The Dead Assassin by Vaughn Entwistle

The Dead Assassin: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan DoyleThe Dead Assassin: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

1895. Victorian England trembles on the verge of hysteria in Vaughn Entwistle’s The Dead Assassin. Terrorist bombs are detonating around the Capitol and every foreigner is suspected of being an Anarchist lurking beneath a cape.

Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle is summoned to the scene of a gruesome crime that has baffled and outraged Scotland Yard’s best. A senior member of Her Majesty’s government has been brutally murdered, and the body of his attacker lies close by–riddled with bullets. More perplexing, one of the attending detectives recognizes the dead assassin as Charlie Higginbotham, a local Cockney pickpocket and petty thief. Higginbotham is not just an improbable suspect, but an impossible suspect, for the young detective watched him take the drop two weeks previously, hanged at Newgate Prison.

Conan Doyle calls in his friend Oscar Wilde for assistance and soon the two authors find themselves swept up in an investigation so bizarre it defies conventional wisdom and puts the lives of their loved ones, the Nation, and even the Monarch herself in dire peril. The murders continue, committed by a shadowy cadre of seemingly unstoppable assassins. As the sinister plot unravels, an implausible theory becomes the only possible solution: someone is reanimating the corpses of executed criminals and sending them shambling through the London fog… and programmed for murder.

by Vaughn Entwistle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved the first book in this series, “The Revenant of Thraxton Hall,” and have been waiting for a new book to come out, so I was really excited when I got the chance to read this one.

After being warned that this book was a bit darker than the last, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I fell in love with it from the first page. This novel has everything you could want in a paranormal mystery. The descriptions of London were brilliant and the story took many unexpected turns. What impressed me the most though, was the use of necromancy via means of steampunk inner workings. This book titillated my imagination and thrilled me with the Frankensteinesque qualities of the monster. Great imagination, this author.

The story itself is much more involved this time than in the previous book, but I was glad to see that the author retained his sense of irony and humour, and that Oscar Wilde was still a flamboyant, larger than life character who added a lot of comedic relief and colour to this story.

The re-imagining of the relationship between Doyle and his second wife was interesting, and although I’m sure some readers will have a few choice words for him–I liked where the author went with it. It was different, and obviously if you can believe Doyle and Wilde were out chasing monsters–then a few blips in the historical accuracy of their personal relationships should not be much of an issue. I choose to suspend belief, because it is so much fun to read this series.

The bad guys are vile, the good guys are truly heroic, even when they bumble into it on accident, and I am looking forward to another book.

This book series definitely has my recommendation.

The White Shepherd by Annie Dalton

First in the brand-new Anna Hopkins dogwalking mystery series: an intriguing new departure for award-winning YA writer Annie Dalton.

Anna Hopkins’ daily walk through Oxford’s picturesque Port Meadow is rudely interrupted one autumn morning when her white German Shepherd, Bonnie, unearths a bloodsoaked body in the undergrowth. For Anna it’s a double shock: she’d met the victim previously. Naomi Evans was a professional researcher who had told Anna she was working on a book about a famous Welsh poet, and who offered to help Anna trace Bonnie’s original owner.

From her conversations with Naomi, Anna is convinced that she was not the random victim of a psychopathic serial killer, as the police believe. She was targeted because of what she knew. With the official investigation heading in the wrong direction entirely, Anna teams up with fellow dogwalkers Isadora Salzman and Tansy Lavelle to discover the truth.

My rating: 4 stars

If you enjoy mysteries that are very detailed and don’t leave out any possible lead or suspect, then this book will be exactly what you are looking for. I kind of expected a flat, one-dimensional cozy mystery when I picked this up, and was delighted to find that wasn’t the case.

The author took great care with her character building, using a familiar setting and really taking time with her descriptions. You would be hard pressed to figure out the mystery early on in this novel, since she also waits to let the plot unfold  a bit before revealing many clues.

I found this book to be well paced and interesting and am looking forward to reading more of this author’s work. The only thing that bothered me, is that if it is supposed to be a dog walking mystery–perhaps the dogs could have played a slightly larger role than just being companions for much of the story.

Overall, I thought this was really good. Definitely recommended for those who enjoy the whodunnit.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Church of Spies by Mark Riebling

Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against HitlerChurch of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler by Mark Riebling

Pope Pius XII is perhaps the most detested pope in modern history, vilified for allegedly appeasing Hitler and betraying the Jewish people by remaining silent during the Holocaust. But this conventional narrative is not the full story.

In Church of Spies, the intelligence expert Mark Riebling draws on a wealth of recently uncovered documents to argue that, far from being Hitler’s lackey, Pius was an active anti-Nazi spymaster. He directed a vast network of Vatican operatives—priests and laypeople alike—who partnered with the German resistance, tipped the Allies off to Hitler’s invasions of France and Russia, and involved themselves in three separate plots to assassinate Hitler.

A fast-paced and gripping tale of secrecy, danger, and self-sacrifice, Church of Spies takes readers from hidden crypts beneath the Vatican to Nazi bunkers in Germany to chart the true legacy of Pius’s secret war. Although these revelations do not excuse Pius’s public silence during the war, they provide us with a deeper understanding of the man reviled by so many.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was both surprised and enthralled by this book from the beginning. Whilst I expected the author to have a compelling argument and evidence to support his ideas, he also managed to craft a book that was interesting and kept my attention throughout.

As someone who loves history, it is hard for me to pass up a title that promises to look at something from a new angle. Mark Riebling offered that, and did an excellent job of supporting his claims. I have to say, after reading this, I agree with his assessment of the situation.

There was a lot I didn’t know about the Pope’s standpoint on the Nazi movement and the involvement of the Catholic Church, and I walked away feeling better informed after having read this.

If you are a history buff, I definitely recommend that you pick this book up. You will be rewarded with the writing of an author who knows his stuff and meets a high standard of literary integrity.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Determined Heart by Antoinette May

The Determined Heart: The Tale of Mary Shelley and Her FrankensteinThe Determined Heart: The Tale of Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein by Antoinette May

The Determined Heart reveals the life of Mary Shelley in a story of love and obsession, betrayal and redemption.

The daughter of political philosopher William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley had an unconventional childhood populated with the most talented and eccentric personalities of the time. After losing her mother at an early age, she finds herself in constant conflict with a resentful stepmother and a jealous stepsister. When she meets the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, she falls deeply in love, and they elope with disastrous consequences. Soon she finds herself destitute and embroiled in a torturous love triangle as Percy takes Mary’s stepsister as a lover. Over the next several years, Mary struggles to write while she and Percy face ostracism, constant debt, and the heartbreaking deaths of three children. Ultimately, she achieves great acclaim for Frankenstein, but at what cost?
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book, there is no doubt of that. I was pleasantly surprised–no, that doesn’t cover it. I was supremely shocked that this book was so well thought out and written. I love historical novels based on real people, but many of them tend to lack the crucial research that makes them feel authentic. This author made certain to remain true to the characters, whilst still being imaginative enough to write a book that also keeps the reader’s attention.

Mary Shelley surely was an interesting person and she is depicted that way here, but it was the descriptions of Lord Byron and Bysshe that really captivated me more than anything else.

This book brings to life all of the loss, excitement, many moves and struggles of this infamous historical couple and shows both the beautiful and uglier aspects of their lives together and apart. The author did a wonderful job of describing each setting she used and taking her characters from flat to three-dimensional, emotional beings that you feel sorrow for having to part with when the story is complete.

The only thing that annoyed me, and would have annoyed me even if this were non fiction, was Mary’s tolerance for Claire. Not the author’s fault, as she was remaining as true to life as possible, but still–I wanted to punch Claire.

More than just some simple filling in of the gaps in knowledge, I felt Antoinette May really out her heart and soul into the creation of this book and strongly encourage you to give this book a try. It will not disappoint.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Lost Girl by R.L. Stine

Generations of children and teens have grown up on R.L. Stine’s bestselling and hugely popular horror series, Fear Street and Goosebumps. Now, the Fear Street series is back with a chilling new installment, packed with pure nightmare fodder that will scare Stine’s avid fan base of teen readers and adults. New student Lizzy Palmer is the talk of Shadyside High. Michael and his girlfriend Pepper befriend her, but the closer they get to her, the stranger she seems… and the more attractive she is to Michael. He invites her to join him on a snowmobile race that ends in a tragic accident. Soon, Michael’s friends start being murdered, and Pepper becomes convinced that Lizzy is behind the killings. But to her total shock, she and Michael are drawn into a tragic story of an unthinkable betrayal committed over 60 years ago. Frightening and tense in the way that only this master of horror can deliver, The Lost Girl is another terrifying Fear Street novel by the king of juvenile horror.
The Lost Girl (Fear Street Relaunch, #3)The Lost Girl by R.L. Stine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For being a reboot of an old series, I was impressed that the author didn’t seem to lose any steam in between. This book has all of the characteristics that made the series popular the first time. The characters are interesting, the plot thickens as the book progresses and the horror aspects are truly horrifying.

