The Palace Of The Stars by Karina McRoberts

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Description

This richly realised and highly evocative novel will appeal to crime, mystery, and romance readers alike. In 2014, Michael Harker, rookie ex-cop, has been badly beaten but is determined to re-invent himself as a crime fighter. While convalescing with the spry, quirky bookshop owner Mari Linden, an earthquake opens a time portal and Mike finds himself over a hundred years in the past. He befriends JT Gordon, the magnanimous impresario of The Palace of the Stars, a grand musical hall theatre. Mike battles with strange shifts in consciousness, sleepwalking, restrictive dress standards, and the strict morals of the time. And, his love for a beautiful dancer and stage musician, Mae Belle. Mae has a strange bond to her on-stage magic partner, the mysterious Chan Li. Her off-stage lover? The mother of his young children? She says no, but Mike hears otherwise. Should he stay or go back? Can he go back? Does he have any right to take Mae with him, even if he can convince her he’s not a nut case? Before Mike can sort out this dilemma, Mae begs him to solve a series of gruesome murders. Mike joins with his friends from the Palace to trap the murderer, but realises no justice will be done and he must make a horrible choice. In the present day, Mari must deal with a cunning book thief and a bureaucrat who would shut down her shop. If the building’s condemned, the portal will close and Mike will never be able to return! Welcome to the Palace – you’re in for a treat!

My thoughts

This is a very interesting book to try and review because I’m not sure what genre to put it under. It has elements of fantasy, history, romance, and murder.

Mari is an ex nurse who now has a bookshop called Book Nook and also does work for the “Red Cross (though this isn’t really explained) through which she has taken in a young man, Michael. Mari was without a doubt my favourite character. As a nurse myself I was convinced the author must have been a nurse herself to write her and the hospital scene so convincingly.

Michael is given into Mari’s care after waking up from a six month long coma, with no apparent next of kin and amnesia. All that is known about him is that he was a rookie policeman who had been badly beaten. Mari is warned he will be difficult and he certainly proves himself to not be very likeable, to the extent that Mari is a bit afraid of him.

Mari finds a portal in her bookshop which she wants to explore herself, but can’t because it causes her pacemaker to play up. So Michael goes through and immediately discovers he can’t get back because in the era of 1904 Mari’s bookshop had not yet been built.

The rest of the book is divided between Mari’s vigil in her bookshop, waiting for Michael to be able to return, and Michael’s experiences in 1904 York where he is taken in by the owner of the Palace, an entertainment hall.

I really enjoyed Mari’s chapters, possibly because I found her very real and relateable in many ways. I didn’t feel as invested in Michael’s as he falls in love at first sight with a woman in one of the acts, but I did enjoy his story arc. The pieces of history that were skilfully inserted into the story were very interesting.

Checked Out For Murder by Allison Brook

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Description

Carrie Singleton and Evelyn the ghost sleuth the slayings of a starlet and a star-crossed psychic in Agatha Award nominee Allison Brook’s fourth Haunted Library mystery.

Daphne Marriott strolls into Clover Ridge and informs librarian Carrie Singleton that she’s a psychic. But had she foreseen what fate awaited her, Daphne would have steered clear of the quaint Connecticut town. Evelyn, the library ghost, tells Carrie that there’s more to Daphne than she lets on.

The mysterious woman grew up in Clover Ridge with her no-good dad, who apparently met his end at the hands of Daphne’s brother, Billy. Still, Daphne proves a welcome distraction when Carrie’s overbearing mother hits town. Mom’s much younger husband, Tom, is in a movie that’s lensing locally, and she’s there to keep an eye on him: Tom’s costar, sultry Ilana Reingold, is also his ex-fiancée, and there’s no denying the chemistry is still there. Soon after mingling with the moviemakers at a meet-and-greet, Daphne is found dead.

Carrie and Evelyn investigate, assisted by bushy-tailed library cat Smoky Joe. But the suspect list could overflow the library shelves. Has Billy killed another relative? Is their long-missing mother involved? Or Daphne’s mean ex-husband? Carrie’s sure she knows who committed the crime, but can she bind together the clues before the culprit Dewey-decimates the town?

