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J. Lesley "(Judy)" (United States)
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At Death's Window: A Shaw and Valentine Police Procedural (A Shaw and Valentine Mystery)
At Death's Window: A Shaw and Valentine Police Procedural (A Shaw and Valentine Mystery)
by Jim Kelly
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.31

4.0 out of 5 stars Interestingly different police procedural., 16 Dec 2014
This book was really an unusual police procedural novel and that made it more interesting to read than novels written to a formula. There is positively no formula for this one. To begin with, the two main characters, DI Peter Shaw - head of the CID unit - and DS George Valentine, don't consider themselves friends. I find this to be a rather unusual pairing because of that very fact. Valentine was teamed up with Shaw's father so the two have known each other for over thirty years and have worked together for six, but they are not presented to the reader as friends. Friendly and amiable, yes, also relying on each other to use their individual strengths to work on specific aspects of a case. Another different aspect is that the author allows both policemen to go off on their own to investigate with their own style, they aren't joined at the hip twenty-four hours a day. Also interesting is that there are multiple major crimes being worked by this force centered at King's Lynn in north Norfolk. While Shaw and Valentine may be instrumental in helping solve the cases they are not the principal officers working those cases. A very nice example of delegation of work and the author makes it very effective and provides a touch of realism I've not often seen in fictional crime stories.

The problem in this quiet area of the Norfolk coast is that an outsider in the form of a criminal boss has discovered there is money to be made by taking over the harvesting of samphire for sale to gourmet restaurants and markets throughout England. If the traditional samphire harvesters want to hold on to their time-honored areas to harvest, they are going to have to fight the thugs trying to take over. One act of mischief leads to something more serious until the escalation has reached the point of murder.

I liked reading a novel that kept me guessing because it was constructed in a different way. I knew from references I was reading of past happenings that there had been previous novels in the series but this was a perfectly easy to read stand-alone book. I liked the humor shown by the author too. Lines like, "His teeth were so good he could have been American." surprised and delighted me. For a totally land-locked person such as me, all the talk of the tides and different consequences of high tide and low tide was somewhat like trying to decipher a foreign language, but still a fun challenge. I certainly did not guess how the major homicide had taken place.

I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley.


Condemned to Death: A Burren Mystery Set in Sixteenth-Century Ireland
Condemned to Death: A Burren Mystery Set in Sixteenth-Century Ireland
by Cora Harrison
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mara and her law students investigate a suspicious death., 9 Dec 2014
Mara has gained much experience in her twenty-five year service as Brehon - judge and investigating magistrate - of the Irish kingdom of Burren. She has never, however, come across the sight of the results of the punishment for fingal (kin-slaying). The body of a man is found lying in the bottom of a boat wearing very little clothing and apparently judged guilty of his crime by God. With no food, water, or oars this sentence of being cast adrift on the sea can only lead to one result. Mara, though, feels that something isn't quite right with what she is seeing. She is determined to use her seven law students to solve the question of whether this death was fingal or murder.

I believe this is story number twelve in this series so the characters have been long established. I have read some of the other books, but not nearly all of them. Mara doesn't come to the seaside village of Fanore very often and she has to chide herself for losing touch with the hardworking fishermen and farmers who live along this rugged coast. Cora Harrison always does such a wonderful job of placing me right in the time period of these novels, the sixteenth century. This novel focused on her use of the death of this man so that Mara can teach her students the practical investigative skills they will need if they are successful in going on to become lawyers. They also must learn the many laws which pertain to the situations they find swirling around this death; if there was gold treasure found, who does it belong to? Were the people of the community involved in the death and if so, what penalty will need to be assessed, if any? All of this carried out by a woman whose word was considered as binding and had to be obeyed as if the instructions had been spoken by the king. These novels are always an interesting learning experience to see how advanced the culture was regarding the appreciation of the capabilities of women.

Because there was so much interaction between Mara and her students (two of whom are related to her) it felt as if this novel progressed at a rather slow pace. I do understand why that was necessary and I willingly confess that I had no idea at all what the resolution of this case would be. So, ultimately, if you are willing to stick with the story and not want to rush through to a conclusion I think you will enjoy this book as much as I did.

I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley.


