Book 31: THE WATER WITCH Review

The Water Witch (Fairwick Chronicles #2) by Juliet Dark
ISBN: 9780345524249 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780345542427 (ebook)
ASIN: B008WOO7JQ (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication date: February 12, 2013

After casting out a dark spirit, Callie McFay, a professor of gothic literature, has at last restored a semblance of calm to her rambling Victorian house. But in the nearby thicket of the Honeysuckle Forest, and in the currents of the rushing Undine River, more trouble is stirring…

The enchanted town of Fairwick’s dazzling mix of mythical creatures has come under siege from the Grove: a sinister group of witches determined to banish the fey back to their ancestral land. With factions turning on one another, all are cruelly forced to take sides. Callie’s grandmother, a prominent Grove member, demands her granddaughter’s compliance, but half-witch/half-fey Callie can hardly betray her friends and colleagues at the college. 

To stave off disaster, Callie enlists Duncan Laird, an alluring seductive academic who cultivates her vast magical potential, but to what end? Deeply conflicted, Callie struggles to save her beloved Fairwick, dangerously pushing her extraordinary powers to the limit—risking all, even the needs of her own passionate heart.

Callie (Cailleach) McFay is still feeling guilty about exiling her lover Liam, an incubus, to the Borderlands (a Faerie no-man’s land). She’s also trying to learn more about her magical gifts as a Doorkeeper. All she knows is that she’s able to open and close the doors into Faerie, but she doesn’t quite know how that works. Worse still are the rumors that the Grove and the Institute of Magical Professionals (IMP) are meeting to decide to close the door to Faerie forever. If this happens all of the fey in Fairview and surrounding areas will need to decide whether to stay in our world or return to Faerie for good? The only problem with closing the door to Faerie is that all magical beings will be without the source of “aelves gold,” the original substance of Faerie and the main component of all magic. This substance is used to heal magical beings, remove signs of aging as well as slow down the aging process. How will the witches survive? Have they found an alternative source of aelves gold? If so, where is it coming from? 

Callie and her friends only have days to try and answer all of these questions before the meeting between the Grove and IMP. Before the meeting, Callie must gain control over her abilities. She also must gain control over her feelings for Liam. After escorting the undine young (the undine are magical creatures that must mate with humans once every 100 years) back to Faerie, she barely escapes from the Borderlands. In payment for Liam helping her to escape the Borderlands, she releases him and takes him to Faerie. She also unknowingly releases an undine, Lorelei, who’s desperate to mate with a human. Upon Callie’s return to her home she’s informed that she’ll be tutored by Duncan Laird, a ninth degree wizard. Callie learns from Duncan and is even attracted to him but she senses that something isn’t quite right. Will she learn to trust her instincts before it’s too late? Will she be able to capture Lorelei and return her to Faerie before she does harm to any human?

I found The Water Witch to be a fast read. Unfortunately since I hadn’t read the first book in this series, Demon Lover, there were references that I didn’t quite understand. I didn’t connect with this story and I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps it was because Callie felt attracted to almost every man she came into contact with, Liam the incubus, Duncan the wizard, and then Bill the handyman. Or it could have been due to the difficulty in keeping track of all the magical creatures introduced in the story: the undine, witches and wizards, brownies, satyrs, Norse Gods, Norse demigods, incubi, succubi, deer fairies, sprites, goblins, zombie beavers (yes . . . zombie beavers), and the mythical elves. Whatever the reason, I didn’t enjoy The Water Witch as there was a lot going on, there were too many magical characters to try and remember, and perhaps my prudish nature just couldn’t appreciate Callie’s sexual attraction to so many men. Although I didn’t connect with The Water Witch, if you enjoy fantasy and the paranormal then this may be a book for you. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 26: TOUCH & GO Review

Touch & Go by Lisa Gardner
ISBN: 9780525953074 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781101611012 (ebook)
ASIN: B008EKMAH4 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Dutton 
Publication date: February 5, 2013

This is my family:  Vanished without a trace…

Justin and Libby Denbe have the kind of life that looks good in the pages of a glossy magazine. A beautiful fifteen-year old daughter, Ashlyn. A gorgeous brownstone on a tree-lined street in Boston’s elite Back Bay neighborhood. A great marriage, admired by friends and family. A perfect life.

This is what I know:  Pain has a flavor…

When investigator Tessa Leoni arrives at the crime scene in the Denbes’ home, she finds scuff marks on the floor and Taser confetti in the foyer. The family appears to have been abducted, with only a pile of their most personal possessions remaining behind. No witnesses, no ransom demands, no motive. Just an entire family, vanished without a trace.

This is what I fear: The worst is yet to come…

Tessa knows better than anyone that even the most perfect façades can hide the darkest secrets. Now she must race against the clock to uncover the Denbes’ innermost dealings, a complex tangle of friendships and betrayal, big business and small sacrifices. Who would want to kidnap such a perfect little family? And how far would such a person be willing to go?

This is the truth: Love, safety, family…it is all touch and go.

Looks can be deceiving. It looks like Libby and Justin Denbe have the perfect marriage. It looks like they have the perfect daughter. It also looks like the Denbe family’s abduction was the perfect abduction. The only problem is that nothing is ever perfect. Tessa Leoni must help uncover clues that reveal just how imperfect this family is and who might be behind their abduction.

Libby Denbe used to be a strong and independent woman. Her father died when she was a child and her mother died when she was only twenty years old. She made out of the tenements or projects, graduated from college and began her own jewelry business. Now she’s married to a successful man, lives in a gorgeous home and has a beautiful daughter . . . the perfect life, or so it appears. Libby’s husband has cheated on her, she’s addicted to pain medication, and her daughter is harboring way too many secrets at age fifteen. Her perfect life is beginning to crack. 

Tessa Leoni is a private investigator, hired by the Denbe Construction company to perform an ancillary investigation into the disappearance of the Denbe family. All anyone knows is that the family disappeared on a Friday night and no ransom demand has been made. The Boston Police is initially on the case and there’s a brief appearance by D. D. Warren. Once it is revealed that the abductors have crossed state lines into New Hampshire, the FBI and New Hampshire authorities are brought into the case. Wyatt Foster is a New Hampshire sheriff. Once he’s brought in on the case he quickly launches a plan to eliminate as much state land as possible in the search for the Denbes and the abductors. The investigation quickly reveals that the abductors must have had inside information given the security at the Denbe home and their knowledge of floor layouts and the Denbe’s activities. Then the investigators are informed of the embezzling of millions of dollars over more than a dozen years at Denbe Construction. What exactly does the embezzling have to do with the abductions? Will the investigators be able to piece everything together and find the family alive?

Touch & Go is filled with drama, hints of romance, mystery and suspense. Ms. Gardner does a fabulous job of bringing all of the characters to life, as well as creating scenarios that are all too believable. The story has quite a few twists and turns leading the reader from one assumption to another while cleverly revealing tidbits that provide the final clues to the mystery. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but with some in law enforcement, others in the construction business and then the “bad guys,” it is quite easy to keep them all straight. Don’t know if it was just me but everything seemed to fall into threes. There are three abductors: Mick, Radar and Z; three family members: Libby, Justin and Ashlyn; three main players in the construction company: Anita Bennett, Chris Lopez and Ruth Chan; and, three main investigators: Tessa Leoni, Wyatt Foster and lead FBI agent Nicole Adams (former lover to Wyatt Foster). I doubt if the repetition of three means anything, but I found it interesting. I’ve enjoyed reading a number of Ms. Gardner’s books in the past and Touch & Go was another well-crafted and enjoyable read. The story develops in layers and the mystery is then uncovered  layer-by-layer with little surprises tucked inside of some of the layers. As I previously stated, there’s a lot going on in this story, but it all comes together quite nicely in the end with a few surprises. If you enjoy reading mystery-suspense then you want to add Touch & Go to your list of upcoming reads.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry
ISBN: 9780307718419 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780307718433 (ebook)
ASIN: B009MYAVOK (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Crown 
Publication date: February 5, 2013

Freelance writer Troy Chance is snapping photos of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival ice palace when the ice-cutting machine falls silent. Encased in the ice is the shadowy outline of a body–a man she knows. One of her roommates falls under suspicion, and the media descends. Troy’s assigned to write an in-depth feature on the dead man, who, it turns out, was the privileged son of a wealthy Connecticut family who had been playing at a blue collar life in this Adirondack village. And the deeper Troy digs into his life and mysterious death, the murkier things become. After the victim’s sister comes to town and a string of disturbing incidents unfold, it’s clear someone doesn’t want the investigation to continue. Troy doesn’t know who to trust, and what she ultimately finds out threatens to shatter the serenity of these mountain towns. She must decide which family secrets should be exposed, what truths should remain hidden, and how far her own loyalty can reach.

