Monday, January 17, 2022

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Mitford Vanishing by Jessica Fellowes
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: January 18th, 2022
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A mystery with the fascinating Mitford sisters at its heart, Jessica Fellowes's The Mitford Vanishing is the fifth installment in the Mitford Murders series, inspired by a real-life murder in a story full of intrigue...

1937. War with Germany is dawning, and a civil war already rages in Spain. Split across political lines, the six Mitford sisters are more divided than ever. Meanwhile their former maid Louisa Cannon is now a private detective, working with her policeman husband Guy Sullivan.

Louisa and Guy are surprised when a call comes in from novelist Nancy Mitford requesting that they look into the disappearance of her Communist sister Jessica in Spain. But one case leads to another as they are also asked to investigate the mysterious vanishing of a soldier.

As the two cases come together, Louisa and Guy discover that every marriage has its secrets - but some are more deadly than others. Suddenly home feels a long way away..."

Me continuing to read this series shows I'm insane because I keep expecting them to improve.

Hotel Portofino by J.P. O'Connell
Published by: Blackstone Publishing
Publication Date: January 18th, 2022
Format: Paperback, 376 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"For fans of Downton Abbey and The Crown...welcome to Hotel Portofino, where romance, revelry, and intrigue await.

A heady historical drama about a British family who opens an upper-class hotel on the magical Italian Riviera during the Roaring Twenties.

Hotel Portofino has been open for only a few weeks, but already the problems are mounting for its owner Bella Ainsworth. Her high-class guests are demanding and hard to please. And she's being targeted by a scheming and corrupt local politician, who threatens to drag her into the red-hot cauldron of Mussolini's Italy.

To make matters worse, her marriage is in trouble, and her children are still struggling to recover from the repercussions of the Great War. All eyes are on the arrival of a potential love match for her son Lucian, but events don't go to plan, which will have far-reaching consequences for the whole family.

Set in the breathtakingly beautiful Italian Riviera, Hotel Portofino is a story of personal awakening at a time of global upheaval and of the liberating influence of Italy's enchanting culture, climate, and cuisine on British innocents abroad."

Exotic Bright Young Things, yes please!

Murder at the National Gallery by Jim Eldridge
Published by: Allison and Busby
Publication Date: January 18th, 2022
Format: Hardcover, 311 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"1897, London. The capital is shocked to learn that the body of a woman has been found at the National Gallery, eviscerated in a manner that recalls all too strongly the exploits of the infamous Jack the Ripper.

Daniel Wilson and Abigail Fenton are contacted by a curator of the National Gallery for their assistance. The dead woman, an artist's model and lady of the night, had links to artist Walter Sickert who was a suspect during the Ripper's spree of killings. Scotland Yard have arrested Sickert on suspicion of this fresh murder but it is not the last...

Copycat murders of the Ripper's crimes implicate the artist who loves to shock but Sickert insists that he is innocent. Who would want to frame him? Wilson and Fenton have their work cut out catching an elusive and determined killer."

Jack the Ripper! Jack the Ripper! Jack the Ripper! Oh, and Sickert as the suspect! Patricia Cornwell would be pleased.

The Tally Stick by Carl Nixon
Published by: World Editions
Publication Date: January 18th, 2022
Format: Paperback, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Lost in the wilderness: subjugation, survival, and the meaning of family.

Up on the highway, the only evidence that the Chamberlains had ever been there was two smeared tire tracks in the mud leading into an almost undamaged screen of bushes and trees. No other cars passed that way until after dawn. By that time the tracks had been washed away by the heavy rain. After being in New Zealand for only five days, the English Chamberlain family had vanished into thin air. The date was 4 April 1978. In 2010 the remains of the eldest child are discovered in a remote part of the West Coast, showing he lived for four years after the family disappeared. Found alongside him are his father's watch and what turns out to be a tally stick, a piece of scored wood marking items of debt. How had he survived and then died in such a way? Where is the rest of the family? And what is the meaning of the tally stick?"

New Zealand disappearance? I am here for this!

Disappearance of a Scribe by Dana Stabenow
Published by: Head of Zeus
Publication Date: January 18th, 2022
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The second in the trilogy of Ancient Egyptian crime novels that began with Death of an Eye.

Two Alexandrian fishermen come across a horrifying sight - the body of a skeleton floating upright at the bottom of the sea, anchored in place by a cement weight around his feet. In Alexandria's rough-and-tumble construction trade they call that 'being fitted with a pair of Rhakotis sandals' and what's worse, he's the second such victim in two years.

Queen Cleopatra is busy rebuilding her city after the Alexandrian War and these murders are not to be allowed to interfere with this primary task, so she charges Tetisheri, her new Eye of Isis, with the task of finding out who these men were, when they were murdered, and, above all, why."

Egypt!!!

Servant Mage by Kate Elliott
Published by: Tordotcom
Publication Date: January 18th, 2022
Format: Hardcover, 176 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In Kate Elliott's Servant Mage, a lowly fire mage finds herself entangled in an empire-spanning conspiracy on her way to discovering her true power.

They choose their laws to secure their power.

Fellian is a Lamplighter, able to provide illumination through magic. A group of rebel Monarchists free her from indentured servitude and take her on a journey to rescue trapped compatriots from an underground complex of mines.

Along the way they get caught up in a conspiracy to kill the latest royal child and wipe out the Monarchist movement for good.

But Fellian has more than just her Lamplighting skills up her sleeve..."

Dragons!!!

Friday, January 14, 2022

Book Review 2021 #5 - Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Published by: Custom House
Publication Date: May 27th, 2016
Format: Kindle, 433 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

The death of Cora Seaborne's abusive husband means she can finally cast aside the shackles of the life she was forced into. She can indulge her desire to be the next Mary Anning. Taking her household, which consists of her companion Martha and her disturbed son Francis, to Colchester, she spends her days mucking about the countryside wearing men's boots and unflattering clothing looking for ammonites. Once she even tangled with a man trying to rescue a sheep from the muck. But soon Colchester is abuzz with rumors of the Essex Serpent. It's hunting the estuaries and killing children and pets. Cora doesn't believe in something so fanciful, but she does wonder, could a creature from long ago have survived in an out of the way place to be discovered in the present day? Science doesn't deny it is possible and her hero, Mary Anning, often hoped to make such a discovery. Cora longs to have her name next to such a find in a museum and therefore jumps at the opportunity that fate hands her. Through mutual friends she is introduced to the Ransomes who live in Aldwinter. As fate would have it the Reverend Will Ransome is the man she helped to rescue the sheep. Despite such an inauspicious beginning the two become fast friends. Cora is fascinated by a pew in his church which is carved to represent the serpent, while Will is incensed by his parishioners obsession with fairy tales and threatens to destroy the pew. They argue over everything, from religion to science, it is a meeting of true minds. Everyone comments on their closeness, Cora even moves to Aldwinter. Yet Will's wife Stella doesn't seem to mind, and Martha, well Martha has more important things to worry about. But then there's an incident at the school. Cora begs her friend, Doctor Luke Garrett, to come down and investigate the medical reason behind the hysteria. This causes a breach between Cora and Will. A breach that will be healed and ruptured on one fateful night. So while they might not survive, the question remains, does the serpent?

The Essex Serpent is one of those books that seems to polarize people, and it has since it's publication. You either love it or you hate it and I decided to take the wisest approach and just avoid it. But then I bought Sarah Perry's Melmoth and a lot of reviews started referring to it as a companion piece to The Essex Serpent, which I took to mean I should read The Essex Serpent... Which went from being a "never " to a "some day" to a "now" event rather quickly because of the Tom Hiddleston starring adaptation that is filming. Will Ransome is a role Hiddles is born to play in my mind. But that adaptation is the future, and this is now, and this is about the book. The Essex Serpent is beautifully and lushly written yet is rather light on plot. It fits more into the style of Gothic literature and romance from the 19th century than what we necessarily think of as Gothic now. The book is all about duality as epitomized by the word "cleave," to cling and to separate all at once. The serpent is both a supernatural entity and a rather large fish. Stella is both dying and luminous. The world runs on both religion and science. Cora and Will's romance is both everything and nothing. Two states of being happening simultaneously. This recurs over and over again, reality versus fallacy. And at one point, the hysteria of Aldwinter with regards to the serpent reaches such a fever pitch that the young schoolgirls act out in a way that would best be described as Salem in 1692. And the fact that the doctor swings in and brings up ergot poisoning made my dorky history heart soar! Because it could very well be hysteria OR ergot OR none of the above. The problem is that the book reaches this fever pitch just before the summer solstice and then it just peters out. Cora had been the driving force of the book and she sees what she has done and retreats. She's barely in the rest of the book and her larger-than-life personality which carried everyone means that the other characters had to try to carry themselves, and they failed. So while the book technically ended, I like to think that in some other way it didn't and that one day the characters will find their proper endings.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Book Review 2021 #6 - Lauren Willig's The Deception of the Emerald Ring

The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig
Published by: NAL
Publication Date: November 16th, 2006
Format: Paperback, 464 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Letty and Mary Alsworthy are as different as two sisters can be. At a frizzy haired five foot, Letty will never be like her statuesque sister. And she would NEVER run off in the middle of the night for a midnight elopement with Geoffry Pinchingdale-Snipe. She might try to stop the elopement with all good intentions, but never elope herself. Until fate intervenes and she's the one being spirited away in the night to a rendezvous with a certain member of the peerage. Geoff, being Geoff, marries the sister whose reputation he inadvertently ruined. He might see her as a conniving and manipulative upstart who took her chance when the opportunity afforded itself, but at least his obligations to the Pink Carnation mean that he can hare off to Ireland and put some space between his broken heart and his unwanted bride. Practical Letty for once doesn't know what to do. She's been the one who has always taken care of her family and has never had a spot of bother. Now she's married to a man who has vanished and he hasn't let her explain what really happened. A little drunk, she gets the first packet out of London to follow Geoff to Ireland thanks to Miles and Henrietta spilling the beans as to where Goeff went. But an unwanted wife in England is a completely different situation to an unwanted wife in Ireland interfering with his mission to thwart a French and Irish alliance. Begrudgingly taking Letty into his confidences with one Pink Carnation, Jane Wolliston, and one parasol wielding pyromaniac in the making, Miss Gwen, they all try to muddle through for the good of England. But add a dangerous cousin on the prowl for Geoff's title, Lord Vaughn, who's every word has double and triple entendres, and evidence that the Black Tulip is at it again, things might be trickier than anyone thought. Can this all be untangled and England saved? Because maybe fate intervened for a reason and Letty is the sister Geoff should have been wooing all along. But back in the present Eloise has an even more pressing problem. Can she get a certain Colin Selwick to call her and set up a date?

The Deception of the Emerald Ring is itself very deceptive. Whenever I think of the Pink Carnation series as a whole it never makes the cut as a favorite, and then I re-read it and realize how much I love it. I start to question my entire ranking of the series and as of this moment while I write this review it might even make my top ten books of 2021 because I adored re-reading it so much. This book tricks me every time into thinking that it's not as good as it is. I should have learned by now having read this book as many times as I have. Also, I seriously have no idea how many times I've read it. Because of other reading commitments during the year long Pink Carnation Read Along and the fact that I was once again underestimating it and not really looking forward to picking it up The Deception of the Emerald Ring didn't make it off my bookshelf until the day before the Zoom meeting. And while I had intended to shotgun the whole book in day, I found myself so drawn into the book I wanted it to last for days. So the Zoom meeting came and went and I was still reading. And now I think I'm going to read all the books AFTER the meeting. Because I've read all these stories before it's not like a book club meeting where you're feverishly trying to finish before time so you can discuss it. No, the meeting gave me further insights into the story so that when I was reading it I picked up on these new nuggets of information. I got to thinking about the implications of donning trousers, the practicalities versus the amorous. I got to enjoy Lord Vaughn showing up and just taking over every scene he was in. And I finally got to see the Black Tulip plot line form into a more logical garden plan. To not have just one sadistic spy, but sadists working for a criminal mastermind makes more sense that the Marquise ever did. She mistook Turnip for the Pink Carnation! I'm sorry, but anyone who could think that doesn't deserve to be a criminal mastermind. A pawn though... Totally suited for a pawn.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Book Review 2021 #7 - Seana Kelly's The Dead Don't Drink at Lafitte's

The Dead Don't Drink at Lafitte's by Seana Kelly
Published by: NYLA
Publication Date: April 13th, 2021
Format: Kindle. 350 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

Whomever said dating a vampire would be easy obviously wasn't a werewolf. Because Clive's coterie of vampires look down on Sam. In their minds she's so far beneath their master that they welcome his ex with open arms when she shows up on their doorstep. A doorstep to a house Sam's stuck in while her apartment and business are being rebuilt. Thankfully the ex isn't actually there to rekindle their romance, she's there to stage a coup. The Master of New Orleans wants Clive eliminated, the only problem is they didn't count on Sam. She saves Clive's life and realizes she might have more power over vampires than they'd be comfortable with. But her newfound powers will have to wait, this was a declaration of war and Clive will not let this stand. As the Master of San Francisco he can't leave his city unprotected, so he calls in some favors and heads on down to The Big Easy. But he can't be certain that his vampires haven't been compromised. How many are still loyal to him and how many are using Sam's presence as an excuse to grasp the brass ring? So Clive calls in another favor. Someone capable of guarding Sam when he must rest. Someone who happens to be deadly with the merest glance. He calls in a gorgon. Stheno is the perfect body guard. Not only is she good at decorating Clive's New Orleans home with statues of their enemies, she's someone apart from the politics of vampires whom Sam can talk to and, more importantly, share a meal with, because vampires sure don't know how to feed the living let alone feed a werewolf with a high metabolic rate. But thankfully that's what the many restaurants in New Orleans are there for! That and to provide a distraction from all the vampires who might want Clive dead. There's not just the Master of the city, but the ancient St. Germain who prefers to wield power from the shadows and is taking an unhealthy interest in Sam. Sam has a lot of danger to face if she wants to make it back safely to San Francisco, but thankfully she has a passel of new friends and an entire pack of werewolves who've got her back.

As someone who reads and watches a lot of media involving vampires there's one thing I can't stand, and that's vampire politics. Sure, you could hate their brooding nature and how possessive they are, but thankfully for every story that does this there's another that pokes fun at it. And yet vampire politics for some reason rarely get lampooned. The reason The Dead Don't Drink at Lafitte's really spoke to me is because it switched direction about a third of the way through the book. Before Sam and Clive left for New Orleans I was completely dreading reading this volume because it looked like it was going to be nothing but vampire politics. And then all of a sudden it wasn't. All of a sudden it was more about the city and the life of New Orleans and Sam's world opening up while the vampires were off doing their own thing or sleeping the day away. And what it celebrated most of all about New Orleans was the food. Having a heroine who has a metabolism that just won't quit meant that she not only ate tons of food, with many courses, but that it was lovingly described. I would have gladly beaten up someone for a beignet at any time while reading this book. And now I just realized a problem while writing this review, I'm thinking about beignets again... So I will now try to wrench my brain away from the beignets and talk about my new favorite character, who also happens to love food as much as Sam, Stheno. Stheno is a gorgon. And she is my new BFF. I'm sorry, you can't have her, she's going to hang out with me on a couch and eat tons of food. She's funny, she's surly, and she and Sam just get each other. They have a dark and quirky sense of humor that meshes well. The introduction of Stheno really takes the whole series to a new level because Urban Fantasy shouldn't only be about werewolves, vampires, and the fae, though so much is. Stheno firmly establishes the other creatures within Sam's universe and I am here for it.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Tuesday Tomorrow

Something to Hide by Elizabeth George
Published by: Viking
Publication Date: January 11th, 2022
Format: Hardcover, 704 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers and Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley are back in the next Lynley novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth George.

When a police detective is taken off life support after falling into a coma, only an autopsy reveals the murderous act that precipitated her death. She'd been working on a special task force within North London's Nigerian community, and Acting Detective Superintendent Thomas Lynley is assigned to the case, which has far-reaching cultural associations that have nothing to do with life as he knows it. In his pursuit of a killer determined to remain hidden, he's assisted by Detective Sergeants Barbara Havers and Winston Nkata. They must sort through the lies and the secret lives of people whose superficial cooperation masks the damage they do to one another."

New year, new Lynley, aw yeah!

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: January 11th, 2022
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, her own father had confessed to the crimes and was put away for life, leaving Chloe and the rest of her family to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.

Now twenty years later, Chloe is a psychologist in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. While she finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to achieve, she sometimes feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. So when a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, seeing parallels from her past that aren't actually there, or for the second time in her life, is Chloe about to unmask a killer?

From debut author Stacy Willingham comes a masterfully done, lyrical thriller, certain to be the launch of an amazing career. A Flicker in the Dark is eerily compelling to the very last page."

I can't be the only one who likes thrillers of past crimes having eerie similarities to present crimes, amiright?

Wolf Hollow by Victoria Houston
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: January 11th, 2022
Format: Hardcover, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Murder stalks the Wisconsin northwoods in a gripping novel from the author of the acclaimed Loon Lake mysteries.

It's mid-May in the tiny northwoods Wisconsin town of Loon Lake, and the fish are biting. Walleye's not the only thing on the hook. There are rumors that a precious vein of nickel and copper is buried on the property of wealthy Grace McDonough, and the drilling is about to begin. But not if environmentalist Pete Ferris can help it.

When Grace's 24-year-old son, Noah, is caught in a sordid sex crime, police chief Lew Ferris makes the arrest. But a day later, Lew is stricken when her brother Pete turns up dead, a bloody pry bar found in the woods nearby. Then, Grace's body is discovered in a car at the bottom of a river - and Noah has vanished. Lew puts out a statewide APB, but before long, Noah is also found murdered on the McDonough property.

It's beginning to look like mother and son were killed by the same person. And when Lew learns that her brother had planned to file a lawsuit to prevent drilling for the sulfide mine, a key piece of the puzzle suddenly falls into place.

Lew is beginning to close in on the truth. But has the killer set his bait again, angling for his biggest catch yet?"

Murder in my home state? Tell me more!

All I Want by Darcey Bell
Published by: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication Date: January 11th, 2022
Format: Paperback, 272 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The New York Times bestselling author of A Simple Favor brings her "sly, satirical, subversive" (L.S. Hilton, author of Ultima) prose to a pitch-perfect psychological suspense novel about a young couple whose disintegrating marriage and remote new home in rural, upstate New York make for a terrifying descent into the darker side of human nature.

When Emma’s husband, Ben, falls in love with a large Victorian mansion for sale in upstate New York, he swears to her the fixer-upper will be worth the risk. With a baby on the way, Emma would like to live in a charming, safe community, after all—and in a space larger than a one-bedroom New York City apartment. On impulse, she agrees to Ben’s plan and they put in an offer on the house.

Sure, the mansion has a somewhat creepy backstory and is a bit dilapidated, but Emma and Ben are in this together, aren’t they? When strange things start happening, Emma begins to experience a little buyer’s remorse. What’s the real history of this house? Is its dark history repeating itself? Why does her husband suddenly seem so distant? Is she in danger? Is her baby?

Combining the domestic anxiety of Liane Moriarty and the haunting twists and turns of Shirley Jackson, All I Want is an intensely absorbing novel that will change the way you look at your neighbors."

I'm here for all things Darcey Bell since A Simple Favor. But comparisons to Shirley Jackson? Now you REALLY have my attention.

Murder at the Mansions by Sara Rosett
Published by: McGuffin Ink
Publication Date: January 11th, 2022
Format: Paperback, 282 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"South Regent Mansions has all the modern conveniences...including murder.

London, February, 1924. Discreet sleuth for the high society set, Olive Belgrave is delighted with her new flat at South Regent Mansions where she’s made several friends, including the modern career woman, Minerva, who draws a popular cartoon about a flapper for a London newspaper.

But then Minerva comes to Olive for help after catching a glimpse of a disturbing sight - a dead body. At least, that’s what Minerva thought she saw, but there’s not a dead body anywhere in the posh building, and the residents are continuing with their lives as they normally do. Is Minerva seeing things? Is she barmy? Or is there a more sinister explanation?

To help restore Minerva’s peace of mind, Olive investigates her neighbors. They include: society’s "it" girl of the moment, an accountant with a fondness for gadgets, a snooty society matron, and a school teacher turned bridge instructor. Olive uncovers rivalries, clandestine affairs, and hidden jealousies. With dashing Jasper at her side, Olive must discover whose secret is worth killing for.

If you like sophisticated whodunits, charming characters, and novels with a lighthearted tone, you’ll enjoy the seventh installment of the High Society Lady Detective series, Murder at the Mansions, from USA Today bestselling author, Sara Rosett."

Sara Rosett's mysteries are a delight. Couple that with the wonderful Poirot period building and some Rear Window action, and I am all there.

The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: January 11th, 2022
Format: Paperback, 432 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A Popsugar Most Anticipated Romance of 2022!

Victorian high society’s most daring equestrienne finds love and an unexpected ally in her fight for independence in the strong arms of London’s most sought after and devastatingly handsome half-Indian tailor.

Evelyn Maltravers understands exactly how little she's worth on the marriage mart. As an incurable bluestocking from a family tumbling swiftly toward ruin, she knows she'll never make a match in a ballroom. Her only hope is to distinguish herself by making the biggest splash in the one sphere she excels: on horseback. In haute couture. But to truly capture London's attention she'll need a habit-maker who's not afraid to take risks with his designs - and with his heart.

Half-Indian tailor Ahmad Malik has always had a talent for making women beautiful, inching his way toward recognition by designing riding habits for Rotten Row's infamous Pretty Horsebreakers - but no one compares to Evelyn. Her unbridled spirit enchants him, awakening a depth of feeling he never thought possible.

But pushing boundaries comes at a cost and not everyone is pleased to welcome Evelyn and Ahmad into fashionable society. With obstacles spanning between them, the indomitable pair must decide which hurdles they can jump and what matters most: making their mark or following their hearts?"

Here for all the bluestocking girls in the world!

Twilight at Moorington Cross by Abigail Wilson
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: January 11th, 2022
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Amelia Pembroke is in a unique position in Regency England: She can obtain financial freedom. But in order to do so, she must marry one of two gentlemen. The trouble is, she might be falling in love with another man entirely.

1819, Kent, England - Everything changed the moment Amelia became heiress to Moorington Cross. A young widow and patient at Cluett's Mesmeric Hospital, Amelia is stunned to learn that her doctor - and the only father figure she's ever known - has altered his will naming her his primary beneficiary. Such an opportunity is beyond what any Regency-era woman could dare to dream - especially one with a sleeping disorder that finds her falling asleep at the most random of times.

There is, however, a perplexing condition attached to the will: she must wed one of two named men, wholly unknown to her. Doing so would provide her with a secure future. But how can she marry one of these men when her heart is intrigued by the charming solicitor, Mr. Hawkins?

Everything takes on a new sense of urgency - and danger - when Mr. Cluett is found dead in his bedchamber only hours after announcing his updated will. Now Amelia only has thirty days to decide which man she will marry. But she is just as determined to uncover the truth of her benefactor's demise with the help of Mr. Hawkins. After all, this sudden turn of events couldn't merely be a coincidence - could it?

From award-winning author Abigail Wilson, Twilight at Moorington Cross is a mysterious Regency romance full of intrigue, mesmeric treatments, and abandoned corridors that proves love is the greatest testament of all."

I mean, it's Regency so I'm here, but mesmerism!?! SO HERE!

Gothic Classics: The Castle of Otranto and The Old English Baron by Horace Walpole and Clara Reeve
Published by: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: January 11th, 2022
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Manfred, the lord of the castle of Otranto, has long lived in dread of an ancient prophecy: it's foretold that when his family line ends, the true owner of the castle will appear and claim it. In a desperate bid to keep the castle, Manfred plans to coerce a young woman named Isabella into marrying him.

Isabella refuses to yield to Manfred's reprehensible plan. But once she escapes into the depths of the castle, it becomes clear that Manfred isn't the only threat. As Isabelle loses herself in the seemingly endless hallways below, voices reverberate from the walls and specters wander through the dungeons. Otranto appears to be alive, and it's seeking revenge for the sins of the past."

I LOVE when the Gothic Classics (capitals SO needed) get lovely new reissues.

The Wedding Setup by Sonali Dev
Published by: Amazon Original Stories
Publication Date: January 11th, 2022
Format: Kindle
To Buy

The official patter:
"From USA Today bestselling author Sonali Dev comes a heartfelt short story about one woman’s journey of self-discovery and what it means to be happy.

