Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Old Scores
by Will Thomas

Cyrus Barker has worked endlessly in his garden to make it pristine for the Japanese diplomats who wish to walk its paths.  Thomas Llewelyn is surprised to see his boss flinch as the group enters and once again finds himself wondering at the hidden past of Barker. Then Barker is arrested outside the temporary quarters for the Japanese embassy when the ambassador is murdered.  Frustrated by Barker’s practice to hold clues to himself, Llewelyn questions his own willingness to continue as a personal enquiry agent working for Barker. 

Fans of this series will be very pleased to know that Thomas does, in fact, give us a peak into the mysterious past of Cyrus Barker.  (No spoilers here. Read the book!)  The historical elements Thomas peppers throughout this novel are interesting and don’t bog down the story.  Cyrus and Thomas are men with good hearts but emotionally flawed.  There are a few characters whose return appearances add more depth and enjoyment to the story. However, if this is your first sojourn into the world of Barker and Llewelyn, Thomas does an excellent job of filing in with enough facts that give you just enough information and might inspire you to pick up previous volumes.  Old Scores hits all the bases with intense situations, action and light-hearted banter.   So far, this is one of my favorites.

I wish to thank the publisher for generously providing an Advanced Reader’s Copy for my honest review.

ISBN: 9781250077967
Pub:  St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books
Pub Date:  October 3, 2017

Genre:  Historical Mystery

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

by Susan Kay

I believe everyone knows the story of the Phantom of the Opera.  Susan Kay has created a past for Erik and it’s a dark, haunting one that will stay with you long after you finish the novel.  If you have been fortunate enough to see the stage production, there are a few hints at the past. Kay takes those hints and fills in the gaps creating a past rich in horror and color which gives you a clear idea of who he has become.  She builds a past for Christine and Raoul and brings it full circle as she brings us up to the Paris Opera House.  Putting more ‘meat’ on the bones of the story and bringing up to a contemporary styling makes this an easy read for all.  As the story comes to a close, you had better have tissues within arm’s reach.  This retelling of Erik’s story is easily one of my favorites.  Yes, it is a ‘horror’ story but it is also a story of a young man’s life at the hands of true monsters and how human he really is. Is he an adored hero or a hated villain? You might have a hard decision with this one.  Teens will eagerly devour this telling.  There is a review from School Library Journal recommending it for teens on Amazon.  This book was published many years ago and I hope you will look for it in your library or book store.

ISBN:  9781933626000/pbk.
Available now

Genre: Historical Fiction/Horror/Romance

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Amber Shadows

By Lucy Ribchester

Everyone is doing their part for the war effort and Honey’s stepfather was able to acquire a position for her in one of the Huts at Bletchley Park.  Those who work at Bletchley Park do not talk about what goes on in their Hut.  In fact, Captain Tiver said he would shoot her himself if she broke the secrecy agreement.  So how can she explain the packages she is receiving from Russia that appear to be pieces of amber looted from the Amber Room.  She’s good at codes but the coded message etched onto the amber is too complex.  Her brother Dickie would be able to help her but when he gets murdered and friends go missing she knows she needs help but doesn’t know who she can trust. 

I really enjoy novels that give us a different look into events in history.  The movie Imitation Game showed us a little what life was like for those tasked to breaking the coded messages of the enemy.  Alan Turing is mentioned briefly in this work but it’s not about him.  Ribchester has created an entertaining mystery while enlightening the reader with details of the women who worked within the huts of Bletchly Park and the difficult life many lived while serving their country.  Honey’s story is fictional but is entertaining and suspenseful. However, it is filled with the dangers and uncertainty that so many felt during that time.  The Author’s Notes at the back of the book details Ribchester’s research into the women who worked in the huts. The Amber Shadows is a thrilling read and would be a good one to put into the hands of teens. 

I wish to thank the generosity of the publisher for providing an Advanced Reader’s Copy for my honest review.

ISBN:  9781681774480
Pub: Pegasus Books/ W.W. Norton
Pub Date:  August 8, 2017

Genre:  Historical Mystery

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Death on Windmill Way: A Hampton’s  Murder Mystery
by Carrie Doyle

Antonia took a chance when she left her west coast home and purchased the dilapidated Windmill Inn in the Hamptons on the east coast.  Refurbishing the inn has been a labor of love and patience and she loves it and is proud of her accomplishment.  As a chef, she has worked hard to get the attached restaurant up and running.  Every night the tables fill a little more.  One evening as she visits with guests at their tables, she is told that the death of the previous owner may not have been a heart attack as she was previously told.  As Antonia considers the story, she discovers that what she has been told may not, in fact, be true. 

As Doyle tells Antonia’s story, she involves a good mix of characters. It is told simply and unfolds slowly.  The glee Antonia feels at her discovery of the killer is apparent and Doyle reveals the details in an old fashioned, traditional way.   This is a good story that promises to continue in future installments.  I hope Doyle delivers on her promises.  I found it a fun, relaxing story that was a great recreational read. 

ISBN:  9780997270143
Pub: Dunemere Books
Available now

Genre:  Cozy Mystery

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

by Anthony Horowitz

Holmes and Moriarty have gone over Reichenbach Falls.  Pinkerton Agent, Fredrick Chase has arrived at the Swiss resort to see for his own eyes.  There he encounters another who is skeptical and a student of the methods of Sherlock Holmes, Scotland Yard Inspector Athenley Jones.  Together they will work to piece together and follow the trail of a fiendish American criminal who is looking to fill Moriarty’s shoes and combine the two criminal empires into one.  They thought a criminal who is agoraphobic would not have such a long reach but as no one has actually seen him, they aren’t sure what he looks like.  Soon the bodies start piling up and the clock is ticking. 

