Friday, October 30, 2015

Floral Depravity by Beverly Allen

book cover
Floral Depravity
by Beverly Allen


ISBN-13: 9780425264997
Mass Market Paperback:
304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: October 6, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
As the co-owner of the Rose in Bloom Flower Shop, Audrey Bloom knows how to put together unique wedding bouquets, but this one takes the cake. The daughter of a local historian is getting married in a medieval-themed, hand-fasting ceremony, and Audrey is responsible for providing period-accurate blooms.

But making sure she gets her roses right turns out to be the least of Audrey’s problems. Shortly after the vows are exchanged, the father of the groom suddenly drops dead. When Audrey discovers the man’s death stems from monkshood poisoning, it’s a clear-cut case of murder. Now, faced with a suspect list that rivals the guest list, Audrey needs to root out the toxic killer.


My Review:
Floral Depravity is a cozy mystery. It's the third book in a series. You don't need to read the previous novels to understand this one, and this story didn't spoil the whodunit of the previous books.

It's a clue-based puzzle mystery. About halfway through, I'd noticed enough subtle clues that I felt certain I knew whodunit. I only became more certain, but the two people reading the story with me were surprised. I liked the main characters. They were nice but sometimes made mistakes. They also learned from their mistakes. Most of the action took place at a semi-remote medieval encampment, which led to plenty of funny moments. Audrey has several relationship issues that she also had to resolve.

There was no bad language. There were no sex scenes. Overall, I'd recommend this engaging 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, October 25, 2015

Death on the High Lonesome by Frank Hayes

book cover
Death on the High Lonesome
by Frank Hayes


ISBN-13: 9780425274309
Trade Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: October 6, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Virgil knows that his sleepy hometown is starting to reflect the times, in good ways and bad. It still comes as a shock when his deputy is almost killed by the body of a woman falling from the highway overpass onto his car. A woman who had been fleeing for her life…

Then longtime resident Velma Thompson is found dead on her porch—her husband missing. To search for the man, Virgil saddles up and heads to the High Lonesome, the rugged mountains above their ranch. And on a wind-swept mesa, he’ll find the first clues that point to a killer whose body count has only just begun


My Review:
Death on the High Lonesome is a mystery novel that sometimes had the feel of a Western. It's the second book in a series, and I'd recommend reading the series in order. It's as much about the character's personal lives as about solving the mystery. Some parts of the first mystery were spoiled in this one as people dealt with the aftereffects from what happened.

This was a clue-based mystery. I had a good idea of whodunit before Virgil figured it out. The story was full of suspense from physical danger and relationship tensions, so it wasn't just about finding clues. The characters came across as realistic, complex people who were dealing with what life threw at them. There was a sad undertone to the story, but the characters were nice enough people that it was interesting to read their story.

There were no graphic sex scenes. There was a fair amount of bad language and a minor amount of crude language. Overall, I'd recommend this 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, October 23, 2015

Trouble on the Thames by Victor Bridges

book cover
Trouble on the Thames
by Victor Bridges


ISBN-13: 9781464204937
Paperback: 234 pages
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Released: Oct. 6, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Owen Bradwell is a courageous naval officer who returns to England in the 1930s. He believes that his career is over because he has become colour-blind but with Nazi Germany an increasing menace, the authorities cannot do without Bradwell, and he is assigned a special mission.

A former acquaintance of Bradwell’s has been trapped into betraying his country’s secrets by a Nazi agent. Bradwell is sent to spy on the spy, and travels down the Thames on a surveillance trip under cover of a fishing weekend. Things soon take an unexpected turn, and Bradwell finds himself in the company of a dead man, and a pretty young interior decorator called Sally.


My Review:
Trouble on the Thames is a spy thriller set in the 1930's in England, and it was written in 1945. The story was well-written and has elements that give it an enduring appeal, so I was surprised it hadn't been reprinted more often.

While Owen is our main viewpoint character, we also follow several bad-guy characters. Each character had their own plans and motives, and this created twists just when you think things might be wrapping up. The characters were engaging and came across as real people, and the setting was vividly described. This brought the story to life in my imagination. Though the romance happened quickly, I could see why they liked each other and their personalities were a good fit.

