Murder As a Fine Art by David Morrell
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Rating: 5 out of 5
Looking for the PERFECT Summer thriller? You’ve just found it. There’s a murderer in London in the mid-1800s. He seemingly has no motive except to create the most grisly murder scene you could think of. (Warning: the novel is ridiculously graphic) It is the same time that Thomas DeQuincey has published his memoir Confessions of an Opium Eater (which really is his actual memoir), and so naturally, he becomes the first major suspect in the eyes of the media. DeQuincey must clear his name, and he enlists the help of his daughter Emily and Detective Inspector Ryan of Scotland Yard. Can DeQuincey save his name while the entirety of Victorian London is after his head?
Murder As a Fine Art is definitely the best mystery/thriller that I have read in a long time. Not only is the novel wonderfully atmospheric, but Morrell provides wonderful facts and lessons about the era from an omniscient perspective. Each chapter begins with a tale of the real Victorian London and how it functioned. I could not put this book down – I read it in less than a day. Not only will the fast-paced plot keep you guessing the entire time, but the characters will amaze you and at times boggle your mind. We get glimpses of the murderer from his perspective – letting us know just how messed up this guy really is. Ryan is my favorite character (what can I say? I like a man in uniform. Even though he was a plainclothes detective… But I digress). Ryan is the former student of the famous French “first detective” Vidocq – he uses his methods with skill and precision. I was amazed when I found out that Morrell was the author of the book that inspired the Rambo movies, but don’t let that deter you at all. The writing is masterful and the plotting is brilliant. I HIGHLY recommend this book to all mystery and history lovers. It will keep you on the edge of your seat while you learn a history lesson or two.
Thanks to Historical Fiction Book Tours for letting me host this book – for more information about the book and other fun things, click here.
The Fifth Knight by E.M. Powell
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
King Henry II has sent out knights on a secret mission to capture Archbishop Thomas Becket. Sir Benedict Palmer has accepted this last mission so that he can make some money before retiring from the life of a mercenary. Contrary to what he thought was the plan, the mission’s leader kills Becket and captures the young nun, Theodosia. Little does she know that she has been kidnapped because of a secret she holds. To prevent Theodosia from being tortured and killed, Palmer helps her escape. As they are forced to run away together, they realize they must solve the mystery of why Becket was really murdered and how Theodosia’s secret knowledge will affect the kingdom.
It’s been a long while since I’ve read a novel from this time period that I’ve really enjoyed, so it was great to find such a fun read. A man and a woman from completely different worlds come together for an adventure filled with murder and intrigue. I absolutely loved Powell’s creation of suspense. I spent most of the book sitting on the edge of my seat wondering if Palmer and Theodosia could find out what is really going on and save themselves from imminent torture and death. The stakes are high and Powell knows how to execute a high level of suspense. If the history, mystery, and suspense don’t capture you (which, I mean, how could they not?) then there’s always that extra bit of romance thrown in to make Theodosia question her vows as a nun. Powell’s dialog is modern so that it is easy to understand, but she also adds some period vocabulary and phrases to make it more believable and have that great atmospheric feel. This novel is a quick and entertaining read for all of you awesome history buffs out there who want to read some light historical fiction.
The Union Street Bakery by Mary Ellen Taylor
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5
Daisy is down on her luck after she has lost her job, broken up with her boyfriend, and has to move to a little apartment above her family’s bakery. The Union Street Bakery isn’t in such great shape either; the economy has taken a toll on the demand for baked goods. Daisy is also on the outs with her two sisters, which is even more difficult because she is adopted. Everything changes when an elderly customer dies and leaves Daisy a journal dating back to the mid-1800s. Daisy starts dreaming about Susie, the author of the journal, and must investigate the past in order to let her rest in peace.
Southern novels are one of my favorite genres to read, and this book was no exception. Mix in the South with history, baking, and a ghost story, and you have one heck of a book. Daisy represents us all when we are experiencing difficult times and are reticent to face these challenges at first. Yes, the plot deals largely with the journal and the Susie speaking to Daisy, but it also a book about family and how our personal and family histories really do matter. Daisy is really a detective when it comes down to researching her family’s history and the origins of Susie’s journal – she puts all of the pieces of the puzzle together while learning about herself in the process. I also love that the setting is Old Town Alexandria in Virginia which is close to where I live – I’ve been to many of the areas mentioned and the description was very accurate. The book is entertaining and a quick read – I definitely recommend it.
The Expats by Chris Pavone
Publisher: Crown Books
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5
Kate is your average working mom. She’s in the house taking care of the kids when her husband comes home and tells her they’re moving to Luxembourg… within the month. Kate jumps at the chance to leave her job, except she never really told her husband what she really does for a living. When the family arrives in their new home, Kate starts her new role as a housewife and full-time mom. As her husband starts to grow distant and Kate starts to worry, a new couple moves into their neighborhood, but Kate suspects that they are not as they seem… just as she realizes that her past may have caught up with her.
Whoa. This book was freaking amazing! I love spy novels. I especially love spy novels that take place in Europe. But a spy novel in Europe with a FEMALE protagonist seemed too good to be true… and yet here we are with this wonderful book! I think what makes this book so compelling (besides the nonstop suspense) is that Kate has a real life. She isn’t the solitary aging man with no strings attached and badly stained teeth from too much whiskey and smoking. She has a real family which she must protect at the same time as figuring out what the heck is going on around her.
This isn’t just a one dimensional book about spies. It is about how a marriage can be just as complicated as politics and international relations. There were a few elements of Gone Girl in it for me insomuch as there is this sense that you never really know who you are married to. I hope you will pick this one up for a great read. It’s quick, but has depth, and it is definitely worth it. I can’t wait to see what Pavone comes up with next!
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me read and review this book!
Mertz. Peters. Michaels. Over the last 12 years, those names have come to mean so much to me, and I would say that they have even changed my life. Barbara Mertz is a wonderful woman who was one of the first women to graduate from the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago with a degree in archaeology. She’s written two nonfiction books on Egyptology. Her alter-egos, Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels, have published mysteries and gothic dramas across the last five decades.
When I was a sixth grader at a small, private school, I was depressed and miserable. I was having a difficult time socially and emotionally and all I ever wanted to do was read. I was obsessed with Ancient Egypt from a very young age, so when my mom saw a paragraph in The Washington Post about a book called The Mummy Case, she took me straight to Borders to pick it up hoping that this outing might brighten my day. Boy, she didn’t know what she was starting!
I read every book available in the Amelia Peabody series within a few months. THEN I discovered that Elizabeth Peters also wrote under different names and I HAD to get those in order to survive. Her mysteries are witty, engaging, heart-breaking, suspenseful, historical, and absolutely brilliant. Not only will you fall in love with her characters, but you will want them to be your best friends.
As Barbara Michaels, she’s written modern gothic tales worthy of Ann Radcliffe. The Dancing Floor haunted me, yet left me with a smile. Most of these books are stand-alone, and they can be read in any order, so you don’t have to worry about committing to a series.
I’ve spent the last few years collecting every book she has ever had in print. Some of them I have in multiple editions just because I love them so much. When I have a bad day, I go back to these books like they are old friends waiting for me to visit. She was the first author who taught me that women can be whatever they want in life as long as they are willing to pave their own way. I got my bachelors degree in Anthropology for many reasons, but a big one was because she showed me that it didn’t have to be a male-dominated field. As a women, as an author, as an archaeologist, Barbara Mertz is an inspiration to me.
Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom for hosting with Elizabeth Peters appreciation week! She has tons of awesome posts about the author and her books up own her site, so check it out!
Austensibly Ordinary by Alyssa Goodnight
Publisher: Kensington Books
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Rating: 5 out of 5
In the companion book to Austentatious, Cate Kendall appears to be your average young and quirky English teacher. She loves her job because she gets to make her students read Emma, and she works with her best friend, Ethan. Yet, Cate is finding that she wants to add some adventure to her life. When a friend invites her to a Hitchcock themed Halloween party, she decides to invent an alter ego in order to have some anonymous fun with no consequences. In the middle of all of this, she finds a mysterious journal which is obviously antique, but blank. When she starts writing about her life in it, and the journal starts writing back, Cate finds that she is in more of an adventure than she could ever imagine.
Although this book is a companion piece to Austentatious, you Don’t need to have read it in order to fall in love with Austensibly Ordinary. I sat down with this book and fell in love. Cate has such a fun and unique personality. She isn’t your ordinary female protagonist looking for love – she has a real voice that I found myself identifying with immediately. Not only does she play Scrabble every weekend with Ethan, she loves Hitchcock, and she acknowledges her faults and tries to address them.
This book has everything you could ever want for a light and entertaining read: a little bit of magic, some fun mystery, literary and pop culture references galore, and a great voice. I loved reading the first book in this series, but I fell even more in love with Goodnight’t writing with this novel. Cate’s observations on life and the world around her are refreshing and uplifting without ever being shallow. This book is great for adults and older teens. You definitely need to go out and get this book.
A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Rating: 5 out of 5
It is a rare occasion when a book blurb can accurately summarize a book in so few words. The Richmond Times-Dispatch said: “Reads as if Cormac McCarthy decided to rewrite Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.” Whoa. That is truly high praise to live up to, and this book totally does.
Told from three different points of view, the book follows the death of a mute boy and the controversy around it. His brother, Jess, describes their life as a family in the South. Their mother is a member of an extremist church, and her involvement influences the rest of the story. Adelaide Lynde is the midwife of the town who leaves the church, but takes care of the children while their parents attend services. She attempts to be the voice of reason in a world ruled by fundamentalism. Clem Barefield is the Sherrie of the small town and must battle his own demons, while keeping order around him. It is so difficult to write a summary of the book that does it justice.
I was hooked from the first page of the book and couldn’t put it down. Cash skillfully creates a southern town that could belong to almost any era. The characters are beautifully crafted, but the town itself is it’s own character. There is some mystery involved, but the story is truly about the darkness inherent within human nature and how there are some people who try to negate it. Cash’s descriptions are so vivid you might just forget you are in a freezing house in the middle of winter and be transported to a creek in summertime turning over rocks to find salamanders to catch.
There was one scene in particular where Jess has just met his paternal grandfather for the first time and has to go for a ride in his old truck. I was sitting there in the passenger’s seat looking at the rust on the dashboard listening to grandpa’s voice riding down the dark road not knowing what to say. I was so in that moment that I left the world around me and became Jess mourning his brother. Not only is this book moving, powerful, and wonderful, but it will make you ponder your own life and how we can never really escape our own natures. This is Cash’s first book, and I sincerely hope he will continue to write and publish for years to come.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for giving me the chance to read and review this book.
The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
Release Date: October 23, 2012
Rating: 5 out of 5
I honestly cannot describe this book as well as the publisher does as it is so intricate:
“On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.
Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retailer and desperate to improve her situation, Claire is lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—a Degas masterpiece stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when that very same long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.
Her desperate search for the truth leads Claire into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life.”
This book blew me away. I thought at first that it would just be your regular literary mystery, but I was so wrong. Shapiro weaves an intricate web between fiction and reality to the point where you start to believe that Claire and her experiences are real. The pace moves quickly, but the prose is still elegant and at some points breathtaking. From the gritty setting of a juvenile detention hall to the layers of paint on a master’s canvas, Shapiro creates descriptions that will take you to another place.
The mystery will intrigue you, the history will enthrall you, and the relationships will touch you. It took me only half a day to read through this book, and I could not put ti down for a second. Once again, Algonquin books has published a novel that blows so many others away with its quality as well as entertainment value.
Thank you to SheReads for letting me participate in the book club once again!
Raylan by Elmore Leonard
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: 2012
Rating: 3 out of 5
Raylan Givens is a U.S. Marshall who wears a Stetson and has no problem shooting first and asking questions later. When Raylan finds a man with stitches in his sides made from staples, he realizes there’s something going on. Dickie and Coover Crowe are no longer just in the pot business – they’ve branched out into body parts. Not only must Raylan find out who is performing these make-shift surgeries, but also who is really behind them. Will he be ale to stop these criminals before he ends of losing his own kidneys?
Raylan is not only the main character of Leonard’s books, he is also the main character of the tv show Justified. I am not really a fan of westerns in general. I like protagonists who think and then shoot, but Raylan has this way about him that makes you love and hate him at the same time. Leonard creates such awesome characters that the shoot-em-up mentality gets left at the wayside and a great mystery takes root. I have never read any of these books before, and I have not seen the tv show, but you need no background to jump right into this book.
Leonard creates a great adventure and mystery that makes for a quick and enjoyable read. A fun book to read in bits before you go to bed at night.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to read this book! For more info click the image below.
The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Ruth Galloway is an archaeologist living in Norfolk along the marshes. She specializes in forensic anthropology, and is the head of that department at the local university. On a beach close to her remote home, a child’s body is found. Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson calls Ruth in for help identifying the age of the bones – are they modern or ancient? The case reminds Nelson of a cold case involving the disappearance of a young girl whose body is never found. Horribly taunting letters were sent to him, detailing where her body could be found, even though the police were never successful. Can Ruth help Nelson solve two cases while her own life is threatened?
I love a good mystery. But more than just the mystery is the atmosphere. Griffiths creates a wonderfully cold and damp feel of Northern Norfolk that you might feel chilled to the bone. The marsh is frightening by itself, but with a serial killer on the loose it becomes terrifying. Ruth isn’t your typical heroine (which is why I love her so much). She is a bit on the heavy side. She dresses modestly and doesn’t use make-up. She is very straightforward and doesn’t put up with crap. She holds on to her dignity and doesn’t simper for the leading male.
While the solution to the mystery didn’t surprise me, I didn’t even care because the characters and setting are so compelling. The book is more about Ruth as a person than as an assistant to the police in an investigation. Nelson also provides a wonderful addiction – he’s not your typical cop. He catches on to Ruth’s observations quickly and treats all of her suggestions with respect. I loved this book so much that I have already started the second in the series. There are three books in the series so far, with the fourth one coming out this Spring. I recommend this book to all mystery lovers, Anglophiles, and people who love books with strong female characters.