My thoughts:

This was the fourth book in a series and I jumped into the series with this book, so perhaps that had some bearing on how I feel about it. The setting of Clover Ridge is lovely and makes me want to go and live there. And I really liked the residents. For those starting the series anywhere but the beginning just a tiny bit of backstory would help new readers to get to know the characters, especially ghost Evelyn. I didn’t get much of a sense of her at all. There were a lot of characters too. All in all it is a nice, cosy mystery and everything wrapped up well at the end.

Arcadia by Di Morrissey

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Description

A modern mystery born in a timeless Tasmanian forest from Australia’s favourite storyteller, with new novel The Last Paradise out now.

In the 1930s, in an isolated and beautiful corner of southern Tasmania, a new young wife arrives at her husband’s secluded property – Arcadia. Stella, an artist, falls in love with Arcadia’s wild, ancient forest. And when an unknown predator strikes, she is saved by an unusual protector…

Two generations later, Stella’s granddaughter, Sally, and her best friend, Jessica, stumble over Stella’s secret life in the forest and find themselves threatened in turn.

What starts as a girls’ adventurous road trip becomes a hunt for the story of the past, to solve the present, and save their future…

A breathtaking Tasmanian tale of ancient forests; of art and science; of love and, above all, of friendship.

My thoughts

The plot was good. I enjoyed the environmental and ecological messages. I liked the characters and the setting. Points were lost for me because there was so much filler that it blurred the actual story, and lots of dialogue that seemed to serve no purpose. If the filler was removed and the story allowed to shine I would have enjoyed it more. I think the book could stand to lose about 100 pages.

The Survivors by Jane Harper

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Description

The compelling new novel from Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry.

Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran’s parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away…

My thoughts

“I think the person responsible is probably in this room. I think it’s one of you.” There was silence. “But maybe not. I don’t care, I just want the truth. So either way, no stone left unturned. If you’re out there – ” she scanned the room again, not so slow and steady now. “If you’re hoping this will go away, you’re going to be waiting a long time. Someone hurt Bronte. I want to know who. So unless you want every secret in this place dragged to the surface, I recommend everybody in this room opens their mouths and starts talking.”

“I mean, is it a celebration of the people who made it, or a memorial to the ones who didn’t?”

I had decided who did what and why reasonably early in the book, and because I am usually fairly good at guessing these kinds of things in books I spent part of the book feeling a bit disappointed. After all, I absolutely loved Jane Harper’s previous books and expected to love this one too.

But then came revelations that didn’t tie in with my theories and the guessing game was on again. As it turned out, I was completely wrong in so many ways and nothing I had guessed came to pass or was what I thought it was.

In my opinion it isn’t quite as good as her previous books. I found the dialogue quite dry and I didn’t engage with the characters as I usually do. But this was still a very good read and I recommend it,

The Monsters We Make by Kali White

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Description

For fans of Rene Denfeld and Shari Lapena comes a rich, atmospheric family drama set in the 1980’s following the disappearances of two paperboys from a small midwestern town.

It’s August 1984, and paperboy Christopher Stewart has gone missing.

Hours later, twelve-year-old Sammy Cox hurries home from his own paper route, red-faced and out of breath, hiding a terrible secret.

Crystal, Sammy’s seventeen-year-old sister, is worried by the disappearance but she also sees opportunity: the Stewart case has echoes of an earlier unsolved disappearance of another boy, one town over. Crystal senses the makings of an award winning essay, one that could win her a scholarship – and a ticket out of their small Iowa town.

Officer Dale Goodkind can’t believe his bad luck: another town and another paperboy kidnapping. But this time he vows that it won’t go unsolved. As the abductions set in motion an unpredictable chain of violent, devastating events touching each life in unexpected ways, Dale is forced to face his own demons.

Told through interwoven perspectives–and based on the real-life Des Moines Register paperboy kidnappings in the early 1980’s–The Monsters We Make deftly explores the effects of one crime exposing another and the secrets people keep hidden from friends, families, and sometimes, even themselves.

