The Crown Conspiracy

The Crown Conspiracy (The Riyria Revelations #1) by Michael J. Sullivan

Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melbourn are two of the greatest thieves you could ever go against. Their duo goes by the name Riyria, that name being known throughout the land.

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At the beginning of the novel, the two are heading to work on a job when they are stopped by some thieves. All they have to do is say who they and they scare the others off like rabbits.

They head off to try and rob Archie Ballentyne, the Earl of Chadwick, by breaking into his impenetrable tower.

Meanwhile, Archie Ballentyne has been waiting for Marquis Victor Lanaklin. Archie has unsuccessfully been trying to woo his daughter, Alenda, as he is after the Lanaklin lands. He has managed to intercept some of her private love letters to the rebel Degan Gault, and wants to use them as leverage with the father. In order to keep them safe he has locked then in his study in the crown tower, a gigantic tower with only one entrance, the only one who can open it being Archie.

But when he goes to show the letters, they are MISSING! They have been stolen, along with the Marquis’ carriage. Who could have done this? Riyria.

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Riyria return back to their pub and deliver the goods to Alenda, receiving their payments. But just as one job is finished, there appears there is another who wishes their services.

Hadrian goes to meet with the man, Baron Delano DeWitt. He has a job that needs to be done tonight. Sadly, Baron DeWitt has committed the biggest mistake anyone in that region could, he looked upon the wife of the master swordsman, Colonel Pickering. Colonel Pickering will duel anyone who stares at his wife, and with his skill he is impossible to beat.

Colonel Pickering’s only weakness? His special rapier that he cannot fight without. Baron DeWitt has stolen the sword and hid it in the castle’s chapel and he wants Riyria to smuggle the sword out of the castle before they search and  find it. Now Riyria has a rule about accepting rush jobs, they don’t. But Hadrian isn’t really a thief, he has a warrior’s heart. He likes things to be fair or to fight for something “right”, justice, etc.

He has felt a little disheartened at stealing things for royals, then notifying the party they stole from to get payment to steal it back. This is a job that will mean something. Plus the pay is really good.

Royce was raised on the streets and has been a thief as far back as he can remember. He has no qualms about what they do, and because of what he has been through he is also extremely suspicious. He does not want to take this job, but Hadrian convinces him it is worth it as they will get 200 gold tenets.

That night they sneak into the castle and into its chapel. They go to search for the sword but find the king, dead.

As their minds grasp the situation, a dwarf starts screaming out that they killed the king. Guards swarm on them and they end up locked up in the dungeon. Yes, someone murdered the king and framed them. But who? And why?

Alric Essendon wakes from a tumble with a maid to discover he is the new King. He is furious over the death and prepares a horrible punishment as his revenge.

Meanwhile, Hadrian and Royce await their fate in the dungeon; Hadrian wishing he hadn’t tried to take the job and Royce wishing he had talked Hadrian out of it. To their surprise they receive a royal visit from princess Arista Essendon.

Arista questions them, and Hardrian tells her the story, claiming they did not kill her father. And to their surprise, she believes them.

Arista is not like other women. Her father sent her to University and she studied the lost art of magic. She had been given a warning about the threat upon her father’s life but unfortunately didn’t heed it. Now she wants to hire the two to kidnap her brother.

Hadrian and Royce are surprised, but Arista explains that she thinks someone is after the Essendon line and wants to kill her brother as well. She wants them to smuggle him out of the castle and go to Gutaria Prison, the secret ecclesiastical jail. They they will meet the wizard, Esrahaddon, who will be able to guide her brother. They think it is odd, but faced with death, they take the job.

What other choice do we have?

Arista has a complete plan in place. She will send two monks in to administer the last rites and have the two unchained to pray. They will knock the monks out, switch clothes and meet her in the kitchen where she will have Alric.

Everything goes off without a hitch as they head off to the prison to find Esrahaddon, the wizard. As they continue their quest they run into a monk with a photographic memory that survived a massacre; a hidden prison that not only is built into a rock wall but once you enter cannot leave; the great wizard Esrahaddon who has been alive for eons; and secret church and government plot to answer the legend of the god Novron’s son and unite all the kingdoms under one rule!

Meanwhile, Arista tries to rule in her brother’s place but finds treachery very close to home. They try to brand her a witch and kill her.

