Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Visit With an Old Friend in Maine

Lucy Stone 3 & 16
Leslie Meier
Kensington Books
August 28, 2018

Halloween Murder is a reissue packaging two of the books in the long-running Lucy Stone Series. I have dipped into this series from time to time through the years for a cozy taking place in the Maine setting I enjoy so much. The first of the two books is Trick or Treat Murder, just after the birth of Lucy's fourth child, Zoe, and Lucy is still a stay-at-home mom. In Wicked Witch Murder, she is a new grandmother, and a reporter on the local paper, The Pennysaver. When I say long-running series, I'm not kidding. Over the course of the books, Lucy has never lost her insatiable curiosity, and her job has enabled that aspect of her character.

In Halloween Murder, Tinker's Cove is experiencing a spate of arson fires. Most have been minor, resulting in no injuries, until a summer resident who unexpectedly was in her showplace residence died in the fire that completely destroyed it. She was a close friend of Lucy and her husband, Bill, and the two are devastated. Lucy has her own ideas on who may be behind it, but there are plenty of suspects. Big-time development is encroaching on Tinker's Cove, and tensions are high between those pro and con.

The Wicked Witch Murder begins with a new resident in Tinker's Cove; Diana Ravenscroft, a self-proclaimed witch who has opened a Wiccan shop. Most of the townspeople laugh it off, but another new resident, Ike Stoughton, is very outspoken on the subject of witches, along the lines of "Thou shall not suffer a witch to live." Lucy is not happy that her own teenage daughter is attempting spells under Diana's influence as well. Lucy, too, is the unlucky person who discovers a burned body tied to a tree when she was out walking her dog. That body belongs to a so-called wizard who is a close associate of Diana.

Leslie Meier always provides a good puzzler, with much-loved characters to back it up. I enjoy the family dynamics of the Stone family. The Stone kids are not perfect but are turning out to be solid citizens like their parents. I think I may have read both of the books in the past, but that did not detract from my enjoyment this time around. Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are voluntary and my own.

RATING- 3.5 rounded up to 4 Stars

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Perfect Ending to a Favorite Series

Kate Daniels #10
Ilona Andrews
Ace Books
August 28, 2018

This 10th book in the stellar Kate Daniels urban fantasy series brings to an end the story arc of Kate Daniels and Curran, Beast Lord of post-shift Atlanta. For those who may be unfamiliar with the world of the series, post-shift refers to the return of magic to the world after an absence of millennia. For those who survived, the entire landscape changed. Monsters, gods, giants and magic users rose again from legend. People have learned to cope with periodic shifts from "magic" to "tech." When tech is in the ascendant, cars, electric lights, telephones, etc. work. When magic is up, they do not, causing some clever adaptions. Humans have learned to adapt too, as they always do.

When we first met Kate, she was a lowly mercenary, with some serious sword and fighting skills. She keeps a low profile because she is actually the daughter of Roland, the "Tower Builder," who originated in ancient Mesopotamia and woke up when the first shift occurred.
Since then he has rebuilt a power base in America, destroyed thousands, and spent his time looking for Kate, who he tried to kill in her mother's womb. Kate was raised by Voron, Roland's renegade Warlord and trained in the expectation of either killing or being killed by Roland. She came to the notice of the Beast Lord of Atlanta, Curran, head of all the shape-shifters in the Southeast. The two have formed an alliance of love and loyalty, but know that the day is coming when Roland will attack. The birth of Conlan, their son, only cements the knowledge. Roland will either kidnap the child or kill him. Conlan burns so bright with magic that it is inevitable.

Roland and Kate have had an uneasy truce, but it's clear that he is testing the boundaries. Just when we are set for a final confrontation, a new enemy from legend appears. This one is so powerful that only an alliance between Kate and her allies and Roland himself can defeat him. Can Kate and Curran trust him though?

I am sad that the Kate Daniels Series has come to an end. I came late to it, but have read and reread the previous books. The characters are vivid and multi-layered, some that I love and others that I love to hate. The fight and battle scenes are extraordinarily well-plotted and easy to follow, and there are plenty of them. This final book wraps up the story very satisfactorily, but I will miss Kate, Curran and their extended family, There are hints of more stories to come with other characters, and a recent spin-off, Iron and Magic, featuring one of the worst of bad guys.

Thanks to Ace and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own. Thanks also go to Ilona and Andrew Gordon, the writing team who have imagined and brought these characters to life.

RATING- 5 Stars.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Bellewether Brings American and Canadian History to Life

Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks Landmark
August 7, 2018

Bellewether is told in three voices, those of Charlotte (Charley) Van Hoek in the present day, and Lydia Wilde and Jean-Philippe De Sabran in 1759. Charley has been hired to spearhead a historical renovation of the Wilde House on Long Island, Lydia's home, with plans to open it as a museum. The Bellewether of the title is the name of the ship captained by renowned (fictional) Revolutionary War hero, Benjamin Wilde, Lydia's brother. The French and Indian War is raging when Zebulon Wilde is called upon to billet two French soldiers in his home who are waiting for a prisoner exchange. This is a problem, as Lydia's fiance was killed by the French in battle, and her brother, Joseph, returned from the war significantly changed. Legend has it that Lydia and Jean-Philippe fell in love, and Joseph murdered Jean-Philippe. Lydia then walked into the waters of Long Island Sound and drowned herself. It's said that the French soldier haunts the woods surrounding Wilde House. Charley herself has a history of sorts with the area. Her father fled to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War draft and has never reconciled with his Long Island family. The only family member still remaining is Charley's grandmother, whom she has never met.

