Celticlady's Reading Room

I love books of any type, ebooks, print in a variety of genres. I review and have been since 2009...

Great Procedural

Shades of Justice (Detective Madison Knight series #9) - Carolyn Arnold
Shades of Justice by Carolyn Arnold #9 of the Detective Madison Knight series is not the first I have read in the series, not sure how many. That said, it can be read like a stand-alone novel. I promise!
A woman and a man are found dead at the bottom of a pool, completely naked, bullets in their heads. The woman is quickly identified but the man's identity is unknown. She is Lorene Malone, a rich woman with secrets. Why is a woman murdered with a man other than her husband? Detective Madison Knight along with her partner Detective Terry Grant team up again to solve this murder. 
There is a slew of suspects, from family members to acquaintances, leaves Madison at odds with her Sergeant as Steve Malone, wife of the murdered woman is a huge contributor to the police department of the city Stiles, where the woman lived. So that can make it difficult in trying to figure out and eliminate the many suspects and solve the murders in a professional way.
On a side story, Madison is to be a maid of honor to her best friend, Cynthia, a medical examiner on the case, which along with the case consumes her life including maintaining a relationship with her life partner Troy. There is also an internal investigation into corrupt cops which I am sure will be told in future books as it is never really solved in Shades of Justice. So needless to say there is a lot of things going on, so with long days and sleepless nights, can she move on with the investigation?
I love a strong woman protagonist and Madison is right up there as a woman who knows what she wants and is not easily intimidated. Since she is at odds at times with her Sergeant, she perseveres and with the help of her partner Terry and the understanding of her love Troy, she is able to get to the bottom of this murder and get to the wedding on time also! 
I have read and reviewed a number of Carolyn Arnold novels and liked them and this one was also one I want to read more of the series. Carolyn Arnold is the only author with "POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™" Now what does that tell me? Well, it tells me that she knows her stuff!!  I enjoyed the book and will be reading more by this author.
I received this book through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, I have volunteered to share my review and all the opinions are 100% my own.
Murder Knocks Twice - Susanna Calkins

Murder Knocks Twice is a new series by Susanna Calkin that takes place in 1929 Chicago during prohibition. We see Gina Ricci, the main character, start a new job as a cigarette girl in a speakeasy, replacing a girl who was murdered. 


We meet a myriad of characters that work at the speakeasy, The Third Door owned by Signora Castallazzo, the customers, ie socialites finding some fun, ex-servicemen playing poker in a back room. Prohibition cocktails and mentions of gangsters such as Al Capone and there is also a mention of the St.Valentine's Day Massacre and the rise of organized crime. 


I have not read much about 1929 Chicago other than the stock market crash. What does a cigarette girl do, she wears this box around her neck and goes around the speakeasy selling cigarettes and cigars, she also waits tables as needed. That is what Gina started doing but she also wants to be a photographer. The piano player, Marty is murdered and Gina comes upon the scene just as Marty is dying. Gina had learned that she and Marty were cousins on her mother's side so this murder was personal.


Gina finds herself right smack dab in the middle of trying to figure out who and why Marty was murdered. With a camera and a roll of film, that she learns how to develop, may give her answers. Will she find out what she is looking for?  She does learn more about her mother's family and I see this as a big part of the series. Who her mother's family are and why were they estranged?


I enjoyed reading this book, not fast-paced but easy enough to read. I see this as a fun series that I would continue reading. If you love a good historical mystery that takes place during Prohibition, then this is the series for you.




Dangerous Flaws (Leah Nash Mysteries, #5) - Susan Hunter
Dangerous Flaws by Susan Hunter is one of those novels that you just want to keep on reading, my hubby actually read it first and liked it.
Leah Nash is a true crime writer that lives in Himmel Wisconsin, I live in Wisconsin even though the town is fictitious, at least I think it is, could not find it on a map or a google search. That is one of the reasons I wanted to read the book, I could relate to small-town life.
So on to the story, Leah is surprised when, while investigating the murder of a young college professor that the police they are focused on her ex-husband, Nick, as the suspect. She knows his flaws and that he is a liar but she does not think that murder is one of his flaws. She agrees to help Nick's lawyer, Gabe, and prove that he did not do it. 
There is another death and she knows that she needs to find the murderer pretty quick. She finds hidden motives and has to strip  away lies and there are twists and turns that she never expected. Can she find the murderer? Well on that you will have to read the book.
Hubby at first said that it took him a bit to get into it but I didn't find that as a problem. I got into it right away, loved the characters, especially Leah and Miguel. The plot was interesting and intriguing and kept my attention from start to finish. I love good mysteries and this one is a good one. I highly recommend it and suggest you go get a copy! 
Why Kill the Innocent - C.S. Harris

Why Kill the Innocent by C.S.Harris is the 13th book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series. Jane Ambrose is found covered in snow, murdered, by Hero, the wife of Viscount Devlin. Devlin will be the one investigating the murder. His suspects include a wide amount of people connected to Princess Charlotte, the only child of the Prince Regent and heir presumptive to the throne. Untangling the secrets of Jane's world leads Sebastian into dangerous treachery where no one can be trusted.

This is the first book in the series that I have read. Except for a few bits of information that would have helped me in the book, I was in no way put out by that. That said, this can be read as a stand-alone. I found the story to be really well researched. As I finished the book and read the Author's Note, I was amazed as to how much research by the author there was. That always impresses me when an author of historical fiction sticks to the facts as much as they can. 

Innocence Lost (Bootleggers' Chronicles #1) - Sherilyn Decter

Innocence Lost by Sherilyn Decter is a story of Maggie Barnes, a widow with a young son to raise in Philadelphia, 1924. Maggie is finding is extremely difficult making ends meet including putting food on the table and paying the bills. She decides to open her house to guests, she has room for a few lodgers. One of the lodgers is Constable Joe Kelly, also living with her is Mr.Mansfield and Mr. Smith. 

Her son Tommy is at a warehouse along with a few of his friends, where there are some bootleggers, led by Mickey Duffy.  There is a police raid, they end up running and one of his friends, Oskar, goes missing. Tommy is scared and doesn't say anything of what he knows about the raid and the missing boy. The boy is eventually found, in the river and this starts the investigation that Maggie finds herself in. Ironically, Maggie also becomes friends with Mickey Duffy's wife Edith.

Prohibition was the norm in the '20s, there were speakeasies all over  Philadelphia. Maggie along with the help of Joe, they try to find and capture the bootleggers. Maggie also has another person helping her, a ghost of a Victorian cop, Inspector Frank Geyer. Their investigation into who and how Oskar died takes them into the world of gangsters and corruption. 

I have not read a lot about Prohibition or gangsters, so I was a bit apprehensive because I like different genres in historical fiction, that said, I really enjoyed this book. There was a great amount of research done in this book, an ultimately the whole Bootlegger's Chronicles. A fast and entertaining read.  I highly recommend and look forward to reading the next in the series.

The Liar's Room - Simon Lelic

"She wakes to find herself broken, and it the first question that enters her head. The next: where am I?" Thus begins the story of Susanna Fenton and her daughter Emily.

Fourteen years ago, Susanna Fenton ran away from a previous life with her daughter Emily, now a teenager. She has a comfortable life, a career as a therapist but she is haunted by her past and her daughter knows nothing of what happened. 

One day, a new patient comes through the door of her office, Adam Geraghty. While she is trying to get to the reason why he came to her, he starts asking personal questions. He tells her he wants to do something bad and doesn't know if he can stop himself. The session goes on in this way and Adam brings up Emily. This is when Susanna gets really concerned and scared. 

The story is told in different views, Susanna and Emily. We learn that Emily has had a young man befriend her, his name is Adam and she is besotted with him. As Susanna is getting more and more scared and unsure what Adam has done with her daughter, she desperately seeks a way to escape. What happened fourteen years ago? Why is this young man keeping her hostage? Good questions. You will have to read the book to find out! 

I love a good psychological thriller and this one was definetly a thriller worth reading. I have not read anything else by Simon Lelic, but I do have The New Neighbors that I intend to read. 

The Girls in the Picture: A Novel - Melanie Benjamin

What a delightful book! About Mary Pickford and Frances Marion, two real characters from the Hollywood scene. Mary was a child stage actress who continued to play girls even into her twenties. Her younger siblings, Jack and Lottie were also forced to work on the stage. The main characters in this story though are Mary, Frances and Mary's mother Charlotte. 


in 1909, with no work in sight, Mary decides to appear in the "flickers" and becomes America's Sweetheart. Frances Marion is a talented woman who writes screenplays. She met Mary Pickford when Mary's first husband, Owen, invited Frances to sketch his wife. They immediately became fast friends and they collaborated on films. Mary doing the acting and Frances writing the script. Mary came to own her own production company along with her husband Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin. So with Frances writing and Mary acting, they were definitely a force to be reckoned with. Both women were passionate and fierce when it came to their careers and would do what it took to succeed. 


Mary had a whirlwind marriage with Douglas Fairbanks but their marriage did end. Frances was introduced to the love of her life, Fred Thompson and they had two sons. Mary and Frances stayed friends until Frances died in 1973 and Mary died in 1979. 


This book was very interesting to me, I had not read a lot about Hollywood and Mary Pickford in particular. It appears that there had been a lot of research. Full of real characters, producers, D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, Albert Capellani and the Lumière brothers from France and actresses  Lilian Gish, Lois Weber, Frances Marion, Anita Loos, June Mathis. What a cornucopia of people! A book with a passion for acting and the persona's of Mary and Frances were amazing and poignant. Lots of history of Hollywood, silent films and talkies! I loved it and recommend reading this one! The girls in the picture may have faded over time but they are never forgotten!


From Across the Room - Gina L. Mulligan
What an interesting concept for a book! Writing a novel in the form of letters can't be easy and to be successful at that. From Across the Room is told completely in the form of letters. Mostly from the main character, Thomas Gadwell. He has met a young lady, Mary Harting and is smitten. The problem is, her father absolutely forbids them to see each other. He is currently writing his second novel and Mary's father feels that that is not a good way to make a living.
So in the form of the letters, he writes to Mary or darling Mary as he calls her, his editor Avery, Henry, his mentor, and his father. These letters are one-sided but as Thomas writes these letters we learn what the person who receives the letters writes back had to say in their own letters. His main purpose I think in writing these letters is to get advice on how he is to get in Mary's fathers good graces and what he should do to pursue his goal of having Mary for his own.
The reader learns about his visits to Mary and her family, his visits home when his father has a heart attack and his visits to his friends. The writing is very descriptive to the time, 1888-89, how Mary is restricted in how she can visit Thomas, although they do meet against her father's wishes. 
I was totally impressed with this book, I am generally not a fan of this era and thought that I would have a hard time reading it. That did not happen, I got totally immersed in the story and have to say that the ending caught me off guard. I really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. You won't be disappointed!


The Blue. A Novel. - Nancy Bilyeau

As with any book by Nancy, I always learn something. I never knew that the color blue had such a significant place in history. Genevieve Planché is an English born woman but is actually a Huguenot and absolutely hates the French and all they stand for, including the King. She aspires to be an artist, but of course, women in 1758 London are not taken seriously so she paints porcelain. She lives with her grandfather on Spitalfields, a questionable area to live in. 

She meets Sir Gabriel Courtenay who wants her to spy for him regarding the color blue, he wants the formula for the color.  She is tasked with going to Derby and is expected to infiltrate the lab where the color is formulated. The main obsession of Sir Gabriel is with getting the information on a new shade of blue on porcelain that is a perfect shade. 

She wants to be able to go to Venice as Sir Gabriel has promisedto fulfill a lifelong dream of being able to study so she agrees. Things don't go as planned though and she finds herself in France, the very place she hates. She is concerned though that the task she has to undertake could cause problems for her grandfather. Spying is not something she has wanted to do but in order for her to fulfill her dreams, she must do this.

Like I said before, Nancy's novels always seem to teach and thrill at the same time. An exciting story that is character driven, and has a female protagonist that is strong and goes after what she wants and does not let society tell her what she can and can't do. The addition of a love story keeps the story fluid and easy to read. When I look at some of the porcelain figures I have, I just never realized nor cared how they were made or about the colors that they are painted with. Well, I will now..lol.

 I always look forward to a new book by Nancy and this one did not disappoint! Go get your copy when it is released, you won't be disappointed!

This book is the first in the Victorian Ladies Series and is about Eleanor Sheffield and her family business. Her father has recently passed and she is trying to keep the business afloat. Her uncle, who was a twin to her father, has recently exhibited signs of dementia. Eleanor is an evaluator of antiquities and very talented. The death of a long time client of the business, Baron Lydney, left a provision in his will that Eleanor is supposed to evaluate the collection that he has. After evaluation, she is to determine whether the collection stays in the family in the care of his son Harry, or have it go into a museum.

Eleanor had had a relationship with Harry and when he never returned to her and propose she became disillusioned with him and does not trust him. Harry does come back but she does not think that there is a future for them, he has brought back an Italian beauty and she is not sure what their relationship is. Harry is nothing but persistent and the more time she spends with him the more her trust returns.

The problem is that her uncle has not paid any bills and the debt collectors are at her doorstep. In those days there was debtors prison if bills were not paid. Because she is a woman and her uncle is not well, the remaining clients of Sheffield Brothers have developed a distrust to her. She must do all she can to reclaim their trust. As time goes by and with her investigation, she does turn out to be a lady of a thousand treasures as she makes her determination about the Lydney collection.

As usual, Sandra Byrd has written another enjoyable first book to what I hope will be a great series. A gothic novel set during the mid to late 1800s in Victorian England, a time where women were not allowed to do much except stay in the home, Eleanor turns out to be a strong woman in a time dominated by men. I love reading about strong women and I love anything by Sandra as she does remarkable research. She always tells a great story and the characters are more than memorable! If you love a great historical fiction novel, then give this one a try!

The Secluded Village Murders - Shelly Frome

This book is about Emily Ryder, a guided tour guide. She takes a group to England, Lydfield-in-the-Moor to do what is called twinning, with Lydfield, CT and attend a fete that celebrates the two villages. While trying to get the next trip organized with elderly siblings, a mentor of hers, Chris, is badly injured and later dies, after falling off the roof of a house that had just had some work done on it. 

A shady developer is trying to get her to get her mother to sell property and issues threats because Emily refuses. She is 'working' with Will and his dog Oliver, there is a state trooper who doesn't believe that her mentor died under suspicious circumstances, but handyman Will agrees with her t hat something is not right. Her friend Babs who is a sassy reporter who keeps pushing Emily for a story. Then there is Emily's mom who is trying to keep her B&B afloat. 

With all of the characters in the book, I got a kick out of the arguing siblings. The trip to England was a bit more exciting to the story, as there was another murder and then when Emily's life is in danger it becomes a page turner. All in all I enjoyed this book, reminded me more of a British mystery than just a mystery that takes place in America. 

I think that I would love to see a sequel or ongoing series with Emily Ryder and her adventures as a guided tour guide. Maybe it is in the works? If you love a good mystery, I think you would enjoy this one.

A Torch in His Heart  - Anna Belfrage

Torch in His Heart by Anna Belfrage is a time slip story of Jason, Helle and Sam. The two men have been searching for Helle for over 2000 years. In an earlier life, as a young girl, Helle had died, Currently, Helle is a successful woman and starts working for Sam. In a short time, Sam starts to show his true self, being sexually intrusive, making things very difficult for Helle, that he will have Helle no matter what, even if it means killing Jason and forcing Helle to do as he wishes. Nothing matters to Sam then to have what he has been after for so long. Helle tried to quit her job but Sam is insistent that she keep working for him. She finally has the courage to just not report to work and take her chances with Jason. After that the friction between the three increases until Jason and Helle are fighting for their lives


Helle had few memories of her long ago past, or any other lives she had, Jason fills her in on most everything, he does keep from her how serious Sam is to fulfill his destiny. It takes Helle awhile to come to terms with what is happening. What transpires is a dangerous, suspenseful paranormal steamy romance that will keep you turning the pages. I have read everything, except for a novel or two in her Graham saga and I have to say that she never disappoints. I love a time travel story and this one is unique in that it involves more than one past live. 


I look forward to the next in the series, The Wanderer which continues the story of Jason and Helle. 



A Spark of Light

A Spark of Light - Jodi Picoult

As a fan of Jodi Picoult for years now, I of course was more than excited to get her latest novel A Spark of Light. While nothing she writes will compare to My Sister’s Keeper (in my humble opinion), one of the things I love most about Jodi is her ability to tackle tough subjects and turn them into a conversation via a fictional story with rich characters.


Her latest novel is centered around the age-old argument of pro-life or pro-choice regarding abortion, as well as women’s rights. 


The description of the book on Goodreads reads:


The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the crosshairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

One of the most fearless writers of our time, Jodi Picoult tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.


As a woman and parent myself, I don’t necessarily condone or support the abolishment of abortion; however, I am neither pro-life or pro-choice, but rather pro women’s rights. I believe every woman has a right to choose what happens to her body, even if that involves pregnancy. I also understand that we are talking about a potential human growing inside of her and what rights that future child should have, but I also have the opinion that a baby is not “alive” until it is born, so how can something that hasn’t been born yet be “murdered”? And how can it be murder if it’s just tissue when most abortions occur? Do we allow tissue to have rights? By the time a fetus has a functional brain and fully developed heart and other organs, it is far too late to abort, so allowing the baby to have rights when it is more a baby than tissue makes sense, but do we value those rights over the rights of the woman carrying the potential baby?


I can’t answer these questions, nor can anyone, which is why we have such extreme opinions on both sides. These are the types of issues Jodi Picoult tackles in this novel. Every character is different and comes from a different angle regarding abortion and women’s rights. It is amazing to me how she can take such a controversial topic, include all sides of the argument, and interweave them into a crazy Venn diagram where all the opinions overlap and we are all left wondering, what is the right answer? How can we come to some sort of understanding as a country, and why do we have to resort to violence to be heard and feel understood?


While I don’t think this was her best novel to date (again, I'm biased with My Sister's Keeper), I do love the fact that she wrote this book during such a difficult and pivotal time in our country. Women died for their rights, to be equal to men, and it’s unreal how in 2018 this is still such a hot topic. There are many moments in this novel where she makes some poignant points through various characters’ dialogue, but perhaps the best thing she wrote was included in her author’s note, which reads as follows:


“Honestly, I do not believe we, as a society, will ever agree on this issue. The stakes are too high, and both sides operate from places of unshakeable belief. But I do think that the first step is to talk to each other—and more important, to listen. We may not see eye to eye, but we can respect each other’s opinions and find the truth in them. Perhaps in these honest conversations, instead of demonizing each other, we might see each other as imperfect humans, doing our best”.


One of the only issues I had with the book is there is a character, a background character that had a purpose and was the catalyst of the events of the gunman, but her story was not wrapped up in an appropriate way. Jodi sometimes leaves things to our imagination but this particular character inadvertently started the entire chain of events, yet we don’t know what becomes of her. While that was disappointing, the novel itself is still definitely worth a read. Especially if you’re a woman and especially if you have opinions about abortion and women’s rights. Perhaps reading this book will open your eyes to other perspectives. 


And thanks to Jodi Picoult for once again working her magic and tackling such difficult issues and making her readers do some critical thinking and possibly reevaluate where we stand, or how we treat each other.


Guest Review: Kara Kelly

The Last Weekend of the Summer - Peter Murphy

Whenever I read a book by Peter Murphy, I feel transported right into the era or timeframe of the story. This novel is about a dysfunctional family, pretty much like anyone's family, we all have dysfunction at a certain level.

Gloria, the matriarch of the family, gathers her family, children and grandchildren, to the lake cottage that has been in the family for years. Johnnie, Buddy, and CC all bring along with them the family drama that they are dealing with, or not dealing with. They learn when they arrive at the lake cottage, that their estranged father will also be in attendance yet they don't know why they have been summoned. They all assume that Gloria is dying and getting her affairs in order. The three adult children, all have different reasons for not having a relationship with Jake.

The plot of this novel is very moving and relatable, as I said, everyone has drama and dysfunction, the characters are very believable, emotional and the story is fast-paced. A very moving story! Like I said, I always love a Peter Murphy novel, I don't think he can write anything bad and I look forward to the next book!

Great Mystery!

The Coroner - Jennifer Graeser Dornbush

The Coroner is a story of a young woman, Emily Hartford, an up and coming surgeon and recently engaged is called home because her father has had a heart attack. Her father is a medical examiner in the small town that Emily grew up in. She and her father are estranged because of the death of her mother. Emily was never told how her mother died, all she knew is that she died in a car accident, but she knows that there is more to the story than what she was told by her father.

A young girl is found murdered and Emily is asked by her father to do the autopsy. She does this and finds herself drawn into the investigation. She renews her friendship with an old flame, the sheriff, Nick Larsen. Her fiance wants her to come back to Chicago to resume her life there with him, but as time goes on, Emily is not so sure she wants to. Emily is threatened and time races as she and Nick try to find the killer. This is a bit difficult as there are numerous suspects.

This novel is written as a good murder mystery, good plot and is exciting enough to keep the reader turning the pages. I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more by this author! Love a good mystery? Then this book is worth taking a look at!

Scar Tissue - Patricia  Hale

A young lady, Ashley Lambert, jumps 18 stories to her death in an apparent suicide. Ashley was the perfect person, according to her parents and they want to know why their daughter jumped. They decide to hire the PI team, Griff Cole and Britt Calahan to investigate. In another story within a story, Britt and Griff purchase a home and move in together. Britt befriends the neighbor, and when she witnesses bruises on the woman's arms and back she becomes suspicious. The two stories intertwine and create a chain of events that become dangerous. Against Cole's wishes, Britt digs further into what could be happening with their neighbors and the husband/wife relationship, why does Rhea have bruises? The investigation into Ashley's death leads them to question the coaches, her parents, and her peers. Ashley was an athlete who was near perfection in her performance which leads to the question of performance drugs.

I have read one other Cole and Calahan and enjoyed that one. The writing keeps the reader engaged and even though the book is less than 200 pages, it does pack a punch. I enjoyed the characterizations and especially the relationship between Cole and Calahan. A genuine respect between the two. 

If you are looking for a mystery that will keep your attention, then give this series a try!

Currently reading

stone mothers by Erin Kelly
Progress: 200/352pages
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
A Torch in His Heart by Anna Belfrage
Progress: 25/394pages
The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond
Progress: 200/342pages