Posted in Reviews

Review of A Rip Through Time by Kelly Armstrong

****4-stars

*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published in late May, 2022, but is available for pre-order now on Amazon at https://amzn.to/3sy1HJ2

The only reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars was because the ending was a letdown for me. I’m thinking it makes room for a sequel or series. Otherwise, A Rip Through Time was a great read. If you like time-travel books like I do, you’ll enjoy it.

Mallory is a current-day detective who is transported into the body of Catriona, a young, Victorian maid in the household of a mortician and his sister after being nearly strangled by a stranger in an English alleyway. As Mallory tries to fit into the era and dynamics of the place in which she finds herself, she becomes attracted to Dr. Gray and, under the guise of losing her memory from her near-death experience, she pretends to be Catriona. She demonstrates her interest in mortuary science and detecting work, so when a body turns up that’s been tarred and feathered, she assists Dr. Gray in his examination of it.

Despite the circumstances that she finds comfortable, Mallory seeks a way to return to her own time. On her day off, she goes to the spot where she encountered her strangler, but she’s unsuccessful in finding a way back. Believing that if she finds her attacker, who she feels has followed her back into this time, she might be able to fix the rip in time, she sets out to solve the murders that have been taking place in town including ones that mimic those of Jack the Ripper that are occurring decades later.

 

 

Posted in Reviews

Review for The Lost Summers of Newport by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White

*****5-stars

*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published in May, 2022, but is available for pre-order now. https://amzn.to/3OsH4Hv

This book attracted me because it takes place in Newport, Rhode Island, a place I’m hoping to visit one day. Written by three popular authors, the story is broken up into three time periods: current day (2019); 1899, and 1957. It follows the Sprague Family who own a mansion in Newport. In the present time, the mansion is the focus of a television show called Makeover Mansion. One of the people involved in its production, Andie, is a single mother to her sister’s son. She takes on the project hoping to show viewers how a run-down old house can be renovated without changing its charm. However, the studio requests that she uncovers family scandals and the legend of the Lady in White, a ghost said to haunt the place. She and her crew have been given strict rules not to approach the owner of the home, Lucky “Lucia” Sprague, with any questions. They are also forbidden to film near the home’s boathouse. These rules are given by Lucky’s son, Lucas. His sister, Hayden doesn’t even approve of the show.

While working on the episode, Andie finds herself attracted to Lucas, although he’s the type of guy she’s avoided in the past due to a previous broken relationship. As she finds out more about the family, readers are shown events taking place in the past that reveal two secrets that changed the lives of Lucky and her relatives.

In 1899, a music teacher was hired to instruct Maybelle Sprague, the heir to the Sprague fortune, a “copper” heiress as they called her. The object of her music lessons was to enchant an Italian prince her step-brother hoped to marry her off to, so that he and his family could afford to continue to live in the mansion. In 1957, after Maybelle (now known as Nonna) escapes Italy with her granddaughter Lucky and returns to Sprague Hall, Lucky and her husband have marital problems due to his alcoholism and adultery. He also accuses her of having an affair with Teddy, a friend from Italy. While this isn’t true, Lucky has always been close to Teddy. As both the 1899 and 1957 events come to dramatic climaxes, the reader and Andi learn of two terrible secrets that have followed the generation of Spragues.

It was difficult to put this story down. While I had some difficulty following the changes in years and characters, it all made sense in the end. There were several twists I didn’t see coming. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mysteries, historical fiction, tales about mansions and rich people, alternating time periods, and interesting characters.

Posted in Reviews

Book Review for This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

****4 stars

*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published in May, 2022 but is available for pre-order now. https://amzn.to/3Km8Kvp

I love time-travel tales, and this is yet another take on that theme. This isn’t just a time-travel story. Its other themes include grief, loss, and family relationships. Alice Stern is the daughter of Leonard Stern, the author of a popular time-travel series that was made into a television show. On her fortieth birthday, fearing the loss of her father who is in the hospital dying, Alice accidentally travels back in time to her sixteenth birthday. Seeing her father as a healthy, young man, she hopes to change time by making other choices for herself and convincing him to make other choices such as eating healthier, exercising, writing a new book, and dating another woman besides her mother who left him years ago.

