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Mishker

100 Pages A Day...Stephanie's Book Reviews

I absolutely love historical fiction and read a lot of it; I love to learn history this way.  I also enjoy reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller and non-fiction science.

Currently reading

The Sisters of Versailles: A Novel (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy)
Sally Christie
Dying Embers
Betty Adams
Vengeance of the Gods
Obinna Anagwu

The Orphan's Tale

The Orphan's Tale - Pam Jenoff
Noa has been cast out of her parents house at sixteen after becoming pregnant with a Nazi soldier's baby. After the baby is born with a darker complexion than her perfect Aryan features, the baby is taken from her. Noa finds work at a train station where she must watch people come through on their way to concentration camps. One winter's day, a boxcar full of babies comes into the station. Most of them are already gone-except one. Noa risks everything in taking a baby that looks so much like the one taken from her. She escapes into the woods where she is found and taken in by a German circus. Herr Neuhoff's circus is struggling during the war, but still performing. He has already taken in Ingrid-now Astrid- a Jewish circus performer who had been cast out by her Nazi husband. Astrid is a trapeze artist and Herr Neuhoff thinks Noa could learn to perform with her so their act can continue. Astrid and Noa have a rocky start, but Noa has found a safe place for herself and the baby, so she is determined to make things work.


I was immediately drawn in by the idea of the circus during World War II. It seems so contradictory, however, was probably a bright spot for many people during this time. Noa and Astrid are both amazing characters that are bases are real stories from the time. Their stories elicited compassion, friendship, joy, and heartbreak as the two women find their places. As Astrid and Noa grow closer, they find more in their similarities than differences and create their own family. Another part of the book that I enjoyed as much as learning about another facet of World War II was the circus lifestyle. I loved learning about the trapeze and Noa's strength made me want to try it out myself. Also, Peter the clown seeming amazing and I wish that I could see his act today. I do wish that the story would have extended more into baby Theo's life, however the epilogue helps the with that. Overall, an engaging, memorable and heartbreaking story about a different aspect of life during World War II.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
 
 

 

A Boy Called Bat

A Boy Called Bat - Elana K. Arnold, Charles Santoso

Bixby Alexander Tam is a young boy who likes to go by the nickname Bat.  Bat loves animals and knows all kinds of facts about animals.  Bat's mom is a veterinarian and Bat would like to be a veterinarian just like her some day.  However, Bat is still in grade school and must focus on that.  It is hard for Bat to make friends since he doesn't like to look people in the eye and likes to flap his arms. One day, Bat's mom brings home an orphaned baby skunk that she plans on taking care of before giving it to a rescue.  Bat is amazed by the baby skunk and helps him mom with it's care.  Bat doesn't want to give up the skunk so soon and tries to find a way to convince his mom to keep his new friend; and as Bat learns to love a skunk, he may learn to open up to new human friends as well. 


A Boy Called Bat is a fun, engaging and heartwarming middle grade read.  Most of all, this book encourages diversity and empathy without the story line being directly about the fact the Bat is on the autism spectrum.  In fact, that is not even mentioned within the book, what is mentioned is how Bat perceives the world, how he handles emotions,  interacts with other people and his intense love for animals. This is all done in a way that is easy for kids to understand and makes Bat very easy to relate to.  I loved that Bat was coupled with a skunk, an animal that most people do not like very much; together, as Bat learns to take care of the infant skunk and convince his mother to keep the skunk for longer, Bat learns skills in how to relate with people.  All of the characters in the book were equally as well thought out, though we see most of the people as Bat sees them, everyone surrounding Bat cares for him and wants the best for him.  Overall, a great middle grade read, especially for animal lovers.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Himself

Himself: A Novel - Jess Kidd

Mahoney was dropped off at a Dublin orphanage when he was just a baby. Now, 26 years later, he has come into possession of a note that tells him of his mother's name and where she was from.  Mahoney decides to return to the small, west coast Irish town of Mulderrig to see if he can figure out the truth of his mother.  However, Orla Sweeney was a blight on the town of Mulderrig and most of the folks are glad to have her gone, by whatever means.  Orla and her son share the gift of ghosts-and the ghosts tell secrets about the townsfolk. When Mahoney returns and reveals his parentage, many of the townsfolk are put out and don't want the memories of Orla to return.  With the help of an aging thespian, Mrs. Cauley, Mahoney will use his gifts and the town's fear to find out what happened to his mother.  



