book review

Review: A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas

Title: A Conspiracy in Belgravia

Author: Sherry Thomas

Publisher: Penguin Group

Genre: mystery, historical fiction

Source: borrowed from sister

Publication Date: 2017


In A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas, Charlotte Holmes has never been happier. Cast out by her family in disgrace and shunned by society, she is flourishing. Working under the guise of Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte solves cases for the public, aided by friend and benefactress, Mrs. Watson. Her latest case, however, takes her by surprise. Her dear friend, Lord Ingram’s wife hires Holmes to find her long-lost love, Myron Finch. Although Lady Ingram remains true to her husband, she and Finch meet once a year to gaze at each other across the park. This year, he didn’t come and isn’t answering her increasingly frequent newspaper ads begging him to contact her. Adding a further winkle to the situation is the fact that Myron Finch is Charlotte’s illegitimate brother, whom she’s never met.

While trying to solve the case, Charlotte is met with a surprising proposal, a mysterious stranger woos her sister Livia, and a body turns up where its not expected. There are codes, puzzles, and poisoning… just another day in the life of Sherlock Holmes.

My Thoughts

I highly enjoyed A Conspiracy in Belgravia. The characters continue to charm the pants off of me. Charlotte is smart, funny, arch, and sensual. The way she enjoys food makes me hungry. It’s also a delightful departure from the usual portrayal of an ascetic Sherlock Holmes. Her reaction to he proposal was very good; she doesn’t want to get married, doesn’t want to lose her freedom, but is concerned for he sisters and considered it for their case. Based on what was set up in the first book, this was very in characters.

Speaking of sisters, I love Livia. Her anxiety and neuroticism is so relatable. I could feel her frustration and pain at her own anxiety and inability to mix easily with society. I also highly enjoyed seeing her connect with someone she ends up liking romantically. She’s in her late twenties and tired of being looked over by Society, and suddenly, she’s being singled out by someone who want to connect with her over a passion of hers. And I loved how the suggestion Charlotte made at the end A Study in Scarlet Women, that she write the Sherlock Holmes stories, comes to fruition in this one. Once again, writing is something I connect with her over.

The mystery of this book was interesting. It starts as a simple missing person and then branches out into a tangle mess of intrigue and conspiracy. However, unless you have a very good memory or have just read A Study in Scarlet Women, A Conspiracy in Belgravia can be very hard to understand. It relies on you remembering minor characters and the entire resolution of the first book, and I was so very confused through a lot of this. Once I went back and reread the previous book, this one made much more sense, but it’s twisted and hard to follow. So, fair warning.

However, even with the confusion, this was a very enjoyable book. The characters and relationships are strong and I love how they’ve grown and deepened from the first book. I enjoyed the mysteries that happen and the intrigue, and thought it was well-paced and plotted.

Would I Recommend It?

If you like mysteries, Sherlock Holmes pastiches, and interesting women characters, you should definitely read A Conspiracy in Belgravia.

book review

Review: The Prince and the Dressmaker

cover of "The Prince and the Dressmaker"

Title: The Prince and the Dressmaker

Author: Jen Wang

Publisher: First Second

Genre: Graphic Novel, Romance

Source: borrowed

Publication Date: 2018

heading "summary"

In The Prince and the Dressmaker, Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride. Well. His parents are and throw a ball in his honor. All the young ladies in Paris are excited and dresses are commissioned. One dress, however, shocks everyone and grabs Sebastian’s attention. He decides to hire the dressmaker, Frances, for a special and secretive purpose: to design the most beautiful dresses for him.

Frances longs to be a famous designer. She quickly agrees to Sebastian’s unusual request and turns him into Lady Crystallia, Paris’s newest fashion icon. She and Sebastian grow closer and closer, but living in secret, unable to take credit for her designs, isn’t how Frances wants to live.