Sister Eve, Private Eye (A Divine Private Detective Agency Mystery)
Sister Eve, Private Eye (A Divine Private Detective Agency Mystery)
by Lynne Hinton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.02

3.0 out of 5 stars The mystery seemed to get lost in all the family relationship problems., 4 Dec 2014
Unfortunately this book was just okay for me. I don't know if it is a part of a series or if it might be the first book in a planned series, but I had trouble maintaining interest in the story. First of all, enough with the pronunciation of the last name of the character. Evidently Evangeline's parents had some premonition that she would become a nun when she was born because paring up Evangeline with the last name of Divine (even if she does insist it is pronounced Diveen) seemed like way too much coincidence. So the whole Divine/Diveen thing got to be pretty old pretty fast. Then I discovered that fully half of the novel was concerning the personal interactions between Eve, her sister and her father trying to work out family dynamics that had been lingering unresolved for many years but which were now brought to a head by a life changing surgery for the Captain. Having that aspect of a character's life play a part in a mystery novel is quite acceptable.....unless it takes up as much or more story space than the actual mystery. The mystery seemed to get lost in all the family and spiritual problems on Eve's mind. And I'm all for unconventional characters, but Eve didn't act like a nun even part of the time.

The mystery aspect was just okay too. Bringing in the Hollywood glamour characters was definitely a contrast to everyone else, but it missed just enough so it wasn't really any help in keeping me interested. So, not a success for me but maybe it will suit you better. You definitely don't have to worry about being preached to since the religious aspect definitely takes a back seat.

I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley.


The Fairyland Murders
The Fairyland Murders
by J. a. Kazimer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.54

4.0 out of 5 stars Blue hair on the electrified hero and pink wings on The Tooth Fairy., 4 Dec 2014
This review is from: The Fairyland Murders (Paperback)
This book was most certainly a fun book to read. Yes, it is a mystery novel, but it is also an interesting example of an author having a ton of fun writing a story. How can it be anything but fun when the main character can best be described as a human electrode? Blue Reynolds sizzles and pops (along with giving out a few third degree burns) along his way to finding Jack the Tooth Ripper - a serial killer who specializes in using minty dental floss to dispatch whoever takes over the job of Tooth Fairy. When that pink-winged half human/half fairy Isabella Davis makes her way into Blue's life the power surges come fast and furious. And that's only when he rubs his hands together, wait until his adrenaline starts pumping. New Never City is on the verge of war, the Fairies and the Shadows are gonna take each other out unless Blue can find the serial killer or the magic pea or the sex tape Princess Penelopee needs to get back. What if all those cases reach crisis point at the same time?

Okay, so this novel might not be to everyone's taste, but if you like to play around with reading something different once in a while at least you can say you have been entertained. All kinds of fairy tale references with little shifts and changes to fit them into an urban landscape that simply has to be New York City. The blue haired hero is likeable and a darned good private eye too, even if his "talent" means he can light up a room just by snapping his fingers. In fact, you can say his story is electric in its intensity. (A poor joke, my very poor joke.) In a more serious mood, Blue does tend to cuss a good bit and worries a lot about his manly bits so you might want to take that into consideration if you prefer your novels to lean more in the other direction. The actual mysteries to be solved were pretty well written by J. A. Kazimer and I chuckled my way through the whole novel. I certainly hope you will too.

I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley.


Death Comes to London (Kurland St. Mary Mysteries)
Death Comes to London (Kurland St. Mary Mysteries)
by Catherine Lloyd
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.54

3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely just "okay" historical mystery., 25 Nov 2014
This second book in the series by Catherine Lloyd was a pleasant read and the fact that I had not read the first was no handicap in picking up the relationships already established. In March of 1817 Miss Lucy Harrington is going to London with her sister so Anna can have a proper coming out season in hopes of finding a husband. Lucy and her friend Sophia will also be hoping to attract the attention of marriage minded men. It seems as if the entire village of Kurland St. Mary has up sticks and moved to London after Major Robert Kurland receives a message from the Secretary to the Prince Regent making his presence in London mandatory also. Events are moving along well in the Marriage Mart until the grandmother of one of Miss Anna's suitors dies at a ball. Now the investigative skills Lucy and Major Kurland exercised back in Kurland St. Mary will be needed to figure out if the Dowager Countess really died because of a weak heart.

One of the major elements of this novel that bothered me the most was how the characters seemed to have no subtlety to them; they were either good or bad without having the author build in any other aspects to them. This had a tendency to throw out red flags aplenty when it came to discerning who might have been responsible for any wrong doing. If the characters had been more nuanced or shown more delicacy to their nature, it would have added depth to what was, for me, a rather superficial story. This was a pleasant read, but unfortunately not one which will make me look forward to the next nor want to go back and pick up the first in the series.

I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley.


The After House
The After House
Price: £0.77

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't worry about being frightened by this ghost., 24 Nov 2014
This review is from: The After House (Kindle Edition)
If you are in the mood to read a fluffy romance novel with all the modern blended family relationships and six year old children who posses the wisdom of the ages, look no further. This short read will give you just what you are looking for. If you also want to add in some ghostly happenings that have no frightening aspects whatsoever, once more you've picked the right book.

