Hood by Jenny Elder Moke


cover182367-mediumYou have the blood of kings and rebels within you, love. Let it rise to meet the call. Isabelle of Kirklees has only ever known a quiet life inside the sheltered walls of the convent, where she lives with her mother, Marien. But after she is arrested by royal soldiers for defending innocent villagers, Isabelle becomes the target of the Wolf, King John’s ruthless right hand. Desperate to keep her daughter safe, Marien helps Isabelle escape and sends her on a mission to find the one person who can help: Isabelle’s father, Robin Hood. As Isabelle races to stay out of the Wolf’s clutches and find the father she’s never known, she is thrust into a world of thieves and mercenaries, handsome young outlaws, new enemies with old grudges, and a king who wants her entire family dead. As she joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men in a final battle against the Wolf, will Isabelle find the strength to defy the crown and save the lives of everyone she holds dear?

In Hood, author Jenny Elder Moke reimagines the world of Robin Hood in lush, historical detail and imbues her story with more breathless action than has ever come out of Sherwood Forest before. This novel is a must-read for historical-fiction fans, adventure lovers, and reluctant readers alike!

There has been a spate of creative re-imaginings of old stories, so I was curious to see how Moke reinvented Robin Hood. What I found was not a re-telling or even a re-invention but a freshly drawn sequel answering the question “so what happened to Robin and Marien?”

There is plenty of action here, featuring both men and women, and some gore which pushes this firmly up into end-of-middle-school category. Moke’s writing is crisp and lively, with memorable characters. Isabelle, daughter of Robin & Marien, sometimes is a little silly, but Moke successfully portrays her as the sheltered-girl-finding-her-spine. The climax was unexpected and sad, but Moke brings everything full-circle and sets the stage for what could be a really cool series. Well done.

Ages 12 and up

Publication Date: June 9, 2020
Published By: Disney-Hyperion
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Woman in the Green Dress by Tea Cooper


cover180817-mediumA cursed opal, a gnarled family tree, and a sinister woman in a green dress emerge in the aftermath of World War I.

After a whirlwind romance, London teashop waitress Fleur Richards can’t wait for her new husband, Hugh, to return from the Great War. But when word of his death arrives on Armistice Day, Fleur learns he has left her a sizable family fortune. Refusing to accept the inheritance, she heads to his beloved home country of Australia in search of the relatives who deserve it more.

In spite of her reluctance, she soon finds herself the sole owner of a remote farm and a dilapidated curio shop full of long-forgotten artifacts, remarkable preserved creatures, and a mystery that began more than sixty-five years ago. With the help of Kip, a repatriated soldier dealing with the sobering aftereffects of war, Fleur finds herself unable to resist pulling on the threads of the past. What she finds is a shocking story surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress. . . a story that, nevertheless, offers hope and healing for the future.

This romantic mystery from award-winning Australian novelist Tea Cooper will keep readers guessing until the astonishing conclusion.

Fans of historical mysteries will enjoy this look at the early days of Australian settlement alternated with Australia at the end of World War I. Written using the familiar convention of alternating chapters in different time periods, the story does require some close attention to keep track of which year you’re in with which characters.

The story revolves around a cursed opal that provides the red thread connecting the mid-19th century story to the WWI era. The two best things here are Fleur and Bert, who will worm their ways into your heart. This is a mystery, historical fiction, and a love story – everything that will appeal to fans of Kate Morton and MJ Rose (albeit without Rose’s supernatural additions). A good summer read. Includes discussion questions for Book Clubs.

Publication Date: June 16, 2020
Published By: Thomas Nelson
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Murder on Pleasant Avenue by Victoria Thompson


cover178623-mediumWhen Gino Donatelli is accused of a brutal murder, beloved sleuths Sarah and Frank Malloy have to catch a killer who is out to destroy their innocent friend’s life in the latest installment of the national bestselling Gaslight mysteries.

A victim is found, brutally murdered and the police are certain they’ve caught the killer. Their only suspect: Gino Donatelli.
Frank and Sarah know Gino is innocent but the police have a one-track mind. Once Frank struck it rich and left their ranks taking Gino with him, there has been a simmering resentment in the department. And now, someone has pulled out all the stops to make it look like Gino is the only one who could have committed the crime. With the clock ticking and evidence mounting against their friend, Sarah and Frank will try to unravel a treacherous plot before Gino is sent up the river for good.

