Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver

Death Wears a MaskDeath Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver

I was reminded of this series thanks to my own “on this date” posts (as found at the bottom of blog posts). Late in July, Weaver’s first book, Murder at the Brightwell, popped up which prompted me to go looking for the next book.

Once again I enjoyed the main character, and was entertained by the book. Although I am not super fond of the whole marriage-situation plot device, it’s not (currently) a deal-breaker as far as continuing to read the series. I have some concerns that it’s going to get really tedious if she doesn’t resolve it in some way, but I’ll read the next one and then decide if I’ll keep going (assuming the series keeps going).

The books are light and although this one isn’t as good as the debut, I’ll try the third, A Most Novel Revenge, after it releases in October. The description leads me to believe the marriage issues that so bugged me in book #2 might not be an issue in book #3 so here’s hoping. 🙂

(A heads-up if you’re interested in trying this series, book #1 is currently only $2.99 for Kindle.)

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Publisher’s Description:
Amory Ames is looking forward to a tranquil period of reconnecting with reformed playboy husband Milo after an unexpected reconciliation following the murderous events at the Brightwell Hotel. Amory hopes a quiet stay at their London flat will help mend their dysfunctional relationship. However, she soon finds herself drawn into another investigation when Serena Barrington asks her to look into the disappearance of valuable jewelry snatched at a dinner party.

Unable to say no to an old family friend, Amory agrees to help lay a trap to catch the culprit at a lavish masked ball hosted by the notorious Viscount Dunmore. But when one of the illustrious party guests is murdered, Amory is pulled back into the world of detection, enlisted by old ally Detective Inspector Jones. As she works through the suspect list, she struggles to fend off the advances of the very persistent viscount even as rumors swirl about Milo and a French film star. Once again, Amory and Milo must work together to solve a mystery where nothing is as it seems, set in the heart of 1930s society London.

Death Wears a Mask is the second novel in Ashley Weaver’s witty and stylish Amory and Milo Ames mystery series.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Anniversary Week: A Look Back, a Look Around, and a Look Ahead

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On Rereading Books: Still Life

Still LifeYears ago I read Louise Penny’s novel, Still Life. It introduced a new mystery series set in Canada.

And I was thoroughly unimpressed with it, and proceeded to ignore future books in the series as they were released.

Except. Friends whose reading tastes I trust kept saying good things about her books (especially on audio). They said that the first wasn’t her best, but that the series improves.

There’s so many things to read, it’s hard to justify rereading a book I didn’t like, in the hopes of it turning into a series I like, but I do trust my reading friends.

Last week I reread Still Life, with the plan being just to get it read to reintroduce myself to the characters, with the expectation of continuing on with the series.

And I don’t know if it was the (very) low expectations I had, or if it was a different stage of reading life, but I really enjoyed it. Now I’m left wondering why I thought so poorly of the book the first time through. This is when it would be helpful if I’d been blogging about my reads all along; all I have is that star rating, with no comments. Was it a mistake – had I meant to type 3 stars and my finger slipped? Was I in a particularly cranky mood when I read it and nothing would have pleased me? It’s a mystery, one that no detective will solve for me.

On the bright side of things, it means I have the entire Penny series to look forward to reading, thank you very much Jessica and Sarah and Janet and Anne.

On the not-so-bright side, what other books or series have I potentially been ruling out because of a bad first experience, when if I tried them again I might think quite differently about them?

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter. Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces – and this series – with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.

Book Details

Title: Still Life
Author: Louise Penny
Category: Fiction / Mystery
My Rating: 3 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: Book Review: Poison

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Midnight RiotMidnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Jessica (Quirky Bookworm) shared about this title and made it sound so appealing that I immediately looked for it at my library. Happily for me, I was able to get a copy right away and dove into it. I love mysteries and when someone adds a twist to it it’s extra fun. In Midnight Riot the twist is the paranormal element, and I really enjoyed it.

It’s the first book in a series, and I’ll be getting the next, Moon Over Soho soon(ish). If they all stay at this level, I’ll likely read the entire series.

While I wouldn’t say it’s a must-read, if it sounds interesting to you and/or it’s the sort of book you enjoy (an urban fantasy/crime fiction mashup) then it’s worth trying.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.

Book Details

Title: Midnight Riot
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Category: Fiction / Mystery
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Cover Love: The Princess Bride

When We Wake by Karen Healey

When We WakeWhen We WakeWhen We Wake by Karen Healey by Karen Healey

Somewhat intriguing story but at times it felt more like a lecture than a novel. I’m not a huge dystopian fan, and this title is a little too dystopian-esque for me. Future society, the world is in peril, teen girl who just wants to live a normal life but has to save the world from some evil adults, etc. etc. The book is littered with cliches and cardboard characters, and despite the cliffhanger ending to tempt you into grabbing the sequel, While We RunWhile We Run by Karen Healey, I’m not inspired to read more.

After I draft a review, I often then go and read other reviews of a book, mostly for curiosity’s sake (do others agree with my take on the book?). I always feel a little bit of “yes! It wasn’t just me!” when something that’s bugged me about a book turns up frequently in other reviews. In this case, what I referred to as a “lecture” others rightly noted is a preachy take on politics and religion. It didn’t bother me as much as it did some others, but it was annoyingly heavy-handed, even when I was agreeing with her about parts of it.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
My name is Tegan Oglietti, and on the last day of my first lifetime, I was so, so happy.

Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027–she’s happiest when playing the guitar, she’s falling in love for the first time, and she’s joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice.

But on what should have been the best day of Tegan’s life, she dies–and wakes up a hundred years in the future, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened.

Tegan is the first government guinea pig to be cryonically frozen and successfully revived, which makes her an instant celebrity–even though all she wants to do is try to rebuild some semblance of a normal life. But the future isn’t all she hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better future?

Award-winning author Karen Healey has created a haunting, cautionary tale of an inspiring protagonist living in a not-so-distant future that could easily be our own.

Book Details

Title: When We WakeWhen We Wake by Karen Healey
Author: Karen Healey
Category: Young Adult Science Fiction
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Book Review: I Need Some Help Here by Kathi Lipp
Two years ago: A Change of Plans, and Some News

Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

Manners and MutinyManners & MutinyManners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger by Gail Carriger

My least favorite of what had been a delightfully entertaining series. Some of that is surely just because my hopes were so high, both because I have so enjoyed the previous books in the series, and because I’d just finished Winter (and LOVED IT), so I was all excited: YES! Series endings can be amazing!

And this one … wasn’t.

It wasn’t terrible by any means, and if you’ve read the earlier books I can’t imagine that you won’t want to read this as well. And perhaps if you’ve got tempered expectations you’ll be pleased enough with this.

As it was it was somewhat disappointing. I do still adore the beginning of the series, and I did like finding out certain things about some characters (being intentionally vague here), but the wrap-up at the end seemed to leave some others out. Perhaps they make appearances in the other series she wrote?

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
If one must flirt…flirt with danger.

Lessons in the art of espionage aboard Mademoiselle Geraldine’s floating dirigible have become tedious without Sophronia’s sweet sootie Soap nearby. She would much rather be using her skills to thwart the dastardly Picklemen, yet her concerns about their wicked intentions are ignored, and now she’s not sure whom to trust. What does the brusque werewolf dewan know? On whose side is the ever-stylish vampire Lord Akeldama? Only one thing is certain: a large-scale plot is under way, and when it comes to fruition, Sophronia must be ready to save her friends, her school, and all of London from disaster–in decidedly dramatic fashion, of course.

What will become of our proper young heroine when she puts her years of training to the test? Find out in this highly anticipated and thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!

Book Details

Title: Manners & MutinyManners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger
Author: Gail Carriger
Category: Fiction / Fanstasy (Steampunk)
My Rating: 3 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: Biggest Disappointments of 2013
Three years ago: Book Review: Cheaper By the Dozen

Winter by Marissa Meyer

WinterWinterWinter (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer by Marissa Meyer

This is, of course, Book #4 in the Lunar Chronicles series (I feel like I’ve mentioned it a time or twelve before, plus all the other buzz this series has gotten on other blogs and media sites).

I was so hesitant to start Winter – I *loved* Cinder, really, really liked Scarlet, and ok, so Cress wasn’t my favorite, but still. It was good enough as a penultimate series entry. For the ending though, was this going to be a crash-and-burn of a great series? Could it possibly live up to what I wanted it to be?

Now for the tricky part: talking about the book while maintaining a spoiler-free zone. So, in brief: Yes, the book lived up to the promise the series showed in Cinder (and erased the memory of that disappointing Fairest) . It’s over 800 pages, but read much faster than that, plus it’s so much fun having that much time to spend with these characters I didn’t wish any of the pages away.