I am a fan of Susanna Kearsley's work, which is well-researched in any period she chooses. She has a light hand with characters, both fictional and historical that brings the period to life. I began Bellewether knowing next to nothing about the French and Indian War and its causes and consequences. I now see that the seeds of the American Revolution were already planted and growing 15 years before it began. Issues such as taxation, the "pressing" of men into service in the British Navy and unfair trade practices all are chafing the colonists. Also, the issue that we in America cannot reconcile; slavery.

Kearsley mixes two quiet love stories with a touch of a ghost and history to make an absorbing read. Some might question the love story of Lydia and Jean-Philippe because they were hampered by language and did not often speak with each other. I think they did their speaking through their actions, quite often a better indicator of character than mere words. I can't say that Bellewether rises quite to the level of The Winter Sea and A Desperate Fortune, my personal favorites, but it is still an absorbing read that I am happy to recommend.

Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.  


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Times are Changing in Gilded Age Newport

A Gilded Newport Mystery
Alyssa Maxwell
Kensington Books
July 31, 2018

When we last saw Emma Cross she was excitedly heading off to New York for a new job at The New York Herald. The owner, James Bennett, had more or less promised her more substantial reporting assignments, but instead, she has been given the same old Society News that so frustrated her in Newport. While it was pleasant living with her well-heeled Vanderbilt relations, she missed her home and family in Newport. She has a decision to make and is seriously considering returning home for good.

Emma still has her entree to the "400" events in Newport, so the Herald sends her to cover the society debut of Cleo Cooper-Smith. Mrs. Ogden Goelet, the widowed owner of Ochre Court, promised Cleo's mother, also deceased, a perfect launch into society thereby ensuring a suitable (and monied) marriage. Emma, on the other hand, is on the trail of Silas Griggson, who will be in attendance. Griggson is a wealthy real estate developer in New York whose tenement building collapsed, killing many inside. Griggson escaped taking responsibility for the collapse, but Emma thinks he is responsible by using shoddy materials and workmanship. Emma aims to prove his culpability but is sidetracked by a bizarre death at the debut ball. Could Griggson also be responsible for that death?

The Gilded Newport Mysteries are well- researched and bring to life the manners and mores of the late 1890's. Even the notorious Five Points Gang of New York plays a part in Murder at Ochre Court, and Emma has an encounter with the famous Nellie Bly, a woman who made a successful career in journalism. Emma wants to emulate Bly but is drawn to two different men with roots as deep in Newport as her own.

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

RATING- 3.5 Stars

Friday, August 10, 2018

Bloody, Violent and Frequently Hilarious

Dorina Basarab # 4
Karen Chance
Berkeley Books
July 31,2018

I have a few favorite urban fantasy series (Jane Yellowrock, Mercy Thompson, Ilona Andrews' Magic series) all featuring kick-ass heroines with hearts of gold and strong moral centers. Dorina (Dory) Basarab ranks among the favorites, but there has been a six-year wait for this fourth in the series. Dory Basarab is the half-human, half-vampire daughter of Mircea Basarab, a leading figure in Chance's Cassandra Palmer series. Mircea is an influential and charming member of the Vampire Senate with often opaque motivations and limited likability. As a dhampir, Dory is hated and feared by vampires in general, since she has the strength, speed, and ability to kill them, and doesn't mind doing so if they are causing trouble with the Senate or with the non-supernatural "norms." That makes her useful to the Senate and even catapults her into a Senate seat in preparation for a looming supernatural war.  In previous books, we learned that Mircea used his mental powers to "wall off" the more violent side of Dory when she was a child. His motivations for that become more clear in the progress of Shadow's Bane. Now those walls are breaking down, and Dory is afraid that the other side, "Dorina," will take over and create a bloodbath. She has gotten out before in her roughly 500-year life, with hideous results.

One of the hallmarks of Karen Chance's two series is non-stop action and Shadow's Bane is no exception. It hits the ground running as Dory is part of a special operation on smuggling from Fairie that morphs into an anti-slavery activity. Someone is enslaving Dark Fey, forcing them into fights to the death and even worse. A relative of Dory's Troll friend, Olga, has been taken, so Dory sets out to find him...if he is even alive. High-speed car and truck chases, extremely violent, bloody, and frequently hilarious battles ensue. Complicating everything is Dory's maturing relationship with the gorgeous vampire, Louis-Cesare. Dory can't believe anything can come of it except heartbreak and further isolation, for both of them. Shadow's Bane brings to an end this part of the story arc, with more to come. Hopefully, it will not take another six years for number five! I do not recommend reading Shadow's Bane as a stand-alone.

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

RATING- 4.5 Stars