Fans of Sarah & Frank Malloy will thoroughly enjoy this latest entry in Thompson’s Gaslight series.. This time, our friends use their deductive skills to help out old friend Gino Donatelli when he is accused of a heinous crime. Thompson comes through again with a clever plot, engaging writing, and wonderful descriptions of the relationships cultivated by the Malloys and the denizens of 19th century New York. While this can be read on its own, it is much more enjoyable if you’ve read the previous series entries.

Publication Date: April 28, 2020
Published by: Berkley Publishing Group
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate


cover182289-mediumFrom the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours comes a new novel inspired by historical events: a dramatic story of three young women on a journey in search of family amidst the destruction of the post-Civil War South, and of a modern-day teacher who rediscovers their story and its vital connection to her own students’ lives.

In her distinctive voice, Lisa Wingate brings to life startling stories from actual “Lost Friends” advertisements that appeared in Southern newspapers after the Civil War, as freed slaves desperately searched for loved ones who had been sold off.

Louisiana, 1875: In the tumultuous aftermath of Reconstruction, three young women set off as unwilling companions on a perilous quest: Lavinia, the pampered heir to a now-destitute plantation; Juneau Jane, her illegitimate free-born Creole half-sister; and Hannie, Lavinia’s former slave. Each carries private wounds and powerful secrets as they head for Texas, following dangerous roads rife with ruthless vigilantes and soldiers still fighting a war lost a decade before. For Lavinia and Juneau Jane, the journey is one of inheritance and financial desperation, but for Hannie, torn from her mother and eight siblings before slavery’s end, the pilgrimage westward reignites an agonizing question: could her long-lost family still be out there? Beyond the swamps lie the seemingly limitless frontiers of Texas and, improbably, hope.

Louisiana, 1987: For first-year teacher Benedetta Silva, a subsidized job at a poor rural school seems like the ticket to canceling her hefty student debt–until she lands in a tiny, out-of-step Augustine, Louisiana. The town seems suspicious of new ideas and new people, and Benny can scarcely comprehend the lives of her poverty-stricken students. But amid the gnarled live oaks and run-down plantation homes lies the century-old history of three young women, a long-ago journey, and a hidden book that could change everything.

This book caught me by surprise. The concept intrigued me – parallel stories past & present about the “lost friends” letters in the Southwestern Christian Advocate that helped reunite former slaves and their families, and a modern story about descendants of some of those slaves who reconnect with their history.

It takes a skilled writer to construct a narrative that jumps between centuries but keeps a common thread running through both past and present. Often, one of the story threads is better developed and more interesting, but that doesn’t happen here. Both past and present are are equally captivating. I found myself reading swiftly through chapters because I couldn’t wait to find out what happened.

The story set in the past, that of Hannie Gossett, is wrenching and raw. The unspeakable way slave families were broken up and sold and how black women and girls were treated by white men and women is hard to read, but it is an important part of the narrative which makes the end of Hattie’s story that much more satisfying.

The present day story about a naive but enthusiastic young teacher who finds a way to connect with her students through history is, at times, a bit too convenient. However, the teacher (Miss Silva), the adult characters, and the kids are well-developed and endearing.

This will appeal to Wingate’s fan base, for sure, and would make a decent book club book. It must be said that there are better novels about life as a slave out there (Beloved and certainly The Water Dancer by Coates), but The Book of Lost Friends is a good addition to that genre of books and will introduce readers to the Lost Friends letters which can be viewed online. Recommended.

Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Published By: Random House – Ballantine
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey


cover178794-mediumA debut novel for fans of Sarah Perry and Kate Morton: when a young woman is tasked with safeguarding a natural history collection as it is spirited out of London during World War II, she discovers her new manor home is a place of secrets and terror instead of protection.

In August 1939, thirty-year-old Hetty Cartwright arrives at Lockwood Manor to oversee a natural history museum collection, whose contents have been taken out of London for safekeeping. She is unprepared for the scale of protecting her charges from party guests, wild animals, the elements, the tyrannical Major Lockwood and Luftwaffe bombs. Most of all, she is unprepared for the beautiful and haunted Lucy Lockwood.

For Lucy, who has spent much of her life cloistered at Lockwood suffering from bad nerves, the arrival of the museum brings with it new freedoms. But it also resurfaces memories of her late mother, and nightmares in which Lucy roams Lockwood hunting for something she has lost.

When the animals appear to move of their own accord, and exhibits go missing, they begin to wonder what exactly it is that they might need protection from. And as the disasters mount up, it is not only Hetty’s future employment that is in danger, but her own sanity too. There’s something, or someone, in the house. Someone stalking her through its darkened corridors . . .

I seem to be reading a lot of gothic mysteries lately…the genre is definitely making a comeback!

Here we have all the elements needed for a first-class, spooky gothic thriller – intrepid heroine who is made of sterner stuff than is believed by those around her; a creepy country house; a tragic inhabitant; a prickly, horrible mystery; and a horrifying climax followed by a new beginning.

There is, however, a refreshing difference here. In the old 1970s gothics, the tragic inhabitant of the creepy country house was invariably a man. Here, it’s Lucy. The beautiful, delicate, sleep-deprived daughter of the master of the house. The story spun around Lucy and Hetty is delicate and charming, a piece of lace on the grimy, icky cloth of the horrible mystery, and one that gets ripped off, preserved, and sewn into something beautiful.

The story is captivating and creepy, the writing skillful and eloquent. Well done.

Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Published By: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

A Child Lost by Michele Cox

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Join Us For This Tour from April 14 to May 11, 2020

 

BOOK DETAILS:
  • Series Title A CHILD LOST (A Henrietta and Inspector Howard Novel #5) by Michelle Cox
  • Category:  Adult Fiction (18+)
  • Genre Historical Mystery
  • Publisher She Writes Press
  • Release dates:   April 2020
  • Content Rating: R: My book is rated R for 2 sex scenes
    that are somewhat explicit but which are tastefully done. There is
    periodic swearing (not excessive), but no violence.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A spiritualist, an insane asylum, a lost little girl . . .

When Clive, anxious to distract a depressed Henrietta, begs Sergeant
Frank Davis for a case, he is assigned to investigating a seemingly
boring affair: a spiritualist woman operating in an abandoned
schoolhouse on the edge of town who is suspected of robbing people of
their valuables. What begins as an open and shut case becomes more
complicated, however, when Henrietta―much to Clive’s dismay―begins to
believe the spiritualist’s strange ramblings.

Meanwhile, Elsie begs Clive and Henrietta to help her and the object of
her budding love, Gunther, locate the whereabouts of one Liesel
Klinkhammer, the German woman Gunther has traveled to America to find
and the mother of the little girl, Anna, whom he has brought along with
him. The search leads them to Dunning Asylum, where they discover some
terrible truths about Liesel. When the child, Anna, is herself
mistakenly admitted to the asylum after an epileptic fit, Clive and
Henrietta return to Dunning to retrieve her. This time, however,
Henrietta begins to suspect that something darker may be happening. When
Clive doesn’t believe her, she decides to take matters into her own
hands . . . with horrifying results.

This is a new series for me, so I realized early in the book that I really needed to read the earlier entries to have a better understanding of the character dynamics here. Even so, I was able to read through the story and follow the plot without issue. The story stands alone; it’s just the relationship histories of the characters that left me puzzled a couple times.

The plot is well-designed, with plenty of action and suspense that will keep you turning pages. Fans of historical/paranormal mysteries will especially enjoy the spiritualism and asylum elements here, climaxing in Henrietta’s harrowing scene at the end. The author also leaves us with a tasty little morsel on the very last page which foreshadows the next entry in the series (I think!).

Michele Cox is an author new to me, and my experience with A Child Lost will make me find her earlier books. Fans of Sarah Rayne and M.J. Rose will enjoy this.

MEET THE AUTHOR:Michelle Cox is the author of the multiple award-winning Henrietta and Inspector Howard series as well as “Novel Notes of Local Lore,” a weekly
blog dedicated to Chicago’s forgotten residents. She suspects she may have once lived in the 1930s and, having yet to discover a handy time machine lying around, has resorted to writing about the era as a way of getting herself back there. Coincidentally, her books have been praised by Kirkus, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and many others,
so she might be on to something. Unbeknownst to most, Michelle hoards board games she doesn’t have time to play and is, not surprisingly, addicted to period dramas and big band music. Also marmalade.

Connect with the Author:

website ~ facebook ~twitter ~ instagram ~ goodreads

 

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A Murderous Relation by Deanna Raybourn


cover176382-mediumVeronica Speedwell navigates a dark world of scandal and murder in this new adventure from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

From the Publisher: Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian colleague Stoker are asked by Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk to help with a potential scandal so explosive it threatens to rock the monarchy. Prince Albert Victor is a regular visitor to the most exclusive private club in London, known as the Club de l’Etoile, and the proprietess, Madame Aurore, has received an expensive gift that can be traced back to the prince. Lady Wellie would like Veronica and Stoker to retrieve the jewel from the club before scandal can break.

Worse yet, London is gripped by hysteria in the autumn of 1888, terrorized by what would become the most notorious and elusive serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper–and Lady Wellie suspects the prince may be responsible.

Veronica and Stoker reluctantly agree to go undercover at Madame Aurore’s high class brothel, where another body soon turns up. Many secrets are swirling around Veronica and the royal family–and it’s up to Veronica and Stoker to find the truth, before it’s too late for all of them.

Deanna Raybourn is on fire in this newest entry in the Veronica Speedwell/Revelstoke Templeton-Vane series. Here, the sexy duo find themselves smack in the middle of their most deadly adventure yet, and only weeks after their last romp in Cornwall. Characters from the past make new appearances as Veronica and Stoker shed friends and foes as they attempt to save the heir to the throne during the terrifying days when Jack the Ripper stalked the East End of London.

Perhaps the most endearing character introduced here is Eddy, also known as His Royal Highness Prince Albert Victor, heir to the throne of England. Eldest (legitimate) son of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra, he is drawn here as a gentle, loving, but somewhat simple young man who seems delighted to meet Veronica and learn that she is his sister.

Raybourn develops these characters more with each book, and in this one, we learn more about Lady Wellie, the various members of Scotland Yard who make appearances, the daring female reporter J.J. Butterworth, and Stoker’s brothers Tiberious and Rupert (and Rupert’s delightful wife). Raybourn also completes the arc of Veronica and Stoker’s own relationship and does so in a tender but sexy way.

Fans will eat this up.

Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Published By: Berkley Publishing Group
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Last Odyssey by James Rollins


9780062892898_e4facFor eons, the city of Troy—whose legendary fall was detailed in Homer’s Iliad—was believed to be myth, until archaeologists in the nineteenth century uncovered its ancient walls buried beneath the sands. If Troy was real, how much of Homer’s twin tales of gods and monsters, curses and miracles—The Iliad and The Odyssey—could also be true and awaiting discovery?

In the frozen tundra of Greenland, a group of modern-day climatologists and archaeologists stumble on a shocking find: a medieval ship buried a half mile below the ice. The ship’s hold contains a collection of even older artifacts—tools of war—dating back to the Bronze Age. Inside the captain’s cabin is a magnificent treasure that is as priceless as it is miraculous: a clockwork gold atlas encircled by an intricate silver astrolabe. The mechanism is signed with the name of its creator, Ismail al-Jazari, a famous Muslim inventor considered to be the Da Vinci of the Arab world—a brilliant scientist who inspired Leonardo’s own work.

Once activated, the moving globe traces the path of Odysseus’ famous ship as it sailed away from Troy. But the route detours as the map opens to reveal an underground river leading to a hidden realm underneath the Mediterranean Sea. The map indicates that this subterranean world is called Tartarus, the Greek name for Hell. In mythology, Tartarus was where the wicked were punished and the monstrous Titans of old, imprisoned.

When word of Tartarus spreads—and of the cache of miraculous weapons said to be hidden there—tensions explode in this volatile region where Turks battle Kurds, terrorists wage war, and civilians suffer untold horrors. The phantasmagoric horrors found in Homer’s tales are all too real—and could be unleashed upon the world. Whoever possesses them can use their awesome power to control the future of humanity.

