Category: Musical Fiction | Non-Fiction

Book Review | “Styx & Stone” (An #EllieStone #Mystery, No. 1) by James W. Ziskin

Posted Thursday, 2 June, 2016 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin.

Acquired Book By: I was selected to review “Heart of Stone” by JKS Communications: A Literary Publicity Firm. JKS is the first publicity firm I started working with when I launched Jorie Loves A Story in August, 2013. I am honoured to continue to work with them now as a 3rd Year Book Blogger.

As a new reviewer for Seventh Street Books, I was quite intrigued by discovering another new author under this imprint for Prometheus Books, as thus far along I have found this imprint to be producing wicked good content for mystery enthusiasts! I requested if it were possible to receive the first book in the series, “Styx & Stone” as this series is in-progress and has a total of four novels thus far released.

I received my complimentary copy of Styx & Stone from the publisher Seventh Street Books in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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What I am appreciating from Seventh Street Books Mystery authors:

[ Jennifer Kincheloe ]

Sophisticated in her ascertainment of conception behind Anna Blanc, Kincheloe has writ such a lively character, you drink in her words with such a joy of delight! She has a fast paced narrative, where the humour is smitten by the sophisticated edging of her character’s personality, matched equally brilliantly by the grace of a Cosy Historical Mystery backdrop! She’s captured the turn of the century atmosphere aptly, as she tucks in recognisable familiarities to alight in your imagination as you turn the pages; replete with gaslights and other bits which correlate with the era. (from review of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc)

Anna Blanc was the first character who caught my readerly eye so to speak when I originally found Seventh Street Books and had read through their Current Front List catalogue to see what story would intrigue me as I was picking my first story to review. There was simply something about this historical mystery that tempted me to say “Yes, please!” and I was not disappointed! If anything, it left me hungering for a sequel and a continuation of Anna Blanc’s journey! She was writ so wondrously well, every inch of this novel was unputdownable because it was realistically compelling and lovingly conceived to live inside it’s era of choice! What was happily unexpected was the cheeky humour and the levity, the author underscored to the harder hitting edges of the story! I loved her personality and spark she granted to Anna Blanc – such a lovely discovery for me!

[ Larry D. Sweazy ]

I dearly appreciate the dramatic styling of Sweazy’s approach to writing this mystery series as it’s breadth is far deeper than the psychological impacts of crime and the tragic losses endured by those who are left behind to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Sweazy digs deeper into the heart and mind of his lead character (Marjorie Trumaine) whilst using her as a guiding point towards understanding the undercurrents of her small Dakota towne – it’s in this approach that I have found myself so happily entrenched inside the Dakotas, and happily residing a bit on the Trumaine farm whilst I walk beside Marjorie as she puts the clues together and finds truth out of secrets hidden from view. (from review of See Also Deception)

The Marjorie Trumaine mysteries caught my eye after Anna Blanc – I have had a hankering for wicked good mysteries for quite a long while now – they are dearly one of my favourites to curl up inside – especially the cosy side of the ledger, but this series – wow. I had hoped it would be a series I could disappear inside, but I could never have fathomed how heart-centred I felt to the Dakota small towne and whilst becoming fully entrenched inside the spirit of Marjorie Trumaine! I spent a heap of lovely hours happily in step with Marjorie’s pursuit of the truth and as each story in turn was quite unputdownable – I dreamt of the story whilst away from it – I could only hope a third installment will come along soon! Perhaps within a year? It’s that wicked brilliant! It’s also singularly unique – a dramatic crime story full of introspective intuitions about humanity and the human condition!

