The Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival

The Booklet given to each person who came to the event.

The Booklet given to each person who came to the event.

I am a resident of Virginia and am always up for events that are going around locally. I haven’t been able to go to many this year, but when I found out about the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival, I couldn’t say no. I’m a writer, I’m a reader, and I love a good mystery.

I found out about this festival sometime early this month, or was it last month, on Facebook. I told my best friend about it and we decided that we were going. This meant I was going to be Bug (3 year old) free and possibly be broke by the end. I mean, really, books cost money. I love me some books.

The first thing I noticed was the age grouping dynamics. Most of the people attending were older ladies. Now, this isn’t a problem, but being in my twenties, I felt that I may have been out of place. Luckily, that wasn’t the case. Everyone seemed excited about their books, the authors, and the workshops that were presented. The energy was thrilling.

When we first entered the building, we were met with two people who had our entrance gifts: a program and a pen. They then directed us to where to go. Also, told us to open our programs to see who won a door prize. Guess who?

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I did! I love that the star sticker tells you if you won a door prize. It helps randomizing it and it’s a great way to keep everything organized. I love organization!

Now, what did I win?

20150822_193819Yep, two books. I won two books right off the bat! And, they are signed! Pretty cool.

Now, the first thing we did while everyone was in the introductory panel was peruse the books. We wanted to get a clear idea of what we wanted before the rush of people. This is a great idea. I will be doing that again next year’s event.

Here’s what I got: 20150822_192902

Talking to the authors was fun. I got to see what inspired some authors (Mary Miley, author of The Impersonator, had a flapper dress on display from her grandmother. That dress is featured in her book.).  Each author made it a point to connect with their readers. They even fed us (with candy)! These are the little things that hold us close to authors and I love that!

What I wasn’t expecting at the time was connecting with my fifth grade teacher. She was in line with an author in front of me (Grace Greene) and was about to leave when I asked if she wanted to have the author’s autograph. I overheard her name (I’m an eavesdropper) and realized why her face looked familiar. This woman was a great teacher. I loved being in her class. There aren’t many teacher’s I can remember from my younger days (Elementary/Middle). One, I didn’t care for. Two, I found amazing. Mrs. Anderson was one of the amazing ones.

Needless to say, I got a little emotional after she left.

Crys (like Chris),my best friend, and I attended two workshops. The first one explained what a Cozy Mystery is (which happens to be what I’ve always referred to as a Parlour Mystery) through the eyes of a literary agent. I learned more about the process an agent has to go through. It was interesting.

The second workshop was fun! The presenters started off by handing out a cup of goodies and a raffle ticket for everyone.

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No, I didn’t win the raffle, but the prize looked pretty awesome. The workshop was about the bare bones of a cozy mystery. The presenters disected a cozy mystery to illustrate their diagram. 20150822_165346

They took breaks from the dissection by allowing more chances at the raffle and other neat prizes. I had three tickets total and I won a little pencil cover that was a skeleton, but decided I knew someone better who would love it.

After this workshop, we decided to go. Next year, I plan on getting the VIP package. It wasn’t that expensive, but being an event I never been to, I didn’t want to invest in it. Knowing what to expect for next year, the VIP package could only make this event more enjoyable.

For a one day event, this was something I will always remember. I found an old teacher, met great people, and no one seemed to be stressed or upset. I even met the husband of one of the authors and had a serious blonde moment (I can’t read watches unless they are digital. It’s true. I understand the concept, but I just can’t translate it well. Numbers do that to me).

I will go again in a heartbeat.

Book 64 of 2015: Follow You Home by Mark Edwards

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It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, a final adventure before settling down.
After a perfect start, Daniel and Laura’s travels end abruptly when they are thrown off a night train in the middle of nowhere. To find their way back to civilisation, they must hike along the tracks through a forest…a haunting journey that ends in unimaginable terror.
Back in London, Daniel and Laura vow never to talk about what they saw that night. But as they try to fit back into their old lives, it becomes clear that their nightmare is just beginning…
Follow You Home is a chilling tale of secrets, lies and deadly consequences from the author of #1 bestsellers The Magpies and Because She Loves Me.

I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. It was free with the intention of an honest review.

Follow You Home, is a psychological thriller that makes you want to be that much more cautious when you go abroad. It’s a disturbing tale of the evils in the world and what could happen to you when you least expect it.

The novel is mostly written in Daniel’s point of view. I found it easy to get into his story and understand him. He is the every man; not necessarily a person in himself, but encompasses what an average person is like. Average people are stingy with their money. Some are trusting of people. They make mistakes and try to find the truth of what happened to them to find peace. This is Daniel. I like Daniel.

The rest of the book is written in third person and deals with other characters and the events of the cabin of the woods. The pieces of the puzzle are seen in Alina, Ion, and Laura’s parts. The puzzle is a dark puzzle.

Overall, I am on the fence with this book. I didn’t care for the third person point of views with Daniel’s. I understand why it was done, but I just didn’t care for it. After the first few chapters, the book is a bit slow. This is the part where Daniel and Laura are trying to cope with what they saw. Their relationship breaks apart, Daniel becomes a heavy drinker, and strange things are happening. Though showing the stress of the event makes sense, it felt a bit strung out.

The distrubing events made this book interesting. I did love finding out what was going on throughout the book and I did love the conclusion. It was more the coping moments and Laura/Daniel’s relationship. I wish we saw more of them before the event or got more because they did change dramatically due to the event. Laura seems out of it and I don’t really see how her and Daniel would make a good couple in the end.

Then again, the ending had a haunting undertone and that makes me wonder what their lives will be like.

In all, the book isn’t bad. There are slow moments that you need to push through to get to the gold. I think when I do go on a Europe tour, I will be very careful.

Book 63 of 2015: Mystical Bites by Various Authors

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Bite sized stories bursting with magic.
Suspend your disbelief and let your imagination take you away. Trust yourself to fly as you follow 23 talented authors on a journey through magical realms. There, find love with a werewolf, make it rain with a coven of witches, fight alongside dragons, and more. Give into the magic, and step into our worlds.​

I received a copy from one of the authors for an honest review.

To start, I find anthologies a tad bit difficult to review. Each story in an anthology is different; they have different styles, authors, and genres. Whenever you read an anthology, you have to be open to experiencing something new. Mystical Bites is no exception to that. With 23 individual authors, that means there are 23 poems and stories to enjoy or dislike depending on your preferences.

The first thing to remember is to look at the theme of the anthology. If it is a theme you don’t like, don’t bother reading the anthology. Each story in Mystical Bites has something about magic. Sometimes the magic isn’t all good and the characters aren’t trying to keep everything clean cut.

As a whole, I found the anthology entertaining. There were stories that pulled at the heartstrings and stories I wasn’t expecting because of previous works from that author. Yes, I did find a couple stories that I didn’t care for. It wasn’t because of the style of the workmanship though. It was because the characters and the story didn’t really call to me.

I love that each style is unique. As a writer, it helps me realize that my own voice is just as important as others. I don’t have to sound like someone famous. I have to sound like me. These stories had a piece of their authors and you could see that.

The magic in the stories could be something very subtle or over the top. There were a few stories with dragons. Which, by the way, I don’t care for dragons so much, but the stories with them gave me a new respect. There is one story with a Fey Queen and an ancient goddess. I won’t go into that story, but the feels are serious. The last line is haunting.

Now, to be honest, I don’t read anthologies. This is probably my first one (aside from short story collections for when I was in college). So, if this review seems incomplete, it’s because I’m not sure what to write without giving too much away. The stories and poems are shorts. The tiniest detail could spill the beans. I don’t want to do that to you.

Therefore, know this: the compilation of stories is worth your time. You can read them at your leisure. When it’s cold and dark outside or you just need a magical pick me up; this is the book for you.

Book 62 of 2015: His Sicilian Cinderella by Carol Marinelli

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His until midnight…?
When millionaire Matteo Santini bought one night with Bella Gatti, it was to protect her innocence from the dangerous game she was caught up in. He never expected to be so undone by their fierce attraction or her disappearance the next day.  
Chambermaid Bella has escaped her shameful past, but her memories of that night with Matteo still burn. Forced to attend Sicily’s most exclusive wedding together, Bella knows the dark-hearted tycoon will want a reckoning. As the clock strikes twelve, it’s clear the only way Bella will be leaving the party is with Matteo— via his bed!

This book caught my eye because it was something I don’t usually see. Okay, well the female role does seem to be a lower class than the male role and there is a lot of virgins out there. However, I liked the idea of a Cinderella factor into this.

I didn’t really feel Cinderella with the character. Yes, Bella works hard to take care of her mother and she does set aside her own needs to make others happy, but that was it for the Cinderella feel. Well, except a position as a maid.

There is one thing that I want to point out to potential future readers: this book isn’t what you’d expect. I wasn’t feeling hot and bothered while reading this book. I was hurt and emotionally invested in the terrible life Bella had to go through. You will come across a background that you don’t usually see: prostitiution.

It is because of that, I actually liked the book more. It was somehting I wasn’t expecting. I was expecting little maid with a history of hot dude. Maid dresses up as hottie potattie and whisks man. She leaves hoping he’d never find her again. Basically, I was thinking the movie Maid in Manhattan. Instead, I got a dark and gritty history with a couple who have chemsitry.

The book does have a large flashback, which is needed to understand Bella better, but it could pull away from the story. I did like her, but he could use more work. I couldn’t understand Matteo. The author described him as a man who hid his feelings and boy does he!

In all, it was interesting in that it was different from other Harlequin Presents. I didn’t mind that so much as that I couldn’t feel Matteo as a leading man.

Book 61 of 2015: Alice Takes Back Wonderland by David D. Hammons

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After ten years of being told she can’t tell the difference between real life and a fairy tale, Alice finally stops believing in Wonderland. So when the White Rabbit shows up at her house, Alice thinks she’s going crazy.
Only when the White Rabbit kicks her down the rabbit hole does Alice realize that the magical land she visited as a child is real.
But all is not well in Wonderland.
The Ace of Spades has taken over Wonderland and is systematically dismantling all that makes it wonderful. Plain is replacing wondrous, logical is replacing magical, and reason is destroying madness. Alice decides she must help the Mad Hatter and all those fighting to keep Wonderland wonderful.
But how can she face such danger when she is just a girl?
Alice must journey across the stars to unite an army. She discovers that fairy tales are real in the magical world beyond the rabbit hole. But they are not the fairy tales she knows.
Fairy tales have dangers and adventures of their own, and Alice must overcome the trials of these old stories if she wants to unite the lands against Ace.
With the help of Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Snow White and heroes old and new, Alice may have the strength to take back Wonderland.

I received this book from the publisher, Curiosity Quills Press, for an honest review.

Alice Takes Back Wonderland, follows the journey of a teenage girl from our time. She visited Wonderland back when she was seven. The prologue and first chapter deals with the event and aftermath of Wonderland. Through the years, Alice had grown to believe that she was crazy. That is until a white rabbit appears . . . and he’s wearing a camo vest . . . and holding her father’s shotgun.

I was trying to think of a great comparison to this book and the only thing I could think of is the Shrek movies. Think about the fairy tales you know and love. Now toss them out the window. This is what Hammons has in store for his readers. It’s a fun read with action and inventive recreations of well known literary (and some historical) figures.

Basically, everything we know about fairy tales isn’t true. What you think you know, is only a recreation from an author who felt/heard an echo from the fairy tale world/dimension. The echoes aren’t explained fully, but they don’t need to be. It had a Doctor Who like quality where the characters have theories, but nothing is completely verified for the audience.

I loved the dynamics of Snow White’s life, the true story of Pinocchio, and the elaborate way Ace tries to take control. Each character had a twist that I wasn’t expecting.

