Sunday, April 23, 2017

What the Dead Leave Behind by Rosemary Simpson

book cover
What the Dead Leave Behind
by Rosemary Simpson


ISBN-13: 9781496709080
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Kensington Books
Released: April 25, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
As the Great Blizzard of 1888 cripples the vast machinery that is New York City, heiress Prudence MacKenzie sits anxiously within her palatial Fifth Avenue home waiting for her fiance's safe return. With daylight, more than two hundred people are found to have perished in the icy winds and treacherous snowdrifts. Prudence's fiance is found frozen, his head crushed by a heavy branch, and clutching the ace of spades.

Her fiance's school friend, Geoffrey Hunter, is an attorney and former Pinkerton agent. Both Prudence and Geoffrey suspect Charles's death was no accident, especially happening so soon after her father's sudden death. Prudence turns to Geoffrey to help her prove the murderer and protect her inheritance from a stepmother intent on controlling Prudence's share of the family fortune.


My Review:
What the Dead Leave Behind is a historical novel set in 1888 in New York City. It's not really mystery genre since it's pretty obvious who the bad guys are. Even the main characters felt certain they knew whodunit and were attempting to prove it. Also, the reader gets to see things (including the murders) that the hero and heroine never see and some of which they never discover.

Some suspense was created by the repeated attempts to harm or kill the heroine. However, the author included so much historical detail that the pacing was too slow to sustain a feeling of suspense. The slower pacing and attention to detail will appeal to fans of historical novels (though I noticed a couple details I suspect are inaccurate).

The characters were interesting, and the hero was gallant and generally clever. But the main characters were slow to make some obvious connections and ask some important questions of people who would have been happy to answer. The heroine assumed things rather than re-assessed what she knew based on new information.

She also kept telling herself that her step-mother underestimated her, but I felt like the heroine overestimated herself. She had potential, but she didn't act logically or even consistently. She panicked at one point and forgot something vital that had just happened. A few scenes later, she somehow located a weapon she didn't know existed and acted heroically. So...does she fall apart easily under stress or think clearly and act decisively when under threat? Sometimes she acts one way and sometimes the other.

The author would shift point of view in the middle of a paragraph and sometimes jumped in time in a way that left me briefly confused. At the end, the bad guys weren't handed over to the courts (though they were stopped). There was a brief homosexual sex scene. There was some bad language.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Silence of the Jams by Gayle Leeson

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Silence of the Jams
by Gayle Leeson


ISBN-13: 9781101990803
Mass Market Paperback:
304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: April 4, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
In Winter Garden, Virginia, the Down South Cafe is open and flourishing, and Amy Flowers is busy making jam and pies. The only thorn in her side is Chamber of Commerce director George Lincoln, who is trying to buy the cafe so he can tear it down and build a B&B on the site. When George collapses while eating at the Down South, everybody assumes it's a heart attack until the autopsy declares it to be poisoning. Now it's up to Amy to prove her innocence.


My Review:
Silence of the Jams is a cozy mystery. This is the second book in the series. You don't need to read the previous book to understand this one, and this one didn't spoil the whodunit of the previous mystery.

The mystery was clue-based, but there weren't many suspects. I was pretty certain of whodunit from early on, though the author did make me wonder a couple times if maybe I was wrong. Amy asked some good questions, but much of her efforts (understandably) went in running her restaurant and some family drama involving an aunt.

Amy's a nice gal who doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. She's fairly intelligent. "Fairly" because she did confront one of her suspects when they were completely alone and accuse him of lying about something that would be a motive. It doesn't matter how that turned out; it was dangerous.

There was no bad language and no sex scenes. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable mystery.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Princess Sophie and the Six Swans by Kim Jacobs

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Princess Sophie and the Six Swans
by Kim Jacobs


ISBN-13: 9781937786670
Hardback: 40 pages
Publisher: Wisdom Tales
Released: April 1, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Princess Sophie, the spirited young heroine of this adapted tale from the Brothers Grimm, finds herself faced with an incredible challenge and some lessons to learn. She had forgotten her departed mother's warning to temper loyalty and strength with a compassionate heart. Antagonized by Sophie's resentful words, her powerful new stepmother turns Sophie's six brothers into swans and sets her the task of saving them.

Will Sophie succeed in helping her brothers? Can she spin six shirts made from the thorny thistle, while never speaking a word, even in her defense? And what will happen when King Yoren captures Sophie and takes her prisoner?

Featuring stunning artwork by renowned illustrator Kim Jacobs, her retelling of this classic Brothers Grimm fairytale also contains an author's note with fascinating details on family heraldry and mute swans.


My Review:
Princess Sophie and the Six Swans is a retelling of the Grimm fairy tale and is intended for ages 4 and up. The author added some details to the basic tale to help explain why certain things happen. The heroine's harsh words toward the stepmother prompted the stepmother's curse that Sophie must not speak until the thorny shirts are completed. So Sophie has to grow in character to be able to complete the difficult task.

Beautiful illustrations fill the pages. Details showing the setting and character's body language further develop the story and draw the reader in. I've enjoyed many of the Wisdom Tales Press books, but this engaging book is my favorite so far. I'd highly recommend it to fans of children's fairy tales.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: View an excerpt on the publisher's website.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Chapel Car Bride by Judith Miller

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The Chapel Car Bride
by Judith Miller


ISBN-13: 9780764219054
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Released: April 4, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
With her penchant for seeing the best in everyone, Hope Irvine sees a world full of good people in hard places. When her father accepts a position traveling in a chapel car as an on-the-rail missionary, she is determined to join him in his efforts and put her musical skills to good use by serving the mining families of West Virginia, saving their souls, and bettering their lives.

Luke Hughes shares Hope's love of music and her love of God, but as a poor miner he knows he can offer her no future. When she begins to travel with the mine owner's son to neighboring counties, Luke can hardly suppress his jealousy. It isn't until he begins to suspect these missions of mercy might be a cover for illegal purposes, though, that Luke feels he has the right to act to protect Hope.


My Review:
The Chapel Car Bride is a historical novel set in 1913 in West Virginia. At the beginning of the story, we get an overview of how chapel cars worked and what they looked like. The coal mine existed only to explain how the poor conditions and pay motivated some workers to do an illegal side business to feed their family. This illegal activity was the motivating focus of the story.

The main characters were nice people. Hope assumed the best about everyone and wanted to help people. Luke had the unfortunate tendency toward self-sabotage when it came to his dreams. He wanted to become a preacher and immediately fell in love with Hope. Hope returned his regard, but the son of the mine owner offered to help Hope reach out to the children in surrounding towns. Luke assumed that this made him a rival for Hope. When this man's true character was revealed and Hope and Luke declared their love, the author apparently felt it'd been to easy. A previously nice character suddenly turned nasty and got in the way. Yet the obstacle didn't really exist and the solution was so obvious that this just irritated me.

The Christian element was references to their holding services, praying, and care for the poor. There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this book.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Pursued by Lisa Harris

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Pursued
by Lisa Harris


ISBN-13: 9780800724207
Trade Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Revell
Released: April 4, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Book Description, Modified from GoodReads:
Nikki Boyd's flight into Nashville was routine--up until the crash landing at the airport. When the dust settles, Nikki discovers that the woman who had been seated next to her on the plane is missing--and no one will admit she was ever there.

Erika Hamilton had been flying to Nashville with an air marshal as a key witness in an upcoming grand jury trial. When she flees from the crash, is she running from trouble or straight into it? Before Nikki can even see her family, she and her team are pulled into a missing persons case where the motives are as unclear as the suspects.


My Review:
Pursued is a Christian suspense novel. It's the third in a series, but you don't need to read the previous books to understand this one. The story reads like an action movie. Nikki's flight crashes, which would be enough to put most people out of action (and unwilling to go up in the air again within 48 hours), but not Nikki! She shakes it off because she wants to be the one to find the missing woman whose life may be in danger.

Nikki just powers through pain and exhaustion despite the increasing body count and some rather traumatic experiences. Frankly, the fact that she seems superhuman--hardly touched by these experiences during the story--means that I had a hard time bonding with her. While the constant physical danger and time limits on finding the missing woman do make for a suspenseful story, I read suspense for the human element--how do they get through the trauma?--not for the big explosions.

Nikki felt she was always right. If a team member expressed a concern about her actions or plans, she dismissed those concerns and did things her way. Nikki also couldn't let unknowns go and didn't trust others (even her team) to find out those answers without her in the middle of things. While Nikki was otherwise a nice, caring person, I'd hate to be on her team.

The Christian truth thrown in at the end was her realization that God's in control and has all the answers about what has happened and will happen. But I'm really wondering if that'll change her behavior toward her team. There were also a few, brief prayers during the action. There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this novel to fans of action movies.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Where the Dead Lie by C.S. Harris

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Where the Dead Lie
by C.S. Harris


ISBN-13: 9780451471192
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Released: April 4, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
London, 1813. Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is no stranger to the dark side of the city, but he's never seen anything like this: the brutalized body of a fifteen-year-old boy dumped into a makeshift grave on the grounds of an abandoned factory.

One of London's many homeless children, Benji Thatcher was abducted and tortured before his murder—and his younger sister is still missing. Few in authority care about a street urchin's fate, but Sebastian refuses to let this killer go unpunished.

Uncovering a disturbing pattern of missing children, Sebastian is drawn into a shadowy, sadistic world. As he follows a grim trail that leads from the writings of the debauched Marquis de Sade to the city's most notorious brothels, he comes to a horrifying realization: someone from society's upper echelon is preying upon the city's most vulnerable. And though dark, powerful forces are moving against him, Sebastian will risk his reputation and his life to keep more innocents from harm.


My Review:
Where the Dead Lie is a historical mystery set in 1813 in London. This is the 12th book in a series. You don't need to read the previous novels to follow this one, and this book did not spoil any whodunits of the previous novels.

The author vividly described the setting and wove in historical details without slowing the fast pacing. The main characters were likable and cared about justice for the street children. Sebastian and Hero were observant and asked good questions, but the mystery was complex enough that it took some time to uncover who was involved. I'm a little surprised that Sebastian doesn't have more enemies, though, considering the secrets he tends to uncover along the way. It's a good thing he doesn't use those secrets against people.

Sex occurred and rape and torture was referred to, but there were no play-by-play sex or torture scenes. There was a fair amount bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this well-written novel.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano

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Behind the Scenes
by Jen Turano


ISBN-13: 9780764217944
Trade Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Released: April 4, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Miss Permilia Griswold may have been given the opportunity of a debut into New York high society, but no one warned her she wasn't guaranteed to "take." After spending the last six years banished to the wallflower section of the ballroom, she's finally putting her status on the fringes of society to good use by penning anonymous society gossip columns under the pseudonym "Miss Quill."

Mr. Asher Rutherford has managed to maintain his status as a reputable gentleman of society despite opening his own department store. While pretending it's simply a lark to fill his time, he has quite legitimate reasons for needing to make his store the most successful in the country.

When Permilia overhears a threat against the estimable Mr. Rutherford, she's determined to find and warn the man. When Asher doesn't believe her, she decides to take matters into her own hands.


My Review:
Behind the Scenes is a Christian romance set in 1883 in New York City. Having read Turano's books before, I expected unconventional characters who don't care what society thinks and humor resulting from the silly situations they end up in. Unfortunately, the characters were borderline insane in this one, and their irrational behavior is intended to get the laughs.

I expected Permilia to be observant and clever. But, no. She danced a complete quadrille without noticing that everyone else was doing a set pattern and only she was making up steps. Her dancing usually results in injury to others, yet she agreed to dance with two men whom she likes. Really? The first 35% of the book was this lavish ball where Permilia blundered into trouble or panicked when men tried to talk with her.

Despite Asher inexplicably being attracted by Permilia's blundering (and perfume) at the ball, he refused to take her warning about an assassin seriously. The book description made it sound like Asher and Permilia would work together to figure out who's after them. Nope, they left figuring that out to other people. Permilia spent more time trying to figure out what God wanted her to do with her life. And more scenes were about various woman throwing things or trying to strangle each other than on murder attempts by an assassin.

There was no sex or bad language.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.