Reading Fanatic Reviews

General Mysteries & Suspense

A Snowflake at Midnight by Anne Renwick

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A Snowflake at Midnight*

Christmas Steampunk Romance

I don’t read as much steampunk as I might like, but I do find it a very fascinating sub-sub-genre. This book had all the steampunk elements I enjoy, like all the science, airships, clockwork, a focus on industry, and harkening back to ancient traditions. I know once I read the description that it would be a book I’d like. I love the fact that the heroine is a librarian and the hero a botanist. I am intrigued by ancient texts myself, so I loved that that was an element in the mix. I absolutely adored the fact that the key to possibly finding a cure for her father had to do with a special type of mistletoe! Perfect for a Christmas story. I found both the main characters to be believable and relatable, and I loved that they were willing to sacrifice in the hopes of saving her father.

Black Widow by Lucy Leroux

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Black Widow*

Good at First, Then Goes Off the Rails

I am not quite sure what to write for this review. I was surprised by this book, but not in a good way. When I read the book description, I just read the summary, not the quotes from other reviewers within the blurb; I never read those or other reviews before I read a book. From the couple paragraph description, I was expecting a somewhat standard historical romance. And the first part of the book and delivered on that, along with a little romantic suspense—which I also enjoy. The heroine has a variety of secrets that neither we nor the hero is privy to for a while. We learn from the first chapter that the heroine is not a murderer, as first suspected by the hero. I actually enjoyed watching their initial dance, shall we say, as they became reacquainted with each other and he tried to figure out if she had anything to do with her husband’s death.

But then it got weird. And, frankly, I didn’t see it coming. I read a variety of books, so I don’t have anything necessarily against weird so long as I am prepared for it. I certainly did not expect the book to go the way it did in the last roughly 40%. Actually, I kept thinking it would straighten back out into a standard story instead of going into a paranormal aspect that wasn’t appropriately foreshadowed and therefore felt entirely out of place. It almost felt like a deus ex machina move, which I never like in a story as it feels like a cop-out. I did enjoy watching the push-me, pull-you relationship of the hero and heroine at first, and the heroine’s naivete was surprising (in an intriguing way) in a story about a widow (and I liked watching the hero’s education of her). I do feel that there were too many intimate scenes after a certain point in the story; they did detract from the rest of the plot because, at times, it felt like the plot existed as something to happen between the intimate moments so it wouldn’t be just all that. So, I actually enjoyed the first part of the book, but the second half fell apart for me once it appeared as though the paranormal aspect was meant to be real.

The Last Descendent by Kristina Kairn

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The Last Descendent*

Wasn’t Expecting a Vampire Story

I chose this book at my favorite book review site because it appeared as though it was going to be a medical thriller, which I do enjoy on occasion. While it has both medical and thriller aspects, it is more of a vampire story, which is something I didn’t quite glean from the book description. In general, I’m not really a fan of vampire stories. It is just not my jam. This book is more complex than many of the independently published books of this subgenre. I didn’t like the profanity (a personal thing) or the way that vampirism was sexualized. The latter was a little creepy at times, even right at the beginning. It was interesting, though, to watch the heroine try to figure out not only her task before her in her new job but also what is truly going on at the clinic and with those whom James knows. Things and “people” are not always what they seem. There is a complex cast of characters with a deep history that is slowly revealed. If you enjoy the vampire subgenre, you will most likely find this thriller something you can sink your teeth into. Yup, I went there!

June Jenson and the Shield of Quell by Emily Harper

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Scribd, Smashwords, Mondadori, and Angus & Robertson

June Jenson and the Shield of Quell*

Family Dynamics and Archaeological Intrigue

This is the first book I have read by this author, and I quite enjoyed it. I was in the mood for something a little different, so archaeological intrigue sounded like it would do the trick. This book is decidedly English: in tone, vocabulary, references, and most punctuation. As such, as I have often found in contemporary British literature, it tends to meander a little bit, but that does not mean that the journey is unpleasant. I loved the relationship between the heroine and her grandfather. Her love of history was learned at his knee. She lives with him but is finding it a challenge as he becomes more and more altered by Alzheimer’s dementia. My own father had dementia in his later years; I like the way that the author deals with it in the book. The disorder does have both moments of humor and pathos, and I think that the author is able to show that as well as how difficult it is for care-taking family members to have a full life. The grandfather is a colorful, interesting character. But the story, of course, isn’t just about this. The novel has some intrigue around an artifact that the grandfather was believed to have taken from an archaeological dig some time ago. It shows up but then disappears again. The heroine is wanting to clear her grandfather’s good name once and for all. Will she succeed?

A Death at Eastwick by L. C. Warren

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A Death at Eastwick*

More Telling than Showing

I found this to be a somewhat clunkily written contemporary murder mystery. What makes it clunky? The author seems to do a lot more telling rather than showing, and I would rather see the story from the perspective of a character or two than be told it as if by a distant omniscient narrator. If an author tells rather than shows, it’s hard to form an emotional connection to any of the characters. I also thought that there were some pretty prodigious information dumps, especially in the beginning. I thought the blurb read as if the story might be somewhat historical, but it is completely contemporary. Other than these issues, it is a standard murder mystery. But these issues loom large, so I find it hard to recommend.