My thoughts

What an intense story. Right from the beginning there is that sense of danger for the young boys of Des Moines. The author is very clever in that nothing is laid out for the reader, and yet we are not left wondering what is happening. I particularly loved Crystal’s story. I thought her character’s thoughts and actions were perfectly and realistically portrayed and she was very relateable. The tension was well maintained thoughout the book and was even a little creepy.

Where I felt the story fell a bit short was in the way Crystal and Sammy seemed to be handle an extremely traumatic incident a little too well. That felt a little unreal in an otherwise extremely realistic story. Having said that, it was still a fantastic read!

By The Gods Of Babylon by Sin Leqi Unninni

By the Gods of Babylon | SIN LEQI UNNINNI | 9781733360722 | NetGalley

Description

From the lands of Sumer and Babylon … lands that birthed writing, the first author, and the first epic story.

Mesopotamia, 2300 BC.

Sargon is reveling in a casual banquet days before he is to be crowned king of kings, when the court jester steps forward and recites a song (“Genesis” Sumerian style) that is fiercely denounced as blasphemy by a priest, and the cheerful feast turns into a gory scene.
It is a bad omen for Sargon who anticipated a smooth transition to power, only to be embroiled in a chain of bloody events that spiral out of control, inciting many of the city-states he rules to the verge of rebellion.

Adding to anarchy is a host of unsavory characters with deadly grudges and ambitions for power.

The paranoid king knows that this most ancient of civilizations, despite its cultural advances, also provided a fertile ground for savagery which always promised a most ugly fate for leaders who lose their battles.

My thoughts

This is difficult because I don’t like giving poor feedback. The premise intrigued me and although there was a warning that people with religious beliefs might not want to read it, what should also have been mentioned was the amount of sex, sexual violence, and sadism in the content.

Perhaps the ending was fabulous, but I don’t know because I was unable to finish the book.
Two stars for a clever premise but the story was completely overshadowed by the above.

The Life We Almost Had by Amelia Henley

Description

This is not a typical love story, but it’s our love story.

Anna wasn’t looking for love when Adam swept her off her feet but there was no denying their connection, and she believed they would be together forever.

Years later, cracks have appeared in their relationship. Anna is questioning whether their love can really be eternal when a cruel twist of fate delivers a crushing blow, and Anna and Adam are completely lost to one another. Now, Anna needs Adam more than ever, but the way back to him has life-changing consequences.

Is a second chance at first love really worth the sacrifice? Anna needs to decide and time is running out…

A beautiful and emotional love story that asks, how far would you go for a second chance at first love? Perfect for fans of The Man Who Didn’t Call and Miss You.

My thoughts

I’ve been a huge fan of this author’s psychological thrillers, penned under her own name, Louise Jensen. So although romance isn’t generally my first go-to, when I discovered that Amelia Henley is the name she is using for this genre it immediately made me want to read it.

Yes, it is a romance, but it’s a completely unpredictable one. We are teased for several chapters that something devastating is coming but I guarantee no one will guess what it turns out to be, or what happens next. If there’s one thing I absolutely love in a book it is being surprised, when even my wildest guesses turn out to be wrong and I get that delicious feeling of walking blindfolded but with someone you trust leading the way. And that’s how I felt reading this book.

I loved all the characters – Anna and Adam whose love story this book is about. Their ups and downs felt real and relatable; Nell and Josh, the kind of best friends we all wish we had in our lives; and Oliver with his own heartbreaking love story.

Highly recommend!

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

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Description

For LAPD homicide cop Harry Bosch — hero, maverick, nighthawk — the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than another anonymous statistic. This one is personal.

The dead man, Billy Meadows, was a fellow Vietnam “tunnel rat” who fought side by side with him in a nightmare underground war that brought them to the depths of hell. Now, Bosch is about to relive the horror of Nam. From a dangerous maze of blind alleys to a daring criminal heist beneath the city to the tortuous link that must be uncovered, his survival instincts will once again be tested to their limit.