I liked all of the obviously fifties-themed things that the author used to make the atmosphere seem more believable. This was a good choice to start a new wave of this series.

Both long time fans and new readers will likely get enjoyment from this story. It was good to get back to fear Street.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan

The Good NeighborThe Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan

When small lies have big consequences…

Things are a little rough for Izzy Lane. Still reeling from the break-up of her marriage, the newly single mom moves back to the Philadelphia home she grew up in, five-year-old Noah in tow. The transition is difficult, but with the help of her best friends—and her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Feldman—Izzy feels like she’s stepping closer to her new normal. Until her ex-husband shows up with his girlfriend. That’s when Izzy invents a boyfriend of her own. And that’s when life gets complicated.

Blogging about her “new guy” provides Izzy with something to do when Noah’s asleep. What’s the harm in a few made-up stories? Then, her blog soars in popularity and she’s given the opportunity to moonlight as an online dating expert. How can she turn it down? But when her friends want to meet the mysterious “Mac,” someone online suspects Izzy’s a fraud, and a guy in-real-life catches her eye, Izzy realizes just how high the stakes are. That’s when Mrs. Feldman steps in, determined to show her neighbor the havoc that lies can wreak. If Izzy’s honest, she could lose everything, and everyone. Is the truth worth any cost?
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For the most part, I really liked this book. The main character had a strong presence and I enjoyed getting to know her son and the other characters.

I, personally, did not see that what she did during the book was as big of a deal as it was made out to be, and since that was the main conflict, I struggled a little at times to understand why it was so important.

This book has some great quotes, especially during the points where the MC is reflecting on her life and her choices. The tension with her ex husband was very well written.

Overall, this is the kind of book that you can lose yourself in and enjoy. The side characters were created in such a way that you got more than just a glimpse at their lives and especially the neighbour, added a lot to the overall book.

The end was sweet without being overly sticky-sweet or leaving too many questions unanswered. I am looking forward to seeing what else this author does.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided by Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Sunday Dinner: Coming of Age in the Segregated South by Ann Boult Walling

Sunday Dinner: Coming of Age in the Segregated SouthSunday Dinner: Coming of Age in the Segregated South by Ann Boult Walling

Ann Walling grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, in the 1940s and 50s in a family with deep roots in Mississippi and a history tightly bound to the Old South. To a small girl’s sensibility, her family’s lavish Sunday dinners were a liturgy that reinforced strict Southern mores she was taught never to question. But lurking behind the fine china were troubling contradictions, racial injustice, and tightly guarded family secrets. Told with clear-eyed empathy, Sunday Dinner is the remarkable story of a young woman’s moral awakening amidst a society’s painful reckoning with its history. The book poignantly outlines the struggle that each one of us faces in deciding which aspects of our past we must embrace, and which aspects we must leave behind.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sunday Dinner is the kind of memoir that makes you want to read memoirs. This is an honest look at the harsh realities as well as fond memories of a childhood in a very tense time in America.

The author has done a good job not only telling her audience about her experiences, but ensuring that she takes the reader along for the journey as well. The writing is heartfelt and honest.

I found myself enthralled by the idea of so many things going on within the family of the author that they would not speak about openly and in public. The differences between what we see as neighbours and friends and what is really going on behind the scenes was really highlighted well here, and I have great respect for Ann Boult Walling for coming forward to discuss these difficult issues.

Sometimes I feel that memoirs are more personal journals that the author has chosen to share with the world, and that they should have stayed personal as they have little value for the rest of us. I didn’t feel that way about this book. I think this will be interesting no matter who you are, whether you are southern or not, regardless of race or gender.

The writing is clear and concise and intelligent, and I encourage you to give it a try. Well edited, smart and meaningful.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publicist in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

The Dead HouseThe Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

Part-psychological thriller, part-urban legend, this is an unsettling narrative made up of diary entries, interview transcripts, film footage transcripts and medical notes. Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .

Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.

Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?

Chilling, creepy and utterly compelling, THE DEAD HOUSE is one of those very special books that finds all the dark places in your imagination, and haunts you long after you’ve finished reading.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked parts of this book. The concept is very interesting and I liked that I couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on in the very beginning of the book–unfortunately, I still couldn’t figure out what was going on well into the book either.

Ever read a book where there are so many different ideas competing for space that none of them really get fully explored? That was what I thought about this. The writing was good, the characters were interesting, but there were just so many different things going on that it all mashed together and became…something. Not something that I could figure out.

This is a rather long book, and in the end, I didn’t really get why things happened as they did or why it required so much space. I didn’t hate this book, but I would say that liking it as a whole would be being a bit generous.

If you enjoy reading very unusual books, then this might be a good one for you to check out.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Corridors of the Night by Anne Perry

Corridors of the Night (William Monk, #21)Corridors of the Night by Anne Perry

One night, in a corridor of the Royal Naval Hospital in Greenwich, nurse Hester Monk is approached by a terrified girl. She’s from a hidden ward of children, all subject to frequent blood-letting, and her brother is dying.

While William Monk’s River Police fight to keep London safe from gun-runners, Hester takes on a new role at the hospital, helping to administer a secretive new treatment. But she slowly realises that this experimental cure is putting the lives of the children at risk. Attempting to protect the young victims, she comes under threat from one rich, powerful, and very ill man who is desperate to survive…
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a difficult time with this one. Whilst there were parts of this book that I found fascinating, there were other parts that I couldn’t stay focused on and I felt went unresolved.

I have read a few other books in this series, and I found this one to be a bit darker and more moody than the others. I liked the characters just as well, but the story lines at first seemed to be separate and I was interested in the husband’s half of the tale, but it was that part that seemed to be left unfinished. So…I’m not sure what to think.

This is a very atmospheric book. The descriptions are good and the actions of the characters are both understandable and believable, but I still found my mind wandering off occasionally.

If you are into medical mysteries–and like the idea of early science, this book will please you.

I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. I’m glad I read it–and that’s about all the opinions I’ve got for this one.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. Al opinions are my own.

Murder at Malenfer by Iain McChesney

Murder at MalenferMurder at Malenfer by Iain McChesney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Those in line to the Malenfer estate are succumbing to terrible ends – but is it a supernatural legacy at work, or something entirely more human and evil?

Young Irish mercenary Dermot Ward headed to Paris at the close of World War I, where he drinks to forget his experiences, especially the death of his comrade, Arthur Malenfer. But Arthur has not forgotten Dermot. Dead but not departed, Arthur has unfinished business and needs the help of the living.

Upon his arrival at Malenfer Manor, Dermot finds himself embroiled in a mystery of murder, succession, and ambition. Dermot falls in love with the youngest Malenfer, the beautiful fey Simonne, but in his way are Simonne’s mismatched fiancé, her own connections to the spirit world, Dermot’s overwhelming guilt over the circumstances of Arthur’s death … and the curse.

***Note: This book was previously published under the title “The Curse of Malenfer Manor”.***

My review:

** I didn’t realise when I picked this book up through Netgalley that it was a book I had already read–curse of the faithful reader. But I wanted to make a quick note here, before the review I had written previously–that I read it again, and enjoyed it again, perhaps even more than the first time. This is a book that has so much to offer, and I decided after consideration, that I am amending my 4 star review to a 5 star. If I can read it a second time and still feel wonder–it deserves all 5 stars. Highly recommended.

It may seem strange, but sometimes the most complicated books are worthy of the shortest reviews. This is a book that it is hard to review without giving away something that would be better discovered by the reader, so this will be pretty basic in an attempt not to give away anything crucial.

I liked this book for a variety of reasons. It was more than just the average “ghost story” or paranormal book. This is a complex tale that weaves together the past and the (then) present. It involves many characters and histories. I was thoroughly impressed that the author managed to tell such a complicated story while making everything make sense to the reader and never faltering with plot holes.

The atmosphere of this novel borders on Gothic and has a certain dark quality that fit perfectly with the story. One thing that made this book really stand out for me was the way the characters were introduced. I had a sense that I knew each one personally. This is a difficult thing for a lot of authors to accomplish.

I didn’t see the ending of this book playing out the way it did and that was important to me. I love when you get a surprise at the end and things don’t go as you would expect them to.

The questions were all answered, the plot tied up nicely and there were no loose ends at the finish. This is a truly excellent book.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher and provided by Netgalley.