Alice was an interesting character. She had a goal, but didn’t understand completely why her goal was what it was. She had different reasons, but nothing solid. It’s the same for every teenager. For instance, I knew what my goals were, but not necessarily why I wanted those goals. Alice was trying to find herself while trying to help others. It is very similar to real life.

Alice Takes Back Wonderland is a fun and quick read. It’s fast paced, filled with action, and pays homage to a bunch of literary authors. H.P. Lovecraft is among them (yes, I know!). If you love reimaginings of fairy tales (which I do), action (again, me), or just want a light read that does have something you can get out of; this book is for you.

Book 60 of 2015: The Girl Nobody Wanted by Lynn Raye Harris

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Stop the Press: Jilted Bride Stranded with a Notorious Playboy!Anna Constantinides, publicly humiliated when her longtime fiancé announced his engagement to someone else, might have thought things couldn’t get any worse.… Until her private jet crash-landed on an uninhabited island, leaving her stranded with billionaire hotel magnate Leo Jackson.
Renowned playboy Leo’s reputation is legendary, and if the smoldering looks they were fighting to contain when rescued are anything to go by, there can only be one question on everybody’s lips: Just how long did it take wickedly sexy Leo to undress buttoned-up heiress Anna?

 The Girl Nobody Wanted, by Lynn Raye Harris, is a Harlequin Presents romance. It was a quick and fun read, but I wasn’t too surprised at what happened. Since the book wasn’t that long, I won’t be giving details of the events. Instead, I’ll write about the characters. Besides, so much of Harlequins are about the characters themselves and not necessarily the events they have to battle through.

Anna Constantinides is an upper class woman who was intended to become queen. She had been trained in the political arts; not showing too much emotion, being strong in a difficult situation, and being what everyone expects. She never really let her hair down.

There are parts to Anna that every woman,or really, person, could understand and relate. I remember being stressed out trying to make everyone happy. No, it wasn’t expected as it is for Anna, but I do understand the stress and emotional baggage that comes with it. That experience helped me understand her as a character.

I could relate to her at times, but there were moments where I couldn’t understand where she was coming from. Then again, we all have the main issue this book deals with: communication. I have issues with it in my own marriage as well as other familial bonds. The people on the other side of that, do as well. We all have that issue.

Leo Jackson, is the son to a famous athlete and the brother to the woman who is now on the way to being married to Anna’s ex-fiance’. He’s a playboy, but has his own standards. Though it isn’t beneath him to have a one night stand or just a few extra women a night, he does have a moral compass with whom he shares his time. He’s monogamous, caring, but ultimately doesn’t want a relationship. Want may not be the proper term, it should be: he fears a relationship.

I honestly didn’t find Leo that enticing. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a good match for Anna. I just didn’t find him as my hero. He didn’t get me pumping, but I did like him as a character. He had a sense of carefree, but used that as a way to hide behind. When the moment came, he became serious and showed something more to his character. I like that. I like him.

In all, their romance was a whirlwind. It was quick and didn’t show what I would say is a huge romance. They have chemistry. What I felt is that Anna and Leo had great potential. I didn’t feel like this was going to be a complete happy ending, but I love the happiness the ending had. Does that make sense?

Ultimately, I put too much thought into the ending. They are happy in the end and I should leave it at that. I do think they will do great if they were in later books.

Book 59 of 2015: The Deathsniffer’s Assistant by Kate McIntyre

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The Deathsniffer’s Assistant is a fantasy novel with a unique pseudo-Edwardian setting and a murder mystery twist. What’s not to love about floating castles, eccentric lady detectives, and a protagonist who judges everyone by the quality of their shoes!
After losing his parents in the Floating Castle Incident, the sensitive and mannered Chris Buckley has spent six years raising his magically talented little sister, Rosemary. They have been living on the savings that his once-wealthy family left behind. That money is drying up, and Chris finds himself with no choice but to seek out work in Darrington City as it spirals into a depression. The only employer willing to consider his empty résumé is O. Faraday, the manic Deathsniffer. Faraday’s special magical gift is a heightened intuition which is invaluable in hunting down murderers.
When a Duchess calls on Olivia to solve the mystery of her dead husband, Chris finds himself tangled in Faraday’s daily life and unable to extract himself from the macabre questions of the investigation. His involvement grows more complicated as political forces close around Rosemary. They only see her as a tool that can be used to end the depression at the cost of her freedom—or even her life.
Chris must juggle the question of who killed Viktor val Daren with the responsibility of keeping Rosemary and her magic safe from those who would use her up and toss her aside. Worst of all, he begins to learn that the national disaster that took his parents’ lives may not have been the accident it seemed.
Set in a world very similar to 1900s London, The Deathsniffer’s Assistant combines the investigative murder mystery with a tale of personal and societal redemption. It is about the relationships between broken people who clash more often than not, but manage to shape and learn from one another in spite of this. The story is told from the perspective of Christopher Buckley, young and impressionable and influenced by the prejudices of his time, as he finds himself surrounded by a cast of exceptional women whose differing characters will slowly reconstruct his understanding of strength in others—and in himself.

I will start this review by saying that I received this book through the publisher, Curiosity Quills Press, for an honest review.

The Deathsniffer’s Assistant intrigued me the moment I read the blurb. I love fantasy and I love mysteries. Add in that it has a turn of the century feel and I was sold.

The first thing to note about the book is that there is a broad magic system involved. However, it isn’t difficult to comprehend. The names of each person pretty much says what they are able to do. For instance, sumfinders find sums. They are accountants, bookies, loan sharks, etc. Wordweavers weave words; they are the writers, the office workers, secretaries, etc. In this sense, the magic didn’t fly over my head and confuse me. I didn’t feel like I needed a glossary (unlike the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson).

The author basically puts you right into the world and into the life of Christopher Buckley, a young man trying to support his sister and keep his family legacy. He’s a wordweaver, which isn’t the best of categorizations, but he’s good at his job. He worries about his image to society, he is constantly trying to figure out what is the best thing to say (even if he doesn’t agree), and he wants to keep his sister safe. I related to him the best. I’m like Christopher . . . well, except for his reason of keeping his sister safe. That isn’t a problem of mine.

Christopher does find a job with a Deathsniffer. A Deathsniffer is a branch of Truthsniffer. As you can guess, Truthsniffers are the police or private investigators of Tarland (the world in the book). A Deathsniffer is a fancy word for saying homicide detective or person who only deals in mysteries that involve death/murder. Olivia Faraday is one of the best and she’s Christopher’s boss.

If you need a little idea of her personality, I would peg her like Sherlock Holmes. Don’t worry though, she does have her own little niche. She’s not just a female Sherlock. She does have issues with societal ways, but instead of being awkward about it, she just ignores it. She wears frilly things that don’t make you think “I work with the dead.” She reminds me of the “crazy” category in Sims 2.

The main mystery was fairly easy to figure out once I hit 50% in. I had a feeling I knew who the killer was, but I was incorrect as to why the killer killed. However, the murder mystery wasn’t what really intrigued me. In the midst of the homicide, there is also a political war going on. There are factions going against each other and Christopher’s sister may be the key to it all.

McIntyre was able to weave a mystery while still making the world believeable. She left hints that there is more than what we are seeing and shows it through Christopher’s actions and story. I can’t wait to read more to see what is going on. Is there something more to Christopher than a Wordweaver? What happened to the Floating Castle? How is Olivia and Christopher’s relationship going to grow? These are all questions that aren’t answered in this book. Luckily, there should be more in the works… at least whenever I see “#1”, I instantly think series.

The Deathsniffer’s Assistant is a good fantasy/mystery that makes you want more. It has humor, awkward characters, and I honestly found every bit of it enjoyable. I can’t wait to see what Kate McIntyre has in store with the Deathsniffer and her Assistant.