Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Book Review: Rival's Break by Carla Neggers

Rival's Break

Author:
Carla Neggers
Series: Sharpe & Donovan (Book 9)
Publication: MIRA; Original edition (August 27, 2019)

Description: A deadly poisoning. A stolen painting. A criminal mastermind. Don’t miss the latest high-stakes Donovan & Sharpe case by New York Times bestselling author Carla Neggers.

Emma Sharpe is recovering from a shattering loss while her husband, Colin Donovan, is deep into his latest undercover mission. The couple are grateful for a respite—a chance to enjoy a peaceful autumn weekend together on the southern Maine coast to celebrate Colin’s brother Andy’s wedding.

But the peace is short-lived when Kevin Donovan, a marine patrol officer, receives a call to check on suspected food poisoning at a party aboard a yacht. Colin decides to tag along. He is surprised to recognize one of the victims as an undercover British intelligence officer, and it quickly becomes evident they’re dealing with something very sinister. At the same time a valuable painting by Irish artist Aoife O’Byrne—a friend of Emma and Colin’s—goes missing from the yacht, and the connections make the investigation international and extremely personal.

Emma and Colin discover they are up against a deadly foe who plans to strike again. With the help of their small, elite Boston-based FBI team, they must foil an attack that will have devastating effects. It’s a case that will alter their lives beyond anything they’ve ever imagined…

My Thoughts: Colin and Emma are at his brother Andy's wedding reception when Kevin Donovan gets a call to check on a food poisoning incident at a yacht in the harbor. Colin decides to tag along and is there when he discovers an old friend Jeremy Pearson - MI5 - undercover as an art consultant is one of the victims. 

The chef, who might have accidentally included a poisonous mushroom in the canapes, is Georgina Masterson. Her father is a scientist who specializes in neurotoxins and is a colleague of Jeremy's. Georgina's father is in critical condition after ingesting a poisonous mushroom. He's in London. Jeremy has come to Maine to bring Georgina a painting by Aiofe O'Byrne that was a gift from her father and to check up on her. 

Now the painting is missing and Georgina isn't sure if she accidentally put the wrong mushrooms in the canapes. And Henrietta and Oliver have arrived at Father Bracken's to add more complications to the story. Oliver had met with Georgina's father in London because the father wanted to know more about poisons in mythology. Henrietta, who works for Jeremy, is wondering if her boss has gone rogue. 

The investigation is a little different for Colin and Emma since their specialties - art crimes and arms dealing - need to give way to an investigation of chemical weapons. They do great anyway. 

Lots of futures are decided in this one, too, as many of the characters are asking what comes next in their lives and careers. 

Favorite Quote:
Sister Cecelia hopped off the pine root and lifted a low-hanging branch, pointing to the ground. "See those red mushrooms? I haven't had a mycologist make a positive identification, but I believe they're the russula emetica species. They'd be my first candidate for yesterday."

"Emetica? Another one appropriately named?"
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Book & Audio Review: Crime & Punctuation by Kaitlyn Dunnett

Crime & Punctuation

Author:
Kaitlyn Dunnett
Narrator: Margaret Strom
Series: Deadly Edits (Book 1)
Publication: Kensington Cozies; Reprint edition (May 29, 2018); Tantor Audio (July 10, 2018)
Length: 213 p.; 8 hours and 48 minutes

Description: After splurging to buy her childhood home in the Catskills, recently widowed Mikki Lincoln emerges from retirement as a freelance editor. With her ability to spot details that others fail to see, it's not long before Mikki earns clients - and realizes that the village of Lenape Hollow isn't the thriving tourist destination it was decades ago. Not with a murderer on the loose....

When perky novice writer Tiffany Scott knocks at her door holding a towering manuscript, Mikki expects another debut novel plagued by typos and sloppy prose. Instead, she finds a murder mystery ripped from the headlines of Lenape Hollow's not-too-distant past. The opening scene is a graphic page-turner, but it sends a real chill down Mikki's spine after the young author turns up dead just like the victim in her story....

Mikki refuses to believe that Tiffany's death was accidental, and suspicions of foul play solidify as she uncovers a strange inconsistency in the manuscript and a possible motive in the notes. As she gets closer to cracking the case, only one person takes Mikki's investigation seriously - the cunning killer who will do anything to make this chapter of her life come to a very abrupt ending....

My Thoughts: Recently widowed Mikki London has moved back to her hometown in the Catskills and is renovating the family home. She had spent almost all of her married life in Maine and had lost track of all of her childhood friends.

