A Brush With Shadows by Anna Lee Huber

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A Brush With Shadows by Anna Lee Huber

This is the sixth installment of the delightful Lady Darby Series.  It’s coming out in the beginning of March, but as a member of the distinguished group of “F(Anna)tics” on Facebook, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy as soon as possible.  I turned to my friend NetGalley, requested it, and got approved!  Yes!  Now I can jump back into the adventures of Lady Darby and her devilishly handsome now husband Sebastian Gage.

Much like Deanna Raybourn, Huber knows how to write a woman character with strength and vulnerability.  And I love that.  Make it much more real to the reader.  Lady Darby is a complicated woman, who has dealt with many complications in her life and has emerged on the other side happily married and assisting her husband in investigations whenever she can.

This book takes the reader back to Gage’s early years at his Grandfather’s estate in the Dartmoor region of England.  Summoned by his Grandfather, it had been 15 years since Gage had set foot at his mother’s family home.  He’s called to help find the missing heir (his cousin) who had disappeared in mysterious circumstances on the moors surrounding the Estate.  The reader learns more about this family and how they treated both Gage and his mother while she was still alive.  By the time the end rolls around, the reader can understand all sides of the situation, and there is a modicum of respect that weaves through the house.  While there are tragedies during this foray into the ancestral estate, the book does a good job of letting the reader find their way through the maze of misinformation and folklore.  The person behind all the craziness came as a surprise to me, I had bet on someone else entirely!  And I got a little misty eyed at the end for several reasons, of which I wouldn’t want to spoil for any other fans.

I’ve written about Anna Lee’s books before ( This Side of Murder) and I’m still a huge fan of this, her original series.  She’s also a great follow on Twitter @annaleehuber.  If you’re in to any type of historical mystery, she ticks all the boxes in various time frames.

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The Phantom’s Apprentice by Heather Webb

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The Phantom’s Apprentice by Heather Webb

Well, this book could not have come at a better time!  Tomorrow I’m going to see the “sequel” to Phantom, “Love Never Dies” at the Boston Opera House.

I was never a HUGE fan of the original, and then the movie was just okay.  So I was excited for this retelling of the story from the perspective of the manipulated woman, Christine Daae. This book makes her a strong character in her own right, just trying to honor her dead father’s memory by singing in the Paris Opera.  She is fantastic at it, but she longs to do something more with her life.  Her mother taught her illusions from a young age, and she was fascinated by mechanical objects.   She loves being on stage, but wants to become an illusionist in her own right.

The story follows the plot of the musical.  She starts to be tutored by the Paris Opera Ghost, “the Phantom”.  He becomes increasingly more unhinged and takes to kidnapping her.  We as readers find out more about how/why he became increasingly dangerous, and why he was so obsessed with Christine.  I love that she uses her smarts to try and break free from his increasingly tight stranglehold.

For fans of the musical, this book takes a deep dive into a character we don’t really know about.  I enjoyed it and I think it’ll be interesting to see how the show goes tomorrow.  The end of this book opens the door for more in the lives of Christine and the Phantom.

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

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As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

This book.  Man, it was so good.  Another “Book of the Month” pick.  And it was timely too!  Set during the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918, it fits nicely during this time of flu crisis.

I’m not going to lie, I knew very little about the Spanish Flu itself.  I knew it was a devastating epidemic, and I knew that it happened in the midst of WWI.  That’s about it.  This book puts a human face on the sickness, and also the randomness of it as well.  It also gave me a chance to learn more about the sickness itself, and tell people about it.  A co-worker had mentioned the Spanish Flu when talking about this year’s problem, and I could provide all the background on it.  I felt so smart!

Anyway.

So, this book follows the Bright family from Quakertown to Philadelphia.  The family of five is grieving over the loss of their youngest child,  and believe a change of pace could be good.  The husband’s Uncle runs a funeral home in the city, and they family relocates there to try and pick up the pieces.  The story follows the four women of the family.  Pauline (the mother) and her three daughters (Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa) ground the story.  We get glimpses into the men in their lives including husbands, uncles, neighbors, friends, and potential loves.  Everything changes when the city is hit with the worst pandemic since the plague.  People die by the hundreds every day, and the funeral home is overrun with bodies.  The girls lose loved ones, neighbors, and family members to the disease that doesn’t discriminate.  Admist all the horror, there is hope when Maggie finds a baby living in an apartment with it’s mother and sister apparently dead from the flu.  The family takes the baby in and vows to raise it.  This comes with a whole other set of complications as the years go by.  The book then jumps ahead to five years after the disease, and the reader gets a sense of how life has changed for everyone.

