Wednesday, October 18, 2017

ARC Review: House of Shadows by Nicola Cornick

House of Shadows
Author: Nicola Cornick
Publication: Graydon House (October 17, 2017)

Description: The wooded hills of Oxfordshire conceal the remains of the aptly named Ashdown House—a wasted pile of cinders and regret. Once home to the daughter of a king, Ashdown and its secrets will unite three women across four centuries in a tangle of intrigue, deceit and destiny… 

In the winter of 1662, Elizabeth Stuart, the Winter Queen, is on her deathbed. She entrusts an ancient pearl, rumored to have magic power, to her faithful cavalier William Craven for safekeeping. In his grief, William orders the construction of Ashdown Estate in her memory and places the pearl at its center.

One hundred and fifty years later, notorious courtesan Lavinia Flyte hears the maids at Ashdown House whisper of a hidden treasure, and bears witness as her protector Lord Evershot—desperate to find it—burns the building to the ground.

Now, a battered mirror and the diary of a Regency courtesan are the only clues Holly Ansell has to finding her brother, who has gone missing researching the mystery of Elizabeth Stuart and her alleged affair with Lord Craven. As she retraces his footsteps, Holly's quest will soon reveal the truth about Lavinia and compel her to confront the stunning revelation about the legacy of the Winter Queen.


My Thoughts: This book tells the story of three women from different time periods centered around a mirror and a pearl that may have magical properties. Their lives and loves are all connected in a story that spans almost 400 years.

Elizabeth of Bohemia was given the mirror and pearl as Christening gifts by Elizabeth I of England in 1596. She is married to Frederick of Bohemia. Elizabeth is in The Hague, a court in exile, since Frederick has lost his throne. They attempt to use the mirror and pearl to regain it. Elizabeth's romance is with William Craven, a commoner and soldier, who is her devoted courtier.

The second story is a modern day one. Holly Ansell is called to Ashdown Mill by her 6-year-old niece who tells her that her father, Holly's brother Ben, is missing. When she arrives Ben is still gone and she finds herself in a mystery. Apparently Ben was researching the mirror and the pearl. An art dealer gives her the mirror and she discovers a diary written in 1801.

The diary is written by Lavinia Flyte who is a courtesan living at Ashdown with William Craven's descendant who is searching for the pearl. (Elizabeth had entrusted it to William when she died.) Her lover hires a surveyor to help map the land and hopefully find out where the Earl of Craven hid the pearl. Unknown to him, Robert Verity, is a descendant of William Craven's lover who got pregnant by Craven but went back home to her husband to have the child taking Elizabeth's mirror with her. Lavinia falls in love with Robert.

The three stories are all interwoven telling about the history of the magical objects and the women whose lives were entwined in the story. I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the historical detail.

Favorite Quote:
If you loved you got hurt and the more you loved the more power it had to destroy her.

For her it was that simple.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Adult and YA Teasers (Oct. 17, 2017)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser on Inside of a Dog:
Holly hadn't even thought about what would happen beyond teh next few hours, let alone on Friday. "I don't think so," she said. "I'm sorry, Mr. Shurmer, but Ben will probably be back by then and anyway, this is nothing to do with me."

"Seven thirty at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford," Shurmer said, cutting in so smoothly she barely notice the interruption. "I should be greatly honoured if you choose to be there, Miss Ansell," he added with old-fashioned courtesy.

The line clicked as the call went dead.
-- House of Shadows by Nicola Cornick

Teaser on Ms. Martin Teaches Media:
It took me a minute after Lilah finally introduced the last girl to figure out that Fuchsia was actually her name. I opened my mouth to say something, but I was dumbstruck. Fuchsia? Fuchsia?! Who named their kid Fuchsia?  
-- Golden by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Monday, October 16, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Oct. 16, 2017)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I will be combining my YA and adult reading and purchases on this one weekly roundup. YA and middle grade reviews will still be posted on  Ms. Martin Teaches Media - my other blog.

Other Than Reading...

One down and one to go! The closing on the Locust Street house finally happened on Friday and the checks went into the bank on Saturday. Now I just need to find someone to buy my townhouse which had all new carpeting installed on Tuesday.

I was going to wait until I had sold my townhouse to buy a new, Duluth winter appropriate car but with cooler weather and morning frost my brother and I decided to use some of this house money to buy now. My brother and I will be test driving the kind I think I want next week when he has a couple of weekdays off. I'm looking at a Subaru Crosstrek with all wheel drive to deal with the hills in Duluth and, in particular, our hilly driveway.