Will this ragtag group be able save the throne? Or will they be outwitted and destroyed by these agents of Novron?

Thoughts After Reading:

I started reading this book, and I could not put it down. It is that amazing!

Luckily, my book had one and two in it as I quickly consumed it, and then searched for the rest in the series.

It is an amazing book trhat I highlyt recommend for Lord of the Rings fans or anyone who likes fantasy with a little mystery thrown in.

For more fantasy-mystery, go to Gates of Thread and Stone

For more magic and sorcery, go to The Emperor’s Edge

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Secrets

Secrets (Sweet Valley High #2) by Francine Pascal

Ah, Sweet Valley. Nothing takes me back to be preteen years faster than looking at this book series I was completely obsessed with. When I first became interested in them, they were out of print which just made me want them more!

As a kid I really liked the series and wanted to even live in their idyllic Californian world, and I thought the stories were fun and interesting. But as an adult I know these weren’t the best written books. Most of them are cheesy, silly, and sometimes don’t make sense; but these were the ’80s-’90s versions of Gossip Girl or One Tree Hill.

So the story follows twin sisters, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. Both are juniors, blonde, 5’6, and size sixes. Elizabeth is the smart, responsible one who dreams of being a journalist or writer. Jessica is the fashionable, social butterfly, cheerleader that dreams of parties and popularity.

They live in Sweet Valley, near Los Angeles, and attend school with their friends. The first book focused on the two girls, but the later ones were divided into two stories: one about a friend or relative while the other is about the girls. The later series got a bit darker and was done in miniseries, two or three books that went together. The topics ranged from drugs, sex, school dances, serial killers, sports, werewolves, princes, vampires, kidnapping, stalkers, etc. You know normal teenage girl stuff. 😉

Yes, as the series progressed the writers changed, and while I didn’t like some of the alterations I still continued to read and collect (still do so today) the novels. What can I say? They are such a big part of my childhood they bring on a tsunami of nostalgia.

So what does that have to do with us? Well quite a few of the books in the series were mysteries, had supernatural elements, psycho characters, or other themes that fall in line with this blog. So we get to review them!

So the novel series is similar to the Nancy Drew Files where you have a little teaser at the end like a preview, and the book picks up from there. In the last book Double Love, the sisters competed for the same guy, Todd Wilkins. Todd really liked Elizabeth, but Jessica did all she could to stop the romance. A bunch of other stuff also happens with the football field being involved in a big tug-of-war between companies, Elizabeth and Jessica afraid their dad is having an affair, Elizabeth and Jessica’s brother dating a girl from the wrong side of town, Jessica pretending to be Elizabeth and damaging her reputation, dances/parties, etc.

This book picks up after Elizabeth played a trick on Jessica, getting her dunked fully clothed. So here is where our story begins…

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It wasn’t fair, Jessica raged, tears streaming down her face. Enid was going to the fall dance with Ronnie, and she was sure to be named queen. Ronnie was so blind with love that he’d swing a million votes her way.

Jessica sighed. She just had to win. If she were queen, Bruce Patman would finally notice her. She’d never wanted anything so badly in her entire life. She’d do anything to make it happen.

Out of the corner of one wet eye, Jessica glimpsed a piece of paper sticking out from under the bed. It looked like a letter.

Dear Enid,” she read with a sudden voracious interest. A smile crept slowly across her features as a plan shaped itself in her mind.

Time to put my evil plan in motion…

Jessica is mad that her sister got one over on her and had her dunked in front of everyone. But she doesn’t think on it too long as she has something more weighty on her mind. She has been in love with Bruce Patman for years but he never paid attention to her. She has watched him go through every A-list girl except herself! Her latest attempt to snag him is to win Fall Queen, as Bruce is nominated Fall King. If the two are crowned, they will have to go to the following dances and school activities together-and he will fall madly in love with her.

The dance is two weeks away and Jessica can’t wait!

I’m so excited!

Elizabeth has noticed that her best friend Enid Rollins has been so down lately. The decide to do a marathon baking session to cheer her up-but no dice. Finally Elizabeth just asks her and Enid unloads. Enid has a secret-a big secret. She has a police record.

When her parents divorced two years ago, she got involved in drinking and drugs. She and her boyfriend, George Warren, hit a boy while driving. The kid turned out to be okay-but the two were arrested, given 6 months probation, and put through drug counseling. Enid was changed by it and George was sent away to a private boarding school.