After a career as a Language Arts teacher, Mikki has set herself up as a freelance editor to help pay for the renovations and supplement her retirement income. Since she got most of her clients from online referrals, she was surprised to find Tiffany Scott knocking on her door to ask Mikki to edit her debut novel. But before Mikki had done more than write out the contract and read the first few pages, Tiffany is found dead with Mikki's card in her pocket.

Mikki is immediately concerned when the first verdict is that Tiffany committed suicide. Tiffany hadn't given any signs when she met with Mikki. Things get more complicated when she learns that Tiffany's husband was a shady businessman who wanted to turn some land outside of town into a theme park and that Tiffany's grandmother who was a childhood rival of Mikki's was opposed to the plan. 

When Tiffany's manuscript draws attention from a number of sources, Mikki begins to wonder if the story is hiding some things that could have led to her death. On the surface, a murder mystery featuring mobsters set in 1937 would not seem to do so. But why were so many concerned that Tiffany might have left anything else besides the manuscript with Mikki?

I liked Mikki who is quite an opinionated woman especially about grammar. I liked her relationship with her cat Calpurnia. I liked that she was eager to reconnect with old high school friends now that she was back home. 

The mystery was interesting with an assortment of suspects and red herrings. It also had exciting bits where Mikki is followed by a suspicious character and her house is broken into. I liked the narration by Margaret Strom. I liked that the main character was an older, retired woman who was both curious and nosy.

Favorite Quote:
Then I spent the rest of the day trying to find various functions in the newest incarnation of the word processing software I use. Can you say frustrating? I come from a long line of folks who believe that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The computer industry had obviously never heard that saying.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, October 25, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (October 25, 2021)

 It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.


It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I will be combining my YA and adult reading and purchases on this one weekly roundup.

Other Than Reading...

This was another quiet week albeit much sunnier than it has been for some time. The highlight was a phone call from my brother at 10:17 PM asking me to go get him from work since his car refused to start. He started with an apology because he knows I don't see very well when driving at night and don't drive at night unless I have no choice. 

He was busy for a couple of days between calling for a tow truck to take his car to the dealership and learning that he needs a new starter. Since his baby is a 2001 Honda Prelude, the parts take a week to arrive which means his car as been sitting at the dealers and he's been driving his equally old winter car - a Subaru Outback. At least a starter is available. He's been finding some other needed parts unavailable. I think he should look for another car and stop pouring money into this one, but he loves it and hasn't found another kind that he likes as well. 

I kept busy watching baseball and listening to the Liaden Universe audiobooks. With Houston clinching last night, half of the World Series is set. My Braves need to win one of the next two games against the Dodgers. Edited to add: THEY WON! THEY WON! I'M SO HAPPY FOR THEM!

I have the most recent Liaden Universe story to listen to again. Then I'll take a break since the authors have just submitted the next Liaden Universe book to their publishers for publication in May. The new one will be third in a story arc earlier in the timeline. I'll listen to the first two books nearer to when I can get my hands on the new book. 

This coming week has only one appointment. I have to have blood drawn as I do every three months. It looks like I will finally get to reading the rest of my November review books. 

Read Last Week

If you can't wait until the review shows up on my blog, reviews are posted to LibraryThing and Goodreads as soon as I write them (usually right after I finish reading a book.)
DNF
  • A Murder Like No Author by Amy Lillard (November 30) -- This was an interesting combination of over-description and under-description often on the same page. Characters - large numbers - were introduced with no background while the setting was described in minute detail.
Currently
Next Week
Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

Review:
Bought:
What was your week like?

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Book & Audio Review: Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell

Murder at the Breakers
Author:
Alyssa Maxwell
Narrator: Eva Kaminsky
Series: A Gilded Newport Mystery (Book 1)
Publication: Kensington Books; Reprint edition (March 25, 2014)
Length: 305 p.; 9 hours and 42 minutes

Description: In a historical mystery for Downton Abbey fans, a society reporter covers a killer party in Gilded Age Newport.

Newport, Rhode Island, August 1895: She may be a less well-heeled relation, but as second cousin to millionaire patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt, twenty-one-year-old Emma Cross is on the guest list for a grand ball at the Breakers, the Vanderbilts’ summer home. She also has a job to do—report on the event for the society page of the Newport Observer.

But Emma observes much more than glitz and gaiety when she witnesses a murder. The victim is Cornelius Vanderbilt’s financial secretary, who plunges off a balcony faster than falling stock prices. Emma’s black sheep brother Brady is found in Cornelius’s bedroom passed out next to a bottle of bourbon and stolen plans for a new railroad line. Brady has barely come to before the police have arrested him for the murder. But Emma is sure someone is trying to railroad her brother and resolves to find the real killer at any cost .

