A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

Published:  March 2019 – Berkley

Review book courtesy of Berkley and NetGalley

My take:  Veronica Speedwell receives an offer she can’t refuse: Accompany Lord Templeton-Vane to his long time friend’s home (a castle on an island off the Cornish coast) for a few weeks and she’ll receive a prized butterfly colony for the museum she and her colleague Stoker are creating. Easy-peasy, right? Not really. Upon arriving at the castle Veronica meets the rather quirky family who reside there along with their interesting staff. It soon becomes clear why Lord Templeton-Vane, Stoker and Veronica have been invited. There’s a mystery to be solved – what became of the lord of the castle’s bride who vanished on their wedding day a few years earlier. There are plenty of suspects who could be responsible for her disappearance. The characters, the atmospheric setting of a castle on an island, and the mystery of the bride combined to make my first Veronica Speedwell Mystery an enjoyable read. I liked the more-than-friends tension between Veronica and Stoker and look forward to seeing what caper they find themselves involved in next.


About the author:

Deanna Raybourn is the author of the award-winning, New York Times bestselling Lady Julia Grey series, currently in development for television, as well as the Veronica Speedwell Mysteries and several standalone novels. Visit her online at www.deannaraybourn.com, on Facebook at DeannaRaybournAuthor, and on Twitter @deannaraybourn.


 

The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman

The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman

Published:  February 2019 – Berkley

Finished copy from Berkley

My take:  This is the story of Yuri, a boy whose parents immigrated to the US after the Chernobyl tragedy. They didn’t know the lasting effect that tragedy would have on their future. Their son was born with a heart defect that prevented him from experiencing a life other children and parents take for granted. But it didn’t stop him from loving baseball and his favorite team, the NY Yankees. And that served as a connection to his English tutor, Maggie Topper. They bond over their love of the sport which leads to lively conversations and writing in a journal and reading books. I loved that while Maggie was there to teach Yuri she learned so much from him – ultimately that life is meant to be lived no matter how much time we have.  The Secret of Clouds is an emotional novel. Alyson Richman used baseball, classical music, the power of the written word and the importance of personal interactions – which is to say, she wrote the book I want to read.


 

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

Published January 2019 – Berkley Hardcover

Book provided by the publisher

Description:  The New York Times bestselling author of The Widow returns with a brand new novel of twisting psychological suspense about every parent’s worst nightmare…

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft, and frantic with worry. What were the girls up to before they disappeared?

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth—and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, whom she hasn’t seen in two years, since he left home to go travelling. 

As the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think…  (publisher)

My take:  Thank you Berkley Publishing for sending me a free copy of The Suspect. The first of Fiona Barton’s novels I’ve had the chance to read, it is about two girls on a gap year trip to Thailand. What could go wrong? Well, since I’m a parent whose children are grown and out of the nest I can think of plenty that could go wrong. And it does in this book. I think reading from a parent’s perspective – or maybe any adult’s perspective – will color the way one reacts to the events. What it all distilled to for me is this question: What would I do to protect my child? And what about children who don’t have a strong, supportive parent to step in to protect them? Morals, ethics, and human decency might go out the window. I was rather appalled by the actions of all involved at one time or another – and maybe that’s the point. Again, what would I do?

I don’t read a ton of mysteries like The Suspect but I think many readers of the genre will like it. I think younger readers (teens, young adults) will most likely relate on some level to a few of the characters. The pacing is good and helped by short chapters – an aspect in suspenseful books that I’ve come to appreciate. Lastly, I must say I really enjoyed the character of DI Sparkes and would love to read more about him going forward from this novel. I appreciated how Barton handled what was going on in his personal life while he was on the job trying to solve the crime.

Will I read another book by Fiona Barton? I think I’ll eventually circle back and read The Widow. I’ll also read any books that follow The Suspect that include DI Sparkes.


About the author:

Fiona Barton is an award-winning journalist in the UK who has worked for the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, among other publications. She drew on her thirty-five year career to craft Kate Waters into the dogged, resourceful reporter that readers have come to love in the previous two books. Barton says writing Kate feels “like coming home.”


 

Spotlight/US Giveaway: Mission Critical by Mark Greaney

Description

The Splendor Before The Dark by Margaret George

The Splendor Before The Dark by Margaret George

November 6, 2018 – Berkley Hardcover

Book courtesy of Berkley and NetGalley

Description:

Ascending to the throne was only the beginning… Now Margaret George, the author of The Confessions of Young Nero, weaves a web of politics and passion, as ancient Rome’s most infamous emperor cements his place in history.

With the beautiful and cunning Poppaea at his side, Nero Augustus commands the Roman empire, ushering in an unprecedented era of artistic and cultural splendor. Although he has yet to produce an heir, his power is unquestioned.

But in the tenth year of his reign, a terrifying prophecy comes to pass and a fire engulfs Rome, reducing entire swaths of the city to rubble. Rumors of Nero’s complicity in the blaze start to sow unrest among the populace–and the politicians…

For better or worse, Nero knows that his fate is now tied to Rome’s–and he vows to rebuild it as a city that will stun the world. But there are those who find his rampant quest for glory dangerous. Throughout the empire, false friends and spies conspire against him, not understanding what drives him to undertake the impossible.

Nero will either survive and be the first in his family to escape the web of betrayals that is the Roman court, or be ensnared and remembered as the last radiance of the greatest dynasty the world had ever known. (publisher)

My take:  I confess to knowing virtually nothing about Nero going into this novel – save a visual of him playing the fiddle while Rome burned. As usual, Margaret George brought me up to speed in a most entertaining way. Her historical fiction novel played out in the form of Nero’s autobiography with additional viewpoints from his first love, Acte, and Locusto, his poisons consultant. It’s a story of political plots and intrigue, living with rumors and innuendo, and never quite knowing who was worthy of Nero’s trust.

I’ve read Margaret Georges’s previous novels about Cleopatra and Helen of Troy so I was unsurprised by the 500+ pages it took to tell Nero’s story. I also knew it would be meticulously researched and presented in her usual engaging style. The Afterword is very interesting and I appreciated the family tree and maps included at the beginning of the book. I think fans of the author and historical fiction will enjoy and learn from this story. I certainly did.


About the author:

Margaret George is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels of biographical historical fiction, including The Confessions of Young Nero; Elizabeth I; Helen of Troy; Mary, Called Magdalene; The Memoirs of Cleopatra; Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles; and The Autobiography of Henry VIII. She also has coauthored a children’s book, Lucile Lost.


 

Spotlight: Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

Congratulations to Francesca Hornak on the paperback release of her novel Seven Days of Us. If you missed reading it last year in hardcover you’ll want to pick it up now!

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

Berkley Paperback Reprint; October 16, 2018

Publisher’s description: It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.
 
For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while her older sister, Olivia, deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.
 
Their father, Andrew, sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent. But his wife, Emma, is hiding a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.  
 
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…

My take: (first posted November 2017)

Seven Days of Us is an entertaining and deceptively light novel about a family. The Birches are an interesting group. Andrew, the father, is a snarky restaurant reviewer for a newspaper. Emma, the matriarch, just wants everyone to have the kind of Christmas holiday she remembers from childhood. Altruistic eldest daughter Olivia is a doctor just returned from relief work in Liberia and the reason for the family quarantine. Younger daughter Phoebe is completely self-absorbed and more than a bit annoyed at being forced to spend the holidays with her family instead of her new fiancé.

Told from the perspective of each family member, plus a couple of other characters, the chapters are short and follow a day-by-day form that made the novel easy to stop and start reading. This was also a great way to lay out the Birch family’s messy dynamics. It ended up being an emotional read for me – that was unexpected and very much appreciated. Recommended to fans of novels about imperfect families. I loved the setting(s) and the holiday-ness to which I think most readers will relate on one level or another.


About the author:

Francesca Hornak is a journalist and writer, whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Red. She is the author of two nonfiction books, History of the World in 100 Modern Objects: Middle Class Stuff (and Nonsense) and Worry with Mother: 101 Neuroses for the Modern Mama.