Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review: These Shallow Graves

These Shallow Graves
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publication Date: October 27, 2015
Publisher: Random House Delacorte

Set in gilded age New York, These Shallow Graves follows the story of Josephine Montfort, an American aristocrat. Jo lives a life of old-money ease. Not much is expected of her other than to look good and marry well. But when her father dies due to an accidental gunshot, the gilding on Jo’s world starts to tarnish. With the help of a handsome and brash reporter, and a young medical student who moonlights in the city morgue, Jo uncovers the truth behind her father’s death and learns that if you’re going to bury the past, you’d better bury it deep.

“The truth can be a hard thing, Jo. It’s often best left hidden,” Phillip said quietly.

“An uneasiness had descended on her, as cold and ominous as a winter night.” 

“Eddie didn’t spare her. He made her work. He made her think. It was not what she was used to from a man, and she liked it.” 

“The moment a girl learned how to talk, she was told not to.”
Be still my heart. I LOVED this book so much. I just finished reading it less than 24 hours ago, and I wish I could start it all over again today. The characters will leave you feeling like you know them and you know their innermost thoughts, desires, and you even share their secrets. This story put me in the perfect mood for Halloween; it was creepy in parts, suspenseful, and completely mysterious. The entire mystery got larger and larger as the story progressed. Jo Montfort, short for Josephine, was the most successful written character by far. She made this story worth reading; her bravery and willingness to defy gender roles makes her a fine role model in my book. She was written so well that I hated to see her go once I had finished reading.

The mystery was the sole focus of this story. I love authors that allow their stories to be mystery-driven but still include enough romance to keep readers invested in the characters and their lives. Jo is interested in a man that society will not have her marry, nor her mother and uncle. However, Jo cannot help what her heart feels and who it loves and desires. Jo was so quick to defy what was expected of her; she wished to work and write, which are not activities that women of her class should concern themselves with. What I loved most about her is that after she found out about her father’s death, she was determined to find answers, no matter the limits that were placed upon her. This story was beautifully told on so many levels. I cannot stress to you all enough how much you need this book in your lives!

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

Friday, October 23, 2015

Book Review: The Chess Queen Enigma

The Chess Queen Enigma (Stoker & Holmes, #3)Author: Colleen Gleason
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Series: Stoker & Holmes # 3

And then she mouthed a word at me—an unmistakable word that told me everything I needed to know. “Checkmate.”

Evaline Stoker & Mina Holmes have reluctantly agreed to act as social chaperones and undercover bodyguards for Princess Lurelia of Betrovia, who has arrived in London to deliver a letter that details the secret location of an ancient chess queen that’s been missing for centuries. But when the letter—which will heal a centuries-old rift between England and the Betrovians—is stolen out from under Evaline and Mina’s watchful eyes, the two girls are forced into a high-stakes race to ensure they find the chess queen before anyone else does…including their foe, the Ankh. For the chess queen is not only a historic symbol of a woman’s political power, but it has literal power as well—the queen will unlock the chessboard, revealing both treasures and ancient secrets the Ankh would kill to possess. It will take Mina’s smarts and Evaline’s strength to beat the thief and untangle this mystery before it is too late.

So I did what any intelligent person would do: I took the opportunity to flee.

Second, under no circumstances could I be seen by Uncle Sherlock. A master of disguise himself, he would immediately recognize me.

My eyes bolted wide as he plunged his fangs into my throat.
If you have not picked up this series, please do yourself a favor and do so immediately. I fall in love with our two very different, but very courageous, crime-solving sleuths a little more with each new book. First we have Evaline Stoker, the vampire slaying sister of Bram, who is spiteful, impulsive, quick on her feet, and a little attitudinal to the say the least. Then we have Mina Holmes, the niece of the famous Sherlock, who is too smart for her own good, a little clumsy, and possibly too bossy for her own good. Together these girls make as good a pair as Dr. Watson and Sherlock themselves. There is never a dull moment with either one and you can just about guess that what one wants to do, the other will want to do the exact opposite. Their relationship is still a little rocky and they of course are very different from one another, but isn’t that what makes a great pair?

Mina and Evaline cannot agree on much, but one thing they can agree on is the fact that they both are intent on unmasking the Ankh, a powerful villainess they have been chasing since book one. Watching these two girls join together and put their differences behind them is very invigorating; I mean you have two great minds on one team, a Stoker and a Holmes. It just doesn’t get any better than this. I love the world that Mina and Evaline abide in; a very Victorian, steam punk, steam-powered London that would give any reader enjoyment. I am hoping that there will be another book added to this series. While I wouldn’t say that we ended with a cliffhanger, we definitely did not have all questions answered. I am dying for more from my two favorite sleuths!

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

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Book Review: Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic

Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic (Nightmares!, #2)Author: Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Series: Nightmares! # 2

Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic is the sequel to the hilariously scaryNew York Times bestselling novel Nightmares! by multitalented actor Jason Segel and bestselling author Kirsten Miller. You thought the nightmares were over? You better keep the lights on!
Charlie Laird has a dream life.
1) He has a weirdo stepmom who runs an herbarium. 
2) He lives in a purple mansion with a portal to the Netherworld.
3) Since they escaped from the Netherworld, he and his best friends have been sleeping like babies. 
But Charlie can’t shake the feeling that something strange is afoot. Charlotte’s herbarium used to be one of the busiest stores in Cypress Creek. Now her loyal following is heading to Orville Falls for their herbal potions.
Weirder, though, Orville Falls is suddenly filled with . . . zombies? At least, they sure look like the walking dead. Rumor has it that no one’s sleeping in Orville Falls. And Charlie knows what that means.
Things are getting freaky again.

While the rest of village was as cute as a pack of puppies, the mansion looked more like an enormous dragon perched on top of a rock.

There were millions of creatures in the Netherworld, and no two were the same.

Not only was Charlotte DeChant a medical professional, but she was the only adult in town who would recognize a Nightmare is she saw one.

Charlie Laird has faced the nightmares that once plagued his sleep, he and his stepmom are getting along better than ever, and all has been relatively quiet in the small town of Cypress Creek. However, just as summer vacation really gets underway, Charlie and his friends witness a strange zombie-ish man walking the streets of Cypress Creek. They soon discover that someone new and strange has moved into the neighboring town of Orville Falls and is selling a sleeping tonic that is turning everyone into the walking dead. Charlie and his friends must discover who the mystery seller of the tonic is, and fast because it turns out this sinister, spooky man is also trying to buy the Charlie’s home, which we all know contains the portal to the Netherworld. Charlie soon discovers that both the dream and nightmares world are in danger of being destroyed for good.

I loved this book just as much as I loved the first one! Charlie is an awesome leading character; his character has developed more in this book and he is just as charming as ever. I was really hoping that we would get to see more of Charlie’s stepmom, Charlotte, and I was so pleased to see that we did. I was so interested in her character in the first book because she did seem so mysterious, but I was happy to see that the relationship between her and Charlie had developed tremendously for the better. The book has a great message about having hope and being able to face your fears so that you can eventually conquer them once and for all. There are so many loveable characters in this series; I have begun to love Charlie’s brother, Jack, just as much as I love Charlie. I am looking forward to more in the Nightmares! series.

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

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Book Review: The Scam

The Scam (Fox and O'Hare, #4)Author: Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Publisher: Bantam
Series: Fox and O’Hare # 4

Nicolas Fox is a charming con man and master thief on the run. Kate O’Hare is the FBI agent who is hot on his trail. At least that’s what everyone thinks. In reality, Fox and O’Hare are secretly working together to bring down super-criminals the law can’t touch. Criminals like brutal casino magnate Evan Trace.

Evan Trace is running a money-laundering operation through his casino in Macau. Some of his best customers are mobsters, dictators, and global terrorists. Nick and Kate will have to go deep undercover as high-stakes gamblers, wagering millions of dollars—and their lives—in an attempt to topple Trace’s empire.

It’s a scam that will take Fox and O’Hare from the Las Vegas strip, to the sun-soaked beaches of Oahu’s North Shore, and into the dark back alleys of Macau. Their only backup—a self-absorbed actor, a Somali pirate, and Kate’s father, and an ex-soldier who believes a rocket launcher is the best way to solve every problem. What could possibly go wrong?

My career hinges on my ability to control you and your larcenous personality.

You’re only allowed to break the laws when you have permission from the FBI. You can’t go around breaking the law on a ‘lark.’

“For the greater good,” Kate said, thinking that was kind of lame, but it was the best she could do to justify their actions. “Fine. We’re gambling with this money for the greater good,” Nick said. “And for the free drinks.”

This series just continues to get better and better! I absolutely loved this book the best out of all four that have been published so far. I love the collaboration between Goldberg and Evanovich. Evanovich writes with such dry humor and she is always able to keep readers guessing up until the very end. She throws several “grenades” into the story that make for some interesting plot twists. I do not want to reveal too much because you need to discover all the action and adventure on your own, but I will say that Kate and Nick just get better and better each and every time. Their relationship and their ability to work alongside each other is fascinating to read about; they complement each other in all the best ways. These two are after a man that is using his casinos to launder money for terrorists. He is a particularly nasty man who takes pleasure in the pain of others.

