Review: Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them

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Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Get Well Soon isn’t so much a historical book about plagues, it’s also about the human side of plagues; the healers, the sufferers and the people left behind. The book details not only catastrophic plagues like The Black Death, but also some of the lesser known plagues like the Roman Empire-ending Antonine Plague and The Dancing Plague in 16th century Europe (which sounds all very funny until you read that people pretty much danced their feet off. Literally.)

All the major maladies are touched on, from the horrific syphilis and tuberculosis plagues to the ravages of typhoid, smallpox and cholera throughout history. The sad fate of many plague victims, abandoned by their families and in some cases, abandoned by society, was all very heartrending. I also thought it was very interesting how the Victorians glamorized the pale, gaunt appearance of tuberculosis sufferers. Looking at any of today’s popular fashion models or actresses, it’s obvious that’s an ideal that persists even today.

For the most part, this was very entertaining but felt a bit preachy in spots. Although I don’t fault the author for having strong feelings about her subject, it felt a bit like I was being lectured to.

Overall, Get Well Soon is an informative and entertaining trip through the perils of the past, and anyone who loves history (and plagues. I’m sure there are people out there who enjoy a good plague.) will definitely enjoy it.

Thank you to Henry Holt and Co. and Netgalley for an advance copy.  This review is my honest and unsolicited opinion. 

Rating:★★★✰✰ 3 stars
Publisher:Henry Holt & Co
Publication Date:Feb 07, 2017
Language: English
ISBN:9781627797467
ASIN: B01IA6FNUW
Genre:History, Non-Fiction
Reviewer: Tam (Mystereity Reviews)

Review: Aunt Bessie Likes

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Aunt Bessie Likes (Isle of Man #12)  by Diana Xarissa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aunt Bessie returns in the 12th Isle of Man mystery to help her police friends solve the cold case disappearance of three teenage cousins in 1970.  The case flounders when no new evidence is uncovered until an anonymous tip leads police to several bodies buried in a garden. Is 40 years too long for Bessie to unravel the mystery behind the girls in the garden?

In Aunt Bessie Likes, young PC Hugh Watterson is following up on cold cases and decides to pursue the disappearance of three teenage cousins in 1970. Out of all the Aunt Bessie books, I think this will rank up there as one of my favorites. I love cold case mysteries, probably because there’s nothing more satisfying than to find an answer to an unknown. I also love hearing more about the history of Bessie’s Isle of Man (where everyone seems to think murder has only recently come to visit, but Hugh’s stack of cold cases prove this untrue.) The twisty plot, sprinkled with a few red herrings, kept me second guessing myself through the whole book and the ending was both satisfying and exciting.

All in all, another exciting Bessie adventure, and I highly recommend this adorable and well-written series to cozy mystery fans looking for a clean, light read.

View all my reviews

Review: Fatality by Firelight

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Fatality by Firelight (Cat Latimer #2) by Lynn Cahoon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Synopsis

Cat is hosting her second writers’ retreat at her B&B located in a small academic town of Aspen Hills, Colorado and hoping this retreat will be more tranquil than the first.  Her hopes are dashed when one of her guests comes under suspicion for the murder of local bad boy romeo Tommy. To complicate things, a mystery man shows up who seems to know too much about her, and a series of book thefts has everyone scratching their heads. There’s snow way Cat can’t just sit around, she’s out to solve the mystery!

Review

Gliding down the slopes…blazing fires in the fireplace…the crunch of snow underfoot…steaming mugs of hot cocoa…the dead body in the hot tub – only Lynn Cahoon could make snowy Colorado a hot destination, even in the depths of winter! With several mysteries woven into one fast-paced plot, I was glued to the book until the very last page. I loved the action-packed plot – Stalkers! Murders! Kidnapping! Booknapping! *gasp* – all with so many twists and turns, it was like a cozy mystery slalom! The on-going mystery surrounding the death of Cat’s ex-husband added a layer of intrigue and the mysterious stranger added a bit of spice to shake up Cat’s comfortable life.

All in all, Fatality by Firelight is a thoroughly enjoyable and well-crafted mystery guaranteed to keep you guessing (and entertained!) While this book can be read as a standalone, I recommend reading the first in the series to get the full backstory about Cat’s ex-husband (and because it’s a good book.)

Thank you to Kensington Books and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book. This review is my honest, unsolicited opinion

Series: Cat Latimer #2
Rating:★★★★✰ 4 stars
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publication Date:  Feb 28, 2017
Language: English
Formats:  Kindle/Paperback
ISBN: 9781496704375
ASIN: B01GBAG6VO
Genre:Cozy Mystery
Reviewer: Tam (Mystereity Reviews)

Review: When the Grits Hit the Fan

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When the Grits Hit the Fan by Maddie Day (Country Store #3)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Buried in the depths of winter in southern Indiana,  it’s been months since diner owner Robbie Jordan has found herself in the middle of a murder.  All of that changes when she finds a local professor dead, frozen beneath the ice in the middle of Crooked Lake.  When Robbie’s friend Lou falls under suspicion, Robbie can’t help but investigate.  With a town full of people who hated the victim, several suspects who have seemingly airtight alibis, puzzling objects found in the walls during remodeling and an intruder who keeps breaking into the  hidden tunnel under Robbie’s diner, Robbie’s sleuthing skills are put to the test. Can she find a killer with a perfect recipe for murder?

Out of the three books in this series, this one is my favorite. The series has finally hit its stride, showcasing the flavor of southern Indiana with a picturesque setting, colorful characters and an absorbing plot that pulls you right into the wonderful world of South Lick. Picture it: the snow gently falling on the rolling hills, the small town diner serving delicious food with a heaping side of gossip, and the warmth of friends and family – it’s all so inviting that it’s easy to get comfortable. And that’s what I like most about cozy mysteries, how comfortable you are sinking into them, and the Country Store series is an excellent example; it’s a great place to spend a few hours, even if there is a murderer on the loose. Throw in a victim that you love to hate (let’s face it, it’s always satisfying when a thoroughly disagreeable character is the victim, isn’t it?) and no shortage of suspects, each with their own good motive for murder, plus hidden tunnels, puzzling objects found in the walls during remodeling and an action packed ending and you have the perfect recipe for a great cozy mystery.

When the Grits Hit the Fan will be released on March 28, 2017.

Thank you to Kensington Books and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book. I was not compensated, and this is my honest and unsolicited review.
Series:Country Store #3
Rating:★★★★✰ 4 stars
Publisher:Kensington Books
Publication Date: 28 Mar 2017
Language: English
Formats: Kindle/Paperback
ISBN:9781617739293
ASIN: B01GBAIXGK
Genre:Cozy Mystery
Reviewer: Tam (Mystereity Reviews)

Join me in celebrating The Swap with an Author Q&A and Giveaway!

The Swap by Nancy Boyarsky has finally been released, I read the advance copy last year and loved it.  I’ve been impatiently awaiting the release date ever since, and now everyone can enjoy it!

The author, Nancy Boyarsky, has done a wonderful little Q&A, don’t miss it!  And to celebrate the release , I’ve got an autographed copy to give away to one lucky winner (US residents only) and details can be found at the bottom of the page. Contest is open from February 7, 2017 until February 21, 2017. Enter to win today!

My review:

When Brad Graves is transferred to London temporarily, wife Nicole comes along in an attempt to save her failing marriage. After arranging a house swap with the Lowrys, Nicole and Brad settle in at their temporary home. Soon after, strange things happen and Nicole begins to feel like her life is in danger. After reporting several terrifying incidents to the police, who are sympathetic but disbelieving, and when the Lowrys don’t show up at her LA condo, Nicole begins to investigate on her own and finds herself being drawn deeper and deeper into trouble.

