Death of Riley – Rhys Bowen

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4/5 Private Eyes

On The Back:

Molly Murphy has finally begun to forget the unpleasant murder of a would-be rapist back in Ireland, not to mention her investigation into the murder of a fellow recent Irish immigrant, and is finally free to begin her life in New York City. Given her experiences so far in the New World, Molly has decided that her first order of business is to become a private investigator, a people finder of sorts, working for families in Europe who’ve lost touch with relatives in America. Not only might this put some food on her table, but her second order of business is to hook the handsome NYPD police captain Daniel Sullivan, and she envisions lots of opportunities to “seek his counsel” in her new profession.

Paddy Riley is a tough old Cockney p.i. who specializes in divorce work, and with a little persuasion he’s ready to take on Molly as an apprentice. It’s not exactly what she imagined, but she plans to make the most of it. That is, until she comes in to work one day to find her new world turned upside down and all expectations for her professional life suddenly up in the air.

Before long, Molly has set off on a journey that will take her through the back alleys of Manhattan and into the bars and lounges of the literary scene, where she spends time with writers, actors, poets, and musicians. It’s quite an eye-opening turn for innocent young Molly, but she’s resolute in her decision to find out exactly what happened that day in the office of Paddy Riley. Armed with nothing more than her fiery will and matching wild red hair, Molly has no idea of the danger her pursuit may bring in this fascinating, well-researched, and suspenseful second novel in Rhys Bowen’s Agatha-award winning series.

My Thoughts:

After I finished the first book in this series, I couldn’t wait to read the second, and since I’d picked it up awhile ago at a book sale I dug right in! Though not quite as good as the first, Death of Riley was still an excellent book.

Molly has finally started settling in to her life in New York but she still can’t find a job that suits her. So, when circumstances lead her to Paddy Riley she desperately wants to be his assistant, even though he’s not sure if he wants or needs an assistant yet. However he takes Molly on and when Paddy is found dead, Molly inherits the business and a murder investigation. As Molly digs deeper into Paddy’s cases to try to find who killed him things start to get dangerous, and when the police offer little to no help Molly must try to find the killer before the killer finds her!

Once again, I had absolutely no complaints about Molly, she is everything I look for in a MC. Daniel is also a great character, though he frustrated me in this book. Seamus and his kids reappeared in this book, and I must say I hope they stay on for awhile, though I could do without his cousin Nuala. Gus and Sid were also refreshing; I hope they reappear, too.

The mystery in this book was very good. A lot of action and adventure mixed with the mystery of being in a huge sity. I love Ms. Bowen’s talent of weaving nonfiction and fiction together. Honestly, I learn something new every time I read one of her books.

Another just great book. With (mostly) great characters and a great plotline, yet Daniel’s drama (which I could have done without) and Nuala, Death of Riley gets 4/5 stars. Can’t wait to read the next one!

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Murphy’s Law – Rhys Bowen

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5/5 Irish Immigrants

On The Back:

When spirited redhead Molly Murphy was growing up a peasant on the coast of Ireland she always imagined there was something more in store for her. She couldn’t have known how right she was until the day she became a murderer, albeit in self-defense. Under drastic circumstances, Molly is forced to strike out into a new world. With the police right behind her, Molly’s only chance at escape is a false identity and a steamship that will take her far, far away: to America.

When her ship sails into New York Harbor, with the majestic figure of the Statue of Liberty providing comfort and inspiration, Molly is sure her whole life is in front of her. But she’s got one last hurdle to clear: Ellis Island. She is just one among thousands of immigrants on the tiny island, awaiting their fate with anxiety and hope. Unfortunately for Molly, before she is able to leave the island a man is brutally murdered, his throat cut from ear to ear, and coincidence and fate make her a suspect in a crime she didn’t commit. Under a cloud of suspicion, and due largely to a growing mutual attraction between Molly and the handsome police captain in charge of the case, she is allowed to leave Ellis Island for Manhattan. Unfortunately, she’s got a mission she couldn’t have anticipated: clear her own name of murder. Alone in a new country with no one to lean on, Molly hits the vibrant streets of New York intent on finding out what really happened. After all, if she can’t, she’ll be sent back to Ireland, where the dreaded gallows await.

