Review: Jana DeLeon

So instead of enticing you with a juicy new read today,  I’m throwing several at you in the form of one of my favorite, most enjoyably fun authors.

Jana DeLeon is fun.  Her stories are amusing, intriguing, can’t put it down”ing” all at the same time.  She has so many more that I still haven’t read.  But these three series are all at the top of my “must read the new one as soon as it comes out” list.

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By far my fav is the Miss Fortune series.  Who knew murder could be so funny?  But I jest, just a bit at least.  Whenever I’m reading one of these marvelous little gems I find myself laughing out loud, and trust me,  I don’t LOL too often when reading a book.  The characters are endearing and hilarious, and I can just picture their shenanigans as I’m reading.

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My second favorite series from Jana is the Ghost-in-Law series.  Almost as funny as Miss Fortune,  but with a happy little helping of the paranormal thrown in.  Same small town antics and appeal as the Miss Fortune setting.

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And finally, we have the newest series featuring Shaye Archer.  Not nearly as humorous, but instead dark and disturbing without losing any of the author’s skill as a mystery writer.  Oh and did I mention that all of these books are set in Louisiana?  Surely slanted my opinion just a tad.

As with many series, it’s not absolutely necessary to read them in order.  But in my opinion, that’s part of the thrill.  Growing with the characters, keeping up with them over time, both things that make serial novels most enjoyable.

As for which series to start with?  Sorry, friends, I’m no help with that.  Your best bet would be to grab the first in each, read them all, and then decide which one you’ll read next!

~Thalia

~Buy It Now:  Shaye Archer series   Miss Fortune series   Ghost-in-Law series

 

Review: New Orleans Series by Lisa Jackson

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If you’ve not yet experienced the chilling brilliance that is Lisa Jackson, her New Orleans series is a great place to start.

The series starts out with the unforgettable Hot Blooded  and is currently up to Never Die Alone, just released this past summer.  Is it absolutely necessary to read them in order?  Not really.  But as with all great series, they’re best enjoyed read as they were written.  The character development is outstanding, and part of the thrill is seeing the changes each key player goes through over the years.

Most of the stories take place in New Orleans, of course.  But the crimes do venture outside the area from time to time.  Detectives Bentz and Montoya are as good as you’ll find in any series.  The rapport between them is authentic and compelling, and it doesn’t diminish over the course of the series.  Supporting characters are good as well, although my absolute favorites scenes are still the ones revolving around these two.

And lest you fear that they might become a bit cliche as far as murder goes, no worries!  Each one features a distinctly creepy psychopath to contend with.

Sure, I’ll admit I’m a bit biased because of the setting.  Go figure.  But still, it’s murder mystery at its finest.  Each book leaves you guessing until the very end.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  New Orleans series bundle

Review: A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice

51GdIgFFSzL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_It’s always a joy to discover a book that’s been around for several years but has somehow flown under my reader radar. On the one hand, there’s a bit of frustration that I HAVEN’T READ THIS BOOK BEFORE NOW! But conversely, there’s pleasure in being able to recommend an older, maybe unheard of, book to friends.

Once upon a time, there were four friends. They did everything together. But then they began to grow up. And their paths diverged. Two of them became jocks. One became the popular cheerleader. And one becomes the outcast. But things aren’t always what they seem, and being on the right side of things doesn’t guarantee a happy outcome. Death, by both murder and suicide, sets everything on a collision course to an ending that can’t be happy for everyone.

This story is full of dark secrets and family histories that were best left hidden. Everything’s connected, and that’s not always a good thing. The writing is beautiful, poetic even, full of rich imagery and so descriptive that you can feel the atmosphere with every page.

This was recently a rerelease of Christopher Rice’s debut novel. Of special interest to me was the note from the author sharing his thoughts on how he would/wouldn’t change the story if he were to write it today. Yes, he’s Anne Rice’s son. And with that comes huge expectations. But talent is talent, regardless of the family lineage.

~Thalia

Buy It Now: A Density of Souls

Review: Ruby by Cynthia Bond

24902492Can you remember the last book that you read that you absolutely loved? How about the last one you absolutely hated? The answer to that question for me is the same. Ruby by Cynthia Bond. The prose in this novel is simply put…brilliant. Bond really does have a way with words. Not only is it stunning, it is also filled with deep meaning and thoughts. It often demands of you to pause and relish in its aftermath. Because, yes…sometimes it is not just beautiful…sometimes it is also downright brutal.

I won’t go into all the plots and twists of this story…I will instead just list quotes and more quotes so you too can see exactly what I mean when I say Bond’s prose is both beautiful and brutal….

She wore gray like rain clouds and wandered the red roads in bared
feet. Calluses thick as boot leather. Hair caked with mud. Blackened
nails as if she had scratched the slate of night. Her acres of legs
carrying her, arms swaying like a loose screen. Her eyes the ink of
sky, just before the storm.

Celia poured the steam back in his coffee.

Maggie cut her eyes against his face, her fists tight in her lap.
‘Beatin’ ain’t the worse can happen to a body.’ The orange tip of her
cigarette devoured the white.

Ruby felt the lonely before it came. Knew that for all she’d have to
face when she left this tiny shack, the lonely would be the worst of
it. She knew too that it was the thing each of them shared, only it
was waiting for them in different places. For Ruby it was a room at
Miss Barbara’s. For Maggie it was the minute after Ruby said good-bye.
And for Ephram, it was right here, right now. She felt how the lonely
never left him, not even sitting beside her.

Some folk say after time she come to love him. Others say she jes’
give in to shame. Me, I don’t know much, ’cept that he chased her all
the way to lonely. And once you make it there, ain’t too many choices
left.

By the time Ephram turned fifteen, he and Gubber were barely speaking
to one another. Ephram watched Gubber swell and grow and strain
against the fence of clothing, only to build a bigger fence, only to
strain, again and again. Gubber wouldn’t look at Ephram if they passed
in school or at P & K, and worse, when circumstance threw them
together, Ephram became the perfect foil for Gubber, a soft, weakened
thing to point out when collective fangs were bared. The fact that he
accomplished this with a chain of rebukes and thick jokes, and that
those actions had done more harm to Gubber Samuels than himself, was
not lost on Ephram. He’d watched Gubber swallow his kindness and shit
it out until all that remained was the waste of a good man.

Your daddy and me named you Otha. It means ‘wealth.’ You were your
daddy’s treasure from the time you were born until he died. He used to
say there were rubies buried deep inside of you. Remember, baby, don’t
never let a man mine you for your riches. Don’t let him take a pickax
to that treasure in your soul. Remember, they can’t get it until you
give it to them. They might lie and try to trick you out of it, baby,
and they’ll try. They might lay a hand on you, or worse, they might
break your spirit, but the only way they can get it is to convince you
it’s not yours to start with. To convince you there’s nothing there
but a lump of coal.

**Possible spoilers**

I’m still trying to figure out why I obviously disliked this novel so much when it’s clear that I also loved it just as much as I hated it. There is some black magic in this novel. That doesn’t bother me. There is also much abuse. Again, that didn’t bother me (well, it DOES bother me, but not a reason I disliked this novel). I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to suss it out…I think for me, Bond only touched on some areas (the Ruby that was in New York, Ephram’s sister, Maggie, Charlotte and so many other things) and yet she seemed to go on and on about others (Chauncy and the Dybou in particular). It’s almost as if Bond was trying to beat us with the worst of the lot to wear us down and overwhelm us. For me it just didn’t work. See, evil is evil. We all know that. We don’t need that shoved down our throats. But it’s the tragic that overtakes the good that really display just how evil that evil can get. It was all too lopsided for me. I realise that Ruby was overwhelmed with the evil….but the real tragedy was hidden into the why she was overwhelmed with it. It didn’t just happen. There were other’s involved. There were layers and layers that all conspired together to get to that point. What made the Reverend into the man he became? Why was Maggie so protective. Why did Charlotte run? Why was Celia so broken?

Yes, I realise that Bond touched on all of this….but that’s just it. She only touched on it. Yet she seemed to beat us over the head with Chauncy and Dybou without really going into the cause of their characters, only the effect.

I do realise that if Bond had given this novel the depth and care that it deserved that it might very well mean that the novel was twice it’s length. I wish that novel was written. There was so many things to be learnt in those missing pages. So much depth that her prose promised us. That is why, although I love it…I also felt cheated….and a bit bored with it….

Until next time…

Urania xx

Review copy provided by Edelweiss for an honest review

Buy it now Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Review: The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly

41GV+5TmsBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Sometimes you just know. You pick up a book, look at the cover, read the blurb on the back. And you decide it sounds pretty good so you give it a chance. And then you start reading it. Within the first few pages, you know you’ve found something good. These little gems don’t come along very often, but this one by Mary Louise Kelly was just that kind of book for me.

Caroline Cashion has a happy, successful life. She makes her living as a college professor. She can’t believe how lucky she is to actually get paid for doing what she loves. Although single, she’s very satisfied with her life. She also enjoys a close relationship with her family, eating dinner with her parents several times a week. The only dark spot in her cheery little world is a nagging pain in her wrist. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, surely, as she spends her days hunched over her computer typing away. But a semi-routine doctor’s visit turns up something both ominous and puzzling. Caroline has been walking around with a bullet lodged at the base of her skull. Ominous because, well, it’s a bullet at the base of her skull. And puzzling because, well, she’s certain that she’s never been shot. As she seeks to find out the truth, she uncovers family secrets that have been buried for several decades. And she garners the attention of those who would rather those secrets not come to light.

This book was an incredible read for me. The plot is original and intriguing, and I couldn’t put it down. The author weaves a story full of twists and turns leaving the reader desperate to find out what’s going to happen next. The only thing that kept this from being a five star book for me was a twist towards the end that stretched the limits of character credibility for me. Still, an excellent story!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:The Bullet

Review: Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

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What FUN! 1930s England, vacationing at the shore, a rocky marriage, social climbers, and a MURDER!

This reminded me so much of Agatha Christie, but with a contemporary bent. The inclusion of romance and implied social commentary on marriage… brilliant.

I loved the travelling, Amory’s husband Milo’s gracious loyalty, Gil and Emmaline’s warm sibling relationship, and the obnoxiousness of some of those guests at the Brightwell. You can’t even make this stuff up. (Well, okay, Weaver DID make it up, but it seemed pretty real to me!)

Love, hate, selflessness, mayhem, sweet nothings … You get much more than a mystery with Murder at the Brightwell.

-Calliope

buy MURDER AT THE BRIGHTWELL

Review: The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith

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I loved The Cuckoo’s Calling (book 1 in the series), and although The Silkworm is GOOD, it isn’t AS good.

What I liked: tiny snippets of Cormoran and Robin navigating a professional relationship that turns platonically personal once in a while; a complex crime; über-developed characters; and the Hercule-Poirot-esque resolution.

What I didn’t like: too much emphasis on Cormoran’s prosthesis and pain; Strike’s character eliciting pity instead of sympathy; maybe a little too much convolution of the crime and criminals– I was confused at some parts; and the gruesomeness of the actual crime.

Galbraith (JKRowling) is an excellent writer with an extensive vocabulary. The masterful character and setting development created a movie in my mind. Impressive.

All in all, I liked it enough to want to read number 3 in the series, whenever it comes out. But I’ll admit it’s a little bit because I want to see if a love story will develop. I’ve seen the bare beginnings… And I’m a sucker for romance.

-Calliope

buy THE SILKWORM

Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

darkI loved this book from page one. All the way up until the end.

This is the story of Libby Day. As a young girl of seven, Libby’s testimony puts her fifteen year old brother, Ben, in prison for the murder of their mother and two sisters. Libby has spent much of her life as pretty anti-social. She isn’t really a very nice person. Okay…honestly, Libby isn’t even a semi nice person.

This story begins when Libby finds herself suddenly in a position to revisit the events of that night and to finally ask the questions about what really happened. Questions that she has avoided for the past twenty-four years. She finds herself finally face to face with her brother and father for the first time in years.

Because I don’t do spoilers, I will say the only one part of this novel I had issues with is the small part near the very end when Libby has a confrontation with a mother and daughter. One part of that just seemed like it was put in there for nothing other than shock value. I have no issues with the mother and daughter being in the storyline…or even the actual storyline….just some of the actions….but enough….

I did like how Flynn wrapped up the events of that night and the answers that Libby discovered. Perhaps “like” isn’t the correct wording, since, after all, Libby’s mother and sisters were killed….but….

The real reason I wanted to write this review is….well…Flynn really had me thinking….I think everyone can agree, Libby Day is not a very likable person….but at one point…on the day of the murders…Seven year old Libby is sitting down in the back a car drawling circles on a window. It really made me stop and wonder. That one simple glimpse of Libby as a little girl made me forgive her as an adult. How different would Libby be if that night had never happened. What type of adult would that little girl have grown up to be? How about Ben? As an adolescent boy he felt lost and misplaced. He felt isolated. But what teenager doesn’t? If even one of the events that happened to Ben had been changed, what would have happened to all the other events? Just one broken link in the chain of events for him could have made such a huge difference. What could have been avoided? What side of the maze of would he had come out on out of adolescence into adulthood?

Sure, we all know that our experiences and circumstances help to shape us into the person we are today….but for Libby Day it can be narrowed down to one single experience….It is easy to imagine a complete total different life for her had she not experienced that night. So is that an excuse for Libby to use? Or is it a way to forgive her for her actions and behaviour?

Sure, I know….Libby Day is not a real person. She is a character in a book…but look around….how many of the people you don’t like….ones that you pass judgement on….how many of them have that one single life event that might have made them into the person they are today? Perhaps it doesn’t always come from a lifetime of experiences…instead it can be traced to just one….

Again, yes…I realise that many have survived terrible things and they become great people. I’m not saying someone gets a free pass on their behaviour. No matter what happens in life, I strongly believe that we are all responsible for our actions…regardless of the childhoods we had….but it is very easy to see that the Libby Day we saw in this novel was not the same Libby Day that was sitting quietly in the back seat drawing circles on a foggy car window….

So yes….that little girl played a huge part in my forgiving the adult Libby Day for her behaviour….not just to others….but to herself as well….

Thank you Gillian Flynn for putting that scene into this novel….it meant a lot to me….and it has gave me endless hours of thinking….xx

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Review: After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman

after i'm goneThis is my first Laura Lippman book. I can safely say it won’t be my last!

Here we have one man who leaves behind 3 children, a wife, a mistress, a few close friends, a business, and a prison sentence….in a word…he leaves his entire life behind…..

What we have in the real novel is the aftermath of his leaving. We get to watch his daughters grow up. We listen in on the thoughts and feelings that his wife and his mistress have. We see the sacrifices that have to be made by the people left behind….Where his story ends, the real story just begins….

This is the type of book that makes me enjoy reading so much. I read books like this and I get excited. They re-awaken my passion for reading. They get me excited to try new (to me) authors. Along the way we also meet a cold case consultant and find that this is a wonderful murder mystery. We can perhaps figure out what happened, but the *why* is the real meat of this book….The twists and turns make this a thrilling and pleasing ride. Because of these reasons *why* you can’t help but to feel compassion for characters. You can’t help but to feel resentment for their circumstances, although they are no fault of your own. You wish them well…and then you realise that this is….after all….just a book…..

but no doubt…it won’t be my last book from Lippman….and I am excited that I found another fantastic author to follow…..books like this make it easier for me to forgive every crummy book I’ve read in search of a new favourite….It’s gems like this that keep real book lovers sane….and searching….

Until next time….

Urania xx

Review copy provided by NetGalley for an honest review

Buy it now After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman

Review: A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante

20140312-091008.jpgAfter reading A Circle of Wives, my second read from this author, I can safely say that Alice LaPlante writes one hell of a story! I’d been looking forward to this one for awhile and was not disappointed.

When Dr. John Taylor, a renowned and respected pediatric plastic surgeon, dies a sudden death in a hotel room, at first glance it appears to be a sad yet simple case of a heart attack. However, detective Samantha Adams is convinced there’s more to the story than meets the eye. She’s young and highly motivated to prove herself. Not to mention there’s something deeper beneath the surface. You see, dear Dr. John was leading a double life. Or maybe more. In the course of the investigation, three separate wives come to light as well as other sinister secrets. There’s wife number one, Deborah. As the first wife, she’s a micromanager of the utmost kind. She even goes so far as to manage John’s other life. MJ is wife number two, a free-spirited hippie type who was completely unaware that she was sharing her husband. As was wife number three and the most recent acquisition, Helen, a fellow physician. Of course, there are other twists and turns along the way that you’d expect from such a story.

There’s always a risk when a story is written from multiple perspectives as this one is. If not done carefully, the reader is left wondering who is saying what and whose turn it is to speak. That’s not a problem with this book as the author seamlessly switches between the three wives as well as the detective, Samantha. I won’t claim any particular affinity for the wives as none of them did anything to endear themselves to me. And to be honest, none of them were particularly likeable. But isn’t that one of the signs of a truly gifted author, one who can keep you reading even when you don’t care for most of the characters?

Although this would be categorized in the psychological thriller/suspense genre, there’s none of the urgency often found in these types of stories that results in a page-flipping mad dash to the finish. The story hums long nicely but steadily and as a result it makes you want to slow down and savor each and every word. Still, there’s no lack of suspense in this book. Even though I thought I knew who dunnit, it could have plausibly been any one of several people up until the very end. My only gripe with the story is that there were too many loose ends and unfinished bits to leave me fully satisfied. Some people are okay with open-ended conclusions. I am not. I like to know what happens to each and every character after the big picture is revealed. Still, this is a good story told through the gifted words of Alice LaPlante.

~Thalia

Buy it Now: A Circle of Wives