Book Review: Smoke and Mirrors by Casey Daniels

Smoke and Mirrors IIAbout the book:

Expected publication: November 1st 2017 by Severn House Publishers

Evie Barnum is in charge of her brother’s museum, a place teeming with scientific specimens and “human prodigies” including a bearded woman and the lizard man. In this weird and whacky workplace, Evie hopes she can bury her secrets.

But when an old friend shows up and begs for her help, she does all she can to stay away. The next time she sees him, he is dead in front of the exhibit of the Feejee Mermaid. Suspicion for the murder falls on Jeffrey, known as the Lizard Man, but Evie knows it isn’t possible.

When Jeffrey also goes missing, Evie becomes determined to solve the mystery of her friend’s murder, even if it brings her face to face with her past…

My thoughts:

A few years ago, my daughter and I were visiting relatives in Florida and we went to a museum of Oddities. Certain aspects of it held my fascination and some I found to be downright creepy. In Smoke and Mirrors, Evie’s brother Phin features human prodigies. This story-line captured my attention immediately and I knew I had to read this book! Of course, it did help that this story is a murder mystery in 19th Century New York. What’s not to love?

Evie and Phin are interesting characters and their intellect and intriguing fascination for what many consider “strange and unusual”-if you will, gives depth and meaning to the story. Not in a negative way, mind you- but in a positive light. I am hoping we will see more of this subject in future stories from the author.

The mystery surrounding Evie’s friend being murdered and how Daniels weaves the tale of Evie’s determination to uncover the horrendous crime is intriguing and had me reading long into the evening and kept me guessing who it was, though I had my suspicions’. Did I guess who? I’m not telling.

Time and place is important when writing a period piece and I did not feel pulled into the era quite so fully. Another thing that sort of bothered me was there are a few loose ends about a few of the character’s and that had me thinking there was a book before this one about their back stories and relationships. After I finished reading the book, I went on-line to check and was quite surprised I was wrong and that this book is the first in the Miss Evie Barnum Mysteries Series. Nonetheless I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will be on the lookout for more of Evie’s mysteries and hope to see more back story revealed!

I obtained an ARC (Advance Readers Copy) from NetGalley and Severn House for my honest opinion.

I rated this book three and a half stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Book Review: Ruler of The Night by David Morrell

ruler-of-the-night1885. The railway has irrevocably altered English society, effectively changing geography and fueling the industrial revolution by shortening distances between cities: a whole day’s journey can now be covered in a matter of hours. People marvel at their new freedom.

But train travel brings new dangers as well, with England’s first death by train recorded on the very first day of railway operations in 1830. Twenty-five years later, England’s first train murder occurs, paralyzing London with the unthinkable when a gentleman is stabbed to death in a safely locked first-class passenger compartment.

In the next compartment, the brilliant opium-eater Thomas De Quincey and his quick-witted daughter, Emily, discover the homicide in a most gruesome manner. Key witnesses and also resourceful sleuths, they join forces with their allies in Scotland Yard, Detective Ryan and his partner-in-training, Becker, to pursue the killer back into the fogbound streets of London, where other baffling murders occur. Ultimately, De Quincey must confront two ruthless adversaries: this terrifying enemy, and his own opium addiction which endangers his life and his tormented soul.

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My Thoughts:

When I have presented Morrell’s De Quincey novels to various readers and friends-they had never heard of him. Thomas de Quincey was an English 19th century writer. At a young age he ran away from home and became addicted to opium. In the mid Victorian era in England, one was able to walk into a chemist’s shop and purchase the drug without a prescription from doctors. These types of dangerous drugs were used for making home remedies… de Quincey wrote a story called, Confessions of an Opium-Eater where Morrell draws a lot of his inspiration for his trilogy. Ruler of the Night is his third and final installment and is a fine ending to what is an outstanding Victorian mystery story.

The English Railroad during this era was a popular means of travel and the brutal murder that occurs on a train in the beginning of the story sets the tone for another intriguing mystery.

It was a true delight to read about Thomas de Quincey, his Daughter-Emily, Ryan and Becker-who are two detectives- and their dangerous adventures in finding a murderer. Their process of solving murder crimes is extraordinary and entertaining.

Morrell’s Opium-Eater (Thomas de Quincey trilogy) a Victorian mystery trilogy, is truly brilliant. Every historical detail is impeccable; you hang on to every word. His characters are unforgettable and he transports to you the Victorian London streets with vivid imagery, as if you were really there. Murder mysteries at its finest!

I have rated this story four stars and obtained a copy from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Book Review: Dead Silence (Stillwater Trilogy #1) by Brenda Novak

dead-silenceThere’s a body buried behind a Mississippi farmhouse

Grace Montgomery knows who it is, and she knows why it happened. She was only thirteen the night it all went wrong. And now, like then, she has no choice but to keep her mouth shut.

Grace left the town of Stillwater thirteen years ago, trying to forget, trying to make good. As an assistant D.A. in Jackson, she’s finally achieved the success that was supposed to change her life. But it hasn’t so she’s come back to confront her own history. Which means returning to the farmhouse now owned by her brother and facing the people of Stillwater, a number of whom suspect the truth.

Widower Kennedy Archer is one of those people. He’s running for mayor and needs to stay as far away from Grace as possible. And yetshe’s an enigma he can’t resist. Even though her enemies are close to finding out what really happened and that could ruin them both.

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me-iiMy thoughts:

I connected with Brenda Novak a few years ago on Facebook and even though I followed her post, I hadn’t read her books. Until recently. Dead Silence is the third book I have read by her and I must say, she writes a heck of a story. Having said that, I am not a romance reader or reviewer. Sometimes I make an allowance. The story has to have more than just romance and the plot has to be solid. I do love a good crime thriller and mystery, so her stories fit that bill nicely. I also have to admire how she is not heavy on the romance but gives you realistic relationship situations.

Dead Silence is the first book in the Stillwater Trilogy and I’m really looking forward to the next book. I think what first appealed to me about this book was the setting. As a southerner myself, I am always on the lookout for stories that take place in the South. The second thing that drew my attention was the premise. A body buried on a farm and the family is trying to forget but how can they when the body is buried on their property and they know why? One of the family members Grace-who was probably affected the most-left years ago to only return and face the secrets her family tried to bury along with the body and a town who is suspicious of what happened. Now that makes for a great story!

When she returned to town, she did not expect to stay long or get find a connection in the most likely of men-Widower Kennedy Archer. I enjoyed their interaction and how they come to grips with their problems and how their relationship develops. I look forward to reading more about them in the next book and will be cheering for them!

Last but not least, I really thought Novak did a great job with the supporting characters and they really enriched the story and I thought the small town feel she gives you was perfectly told.

I rated this book three and a half stars!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Cover Crush:Paradox Forged in Blood by Mary Frances Fisher

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paradox-forged-in-bloodParadox Forged in Blood by Mary Frances Fisher

A murder on Millionaire’s Row.
A killer’s chilling words, “Shh. I know where you live.”
A woman tormented by her guilt-ridden past.

A historical murder mystery, Paradox Forged in Blood is set in Cleveland, Ohio, during the late 1930s. Four decades after the murder of socialite Louis Sheridan, the cold case is resurrected with receipt of new evidence that transports detectives back to Nazi Germany. The only living witness, Ellen O’Malley, must confront a haunting secret and her complicit actions.

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My thoughts on the cover and premise:

I’ve said this before and I will say it again. I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of books and I must admit I first judge a book by its cover.

I think the cover is perfect for the premise of the story. The blood spattered on the cover certainly gives it a dramatic flair.

I love a good murder mystery and I am highly interested in the setting and period for the story. A cold case is an intriguing part of this story and I can’t wait to discover what the detectives find in Nazi Germany. Bumping up this book on my to-read list!

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Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Other great book bloggers who cover crush: 

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court-coming soon

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books 

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon

Be sure to check out Colleen’s latest indieBRAG’s cover crush here

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!

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Review-Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen

Time of fog and fire I

Molly Murphy Sullivan’s husband Daniel, a police captain in turn-of-the-century New York City, is in a precarious position. The new police commissioner wants him off the force altogether. So Daniel accepts an assignment from John Wilkie, head of the secret service. Molly believes her husband is in Washington, working for the president, until she spots him in San Francisco during a movie news segment. Then she receives a strange letter from him, leading her to conclude that he wants her to join him in San Francisco.

She takes her young son Liam on the cross-country train trip, but when they arrive in San Francisco, Molly is told that she’s too late, her husband’s funeral was yesterday. She’s devastated, even more so when she receives a cryptic note saying Daniel’s death was not an accident. In her grief she stays on to investigate, until she meets a strange man at a party, whom she soon starts to suspect may not be quite who he appears. Then Molly finds another body in the basement, but before she can report it, the Great Earthquake strikes San Francisco, and the servant runs off in a panic with Molly’s son. Suddenly Molly has no idea where to turn or whom to trust, and she knows there are many lives on the line, including her own.

My thoughts:

This is the first book I have read by Rhys Bowen and I have to say I am not in the least disappointed with this story. I picked this up from the sixteenth in the series and while there were some holes for me about the character’s lives and what-not, this still made a great stand alone. I do love a good mystery and adventure. I got both in this story and more.

I will begin with the atmosphere and period of the story. I loved it. I felt I was taken back to the 1900’s and the author gives a truly wonderful sense of time and place. And the historical aspects of the story were marvelously written. Just the right touch and not over-whelming.

The plot was suspenseful and really had me biting my nails at times! Can you imagine believing someone you love is in a certain location and then you come to find out they are somewhere else and their life may be in danger? Then you receive a cryptic letter from them. How cool is that?! Makes for a great premise.

Enjoyable characters, splendid backdrop of the earthquake in San Francisco, adventure, suspense in all the right places, intrigue, and entertaining dialogue! I can’t wait to read what happens next!

I am now a fan of Molly Murphy and will be picking up this series from the beginning!

I received a copy through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins