Book Review: The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie AsterThe Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster
Scott Wilbanks
Sourcebooks Landmark, August 2015
ISBN 978-1-4926-1246-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Annabelle Aster has discovered a curious thing behind her home in San Francisco–a letterbox perched atop a picket fence.  The note inside is blunt—trespass is dealt with at the business end of a shotgun in these parts!—spurring some lively correspondence between the Bay Area orphan and her new neighbor, a feisty widow living in nineteenth-century Kansas. 

The source of mischief is an antique door Annie installed at the rear of her house.  The man who made the door—a famed Victorian illusionist—died under mysterious circumstances. 

Annie and her new neighbor, with the help of friends and strangers alike, must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen…and somehow already did.

I’ve never been a true fan of magical realism in my reading maybe because I have a more “literal” mind. I suppose, in a way, that’s why I enjoy the mystery genre so much, being focused on a search for truth. On the other hand, I adore dark fantasy so maybe I’m offbase about my usual meh feeling towards magical realism. I just know I generally don’t like it enough to finish a book because I get distracted and bored by the flighty storylines and the, well, weirdness. All of which begs the question—why did I want to read this one?

Truthfully, I was drawn in by the lovely cover and by the description because I like the premise of communication between two time periods (and this reminded me of a favorite movie, “The Lake House”). Also, there’s a murder (see, there’s my mystery element). So, I raised my hand to volunteer, so to speak, and I’m very glad I did.

Mr. Wilbanks has a sure touch when it comes to characterization. Each of the main characters—Annie, Elsbeth, Christian, Cap’n, Mr. Culler, Danyer—is so vividly drawn that I felt I actually knew them. It’s all in the details, such as Elsbeth’s bitter loneliness wrapped up in her no-nonsense attitude and her willingness to accept what’s right in front of her even when she doesn’t understand how it can be. In just a few words, the author paints a picture of her that’s so compelling, you just have to keep reading. Then there’s Christian who stutters badly around everyone except his best friend, Annie, and who has gaping holes in his memory but he also sees what Annie sees through her magical door.

As for the murder, I’m not going to say a word beyond this—getting there is all the fun.

So, will I give magical realism more of a chance in the future? I honestly don’t know but, if I do, it’ll be because that unknown author has the same kind of whimsical, funny, entertaining way of telling a story as Scott Wilbanks…and I’ll read whatever he puts forth next 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2015.

An Excerpt from
The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Lister

Pray for Me, Father

May 16, 1895
San Francisco, California
Mission Dolores Basilica


I’ve not forgotten our quarrel, but I’m asking you to put that aside for the sake of scholarship and the friendship we once shared. You were right, I fear. I meddled in something beyond my understanding.  The time-­travel conduit works—­I’ve shaped it as a door—­but not, I suspect, by science or my own hand. You are the only person who won’t think me paranoid should I put words to my suspicion. Something slumbers within it. Something with designs of its own.

Words have power. You know that better than anyone. And I am beginning to suspect the ones the shaman spoke—­and which I foolishly copied into my journal’s companion piece, my codex—­were an invocation.

Please come soon, I beg you. Or don’t come at all. And if you don’t come, then pray for me, Father. Matters are coming to a head, and my instincts say this will not end well.

David Abbott

Cap’n—­adolescent con artist extraordinaire, picker of any lock, leader of Kansas City’s notorious sandlot gang, and unofficial mayor to all its throwaways—­plucked a wilted lettuce leaf from her hair as she peered through a break in the pile of rubbish where she was hiding.

Fabian didn’t look so good, she thought, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. He was lying in the mud, his legs bent at odd angles, and was staring down the length of his outspread arm, his mouth opening and closing in a creepy imitation of a fish on the chopping block. She couldn’t make out the words, but it was clear Fabian was telling her to flee.

He wasn’t going anywhere. Danyer had made sure of that. Whether it was a first or last name, Cap’n didn’t know. He just went by Danyer. He was Mr. Culler’s hatchet man, and he didn’t fight fair. Danyer wasn’t interested in fair, though; he was interested in results, and Fabian had failed. Cap’n knew it was a bad idea to let failure go unanswered in their line of business, but she never imagined it would come to this. Fabian was a moneymaker for Mr. Culler, after all.