While Alice learns that she can’t change Leonard’s fate, she is able to make a few changes. She also discovers that Leonard traveled through time, too.

Readers will gather some insights from this book about life, aging, grief, and relationships. The time-travel element seemed secondary to the theme, but I’d recommend this read to time-travel fans and those who might benefit from learning how to live in the moment.

Posted in Reviews

Review for Write that Book! by Stephanie Larkin

*****5-stars

If you’re a writer, or a wannabe-writer, this is the book for you. It takes you step-by-step on how to get started, get organized, get writing, and get published. Those are the chapter titles, and each one contains a wealth of information provided by the author, Stephanie Larkin, the “head penguin” of Red Penguin Books. She shared with readers her experience and knowledge of the writing world.

Even if you’ve already written books and/or published them, you’ll find this guide a handy reference with tips and exercises galore which makes it a great print book to buy, although e-copies are available.

If you’re a beginner, this book will certainly motivate you on your writing journey.

A must read for all writers and those aspiring to write.

Pick up your copy here: https://amzn.to/3IMw8QU

Posted in historical fiction, Reviews

Review: The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

As a librarian and fan of historical fiction, it was my pleasure to read Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray’s novel, The Personal Librarian. On Tuesday, March 29, Ms. Benedict will participate in a virtual author event to discuss her latest book, Her Hidden Genius. The event is hosted by the Valley Stream Book Club and co-hosted by seven Nassau County, Long Island libraries including mine.

*****5 stars

Marie Benedict, noted for her historical fiction, has co-written an excellent fictional, semi-biographical account of Belle da Costa Greene, the personal librarian for J. P. Morgan, who pretended to be white to secure her position as a successful businesswoman during the time that being both female and black were strong strikes against you.

Belle’s story is one of racial inequality through the ages. Due to her lighter skin, she was able to keep up the pretense of her race. But what it gained her in professional success, she lost in other areas.

Benedict and Murray, the co-authors, of the book, researched Greene’s life and included notes describing how they worked together during the pandemic and how writing Belle’s story changed their lives. Benedict stated that it made her more aware of the injustices against blacks, known and referred to as “colored” people to reflect the language of the period.

How Greene helped establish the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City is an absorbing tale of courage and determination that is an extraordinary read.

 

Posted in Cozy Mystery, Reviews

Review of THE GHOST CAMPER’S TALL TALES, A Destiny Falls Mystery and Magic Cozy Mystery, by Elizabeth Pantley

*****5-stars

The third book of Elizabeth Pantley’s Destiny Falls Mystery and Magic is a fun tale that continues the story of Hayden, her cat Latifa, and the magical world of Destiny Falls and its wonderful characters. In this installment, Hayden finds the body of a man she believed to have been killed in the previous book. She also discovers a letter from Gladstone, the neighboring island off Destiny Falls, that can only be reached by ferry with a special ticket. The letter is supposedly from her mother who she thought abandoned her as a child but now learns was possibly taken against her will.

As Hayden delves deeper into the mystery with Latifa, her cat who she communicates with via telepathy; her brother Axel; the sheriff; and her romantic interest, Han, she learns some strange things about the three businessmen who own shops near the newspaper office where she works. She also befriends a ghost who appears to her alone and shares some tales that turn out to be history lessons about Gladstone.

This is a delightful addition to the series. One of my favorite parts was when Hayden visited the Destiny Falls Library. As a librarian, I would love to work in such an enchanted place. I enjoyed every page of the book and look forward to reading the others. I highly recommend them to cozy mystery fans, cat lovers, and everyone who likes magical tales.

See my Review of the first book in the series, FALLING INTO MAGIC: https://wp.me/p6m4z7-38p and my interview with the author about her second book, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF EMILY: https://wp.me/p6m4z7-38S

Latifa and Chanel, two of the cats, were also interviewed on my cat character’s blog: https://wp.me/p6m4z7-38p https://wp.me/p7XcB0-17h

Posted in Reviews

Shepherd.com: A Unique New Book Recommendation Site

Have you discovered Shepherd.com? If you enjoy reading books and are looking for some great recommendations or are an author who would like to find another way to promote your work, check out this site created by entrepreneur Ben Fox as an alternative to Amazon and Goodreads.