Himself is an amazing story of mystery, secrets, acceptance and a bit of magic.  I was immediately pulled in from the beginning when we see Orla's murder and Mahoney's return to the strange town.  I was especially interested in all of the ghosts that Mahoney is able to see and loved his interactions with them, especially Ida. Mahoney's journey took me to a beautiful and haunting Irish town in 1976. From an enchanted forest to a low-tide island and magnificent old buildings, reveal Mulderrig's appeal.  Even more than the setting, the cast of characters is expertly drawn.  Both the living and the dead receive full attention in the hunt for revealing Orla's fate.  For me, Mrs. Cauley stole the show with her straightforward attitude and unrelenting will.  I am in love with her comebacks and her promptly placed farts in church.    The mystery of who exactly killed Orla kept me reading.  I really wanted Mahoney to connect with his mother's ghost.  I do wish there was more of a resolve there, but the ending was still satisfying.   The mix of history, mystery, and grand characters sprinkled with a bit of supernatural created a wonderful world that I absolutely could not put down. 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Polaris

Polaris - Beth Bowland
Aaron Martin is a 13 year-old boy from Bixie, Montana.  On a cold and snowy day Aaron allows a young wayward boy to come warm up in his house.  However, the boy, Nakal is not who he says at all and by allowing him inside, Aaron is now a player in a dangerous game being controlled by different beings in space.  Nakal and Aaron are pawns in a scavenger hunt being led by The Council of Legend- an otherworldly group  of beings that have promised Nakal the ultimate prize if he wins.  Nakal is willing to do anything in order to gain an Earth family, but when Aaron learns that he is playing for his life, he is willing to fight even harder. 
 
Polaris  has a really interesting concept, humans being forced into a game beyond their control by beings in the stars.  It had a little bit of a Jumanji feel to it.  I liked the combination of the high-stakes game and science-fiction elements.  At first, the game itself seemed very confusing and I was probably just as lost as Aaron.  However, as Aaron begins to learn the rules and play some of the confusion is ironed out.  I did like the inclusion of the constellations and star names in the clues and the artifacts for the scavenger hunt and I was trying to guess what each clue might lead to.  Nakal is a bit of an enigma at first, he is originally set up to be the villain, but after learning his back story, I felt for him as well.  It is too bad there wasn't a way for both boys to have their families.  Overall, a unique and exciting science-fiction story aimed at middle-grade readers who enjoy adventure and aliens. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Hell Holes: What Lurks Below

Hell Holes: What Lurks Below - Donald G. Firesmith

Dr. Jack Oswald is a geologist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.  Just before classes are ready to begin for the semester, Jack receives an urgent call from Kevin Kowalski who works for ExxonMobil drilling oil.  There have been a series of mysterious holes opening up around the drilling fields that are affecting operations.  The holes are deep and perfectly cylindrical and just plain strange.  Jack has been hired to investigate; he assembles his team consisting of his wife, Dr. Angela Menendez, a climatologist, two of his grad students Mark and Jill Starr, a wildlife biologist Bill Henderson and is cajoled into taking along AIleen O'Shannon, a photojournalist.  When the team arrives in Deadhorse, they immediately get to work exploring the holes.  However, upon closer examination of the holes, no explanation for the holes can be found.  Then, disaster strikes and all hell is literally unleashed.  Now, the research team turns instead to survival and perhaps sending the demons back to where they belong. 