Ayesha Shetty lost her brother seven years ago, the same time she lost everything else important to her: her dreams, her fierce independence, and the man she loved. Not wanting to see her mother hurt anymore, she put her wild self away and became the dutiful daughter her mother needed and took on her brother’s role in the family business.

Now her best friend’s big, fat Indian wedding is a chance to get away from her endless duties at the restaurant and maybe even have some fun (if she remembers how). But a setup arranged by her mother, with a doctor no less, is the last thing she needs. The fact that he checks all her mother’s boxes just makes everything better...and worse.

Then Emmitt Hughes shows up. Her brother’s best friend. The love she once chose over family duties and her responsibilities. The one she asked to leave, and who did. The one who knows the real Ayesha. Torn between a love from the past that could cost her the only person she has left and her sense of obligation to her mother, will Ayesha find the strength to stop thinking about what everyone else wants and finally put herself first? Or is the old Ayesha truly gone for good?"

If you haven't dove headfirst into the writing of Sonali Dev, how about take this quick little swim. I'm sure you'll be picking up the rest of her catalog in no time!

A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker
Published by: Forge Books
Publication Date: January 11th, 2022
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A Thousand Steps is a beguiling thriller, an incisive coming-of-age story, and a vivid portrait of a turbulent time and place by three-time Edgar Award winner and New York Times bestselling author T. Jefferson Parker.

Laguna Beach, California, 1968. The Age of Aquarius is in full swing. Timothy Leary is a rock star. LSD is God. Folks from all over are flocking to Laguna, seeking peace, love, and enlightenment.

Matt Anthony is just trying get by.

.Matt is sixteen, broke, and never sure where his next meal is coming from. Mom’s a stoner, his deadbeat dad is a no-show, his brother’s fighting in Nam...and his big sister Jazz has just gone missing. The cops figure she’s just another runaway hippie chick, enjoying a summer of love, but Matt doesn’t believe it. Not after another missing girl turns up dead on the beach.

All Matt really wants to do is get his driver’s license and ask out the girl he’s been crushing on since fourth grade, yet it’s up to him to find his sister. But in a town where the cops don’t trust the hippies and the hippies don’t trust the cops, uncovering what’s really happened to Jazz is going to force him to grow up fast.

If it’s not already too late."

This time period in California has always fascinated me.

The Monarchs by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige
Published by: Clarion Books
Publication Date: January 11th, 2022
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In this thrilling conclusion to New York Times best-selling authors Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige’s The Ravens duology, loyalty, love, and friendships are tested as sorority sisters Scarlett and Vivi must face the forces of hell itself when a rival sorority threatens to wreak havoc on campus.

The ultra-exclusive Kappa Rho Nu - the Ravens - are determined to restore balance to the world. After destroying an ancient talisman and barely saving their sorority in the process, they’ll go to any lengths to keep their secret as Westerly’s most powerful coven of witches.

Scarlett Winter, a legacy Raven, has finally gotten what she’s always wanted: Scarlett is Kappa Rho Nu’s newest president. Unlike her mother or older sister before her, Scarlett has a vision for a more unified Kappa, one where no sister falls to the forces of wicked magic. But the powers of the presidency have their own pitfalls. And with the pressures of alumni bureaucracy and past failures weighing on her, Scarlett finds herself at risk of losing the very thing that defined her: her magic.

As a new member of Kappa Rho Nu, Vivi Devereaux finally knows what it’s like to belong. She has her Kappa Rho Nu sisters behind her and, with Scarlett’s blessing, Vivi’s happily dating her first college crush (who also just happens to be Scarlett’s ex). When Scarlett assigns Vivi the coveted role of social chair, Vivi is determined to live up to her Big’s expectations. But Vivi’s studies in witchcraft take a deadly turn when she uncovers a new form of magic, one that has mysterious ties to Kappa Rho Nu’s past and the vengeful demon once tied to their talisman.

With the weight of their newfound roles and the terrible price of destroying the talisman haunting them, Scarlett and Vivi must save their sisterhood when the forces of hell itself and a rival sorority threaten to unleash havoc on the Ravens."

Anyone else just love duologies? Longer than one book but not too long like a trilogy or an unending series.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Book Review 2021 #8 - Julia Quinn's The Viscount Who Loved Me

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
Published by: Avon
Publication Date: December 5th, 2000
Format: Kindle, 1053 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

That rake Anthony Bridgerton has decided to marry. He even has the girl all picked out, this season's incomparable, Edwina Sheffield. He's certain in his pick. She will provide him with heirs, he won't grow too attached, and then, when his time comes, as he believes it will come when he is still young, just like it did to his father, well, that's his life all sorted. After all, no one would say no to a marriage proposal from a Viscount! Especially as the Sheffield's aren't very well heeled. There's only one problem, Kate Sheffield, Edwina's older half-sister. Everyone knows that Kate's season was delayed for Edwina because they only had enough money for a single season. Everyone also knows that Kate has final say on who will marry Edwina. This isn't high handed, it is a fact that Edwina is proud to proclaim. She trusts Kate's judgement in everything. The problem is, Kate doesn't trust Anthony. Yes, reading Whistledown hasn't done Anthony any favors in Kate's eyes, but every interaction they have they just rub each other the wrong way. She is sure he is the confirmed rake that the paper and her own eyes have seen. Therefore he is completely unsuitable for Edwina. In an effort to show Kate his best side, in other words, his family, the Sheffields are invited to the family seat in Kent. Well, things do not go well in Kent. Firstly, his siblings allow Kate to join the rather competitive family game of Pall Mall. The goal isn't really to win, the goal is more about messing with your opponents, forcing Anthony's ball into the lake, and being the one who wields the "Mallet of Death." Kate roundly wins. Anthony is not pleased by this situation. He is not pleased by anything to do with Kate. Especially these feelings that are developing. He has swore he will never marry for love. To love someone and then to leave them too soon would be the worst fate imaginable. But then he and Kate get compromised. Of course he will marry her. But in his mind it's a fate worse than death to marry your true love. Could Kate and her love prove him wrong?

When you're reading a book you really like and are enjoying it's annoying to be pulled out of the world you have immersed yourself in. This was a problem I had with The Viscount Who Loved Me. I really enjoyed the book, in fact after reading the complete Bridgerton Collection Volume One I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Anthony and Kate are my favorite couple. Mainly because Kate is awesome and being a part of the Bridgertons brings this fun, competitive side to her that she probably had been keeping hidden even from herself. And as for Anthony, he's very relatable once you get past the persona he has adopted to run his family. So my problem is that every so often it's painfully obvious that Julia Quinn isn't British. Yes, I know I'm not British, but given my reading and viewing habits I'm as good as when it comes to judging errors, and Julia Quinn gets some things really wrong and some things are just awkward... For example in The Duke and I she refers to a man's posterior as his fanny. Um... that isn't what that word means in England... It means a woman's vulva. So, that scene has a whole different meaning, especially because it is supposedly about a man's ass. Then there are a few errors that I am sure were just not caught in the editing, such as the fact that Oxford is to the west of London not the other way around. Also the blooming season is different. But the unforgivable error is when Kate's sister is reading Jane Austen's latest novel in April of 1814. There are SO MANY THINGS wrong with this. Firstly, Jane Austen was still alive in 1814, she died in 1817, and her books were NOT published under her name during her lifetime. She published as "By A Lady." When her second, third, and forth books came out after Sense and Sensibility they were credited as "By the Author of Sense and Sensibility." So to say that you are reading a book credited to Jane Austen in 1814 is WRONG. Also Mansfield Park was published in 1814, but it came out in July. Three months later than the time it supposedly happened in this book. Now I really don't want to be the pedant here, because I do so hate Jane Austen pedants, and yes, I'm looking at you JASNA, but these aren't little errors, they are HUGE errors and they wouldn't take much to fix and would stop readers from being thrown out of the story. Sure some people are probably all, oh, Jane Austen reference, cool. Not cool. Not cool at all. I will note by the next book Sophie just reads "a recently published novel" making me think I'm not the only one who called out Julia Quinn and she's found a vague way to cover her posterior.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Book Review 2021 #9 - Riley Sager's The Last Time I Lied

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Published by: Dutton
Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 370 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

Emma finally got the chance to go to the rich bitch summer camp. Yes, her summer plans were upended, but her friends would be so jealous when she returned after six weeks in the wild. Of course her parents forgot to tell her she was going until an hour before they had to leave and they arrive at Camp Nightingale late. All the other cabins with girls her age are full so Emma is put in Dogwood with three older girls, Vivian, Natalie, and Allison. It will always be those three girls, Vivian, Natalie, and Allison, in that order. Because something happened during the two weeks Emma was there that would change her future and the future of the camp. After a roaring bonfire on the forth of July Vivian, Natalie, and Allison leave Dogwood and are never seen again. Fifteen years later Emma is having her first solo art exhibition. She paints large canvases where the forest seems palpably real. Vines and leaves and branches twist and turn in sinuous ways. Though only one other person knows the secret hidden in her paintings. Each and every painting has Vivian, Natalie, and Allison in them. They are forever lost in the forest primeval in perfect white dresses. At the opening a figure from Emma's past buys one of her paintings. Francesca Harris-White, but please call her Franny, is older, but Emma instantly recognizes the founder of Camp Nightingale. The camp has remained closed all these years but she intends to reopen it and wants Emma to teach painting to the girls. They will no longer be the rich bitch camp but campers chosen on merit to enjoy the luxury that generations of girls got to enjoy before that fateful summer. Emma is at first shocked by the proposition. She never thought she'd return to Camp Nightingale and Dogwood, but Franny has assembled an interesting collection of people who were there the year the camp closed. So while Emma might be courting insanity in returning, this is also her one chance to actually find out what happened to her three friends. Her one chance to find closure. Even if it kills her.

I have always had a bit of an obsession with summer camps because I never went to one. OK, I lied, I went to a Jewish summer day camp for two weeks in a park near my house that is now known for gay cruising. Also I was raised Catholic. So there's that conundrum. But I was obsessed for those two weeks with the crafts side of camp, the tie-dying, the candle making, the colored sand in jars, the friendship bracelets, I adored all of it. The closest I ever got to going to a real camp was an overnight Girl Scouts trip to what had to have been a summer camp at some time in it's past. There were long wooden bunk houses, bug invested latrines, and an open air dining hall, all laid out in an oval and very down-at-heel. The best part was when we got to explore. At the back of camp in the woods there were these amazing rocks and we just sat on them and looked out over the lowland. Sadly we never got to go back to the rocks and the trip ended how most of my encounters with nature end, covered in bug bites, overheated, sunburnt, and totally sleep deprived. I almost passed out in church too, remember Catholic, because I had lost a lot of blood due to my constantly having nose bleeds and our troop leader thinking it would be a good idea to eat breakfast after mass. Needless to say, how I was as a child meant that summer camp, a real summer camp, was never going to be an option for me. Which is how I became obsessed with them. It's not that I even wanted to go, it's just the whole mystique, the whole microcosm created at the camps that made me want to live vicariously through other experiences. Which is why I'm drawn to ghost stories and horrific tales set at camps. They combine my darkest thoughts about them with my need to be a part of them. Because of this The Last Time I Lied was my jam. Not only do we get the teen experience of camp but also the experience of returning as an adult. It's everything I could have wanted and more, because oh, when I started picking up on Picnic at Hanging Rock vibes, well, at first I was wondering if I was imagining it, then I didn't care because it was too awesome, but then I was validated in the end. A satisfying feeling just enveloped me when I finished the book. It's a rare feeling to be sure.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Book Review 2021 #10 - Lauren Willig's The Orchid Affair

The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: January 20th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 496 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Laura Grey has had it being a governess. She has just graduated from the Selwick Spying Academy and is off to France to do her bit to fight the revolution. Of course she just happens to be going to France in the very role she was trying to escape, that of governess. Laura, or more precisely, Laure Griscogne, has been away from her homeland since her parents died and left her orphaned and having to take care of herself in the only way possible, by rearing other people's children. Though when she started she was but a child herself. Now she has two new charges, the children of Andre Jaouen, a man the Pink Carnation is desperate to know more about, especially because he works in the Abbaye Prison with that most odious of men, Delaroche. But when you spend most of your time taking care of the children in a large and desolate house and rarely spying at keyholes and sneaking messages to the Pink Carnation through various booksellers, it's hard to see the value in your work. But there is more to Jaouen than meets the eye. He has connections within the artistic community that Laura's family was once in the center of. Laura was once the child of a somebody, a great poetess. Andre is having a hard time rectifying this stern, prim governess, with the loose and wanton Paris saloons of pre-revolutionary France. All the while Laura is herself having a hard time rectifying this rather attractive bespectacled man with that of a hardened revolutionary who wants to kill all the aristos he can find. But when both their missions unexpectedly collide around a man who could restore the French monarchy they have to decide whether it is best to let animosities and allegiances fall by the wayside and trust their instincts and growing attraction to each other. Plus sneaking through the countryside as travelling performers can't be as hard as it sounds...

The eighth installment in Lauren Willig's cannon of Pink Carnation books takes us right back to the heart of what this series is about; spying. Even if with a little Commedia it's, as the author puts it so well, "like The Sound of Music… meets Mata Hari." We are back within the courts of Napoleon and the streets of Paris, where blood might run at any moment, and the reality of the horrors that await in the Abbaye Prison are a real threat, not comfortably located on the other side of the channel. While the previous books have all had spies in various locals with various flower monikers, this one feels the closest to the legacy of the Scarlet Pimpernel; with our heroine in enemy territory, with barely an ally, and no ally that she can get to without a bookstore or an effusive poet. Speaking of said poet... we get nice little cameos from some of the Pink cast, but they are just the icing on the cake, what makes this book soar are the new characters of Andre and Laura, which even readers new to the series can enjoy without the previous installments. Every book since the first has been a pairing off of a previous hero or heroine with someone new or some old friend, but not in this case. Here we have a blank canvas ripe for the painting. Miss Grey has only had a few brief and enigmatic references which have given her no illumination. Laura has a rich and complicated past that was filled with sumptuousness and luxury and is now contained within harsh grey stays. Andre has also had a life that was once filled with love and an artistic wife, instead he now has to change ideals and live a sparse and paired down life. Both these two have spent a life hiding who they really are and masking what they want and feel. I felt such an instant connection with both of them, just waiting with baited breath for Laura to realize this man could not possibly be evil, even if he is French, they aren't all Delaroches. How Lauren is able to continually expand her Pink universe with each subsequent book astonishes me. One day we wonder who is that lady at the Selwick Spy School, books later, she is flesh, she is whole and wonderful. While the books do build on each other to form a perfect shelf in my library, they also are wonderfully contained little jewels of stories that you just want to go back to again and again, which I am so happy to do with Lauren this time. I didn't want the book to end. It is a feeling I am used to with Lauren's books.

Older Posts