A Cold and Lonely Place, the sequel to Learning to Swim, follows Troy on a powerful emotional journey as she discovers the damage left by long-hidden secrets, and catches a glimpse of what might have been.

I had the pleasure of reading Learning to Swim early last year shortly after its release (a read from my personal stash). Regrettably I was unable to post a review at that time as this was during my severe migraine period (sitting at the computer, looking at the screen and simply typing was a trial). This year I was fortunate enough to be allowed the opportunity to read A Cold and Lonely Place for review purposes. Although I enjoyed reading Learning to Swim last year I decided to reread it a few days ago prior to reading A Cold and Lonely Place. I’m glad I did because it was just as good the second time around.

Troy Chance is a highly independent woman. She left her home and family in Tennessee and moved to Oregon to attend college at the age of seventeen. After completing college she eventually relocates to the Adirondack region of upstate New York, the Lake Placid/Saranac area. She worked for a few years as the sports editor for the local paper before becoming a freelance journalist. She’s renting a house and sublets several of the bedrooms to various athletes and townsfolk. Her constant companion is her dog, Tiger. A Cold and Lonely Place begins with Troy watching the Winter Festival ice palace preparations when suddenly a body is discovered under the ice . . . the body of one of her roommate’s missing boyfriend. Troy is immediately pulled into the investigation when she is asked to take pictures of the scene for the local police. She then breaks the news of Tobin’s death to her roommate, Jessamyn. What follows is a discovery of the secrets and hidden past in both Tobin and Jessamyn’s lives.

Once again Troy is pulled into an investigation, but this time she is functioning more as an investigative journalist as she’s been asked to write a series of articles about Tobin for the local paper. As Troy seeks answers to who Tobin was and how he wound up in their small town, she learns that appearances can be deceiving and that Tobin was much nicer than she ever knew. Tobin was running from a past but not from any mistakes he made but from his family and disappointment. Her search for the truth also unveils secrets of Jessamyn’s past of abuse, neglect and disappointment. The only roommate that is fully developed and explored is Jessamyn, but she winds up becoming a good friend to Troy and vice versa. Troy is also befriended by Tobin’s surviving sibling, his sister Jessica known as Win. Win plays a pivotal role in helping Troy uncover the truth about Tobin’s past and life after he left his family. 

A Cold and Lonely Place seems to focus more on relationships and Ms. Henry does an admirable job in creating characters that you can relate to and be empathetic toward. The drama in this story comes more from Troy’s reactions to the information she uncovers as well as how that information impacts others through her articles. Characters from Learning to Swim make reappearances, such as Canadian police detective Jameson, Paul and Philippe Dumond and their nanny/housekeeper Elise, as well as Troy’s brother Simon, a police detective in Florida, and her longtime friend Baker. Jameson, Simon and Baker all function as sounding boards for Troy as well as advisers.  It was fascinating to see the changes in relationships evolve as Win and Jessamyn go from being casual acquaintances to friends. At its heart A Cold and Lonely Place is a mystery but also a great read about family and relationships and their continued impact on our lives. I found A Cold and Lonely Place to be an amazing read and one that I enjoyed from beginning to end. If you enjoy mysteries and drama, then I strongly recommend you read A Cold and Lonely Place (if you haven’t read Learning to Swim then add that to your TBR list as well . . . you won’t be disappointed).