 
This was a fast-paced and short read that managed to combine climate science and supernatural horror in an effective way.  The book is written from Jack's point of view as a memoir of a survivor the attacks.  The first part of the story is a bit of an info dump as Jack's explains what he does, describes the fieldwork and his team's hypotheses about the holes. As a scientist myself, I enjoyed reading about permafrost and pingos and liked that climate science is featured in a book.  The story quickly picks up as hell breaks out on Earth.  One character has a large surprise up their sleeve that may help the team out of the mess if they can accept their new reality.  The different demons were all very interesting and I wish Bill could have continued his post mortem of the Hellhound.  Since this is a memoir of events, there is not much characterization, but more focus on events.  The story ends on quite a cliffhanger and with a sneak peek of book two at the end, I will definitely want to read on. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

The Munich Girl

The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War - Phyllis Edgerly Ring

Anna Dahlberg is facing the task of going through her mother's belongings after her death.  In addition, Anna must cater to her husband, Lowell's every whim as he finishes publishing a book about World War II and manages a magazine centered around the armed forces.  When Anna is given writing assignments about women war correspondents and Eva Braun, her interest is piqued.  Then, her interest quickly becomes personal as Anna uncovers several items in her mother's collection that carry Eva's special monogram or Eva's picture.  Added to the fact that Anna has looked at a rough sketch of Eva every night in her mother's dining room, Anna begins to see a connection between her mother and Eva.  As she researches, Anna finds that her mother, Peggy, could have actually been friends with Hitler's infamous mistress.  With the help of Hannes Ritter, a new hire at the magazine, Anna begins to unravel the unlikely connections. 

 
I love stories of objects that intertwine past and present.  In the case of The Munich Girl I was pulled into Anna's research into a sketch and a handkerchief that led Anna to discover secrets of her  mother's time in Germany and her friendship with Eva Braun.  I was astounded at how little was known about Eva Braun and much her life effected not only Hitler but the War itself.  Most people think of Eva Braun as little more than Hitler's mistress; however, through the eyes of Peggy, Eva is showcased as a supportive friend, a talented photographer, a dedicated lover and a woman with her own thoughts, feelings and agenda.  I enjoyed seeing how Anna became empowered in her life after reading about her own mother and Eva's life under Hitler.  While Lowell was definitely oppressive in his and Anna's relationship, I do wish that Anna would have come into her own before Lowell left the scene so he could have witnessed Anna's rebirth.  Overall, I loved reading about Anna and Peggy's stories in 1995 and during World War II and I certainly learned more about the importance of Eva Braun. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

The University of Corporeal and Ethereal Studies

The University of Corporeal and Ethereal Studies (Students of Madness Book 1) - Wolfgang Edwards

The University of Corporeal and Ethereal Studies deals with all types of science, both natural and supernatural, physical and unseen.  Through eight interwoven yet standalone stories I was able to experience many different aspects of what one might study at the University of Corporeal and Ethereal Studies, the different types of people involved in the college and the very interesting town that is shaped around the college.  With any collection of stories, there were some stories that I liked better than others.  Each story followed a different subject in the science fiction and fantasy genres; my personal preferences were for time travel and lucid dreaming, so there is probably at least one story in here for everyone.  From each of the stories I had a wonderful sense of characterization and there was a diverse cast as well.  In many of the stories I enjoyed that there was a dark element, a warning that these branches of science are both amazing and dangerous.  My only complaint was that some of the stories felt very heavy, some warranting a long break before I picked up the book again and that the eight separate stories made for quite a long read ending at over 600 pages.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Grimm Woods

Grimm Woods - D. Melhoff

Scott Mamer is holding a dark secret in his past about the death of a young girl. Since then, he has had trouble sleeping and holding down a job. When an opportunity arises to work at Camp Crownheart, a children's fairy tale camp set deep in the Michigan woods, Scott seizes the opportunity even though it isn't his cup of tea. When he arrives, Scott is surprised that the counselors aren't exactly the wholesome bunch that you would expect to be a a children's camp; girls with eating disorders, exotic dancers, drug users and teens who owe child support round out the list. The camp director, Charlotte and her maintenance guy, Bruce also seems to be running quite a strict business. Scott tries to settle in before the kids arrive; however, on the very first night two of the counselors go missing and are found dead later that night. The death toll continues to climb and Scott tries to figure out why the counselors seem to be targeted.

Many of us know that the original fairy tales were not the nice sweet stories that have been imagined for today's world. The original fairy tales were dark, gory and downright horrifying; nonetheless their purpose was to teach a lesson, a moral of the story. This is what the killer at Camp Crownheart is striving to teach the wayward counselors. Grimm Woods begins like a typical teen slasher camp film that we all know; teens who are hooking up quickly fall victim to a murderer bent on revenge. It isn't until about halfway through the book that the fairy tale angle begins to become apparent and I became very interested in what twisted fate that the counselors would meet. I was very intrigued once we begin to learn the true versions of the fairy tales and what moral the killer believes each counselor deserves for their transgressions. The deaths were very creative and of course, gory, violent and bloody. The mystery involved is of course finding out who the killer is, but more so why they have it out for Scott specifically. Once all those plot points come together, Scott's fairy tale moral is revealed for an exciting, vengeful and bloody ending. Overall, an interesting murder mystery with original fairy tale tie-ins.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Justice By Another Name

Justice by Another Name - E.C. Hanes
Hogg County North Carolina is known for its hog production industry. In the area, Martin Farms, Inc. owned by Owen Martin contracts and controls the majority of the hog industry for smaller farmers. On the day of a violent Carolina storm, two young boys, Paulie Reavis and Hank Grier are playing in Mitchell Creek below Wallace May's hog waste lagoon. When the storm proves too fierce, the lagoon breaks and the boys are swept away in a mix of water and hog manure. Paulie Reavis dies and Hank Grier is seriously injured. For Lana Reavis, the death of her son after the suspicious death of her husband Paul Sr., is too much to handle. Especially because both deaths were suspicious accidents connected to Martin Farms. Chief Deputy Will Moser is on both cases, especially since Paulie was like a son to him, and some local folks are beginning to blame the Griers for Paulie's death due to the color of their skin. As Will begins to dig deeper and question those involved in Martin Farms, he finds a lot of new information. For Lana however, she now seeks justice in another name- revenge.

Justice By Another Name opens with the most beautiful description of the outdoor environment of eastern North Carolina and a very realistic scene of young boys at play that instantly grabbed my attention and allowed me to picture everything perfectly. Then, quickly turned into one of the most terrifying death scenes I could imagine- drowning in pig manure. From here, I was intrigued by Will's investigation into the hog production industry and Lana's involvement into the veterinary side of hogs. Learning about all of this was really interesting to me, especially about how the pigs are treated and different diseases that they carry. Will's investigation brought out the seedier side of the industry and what farmers might do in order to cover up when something goes wrong. The suspense and mystery of the book was not so much who caused Paul Sr. and Paulie's deaths, but the reasons why they were killed. Will's journey into the mind of the killer and Lana's sophisticated way of revenge lead to an exciting and thrilling ending.
 
 

 

The Heatstroke Line

The Heatstroke Line: A Cli-Fi Novel - Edward L Rubin

Dr. Daniel Danten is an entomologist in Mountain America.  In the future, climate change has hit hard and most of what was once the United States is now far too warm for humans to live and thrive in; they are below the heatstroke line.  Countries in the northern latitudes, such as Canada, are now in power are.  Dan studies one of the bugs that has become a major problem below the heatstroke line, biter bugs- giant insects that have evolved a taste for animal flesh, including humans. Until recently, Dan has been happy at his job that supports his wife, a food inspector, and three children.  Now, Dan feels the need to do some serious research into controlling the biter bugs instead of simply studying their evolution.  When he asks the government about this line of research, Dan is surprised at how quickly they agree.  However, when Dan is scheduled to travel to the Confederacies for his research, tragedy strikes.  Dan and his colleagues are kidnapped for his knowledge of the biter bugs and  Dan is forced to work on an alternate plan for the biter bugs in order to help the Confederacies. 

