I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed the previous two books in this fantasy Gaslamp novella series – see my review of Delicious Death. So I was delighted when I realised the arc for Spirit Guide was also available on Netgalley.
BLURB: Saddled with a bumbling apprentice, a drunk soldier, and a prickly nobleman who won’t explain why he hasn’t paid a proper call, Elinor must decide if the Society is hiding something from her. When the investigation reveals a connection to an old rival, she finds herself going it alone, something Tristan had demanded she not do. Will her dance with ghosts be a permanent arrangement? And when Tristan Fontaine discovers her missing, who will be able to face his wrath?
Elinor Chalamet uses her wits and her ghost-talking skills to hunt for her father’s killer in Alenbonné, a coastal city where ghosts walk at all hours. The third of a six-part gaslamp fantasy ghost mystery series featuring a Sherlock Holmes-like female character in a slow burn romance.
REVIEW: These books are set in a country resembling France in a Victorian-type era. Nash gives further information on the world in her excellent appendix which works really well with novellas, as it provides information without holding up the pace of the story. And in a book of a shorter length, particularly an adventure, getting the pacing spot on is important.
I really enjoy the character progression from one book to the next. And this time around, we see cracks in the normally imperturbable Elinor. When encountering Tristan Fontaine for the first time in this adventure, she is thoroughly fed up at his tendency to seem increasingly attracted to her – only to disappear completely until he needs her on a case, again. Not surprisingly, she isn’t happy with his behaviour. However, she is also fraying somewhat at the edges due to having an apprentice foisted on her that she didn’t want.
I also enjoyed the introduction of a newbie to scene. We are introduced to Elinor in the first book as someone already highly accomplished and it’s only when watching the flailing efforts of Twyla that we appreciate just how adept Elinor is. It’s also fun to learn more about the mysterious Morpheus Society, which has been mentioned in the previous two book. I would add at this stage – if you’re in the habit of crashing midway into series, I don’t advise it with this particular adventure. While Nash is too experienced to allow you to flounder, too much going on here resonates with previous events for you to get the full extent of the story if you’re only starting here.
Elinor is in real danger in this book – Nash’s villains are always satisfyingly horrible, but this time around, she actually gets hurt by a particularly nasty antagonist. While I never like seeing my favourite protagonists suffer too much – it was informative to get underneath Elinor’s façade of control. Given there are elements of Sherlock Holmes in her character, it’s important that we see her vulnerability and I think Nash did a very good job of humanising her in this slice of the series. I’m not a huge fan of novellas, as far too often I feel that the pacing or characterisation suffers with the shorter length, but Nash has the writing chops to gauge the story beats absolutely perfectly within the word count. This is a series I’m thoroughly enjoying and looking forward to the fourth book in the series. While I obtained an arc of Spirit Guide from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.
I was hoping that 2023 would prove to be a kinder year than 2021 or 2022. So far it hasn’t been. I am gritting my teeth, putting my head down and enduring. I’ve been tempted to start howling at the moon at the sodding unfairness of it all. But it’s a tad nippy outside and we have plenty of yapping dogs in the neighbourhood anyway, without my adding to mix. Besides, no one said Life would be fair… Oh well. Thank goodness for books. At least, on that score I’m doing well, in that I’ve had some marvellous reads and listens this past week.
Last week I read:-
All for All – Book 3 of the Cast Adrift series by Christopher G. Nuttall Humanity has won a great victory, liberating their homeworld from the alien Pashtali and convincing many of the alien Great Powers that Earth is much more than a vassal state of a decaying empire, easy meat for the first invader who comes along. But the war is far from over. The Pashtali are gathering their forces, closing down their border wars with smaller powers while the greater ones sit on the sidelines, readying their navy for a final confrontation with Earth. The end cannot be long delayed.
There is one hope left. Allying themselves with the other smaller powers, the Solar Navy sets off on a final desperate campaign to break the aliens once and for all, or lose everything on the final throw of the dice. As ever, Nuttall’s skills in plotting and providing plenty of adventure come to the fore in this gripping addition to this entertaining series. There is plenty here to gladden the heart of old-school fans of the genre… a varied cast of characters, a nicely nasty alien species to hate – and a climactic space battle with lots at stake. What I particularly like is that Nuttall knows his history and uses it to good effect in depicting his scenarios. Initially I was under the impression that this was trilogy – but I’d be very happy to see more in this series. 9/10
AUDIOBOOK – Sweep of the Heart – Book 5 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews Life is busier than ever for Innkeeper, Dina DeMille and Sean Evans. But it’s about to get even more chaotic when Sean’s werewolf mentor is kidnapped. To find him, they must host an intergalactic spouse-search for one of the most powerful rulers in the Galaxy. Dina is never one to back down from a challenge. That is, if she can manage her temperamental Red Cleaver chef; the consequences of her favorite Galactic ex-tyrant’s dark history; the tangled politics of an interstellar nation, and oh, yes, keep the wedding candidates from a dozen alien species from killing each other. Not to mention the Costco lady.
They say love is a battlefield; but Dina and Sean are determined to limit the casualties! Discovering this addition to one of my all-time favourite series has been one of the highlights of the year so far! I LOVE this wacky sci-fi/fantasy mash-up that shouldn’t work, but absolutely does because of the attention to detail and sheer inventiveness of the authors. 9/10
Death by a Cornish Cove – Book 2 of the Cressida Fawcett Mystery series by Fliss Chester A seaside party at a Cornish mansion with plenty of fizz, what could be more perfect? But something fishy is afoot… a killer lurks among the guests, and only Cressida Fawcett can stop them.