I'm trying something new, and a little scary, on my blogs. Since I don't have very many review books for November and December, I am digging into my TBR mountains. I usually have my whole calendar filled and posts started at least a month ahead. What I am trying is to choose something that catches my attention, read it, and write the post after I finish. What I'm afraid of is that I'll read a page or two of a book and ditch it for something else if it doesn't catch my attention. That makes a lot of books sampled but not a lot of books finished. It could also mean that I will discover a lot of books that I am no longer interested in for my donation pile which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Since I've been home, I have been on a quest to find the best hamburger in Duluth, Minnesota. I joined a group called Nextdoor Kenwood which gives recommendations, local news updates, lost and found, etc. and asked for recommendations. My brother and I had tried lots of the places recommended but went out to one new to both of us on Thursday and had the best hamburgers in Duluth so far. We will be trying a few more of the recommendations as we get time because I like to go out to eat and it is nice to have someone to go with.

Read Last Week
  • In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan - enjoyable middle grade fantasy. Review posted Oct. 27.
  • India Black by Carol K. Carr - wonderful historical mystery that had been on TBR mountain since March 14, 2011. Review posted Nov. 1.
  • Much Ado About Murder by Elizabeth J. Duncan - entertaining cozy mystery, 3rd in a series. Review posted Nov. 2.
  • The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress - on TBR mountain since Dec. 12, 2012, steampunk, girl power and adventure. Review posted Nov. 1.
  • Unholy City by Carrie Smith - intriguing mystery title, 3rd Claire Codella mystery. Review posted Nov. 4.
  • Long Way Home by Katie McGarry - emotionally intense contemporary romance/thriller. Review posted Nov. 4
Currently
A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford begins a new urban fantasy series. It will be release Nov. 7.

Next Week
Reviews Posted

On Ms. Martin Teaches Media:
On Inside of a Dog:
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?
New Review Books:
What was your week like?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Review: Secrets in Death by J. D. Robb

Secrets in Death
Author: J. D. Robb
Series: In Death (Book 45)
Publication: St. Martin's Press (September 5, 2017)

Description: A new novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series: Lt. Eve Dallas must separate rumors from reality when a woman who traffics in other people’s secrets is silenced.

The chic Manhattan nightspot Du Vin is not the kind of place Eve Dallas would usually patronize, and it’s not the kind of bar where a lot of blood gets spilled. But that’s exactly what happens one cold February evening.

The mortally wounded woman is Larinda Mars, a self-described “social information reporter,” or as most people would call it, a professional gossip. As it turns out, she was keeping the most shocking stories quiet, for profitable use in her side business as a blackmailer. Setting her sights on rich, prominent marks, she’d find out what they most wanted to keep hidden and then bleed them dry. Now someone’s done the same to her, literally—with a knife to the brachial artery.

Eve didn’t like Larinda Mars. But she likes murder even less. To find justice for this victim, she’ll have to plunge into the dirty little secrets of all the people Larinda Mars victimized herself. But along the way, she may be exposed to some information she really didn’t want to know…

My Thoughts: The book begins with Eve meeting Dr. Garnet DeWinter for a drink. She's irritated because something about DeWinter rubs her the wrong way but she is connected with a number of people who are in Eve's tight social circle. There is lots of nice snark about her reluctance to meet. Next thing you know is that "social information reporter" Larinda Mars comes up from the restroom and dies in Eve's arms. Eve knew her peripherally and disliked her. Someone has sliced her brachial artery causing her to bleed out.

Now Eve has to find out who killed a person that she really disliked. Just a little investigation shows that Mars was a blackmailer and her pool of victims is huge. Lots of people were willing to pay to keep their secrets hidden. As the investigation continues, it is Mars' victims who garner sympathy from Eve. Some of their secrets bring back memories of Eve's own childhood abuse and show that she is coming to terms with her own troubled past. Eve becomes even more angry at Larinda Mars when she learns that she, Roarke, Mavis, Leonardo and their infant Bella, along with Nadine Furst have also been targets in Mars' blackmail scheme.

And Mars had secrets of her own that she jealously guarded. The autopsy reveals that she had extensive face and body work which sends Eve, with the assistance of forensic anthropologist Dr. Garnet DeWinter, on a quest to find out who she was before she reinvented herself as Larinda Mars. And, while her home has some records and some of her loot, Eve and Roarke are trying to find the rest of her records to know the full scope of people that Mars had blackmailed or investigated.