Hold on tight and dig in.  Horowitz delivers another nail biter.  As with his other novels, this isn’t a fast-paced speed race. If you are looking for a quick read, this is not it.  Horowitz is a master of building his stories gradually.  The suspense creeps up slowly like a spider stalking and spinning his quarry in a web.  Before you realize it, you are unable to put the book down.  There is no character that is above the knockoff.  I believe he does it with glee.  I caution those who are faint of heart and stomach.  This story is filled with brutal, gruesome murders and Horowitz holds nothing back.  If you are reading this in the dead of night, please do not scream out loud as you near the end of the story.  It might frighten your loved ones.  I have listened to this audio also.  If you prefer to listen or have the notion, I would recommend this one.  It is very good.   I wish you good luck, reader and be sure to take your blood pressure meds, if you need them.

ISBN:  9780062377197/pbk
Pub:  Harper/Perennial
Pub Date:  Available now

Genre:  Historical Mystery

Monday, July 24, 2017

“Why are you reading that?”
Part I

I have always been an avid reader.  I will, and often do, read just about anything.  I will admit that I was never big on science fiction or fantasy.  I’m one of those people who need a foundation, a bit of reality.  I always say, ‘I need a place I can put my feet.’  In the world of fantasy, some of the scenarios are just a little too ‘out there’ for me.  Same with science fiction.  A very good friend tried hard to get me into fantasy and had pretty much given up on me.  Then Cassandra Clare came up with her Mortal Instruments series.  While reading the first book, City of Bones, my friend came to a part and thought to herself, ‘This is where Randee would put this down.’  We laughed about this, especially after I finished the book and gushed about how much I enjoyed it.  Yep, I was pretty surprised and yes, I went on to read the rest.  As the years have progressed, I will occasionally pick up a fantasy and she will pick up whatever I think to recommend to her.  In the department I worked in at the library, we had a great staff.  We each had a genre we favored and could go to that person if we couldn’t help a patron looking for something in particular.  One person was good at the romance, one with the realistic fiction and fantasy, and one that read mysteries, ghost stories and horror.  (hummm, wonder which one I am) Though we all read across our favorite genre we still read practically everything in our favorites. 

I have always been a big fan of mysteries and paranormal genres.  They are a great escape and were a wonderful way for a child who wasn’t very outgoing to spend a summer afternoon.  I will admit that I did read the early teen romance novels, Jean and Johnny, Sweet Sixteen. After those however, there weren’t a whole lot of books out there for teens to read.  During the preteen or tween years, I was witness to a neighbor cleaning out her recently married daughter’s room and dumping a huge pile of books into the trash can.  Nosey Nora that I am, waited until she went back into the house and proceeded to go through the books in the can.  Needless to say, I pulled them all out and brought them home.  They were an early printing of the Nancy Drew mystery series.  I was SO excited.  However, I was discovered by my mom who made me go over to the neighbor’s house and admit what I had done and ask for permission to keep the books.  She gave me a few more.  I read them all several times over.  As I grew tired of rereading them, my mother then handed me some of her paperback mysteries.  I became hooked on Mary Roberts Rinehart then moved on to Victoria Holt, Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Stewart and even Taylor Caldwell.  Believe me, I have read my share of the romance.  I jumped into the bodice rippers in my twenties.  One of the things I enjoyed about the historical romances was the actual historical facts that surrounded the ‘searing heat of two hearts beating.’

I married a man who is a great lover of science fiction, especially Robert Heinlein.  He tried to convert me but alas, no luck.  During my years in the library, especially Youth Services, I have jumped into a few titles that were science fiction.  They were good and had a place for me to ‘plant my feet.’

As I continued to work with the teens in our community, all I read was Young Adult.  The trends were so noticeable.  The paranormal ran through YA fiction like wild fire after the publication of Stefanie Meyer’s Twilight series.  Don’t laugh.  They happen to be very good books and managed to set a fire under the publishing business.  Meyer’s Twilight books awakened reading in teens just as Rowling’s Harry Potter series got everyone reading.  Many adults started reading Young Adult soon after the Twilight publishing.  There are many very good books in the YA area.  I was very happy to see so many make this discovery.  Just because they are in the Young Adult or Teen area doesn’t mean they aren’t well written and interesting novels.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Library of Light and Shadow
By M. J. Rose

As a small child, Delphine was blinded when a schoolmate threw lye in her face.  Sebastian, her twin brother, became her eyes and guide until her sight returned.  Always a painter, as she regained her sight she also regained a talent to paint a person’s hidden secrets.  All the daughters of La Lune have special magick. Delphine uses a velvet eye mask and her magick flows through her fingers onto the canvas. After a horrible incident, she is forced to return to Paris though she no longer has the will to paint.  Emotionally wounded she attempts to heal within the loving arms of her family.  As her healing begins, continued pressure from Sebastian eventually wears her down to accept a special commission to shadow paint a castle to find a hidden book that belonged to Nicholas Flammel.

I believe this might be my favorite in Rose’s Daughters of La Lune series.  Delphine’s painful story slowly emerges like images on a canvas.  The supernatural aspect of the story floats effortlessly throughout the novel and does not overpower Delphine’s story.  As Rose takes us through Delphine’s haunted life, Rose uses words to paint the descriptions of Delphine’s surroundings and you feel as if you are walking the path or flying down the road sitting shotgun in Delphine’s Bugatti.  A thoroughly enjoyable story.

I wish to thank the publisher for generously providing an Advanced Reader’s Copy for my honest review.

ISBN:  9781476778129
Publisher:  Atria Books/Simon and Schuster
Pub Date:  July 18, 2017
Genre:  Historical Mystery (slight paranormal overtones)