Thursday, July 30, 2015

Early Book Review: A Gilded Grave

A Gilded Grave (Newport Gilded Age)Author: Shelley Freydont
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Berkley

First in a new series from the author of the Celebration Bay mysteries

In 1895, at the height of the Gilded Age, Newport, Rhode Island, is the summer home of the social elite. Within the walls of their fabulous “cottages,” fortunes and reputations are made and lost. Competition for superiority is ruthless and so are the players.

During her first season, Deanna Randolph has the pleasure of attending a ball given in honor of Lord David Manchester, a Barbadian sugar magnate, and his sister, Madeline. The Manchesters are an immediate success—along with their exotic manservant known for his magical, fortune-telling talents.

But on the nearby cliffs, a young maid lies dead, her neck broken—and a member of one of the town’s most prestigious families is found kneeling over the body.

Joseph Ballard humiliated Deanna when he broke off their courtship at the end of last season. But while Joe may be a cad, Deanna doesn’t believe he’s a killer. Now reluctant allies, the two must navigate a world of glittering parties, fashionable tennis matches, and intriguing séances to find the murderer. But when their investigation leads them to Newport’s most powerful inner circles, they’re exposed to something far more dangerous than malicious gossip…

A young girl, dressed in a maid’s uniform, lay crumpled on the rocks, arms flung to the side, skirts twisted around her ankles, revealing only two small feet, clad in button-up shoes. Her head had fallen back, and a strand of loosened hair fell across her face.

But tonight, Deanna was afraid that evil was among them. And she wasn’t sure if good would have a chance.

“Do you think I would let you search alone? I’m going with you.”

Here lately I have been on a huge historical fiction/mystery kick and that seems like all I have been reading! However, I am not complaining; it is just what I have been craving lately. This new series by Shelley Freydont is sure to be one of my favorites; set during the gilded age, the characters and setting have a certain Downton Abbey feel, and you can never go wrong here. Our sleuth and main character, Deanna Randolph, was brave and intuitive; she goes against the grain a bit because she does not quite act like a young lady should in the late 1800’s. She is brainy and too smart and curious for her own good, but alas, this is just the reason why I was so drawn to her to begin with. Deanna is the first person to avidly try and solve the murders that take place in this book and is one of the only people that seem to genuinely care about the lives lost.

There are hints of romance in this book but mostly we are dealing with historical fiction and mystery. I felt that Freydont added just enough romance for our main characters to keep it interesting; this is of course going to be a series, so she has to keep us wondering a bit. After finishing this book, I cannot say that I am sure the two main characters will even end up together, which puts a nice twist on things. The murders were suspenseful and mysterious, just enough to keep you guessing. I had an idea of who might have committed the murders early on, but Freydont reveals plenty of characters that could have committed the crimes. It became harder and harder to decipher the more I learned about each person, which is the key to any truly good mystery!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Berkley in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Book Review: The Secret Life of Violet Grant

The Secret Life of Violet GrantAuthor: Beatriz Williams
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Passion, redemption, and a battered suitcase full of secrets: the New York Times-bestselling author of A Hundred Summers returns with another engrossing tale.

Manhattan, 1964. Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from Bryn Mawr College, has recently defied the privilege of her storied old Fifth Avenue family to do the unthinkable for a budding Kennedy-era socialite: break into the Mad Men world of razor-stylish Metropolitan magazine. But when she receives a bulky overseas parcel in the mail, the unexpected contents draw her inexorably back into her family’s past, and the hushed-over crime passionnel of an aunt she never knew, whose existence has been wiped from the record of history.

Berlin, 1914. Violet Schuyler Grant endures her marriage to the philandering and decades-older scientist Dr. Walter Grant for one reason: for all his faults, he provides the necessary support to her liminal position as a young American female physicist in prewar Germany. The arrival of Dr. Grant’s magnetic former student at the beginning of Europe’s fateful summer interrupts this delicate détente. Lionel Richardson, a captain in the British Army, challenges Violet to escape her husband’s perverse hold, and as the world edges into war and Lionel’s shocking true motives become evident, Violet is tempted to take the ultimate step to set herself free and seek a life of her own conviction with a man whose cause is as audacious as her own.

As the iridescent and fractured Vivian digs deeper into her aunt’s past and the mystery of her ultimate fate, Violet’s story of determination and desire unfolds, shedding light on the darkness of her years abroad . . . and teaching Vivian to reach forward with grace for the ambitious future––and the love––she wants most.

“Youth is wasted on the young.” 

“All men are brutes.” 

“I thought, how magical, the first glimspe of snow. By March I would be sick of it, but here in this November instant those tiny flakes swirled with the unspeakable purity of a divine gift.” 

I discovered that I love Beatriz Williams a little earlier in 2015 and I cannot stop now until I have read every book she has written. Did I mention that she has another book releasing in November of this year? I am so pumped! Anyway, I found out about this book after reading Tiny Little Thing, which released in June of this year. These books follow three sisters, the Schyler sisters, and the last book that is coming out later this year will focus on the last sister; however, they are not a series and can be read as standalone novels; it just makes it so much more fun to compare the girls and know their backstories. This particular novel was not as good as the previous one that I read this year, but it was still enough to keep me enticed and needless to say I finished a five hundred page book in two days, so you know it was still jaw-dropping. I was intrigued by the synopsis because of the missing person aspect and because I was so excited to see how Vivian would compare to her sister Christina; night and day difference!

Even though I enjoyed Christina’s story better in Tiny Little Thing, Vivian’s story was still so wonderfully written and enchanting. Vivian is a brilliant character; she is bold and courageous in a time when women were still inferior to men. She is daring and takes risks, which is precisely how she ends up on a goose chase trying to find her great aunt who has been missing for years and years and has already been written off by their family. This historical fiction novel has a little something for everyone: war, murder, romance, unexpected twists and turns, suspense and intrigue. The chapters parallel between Vivian in 1964 and her aunt Violet in 1914 before the start of World War I. It was hard to trust any character in this book, which made it all the more fun to read. Some of the characters make jaw-dropping decisions and will surprise you around every corner. This was the perfect beach read!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at G.P. Putnam’s Sons in exchange for my honest review***

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Book Review: Ink and Bone

Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1)Author: Rachel Caine
Publication Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: NAL
Series: The Great Library # 1

In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…
Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.
Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.
When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn.…

“The truth was what the library wanted it to be.”

“Always remember the words of Descartes: The reading of all good books is like conversion with the finest men of the past centuries.” 

“The first purpose of a librarian is to preserve and defend our books. Sometimes, that means dying for them - or making someone else die for them.

“You have ink in your blood, boy, and no help for it. Books will never be just a business to you.”

Rachel Caine made my Caribbean vacation all the more enjoyable because I got to read this book on the white sandy beaches. This series is going to be one of my favorites after reading and finishing this first book. I have so many questions about where the characters are going to go from here and what is going to happen next. I was enraptured from the first page and was completely fascinated by the idea that books are more precious than human lives. The world that Caine creates in Alexandria, Egypt, among other places around the world, is easy to picture and imagine. I immediately joined “Team Jess”, our main character, and could tell that he was brave despite all the political anarchy he faced in his life. He grew up with a family of book smugglers and understands the precious feel and smell of a book. His character was so readily developed and of course all book lovers will find it easy to supp0rt and rally behind him.

The war that is taking place in this war is written about and dealt with very carefully by Caine; there are some deaths and violence but I was happy to see that Rachel dealt with all of these sensitive issues in a way that still allows for younger audiences to enjoy this series as well. It would be a shame for anyone to miss out on a series this great. There is so much going on in Jess’s world and there are so many new terms that you must learn and understand in order to follow the world building that you cannot afford to miss one page, but trust me when I tell you that you won’t want to miss one word. The book left off in a wonderful place. I will miss the series in the meantime and I cannot wait to see where Rachel Caine will take us from here!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at NAL in exchange for my honest review***

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: Lady Maybe

Lady MaybeAuthor: Julie Klassen
Publication Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Berkley Trade

In the new novel by the three-time Christy Award-winning author of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, a woman’s startling secrets lead her into unexpected danger and romance in Regency England… 

One final cry…“God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness…

Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.

But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.

Had she muttered something in her sleep? She hoped she had said nothing to give herself away.

She did remember what a tall, commanding presence he had been. But the figure shrouded in bedclothes before her seemed sadly diminished. She wondered what Sir John had wished for so earnestly. It seemed unlikely that it would be granted now. For certainly no one would have wished for a fate like this.

She knew they referred to Sir John, but another face shimmered before her mind’s eye. Settling under the bedclothes, she pushed away thoughts of Sir John, and tried to focus on the faint image of sparkling blue eyes and an affectionate smile. But other images kept pushing her face aside – a red cloak floating on the tide, a hand slipping from hers…Had she only dreamt it, or was she remembering something that had actually happened?

Julie Klassen is one of the best writers of Regency fiction that I have ever read hands down! I have never not loved a book of hers and I highly doubt that she could write one that I would not adore. Her newest book, the one I am reviewing now, is just as enticing as the rest. Her characters are always so lifelike and it took me no time at all to become wrapped up in their lives. Right from the very start this story took a few unexpected turns and some story shifts happened that made me have to pause and go back to make sure I had not missed anything. By the end of the first few chapters, I was hooked and I knew there was no turning back. Klassen throws a lot of new characters at readers around every bend, but her writing is so clear and picturesque that it is no problem at all to follow the storyline and be able to keep everything straight.

I cannot talk very much about the story because something happens very early on that I would have to spoil if I were to dive too much into things. Klassen is very much the “Queen” of Regency fiction. She has done her homework and knows how to allow her readers to participate in a little time travel. You will feel as if you are there and are experiencing all of the beautiful imagery that she is describing to you. The romance in this book has been kicked up a notch compared to her other books and the spirituality element has been dialed down a bit, but I am a fan either way and her writing deserves to be read by anyone and everyone. This book has it all: romance, intrigue, mystery, suspense, and the power to make you stay up all night until you finish it!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Berkley Trade in exchange for my honest review***

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Book Review: The Curiosity Keeper

The Curiosity Keeper (Treasures of Surrey, #1)
Author: Sarah E. Ladd
Publication Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Series: Treasures of Surrey # 1

“It is not just a ruby, as you say. It is large as a quail’s egg, still untouched and unpolished. And it is rumored to either bless or curse whomever possesses it.”

Camille Iverness can take care of herself. She’s done so since the day her mother abandoned the family and left Camille to run their shabby curiosity shop on Blinkett Street. But when a violent betrayal leaves her injured with no place to hide, Camille has no choice but to accept help from the mysterious stranger who came to her aid.

Jonathan Gilchrist never wanted to inherit Kettering Hall. As a second son, he was content working as a village apothecary. But when his brother’s death made him heir just as his father’s foolish decisions put the estate at risk, only the sale of a priceless possession—a ruby called the Bevoy—can save the family from ruin. But the gem has disappeared. And all trails lead to Iverness Curiosity Shop—and the beautiful shop girl who may or may not be the answer to his questions.

Curious circumstance throws them together, and an intricate dance of need and suspicion leads the couple from the seedy backwaters of London to the elite neighborhoods of the wealthy to the lush, green Surrey countryside—all in the pursuit of a blood-red gem that collectors will sacrifice anything to possess.

Caught at the intersection of blessings and curses, greed and deceit, two determined souls must unite to protect what they hold dear. But when a passion that shines far brighter than any gem is ignited, each will have to decide how much they are willing to risk for their future, love, and happiness.

Their patrons wanted the unusual, the wildly exotic – unique treasures from far beyond England’s shore, not calm renditions of their own British countryside.

Eerie darkness surrounded him, broken by the flickering light from several sputtering lights positioned around the room. And what the candles illuminated was a shock.

Miss Iverness’s shoulders seemed to relax at the words, and for the first time, he noticed her lips curve into the slightest hint of a smile.

I am here to argue that this is Sarah Ladd’s best book yet! I was such a huge fan of her Whispers on the Moors series, and this new series started off just as strong. Ladd is an author that writes an exceptional piece of literature every time; I have never read one of her books that was not able to keep me entertained and enthused about the characters and their lives the entire time. This story follows Camille Iverness who has had a bit of bad luck in her young life, but that is all about to change when the handsome Jonathan Gilchrist walks into her Curiosity Shop. Of course, there is an adventure that awaits them in the form of a missing ruby that is said to bless the possessor. Ladd’s attention to historical detail is always one of my favorite things about her books. She really has a way of drawing readers in; she could be describing a wooden door and I promise you would be entranced.

The mystery was what really pushed the story forward for me. I was immediately interested in the idea of a “magical” jewel that could bring good luck. This is just such a twist in what I am used to reading. I have not read anything this fast-paced in such a long while. It doesn’t take long for Camille and Jonathan to become wrapped up in suspense, mystery, and a little bit of romance. Sarah Ladd does such a wonderful job of balancing all of these elements, and the religious elements as well, in each of her novels. The story contains a villain or two and quite a few interesting and very surprising plot twists. I cannot wait for the next book in the series, but sadly we have to wait all the way until next May for it to release!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Thomas Nelson in exchange for my honest review***

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Early Book Review: The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

The Coincidence of Coconut CakeAuthor: Amy E. Reichert
Publication Date: July 21, 2015
Publisher: Gallery Books

YOU'VE GOT MAIL meets HOW TO EAT A CUPCAKE in this delightful novel about a talented chef and the food critic who brings down her restaurant—whose chance meeting turns into a delectable romance of mistaken identities.

In downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lou works tirelessly to build her beloved yet struggling French restaurant, Luella’s, into a success. She cheerfully balances her demanding business and even more demanding fiancé…until the morning she discovers him in the buff—with an intern.

Witty yet gruff British transplant Al is keeping himself employed and entertained by writing scathing reviews of local restaurants in the Milwaukee newspaper under a pseudonym. When an anonymous tip sends him to Luella’s, little does he know he’s arrived on the worst day of the chef’s life. The review practically writes itself: underdone fish, scorched sauce, distracted service—he unleashes his worst.

The day that Al’s mean-spirited review of Luella’s runs, the two cross paths in a pub: Lou drowning her sorrows, and Al celebrating his latest publication. As they chat, Al playfully challenges Lou to show him the best of Milwaukee and she’s game—but only if they never discuss work, which Al readily agrees to. As they explore the city’s local delicacies and their mutual attraction, Lou’s restaurant faces closure, while Al’s column gains popularity. It’s only a matter of time before the two fall in love…but when the truth comes out, can Lou overlook the past to chase her future?

Set in the lovely, quirky heart of Wisconsin, THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE is a charming love story of misunderstandings, mistaken identity, and the power of food to bring two people together.

“Beautiful and she can cook,” Bill said. “No wonder you closed the deal.”

“He hasn’t ever given a positive review. I’ve even heard a few of the restaurants he reviewed had to close.”

Nothing beats cake for breakfast, especially early surprise birthday cake. 

Nothing piques my interests more than a book about food. This story is a romance that involves a chef who is trying to build a beautiful French restaurant and the food critic who writes one scathing review that brings her down. The story did not disappoint; the characters were developed so richly almost like a slice of the best coconut cake you can imagine and the romance was built throughout time and was not an instant thing. Lou is our chef and such a marvelous character. She is strong, independent, and a dreamer at best. It is so easy to get behind her character; you will find yourself supporting her and her restaurant all the way through. Lou faces some struggles pretty early on in the book, but she overcomes them with grace and a smile on her face…eventually!

Al Waters is the food critic that writes an awful review after being served a less than perfect dinner at Louella’s, Lou’s French restaurant. Al is served undercooked fish for crying out loud; this is a health hazard and he has no choice but to write a less than positive review. Later that same evening, he meets Lou at a bar where she is found crying out her sorrows; the two hit it off immediately and their series of dates ensure from there. The food that they enjoy together will makes anyone want to visit Milwaukee. While Al and Lou are slowly falling for each other, you will be falling in love with this book and will find that it is very hard to put down.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Gallery Books in exchange for my honest review*** 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Book Review: Heat of the Moment

Heat of the Moment (Sisters of the Craft, #2)Author: Lori Handeland
Publication Date: June 30, 3015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Series: Sisters of the Craft # 2

A spell that tore three sisters apart is broken four hundred years later, when the magic in their blood reunites them. Now, one of them will discover her gift—and reignite a love long thought lost…

Flame-haired Becca Carstairs was born to be a veterinarian. Since childhood, her affinity for animals has been special, and her healing touch nothing short of magic. But only Becca knows the truth—that she alone can hear the creatures’ voices. She’s always trusted her sixth sense… until a string of missing pets, an attempted murder, and a face from her past converge into one explosive mystery, with her at its center. 

Is haunted Owen McAllister, the boy who broke her heart ten years ago, related to the sinister crimes that have peaceful Three Harbors, Wisconsin, on its guard? Or is his reappearance part of the answer to questions that have troubled her all her life? As Becca delves into her strange heritage, she’ll have to fight for her life… and the man she will always love.

In the second book of this spellbinding new series, New York Timesbestselling author Lori Handeland delivers breath-taking danger, desire, and the dark heart of magic.

If there was one thing I’d learned in this job it was that people are a lot stranger than animals.

I’d been seeing this wolf since I was a child, which would make her one old wolf. Wolves lived eight to ten years in the wild. At that rate, I should be on wolf number three. One of the many reasons I’d never told anyone about her.

Of all the people in world to find me cowering in the bushes, sweaty, tired, and wearing workout clothes, why did it have to be him?

Becca’s story picks up right where her sister Raye’s ended. However, now we are in a different town and we learn about a different sister than before. Becca is the town vet and has a special magic with animals. Her story was so enjoyable for me because of that. We find out early on that Becca is still heartbroken over her first love, Owen, so when their paths cross again they both must learn to get past any differences they had before. Becca, just like Raye, does not know that she is a witch, so that makes for some rather interesting and funny scenes. The magic was very addicting and always suspenseful. I can’t stand when authors write a book where you expect to see plenty of magic and then you never get any, but that is not the case with this series.

Even though I did enjoy Raye’s story better, I still loved learning about another of the triplets and I am very anxious to read Willow’s story as well. The romance in this book was just as good as the first, if not better because I always love a second chance love story. Becca and Owen had many emotions and feelings to try and weave through and it took a lot of work to break down walls that had been built because of distrust and hurt. Overall, the suspense, romance, and magic make this book very enjoyable and will make readers anxious for more!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at St. Martin’s in exchange for my honest review***

Friday, July 3, 2015

Book Review: In The Air Tonight

In the Air Tonight (Sisters of the Craft, #1)Author: Lori Handeland
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Series: Sisters of the Craft # 1

Four centuries ago, in a small Scottish village, three baby girls escaped the wrath of a witch hunter. Today, one young woman will learn about her secret history, her heart's destiny, and the sisters she never knew she had...

With her blue-black hair and dark eyes, Raye Larsen has never fit in with the Scandinavian community of New Bergin, Wisconsin. Being adopted is part of the reason she feels like an outsider, but what really sets Raye apart is her ability to see dead people. Everywhere. 

She’s learned to keep her visions to herself . . . until she stumbles onto the ghost of a murder victim who needs Raye’s help. Enter Bobby Doucet, a distractingly handsome homicide detective who has been tracking a killer all the way from New Orleans. Could this be the break in his case he’s been looking for all along? 

Meanwhile, the deeper Raye gets involved with the case—and with Bobby—the closer she comes to unlocking the mystery of her own origins. What she discovers about herself could destroy everything she knows . . . and everyone she loves. Is finding the truth worth the risk?

Filled with dark magic, dazzling romance, and dire suspense, this is the first book in a thrilling new series by New York Times bestselling author Lori Handeland.

I understand that my dream of being normal is merely that.

No, what makes me abnormal are the ghosts. As the freaky little kid in the movie said: They’re everywhere.

At first my parents thought my speaking to empty corners and laughing for no reason was cute. As time went on, and people started talking…not so cute anymore.

This book series reminded me of a favorite show of mine when I was in high school called Charmed. I know most of you probably remember it; it was one of my favorite things to watch on television. The premise behind this series is much the same as the premise behind the show. There will be three books in the series and each one of them follows a different sister. The sisters were separated as children and ended up in different homes without any knowledge of their abilities or each other. This first book followed Raye, who is headstrong with a mighty personality that doesn’t mind sticking up for herself. Raye was an awesome character to start off the series and her story only left me wanting more. I cannot wait to read about her sisters. What I love even more is that the books are being released very close to one another, so I do not have to wait very long to get my hands on the next book.

In this first book we learn about Raye’s life, her magical abilities, and her love interest. However, what makes this book all the more riveting is that it is not just about a steamy romance. I love that it combined so much more than that into its pages. We get action and adventure, ghosts, demons, serial killers, and other magical beings all thrown into the mix. We don’t just learn about Raye but we get a little background about a lot of other things too like what her life has been like and the life of her love interest, Bobby. The suspense that happens when the plot starts to unfold is surreal and I just hope that the other two books in the series can live up to this one!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at St. Martin’s in exchange for my honest review***