Monday, February 27, 2017

Kristy Cambron: The Illusionist's Apprentice

By Kelly Bridgewater

Harry Houdni’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.
Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric—even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.

Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her. Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.

From Goodreads

My Review:

Kristy Cambron doesn't write like anyone else I know in the historical fiction genre. Her stories and words flow like a song. They move and flow with the characters. Cambron doesn't force the story; the story appears to just cascade from her heart. With her newest release The Illusionist's Apprentice, I still feel the same way. I really love the story and the cover is one of my favorite covers in a long time.

Like always, Cambron uses dual timelines to tell her story. We start out with 1927, which is present day for the characters, but there are have flashbacks to 1916, 1924, and 1907. The first flashback doesn't occur until chapter six, so for the first couple of chapters, Cambron is setting up the mystery that she wants the entire novel to center around. The flashbacks bring the attention of what she wants us to know about Wren's past. For instance, her relationship with her uncle and mother. Plus, how she met Houdini, Irina, and Amberley. Her writing is concise and clear. It flows smoothly with the research about the power of illusion versus the power of magic. The story sings with the illusion of a great story.

While the flashbacks are important, the characters make the story. For Wren, the heroine, she is a witty and confident woman who adorns numerous masks, not allowing anyone to truly see inside and know her past or the lady she has become. Wren has kept her illusionist job to guard her heart and her life. In walks Elliot Matthews, the hero, who is a FBI officer for the Boston Bureau. He is a closed book too. There isn't much to learn about him for a long time. Cambron doesn't allow him to open up either. We learn more about Wren than him. Wren and Elliott mutually agree to solve the murder of Victor Peale without exposing illusionists. Their relationship starts out a little rough, but then as they spend more time together, trying to solve what happens, both sides aloud their walls to crumble and allow the other one inside to their darkest secrets. Cambron is a wonderful master at using illustrations in the story to signal the numerous metaphors like Wren allowing Elliot to come into her hidden garden behind the walled library when she has finally learned to trust him and wants to explore her feelings for him.

While the story is original and unpredictable, the mystery could have used a little work; I wanted more. This was Cambron's first attempt at including a mystery in her historical novel and while the ending read like a mystery, the moments leading up to the big climatic moment read like a more historical novel with something hiding in the background. For instance, when bullets are flying, the target doesn't run away instantly and is taken to safety where it isn't a concern anymore. When someone is in a questioning room and someone shoves a note under the door saying run and the character is standing out a ledge outside the window, don't stop and have a conversation before running to safety. To me, it seemed like Cambron wanted a mystery, but she didn't push the limits as far as a mystery will allow her. She isn't the only historical writer to do this. Every historical writer that I have read that promises a mystery doesn't deliver what I'm hoping the story is.  But  . . . the story does move at a nice pace and has a nice mystery ending to it.

Even though the mystery was a little off for me, I did enjoy The Illusionist's Apprentice with its unique storyline and wonderful characters. Kristy Cambron wove together a tale about Houdini's apprentice, inviting me into a timeless mystery about betrayal and living a life without pretending. I highly recommend this book to fans of Cambron and of Jazz Age stories.

I received a complimentary copy of Kristy Cambron's The Illusionist's Apprentice from Thomas Nelson Publishing, and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Do you enjoy reading historical fiction? Is there a certain era that speaks to you? When? What era will you not read at all?

Friday, February 24, 2017

February Update

By Kelly Bridgewater

Hello, everyone!

Here is my monthly update on my personal things that I have done for the month of February.

I have I have completed 8 book reviews, which have went live during the month of February. (Feel free to click on the titles and be taken to the individual reviews on these books! I really hope you discover something new to read.)


Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

Shadow of Suspicion by Christy Barritt

Still Life by Dani Pettrey

An Uncommon Protector by Shelley Shephard Gray

Maybe It's You by Candace Calvert

Moving Target by Lynette Eason

To The Farthest Shore by Elizabeth Camden

The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

My Personal Writing:

From Amazon
During this shorten month, I have read and finished The Story Equation by Susan May Warren and then spend a lot of time talking and interviewing my two main characters in my first book, Nate and Alexis. I know more about them and discovered some things about their characters that I didn't know until I finished composing their individual background.

I have spent some time researching the settings and found a couple of great books that I can't wait to dive into.

London at War: 1939 - 1945 by Philip Ziegler

This thick book is told from a number of survivors who lived in London during these six years. It reads like a novel, so I have been taking  A LOT of notes as I read this informative text.

The Secret Lives of Codebreakers by Sinclair McKay

From Amazon
I enjoy the inside look at how they did their job, which is important if I want to make Alexis and my two other heroine's jobs realistic for the readers. It shows the inside of Bletchley Park, which is where they did all their undercover work.

The Moonraker by Ian Fleming

This is a James Bond novel. I am reading this and taking notes on the structure of a spy novel. Since my heroines and heroes are spy for the British government, I thought this would be a great book to study structure with.

Thanks for spending time with me and seeing where I am with my research. I have a title for my series, which who knows if it will stay, but I'm pretty excited about it. Fans of Sherlock Holmes might really enjoy the series title.

Come back on March 24th where I will have another update for you!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Christy Barritt: Ready to Fumble

By Kelly Bridgewater

I'm not a really a private detective. I just play one on TV.

Joey Darling, better known to the world as Raven Remington, detective extraordinaire, is trying to separate herself from her invincible alter ego. She played the spunky character for five years on the hit TV show Relentless, which catapulted her to fame and into the role of Hollywood's sweetheart.

When her marriage falls apart, her finances dwindle to nothing, and her father disappears, Joey finds herself on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, trying to piece her life back together away from the limelight. A woman finds Raven-er, Joey-and insists on hiring her fictional counterpart to find a missing boyfriend. When someone begins staging crime scenes to match an episode of Relentless, Joey has no choice but to get involved.

Joey's bumbling sleuthing abilities have her butting heads with Detective Jackson Sullivan and kindling sparks with thrill-seeking Zane Oakley. Can Joey channel her inner Raven and unearth whodunit before she ends up totally done in? And where is her father anyway? Can she handle fame or is disappearing into obscurity the wiser option?

From Amazon

 My Thoughts:

In Christy Barritt's newest series, The Worst Detective Ever, Barritt brings another unlikely heroine to life. This time it is Joey Darling aka Raven Remington from a hit detective television series. While Joey is flawed and unsure if she can solve the murder with obvious parallels to an episode on her show, Joey shines with her ability to read people. She watches for little quirks to prove what she already knows. Barritt is great at making heroines who most writers or readers wouldn't pick for their story, but she makes them relatable to the average reader. While the pace of the novel reads like a normal mystery, the forefront mystery has ties to the ultimate mystery for Joey who wants to find her missing father. There is a touch of a love triangle but nothing is resolved in this area with the first novel. I enjoyed this introduction to the new series and can't wait to read the next book Reign of Error. If you enjoy Christy Barritt's other works or like mysteries in general, I highly recommend picking Ready to Fumble up. 

I received a complimentary copy of Ready to Fumble from Christy Barritt, but the opinions stated are all my own. 

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Monday, February 20, 2017

Elizabeth Camden: To the Farthest Shores

By Kelly Bridgewater

It has been six years since army nurse Jenny Bennett's heart was broken by a dashing naval officer. Now Lieutenant Ryan Gallagher has abruptly reappeared in her life at the Presidio army base but refuses to discuss the inexplicable behavior that destroyed their happiness.
Ryan is in an impossible situation. One of the few men in the world qualified to carry out a daring assignment, he accepted a government mission overseas that caused his reputation to be destroyed and broke the heart of the only woman he ever loved. Honor bound never to reveal where he had been during those six years, he can't tell Jenny the truth or it will endanger an ongoing mission and put thousands of lives at risk.

Although Ryan thinks he may have finally found a solution, he can't pull it off on his own. Loyalty to her country compels Jenny to help, but she never could have imagined the intrigue she and Ryan will have to face or the lengths to which they will have to go to succeed.

My Review:

Having read seven out of nine Elizabeth Camden's stories, I'm pretty sure I knew what I was getting into when I picked up To The Farthest Shores. Camden usually brings some part of American history through science into fiction format, so I can learn something new. I usually look forward to her characters and her ability to educate me without sounding like a textbook. With To The Farthest Shores, I have mixed feelings about the story.

To begin, Camden is a master at research. Every single book I have read of hers includes a lot of research, but she allows her characters to show the information without information dumps. I really enjoy learning the information alongside the characters. This time, Camden takes me into the underworld of creating synthetic pearls. While the research creates the backdrop for the story, Camden captures the setting for me and really draws me into the story. I could smell the sea breeze and catch a whiff of the Japanese food. As for the spiritual element, there really wasn't that much. Yes, Jenny and Ryan claim to follow Jesus, but they really didn't quote scripture or preach at the readers.

While the ability to tell a story captures my imagination, the characters didn't work that well for me. As for the hero, Ryan, he lied all the time to poor Jenny, even after he told her the truth of where he has been for the past six years. What is going to make him stop lying after they settle down together? I wanted to smack him a whole bunch of times. Once a liar, always a liar. Then Camden gave us Jenny, the heroine, who is a force to be reckon with. She knows what she wants and want is important to her, but she allows Ryan to walk all over her. It undermines her character. The only character to change in the entire story is Finn. Finn is a drug addict who becomes what he has been training to become. I liked Finn and was excited for him when he succeeded.

As for the plot and pace of the story, it was a completely original, yet predictable novel. There were moments that I flipped through to see how many more pages I had to read. Another element that bad me grit my teeth was who the bad person that kept shooting at Ryan. I found it unbelievable. Not that he was trying to kill Ryan off, but his reasons behind doing it. I shook my head. I had a hard time swallowing the reasonings.

In true Camden fashion, To The Farthest Shores, is a great look into the pearl industry around the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. As the characters go, I found them not as endearing as her previous characters as they muddled through a plot that didn't capture my attention this time. Even though To the Farthest Shores didn't capture my fancy this time, I will still read the next book 
Elizabeth Camden releases. 

I received a complimentary copy of To The Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden from Bethany House Publishers, and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you do if you return to a favorite author and then finding out there latest book didn't work as well as you anticipated?