Enid is worried about her boyfriend Ronnie Edwards finding out. He said a lot of stuff in the last book that makes Enid certain that if he discovered her secret he’d dump her right away.

In my open she would be much better without him. He’s a rude, jerky, jealous, control freak, and abusive.

Enid has been writing to her friend George these past years and is afraid that Ronnie will see it as cheating on him. She shows the letters to Elizabeth, but it is nothing more than average friend encouragement and support. Elizabeth promises to keep the letters a complete secret.

Meanwhile, Jessica and her friends are talking about Ms. Dalton the French teacher. Jessica’s best friend Lila Fowler hates Ms. Dalton as not only is her father dating the 25-year-old teacher (really? 25), but her boyfriend, Ken Matthews, has a giant crush on her. She starts a rumor that Ms. Dalton and him are having an affair.

Jessica returns home later in a bad mood. She tried to charm Bruce Patman-but received nothing. She wants to hang out with her sister-but she’s gone again off with Enid. Enid who hates Jessica. She starts thinking of everything that is wrong and goes in her sister’s room-as her’s is painted an ugly brown (bad idea by Jessica) and too messy (she hates cleaning). As she sits there she spots a letter, and a terrible, awful idea is born.

Later Enid, Ronnie, Elizabeth, and Todd are double dating when Elizabeth and Todd notice something is off with Ronnie. The couples split ways with Enid and Ronnie heading to the classic make-out spot. Ronnie acts totally different and all over Enid-and then breaks their date to the dance.

When he tries to go farther than Enid wants, she manages to get loose-but then it all comes out. Ronnie knows all about George and her past.

“The letters. Liz must have told him about the letters.”

Jessica leaves for a party at Lila’s hoping to snag Bruce Patman there. Elizabeth calls up Enid, but she won’t have anything to do with her. Elizabeth stays home wallowing in confusion, while Jessica heads out.

Jessica is super disappointed to find out Bruce already has a date to the dance and puts her eyes on now dateless Ronnie.

Elizabeth confronts the question of how this could have happened, discussing it with her favorite teacher-Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins tells her to look for the key thing-motivation. Why would anyone want to do this? Break up Enid and Ronnie?

Hmmm…

Like the Nancy Drew Files, one of the best things I love in this series are the clothes, the author always gives great detail to what the twins wear. I’ve decided to add a special section for this in these reviews too.

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When Jessica goes to Lila’s party-but imagine in burgundy:

The dance: I see Jessica in this…

And Elizabeth in this:

Thoughts After Reading:

As a teen I loved it! From beginning to end. As an adult, I still enjoyed it-good pacing and the better writing than later books in the series.

The Next Book in the Series:

Another thing I loved about these mysteries is that they were designed like radio shows and TV episodes. They always made sure to leave you with a little preview of what will come next:

Just then Bruce sailed past, nearly colliding with her as she stumbled backward in an attempt to escape Winston’s murderous feet. He swept her with a long look that sent an electric shock tingling up her spine. There was a hint of invitation in his smile, and more than a spark of interest in his sexy blue eyes. Some of her misery faded. Could it be?…

Can Jessica play Bruce Patman’s game and win? Find out in SWEET VALLEY HIGH #3, Playing With Fire.

Of course we won’t because that isn’t a mystery. I don’t think I will be reviewing anything until book #13, Kidnapped. When I get there I’ll do a quick recap-and then continue.

For more young adult fiction, go to Christina’s Ghost

For more books were letters play a key role, go to This Pen for Hire

This Pen for Hire

I wonder if  the same thing happens when you spell it Jaine Austen, because if it is then this author has killed 16.5 of them.

No wonder dating is do hard these days.

But enough joshing. Before we get to the review let’s take a moment and address the day:

Happy Valentine’s Day

Whether you love it or hate it, I hope you have fantastic day.

Now on to the review:

This Pen for Hire (Jaine Austen Mystery #1) by Laura Levine

Thoughts Before Reading:

I have read a few of the Jaine Austen Mysteries, really only the ones that are a part of the three Christmas stories involving the Hannah Swensen Mysteries and the Lucy Stone Mysteries. And what did I think of them?

