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Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Book Synopsis:

With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her.

But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

I have finally finished my August TBR Pick, A Study in Scarlet Women, and it was delightful! It's great new spin on the characters in Sherlock Holmes.

Charlotte has never had much patience for the conventions of her society and devises a plan to free herself of them.  It goes a little differently than she thought, and she finds herself in narrower straits than she had expected.  She had dabbled as Sherlock Holmes a bit before her fall from grace, sending notes through her friend Lord Ingram to assist Inspector Treadles now and then, but that comes to a halt once she's taken the reigns of her own future.

When suspicion falls on her own family in some mysterious deaths, she takes a chance and sends a letter to the newspaper as Sherlock suggesting the deaths are connected, and the ball really gets rolling.  She lucks into a widowed benefactoress, and that's when Sherlock can really get down to work.

Charlotte embodies everything we love about Sherlock, the attention to detail and the indifference to society's mores, though she does have to jump through some hoops to be taken seriously, being a woman in Victorian London.  Her cast of supporting characters is wonderful and lifelike as we see glimpses into their own lives outside of their connection to Charlotte, making them real people we can care about.

I am looking forward to the next book in the series, which just came out at the beginning of September, A Conspiracy in Belgravia. I see that Sherry Thomas is also a romance writer, so I will have to check some of those out as well!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Coming Soon - House of Ash by Hope Cook - release date 9/26/17


After hearing voices among an eerie copse of trees in the woods, seventeen-year-old Curtis must confront his worst fear: that he has inherited his father’s mental illness. A desperate search for answers leads him to discover Gravenhearst, a labyrinth mansion that burned down in 1894. When he locks eyes with a steely Victorian girl in a forgotten mirror, he’s sure she’s one of the fire’s victims. If he can unravel the mystery, he can save his sanity . . . and possibly the girl who haunts his dreams.

But more than 100 years in the past, the girl in the mirror is fighting her own battles. When her mother disappears and her sinister stepfather reveals his true intentions, Mila and her sister fight to escape Gravenhearst and unravel the house’s secrets—before it devours them both.

Publication Date: September 26th, 2017
Imprint: Amulet Books
Publisher: ABRAMS Kids
Age Group: Teen & YA
Received From: Netgalley in exchange for honest feedback
My Rating: 4/5

I feel the need to give a couple of trigger warnings here for suicidal thoughts and fire.

With that out of the way, I thought this was a solid haunted/possessed house story that is perfect for your upcoming Fall/Halloween reading!

Mila and Curtis are separated by time, but have many things in common.  They both have younger sisters that mean the world to them.  They both have unreliable parents for various reasons that leave them feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders and having to take on a much more adult role than they should have to.  They are both trapped by Gravenhearst, a house with an evil past that has a life of it's own.

I am fascinated by sprawling mansions with hidden pathways and rooms that seem to have their own personality, that seem to watch you and be alive.  There is just something about an old house that makes it seem like an entity unto itself, whether thought to be haunted or not, they just have more personality that most of the structures we build today.  Maybe that's just a function of time and changes in trend, or maybe it's that the house takes on some characteristics of it's previous owners that make it feel like more than a building.  Gravenhearst is certainly a great example of the latter, and had been infused with evil intent by the family that lived there.  Like a spider at the center of it's web, the house still exerted it's influence on the town and Curtis, even years later, and destroyed to it's foundations.

Curtis believes he's going crazy, like his father.  Mila is fighting for her and her sister's lives. A magical mirror lets them find each other, and recognize a kindred spirit.  Helping each other and escaping the grasp of the house is harder.  Both have so much working against them it seems that there is no possible way out.  Curtis doesn't know who he can trust. Mila knows she can trust no one. It seems like everything goes wrong for them.

This was an exciting and exhausting, escape the house, time traversal story that will keep you on the edge of your seat while hoping for Mila and Curtis to get a happy ending!

As a side note, for those interested in older houses, here are a few I have visited that may help you imagine the scene! ;)

The Piatt Castles in Logan County, Ohio

Miramont Castle

New and out now! - A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray


Scotland, 1906. A mysterious object discovered inside an ancient castle calls Maximilian Haywood, the new Duke of Olympia, and his fellow researcher Emmeline Truelove north to the remote Orkney Islands. No stranger to the study of anachronisms in archeological digs, Haywood is nevertheless puzzled by the artifact: a suit of clothing that, according to family legend, once belonged to a selkie who rose from the sea and married the castle’s first laird.

But Haywood and Truelove soon realize they’re not the only ones interested in the selkie’s strange hide. When their mutual friend Lord Silverton vanishes in the night from an Edinburgh street, their quest takes a dangerous turn through time, which puts Haywood’s extraordinary talents—and Truelove’s courage—to their most breathtaking test yet.

Publication Date: September 19th, 2017
Imprint: Berkley
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction
Received From: Netgalley in exchange for honest feedback
My Rating: 4/5

I am a sucker for anything Scottish, so obviously this title hooked me right away! I do like the cover, though it puts me more in mind of a cozy mystery, and other readers on Goodreads have shelved it in mystery, so I spent most of the book thinking it was a mystery, and I'm pretty sure that it showed up in that genre to me on Netgalley, even though they considered it Historical Fiction and Romance in the write up. Be that as it may, there IS a mystery to be solved, and a very interesting one at that!

First off, this is the second in a series, but that didn't give me too much trouble, other than making me want to go back and read the first one!  It has several of my favorite touchstones, time travel, archaeology, mysterious artifacts and Scotland, and it didn't disappoint!  I found Truelove to be a bit like Amelia Peabody in my favorite Egyptian mystery series by Elizabeth Peters, which is to say, she must be in the middle of everything and she will satisfy her curiosity, even at great danger to herself! I'd like to see the development of her friendly/working relationship with Max which I believe happens in the first book, as we don't see much of him here.  It seems like a very close friendship, which causes more than a few misunderstandings for them,   The main focus of the story is on Truelove and Silverton (also an enigma as we get to see two very different versions of his personality).

There are many twists and plenty of action!  I expected the ending to work out differently than it did, and I'm interested to see where the series goes from here, because the premise can't just end there!  I definitely recommend this one to the Scotland/Ancient Scotland romance and time traveling fans, this wasn't your typical historical romance in my opinion, as my notion that it was a mystery really never ended.  I felt there was just as much focus on that, as on the romance, and I'm interested in more!
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