The Swap is the debut novel by the author and I wasn’t sure what to expect as I sat down to read it. Once I started it, it was hard to put it down! I read about half of this one evening and then couldn’t sleep all night because I was so busy thinking about what was going to happen. I loved the premise of a house swap gone wrong, and there was a mystery on almost every page. Who can Nicole trust? Who is behind the attacks and what do they want? What happened to the Lowrys? And the one question that wasn’t answered, who broke in to her condo in L.A.?

This was the kind of thriller that raises the hair on the back of your neck, and it’s all too easy to feel Nicole’s fear as she’s stalked, threatened and accosted by thugs, her anguish over her crumbling marriage, and her betrayal, anger and sadness towards Brad. On the other hand, there were a few times when I wanted to reach in the book and give Nicole a good, hard shake and tell her to wake up. Seriously, girl, your intuition is waaay off! The spectacular conclusion was the perfect way to end the book, a little romance and a lot of action. What more can you ask for?

The Swap is an excellent 5 star thriller that will keep you turning pages – and looking over your shoulder – right to the very last page.

The Swap is available  at book retailers or online at  Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the Author and  Q&A

bf60141f0dd9656ae499ed0830238e99The Swap: A Mystery is Nancy Boyarsky’s first novel. She has been a writer and editor for her entire working career. She coauthored Backroom Politics, a New York Times notable book, with her husband, Bill Boyarsky. She has written several textbooks on the justice system and articles for newspapers and magazines. In addition to her writing career, she was communications director for political affairs for ARCO. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley with a major in English literature. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and now lives in Los Angeles.

What made you decide to have The Swap set in London? Did you consider any other locations?
London is my favorite of all cities. My husband and I go there almost every year. I wanted to have a mystery built around the concept of an innocent abroad, and London seemed the perfect setting.

How did you do your research for The Swap? Did you go to London?
My husband and I swapped houses with a London couple a number of years ago. The house in Chiswick is the house we stayed in, although I made it more sinister for the sake of the plot. We also took a tour up the west coast of Scotland to the Isle of Skye, a journey I included in the book when Nicole goes (much against her will) along that same route. On the way to Skye, we stayed at a wonderful hotel called the Isle of Eriska. The hotel is an old manor house dating back to the late 19th century. I put that in the book as well. Other research, like train schedules, money conversion from pounds to swiss francs, etc.,I looked up on the web. Finally, I had a editor friend who’d spend many years living in London check it over mistakes I’d made in describing London. She was very helpful.

Which of your characters is your favorite?
My heroine, Nicole Graves. Why? I like the way she acts on her instincts without hesitation. She’s very brave. I admire those qualities. I myself am much more cautious, although I am just as curious about people and their lives as she is.

What scene did you find was the most difficult to write?
I don’t think any were harder or easier than others. It’s tough for me to get the first draft written. Then, reading it over, it’s painful to see how much work remains to be done fixing plot glitches and refining my writing. That said, I do love rewriting. I used to attend the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. One of their sayings is: “There’s no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.” That’s absolutely true, at least for me.

What’s next for Nicole?
My publisher is releasing the next installment of Nicole’s story, The Bequest, in August. It takes place in L.A. When one of Nicole’s coworkers is murdered and leaves her a fortune of unknown origin, she’s caught in the crosshairs of a media feeding frenzy and the murderer. There’s also a hot romance.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A cat. I have three. Muriel Spark in A Far Cry From Kensington, my favorite of her books, gave this advice to a character who wanted to write but was having trouble concentrating. “If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, especially some piece of writing, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work, the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk-lamp. . . .The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquillity of the cat will gradually come to affect you so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious.”

What lessons did you learn from writing your first book that you’ll apply to writing future books?
Don’t rush it. Sometimes the story seems to write itself; other times, it’s a long, difficult slog, like I’m experiencing with my third book. Either way, if you keep at it, you’ll eventually finish the story and have the challenge and pleasure of going back for the rewrite.