Danyer towered over him, a granite block with meat-­hook arms, his legs straddling Fabian’s belly. As his boots rocked in the muck, Danyer’s duster swept back and forth across Fabian’s chest. His voice reminded Cap’n of a humming turbine—­deep and dangerous—­as he read from the letter they’d filched. “‘Please come soon, I beg you—­’” Danyer crumpled the paper, lobbing it into the air. It bounced off Fabian’s cheek and into the mud. “Where’s the journal?” He squatted, grabbing Fabian’s chin with his sausage fingers before slapping him lightly across the cheek. “Hmm?”

Cap’n said a quick prayer for her friend and started backing up. But it was too late. She stepped on a stick that lifted a crate at the base of the rubbish heap just a fraction of an inch, and she could only grit her teeth as a tin can toppled from its perch, tinkling down the pile of debris while making a sound like a scale played on a badly tuned piano.

She froze as Danyer pivoted to stare at the pile of rubbish. He turned back to Fabian, speaking warily. “And where’s Cap’n?” he asked. “Where’s your pet pickpocket?” She watched him slap Fabian’s cheek one more time, the muscles in her legs tensing as he turned and started to walk toward her hiding place. Five feet out, Danyer lunged, but all he got hold of was the remaining head of lettuce as she bolted from the mound, racing down the alleyway in a flurry of muslin, freckles, and carrot-­colored pigtails.

Three blocks later, she rounded a corner, waiting. When the crack of the gun echoed down the street, she ducked into a drainage pipe to collect herself. A cockroach crawled over her foot, its antennae waving. Fabian admired cockroaches, she remembered. He said they were survivors. Suddenly, a whimper broke from her throat, and she ground the bug into a mosaic of chitinous shards before huddling in on herself, sobbing. And just as suddenly, she sat upright, her mouth set in a grim line while she ran the back of her hand across her nose.

Tears were for kids, and she needed to make a plan. When Fabian turned up dead, and there was no doubt he would, Danyer would want to tie up some loose ends—­namely her. She wasn’t too worried about that. She knew every hidey-­hole in Kansas City, and the gang would watch her back. She regarded what was left of the cockroach, one of its severed legs agitating as though not realizing the body it belonged to was already dead, and nodded to herself. It was time to put the shoe on the other foot, she decided. Something had to be done about Danyer and his boss.


About the Author

Scott WilbanksScott Wilbanks graduated summa cum laude from The University of Oklahoma and went on to garner several national titles in the sport of gymnastics. Scott’s husband, Mike, is a New Zealander by birth, and the two split their time between the two countries while Scott is at work on his next standalone novel.

Find Scott:

Website  //  Twitter  //  Facebook  //  Goodreads

Book Review: Forgiving Maximo Rothman by A.J. Sidransky

Forgiving Maximo RothmanForgiving Maximo Rothman              
A.J. Sidransky
Berwick Court Publishing, April 2013
ISBN: 978-0-9889540-0-7
Trade Paperback

Wow. What an undertaking. What an accomplishment. This intense detailed examination of several lives on three continents that spans six decades grabs and holds one’s interest immediately. It is in part a tale of the Jewish diaspora in the Twentieth Century, an obscure Jewish colony in the Dominican Republic, the sundering of families, and the support and damage the slavish observance of ancient tradition can bring. It is a tale of resolution of old wounds and new loves. And it is a tale of murder.

Max Redmond is bludgeoned to death in his apartment in Washington Heights. The New York detective assigned to the case is Tolya Kurchenko, whose family left the USSR. In the course of his investigation, he discovers diaries and records that resonate closely with his own estrangement from his father. Tolya’s father wanted him to attend Princeton, not become a cop.

Pursuit of the killer involves racial, religious, political and cultural dimensions. The novel is very well written, the characters are fascinating and the emotions and motivations are real. The story is not a slam bang action pumped thriller. Rather it is a meticulously and carefully detailed examination of several lives, multiple generations and the long-tailed consequences of their random and fateful interactions. This is a marvelous crime novel well illustrating it’s central theme that “Life is indeed too short to make enemies of those we love.”

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2015.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Reviews: Every Last Promise by Kristin Halbrook and Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

Every Last PromiseEvery Last Promise
Kristin Halbrook
HarperTeen, April 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-212128-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Kayla saw something at the party that she wasn’t supposed to. But she hasn’t told anyone. No one knows the real story about what happened that night—about why Kayla was driving the car that ran into a ditch after the party, about what she saw in the hours leading up to the accident, and about the promise she made to her friend Bean before she left for the summer.

Now Kayla’s coming home for her senior year. If Kayla keeps quiet, she might be able to get her old life back. If she tells the truth, she risks losing everything—and everyone—she ever cared about.

On the surface, this is a story about the aftermath of rape—and so it is—but it’s also a story about how there can be more victims beyond the person who suffers the actual assault. Those peripheral victims need to cope in a different sort of way and the guilt they feel can be enormous, guilt that they could have done something more, guilt that they might do the wrong thing after the fact, guilt that they’ve kept secrets, maybe even guilt that someone else was the one attacked. These people are survivors in their own way, certainly not lessening the impact of the true victim’s pain and recovery, but survivors nonetheless.

Unfortunately, Kayla is not the heroic figure we would like her to be and it’s very easy to decide that she’s a coward, more interested in her own well-being than anyone else’s. That actually is true but I think it’s important to acknowledge that many of us, myself included, have looked the other way at least once in our lives. Can we honestly say that we’re “better” than Kayla is?

Ms. Halbrook‘s intent is laudable and I wish I could have connected with Kayla in a more positive way but her narcissism is just a bit too overwhelming. Yes, I understood her but I didn’t care much about her. Still, the author has an important message and I hope this book will end up encouraging others to stand forth when circumstances call for it. In the meantime, I believe this author is one worth watching and I’ll be reading more by her.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2015.


Conspiracy of Blood and SmokeConspiracy of Blood and Smoke
Anne Blankman
Balzer + Bray, April 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-227884-5

From the publisher—

The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives in England, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.

But then Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside down. When she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped—and return to her homeland.

Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time—or will Hitler discover them first?

My appetite for young adult World War II-era fiction was sharpened when I was introduced to a wonderful book by Elizabeth Wein and I’ve been on the lookout for more ever since that one. The first book by Anne Blankman, Prisoner of Night and Fog, captured my attention in a very good way and I was really excited when  I heard about this sequel, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. While I don’t think it has quite the intensity of Prisoner, it still kept me engrossed till the very end.

The years leading up to war are uncomfortable everywhere but Gretchen and Daniel really do think they have found a haven of peace in England and so, in a fashion, they have. Away from Uncle Dolf, Gretchen has a chance at a happy life and Daniel is a large part of that. Chance, though, has an ugly way of wreaking havoc and Daniel soon finds that he has no choice but to return to Germany, having no idea, of course, that he is about to be in even graver damage than he expected.

Gretchen and Daniel are an interesting pair. At times, they seem oblivious to the dangers facing them at nearly every turn but, at the same time, they have a certain gravity about them. Most teens in earlier generations must have been less frivolous than we see so frequently today for a lot of reasons including shorter life expectancy, poorer health, more manual labor and so on. In 1933, we have to add in a growing awareness that bad things might be happening in Germany, fueled by the devastating effects of the Great Depression. Hitler rose to power in part because of the need Germans had to rise above their massive discontent and only a few were able to see past his charisma to the nascent evil behind the facade. That Ms. Blankman has given her characters the opportunity to understand what was happening is powerful but I’m glad she also lets these teens make mistakes and fail to grasp the horror that was coming in just a few years. Very few did so I would not have believed it if Gretchen and Daniel had too much foresight.

The murder and the race to exonerate Daniel work as good reasons to get the kids back in Germany but it’s the rise of the Nazi Party and all that entails that provides the real story here. It’s one we should never forget and authors like Ms. Blankman who create such entertaining tales that focus on historic truth help us hold on to that knowledge. Along with such weighty issues, though, I relish keeping company with Gretchen and Daniel and am looking forward to the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2015.

Book Review: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Better Off FriendsBetter Off Friends
Elizabeth Eulberg
Point, March 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-55145-8

Can members of the opposite sex be best friends without it any romantic intentions? That is the question that Elizabeth Eulberg asks in her novel Better Off Friends. The story goes back and forth between the views of Macallan (pronounced Mah-Kay-Lan) and Levi, who meet after Levi transfers to Wisconsin from California. After finding out they both share a fondness of a BBC program, the two hit it off pretty quick, and become fast friends. The more they hang out, they soon become best friends, and wouldn’t have it any other way. But as they grow up and enter their high school years, their friendship is tested and questioned. Guys are afraid to ask Macallan out because of Levi and Levi has difficulty focusing on his dates, usually giving Macallan more attention than those he attempts to pursue.

The themes presented in this novel are few, but meaningful. One main theme present is accepting loss and moving on. This is seen mainly with Macallan, whom you discover lost her mother in a car accident and is trying to keep herself together. Macallan loses a best friend after she cheats on Levi, and is forced to choose between the two. Levi also sees this, as he tries to transition from California to Wisconsin. Macallan even scolds him at one point, saying, “I understand that you spent your first twelve years in California, but this is your home now.” While it may not be considered a “loss” to some people, Levi finds himself talking about his friends and life before, while not realizing that he also had made a home of Wisconsin as well.

Another thing I was happy to see represented in this book was the no-tolerance Macallan has for people who make fun of mentally challenged people. It is discovered that her uncle was born with a birth defect. Macallan is very protective and defensive toward anybody who speaks ill of mentally handicap people in general in the novel. It’s the first time I have seen a character in a novel be an advocate for these people.

Friendship of course is the biggest theme in Eulberg‘s novel. What happens when you’re torn between two people you care about? How are you supposed to react when your best friend suddenly isn’t spending as much time with you? How do you react to a major fight when you’ve never had a reason to fight ever?

How are you supposed to feel when your best friend suddenly declares his love for you? (P.S. Running away to Ireland is probably not the answer.)

I loved this book except for one thing. Between each point-of-view change is a one or two page conversation between Macallan and Levi, reflecting on the previous chapter. The novel begins when they’re in seventh grade and ends half-way through their junior year of high school. While that time line is obvious, when does the in-between conversation happen? Are they reflecting on this after they have graduated high school? Or does this take place right after they get together? It is never clarified when this banter goes on, and even though it is a minor thing, it did throw me off several occasions. Apart from that, I found myself teary-eyed several times and it is definitely a book I would recommend.

Reviewed by Kristina Akers, December 2014.

Book Review: The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel

The Book of Ivy Tour Banner


Title: The Book of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #1
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: November 11, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic,
Dystopian, Young Adult



Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble Buy Button     Kobo Buy Button     Amazon Buy Button

Google Play Button        iTunes iBooks Button       Indiebound Button 2


The Book of IvyThe Book of Ivy
The Book of Ivy #1
Amy Engel
Entangled Teen, November 2014
ISBN 978-1-62266-465-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

What would you kill for?

After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and return the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

Twists and turns abound in The Book of Ivy and I can honestly say this is one of my top books of 2014. The interesting thing is I never anticipated feeling this way.

At heart, this is a typical post-apocalyptic/dystopian story in which the society is divided into two sectors, the oppressors and the oppressed, and one amongst the oppressed is chosen to carry out a deadly attack on a leader of the controlling side. Along the way, a romance will develop between the attacker and the attackee.

And that’s where any similarities end. In fact, much of that premise is turned on its head and that’s why I love this book. Just when I’d be getting comfortable with what was going on, Ms. Engel would throw me a curveball and I’d have to sit up and pay attention. Then, I’d start to settle in again when—dang!—she’d do it again. To say I never got bored reading this book would be a stupendous understatement as this is one of the best plots I’ve seen in quite a while in ANY genre.

Worldbuilding is not really in-depth but the author has offered enough so that I wasn’t distracted by my own questions. I never want to know all the details in the first book and, in this case, I was very satisfied.