[ Susan Spann ]

Spann continues to write in such a beautiful arc of narrative voice, styling her cosy historical mysteries after the culture she celebrates with each novel she pens. She keeps the characters true to not only their own personal beliefs and convictions, but to the cultural heritage they are naturally akin to representing. I may have voiced wanting to see more emotional responses from the samurai, but that was only as an observational notice of how well controlled their emotions are and how wisely they choose not to show too much emotion to the outside world; as it would be a completely slip of weakness. There are simply times where you feel as a reader, one character, even if a minor one in a story might react differently than their training; and it is in this, that I celebrate Spann’s gift for historical accuracy as much as personality of character accuracy. The ways of the West and the East do not always align, and by representing her characters with the strength of their own individual personalities, a bridge is reached and crossed. (from review of Blade of the Samurai)

Spann’s Cosy Historical Mysteries are moving to *Seventh Street Books* this year, and I already have my copy of her debut release with them “The Ninja’s Daughter” of which I will happily be devouring this Summer whilst featuring a review close to it’s Pub Date in August! Spann smittened me with this curious portal into Japanese history wherein I found myself tucked inside her character’s lives with such a zest of intrigue I could not believe my wicked luck in finding the series! To be able to continue to celebrate this series per each new installment as they release is a true blessing for a reader whose simply over the moon happy one of her recent favourite series has found a new home with her new favourite publisher of Mysteries! The martial arts and the influences of Japanese tradition and cultural heritage is truly what captured me and has sustained me alongside the beautiful friendship Spann has underwritten into Father Matteo and Hiro’s relationship.

Why the Ellie Stone Mysteries felt like another ‘good fit’ for me:

The first thing that went through my mind when I read the blurb for Heart of Stone, was how interestingly a title can make me think about Jesse Stone! The title character in the television mystery movies featuring Tom Selleck in the lead role created by Robert B. Parker! They (the Jesse Stone mysteries) are a bit harder edged than most of the mysteries that whet a thirst of interest for me to read and/or watch (as I not only read mysteries, I devour Crime Drama & Mysteries in tv and film!) yet surprisingly I was attracted to the downtrodden Jesse Stone who was repairing his soul as he re-built his life in a small towne.

I seem to be on a bit of a ‘1960’ mystery hunt, as the Ellie Stone mysteries take place in early ’60s whereas the Marjorie Trumaine mysteries follow shortly thereafter! Concurrent to this, I found another mystery author (Reavis Z. Wortham) who writes his own Red River series in the 1960s of which has a likeness to the atmosphere inside a Marjorie Trumaine mystery! I’ve decided to follow where my readerly heart takes me, as Wortham’s first novel The Rock Hole was borrowed via ILL (inter-library loan) in late May, however, I unfortunately found I had to return it the day it arrived. I had not realised there is an incident of animal abuse and cruelty in the development of the mystery itself.

In regards to Ellie Stone directly, I liked her felicity to take-on a man’s role and dare to do a job only known for the men who owned it’s niche whilst re-identifying it as her own. Women can do anything they set their mind towards, but in the early 1960s that was not as obvious as it would be in later decades.

Ellie Stone felt like the type of feminist and forward-thinking female character I could rally behind – not only for her moxie to give men a run for it but for how she approached her work. I love strong characters (men and women) but what I love more are strong characters who are redefining a stigma they are living inside in order to find the freedom to be taken on their own terms! No one wants to breathe a space defined by someone else’s prejudices – and to me Ellie Stone felt like the kind of woman who could shatter predetermined mindsets and solve mysteries at the same time!

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Book Review | “Styx & Stone” (An #EllieStone #Mystery, No. 1) by James W. ZiskinStyx & Stone
Subtitle: An Ellie Stone Mystery
by James W. Ziskin
Source: Direct from Publisher

Ellie Stone is a professed modern girl in 1960s' New York City, playing by her own rules and breaking boundaries while searching for a killer among the renowned scholars in Columbia University's Italian Department.

"If you were a man, you'd make a good detective."

Ellie is sure that Sgt. McKeever meant that as a compliment, but that identity-a girl wanting to do a man's job-has throttled her for too long. It's 1960, and Ellie doesn't want to blaze any trails for women; she just wants to be a reporter, one who doesn't need to swat hands off her behind at every turn.

Adrift in her career, Ellie is back in New York City after receiving news that her estranged father, a renowned Dante scholar and distinguished professor, is near death after a savage bludgeoning in his home. The police suspect a routine burglary, but Ellie has her doubts. When a second attempt is made on her father's life, in the form of an "accident" in the hospital's ICU, Ellie's suspicions are confirmed.

Then another professor turns up dead, and Ellie's investigation turns to her father's university colleagues, their ambitions, jealousies, and secret lives. Ellie embarks on a thorny journey of discovery and reconciliation, as she pursues an investigation that offers her both a chance at redemption in her father's eyes, and the risk of losing him forever.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781616148195

Also by this author: Heart of Stone

Also in this series: Heart of Stone


Genres: Crime Fiction, Noir Crime Drama, Thriller


Published by Seventh Street Books

on 15th October, 2013

Format: Paperback Edition

Pages: 267

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Ellie Stone Mystery series:

Interesting Trivia: this series has been optioned for a television series!

“Stone Cold Dead” – received a nomination for the 2016 Lefty Award for Best World Mystery Novel. “No Stone Unturned” received a coveted Anthony Award nomination for Best Paperback Original in 2015.

Styx & Stone | No.1

No Stone Unturned | No.2 | Book Synopsis

Stone Cold Dead | No.3 | Book Synopsis

Heart of Stone | No.4 | Book Synopsis

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Published By: Seventh Street Books (@SeventhStBooks)

Available Formats: Trade Paperback and Ebook

Converse via: #EllieStoneMysteries OR #EllieStoneMystery

Read an Excerpt of Styx & Stone on the author’s site!

About James W. Ziskin

James W. Ziskin

A linguist by training, Ziskin studied romance languages and literature at the University of Pennsylvania. After completing his graduate degree, he worked in New York as a photo-news producer and writer, and then as director of NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò.

He has since spent 15 years in the Hollywood post-production industry, running large international operations in the subtitling/localization and visual effects fields. Ziskin grew up in Amsterdam, New York, and now lives in the Hollywood Hills.

Photo Credit: William Ziskin

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Posted Thursday, 2 June, 2016 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, 20th Century, Adulterous Affair, African-American Literature, Amateur Detective, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Review (non-blog tour), Brothers and Sisters, Classical Music | Composers, Clever Turns of Phrase, Crime Fiction, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Diary Accountment of Life, Epistolary Novel | Non-Fiction, Equality In Literature, Father-Daughter Relationships, Fathers and Daughters, Grief & Anguish of Guilt, Hard-Boiled Mystery, Horror-Lite, Indie Author, Investigative Reporter | Journalist, JKS Communications: Literary Publicity Firm, Judiasm, Lady Detective Fiction, Life Shift, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity, Music History, New York City, Noir Crime Drama, Religious History, Siblings, Singletons & Commitment, Sociological Behavior, Story in Diary-Style Format, The Sixties, Vulgarity in Literature, Writer, Writing Style & Voice

Author Guest Post | Kaki Olsen writes about the depth of the human experience in her debut novel “Swan and Shadow” (based on Swan Lake)

Posted Monday, 25 April, 2016 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

Author Guest Post Banner created by Jorie in Canva.

I had such a strong connection to the story within Swan and Shadow, I wanted to reach out to the author Ms Olsen to ask if she wanted to be a guest author on my blog – kicking off a week where I celebrate #YALit as this is one branch of literature I have a keen interest in seeking out whilst I find new debut authors to champion each New Year.

The Young Adult market has a wide selection of offerings but each year, I find myself trying to find a particular niche of offerings which are threaded with light and not too darkly underlit to push out the light completely. I appreciate finding stories set in the Contemporary world, the historical past or amongst the genres of Speculative Fiction which have the tendency to carve out new worlds of thought and dimension per each writer’s unique perspective and imagination.

I was quite taken by the level of depth Ms Olsen knitted inside her debut novel, and I wanted to explore those depths with her whilst giving her a chance to flex her wings with guest features which broached a bit deeper than the surface of her writerly inspirations. I definitely wanted to learn more about the supernatural attributes but at the core of the story, there is a coming-of age tale of a girl not quite confident in her own skin whose attempting to sort everything out one step of the way.

