Sunday, August 18, 2019

Action, Romance and Magic




SAPPHIRE FLAMES
A Hidden Legacy Novel # 4
Ilona Andrews
Avon Books
August 27, 2019


A lot has happened since the events of Wildfire, three years before the opening of Sapphire Flames. Nevada Baylor has stepped down as head of House Baylor and is in Spain with her husband, Conor Rogan and his mother. Catalina has stepped up to lead the house, even though that was nothing she ever wanted. When Augustine Montgomery contacts her to investigate the deaths of a woman and her daughter in a housefire, Catalina at first refuses the job. It smells like House warfare, and Catalina wants no part of it. But the victim's daughter who was not at home and therefore survived was a friend. The fact that Alessandro Segredo, Catalina's teenage crush is involved makes her even more reluctant.

What follows is the Andrews' signature blend of action, humor, and romance. A lot of stuff gets blown up, the body count is high, and Catalina is targeted by a very creepy mind-mage. It's a fun read with a well-built magical world and great characters. One of the more minor characters in previous novels steps to center stage, Since I don't entirely trust him, I'm looking forward to future developments. 

Thanks to Avon and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. I highly recommend the Hidden Legacy series and all of the Andrews' books.

RATING- 4 Stars



Monday, August 12, 2019

Art Theft is Just a Part of this Heart-Pounding Thriller




THE HIDDEN THINGS
Jamie Mason
Simon and Schuster/ Gallery
August 13, 2019


Carly Lidell is not your average fourteen-year-old. She survived an attack at her own front door and in the foyer from a local lowlife by fighting back and knocking out he attacker. The whole "thing," as Carly calls it was captured on video by the home security cameras and quickly went viral. Only the corner of a painting hanging in the foyer is visible, but the video is of great interest to several people. The picture is one of the works stolen, a minor one, in the notorious robbery at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. It seems that the painting has surfaced once before and in the process changed the lives of all involved. What could it be doing hanging in a suburban foyer? The players in this drama are Marcelline, John /Jonathan, Carly's stepfather, Owen Haig, and Roy Dorring. Four years earlier John had led Marcelline into a plan to sell the painting to an obscenely wealthy family rather than turn it into the FBI or the Museum. She nearly paid with her life and had to disappear. Owen was the agent for the family and has been obsessed with getting the art back ever since. Roy was just the sad-sack trying to make a buck, which is the entirety of his life. The viral video sets this group on a collision course. And Carly? She wants to know why her stepfather is so changed and acting so suspiciously since the "thing."

The Hidden Things is a fast-paced thriller with characters that are so fleshed out they jump off the page. Marcelline made a bad mistake and just wants her life back. John is a sociopath; Roy, a quintessential loser, and Owen can only be described as a "black hole" whose real motives are indecipherable to me. And Carly is bright, gifted, compassionate and could someday rule the world. I would give this novel an enthusiastic 5 stars, had it not bogged down a bit in the middle. Jamie Mason is a gifted storyteller with a sharp eye for characterization and pacing. I highly recommend The Hidden Things. Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery for an advance copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 4.5 Stars







Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Halloween Shenanigans in Maine





HAUNTED HOUSE MURDER
Maine Clambake Mystery, # 7.5
Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, Barbara Ross
Kensington Books
August 27, 2019


Every year on our Maine vacation I put aside at least one book set in Maine. One of this year's books is Haunted House Murder, a compilation of short works from three writers who have well-established series set in small-town Maine.

Leslie Meier's Haunted House Murder features Lucy Stone, part-time reporter and mom (now grandmom) in Tinker's Cove, Maine. A long-abandoned house, reputed to be haunted, has new occupants. Ty and Heather Moon. The Moons are unfriendly and eccentric, to say the least, but Lucy is occupied with having her grandchild visit for two months. She is delighted to have him but finding childcare more of a challenge than she remembers from raising her own four children. But when a child goes missing, Lucy's sleuthing instincts kick in.