I loved this book so much.  I finished it in less than two days it was so addicting.  I’ve already recommended it to several people.  I believe it comes out on Tuesday 2/6, so I highly suggest you check it out of you like historical fiction, and love when it’s based in a real situation.

 

 

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn

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The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn

Most of you all are readers.  Or like to read the next best thing.  Well, if you have heard anything about books in the past few weeks, this is the book you’ve heard about.  It’s the “next big thing”.

Centered around Anna Fox, this book is about what we think we know and what we think we see.  Similar to the movie “Rear Window”, Anna Fox is confined to her house due to trauma (self-imposed exile).  Playing online chess, learning online French, and doling out advice on the Agoraphobic message board she belongs to.  She spends her days shut up in her house watching her neighbors live their daily lives.  The readers know someone happened that forced Anna to spend her days inside, but we won’t learn the reason for her exile until later in the book. .

I mean, that twist alone wasn’t that shocking to me.  I kinda figured it out early.  But then, in her days of spying on her neighbors, she witnesses what she thinks is a murder.  But no one believes her.  Gaslighting!  My biggest fear.  When someone tries to make you seem crazy for something you know exists of happens.  It causes her to reach outside her comfort zone and begin to face her life.  I’m not going to lie, the last twist of the book is a doozy.  I thought I knew who was responsible for everything, but I couldn’t figure out the “why”.  The end;  it gets ya.

So I get why this book is considered one of the hottest of the moment.  It definitely kept me guessing.  A great read.

Also, still querying my first novel.  Got a few more conferences coming up and hoping I can get a handle on my anxiety to make sure I make it to all of them!  Also got a few shorts stories in the works for hopefully future anthologies.

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

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Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

This was courtesy of another NetGalley request.  Have I mentioned how much I love NetGalley?  Getting a chance to read books early is my favorite!

Anyway.  So, Cuba.

I’m not going to lie….I don’t profess to know a lot about Cuba, it’s culture, or the revolution that has led to it’s current state.  This book, while fiction, still provides a great history lesson for those of us not in the know.

The story of Marisol Ferrera and her journey to connect with her Grandmother’s home country of Cuba after her passing is very moving.  Told between Marisol’s journey, and the time leading up to her Grandmother’s family fleeing the country after Fidel Castro takes power.  Marisol learns secrets of her Grandmother’s life that change the way she looked at her family and the country that she had never been to before.

Her Grandmother Elisa’s last wish is to have her ashes spread over the country she loved, and she trusts her favorite grandchild to do it.  Marisol travels to Cuba, not knowing what to expect.  She connects with Elisa’s best friend and starts to learn more about her Grandmother’s life before the revolutionaries took over.  Her family was rich and friendly with the Batista regime, which is what the revolutionaries were fighting against.  The story shows how Elisa meets a young man who changes her view on both the regime and Fidel’s revolution.  Ultimately her family needs to flee and heads to Miami.  They rebuild their lives there and Elisa starts a new life.

Marisol is on a journey of her own back to her grandmother’s homeland.  She meets a young man who inspires her in ways she didn’t know.  Even though Fidel is dead, there is still crack downs on protests, bloggers, and revolutionary ideas.  Marisol realizes that there is a lot left to learn about Cuba and her family.  A major secret is revealed which puts her and her fellow in danger.  There plight mirrors what Elisa went through during the Fidel revolution.

I have to say, I loved learning more about Cuba’s history.  This book will eventually follow with another story about one of Elisa’s sisters who may or may not have worked with revolutionaries in the past.  I’d be excited to read that one too!

While the book started slow, once the revolution kicked off in Elisa’s time and Marisol started to learn more about her Grandmother’s life the book really started to hook me.  By then I couldn’t put it down (metaphorically of course….I was reading it on my kindle.)  I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Also, I loved learning that Cuban exiles toast ever year with the saying “Next year in Havana…” They are always tied to their country, even if they don’t know if they’d ever go back or make it back.

This was a great book that tied history, mystery, and romance.