My Thoughts: Emma Cross is a poor relation to those famous Vanderbilts who spend summers in Newport. She's invited to the grand reopening of The Breakers and discovers the body of Cornelius's financial secretary and also her half-brother Brady passed out in the room the victim fell from. Everyone wants to quickly cover things up and railroad Brady for the crime. But Emma doesn't believe that her brother could have done that. Not that Brady is squeaky clean; he's noted for scams and not unknown to the police. In fact, he had lined Emma up as a distraction for Cornelius so that he could return some stolen plans that same evening.

Emma decides to use her family connections and her abilities as a writer for the Newport Observer to discover who really murdered Alvin Goddard. Her investigation takes her into the secrets of the summer visitors to Newport and force her to learn things she didn't want to know about some of her friends. 

She finds a number of suspects who had reason to want Goddard dead including her cousin Neily who objected to Goddard following him to discourage his romance with a woman his parents feel is unsuitable. There is lots of financial chicanery going on too, centering around a railroad line Cornelius wants to take over. One of childhood friend's new husband is involved with the railroad as is her father's best friend and honorary uncle. Then there is the mysterious Derrick Anderson who seems to be following Emma around. 

Emma is an interesting character who combines shrewdness with a sort of naivety that seems to go with her young age. She's only twenty-one; her parents are artists who have left her and moved to France. She lives in a home inherited from her great-aunt and cared for by her former nanny whom she thinks of as an unofficial grandmother. 

There is a nice mix of real historical figures and made-up characters in this story. There is also a touch of danger as Emma gets closer to uncovering the murderer. And there is a potential new romance for Emma. 

This was an engaging story. I liked the way Eva Kaminsky portrayed Emma through her narration.

Favorite Quote:
But sometimes a child just wants to be held. Just wants a mother's or father's whole attention, not as a reward for any particular achievement, but simply because.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Friday Memes: Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell

 Happy Friday everybody!

Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City ReaderThe Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Beginning:
Newport, Rhode Island, August 1895
She awoke that morning to an angry sea battering the edges of the promontory, and gusting winds that kicked up a spray to rattle against her bedroom windows. She might simply have rolled over, closed her eyes again and sunk pleasantly back into sleep, if not for the ...
Here the nib of my pen ran dry and scratched across the paper, threatening to leave a tear. If not for the what? I knew what I wanted to say; this was to be a novel of mystery and danger, but I was having a dickens of a time that morning finding the right words.
Friday 56:
With Mrs. Peterson's inquisitive gaze burning into my back, I hurried on. I exited through the alley without any trash-bin mishaps and came out onto Mary Street.
This week I am spotlighting Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell which is a recent addition to my Kindle and Audiobook stack. I chose it because I like historical mysteries. Here is the description from Amazon:
In a historical mystery for Downton Abbey fans, a society reporter covers a killer party in Gilded Age Newport.

Newport, Rhode Island, August 1895: She may be a less well-heeled relation, but as second cousin to millionaire patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt, twenty-one-year-old Emma Cross is on the guest list for a grand ball at the Breakers, the Vanderbilts’ summer home. She also has a job to do—report on the event for the society page of the Newport Observer.

But Emma observes much more than glitz and gaiety when she witnesses a murder. The victim is Cornelius Vanderbilt’s financial secretary, who plunges off a balcony faster than falling stock prices. Emma’s black sheep brother Brady is found in Cornelius’s bedroom passed out next to a bottle of bourbon and stolen plans for a new railroad line. Brady has barely come to before the police have arrested him for the murder. But Emma is sure someone is trying to railroad her brother and resolves to find the real killer at any cost . . .

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Book Review: Imposter's Lure by Carla Neggers

Imposter's Lure 

Author:
Carla Neggers
Series: Sharpe & Donovan (Book 8)
Publication: MIRA; Original edition (August 21, 2018)

Description: Tune in for an exhilarating page-turner where the disappearance of a federal prosecutor launches the latest high-stakes case for FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan.

When prosecutor Tamara McDermott is a no-show at a Boston dinner party, newlyweds Emma and Colin are suspicious. Matt Yankowski, head of HIT, Emma and Colin’s small, elite Boston-based team, is a friend of Tamara’s, and he needs them to find her.

In London, a woman who was supposed to meet Emma’s art-detective grandfather to talk about forgeries is discovered near death. Her husband has vanished. The couple’s connection to Tamara adds to the puzzle.