 
I have always been interested in books that deal with the very real and present issue of climate change.  The Heatstroke Line takes on this issue headfirst.  The world that Rubin has built after the climate has changed is realistic and interesting.  I was intrigued to explore the new world where the USA was no longer a world power due to wars over temperate and arable land; however humans persisted, maybe not in as high numbers, but persisted.  Among other important changes in the way people live, food production, cooling, and the change in landscape after the climate warmed, the evolution of insects was one of the main issues, and a dangerous one.  As an environmental scientist, this peaked my interest since human interaction with insects will definitely be an issue with climate change.  I enjoyed reading about Dr. Danten's studies and plans for the biter bugs; however, there was a lot of science, research and entomology included, which  might be heavy for some readers. The excitement did ramp up when Dan was kidnapped, conspiracy, political intrigue and survival were paired with the contrast of Dan's residence with a family in the Confederacies where he begins to care for their daughters.  Overall, a very interesting and science driven look at a possible future if our habits do not change. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Cat O' Nine Tales

Cat O' Nine Tales - Krystal Lawrence

Cat O' Nine Tales is a collection of nine (plus one bonus!) stories in the horror, thriller and suspense genres. The stories cover a wide array of topics in the horror genre. From blood and gore, planning the perfect murder, the supernatural and animal attacks, you will find it in here. Each story was short enough that I could read in one sitting, but absorbing enough that I felt connected while reading.

Some of my favorite stories were those where humans had a deep connection to animals. As the Crow Flies, Let Sleeping Cats Lie and The Dogs of Riverview Estates all used animals as a protector of those that treated them well, but something much different to those that threatened the people they trusted. These stories all had a eerie and gory feeling, but as someone who loves and protects animals, they were also reassuring.

Another story that captured me was The Eternal Sheriff. I have always loved the idea that a book could come alive; but for Grant Hudson, author of the Sidewinder series, that is truly a nightmare. After a good run, he needs to kill of his sheriff character, only the sheriff refuses to be killed. This story, while keeping an apprehensive atmosphere, also showed a bit of humor as the characters played with their creator. I would have loved to see this story as a longer version.

Overall, a good set of horror novels that will appease a wide variety of tastes. With all short story collections, I like some better than others. Some of the stories were very predictable for me, however the characterization was done well.

Daughter of a Thousand Years

Daughter of a Thousand Years - Amalia Carosella

Freydís is the daughter of Erik the Red in 1000 AD Greenland. Much like her father and brothers, she is fiery and passionate. However, Freydís is passionate about the old gods while Christianity is spreading throughout her people and her family. Freydís' devotion to Thor now marks her as different. She is still determined to make her own fate and practice in her own way, regardless of her brother's or husband's wishes. When the opportunity arises to sail away to Vinland with a man who shares her beliefs, Freydís takes the opportunity to follow her own path. A thousand years later, Emma Moretti has found her path within the Heathen religion of her Icelandic ancestors. Although she has kept her faith a secret since it will likely ruin her father's election chances. Congressman Moretti has run on the platform of Christian family values every election cycle and it hasn't failed him yet. Emma has moved back home this election cycle and has taken an adjunct professor job at the college. Through her class, her faith is revealed and threatens to destroy her and her family.


As a lover of dual time stories, I enjoyed reading about the parallels of Freydís' and Emma's lives one thousand years apart. Emma and Freydís are strong women that show immense courage, they are both true to themselves while trying to live up to their family's wishes. Both women are strong in their faith, even in times of turmoil. I did not know much about the time of Erik the Red and Leif Erikson's voyage other than that it happened, so I enjoyed reading about the journey from Freydís' point of view. I was surprised to learn about the switch in religion in Greenland and Iceland in 1000 AD to Christianity and away from the gods and goddesses. I was also curious about the rise of the worship of old Norse gods in present day. From both sides of history, religion and religious freedom are strong themes. Usually in dual time stories, I am pulled further into one story than the other. In this case, I was pulled further into Emma's plight at first and then Freydís' plight later. I felt more for Freydís's struggle with religion as everyone else turned towards the newer Christianity and she was losing her family. At the same time, Freydís had more freedom with her relationships and was even able to have a relationship outside of her marriage. I felt more for Emma's struggle when her hiding her religion was costing her a chance at romance. Emma's story picked up again for me near the end when she became free in her beliefs. Overall, a wonderful mix of historical fiction and contemporary fictions that compares women's struggles and religious persecution through time. While a lot has changed for the better, Emma and Freydís's stories of courage and standing up for their rights still emanate today.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

Fatal Option

Fatal Option - Chris  Beakey

Stephen Porter has just heard some terrible news about the insurance claim concerning his wife's death.  He begins a night a binge drinking knowing that his son, Kenneth is safely in his room nursing a black eye after upsetting the school the school hot-head and his daughter, Sara is supposedly a few houses away in their cul-de-sac sleeping over at her friend Madison's house.  However, when the weather begins to turn and the roads turn to ice, Stephen receives a call from Sara saying she is stranded on Rolling Road at a teacher's house and near the site of her mother's death, Stephen begins to panic.  Eventually, he decides to go save his daughter himself even though he is a little buzzed.  Stephen doesn't know that Aiden, the autistic younger brother of the teacher she was visiting is lost outside in the dark that night.  When the collision inevitably happens, Stephen opens up a can of worms concerning the death of his wife, the death of three other women that died similarly, and the troubled mind of teacher, Kieran O'Shea.


This is the type of thriller where you just have to go along for the ride.  Every time that I thought I had an idea of where the author was going with the story, there was a new twist.  The suspense of the story is layered through carefully guarded secrets of many of the town's inhabitants.  Secrets, the fact that we will do anything for our children and the struggle between good vs. evil were central themes.  I do like that in many of the characters, there was a grey area between good and bad.  Characters that I thought that I had pegged turned out to be someone different.  Sara's teacher, Kieran turned out to be one of the most interesting characters, he was not exactly who I thought, but still harbored evil within.  His relationship with Sara was something I'm still having trouble with, it seems like either Sara or Kieran should be smart enough to stop a romance that is asking for trouble.  I also wish that Kieran's life was explored a little more; there was some back story, but it seemed like his story could have gone further.  I can't say much more without giving things away, but in the end I was thoroughly surprised at how everything came out with a bang.  I do wonder if anyone else in the town is alive afterwards and I truly wondered about the fate of Kieran and Stephen.  Overall, an intense thriller that has a lot going on and will keep you guessing until the end. 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

Let's Try This Again

Let's Try This Again - Jordyn Woodtke

Josie's love life is....complicated. She has had an on again, off again relationship with Isaac for the past forever.  Josie and Isaac know every little intricacy of each other and the sex is just wow.  Now, on their third break-up, Isaac wants to meet up with Josie for lunch.  Interestingly, this is right before Josie plans on moving all the way to L.A.  Inevitably, Josie and Isaac agree to be friends with benefits until she moves.  In California, Josie is devastated by her separation from Isaac- and his refusal to contact her.  When she lands a job as a personal assistant to Carter Coleman, things take a turn for the better.  Carter used to be in a popular boy-band, now he is going solo.  He has some amazing music written, and Josie's heartache provides the perfect story for his lyrics.  Eventually Josie and Carter form more than a coworker bond; but, is Isaac truly out of the picture and is Josie really ready to try this whole relationship thing again?