Now, Sigma Force must go where humans fear to tread. To prevent a tyrant from igniting a global war, they must cross the very gates of Hell.

You can always count on James Rollins for a rollicking good “save the world” adventure, but he has outdone himself with The Last Odyssey. Imagine that all those horrible monsters from Greek mythology were real AND they’ve been biding their time in an underground world, awaiting release. Then add deceitful senators & priests, smart scientists & brawny heroes and you‘ve got a winner.

Rollins has gradually filled out the stories of several characters in the Sigma series, and continues to do so here. Watching Gray and Seichan comes to terms with parenthood was very touching, but the growing relationship between Kowalski and Maria was emotional *and* heartbreaking.

The story here is unbelievably imaginative and meticulously researched. I especially appreciated the notes at the end. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: March 24, 2020
Published By: William Morrow
Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy

The Hollows by Jess Montgomery


9781250184542_d2753Jess Montgomery showcases her skills as a storyteller in this powerful, big-hearted and exquisitely written follow-up to her acclaimed debut The Widows.

Ohio, 1926: For many years, the underground railroad track in Moonvale Tunnel has been used as a short cut through the Appalachian hills. When an elderly woman is killed walking along the tracks, the brakeman tells tales of seeing a ghostly female figure dressed all in white.

Newly elected Sheriff Lily Ross is called on to the case to dispel the myths, but Lily does not believe that an old woman would wander out of the hills onto the tracks. In a county where everyone knows everyone, how can someone have disappeared, when nobody knew they were missing? As ghost stories and rumors settle into the consciousness of Moonvale Hollow, Lily tries to search for any real clues to the woman’s identity.

With the help of her friend Marvena Whitcomb, Lily follows the woman’s trail to The Hollows—an asylum is northern Antioch County—and they begin to expose secrets long-hidden by time and the mountains.

Jess Montgomery has delivered a tautly plotted and inventive sequel to The Widows, where we find Sheriff Lily Ross doing her best to fill the shoes of her murdered husband, Sheriff Daniel Ross. She’s trying to put her life back together, keep her family intact, and keep the county safe.

Lily finds herself facing a gruesome case when an elderly woman plummets from the top of a railroad tunnel into a moving train. The death sets in motion a whole series of events that uncover old secrets, murders, and deception that touches very close to home for Lily.

Montgomery’s writing is smooth and engaging, keeping you reading page after page. It is refreshing to read a good mystery set in the 1920’s and featuring a strong female protagonist that doesn’t involve high society and flappers. The addition of the historical elements of union organizing and the rise of the Women’s Ku Klux Klan lends a darker aspect to the story which sets this apart. Recommended for historical mystery fans.

Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Published by: Minotaur Books
Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy

Dangerous Shallows by Eric Takakjian


cover176712-mediumDangerous Shallows tells the story of a quest to solve maritime cold-cases. The odyssey takes the reader along for a moment-by-moment look at the events surrounding the loss of more than twenty different ships, and includes the stories of discovering their wrecks and learning about the final hours of each of these ships.

Author Eric Takakjian reminisces about devouring the National Geographic issue that featured the recovery of The Atocha, which sets the stage for this very chatty book on wreck diving. I, too, read that NatGeo issue over and over again, poring over the pictures and reading about the divers and their work, so I was right at home with Dangerous Shallows.

Writing in the first person, Takakjian draws you with his stories until you feel as though you’re ready to brave unpredictable currents, errant fishing nets, and sharks just to experience the thrill of standing on a wreck that hasn’t seen the light of day in a century. Takakjian’s storytelling style hooks you right away, and his enthusiasm keeps you enthralled through wreck after wreck.

Takakjian blends history, research and imagination to create plausible if somewhat dramatic recountings of how dozens of ships were sunk, then concludes those often sad stories with exciting tales of his dives on those wrecks.

This will appeal to armchair divers who are fascinated with wrecks and treasure. I expect Takakjian would be a marvelous speaker and hope he gets the chance to go on tour with this book.

Publication Date: February 1, 2020
Published By: Rowman & Littlefield
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy