Breaking the Dance (A World of Spies Mystery, #2) by Clare O’Donohue – Review

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About Breaking the Dance by Clare O’Donohue

Husband and wife college professors Hollis and Finn Larsson think their days as accidental spies are behind them. But just weeks into a new school year, a mysterious envelope arrives containing two passports. The photos are of Hollis and Finn but the names are Janet and Tim McCabe. Within hours, the couple is forced onto a private plane headed to Argentina with an Interpol mission to find Irish art thief Declan Murphy and a haphazard plan to get home with their lives―and marriage―intact. As clues take them from the mountainous north through the tango halls of Buenos Aires to the southernmost tip of Tierra del Fuego, they rush to find Declan and escape from the clutches of those who would do them harm.

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Review of Breaking the Dance

Hollis and Finn are quite entertaining as they step into their second round of playing international spies. How they got into this position, I can’t tell you because I have not read Beyond the Pale, book 1 in this series. But, after reading Breaking the Dance, I plan to. Already have it downloaded to my kindle.

I do know that Declan Murphy had something to do with it. Art forger and con man, enigmatic and charming, the reader does not really get to know Declan all that well. There must always be an air of mystery surrounding him. This is sure to make him a favorite character.

I also really like Blue agent Peter Moodley. He is all don’t ask questions, just do what I tell you one moment and the next he is there to save Hollis and Finn from certain harm. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to mess with him, but you do want him on your side. He and Declan have a hate-hate relationship that will evolve into something else in Breaking the Dance. It is quite enjoyable to watch.

But of course, the stars of the book are Hollis and Finn. As a couple, they are adorable and their banter is charming. As spies, they manage quite well, surprisingly. Hollis actually had CIA spy training, but ultimately went for the academic career. So her spy skills are there, just a bit rusty. Hollis is pure academic. For both of them, their intelligence is what allows them to become these accidental spies. They can think on their feet, improvise when needed and fake it when they don’t know what the heck they should know.

In Breaking the Dance, they are presented with a series of cryptic clues. While I thought the clues were a bit contrived to move Hollis and Finn from one scenic South American locale to another, I still enjoyed them. Taking place mostly in Buenos Aires Argentina, the narrative is full of admiration for the city’s architecture, people, food and for the culture in general. I’ve never been there, but I kind of want to visit now.

This contemporary spy story is full of intrigue, humor and romance. Breaking the Dance does stand alone, if you want to start the series here. I plan to catch up with book 1 and continue the series because I can’t resist the mysterious international criminal and the smart academic couple.

Through Netgalley, the publisher provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Westside by W.M. Akers – Review

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About Westside by W.M. Akers

New York is dying, and the one woman who can save it has smaller things on her mind.

A young detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries” finds herself at the center of a massive conspiracy in this beguiling historical fantasy set on Manhattan’s Westside, a peculiar and dangerous neighborhood home to strange magic and stranger residents.

It’s 1921, and a thirteen-mile fence running the length of Broadway splits the island of Manhattan, separating the prosperous Eastside from the Westside—an overgrown wasteland whose hostility to modern technology gives it the flavor of old New York. Thousands have disappeared here.

Slightly built, but with a will of iron, Gilda follows in the footsteps of her late father, a police detective turned private eye. Unlike that larger-than-life man, Gilda solves tiny mysteries: the impossible puzzles that keep us awake at night.

Yet on Gilda’s Westside, tiny mysteries end in blood—even the case of a missing white leather glove. Mrs. Copeland, a well-to-do Eastside housewife, hires Gilda to find it.  When Gilda witnesses Mr. Copeland’s murder at a Westside pier, she finds herself sinking into a mire of bootlegging, smuggling, corruption—and an evil too dark to face.

All she wants is to find one dainty ladies’ glove. But as she begins to see the connection between his murder, her father’s death, and the darkness plaguing the Westside, she faces the hard truth: she must save her city or die with it.

NOTE:  The blurb has been edited for length.  See retail sights for more details.

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Review of Westside

When I started reading Westside, I called it a ‘quirky little book’ – after a few chapters. Quirky, yes, but using just that one word does not do justice to the book. So here are a few more:

Unusual – the setting and plot of Westside are truly unique. I crave true originality in books, and when such imagination is expressed in a book, I must tell the world! The setting is an alternative early 20th century New York City. A wall divides the East from the West because the West started to go weird. Really weird.  Houses started sinking, vegetation took over, rust overtook everything rustable and people started disappearing. But Gilda Carr loves her home and would not even consider changing where she lives.