My Thoughts:

I’ve read and enjoyed all of Ms. Bowen’s Royal Spyness mysteries and have loved them, so when I was putting in my last order at my library I finally decided to include the first in her Molly Murphy series, which I’d heard nothing but good things about. I can say that I don’t regret ordering them! This was a fun book that I read in one sitting.

In Murphy’s Law Molly Murphy accidentally kills a man and because of her circumstances she must flee Ireland. She soon finds herself on a boat to America caring for two children. Once she reaches New York a murder happens, and Molly soon becomes a suspect. Molly soon begins to investigate to clear her name, before she lands behind bars, or worse, shipped back to Ireland.

I absolutely loved Molly, she was fiercely independent, yet at the same time loyal to those close to her. She thought everything through and used reason instead of feelings to dictate what she did; she was all-in-all a very strong main character that I enjoyed reading about. Daniel was also a fun character, who has a few similarities with one of Ms. Bowen’s other characters in her Royal Spyness series, Darcy. However, despite their similarities, they are in no way carbon copies of each other and are separate enough that I don’t think Daniel will do what Darcy does, or vice-versa.

The mystery was good, slightly above average. The murder victim was well-hated by almost everyone, so there were a lot of suspects. Molly didn’t bombard suspects with questions, she used logic and quiet investigating to find the murderer, which I like. The murderer was a small surprise, and the scene where the murderer was ousted was wonderfully suspenseful.

Overall a wonderful book. With great characters, an above average mystery, and a great setting Murphy’s Law gets 5/5 stars. I’m already half-way through the next one!

A Cookie Before Dying – Virginia Lowell

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4/5 Vegetable-shaped Sugar Cookies

On The Back:

On a stormy night, Olivia Greyson and her Yorkie discover the body of a man stabbed to death-which looks suspiciously like the intruder seen fleeing the local health food store The Vegetable Plate. Charlene Critch, owner of The Vegetable Plate, has a grudge against Olivia’s cookie cutter shop, but could Charlene be hiding a secret serious enough to kill for?

My Thoughts:

A very good second book, A Cookie Before Dying was a very strong book with very minor problems. In this book Livie’s dog, Spunky, becomes extremely agitated one night and wants to go out. When he won’t take no for an answer, Livie takes him outside and, much to her surprise, she finds a dead man. With the help of Maddie, Livie’s best friend, and, of course, Spunky Livie must find the killer before the killer puts one of her loved ones behind bars forever.

I love the characters in this book. Livie, Del, Maddie, and all of their friends and family are well thought out, possibly a little bit eccentric, yet wonderful. In the first book I found Maddie slightly annoying, but, I’m pleased to say that I didn’t find her annoying at all in this book. However, the one major character that annoyed me was Livie’s brother, Jason. He was seriously ignorant and I feel like the entire book would have improved without him.

The mystery was very good, a lot of false clues and valid suspects were present and the ending wasn’t extremely shocking, but yet it was a pleasant surprise.

Overall a very good book with only one bad character. A Cookie Before Dying gets 4/5 stars. I’ll read the next one!

His Majesty’s Hope – Susan Elia MacNeal

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4/5 British Spies

On The Back:

World War II has finally come home to Britain, but it takes more than nightly air raids to rattle intrepid spy and expert code breaker Maggie Hope. After serving as a secret agent to protect Princess Elizabeth at Windsor Castle, Maggie is now an elite member of the Special Operations Executive—a black ops organization designed to aid the British effort abroad—and her first assignment sends her straight into Nazi-controlled Berlin, the very heart of the German war machine. Relying on her quick wit and keen instincts, Maggie infiltrates the highest level of Berlin society, gathering information to pass on to London headquarters. But the secrets she unveils will expose a darker, more dangerous side of the war—and of her own past.

My Thoughts:

Though not as good as the first two in the series, His Majesty’s Hope was still a quick, well-written read that I enjoyed. Maggie is sent on a secret mission to Berlin, the heart of the enemy, to complete a mission, but when Maggie agrees to work for one of the leaders int he Nazi party she soon becomes involved in a spiral of events that keep getting riskier and riskier. Can she find her way out of the enemy’s territory before the enemy finds her?

Maggie and David appear, of course, along with Frain and a few bit parts with Churchill, and they were all as ever wonderful characters, but this book also focuses on other characters, besides the obvious few. John reappears (!!!!!) and is given quite a big role in the book and I really like him, he’s funny but yet realistic, this book reflects on a few areas where the war has changed him, and I love that. Hugh again appears, and I must say that he was extremely annoying and just plain irritating. I could absolutely not stand him; some moves he made were reckless and simply stupid, to be honest, I hope he doesn’t reappear in the next book.