I loved seeing Kate’s dad, Jake, take part in this case. He is hilarious and adds a rock solid character to the plot. His experience in the field makes him all the more likeable; Kate looks up to her dad and their relationship is very endearing. If you liked the first three books, you are sure to like this one as well. If you have not read the first three books in this series, then you are surely missing out. Things get dicey very quickly in these novels; I guarantee you will be on the end of your seat anxious to know where our main characters will go and what will happen to them. I am always invested in Kate and Nick’s cases and I think about both of them long after I have finished the book.

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

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Book Review: Art In The Blood

Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes AdventureAuthor: Bonnie MacBird
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Collins Crime Club

London. A snowy December, 1888. Sherlock Holmes, 34, is languishing and back on cocaine after a disastrous Ripper investigation. Watson can neither comfort nor rouse his friend – until a strangely encoded letter arrives from Paris.

Mlle La Victoire, a beautiful French cabaret star writes that her young son has vanished, and she has been attacked in the streets of Montmartre.

Racing to Paris with Watson at his side, Holmes discovers the missing child is only the tip of the iceberg of a much larger problem. The most valuable statue since the Winged Victory has been violently stolen in Marseilles, and several children from a silk mill in Lancashire have been found murdered. The clues in all three cases point to a single, untouchable man, an art collector seemingly beyond reach of the law.

Will Holmes recover in time to find the missing boy and stop a rising tide of murders? To do so he must stay one step ahead of a dangerous French rival and the threatening interference of his own brother, Mycroft.

This latest adventure, in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, sends the iconic duo from London to Paris and the icy wilds of Lancashire in a case which tests Watson's friendship and the fragility and gifts of Sherlock Holmes' own artistic nature to the limits. 

My dear friend Sherlock Holmes once said, “Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms.”

In my numerous accounts of the adventures we shared, I have mentioned his violin playing, his acting – but his artistry went much deeper than that. I believe it was at the very root of his remarkable success as the world’s first consulting detective.

One late afternoon found me reading contentedly by the fire when a note arrived by breathless messenger. Opening it, I read: “Dr. Watson – he has set 221B on fire! Come at once! – Mrs. Hudson.”

Adventure awaits us all on a cold, dreary day inside apartment 221B on Baker Street. Sherlock Holmes has long been a large icon in literature throughout time and rightly so, of course. Bonnie MacBird has done something totally marvelous here. She has given us a retelling, an adaptation, an extension of the Sherlock Holmes that we all know and love. MacBird does not venture too far from what Sherlockians expect. Her writing is very near and true to that of Conan Doyle himself. This is what I most love about this story; our heroes are kept in character. They are the same characters that we have fallen in love with so many times before. The relationship between Holmes and Watson is so endearing and comfortable for readers. Much of the dialogue they share will remind you of so many actors that have portrayed this well-loved duo in the past.

The story was of course narrated by none other than John Watson himself, holding true to Doyle’s style. The mystery was fast-paced and held true to its place in time. There are several bits of humor, sarcasm, and action. MacBird succeeds at holding the attention of the reader by never allowing the predictable to play out. Her book has been, by far, the best Sherlock Holmes novel I have ever read, other than Doyle himself. The mystery is of course deeper than what it appears to be at first. As you read, you will find more and more clues and be shocked at how things play out. And with Sherlock as your guide, you are sure to have the most thrilling adventure of your life! I am unsure if this will be a series, but I really do hope so!

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

Monday, October 5, 2015

Book Review: The Haunted Season

The Haunted Season: A Max Tudor Mystery (A Max Tudor Mystery, #5)Author: G.M. Malliet
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Series: Max Tudor # 5

Max Tudor must contend with his new role as a father as well as a murder all too close to home in Nether Monkslip in the next installment in G. M. Malliet's wildly popular seriesAgatha Award-winning author G. M. Malliet has charmed mystery lovers, cozy fans, and Agatha Christie devotees everywhere with Wicked Autumn, A Fatal Winter, Pagan Spring, and Demon Summer, the critically acclaimed mysteries featuring handsome former-spy-turned-cleric Father Max Tudor. Hailed as “wittier than Louise Penny, lighter than Tana French, smarter than Deborah Crombie” (Cleveland Plain Dealer), Malliet is a top-notch writer whose work gets better with each book.

Something sinister is stirring at Totleigh Hall, the showcase of the English village of Nether Monkslip. Usually, the Lord and Lady of the manor are absent—high tax rates, it is murmured with more than a trace of envy, force them to live on the continent for most of the year. But Lord and Lady Baaden-Boomethistle have been in residence for some weeks now, and the villagers are hoping for a return to the good old days, when the lord of the manor sprinkled benefits across the village like fairy dust. Father Max Tudor’s invitation to dinner at the Hall comes as a welcome novelty; it will be his first time meeting the famous family that once held sway in the area. But before he has time to starch his clerical collar and organize a babysitter, a sudden and suspicious death intervenes, and the handsome vicar’s talent for sorting through clues to a murder is once again called into play in this charming and clever novel.

