Book Review: The Woman in the Camphor Trunk by Jennifer Kincheloe

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Title: The Woman in the Camphor Trunk
Series: An Anna Blanc Mystery #2
Author: Jennifer Kincheloe
Narrator: Moira Quirk
Publication Date: December 6, 2017

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Purchase Links:

Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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The Woman in the Camphor Trunk
An Anna Blanc Mystery #2
Jennifer Kincheloe
Narrated by Moira Quirk
Jennifer R. Kincheloe, Ltd.,
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook
Also available in trade paperback from Seventh Street Books

From the author—

Los Angeles, 1908. In Chinatown, the most dangerous beat in Los Angeles, police matron Anna Blanc and her former sweetheart, Detective Joe Singer, discover the body of a white missionary woman, stuffed in a trunk in the apartment of her Chinese lover. Her lover has fled. If news gets out that a white woman was murdered in Chinatown, there will be a violent backlash against the Chinese. Joe and Anna plan to solve the crime quietly and keep the death a secret. So does good-looking Mr. Jones, a prominent Chinese leader who has mixed feelings about helping the LAPD and about Anna.

Meanwhile, the Hop Sing tong has kidnapped two slave girls from the Bing Kong tong, fuelling existing tensions. They are poised on the verge of a bloody tong war that would put all Chinatown residents in danger.

Joe orders Anna out of Chinatown to keep her safe, but to atone for her own family’s sins, Anna must stay to solve the crime before news of the murder is leaked and Chinatown explodes.

There’s something about turn-of-the-century fiction that really appeals to me and I can’t truly put my finger on just what it is. Maybe it’s the knowledge that things are on the very edge of tremendous change and that life is going to become quite different as well as a good deal less innocent.

Anna is the epitome of these coming changes. Raised in a privileged society, she yearns for something that will engage her intelligence and her interest in people who aren’t nearly so well off and she’s willing to fight for her ambitions (although “ambition” isn’t entirely the right word). Having found that she’s good at detective work—she’s curious and very smart, not to mention bold enough to go after what she considers justice—she goes where no woman has gone before, so to speak, throwing societal mores to the wind. Anna isn’t allowed to be an actual detective but she gets a lot done as an assistant police matron.

This time, Anna is involved in investigating the murder of a white woman in Chinatown which, of course, exposes her to a world very different from anything she’s known before with tongs, brothels, opium dens and the like. At first, she’s assigned to work with Joe Singer but, due to some unfortunate circumstances, she soon has to develop her own leads, much to the dismay of every man she knows.

With a lot of humor from Anna, we get a good taste of how things were at that time and how a feisty young woman could get around some of the restrictions placed on women (and the painful consequences of defying society). The narrator, Moira Quirk, does a wonderful job of bringing Anna to life and, in fact, she makes me think of an older Flavia de Luce transported to America in an earlier day. The combination of Ms. Kincheloe’s well-researched and lively story and characters along with Ms. Quirk’s talent make for a wonderful tale, the first I’ll be adding to my list of favorite books read in 2018.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

About the Author

Jennifer has been a block layer, a nurse’s aid, a fragrance model, and on the research faculty at UCLA, where she spent 11 years conducting studies to inform health policy. A native of Southern California, she now lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two teenagers. She’s currently writing book three in the Anna Blanc Mystery series. Book two, THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK, came out in Fall of 2017 from Seventh Street Books.

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Goodreads // Pinterest

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About the Narrator

Moira grew up in teeny-tiny Rutland, England’s smallest county, which is fitting as she never managed to make it past five feet herself.  Moira’s work spans the pantheon of the voiceover world: plays for BBC radio, plays for NPR, video games, commercials, television promos, podcasts, cartoons, movies and award winning audiobooks. She’s won Multiple Audie Awards, Earphone Awards, as well as Audible’s prestigious Book-of-the-Year Award. She has lately set foot in front of the camera again, appearing in “Pretty: the Series” and the Emmy-winning “Dirty Work.”

Website // Facebook

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Book Reviews: Ruff-Housed by Susan J. Kroupa and KIDNAP.org by Peg Herring

Ruff-Housed
A Doodlebugged Mystery #5
Susan J. Kroupa
Laurel Fork Press, March 2017
ISBN 978-0-9985700-0-6
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Sit. Stay. Be Polite with Strangers. What could be easier? That’s what Doodle thinks when Molly signs him up to take the Canine Good Citizen Test at the annual DogDays Fair. Compared to the certifications he has to pass for his job as a bed-bug sniffer dog for the “boss,” Molly’s father, this should be simple. But the test turns out to be no walk (or sit) in the park. Did he miss the memo about the explosions? And the stolen pets? While Molly and her friends investigate, another dog disappears, with repercussions that threaten the bonds of an entire family. Throw in a bullying neighbor and a chase across a squirrel-infested park near the White House, and Doodle begins to wonder if he and Molly have bitten off more than they can chew.

This mystery series is a bit of a hybrid. Aimed at children with its young sleuth, it can also appeal to adult readers who enjoy a decent puzzle, a curious and intelligent tween and a delightful dog. That dog, Doodle, actually narrates the story so it’s all from a doggy point of view, an approach that will remind fans of the Chet and Bernie series by Spencer Quinn although this is more mildmannered, not as rambunctious.

Doodle works with Molly’s dad as a bedbug sniffer but, this time, Molly has entered him in a Good Citizen trial which should be a piece of cake for this smart dog. Besides his bedbug sniffing prowess, advancing through the Canine Good Citizen system could certify him as a therapy dog for rest homes which would be a really nice thing to do. Unfortunately, there’s an explosion of sorts at the test and that naturally gets everyone all riled up. Before it’s all said and done, Molly and Doodle, along with her friend, Grady, and his dog, Snippet, will get involved in all sorts of adventures including dognapping, lonely children, fanatic animal activists—you name it—and it’s all told by the funny and loveable Doodle. Anyone looking for an entertaining, fluffy (no pun intended) read will like Ruff-Housed.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2017.

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KIDNAP.org
Peg Herring
Peg Herring, April 2017
ISBN 978-1-944502-07-2
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Robin Parsons is in the middle of a very bad day when a neighbor calls to ask for her help. The socially inept Carter “accidentally” kidnapped a county official, and he doesn’t know what to do with the guy who is, Carter admits, “pretty mad” about it.

The man is a crook who cheated Carter’s dying mother, and when she hears the story, Robin is furious. What can she do to right the wrong and at the same time keep Carter out of prison? A plan comes to mind—a way to make the man admit he’s sleazy and agree to make amends. It’s weird, but it’s also satisfying.

So begins a secret quest for justice, paybacks for little guys who’ve been cheated, lied to, pushed around, and otherwise bamboozled by those with power and arrogance—those who say to their victims, “Life isn’t fair. Deal with it.”

Robin deals—in a (sort of) non-violent, proactive process they call KIDNAP.org.

Along the way she picks up a following, but it’s definitely not a gang of superheroes. Odd to the point of weirdness, the KIDNAP.org crew bonds as they take on the bullies of the world and work to right the wrongs done to them and others.

Though Robin’s “gang” is always just a step ahead of disaster, she can’t quit. And if she’s only a half-step ahead of the private investigator determined to track her down, a half-step will have to do.

Most of us have experienced those times when we’re at the mercy of others whether they be bureaucrats, petty bosses, officious academics, you name it. What those people inflict upon our sensibilities is 100% exacerbated by the annoyance and frustration of not being able to fight back so wouldn’t it be great if you could fight back or, better yet, get someone else to do it for you?

This is where Robin Parsons steps in, mainly because she wants to help a friend (keep him out of jail) and also get a little revenge for him; KIDNAP.org is born and, before too long, Robin picks up a few helpers, a “crew” if you will and there’s no shortage of cases for them to take on. It’s just a little tough to stay out of trouble but, my goodness, the results of their activities can be most satisfying.

We’re a group of citizens that has had it with crooks like you.

Too bad Robin and her cohorts are themselves committing crimes (not very proficiently) and, by the way, there’s a P.I. hot on Robin’s trail.

Peg Herring has a plethora of books and I have yet to find one I didn’t like, especially because, in some of them, she has an irreverent sense of humor but she can take a deeper look at the vicissitudes of life and has a sure hand at crafting a mystery. Now, technically, KIDNAP.org is a caper (think “Oceans 11”) rather than a mystery but it’s crime fiction nevertheless and I love the premise, sort of like the TV show “Leverage”. Yes, I admit it, I’ve had my moments when I might have hired KIDNAP.org myself 😉 Since I’ll probably never do such a thing, I’ll have to content myself with waiting for Ms. Herring‘s next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2017.

Book Review: War, Spies, and Bobby Sox by Libby Fischer Hellmann

 

War, Spies, and Bobby Sox
Stories About World War II At Home
Libby Fischer Hellmann
The Red Herrings Press, February 2017
ISBN 978-1938733970
Trade Paperback

From the author—

As World War II rages across Europe and the Pacific, its impact ripples through communities in the heartland of America. A farm girl is locked in a dangerous love triangle with two Germans soldiers held in an Illinois POW camp … Another German, a war refugee, is forced to risk her life spying on the developing Manhattan Project in Chicago … And espionage surrounds the disappearance of an actress from the thriving Jewish community of Chicago’s Lawndale. In this trio of tales, acclaimed thriller author Libby Fischer Hellmann beautifully depicts the tumultuous effect of war on the home front and illustrates how the action, terror, and tragedy of World War II was not confined to the front lines.

Libby Fischer Hellmann is one of the few authors who can surprise me nearly every time I pick up one of her books. Here, the surprise comes in her clear understanding of the World War II homefront, almost as though she had lived it herself.

Three tales provide a glimpse of how people, especially women, coped with the hardships, opportunities and moral pitfalls here at home while the main attention was on events overseas. Lena, a young Jewish girl, is sent to America before our involvement and makes her way in the world supported by her aunt Ursula and uncle Reinhard eventually getting a secretarial position in a university physics department. That, in itself, seems innocuous but this is the time when scientists are in the early stages of developing nuclear fission and Lena finds herself in a world of trouble.

Mary-Catherine lives in rural Illinois and helps her mother and siblings keep the farm running. When ten German POW soldiers are assigned to work the harvest, Mary-Catherine can’t help being interested by one in particular, a man who gives her the tiniest of smiles. To her, Reinhard is intriguing; to Reinhard, she is an “Irish mongrel” and, in that moment of meeting, a scheme is born that will change Mary-Catherine’s life while another POW will find a new direction.

Life as a Jewish gangster calls to teenaged Jacob Forman but he doesn’t bargain for what happens to a beautiful actress he admires from afar as she starts walking out with the charming gangster, Skull. When Skull invites Jake and his friend, Barney, to work for him as runners, they think they’ve hit the jackpot but can’t help noticing the sad distance that has grown between Skull and Miriam. Not long after, murder and a local Nazi open Jake’s eyes to a world much grimmer than he ever thought.

Once again, Ms. Hellmann has knocked it out of the park and, if you haven’t tried her mysteries and other work yet, this is a good place to start 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2017.

Book Review: An Unconventional Mr. Peadlebody by D.L. Gardner

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Book Review: Revolutions by Carissa Andrews

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Title: Revolutions
Series: Pendomus Chronicles Book 3
Author: Carissa Andrews
Publication date: November 21, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:

         

    

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Revolutions
Pendomus Chronicles Book Three
Carissa Andrews
Carissa Andrews, November 2017
ISBN 978-0991055845
Trade Paperback

From the author—

As the timelines of Pendomus fray, one girl born with power has the ability to set things right….

Forcing her way into Videus’ vassalage may be the last thing Runa will ever do, but she knows she has to try. Not only are there others like her—others with powers—but they’re directly tied to her by blood. With Trae’s mental stability in question, and Kani missing, Runa can only rely on herself and the aid of her brother to fulfill her destiny. If she can embrace her role as the Daughter of Five, hopefully she can set things right and free Trae from whatever madness is taking over his mind.

There’s more than meets the eye to Videus’ obsession with Runa and her bloodlines. The only problem is, unraveling the mystery could unleash catastrophe on everything she holds dear, if she’s not careful. Can Runa stop Videus once and for all—or will the fate of Pendomus be locked forever by one man’s madness?

Step into Pendomus – a world that meshes mystery, magical creatures, and destiny with science fiction and technology.

You’re one click away from having all the answers to the Pendomus Chronicles secrets.

Sometimes, a series (or, as in this case, a trilogy) leaves me thinking that there’s been a lot of filler and there could have been fewer books. I don’t feel that way about the Pendomus Chronicles; instead, I think each succeeding book has built on the preceding as it should until the third and final episode is clearly where the author was heading all along.

Revolutions is full of adventure and excitement, just the way a book with such a title should be. We’ve had a really good journey through the first two books, getting to know the characters and the very uncomfortable world they live in, and now we learn who Runa was meant to be all along and how important she and her band of young companions are to each other and to the future of their world.

In the meantime, Trae has to deal with his personal demons and that in itself is a distraction for Runa. In a shattering yet very satisfying ending filled with the past, the present and the future, it finally all comes together in a breakneck race through the timeline, leading us to, well, I won’t give anything away but, suffice it to say, I’m a happy reader 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

About the Author

“An author emerges from the depths of Minnesotan waters. Sci-fi/Fantasy is my pen of choice.”

Carissa Andrews is a Minnesota-based genre bending author who writes a combination of science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia. When not writing her own books, she’s busy reading them.

Her first novel, Pendomus, was the first of a three-part series and was published in 2013. Now, four years later, Polarities (Book 2) of the Pendomus Chronicles, and Revolutions (Book 3) have recently been released.

For more information on their release, visit Carissa Andrews’ author website: www.carissaandrews.com and sign up for her newsletter notifications.

Carissa is also a freelance graphic designer, writer and content creator, social media manager, and marketing professional. She writes consistently on topics of science, technology, art, writing, photography, graphic design, health, self improvement, and more. Her articles can be found published across the interwebs. Carissa is also a Top Rated Freelancer on Upwork, and can be contacted for freelancing opportunities: https://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~011fb5962824326eaa/

Other author links:

Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // Pinterest
Google // YouTube // BookBub // Goodreads

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Follow the tour:

11/22 – Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile – Review
11/23 – Escaping Reality with Books – Review
11/25 – Carissa’s Website – Exclusive Look at Revolutions
11/27 – Buried Under Books – Review

Book Review: Murder in Little Shendon by A.H. Richardson

Murder in Little Shendon
A Haxlitt-Brandon Mystery #1
A.H. Richardson
CreateSpace, August 2015
ISBN 978-1515283973
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Picture, if you will, a picturesque village called Little Shendon, suddenly caught up in dealing with a murder of one of its citizens — not a particularly well-liked one at that. Which makes it all the more intriguing because the list of suspects becomes very long. This tantalizing tale unfolds with twists and turns to find out whodunit to Mr. Bartholomew Fynche, the murdered shopkeeper.

Fear grips the community as the investigation slowly progresses. Everyone is interviewed; everyone is suspect! From his housekeeper to Lady Armstrong and her household staff. Or could it be the shy librarian new in town? Or the defiant retired army major and his ladyfriend, the post mistress? Or perhaps the weird sisters who live on the edge of town? Then there is the couple who own the local inn and pub, along with the two Americans who are staying there? Even the vicar and his wife fall under the gloom of suspicion.