Haunting Miss Fenwick by Alina K. Field

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, and Indigo (Chapters)

Haunting Miss Fenwick*

Strong, Smart, Capable Heroine… Loved It!

This book takes place on the Yorkshire coast during that small amount of time between the Regency and Victorian eras. I found it to be a delightful read. The hero thinks himself a bit crafty in the beginning, but he finds himself pitted against a very smart heroine. I loved that Tilly was so strong, capable, and intelligent. She’s a far cry from many historical romance heroines—and in a good way. Although the hero was trying to make her new home appear haunted, Tilly isn’t buying it. When she finds him out and discovers why, her personal sense of justice makes her want to help him despite the way he has been such a pest. (And he helps her out, too, so the relationship isn’t one-sided.) I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction between these two characters. The way the author depicted it, especially in the beginning, made me smile more than once. I loved the dog, Wulver, too! There is a little suspense here, and a few surprising twists and turns despite some obvious factors. The characters are so well drawn, and the story is so well written. If you enjoy historical romantic intrigue, consider giving this book a try.

Alexandra’s Riddle by Elisa Keyston

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Free with Kindle Unlimited

Alexandra's Riddle*

Several Riddles in Riddle

I live in Oregon, so I am always drawn to any fictional books that take place in my state. I love that the author actually chose a real town, Riddle, though it has been somewhat fictionalized for the story. I live just a couple counties away, so I loved hearing some somewhat local references in the book. This novel has a lot going for it: romance, mystery, and the paranormal (including the fae and brownies) as well as themes about responsibilities to self vs. others and keeping small-town life as it should be. The author actually did an excellent job of making the paranormal aspect seem just as much a part of the fabric of life in the area as the “real” human aspect. That’s not easy to do, I think. I liked the main character as well as the quirky people who made up the community. A thoroughly enjoyable book. If you like paranormal stories with a touch of romance in a fair amount of mystery, you may very well enjoy this book.

Death in Dalkinchie by Carly Reid

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Not with Kindle Unlimited

Death in Dalkinchie*

Tale of Death in Small Scottish Town Delights

Another delightful, but slightly murdery, trip to Dalkinchie, Scotland! I read the first book in the series, Murder In Bloom, and enjoyed it thoroughly. So it was fun to revisit characters that I had enjoyed and have a new mystery to solve! American Jessica is becoming more firmly entrenched in small-town life in Dalkinchie. She’s not only helping her aunt, but she is also doing some reporting for the local paper. One of her first big stories is about a big annual craft show. I actually quite enjoyed visiting this craft show through Jessica’s eyes; I’ve lived in a small town in northern California, and this was definitely reminiscent of what that can be like. Up until one of the judges is murdered, of course. I did receive an ARC copy of this book, and unfortunately, it is full of problems with grammar, punctuation, and usage. I hope this will be cleared up before publication, as it did detract somewhat from my enjoyment of the story. The book is well written in terms of plot and characterization. The author kept me guessing, which I love in a mystery. Even though the murder happened a little later than I like in a mystery, the author supplied such charming details about the show and was still able to develop the mystery well—that I’ll forgive her. 😉  I love this little quirky community that this author has created. Everybody seems to know everything about everyone, which makes it a lot of fun. The author has created the community of unique individuals that are fun to watch. If you love small-town mysteries, you will most likely enjoy this book.

Embrace of the Shade by Amanda Muratoff and Kayla Mansur

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Embrace of the Shade*

Backstory Woven in the Way it Ought to Be!

I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for just about any fiction novel that in some way has to do with a mysterious book or library. This one has both. I love the chemistry between Kin and Amarie. It sizzles from the start and weaves its way through the book in a delectable way, including well-written, contextual sensual scenes. The story had plenty of action to keep it interesting. I love how the authors maintain a certain degree of mystery about the main characters’ pasts. Fantasy, unfortunately, is the genre that most often falls prey to my most hated thing in genre fiction: the information dump, overwhelming the reader with backstory right at the start. This was not done here, for once—yeah! Instead, we get to know about the world and the main characters slowly as we need to better understand them. In fact, I think the way the authors did it is inherent to and necessary for the story itself. If we knew it all the beginning, the story would not have been so gripping, or the novel itself such a page-turner. So, well done, ladies! I look forward to the next book in this trilogy as well as the greater universe that the trilogy is the starting point for.

All Bets are Off by Kristi Rose

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All Bets are Off*

Plucky New PI Tries to Sort It All Out

Even though the author does tell us in the blurb what exactly happens to the heroine at the start of the book, I still was a bit shocked to read all of it, to see her world turned upside down so quickly–the money part especially got to me. Poor Samantha! But the heroine gets back on her feet as best she can as she tries to figure out the mystery of it all. I liked Samantha; she’s a great protagonist. Even though the world did its best to get her down, she kept getting up and fighting the good fight. I am usually ambivalent about private eye mysteries, preferring amateur sleuth mysteries to those, but I quite enjoyed this one, probably because Sam is a newly minted PI who doesn’t yet know her way around the business (much like an amateur sleuth). Enjoyable banter and humor were a surprising part of this book as well. This is the first book I have read of the series, and I might have to go back and read the first one.



The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

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