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Friday, March 29, 2019

Boundary Magic Series by Melissa F. Olson

Boundary Magic series

Boundary Crossed by Melissa F. Olson is an urban fantasy full of action and suspense, witches, werewolves, and vampires.  Did I like it?  

Well enough to gobble the next three books in a matter of days.  Is it for everyone?  Probably not, but I enjoy urban fantasy and all of the concomitant creatures that are usually found in the genre.

Opening line:  "The third time I died was early on a Monday morning, a week after Labor Day."

Allison "Lex" Luther, an army veteran, feels compelled to protect her niece after Lex's twin sister is murdered.  The story opens with a bang when Lex realizes her niece has been kidnapped and in her attempts to stop the kidnappers, she is killed.  When she come to, she realizes she has miraculously survived (again), and she discovers that the reason she survived is because she is a boundary witch; learns there is an Old World of witches, vampires, and werewolves; makes a deal with the cardinal vampire; and takes lessons in witch magic.

This first book does a lot of world building and character introduction, but it engaged me immediately.  

Urban Fantasy.  May 2015.  Print length:  322 pages.

Boundary Lines, book 2 in the Boundary Magic series, has Lex trying to adjust to her new understanding of the Old World and her recently acknowledged witch powers.

Magic goes haywire, two vampires disappear, a magical snake-like creature is eating folks, and Lex and Quinn are assigned by Maven to investigate.  Lex interviews the ghost of a boundary witch (who owned a brothel in another century) to get more information about ley lines.

Although the local clan of witches are not very accepting of Lex (understatement), her friendship with Simon and Lily continues to grow.  There comes a point that means the three Old World creatures must unite to overcome the present danger.

Another fun adventure that has humor, suspense, and action-packed scenes.

Urban Fantasy.  Oct. 2015.  Print length:  304 pages.

Oops--Lex's father shows up, and he's...nope not going there, it would be a spoiler, but we do learn more about Lex's background.  

Vampires are being poisoned by a deadly Belladonna strain.  Who is the real target?

I like the way the characters work together; there are friendships that Lex can count on and even the different races often have to put aside grievances at times.

Urban Fantasy.  July 2016.  Print length: 290 pages.

"The times they are a-changin' " in two ways in Boundary Broken.  One--the book begins two years after the previous installment, and Two--changes are in the forecast for the way the Old World and the three races relate to each other.

A figure from a previous book reappears (this was not unexpected), and an insurgency is in the making.  

Actually, several characters from previous books make an appearance, and the hint of a new, unknown enemy left me happy to expect another book in the series. 

Urban Fantasy.  March 2019.  Print length:  347 pages.

If you enjoy Urban Fantasy, this may be a series you would enjoy.  I certainly have been glued to the "pages" of all four books.  I do recommend beginning with the first in the series with the caution that it could be addictive.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Lost History of Dreams and Perfect Crime

The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr has a Gothic ambiance.  

from description:  A post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets of the past that may hold the key to his future, in this captivating debut novel in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale.

The book has elements from some of the best Gothic tales and a vibe of Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher.

Waldherr skillfully develops a wonderfully creepy atmosphere.   The author is certainly familiar with the plots and styles of the best known Gothic novels, but the characters don't feel as authentic.  

Read in January; blog review scheduled for 3/27/19.

NetGalley/Atria Books
Historical Fiction/Gothic.  April 9, 2019.  Print length:  320 pages.

Perfect Crime by Helen Fields is #5 in the DI Luc Callenach series.  I'd read the first two before reading this one, but not books 3 and 4, so there have been advances that I wasn't aware of concerning DCI Ava Turner and Luc's relationship.

When a young man is talked out of suicide, but a week later is body is found and the initial reaction is that he finally succeeded Ava has some questions.  As other strange (and grotesque) deaths occur, the connection between them appears to be that at some point they considered or attempted suicide.

There is also a storyline connected to Luc's past.  

What I like:  the characters--Ava is my favorite.  I also like the development of secondary characters throughout the series and the original premises and investigative process in the books I've read.

Dislike:  I'm not really fond of the bizarre and/or freakish murders, but I will still try to catch up with books 3 and 4.

Read in January; blog review scheduled 3/27/19.

NetGalley/Avon Books
Detective Fiction.  April 18, 2019.  Print length: 400 pages.

Monday, March 25, 2019

A Death in Chelsea and At Dark of the Moon

A Death in Chelsea by Lynn Brittney, the second in the Mayfair 100 Murder Mystery series, named for the telephone number 100 Mayfair for the crime-fighting group based in Mayfair in 1915. 

I read Murder in Belgravia, the first in the series last year and enjoyed it.  Chief Inspector Peter Beech has assembled an unusual team that (gasp!) includes women. 

A society gossip columnist has been found hanged in her room.  The death isn't a suicide, as first suspected, and the fact that Adeline Treborne's defamatory and scandalous column has maligned some wealthy and powerful people means that the suspects are plentiful.

This book has the same strengths and weaknesses as the first book:  an interesting plot and well-researched details...and characters who are a bit too good to be true.  

 Nevertheless, it was entertaining, and I would read the next in the series.

NetGalley/Mirror Books
Historical Mystery.  March 14, 2019.  Print length:  326 pages.

Written in 1977 and set in 1804, At Dark of the Moon has a little espionage and a little romance.  

from description:  It had changed her life overnight. From her drab, unpromising post as governess, lovely Emma Harcourt was catapulted into a daring scheme of espionage. Suddenly she was an actress posing as the wife of Rupert Wynford, a perfect stranger.

I'm a bit of a sucker for governess novels, and this was a light, quick read.  On the other hand, it does feel old-fashioned and formulaic, not nearly as interesting as the blurb made it sound.

NetGalley/Sapere Books
Historical Fiction.  March 10, 2019.  Print length:  352 pages.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel by James Markert and Murder Served Cold by Eric Brown

Beautiful cover, strange book.

description: For years, guests of the Tuscany Hotel could leave their pasts behind and live among fellow artists. Now guests of a different sort fill the rooms, searching for their memories—no matter the cost.

A lot of Greek mythology in this one, something I usually love.  However, although crucial to the story, I found the mythology a bit over the top.  The book fits the magical realism genre, mixing miracles and muses and myth.  Some books are really hard to review, I'm going for Lark's haiku review style:

Lost your memory?
Visit Tuscany Hotel
Remember the past.

Didn't love it, but...

Read in December; blog post scheduled for March 22, 2019.

NetGalley/Thomas Nelson
Fantasy/Magical Realism.  April 9, 2019.  Print length:  352 pages.

Murder Served Cold is part of a series by Eric Brown that takes advantage of the popularity of more traditional mysteries like those of the 1920's and 30's.  Brown sets the story in the post-war British countryside of the 1950's.  

The novel borrows much from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction style, but has the slightly more modern (if still historical) setting of post-war Britain.  

A country house converted to a sort of boarding house as a result of huge estate taxes, an odd-lot of permanent guests, a missing painting, and of course, a murder.  The series features Donald Langham and Ralph Ryland as private investigators, who are hired to find the stolen painting. They solve that conundrum fairly quickly by finding the painting, but not who took it.  Add a little blackmail and murder and a couple of cocktail hours.

I liked Langham and Ryland and thought they felt genuine for the time period.   Brown did a good job with the 50's setting and the "vintage" writing  style.

In addition to this series, Eric Brown also writes science fiction (for which he has won several awards) and children's books.

Read in December; blog post scheduled for March 22, 2019

NetGalley/Severn House
Mystery.  April 1, 2019.  Print length:  208 pages.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

This and That

In 2016, I read The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters by Laura Thompson.  Six sisters whose lives continue to fascinate the public.  An interesting recent article about Nancy and Diana:  Nobody Betrays You Like Your Sister provides more provocative details.