This was another excellent entry into one of my favorite series. Book 45 shows that Eve and Roarke have not worn out their welcome with me and leaves me eager for their next mystery.

Favorite Quote:
"Well, it's stupid and it's no wonder people are perpetually f**ked up, as nobody can depend on something as basic as February. Which is already screwed up because it insists on having less days, then adding one like a little prize every four years even though everybody wants February to get the hell over so we can move on."

Adorable, he thought again, and really unassailable logic. "Who would argue with that?"
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Memes: Secrets in Death by J. D. Robb

Happy Friday everybody!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City ReaderThe Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Beginning:
It wouldn't kill her.

Probably wouldn't kill her.
Friday 56:
"You have records of the deliveries?"

"I have records of everything. Her emails and texts, her v-mails on my personal 'link. I've changed 'links three times since this started, but she always dug out the new one."
I am currently reading Secrets in Death by J. D. Robb. I love this series and always read these as soon as they are published. Here is the description of the 45th In Death book from Amazon:
A new novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series: Lt. Eve Dallas must separate rumors from reality when a woman who traffics in other people’s secrets is silenced.

The chic Manhattan nightspot Du Vin is not the kind of place Eve Dallas would usually patronize, and it’s not the kind of bar where a lot of blood gets spilled. But that’s exactly what happens one cold February evening.

The mortally wounded woman is Larinda Mars, a self-described “social information reporter,” or as most people would call it, a professional gossip. As it turns out, she was keeping the most shocking stories quiet, for profitable use in her side business as a blackmailer. Setting her sights on rich, prominent marks, she’d find out what they most wanted to keep hidden and then bleed them dry. Now someone’s done the same to her, literally—with a knife to the brachial artery.

Eve didn’t like Larinda Mars. But she likes murder even less. To find justice for this victim, she’ll have to plunge into the dirty little secrets of all the people Larinda Mars victimized herself. But along the way, she may be exposed to some information she really didn’t want to know…

Thursday, October 12, 2017

ARC Review: Best-Laid Plants by Marty Wingate

Best-Laid Plants
Author: Marty Wingate
Series: Potting Shed Mysteries (Book 6)
Publication: Alibi (October 17, 2017)

Description: A trip to the English countryside turns into a brush with death for Pru Parke, the only gardener whose holiday wouldn’t be complete without a murder to solve.

Pru and her husband, former Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse, are long overdue for a getaway. So when Pru is invited to redesign an Arts and Crafts garden in the picturesque Cotswolds, she and Christopher jump at the chance.

Unfortunately, their B&B is more ramshackle than charming, and the once thriving garden, with its lovely Thyme Walk, has fallen into heartbreaking neglect. With the garden’s owner and designer, Batsford Bede, under the weather, Pru tackles the renovation alone. But just as she’s starting to make headway, she stumbles upon Batsford’s body in the garden—dead and pinned beneath one of his limestone statues.

With such a small police force in the area, Christopher is called upon to lead the investigation. Pru can’t imagine anyone murdering Batsford Bede, a gentle man who preferred to spend his time in quiet contemplation, surrounded by nature. But as her work on the garden turns up one ominous clue after another, Pru discovers that the scenery is more dangerous than she or Christopher could have anticipated.

My Thoughts: Pru is hired to assess an Arts and Crafts garden in the Cotswolds and jumps at the chance. She thinks it would be a great vacation for her and her husband Christopher. She isn't there long before the builder of the garden, Batsford Bede, is found dead in his garden and Christopher is drafted to solve the crime.

There are all sorts of suspects including the daughter of his long-time love and a life coach who has been helping him and who had a previous relationship with Christopher after his divorce and before he met and married Pru. Or is it the young woman who wants to start her own farm by leasing some of Batty's land or maybe the man-of-all work who is helping her start her farm?

Pru and Christopher are staying in a ramshackle bed and breakfast run by an elderly widow whose husband did some odd electrical work in the house. The shabby interior, eccentric hallways, and low ceilings add some interesting atmosphere to the story.

The first thing Pru receives when she arrives are the garden journals that Bede wrote which are filled with the plants he and his love Constance chose and some personal insights about their lives too. Each chapter begins with a quotation from Batty's journal. Even though my knowledge of plants is pretty much limited to recognizing dandelions and roses, I enjoyed both the journal entries and Pru's descriptions of the gardens.

