Sunday, May 26, 2019

Finally, Some Book Reviews!

I's been a long time since I have posted a set of book reviews; in fact, I think I've only posted one since the beginning of the year. I've been very busy with family and with work, but I have still been reading...but not always reviewing. Reading is my rest, my place to put aside everyday concerns and worries and allow myself to travel to times and places I've never experienced, to meet new people and, often, help solve a mystery or two. And I'm definitely a sucker for a good mystery series!! Here are some of the books I've been reading this winter and spring:

NOTE: I save "5" ratings for classics and such. How can one compare a modern mystery novel with Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice? So a "4" means that it truly was an absolutely enjoyable book and one that I definitely recommend...but it's not on the same level as Austen, Dickens, Shakespeare, or the Brontë sisters. ;)

Piece of Work Piece of Work by Staci Hart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this book un-put-downable!! I stayed up reading it until 2 AM despite having a very early alarm set for the next morning. The characters are compelling, the humor hits just the right tone, and the romance is beautiful. I loved the backdrop of art at New York's Met, a place I have long desired to see, and I know just enough art history to truly appreciate the research the author had to do in order to make this novel work well. In fact, art is practically a character of its own!!

I only give 5-star ratings to classics and absolutely outstanding new books that I find particularly compelling and that may become classics in the future, so I'd probably give this book a 4.5 if I could. A wonderful read indeed!!

Since the other books in this series may not have the same art history background, I'm not sure I will continue with the series. But we'll see!! Part of the next book is featured at the end of this one, and I may go back and read it to see what I think.... ;)

The Gilded Shroud The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A terrific mystery, the first of the Lady Fan series, which really kept me on my toes! I had my suspicions as to "whodunnit," and I was right, but the certainty didn't come until the reveal at the end. The future Lady Fan is an amazing character: curious, highly intelligent and logical, with a propensity to find humor at the oddest times and in the weirdest places.

The widowed Mrs. Ottavia Draycott starts as a "substitute" companion to the Dowager Marchioness of Polbrook, but when the Marchioness is found strangled in her bed, the Marquis, son to the dowager, who had left for France in the night, was suspected by all. Ottavia supports the family through the tragedy, revealing her keen insight into human nature and her sharp sense of humor.

The Marquis' younger brother, Lord Francis Fanshawe, becomes Ottavia's partner-in-crime-solving as they seek to clear the absent Marquis. A terrific mystery, steeped in the vagaries of human nature and the keen mind and compassionate heart of a new heroine who is to be admired by mystery-loving readers.

The Deathly Portent The Deathly Portent by Elizabeth Bailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wonderful second book in the Lady Fan mystery series, this novel finds the newly-married Lord and Lady Fan stuck in a small village due to an incident with their carriage. They find that the blacksmith who could repair their broken axle was killed the night before. While the villagers accept the news without question, Lady Fan quickly sees signs of a deliberate death: murder.

Then Lord and Lady Fan discover that the villagers all blame one woman, unfortunately named Cassandra, for the death of the blacksmith, believing that "the witch" who had foretold the death must be the one who killed him. The new reverend, who arrived in town only the day before, tries to save Cassie by telling the villagers that there are no witches, but the backward community believes none of it.

Then when another murder occurs, also foretold by Cassie, the young woman's situation looks more and more precarious. Can Lady Fan discover the true murderer before the village burns young Cassie at the stake?

I'll definitely be ordering the next in this series...

Messenger of Truth Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another insightful mystery (the fourth, in fact) in the Maisie Dobbs series! Maisie takes on a new client sent to her by Inspector Stratton: a woman whose artist brother died accidentally while preparing to hang the secret piece d' resistance of his much-anticipated art show. The painting--or likely, series of paintings, are nowhere to be found, and Stratton, who declared the death an accident, sends the grieving yet questioning twin sister of the deceased to Maisie.

Maisie isn't certain that the death was a murder, but she quickly works her way into the family of the deceased, finding much pain from the Great War (as Maisie also experienced) in this very bohemian and artistic family. She quickly tracks down clues through her superior training and keen insight while also dealing with her personal life as well as the health of her assistant's family during these hard years of the early '30s when so many are without work and thus without the necessities of life-or even basic medical care.

Maisie follows the path to discover much amiss and several possible motives, unearthing some of her own motivations in her private life herself.

I am addicted to this series and will be ordering the next book in the series from the library as soon as possible! In fact, the next book is already here, sitting in my "to read" library stack. I imagine I'll be starting it later this week. ;)

The House on Tradd Street The House on Tradd Street by Karen White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A splendid first book in the Tradd Street mystery series, set in modern-day Charleston. Realtor Melanie Middleton goes to the centuries-old Vanderhorst home to speak to the aged owner, Nevin, about selling the home for him. While there, Melanie stifles the fact that she sees the figure of a woman pushing a swing in the garden-a transparent figure. Melanie finds out that Nevin's father and her own grandfather had been best friends in the 1920s but had fought and never seen each other again when Nevin's mother apparently ran off with another man, a known bootlegger.

When Nevin dies just a few days after meeting Melanie, she is astounded that he has left the famed Vanderhorst home to her as he had no other family. Thus Melanie inherits a haunted house that is falling down around her ears, enough money to restore it to its former splendor, and several mysteries, including the disappearance of Nevin's beloved mother. In addition, her alcoholic father returns to her life, and a true crime author researching Nevin's mother's abandonment of her son and husband ends up getting involved as well. It's a terrific mystery with many twists and turns and quirky characters--and I've already ordered the second book in the series from the library. :)

The Girl On Legare Street The Girl On Legare Street by Karen White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And here's that second book I mentioned above! It's a terrific continuation of the Tradd Street series. In this second book, Melanie is now confronted with the presence of her mother who abandoned her when Melanie was only seven, and Melanie, now approaching 40, has not seen or heard from her mother since. But when her mother seeks to repurchase the ancestral home of the Prioleau family, one of the centuries-old Charleston families, Melanie is drawn in as both realtor and reluctant daughter to assist. But mysteries seem to abound in this house and its past, powers even stronger than the vanquished spirits at Tradd Street. And Melanie's relationship with Jack becomes even more complicated with the arrival of Rebecca, a reporter and one of Jack's old flames. But is Rebecca working with them or against them? How can Melanie work through her complex feelings about her mother after just doing so with her alcoholic (but now sober) father? Lots of great puzzles and complexities in this tale are tinged with romance and definitely with the paranormal as this mystery unfolds.

I'm nearly halfway through the third book in the series which I just checked out this morning from our library. I love downloading e-books straight from the library onto my Kindle!! It's magic!! :D

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So these are some of the books I've been reading. I've still been making my way through several Austen variations, continuations, etc., but I haven't yet taken the time to review them. I'm definitely on a paranormal mystery bent right now, and I'm loving it!!

Happy reading!


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