  I've been reading Dreyer's English in between reading my fictional escapes, and I'm finding it both informative and entertaining. :)

from description:  "As Random House’s copy chief, Dreyer has upheld the standards of the legendary publisher for more than two decades. He is beloved by authors and editors alike—not to mention his followers on social media—for deconstructing the English language with playful erudition."

I love that he upholds the Oxford (or series) comma!
April is National Letter Writing Month and the Write_On campaign, and I've been making a supply of envelopes and postcards to send.  Yes, the crafty part of me loves making envelopes and postcards and decorating them.  I also love writing letters, and of course, receiving them!  

Letters of Note by Sean Usher has wonderful letters from famous and ordinary people that cover the range of human emotions.
These book covers are so gorgeous!  Follow the link for more examples.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

A Merciful Silence by Kendra Elliot

The series can work as a series of stand-alones because each book contains a completed plot--nevertheless, I recommend beginning with the first book (A Merciful Death) to get the background on Mercy Kirkpatrick and the prepper philosophy that she can't quite escape.

After a torrential rain, the skeletal remains of five people are revealed.  An echo of the murders of two families twenty years previously calls into question whether the right person was arrested at the time.  The similarities are too apparent to dismiss.  Was the wrong man convicted all those years ago or is this a copycat?

Mercy must connect with the only person who survived the earlier murders--a young woman who, as a child, was left for dead and who can't remember the night her family was murdered.

Kendra Elliot has landed on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list multiple times and is the award-winning author of the Bone Secrets and Callahan & McLane series, as well as the Mercy Kilpatrick novels: A Merciful DeathA Merciful Truth, and A Merciful Secret. Kendra is a three-time winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award, an International Thriller Writers finalist, and an RT Award finalist. She has always been a voracious reader, cutting her teeth on classic female heroines such as Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Laura Ingalls. She was born, raised, and still lives in the rainy Pacific Northwest with her husband and three daughters, but she looks forward to the day she can live in flip-flops. Visit her at

I continue to find this series suspenseful and engrossing, and I look forward to more.

Defund Libraries?  NO!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Who Slays the Wicked (Sebastian St. Cyr) by C.S. Harris

C.S. Harris' Sebastian St. Cyr makes another appearance in Who Slays the Wicked.  I've been following this series forever, and in addition to the mysteries, I usually learn something about the time period as well.

When Lord Ashworth is found viciously murdered, there is little sympathy to be found.  The handsome, debauched young man had earned a reputation for debased behavior, and the only one who appears to mourn his death is his father.

Sebastian, however, understands that what is generally known about the young man's behavior is only the tip of the iceberg.  Although he was never able to connect him to the crimes in a previous case, he has no doubt that Ashworth was involved.  

Evidence from the bloody crime scene suggests that the killer was a woman, and Sebastian fears that perhaps his niece, who is married to Ashworth, may be the culprit.  

But Stephanie is only one possibility.  Sebastian and Bowstreet magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy have a number of suspects; after all, Ashworth had plenty of enemies.  Then Ashworth's valet is found stabbed to death in an alley, a street crossing boy disappears, a young prostitute is murdered, and Ashworth's long-time friend murdered.  As despicable as Ashworth was, Sebastian needs to find his killer, if only to prevent an innocent person from being held to account.

Hero, Sebastian's wife, plays only a small role, but it is Hero who reveals most of the historic details from the period.  Hero is a social activist and is writing an article about the pure finders, rag and bone men, and night soil collectors. 