What are your influences/inspirations for writing?
I’ve always loved to read, and I majored in English literature in college. I’ve wanted to write a novel as long as I can remember but had no idea how to begin. I have spent most of my career as a writer and editor of nonfiction articles and, later, in corporate communications. Only when I took a mystery writing class at UCLA Extension did I learn how to set up the plot for a mystery novel. And then I had it!

What’s the most rewarding aspect of being an author?
Holding the first copy of that book with my name on it is an enormous thrill. It’s hard to beat that. Being a published author gives me an audience for my stories, which is very important to me. And, finally, I love reading reviews from readers. Thank heavens that most of them have been kind.

 What’s the best way for readers to contact you?
My email is nboyarsky@roadrunner.com. My Facebook author page is under Nancy Boyarsky.

Book Giveaway

One lucky winner will be chosen at random to receive a signed copy of The Swap!  Entering is free and easy, click on the graphic below to enter.  Good luck!

To enter: Click on the giveaway image below.  and Rafflecopter will give you 3 ways to enter.  Each option will give you one entry, and you can enter up to 3 times a day!

Giveaway is open to US residents only
Winner will be chosen at random
Contest is open from February 7, 2017 to February 21, 2017
No purchase necessary
give-away

New release! Murder Go Round

30340954After a “Storage Wars” type auction, Aunt Ibby and Lee bid on a locker full of boxes after Aunt Ibby thinks she sees some promising items. After winning the locker and hauling the contents home, they discover several historical items – and a mystery!

Isn’t that a cute cover?  I’m a sucker for cozies with a cat on the cover, and I love how it shows O’Ryan in the act of knocking over the Statue of Liberty.  And that carousel horse!  Just beautiful. (read the rest of my review)

Murder Go Round is available at book retailers or online at  Amazon  | Barnes & Noble

Review: Third Time’s a Crime

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Third Time’s a Crime by Diana Orgain

Third Time’s a Crime is reality TV in book form, except in Cold Case at the Castle, the drama wasn’t scripted! Set at an old mansion that had operated as a boys home many years in the past, ex-cop Georgia and the nine other contestants are tasked with solving the murder of a girl who disappeared decades ago, to solve the mystery first. But when an employee at the castle is found dead, and another contestant is murdered after he was voted off the show, Georgia knows all the murders are tied together and the killer is still very close to the scene. Can she find a cold blooded killer at the castle before she’s the next victim?

This was recommended to me by a friend, who sent me a copy of the book. (Thanks, Joann!) This was the first book I’ve read in the Love or Money series, and I really enjoyed it. I don’t care for reality shows, so I skipped over a lot of the backstabbing/partnering/cheating sort of reality tv shtick. But at the heart of it, this was an excellent plot, lots of action and suspense with plenty of misdirections and a hint of is-it-or-isn’t-it-paranormal to keep you guessing. The satisfying ending tied everything up nicely, and although the book can be read as a standalone, it will definitely suck you right into the series.

I loved the crumbling old mansion setting, very well described and so vivid I felt like it was real. I eagerly followed along as the contestants combed the mansion and gardens, and I loved the dumbwaiter scene (I’ve always wanted to do that!) Combined with the animated characters (especially Bert!) the entire story was dimensional, exciting and totally engrossing.

Overall, Third Time’s a Crime is an excellent mystery, and can be read as a standalone or even an entry into the series. I definitely recommend it for cozy mystery and reality tv fans.

Third Time’s A Crime is available at book retailers or online at  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Series: Love Or Money Mystery
Rating:★★★★✰ 4 stars
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: Jan 03, 2017
Language: English
Formats: Kindle/Paperback/ePUB
ISBN: 9780425271704
ASIN: B01E4WAFHW
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Reviewer: Tam (Mystereity Reviews)