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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review - Heirs and Graces

The summer has been hectic for me and I am catching up on my reading and reviewing.  This week is the newest of the Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen.  You can read the reviews I have done of the previous books: #6 The Twelve Clues of Christmas (click here,) #5 Naughty in Nice (click here,) #4 Royal Blood (click here,) and the author interview with Ms. Bowen (click here.)

Author: Rhys Bowen

Copyright: August 2013 (Berkley Hardcover) 304 pgs

Series: 7th in Royal Spyness Mysteries

Sensuality: mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Characters: 22 year old Lady Georgiana Rannoch, 35th in line for the throne

Setting: 1933, Kingsdowne Place England

Obtained Through:  publisher for an honest review

Georgiana had hopes of helping her mother with her biography and learning to type in the process.  Her mother decides there isn't much she can put in print and goes back to her current husband.  Georgiana has no place to go until the Queen and the Dowager Duchess enlist Georgiana's help. The Dowager Duchess of Eynsford, a friend of the queen's, is expecting her deceased son's newly discovered heir to arrive from the outback of Australia and needs someone to help tutor him in royal ways and expectations.  Georgiana gets to stay in luxury at a gorgeous stately home, Kingsdowne Place, and have regular meals.  Georgian finds that the Dowager Duchess is trying to protect the title and lands because the current Duke is lavishing money on arts and theater projects and never plans to produce an heir. The Duke would be happy if the title died off, for he has no care for the others who depend upon him such as his sister and her children.  At one point he even schemes to adopt a grown acquaintance to inherit. 

When the Aussie Jack Altringham arrives as the new heir, he gets a lukewarm welcome from most and chilly indifference from the Duke.  Georgiana has her work cut out for her to polish the Australian rough cut Jack, let alone keep him from hanging for the murder of the Duke.  Young Darcy is the man who was charged with finding young Jack and verifying his lineage, so he was the one who suggested Georgiana take the young man under her wing. 

Georgiana is her usual resourceful self, finding better opportunities to keep herself fed and out of food lines. Darcy is back in this tale and their relationship slowly moves forward.  The Australian and new heir Jack is a fresh break from the English upper crust.  Georgiana's friend Belinda gets herself invited to the country manor-house and provides some humor.  The Dowager Duchess is a handful and adds depth to the plot.  The group of theater men that follow the Duke around are half comedic and half suspicious.  The mixture of characters was delightful.

Kingsdowne Place is a great country estate manor-house that adds some nuances to the story.  The plot moves along steadily and tension mounts.  My interest was maintained and I found myself drawn in and hooked.   

The climax had a significant twist to it that took me by surprise.  Great job there.  It left me wanting to continue on with the next installment immediately.

Rating:  Loved it! Buy it now and if you haven't read this series before -- put this author on your watch list 

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review - The Mystery Woman

 This week I review a historical paranormal mystery...that is a romance.  I don't tend towards romances, but I had seen a few good reviews for this book so I made an exception.  See how this great concept book did in the execution.

Author: Amanda Quick

Copyright: April 2013 (Putnam Adult) 384 pgs

Series: 2nd in Ladies of Lantern Street series

Sensuality: Explicit sex scenes

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal tinged romantic suspense

Main Character:  Miss Beatrice Lockwood, undercover agent with paranormal abilities

