Stacking the Shelves (440)

Stacking the Shelves

For this reader, new book covers always give me “bright shiny object” syndrome – the only logical response to which is “grabby hands”. They all look SO PRETTY and I want to read them all RIGHT NOW. Which just isn’t possible – dammitall!

For Review:
Anchored Hearts (Keys to Love #2) by Priscilla Oliveras
Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen
The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman
The Collector’s Daughter by Gill Paul
The Corpse Flower by Anne Mette Hancock
Death at Greenway by Lori Rader-Day
The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji
The Devil’s Dictionary by Steven Kotler
The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird
Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest
Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian
Havoc (Miranda Chase NTSB #7) by M.L. Buchman
How to Kidnap the Rich by Rahul Raina
An Invincible Summer (Wyndham Beach #1) by Mariah Stewart
Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan
Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki
Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica
Lola on Fire by Rio Youers
The Mismatch by Sara Jafari
The Moon, the Stars, and Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan
The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton
Near the Bone by Christina Henry
Not Your Average Hot Guy by Gwenda Bond
The People We Keep by Allison Larkin
The Queen of the Cicadas by V. Castro
Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
The Sorceress Queen and the Pirate Rogue (Heirs of Magic #2) by Jeffe Kennedy
Slewfoot by Brom
A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan
The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue
Ten Things I Hate About the Duke (Difficult Dukes #2) by Loretta Chase



Rain Drops on Roses Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Rain Drops on Roses Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

We’re not so much for the “rain drops on roses” in this house, but we have PLENTY of whiskers on kittens!

Even if they are grown-up kittens. Big kittens. In George’s case, huge kittens.

But the theme of this hop mixes the whole “April Showers” thing with the opening lines of the classic song from The Sound of Music, as Maria sings that “Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens” are just a few of My Favorite Things. Well, her favorite things, but mine too.

This is a hop where I get to give away one of my favorite things, either a book from the Book Depository, or a gift card from Amazon, where the winner can, naturally, buy more books. Or a bit of whatever one of their favorite things might be.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more chances at a whole host of possibly new favorite things, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Review: Just Get Home by Bridget Foley

Review: Just Get Home by Bridget FoleyJust Get Home by Bridget Foley
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Genres: suspense, thriller
Pages: 352
Published by Mira on April 13, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

When a devastating earthquake - the Big One - hits Los Angeles, two strangers are brought together by an act of violence and must help each other survive the wrecked city.
Beegie is riding the bus when the quake hits. The teenager was heading back to her unhappy foster home, but then she’s thrown into a broken world. Roads crumble, storefronts shatter and people run wild.
Dessa, a single mom, is enjoying a rare night out when it strikes. Cell towers are down, so without even knowing if her 3-three-year-old daughter is dead or alive, she races to get back across town.
As danger escalates in the chaotic streets, Beegie and Dessa meet by a twist of fate. The two form a fragile partnership, relying on each other in ways they never thought possible, and learn who they really are when there’s only one goal: Just get home.

My Review:

One of the things I liked about yesterday’s book was that even with werewolves in the mix the author made it clear that monstrosity and monstrousness was really a human condition. No werewolves – or any creature that goes bump in the night – need apply, because we’re nasty enough on our own.

Just Get Home is a story about the evil that men – and women, but mostly men – do when the restraints of so-called civilized society are stripped away. It’s a story about what happens when the world comes to an end – at least temporarily.

And this story is all the more monstrous for feeling so close to the real and the here and the now.

Escape Rating B: I have more feelings about this book than I do coherent thoughts, so I’m putting the rating up early. I don’t read a lot of thrillers, and I was expecting this one to more about the journey and the unlikely partnership between Dessa and Beegie, and less about the messes their lives were in before.

This is also a book where I recognize that it’s good of its type and that lots of people are going to love it from the edge of their seat, but that I’m not the right reader for it. YMMV.

It doesn’t help my own reading of the story that Beegie and Dessa are hot messes long before the story opens. And that so much of the mess of Dessa’s life was of her own making. She had – and still has at least before the quake hits – PLENTY of options. I’d have felt more sympathy for her if she’d tried and failed than that she doesn’t seem to have tried at all.

But where Dessa is in her mid-late 20s, Beegie is a decade younger or a bit more. She’s been bounced around the foster care system for reasons that are not of her making, and it feels like her life is in the situation it’s in before the story opens because her choices have been so limited by race, by poverty, by age and by gender. She isn’t making good choices, but she is also so stuck in so many different ways that it’s no surprise that she lashes out the few times she can.

One of the things this book does well, when it focuses on the immediate present and not either character’s past, is the immediacy of all the ways that civilization and civilized behavior break down in the wake of a disaster. The frightening thing is that if the “Big One” really does hit California things will likely be even worse.

For this reader, the harrowing nature of their journey drove home that life at its best and certainly at its worst is considerably more dangerous for women in so many ways that their situation forces them to think about constantly.

And us too.

Review: Split Shift by TA Moore + Excerpt + Giveaway

Review: Split Shift by TA Moore + Excerpt + GiveawaySplit Shift (Night Shift #2) by T.A. Moore
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: M/M romance, paranormal, urban fantasy
Series: Night Shift #2
Pages: 117
Published by Rogue Firebird Press on April 19, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

The hard thing about Night Shift is when you realize werewolves are bad news, but people can be worse.

After Night Shift officer Kit Marlow solved the murder of child star Haley Jenkins, he figured he was due a little down time. Maybe even a dinner date with Cade Deacon, the sarcastic security consultant, very good kisser, and werewolf who'd helped with the investigation.

That was before someone in a Night Shift uniform drove them both off the road. With the full moon up the only dinner date Cade is interested in...has Marlow served up on a plate. And not in a sexy way.

It's the second time that corrupt Night Shift officers have tried to kill Marlow. If he has his way, it will be the last. Problem is he only has twenty-eight days before the next full moon. If he hasn't identified who wants him dead by then, he'll have to take to werewolf filled streets with a team at his back he can't trust.

First things first, though. Get through the next twelve hours alive and uneaten, and hope that if a second date is still on the cards it's less eventful.

My Review:

The awesome tease that was the first book in this series, Shift Work, left me screaming for more because it ended on an honest-to-goodness (more likely badness or badassness in this case) cliffhanger.

As in someone just T-boned Marlow’s car – with Cade in it – and left them precarious hanging onto the end of a literal, actual cliff as dusk descends and the full moon comes up over the horizon.

Meaning that Cade is about to wolf-out and Marlow is going to be on his menu – and not in the way that the two men were both hoping.

The thing is, though, that the car that crashed them onto that cliff’s edge was driven by someone in a Night Shift uniform – one of Marlow’s fellow officers. Someone he’s supposed to be able to trust to have his back on those nights when it really isn’t safe out there.

Marlow’s all too aware that it isn’t safe for him inside his own squad – a safety that he hoped he’d gotten back after a past betrayal by a dirty cop nearly ended both his career and his life. But the case that put Marlow and Cade into each other’s orbits in Night Shift isn’t done yet.

Someone is still out to get him. He just has to figure out who before they succeed. Because he’s still hoping for that date with Cade – and he has to be alive to enjoy it.

Escape Rating A-: Godsdammit but she did it again. I turned the last page of this book and realized that this case still isn’t done yet. At least Marlow isn’t hanging over the edge of an actual cliff this time. But I’m not satisfied – actually neither are Marlow and Cade – because this case still isn’t over.

ARRRGGGHHH!

One of the things that this series so far is doing really well, besides teasing its readers half to death, is showing that no matter who or what the monster of the day is in urban fantasy – this time it’s werewolves – that the real monsters, forever and always, are human beings.

The wolves are just following biological imperatives. They aren’t culpable for what happens when they are shifted. They really aren’t.

When the wolves are assholes, and some of them are, it’s not because they are wolves. They are assholes because they are humans for all except the three nights of the full moon. And human beings frequently, often, suck.

And not in a fun way.

So, the problem that Marlow is having has nothing to do with wolves – even when they are chasing him. It’s humans every single time. The question that he has just begun to solve at the end of his Split Shift revolves around exactly which ones? And just how far will they go to get him out of their way?

Maybe we’ll find out in the next book in the series. Pretty, please, Ms. Author? Soon, please!

Guest Post from TA Moore + Chapter 2 of the Night Shift prequel short (check out Chapter 1 at Love Bytes)

First of all, thank you so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be here with my new release, Split Shift by TA Moore, the second novella in the Night Shift series.

For the blog tour I’ve written a short story set in the Night Shift world. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 2

Sorry.

It was technically the third apology. So far Brian hadn’t responded to any of them. Marlow stared at the phone screen for a second and then dropped his head back against the cushioned, pleather back of the booth in frustration. He stared up at the ceiling, a single cobwebby string of dust strung from one chrome light fitting to the tiles.

Three months ago Brian had thought dating someone in Night Shift was exciting. Hot. Dangerous in a sexy way. He’d wanted Marlow to turn up at his apartment in uniform, the more battered the better.

Now he had either left Marlow on read the morning after the full moon, or he’d slept through their dinner/breakfast date.

The call-and-response rhythm of food orders pitched up and down in the background. Start the Day Right was open at breakfast, but it mostly catered to the night shift. Both the Night Shift who kept the city safe during the full moon, and the less celebrated ones who kept the city running during it. So there was the occasional pancake order or call for fried beets and eggs–who didn’t like breakfast food all day?–most of the orders were for fried chicken, avocado sandwiches, and beers.

“You ready to order, love?” the waitress asked.

Marlow lifted his head. “Sorry,” he said.

For all the ‘love’ the waitress looked about twenty four. She winked at him and clicked her pen.

“Not the first who’s dozed off in here,” she said. “Not even the first today. You ready to order.”

Piper had left his order before he’d stepped out to make a call. That was easy.

“Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, extra spicy,” he said.