It was fall, and the patchwork fields around Nether Monkslip were changing color from gold and jade to bronze and topaz in that strange alchemy of the turning seasons.

In the long run, mankind did its worst work, and told the most lies, when trying to justify its actions, to impose a certain outcome.

And he was taken aback by the look on her face. If he hadn’t known better, he might have thought it was a look of the purest venom. The look was directed straight at Awena.

Malliet delivers just what readers need in order to get ready for Halloween in the fifth book in this series: murder, mystery, intrigue, and some truly enticing characters and picturesque detail. I do not want to give too much away regarding the murder mystery, but I will say that it was one of the most memorable that I have read this year. Pay close attention as you read; Malliet will give away hints, clues, and foreshadows what is to come in her writing. Max Tudor, our main character, has returned, of course, and thrown in the mix are his new family dynamics: his wife, Awena, and their new baby, Owen. I love following a series like this and watching their lives change book after book. I believe that none of the books will ever touch the first in the series, but this one comes in a close second.

Malliet’s writing style is very eloquent and sense of characterization is astounding. She can flesh out a character like no other. Max Tudor gets better and better with each book, I believe. I feel as if I learn more about him the more situations I see that Malliet puts him in. I always feel that some things just ended up being too coincidental, thus why the book only received a four cupcake rating, but this is the feeling that I am left with after reading many cozy mystery novels. Some things are just predictable and you can guess what will happen, but it does not take away the joy of getting all nestled down in a blanket and losing yourself in the story. The ending of this book left me hungry for the next; I hope I do not have to wait a whole year to read it!

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

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Book Review: The Lost Heiress

The Lost Heiress (Ladies of the Manor, #1)Author: Roseanne M. White
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Bethany House
Series: Ladies of the Manor # 1

Brook Eden has never known where she truly belongs. Though raised in the palace of Monaco, she’s British by birth and was brought to the Grimaldis under suspicious circumstances as a babe. When Brook’s friend Justin uncovers the fact that Brook is likely a missing heiress from Yorkshire, Brook leaves the sun of the Mediterranean to travel to the moors of the North Sea to the estate of her supposed family.

The mystery of her mother’s death haunts her, and though her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and the servants of Whitby Park are not. Only when Brook’s life is threatened do they draw close—but their loyalty may come too late to save Brook from the same threat that led to tragedy for her mother.

As heir to a dukedom, Justin is no stranger to balancing responsibilities. When the matters of his estate force him far from Brook, the distance between them reveals that what began as friendship has grown into something much more. But how can their very different loyalties and responsibilities ever come together?

And then, for a second time, the heiress of Whitby Park is stolen away because of the very rare treasure in her possession—and this time only the servants of Whitby can save her.

A warm breeze gusted up the street. Brook touched her hat to make sure it was secure, then let her fingers fall to her necklace. A baroness, daughter of an earl. Of all the scenarios she had entertained, that had never been one of them.

He reached out and took Brook’s hand. More, he let his lips quiver. “Welcome home.”

Yet when Thate turned the car onto the long drive, she could have sworn something clicked inside her, like a piece of a puzzle finding its place. One part of the picture that might someday reveal who she really was. One small hint that made her wonder all the more at the blank spaces.

Roseanna White is an author to watch for; this was the first book of hers that I have read, and it left me mesmerized long after I had closed the pages. I love the Edwardian Era and if a book is pitched that way, it almost always guarantees a read from me. Brook Eden is just the kind of heroine that everyone wants to read about: smart, trying to find her place, brave, and modest. Her whole life she has been searching for a place to really feel like she is accepted and belongs, and in this story her lifelong friend, Justin, gives her the gift of identity. Justin deduces that she might just be a missing heiress, and thus the adventure begins. This book has so much to entice readers: mystery, romance, loss, the need to belong, and self-discovery. This time period is always beautifully written, and White certainly has done her homework. She paints a picture that you will want to start at for hours!

Both Brook and Justin are likeable characters and wonderful to follow on this journey of truth. Brook Eden is confident and very independent and just wants the answers that she has long desires. With the death of her mother, she is left with a box of letters that she is told will be very important to her. This box of letters sparks an adventure and leaves readers with many questions. This is one of those stories that you will find impossible to put down simply because you need answers to the questions that circulate Brook’s existence. I am very excited for the next books in this series, and hope that I do not have to wait too terribly long to read them!

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