Read a few sample pages from A Cold and Lonely Place here

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Seventh Victim by Mary Burton
ISBN: 9781420125054 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781420130966 (ebook)
ASIN: B009AY43IW (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publication date: January 29, 2013


It’s been seven years since the Seattle Strangler terrorized the city. His victims were all young, pretty, their lifeless bodies found wrapped in a home-sewn white dress. But there was one who miraculously escaped death, just before the Strangler disappeared…


Lara Church has only hazy memories of her long-ago attack. What she does have is a home in Austin, a job, and a chance at a normal life at last. Then Texas Ranger James Beck arrives on her doorstep with shattering news: The Strangler is back. And this time, he’s in Austin…


He’s always craved her, even as he killed the others. For so long he’s been waiting to unleash the beast within. And this time, he’ll prove he holds her life in his hands—right before he ends it forever…

Lara Church has been on the run for seven years. Unfortunately she doesn’t remember who she’s running from since she can’t remember her attacker. She has spent the past seven years crisscrossing the country, never spending more than six months in any one location. The only thing that ties her brief stays anywhere is murder. Lara was the seventh victim of the Seattle Strangler and the only one to survive. Now the strangler seems to be making a reappearance in Austin. Will Lara run again? How do you run when you don’t know who you’re running from?

Fortunately for Lara, she has the Texas Rangers on her side in the form of James Beck and Rick Santos. These Rangers are driven and simply will not stop until they’ve solved the case. Just to shake things up a bit, a former Seattle detective shows up and wants to help solve the case. Add in an art show featuring Lara’s photographs of death scenes, her willing exposure as the last surviving victim of the Seattle Strangler, mutual attraction between Lara and Ranger Beck, and the anniversary of Lara’s survival in Seattle and you’ve got the makings of one volatile romantic-suspense story . . . which is exactly what Ms. Burton has provided.

I found all of the characters in The Seventh Victim to be very well developed and likeable. The settings and action are realistic and well described. James Beck is somewhat stubborn and single-minded when it comes to his cases. Lara Church is stubborn when it comes to her art. Former Seattle police detective Mike Raines is, by all appearances, just as stubborn when it comes to solving the case of the Seattle Strangler. But all is not what it appears and the little twists and turns in the story are what made for an engrossing read. The Seventh Victim wasn’t a quick or easy read, primarily because of the subject matter (rape, murder and even child abuse), but I was simply unable to put the book down once I started reading. If you enjoy suspense stories with a mix of romance, then you may want to add The Seventh Victim to your reading list. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 18: THE LONG WAY HOME Review

The Long Way Home (Chesapeake Diaries #6) by Mariah Stewart
ISBN: 9780345538413 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780345540270 (ebook)
ASIN: B008TSC5ZS (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication date: January 29, 2013

As the only child of a wealthy investment manager, Ellie Chapman has never known anything besides a life of perfect privilege. But her years of good fortune come to an abrupt end when her father is exposed for swindling billions of dollars from innocent investors in a massive Ponzi scheme. And just like that, Ellie loses everything: money, job, home–even her fiance, who’s jailed as her father’s partner in crime. With no job prospects on the horizon, no cash, and her family name in tatters, Ellie has only one place to go. 

Sleepy St. Dennis, Maryland, is hardly where Ellie intends to stay, however. Keeping her identity a secret, she plans to sell the house her late mother left her in the small town and use the proceeds to move on with her life. Unfortunately, her ticket to a new beginning is in dire need of a laundry list of pricey improvements, many of which she’ll have to do herself. And until the house on Bay View Road is fit to be sold, the sole place Ellie will be traveling is the hardware store. But as the many charms of St. Dennis–not to mention Cameron O’Connor, the handsome local contractor who has secrets of his own–begin to work their magic, what begins as a lesson in do-it-yourself renovations might just end up as Ellie’s very own rejuvenation..

Ellis (Ellie) Ryder Chapman has had an incredibly bad year, filled with shocks and disappointments caused by her father and former fiancé’s criminal behaviors. Although Ellie was cleared by the government of any wrong doing, it isn’t possible to be the child of the next Bernie Madoff and come off unscathed. Ellie has lost her job, her home, most of her possessions as well as most of her friends. The one true friend Ellie has had throughout the problems over the past has been her longtime friend, Carly Sutton. Carly gave her a place to live after the government evicted her from her home. She even lent Ellie a car so she could have transportation while she was in Maryland. Because she worked in her father’s firm, no one is willing to hire her and the only thing she has left is a house in a small town in Maryland that she’s inherited from her mother. Of course that comes with some strings . . . she has to keep the property for six months before she can sell. At this point in her life, Ellie can’t argue or find fault with this stipulation as it gives her some place to live and call home. To protect what little bit of dignity she has left, she decides to live in St. Dennis as Ellie Ryder rather than Ellis Chapman even though she has been advised to allow the people of the town to embrace her and her family ties to the town.

Upon arriving in St. Dennis and the house, Ellie has vague memories of the house but she doesn’t ever remember traveling to Maryland. Fortunately this house gives her a chance to start over again and the first thing she has to do is fix the house up if she plans to sell it after six months. What Ellie had not planned on was making friends, feeling a connection with St. Dennis or the house, or being attracted to a contractor, but all of these happen in a very short period of time. Cameron is not just a contractor but becomes a friend and offers all sorts of friendly advice on the repairs and upgrades to the house. As Ellie settles in, she learns more about her mother, great-aunt and other ancestors that were tied to the house and St. Dennis. Before she knows it is the end of November and Thanksgiving and she’s begun to feel like she fits in with the town and she’s more than comfortable with her burgeoning relationship with Cameron. And then the other shoe drops. She receives a phone call that she needs to take custody of her half-sister.

The Long Way Home is the sixth book in the Chesapeake Diaries series by Mariah Stewart. Each couple featured in this series has something to overcome or prove, at least to themselves, and this book was no different. Both Cameron and Ellie have to overcome their pasts and realize that it is possible to move on and not be judged by the mistakes made by their parents. Ellie is at a point in her life where she has to discover who she truly is since so much of her past was wrapped up with her father, his business, and wealth. She also discovers that in addition to being greedy and stealing millions, if not billions, from unsuspecting investors, he also cheated on her mother and has another child. Ellie knows what it is like to be branded because of her father’s criminal activities and how it feels to have nowhere to go so she accepts custody of her thirteen-year-old half-sister, Gabrielle. This family addition actually helps to further steady Ellie and she becomes to realize that St. Dennis doesn’t just feel like home, it is home. Ms. Stewart has provided another happy-ever-after romance with The Long Way Home. I found The Long Way Home to be a quick read that pulled me in from the first few pages. If you enjoy happy-ever-after romance then you don’t want to miss The Long Way Home.

Click here to read an excerpt from The Long Way Home.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley
ISBN: 9780385344036 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780345538680 (ebook)
ASIN: B008ZPG8XK (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: January 29, 2013

Eleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they’re found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sisters’ diaries. What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies. Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of St. Tancred’s death, the English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint’s tomb. Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, his face grotesquely and inexplicably masked. Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place? The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out. And what she unearths will prove there’s never such thing as an open-and-shut case.

Flavia de Luce has been described as a pint-sized genius detective with a penchant for poison and trouble. She resides in Bishop’s Lacey, England with her father and two older sisters. It is the early 1950s and England is still recovering from World War II. Their mother, Harriet de Luce, has been missing and presumed dead for ten years, so Flavia has no memory of her whatsoever. Their father, Colonel Haviland de Luce, is an absent-minded parent and totally engrossed with philately (stamp collecting). Ophelia (Feely), the eldest sister, is an accomplished musician and soon to be engaged. Daphne (Daffy), the middle sister, is a devoted reader. Flavia is often left alone and has become enamored with chemistry and investigating crime, specifically murder. Speaking From Among the Bones begins with Flavia sitting with Feely in St. Tancred’s Church while Feely practices the organ. As Flavia awaits her sister, she wonders if she’ll ever get to investigate a fifth murder. Ask and ye shall receive . . . 

Shortly after the evening’s rehearsal during the exhumation of St. Tancred on his quincentennial, Flavia volunteers to peer into the crypt and discovers the body of the former church organist, Crispin Collicutt. The discovery of the body in the crypt – the wrong body in the crypt, the mystery of who put it there and why, the upcoming engagement of Feely to Dieter, the appearance of a man of mystery – Adam T. Sowerby (a floral archeologist and detective), and the idea that Buckshaw is about to be sold all add up to another wonderful Flavia adventure. 

Speaking From Among the Bones reveals a maturing Flavia and for the first time she actually empathizes with her father and sisters. She has also learned to control herself and isn’t as prone to outbursts as we’ve seen in the past. Although Flavia is maturing, she is still a child in many ways and provides some decidedly non-adult thinking for a few of her adventures, such as exploring a tunnel found in the cemetery and frightening the vicar’s wife, as well as her ‘relationship’ with her trusty steed Gladys, a bicycle. Yet her maturity shines through with her empathy toward her sisters, the burgeoning working relationship with Adam Sowerby and continuing relationship with Inspector Hewitt. Mr. Bradley has provided another raucous and delightful Flavia mystery thriller. I must warn you that the ending is somewhat of a shock (to find out what it is you’ll simply have to read the book). I can’t wait to read the next Flavia installment to see what will happen. If you haven’t read any books in the Flavia series, then I strongly recommend you start. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Previous books in this series (in order of publication) are: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, A Red Herring Without Mustard, and I Am Half-Sick of Shadows. Next up in this series is The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches and is scheduled for release in early 2014. To learn more about this series, please visit:

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Book 7: COVER OF SNOW Review

Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman
ISBN: 9780345534217 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780345534231 (ebook)
ASIN: B00957T4ZG (Kindle ebook)
Publication date: January 15, 2013
Publisher: Ballantine Books

Waking up one wintry morning in her old farmhouse nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, Nora Hamilton instantly knows that something is wrong. When her fog of sleep clears, she finds her world is suddenly, irretrievably shattered: Her husband, Brendan, has committed suicide.

The first few hours following Nora’s devastating discovery pass for her in a blur of numbness and disbelief. Then, a disturbing awareness slowly settles in: Brendan left no note and gave no indication that he was contemplating taking his own life. Why would a rock-solid police officer with unwavering affection for his wife, job, and quaint hometown suddenly choose to end it all? Having spent a lifetime avoiding hard truths, Nora must now start facing them.

Unraveling her late husband’s final days, Nora searches for an explanation—but finds a bewildering resistance from Brendan’s best friend and partner, his fellow police officers, and his brittle mother. It quickly becomes clear to Nora that she is asking questions no one wants to answer. For beneath the soft cover of snow lies a powerful conspiracy that will stop at nothing to keep its presence unknown. . .and its darkest secrets hidden.

Nora and Brendan Hamilton had, by all appearances, a happy marriage and good life. At least that’s what Nora thought before she woke up one morning and found that her husband had committed suicide. The only question that Nora can focus on is why? After the funeral and life for most of the residents of Wedeskyull, New York returns to a sense of normalcy, Nora begins her quest to answer why her husband killed himself. Little does she know that this quest is placing not only her life, but the lives of others in grave danger. Will she be able to uncover the truth before she is silenced?

I found the first few chapters of Cover of Snow to read a little slow and my focus on the book began to pall. However, after setting aside the book for a few hours, I found myself immersed into Nora’s world and intrigue and read to the last page without interruption. Brendan’s personal history is slowly revealed over the course of the book, and it’s almost as if we are learning about Brendan at the same as Nora. The relationship between Nora and her sister Teggie came across just as loving and sometimes awkward as most sibling relationships during moments of personal trials. Teggie is loving, supportive and understanding, as well as impatient and brutally honest with Nora. But it is perhaps Teggie’s impatience as much as the local mishaps in Wedeskyull that push Nora forward. 

Nora is portrayed as an outsider that had married into the Wedeskyull family. At first her marriage and connection to the Hamilton family are a plus but they quickly become more of a curse or hindrance as she continues to investigate her husband’s death. She doesn’t have the support of her mother-in-law or the police department. She’s constantly cautioned to let things go and forget about the past. But the more Nora learns, the more she realizes that she didn’t really know anyone in this small town and that there isn’t anyone she can trust. Nora is fighting the harsh weather just as much as she is fighting against the natural tendency of small town’s residents desire to keep and protect secrets of the past. I enjoyed the twists and turns Nora takes as she searches for the truth. I thought that Ms. Milchman did an admirable job in describing life in a small town as well as in creating a mystery-suspense read that kept me guessing until the bitter end. If you enjoy mystery-suspense and are seeking something new to read, then I can wholeheartedly recommend Cover of Snow.  

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
ISBN: 9780764210693 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781441261090 (ebook)
ASIN: B00A4BQ4N2 (Kindle ebook)
Publication date: January 1, 2013 
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father regain his spirits when his academy fails, agrees to travel with him to the distant Cornwall coast, to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But after they arrive and begin teaching the younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen and danger mounts. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte, only to find the music room empty? Who sneaks into her room at night? Who rips a page from her journal, only to return it with a chilling illustration?

The baronet’s older sons, Phillip and Henry, wrestle with problems–and secrets–of their own. They both remember Emma Smallwood from their days at her father’s academy. She had been an awkward, studious girl. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her.

When the suspicious acts escalate, can the clever tutor’s daughter figure out which brother to blame… and which brother to trust with her heart?

Emma Smallwood is a good daughter and an excellent tutorial assistant. As her father’s teaching academy winds down, she seeks gainful employment for him with the father of former students. Emma has mixed feelings about traveling to Cornwall and the home of the Westons as Philip was a dear friend but his older brother, Henry, was a constant source of torment. Unfortunately the Smallwoods arrival at Ebbington Manor isn’t all they had hoped. Although arrangements are quickly made for them, Emma and Mr. Smallwood are quickly put in their place by Lady Weston, who insists that they dine with the family steward. If that isn’t bad enough, the youngest Weston brothers seem to mirror the elder brothers with one being kind, Rowan, and one being more cold and taunting, Julian. 

Emma seems to be the victim of multiple pranks during her stay at Ebbington Manor, including hearing music in the night, having her personal journal/diary stolen, and seeing mysterious hand prints in her room. Rowan and Julian want her to believe that there is a ghost in the manor, but Emma’s common sense prevails and she investigates. She quickly learns that the music is being played by a lost brother, Adam. She also learns that all is not what it appears at Ebbington Manor. Her friendship with Philip seems to wan as she gets to know him better as an adult and she is pleasantly surprised by the faith and friendship afforded her by her childhood nemesis, Henry. 

Ms. Klassen has provided a wonderful gothic romance with The Tutor’s Daughter. Emma is an educated young woman in an age where excess education of gentle women is frowned upon by society. She is constantly mocked for being a “bluestocking” because of her desire to read and learn. In many ways The Tutor’s Daughter is a coming-of-age story where Emma learns that you can’t judge based on appearances (shades of Pride & Prejudice). Although Emma, and indeed all of the Westons and Smallwoods, attends church on a regular basis, Emma appears to do so out of societal custom rather than true belief. Her faith is greatly enhanced after a conversation with Henry Weston and a near-death experience. The Tutor’s Daughter is a well-crafted historical fiction read but one that didn’t keep my attention until the latter portion of the book. I ascribe this more to migrainus-interruptus than anything else. If you enjoy gothic romances, clean historical romances or a combination of both, then I highly recommend The Tutor’s Daughter.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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2012 Book 255: VANISHED Review

Vanished by Irene Hannon
ISBN: 9780800721237 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781441240606 (ebook)
ASIN: B00A8NUGWQ (Kindle ebook)
Publication date: January 1, 2013 
Publisher: Fleming H. Revell Company

Reporter Moira Harrison is lost. In the dark. In a thunderstorm. When a confusing detour places her on a rural, wooded road, she’s startled by the sudden appearance of a lone figure caught in the beam of her headlights. Though Moira jams on her brakes, the car careens across the wet pavement–and the solid thump against the side of the vehicle tells her she hit the person before she crashes into a tree on the far side of the road. 

A dazed Moira is relieved when a man opens her door, tells her he saw everything, and promises to call 911. Then everything fades to black. When she comes to an hour later, she is alone. No man. No 911. No injured person lying on the side of the road. But she can’t forget the look of terror she saw on the person’s face in the instant before her headlights swung away. The person she hit had been in trouble. She’s sure of it. But she can’t get anyone to believe her story–except a handsome former police detective, now a private eye, who agrees to take on the case. 

From the very first page, readers will be hooked into this fast-paced story full of shocking secrets from fan-favorite Irene Hannon. Vanished is the exciting first book in the Private Justice series: Three justice seekers who got burned playing by the rules now have a second chance to make things right.

It was a dark and rainy night . . . seriously; it was a dark and rainy night when investigative reporter Moira Harrison got lost and had an accident that she believed involved a pedestrian. Unfortunately by the time the authorities arrive there is no evidence of anyone else being involved in Moira’s car crash. Moira knows she wasn’t hallucinating about the pedestrian or the so-called “good Samaritan” that had offered to call 911 but never placed the call. In order to save her sanity, Moira decides she needs help and seeks out the services of a local investigative firm. 

