Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Gilt (The Royal Circle, Book #1)
by Katherine Longshore
Release Date: May 15th, 2012
2012 Viking Juvenile
Hardcopy Edition; 406 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-670-01399-9
ASIN: B0064W621E
Genre: Fiction / Historical / YA
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

When Kitty Tylney's best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII's heart and brings Kitty to court, she's thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat's shadow, Kitty's now caught between two men--the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat's meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

My Thoughts
Gilt is one of those books I went into not really knowing what to expect, but which turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise.  I enjoyed this novel tremendously, even staying up quite late on a work night in order to finish.  Gilt is certainly not the most detailed, sophisticated, or even the best version of Catherine Howard that I have read, but just the fact that it was lacking in those details that often turn away readers from the historical genre, such as language, description, and some questionable representation of historical characters, this fact is what made it so much fun to read.  

I thought the friendship between Kitty and Catherine Howard was quite compelling, and found myself both drawn and annoyed by both of them throughout the novel.  Cat was quite manipulative and her machinations put everyone's life in jeopardy, although she was too shallow and selfish to see where here schemes and manipulations led her until it was too late.  Dreaming of a life full of fancy clothes, jewelry, and parties, Cat was quite unprepared for the political side of court life and often found herself not paying attention to the nuances between courtiers and other powerful members, thinking that as Queen she was safe from all outside manipulations.  The fact that she was King Henry VIII's fifth wife should have always been kept firmly in her mind, and that King Henry liked to manipulate rules and regulations to suit himself or his whims and fancies.  Katherine Tylney was an enjoyable character, although I did wish she would have grown a backbone as she grew older as Cat's manipulations and treatment of her was cruel.  I realize that women with little support from their family and left under the care of others have little say in the world at this time, but I did wonder if she was quite so weak-willed in history as she was portrayed in this book. There were times though, when I wondered if any of the characters liked themselves, or even if I liked them very much, as they all seemed to be after something, or to want something.  I do remember thinking, if this what court life was like, count me out.  And it probably was.  I really liked the parts when everyone tiptoed around King Henry wondering what he was going to do to them when he was in a foul humour; it says a lot about how he was really running his country at this time.  Interesting!!

One of the things I really enjoyed in this novel was the author's fluent style of writing.  She was very descriptive without being overly descriptive (not that that has ever bothered me in the past), and I found myself flying through the pages with ease, enjoying the dialogue between the characters very much.  The use of modern language made it very easy to understand the crux of the story rather than waste time trying to figure out what the characters are trying to say, and while this may appeal to those who don't read a lot of historical fiction, finding it much easier to read, I did find it very weird to hear that type of language from sixteenth century historical figures and was kind of taken aback several times.  I think I would have liked to have seen some language from that type period to make it seem more authentic.  And even knowing the outcome, I was hoping the ending would be somewhat different. But the author uses foreshadowing and other literary tools quite well, slowly building up the tension, even where I didn't notice it, until I found myself quickly turning the pages in anticipation, and realized how well it was done.   

Gilt was an enjoyable take on Catherine Howard's rise and fall during her years of marriage to King Henry VIII.  I enjoyed this novel tremendously as I found the writing style to be quite flowing and easy to read, although I would have liked the language to be more in tune with the time period.  The flow between the characters worked very well and I found the interactions to be quite interesting.  While not being at the top of the list for what I would consider completely credible research as many licenses were definitely made, it is still very obvious that the author put a lot of time and effort into researching her characters and the time period as well as everything else that goes into a historical novel.  I am definitely looking forward to Tarnish, the next book in this series, which will feature Anne Boleyn, to be released June 18th.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Killer Librarian by Mary Lou Kirwin

Killer Librarian
by Mary Lou Kirwin
Release Date: November 27th, 2012
2012 Pocket Books
Paperback Edition; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-451-68464-3
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Champion of the mystery section at a small-town Minnesota library, Karen Nash is about to embark on a dream trip to London—a literary tour inspired by every murderous intrigue, wily suspect, and ingenious crime found in the pages of the British mysteries that she devours. But she’s clueless why the love of her mid-life, Dave, would dump her hours before takeoff—until she spies him at the airport with a young honey on his arm! She decides the best revenge (for now) is to get on that plane anyway . . . and entertain schemes for Dave’s untimely demise while crossing the pond.

