historical fiction

Book Review: Sketch by Didi Oviatt

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SketchSketch by Didi Oviatt
Sketch is the fifth work I’ve read from Didi Oviatt. It tells the story of a group of young adults in Montana in the early/mid 20th century, just on the border of historical fiction for me — a perfect blend of setting, scenery, and the past. I’d consider it a lengthy novella that reads quite quickly, perhaps 2 hours on average. The kids are young, poor, and in need of guidance. They live off the land, have troubles with their parents, and refuse to admit their feelings for one another. It is, after all, nearly 80 years ago when life was quite different. Then… the serial killings start happening again.

Michael and John are brothers. They are raw, rugged, and tough. But not as much as Chloe, Michael’s secret crush. In a fairly opening scene, she kills, skins, cooks, and eats a snake. Steven enters the picture, and he’s a bit aloof. We know John has a thing for Misty, but when her father comes looking for revenge, readers learn Misty has gone missing. Is one of the group responsible? The sheriff and a few other law protectors get involved, then we start seeing the violence happening in this very tiny town which doesn’t even show up on a map. Now that’s the way to start telling a gory story – all the essentials for a dramatic confrontation and fearful denouement.

We’re quickly dropped into the scary search for Misty. When we find her body, scattered and dismembered, you know for certain — without a doubt — you’ve entered the world of Didi Oviatt’s marvelous imagination. In most of her previous works, readers are treated to that criminally insane killer who thirsts for blood. But she pushes it even further this time when we watch the visceral murder scene of two characters — one we could’ve guessed, another that was a shock. Oviatt clearly shows us why her antagonist stayed in hiding since the killings began over a decade ago. How could anyone not figure it out? Clever is her killer who knows what not to say.

When I pick up an Oviatt book, I’m guaranteed a thrilling adventure / killing spree with the finest finesse and balance of drama, dialog, and murder during the high points. You swiftly turn the pages. You briefly skim something that seems non-essential because you just HAVE TO FIND OUT what’s happening, then you’re forced with your tails between your legs to return because you know you missed a clue five lines earlier. Don’t do it! Read every word and enjoy the boiling as it explodes. Unfortunately, it’s so good that it’s too hard to slow down; she makes you thirst like the killer for your own solution.

Add to it, in this case, a setting when there were no cars in Montana, people took the law into their own hands, and murders went unsolved for longer periods of time. Wow, this was a ride. And what the killer keeps in his/her little jar of mementos is sickening. But of course, it’s brilliant. I enjoyed this latest edition from Oviatt’s startlingly vivid imagination. I’ve got one more book to finish reading all of her work, and I’m very curious to see how it compare — it’s a different genre, so that’ll be something to look forward to this fall. Congrats on another winner!

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: Harvest of Secrets by Ellen Crosby

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Harvest of Secrets (Wine Country Mysteries, #9)Harvest of Secrets by Ellen Crosby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Harvest of Secrets is the 9th book in the ‘Wine Country Mysteries’ written by Ellen Crosby. This series focuses on the Montgomery Vineyard in Virginia, not too far from Washington DC, where historical and current mysteries intermix and revolve around politics, family history, and wine. In this caper, Lucie, a ~30ish engaged and disabled vineyard owner, runs into a guy she had a crush on in France many years ago. He’s been exiled by his father to learn how to grow up, but the man can’t stop finding trouble. This time, trouble leads to his death.

Who killed him? His current girlfriend, a past girlfriend, friends who finally had enough, or something more sinister? Meanwhile, Lucie’s farm team accidentally digs up another dead body from many years ago when a hurricane approaches. She quickly realizes she must be related to the victim, who was definitely murdered. How does it all fit together? Between Civil War beliefs and tension, modern day interracial relationships, and turning grapes into wine, this book is full of subplots and wonderful side stories.

Crosby is definitely inching her way into my top ten favorite authors. Although potentially considered a cozy mystery, it’s not the typical type. While there are limited graphical images and profanity, there’s an edge to these tales; they are also not overly fun and lighthearted. The Wine Country Mysteries are full of history, analytics, descriptions, and relationships. Lucie may be an amateur sleuth, but she’s not your typical heroine.

I am fully caught up on the series and looking forward to the tenth one which will be published in the fall of 2019. I hope to get an ARC or be part of the publisher’s launch team, but it’s months away. Until then, I will wait patiently for the next release. I might even take a gander at any of the author’s other books to see if there is something of interest.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Golden Hour by Malia Zaidi

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The Golden Hour (Lady Evelyn Mystery #4)The Golden Hour by Malia Zaidi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Golden Hour is the fourth book in the ‘Lady Evelyn’ mystery series, a cross between a historical fiction and cozy, written by Malia Zaidi. In this latest caper, Lady Evelyn travels to Scotland to keep watch over her aunt who’s been acting stranger than usual. Within a few days, a young maid is found murdered in the gardens and an unsolved murder from years ago resurfaces. Both have connections to her family, and Evie (a nickname for Lady Evelyn, by some) won’t leave the situation alone. Amidst the staff and a neighboring home for veterans of the war, our culprits also include Evie’s aunt, uncle, and maternal cousins. Which one of the entire lot is guilty?

Zaidi achieves a perfect balance of historical details and dialog to transport readers to the setting, both Scotland and the 1920s. Through Lady Evelyn’s charm and wit, she easily elicits all the information she needs to decide who is telling her the truth and who is trying to keep her in the dark. Daniel, her sort-of-not-really-yet fiance, remains behind in London until the very end, allowing her to investigate as she sees fit. Even Briony, another paternal cousin, doesn’t make the trip to Scotland, so we’re introduced to all new characters, including Aunt Agnes, the woman who raised Evie as well as a woman we’ve known very little about. Now, we do… and there’s a striking balance of old schoolmarm and loving aunt mixed about. I love her character the most, I think.

This series is strong. Although it’s on the longer side (page count) and has a large amount of description about the times / locations, it’s charismatic and engaging. It won’t be read in one setting, but you can push through in a few, enjoying each trip to a different aspect of life the main character experiences. Sometimes it’s like Downton Abbey, others it’s more like an Austen novel in terms of how the story is told. Either way, I’m a huge fan, and I really enjoy learning as much as about this historical setting as I do solving the murders.

In this one, we have lots of little twists to keep us guessing, and in the end, I did figure out the suspect before Lady Evelyn… but only because I’ve read so many books in these genres, I’m getting good at my educated guessing! LOL Nonetheless, I am sad to wait for the next one, as I’m caught up in this series now… and this book has only been out for a few weeks. Oh well… I’ll carry on, but I’ll be among the first to get the 5th whenever it’s released.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Study of Silence by Malia Zaidi

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The Study of Silence (Lady Evelyn Mystery #3)The Study of Silence by Malia Zaidi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Study of Silence is the third book in the ‘Lady Evelyn Mystery’ series written by Malia Zaidi. A cross between historical fiction and a cozy mystery, readers will find themselves whisked away to a time nearly a century ago when life was quite different. Solving murders was more complicated without the internet, cell phones, and other modern technology. Lady Evelyn must rely on her strong sense of intellect and intuition, and even then, people weren’t as direct as they are today.

In this installment, Lady Evelyn has returned to England with Daniel to complete the next phase of her education. While taking classes at a local women’s college, and living in a house with several other young ladies, she struggles to decide her future. It’s too soon to marry Daniel, and she wants a different kind of life than tradition. Unfortunately, she’s born many years too soon for what she wants (and deserves). Transitioning back to the lifestyle of an unmarried English girl is made easier when her cousin, Briony, and her four children, also return from Crete. As does a murder that happens the morning after Evelyn attends a party at another professor’s home. Who killed the man? While it shouldn’t matter to her, it does… so Evelyn does her best to search for the criminal while getting involved in all sorts of situations at her boardinghouse, with her missing niece, with some family matters, and finally, the actual murder.

Zaidi’s writing style and tone will absolutely make you feel like it’s the 1920s. Between her vivid descriptions, on-point dialog and tone, and slow yet methodical approach to solving the crime, readers can sit back and just let things unravel. It’s not a suspenseful hunt-down-the-killer novel. It’s a conversational approach to learning what you can and theorizing options, then looking for clues. As much as it is about the murder, it’s also about how a woman lived in the 1920s. Zaidi admits to taking a few liberties to make the story-line work better (totally okay with me!), but nonetheless, it was still a harsh life at the time. Zaidi navigates you down that path with ease, letting readers soak in the painful pressures on a woman in her 20s — you must get married, you must not do anything bad, you must look innocent at all times! Yikes… how is that even possible?

Silence is key in this book. The reasons for the murder unfold with each chapter, and you’ll never guess the killer or the reason why. It was buried too well, but in some ways, it was also quite obvious. That’s the sign of a smart author — it’s believable yet you will be shocked. Kudos to Zaidi for bringing out the best in Lady Evelyn. I’ve purchased the fourth book in the series which recently came out this year. I’ll be reading it next month, so I’m fully caught up in this excellent series.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: A Darker Shore by Malia Zaidi

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A Darker Shore: A Lady Evelyn Mystery (The Lady Evelyn Mysteries Book 2)A Darker Shore: A Lady Evelyn Mystery by Malia Zaidi
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars! A Darker Shore is the second book in ‘The Lady Evelyn Mysteries’ written by Malia Zaidi. I was first introduced to this series through the author’s blog last year. I followed for months, then decided to read the first book. I added the rest to my TBR, and when I saw the latest one available on NetGalley, I quickly purchased the middles ones so that I could catch up. The books are part historical fiction, part mystery, but more a study of life nearly one century ago on a different continent. It filled a lot of the check marks on things I like in books, which meant I was bound to enjoy the series… and enjoy it, I do!

In this caper, Lady Evelyn is living in Crete with her cousin, debating when to return to England to deal with everything she left behind earlier that year when the first book / murder took place. She and Daniel have continued dating, but Evelyn isn’t sure if he’s the right man for her. It’s 1926, and there are a lot of changes occurring for women in that part of the century. Luckily, Daniel is a very modern-thinking man, so she can rely on him to help her figure out what she wants. Then he gets a letter that one of his two brothers might not have died in France during the war. They decide to travel together to Amiens to search for his kin, and along the way, they discover the woman who told them Daniel’s brother might still be alive, has died. It appears like a suicide, but once the facts come out, it’s ruled a murder. Was it a neighbor? A friend in her church group? One of several family members with secrets worth keeping?

Zaidi transports you to another place and another time in this series. From the apropos use of language to the general approach and attitudes about life, you will feel the weight of a remarkable woman heavily tugging at your heart and mind. The war was horrific, and we see how it continues to impact several people nearly ten years later. Daniel must find out the truth, and Zaidi clearly shows us why he is so distraught and hopeful. Balanced equally well is Evelyn’s desire to find herself not through being Daniel’s girlfriend, but by being his equal on all levels.

I enjoyed meeting all the characters, some evil and some generous… but we don’t know which one might be lying to poor Evelyn. She’s generally a good judge of others, but this killer has a lot of history that (s)he can’t let go of with the victim. Seeing the painful choices made throughout the main characters’ lives, we understand why the murder happened. We may not like it, but it’s necessary. What’s even more compelling is that we never had a chance to meet the victim. Zaidi has shown us who she was through the memories of all the people surrounding her. What a fun way to unravel a mystery. I can’t wait to dive into the third book, which is on my schedule for the last week of April.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Promised Soul by Sandra J Jackson

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What if in your dreams you kept hearing different parts of a story about a love affair between two people you didn’t know, but ultimately, something said you actually knew them? In Promised Soul by Sandra J. Jackson, you’ll find out. Krista can’t help but remember these dreams about a woman named Mary. There’s a ship. And water. A goodbye. It feels like death. There’s definitely love. But she just can’t figure it out. Then she meets someone who tells her a similar story through their journals. When Krista meets him, everything begins to unravel. Or is it sewn back together finally?

Jackson weaves an alternating plot line seamlessly in this novel. We learn of Mary’s love affair in the past. We see Krista searching for something in the present. How are they connected? Who has set the path of destiny such that they must finally connect… wow! I was intrigued from the premise, but then the beautiful writing and wonderful imagery drew me in further. I’m not normally a huge paranormal / science-fiction / fantasy reader, but this book falls into way too many genres to give me any worry. Once I accepted the concept of past lives (which I do believe in), it was just a beautiful and romantic love story.

Jackson is a new author to me, but this won’t be the first book of hers I choose to read. Her characters are extraordinary. Her plots though simple are full of emotion and opportunity. The devil is in the details, as we often hear, and that’s the case with this book. Trying to understand all the connections and the literal meanings is impossible — there’s just too many parallels to love, pain, loss, misery and need buried both deep and on the surface of this novel.

From a very attention-grabbing prologue to the point where the lovers re-unite, we wonder, as readers, will this actually work out? It’s touch-and-go for a while, but just as much as we want them to find their way back to one another, we question… exactly who is it that have been re-incarnated? Krista is someone I really came to adore. I wanted her to be happy. I needed to see her story come to a turning point where things worked out.

Thank you to Jackson for pushing my limits into loving a different kind of story. Such an ethereal quality with a touch of wisdom and hope built in.

promise

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

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I chose this book purely based on its cover. The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor looked gorgeous, and after seeing it all over Goodreads and thinking about the Cotswolds, I fell in love. Then I learned it doesn’t take place in England, but in Ireland, as well as that it’s based on a true story. Wow! Knock me over with a feather… all that said, it was a good book and I enjoyed it very much. I’d give it somewhere between a 3.5 and 4 stars rounded up.

Two young girls take pictures of faeries in Ireland during World War 1. One of them is a transplant from South Africa returning because her father must fight in the war. She bonds with her cousin, they become somewhat famous for their pictures as everyone thinks it’s real. Was it? In current day, a somewhat distant relative / friend (I’m being vague to not give it away) returns to the village to take care of her aging grandmother after her grandfather passes away. She’s contemplating breaking off an engagement and starting life anew. The stories intertwine and we learn what really happened with the photo of the faeries.

If this weren’t based on a true story, I’d have said the plot was too simple. Knowing it comes from a real-life experience, it makes the book a bit better. The author created a beautiful story. The characters felt real. I enjoyed the current story more than the historical one, tho. I felt the book had some literary merit, but at times, it was repetitive and listless… yet I also found it enchanting and vivid in many other places. I think it’s meant to be that way if you’re not aware of or fully caught up in the true story.

Gaynor’s writing is quite strong and made me keep reading. I will definitely sample more of her work in the future.

cott

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.