Cal, Dev and Connor are all former law-enforcement agents (police, ATF and Secret Service) that have launched a firm that believes strongly in the premise of “justice first.”  After Cal’s meeting with Moira, he accepts her case. Once Cal has burned the alibi of the primary suspect, he talks his partners into accepting the case pro bono. The deeper Cal and Moira dig into the mysterious accident and Good Samaritan, the more they both realize that this case is much bigger than it appeared. Can Moira and Cal prove their case before it’s too late?

Ms. Hannon has provided another clean, happily-ever-after, romantic suspense read with Vanished. The primary characters aren’t wealthy but working middle-class folk that have emotional baggage and difficulties to overcome. Even more important, the faith exhibited by the primary characters, in this case Cal and Moira, keeps them on an even keel and helps to guide them through their difficulties. The religious aspect of these books isn’t overwhelming but simply there as a facet of their personalities and lifestyles. Ms. Hannon has the knack for creating believable characters and realistic scenarios mixed with just the right amount of suspense and romance. I found Vanished to be a quick and enjoyable read and look forward to reading the next books in this series.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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2012 Book 252: SHADOW WOMAN Review

Shadow Woman by Linda Howard
ISBN: 9780345506931 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780345535924 (ebook)
ASIN: B007PFDGRC (Kindle ebook)
Publication date: January 1, 2013 
Publisher: Ballantine Books

Lizette Henry wakes up one morning and makes a terrifying discovery: She doesn’t recognize the face she sees in the mirror. She remembers what she looks like, but her reflection is someone else’s. To add to the shock, two years seem to have disappeared from her life. Someone has gone to great and inexplicable lengths to keep those missing years hidden forever. But the past always finds a way to return.


Strange memories soon begin to surface and, along with them, some unusual skills and talents that Lizette hasn’t a clue about acquiring. Sensing that she’s being monitored, Lizette suddenly knows how to search for bugs in her house and tracking devices in her car. What’s more, she can elude surveillance—like a trained agent.


Enter a mysterious and seductive stranger named Xavier, who claims he wants to help—but who triggers disturbing images of an unspeakable crime of which Lizette may or may not be the perpetrator. With memories returning, she suddenly becomes a target of anonymous assassins. On the run with nowhere to hide, Lizette has no choice but to rely on Xavier, a strong and magnetic man she doesn’t trust, with a powerful attraction she cannot resist. As murky waters become clear, Lizette confronts a conspiracy that is treacherous and far-reaching and a truth that, once revealed, may silence her and Xavier once and for all.

Imagine you wake up one morning and you not only don’t recognize the face in the mirror, but you can only remember the last three years of your life. You don’t know how long you’ve been working with your present employer.  You can’t recall buying your car or even moving into your current residence. Everything in your life seems wrong.

This is what happens to Lizette Henry. Every time she tries to remember more than the past three years, she becomes nauseated and has an unbearable headache. If that wasn’t enough to deal with she also has this sense that she is being watched and she doesn’t know why. Lizette’s paranoia is based in reality . . . she is being watched. Fortunately, one of Lizette’s watchers is a man that is her protector. As Lizette decides to search for answers to her life, she winds up on the run from a government agency. What follows is a cat-and-mouse game where Lizette is running away from the bad guys (the government agents) and the good guys. Will she be able to recognize the good guys before it’s too late?

Shadow Woman is a suspense thriller with a little bit of romance to heat things up. It seemed like the more Lizette uncovered and remembered, the more problems she encountered. It was fascinating to watch Lizette turn from an every-woman type character to super-agent as she eluded not only government agents but her protector as well. The attraction between Lizette and Xavier quickly evolved into romance as more of her memory returned. Although I found some of the action implausible (namely the subplot involving the former President and the First Lady), I enjoyed reading Shadow Woman. The suspense and thrills kept my attention throughout the book and just when I thought I had it figured out, Ms. Jackson would provide a detour that was completely unexpected. Ms. Jackson provides good guys that aren’t wholly good and bad guys that aren’t wholly bad, mixed with government conspiracies, and rogue agents and agencies. If you’re looking for a fast-paced romantic suspense-thriller read then this may be just what you need.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Buy the book: