Book Review: The Child Finder (Naomi Cottle #1) by Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder was a quick read and I found myself fully absorbed in the story. I must admit, I chose the book because of the cover and title. I’ve had it on my bookshelf for quite sometime and decided to pick it up this weekend. This story is fascinating and sad at the same time. Yet, beautifully written and there’s descriptive scenery throughout.

Madison captured my heart. As a little girl, she was taken and missing for three years, she quickly creates a world of her own based on a fairytale story she loves, for survival.

Naomi, is a woman who was abducted herself when she was younger and is called to find Madison. At all odds, her discovery of the girl’s whereabouts reveals memories of her own past.

The Child Finder is a uniquely told story, that takes you into the world of a highly imaginative and clever mind of a child, whose self-preservation is astounding.

Stephanie Hopkins

About the book:

Hardcover, 274 pages

Published September 5th 2017 by Harper

“Where are you, Madison Culver? Flying with the angels, a silver speck on a wing? Are you dreaming, buried under snow? Or—is it possible—you are still alive?”

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl, too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Cover Crush: Murder at Queen’s Landing by Andrea Penrose

Murder at Queen’s Landing is part of the Wrexford & Sloane Series by Andrew Penrose. I must admit I have not started the series as of yet but I’m keeping a close eye on it. Today, I am highlighting this particular book because I absolutely love how the cover evokes hauntingly imagery. This cover would make a beautiful painting.

There are many elements to this story that interest me. Not only the cover but the genre and the time period the story is set in.  A theme that really stood out to me is the, “World of banking and international arbitrage.” The world banks wield unspeakable power that the majority of the populous is completely unaware of that fact. I have a feeling this is an interesting story to say the least and I’m curious as to where the author goes with this. -Stephanie Hopkins

Book description:

Murder at Queen’s Landing (Wrexford & Sloane #4)

by Andrea Penrose

Published September 29th 2020 by Kensington Books/Kensington Publishing Corp.

The murder of a shipping clerk . . . the strange disappearance of trusted friends . . . rumors of corruption within the powerful East India Company . . . all add up to a dark mystery entangling Lady Charlotte Sloane and the Earl of Wrexford in a dangerous web of secrets and lies that will call into question how much they really know about the people they hold dear—and about each other . . .

When Lady Cordelia, a brilliant mathematician, and her brother, Lord Woodbridge, disappear from London, rumors swirl concerning fraudulent bank loans and a secret consortium engaged in an illicit—and highly profitable—trading scheme that threatens the entire British economy. The incriminating evidence mounts, but for Charlotte and Wrexford, it’s a question of loyalty and friendship. And so, they begin a new investigation to clear the siblings’ names, uncover their whereabouts, and unravel the truth behind the whispers.

As they delve into the murky world of banking and international arbitrage, Charlotte and Wrexford also struggle to navigate their increasingly complex feelings for each other. But the clock is ticking—a cunning mastermind has emerged . . . along with some unexpected allies—and Charlotte and Wrexford must race to prevent disasters both economic and personal as they are forced into a dangerous match of wits in an attempt to beat the enemy at his own game.

Be sure to follow and check out more content at my Instagram!

Stephanie Hopkins

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Cover Reveal: Deadmarsh Fey (Dwellers of Darkness, Children of Light Book 1) by Melika Dannese Lux

fey_promo

Expected Publish Date: May 2nd

Flesh and bone and hearts unknown, lead to the rath and your fate will be shown…

Deadmarsh. The name struck terror into the hearts of all who heard it. But to Roger Knightley, neither Deadmarsh the house, nor Deadmarsh the family, had ever been anything to fear. Nearly each summer of his young life had been spent in that manor on the moors, having wild adventures with his cousin, Lockie, the Deadmarsh heir. This year should have been no different, but when Roger arrives, he finds everything, and everyone, changed. The grounds are unkempt, the servants long gone. Kip, the family cat, has inexplicably grown and glares at Roger as if he is trying to read the boy’s mind. Roger’s eldest cousin, Travers, always treated as a servant, now dresses like a duchess and wears round her neck a strange moonstone given to her by someone known as Master Coffyn, who has taken over the teaching of Lockie at a school in Wales called Nethermarrow.