I did figure out who the murderer was about two-thirds into the story which made me feel quite accomplished. It was a suspenseful story with lots of great characters. 

Favorite Quote:
"He had a plant in his hand -- it looked as if he'd pulled it up," Christopher said. "You saw that?"

Pru nodded, remembering the stems, leaves, and few faded flowers crushed in Mr. Bede's hand. "It was betony. It's a good perennial, a native -- produces flowers through summer and into autumn. It's also been used as a medicinal herb -- a sort of panacea, you know, said to fix anything. I wonder if that's what he thought. I believe he wrote about betony, but I don't remember that he mentioned it as a medicine, only as an ornamental."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Review: The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess

The Painted Queen
Author: Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess
Series: Amelia Peabody Series
Publication: William Morrow (July 25, 2017)

Description: Egypt, 1912—Amelia Peabody and her dashing archeologist husband, Radcliffe Emerson, are once again in danger as they search for a priceless, stolen bust of legendary Queen Nefertiti and Amelia finds herself the target of assassins in this long-awaited, eagerly anticipated final installment of Elizabeth Peters’ bestselling, beloved mystery series.

Arriving in Cairo for another thrilling excavation season, Amelia is relaxing in a well-earned bubble bath in her elegant hotel suite in Cairo, when a man with knife protruding from his back staggers into the bath chamber and utters a single word—"Murder"—before collapsing on the tiled floor, dead. Among the few possessions he carried was a sheet of paper with Amelia’s name and room number, and a curious piece of pasteboard the size of a calling card bearing one word: "Judas." Most peculiarly, the stranger was wearing a gold-rimmed monocle in his left eye.

It quickly becomes apparent that someone saved Amelia from a would-be assassin—someone who is keeping a careful eye on the intrepid Englishwoman. Discovering a terse note clearly meant for Emerson—Where were you?"—pushed under their door, there can be only one answer: the brilliant master of disguise, Sethos.

But neither assassins nor the Genius of Crime will deter Amelia as she and Emerson head to the excavation site at Amarna, where they will witness the discovery of one of the most precious Egyptian artifacts: the iconic Nefertiti bust. In 1345 B.C. the sculptor Thutmose crafted the piece in tribute to the great beauty of this queen who was also the chief consort of Pharaoh Akhenaten and stepmother to King Tutankhamun.

For Amelia, this excavation season will prove to be unforgettable. Throughout her journey, a parade of men in monocles will die under suspicious circumstances, fascinating new relics will be unearthed, a diabolical mystery will be solved, and a brilliant criminal will offer his final challenge . . . and perhaps be unmasked at last.

My Thoughts: The final Amelia Peabody story (completed by Joan Hess after Elizabeth Peters passed away) is set in 1912. Amelia and Emerson are preparing for another season of excavating in Egypt. However, they aren't in Egypt two hours when the first assassin breaks into Amelia's bathing chamber and dies from a knife in the back. Amelia, being Amelia and not unfamiliar with being the target of assassins, takes this in stride.

Amelia and Emerson soon learn that she and Ramses are being targeted by the five remaining Godwin brothers who want revenge for the death of Nefret's villainous husband Geoffrey Godwin. The only distinguishing feature to identify the assassins is that they were monocles.

But assassins aside, Emerson and Amelia are directed to Amarna to check on excavations by Herr Morgenstern who has been behaving erratically. Apparently he has absconded to Cairo with a bust of Nefertiti that he found in his excavations. This sets Ramses and David on a quest to find the bust. Which they do, but not before uncovering a number of forgeries and villains who want the bust also.

Meanwhile, Morgenstern wanders in and out of danger apparently having some sort of mental episodes that leave him paranoid and confused. Amelia dashes into danger to save him a few times despite the threat of assassins.

I love this series and this final volume had all the things I love. The relationship between Amelia and Emerson is a a match of equals. Amelia is profoundly herself - entitled, decisive, and determined. She has a reckless disregard for her her own safety probably fostered by her belief that she is invincible.

The mystery with the many busts of Nefertiti and the actions of the hirsute missionary added interest. The inept assassins added both danger and humor.

Someday, I want to read this whole series again in internal chronological order to see how everyone changed and grew.

Favorite Quote:
"We cannot abandon Zawaiet!"

When seen in print, this statement lacks a certain portentousness. When uttered in Emerson's deep resonant basso, it has the effect of a decree from on high. Very high.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.