I thought the ones I read were horrible and that the character of Jaime Austen was awful and badly written. I couldn’t stand it:

Another thing that really bothers me is that the author named her character Jaine Austen but she has nothing to do with Jane Austen. It isn’t a remake of her her works, Jaine isn’t a fan of Jane, etc. Nothing in similar except that they are both writers, but as Jane Austen was amazing, Jaine is just a hack.

I just don’t get it.

Plot Synopsis:

Jaine Austen is a freelance writer and does everything from resumes, to personal ads, to jingle, etc. Whatever comes her way she takes on.

However, her newest client has asked for something far different and harder to write-love letters. Geeky Howard Murdoch is in love with the blonde, vivacious, and ambitious aerobics instructor, Stacy Lawrence.

Jaine takes the challenge, and through some careful wording and suggestion she actually manages to help Howard score Stacy. They have a date planned for Valentine’s Day.

Yay!

However, this fairy tale story ends horribly when Howard goes to pick Stacy up and finds her bludgeoned to death by her thigh master, with Howard looking to be the prime suspect.

Jaine is shocked and horrified that her letter, and half truths in it, has implicated Howard and destroyed his credibility. She decides to search for the real killer. This won’t be easy when it turns out that Stacey is hated by practically everyone she’s come across.

Thoughts After Reading:

I HATED IT! Why did I waste my time reading it?

It was horrible! A boring story, an unintelligent character, just disappointing and a total yawn.

How could this author have been a writer for Three’s Company and The Love Boat? This book was horrid.

They make the cops incredibly stupid as well. I mean really? They think Howard killed her and he barely knows her? He isn’t even that strong! And when he has no motive but every one else who is in her life does?

Jaine gets involved with a guy and asks for his alibi, and that’s that. Really? He could be lying! You are so stupid and a horrible investigator.

For more Valentine’s Day posts, go to The Cat Who Could Read Backwards

For more mysteries with love letters, go to Paper Roses

For more mysteries, go to Larceny and Old Lace

Apple Turnover Murder

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Apple Turnover Murder (A Hannah Swenson Mystery #13) by Joanne Fluke

I finally get to post this book. This was the first book I read in the Hannah Swenson series, so my views might have changed since then. It was was the first review I ever wrote, and has just been sitting in the wings until I had caught up with the rest of the series.

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Poor little review

So let’s see if the review will stay the way it is, or my having read the previous books & rereading it, will alter it.

Read it today!

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Plot Synopsis:

So Carrie has just been married and Norman is leaving for a dentist conference, his cat, Cuddles, will be staying with Hannah. Hannah settles in for quiet times, but of course whenever we think of all will be well, that is when the shizz hits the fan.

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Mayor Buscombe’s wife, Stephanie, stops by Hannah’s cafe, The Cookie Jar, and asks for cookies for the charity event she is in charge of.

Hannah is shocked that they would ask her for such a large order, that close to the event, and for cookies that take a lot of time to prepare.

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However, Lisa suggests apple turnovers which Stephanie heartily agrees to. However, Hannah has no clue how make one!

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Lisa assures Hannah that her mother-in-law has an old family recipe they can use and all will be well.

It can't be that easy, can it?

It can’t be that easy, can it?

So Hannah starts to feel good about the charity event. She is especially excited for the brother sister dance team who will perform. The two grew up in foster homes and have a great talent. Sadly, the sister seems to be getting sick.

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But they hope that she will be well by the time the curtain rises.

Everything seems to be working out…that it until Lisa’s husband, Herb, asks Hannah for a favor. Herb has an amateur magic act, of which Hannah has assisted him in before. He asks her if she will be willing to do it again, as Lisa is claustrophobic and can’t do all the tricks. Hannah doesn’t want to, but agrees.

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To make things worse, Hannah has to once again wear the purple nightmare that clashes with her red hair. Otherwise known as her costume.

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At rehearsal, Hannah encounters Professor Bradford Ramsey. Bradford Ramsey was the professor that Hannah was studying under when she attended college. He would write her special “love poems”, and spend hours with her. Only problem is, he forgot to mention he had a wife. Hannah has been lucky so far, as  Professor Bradford Ramsey hasn’t recognized her. That all changes tonight, as he finally put the pieces together and tries to get Hannah to become a Swenson sandwich, as he is also seeing her sister.

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Hannah is enraged at his behavior and tells him to leave her sister alone, and then goes off to get ready to perform. Everything is ready for the actual show, except one thing. No one can find Bradford Ramsey. Hannah spots him backstage asleep and yells for him to get moving. When he still won’t budge, she goes to shake him, knocking him over, and realizing he is dead.

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Yep, once again Hannah has discovered a dead body and is on the case. This won’t be an easy mystery to solve as Bradford had many mistresses and many enemies. The suspect list has many of the townspeople on it; including Hannah’s own sister Michelle!

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Adding to her troubles is that Norman has returned and is acting strangely; almost as if he doesn’t want to see her anymore…

Is it over for these two?

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Thoughts After Reading:

So I originally when I first read this I thought it was a cute mystery, but easily solvable.

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After the death of Bradford, I immediately knew who the killer was. I did not think this ruined the book though, as I found the characters charming and enjoyable.

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Now how do I feel?

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I couldn’t stand it. Hannah was always going on about this or that, her random lectures seem to be getting longer and longer in every book…

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They keep making Andrea stupid about little things, but smart about harder things. It reminds me of what he says in After the Thin Man:

Nick Charles: At 3:30 Anderson threw this note into my window. He was planning to use some of the information he had gotten…Dancer, how do you spell Topeka?

Dancer: None of your business

Nick Charles: This note is a poor attempt at illiteracy. The easy words are spelled wrong and the hard ones right…

That’s how I feel about Andrea. I her attempt to make Hannah smarter and Andrea dumber, she makes easy things “too hard” for her to do or understand; but she can grasp difficult things. I hate it, it’s annoying.

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And something else that really bothered me, was that the are going to make the apple turnovers, an “old family recipe”, but instead of making their own dough for the pastry they went with pre-made biscuit dough. I found that odd for an “old family recipe”.

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I mean even IF they were just “using” it to save time, why wouldn’t they include an alternate dough recipe?

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It was not very good. I’m not sure why it hooked me the first time.

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For more Hannah Swensen Mysteries, go to Plum Pudding Murder

For more book reviews, go to Paper Roses

Paper Roses

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Paper Roses (Texas Dreams #1) by Amanda Cabot

So I know some of you may be looking at this and thinking this doesn’t look like a mystery, it looks like a Western. Well it is, but as the plot revolves around two mysteries I decided it was okay to review for this blog. Besides sometimes a book can straddle genres.

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Sarah Dobbs has lost everything when her parents died. All she has left is her little sister, of which she can not take care of without some help. So she looks for an escape and starts writing letters to a man in Texas looking for a bride. As the two write, Sarah falls in love with Austin Caufield and his “paper roses” (the letters he writes).

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She decides to agree to marry him and journeys West. When she arrives in Texas she discovers things are not quite as she hoped. Her fiancé was murdered!

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To Austin’s brother Clay’s surprise, Sarah refuses to return East but live on the Caufield ranch with her sister.

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Clay feels as if he doesn’t have time for this. He is trying to keep his ranch going, assist the elderly town doctor, and solve who murdered his brother.

On the case!

On the case!

Sarah quickly finds a niche in the town, working in the mercantile and later as the schoolteacher. But she discovers that this cute Texas town has a lot of prejudices and problems between the Germans and the French, and it is really heating up the town.

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As Sarah and Clay start becoming friends Sarah is determined to help discover her fiancé’s killer. What they discover is that someone has a real vendetta against the Caulfield family; being behind Clay’s father’s injury, the death of his wife, and the murder of his brother.

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As the two’s relationship grows, it turns out Clay has a secret. He is the one who wrote the letters for Austin, pulling a Cyrano de Bergerac. Will he be able to admit the truth? Or will Sarah continue to be in love with who she thought his brother was?

I wonder...

I wonder…

While Clay and Sarah are occupied, someone is planning their next move to remove the Caulfield clan. Will they be able to stop them in time?

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Thoughts After Reading:

I thought this book was extremely good. I loved the characters, the storyline, and the mystery.

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In fact the person responsible for the crimes against the Caufield’s was a great twist.

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A great read!

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For more historical fiction, go to A Most Peculiar Circumstance

For more Christian books, go to Bake Until Golden

For more book reviews, go to The Cat Who Could Read Backwards