There was a fair amount of bad language. There was no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this fun book to fans of spy versus spy stories.


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.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Sans Pareil Mystery by Karen Charlton

book cover
The Sans Pareil Mystery
by Karen Charlton


ISBN-13: 9781503947825
Paperback: 322 pages
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Released: October 6, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
On a cold February night in Regency London, a dark curtain falls on the Sans Pareil Theatre following the death of April Clare, a promising young actress, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances. Detective Stephen Lavender and his dependable deputy, Constable Woods, quickly discover that nothing is quite as it seems. As successive mysteries unfold, they soon realize that it is not only the actors from the Sans Pareil who are playing a part.

With the Napoleonic War looming dangerously across the Channel, this is a time of suspicion and treachery. Following the clues from the seedy back streets of Covent Garden up through the echelons of society, Lavender and Woods begin to fear that the case is much bigger than they’d dared imagine.


My Review:
The Sans Pareil Mystery is a mystery/suspense novel set in February 1810 in London. It's the second book in a series, but you don't need to read the first to understand this one. Some events from the first novel are spoiled, but not the mystery.

The characters were interesting and had realistic reactions to events. It was a clue-based mystery. Lavender came across as suitably clever, though I was able to solve the mysteries before he did. After Lavender solved the murder of the actress, the story turned into a suspense/thriller. The suspense came from physical danger and relationship tensions (as Lavender's choice of bride wasn't well accepted).

The politics and people of 1810 were a strong part of this story, and the historical details made the story feel unique to that time period. Yet the author sometimes chose not to stay strictly with historical facts. For example, Lavender used "Detective" as his title, but the word wasn't invented for another twenty to thirty years. The main focus of the Bow Street Runners was to capture known criminals and prevent crime, but this story makes it sound more like a modern police force. The pistols of the time were large, required loading right before use, and were prone to accidental firing and misfiring...none of which you'd guess from this story. But most people won't notice or care about the historical details she changed.

There was a fair amount of bad language. There were no sex scenes. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable 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.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Buying Samir by Kimberly Rae

book cover
Buying Samir
by Kimberly Rae


ISBN-13: 9781606829523
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: BJU Press
Released: October 21, 2014

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Jasmina, who was rescued by missionaries in Capturing Jasmina, leaves safety to search for her brother Samir. She finds him but discovers he is now working with the men who once enslaved them. When Jasmina tries to free a group of girls Samir helped recruit, she puts all their lives in peril.


My Review:
Buying Samir is Christian, young adult fiction. This short book is the second in a series and continued Jasmina's story from Capturing Jasmina. I'd recommend reading the series in order so you'll better understand Jasmina's past and her current relationships.

In the first story she understood what prostitution meant enough to risk serious injury to escape before she was trapped. Then she helped rescue several women from prostitution. It seemed odd how naive she was in this book as to why the lustful looks of men made her uncomfortable or why pretty girls were being lured in by her brother.

Through Jasmina's story, we learn more ways that people are lured in and human trafficked in India (and elsewhere). Parts of the story were exciting, but Jasmina was more passive than usual while she figured out what was going on with the "modelling" business. I'd expected this to be more about Samir's story, but it's not. It's Jasmina coming to terms with how human trafficking has destroyed her family.

I think this series is a good way to introduce teens to other cultures and important issues. Overall, I'd recommend this novella.


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.


Friday, October 16, 2015

On This Foundation by Lynn Austin

book cover
On This Foundation
by Lynn Austin


ISBN-13: 9780764209000
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Bethany House
Released: Oct. 6, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
When news that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire, Nehemiah, Jewish cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in Persia, seeks God's guidance. After fasting and prayer, he's given leave to travel to Jerusalem and rebuild the city wall, not anticipating all the dangers that await him on his arrival.

The leaders of the surrounding nations become his fierce enemies, plotting to assassinate him and halt the work. A drought, meanwhile, has left the country impoverished, many families resorting to selling their children as bondservants just to keep from starving.

Capturing the rebuilding of the wall through the eyes of a number of characters, On This Foundation is a powerful exploration of faith in the midst of oppression, and hope that, in spite of appearances, the gracious hand of God is upon those who believe.


