Thursday, April 2, 2020

ARC Review: Hid from Our Eyes by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Hid from Our Eyes
Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
Series: Fergusson/Van Alstyne Mysteries (Book 9)
Publication:  Minotaur Books (April 7, 2020)

Description: New York Times bestseller Julia Spencer-Fleming returns to her beloved Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series with new crimes that span decades in Hid from Our Eyes.

1952. Millers Kill Police Chief Harry McNeil is called to a crime scene where a woman in a party dress has been murdered with no obvious cause of death.

1972. Millers Kill Police Chief Jack Liddle is called to a murder scene of a woman that's very similar to one he worked as a trooper in the 50s. The only difference is this time, they have a suspect. Young Vietnam War veteran Russ van Alstyne found the body while riding his motorcycle and is quickly pegged as the prime focus of the investigation.

Present-day. Millers Kill Police Chief Russ van Alstyne gets a 911 call that a young woman has been found dead in a party dress, the same MO as the crime he was accused of in the 70s. The pressure is on for Russ to solve the murder before he's removed from the case.

Russ will enlist the help of his police squad and Reverend Clare Fergusson, who is already juggling the tasks of being a new mother to her and Russ's baby and running St. Alban's Church, to finally solve these crimes.

Readers have waited years for this newest book and Julia Spencer-Fleming delivers with the exquisite skill and craftsmanship that have made her such a success.

My Thoughts: In this newest addition to the Clare Ferguson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series, Clare and Russ are dealing with lots of new stresses. They are trying to fit in being parents to an infant around two very demanding and more-than-full-time jobs.

The town Aldermen want to shut down the local police force and get policing from the State Patrol. And a body of young woman is found on an isolated road which echoes an eerily similar crime from 1972 where Russ was a person of interest. That case was eerily similar to a case in 1952. In each case, an unidentified young woman was found dead with no apparent cause of death.

An unsolved case isn't going to help Russ convince to town to keep its police force. So his mother and a strong supporter of Clare's church who are both savvy politicians begin a campaign to save the local force requiring Russ to smooze with anyone who will let him talk. Clare's new intern is a transgender woman who has ties to the rich, summer people who live in the camps that the town police watch over and volunteers her mother to help with the campaign.

Adding to the stress on the police force is that the newest officer - Hadley Knox - has a vindictive ex who is suing her, former officer Kevin Flynn, the police force, and the town for endangering his reputation and planting meth in his suitcase. Unfortunately the accusation is true. Flynn did plant the drugs hoping to get the ex off Hadley's case and protect her and her children. Flynn had moved on to the Syracuse police force after a break-up with Hadley and is currently undercover looking for extremists. He is with the carnival that comes to the fair each year and was occurring when each of the murders took place.

Meanwhile, Clare is dealing with stress which isn't good for a recovering alcoholic and pain pill user and has a lot of temptation to deal with. A fussy baby and Russ's stresses all weigh heavily on her.

I liked that the story rotated between the cases in 1952, 1972, and the present day. I liked the connections in that a young patrol officer was present in 1952, was the police chief in 1972 and a mentor to Russ, and is there in the present case to add his insights. I liked that the cops in all three cases were dedicated to solving the crimes and protecting the people.

This is a great series and I look forward to more - especially since there is something of a cliffhanger ending to this one.

Favorite Quote:
Clare paused on the doorstep. "You look great. Very sophisticated and handsome."

"I don't look like me," he said."I look like some guy named Brett who sails on Lake George and who has apps on his phone." Russ didn't trust apps on his phone.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

ARC Review: A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones

A Bad Day for Sunshine
Author: Darynda Jones
Series: Sunshine Vicram Series (Book 1)
Publication: St. Martin's Press (April 7, 2020)

Description: Sheriff Sunshine Vicram finds her cup o’ joe more than half full when the small village of Del Sol, New Mexico, becomes the center of national attention for a kidnapper on the loose.

Del Sol, New Mexico is known for three things: its fry-an-egg-on-the-cement summers, strong cups of coffee―and, now, a nationwide manhunt? Del Sol native Sunshine Vicram has returned to town as the elected sheriff―thanks to her adorably meddlesome parents who nominated her―and she expects her biggest crime wave to involve an elderly flasher named Doug. But a teenage girl is missing, a kidnapper is on the loose, and all of this is reminding Sunshine why she left Del Sol in the first place. Add to that the trouble at her daughter’s new school, plus and a kidnapped prized rooster named Puff Daddy, and, well, the forecast looks anything but sunny.

But even clouds have their silver linings. This one's got Levi, Sunshine's sexy, almost-old-flame, and a fiery-hot US Marshall. With temperatures rising everywhere she turns, Del Sol's normally cool-minded sheriff is finding herself knee-deep in drama and danger. Can Sunshine face the call of duty―and find the kidnapper who's terrorizing her beloved hometown―without falling head over high heels in love...or worse?

My Thoughts: This story was an entertaining start to a new series that deftly mixed humor and terror. Sunshine Vicram is back in her hometown of Del Sol, New Mexico after somehow being elected sheriff. She didn't run or campaign for the office. She strongly suspects that her loving parents had something to do with it. Not everyone is happy with the new sheriff including the Mayor.

Sun has moved back with her fourteen year old daughter Auri who is the light of her life and a great character. Half of this book concerns Auri's adjustment to living full-time back in Del Sol after only spending summers with her grandparents. The mean girl clique at school has definitely taken her in strong dislike. She's being blamed for the cops breaking up the kids' "secret" New Year's Eve bash at the lake. The same bash their parents attended when they were teens. Auri and her mother have a great relationship but Auri is keeping secrets from her and has been since she was seven.

Sun's first day is a mixture of the absurd - a flasher named Doug and a stolen rooster named Puff Daddy - and the serious - the abduction of a young girl named Sybil who has been dreaming about her kidnapping since she was a small child.

Sun had an ulterior motive of her own for returning to Del Sol. She has been trying to find the man who abducted her when she was seventeen. She was drugged, imprisoned, and left with a traumatic brain injury which included retrograde amnesia and pregnancy. She has been trying to remember what happened and getting brief flashbacks since. Part of the mystery has to do with the boy she has loved since she was teen who came from a very dysfunctional family but who has made good nowin adulthood.

I enjoyed the relationship between Sun and her daughter. I enjoyed the humor. I enjoyed the mystery. I loved the many interesting characters in this one. I look forward to reading more books in this series.

Favorite Quote:
Sun kept the cruiser on for a while but ended up turning it off to save gas. And she waited, mulling over her day. Only one word seemed to sum it up and tie a nice bow on the top: clusterfuck.

Or was that two words. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

ARC Review: The Body in the Garden by Katharine Schellman

The Body in the Garden
Author: Katharine Schellman
Series: A Lily Adler Mystery
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (April 7, 2020)

Description: London 1815.  Though newly-widowed Lily Adler is returning to a society that frowns on independent women, she is determined to create a meaningful life for herself even without a husband. She's no stranger to the glittering world of London's upper crust. At a ball thrown by her oldest friend, Lady Walter, she expects the scandal, gossip, and secrets. What she doesn't expect is the dead body in Lady Walter's garden.

Lily overheard the man just minutes before he was shot: young, desperate, and attempting blackmail. But she's willing to leave the matter to the local constables--until Lord Walter bribes the investigating magistrate to drop the case. Stunned and confused, Lily realizes she's the only one with the key to catching the killer.

Aided by a roguish navy captain and a mysterious heiress from the West Indies, Lily sets out to discover whether her friend's husband is mixed up in blackmail and murder. The unlikely team tries to conceal their investigation behind the whirl of London's social season, but the dead man knew secrets about people with power. Secrets that they would kill to keep hidden. Now, Lily will have to uncover the truth, before she becomes the murderer's next target.

My Thoughts: Lily Adler is a young widow who has returned to London to try to decided what to do with her life now that the plans she and her husband made have been derailed by his death. She is deeply grieving the loss of the man she loved.

When her best friend encourages her to take up the social reel again, she doesn't expect to overhear an argument and a gunshot and find herself in the middle of a mystery. When her friend's powerful husband pays off the Bow Street Runners to make the potential scandal go away, Lily feels that it is up to her to solve the crime.

Lily is assisted in her endeavors by Navy Captain Jack Hartley and West India heiress Ofelia Oswald. Jack is a childhood friend of Lily's husband who was away when he died. Miss Oswald is connected to the body found in the garden and is a bright young woman sent to England to find a husband.

After some misunderstandings with Jack who assumes Lily is a typical society lightweight, he becomes a good friend to her. His initial suspicions about Miss Oswald who is definitely keeping secrets adds some additional tension to the story.

In fact, there is a lot of tension as the murderer definitely doesn't appreciate Lily's investigation into the murder of the young man. There are two additional murders and a couple of attempts on Lily's life before the story comes to a satisfying conclusion.

I enjoyed the story very much and liked the depths of the characters and the Regency setting.

Favorite Quote:
He laughed abruptly. "You know, I've not known anyone quite like you before."

Lily was torn between amusement and annoyance. "I hear that with some frequency. I choose to take it as a compliment, though I suspect it is only intended that way about half the time. You were saying, Captain?"
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, March 30, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (March 30, 2020)

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...

It has been another quiet week. I think I left the house twice. Both times were for quick trips to the grocery store. I am not taking advantage of the shopping hours set aside for seniors though since I have no wish to shop at 6 AM. My brother is considering taking Target up on the 30 days of paid leave he can get because of his age and health. He called his doctor's office but they really didn't give him any helpful advice as to whether or not he needs to get away from potential exposure. I'm trying not to put pressure on him to stay home if it isn't essential. I know he wants to keep working.

Since the governor of our state issued a "stay home" order beginning at midnight last night and lasting until April 10 and told more businesses to close, I am hoping that it will be less busy at Target anyway. Schools and bars and restaurants are now set to be closed until the beginning of May. I know the district I retired from is beginning distance learning tomorrow for all grades. I know also that this has been an immense planning task especially for the Elementary Staff.

I'm keeping busy with more baking and cooking. We had homemade pizza last night. I made the crust, sauce, and together my brother and I made the Italian sausage we put on it. We also made some of my dad's recipe for Polish sausage which is in the freezer firming up right now. Once frozen, they'll be wrapped and stored in air-tight bags for future use. We added more fat to the sausage this time since the last batches were too dry for our tastes. It adds more saturated fat but still less than commercial sausages do and I know we cut the salt content a lot.

We got our power bill for last month after a month of more sunshine and were pleased to find that our bill was $0 and we had a $15 credit to carry over for future months. I also got my hefty Federal tax refund which reflects a rebate on my half of the costs of the solar project. It is still going to take quite a few years (maybe 5 or so) before we recover the whole cost of the project. In the meantime, we have very low power bills to look forward to.

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.)

  • Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs (mine) - Newest in the Mercy Thompson series is filled with all the action and adventure this series is known for. My review is linked below.
  • Local Custom by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller - audiobook re-read. My review will be posted on April 8.
  • The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer (Review; April 7) - Interesting historical fantasy set in New York City in 1915. My review is linked below.


  • A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones (Review; April 7) - First in a new mystery series that was a great combination of humor and thriller. I enjoyed the characters and their byplay. My review will be posted on April 1.
  • The Body in the Garden by Katharine Schellman (Review; April 7) - First in a new historical mystery series set in London in 1815. I liked the characters and the mystery was nicely twisty too. My review will be posted on March 31.
  • Hid from Our Eyes by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Review; April 7) - Long awaited addition to a contemporary mystery series. Intriguing mystery and very stressed main characters. My review will be posted on April 2.

Currently

  • Balance of Trade by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (Mine) - I'm listening to this audiobook of one of the Liaden Universe books that I haven't read many times. It is outside the time period of the bulk of the books in the series. 

Next Week

I have two review books and then will be looking for anything that catches my attention. I am trying something new and not filling up my calendar with potential reads a month in advance.


Reviews Posted

  • Plan B by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
  • I Dare by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller



Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

Bought:


Review:




What was your week like?

Sunday, March 29, 2020

State of the Stack #94 (March 29, 2020)

This is my monthly State of the Stack post. It is my way to keep track of my review books and to hopefully reduce the stack that I have waiting for me. I take a look at my review commitments on or near the first of the month. Link with Avalinah's Books (description below) to check out other people's progress.

Here is my Review Books Spreadsheet I list them in publication order and sort them by month. I can quickly see how many books I have for each date. Ideally, this keeps me from over-committing to review books. Check my spreadsheet to find out where I got each book.

I also do this post because sometimes (frequently) review books sit on my stack for a while before I read and review them. I try to read and review books within two weeks of publication date. Sometimes I can't, though, if too many books are releasing on the same date or if the book arrives too near its publication date and my calendar is already full.

I am very grateful to the authors and publishers who support my reading habit.

I Read This Month

These are listed in the order I read them. Links go to my reviews for all that have been posted already. Otherwise, the date the review is scheduled for is listed.
  1. A Murderous Relation by Deanna Raybourn (March 5)
  2. Revolver Road by Christi Daugherty (March 4)
  3. The Queen's Bargain by Anne Bishop (March 7)
  4. Cross Her Heart by Melinda Leigh (March 11)
  5. The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer (March 28)
  6. The Body in the Garden by Katharine Schellman (March 31)
  7. A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones (April 1)
  8. Hid from Our Eyes by Julia Spencer-Fleming (April 2)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. A Death in Chelsea by Lynn Brittney (March 3)
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date published is listed in parentheses.
  1. The Queen's Bargain by Anne Bishop (March 10)
  2. Murder in the Bayou Boneyard by Ellen Byron (Sept. 8)
  3. To Catch an Earl by Kate Bateman (June 30)
  4. Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst (April 21)
  5. American Demon by Kim Harrison (June 16)
  6. Outsider by Linda Castillo (July 7)
  7. Cold to the Bone by Emery Hayes (August 11)
  8. Little Falls by Elizabeth Lewes (August 11)
  9. Shadow Ridge by M. E. Browning (Oct. 6)
  10. Deception by Gaslight by Kate Belli (Oct.6)
  11. Murder at Hotel 1911 by Audrey Keown (August 11)
My Review Pile

April


May




June




July




August




September 


October


*********

I am also linking up with the State of the ARC meme. Here is the explanation and rules.

State of the ARC is a monthly meme at Avalinah’s Books meant to motivate you to finish up all your long overdue ARCs (Advanced or Early Reader Copies). You can track your reading progress and link up with your own post. Most commonly it comes out on the 30th of every month.

Rules of State of the ARC:

  • Mention that you’re linking up with State of the ARC @ AvalinahsBooks, which is a fun way to share our ARC progress, challenges, wins, woes and mishaps.
  • Include the link to this post, or the current State of the ARC post. You can use my State of the ARC image too.
  • Don’t forget to visit all the other people in the link-up and comment.
  • And most importantly – have fun!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

ARC Review: The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer

The Glass Magician
Author: Caroline Stevermer
Publication: Tor Books (April 7, 2020)

Description: Reminiscent of The Golem and the JinniThe Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer is a magical and romantic tale set in New York’s Gilded Age.

New York 1905―The Vanderbilts. The Astors. The Morgans. They are the cream of society―and they own the nation on the cusp of a new century.

Thalia Cutler doesn’t have any of those family connections. What she does know is stage magic and she dazzles audiences with an act that takes your breath away.

That is, until one night when a trick goes horribly awry. In surviving she discovers that she can shapeshift, and has the potential to take her place among the rich and powerful.

But first, she’ll have to learn to control that power…before the real monsters descend to feast.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed this historical fantasy set in New York City in 1905. Thalia Cutler is a stage magician who travels the vaudeville circuit with her manager and friend David Nutall. They are Solitaires - ordinary humans. When a trick goes wrong in her show and something extraordinary happens, she begins to search for answers about her past.

David Nutall was her father's best friend but even he doesn't know much about her father's past and about the mother who died when Thalia was three. Research seems to indicate that Thalia might be a Trader - a person who can trade one form for another.

Their circuit takes them to New York City where Thalia decides to perform a new trick. Unfortunately, another magician named Von Faber also does the same trick and has somehow gotten a contract the provides him with exclusivity on the trick. Thalia is fired and wondering what she will do next. She is offered a job by Trader Nathaniel Ryker who is one of the very rich Traders who live in New York. He wants Thalia to convince his sister Nell that a life as a stage magician is not as desirable as she thinks.

Meanwhile, Thalia and Nutall go to see a performance by Von Faber to try to see if he has stolen her trick and watch as the trick goes wrong leaving Von Faber dead on the stage. The police are certain that Nutall is the killer since he had been arguing with Von Faber the night before. Thalia is equally certain that he in not guilty.

Thalia  is attacked by a maniticore who attacks and steals the magic of young Traders who can't yet control their trades. She also meets Tycho Aristides who is the Skinner of New York. His job is to kill manticores and he is very good at it.

Thalia is taken in by the Rykers until she learns to control her trades which makes it difficult for her to find out who actually killed Von Faber. Her mentor Nutall has taken refuge in the Sylvestri embassy because he is apparently a member of that reclusive race - a fact that Thalia did not know. She is determined to clear his name and rescue him from that imprisonment.

I liked the magical system and world building of the story. I liked Thalia resilience as she has to rearrange everything she believed about herself. I liked her determination to help her friend Nutall.

The story leaves lots of room for sequels as their are many questions left unanswered. Thalia has questions about her parents that need answers. I hope more will be written in this world.

Favorite Quote:
This was the real magic. Traders might Trade. Sylvestri might work wonders with a forest. But no one but a stage magician could show people what it looks like to violate the laws of physics.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday Memes: The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer

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:
Thalia Cutler, the stage magician known as the Lady of the Lake, stepped nimbly aside to avoid the singer coming offstage at Keith's Vaudeville Theater in Philadelphia.
Friday 56:
"Sylvia means that somebody buggered up the gun so both the fake charge in the gun barrel and the tricky bit beneath it fired at the same time." 
This week I am spotlighting The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer. I have read earlier books by this author and was excited to see the eARC available on Edelweiss. Here is the description from Amazon:
Reminiscent of The Golem and the JinniThe Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer is a magical and romantic tale set in New York’s Gilded Age.

New York 1905―The Vanderbilts. The Astors. The Morgans. They are the cream of society―and they own the nation on the cusp of a new century.
Thalia Cutler doesn’t have any of those family connections. What she does know is stage magic and she dazzles audiences with an act that takes your breath away.

That is, until one night when a trick goes horribly awry. In surviving she discovers that she can shapeshift, and has the potential to take her place among the rich and powerful.

But first, she’ll have to learn to control that power…before the real monsters descend to feast.