And soon after he crosses the threshold of Deadmarsh, Roger discovers that Coffyn has overtaken Lockie. The boy is deceitful, riddled with fear, and has returned bearing tales of creatures called Jagged Ones that claim to be of the Fey and can somehow conceal themselves while standing in the full light of the moon. What they want with Lockie, Roger cannot fathom, until the horror within his cousin lashes out, and it becomes savagely clear that these Jagged Ones and the Dark Wreaker they serve are not only after Lockie and Travers, but Roger, too.

Joining forces with an ally whose true nature remains hidden, Roger seeks to unravel the tapestry of lies woven round his family’s connection to the death-haunted world of Everl’aria—and the Dark Wreaker who calls it home. The deeper Roger delves into the past, the more he begins to suspect that the tales of dark deeds done in the forest behind Deadmarsh, deeds in which village children made sacrifice to an otherworldly beast and were never seen or heard from again, are true. And if there is truth in these outlandish stories, what of the rumor that it was not an earthquake which rocked the moors surrounding Deadmarsh sixteen years ago, but a winged nightmare attempting to break free of its underground prison? Enlisting the aid of a monster equipped with enough inborn firepower to blast his enemies into oblivion might be as suicidal as Roger’s friends insist, yet the boy knows he needs all the help he can get if there is to be any hope of defeating not only the Dark Wreaker and his servants, but an unholy trinity known as the Bear, the Wolf, and the Curse That Walks The Earth.

And then there is the foe named Blood Wood, who might be the deadliest of them all.

Racing against time, Roger must find a way to end the battle being waged across worlds before the night of Lockie’s eleventh birthday—two days hence. If he fails, blood will drown the earth. And Roger and his entire family will fulfill the prophecy of fey’s older, more lethal meaning…

Fated to die.

The Anatomy of A Book Cover

by Melika Dannese Lux

The title was there from the beginning. The idea for the cover, as well—a vision of the fog-haunted nightmare Roger Knightley unwittingly walks into the moment he sets foot in Deadmarsh, the manor on the moors which shares its name with his kin.

Four years and nearly 700 pages later, I finally had the book. You’d think that would have marked the end of the heavy-lifting. All the hard work of writing was over; now it was time for the fun to begin. Time to jacket the pages in dazzling attire and send the novel out into the world…

But you’d be wrong. It’s one thing to have a vision in your head for what you want the cover to look like; it’s quite another to find an artist who gets that vision and is able to magic it into life. Several designers told me my concept was much too technical and complex to ever be featured on the cover of a book. Images that matched my vision just did not exist, and Carver, that charming little blue fellow (So adorable, isn’t he? *shudders*) lurking behind Roger Knightley (I’d like to see what kind of look you’d have on your face were you in Roger’s position!), would be impossible to portray, not to mention the writing on the mirror from a source that might be ally…or enemy. Actually, forget the writing. Even the mirror itself was in doubt!

I’m a tenacious person. All right, fine, let’s be honest and stop sugarcoating. I’m as intractable as a shark that’s latched onto a seal it has singled out for its lunch. I refused to believe no one could do this! It seemed, to quote that wise sage, Vizzini, “Inconceivable!” And it was! Because very soon after I had cut ties with yet another designer, I was fortunate enough to meet Ravven.

*insert wild clapping for this amazingly talented artist*

A handful of cover iterations were all it took. Ravven was able to reach into my imagination and extract every element that had been racketing around in there for years. From the beautiful woman hovering outside the window, to the blue fog she brought with her from whence she came, to the cat, the mirror, and its writing…and, most of all, to those two combatants in the foreground, the boy and his otherworldly tormentor with talons black as obsidian and sharper than carving knives—it was uncanny how in synch with my vision Ravven was. Her work astounded me, and I am still in awe of it.

Those you see on the cover of Deadmarsh Fey, friend and foe alike, you shall meet within the pages of the book.

Dare you be led to the rath for your fate to be shown?

If yes, then dive in.

And remember …beware what’s hiding in the moonlight.

About the Author:

Melika

I have been an author since the age of fourteen and write novels that incorporate a variety of different genres, including historical fiction, suspense, thrillers with a supernatural twist, and dark fantasy. I am also a classically trained soprano/violinist/pianist and have been performing since the age of three. Additionally, I hold a BA in Management and an MBA in Marketing.