When it comes to the characters, every last one of the major players, and even some of the lesser-seen, is multi-dimensional and you can never be sure you know everything about them. Just when you’re sure so-and-so is pretty much scum of the earth, he/she will go and show you a softer side and, conversely, none of the so-called “good guys” are 100% good, not by a long shot. And did I mention there’s no love triangle, thank heavens? AND no insta-love, either. Be still, my heart!

Ivy and Bishop are both strong characters with character, if you get my drift, and the relationship that builds up between them is very believable. They’re both pawns at the mercy of their families and made me think of Romeo and Juliet in some ways without the suicidal tendencies. Even so, both Ivy and Bishop have backbones and, together, they grow to learn that life is not black and white and they have choices. My heart went out to them many times because there is so much going against them and, really, no way they could avoid what was coming at the end—and, oh, what an ending. A terrific plot, interesting and appealing characters (even the ones we wouldn’t usually care about) and a crackerjack ending…I don’t know how I’m going to wait till next November for The Revolution of Ivy. Maybe Ms. Engel will take pity on us (me!) and give us a short story or two in the meantime  😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

About the Author

Amy EngelAmy Engel was born in Kansas and after a childhood spent bouncing between countries (Iran, Taiwan) and states (Kansas; California; Missouri; Washington, D.C.), she settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and two kids. Before devoting herself full-time to motherhood and writing, she was a criminal defense attorney, which is not quite as exciting as it looks on TV. When she has a free moment, she can usually be found reading, running, or shoe shopping. The Book of Ivy is her debut YA novel. Find her online at or @aengelwrites.

Author Links:

Website Button     Twitter Button     Goodreads Button 2



Follow the tour here.


Enter the rafflecopter giveaway here.


YA Bound Book Tours Button 2

Book Reviews: ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part by Edith Maxwell and They Danced by the Light of the Moon by Tempa Pagel

Til Dirt Do Us Part‘Til Dirt Do Us Part
A Local Foods Mystery
Edith Maxwell
Kensington Books, May 2014
ISBN 978-0-7582-8464-8

Cameron Flaherty has inherited her Uncle’s farm in Westbury, Massachusetts where she grows organic crops to share with the local townspeople. As subscribers to her vegetable service, each member of the organization receives a weekly share of the crops throughout the year. They volunteer time, working on the farm, helping Cam with the planting, weeding and sowing.

When one of the subscribers is brutally murdered, and Cam’s good friend is arrested and named a suspect she is pulled into the investigation. Cam juggles her time between her boyfriend, bringing in her fall harvest, planting seedlings for next year’s crops and following clues to solve the crime and exonerate her friend.

Of course, her questions attract the killer’s attention and life-threatening ‘accidents’ occur. As Cam rescues chickens, plows her crops and turns her compost pile, she uncovers information that puts her life in danger but ultimately solves the murder.

Well-crafted writing and an interesting plot combine with a story brimming with useful information about farming, composting, raising chickens, selling at a Farmer’s Market and a few interesting recipes thrown in for good measure.

If you are drawn to conservation, gardening, farming or vegetarian cooking combined with a good mystery, this book will be of particular interest to you.

Reviewed by Elaine Faber, June 2014.
Author of Black Cat’s Legacy.


They Danced by the Light of the MoonThey Danced by the Light of the Moon
An Andy Gammon Mystery
Tempa Pagel
Five Star/Cengage, February 2014
ISBN 978-1-4328-2799-1

Andy Gammon, in company with her mother-in-law, Mayta Gammon, attend the opening of the refurbished Grand Hotel of the Atlantic. At their dinner table, they meet a young woman whom, during a later tour of the building, they find murdered. Andy actually discovers her, and is privy to Claudia’s last breath and a cryptic clue to her murder. Armed with this scant evidence, Andy and Mayta set out to reveal the murderer, since they seem to be the only ones who link Claudia’s death with the story of a girl who, a hundred years earlier, had disappeared from this same room and was never heard from again.

Or was she?

The plot revolves around the mystery girl as well as a present-time relative whose health seems to be failing. Natural, or human caused? And if human caused, why? Andy needs to find out before it’s too late.

As written, the story develops along parallel lines, with accounts from the missing girl’s journal for the historical bits, and from Andy’s perspective in the present.

I don’t want any spoilers here, but I do want to say the author’s research into the care of mental patients in the early 1900s adds wonderful details, even though readers may find those details a little shocking. The strict confines of upper strata society, especially concerning a woman’s place, is also clearly drawn.

I recommend reading They Danced by the Light of the Moon for the history over the mystery.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, April 2014.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.


Book Review: The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose

The Collector of Dying Breaths Tour Banner


Title: The Collector of Dying Breaths
Author: M.J. Rose
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Hardcover; 384p
ISBN: 978-1-4516-2153-2


Praise for The Collector of Dying Breaths:

“History, mystery, ambition, lust, love, death and the timeless quest
for immortality…a riveting tale of suspense.”
– B.A.Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author of The Art Forger

“Mysterious, magical, and mythical…what a joy to read!”
– Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author



Buy the Book:

Barnes & Noble Buy Button     Amazon Buy Button     Amazon Buy Button     Indiebound Button.jpg



The Collector of Dying BreathsThe Collector of Dying Breaths
A Novel of Suspense
M.J. Rose
Atria Books, April 2014
ISBN 978-1-4516-2153-2

From the publisher—

In 1533, an Italian orphan with an uncanny knack for creating fragrance is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. To repay his debt, over the years René le Florentine is occasionally called upon to put his vast knowledge to a darker purpose: the creation of deadly poisons used to dispatch the Queen’s rivals.

But it’s René’s other passion—a desire to reanimate a human breath, to bring back the lives of the two people whose deaths have devastated him—that incites a dangerous treasure hunt five centuries later. That’s when Jac L’Etoile—suffering from a heartache of her own—becomes obsessed with the possibility of unlocking Rene’s secret to immortality.

Soon Jac’s search reconnects her with Griffin North, a man she’s loved her entire life. Together they confront an eccentric heiress whose art collection rivals many museums and who is determined to keep her treasures close at hand, not just in this life but in her next.


There are few series these days in which I never miss an installment, mainly because I read so much that I don’t have the time to keep up with series no matter how much I may like them. It doesn’t help that I’m not a speed reader. Still, there are a handful that I just don’t want to miss and The Reincarnationist series is one of those.

Technically speaking, this isn’t a true series because the first three books would properly be termed standalones but they all have the same theme of reincarnation and they all have a connection to a past-life research group known as the Phoenix Foundation while the later books also revolve around perfumes and their special properties.

The real appeal to me in The Collector of Dying Breaths is in the historical time period and characters. Catherine de Medici is larger than life even 500 years later and she has always fascinated me, along with her interactions with all the titans of her world. Since René le Florentine was also a real person and did, in fact, have a years-long relationship with Catherine as her perfumer and poisoner, this particular tale became the crux of Ms. Rose’s wonderful storytelling for me.  René was truly as reprehensible a person as one could find in the 16th century but the author wraps him in a cloak of humanity that makes him entirely captivating. Having Catherine such a notable part of the story was the icing on the cake for me. Now she was a woman no one could ignore 😉

This absorption in history is Ms. Rose’s true strength in this series. Her deep research is clear as is her love of her chosen settings and characters. Adding a large dose of suspense makes The Collector of Dying Breaths one of my favorite entries in the series and I thank the author for once again giving us a cracking good read.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2014.

About the Author


MJ RoseM.J. Rose is the international best selling author of fourteen novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose’s novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype. She is also the co-founder of and

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.


“It is with irony now, forty years later, to think that if I had not been
called a murderer on the most frightening night of my life, there
might not be any perfume in Paris today. And that scent—to which
I gave my all and which gave me all the power and riches I could
have hoped for—is at the heart of why now it is
I who call myself a murderer.”

From The Collector of Dying Breaths

MJ Rose Perfume Bottle

“I miss your fragrance, sometimes I miss it this much that
I can clearly smell you in the air.”—Quaisar Iqbal Janjua


Follow the tour here.


Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Indiebound Button.jpg

Indiebound Button.jpg