Joining with an enigmatic and seductive female FBI agent, pitted against enemies inside his own department, Bosch must make the agonizing choice between justice and vengeance, as he tracks down a killer whose true face will shock him.

My thoughts

“The setting sun burned the sky pink and orange in the same bright hues as surfers’ bathing suits. It was beautiful deception, Bosch thought, as he drove north on the Hollywood Freeway to home. Sunsets did that here. Made you forget it was the smog that made their colors so brilliant, that behind every pretty picture there could be an ugly story.”

This is my first outing with Michael Connelly and it was a good ‘un! I had kept hearing people recommend the Harry Bosch series and mention him as their favourite book character, so I thought I’d read Book 1 and see for myself.

Bosch is very human and relatable and the book drops pieces of his past here and there to provide a good backstory, but without needing to write a mini bio for him.

It’s highly readable and moves along at a good pace. I like the writing style. The author doesn’t labour a point. He gives enough information and at times expects you to know what he’s talking about i.e. some of the acronyms (although perhaps they are common to American readers), but even not knowing exactly what they stand for I could always make a pretty good guess.

I’m putting myself firmly in the Harry Bosch fan camp now!

The Songs Of Us by Emma Cooper

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Description

If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.

If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.

But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.

My thoughts

I’m not a gushy type of reviewer, but this books makes me want to gush! I don’t even know where to begin describing this emotional roller-coaster of a book.

Melody has a neurological condition as the result of a fall that causes her to involuntarily burst into song, usually at very inappropriate times and often with inappropriate songs. At the same time she is struggling to single-parent her children since the disappearance of her husband 11 years earlier. Son Flynn was 5 when he was flung head first through the windscreen of the car his father was driving. Now a teenager, he has memories of a loving father and is tortured by his abandonment. Daughter Rose was 3 when the accident happened and has no memories of it, or the father who subsequently disappeared from their lives, but she knows her family has never been the same since he left and has a strong need to find him and get answers.

The book is told mainly through the points of view of these three characters and oh my goodness! did my heart break and ache for them. Each has their personal demons to overcome, and although there are some heavy themes they are covered with understanding and care. Balancing the darkness is humour and a family that feels very real and relatable, despite their unusual circumstances, and a small cast of side characters that are introduced slowly but who I grew to really like.

I feel as though I’m the last person to read this book but if there is anyone else out there that hasn’t I recommend that you do. You won’t be disappointed!

Shadow Sands by Robert Bryndza

Description

The internationally bestselling author of Nine Elms and The Girl in the Ice is back with a nail-biting new Kate Marshall case, a woman with a dark secret and a powerful sense of justice.

When Kate Marshall finds the bloated body of a young man floating in the Shadow Sands reservoir, the authorities label it a tragic accident.

But the details don’t add up: why was the victim there, in the middle of the night? If he was such a strong swimmer, how did he drown?

Kate is certain there is more to this case than meets the eye. As she and her research assistant Tristan Harper dig deeper, they discover a bloody trail that points towards an active serial killer hiding in plain sight. People have been silently disappearing for years, and when another woman is taken, Kate and Tristan have a matter of days to save her from meeting the same fate.

My thoughts

This is the second book in the Kate Marshall series. I really enjoyed the first and this maintained the momentum. If you haven’t read the first book I would recommend it, not just to get Kate’s history but also because it’s such a great read.

Kate and her son are diving in a reservoir when they come across the body of a young man. The police investigation’s findings are a little too convenient and the mother of the dead man begs Kate to investigate. Kate and her colleague Tristan start looking into the case unofficially and find their efforts blocked by the police and other parties. The pacing keeps the story moving and interesting.

Kate has become my favourite crime solver. I love her, warts and all, as she struggles to redeem herself in the eyes of her family and friends. Her colleague Tristan complements Kate perfectly and I was very happy to see him back. We learn a bit more about him and his own personal struggles and difficult family relationships in this book. I’m enjoying their character development.

I’m very much looking forward to the next book in the series!