Interesting – Good thing Gilda is a Westsider, because she makes a compelling heroine. Five-foot-tall, solver of tiny mysteries. “Those impossible puzzles that burrow into our brains like splinters and keep us awake at night.”  Because big mysteries are dull. Interesting philosophy. Also interesting is the fact that a peace loving petite detective suddenly becomes a gun-toting, body-slamming big mystery solver.  Gilda’s evolution was swift but, strangely, did not seem out of character.  In all fairness, the big mystery started with a tiny mystery.  The Case of the Missing Glove.

Action-packed – the story takes place over just a few days. It felt like longer, not because the story dragged, but because there was so much crammed into it. And not always neatly crammed, but messy, sloppy, what-the-heck-is-going-to-happen-next? crammed.

Which leads me to twisty. Reading the first few chapters, I could never have imagined how things would play out. Not even close. If I can’t guess the ending of a book, I call it a good one!

Colorful – so many big characters, dark corners, loud music and stormy skies. Imagine the Aurorae Borealis only more colors. And louder. Beautiful and fascinating and I just couldn’t take my eyes away from the page.

Genre-bending – okay, that may be a given, if you read the blurb. Historical, mystery, scifi, and horror. Take your pick, you will find it all in Westside.

So to summarize:  unusual, interesting, action-packed, twisty, colorful, and genre-bending. When I put those all together, I get Quirky! 5 stars!

Through Netgalley, the publisher provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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The Doll Maker (The Viper and the Urchin, #4) by Celine Jeanjean – Review

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About The Doll Maker by Celine Jeanjean

Revolution in the streets.
A deadly weapon stolen.
A wardrobe too wide to fit up the stairs.
All is most definitely not well back in Damsport…

Cruikshank has created a deadly new weapon, but someone breaks into her workshop, steals the design, and leaves her for dead.

Time for Rory and Longinus to roll up their sleeves again.

But it doesn’t take long for them to be completely out of their depth. They find themselves facing a creepy doll maker, chaos in the streets, and a powerful man seeking to overthrow the Old Girl. In short, another sinister plot seeking to bring Damsport to its knees.

Once again, Rory and Longinus find themselves the city’s last line of defence.

Damsport really needs to invest in better defences.

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Review of The Doll Maker

In The Doll Maker, a serious threat to the rule of the Marchioness of Damsport brings the team together to determine who is behind it all. It seems straightforward at first. A power-hungry noble/politician wants to oust the Old Girl. Can it be that simple? Of course not. You’ll need to read the book to delve into the complexity of the plot. I will say that I was adamant that, in Damsport, the rule of the Marchioness is just fine. These upstart politicians are going to have a thing coming. I hope…..

Each time I read another book in The Viper and the Urchin series, I am fondly reminded of the first time I met Rory and Longinus. These are two of my favorite characters in all of Steampunkdom. Rory, the urchin who wanted to be a great swordswoman and Longinus, the assassin who passes out at the sight of blood. They are the unlikely duo who formed first, a business arrangement and second, an enduring friendship.

Rory and Longinus have grown into their characters beautifully over the series. I love how the friendship has strengthened and expanded to other endearing characters like Pip, Alice, Rafe, Adelma and Cruikshank. But mostly I love Rory and Longinus when they are together.

“No!” Longinus said in tone that brooked no arguments. So of course, Rory argued.

As much as Rory enjoys a good debate, she watches out for Longinus. And Longinus has Rory’s back.

While Rory is now a well-paid employee of the Marchioness, she is always on the lookout for the opportunity to steal. She doesn’t, but she is on the lookout. And Longinus is forever planning out the perfect wardrobe, one that complements him and his surroundings. Some things never change. Another one of the things I love this about this duo.

Enough about my favorite characters. The books is full of other great characters. Poor Cruikshank gets beat up for the second book in a row – totally not fair. Adelma is large and in charge, especially when it comes to protecting her son Tommy. And Rafe does his very capable Varanguard thing. He and Rory may or may not be a couple. This is just about the slowest progressing romance I have been reading about lately. And that is exactly how their romance should be.

There might be a spider, or two, or more.  See the very cool book cover!

The book ends with the promise of another dangerous adventure. I eagerly await its arrival!

Many thanks to the author for providing a copy of her book in exchange for my honest review.

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