Rag and Bone Men -- These bone-grubbers, as they were sometimes known, would typically spend nine or ten hours searching the streets of London for anything of value, before returning to their lodgings to sort whatever they had found.[5] (source: Wikipedia)

Despite the clean-sounding name, this job actually involved collecting dog feces from the streets of London to sell to tanners, who used it in the leather-making process. Dog poop was known as "pure" because it was used to purify the leather and make it more flexible [PDF].  (source: Ten worst jobs in Victorian Era)

18th-century London nightman's calling card
Night soil is a historically used euphemism for human excreta collected from cesspools, privies, pail closetspit latrinesprivy middensseptic tanks, etc. This material was removed from the immediate area, usually at night, by workers employed in this trade. Sometimes it could be transported out of towns and sold on as a fertilizer. (source:  Wikipedia)

Hero's interviews with those who survive by performing these jobs gives a much more human touch than simply reading the factual accounts of what the jobs entailed.

Once again, I've enjoyed the characters and the plot of a Sebastian St. Cyr novel and gained a more personal view of Regency England.   

Read in December; blog review scheduled for March 13, 2019.

NetGalley/Berkley Publishing

Historical Mystery.  April 2, 2019.  Print length:  352 pages.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Descendant of the Crane is as fascinating as the cover.  A fantasy set in a fictional Asian world with a complex plot and characters that captivate with their flaws and their strengths.  

The world-building has both a historical and modern perspective with complicated political contrivances.  The relationships among the characters are particularly interesting with secrets and agendas that are not always shared.  

When Princess Hesina's father dies, she is elevated from princess to queen of a large kingdom with plenty of problems.  Hesina also has questions about her father's death.  She is certain he was murdered, but by whom?  

In desperation, Hesina visits a soothsayer, a treasonous act, but one that may give her the means of having her father's death investigated.  

I thoroughly enjoyed Descendant of the Crane and found the characters complex and sometimes surprising and the writing vivid, weaving the threads of family, tradition, myth, and politics a little at a time so that the reader sees the intricate pattern gradually.  

Listed as YA, the book is certainly appropriate for that age group, but as with all good stories Descendant of the Crane appeals to anyone who wants a well-written tale about intriguing characters in perplexing situations.  Hesina's determination will reveal truths she doesn't like, and she is forced to take side-steps and to make concessions, but nothing will prevent her in her ultimate goal.

Read in December, blog review scheduled for March 12, 2019.

NetGalley/Albert Whitman & Co

Fantasy/YA.  April 2, 2019.  Print length:  400 pages.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Winterman by Alex Walters

Although I've never read anything by Alex Walters before, I enjoyed Winterman, the first in a proposed new series.

The opening sequence, set in 1940, establishes a bit of the backstory. The novel then moves to the period shortly after the war.

In 1947, having offended some of his superiors, DI Ivan Winterman is sent to the Fen District in East Anglia.  In postwar Britain, there is a shortage of everything:  manpower, food, fuel for transportation, coal for heating.

 Effectively exiled , Winterman finds himself in an understaffed police station in a small village.  The area has previously been known for mostly small time offenses, and Winterman expects little involvement with serious crime. 

Shortly before Winterman's arrival, however, the body of a child, dead for years and preserved by burial in the Fens, is discovered.  There is no record of a child having gone missing in any of the neighboring villages and the body is unidentified.  The situation is curious, but does not seem urgent...

Until the body of a second child in similar condition shows up.  As a blizzard sets in, bringing the coldest winter conditions on record, the body of a third child appears.  Someone has unearthed the bodies and displayed them.

If the bodies of the three children were not enough in this  remote area in the midst of a blizzard, two grown men are murdered and a constable disappears.  In short order, Winterman finds himself dealing with a truly freakish situation--three old murders, two recent murders, a shortage of backup, weather that is further isolating, characters who may or may not be trustworthy, and secrets that someone wants exposed.  Who were the children and why is there no record of them anywhere?  

The setting is visual and cold!  The isolation of the villages and the austerity of postwar Britain make the weather conditions a crucial part of the narrative.    

NetGalley/Bloodhound Books
Crime/Mystery/Historical.  Feb. 26, 2019.  Print length:  470 pages.