The waitress scratched half the order down, and paused on the spicy. “Are you sure?” she asked. “When we say something is extra spicy, it’s made people go blind.”

“That’s what he wants,” Marlow said, with a nod to Piper’s jacket on the other chair. While the waitress wrote the rest of the order down, Marlow gave the menu a quick once over. The thought of food made his stomach knot, but he supposed he had to have something on the plate. “Crispy ginger latkes?”

She nodded and scrawled it down. A swipe of the pen underlined the order and she turned to go, only to rock back on her heels as she came face to face with Piper.

“Oh!” she said. A wide smile crossed her face. “Ned! If I’d known it was your table I’d not have questioned the extra-spicy sauce.”

“I’d hope not,” Piper said. “Make that two of the same, along with whatever Marlow ordered.”

She amended the order quickly and headed off to the kitchens. A few other diners tried to catch her attention on the way past, but she waved them off. Piper pulled the chair on the other side of the booth out and sat down.

“Budge up,” the tall, blond man told Marlow as he slid into the booth next to him. His elbow nudged Marlow in the ribs and he smelled of fresh soap and leather. “You’re in my spot.”

Piper took a drink of coffee. “Marlow,” he said. “Meet Colin Franklin. He just got cleared to get back to work.”

“I got a new hip,” Franklin said with bluntly weaponised good cheer as he took his jacket off. “I try and think of it as more cybernetic than geriatic.”

“How’s that going?” Marlow asked.

He shifted up the bench to put space between them. Franklin promptly shifted back

into the space, his leg pressed against Marlow’s under the table.

“Better some days than others. On the plus side I learned to play a mean hand of bridge,” Franklin said. He stole Marlow’s coffee and took a drink. The taste made him grimace and give it back. “Bean juice. Gross. You can keep that.”

“It isn’t mine,” Marlow lied blandly. “It was on the table when we got here.”

There was a visible pause as Franklin stopped the schtick. The genial goofball slipped for a second and Franklin’s heavy-boned, handsome face settled into a thoughtful expression. It only lasted a moment then was banished with a lazy grin.

“All right, at least people won’t think you’re funnier than me,” he said.

“He’s better at hand to hand,” Piper said conversationally. He unwrapped his cutlery and laid it out on the table. “Drives like an old lady, though.”

Franklin laughed, despite the flicker of annoyance he’d shown at the first part of the sentence. “Shows what you know,” he said. “Some of the old dears in getting their hips done would have put half the cops on the force to shame. They’d run down a toddler down to get to a toilet paper sale.”

Marlow resisted the urge to move further up the bench. He’d just end up squashed into the corner and still have Franklin’s thigh against his.

“No offense, sir,” he said. Piper made a face at the ‘sir’ and Franklin sucked air through his teeth. “What is this in aid of?”

There was a pause as the waitress came back from the kitchen, plates in hand. She slid them onto the table, introducing each as she went, and grabbed a pot to top up their cups. When she finished she chirped ‘enjoy your meal’ and headed over to a nearby table that had been trying to get her attention.

“…we were here first,” one of the men grumbled. “How come they got served first?”

Marlow missed the justification for that as Piper reclaimed his attention.

“Franklin was my first pick for Night Shift,” he said as he tucked his napkin into his lap. “You both know that. He has the experience, I know he has the nerve, and the skills I want to bring to the team.”

Shit.

For a second Marlow’s chest cramped, tight and wet as if he’d just swallowed water, and then he relaxed. It wasn’t exactly what he’d wanted to hear, but it was done. He took a bite of his latkes and started to play what next.

Robbery hadn’t been that bad, but with six months on Night Shift under his belt he could move to Homicide. Or just…move? The Sheriff’s Department had their own Night Shift division, for the small towns and out in the desert. That was another option. Or another city? State?

The idea felt huge. Marlow had spent his whole life in San Diego, but his family was gone and his friends weren’t lifelong ones. There was Brian, but…

It wasn’t like he’d texted back yet.

“See?” Piper said to Franklin. He sounded obscurely pleased. “That’s what Marlow brings to the team. He’s unflappable, even in the middle of a fight. So yeah, Franklin was my first choice but you were always a close second, Marlow. I’d rather not get rid of either of you. It puts us over-budget on our wages for the year, but Quints is retiring in six months and we can absorb it until then.”

Franklin slapped Marlow on the shoulder. It was a little too hard to be friendly. “You sitting there near shitting yourself,” he chuckled, “And for what?”

“The other shoe,” Marlow said. He watched Piper over the rack of condiments in the middle of the table. “We aren’t getting a free meal for nothing are we?”

Piper smirked. He added more hot sauce to his sandwich and took a bite. The batter crunched between his teeth and juice dripped over the plate as he set back down on the table. He wiped his mouth and then his hands on a napkin as he chewed until he could swallow.

“Are you two going to be able to work together?” he asked. “Or you going to be butting heads about who’s my favorite the whole time?”

Franklin shrugged and picked up his burger. “I just want to get back to work,” he

said. “I’m not in it for back pats and medals.”

He took a huge bite and chewed contentedly–and noisily–on it.

“I don’t care who’s the favorite,” Marlow said. “I just want to do the job.”

Piper dipped a fry in the hot sauce and bit it neatly in half. He gave both of them a slow, greasy-lipped smile.

“Good,” he said. “Tonight you get to prove it. I’m going to yoke you two together, see if you can put aside your egos and do what needs done. If you can’t, well, then I guess I have a decision to make.”

He waved the waitress down again and asked for the rest of sandwich to go. It came back to the table in a neat box with a ‘little bit of something sweet to get through till tonight’.

“See you tonight at the briefing,” Piper said as he stood up. “Get some sleep.”

He walked out, bag swinging from one hand.

“I mean, you know I am the favorite right?” Franklin said as he shoved the last bite of chicken and fries into his mouth. “First choice. See you tonight, rookie.”

He bumped Marlow with his shoulder, slid out of the booth and left. The smear of hot sauce left on his plate was sour and strong enough to wrinkle Marlow’s nose. He’d not left any money.

The latkes were only ok. Marlow finished his coffee and tilted his head to catch the waitress’s eye. She topped up a coffee and sauntered over.

“Refill?”

“Just the bill,” Marlow said.

She laughed and shook her head. “No. It’s always on the house for Piper,” she said. “He saved the owner’s kid one full moon. And you, of course, thank you for your service!”

Catch the next chapter tomorrow at Two Chicks Obsessed and follow the tour for the rest of the story!

About the Author:

TA Moore is a Northern Irish writer of romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance novels. A childhood in a rural, seaside town fostered in her a suspicious nature, a love of mystery, and a streak of black humour a mile wide. As her grandmother always said, ‘she’d laugh at a bad thing that one’, mind you, that was the pot calling the kettle black. TA Moore studied History, Irish mythology, English at University, mostly because she has always loved a good story. She has worked as a journalist, a finance manager, and in the arts sector before she finally gave in to a lifelong desire to write.

Coffee, Doc Marten boots, and good friends are the essential things in life. Spiders, mayo, and heels are to be avoided.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads |

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

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Review: The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

Review: The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline MartinThe Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II by Madeline Martin
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, World War II
Pages: 320
Published by Hanover Square Press on April 6, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Inspired by the true World War II history of the few bookshops to survive the Blitz, The Last Bookshop in London is a timeless story of wartime loss, love and the enduring power of literature.
August 1939: London prepares for war as Hitler’s forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and blackout curtains that she finds on her arrival were not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London.
Through blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies, Grace discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed—a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of the war.

My Review:

This was an utterly charming read, and I was definitely charmed by it. I’m saying that in spite of, just yesterday, claiming that I seemed to be suffering from a bit of WW2 historical fiction fatigue. It appears that that book just wasn’t the right book, where The Last Bookshop in London definitely was.

When we, along with Grace and her bestie Viv, arrive in London in 1939, Primrose Books is far from the last bookshop in London. It’s just that the rest of them seem to be congregated on Paternoster Row, while Primrose Books is a bit off the beaten path – albeit a bit closer to where Grace and Viv take up lodgings with Mrs. Weatherford.

The young women are from Drayton, a country town the dust of which neither of them could shake off their shoes fast enough. Mrs. Weatherford grew up in Drayton, like the girls, but of an earlier generation. In fact, the generation of Grace’s late mother. And they were besties back then, just as Grace and Viv are now.

And there was a war coming then too. History, damn it all, repeats the worst of its patterns.

Grace needs Mrs. Weatherford’s help, in the form of Mrs. W’s ability to boss around pretty much everyone in her orbit – including Mr. Evans, the curmudgeonly owner of Primrose Books. Which is very much within the scope of her bossing.

Grace needs a job but doesn’t have a reference – and isn’t brazen enough to fake it the way that Viv most definitely is. Mr. Evans needs someone to brighten up both the store and his life for reasons that are not apparent when we and Grace first meet him, although his need certainly is.

And Grace, dives in with a will, even though she has no idea how to sell books because she hasn’t been much of a reader – at least not so far. But she understands marketing, as she’s done it before back in Drayton, and she’s good at organization, and she needs to work with/for/at Mr. Evans for 6 months in order to get a good reference. That’s the deal he made with Mrs. Weatherford. Grace just has to earn that reference, which will just take hard work and a bit of managing – of Mr. Evans, that is.

But the dark clouds of war that have been looming on the horizon much longer than anyone wants to admit turn into a full blown storm of German bombs, just as Grace gets her feet under her in London. A London that is now on fire.

Bomb damage from St. Paul’s towards Paternoster Row

Escape Rating A-: Although this story covers very large events, the London Blitz being the obvious exploding elephant in the story’s “room”, it’s not actually a big story. It isn’t about important people directing earth-shaking events – even though the earth does frequently shake under the nightly assault by German bombers.

Rather, this is a story about ordinary people rising to the occasion, managing through adversity, keeping calm, carrying on and doing their bit to keep themselves, their friends and their neighbors together in the face of their world seeming to fall apart.

And in the midst of grief, loss and rationing, bombs falling and spirits all too often falling right along with them, it’s also a story about the power of a good book to take a person – or a whole group of people in a bomb shelter – away from the worst parts of their here and now into someone else’s there and then. Knowing that when they come back from their imaginary adventure the world will seem just a bit less grim for both the tiny escape and the shared camaraderie.

Grace’s Primrose Books may not have actually been the “Last Bookshop in London” even in the story. But Paternoster Row, the center of the British publishing industry, was destroyed during the Blitz as described herein, taking most of London’s bookstores along with it.

In spite of the Blitz, the retreat from Dunkirk, the deaths among Grace’s family of choice in London, The Last Bookshop in London is actually a hopeful story. Not just because as readers we know the result of war, but because of the way that the community that Grace has built around herself and the bookstore rallies ‘round and lifts her up – along with themselves – at even the lowest moments of the story.

So, as I said at the very beginning, The Last Bookshop in London was simply a charming and lovely read. If you like historical fiction centered on World War II, especially about the British Homefront, and/or stories about the power of reading and stories to lift people up and carry them away, this is a story that will bring as big a smile to your face as the stories that Grace reads aloud do to all of her listeners.

Review: The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen

Review: The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys BowenThe Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical romance, World War II
Pages: 412
Published by Lake Union Publishing on April 13, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

Love and secrets collide in Venice during WWII in an enthralling novel of brief encounters and lasting romance by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and Above the Bay of Angels.
Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and a final whisper…Venice. Caroline’s quest: to scatter Juliet “Lettie” Browning’s ashes in the city she loved and to unlock the mysteries stored away for more than sixty years.
It’s 1938 when art teacher Juliet Browning arrives in romantic Venice. For her students, it’s a wealth of history, art, and beauty. For Juliet, it’s poignant memories and a chance to reconnect with Leonardo Da Rossi, the man she loves whose future is already determined by his noble family. However star-crossed, nothing can come between them. Until the threat of war closes in on Venice and they’re forced to fight, survive, and protect a secret that will bind them forever.
Key by key, Lettie’s life of impossible love, loss, and courage unfolds. It’s one that Caroline can now make right again as her own journey of self-discovery begins.

My Review:

This dual timeline story follows the adventures – and misadventures – of two women in two separate eras but in the same exact place, La Serenissima. Venice.

Their stories are linked, not just by the city, and not just by these two women’s relationship to each other, but also to a family that influences both of their lives.

They are also both at points in their lives when they are making fresh starts – and bittersweet endings.

As we meet Caroline, her marriage is ending, and so is the life of her beloved great aunt, Lettie. Lettie and her sister, Caroline’s grandmother Winnie, raised her after the death of her own parents in their tiny country town not too far from London. Caroline loves both women, but Lettie has been both her inspiration and her rock for all of her life, and now that support is gone.

Leaving behind one final request, that Caroline go to Venice, a place that Lettie seems to have loved but that Caroline never knew was such a part of her great-aunt’s life, along with enough money for Caroline to make the trip, scatter Lettie’s ashes, and perhaps figure out what made the request so important to the dying woman that she hung on long enough to make that one last request.

So Caroline goes to Venice to learn what she can, in hopes of figuring out what compelled Lettie, and to take the opportunity to figure out where her own road will lead her next.

What she discovers, or who she discovers, is the woman her staid, upright, prim, proper and utterly respectable great-aunt Lettie used to be. A young woman named Julietta, an art student trapped in Venice when Britain declared war on Italy.

A woman who became a spy, a mother, a prisoner of war and a refugee. A woman who left behind everything she loved and everything she held dear to make a new life back in her old home. A life that seemed to be a complete rejection – or a tomb – for the woman she had once been.

A woman determined, in her last moments, that it was time for someone she loved to uncover her truth.

Escape Rating B-: World War II is a rich period for historical fiction of all types and stripes. To the point where I have three books in a row that are set during the same period, Friday’s The Consequences of Fear, this book today, and tomorrow’s The Last Bookshop in London. This is also not the only book this year to be set in World War II Italy, the other being Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson, which is somewhere in my virtually towering TBR pile.

All that’s to say that it feels like parts of this story have been done before, and recently, and perhaps for this reader a bit of World War II historical fiction fatigue has set in. So I found this take on that historic conflict to be a bit too much like too many things I’ve read before, in spite of the change in setting.

And as a result of that fatigue I enjoyed Caroline’s side of the story more than I did Julietta’s. I’d rather have seen Caroline actually researching Lettie’s history rather than just reading Lettie’s diary.

I think that the issues I had with Lettie/Julietta’s part of the story was that so much of what she did has been written before, and the parts of the story that were unique to her were a bit too predictable, especially her doomed romance and its results.

Let’s just say it was a VERY good thing for Caroline that Lettie was her great-aunt and not her grandmother.

One piece of Caroline’s story that I felt a great deal of resonance for was the way that it intersected with 9/11 and its aftermath, both in the portrayal of how countries outside the US both viewed the tragedy and moved on, and the way that it impacted people who were not remotely close to the event. It echoed for a while for all of us, and that was captured well.

So this is a story I’m kind of on that painful fence about. I liked Caroline a lot, I ended up seeing Julietta as both heroic and  incredibly naïve at the same time, and I wanted the 21st century story more than I did the historic one. Your mileage may vary, especially if you’ve not experienced the same kind of WW2 historical fiction fatigue or you’ve not read much about that period in Italy as opposed to the more usual settings of France or Britain..

And on my other hand, I have previously enjoyed several of this author’s WW2 stories, particularly In Farleigh Field and The Victory Garden and will undoubtedly be back again the next time she returns to the period.

TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 4-11-21

Sunday Post

All good things must come to an end, including my Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week. It’ll be back next year, while I’ll be here every day in between now and then.

Which leads me right to thanking everyone for their support and for their lovely comments on the big Blogo-Birthday post (and giveaway!) last Monday. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what everyone said about the reviews – and the occasional mention of the cat pictures! (Also, for everyone who mentioned the giveaways, consider this my annual reminder that Reading Reality is self-funded, so if you enjoy the giveaways please use the Amazon Affiliate links in my reviews if you shop at Amazon. Every little bit does help!)

Speaking of helping, thanks very much to those who put in a bit for the puppers and kittehs in my Facebook Fundraiser for Planned PEThood of Duluth GA. The fundraiser closed last night and it met its goal thanks to everyone’s generosity.

And, just in case you are missing your weekly dose of adorable cattitude, I promise that regular service of cat pictures will resume next week!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Honey Bunny Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the April Showers Giveaway Hop
$25 Gift Card AND $25 in Books in Reading Reality’s 10th Anniversary Blogo-Birthday Giveaway
Any book by Anthony Horowitz
Any book by C.S. Harris
Any book by Jacqueline Winspear

Blog Recap:

Reading Reality’s 10th Anniversary Blogo-Birthday Celebration + Giveaway
April Showers Giveaway Hop
A- Review: Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz + Giveaway
A+ Review: What the Devil Knows by C.S. Harris + Giveaway
A Review: The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (439)

Coming This Week:

The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen (blog tour review)
The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin (blog tour review)
Split Shift by TA Moore (blog tour review)
Just Get Home by Bridget Foley (blog tour review)
Rain Drops on Roses Giveaway Hop

Stacking the Shelves (439)

Stacking the Shelves

And here we are, back for another edition of “as the TBR pile grows taller”. Or perhaps multiplies. I suspect that if my TBR pile were physical and actually in a pile it would reach the MOON! At least it would until George knocked it over…

For Review:
Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn
Black Widows by Cate Quinn
Cast in Conflict (Chronicles of Elantra #16) by Michelle Sagara
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Cover Wife by Dan Fesperman
Defending Britta Stein (Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart #6) by Ronald H. Balson
Forgotten in Death (In Death #53) by J.D. Robb
The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian
The Godmothers by Camille Aubray
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
Happy Endings by Thien-Kim Lam
A Heart Divided (Legends of the Condor Heroes #4) by Jin Yong
The House of Dust by Noah Broyles
In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu
The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
Matrix by Lauren Groff
The Memory Collectors by Kim Neville
The Missing Hours by Julia Dahl
Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian
No Gods, No Monsters (Convergence Saga #1) by Cadwell Turnbull
Rhapsody by Mitchell James Kaplan
Rise and Shine by Patrick Allington
Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
Split Shift (Night Shift #2) by TA Moore
Suburban Dicks by Fabian Nicieza
Tenderness by Alison Macleod
Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
When Sparks Fly by Helena Hunting
While We Were Dating (Wedding Date #6) by Jasmine Guillory
Witch Please (Fix-It Witches #1) by Ann Aguirre
Yours Cheerfully (Emmeline Lake Chronicles #2) by AJ Pearce



Review: The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear + Giveaway

Review: The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear + GiveawayThe Consequences of Fear (Maisie Dobbs #16) by Jacqueline Winspear
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, mystery, thriller
Series: Maisie Dobbs #16
Pages: 352
Published by Harper on March 23, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

As Europe buckles under Nazi occupation, Maisie Dobbs investigates a possible murder that threatens devastating repercussions for Britain's war efforts in this latest installment in the New York Times bestselling mystery series.
September 1941. While on a delivery, young Freddie Hackett, a message runner for a government office, witnesses an argument that ends in murder. Crouching in the doorway of a bombed-out house, Freddie waits until the coast is clear. But when he arrives at the delivery address, he’s shocked to come face to face with the killer.
Dismissed by the police when he attempts to report the crime, Freddie goes in search of a woman he once met when delivering a message: Maisie Dobbs. While Maisie believes the boy and wants to help, she must maintain extreme caution: she’s working secretly for the Special Operations Executive, assessing candidates for crucial work with the French resistance. Her two worlds collide when she spots the killer in a place she least expects. She soon realizes she’s been pulled into the orbit of a man who has his own reasons to kill—reasons that go back to the last war.
As Maisie becomes entangled in a power struggle between Britain’s intelligence efforts in France and the work of Free French agents operating across Europe, she must also contend with the lingering question of Freddie Hackett’s state of mind. What she uncovers could hold disastrous consequences for all involved in this compelling chapter of the “series that seems to get better with every entry” (Wall Street Journal).

My Review:

In London, in September of 1941, fear was a constant companion. Every person old enough to be aware, including any children past toddlerhood, has to have felt at least some level of fear every waking minute. Fear of bombs, fear of losing someone dear to them – likely because of a bomb, fear of being made homeless and losing everything they owned – due to a bomb.

Fear that Hitler would invade Britain after softening up the target with – yet more bombs. Fear that Britain, standing alone, wouldn’t be able to hold back the tide of Nazi Germany any more than King Canute could hold back the ocean’s tide by ordering it so.

Maisie Dobbs, once upon a time a battlefield nurse in World War I, now serves as part of the checks and balances at the Special Operations Executive, vetting agents who are about to be sent to infiltrate occupied Europe as secret radio operators, saboteurs – and spies.

She did her bit in the first war, and she’s doing it again. Just not quite as near the front lines, although every bit as heartbreaking.

Maisie has spent the years between the wars as a private investigator, trained by her mentor Maurice Blanche, to ferret out the secrets that people have been keeping, sometimes even from themselves, in order to resolve personal issues they bring to her, and crimes brought to her by the police, or, in the case of her interviewing for the SOE, by the government.

The story here is about Maisie attempting, not always successfully, to balance her government work, her private clients, her family out in the country, and her American lover in the Diplomatic Corps of his own country.

It is also a story about the ways in which those responsibilities come into conflict. A country that expects her to drop everything at a moment’s notice in order to send people into situations where death is almost certain. A country that expects her to keep its secrets even from those she loves. A country that expects her to help cover up a murder in order to protect an alliance that it considers strategic.

It’s that last stress that proves to be more than Maisie can live with. The question becomes whether or not she, or anyone else involved, will die for it.

Escape Rating A: This is Mystery & Thriller week on Goodreads, and the image being used looks a lot like a piece of the cover for this book. I fully admit that I had no idea when I was picking out this week’s books that I would be echoing this theme, I just wanted books that I knew would be good and it turned out I struck a theme.

It took me most of the book to get how the title related to this particular story. Everyone is afraid at this point in the war. Things are pretty dark, and in spite of the famous British “stiff upper lip” the situation does not look hopeful.

But the fears that drive this story are not all about the war, even though they circle back to it. There’s a murder in this mystery, and everything about that murder is a result of fear. The murderer fears the loss of his honor, and the exposure of that loss. The witness fears that the killer knows he is a witness, and that the murderer is out to get him as well. And Maisie fears that her emotions are clouding her judgment, and most importantly, fears that the war will rob her of her second chance at happiness.

All three act out because of their fear, and act on their fear at the same time. This entire case and its outcomes are all consequences of those fears.

The ending is not all heartbreak as one might expect from the beginning, although the piper does get paid.

The story closes on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor. The Americans, including Maisie’s lover, are scrambling to prepare America’s response to the attack. The entire war has changed irrevocably, along with Maisie’s life.

I’ve followed Maisie’s adventures from her very first story, fittingly named after this singular character. This is a series that follows the history of both its character and the world she inhabits, and sincerely rewards readers who get involved at the very beginning. This is not a series to pick up in the middle, especially as the last few books in the series, from A Dangerous Place onwards, show the shadows darkening over Europe as Britain prepares for the inevitable that no one wants to see.

This turned out to be a fitting close for the theme of this Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week as well. Both Maisie Dobbs and Sebastian St. Cyr are coincidentally at the 16th book in their respective series, but more importantly, both are atmospheric historical mysteries set in periods of great upheaval featuring compelling and fascinating protagonists.

Maisie also links back to, not Susan Ryeland or Atticus Pünd in Moonflower Murders, but rather to the author of the series, Anthony Horowitz, and the TV character he created, Christopher Foyle of Foyle’s War. Although a police detective rather than a private investigator, Foyle is another compelling character who served in WW1 and is now, in the second war, investigating crimes on the homefront – and occasionally working for the government – just as Maisie is.

I expect Maisie’s war to be every bit as dangerous, and to include every bit as much crime and punishment as her between the wars life has done. And I’m certainly looking forward to reading about Maisie’s war now that it is finally and officially here.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Today is the final day of my Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week. This is a series that is near and dear to my heart, making it a perfect ending to a week of giveaways. I love this series and am thrilled to share a bit of that love with one lucky winner.

The winner of today’s giveaway will receive their choice of one book by Jacqueline Winspear (up to $25 US to include The Consequences of Fear) whether in the Maisie Dobbs series or her standalone or her nonfiction. If you haven’t met Maisie, I would recommend starting with one of the early books in the series, either the collection of novellas in Maisie Dobbs, or the first complete novel that features her, Birds of a Feather.

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Review: What the Devil Knows by C.S. Harris + Giveaway

Review: What the Devil Knows by C.S. Harris + GiveawayWhat the Devil Knows (Sebastian St. Cyr, #16) by C.S. Harris
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss, supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, mystery, thriller
Series: Sebastian St. Cyr #16
Pages: 336
Published by Berkley Books on April 6, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Sebastian St. Cyr thought a notorious serial killer had been brought to justice until a shocking series of gruesome new murders stuns the city in this thrilling historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Who Speaks for the Damned.
It's October 1814. The war with France is finally over and Europe's diplomats are convening in Vienna for a conference that will put their world back together. With peace finally at hand, London suddenly finds itself in the grip of a series of heinous murders eerily similar to the Ratcliffe Highway murders of three years before.
In 1811, two entire families were viciously murdered in their homes. A suspect--a young seaman named John Williams--was arrested. But before he could be brought to trial, Williams hanged himself in his cell. The murders ceased, and London slowly began to breathe easier. But when the lead investigator, Sir Edwin Pym, is killed in the same brutal way three years later and others possibly connected to the original case meet violent ends, the city is paralyzed with terror once more.
Was the wrong man arrested for the murders? Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy turns to his friend Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for assistance. Pym's colleagues are convinced his manner of death is a coincidence, but Sebastian has his doubts. The more he looks into the three-year-old murders, the more certain he becomes that the hapless John Williams was not the real killer. Which begs the question--who was and why are they dead set on killing again?

My Review:

If you like your historical mystery very much on the dark and gritty side, you absolutely cannot go wrong with Sebastian St. Cyr. The feeling of being in his moment with him is so strong that the reader just can’t turn their eyes away until the mystery is solved – and that’s been true for 16 books now and hopefully counting.

Because it’s clear at the end of What the Devil Knows that this particular mystery may be solved – for certain definitions of the word solved – but that there are many greater – and lesser – mysteries yet to be revealed.

The most important being the mystery of St. Cyr’s very existence. Although his current case is less personal and a whole lot bloodier.

When St. Cyr is called in to investigate the grisly death of a corrupt magistrate, he knows that the case is already bigger than it seems as it appears that the perpetrator of the heinous Ratcliff Highway Murders (the original murders really happened) has struck again. But that man was executed three years previously, and the killings stopped. Even the doubters were silenced in the intervening three years.

But as St. Cyr investigates the latest murders, he becomes certain that there was a rush to judgment, aided and abetted by the government who needed to calm a roiling – and occasionally rioting – populace. The need for reform was in direct conflict with the government’s fear of a revolution every bit as destructive to the upper classes – and the country as a whole – as the French Revolution that was not just within living memory, but whose results were still being felt.

No one in the government, especially not St. Cyr’s father-in-law Charles Jarvis, the power behind the Prince Regent’s self-indulgent, shaky, profligate regency, wants St. Cyr to poke his nose into the original case. It’s too obvious that there was a fix in, and too many people involved in that fix have died in its wake.

And that’s just what St. Cyr finds. Three new and very flashy murders connected to that original miscarriage of justice. Along with a whole lot of very, very quiet stabbings in the dark.

Escape Rating A+: One of the things that makes this series so marvelous is the way that it exposes the dark underbelly of the Regency. As a result of the popularity of Georgette Heyer’s sparkling Regency romances, when we think of the period we think of romantic aristocrats, the strict rules of the haut ton, and a lot of glitz and glamour.

St. Cyr’s restless investigations into the seamier side of the Regency, reveals all of the creeping, oozing, frightening things that you find when you kick over a rock, just that in this case the rock is very, very shiny and hides more muck than expected because we’ve all been blinded by that shine.

It’s not just that bad things happen to bad people – although they do – or even that bad things happen to good people – but it’s the way that so much of what is wrong has been perpetrated and perpetuated by those in power, supposedly for the greater good. Or at least for Britain’s good. But usually for their own good.

And all of that has resonance for the 21st century while still leaving St. Cyr as a man of his own time. He’s someone who is on the outside of both worlds and has the intelligence and the vision to see what is wrong along with the will not to turn his eyes away.

That’s what makes him a hero worth following from one investigation and one mystery to another, 16 books and very much hopefully counting.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

This is the second book giveaway for my Blogo-Birthday Celebration, and it’s also the second time that a book in the St. Cyr series has come out just in time for me to include among the week’s giveaways.

The winner of today’s giveaway will receive their choice of one book by C.S. Harris (up to $25 US to include What the Devil Knows), whether in the St. Cyr series or written as Candice Proctor or C.S. Graham. If you have not yet had the pleasure of making Sebastian St. Cyr’s acquaintance, I recommend starting that series at the beginning in What Angels Fear.

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