Heading "My thoughts"

My goodness, The Prince and the Dressmaker was just the most adorable and lighthearted story I’ve read in awhile! I loved Sebastian and Frances with all my heart. Sebastian just wants to be free to be himself, someone he feels most like when he’s dressed in beauty. Frances desires the same thing, but faces hard decisions along the way. Not only does she have to decide if she wants to stay a secret, but when given the chance to go public, she has to decide between success and being herself.

There is a romance in this, and it’s lovely. Frances and Sebastian grow closer and close throughout the book, and you can really feel the tension between them. It’s done in looks and words and little touches, and it’s just lovely.

The end is wonderful, too. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but it brought tears to my eyes. It’s truly fantastic.

Heading "Would I recommend it"

Yes! Please, go read this book. It will make you very happy!

Other Reviews:

The Hockey Player’s Heart by Jeff Adams and Will Knuass

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers


Review: Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

Title: Whose Body?

Author: Dorothy L. Sayers

Genre: mystery, detective story

Source: Amazon

Publication Date: 1923

When a dead body turns up mysteriously in a bathtub wearing a pair of pince-nez, Lord Peter Wimsey jumps at the chance to investigate. The police soon think they have identified the body, but Wimsey is unconvinced. He thinks the missing person the police have identified the body as is still missing. Excited by his first murder case, Wimsey dives headfirst into intrigue, deceit, and grudges long held.

When I bought this book, I really had no idea what to expect. I’d heard of Lord Peter Wimsey, but have never seen nor read anything of him. I went into this book blind.

Luckily, I was very pleasantly surprised. I love Wimsey. He’s easy-going, light-hearted, funny, sarcastic, and good humored. He pokes fun at others and himself. He’s a gentleman without a profession, so he’s turned his sharp mind to detecting. He also is a veteran of World War I, something that could not fail to leave its scars.

The mystery was well constructed. A body is found in a shared bath of a building. Another man fitting the description has disappeared. It seems like an easy match and the police are happy to rest there, but Wimsey is observant and soon discovers the man in the bath cannot be the missing gentleman. He works very well with a police detective, Charles Parker, and his valet, Bunter, and they soon untangle the mess.

I will say that I was uncomfortable by some period-typical anti-Semeticsm. The missing person is Jewish, and while everyone is complimentary, it’s in a sort of back-handed way that makes it clear that “for a Jew, he’s actually not bad.” That made me very uneasy because I was unable to decide if it was the characters or the author talking. My only solace was that Wimsey himself did not join in.

I also really loved the lighthearted digs at other detective novels the characters too. They weren’t mean-spirited, but all in good fun. The characters would mention how thing would go if this were a detective novel and how much easier it would be. It was a lot of fun. There was also a brilliant scene in which Wimsey and Parker question a witness. They start by saying how witnesses rarely have as good a memory as in detective stories, and then ask a series of questions that guide the witness deeper into his memory until he surprises himself at how much he knew. It was brilliant.

Yes. Whose Body? is a sharp, funny, and well constructed detective mystery. Wimsey is a delight, and I look forward to reading more of him.


Review: The Hockey Player’s Heart by Jeff Adams & Will Knauss

Title: The Hockey Player’s Heart

Author: Jeff Adams & Will Knauss

Publisher: Big Gay Media

Genre: contemporary m/m romance, hockey romance

Source: Amazon

Publication Date: January 15, 2020

Caleb Carter is a hot shot hockey player out with a foot injury. He’s returned to his hometown for some rest. He never expects to run into an old crush, Aaron Price. Seeing him brings up a lot of old feelings, and he decides to go for it. But Aaron’s had some bad experiences and isn’t ready to jump into a relationship with a celebrity. The chemistry between them, though, is hard to deny and both become optimistic about their chances.

This was a very sweet story. Both characters were wonderfully well done and very believable. For all his fame and fortune, Caleb was very down to earth. He’s affable and outgoing, connects with those around him, and politely deflects attention that is unwanted. I also like how good he is with kids, both in Aaron’s third grade class and the local hockey team. There’s also a very sweet scene near the end of the book between him and a teenage fan that almost brought tears to my eyes.

If I had any complaint about the story is that it was almost too easy for Caleb and Aaron to get together. There were barriers, yes, but they all were easily overcome and there was no real drama. I would have liked to explore the depths more, especially Aaron’s troubled past.

However, this book had wonderful relationships between characters. I loved the main relationship, but also the relationship between both men and Caleb’s sister, Pam. I thought it really brought the characters alive.

Yes. If you want to read a lighthearted romance that will make you smile, this is a great book to pick up.


Review: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

When the Banks need a nanny for their children, Jane, Michael, John, and Barbara, they never expect the magical woman who arrives. While Mr. and Mrs. Banks never notice the odd things she does, Jane and Michael are fascinated by her tricks, from sliding up the banister to her magical carpet bag. Together, they have many adventures and experiences.

So, I did not like this book. I know that I was influenced by the movies, but I found Mary Poppins to be completely unlikable. She was perpetually in a bad mood, sniping at the children, snapping at strangers, and acting offended when anyone brought up the extraordinarily things going on around them. The kids weren’t much better. There was a whole chapter devoted to Michael being in a bad mood and acting out.

The magical scenes didn’t feel very magical to me. I think that’s mainly because Mary kept poking holes in them and acting like it wasn’t magical. I think the only time she seemed to enjoy the magic was when she and Bert had a tea party in one of his chalk paintings.

My favorite chapter revolved around John and Barbara, who were babies. It was revealed that babies under the age of one can speak the language of the world. They could hear the wind talking, converse with a bird, etc. They were distressed to discover they might lose that ability, and it was very sad when they did.

But, other than that one chapter, the book felt very flat and dull to me. I’d checked out an anthology of Mary Poppins stories, but I didn’t want to read any more after that first.

Not really. There are better classic children’s books that inspire a sense of wonder. Mary Poppins falls short.


Review: Briarley by Aster Glenn Gray

Title: Briarley

Author: Aster Glenn Gray

Genre: M/M Historical romance, fairy-tale retelling

Source: Amazon

Publication Date: May 5, 2018

During World War II, a parson takes shelter in a country house during a rainstorm. Unnerved by the empty rooms and lavish supper laid out for him, he soon flees, but not before plucking a rose from the garden for his daughter. This, of course, brings out the master of the house, a hideous dragon-man breathing fire and raging at the theft. The beast demands the parson send his daughter to the house as his punishment…

And the parson refuses. He stays instead, and our Beauty and the Beast tale takes a delightful new turn.

This was such a lovely retelling. I love the parson, Edward, and his concern and care for not only his daughter, but the invisible staff at the country home. He’s told the way to break the curse, and becomes determined to help because it’s the right thing to do for the staff. I’m all about characters who do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. I love his suggestions as to alternative ways to find love, like getting the beast a puppy.

The romance was very sweet, too. I like that sexuality was explored in various ways and how the beast, who’d been cursed for a hundred years, had a more rigid concept of his sexuality than Edward did. It makes sense that a man from the 1800s would still view his sexuality as an abomination, while Edward had a looser view of his own.

Overall, this is such a sweet read and a lovely m/m retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which I’ve been looking for a long time.



Review: A Stroke of Malice by Anna Lee Huber

Title: A Stroke of Malice

Author: Anna Lee Huber

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: historical mystery

Source: Purchase (Amazon)

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

On holiday for a Twelfth Night Party in her friends, the Duchess of Bowmont’s home, Kiera Gage quickly finds what she’d hoped to be a pleasant escape to be another day on the job. A decomposing body is found in the castle’s crypt and is tentatively identified as the duchess’s son-in-law, purported to have gone to Paris a few weeks prior. Kiera and Gage called upon to investigate and find not only the identify of the body, but the killer as well. They dive into the investigation, but Kiera soon finds that the killer will go very far to hide his identity and stop the truth from being discovered.

I really love this series, and the latest entry didn’t disappoint. It starts out light-hearted with wonderful historical details and costumes. I’d never heard of a Twelfth Night party before, and it was described so vividly, I could imagine myself there. I wish I had been, except for the part where the dead body was discovered.

Once again, my favorite part of this series is the love and devotion Kiera gets from her husband, Gage. Where he could demand she stop investigating, especially since she’s pregnant, he’s nothing but supportive of her. He understands that she needs to use the skills she unwillingly was taught to do some good in the world. Their relationship is loving and romantic, and I would read a thousand books for it.

The mystery was really well done, too. I love books that expose the seedy underbelly of the age when it came to the upper class. Most books of the time make it seem like everyone was perfect and faithful and no one every strayed, but Huber delves into the affairs the upper class had and shows how it was an open secret of the time. I loved the duchess and her family. They were definitely a colorful sort and not one that you come across in books a lot.

Overall, this was an excellently written book and a fantastic read. It was just the kind of thing I needed to escape the world around me.

If you haven’t read any of the Lady Darby books by Anna Lee Huber, I highly encourage you to start today. They are excellent historical mysteries with just the right touch of romance. You won’t be disappointed.


Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl

Author: Gillian Flynn

Publisher: Broadway Books

Genre: thriller, mystery, suspense

Source: mom

Publication Date: April 22, 2014

On Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing in an apparent kidnapping. Nick reports the disappearance, but a series of clues combined with his odd behavior quickly point the police in his direction. Not only that, but Amy’s diary entries reveal a marriage gone wrong and her fear that her husband might kill her. Nick is determined to prove his innocence by conducting his own investigation, an investigation that goes shockingly off the rails as a horrifying discovery.

Wow. No, really, wow. I have never read a book where I so completely and utterly loathed both main characters before and yet still enjoyed the book. Maybe enjoyed is too strong a word. The book held me in its grasp and kept me turning the pages.

I have to admit, I went in knowing a good deal about the book. Between its popularity and the movie, I knew the twist and most of the climax. That actually made the first half of the book more interesting than it would have been, I think, because I completely despised the Amy that was presented in her diary entries. She was so fucking fake and I hated her. I actually liked what happened with her character in the second half of the book because she was real. I’m trying to be as circumspect as I can and not give any spoilers, which is hard, but there it is.

I never liked Nick at all. He was just a terrible person from start to finish. I did go back and forth from wanting to see him go down to getting his revenge to not wanting anyone to win. Which, I don’ t know if anyone did win. I wasn’t satisfied by the ending, though; I felt let down. But it fit the characters, so I can’t complain.

I guess I recommend it. This was really outside of my usual genre, and like I said, it was addictive. I can’t say I loved it, but I wanted to keep reading it to see what happened, and that’s the sign of a good book. So, yeah. If you like thrillers with terrible people, check this book out.


Review: King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry

Title: King of Plagues

Author: Jonathan Maberry

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Genre: thriller, plagues, action, suspense, adult

Source: shelf

Publication Date: 2011

After a catastrophic bombing of a London hospital, Joe Ledger comes out of his grief vacation to investigate. It is quickly determined that the bombing is the work of the Seven Kings, a shadowy organization that led by the Goddess , whose purpose is to spread discord around the world. Now, they have released a weaponized version of the Ten Plagues of Egypt, and the Department of Military Science must scramble all their resources to take them down.

I cannot believe I almost got rid of this book. I did a massive unhaul last year, and I almost got rid of this book, and that was ridiculous. I love this book. It’s so incredibly good. Jonathan Maberry is such a good writer.

Let’s start with Joe Ledger. Joe is a smart ass, confident, a little arrogant, He’s very good at his job, which is to lead Echo Team, a group of elite men and women who fight all the strange stuff the world puts out. What I love about Joe is that he’s deeply vulnerable, not afraid to admit when he’s scared or upset or, in this book, grieving. He’s a very real character and I couldn’t love him more.

The Seven Kings organization is terrifying. We’re brought into it through Sebastian Gault, one of the villains in the first novel, Patient Zero. Here, Gault is damaged, bruised, and reeling and oh so very ready to take revenge on the world. He’s quickly drawn into the mystique of the Seven Kings and falls into adoring worship of the Goddess, a woman named Eris.

And then there’s my favorite character, Toys. Toys is Gault’s assistant, the power behind the throne, which is a trope I love. He’s ruthless and heartless, but inconveniently starts growing something like a conscious during this book and becomes conflicted. He alone can see that the Goddess is just an aging woman who wants to destroy for destruction sake, but he can’t break the bonds he has with Gault.

The book is a very fast read. Maberry writes incredibly short chapters that entice you to keep reading, and I tore through it in a couple of days. I thought that right now this book would be too heavy, but it turns out to be just what I needed: an action packed, suspenseful thriller with great characters and a twisting plot that kept me reading.

If you like action, suspense thrillers with great character, yes, read this book. But, before you read this, go back to where it all started with Patient Zero.


Review: Archenemies by Marissa Meyer

Title: Archenemies
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Genre: YA, action, superheroes, scifi
Source: library
Publication Date: November 6, 2018

Nova is living a double life. In one, she’s Insomnia, a Renegade superhero dedicated to protecting the weak and maintaining order in Galton city. In the other, she’s Nightmare, and Anarchist determined to bring down the Renegades who once failed to protect her family.

Adrian is also living a double life. In one, he’s the leader of his Renegade patrol group, son of the leaders of the Renegades, and upstanding citizen. In the other, he’s the Sentinel, a vigilante determined to do good even if it means breaking a few rules.

Nova, Adrian, and the crew are faced with problems beyond secret identities as crime escalates in Galton City. They also have to deal with a new secret weapon being rolled out by the Renegade scientists, one with horrifying ethical implications. To top it off, Adrian and Nova’s feels for each other deepen, blurring the line between good and evil even further.

Oh, man, was this book a lot of fun. Nova is such a great character. Raised by evil super villains, she’s concerned with justice and integrity even more than the so-called superheroes. She isn’t blinded by her powers and and the idea that good is always right. She’s concerned with the people of the city, with ethics, and has a clearer picture of how power can be perverted. That’s not to say that she doesn’t have blindness of her own. Her uncle, Ace Anarchy, and the other villains, clearly don’t care about the people as she does. They want power for power’s sake, to be able to do what they want, and the freedom they enjoyed during the Age of Anarchy, when lawlessness ruled. But Nova, of course, is too young and naive to see that, which makes her story a tragedy.

I like Adrian well enough, but he’s not as interesting to me as Nova is. His power is the ability to bring drawings and paintings to life, and he’s used it to tattoo modifications on himself to turn him into the Sentinel. He’s willing to break the rules of that his parents follow, and he does have a point, but ultimately, he’s more of a child in his thinking. I do like the way he cares about everyone, especially Nova. His and Nova’s relationship is very cute and I like the way the came together.

I wish, though, more time had been spent on developing the “bad” Renegade patrol unit. They are exactly what Nova fears: superheroes that abuse their power and authority. I have no t trouble believing that they exist, but I would have liked them to be more complicated and less cartoonishly villainous. I would have liked to see some nuance. But, on the other hand, they contrasted with Adrian, who as Sentinel is abusing his powers and breaking the rules, but following a code that keeps his conscience clear, unlike Geinessa and her crew. So, maybe that’s where the nuance lies.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a great read on what the world might be like with superheroes where the world doesn’t fall apart like in Watchmen by Alan Moore. If you’re looking for an exciting escape from the world, this series is for you.