My Review:
On This Foundation is biblical fiction set when Nehemiah was sent as governor to Jerusalem. This is the third novel in a series, but you don't need to read the previous books to understand this one.

The story was told through the eyes of three viewpoint characters. Nehemiah was given a backstory to explain his desire to get those walls up. He faced danger and temptation in the process of achieving his goal. Chana was the daughter of one of the leaders of Jerusalem. She's grieving because her betrothed was recently killed due to the lack of security, and she needed to heal and learn to trust God again. Nava was the daughter of a farmer who is deeply in debt due to the drought, so she became a bondservant to the rich noble over the area. She fought her bitterness over her lot and fear at the special attention shown to her by her master's devious eldest son. Even though I knew some of what was going to happen, I was still in suspense about how things would all work out.

The characters felt like real people with strengths and weaknesses, and loves and sorrows. I felt like it really could have happened like this. Cultural background information was seamlessly worked in to bring the story alive and give insight into the Bible verses it's based off of. The religious elements were worked into the natural flow of the novel and mainly showed how God was at work throughout the story.

There was no bad language or sex scenes. Overall, I'd highly recommend this well-written, insightful 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.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Ghost and Mrs. Fletcher by Donald Bain

book cover
The Ghost and Mrs. Fletcher
by Donald Bain &
Renee Paley-Bain


ISBN-13: 9780451477361
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Obsidian
Released: October 6, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Joe Cooper is ill and convinced he’s about to die. He wants real estate agent Eve Simpson to sell his house so he can give the proceeds to his grandson. But not only is the building in deplorable physical condition and filled with old books, it's also rumored to be haunted.

When Joe’s premonition becomes a reality, Dr. Seth Hazlitt is not so sure the man died of natural causes. As Jessica tries to get to the bottom of Joe Cooper’s death, a medium hired by Eve Simpson attempts to rid the house of the alleged apparition. But if Jessica isn’t careful, she may be the one who joins the ranks of the dearly departed.


My Review:
The Ghost and Mrs. Fletcher is a cozy mystery. This is the forty-fourth book in the series. You don't have to read the previous novels to understand this one, and this one doesn't spoil the whodunit of previous novels.

As much as I enjoy Jessica Fletcher as a character, she sure was nosy in this one. Though that did mean she had all the information she needed when she realized it was related to the mystery... Anyway, there were plenty of clues, and it was a puzzle-style mystery. I figured much of it out before the end, but there was a twist I didn't expect (which fit the clues as well as my guessed scenario). It was an enjoyable puzzle, though not a very happy ending.

The ghost referred to in the title had a very minor role, but the gal called in to get rid of the "friendly ghost" played a much larger role. There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this fun, clean 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.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Hay

book cover
The Santa Klaus Murder
by Mavis Hay


ISBN-13: 9781464204951
Paperback: 254 pages
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Released: Oct. 6, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
A classic country-house murder mystery. Aunt Mildred declares that no good could come from the Melbury family gathering at their country residence Flaxmere for Christmas. When Sir Osmond Melbury, the family patriarch, is found dead on Christmas Day by a guest dressed as Santa Klaus, the festivities are plunged into chaos.

Nearly every member of the party stands to reap some sort of benefit from Sir Osmond’s death, but Santa Klaus, the one person who seems to have every opportunity to fire the shot that killed him, has no apparent motive. Members of the family have their private suspicions about the identity of the murderer, creating an atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion...and a headache for the detective who needs to know information that the family is hiding.


My Review:
The Santa Klaus Murder is a mystery novel set in England in 1935. The first chapters, which cover the days leading up to the murder, are reports written by various members of the family. Each described what happened on a certain day and why certain people would or would not have a motive to kill. Once the murder occurred, the story was written primarily from the viewpoint of the detective. I enjoyed this format as it allowed us to get into the thoughts of several characters and better understand the family dynamics.

There were clues, and many of them were in those reports about the days leading up to the murder. The detective didn't get these reports until later, so the reader had the advantage of knowing more information. Using this information, you can quickly identify the few, actual suspects. Then it was simply a matter of narrowing down who was involved. The detective steadily followed up the clues he found, but he had a harder time of it. Almost everyone was hiding things from him. The mystery kept me curious until the end even though I had most of it worked out before the detective.

