From the Ashes by Sabrina Flynn


Atticus Riot took a bullet to his head the day his partner was killed. Three years later, Riot returns to San Francisco to put his ghosts to rest, but the abduction of an heiress snags his attention. Two ransom demands are delivered, and the husband of the abducted Isobel Kingston is hiding the truth.

The clock is ticking. Can Riot find Mrs Kingston in time, or will she become one more regret among many?

I stopped reading this book a couple of weeks ago. It just wasn’t holding my interest. I’ve been so busy that I hadn’t been able to sit down and write a review, so I’m fuzzy on the details, but I do recall not caring for the characters. I also didn’t care for how point of view not only shifted from the detective to the victim, but went back in time a week. It felt disjointed.

Since I waited so long to do my review, I can’t give it a score as I normally would. I’ll just call it a 2.5 overall.

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan


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After Hamish DeLuca’s anxiety gets the better of him during his first real court case as a lawyer, he runs away to his cousin, Luca Valari. Luca was the only person who never focused on Hamish’s flaw, and treated him like everyone else.

Regina Van Buren comes from high-class society stock, but she flees when decision for her life are being made for her. She finds a job working for Luca Valari, as his secretary, and begins taking steps to be an independent woman and live on her own terms.

When a dead body is found at Luca’s new night club, The Flamingo, Hamish and Regina take it upon themselves to uncover the truth, but there are some who don’t want the truth discovered.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this one. I originally decided to read the book, because of the comparison to The Thin Man movies, which I love. Sadly, the only real comparison is that Regina and Hamish occasionally call each other Nick and Nora to boost each other’s confidence.

Let’s start with what’s good. McMillan does a great job of scene-setting and pulls the reader into the time period of 1930’s Boston. The characters are well-developed. Hamish, especially, is a breath of fresh air as a male lead with a struggle like anxiety and panic attacks.

Unfortunately, I had a lot of issues with the novel.

1) This novel is marketed as Christian fiction. While it is pretty clean reading, there is nothing decidedly Christian about it. There is no mention of faith or God in any way.  

2) The murder doesn’t occur until more than halfway though the story. The first half of the novel is really just setting the tone and getting to know the characters and city.

3) The writing was sometimes hard to follow. I had to go back and re-read lines or passages several times to figure out what was being described or discussed.

4) Regina has two love interests in this novel, and I was not happy with where it was left at the end. I’m sure this will be an ongoing arc as the series continues, but with all the build-up of connection with one of the love interests, I was very disappointed with the lack of resolution, and the turn Regina took as a character.

5) Hamish and Regina kind of stumble into the truth about the murder, and solve it with little evidence or struggle. People seem to suddenly open up to them.

6) There’s an added mystery surrounding Hamish’s cousin, Luca, who has a history of bad choices and sketchy practices. This new club is supposed to be a clean start for him. He puts his office in a poorer area of the city, and no one knows why. There seems to be a connection to that part of town, and how badly the tenants are treated, to the people Luca are involved with. Hamish and Regina stumble into the answer for this as well, and there is a very climactic scene that comes from it, but it left me feeling like nothing was actually answered.

Murder mysteries are supposed to leave you feeling like you don’t know everything, but this one left me feeling like I had almost no information. I felt like I was missing vital pieces of information. Like there was something even the main characters figured out that they hadn’t let me in on. I was able to get to the end of this one, but I probably won’t be reading the next in the series.

Content Warnings: It is a murder mystery, so there is violence. A lot of scenes take place at night clubs with heavy drinking and lots of unsavory characters. Regina is also on the receiving end of some unwanted advances.

1) Overall Plot = 3
2) Characters = 4
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 3.5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 3
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average score of 3.2 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

I received an electronic copy of this book from BookLook in exchange for an honest review.

From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden


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Romulus White has been pursuing Stella West for years. Her artistic talent has made her famous, and Romulus wants her work in his science magazine. Stella, however, has no desire to leave London, where she’s made a name for herself.

Only the mysterious death of her sister, Gwendolyn, gets her to leave. She travels to Boston to gets answers. Instead, she finds a tight-knit group of police and city officials who see her as a nuisance.

When Romulus finds Stella in Boston, she realizes that he may have the connections she needs to finally get to the truth, but an instant attraction soon becomes a distraction for both of them, and the more they uncover about Gwendolyn’s death, the closer they both get to losing everything they value.

This historical novel has a great blend of suspense and romance. I was a little unsure in the beginning when I figured out one aspect of the mystery, but as the truth unfolded, I was honestly surprised. The characters are flawed in such a way that they could have been unlikable, but Camden did a great job of fleshing them out and making you want to see them succeed.

The descriptions and scene-setting are also well done. It’s just enough to allow you to visualize without becoming too much.

This was my first Camden novel, and I will definitely read more of her work. If you’re looking for a clean romance, with an intriguing mystery, this is for you.

1) Overall Plot =4.5
2) Characters = 4.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 4.5

Average of score 4.7 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco


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In 1888 London, Audrey Rose Wadsworth defies her father and society, and secretly tutors under her uncle doing autopsies. Through her studies she comes face-to-face with the victims of Jack the Ripper. She feels compelled to figure out who the Ripper is and bring him to justice, but the investigation may lead to dark secrets better kept hidden.

This debut novel by Maniscalco and the first YA novel in James Patterson’s “Jimmy” imprint, fell flat for me.

The premise caught my interest, and the first chapters were a nice set up, but the pace soon slowed. The title is a bit misleading, as most of the “stalking” is done through forensic investigation and autopsies. The middle sags, and the climax picks up with more action, though the true identity of Jack the Ripper was a bit predictable.

Because Audrey Rose wants to practice man’s work in the late 1800’s, I was expecting a bit of feminism in the book. Obviously, this character was breaking through barriers. The amount of it, though, seemed unnecessary as the character reminds us in almost every scene that she is capable though she is a woman. It also, at times, seemed that Audrey was using feminist arguments just as a means to do whatever she wanted, which was often foolish and dangerous.

There’s a romance between Audrey Rose and her classmate, Thomas, that’s more love-at-first-sight than depth of feeling.

There were a couple of times I almost stopped reading, but I kept going because of Thomas, though it wasn’t necessarily that I liked his character. The more we see of him, the more he reminded me of Sherlock Holmes; from his way of deducing to his arrogance, right down to the dog named Toby that he borrows and he declares is smarter than half of Scotland Yard (a close paraphrase from the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle). The likeness and references were so obvious to me that I thought it was have been intentional and I wanted to see where it went. It didn’t go anywhere. Even in her Author’s Notes, Maniscalco makes no mention of Doyle or Holmes, which seems odd since the character felt heavily borrowed from Holmes.

I can’t say that I enjoyed much about this novel. I was able to finish, but just barely and only out of curiosity surrounding Thomas.

1) Overall Plot = 2
2) Characters = 2.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 2.5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average score of 2.9 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd


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After burying her father, Miss Gillian Young discovers his death may not have been an accident as she had been led to believe. Instead of answers, clues bring more questions as it looks like her father, a well-respected police officer, may have been involved in serious crimes.

When Gillian meets the charming Viscount Thomas Lockwood, the attraction is instant, but are his advances genuine? Could he be interested in her newly inherited property? Could he have been involved in her father’s death?

Not knowing who she can trust, Gillian must use a disguise to investigate on her own to try to prove her father’s innocence.

This is 3 out of 3 for me! I have loved each novel in the Daughters of Hampshire series.

The mystery and suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat, and the keep the pages turning. This novel in particular touches a hard subject with grace and care, woven perfectly into Gillian’s story. Sandra Byrd gives some interesting insight into her research in the Author’s Notes.

I love that we know no more than the main character knows. We can only trust or distrust based on what she sees, and, as with all good suspense, that can be misleading at times.

The characters are excellently drawn, including the supporting characters. You feel for them, and want them to succeed. Lord Lockwood truly is charming, and I fell for him maybe as hard as Gillian did. I blame it on Byrd’s use of Henry V dialogue. In fact, my one wish would have been more interaction between Gillian and Thomas.

Romance, mystery, danger… it’s all in this novel. It won’t disappoint.

1) Overall Plot = 5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

Reading Preview 3/23/17


Hey guys! I’ll be finishing The Inkblots over the next couple of days. You can look for that review this weekend. In the meantime, I wanted to share what’s coming up.

These will be the next two books I read. I’ve been waiting on Byrd’s new book for almost a year! I’ll be reading Cambron’s book for a review program, but I’m looking forward to it! I loved The Butterfly and the Violin, so I’m going in expecting to enjoy this one.

 

The next group of books are faith-based, non-fiction works.

 

Then there are a couple more fiction books on my shelf that I’m anxious to get to.

 

And the final book for this post (because there are SO many more I want to add) is a book on writing.

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What are you guys reading now? Have you read any of the ones on my list? Let me know in the comments.

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe


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Written in 1794, this gothic romance is thought by some to be the origins of the detective novel. It tells the story of Emily St. Aubert, who finds herself under the care of her uncle. Questions and mysteries arise from secrets of her father’s past.

I didn’t finish this one. I was about 120 pages in when I decided to stop, because nothing had happened yet to keep me going. The majority of those first 100 pages chronicles the travels of Emily and her father, describing the vistas in detail. The appearance of Emily’s love interest, Valancourt, made this slightly bearable, but the story moves along so slowly that the thought of going on for another 500+ pages made me cringe.

This one just wasn’t for me.

1) Overall Plot =3
2) Characters = 2
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 1
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4
5) Overall Enjoyability = 1

Average of score 2.2 out of 5

This particular B&N edition is no longer for sale, so I’ve linked below to the search page which shows all available editions.

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray


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Lydia Bancroft’s world is a world of books, until a mysterious, dark-eyed man begins to frequent the reading room where she works as a librarian. He never speaks a word to her until a chance meeting puts him in the position to be her rescuer. She soon discovers that he is none other than the infamous Sebastian Marks, one of the most powerful men in Chicago.

They are both hesitant as they form a friendship, until Lydia discovers that Mr. Marks runs a club with illegal gambling. She insists that he bring her to the club, and things take a turn for the worse when someone is murdered.

Lydia must decide if she can truly trust Sebastian, and he must decide if Lydia can remain in his life.

Getting the negative out of the way, the writing is sometimes lacking, technically. It occurs mostly in the show-don’t-tell sense. In some instances, we are definitely being told. We also get a lot of backstory through flashbacks, pulling the reader out of the present timeline for a while. It was these moments that prevented me from getting truly lost in this book.

That being said, the story itself was really good, and made it hard for me to put the book down. The characters were well written, and I enjoyed their interactions with each other, including the supporting cast. The characters are flawed. Some of them (most of them) are criminals. It is, after all, Chicago after the World’s Fair.

Seeing as this is a Christian novel, some people may find some of the content objectionable. There is violence, though not graphic, and mentions of prostitution which is mostly acknowledgement of its existence. But there is a Christian message here if you are willing to see it. It’s redemption. The characters speak of God occasionally, but I think the lesson to take away from this novel is that, for those who have gone astray, the road to redemption can be very dark. And sometimes the road is darkest just before the redemption.

This novel is the third in Gray’s Chicago World’s Fair series, but it can be read as a stand-alone. If you’re looking for a quick read with a hint romance and mystery, this novel is worth your time.

1) Overall Plot =4.5
2) Characters = 4.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4.5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 4

Average of score 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBDAmazon | B&N

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins


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Walter Hartright is on his way to London when he has a midnight encounter with a mysterious woman dressed in white. When he reaches his destination, where he is to serve as a drawing instructor to Laura and her sister Marion, he tells them of his meeting with the woman on the road, and the way she behaved, as if hiding some secret. The three of them eventually find themselves pulled into a mystery of their own. Hidden crimes and conspiracies, kidnapping and murder, all connected to the mysterious woman in white.

Written in the late 1800’s, and at just over 600 pages long, this novel is surprisingly readable and enjoyable. Though long, the story does, for the most part, have a good flow. The mystery of the unfolding events keep the pages turning, even when the story hits the occasional lull.

The characters are full and well-drawn. They will easily draw your sympathy or your revulsion.

Overall, this is a good read.

1) Overall Plot = 4
2) Characters = 4.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 3.5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4
5) Overall Enjoyability = 3.5

Average of score 3.9 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

The Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson


Dickerson-BeautifulPretenderThe Margrave of Thornbeck has been ordered to find a bride. He invites ten women, suggested by the King for their noble status, to his castle for two weeks. The goal: to get to know their true characters.

Lady Dorothea is one of the women invited, but when circumstances prevent her from attending, her father, the Earl of Plimmwald, must find a solution that will not insult Lord Thornbeck. He sends Avelina, Dorothea’s maidservant, in her place. Her orders are clear: keep her true identity a secret, and make sure the Margrave does not choose her as a bride.

Avelina believes she would never be chosen, so she focuses on not getting caught. Yet, she has unwittingly drawn Thornbeck’s attention, and she finds herself attracted to him in return.

But getting caught may not be the worst thing that could happen to Avelina. As the days go on, she realizes that something is not right in the castle. Rumors abound. But what is true?

This is a very good read! It has mystery and romance, and a surprising bit of action. I wasn’t expecting that. This book is the second in a series. While some characters from the first novel appear in this one, you do not need to read the first. This book stands alone. I do believe I will be reading the first one, though. Great characters. Great plot. It’s a page-turner!

Christian readers especially will enjoy this one. Certain characters have a strong faith, yet it feels very real. They’re not perfect. The romance is also clean, and it sweeps you up into it.

1) Overall Plot = 5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average of score 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBDAmazon | B&N

I received a copy of this book from BookLook in exchange for an honest review.