 

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

First, what a great author name.  Second, she was introduced to me by a fellow Mystery Writer of America member (and instructor at the Cape Cod Writer’s Conference) Dale Phillips.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up her first book, “The Haunting of Maddy Clare”, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Not one for ghost stories, her books take the ghosts and gothic feeling of early England (and now America) and weave it into stories that follow a more tradition mystery.  I was hooked!

So how lucky was I when I got a copy of her newest/next book (out March 2018) from Berkley/Net Galley.

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The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

I couldn’t put this one down.  In fact, I stayed up way past my bedtime two nights in a row to finish it off!  Set in 1950 and 2014 Vermont, the story centers on a “school” for wayward young women (including troublemakers and illegitimate children of rich people) called Idlewild Hall.  In 1950, it follows four roommates and their experiences with the ghost of Mary Hand.

In 2014, Fiona Sheridan is looking for answers in her sister’s murder years before.  While someone was arrested, she can’t get the circumstances out of her mind.  It doesn’t help that she’s dating the former police chief’s son as well.  When Idlewild Hall is purchased and considered for restoration, she falls into investigating the mysterious murder of a young woman found on the property, much like her sister was.

Mary Hand’s ghost is ever present, and draws the two time periods together.  The climax at the end was twisty enough that I didn’t really see it coming.  The book also touches on a young refugee child who was at Ravensbrück Concetration Camp.  I admit, I didn’t know much about the history, and the book does a good job in showing the history as part of the story, but also educating the reader at the same time.

These types of “ghost” stories I love.  Tinged with mystery, and while the ghosts are ever present, there is usually a more mundane reason for the murder.  And it’s almost always at a living breathing person’s hand.

I can’t wait to continue reading more of Simone St. James work!

Books! (or, things I’ve read recently)

I’ve been remising in blogging for a while now, and I don’t even have a good excuse.  I’ve gotten a ton more books….even though my TBR pile is ever growing.  I’ve been using the library to get newer books and also Kindle Books as well (shout out to Overdrive and the Abington Public Library), so I’m never without a book in my hand.  I don’t have the energy to review them all, but I do want to mention a few that I’ve recently read.

First,

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The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Now, you’d be forgiven if you think this book is about a dead Mrs. Parrish and who killed her….but you’d be surprised by the twists and turns in this book.  It’s told from the perspective of two women.  The first part follows Amber and her climb to the top (both professionally and personally) even at the expense of others.  The main other is the second part of the book.  Daphne seemingly has everything, but we finally start to see what really happens behind closed doors during the second half of the book.  And the ending.  *Phew*.  So good.  It felt like the ending “Gone Girl” should’ve had….I definitely didn’t throw this book to the ground after reading it.  I stood up and cheered!

Next,

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Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

I probably should’ve led with this one.  Talk about a heartbreaker.  I’m a HUGE Hazel Gaynor fan (I’ve written about some of her books before) and I LOVE WWI & WWII historical fiction.  So this was right in my wheelhouse.  Told through letters, it’s a love story, a war story, and a family story.  Starting out as friends, Evie and Tom develop a relationship through their letters and shared grief.  After one magically night when Tom is on leave, their relationship only deepens.  Even through misunderstandings, they find their way to each other.  I rarely cry when reading books, but this one hit me right in the feels.  For some reason letters make the story seem more personal than just a narrative.  I plan on loaning this one out as much as I can because I loved it so much!

And finally,

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Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker

I recently read “Jane Eyre”.  I had felt like a bad student of English that I hadn’t read it before now.  I hated it.  I liked Jane, but *spoiler alert* after Rochester does all sorts of crazy things (Including, locking is crazy wife in the attic and telling no one about it) she just meekly decides to stay.  “Reader, I married him.”

This book, attempts to provide a backstory to Edward Rochester’s life and try to show how he ended up with a crazy wife in the attic of this majestic mansion.  I always found “Jane Eyre” (and “Wuthering Heights”) a little too gothic and dramatic for me.  This book takes that brooding man and shows the neglect of his father, his transient youth, and yes, his marriage to the aforementioned crazy lady.  Even in this book there are some parts of Rochester that I just can’t stand.  BUT, I do have a bit more understanding for him.  So, I’m going to take this as canon and make Edward Rochester a bit more sympathetic in my eyes.  Now I can understand why Jane stayed.

And of course I read many more books….just ask if you’re looking for a recommendation!  (Also, I would like to thank Bookoutlet.com and Thriftbooks.com for furthering my habit by having such good black Friday sales!  Easily added 30 more books to my pile).