If I had not decided to become a writer, I would have become a marine biologist, but after countless years spent watching Shark Week, I realized I am very attached to my arms and legs and would rather write sharks into my stories than get up close and personal with those toothy wonders.

Website: Books In My Belfry

City of Lights on Amazon

Corcitura on Amazon

Layered Pages will be interviewing Melika on April 27th!

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An Epic & Gritty Historical Fiction Series by Melissa Lenhardt

me-iiYesterday I posted about a series I discovered and how starting a series for me is a big commitment due to the overload of books I have to review. As you know, I stumbled across The Journals of Matthew Quinton Series. It looks so inviting and adventurous. Alas, after posting about it I jumped over to my Amazon account to check a few things and I saw that two more books have been written about a story I read and reviewed called, Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt. I absolutely enjoyed the story! I rated it five stars and gave it a glowing review. I actually cheered when I saw that there were two more books and at the same time, sighed in a bit of frustration. I want more time in the day to get through all the books I want to read! Gah! *laughing* Dare I rearrange my reading priorities or stick to what I have and if I get through the ones I need to review first and read two books from the series I mentioned yesterday, then I can reward myself with the next two books following Sawbones? *Phew, that was a long sentience* Yes, that sounds like a good plan to me.  Meanwhile, take a look at my review of Sawbones and check out the other two books that follow it. By the way…I LOVE the covers!

Sawbones IISawbones (Laura Elliston #1)

Wrongfully accused of murder, Dr. Catherine Bennett is destined to hang… unless she can disappear.
With the untamed territory of Colorado as her most likely refuge, she packs her physician’s kit and heads West. But even with a new life and name, a female doctor with a bounty on her head can hide for only so long.

My Review:

I am really not all that interested in reading westerns. I never have been but when I saw this book and the title, it grabbed my attention. It really struck a cord with me.

Now, I feel the book description needs to be expanded on. Though even with writing this review, I was trying to work out how to pull what was not mentioned into my review without giving spoilers.

SAWBONES is a story you can talk about in several different ways. That is how diverse the themes are in the story. Having said that, those themes all come together and in such a dramatic way. The author did an incredible job with that. I was spell bounded.

First I’d like to mention a notable historical character in the story. William Tecumseh Sherman served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War. After burning everything in Georgia and the burning of Atlanta, I really didn’t care learning much about him after that particular information in our history. Though many people found him as an outstanding commander, I found his policies and actions deplorable. Though he plays a small roll in SAWBONES, his larger-than-life presence makes a big impression on me. Also, it was really interesting because I did not know anything about his tours of the Texas Forts after the Civil War. Now, I would like to find out more about that and I have the author of this book to thank for this.

As you will read in the book description, Catherine Bennett is wrongly accused of murder and flees out west to the untamed territories of Colorado and on that journal she experiences yet another life altering moment. Catherine paralyzed with fear, witnesses the massacre of the companions she is traveling with. The author does not shy away from describing the carnage done by the Comanche. This is only the beginning of the tragedies that struck her and the people she loves and conflicts she will witness and endure.

As a female doctor-rare of her time and not widely accepted, she is determined to prove her value and intelligence in a man’s world. I was particular drawn to her achievements of becoming a doctor and how the author portrayal Catherine’s moments of practicing medicine. They are empowering and defining.

There are many other wonderful characters in this story and the author has such a discerning writing style for their value to enrich a story.

SAWBONES had me emotionally invested, and ignited my imagination. The author is truly a gifted story-teller and I look forward to reading more of her work.

**********

Blood OathBlood Oath (Laura Elliston #2)

Outlander meets post-Civil War unrest in this action-packed follow up to Sawbones.

Laura Elliston and William Kindle are on the run — from the Army and from every miscreant in the West eager to claim the $500 bounty for Laura’s capture as their own. But the danger isn’t just from those pursuing them. Laura and Kindle have demons of their own and a past that won’t stay dead. Exhausted, scared, scarred and surrounded by enemies, neither realize the greatest danger is yet to come

 

***********

BadlandsBadlands (Laura Elliston #3)

Laura’s worst fears have been realized: Kindle has been taken into custody and she is once again on the run. The noose awaits her in New York, but Laura is realizing that there are some things worse than death. Finally running out of places to hide, it may be time for Dr. Catherine Bennett to face her past.

Interview with National Award-Winning Journalist Julie McElwain

me-iiI’d like to welcome back Julie McElwain to Layered Pages! I had the pleasure of being the first person to interview Julie about her book A Murder in Time and she is here with me to talk about her second, A Twist in Time. Julie is a national award-winning journalist. She began her career working for a fashion trade newspaper in Los Angeles, and is currently a West Coast editor for Soaps In Depth, a national soap opera magazine, covering the hit daytime drama, The Young & The Restless.

julie-melwainHi, Julie! It is a delight to chat with you again! First, tell me how your first book, A Murder in Time was received from your audience.

Thank you, Stephanie. I’m thrilled to be chatting with you again, too! I have to say that I was honored and humbled by how well A Murder In Time has been received. Book bloggers such as yourself were so kind and encouraging with your reviews, and the librarians from Library Reads chose the novel as one of their April recommendations. Overdrive, the digital library that is connected to more than 34,000 libraries around the world, selected A Murder In Time as their mystery to read last year, and it became a finalist in Goodreads’ Best Books of the Year, in the sci-fi category. I’ve been so blown away by this journey, and truly grateful for all the support.

That is fantastic to hear, Julie and 34,000 libraries around the world is outstanding! 

Would you please give us a brief description from your first book how Kendra Donovan stumbled through time?

Kendra traveled to Aldridge Castle in England to take down the man responsible for getting many of her fellow team members killed on her last mission. I won’t give away any spoilers in case someone hasn’t read A Murder In Time, but this mission also goes awry, and Kendra is forced to flee through a secret passageway. That’s when things take a really strange turn. When Kendra stumbles out, she is in 1815. Kendra’s mother is a quantum physicist, so Kendra knows something about time travel. She can only surmise that she went through a wormhole or a vortex. She only has theories, but it was an extremely painful experience!

I remembered reading about Kendra’s experience travel through time. It was incredibly vivid.  Tell us about your book, A Twist in Time.

Kendra’s attempt to return to her own timeline fails, but before she can worry too much about her situation, she’s caught up in a new mystery. Lady Dover, who was introduced briefly in A Murder In Time as Alec’s mistress (he dumped her for Kendra) has been viciously murdered, and Alec is the main suspect. Kendra and the Duke travel to London to clear his name, save him from the hangman’s noose and a crime lord named Bear.

a-twist-in-time

How has Kendra adapted to the early nineteenth Century thus far?

Even with the Duke of Aldridge’s support, Kendra struggles with being in this time period. Her parents had very rigid expectations of her, and when she rebelled, they abandoned her. Kendra survived emotionally by becoming independent and self-sufficient. Yet she is thrust into an era where women had no rights; upper class women especially relied on the men in their lives — husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles — to provide for them. As a real-life example, Jane Austen never married, and her oldest brother, Edward, gave her the cottage she lived in.

Kendra also hates being treated like a child. The fashions of the day required assistance to dress. And as a young, unmarried lady, she needs to be chaperoned whenever she leaves the house. This loss of independence is incredibly hard on Kendra.

On the other hand, Kendra is now forced to depend on other people for the first time since she was a teen. It’s great to be self-sufficient, but not to be so closed off from relationships. Some cracks might be forming in Kendra’s protective shell.

You really brought together characters in your story from different classes/walks of life and I admired how you portrayed that. I still believe in today society we can still learn from that.

Thank you! And I completely agree with you about today’s society. America was conceived as a nation without a class system, and England today no longer has the rigid class system that it once had. Yet I think it’s human nature to create hierarchies and be a bit snobbish when we look at groups that don’t conform to our own belief system.

I love trying to figure out how people came to their viewpoint. I’m seeing way too much divisiveness in present-day society, and shutting down or shouting down someone else’s point of view. I think the joy of a being a writer is to get into characters’ heads to see a situation through a variety of perspectives. It’s fun to have people at odds, battle, and learn from one another’s differences. Sometimes they may change. Sometimes they may just have to agree to disagree.

You also touch on the fact that there was no real police force at that time. Did you find it a challenge to make the investigation believable? The process was surely brilliant in my mind. Without the technology we have today, their process was surely a challenge at times.

The lack of technology drives Kendra a bit crazy. She can’t utilize something as basic as fingerprinting. While fingerprints were known as a method of identification during this time — and earlier — it wasn’t used in law enforcement until the late 1800s.

Kendra also has huge problems with the lack of police procedure. In both A Murder In Time and in A Twist In Time, I mention the Marrs murders, which are also known as the Ratcliff Highway murders. This was a true crime during that time, in which a family and their servants were slaughtered. The public was allowed to wander through the crime scene to satisfy their curiosity. Can you imagine that today? Kendra is appalled by what actually was pretty standard practice for that time of civilians visiting crime scenes.

Thankfully, though, basic police work — interviewing suspects and eye witnesses, comparing stories, checking alibis — crosses centuries. In fact, basic police work today still catches more criminals than utilizing technology, mainly because most police departments simply don’t have the budget for the kind of technology we see on cop shows.

What challenged me the most is that my protagonist is a woman. Kendra can’t flash her badge to show her authority. She can’t haul a suspect down to an interrogation room. She has no official capacity. As I already mentioned, she can’t even go anywhere alone. She needs a lady’s maid to shadow her, or risk being ostracized. The Duke, of course, is her greatest asset in gaining access to the people she needs to interview, but it’s awkward for her to grill people in the ballroom.

Was there a scene you found humorous to write about?

Actually, there were several scenes that I had fun writing. I think the changes in language over the centuries lend themselves to humor. But also there are things that we take for granted now that were unknown back then, and that can be pretty humorous when you look at it through nineteenth century eyes. I won’t get into specifics, but at the end of A Twist In Time, the crime lord, Bear, views something that Kendra has done in a way that makes perfect sense from a nineteenth century perspective, but startles Kendra considerably. When I received the manuscript back during the editing process, I laughed when I came across the scene again. It’s just a little thing, but I hope readers will find it as amusing as I do!

Tell us a little about Sam Kelly. I have to admit; I enjoy reading about him. He is one of my favorites.

I love Sam Kelly as well! I feel like he’s a cop deep in his soul. You could take him out of the nineteenth century and plop him in the twenty-first century, and he wouldn’t change. He’d still be a bit rumpled, still love being a detective, and still love his whiskey. He may be puzzled by Kendra, but she earned his respect when she was nearly killed catching a serial killer. If she wasn’t a woman, I think Sam would try to convince her to become a Bow Street Runner.

Duke Aldridge’s prim and proper ways are entertaining to say the least but not in a snobby way. His open-mindedness does him credit. I am delighted you didn’t portray him as the stereotypical male we often see in stories such as this era. What are his attributes you find most intriguing to write about?

What I love about the Duke is that he is far more complicated character than anyone might suspect. He is a gentleman in the truest sense of the word, yet he’s not a pushover. He doesn’t trade on his wealth and title, but he will exert his influence if it means getting his way. The darkest period of his life came when he lost his wife and daughter — and that still haunts him — but the tragedy has made him more empathetic. He is enthusiastic and optimistic, which is a nice counterbalance to Kendra, who tends to be a bit more cynical and careful. The Duke recognizes that Kendra comes from a different time, but I sort of like that he does have an internal struggle on accepting Kendra’s more modern sensibilities. He loves the discussions he has with Kendra, but sometimes he is taken out of his comfort zone.

Can we expect another Kendra Donovan story, if so, how soon?

It will probably depend on how well A Twist In Time does. However, I can tell you that I am working on the third Kendra Donovan book, which I’m actually very excited about. There is a twist in it that I really don’t think readers will see coming, mainly because I didn’t see it coming when I was plotting the book in my head. If things go as planned, it should be out in bookstores April 2018.

Julie, thank you for this wonderful interview. It was a pleasure chatting with you. Please come back to Layered Pages soon. You are always welcome here.

Thank you, Stephanie. I spend most of my time writing, but when I talk to you, you make me think about the writing process. I love that!

Links: 

Author Facebook Page

Pegasus Books

Thank you, Julie!