When Cressida Fawcett is invited to stay at Penbeagle House on the Cornish coast for a fancy-dress ball, she is looking forward to sipping rum cocktails clad as a pirate, watching the red-sailed boats go by and relaxing in the sea air with her good friend Dotty. But before they can raise their glasses to toast Cressida’s former flame Lord Canterbury’s engagement, he drops dead in front of the horrified guests.
The local doctor determines that Lord Canterbury was poisoned, and soon Detective Chief Inspector Andrews is on his way from Scotland Yard. But Cressida is dismayed by the murder of the intrepid explorer who once asked for her hand in marriage, and she cannot simply leave the case to the police. Together with Dotty and her little pug Ruby, Cressida searches for clues only to discover that many of the guests have a motive for murder. Did an irate journalist or a bitter fellow explorer send Lord Canterbury on his untimely final journey? I have thoroughly enjoyed the slew of 1920s murder mysteries I’ve read recently – and this is fast becoming a favourite series. Cressida is a force of nature and Chester has clearly done her homework on period details, which I appreciate. Review to follow.
Spirit Guide – Book 3 of the Madame Chalamet Ghost Mysteries Novellas by Byrd Nash When a nobleman’s daughter goes missing, Elinor Chalamet and Tristain Fontaine, the Duke de Archambeau, must work together to discover who has kidnapped her and why.
Saddled with a bumbling apprentice, a drunk soldier, and a prickly nobleman who won’t explain why he hasn’t paid a proper call, Elinor must decide if the Society is hiding something from her. When the investigation reveals a connection to an old rival, she finds herself going it alone, something Tristan had demanded she not do. Will her dance with ghosts be a permanent arrangement?And when Tristan Fontaine discovers her missing, who will be able to face his wrath?
Elinor Chalamet uses her wits and her ghost-talking skills to hunt for her father’s killer in Alenbonné, a coastal city where ghosts walk at all hours. The third of a six-part gaslamp fantasy ghost mystery series featuring a Sherlock Holmes-like female character in a slow burn romance. This is a series I’ve recently encountered and thoroughly enjoyed to date. Elinor is an experienced and clear-headed young woman who copes with a dangerous occupation by planning ahead for every contingency – until she doesn’t… This slice of the adventure sees our plucky protagonist unusually vulnerable, which gives us insights into her character. Review to follow.
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.
It’s been a while since I’ve visited – the days trickle by and I’m a bit shaken that we’re already more than halfway through February. The weather has been a lot milder since the beginning of the month, which I’m pleased about. Though we’re about to grit our teeth as our fixed rate fuel tariff finishes at the end of the month – and we will be confronted with a bill that will be nearly triple what we’re paying now. It wouldn’t be so bad if that was the only thing going up in price – but food just goes on steadily getting more expensive, as well as clothing… shoes… electronic goods… you name it!!
Half term is just coming to an end. Though Ethan has been very busy visiting universities and friends, so hasn’t been here all that much. The brilliant news is that he has had an unconditional offer from one of his top two university choices – and it will be the first time that anyone from his college course has been offered a place there. We’re so very proud of him and what he’s managed to achieve. He still has at least two more visits lined up – but now the pressure is off, so hopefully he can relax a bit and enjoy the process. Up to now, it’s been a rather nerve-wracking business!
Oscar has still been struggling with migraine headaches, so we ended up seeing his Dr. She’s prescribing some medication that is intended to actually prevent them from happening. I am so impressed with the care we’ve received from the NHS despite the pressure they’re under – and very much hope that these new tablets will prove more successful. Poor Oscar has suffered far too much since Christmas.
So far, February’s been a trudge. Himself had a shocking cold during his rest days this week, so the trip we’d planned to the Wetland and Wildfowl Trust had to be postponed. Fortunately, he’s recovered well, but we could do with a day out enjoying ourselves and relaxing. What with one thing and another – we haven’t done that since Christmas.
Thank goodness for reading – and writing. I’m now working on the third book in my Picky Eaters series – Problems with Power, charting the adventures of grumpy old Castellan the Black, a grandfather dragon who unexpectedly finds himself in the middle of family life after his grandchildren get him evicted from his lair. It has been a rather stop/start affair, given my health issues, but I am beginning to get some momentum going which makes writing so much more fun.
Last week I read:-
Delicious Death – Book 2 of the Madame Chalamet Ghost Mysteries by Byrd Nash Thwarting an assassination wasn’t on the menu. Elinor’s holiday is ruined when a poisoner targets a royal guest. What’s even more irritating? The duke thinks he can solve the case before she can.
In the southern town of Vouvant, Elinor’s goal was to eat rich food at the Winter Revels, but an attempt on the king’s life implicates her favorite chef. Between saving a young society lady and solving the problem of a widower who grieves too much, she has her hands full.
Trained as a medium by the elite Morpheus Society, Elinor Chalamet uses her skills to aid the police while she hunts for her father’s killer.
The second of a six part gaslamp fantasy ghost mystery series featuring a strong female character in a slow burn romance. I thoroughly enjoy Nash’s writing – so finding this entertaining series was a huge treat. The protagonist is experienced and sure of herself, which is a nice change from all those youngsters rather desperately flailing around, trying to work out who they are while grappling with hidden magical talents. There is a nice sprinkling of humour and the slow-burn romance is well handled. All in all, a solid treat. 9/10
Darkwood – Book 1 of the Darkwood series by Gabby Hutchinson Crouch Magic is forbidden in Myrsina, along with various other abominations, such as girls doing maths.
