Monday, June 29, 2015

The Alchemist's Daughter (Bianca Goddard Mysteries #1) by Mary Lawrence

In the year 1543 of King Henry VIII’s turbulent reign, the daughter of a notorious alchemist finds herself suspected of cold-blooded murder  
Bianca Goddard employs her knowledge of herbs and medicinal plants to concoct remedies for the disease-riddled poor in London’s squalid Southwark slum. But when her friend Jolyn comes to her complaining of severe stomach pains, Bianca’s prescription seems to kill her on the spot. Recovering from her shock, Bianca suspects Jolyn may have been poisoned before coming to her—but the local constable is not so easily convinced.  
To clear her name and keep her neck free of the gallows, Bianca must apply her knowledge of the healing arts to deduce exactly how her friend was murdered and by whom—before she herself falls victim to a similar fate  

The Alchemist’s Daughter is a great book. At first I thought the book was a murder mystery situated in Henry VIII’s court, but was surprised that this story showed the life of the poorer residents of Tudor England. It showed how people lived and scraped by, while the elite sat back and didn’t care about the common folk.  

Bianca Goddard starts out this story being completely focused on her work and basically ignoring those who care and love her. When her best friend dies in her home, Bianca is accused of her murder. She must find out who did it. Along the way she must rely not just on her knowledge of poisons and science, but also those around her.   

This book was a great read. The pace was amazing. Not rushed so that you could keep up and with enough twists and turns that it made an amazing murder mystery.   

Bianca Goddard is the main character who drives this story, but she is not alone. She is joined by John, her “intended”. He has known her since she was a young girl and has had to put up with being ignored while she is working on one of her projects.  

Meddybemps, who is a street seller, cares for Bianca like she is a daughter. He has a lot of street smarts and adds some comic relief to a sometimes dark, gritty tale.  

The main protagonist is Constable Patch. He would like to think he works for the King, in keeping the peace, but really he is just trying to further himself in any way he can.   

Then there are all the characters from Barke House and well you will just have to read the book to find out about those people. UGH  

I loved this book. I found it a great murder mystery and I loved the characters. So, much so that I’m excited and can’t wait until Book 2 in this series is available!   

The only warning I would give you are that rats take up way too much time in this book, but without them Bianca wouldn’t have a mystery on her hands. So, they are both good and bad, but ugh I can’t stand rats, even reading about them. UGH still shivering and ugh after reading about them.  UGH  
I would totally suggest this book, it’s great!!!  


Mary Lawrence is the author of the upcoming Bianca Goddard Mysteries. Set in Tudor London in the final years of Henry VIII's reign, Book I, THE ALCHEMIST'S DAUGHTER, will be released in April, 2015.  

Originally from Evansville, Indiana, Mary attended Butler and Indiana University, moving to Maine after completing a degree in cytotechnology. She has worked in hospitals and labs and written indexes for several small publishers. Recently she started a berry farm in southern Maine with her husband. She is an avid reader of historical fiction and nonfiction and concentrates on Tudor/Elizabethan history.  

In 2010, she was a finalist in the RWA's Golden Heart Contest, and won the Golden Claddagh in historical fiction. She was also a finalist in the Gotham Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest in 2010. Visit her at  

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Stephanie

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pain And Truth: Second book in The Truth Series by Elaine May

Should be read after reading Lies And Truth 

As Joshua sees the doctor from earlier begin to step towards him his whole world stops turning and his heart skips too many beats. 
Everything seems to happen in slow motion with every step the man in scrubs takes, getting closer to revealing what the men in Joshua's own family, his own uncle and cousin, had done to his beautiful Isla. 

After years apart Isla and Joshua were finally reunited in a beautiful night but come morning evil tried to destroy it. Will Isla and Joshua's love with stand the new evil that threatens them? 

This is the sequel to Lies and Truth.  We begin this book with Isla in the hospital and a search for her cousin/brother and uncle.  The FBI has become involved.  Joshua won't leave her side, not even to take care of the business he's just inherited.  It's a long road to recovery, both physically and mentally.  Will the bad guys ever be caught, though?

My goodness!  I don't remember the last time I was so darn bored with a book!  I was so excited with the first one and anxious to see where the cliff hanger I was given would lead.  Then I began reading this sequel and my spirits plummeted.  Gone is the excitement and flow!  Gone are the characters that I was actually enjoying!  Gone is the story!  I kept reading in the hopes that it would get better but it did not and sadly I cannot get this past hour of time back.  