This is not the style of book I normally choose and I admit to having misunderstood the style of ghost story I was going to be reading. I knew when I began reading the second chapter that this wouldn't ever be a favorite of mine, but I still wanted to see how the author would handle things such as character and plot development. I read this in an afternoon and it was definitely just an "okay" reading experience for me.

I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley.


Blood of the South: a Medieval Mystical Mystery (An Aelf Fen Mystery)
Blood of the South: a Medieval Mystical Mystery (An Aelf Fen Mystery)
by Alys Clare
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A chance to catch up with Lassair and Rollo., 23 Nov 2014
I'm not positive, but I think this is story number six in the Aelf Fen Mystery series by author Alys Clare. I have read several of her novels in the Hawkenlye series and was intrigued to see what this set of novels was about. I was definitely not disappointed. For someone living in the American South the fens of England carry a mystique all by themselves so when you add in a mystery set during Norman times this was pretty hard for me to resist.

Since I had not read any previous novels in the series I wanted to see how easily I could become assimilated into the world created here by both geography and character. Make no mistake, the location in the fens area for the major portion of this book plays a definite role in the story and Alys Clare has described it wonderfully for someone who has never experienced it first hand. The torrential rainfall combined with a high tide produces flooding on a widespread scale which contributes to the discovery of the body of a woman. Lassair, healer and student of Gurdyman, was requested by Jack Chevestrier to accompany him from Cambridge to Aelf Fen to try to locate the family of the wealthy woman and her infant son who have arrived in town with no information of who her husband's relatives are or where they live. Since they both are on the scene when the woman's dead body is discovered and Chevestrier works with the sheriff of Cambridge and Lassair knows the fens like the back of her hand they are instructed to solve the riddle of the identity of both women, the living and the dead.

If you are a follower of this series you will be glad to know that this book is almost equally divided between what is happening to Lassair in England and Rollo Guiscard as he makes his way in the treacherous business of acting as a spy for King William. By traveling throughout the East he has seen the results of clashes between Christians, Jews, and Turks in the Holy Land. His destination now is Constantinople where he must try, with no credentials at all, to gain an audience with Alexius Comnenus, ruler of this great city with the enemy Selijuk Turks on its doorsteps.

This was an interesting way to present this portion of the series; take two of the main characters and have them advance the story arc forward while keeping them apart. I had very little problem with understanding how this portion of the story fit with what might have come before, although it did make me curious and desirous of reading the previous novels. Instead of having the entire story written in an 800 page novel which can be rather overwhelming to contemplate, here the stories were presented in manageable pieces that allowed for full character development in addition to a good mystery for me to help solve. I enjoyed this very much. The mysticism didn't overwhelm the story or the characters because it simply seemed a normal part of Lassair and an augmentation of her healer gifts. She made great strides to becoming an independent woman in this novel and I'm interested in seeing where her relationship with the shining stone will take her.

I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley.


I Am Sophie Tucker: A Fictional Memoir
I Am Sophie Tucker: A Fictional Memoir
by Susan Ecker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.50

3.0 out of 5 stars First book in a fictionalized memoir trilogy about Sophie Tucker., 20 Nov 2014
I have heard general information about Sophie Tucker as long as I can remember, but I realized when I saw this book was available that I didn't really know anything at all about her. This was my opportunity to find out what Tucker was really like back during the early 1900s when entertaining had to be an inner calling because it was so difficult to get ahead in the industry.

These authors have taken information from a biography published in 1945 by Doubleday and augmented it with further facts, photographs, and memorabilia they discovered in their research of the life of Sophie Tucker. The 1945 biography was a scrubbed clean version which probably doesn't represent the subject person very well. I'm sure this fictional memoir comes closer to showing what Sophie Tucker herself and the times she climbed the ladder to be a superstar in the entertainment industry were really like. If you have any interest in Sophie Tucker, this endeavor will supply you with all the who's and what's that got her moving to stardom. Unfortunately this isn't the complete story of Sophie Tucker since it is the first book of a proposed trilogy. The authors also plan a Sophie Tucker Broadway musical, a movie musical, and a television show as well as the documentary film they have already made.

For me, this first segment of the fictional memoir has been enough to satisfy my curiosity about Sophie Tucker.

I received an ARC of this volume through NetGalley.


The Dark Defiles (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
The Dark Defiles (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
by Richard Morgan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A deep and complex story. Prepare to invest some reading time., 20 Nov 2014
This third book in the Land Fit For Heroes trilogy will, once again, give readers the opportunity to become totally involved in the lives of the characters, both main and secondary, because you just never know who or what that character may turn out to be. Of course the three main focuses of this segment of the story are Ringil (Gil) Eskiath (a hero, albeit a reluctant one who sneers at being called a hero), kir-Archeth Indamaninarmal the 209 year old half-human half-Kiriath (the imperial envoy of Jhiral Khimran, Emperor of Yhelteth), and Egar (Eg) Dragonbane, personal bodyguard of Archeth and a great warrior from the steppes region. The story tells of the hunt for the Illwrack Changeling, the collision of great powers in magic and sorcery wielded by dwenda and the scientific advancements from the beings not of this earth, the Kiriath. There are wars, great sword battles which are described so well I could almost hear the clang of the metals clashing together, fights with lizards and dragons, demons, witches, treachery, betrayal, and an opportunity to change the course of lives in this fantasy world.

This is a very complex system in which this story takes place with the barbaric feel of the fighting with weapons such as axe, spear, knife, and sword and the sophistication of the inventions and constructions of the Kiriath. No matter how far I read into the novel I always knew there was the possibility that things were not going to be what I thought they were. Change was almost constant. This novel took three days of hard reading for me to complete because I had to pay such close attention to what was happening, I did not just breeze through this book. The book is arranged in chapters of alternating viewpoint because Gil goes in one direction and Archeth and Eg go in another. Their ultimate purpose is to stop this newest war, find the weapon called The Talons of the Sun, and get back to Trelayne before Emperor Jhiral can make a complete hash of everything. Both groups have their mission to accomplish to make those things happen.

If you have any problems reading novels which depict extreme violence, you will probably not be comfortable reading this novel. There is also an over abundant use of profanity (especially the "f" word) in my opinion, but that's just my personal opinion. If that type of novel is going to make you uncomfortable, then be warned on that score. There is also homosexuality throughout this novel with one encounter described. You may want to take that into consideration. I would describe this novel as extreme dark fantasy. The first third of the book took a little while to get going for me, but eventually I became completely involved in the story. It changes and twists and turns so often I never knew what to expect and that kept me reading. You can definitely begin reading here with this third book, just be aware that you have a pretty steep learning curve ahead of you. If I had not been under reviewing time constraints I would have read the books in order. Book one is called The Steel Remains (Gollancz) and the second is The Cold Commands (GOLLANCZ S.F.). Why not just start at the beginning and read all the way through? You'll be glad you did because these are wonderfully written characters.


Lamentation (The Shardlake Series)
Lamentation (The Shardlake Series)
by C. J. Sansom
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Intensely deep combination of fact and fiction., 16 Nov 2014
For those of us who have long been fans of this series written by C. J. Sansom the wait is over to plunge ourselves into the world of Matthew Shardlake once again. This time the action has moved slightly ahead to July 1546 and opens with a scene of alleged heretics being burned at the stake with Shardlake being forced to attend to represent his law chamber at Lincoln's Inn. The excuse given is that he holds the office of Serjeant, the most senior of the barristers. It is also a punishment of sorts and the sights and sounds have a truly profound impact on Shardlake. Religious turmoil is everywhere in the realm because of King Henry VIII's relations with Rome and the heavy taxation of his subjects and the devaluation of the coinage. When Shardlake is asked to meet with Queen Catherine Parr he knows there is trouble ahead for him because his summons signals there is trouble for her. A religious book of her writing has disappeared. If it falls into the wrong hands, the Queen could suffer the same fate as those unfortunate wretches Shardlake watched die in the flames.

I had anticipated reading this novel for so long that it was a little surprising to me that I had trouble being instantly immersed in the story to the point of wanting the world to go away and just let me read. I even ordered it to be shipped to me from England so I wouldn't have to wait until February 2015 to purchase it in the States. It took a while for the story to really get moving for me because there is so much information given regarding the political climate and the various religious factions at play. Once the mysteries began to unfold and Shardlake and his new assistant, Nicholas Overton, really began to investigate the novel moved along smoother and faster for me. However, there still seemed to be many times when I lost patience with the reiteration of which religious factions stood for what beliefs. I especially like the writing in these books, partially because Sansom doesn't fall into the trap of always having all the friends and associates of Matthew Shardlake walk in lock step with him regarding their thoughts and beliefs. It is possible for friends to disagree in these novels and still remain friends. It is also possible to see that enemies of Shardlake are not simply one dimensional either, they are multi-layered and come across as real people instead of moustache-twirling baddies.

My favorite characters return in this novel; Dr. Guy Malton, Jack Barak and Tamsin, even that nasty piece of work, Shardlake's brother at law, Stephen Belknap. The end of this search for the book stolen from the Queen sees much changed in England with many more changes to come. Shardlake will be moving off in an interesting direction for the next novel. I think that has a huge potential.


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