Fox explains his vision for the website. “I want Shepherd to be a place that makes book discovery fun online. I want it to evoke the same feeling that you get when you wander around your local bookstore, but in vastly different ways given the limitless nature of the internet. And, while doing this, I want to help authors bump into new readers who are the most likely to be interested in their book. It is a hard world for authors and I want to make it easier for them to connect with readers in some cool ways.”

Shepherd.com launched in April 2021. In January 2022, Fox and his team launched a new front page, search, and topic sections called bookshelves. Bookshelves help visitors browse through books with subjects such as World War 2, dragons, grief, and many other topics. Fox says that “The next step is to bring in genres so that on the bookshelves you can filter to see only historical fiction, history, or other genre types. And then we will also add genre pages where you can filter by topic. So you can be on a science fiction page and filter to see only books about cyborgs or artificial intelligence or other fun ways to discover amazing books. Once we have that base in place, I have a lot of plans to create more new and unique ways to find books. Slowly but surely, we will make book browsing online less like buying toothpaste :).”The way Shepherd.com works is that an author can submit short recommendations of five book titles on a particular subject. For instance, I have a cozy mystery series, The Cobble Cove mysteries, that feature a librarian as the main character. I recommended five other first books of cozy mystery series that also include libraries and librarians. Here’s the link to my page on Shepherd.com: https://shepherd.com/best-books/mystery-series-featuring-libraries-and-librarians

Here is a list of a few other book recommendations featured on Shepherd.com:

https://shepherd.com/best-books/historical-mysteries-to-enlighten-your-imagination

https://shepherd.com/best-books/mysteries-set-in-space

https://shepherd.com/best-books/mystery-when-you-really-want-to-hug-the-detect

Shepherd.com isn’t only for mysteries or fiction. Here are some other lists:

https://shepherd.com/best-books/on-space-exploration

https://shepherd.com/best-books/the-history-of-paris

https://shepherd.com/best-books/changing-how-you-see-history

Shepherd.com had 67,000+ unique visitors last month. Fox works with a team that helps with different aspects of the site. Learn more about the Shepherd team here: https://forauthors.shepherd.com/team, and check out the exciting plans for Shepherd.com as outlined in its 2022 Roadmap: https://forauthors.shepherd.com/roadmap

Posted in Reviews

Two Time-Travel Book Reviews

I read two very good but very different time-travel novels. Here are my reviews of Doorway to Murder by Carol Pouliot and When Are You Today? by Keith Carey.

*****5-stars

Doorway to Murder is the first book in the Blackwell and Watson cozy time-travel mysteries. I really enjoyed this book and hope to read more of the series. It blended several genres from time travel to cozy mysteries to historical fiction.

The characters were described. Olivia Watson is a current-day freelance researcher with a kitten named Mr. Moto and three girlfriends. She lives alone in the small town of Knightsbridge. Detective Steven Blackwell lives in 1934 in the same place and in the same house. Somehow, through a trick of time, they are able to see one another and even visit their retrospective years.

Olivia ends up helping Steven on a murder case, but the outcome affects her present. There’s plenty of room for more mysteries in this excellent series that currently has three books. I highly recommend it for fans of cozy mysteries, time-travel tales, and historical fiction.

Purchase link: https://bit.ly/3hG1fTv

Series Purchase link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09B1GSDHB?

*****5 stars

When Are You Today? is the first novel by Keith Carey. It’s a time-travel tale with a Christian theme. The concept is unique, an alarm clock built in the 1930’s that present day siblings Carl and Sheila Jarliguez purchase and discover that it transports them to a different year in the past or future each day when they wake up.

Carl and Sheila are very close and recently lost their parents in an accident. As they rise each morning to a different tune reflective of the year in which they’ve arrived, they experience historical events in and around their hometown of Pasadena, California. They face danger and meet both friendly and hostile people. Their adventures include attending the first Rose Bowl Parade, meeting Albert Einstein, attempting to prevent Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, and traveling to Kuala Lumpur via future rocket.

This book contains both fun and serious moments and was well researched. There’s a twist at the end that some might see coming through clues left by the brother and sister’s mother. I recommend it for those who enjoy Christian and time-travel novels. A great first book, and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Purchase link: https://amzn.to/344gEJT

If you’re in a time-travel reading mode, you might also consider my novel, Time’s Relative, and my short story, The Mistaken Mission.

Purchase link: http://mybook.to/timesrelative

Purchase Link: mybook.to/mistakenmission

Posted in Reviews

Review of Pets on the Prowl: An Animal Mystery Anthology edited by J.K. Larkin

*****5 stars

If you’re an animal lover and a mystery fan, you’ll love this collection of twelve pet mysteries by talented authors.

“Stealing Roscoe” by John M. Floyd is the first story in the anthology. Taking place on a college campus, it involves the dog napping of a bulldog that’s the mascot of the school’s sports team. The next story in this collection, “Murder Gone A-Stray” by Debbie De Louise (me) features an officer who is invited to attend the will reading of a rich, old man whose children may have played a role in his death. When Officer McDonald arrives at the mansion, she discovers that she must spend a night at the house with the relatives and a cat who has witnessed his master’s murder. “The Catbird Seat” by Dawn DeBraal is told in the point-of-view of a cat who also witnesses a murder. “Troubles in Paradise” by Kathy Chencharik features a cat who interacts with other neighborhood animals in a search for missing pets.

Not many would consider a cockroach a pet, but the main character considers it her mascot and uses it as inspiration for revenge in Jeffrey A. Lockwood’s “La Cucaracha.” Another unusual addition to this collection is “My Best Friend is a Ghost Who Happens to be a Dog Named Rosie” by Stephen Johnson. This is a story about a young girl who meets up with a canine ghost on Halloween who helps solve the case of missing pets.

“Fetch” by Ken Goldman was one of my favorites in this anthology. It has a supernatural element to it and involves an old man and his dog who begins to bring home human bones. The ending is quite a twist. “The Daring Duo of Shady Elm” by Shari Held features a Siamese and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as the main characters. The cat and dog help solve neighborhood burglaries. “The Three Lives of Thomasina Bug” by Elizabeth Elwood is a cute story about a cat who, with his favorite toy, leads police to where illegal drugs are hidden.

“His Sister’s Keeper” by Matt McGee features a wildlife sanctuary employee whose brother alerts her about a bear blocking traffic on a busy road. Arriving at the scene with her dog, she figures a clever way to deal with the bear without harming it. “Null and Void” by Rashmi Agrawal is another unusual tale. This one involves a woman whose boyfriend asks her to get a divorce from the dog she married at the request of her parents. Last, but not least, David Lange’s “Bessie’s Cap,” is a fun romp of an adventure involving two raccoons in an air and space museum who set out to discover the thief of two historic aviation artifacts. Lots of fun as they interview the mice and other inhabitants of the museum while trying to avoid the snake.

I highly recommend this book of pet mysteries which is another fine addition to the Red Penguin Collection edited by J.K. Larkin. Pick up your copy here: https://amzn.to/34Ul1qT

Posted in Reviews

Review of the Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis

*****5-stars

I don’t read a lot of historical fiction but, as a librarian and an author, I like to try various genres. Fiona Davis is one of my favorite historical fiction authors. Her books are compelling, set in New York, and well researched. Her latest, The Magnolia Palace, is no exception. In fact, it kept me glued to the pages until the end and then I was rewarded with historical details about the Frick family who were featured in the book.

I enjoyed how the story alternated between the years 1919 and 1966. The two main characters, Lilly Carter (Angelica), a model who lost her mother in 1919 from the Spanish flu, ends up as private secretary to Helen Frick at her home before it’s turned into the New York City art museum that she founds. Lilly takes on this position by accident after fleeing her home when suspected of concealing information about her landlord’s murder. In 1966, a young woman named Veronica, also a model, travels from England to New York to audition at the Frick Museum in the hope that she can make enough money to bring home her sick sister whose medical expenses and care her mother can no longer afford.

What ties Lilly and Veronica together is a missing jewel — the magnolia diamond that is hidden somewhere in the Frick residence. When Lilly worked there, she’d followed scavenger hunt clues to locate it without any luck. Veronica, trapped alone there with a young man during a snowstorm, comes across these clues and follows the hunt with her friend.

There’s much more to the story including a romance, a murder, and a twist, but I don’t want to ruin it for those who like surprises. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good, can’t-put-down read.