 
We've all either been there or have had a friend who has been there- just stuck in a toxic relationship.  Josie is the definition of today's new adult, confident, adventurous, owning her sexuality but just not clicking in the dating department. Reading about Josie's dating escapades was like reading a friend's diary or reliving some moments from college.  I absolutely loved Josie's inner monologue, it was like she was reading my mind in some situations.  Serious brownie points were also won when Josie not only got to work for, but be in a relationship with a former boy-band member (extra credit was given for mentioning 'N Sync) .  This was my dream, as I'm sure it was with many other women my age.  The decision between Isaac and Carter obviously follows Josie throughout the book (for me it was a no brainer) and we are kept in suspense until the very end.  I was really happy with her decision, even if I would have chosen differently.   Sensuous, sweet and slightly naughty sex scenes were sprinkled in with just enough to keep things spicy, but not so much to take things overboard.  So many things Josie said about relationships and being in love resonated with me, especially from that time in my life especially "...being in love is never the wrong choice because it's not a choice.  Either it's your forever or it gets you to what will come next.  It's always a step in the right direction."  Overall, a fresh, raw and pertinent voice in the new adult genre, perfect for a Valentine's weekend read.
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

The Lost Girl of Astor Street

The Lost Girl of Astor Street (Blink) - Stephanie Morrill

Piper Sail and Lydia DeVine have been best friends since toddlerhood when they moved to the upper class neighborhood of Astor Street in 1920's Chicago.  The two ladies are polar opposites, Lydia is sweet, kind and demure and Piper is inquisitive, tenacious and quick to act.  Now that they are young ladies, Piper and Lydia are supposed to be looking to the future and a potential husband.  However, that all changes when Lydia goes missing. Piper jumps into action to try and find her friend; Piper knows secrets about Lydia that even her parents won't divulge and her persistent nature makes her a natural detective.  WIth the help of the the detective assigned to Lydia's case, Marion Cassano, Piper is determined to find out what happened to her friend.  As Piper delves into Lydia's disappearance, she also must go into the underbelly of 1920's Chicago, bordellos, speakeasies, mafia connections and plenty of secrets will be unearthed during Piper's search. 

 
The Lost Girl of Astor Street is an exciting historical mystery with an awesome female lead.  From the very beginning I knew that I would like Piper, she never gives up, loves with a ferocious heart and encompasses the emerging modern and independent '20's female.  Her determination and grit to find out what happened to her best friend drives the story. As Piper gets deeper into Lydia's mystery, carefully layered secrets begin to reveal themselves.  Another part of the story that I loved was the exploration of 1920's Chicago, with having to investigate all types of people and places, Piper gets to the heart of the time period.  With a sweet romance that doesn't take away from the plot, The Lost Girl of Astor Street provides a riveting historical mystery. 
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

The Secrets of Montresor (The French Orphan #2)

The Secrets of Montrésor - Michael Stolle

Picking up right after The French Orphan, Pierre- the new Marquis de Beauvoir,  his friend Armand and trusty valet, Jean are off to claim the Beauvoir property of Montresor.  However, their trip has double purpose.  From Montresor, they will begin a quest to unite three rings for the Knights Templar.  When the group arrives at the estate, they begin to find that things have not been kept quite right from when Pierre's cousin Henri ran the estate.  Pierre begins to set things straight and must out some staff.  Meanwhile, Henri is still trying to find a way for Pierre to meet his unfortunate end.  With many players including Henri, Cardinal Richeleiu and King Louis XIII and their different agenda's, Pierre's life is anything but boring.


This is the second book in the French Orphan series and I am so glad that I stuck with it!  The Secrets of Montresor is action packed and includes more historical detail surrounding Louis XIII.  Pierre and Armand can't seem to stay out of trouble as they claim Pierre's estates and Henri is always right on their trail.  Henri's malicious debacles were even greater this time as he came closer and closer to killing Pierre.  I was especially intrigued when he became involved with a gypsy troupe who almost seemed to manipulate him.  Jean was the shining star for me in this installment, his devotedness to Pierre and street smarts help Pierre and Armand out of trouble more than once.  Another new comer is Armand's cousin, François de Toucy who is surprising in a good way.  The female characters play a smaller role in this installment, but they definitely have more to offer in upcoming books, especially Julia.  Like the last book there are several sex scenes and male/male sex scenes, so that is something that the reader will have to be comfortable with.  The writing is less clunky, but there is still inner-monologues that are in the way and a few instances of repeated knowledge to the reader.  I will, however like to continue reading on in the series to see how Pierre and Armand will find the third Templar ring.  

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.