After touching ground in the hallowed homeland of Christie, Sayers, and Peters, she checks into a cozy B & B run by charming bibliophile Caldwell Perkins. Soon she’s spilling tears in her pint at the corner pub, sharing her heartbreak saga with a stranger. That night, a B & B guest drops out of circulation—permanently. And when Dave and his cutie turn up in London, Karen realizes they are an assassin’s target. With the meticulous attention to detail that makes her a killer librarian, Karen sleuths her way through her own real-life mystery—in which library science meets the art of murder.

My Thoughts
Killer Librarian is a novel that I thought was quite enjoyable, but on a superficial level, as I followed Karen Nash's adventures and revelations about herself as she indulged in a trip to England after being dumped by her boyfriend just hours before her trip. Her coming-to-terms with herself and realizing that she was better off without Dave was interesting and fun.  However, as far as the actual 'cozy mystery' went, well, there really was very little to this cozy mystery as the novel tended to spend time on Karen's blossoming identity rather than the mystery.

As always, I was attracted to the title and tend to read anything to do with books.  There was a bit of discussion about books, and I really enjoyed the scene when Karen went to the local town that specialized in bookstores (and how I didn't spend a day there when I was in England, I am not quite sure) but again, it was the books and the idea of them that I found interesting, not so much the story.  To be honest though, it was the rather slow development between the characters as well as the books that interested me far more than the mystery which I found to be somewhat humdrum and mundane, easily solvable and rather boring.  The story revolved more around Karen and the realization as to what she was missing in her life which kind of grew on me as a I read or I never would have read past chapter three.  I did have some concerns with Karen and the descriptions of her as a librarian, especially the lines that continuously referred to her stacking shelves and arranging books alphabetically in her library.  My friend is a librarian and she never touches a bookshelf as she is far too busy doing other paperwork and organizing events to stack shelves.  In her library, that task tends to fall to other workers or volunteers, under her strict guidance, of course.  But I've seen her paperwork and it is rather frightening, especially with all of the community events that go on in our library.

Killer Librarian is one of those novels one picks up at the airport or brings along for beach reading as it is light and fun entertainment that you can polish off in a couple of hours.  While I found myself drawn to the characters in the end and found them endearing, at least Karen and Caldwell, I wasn't crazy about the mystery and the many 'coincidences' that occurred throughout the novel.  I will probably take a look at the next book in this series, Death Overdue, to give it a chance and see if it builds on the potential I see in this novel.  A bit more emphasis on the murder would make this cozy mystery much more interesting.
Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: The Book of Killowen by Erin Hart

The Book of Killowen (Nora Gavin, #4)
by Erin Hart
Release Date: March 5th, 2013
2013 Scribner
Hard Copy Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-4516-3484-6
Genre: Fiction / Murder / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

After a year away from working in the field, archaeologist Cormac Maguire and pathologist Nora Gavin are back in the bogs, investigating a ninth-century body found buried in the trunk of a car. They discover that the ancient corpse is not alone—pinned beneath it is the body of Benedict Kavanagh, missing for mere months and familiar to television viewers as a philosopher who enjoyed destroying his opponents in debate. Both men were viciously murdered, but centuries apart—so how did they end up buried together in the bog?

While on the case, Cormac and Nora lodge at Killowen, a nearby artists’ colony, organic farm, and sanctuary for eccentric souls. Digging deeper into the older crime, they become entangled in high-stakes intrigue encompassing Kavanagh’s death while surrounded by suspects in his ghastly murder. It seems that everyone at Killowen has some secret to protect.

My Thoughts
The Book of Killowen was a fascinating look at the methods taken to investigate bodies found in the bogs of Ireland.  Formerly surrounded by monasteries, the land is steeped in culture and discoveries waiting to be found, and I found the culture and historical knowledge in this book to be quite interesting.  With a current murder intertwined around the discovery of a ninth-century body, the investigation jumped back and forth between the two and I thought the processes for each were well-done.

Nora and Cormac return in this fourth installment of the series, and this time they are immersed in the lives of a group of people living nearby who have developed an organic farm community as well as a place for artists wishing to work in relative peace and seclusion.  As they immerse themselves in the community, they realize rather quickly that Killowen holds many secrets, some of which relate to the murder, and 'bog man', they are investigating.  While I enjoyed learning about the community and how such a community developed as it was quite fascinating, I have to admit that the secrets that many of the community members held were easily figured out by the way the author crafted the story. I tend to be very suspicious by nature anyways, and I easily figured out many of the twists and turns of the murder investigation, the 'who-dun-its', just not necessarily the actual reasons why.   This didn't detract from my enjoyment of the novel however, as I enjoyed seeing how all the characters played their individual roles, but it was rather easy to read between the lines.

This novel does tend to be very character driven, and because I had read the previous novels, many of the comments and actions by the characters made a lot of sense to me, and the author does assume that a reader has read the previous novels.  Does this detract from the enjoyment of this novel?  Not really, other than not fully understanding Nora's behaviour in this novel.  It makes sense if you've read the previous one though.  There was a theme about redemption and starting over this novel that was threaded throughout all of the stories and it was interesting learning about the different people and how they came to the community for healing.  I definitely enjoyed how the author threaded some of Ireland's more recent past into the story as well, with mention of bombings and other brief things, although the story was more about the immediate as well about the tenth century and the development of writing and reading.  

The Book of Killowen was an interesting glimpse into the world of monasteries and illuminated manuscripts that existed over one thousands years ago.  I also thought the author did a fantastic job highlighting the after-effects of a stroke victim and the frustrations both the family and the victim experience during rehabilitation. Both my father and my grandfather had a stroke and this resonated with me quite strongly.  And while the story was very heavily character-driven, I did feel like things were wrapped up far too neatly or happened far too easily in the form of coincidences for my liking. However, the writing style was very descriptive and interesting, and I am looking forward to another mystery in Ireland in the near future by this author.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Guest Post: Kari Lee Townsend

I would like to welcome Kari Lee Townsend, author of the Fortune Teller Mystery Series, who is here today to discuss one of my favourite characters in the story, Morty the cat.  About to release her third novel in the series, Trouble in the Tarot, on March 5th, 2013, the mystery surrounding Morty is ever present and I know I am ever so curious about this feline creature who graces this world with his presence whenever trouble should happen to show up.  And anyone who has read this series knows that trouble shows up at Sunny's door pretty much regularly.  Take a look at the next pot of trouble she lands in.

For psychic Sunshine Meadows, sometimes fortunes can be deceiving…

Lately Sunny has been experiencing a period of big opportunity: her business in Divinity, New York, is thriving, and Detective Mitch Stone has finally agreed to take Sunny on a date. But thanks to her clairvoyant abilities, Sunny knows better than anyone that life deals out bad cards along with the good.

When Sunny agrees to read tarot cards at the annual summer Solstice Carnival, she meets her Granny Gert’s “arch nemesis” Fiona Atwater, and is overcome by a vision of Fiona in a violent argument. Sunny knows trouble is brewing when Granny and Fiona start having squabbles all over town. But the fighting comes to a head when a local baker gets run over by a big white Cadillac—and Granny and Fiona are found at the crime scene.

Sunny knows she should step aside and let Mitch handle the investigating, but she’s not about to ignore her visions and leave her granny’s life in fate’s hands…

Who or What is Morty?

               Morty is a cat. We all know that. But I get asked all the time just exactly who or what is Morty? Well, I can honestly say, Morty is a work in progress. When I created him, I knew I wanted him to be immortal. What does that mean? Well, that he will never die and is probably centuries old. Part of his mystery is that even I don’t really know exactly who or what he is, and that’s what makes writing his character so much fun. I am trying to slowly reveal his character a little more with each book.

               We know for sure that Sunny has never seen him eat or sleep. He might do so in private, but no one knows for sure. One thing is certain. He can definitely take care of himself. He is bigger than normal, beautifully groomed with pristine white fur that almost seems to glow at times. He has big intense black eyes. He is extremely fast, shows up in all sorts of places, and mysterious things happen when he is around. He always takes part in solving the murder in some way. He is proud, with almost a superior air about him, and he doesn’t warm up to people easily, especially Detective Mitch Stone aka Grumpy Pants. Though he does like his housemate, psychic fortune teller, Sunshine Meadows aka Tink short for Tinkerbelle. And he finds Sunny’s quirky Granny Gert endearing, even though she insists on dressing him up in her handmade bowties.

               For all anyone knows, Morty could be a vampire. He could be a wizard. He could be the reincarnation of some powerful aristocratic figure from long ago. I guess you’ll have to keep reading the books to find out because only time will tell. If you could have it your way, what would you like Morty to be? Inquiring minds want to know. Chime in for a chance to win a copy of book 3 of the Fortune Teller Mysteries TROUBLE IN THE TAROT. Good luck and happy reading. Be sure to drop me a line or post a review. I love hearing what readers think of my books.

Thanks so much for having me.

Author Information
Kari Lee Townsend lives in central New York with her understanding husband, her three busy boys, and her oh-so-dramatic daughter. She is the National Bestselling Author, Agatha & RT Reviewer's Choice Award nominee for her Fortune Teller Mystery series. Kari also writes romance under the name Kari Lee Harmon. Small towns, mystical elements, quirky characters and a few chuckles along the way are what her books are all about. To find out more about Kari and all of her books, check out her websites at: &

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Blood's Pride by Evie Manieri

Blood's Pride (Shattered Kingdoms, Book #1)
by Evie Manieri
Release Date: February 19th, 2013
2013 Tor Books
Hardcover Edition; 528 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-765-33234-9
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Rising from their sea-torn ships like vengeful, pale phantoms, the Norlanders laid waste to the Shadar under cover of darkness. They forced the once-peaceful fisher folk into slavery and forged an alliance with their former trading partners, the desert-dwelling Nomas tribe, cutting off any hope of salvation.

Now, two decades after the invasion, a rebellion gathers strength in the dark corridors of the city. A small faction of Shadari have hired the Mongrel, an infamous mercenary, to aid their fledgling uprising—but with her own shadowy ties to the region, she is a frighteningly volatile ally. Has she really come to lead a revolution, or for a more sinister purpose all her own?

My Thoughts
Blood's Pride is one of those very intricate novels that sort of fell short for me as it focused so much on cramming as much as possible into the pages but lost a lot in character development along the way.  I did enjoy it, but on a superficial level, as I felt like I didn't really connect to any of the characters.

First of all, I did find the story line to be quite enjoyable and some parts were quite unique. The world building was somewhat different and I enjoyed learning about the different societies and how they interacted.  I also found it interesting how the author incorporated some of the Nordic legends and mythology into her writing as I am somewhat familiar with some of the them and recognized some of them in here.  Naturally, there are the usual stereotypes such as the slave who is really a king, the lord who falls in love with a slave, the mixed blood analogy, and so on, but I sort of expected that pretty early into the novel as I don't feel like there are too many real surprises in fantasy anymore.  And yes, it does take some of that excitement away that I remember getting from earlier fantasy novels that I've read, but I found the pacing to be rather quick and interesting and because of that, I enjoyed it; I didn't have to read through pages and pages of description as the author got right to the point all of the time.  The focus is on a people forced into drudgery and slavery fighting back against their oppressors and trying to win back their land and their freedom.  It is also about their heritage and relearning things they were taught to forget and this is what I found interesting.  I wish the author had spent more time on this aspect of the novel, but perhaps more information will be forthcoming on the history and culture of the Shadari and what happened to curtail their knowledge.

With all this being said, I did find the author's focus on the storyline and the events curtailed the growth development of the characters and I found myself reading with no connection to their personal feelings whatsoever.  It was always about the events and the intricate details so when things happened to the characters, I read with a detachment that should not have been there.  With more emphasis on the characters and the bond with the reader, this novel would have been richer in scope and definitely would have resonated better with the reader.  There were also some other problems, more logical problems that didn't make sense to me, but these were minor in scope, and included things like agriculture and about their flying animals.  

Blood's Pride was an enjoyable and entertaining novel, and there were many parts that I thought were quite fascinating and different.  The author's tendency to jump from point of view to point of view was somewhat distracting in this novel as each jump brought the action forward and this was slightly disconcerting.  I also thought that there was perhaps too much information in this novel at the expense of character development, and for me, no matter how many twists and turns there are in a novel, if I don't feel anything for the characters, the rest simply doesn't matter.  Because I did enjoy this novel, I will probably read Fortune's Blight when it is released as I am curious to see what happens next.