There was no sex. There was a minor amount of bad language and a few uses of name calling (referring to a person as a certain equine animal). Overall, I'd recommend this mystery to those who enjoy old-style puzzle-mysteries with interesting formats.


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.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Vendetta by Lisa Harris

book cover
Vendetta
by Lisa Harris


ISBN-13: 9780800724177
Trade Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Revell
Released: October 6, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description:
Nikki Boyd joined the Tennessee Missing Persons Task Force to help others. The case of her own missing sister is still unsolved after ten years. Though Nikki is spending a day off to mourn her best friend's death, her boss asks her to determine if a newly missing girl is lost or been kidnapped.

The girl has been kidnapped, but Nikki also learns that her sister-in-law is in the hospital and may lose her baby. Nikki soon realizes that the current case may be connected to her sister's long-ago kidnapping. The kidnapper deliberately leaves clues behind to lead her on a futile chase. Nikki's guilt and grief over her sister's kidnapping resurfaces as she races to save another girl from dying at the hands of a killer.


My Review:
Vendetta is a Christian suspense novel. It's the first in a series, but it read like we should already know these characters. For example, Liam is mentioned but we don't learn he's Tyler's son until pages later. The main characters were nice people, but only Nikki and Tyler were developed much. The suspense was created by many different sources of physical danger and emotional stress. However, two things kept me from immersing in the story.

First, Nikki should not have been the lead investigator on this case. Consultant, yes. Leader, no. She was an emotional wreck due to several different stressors hitting all at once. She wasn't thinking clearly or acting rationally. She knew she shouldn't do this action for this reason, but then she did it anyway. She realized she was being manipulated, yet she allowed herself to be manipulated anyway. When it was clear she was too personally involved, someone else would have taken the lead position. Others could have done that position and even done it better. Yet no one did.

Second, the kidnapper could have achieved his end goal with a much simpler plan. His highly-complex plan could have been thrown off course at any time, and he was rational enough that this should have occurred to him. I realized this even before the end, so it began to feel contrived for the sake of creating suspense.

The Christian element was some "help me!" prayers and a discussion between Nikki and Tyler about how they both blame God for not saving a loved one. 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.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Scent of Secrets by Jane Thynne

book cover
The Scent of Secrets
by Jane Thynne


ISBN-13: 9780553393903
Trade Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Released: September 15, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Amazon:
Actress Clara Vine is half-British, half-German. She uses her unique access to the upper echelons of pre-war Nazi society to spy for her native Britain. Clara is asked by British intelligence to get close to Eva Braun and glean as much as she can about the F├╝hrer’s plans.

Clara has already established friendships with several high-ranking Nazi wives, but Hitler keeps his "secret" girlfriend obsessively hidden. Eva is a fan of Clara's work, though, and sent her a fan letter. When they meet, Eva offers to make a custom perfume for Clara--a hobby of Eva's. But her new friendship draws attention and danger.

From the gilded halls of the decadent City of Light to the cobbled, quaint streets of Munich, and even to the chilling, rarefied air of the Berghof, Hitler’s private mountaintop retreat, Clara flirts with discovery at every turn—and a dangerous, devious plot unfolds.


My Review:
The Scent of Secrets is a spy thriller set in 1938 mainly in Germany. It's the third book in a series, but you don't need to read the previous books to follow this one. This book didn't spoil the previous plots. In fact, I didn't even realize it was a part of a series until I started writing this review. It explains something that puzzled me, which is why Clara stayed in Germany even though she was suspected as a spy and in danger. If the series is to continue, though, then she has to stay.

The suspense came from the ongoing threat of getting caught spying. The story was rich in historical detail. At times, it was a history lecture with detailed descriptions of a place, policy, or scandal. I enjoyed this detail, but you'll find it slow if you want your spy thrillers full of fast-paced action. The main characters were interesting and had complex motives behind their actions. Clara was brave and could be caring and clever. But she was also manipulative, which I guess is good in a spy.

There was a minor amount of bad language. Sex occurred, but there were no sex scenes. Overall, I'd recommend this novel to those interested in this period of history.


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.