Underscored to the Fantasy elements are topics young adults will appreciate seeing in this novel, such as the highlighting of mental health and wellness and the struggle between sisters, of whom love each other dearly but do not always act in the best interests of each other. Olsen owns her story to such a degree of honesty, as to ground you directly inside the lives of her characters whilst giving you this curious story surrounding a shapeshifting swan! The back-story is one that is quite well known but it’s her interpretation of the story’s heart which stands out from the pack!

This Guest Post Feature kicks off my showcasing of Young Adult Literature – a special focus which will be re-occurring on Jorie Loves A Story straight til the start of Summer! I look forward to bringing a variety of stories to my blog, across genres and styles where characters are on the fringes of exiting their childhood but have a bit of growth left in their younger years before they fully embrace their adulthood. It’s a transitional part of our lives which endears me the most to the stories, but also, to the authors who find new ways of talking about this period of growth, discovery and self-awareness which everyone (lad or lass) can relate too.

Happily join me as I converse via:

#IReadYA | #IndieYA (movements of their own)

  Tags to promote these showcases: #JorieLovesIndies | #JorieLovesYA

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Aislin’s curse is the standard fare: swan by day, college student by

Swan and Shadow by Kaki Olsen

night, true love as the only cure. But does true love even exist outside of fairy tales? After having to cover for Aislin during her swan hours, Aislin’s twin, Maeve, is willing to resort to anything from matchmaking to magic to see her sister live happily (and human) ever after.

Will either of them get their wish?

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Topic of Interest: Shadow and Light can metaphorically tackle a wider depth of a human’s journey; how did you seek to define Aislin’s struggle to grow in strength and personal acceptance of her swan / human duality?

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One Saturday afternoon, I was standing in line for a book signing. I’d been a fan of Brandon Sanderson since my friend made me read her writing teacher’s debut novel and this was years before he was an award-winning podcaster, novelist and the man who finished the Wheel of Time series. I’ve always found him to be an approachable and unassuming man, which is what gave me the guts to comment on one of his observations.

The person standing in front of me was having him sign a middle grade book called Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians and said how much her son loved reading something that didn’t have to be homework. Brandon wittily said that he’s never been the type to write books that people would have to write papers on. I immediately piped up that I was presenting an academic paper on leadership in two weeks and had used a chapter from his first book as the foundation for part of it. He blinked, signed the woman’s book and, while signing my copy of Hero of Ages, asked me what I had written it on. I immediately quoted a passage from the book in which a young prince is taught about noble leadership by some well-phrased observations and questions posed by a glowing ball that used to be his constant companion. Brandon responded with something along the lines of, “Well, THAT’S not exactly what I thought that chapter was about” and laughed. Read More

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Posted Monday, 25 April, 2016 by jorielov in After the Canon, Ballet, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Cedar Fort Publishing & Media, Chronicles of a Prospective Adoptive Mum, Coming-Of Age, Debut Author, Equality In Literature, Fairy Tale Fiction, Folklore and Mythology, Indie Author, Inspired by Stories, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Methodology of Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy, Musical Fiction | Non-Fiction, Re-Told Tales, Reader Submitted Guest Post (Topic) for Author, Realistic Fiction, Shapeshifters, Supernatural Fiction, The Writers Life, Trauma | Abuse & Recovery, Urban Fantasy, Writing Advice & Tips, Writing Style & Voice, YA Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

#PubDay Book Review | “Masks and Shadows” by Stephanie Burgis

Posted Tuesday, 12 April, 2016 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin.

Acquired Book By: I am a reviewer for Prometheus Books and their imprints starting in [2016] as I contacted them through their Edelweiss catalogues and Twitter. I appreciated the diversity of titles across genre and literary explorations – especially focusing on Historical Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction and Scientific Topics in Non-Fiction. I received a complimentary ARC copy of “Masks and Shadows” direct from the publisher PYR (an imprint of Prometheus Books) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

How I came to learn about ‘Masks and Shadows’:

For the fuller story behind my forthcoming reviews on behalf of Prometheus Books, kindly read my story about becoming a reviewer for them on my End of the Year Survey, 2015. I was quite delighted by receiving an email from the publicist I am working with at Prometheus Books, as before I had the proper chance to start my reviews, she instinctively knew how much I love reading Historical Fiction! This title stood out to me for several reasons: it’s the first adult novel by it’s author who has a penchant for writing Middle Grade stories; it’s set during the 18th Century one of my most beloved centuries to explore; there is a Musical Historical backdrop to the evolving story and it’s centred at court!

High society and life at Court are two of my favourite historical veins of interest – the court has a way of enlightening you inside a portion of the historical past where innuendo reigned supreme. I have read a few musical driven plots since I’ve become a book blogger and as I enter into my 3rd Year, I’m appreciating being able to re-examine certain styles of stories which I itch to read more of.

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Notation on Cover Art Design: On display in the cover art are all the key marks of the story: from the ethereal smoke snaking it’s way into view to the masquerade mask(s) and the setting for the folly itself: Eszterháza Palace. The colours themselves lend such an enriched cover palette but it’s the fullness of the cover design to evoke out a recognition of the story’s internal elements that struck me as being quite bang-on brilliant as you can foretell a bit from it’s artwork.

#PubDay Book Review | “Masks and Shadows” by Stephanie BurgisMasks and Shadows
by Stephanie Burgis
Source: Direct from Publisher

The year is 1779, and Carlo Morelli, the most renowned castrato singer in Europe, has been invited as an honored guest to Eszterháza Palace. With Carlo in Prince Nikolaus Esterházy’s carriage, ride a Prussian spy and one of the most notorious alchemists in the Habsburg Empire. Already at Eszterháza is Charlotte von Steinbeck, the very proper sister of Prince Nikolaus’s mistress. Charlotte has retreated to the countryside to mourn her husband’s death. Now, she must overcome the ingrained rules of her society in order to uncover the dangerous secrets lurking within the palace’s golden walls. Music, magic, and blackmail mingle in a plot to assassinate the Habsburg Emperor and Empress—a plot that can only be stopped if Carlo and Charlotte can see through the masks worn by everyone they meet.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781633881327

Also by this author: Congress of Secrets

Genres: Alternative History, Cosy Horror, Historical Fiction, Historical-Fantasy


Published by Pyr

on 12th April, 2016

Format: Paperback ARC

Pages: 300

Published By: Pyr (@Pyr_Books)

Available Formats: Trade Paperback and Ebook

Read the back-story about Masks and Shadows!

Read about the author’s next novel Congress of Secrets publishing November 2016!

Converse via: #MasksAndShadows

About Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis Photo Credit: Patrick Saphire

Stephanie Burgis was born in Michigan, but now lives in Wales with her husband, writer Patrick Samphire, and their children. Before becoming a fulltime writer, she studied music history as a Fulbright Scholar in Vienna, Austria, and worked as a website editor for a British opera company.

She has published over thirty short stories for adults. Kat, Incorrigible (US)/A Most Improper Magick (UK) won the Waverton Good Read Children’s Award in 2011 for Best Début Children’s Novel by a British writer. It was followed by Renegade Magic/A Tangle of Magicks and Stolen Magic/A Reckless Magick.

Photo Credit: Patrick Saphire

My Review of Masks and Shadows:

Charlotte has decided to visit her younger sister Sophie whilst she’s ensconced in a decidedly different affair than her sister allocated at being proper but evenso, as sister’s go, Sophie has such a spirit about her to charm Charlotte into staying with her even if she’s troubled by the truth of what she’s found out. The differences are a bit great given their time of living, as Charlotte believed Sophie was attached to Court in a proper fashion not as the known mistress to a Prince, especially as she’s married yet her husband has carted off someplace Charlotte couldn’t help but wonder as to where. We enter their conversation as if we’re their long lost friends as they reveal a bit of their personalities whilst trying to sort each other out. Read More

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2016 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
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Posted Tuesday, 12 April, 2016 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, 18th Century, Alternative History, ARC | Galley Copy, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Castles & Estates, Cosy Horror, Cosy Horror Suspense, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Fantasy Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Indie Author, Musical Fiction | Non-Fiction, Opera, Prometheus Books, Vulgarity in Literature