Two other new major characters appeared, Clara and Elsie, two Germans that are related but that are completely opposite. I must say, I know that you aren’t supposed to like Clara, but I kind of felt sorry for her, the few hints the book gave us into her past were heartbreaking. Elsie was brave, intelligent, and kind, and I found myself looking forward to her parts in the book. I hope to see more of both in the next books.

Not really a murder mystery in this book, though there were some murders and a small mystery, but, for the most part, they stayed separate. The book mostly focused on Maggie’s adventure in Berlin, and I really wasn’t disappointed that there was no mystery. There was so many other things going on that you didn’t really miss it.

Overall a very solid, well-plotted book that I enjoyed. With almost perfect characters, an action-packed plotline, yet some irritating characters that I could do without (Hugh), His Majesty’s Hope gets 4/5 stars! I’ll read the next one soon!

Pane and Suffering – Cheryl Hollon

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4/5 Stained Glass Shops

On The Back:

To solve her father’s murder and save the family-owned glass shop, Savannah Webb must shatter a killer’s carefully constructed façade. . .

After Savannah’s father dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, she drops everything to return home to St. Petersburg, Florida, to settle his affairs–including the fate of the beloved, family-owned glass shop. Savannah intends to hand over ownership to her father’s trusted assistant and fellow glass expert, Hugh Trevor, but soon discovers the master craftsman also dead of an apparent heart attack.

As if the coincidence of the two deaths wasn’t suspicious enough, Savannah discovers a note her father left for her in his shop, warning her that she is in danger. With the local police unconvinced, it’s up to Savannah to piece together the encoded clues left behind by her father. And when her father’s apprentice is accused of the murders, Savannah is more desperate than ever to crack the case before the killer seizes a window of opportunity to cut her out of the picture. . .

My Thoughts:

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Kensington and Netgalley. This title will be published on September 29, 2015*

The first book in what looks like a promising new series, Pane and Suffering was an absorbing book that I enjoyed. Savannah is a glass blowing artist living in Seattle. When her father dies she must return to St. Petersburg, Florida and wrap up his affairs, however another death has her questioning her father’s premature heart attack.

I really liked the characters, Savannah, Amanda, and Edward were all fun and sensible. Amanda was the perfect unashamed friend who had me laughing out loud at some of the things she’d say and do. I also loved how the author portrayed a character with Asperger’s syndrome; it was so nice to read about Jacob, and I really hope he appears in later books.

However, the book wasn’t perfect, and the major imperfection was the mystery. It might have just been me, but I found the mystery to be extremely transparent and I guessed the killer half way through the book. There were almost too many clues and it gave the killer away early on. But, I really liked how the author incorporated tons of different codes and cyphers into the story.

Overall a very strong start to a new series. I really enjoyed it. With great characters, a fun setting, and a great use of codes, yet a transparent mystery, Pane and Suffering, gets 4/5 stars. I’ll look for the next one!

Malice at the Palace – Rhys Bowen

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5/5 Royal Weddings

On The Back:

Lady Georgiana Rannoch won’t deny that being thirty-fifth in line for the British throne has its advantages. Unfortunately, money isn’t one of them. And sometimes making ends meet requires her to investigate a little royal wrongdoing.

While my beau Darcy is off on a mysterious mission, I am once again caught between my high birth and empty purse. I am therefore relieved to receive a new assignment from the Queen—especially one that includes lodging. The King’s youngest son, George, is to wed Princess Marina of Greece, and I shall be her companion at the supposedly haunted Kensington Palace.

My duties are simple: help Marina acclimate to English life, show her the best of London and, above all, dispel any rumors about George’s libertine history. Perhaps that last bit isn’t so simple.

George is known for his many affairs with women as well as men—including the great songwriter Noel Coward. But things truly get complicated when I search the Palace for a supposed ghost only to encounter an actual dead person: a society beauty said to have been one of Prince George’s mistresses.

Nothing spoils a royal wedding more than murder, and the Queen wants the whole matter hushed. But as the investigation unfolds—and Darcy, as always, turns up in the most unlikely of places—the investigation brings us precariously close to the prince himself.

My Thoughts:

Rhys Bowen has a gift with words, and the latest Royal Spyness book did not disappoint! In Malice at the Palace Georgie is once again given a task by the Queen; to watch over and help a visiting princess before her royal wedding to the Queen’s youngest son, Prince George. However, when a woman who was previously connected to Prince George is found dead Georgie must find the killer before the murderer finds her!

I’m going to start with the end; the end of this book marked a major turning point for three of the series’ biggest characters. Each of those three characters, who I’m not going to name because I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, makes such a big decision that it will definitely effect the following books in this series, and I must say that I am so excited to read the next book, if there is one, and see what happens.

The characters were all back in this book, Queenie, Georgie, Darcy, Belinda, and Georgie’s grandfather all played huge roles, as always, in this book and they were all wonderful. There were a few new characters, the Princess and her assorted family members, who I also hope we see more of in the next book.

The mystery was anticlimactic; parts of it were extremely far-fetched and other parts were simple to figure out. But, if I’m honest, I don’t read these books for the mystery, I read them for the amazing characters that I love.

Malice at the Palace had superb characters, yet a mediocre mystery. However, the characters and the plotlines involving these character’s romances and lives in general greatly overshadowed the mystery, so I don’t feel like I’m missing anything in the mystery and because of that I’m giving Malice at the Palace 5/5 stars. Ms. Bowen cannot write the next one fast enough for me!

Let’s Get Lost – Adi Alsaid

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4/5 Roadtrips

On The Back:

Five strangers. Countless adventures. One epic way to get lost.

Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named Leila. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most.

Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila’s own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth—sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you’re looking for is to get lost along the way.

My Thoughts:

A very good YA debut, Adi Alsaid penned a winner! Leila takes a roadtrip across the U.S. and along the way she meets a group of interesting and hilarious characters. Told in 5 different sections from 5 different points of view this book was unique and fun!

Leila was equal parts humorous and heartbreaking. For most of the story she is a main character yet we know very little about her, causing her to have an air of mystery surrounding everything she does, but as the different stories go on and we see different parts of her she became more real and heartbreaking. The rest of the characters were simply hilarious; for most of the first parts of the book it’s in the other characters point of view, making the other characters more developed.

The plots were mostly unique, with some cliches and a few better plotted parts, but in a book that’s essentially telling 5 different stories about one road trip, that’s to be expected. Hudson and Leila’s story was predictable and Elliot and Leila’s story wasn’t as gripping as Bree’s and Sonia’s stories, but overall they were all great.

Overall this was a very good story. With great characters, however a lot of predictable scenes and cliches Let’s Get Lost gets 4/5 stars! I would read a sequel if there was one.

Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon

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5/5 Everything Stars

On The Back:

This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

My Thoughts:

Madeline has Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) which means that she is literally allergic to anything and everything but she meets a boy named Olly, a guy who changes everything.

Olly is a guy who only wears black. He comes from a very different background than Madeline and perhaps it’s that fact that brings them together. Olly makes Madeline feel alive, around him she’s not only a sick girl, she’s a normal human being. She is alive.

With Olly Madeline is a person, and with Olly Madeline can do almost anything. Madeline is alive.

Everything, Everything was simply an astounding book, it is equal parts hilarious and serious, and it will stick with me for awhile.

The characters were extremely vivid and I could clearly see the setting. I loved the depth of the characters; it seemed like each character had 100 layers that were beautifully put together, and each character surprised you as each layer was peeled away.

I loved the pains the author went to to accurately describe the setting of a house for a person living with SCID, from the fake jungle to the air-lock it added a sort of science fiction, detached feel to Madeline’s house that made the book all the more astounding.

The plot twist in the end was amazing. I didn’t see it coming and when it did come I was shocked; I’m still shocked.

Overall this was a wonderful book that I will probably buy and add to my bookshelf to reread over and over again. If this book is any hint as to Nicola Yoon’s talent, then we’ll see this book and every other book she writes rocket to the top of the YA world.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley*

Every Trick in the Book – Lucy Arlington

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2.5/5 Author Festivals

On The Back:

Lila Wilkins has it all: the home of her dreams in the charming town of Inspiration Valley, North Carolina; a perfect police officer boyfriend; and a new job she absolutely loves. At the Book and Author Festival, which is sponsored by the Novel Idea Literary Agency, Lila expects to discover some talented new authors, but what she finds instead is the body of an editor to whom she bears an eerie resemblance.

Trouble is, the editor’s death isn’t the only literary murder taking place. Soon a blossoming author is also killed, and Lila has a gut feeling that the two murders are linked. Now she must hunt down the dark figure who killed these women—and to her surprise, she just might find the clues hidden in a manuscript…

My Thoughts:

Well, that wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. In Every Trick in the Book Lila’s agency hosts an author festival that’s supposed to give authors and wannabe authors tips and tools to help them exceed. However, when one of the guest speakers is found murdered Lila inserts herself in the investigation to find the killer.

I was extremely disappointed in this book; it had such potential, great characters, an amazing job, and an idyllic setting. However, this book left me quite disappointed. To start with Lila. Oh Lila. She was bossy, rude, and purposely inserted herself in the investigation because she took the murder “personally.” Well, sorry, hon, but the murder had absolutely nothing to do with you. The person who was killed looked like Lila and did Lila a favor, but their relationship didn’t go past that, so I have absolutely no idea how she took the murder personally. She discarded multiple warnings by those who loved her most and I’m surprised she didn’t get fired for the amount of times she left work without telling anyone. She also accused someone before she even knew their name because of the way they looked. The way they looked! She should have been sued for libel right there!

And Sean, he had so much potential in the last book, but he threw it out the window in this book. First of all I’m not against some “under the table” help from policemen in my mysteries, but, oh my, this book was over the top. Sean allowed Lila to look through some very private files to help him and he did so many things that were not only against the rules of his job and would probably get him fired, but some were probably illegal. It was so annoying I almost yelled out.

The mystery was also a complete bust, there was only one major suspect and the book followed the progress in tracking down that suspect. Absolutely no surprise in who the killer was.

However, there were some redeeming qualities that brought this book from a 1 star to a 2.5 star read. First of all I love all of the secondary characters in the book. They are all funny and well-thought-out and I really wish we’d see more of them in future books. Also, the sub-plot at the co-op where Lila’s son lives was entertaining to read and I was at the edge of my seat trying to figure out what was happening. The story was also a relative quick read that flew past, a redeeming quality for me.

Overall not a very good book, however, I plan to stay for the next one simply because of the great setting and Lila’s job. Sadly, Every Trick in the Book gets a low 2.5 star rating from me.

Princess Elizabeth’s Spy – Susan Elia MacNeal

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5/5 Freezing Castles

On The Back:

As World War II sweeps the continent and England steels itself against German attack, Maggie Hope, former secretary to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, completes her training to become a spy for MI-5. Spirited, strong-willed, and possessing one of the sharpest minds in government for mathematics and code-breaking, she fully expects to be sent abroad to gather intelligence for the British front. Instead, to her great disappointment, she is dispatched to go undercover at Windsor Castle, where she will tutor the young Princess Elizabeth in math. Yet castle life quickly proves more dangerous—and deadly—than Maggie ever expected. The upstairs-downstairs world at Windsor is thrown into disarray by a shocking murder, which draws Maggie into a vast conspiracy that places the entire royal family in peril. And as she races to save England from a most disturbing fate, Maggie realizes that a quick wit is her best defense, and that the smallest clues can unravel the biggest secrets, even within her own family.

My Thoughts:

Wow, and I thought the first book was great. Filled with espionage, scandals, murders, secrets, balls, plays, and air raids Princess Elizabeth’s Spy was wonderful.

Maggie fails horribly at the physical portion of her test to become a spy on the continent, so when Peter Frain, head of MI-5, comes to her with a proposal, she will become Princess Elizabeth’s math tutor and will be an extra precaution, to soak up all of the information she can find and try to catch a German spy in the castle. Maggie reluctantly agrees and soon is caught up in a dangerous web of scandals, secrets, and lies. With a murderer on the loose and Germans bombing everyday can she save herself and the princesses before it’s too late?

This book happens with a bit of a gap between the last book, so a lot of things happened, and because of this, I found the first 3 or so chapters hard to get in to, but after the first few chapters the story speeds up so much that I devoured it in almost one sitting. I don’t want to say too much in this review because most of what I would say would be spoilers, but this book was amazing. The plot, mystery, and characters, all tied together wonderfully.

This book had some major foreshadowing in the end hinting to things in the next few books that I cannot wait for. Overall Princess Elizabeth’s Spy was simply wonderful. I already have the next one checked out from my library’s ebook lending service.