This is bad news for Gretel Mudd, who doesn’t perform magic, but does know a lot of maths. When the sinister masked Huntsmen accuse Gretel of witchcraft, she is forced to flee into the neighbouring Darkwood, where witches and monsters dwell.
There, she happens upon Buttercup, a witch who can’t help turning things into gingerbread, Jack Trott, who can make plants grow at will, the White Knight with her band of dwarves and a talking spider called Trevor. These aren’t the terrifying villains she’s been warned about all her life. They’re actually quite nice. Well… most of them.
With the Huntsmen on the warpath, Gretel must act fast to save both the Darkwood and her home village, while unravelling the rhetoric and lies that have demonised magical beings for far too long. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Gretel and her brother, Hansel, are enjoyable protagonists, as are Buttercup and the White Knight – although my favourite has to be Trevor the talking spider. The humour is unforced and funny – and rides alongside the real danger hanging over the villagers of Nearby village so that I burned through this one, really caring about the characters. It is a joy. I’m always a bit wary of humorous fantasy, as Terry Pratchett has cast a very long shadow over the genre and I’ve read far too many paler imitations. The real disgust at political hypocrisy and lust for power that also runs through Pratchett’s work rang through this one without spoiling the story. I’m really looking forward to reading the next two in the series and finding out what happens next to Darkwood and its inhabitants. 9/10
Before I Sleep – Book 24 of the Bill Slider series by Cynthia Harrod Eagles The clock is ticking for DCI Slider when a woman goes missing. Can he find her – and does she even want to be found?
Felicity Holland is missing. She left her handsome West London house to go to her weekly pottery class and didn’t come back. She’s a mature, sensible woman with a stable home life and a happy marriage – no reason to abscond. Her distraught husband is convinced she must have been snatched.
DCI Bill Slider and his team know that when a woman goes missing, you have to move fast if there’s to be a hope of finding her alive. But with no evidence of foul play – nothing to go on at all – where do you even start looking?
The clock is ticking. But as Slider tries to retrace the last known movements of Felicity Holland, he is led ever further down a dark and twisted path into the secret past of this beautiful, enigmatic woman. This is a cracking police procedural that starts with almost a non-event. A well-known writer insists his wife has disappeared and DCI Bill Slider is put on the case before she’s even officially missing. But as he and his team get stuck in, a picture builds up of a lovely, vibrant person who I really cared about. I’ll remember this one for a long time… Review to follow. 1010
AUDIOBOOK – Zahara’s Gift – Book 1 of the Bond of a Dragon series by A.J. Walker Nineteen-year-old Anders lived a fairly normal life until the only family he had was taken away from him. When he finds himself forced to embark on an action packed adventure, he discovers there is more to the world than he was told. The magical force that flows within everything around him becomes revealed. Dragons, elves, orcs, and goblins lurk around nearly every turn along the path as he pursues his two kidnapped cousins.
As Anders discovers more about his family’s past, he learns of their involvement in The War of The Magicians and the circumstances leading up to the attack of his hometown. When Anders is told about his potential involvement in a prophecy involving dragons and their powerful magic, he will need to make a difficult decision. Will he continue to follow the path that is laid out for him or can he make his own destiny? Will he ever be reunited with his family again? And if he succeeds, will he ever be able to return to the life he once knew? The plotting and character progression worked well. But I found the dialogue rather clunky and unrealistic – and when listening to an audiobook, that can be trying. It was never bad enough that I was tempted to DNF, but I’m not in a hurry to tuck into the second book. 7/10
I enjoy Byrd Nash’s writing – see my review of A Spell of Rowans. And since I became ill with Long Covid, I’ve been tucking into Gaslamp fantasy tales as I thoroughly enjoy the vibe and historical backdrop.
BLURB: Thwarting an assassination wasn’t on the menu. Elinor’s holiday is ruined when a poisoner targets a royal guest. What’s even more irritating? The duke thinks he can solve the case before she can.
In the southern town of Vouvant, Elinor’s goal was to eat rich food at the Winter Revels, but an attempt on the king’s life implicates her favorite chef. Between saving a young society lady and solving the problem of a widower who grieves too much, she has her hands full. Trained as a medium by the elite Morpheus Society, Elinor Chalamet uses her skills to aid the police while she hunts for her father’s killer.
The second of a six part gaslamp fantasy ghost mystery series featuring a strong female character in a slow burn romance.
REVIEW: I hadn’t had the pleasure of reading the first book in the series – indeed, I wasn’t aware that this was the second book until I opened it. But I decided to plunge in, anyway. And I got away with it, as at no stage was I foundering. I always enjoy reading tales featuring strong-minded, experienced protagonists who know what they’re doing – and Elinor Chalamet is just that. The era is sort of Regency and the setting is very loosely based upon Europe at that time, with the country an approximation of France. I liked the appendix at the back with the cast of characters and details of the world – it’s a growing trend that works well, particularly in shorter books where there often isn’t the length to add all those reminders throughout the story without coming across as repetitious.
There is plenty of humour within the story – in addition to some poignant moments, as befitting a tale where ghosts who cannot cross into the Afterlife are somehow stuck, often due to a trauma or unhealthy emotional tie. Nash’s smooth prose style kept the story barrelling along at a nice clip and the very slow-burn romance (my favourite sort!) simmered gently without impeding the mysteries – there’s more than one enigma to solve in this eventful tale. All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable tale, well written and executed in a length that is technically challenging. And best of all – there are five other books to get hold of and enjoy in this entertaining series. Yippee! While I obtained an arc of Delicious Death from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10
It was the cover of this offering that caught my eye – it’s just so very attractive. But then I read the blurb and knew I wanted to read it. I’m a sucker for the 1920s era – and I loved the spiritualist element of this fantasy heist adventure.
