Reading Fanatic Reviews

All Mystery, Suspense, and Thriller Reviews

Death of a Dowager by Joanna Campbell Slan

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Death of a Dowager*

Jane Eyre Rochester, Amateur Sleuth

I am a massive fan of Jane Austen fan fiction, but I do not think I have ever read any Bronte sister fanfiction. This book is told from the perspective of Jane Eyre Rochester, a few years after her marriage to Edward. Love and their infant son have transformed their lives, but repairs are desperately needed at the manor house, and Edward’s sight continues to worsen. The Rochesters go to London and are caught up in a variety of machinations, including a political intrigue involving the new king and a murder that happens when Jane visits a woman for tea. Unfortunately, one of Jane’s good friends is a suspect. This pulls Jane in so she can attempt to clear her friend.

I thought the author actually did a pretty decent job, in parts, in mimicking the tone and voice of the original Jane Eyre novel. Jane is a fascinating character in many ways, and I like the way that she looks at the world; trying to exist within high society is not easy for her, so it is fascinating to watch events from her perspective. I think it is odd that the author has chosen to place this book at the tail end of the Regency Era as the original Jane Eyre was written in the late 1840s, clearly and definitely part of the Victorian Era. Perhaps she wanted to use some political intrigue from that time of transition to the new king, which wouldn’t have been the same at all, of course, in the Victorian era. I found the political intrigue plot more interesting than the murder plot. As mystery plots go, it was relatively easy to follow and figure it out. I think the author needed a few more red herrings and twists and turns to make the mystery plot more engaging. But the political intrigue, as well as the interactions between Jane and those around her, kept me turning the pages. Frankly, though, I wish we had seen more of Mr. Rochester. All in all, I would say that if you enjoyed the original Jane Eyre and can forgive the author for inappropriately using the Regency Era, you will most likely enjoy this tale.

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!

Genetic Imperfections by Steve Hadden

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Genetic Imperfections*

Love and Redemption Overwhelmed by Greed

I was intrigued by the medical thriller aspect of this book, which is why I chose it at my favorite book review website. While the medical thriller part was certainly present, I felt like the novel had issues on a variety of fronts. First, it seemed like every time we met a new character, we got a very large information dump about them, their story, and how they related to the bigger story. I hate data dumps in novels in general, but to just keep running across them every time there was a new viewpoint character or a new character got a little wearisome.

Second, I am an RN, and I found the way that the author portrayed the hospital setting was grossly inaccurate. I hate that in stories. Given our ever-connected, networked world, it seems to me like authors could simply go on nursing groups on Facebook or other forums and ask if anybody would be willing to share their knowledge so books can be accurate. I know I would help an author out. There are so many things that are inaccurate, but I think the one that bothered me the most is that a nurse would just let a patient who survived an airplane crash just walk out of his room on his own. We actually have some pretty strict protocols in the hospital for mobility. A patient like him would have had to have been signed off by PT as able to walk around the unit independently. A nurse couldn’t make this decision and just let him go. And given what has happened to him, a good nurse—even with such permission—would have walked with him or had a nursing assistant walk with him to make sure he was safe on his own. I could go on about the medical, but I will not.

I also had issues with the characters. I had really hoped that this would be a story of redemption and love, as promised in the book description. But most of the characters were motivated by such greed and were so ugly that any positive themes felt completely overwhelmed. Too, probably because of the information dumps, I never felt like I connected with the characters, especially those at the heart of what should have been the romance and redemption. So I never really bought those themes for them anyway. I also did find issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage. All in all, I found this to be a disappointing book.

June Jenson and the Shield of Quell by Emily Harper

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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?

Un-Familiar Magic by Belinda White

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Un-Familiar Magic*

Magic Under Wraps

I am so enjoying this paranormal cozy mystery series. It is definitely one that should be read in order. Amie is a very powerful witch even if she doesn’t have control of her powers yet. The power is dependent on the type of witch she is. In fact, her kind of witch is so powerful that if the council found out, they would force her to live in a box, so to speak, that would drain her powers, which they could then use for their own benefit. The choice is either to live in this box or be killed. So Amie and her family do not want the council to find out about her powers. Those who care about her are trying to teach her how to control her magic but on the down low. Murders, unfortunately, keep happening in this small town, and Amie wants to help. But, of course, if she uses her powers, the council will find out. Will she be able to help without bringing harm to herself?

I like that the author has created a delightful deep point of view for this series. Being in Amie’s head is like watching a friend muse about her day. It feels intimate and personal. I don’t think that is easy to achieve, especially in a paranormal cozy mystery. I look forward to the next book in the series.

A Death at Eastwick by L. C. Warren

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Thalia, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, Indigo (Chapters), and Bol.de

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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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.

The Mountain’s Shadow by Cecilia Dominic

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The Mountain's Shadow*

Pacing Off But Better Toward End

This is a quirky combination of paranormal urban fantasy and medical thriller. I felt like the pacing was a bit off. It started too slowly, spending much time on revealing background and slice-of-life moments rather than some good, gripping action. There is a lot going on in this book, so much so at times that it was difficult to keep everything and everybody straight. I particularly liked the science aspects of the story. While taking place in a fantastical setting, it still seems realistic. I thought that perhaps there was a little too much exposition, even though it was well done. I kept wanting more to happen in the first half, which is never good in a thriller. Still, I stuck with it, and I am glad I did as the pacing and action did pick up in the second half of the story.

Farmers Market Fatality by Sarah Hualde

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Farmers Market Fatality*

Complex World of Intertwined Lives

This story is complicated for a cozy mystery. For one thing, we have four amateur sleuths to follow. Much is going on in their lives and the lives of their family and friends. The book is busy and fast-paced, but the murder isn’t even known to be certain until over the 40% mark—and this is a long book. Maybe the author was hoping to build suspense about the missing man, but when the actual murder in a murder mystery is left for too long, it doesn’t allow for much development of the murder plot. This is a long novel, so there was still some time for development, but I would have liked to have seen more. It is definitely a book where it felt like at the cozy aspect and the mystery aspect were out of balance, with lots of emphasis on the cozy and not quite enough on the mystery. Still, the intertwined lives of the people of Honey Pot were easy to get entangled in.

Pumpkin Patch Mystery by Lucy May

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Pumpkin Patch Mystery*

Another Excellent Visit to Charm Cove

I don’t know how many books I have read in Lucy May’s Charm Cove series, but I have found every one of them a delight. I love seeing a new book in the series pop up at my favorite book review site. No matter how busy I am, I have to pick it up. One of the things that I appreciated about this story was that the murder happened right at the beginning, before the 10% mark. It is definitely a danger with cozy mysteries, delaying the murderer or the crime and filling much of the first part of the book with a look at the quirky community that cozy mysteries always have. I have seen the murder take place as late as almost to 50% mark, though that is extreme. But having such a crucial moment in a murder mystery take place so late doesn’t allow time for the mystery to develop. But that doesn’t happen here. We’re two months past the Wicked-Good wedding, and the newlyweds are embroiled in the murder because the two girls that they had taken to a pumpkin patch found the dead body. So the whole gang gets involved in this murder, though it is apparently not magical in nature. The book had some good twists and turns, which I love in a mystery. The cozy part was not ignored either, and I enjoy watching the interactions of the Charm Cove residents. I like that the author is able to write description in such a way that she places you there in the scenes, but it doesn’t seem like it is too much. Another enjoyable trip to Charm Cove.

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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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