Uncertainty, wariness, and terror reign as neighbors watch neighbors to discover the evil that permeates their upturned lives. No one feels safe in this charming little village. Who is the murderer? And why was this strange uncivil man dispatched in such a seemingly civil community?

A murder mystery that will keep you reading until you learn the details, uncovered by Police Inspector Stanley Burgess and his two amateur detectives, Sir Victor Hazlitt and Beresford Brandon. The three sift methodically through the Alibis and life stories of the suspects until they uncover…

You are challenged to discover the culprit before the last few pages. And no fair looking ahead — it’s the journey that proves the most enticing.

When I was first offered the opportunity to read and, perhaps, review Murder in Little Shendon, I had never heard of the book, although it came out two years ago, or of the author but I’m drawn to English village mysteries so I thought I’d give it a go and I’m glad I did.

The premise of a village police inspector tackling a murder case is, of course, not new but Ms. Richardson added in two elements that aren’t so common. The murdered man has a connection from the past to MI5, which is certainly not typical of the usual village murder victim, and that leads Inspector Burgess to enlist the aid of Sir Victor Hazlitt and his sidekick (his Watson, if you will), stage actor Beresford Brandon. Sir Victor was active in MI5 and had known the victim, thus the request from Stanley Burgess, and he invites Berry to go along because of his side interest in criminology. The next morning, off they go for a 10-day sojourn in Little Shendon and an adventurous patch of sleuthing with more than one murder and a multitude of suspects and possible motives.

There were a few noticeable construction flaws in this book and the pace is leisurely, almost too much so at times but, on the whole, I spent a very pleasant few hours with this trio trying to get to the bottom of this crime and the village itself was a step back in time. Sir Victor and Berry return in 2016’s Act One, Scene One…Murder and I’m going to make time to check it out.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

Book Review: Not Dead Yet by Samie Sands

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Title: Not Dead Yet
Series: AM13 Outbreak Series Book #4
Author: Samie Sands
Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Post-Apocalyptic

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Purchase Links:

    

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Not Dead Yet
AM13 Outbreak Series Book #4
Samie Sands
CreateSpace, June 2017
ISBN 978-1548162498
Trade Paperback

From the author—

The AM13 Outbreak has affected everywhere, the entire world has experienced infection.

Victims of the virus are no longer human, they’ve changed, become something scientifically impossible. With their loss of human function and their new lust for flesh, there’s only one word to describe them…

Zombies.

The world is divided as everyone tries to work out how to survive. Many have already lost their lives 
in the fight, but there are still a few who are not dead…

Yet!

This book is a little different from many because each chapter brings us a new scenario with new characters. In some ways, that’s good since we get to see how people around the world cope with what has become a full-scale zombie apocalypse. On the other hand, it means I couldn’t make any real connection with any of them.

In another departure from the norm, each protagonist reacts in different ways, some of which really got my attention, like the one who’s actually devolving into a zombie after being bitten. One character has a perhaps hopeless belief that she can find her way back to a loved one through hundreds of miles of devastation and zombies; another is a bit of a warrior who’s flummoxed when he comes across a pregnant woman.

A lot of the author’s attention is on other things going on with the characters besides the virus and I did appreciate that but, when all is said and done, this book left me a little dissatisfied because each chapter ends with no resolution and I really wanted to know what happened to each person. The ending, though, came in proper zombie fashion so, all in all, I enjoyed Not Dead Yet with some reservations.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

About the Author

Samie Sands is a 28 year old freelance graphic designer who has recently decided to follow her lifelong dream and use her creativity in a new way by writing.

She has a degree in Media Studies and PR and has already had articles published in a number of e-zines, including one of the most popular pieces at Zombie Guide Magazine. She has also had short stories included in a number of successful projects.

She lives in a small seaside town in the UK, but loves to travel to gain inspiration from new places and different cultures.

Author Links:

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Wattpad * Amazon * Goodreads

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