Lee Hollis' Hayley Powell of Bar Harbor in Death by Haunted House also has eccentric new neighbors: a family who strongly resembles the Addams family. Hayley is willing to let well enough alone until a local realtor goes missing after a violent confrontation with the father of the new family, Damien Salinger. Hayley, with the help of her new puppy, finds the realtor's body but lots of people in Bar Harbor didn't like the victim.

The people of Busman's Cove are always looking for ways to extend the tourist season and this year have planned a Ghost Tour in Hallowed Out. Julia Snowden throws herself into participating, but she thinks that the ghosts of the town are much more imagined than real. But when an actor from New Jersey is murdered during a reenactment of a Prohibition-era incident and innocents are suspected, Julia finds herself in the thick of things.

Haunted House Murder is an entertaining compilation for Halloween. I was a little disappointed in the longest of the three, Haunted House Murder, which was heavy on Lucy's childcare woes. The other two shorts introduced me to two new amateur sleuths I plan to read more about in the future. Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 3.5 Rounded up to 4




Monday, July 29, 2019

Gilded Age Murder in Newport




MURDER AT CROSSWAYS
A Gilded Age Mystery Book 7
Alyssa Maxwell
July 30, 2019


It's Fall in Newport and time for the annual Harvest Festival. Reporter Emma Cross has returned to Newport after a year living and working in New York. She had hoped that she could break out of the mold of "society" reporting but found that was an impossibility. When her love interest, Derrick Andrews, offers her a chance to be the editor-in-chief of her old newspaper, she jumps at the chance. Things are not all rosy at The Messenger, however. As usual, she faces opposition from the male staffers and what appears to be outright sabotage. And, she finds a body on the beach, one strongly resembling her half-brother, Brady's long-missing father, Stuart Gale. Emma fears that the man's reappearance will send Brady into an emotional, and probably drunken tailspin. The breakdown of The Messenger's society reporter's carriage throws Emma back into her old role. Stuyvesant and Mamie Fish are having a ball for the Harvest Festival, at which the guest of honor is to be Prince Otto of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Of course, The Messenger must be there. A murder in bizarre circumstances at the ball calls for Emma's investigation with the assistance of the flamboyant and eccentric Mamie Fish.

The Gilded Age Mysteries is an exceptionally well-researched series, aided by the author's long association with Newport. I enjoy all the descriptions of fashions and social mores, and especially the characters themselves. Mamie and Stuyvesant Fish are precisely what the historical record describes, especially Mamie's penchant for outspoken behavior! This is a historical mystery series well worth reading, and I thank Kensington Books and NetGalley.com for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 3.5 rounded up to  4 Stars


Thursday, July 25, 2019

As Warming as a Cup of Tea by the Fire





THE BOOK CHARMER
Dove Pond Book 1
Karen Hawkins
Simon and Schuster/Gallery
July 30, 2019


The Book Charmer is the first book in a series set in a sleepy small town in North Carolina. Founded by the Dove family, the sisters of the family have had individual "gifts" throughout the generations that have benefited the town. Only two of the sisters in the still live there, Sarah Dove and her sister, Ava. Sarah is the bookworm of the family, and her gift allows her to pick the perfect book for any person, one that will help that person with a challenge or need. Sarah is the librarian, so it is a handy gift, indeed. Sarah's books actually "speak" to her, insistently at times.

All is not well in Dove Pond, however. The population is declining, businesses are leaving, and the town is a fiscal disaster. Sarah always thought that she would be the one to save the town in hard times, but when a newcomer, Eve Wheeler, arrives to take the job of Town Clerk, one of Sarah's books tells her that Eve is the one who will change things. Eve is very different from most of Dove Pond. Raised in the foster system, along with her sister Hannah, Eve is a hard-charging, successful, aloof woman who doesn't plan to be in Dove Pond long. Her sister, Hannah, has recently died, leaving her daughter Daisy for Eve to raise. The woman who took in Eve and saved her from a wrong path, Mama G, has Alzheimers Disease. Mama G grew up in Dove Pond and Eve hopes she will be more comfortable there. Sarah immediately tries to befriend Eve, but she is not interested as well as overwhelmed. The journey to friendship is rocky, but Eve learns just how powerful it can be. It does take a village, including the scarred Afghanistan Vet next door to save Eve, her little family and Dove Pond.

The Book Charmer is as cozy and warm as a blanket, a fireside and a cup of tea on a cold night. I enjoyed the town and its quirky characters, especially Mama G, who even amid her terrible disease provides an anchor for Eve and Daisy. I highly recommend it and look forward to the rest of the series. Many Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING-5 Stars










Monday, July 22, 2019

Too Many Suspects, Too Many Coincidences




DEATH COMES TO DARTMOOR
A Merriweather and Royston Mystery Book 2
Vivian Conroy
Crooked Lane Books
August 13, 2019



After the exhausting events of The Butterfly Conspiracy, amateur zoologists Merula Merriweather and Lord Raven Royston decide to recuperate in the quiet of Dartmoor. Raven has corresponded with a Mr. Oaks, another amateur who claims to have many specimens of interest. His valet, Bowsprit accompany Merula and Raven, and her maid, Lamb, mostly to lend an air of respectability. Upon arrival in the village of Cranley, they find it in an uproar over a missing village girl. Even worse, Mr. Oaks is a suspect in her disappearance, and the man himself is behaving oddly, to the point of raving at times. When the girl is found murdered in odd circumstances, Mr. Oaks is arrested.  Merula and Raven set out to prove him innocent.

I wanted to like Death Comes to Dartmoor much more than I did. There is a surplus of suspects who might have wanted Mr. Oaks out of the way, and I found it difficult to sort them. Railway speculators, shipwreckers, jealous suitors and the superstitious villagers themselves play a part. The second mystery is that of Merula's parentage, which I did find interesting, but ultimately frustrating in its lack of progress. Also frustrating is the sheer number of coincidences involved and the mystery of the girl's murder solved by setting a trap, which put the maid in danger.


Thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 2 Stars

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Best Innkeeper Yet




SWEEP OF THE BLADE
Innkeeper Chronicles # 4
Ilona Andrews
NYLA
July 16, 2019

Sweep of the Blade is the fourth installment of the Innkeeper Chronicles published in serial form on the husband and wife authors' blog in a (more or less) weekly basis. This is the first that I have read on the blog, even though I am a fan. I found myself looking forward to every Friday and being disappointed when life got in the way for the authors. Not that I would dream of complaining about a free look at the book! The newly re-edited edition, with the plus of some terrific illustrations, does not disappoint.

We first met Maud in Innkeeper # 3, One Fell Sweep. The daughter of Innkeepers, and sister to Dena and Klaus DeMille, Maud fell in love with a dashing Vampire knight, married him and departed to a faraway planet. Maud transformed herself into a perfect vampire wife and produced a daughter, Helen. Maud was a good fit since she was tough and skilled at martial arts but still undervalued because of her humanity. Everything falls apart when her husband, Melizard, turned out to be a jerk and tried to kill his own brother and overthrow his family. All three, even little Helen are exiled to Karhari, a dry wasteland full of vampire outlaws, Once there they hire out as mercenaries and eke out an existence, but Melizard once again betrays his employers and pays the ultimate price, right in front of Helen's eyes. A blood debt must be paid, and Maud spends the next months making sure that all those who killed Melizard die in their turn. When she has a chance to send a message to Dena, she seizes it and hunkers down in the hope the message arrives. Dena does get it and calls in a favor from Arland Krahr, Marshal of the House of Krahr, one of the most influential and wealthy vampire Houses. Arland falls in love with Maud almost immediately as they battle their way out of a sleazy vampire roadhouse and escape Karhari. Maud, however, doesn't want to have anything to do with vampires again. She is attracted and agrees to a visit to his homeworld, but not to his marriage proposal.

Sweep of the Blade has all of the intrigue and action for which the Andrews are known. I enjoy the idea of the earth as a neutral planet with inns and powerful Innkeepers providing a way station for other galactic beings. The battle scenes, the various creatures, all are vivid and make for an exciting mix. This book can be read on its own, but why miss the fun of the previous three? 

RATING- 5 Stars