What about the plot, and how things worked out? Well, you’ll need to read it yourself to find out, but I was so impressed at the job Meyer did of bringing together all of those plot threads. It made me want to start the series all over again and see what hints she dropped in earlier books.

Super satisfying, this was a great ending to a fun series. Highly recommended for fantasy fans.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

Book Details

Title: WinterWinter (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer
Author: Marissa Meyer
Category: Fantasy
My Rating: 5 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Bookish Gifts for the Late Shopper
Two years ago: Twitterature – Recent Reads

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde

The Well of Lost PlotsThe Well of Lost PlotsThe Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next Series) by Jasper Fforde by Jasper Fforde

It took me months to finish this book, and usually that’s a sign that it’s one I should have given up on and admitted that I didn’t find it compelling enough to keep reading.

Except I really do like this series – it’s so odd, and so entertaining. So why did it take me forever to finish it? I think it’s because I was reading the collected version of the first five books in the series on my Kindle, and seeing the “11 hours remaining in the book” status was so discouraging I was never motivated to keep reading.

Obviously, I know that those numbers were for the entire set, but still. It couldn’t give me a breakdown of “this far for this book alone” and that drove me batty. Who knew I needed some sort of real guidance as to how much I had left in a book? Because clearly I do, and counting chapters wasn’t enough, at least until the very end.

All that aside, it is a series that I recommend, if you’re into quirky, genre-bending novels. It’s a mish-mash of fantasy and mystery, but it works.

One of my favorite parts of this series is trying to catch as many literary allusions as possible. I have no expectation that I get them all, but I get enough of them to be quite amused and impressed by Fforde.

If it sounds intriguing, do yourself a favor – don’t start with this one – it’ll make no sense whatsoever, and with this series you’ll want all the help you can get as far as making sense of things. Begin with The Eyre AffairThe Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde and see how you like this alternative world, and the fabulous character of Thursday Next.

Publisher’s Description:
The third installment in Jasper Fforde’s New York Times bestselling series follows literary detective Thursday Next on another adventure in her alternate reality of literature-obsessed England

Jasper Fforde has done it again in this genre-bending blend of crime fiction, fantasy, and top-drawer literary entertainment. After two rollicking New York Times bestselling adventures through Western literature, resourceful BookWorld literary detective Thursday Next definitely needs some downtime. And what better place for a respite than in the hidden depths of the Well of Lost Plots, where all unpublished books reside? But peace and quiet remain elusive for Thursday, who soon discovers that the Well is a veritable linguistic free-for-all, where grammasites run rampant, plot devices are hawked on the black market, and lousy books—like the one she has taken up residence in—are scrapped for salvage. To make matters worse, a murderer is stalking the personnel of Jurisfiction and it’s up to Thursday to save the day. A brilliant feat of literary showmanship filled with wit, fantasy, and effervescent originality, this Ffordian tour de force will appeal to fans of Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse.

Book Details

Title: The Well of Lost PlotsThe Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next Series) by Jasper Fforde
Author: Jasper Fforde
Category: Fiction / Mystery / Fantasy
My Rating: 3 Stars
Buy the book: Print | Kindle | Audible

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Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

Murder at the BrightwellMurder at the Brightwell: A MysteryMurder at the Brightwell: A Mystery by Ashley Weaver by Ashley Weaver

Shallow reader alert here: I picked this one up because of the cover. Yes, yes I did. Happily, this time the intriguing cover did not lead me astray, and the book was just the sort of read I expected and was hoping to get.

It’s light and amusing genre fiction. The main character is appealing, and her situation felt believable. Or believable enough – there were some points that had me shaking my head in disbelief. No matter. I was looking for a breezy and undemanding mystery and that’s exactly what this is.

If you like historical mysteries, or if the premise of this one sounds appealing – give it a try. It’s an enjoyable read, and would make a perfect beach or vacation book if you don’t want anything too demanding. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Death Wears a MaskDeath Wears a Mask: A Mystery (An Amory Ames Mystery) by Ashley Weaver, which is scheduled to be published in October (and has another fabulous cover).


And this is where I feel I should clarify, because Amazon and Goodreads seems to think a 3-star rating is a negative one. And I gave this one 3.5 stars and yet that ends up showing as a supposed negative review. What gives?

First, I round down on my Goodreads account. 3.5 stars on the blog translates into 3 stars over there. I had to make a choice if I was going to round down or up on half stars, and I went with down, to try and make it where 4 and 5 star books truly were 4 and 5 star books.

That said, Goodreads itself says a 3-star rating means “I liked it.” And I did like it. 4 stars means “I really liked it.” For me, that means a stronger feeling for the book than I had. I liked it. I’ll look for a sequel if there is one. It won’t be making my top 10 books of the year list, but every book isn’t going to be THE BEST BOOK EVER, and that’s ok.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman who regrets her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo. Looking for a change, she accepts a request for help from her former fiancé, Gil Trent, not knowing that she’ll soon become embroiled in a murder investigation that will test not only her friendship with Gil, but will upset the status quo with her husband.

Amory accompanies Gil to the Brightwell Hotel in an attempt to circumvent the marriage of his sister, Emmeline, to Rupert Howe, a disreputable ladies’ man. Amory sees in the situation a grim reflection of her own floundering marriage. There is more than her happiness at stake, however, when Rupert is murdered and Gil is arrested for the crime. Amory is determined to prove his innocence and find the real killer, despite attempted dissuasion from the disapproving police inspector on the case. Matters are further complicated by Milo’s unexpected arrival, and the two form an uneasy alliance as Amory enlists his reluctant aid in clearing Gil’s name. As the stakes grow higher and the line between friend and foe becomes less clear, Amory must decide where her heart lies and catch the killer before she, too, becomes a victim.

Murder at the Brightwell is a delicious mystery in which murder invades polite society and romance springs in unexpected places. Weaver has penned a debut in the tradition of Jacqueline Winspear.

Book Details

Title: Murder at the Brightwell: A MysteryMurder at the Brightwell: A Mystery by Ashley Weaver
Author: Ashley Weaver
Category: Fiction / Mystery
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Shadow Scale

Shadow ScaleShadow ScaleShadow Scale (Seraphina) by Rachel Hartman by Rachel Hartman

Shadow Scale concludes the story begun in Seraphina, which I enjoyed enough to look forward to reading the sequel.

Unfortunately, Shadow Scale is a much weaker book, and it’s hard to recommend it, even to those who have read the first. I absolutely would not suggest anyone read it without reading the first – it won’t really make sense and you’ll miss out on the world-building.

In this book, Seraphina seems clueless, traveling about and just fortuitously having things happen to her, instead of making things happen. She’s also more self-pitying, and it gets tedious.

I don’t really like fantasy books where the hero has an all-powerful ally, and I also don’t like it when the antagonist is all-powerful. Jannoula ends up being that sort of foe, and I found myself rolling my eyes at the difficulties Seraphina found herself in because of Jannoula’s abilities. Fantasy novels are lots of fun for me, unless I reach a point where suspension of disbelief doesn’t work and it turns into ridiculousness. In that way, Seraphina worked for me while Shadow Scale didn’t.

The romantic triangle issue is resolved (no spoilers here, I can’t imagine anyone who didn’t think it would resolve in one way or another; this is a YA book after all), but it felt too neat. Does anything in life work out in such a convenient manner? It was eye-rolling, and telegraphed way too early in the book.

I did finish it, and so it was at least good enough for that (and at 600 pages, I did debate it.) It’s a quick read for all of it’s length, but ultimately a very unsatisfying end to a promising start.

Not recommended.

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Soulless

PrintSoulless (The Parasol Protectorate)Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate) by Gail Carriger by Gail Carriger

If you’ve read my reviews for the Finishing School series, author Gail Carriger‘s name may be familiar. This series was written first, but it takes place twenty years or so after the first. There are some connections between the two, but one book in I’d say it’s not essential that you read the other one first.

If I’d never read the other series, I’d likely be much more enthusiastic about this one. As it is though, I preferred that one as it’s aimed at young adults and is much lighter on the romance aspects. This one has more specifics than I sometimes appreciated (it’s not graphic, although there would have been too much for my grandmother. As if she’d have read a book with vampires, werewolves, and all the other fantasy elements of this one to let the romance aspect be the only issue.)

My preference is definitely to be skimpy on the romance details however – let’s keep the plot moving forward, and skip the lovely dovey stuff/other action. Your mileage may vary. 😉

I enjoy the imaginative world Carriger has created, and despite my quibbles, will be reading more in the series. I’d recommend it to any fantasy fans who think it sounds intriguing – it’s a quick and easy read, and won’t require much of a reading investment to find out if it’s a style you enjoy.

But start with Etiquette and Espionage. It’s so much fun, and it does come first chronologically. 🙂

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