Now, just because this isn't for me, doesn't mean it won't be for you.  Do you like Harlequin romance books?  You know the old-fashioned ones with the super sappy endings?  Then you might enjoy this book because that's what the entire thing is.  It's one freakishly long Harlequin romance ending.  And I swear, if I read the words 'baby girl' one more time, I'd have busted my Kindle with a hammer out of anger!  However, you might be one of those people who enjoy seeing a man constantly calling his lady 'baby girl.'  This isn't all this story is though.  Do you enjoy watching unbelievable recovery stories?  This could be right up your alley!  Just when you think you've heard all the stuff broken, you get to find out more!  Just when you think she couldn't possibly get worse, voila!  Now, this is only the secondary theme to the book, so don't expect it to drag through more than the first three-fourths.  Now, if these things interest you, this could be the book of your dreams.  

To be completely honest, this story wasn't an entire loss.  The prologue and the epilogue actually contained work by the writer I had enjoyed in the first book in the series.  There are also a few pages in the book regarding what happens with Isla's cousin/brother and uncle.  These were the tidbits I actually wanted an update on from the first book.  Thankfully, I didn't have any trouble finding this since they stuck out like a sore thumb in between the lurid lovemaking and 'baby girl' phrases.  

This is an incredibly unusual book series.  It's as if they're written by entirely different people.  One book is dark and gritty and brings horror close to the front of your brain where you can taste it.  It's entertaining and keeps you pulled in.  The other book is nothing but sappy romance and healing.  It's calm and dull.  Now, you may believe that 'dull' isn't the correct word for a survival story, but this isn't a survival story.  It's more 'Oh she had therapy.'  I feel like someone threw me into the deep end of the pool and then immediately tossed me back into the kiddie pool.  

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Shawn

Monday, June 22, 2015

Deeper Than the Grave (Tai Randolph Mysteries #4) by Tina Whittle

It s taken almost a year, but Tai Randolph has her new life together. She s running a semisuccessful Atlanta gun shop catering to Civil War re-enactors. Her lover, the sexy-if-securityobsessed Trey Seaver, is sorting out his challenges. There s not a single corpse on her horizon, and her previously haphazard existence is finally stable, secure and unsurprising. Then a tornado blows by a Kennesaw Mountain cemetery, scattering the skeletal remains of a Confederate hero. Assisting the bones recovery effort is a job her late Uncle Dexter would have relished, as does Tai. Does she hit the jackpot on discovering a jumble of bones in the underbrush? No. The bones reveal a more recent murder, with her deceased uncle leading the suspect list. As Tai struggles to clear Dexter s name and save the business he left her she uncovers deadly secrets were also buried in the red Georgia clay. And realizes there s a live murderer on the loose, a clever killer who has tried to conceal the crimes of the present in the stories of the past. As she risks her own life to unravel two mysteries one from a previous century, one literally at her doorstep Tai rediscovers her dangerous taste for murder and mayhem."

Tai Randolph has her hands full running her uncle’s gun shop in Atlanta.  She is busy sorting through inventory and getting records ready for her governmental audit. She is also dealing with a disapproving neighbor who is quite perturbed about Tai’s parking space of choice behind her shop.  Her personal life is on the upswing, with her boyfriend Trey Seaver, a former law enforcement officer providing all of the support she needs.  Even though they are both recovering from the emotional effects of recent experiences, they are growing closer than ever.
            A tornado in the area disturbs the bones of one Braxton Amberdecker, a private from the Civil War.  His coffin was unearthed and the bones that were discovered in the coffin are most assuredly NOT from the Civil War era.  Well, unless Civil War soldiers wore NASCAR belt buckles, that is.  What follows is a search into the identity of the dead man and the long-buried secrets of the Amberdecker family.  When Tai’s late uncle is suspected in the misdeeds that led to the murder, she seeks to clear his name and to put an end to the mystery.
            I have not read any of the other books in this series, but I am eager to do so.  I adored the characters in this novel.  Tai is a bit hot headed and impulsive.  She thinks before she acts, but she is smart.  Trey is more reserved, collected, and methodical.  The two work well together, even when they are bumping heads.  Their relationship, still affected by their collective PTSD, worked for me.  They showed growth from the beginning of the book to the end.  The touches of humor were not overdone and the tone of the book was serious but light-hearted.
            I hate to compare this book to any other, but I think fans of Janet Evanovich might like this one—particularly those who have grown weary of the stale, same old story.  Tina Whittle gets it right—providing a satisfying mystery, characters with complexities and personality, and a compelling setting.
            I am absolutely going to find the other books in the series and read them.  (I did not find having not read them in order to be a problem.)  Tina Whittle has a new fan!
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Regina

Friday, June 19, 2015

Lies And Truth: Book 1 in the Truth Series by Elaine May

When Isla Holmes life as a child is turned upside down and she is ripped away from her soul mate, she is forced to live a life with evil. 