BLURB:Washington D. C., 1925
Clara Johnson talks to spirits, a gift that saved her during her darkest moments in a Washington D. C. jail. Now a curse that’s left her indebted to the cunning spirit world. So, when the Empress, the powerful spirit who holds her debt, offers her an opportunity to gain her freedom, a desperate Clara seizes the chance. The task: steal a magical ring from the wealthiest woman in the District.
Clara can’t pull off this daring heist alone. She’ll need help from an unlikely team, from a jazz musician capable of hypnotizing with a melody to an aging vaudeville actor who can change his face, to pull off the impossible. But as they encounter increasingly difficult obstacles, a dangerous spirit interferes at every turn. Conflict in the spirit world is leaking into the human one and along D.C’.s legendary Black Broadway, a mystery unfolds—one that not only has repercussions for Clara but all of the city’s residents.
REVIEW: This is a cracking read. I thoroughly enjoyed Clara’s spiky character. She is short-fused and in the habit of pushing away people, though that doesn’t stop her from helping those who seek her out. Given her gift, she could so easily have been portrayed as a noble, self-sacrificing heroine, brimful of the desire to help her fellows. While that is what she does – because she is so crotchety about it, I found her far more appealing. Especially when those around her make it their business to break through the façade she has erected – and we are shown just how vulnerable she actually is.
As well as Clara being a thoroughly sympathetic protagonist, the pacing was pretty much perfect. In any historical adventure, there is always a balance between giving the reader sufficient period details to make the background believable and ensuring the narrative moves along at a reasonable clip. Penelope nailed it, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve read several books recently featuring a POC protagonist and this was right up there with the best in portraying the casual and unthinking racism that was rife at that time. Indeed, it is part of the ongoing difficulty stacking up against Clara and her associates that a black person finds it hazardous to try and travel to certain parts of the city. Not only does this aid the narrative in upping the stakes – it is a visceral reminder of the extra burden the black community were coping with in their daily lives just because of the colour of their skin. I’d love to think such attitudes were consigned to history – but sadly, daily racist crime shows this isn’t the case, so reading entertaining, well-written fiction that highlights the issue can only help.
The spirit world was also well portrayed. There is a real sense of menace around those who want agency within the mortal world in order to steal human destinies. I liked the way Penelope gradually revealed the enormity of the threat, making this one of those reads that was very difficult to put down. All in all, this was a thoroughly engrossing tale that had me reading far later than I should. Highly recommended for those who like their fantasy within a compelling historical setting. While I obtained an arc of The Monsters We Defy from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 10/10
I’ve done it again… I thoroughly enjoyed Angie Fox’s Monster M*A*S*H series – see my reviews of The Monster MASH, The Transylvania Twist and Werewolves of London. So during lockdown, I also tucked into the first couple of books in this engaging Southern Ghosts series and was delighted to find new release, The Haunted Homecoming, appear on Netgalley. What I hadn’t appreciated was that it was the tenth book! Would I be able to enjoy it anyway?
BLURB: Apple cider, bonfires, football, and—ghosts.
It’s homecoming weekend in Sugarland, Tennessee and ghost hunter Verity Long is tickled to see so many souls—living and dead—back in town to celebrate. But not all reunions are happy ones, and when Verity stumbles upon a dead body by the football field, it appears someone has already evened the score.
REVIEW: Despite having missed out books 3-9 in this delightfully warm-hearted, cosy murder mystery, I don’t think newcomers to this series would have any difficulty in crashing into this series, as Verity’s enjoyable first-person narration sweeps up the reader and draws them into Sugarland’s festivities. Right now, I particularly appreciate dollops of humour along with my urban fantasy shenanigans – and Fox provides just the right amount of snark and delightful moments of comedy. I particularly relished getting to know Verity’s mother, who returns to Sugarland for Homecoming Week, along with her husband. The tension between mother and daughter was both funny and, at times, poignant. Humour can often have a cruel edge – but Fox’s exuberant, upbeat writing style doesn’t go there.
For all the excitement and loving descriptions of lots of sugar-laden treats – I wouldn’t recommend this book if you’re trying to diet – Fox also has a sharp eye for small-town friction. We have a good spread of suspects with strong reasons for wanting Ashley to keep quiet. Although I was pleased to see that the perpetrator wasn’t someone I had initially suspected. All in all, this was a really enjoyable read and I look forward to going back and catching up with more of Verity’s adventures. While I obtained an arc of The Haunted Homecoming from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 8/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written. At present, it seems to be working out that I’m able to post my weekly roundup more or less every other week. Funnily enough, after my decision to get out more, we ended up having my younger grandson staying over, which meant I have been unable to go anywhere. A classmate of his had tested positive for Covid, so he had to isolate for ten days, although as long as Oscar didn’t go down with the illness, Himself was still able to go to work. And the reason I suggested that Oscar should isolate at our house, is that his three-year-old sister was still recovering from a nasty case of bronchitis and suffers with severe asthma. We really don’t want her going down with Covid if we can possibly avoid it! I felt so sorry for Oscar – as he is in Year 6, he suddenly found himself at home and missing the last week of term. And in September, he’s moving up to a new school, so he and his classmates missed out on being able to say goodbye to the staff and friends he’s made over the last six years. This wretched illness has so many repercussions.
He brought along his computer, and we got him a Kindle as an early birthday present to allow him to listen to audiobooks, so he could keep himself amused. And regularly throughout the day, he and I would play a series of games to give him a break from screen time – and help me with my brain fog. The weather was sunny and warm, which meant we could also sit in the garden for breakfast. He was unfailingly good tempered and upbeat throughout the whole ten-day period, despite not being allowed past the front gates. I’m so proud of his mature attitude and have missed him enormously since he went home on Friday morning. He was excellent company – as well as a fabulous kitchen assistant, helping me get meals prepared and a couple of times taking over when I ran out of energy and had to sit down.
It was a good reading week, although with Oscar here, I didn’t read quite as much as I have been doing. However I had a DNF that rather broke my heart – I simply couldn’t get on with N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became, although I tried so very hard. But at just over 80% I finally had to abandon it. I’m aware that it’s probably more to do with me – and I freely concede the writing is punchy and passionate. But it simply wasn’t for me *sigh*.
Last week I read:
Vanity and Vampyres – Book 4 of the Monster and Manners series by Tilly Wallace Someone is supping upon young noblemen and it’s up to Hannah and Wycliff to investigate. If only they could agree on how the men are being drained of their life’s blood. Is it a vampyre, known for their impeccable fashion sense, nocturnal roaming, and dislike of rain, who lurks in the shadows of London? Or is some more earthly method at play, like an attack of leeches?
With her best friend’s wedding imminent, Hannah is determined that the event be untouched by murder or mayhem. To ensure a magical fairytale event they must catch the murderer before the big day. Wycliff must seek the assistance of a man who raises his hackles and Hannah struggles with her growing feelings toward her guarded husband. This pursuit will unearth long buried secrets that could have fatal consequences for those dearest to Hannah. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this alternate historical fantasy series with a nicely original take on zombies. Once more this quirky murder mystery provides plenty of possible suspects and an interesting denouement, while watching the slow burn romance continuing to blossom provides an extra bonus.
The Daydreamer Detective Braves the Winter – Book 2 of the Miso cosy mystery series by Steph Gennera, aka P.J. Pajonas December has set in and just when the rural town of Chikata is recovering from one murder, Mei and her new boyfriend, Yasahiro, find their friend, Etsuko, dead in her apartment. Etsuko was sweet and talented, and now everyone suspects her longtime boyfriend killed her. Mei doesn’t believe it, though, and she vows to help solve the crime.
But Mei has more to think about than murder. With the barn gone and their vegetable stores destroyed, she and her mother are down to their last canned goods and no money for heat. Mei’s mom is fortunate to find work, but Mei must fend for herself, get a job, and keep their financial situation a secret from Yasahiro. In pursuit of paying work, she stumbles onto a new witness to the crime, and before long, the dead woman’s secret life unravels before everyone’s eyes. Half-starving and out of her element, Mei is on thin ice, and it’s going to take a whole lot of ingenuity and quick thinking to solve the crime before the killer gets to her as well… I managed to read this one and Book 3 out of sequence, but I’m really glad I stopped and went back. Pajonas writes with a pleasing upbeat energy and constant shafts of gentle humour – but I was struck at how rarely real poverty is portrayed in cosies. Pajonas manages to show just how devastating it is, without pulling the mood down too much. Which is a very neat trick to pull off. Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK – First Strike by Christopher G. Nuttall Starting a war with an enemy a hundred times stronger is insane. It’s desperate. And it’s Earth’s only hope.
A massive alien power looms over humanity, claiming Earth as its territory and humanity as its slaves. The Hegemony has already taken over one colony, yoking hundreds of thousands under their brutal rule. Every tactical exercise, every wargame and every simulation gives humanity zero chance in a defensive campaign. Earth’s only chance to win the coming war – is by striking first. This epic military space opera adventure was an entertaining listen with all sorts of twists and turns and very ably narrated by Jeffrey Kafer, although his Brit accent is a tad peculiar. And I enjoyed listening to a cracking space opera read that is a standalone, for a change.
AUDIOBOOK – The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley 1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard.
At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties. And the reason why these two audiobooks are back to back, is that I’ve been dipping in and out of this one. I LOVED The Kingdoms, which is why I picked up this one. But I have to say that I was a bit disappointed. While the strangeness of Mori and the relationship between him and Thaniel is beautifully written, the plot became increasingly odd and unbelievable as the book wore on. And I wasn’t remotely convinced by Grace on any level. However, I’m aware that my opinion is in the minority regarding this one, as I know it’s a real favourite with many readers.
Ghost Electricity – Book 1 of the Hawthorn House series by Sean Cunningham Do you know what happens to ghosts in London?
A girl with a monster in her shadow. A warlock believed dead four years ago. A werewolf outcast from the London packs.
Rob wants a good job, friends to head to the pub with and a solid cage to lock himself in three nights a month. Julian dropped off the face of the Earth four years ago. He’s back and trying to figure out what living looks like. Together they will face the deadliest of threats hidden in one of the oldest cities in the world.
Fiona has a monster in her shadow but she doesn’t know how it got there. A creature in the shape of a man is on her trail and he knows things about Fiona she doesn’t know herself. Her ten year old sister Jessica can build machines that defy the known laws of physics. Accompanied by a brass tortoise and a glass-feathered raven, Jessica will help Fiona unravel the web of lies that surrounds them both.
And beneath their feet the plague dead of centuries stir in their graves, waiting for the spell that holds them to break… Underneath the bustling normality of London is a brutal world where mages, vampyres and shapeshifters jostle for power and far too often treat the rest of us as recreation and/or fodder. And in a stunning coincidence, Hawthorn House is where a number of these remarkable people pitch up. I really enjoyed how Cunningham weaves his story – despite there being quite a bit of violence in this full-on action adventure. Review to follow.
The King of Faerie – Book 4 of the Stariel series by A.J. Lancaster The fae are real, and Hetta Valstar is trying her best to marry one. If Hetta and Wyn ever manage to marry, it will be the first union between Faerie and Mortal since the Iron Law was revoked. The mortal Queen has given them her blessing—sort of. Now, Wyn needs permission from the fae High King. There’s an intensely personal reason why they need to tie the knot as soon as possible, and time is not on their side.
The clock is ticking. Except in Wyn’s home court, which is trapped under magical stasis. To break the spell will mean venturing into the deepest realms of Faerie, where even fae princes—and definitely human lords—fear to tread. Unfortunately, the fae problems aren’t limited to Faerie.
Public tension is rising, and the reveal of Wyn’s true identity makes him and Hetta the centre of the storm. On top of this, Stariel’s magic is going haywire, and Hetta is struggling with her intensifying powers—and she might not be the only one affected.The High King might be the only one who can help, since he’s responsible for the fae returning to the Mortal Realm in the first place.
If only they knew where he was. I’ve absolutely LOVED this series – and this latest instalment in this delightful alternative 1920s fantasy adventure was my favourite read of the week. It was one of those books that I was burning through far too fast – while at the same time, I never wanted it to end, as every time I put down a Stariel book, I yearn for another one. I also loved where this one ended. The good news is that Lancaster is going to be writing a spinoff adventure featuring Marius – yay😊! Review to follow.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been online enough to recommend any blogs or articles. And neither have I been visiting my fellow bloggers all that much, either… I’m very sorry. Thank you for those of you who continue to visit and comment – I really do appreciate you taking the time and effort to do so😊. I hope you all have a happy, healthy week.
I’ve read a 1929s murder mystery by this author writing as Mary Miley and thoroughly enjoyed – see my review of Renting Silence. So when this first book in a new series caught my eyes, I was delighted to be able to get hold of it.
BLURB: It’s 1924, and Maddie Pastore has it made. A nice house, a loving husband with a steady job – even if it is connected to Chicago’s violent Torrio-Capone gang – and a baby on the way. But then Tommy is shot dead, and she learns her husband had a secret that turns her life upside down. Penniless and grieving, Maddie is only sure of two things: that she will survive for the sake of her baby, and that she’ll never turn to the mob for help.
So when she’s invited to assist a well-meaning but fraudulent medium, she seizes the chance. She’s not proud of her work investigating Madam Carlotta’s clients, but she’s proud of how well she does it. When Maddie unearths potential evidence of a dark crime, however, she faces a terrible dilemma: keep quiet and let a murderer go unpunished, or follow the trail and put herself and her baby in mortal danger . . .
REVIEW: Poor Maddie’s life disastrously falls apart at the start of this book. Bad enough to suddenly find herself suddenly widowed and pregnant – but when she then loses everything, she’s desperate. Fortunately, she’s blessed with a lovely nature that people warm to and while she doesn’t want to be a charity case, Maddie is on the receiving end of a lot of genuine kindness. Though once Baby Tommy is born, she needs to find a job so she can keep a roof over their heads and feed herself – and it’s a huge struggle. She is caught in the all-too familiar dilemma facing working women with children, especially as she is breastfeeding him.
No… this book isn’t all about that. But I’m glad to see one of the plot threads running throughout the story is Maddie’s constant worry about how she will keep Baby Tommy safely cared for while she holds down a job. It certainly means that once she has a measure of financial security while helping Madam Carlotta gain information about her clients, she can’t easily find another position. Even though she is uneasy about what she is doing at times.
I was aware that in the wake of the Great War and the terrible Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, there was a huge upsurge of interest in spiritualists on both sides of the Atlantic. Millions of grieving relatives struggled to come to terms with the loss of far too many young people well before their time and turned to spiritualists for comfort. So Madam Carlotta feels she is called upon by a higher power to help people. And there are occasions when she clearly has flashes of genuine insight that can’t be explained away. However they are infrequent and fleeting. Therefore Maddie finds out as much as she can about the clients who book in advance to attend a séance, so Madam Carlotta can drop these details in. And it is when she discovers one family who have been particularly afflicted with more than one death that it occurs to her that the latest tragedy may not have been natural.
In the meantime, we get a vivid insight into a vibrant Chicago where Prohibition is in full swing and speakeasys and illegal gin joints have sprung up on every street. This gives the major crime families a licence to print money, by getting involved in the production of illegal liquor and distributing it. Gang warfare is simmering just below the surface – and given that Tommy was driving for one of the major outfits, Maddie needs to tread very carefully if she is going to keep herself and her newborn son free of their pernicious influence.
The story rattles along full of incident and suffused with Maddie’s gutsy can-do attitude, which I found very endearing. While the murder mystery is enjoyable and well done, it isn’t the narrative engine that powers this story – that is Maddie’s struggle to regroup after two devastating blows take everything, other than her child, away from her. That’s fine by me – the pages more or less turned themselves as I was fascinated to discover what happens next. And I’m definitely going to be looking out for the next book in this enjoyable series. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction, particularly 1920s America. While I obtained an arc of The Mystic’s Accomplice from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 8/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
It’s been a long, miserable week. Until yesterday when the sun came out. My daughter and her family moved house a couple of weeks ago. This time around, we weren’t there to help – in fact I’ve only seen them twice since Christmas and we’re part of their support bubble. But yesterday, she drove over to pick me up, and organised for me to spend part of the day with them, before she dropped me back again. Unfortunately half the country decided they wanted to visit the Littlehampton/Brighton area yesterday so the roads were clogged solid and the journey took over two hours and would have been longer if she hadn’t gone across country. It was wonderful to see the children again, catch up with them all and be shown over the house. They now have a bedroom each and the house is lovely and bright with a real homely feeling. I can now visualise where they are…
Before I went, I hadn’t appreciated just how very down I’d become. After all, I didn’t cry, and though it took some effort and a lot of books – I wasn’t feeling utterly miserable. But that shot of absolute joy on seeing the family again felt like waking up. So this morning we went for a walk along the beach – just a short one, as we don’t have much stamina yet. But it was lovely to get out again!
The photos this week are of our little walk along the beach.
Last week I read: Traitor’s Blade – Book 1 of the Greatcoats series by Sebastien de Castell Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.
Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters. All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn… This is an engaging and action-packed swords and sorcery adventure that packs an emotional punch. It kept me turning the pages to the end, with plenty of surprises along the way. Mini-review to follow.
The Royal Secret – Book 5 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor Two young girls plot a murder by witchcraft. Soon afterwards a government clerk dies painfully in mysterious circumstances. His colleague James Marwood is asked to investigate – but the task brings unexpected dangers.
Meanwhile, architect Cat Hakesby is working for a merchant who lives on Slaughter Street, where the air smells of blood and a captive Barbary lion prowls the stables. Then a prestigious new commission arrives. Cat must design a Poultry House for the woman that the King loves most in all the world.
Unbeknownst to all, at the heart of this lies a royal secret so explosive that it could not only rip apart England but change the entire face of Europe… This series continues to go from strength to strength. Taylor’s ability to weave real life events into the affairs of his fictional protagonists, James and Cat, is impressive. His depiction of the historical period is masterly and gives a vivid backdrop to the engrossing action that left me slightly reeling by the end. Review to follow.
The Daydreamer Detective – Book 1 of the Miso Cosy Mysteries by Steph Gennaro aka S.J. Pajonas Mei Yamagawa is out of luck and out of money. After five years in Tokyo, she has little to show for it besides a laundry list of unrealized dreams. Left without a choice, she returns to her rural Japanese hometown, ready to be branded a failure by her relatives and rivals. At the least, she looks forward to seeing her best friend, until Akiko is accused of murdering her own father.
As Mei helps her farmer mother with the crops, she scouts for clues to clear her friend’s name. But during her investigation, she can’t help but notice the celebrity chef looking in her direction. The amateur detective can balance a new love interest and a murder case… can’t she? I thoroughly enjoyed this charming murder mystery, as poor Mei finds herself having to admit defeat and return home to her mother. I’m sure many young people these days are finding themselves in the same miserable position. But this is also set in Japan, so there is a different slant on family life, and the investigation which was enjoyable to read. Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK The House of Hades – Book 4 of the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan Hazel stands at a crossroads. She and the remaining crew of the Argo II could return home with the Athena Parthenos statue and try to stop Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter from going to war. Or they could continue their quest to find the House of Hades, where they might be able to open the Doors of Death, rescue their friends Percy and Annabeth from Tartarus, and prevent monsters from being reincarnated in the mortal world. Whichever road they decide to take, they have to hurry, because time is running out. Gaea, the bloodthirsty Earth Mother, has set the date of August 1 for her rise to power.
Annabeth and Percy are overwhelmed. How will the two of them make it through Tartarus? Starving, thirsty, and in pain, they are barely able to stumble on in the dark and poisonous landscape that holds new horrors at every turn. They have no way of locating the Doors of Death. Even if they did, a legion of Gaea’s strongest monsters guards the Doors on the Tartarus side. Annabeth and Percy can’t exactly launch a frontal assault.
Despite the terrible odds, Hazel, Annabeth, Percy, and the other demigods of the prophecy know that there is only one choice: to attempt the impossible. Not just for themselves, but for everyone they love. Even though love can be the riskiest choice of all. This book takes our plucky protagonists into some very dark places indeed. And yet, Riordan’s adroit use of humour, without minimising or disrespecting their evident ordeal, managed to allow me to listen to this without finding it unbearable. I shall really miss this series, once I’ve finished it. Review to follow.
Southern Spirits – Book 1 of the Southern Ghost Hunter mysteries by Angie Fox When out of work graphic designer Verity Long accidentally traps a ghost on her property, she’s saddled with more than a supernatural sidekick—she gains the ability see spirits. It leads to an offer she can’t refuse from the town’s bad boy, the brother of her ex and the last man she should ever partner with.
Ellis Wydell is in possession of a stunning historic property haunted by some of Sugarland Tennessee’s finest former citizens. Only some of them are growing restless—and destructive. He hires Verity to put an end to the disturbances. But soon, Verity learns there’s more to the mysterious estate than floating specters, secret passageways, and hidden rooms. There’s a modern day mystery afoot, one that hinges on a decades-old murder. Verity isn’t above questioning the living, or the dead. But can she discover the truth before the killer finds her? I like Fox’s upbeat, quirky writing style – and this ghostly murder mystery with a splash of romance was an entertaining read with some real creepy moments and a very satisfying ending. Review to follow.
A Murder at Rosings by Annette Purdey Pugh When Mr Collins is found stabbed to death in Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s garden, simmering tensions are revealed beneath the elegant Regency surface of the Rosings estate.
The prime suspect is Mr Bennet, who was overheard arguing with Mr Collins over the entail of Longbourn in the days before the murder was committed, and who stands to benefit more than anyone from the Rector’s death. I’ve omitted the final paragraph in the blurb, which is completely wrong and led me to expect something quite different from what I got. And this clever, enjoyable story set in Jane Austen’s Regency England deserves better than that. Overall, this is classy murder mystery that very much impressed me and I look forward to reading more from this promising writing. Review to follow.
The Case of the Dragon-Bone Engine – Book 1 of the Royal Investigative Service by Galadriel Coffeen Dynamite couldn’t cause such a big explosion. It must be something worse, Agent Beka Finley is sure of it. As she and her partner investigate the devastating train crash, she’s convinced the train was sabotaged. But everyone seems bent on persuading her it was an accident. Just like the crash that killed her father six years ago.
Determined to protect more lives from the growing unrest between humans and fairies, Beka puts her own life and reputation on the line to find the truth. But that truth might lead to more questions than answers. This is the industrial revolution played out in a fantasy version of the early Victorian period where fairies live alongside humans, and sell their magical abilities to the factory owners for a pittance. Though Agents Finley and Donovan are more concerned with the catastrophic explosion that has ripped through a new dragon-bone train… I thoroughly enjoyed this difference spin on a period of history I know very well. And the bonus is that the book has a number of beautiful pen and ink drawings executed by the clearly talented author in the style of the period. Review to follow.
Empire of Sand – Book 1 of the Books of Ambha by Tash Suri The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.
When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda. Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance… I acquired this offering as it is on sale – and very good value it has proved to be. I’m always a sucker for a well-told tale of sand and sorcery. Mehr’s journey is full of drama and emotion, and the world she creates along with the magic system, is vivid and enjoyable. Very highly recommended.
Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
Music and the Art Show – Part 2 https://jenniefitzkee.com/2021/04/08/the-art-show-part-2/ The biggest problem for teachers is to inspire children to be fearless in their creativity. In our modern world, they never get a chance to see ‘works in progress’. They only ever see the shiny, flawless, final effort and particularly as they get older, they are aware that what they produce can’t possibly rival that – so they often give up before they even get going. Unless they met up with a wonderful teacher like Jennie when they were younger, who inspired them to have a go…
After discovering the Friday Face-off set of covers for Industrial Magic, it reminded me of this lovely series all over again – so I decided to feature a review of one of my favourite Otherworld characters that I posted back in January 2015…
BLURB: It’s the most anticipated reality television event of the season: three spiritualists gathered together in one house to raise the ghost of Marilyn Monroe. For renowned medium Jaime Vegas there’s just one problem. Unlike her colleagues, Jaime is the real deal: and she knows that the house is truly haunted. Not by dead film stars, but by something even stranger and much more disturbing.
A tragic mystery lurks in the maze of gardens behind the house: trapped spirits that only Jaime can hear. As their whispers grow more frantic, Jaime – along with Alpha werewolf Jeremy Danvers – is forced to embark on an investigation into a shocking underworld of black magic and ritual sacrifice.
REVIEW: This popular and trailblazing series, started back in 2001 with Bitten, features women caught up in the paranormal world one way or another. So while Bitten deals with Elena, a young journalist pitchforked into the middle of werewolf society – in No Humans Involved Jaime has to deal with the sudden appearance of ghosts in ‘I see dead people’ moments. Constantly… Fortunately, she does have coping strategies to prevent her going mad – one of them being that she is very well connected with a number of highly placed and powerful otherworldly characters. As this is the seventh book in the series, these characters have generally already appeared along the way. I really enjoy this feature of Armstrong’s writing – it is always a pleasure to get a different take on a protagonist in another story and she is very good at this technique.
It doesn’t hurt that Jaime, though undoubtedly glamorous and good looking, is also aware that the clock is ticking, her waistline isn’t getting any trimmer and the laughter lines are in danger of turning into crowsfeet… In other words, she reflects many of the anxieties women past a certain age can experience on a daily basis. Obviously, the fact she’s a celebrity means those concerns are heightened, but it is still something of a treat to read an urban fantasy romp that doesn’t feature a fit, perky young thing with all her vitality and good looks before her. I also love her self-deprecating humour. Of all Armstrong’s female heroines, Jaime holds a special place in my heart…
So in this murder mystery, does the story hold up around her? Oh yes. Armstrong quickly pulls us to the centre of this disturbing mystery by also giving us chilling slices in the perpetrator’s viewpoint, without revealing her identity– and it was also an enjoyable extra layer to discover that the baddie is also a woman… Meanwhile, Jaime is juggling the needs of the director, coping with professional jealousy from both her co-stars, while also trying to deal with her feelings about Jeremy Danvers, the Alpha werewolf who takes a vacation to meet her. Question is – does he also reciprocate her feelings? And is there really time for any sort of romance when there are trapped ghosts waiting for Jaime to help them?
I gobbled this book up in a couple of sittings when I should have been sleeping, but once I started reading I simply couldn’t stop. The conclusion was suitably dramatic and climactic, with a couple of surprises along the way. Great fun! And if you haven’t yet treated yourself to any of Armstrong’s keynote series – don’t start with this one, get hold of Bitten and feast on an entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable world. 9/10