More Historical Fiction (this time, with illegal alcohol)

Prohibition is so hot right now.

Well, I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that this week I read two books that featured the law quite heavily.

The first:

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Murder Knocks Twice by Susanna Calkins

Set in Chicago in the midst of the turblent prohibition era, this books is filled with real life characters of the time. The mystery follows Gina Ricci, who, on the recommendation of a “friend”, goes to work at the notorious speakeasy “The Third Door”.  She becomes a cigarette girl, in hopes of making enough money to support her and her ailing father.  She befriends soldiers home from the war, gangsters, and flightly debutantes.  She even makes the aquantice of a family member that she didn’t even know existed. Unfortuantely, she then finds this family member murdered and begins to investigate the mysterious happenings at the speakeasy.

Love love loved this book.  I can’t wait for more adventures.  That time period fascinates me, and the whole cast of characters are infinitely interesting too.  I especially want to learn more about the young man working in the pharmacy above the bar. But, I’ll leave the next chapters to the author.

The second book (Out in September):

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A Dangerous Engagement by Ashley Weaver

This book is part of the excellent Amory Ames series of mysteries.  This book follows Amory and Milo across the Atlantic to NYC to attend a wedding.  Her childhood friend is having a whirlwind engagement, and Amory decides to learn more about the young woman’s finacee.  She ends up investigating in a world of speakeasies and gangsters, but still manages to keep her head.  When the best man of the wedding is murdered on her friends doorstep by apparent gangsters, Amory flings herself into the investigation much to the chagrin of her husband Milo.  I’ve written about their relationship before, but in this book Milo really bugged me right until the very end.  I like that Amory doesn’t put up with his bossiness or rules, but there were some moments I thought he was deliberatly a little mean.  He definitely redeems himself in the end, but this investigation really put a strain on the couple.  Still, the underground world of NYC gangsters was fascinating, as was the descriptions of the illegal activites of the new characters.  I hope we see more of the dashing gangster and his singing accoutant, but who knows!

Also, book update:  Murder at First Pitch is through edits, and now I’m eagerly awaiting a book cover and ARC creation so I can send it out for book blurbs.  I’m still shooting for June, but I definitely want to get it going while we’re in the midst of baseball season!  Stay tuned.

Historical Mystery Extravaganza!

Okay, maybe not that dramatic.  But I did finish two different historical mysteries this week that I adored and want to talk about!

First, via NetGalley:

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Death in Kew Gardens by Jennifer Ashley

The third book in the Below Stairs Mystery series, Kat Holloway is back as the cook for fancy London house.  She stumbles, quite literally, into scholar Li Bai Chang in her neighborhood.  Accused of her neighbor’s murder, Li Bai Chang disappears into the streets of London.  Kat does not believe the kind gentleman she met would have done the henious crime and of course takes it upon herself to investigate further.  With the help of the Lady of the house, her intrepid kitchen maid Tess, and her dashing “friend” Daniel, Kat stumbles onto a scheme involving rare tea from China.

I enjoyed Kat’s steadfastness, and she provides a welome change from the bigoted members of London town.  She even starts to learn the art of chinese cooking!  And plus, Daniel…*swoon*.

The second book was one I’ve had for a while,

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A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman

First of all, you had me at the title. I’m obsessed with these kinds books.  Frances Wynn is one of the Dollar heiresses of English nobility.  She was American born to a wealthy family, and married off to an Earl of questionable distinction for her dowry.  He died.  Dramatically I might add.  So now she’s striking out on her own, much to the chagrin of her BIL and SIL who want to keep her money in the crumbling estate.  But, she carries on and moves in London.  Her mother sends her younger sister over for the season in hopes that she can snag herself someone of the nobility as well, and Frances takes her under wing.  After three suitors present themselves, Frances hires a dective in order to sniff out any fortune hunters.

She is also accused of killing her husband by an annoymous note to the police and has to work to clear her name at the same time.  Luckily she has her friends and the dashing neighbor, George Hazelton, who was also near when her husband died.

I loved this book so much.  In fact, at the Kensignton Cozy Con in Cambridge MA a few weeks ago, they were giving out the ARC of the next in the series.  I didn’t win it, so I essentialy accosted the lady who won and traded one of the other ARCS for this one.  She was so nice and let me take it!  It’s now next on my list to read!

Also, book updates:

Cover is coming soon.

Malice Domestic is next week and I’ll be on a panel that Sunday on “Murder in a Small Town”….with another author who currently lives in Mechanicsburg PA which is were I spent my formative high school years.

And you can also subscribe to my newsletter!

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Be the first to know when my book is officially scheduled for release!

We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya) by Hafsah Faizal

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We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

I was lucky enough to win an ARC of this book through a twitter contest.  I DEVOURED it in just under two days.  I loved it.  Women who have to hide who they are in a male dominated society?  Check. Broody assasins?  Check.  Humourous mystical beings?  Double Check.  Action/Adventure in magical lands?  Check.  A mysterious object that may or may not hold the fate of their world?  SUPER check.

Zafira is a woman providing for her village the best way she knows how.  She disguises herself as “The Hunter” and braves the mysterious Arz forest to help feed her famly and village.  Nasir is known as the Prince of Death.  Assasin for the Sultan (who in turn is controlled by someone else), he thinks he has to kill in order to keep his place in the world.

The two are thrown together on a quest, for very different reasons, and ultimately learn to help each other out.  Even if they do “hate” each other.  There is a death early on in the journey that darn near broke me.  But I hope there are some magical shenanigans that might restore the character in the next book.  Also, MAJOR cliffhanger at the end.  One of the best parts of the books is “missing”.  This will propel the next adventure in the book, and I can’t wait to read what adventures they have in store.

One thing I wish this version had, was a glossary/pronunciation guide.  Some of the words needed explaining to this East Coast girl.  I fully admit my ignorance in the language, and like the “City of Brass” series, I enjoy learning about new cultures and languages.  I can’t wait for more in the future!

The Kingdom of Copper by S. A Chakraborty

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The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty

Guys.  I love this series so much.  SO MUCH.  Starting with “The City of Brass” this book continues the The Daevabad Trilogy.  Um, and I litereally on the edge of my seat waiting for the final book.  But I digress.

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Before picking up this book, I re-read “The City of Brass” in a weekend.  I had forgotten about the big ending, and was shocked all over again on what happened.  But I won’t spoil it.  Just know, that at least one question is answered pretty early on in the book.  So, in this continuation, we follow Nahri in her ongoing quest to become a healer and take on her family legacy in the famed magical capital.  Now married to the heir of the throne, she has to navigate her political life, but her personal life as well.

Aliyzad, bansihed from his father’s kingdom, returns a hero.  He doesn’t seek the power, but the city starts to rally around him.  Could it be a danger to his father’s reign?

Dara, oh Dara.  Not exactly my favorite character, but he does experience a lot of growth in this book, and I’m intrigued to see where it goes from here.

And it wouldn’t be a good book if there wasn’t a grand battle.  It was very fast paced and left the reader guessing which side was the “right” side the entire time.  And what side Nahri would ultimately take.

I just love it so much.  And the ending….GURRRRRLLLLL….I gasped!  Out loud!  I need to know what happens!  Which is always a sign of a good book.

So, what I’m saying is….if you like far off places, magic spells, a prince in diguise….you’ll love this book too.

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Also, I just turned in the first edits of my own book…..so, *fingers crossed* you’ll be seeing more information soon (such as a pre-order link!)

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

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The Suspect by Fiona Barton

So, do you remember the movie “Brokedown Palace” with Claire Danes?  I saw it once, years ago, and it terrified me.  It made me never want to travel to Thailand.  This book reaffirms that decision.

Okay, maybe it’s not that serious.  Thai jail is no joke, and staying in a hostel sounds like the absolute worst.  I also think its much more an aspect of British culture to travel to Thailand for holiday.  Here in the US, we just head to the beaches of Florida or Mexico.

Anyway, I digress.

I LOVED this book.  Supsenseful from the jump.  Two girls go to Thailand after High School, things don’t go as planned, their family has to cope halfway around the world.

The two girls end up staying at a ramshackle “hostel” with a sketchy looking crew.  Alex, the more mature of the two can’t wait to move on, but is scared to leave without her traveling companion.  Not the person she wanted to travel with anyway.  (This reminded me of the time I was in Europe with American Music Abroad and roomed with Martha.  She would sneak out, drink, bring boys  back, etc.  I was a soon to be Junior in high school and superemly uncomfortable the entire time….so I idenfied with Alex).

After a tragedy, the story revolves between the girls parents, the detective in England, and the Reporter who lands the story.  (The same reporter of Barton’s earlier books).  Through a twist, there is a surprising connection between the people working this case.  It threw me for a loop.  And then with about 50 pages left there is a whole other twist that made me gasp out loud whilst I read at me desk at work (shhhhhhhh!).

Super great read, I can’t wait for more of her work!

The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

So, this happened.

I had heard RAVE reviews of this book.  So I ordered the UK version from Book Depository cause I love a good paperback copy.  And it wasn’t bad.  But it definitely wasn’t on my RAVE list.  (FYI….the UK version takes out the 1/2, it’s just the Seven deaths).

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The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Basically, it’s an Agatha Christie murder with a supernatural twist.  Also, it felt a bit like “Shutter Island”….

Aiden Bishop (we don’t learn this until later) has seven “hosts” to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, the mysterious daughter of the household.  He learns of clues in various ways depending on the body he is in, and it’s all seemingly orchestrated by the “Plague” doctor in a mask.  We don’t know why he’s doing what he’s doing, why Evelyn is so important, and who the other players in the game are.  The goal is to solve the murder and deliver evidence to the doctor by a specific time each night.  If it doesn’t get solved, the game starts over and memories are wiped.  Aiden befriends a young woman named Anna, who may or not be on his side.  He enlists the help of others in the household, and tries to retain memories from each host to the next to solve the murder.

It was a mish mash of information, and I can’t say I loved the way the book jumped between “hosts”.  One chapter would be one day, and then it would jump to a previous day, and then back out to the future.  Also, the ending was “meh.”  I didn’t love it.  I thought it was bit too on the nose, but maybe that’s what the author wanted.

I guess it was a fun read, trying to figure out the motives of each individual and how they interacted with various characters, but it got a bit old quickly and then I just wanted to finish the book to find out how the murder happened.  And even that was a bit unsatisfactory.  Oh well.

The Sisters Mederos by Patrice Sarath

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The Sister Mederos by Patrice Sarath

I’m not gonna lie, I picked up this book because of the cover.  Sisters that are card sharks/bandits?  Yup, I’m into it.

I knew there would be magic involved, but honestly, it doesn’t feel like a fantasy book at all.  The two Sisters are Yvienne and Teresa.  Born to the wealthy House Mederos, their family experiences a tragic fall from grace at the hands of the Merchant Guild and the sisters are sent to a boarding school of horrific proportions.  The book doesn’t spend a lot of time at the school…just enough so the reader can get a sense of the way the girls had to rely on themselves.

They return to their family 6 years later, after the family is forced out of their opulent masion and cosigned to live in a less reputable part of town.  Through happenstance, Yvienne realizes she has a talent for robbing rich debutantes.  She is quickly named the “Gentlman Bandit” by the press.  Her sister, who for years believes her small magical powers were responsible for her downfall uses her talent at counting cards to take money from the rich merchants that rejoiced in her family’s misfortune.

While working from opposite ends, the sisters end up uncovering a greater conspiracy and work to restore their family to their once vaulted position.

I DEVOURED this book.  Light on the fantasy elements, it had all the marks of a great heist book.  I immediately went on to NetGalley.com the next day and requested the second in the series which I’m starting today.  Definitely a promising start to the story of the Mederos.

Enchantee by Gita Trelease

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Enchantee by Gita Trelease

Bonjour!!!

Those that know me, know I’m a Francophile.  I love Paris, I love France, I love the Tour de, and I love the language.  So when this book started blowing up my twitter (@nanazlyn), I knew it would be right up my alley.  And boy was I right.

French revolution, check.  Magic, check.  Romance, check.  Shady characters, check.  CHECK CHECK CHECK!

The story follows Camille as she tries to better the situation for her and her younger sister Sophie.  They have an abusive, alcoholic brother who constantly takes their earnings (what little there are) and gambles it away.  Camille has the power of magic, and uses it to procure food for herself and her sister.  Basically it’s turning useless objects (mainly nails) into money to pay.  One one occasion, Camille and Sophie head out to find nails to change, and encounter a runaway hot air balloon.  Camille helps save the day, and in turn catches the eye of young pilot Lazare.  He sounds so dreamy in the book.  I was hooked.

Camille then learns that she can turn cards with her magic and decides to head to the palace of Versailles in order to win money for her and her sister to escape their life.  She finds an enchanted dress and makeup, that transforms her into an aristocrat who can now enter into places that were barred to her before.  Oh, and I did I mention she’s a revolutionary too?  Her father printed anti-monarchy pamphlets and her dream is to follow in his footsteps.

He cast of characters she meets at Versailles are fascinating, and the book really takes on a Cinderella type feel.  Will she be found out?  Does her magic put her in danger?  Will Lazare understand what she’s doing?  Will her brother Alain get out of his situation?

The book held me enthralled until the end…..I want more!  More revolutionary France, more magic, and more hot air balloon adventures.

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

I was so excited to get the third and final book in Arden’s “Winternight Trilogy” through NetGalley.  Who knew that I’d be this obsessed with tales of Russian Folklore and Witches?

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The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

SO MUCH HAPPENS IN THIS BOOK!  In 384 pages, there is a little bit of everything:

Witch burnings, devil sightings, horses that can fly, secret midnights, WAR, and of course, Zombies.  Zombies you ask?  Well, let’s just say the devil has a way of calling an army of the dead in the fight for Russia.

And most of that takes place in first three parts of the book.  *Phew*

I will say, there is one part in the beginning of the book that broke my heart so thouroughly.  It’s redemeed by the end, but man, I was gutted.

At the end of the second book, Vasya is found to be masquerading as a boy to help Moscow and Russia.  She is roundly condemed, and her old nemisis rears his ugly head after making a deal with the devil.  Through deals and escapes, the devil/bear has reappaered and is determined to rid the world of people who dont believe in his kind of spirits.  Vasya goes through the darkest midnights to recover and find her heritage.  It’s here how she learns to fight for her beliefs and fight for her family.

The winter king looms large, and she must depend on his help even more.  This book culminates in a war (in which the second most heartbreaking thing of the book happens) and we learn that man must trust the spirit world in order to survive.  It was a beautiful conlcusion to this series.

Even with all the stuff happening in this book, I still wanted to learn more about Vasya’s young niece stuck in the captial with the same powers as her Aunt.  Does she travel to the cottage by the lake to learn her craft, or is she destined to go through the same trials and tribulations of her Aunt?  I would love to know more!

This series has been amazing, and I can’t wait to read what Arden has next up her sleeve.

(For reference, here is the link where I talk about the first book in the series:  https://wordpress.com/post/nicolesbookcorner.wordpress.com/427)

 

 

Murder on Millionaires’ Row by Erin Lindsey

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Murder on Millionaires’ Row by Erin Lindsey

Did I just fall in love?  Oh yes, yes I did.

This book has it all:  *insert Stephon gif here*

  1. Plucky housemaids
  2. Surly bosses
  3. Pinkertons!
  4. Ghosts/Shades
  5. Mysterious witches
  6. Bumbling police
  7. Super hot aristocrats

Rose Gallagher is secretly in love with her boss Thomas Wiltshire.  Only problem?  He’s the man of the house and she’s his maid.  *cue sad trombone*

When he goes missing, she decides that she is going to be the one to track him down since the police don’t seem to care.  She always dreamed of a life outside of service, and this was her chance.  Her best friend/co-worker Clara tries her best to talk her out of it, but to no avail.  Rose wanders around the mansions of 5th Avenue and the seedy underbelly of the Five Points neighborhood.  Things get weird when she stumbles upon a ghost (or the  ghost stumbles upon her), and she is then led on an even more remarkable journey than she had planned on.

The mystery was great, and once Thomas re-enters the picture, I started swooning.  I cannot wait for the next book (hopefully there is a next book) because this really ticked all my boxes.