When Isla and her soul mate cross paths will they find a happy ever after or will evil intervene?

Isla has grown up with an ideal childhood, but a horrible accident rips it all away.  From that day forward, she's forced to live as the property of men who are pure evil.  Now an adult, she's crossed paths with her childhood.  Will she survive long enough to find at least a glimpse of happiness and freedom?

This book is intended for adults only.  Most of the content is graphic violence and sex.  The scenes are pertinent to the story and well-drawn.  However, those who are easily offended or queasy may have difficulty.

May is a great storyteller.  She has great flow and gripping scenes.  I was sucked in from the beginning and couldn't wait to pick it back up.  I found myself both entertained and shocked.  

Over all, I enjoyed the characters.  All of them have great depth and feel real.  Instead of just wooden people shoved in a slot, each one has a personality that's easy to understand.  Some of them you'll love to hate and some you'll cheer on.  Some of them you just want to hug and others you want to take a hatchet to.

I could have easily gone without the sex and violence, but I realize it's importance to the story.  What this poor little girl survived is just horrifying.  Well, I say survived, but honestly I don't know yet if she does.  

I did find one fatal flaw and it's still bothering me.  I'll tread carefully here so as not to give any spoilers.  Isla, the main character, has basically been kidnapped and tortured in every possible way you can imagine (and in great detail!).   However, even knowing what her captors are capable of, she just tosses aside the notion that they could harm her when she makes them unhappy.  She's terrified of them.  Horrified motionless at the thought of what they'll do to her, and then all of a sudden it's 'Meh.  They're not here.  No biggie.'  What?!  I get the importance of the scene I'm discussing, but it could have been handled in a much better manner than by taking any possibility I had of liking the main character and pulverizing it because of her sheer stupidity and the fact that she is all of a sudden a completely different character than she has been.  See?  I'm so upset I'm typing run-on sentences!  *sigh*

Alright, now that you know this flaw is there, you can ignore it and it won't bother you.  It really is a great read.  I was completely lost in the world May has created and I could vividly imagine every scene.  Some of them I wish I hadn't, but some of them were breathtakingly beautiful.  Those who enjoy dark books with lots of violence and sex should really enjoy this one.  The ending leaves you with a giant cliffhanger, but thankfully the next book is already available so you can just jump right into it as soon as finishing the first.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Shawn

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Thirst by Thierry Sagnier

A fortune in drugs is missing.Finding them starts with finding her.

Colin isn’t a cop. Joe is, but isn’t up for this. Mamadou was an excellent police officer back in Senegal, but in Washington DC he drives a limo. Josie’s just a girl—a recovering crack addict fed up with her parents and with Herbie, her boyfriend. She’s planning on giving him a piece of her mind. Trouble is, Herbie stole a shipment of drugs, and now he’s dead. And let’s not forget Mollie Catfish…

Now the Zulu wants his drugs, Mamadou wants revenge, Joe just wants to do his job for once, and Colin wants to save his girlfriend’s daughter. All Josie wants is to remember what Herbie might have told her, what the Zulu insists she knows. If she doesn’t—she’s dead too.

Mollie? She wants it all.

Behind the polished marble of Washington DC, lies dark alleys where everyone thirsts for something. 

I don't usually read other reviews about a book before reviewing it, but on the rare occasion I find myself compelled to.  In most cases, it's because I want to see if others felt the same way that I did about a book, or perhaps they have a perspective that I may have missed.  This is one of those times where I went to check the other reviews before composing mine in the hopes that someone saw something I didn't.  As it turns out, most others who have reviewed this book absolutely adored it.  As I read their reviews, I couldn't help but wonder how they could have such a good opinion if they had read the same book I did.  However, regardless of what the others say, it doesn't change my personal feelings towards this book.

The basic synopsis of the book is that someone stole money from the Zulu and he wants it back.  In itself, this could be made into a decent story.  They've made amazing novels on much less of a plot.  However, the story isn't fleshed out enough that it really matters.  At the end, what you take away is exactly the first sentence of this paragraph.  There isn't an exciting twist or adventurous ride.  He wants his money and will stop at nothing to get it.  We see him so little in the book that I don't really care what he wants, though.

We're given a huge cast of characters, none of which we see for more than a blink at a time.  This makes it nearly impossible to keep them straight, let alone care about them.  Only one character had any depth and that was because we were able to find out about this character from other sources besides his brief dialogue.  Most of the time I found myself wishing that I had a pen and paper handy in order to draw a 'family tree' of sorts just so that I could keep the characters straight.  There are random strings attaching characters, but it's not enough that you get a cohesive picture of what's going on.  As for insight into the characters, we have a few actions but mostly we have to figure them out based upon dialogue.  Now, since there are too many characters to keep straight, I definitely couldn't match the dialogue to the person and keep it straight. 

Given that this is the third publication of this story (given my information, which may be incorrect), you'd think that they'd finally get the storytelling right.  I don't know what changes were made from previous versions, but there is still work to do here.  Imagine having a cast of a dozen characters who are all part of a happening.  Each one has a story as well as a personality and a back story.  Getting to see that is part of what makes the story great.  The happening is insignificant.  Sure, we have some crime and drugs thrown in but that's pretty basic stuff.  That's not special in the writing industry these days.  So each person's story is actually what the meat of this book should be.  However, we have all of these people and only see snippets of their side of the happening.  It's enough to slowly piece together what's going on, but seriously not enough to care.

My last complaint is that the basic rule of writing has been broken here.  Write what you know.  Rule number one.  There's no passion and not nearly enough detail and substance for this to be a heartfelt topic for the author.  The bad part is, it shows.  In some areas I feel like the writer is actually connected but most of the time it feels like a cat trying to write from a frog's perspective.  The cat can see what's going on, but can't experience it the same way.  That means the cat can't describe it the same way, let alone get others to actually feel anything towards it.

This book was a severe waste of time for me.  However, make sure you take the time to go read the other reviews.  Everyone else seems to have an opposing opinion to mine and you may find this is something you'd be interested in.  My two cents worth:  Save your money for the next rewrite instead of this one.

*I received a copy of this book for review purposes only.  All opinions are my own. Shawn

Monday, June 15, 2015

Born with Teeth: A Memoir by Kate Mulgrew

Raised by unconventional Irish Catholics who knew "how to drink, how to dance, how to talk, and how to stir up the devil," Kate Mulgrew grew up with poetry and drama in her bones. But in her mother, a would-be artist burdened by the endless arrival of new babies, young Kate saw the consequences of a dream deferred. Determined to pursue her own no matter the cost, at 18 she left her small Midwestern town for New York, where, studying with the legendary Stella Adler, she learned the lesson that would define her as an actress: "Use it," Adler told her. Whatever disappointment, pain, or anger life throws in your path, channel it into the work.

It was a lesson she would need. At twenty-two, just as her career was taking off, she became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. Having already signed the adoption papers, she was allowed only a fleeting glimpse of her child. As her star continued to rise, her life became increasingly demanding and fulfilling, a whirlwind of passionate love affairs, life-saving friendships, and bone-crunching work. Through it all, Mulgrew remained haunted by the loss of her daughter, until, two decades later, she found the courage to face the past and step into the most challenging role of her life, both on and off screen.

We know Kate Mulgrew for the strong women she's played--Captain Janeway on Star Trek; the tough-as-nails "Red" on Orange is the New Black. Now, we meet the most inspiring and memorable character of all: herself. By turns irreverent and soulful, laugh-out-loud funny and heart-piercingly sad, Born with Teeth is the breathtaking memoir of a woman who dares to live life to the fullest, on her own terms. 

Born With Teeth: A Memoir by Kate Mulgrew was a definite change of pace for this reader. As a die-hard fiction aficionado, the thought of reading someones life story was a deliberate challenge which turned out to be a nice surprise.  Born With Teeth is an interesting peek into the life of a passionate stage artist.  The painful and poignant moments are delivered in sometimes stark yet poetic turns of phrase, so that even the most ugly incidents can leave you breathless with heartache, and impressed by Mulgrew’s strength and perseverance.

  The almost matter of fact description of some episodes, such as her mother’s illness and decline, almost leaves the reader wondering if the scenes were actually what you understood them to be.   Was her friend a victim of child molestation  Did mother suffer from some sort of dementia, or just being her usual quirky, devil-may-care spirit?  Ms. Mulgrew, known to this low-level Trekkie as Captain Janeway, turns out to be a strong and gifted actress who has lived her life  full of energy and spirit who is haunted by regret and pain over the decision to give up a child for adoption very early in her career. 

 I enjoyed Born With Teeth, it is an easy read that is powerful in its simplicity. My reading challenge has encouraged this reader to pick up more books outside my usual go-to genres.  

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Malaika