Setting: Regency? England

Obtained Through: Library

The book opens with the heroine going by the name Miranda the Clairvoyant.  Miranda finds Roland Fleming of the Academy of the Occult seriously injured by an attacker seeking her out.  Fleming warns her and dies.  Miranda flees and changes her name and finds employment as an  undercover agent for Flint & Marsh agency.  Months go by and Miranda - now Beatrice Lockwood, is making good money and has put "the bone man" who killed Roland Fleming that night in her past.  Beatrice can see auric energy in people and their footprints or fingerprints, a talent she uses in her investigations.  She is on assignment to keep an heiress from being kidnapped and raped to force a marriage. She runs into Joshua Gage, who used to conduct clandestine investigations for the Crown.  In those days he was known as "the messenger" and worked with a mysterious Mr. Smith.  Joshua had been through a terrible battle a year prior that left his leg damaged and his face badly scarred, and had thus retired.  He comes out of retirement because he thought that his sister was being blackmailed by the old psychic Miranda.  But once it becomes clear Miranda -now Beatrice - isn't the blackmailer, he formally hires Beatrice to assist him in finding the blackmailer.  He never suspects that the bone man is behind the blackmail in an attempt to find and capture Miranda/Beatrice, he blackmailed Joshua's sister hoping he would find Miranda for him.

I am not a romance reader, but I had also read a few glowing reviews of this title, so I made an exception since it had a murder and investigation.  The use of Joshua's scarred face as a device seems poorly conceived since neither Joshua nor Beatrice have any reaction or feelings about it after it is mentioned.  Then why have it?  His damaged leg however is used effectively to deepen his character.  The romance seemed implausible and goes from stiff politeness to can't keep there hands off each other.

This series has a new agent featured from Flint & Marsh in each book.  I personally felt that this book would have shone if the characters and romantic interests were able to grow over a few books rather than all in a few hundred pages.

Beatrice is an interesting character, strong, street smart, daring, and yet insightful about people.  Joshua starts as the mysterious and tragic agent but shows a devoted and caring side with his sister and nephew.  Hannah, Joshua's sister, is a gem and I would have loved to had her in another book to get to know her better.  Nelson, Joshua's nephew, is a character that I would not be surprised to see in a future book teaming with another Flint and Marsh female agent.  Nelson is a promising character.  Sara Marsh, an amateur scientist and Abigail Flint are the surprise stand out characters in this book.  Their interest in paranormal aspects and their inventions for their agents to use are in keeping with the time period (which is ambigious and never specified) and are creative touches. 

The setting is Alverstock mansion in the country and London.  The Alverstock mansion is utilized with rooms full of museum quality Egyptian artifacts large and small to generate an eerie backdrop.  The London scenes have some nice gothic touches too.

The plot was okay once you get past the contrived manner of getting Gage involved (sister's blackmail can only lead to him searching for Miranda/Beatrice.) The cat and mouse action at Alverstock mansion was good.  The reader knows the ultimate purpose of the "bone man" before Beatrice and Joshua, serving to create suspense.  The climax had a good twist and action-filled confrontation. The wrap-up was on par for a romance.

If you enjoy paranormal mystery, plus historical romance this is a good light, enjoyable read. 

Ratings: Good - A fun read with minor flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Review - Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti

Savannah Georgia is the setting for this new series.  I had not read the first book in the Magical Bakery Mystery series, so I am jumping in on the second book.  I could not wait until October to read some of these.  This series is noted for being true-to-life in its portrayal of the Wiccan tradition.  See if this is to your taste.

Author: Bailey Cates

Copyright: December 2012 (Signet) 336 pgs

Series: 2nd in Magical Bakery Mystery series

Sensuality:  Some passionate kissing

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy paranormal

Main Characters:
Katie Lightfoot, owner of the Honeybee Bakery

Setting: Modern day, Savannah GA

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Katie Lightfoot recently found that she is a witch like her aunt Lucy.  She is learning from the Spellbook Club, the name of the all women coven. Each member is lending their knowledge to her witchy education. She receives instruction from Jaida on the tarot, Bianca on moon magick, Cookie on Voodoo topics, Mimsey on crystal ball plus color & flower magic, and from aunt Lucy on hedgewitchery (plants).  She is still a beginner in harnessing her power, but she is a quick study. 

One morning after a breakfast picnic in the park with Declan, a local fireman, she discovers a dead body showing from under the bushes.  The man has a distinctive tattoo that means he is a member of the secret druid society.  Apparently the victim had an object of supernatural importance that has gone missing and the group desperately needs it back.  Membership to this secret druid group is hereditary and there are some surprises for Katie as to who are members. One of the members approaches the Spellbook Club and enlists their aid in finding the killer.

Katie is still discovering her powers, settling into her life in Savannah, and torn between two men.  She is an good main character who has a passion for baking and a cool head in dangerous situations.  One of the potential boyfriends is Declan, a firefighter.  Declan doesn't get but a few short scenes so I can't gather much about him, but the fact that he isn't interested in magic makes me wonder about his compatibility with Katie.  Alternately, there is magic oriented Steve Dawes, the journalist.  Steve gets more page-time in this entry.  He is self-assured and a little cocky.  He has some tough decisions and they will impact his potential future with Katie.  Steve's dad, Heinrich Dawes, is introduced in this book as a dark and powerful man who easily intimidates others.  The Spellbook Club members (Jaida, Bianca, Cookie, Mimsey, and aunt Lucy) are great cozy characters that give good variety to the town.  uncle Ben, the retired Fire Chief, is interesting along with Margie Coopersmith, Katie's neighbor.  The new Detective Franklin Taite from New York is a surprise character that can really add to future stories.

The setting is Savannah GA.  I am still going through a spell of burn-out with small southern town settings and I must say that this book did not utilize the colorful or diverse Savannah much.  It was pretty much an "any small southern town" setting until the cemetery, and even then it wasn't very distinctive as Savannah. 

It was a little slow in getting going, but that didn't last long.  The pacing was kept up with the sub-plots, particularly the love-triangle.  The full plot is hidden as the questioning and investigating occurs, which worked well for generating some suspense. 

The climax and killer confrontation take place in a cemetery and was atmospheric.  During the killer confrontation a hint of Katie's magical power is manifested that tells of her witchy destiny, which entices the reader to see how she progresses in the next book. 

This is a fun cozy featuring strong witchcraft elements, good mix of interesting characters, nice plotting and pacing for a entertaining cozy mystery.

Ratings: Good - A fun read, put this author on your watch list if you enjoy paranormal mysteries.

There is a wonderful Coke Cola Cake recipe in the book, but here is a diet version just for a change.

Diet Coke Cake Recipe from Healthy Recipe Ideas


1     box instant chocolate or devil's food cake mix
12     oz diet coke or coke zero

Pour 1 box chocolate instant cake mix into a bowl.  Stir in 12 oz of Diet Coke of Coke Zero.  Batter can be put into one pan for rectangular cake, round cake, or can be poured into muffin pan for cup cakes.  Bake at approx 350 degrees for approx 35 - 40 mins.  Nuts can be added as desired, will affect nutritional value.

Calories 170 per serving

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - August 2013

It is the first Monday of the month - time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival.  

Please help the newsletter for the blog carnival to get more subscribers.  If a blog reviews mystery/suspense/thrillers (even occasionally) then I would like to feature those reviews.  I send the newsletter out once a month announcing the deadline for submitting to this blog carnival.  Multiple entries from a blog are welcome.

Subscribe to our carnival reminder mailing list

Now on to this month's blog carnival.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link.

Police Procedural / PI Book Review / Legal

Back to Books reviewed The Fire Witness by Lars Kepler

Book of Secrets reviewed Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

Booking Mama reviewed Loyalty by Ingrid Thoft

A Date with a Book reviewed Ring in the Dead by J.A. Jance

Back to Books reviewed Redemption by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Booking Mama reviewed Killer Ambition by Marcia Clark

A Date with a Book reviewed Afraid to Die by Lisa Jackson

It's All Comic To Me reviewed Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes by Matt Kindt for a graphic novel featuring Detective Gould

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Woof at the Door by Laura Morrigan

Book of Secrets reviewed Killer In Crinolines (A Consignment Shop Mystery, #2)  by Duffy Brown

Carstairs Considers reviewed Heirs and Graces (Lady Georgiana #7) by Rhys Bowen, and shares "travel back to 1934 as Georgie tries to help train the heir to a dukedom and solve a murder."

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Deadly Politics by Maggie Sefton

Back to Books reviewed The Lighthouse Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner, and shares "I'm reading my way through the original 19 Boxcar Children mysteries.  This is #8.

A Date with a Book reviewed Out of the Frying Pan by Robin Allen

Carstairs Considers reviewed The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg (Kate O'Hare and Nick Fox #1)

Book of Secrets reviewed Gluten for Punishment (A Baker's Treat Mystery, #1) by Nancy J. Parra

Carstairs Considers reviewed The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Jane Ryland #2), sharing "Adoption and Child Welfare Services play an important roll in this great book."

A Date with a Book reviewed Purses and Poison (Haley Randolph #2) by Dorothy Howell

Carstairs Considers reviewed The Hen of the Baskervilles by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #15)

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Games Traitors Play by Jon Stock

Booking Mama reviewed The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Tea Time with Marce reviewed The Stranger You Know by Andrea Kane

Booking Mama reviewed The Never List by Koethi Zan

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A huge "Thank You" to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.  Keep them coming.

Let's make next month's Carnival even better. For more information on the specifics of the Carnival and how to submit your posts go here.

Submit your blog entry for next month's Carnival here: (

Spread the word far and wide!!!

Post a widget on your blog for this carnival here (
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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review - Tarnished and Torn

I have been a fan of this series since its debut.  Read my reviews of the prior books:  #1 Secondhand Spirits (click here), #2 Cast Off Coven (click here),  #3 Hexes and Hemlines (click here), and #4 In a Witch's Wardrobe (click here).  I also interviewed the author twice: interview #2 (click here), and interview #1 (click here).  This time Lily is in the middle of a gem fair when a witch is killed. 

Author: Juliet Blackwell

Copyright: July 2013 (Signet) 336 pgs

Series: 5th in Witchcraft Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Cozy

Main Characters: Lily Ivory, powerful natural witch and owner of vintage clothing store

Setting: Current day San Francisco

Obtained Through:
Publisher for an honest review

Lily Ivory goes to a Antique Jewelry Fair one morning looking for some baubles to sell in her vintage clothing store.  She meets Griselda, who sells her a box of "junk" and is shortly found dead.  What has Lily bothered is how she was killed.  Griselda died from an ancient method of interrogating witches, "pressing" between boards adding weight gradually, right there at the fair. Now Lily has two men following her.  Did Griselda slip her something that the others and willing to kill to get their hands on?  Then there is Lily's estranged father who seems involved.  Once again, there is a powerful paranormal enemy to fight, an Aztec fire demon, and Lily needs to get her game on.  While this can be read as a stand alone, knowing the running storyline will enhance the experience.

Lily Ivory is trying to adjust to having friends, and a business, and a broken heart. She is dealing with her sorrows by focusing on the clothing store rather than running, which is progress for Lily.  Oscar is still the crazy comic relief Goblin-Gargoyle mix.  Aidan's character is revealed a bit more, showing he may be more trustworthy than he lets on.  Lily's father, Declan, makes a few cameo appearances, but not enough to really deal with that subject. Perhaps more in following books will settle the remaining questions there.  Sailor does finally make an appearance and you won't want to miss the few pages he does get, because they are important to the storyline.  Inspector Carlos Romaro is becoming a favorite that I hope gets more attention as the series continues.

I always enjoy the San Francisco setting. It is obvious the author knows the city and its very heartbeat well as it flavors the story.  The plot and enemy are gradually revealed, which keeps the tension high.  The pacing of the story was maintained through out with the main storyline and the continuing subplots as well as danger to her friend Maya.  The climax seemed a bit scaled back and not as heart-pounding as previous books, although still clever and good. The wrap-up seemed a little rushed and some unanswered questions with Declan and Sailor were left hanging. 

Another solid entry in the Witchcraft series, advancing the personal themes while tackling a murder mystery.  This series never disappoints and draws the reader into Lily's life instantly.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 

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