in the country, weaving tapestries and living as devout a life as she can since Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and ended her life as a novice in the Dominican church. This peace is shattered, however, when she receives a summons to come to court for a possible tapestry commission. As much as she doesn’t want to go, how can she refuse the King? Especially when she needs to prove she can support herself financially in order for her cousin, the head of the Stafford family, to allow her to raise her deceased cousin’s son, Arthur. With dread in her heart, she heads back to the court she hoped to never return to again.

Her trepidation is well founded when someone attacks her as soon as she steps into Whitehall Palace. Unable to leave court without the King’s permission and needing to know who is behind the attack, especially when so many powerful men seem to despise her – most notably Thomas Cromwell, Eustace Chapuys and the Duke of Norfolk – Joanna attempts to quietly find out who wishes her dead. With the help of Thomas Culpepper, gentleman of the King’s privy chamber, and later Constable Geoffrey Scovill, Joanna will use the skills she learned in her training as a spy for the Bishop of Winchester to unravel this mystery and keep herself and those she cares about safe from harm.

This being the Tudor court, Joanna also finds herself in the middle of other mysteries and dreadful occurrences. Her dear friend, Catherine Howard, is being pushed into the King’s bed by her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, a power play that has proven fatal in the past. The man she almost married, Edmund, has disappeared somewhere in Germany and, desperate to find him, she goes on a mission to do so with the help of Constable Scovill, another man she has complicated feelings for. And on top of all this, Joanna finds herself amongst men she cares for who have elicited the help of those that practice dark magic in the hopes of freeing the King from the clutches of Thomas Cromwell, the man many see as responsible for the downfall of the Catholic Church in England. With all of this swirling around her, only an intelligent and resourceful woman like Joanna can hope to come out of it all with her head still on her shoulders and her feet firmly on the ground.

Anyone who enjoys reading novels set in the Tudor court will already be familiar with some of the more widespread issues being discussed – the religious upheavals, the constant shifts in allegiances between the King and his favored courtiers, the horrifying fates of Henry VIII’s wives – as well as the well-known characters populating the pages. Even without knowing Joanna’s backstory or her previous interactions with the other characters, anyone familiar with the court will already know the fates of some of the characters and will enjoy seeing them unfold from Joanna’s unique perspective. I would not recommend anyone unfamiliar with the Tudors to tackle The Tapestry without first reading the previous books in the series as there are a lot of characters and situations going on and, without knowing the actual history, it’s easy to get lost within the tangled web.

Having finished The Tapestry I’m very intrigued to go back and read the first two books in the series to see how we get to the actions in this book and to prepare for any future books in the series. This series seems a very well written and worthwhile addition to the wonderful world that is Tudor fiction.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, and their dogs Oliver and Cleopatra. 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. You can find more of her reviews on her blog.

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

The Tapestry

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley

[ 16 ] March 18, 2015

the dead key book coverPlease join D.M. Pulley, author of The Dead Key, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

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

Reviewed by Jenna Arthur

The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley is a book full of mystery and intrigue. Set in two different time periods, the story begins in the late 1990’s and  follows a young civil engineer as she is sent on a special assignment to the First Bank of Cleveland. Ecstatic to be taken seriously and retreat from her boring cubicle life, Iris Latch jumps on the chance to advance her career and knowledge by taking on the large task of assessing the possibility that this old, decaying structure can be restored. Little does she know that the bank has a lot more history and is much more than it seems…

A renovation feasibility study turns into a curiosity and starts to unweave the tangled web of the past so long buried, a past when this foreboding business mysteriously fired all of its employees and closed. As Iris explores she starts to find things left behind, the most interesting, a key. This key is more than just a key–it is an instrument that opens many doors to mysteries, theft, and murder. With Iris delving more into its past, we are transported in between her world and the 1970s, where we find Miss Beatrice Baker, a young girl pretending to be something that she’s not, and more experienced than she is ready to be.

A naive girl, Beatrice jumps at the chance when she is presented with the opportunity to be more and make more of herself as a secretary at the First Bank of Cleveland. But as Beatrice finds out, the bank is a far darker and twisted place than it seems. It houses secrets, secrets that could be deadly. What unites these two curious women? The key. The key that unlocks the story.

For me, D.M. Pulley’s book didn’t pull me right in and I really had to commit to keep reading. Although filled with wondrous sentence structure and descriptions, the first quarter of the story was too slow for the type of book the description had made it out to be. But once invested and into the final three quarters of the book, there are more wonderful descriptions of architecture, more plots twists, and an interweaving of time periods and stories that all wind up being delightful. If you can hang on past the slow climb, The Dead Key is definitely worth a Saturday read.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Jenna lives in the bustling city of Pittsburgh, PA with her wife, her chihuahua Penny, her retriever Ella and her two beautiful cats. Along with her passion for reading and the literary world, she is also an artist, writer, environmental activist, creative coordinator and aspiring culinary genius. She believes there is nothing better to her then a good book, and lives one cover to the next.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Thomas & Mercer. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

[ 2 ] March 16, 2015

since you've been gone book coverReviewed by Sarah McCubbin

For the past five years, fifteen year old Edie Fraser and her mother Sydney have been living on the run. Living each day with an anxious tension has become their normal. Edie’s abusive father has a knack for tracking them down, so the two of them move from place to place trying to hide and stay safe.

When they finally move from Canada to London, they both hope the distance will provide an extra cushion of safety for them to start over. Edie starts yet another new school and her mother finds a position cleaning in a office building during the night shift. But after her mother, Sydney, doesn’t come home after her shift, Edie is immediately suspicious…has he found them? Being new in town, Edie doesn’t know who to trust or how to find her mother. As she goes about her daily life at school, she plans how she will find her mother while going through the academic motions. When she steals some money to buy food, Edie finds an unlikely ally willing to set aside hard feelings to help her in her quest.

In her novel, Since You’ve Been Gone, Mary Jennifer Payne weaves a story of life on the run. The tension is thick as Edie is bullied in school, put on the spot by teachers and as she finally finds her mother missing. It begins to feel like one long chase with the characters never being still and always moving. In a sense, it captures their reality well. But on the other hand, it creates a rather detached read. Because there is so much running, searching and hiding, it does not have a concrete feel to it.

The first half of the book sets up their story and the second half is Edie and her friend searching. When they discover that tragedy has indeed struck, Edie was readily able to “move on” and live with an aunt in Ireland. I understand that people process grief differently but it seemed anticlimactic after all the running for her to be content with her loss and be happy to just start over. That said, the themes of bullying and a difficult family life will resonate with many teens. But even more so, the underlying story of friendship in the midst of tragedy shines hope into an otherwise bleak situation.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

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

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Review: When by Victoria Laurie

[ 6 ] March 10, 2015

when book coverReviewed by Jessa Larsen

Maddie, at first glance, is your typical high school student, albeit a little bit shy. She’s been shunned by everyone else in school for having the ability to see a series of digits on the foreheads of her peers and neighbors. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t see these numbers, but until the unfortunate death of her father, she couldn’t decipher exactly what these numbers meant.

When Maddie loses her father, she and her mother realize that these numbers mark an individual’s death date and, just like birthdays, everyone has one and nobody can do anything to change it. Following this discovery, Maddie’s mother had her set up shop and charge people to have their death date revealed. Unfortunately for some clients, she can’t see the circumstances, only the cold hard truth of numbers.

When Maddie’s latest customer becomes distraught over the unexpected news that her son is scheduled for death within the week, Maddie and her best friend try to interfere, warning the poor mother to stay extra safe. This doesn’t end up helping anybody and on the date in question, the boy is missing, presumed to be dead and Maddie as the prime suspect.

The situation continues to spiral out of control when another body is found and Maddie’s best friend, Arnold, ends up with more and more evidence stacking up against him. It’s now a race against time to put the puzzle pieces together and prove Maddie and Arnold’s innocence. All the while, Maddie’s mother is slipping into a deeper depression, landing herself in rehab for her severe alcoholism.

When by Victoria Laurie is a perfect combination of a supernatural mystery, psychological thriller, and detective novel. Laurie keeps it nice and simple whilst lending an air of mystery that keeps you guessing. You really get sucked in, wondering who the real homicidal maniac is, changing your predictions every other chapter, clear up to the very end. I thought, with my track record of novel reading, that I was good at predicting story lines but When was so well done that I never saw it coming.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, two kids, two small chihuahuas, and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She balances her work as a website admin with her hobbies of watching anime and playing video games.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Disney-Hyperion. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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