As the search intensifies, a seemingly unrelated murder leads Emma, Colin and HIT deep into a maze of misdirection created by a clever, lethal criminal. Emma must draw on her expertise in art crimes and Colin on his experience as a deep-cover agent as the investigation takes a devastating turn — a turn that tests the strengths of their families and friendships as well as their FBI colleagues like never before.

My Thoughts: This eighth Sharpe & Donovan mystery was filled with interesting characters and plot twists. It starts when a federal prosecutor invites them to her daughter Adalyn's 21st birthday celebration and then doesn't show up herself. While Adalyn is angry, she isn't really surprised. She knows her mother has been stressed and was on her way to an off-the-grid vacation. But Emma and Colin and especially their boss Yank, who is the prosecutor's friend, are more concerned.

Meanwhile in London, Wendell Sharpe has been invited to meet a woman named Verity Blackwood to answer her questions about art forgery. Verity is a friend of Adalyn's. When she doesn't show up at the meeting, Wendell along with with Henrietta and Oliver check her whereabouts and discover her in her hotel room near death from an opioid overdose. 

Checking further they discover that her husband didn't fly home from Maine with her and set Emma and Colin on the case of discovering where he is. 

This mystery is centered around Adalyn - her mother, her friends, her new boss. Adalyn is a college student studying archival restoration and preservation and she's got a new job with an art restorer whose current job has to do with restoring art by Fletcher Campbell who is suffering from Alzheimer's and who had a recent fire at his studio in Maine. 

I enjoyed this story. I like that the characters from earlier stories are continuing to grow and expand their characters. There is a large cast and the story is told from multiple viewpoints.

Favorite Quote:
"Car's here." Colin said. "If Graham took off on a kayak, he must have launched from close by the house."

"Unless someone picked him up, or stole the kayak, or he wants us to think he's disappeared or --" Emma sighed. "Or aliens beamed him up to their spaceship."

"There's always that."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

ARC Review: Archangel's Light by Nalini Singh

Archangel's Light

Author:
Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunter (Book 14)
Publication: Berkley (October 26, 2021)

Description: Nalini Singh returns to the world of the Guild Hunters for the most highly anticipated novel of the beloved series—a love story so epic it’s been half a millennia in the making…

Illium and Aodhan.  Aodhan and Illium. For centuries they’ve been inseparable: the best of friends, closer than brothers, companions of the heart. But that was before—before darkness befell Aodhan and shattered him, body, mind, and soul. Now, at long last, Aodhan is healing, but his new-found strength and independence may come at a devastating cost—his relationship with Illium.

As they serve side by side in China, a territory yet marked by the evil of its former archangel, the secret it holds nightmarish beyond imagining, things come to an explosive decision point. Illium and Aodhan must either walk away from the relationship that has defined them—or step forward into a future that promises a bond infinitely precious in the life of an immortal…but that demands a terrifying vulnerability from two badly bruised hearts.

My Thoughts: This is Illium and Aodhan's story. Through flashbacks we see key events in their 500 year long friendship from the time they met as baby angels to the current day in a Lijuan-ravaged China. We finally get the story of what happened to Aodhan when he was captured and imprisoned for twenty-three months of torture and then took 200 years of seclusion to come to terms with it and rebuild himself. We learn more about the hidden fractures in Illium too.

Aodhan and Illium have been at odds for the past year since the final defeat of Lijuan. Illium's need to protect is coming into direct conflict with Aodhan's need to be independent and strong on his own. Aodhan being seconded to Suyin - China's newly ascended archangel - threatens to make their quarrel and separation a permanent thing. 

But Raphael isn't going to give up one of his Seven to Suyin without a fight. He knows she wants to offer Aodhan the permanent position as her second since she asked him for permission to approach him. Raphael's secret weapon is Illium who he sends to China to provide more help for Suyin. He ceratinly hopes that will cause Illium and Aodhan to mend their differences and also bring them back to New York as parts of his Seven.

Flashbacks show how the relationship between the two of them grew over their lives and forced proximity in the current time forces them to finally talk to each other but what each of them needs in a relationship. 

While all of the Guild Hunter books have a central core of romance, this is the first in the series when the romance is between characters who have literally known each other all their lives. It is a wonderful exploration of how love changes with time. It was a lovely story.

Favorite Quote:
"Cubs grow," he'd said with a shrug when Illium asked him once. "Life moves. Only the old and the stupid don't move with it. The old have earned their rest, and the stupid will be eaten by predators."

Sometimes, Illium thought Naasir was the wisest person he knew.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.