Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Book Review: A Study In Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro

A Study In Charlotte
(Charlotte Holmes, Book 1)
Brittany Cavallaro
Hardcover, 321 pages
Katherine Tegen Books
March 1, 2016
Mystery, Young Adult Fiction
Source: Barnes & Noble bookstore

Book Synopsis: The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

A Study in Charlotte is the first in a trilogy.


Basically, I have just one word for this incredible debut novel: BRILLIANT. Of course, I have many more words of praise for it, but this one word really sums up my most heartfelt reaction to it.

As a longtime Sherlock Holmes fan, I immediately felt attracted to this book. The original Conan Doyle stories are exciting, with very complex crimes (which, of course, makes the stories as fascinating as they are). Holmes is an eccentric detective whose personal flaws are just as interesting as his genius for solving difficult cases, just with the highly observant, deductive power of his mind. And Watson is the perfect, faithful partner, willing to follow Holmes to the bitter end. He is also the excellent chronicler of all the cases he and Holmes work on.

This novel brings back all those things that made Sherlock Holmes such an iconic character -- in the person of his great, great, great granddaughter, Charlotte.

I LOVED that, when creating her own version of the original detective duo, Cavallaro chose to make Sherlock's genius detective descendant Charlotte, instead of James. We've already had enough of young women adoringly admiring confident male heroes. The tables are turned here! We definitely need more daring, logically-inclined female detectives in fiction!

Charlotte Holmes is just as quirky, and just as much of a detective genius, as her formidable ancestor. She even shares his fondness for violin playing, as well as his unfortunate attraction to drugs, although her drug of choice is OxyContin. However, like her ancestor's favorite drug, cocaine, OxyContin is a derivative of opium.

James Watson, the boy who meets and becomes Charlotte's partner, is the original Watson's descendant, too. Like him, James becomes an indispensable ally to his own Holmes, in her quest to solve puzzling crimes. This alliance is made rather complex by the fact that this Holmes is a female. Jamie Watson has feelings for Charlotte, which, toward the end of the novel, he's more and more willing to accept. Charlotte has feelings for him as well, but is much more reticent, in keeping with her temperament, which is a lot like that of her famous ancestor.

Also like his own ancestor, James Watson is the chronicler of his adventures with Charlotte Holmes. His narrative is just as matter of fact, but just as perceptive. Through his eyes, we see just what a great detective Charlotte is. He describes her personality in detail, and admits to being baffled by its eccentricities. Still, he can't help but be fascinated, and enjoys working with her. 

The case here is not only exciting, but also hits too close to home. Holmes and Watson have been framed for murder. The fact that the victim harassed Holmes on several previous occasions, and was confronted by Watson during one of them, makes things look very bad for our two heroes.

Like the original Holmes, Charlotte is on the case immediately. She has been able to arrange to have her own crime lab, where, with Watson's help, she begins to follow clues and come to conclusions. Like Sherlock, she comes up with the craziest notions (but they only appear crazy on the surface), testing them through flawless logic, and then following through on them. She is totally unpredictable, frequently taking her partner by surprise when she suddenly goes off on a dangerous, but effective, course of action.

All this goes down while the pair are students at a private Connecticut boarding school. They have to deal not only with the suspicions of the police, but the taunts and even hatred of their own classmates, while negotiating the challenges of adolescence, as well. 

In the process, Jamie (as he is known to most people, to his great chagrin) reconnects with his estranged father, and discovers that things are not quite as he had thought they were.

The plot is diabolically PERFECT. Cavallaro references famous Sherlock Holmes cases such as "A Study In Scarlet", "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle", and others. She interweaves clues related to these cases into her own plot in a very skillful manner that is reminiscent of Conan Doyle's own great storytelling. 

The descendants of the famous detective duo are very well-developed characters. They work together beautifully. They brainstorm. They argue. They follow the inexorable, logical train of thought of the Holmesian mind. They are just enchanting!

Here are some samples of typical interchanges:

I stuffed my hands in my pockets to keep myself from fidgeting. "Do you want me to try to lie to you?"

At that, I watched Holmes fight back a laugh. "God, no, that would be pointless. No, I'll make a series of statements and you can tell me which are true. Thumb up for truth, thumb down for a lie."


"Because, somewhere in that brain of yours, you've decided I should know more about you, but you don't want to do it outright. No, it can't be simple, you're Charlotte Holmes. You have to do it sideways, and this is the most sideways approach you could dream up."


"This is completely unfair," I pointed out.

"It is." Holmes smiled to herself. "We can talk more at the poker game tonight."

"No one's going to come. Everyone thinks we're murderers."

"Everyone will come," she said, correctly, "because everyone thinks we're murderers."


I was delighted to once again feel the excitement of the original tales, as the 21st century Holmes and Watson took up the chase, followed all leads, and, most of all, came to incredible deductive conclusions, almost as if by magic, thanks to Charlotte.

All Sherlockian fans will be absolutely fascinated and pleased by Cavallaro's masterful use of the original material created by Conan Doyle. Readers who love the YA genre will be doubly pleased, as the author also seamlessly weaves teen angst into the plot.

I need to do some fangirling of this novel! I need to say how very MUCH I LOVE IT!! I did not want it to end..... I was fascinated, spellbound, addicted, compelled to read, totally and completely immersed in this great story that is such a tribute to the original Holmes and Watson! I have long loved these two, and now I love their descendants just as much!!

If you're a Sherlockian, you really MUST read this novel. You will get your Holmes and Watson fix, no doubt about it!

Of course, I have already pre-ordered the sequel, The Last of August, and hope that Cavallaro will turn this trilogy into a long-lasting series, just as Conan Doyle did with his own immortal characters!          


Brittany Cavallaro is a poet, fiction writer, and old school Sherlockian. She is the author of the Charlotte Holmes novels from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, including A Study In Charlotte and The Last of August (forthcoming in February 2017). She's also the author of the poetry collection Girl-King (University of Akron) and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She earned her BA in literature from Middlebury College and her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she's a PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, cat, and collection of deerstalker caps. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Tour/Mini-Review/Giveaway: Soul of a Viking, by Sky Purington

Welcome to the Soul of a Viking 
Blog Tour, 
sponsored by 
Bewitching Book Tours!!

For my stop, I'm featuring a mini review 
and excerpt, 
with a tour-sponsored giveaway!!

Soul of a Viking
(The MacLomain Series: 
Viking Ancestors' Kin, Book 3)
Sky Purington
Digital Edition, 268 pages
Sky Purington
January 24, 2017
Paranormal Romance, Science Fantasy, 
Urban Fantasy


 Lauren refuses to believe that her sisters traveled back in time to tenth-century Scandinavia. Cybil must be off doing one thing or another. And what of Samantha? She returned then vanished again with a bunch of uncivilized ruffians who called themselves Vikings. While thankful the crude men finally left, she’s now caught in an unusual situation. No matter how hard she tries, she cannot step foot outside her Winter Harbor chalet.

Desperate to return to the twenty-first century and figure out why he and Lauren were cursed by a Nidstang, Tait Sigdir struggles with what feels like half a soul. But that’s not all. When he finally returns to the future, he realizes how troubling things really are. Though drawn to Shannon, he can’t seem to stay away from her sister, Lauren. Hard to believe considering how difficult she is to be around. Even for a flirt like him. Yet if he’s not near her, he becomes uncharacteristically sullen.

Caught in an unraveling hex that steers them closer to the enemy, Tait and Lauren are forced on an adventure that tests them in more ways than one. Friendship emerges. Passion ignites. Even so, love does not come so easily to those who are cursed. As it turns out, they must get through a whirlwind of unfortunate events that will either bring them together or drive them further apart.

Purchase Links

Oh, this sounds so very intriguing! I love it when a woman is defiant toward a man, instead of just meekly doing what he orders! KUDOS for Purington!! And it seems that there's some unacknowledged chemistry between these two, as well! I really like the way this author sets up her scenes, and her dialogues are full of sparks and tension. Also, I love, love, love time travel romances. So, I will soon be purchasing my own copy of this book! If you enjoy time travel, Vikings, and romance, then you will most likely be buying your own copy, too!

“Who goes there?” came an all-too-familiar voice from the door.

Lauren sighed and called out. “It is none of your concern, Tait.”

Evidently, he thought differently because seconds later he entered, a frown on his face as his eyes swept around the lodge. “I heard a man in here.”

“It was just Einar,” she began, her words trailing off as she gestured towards him only to find he’d vanished.

Tait’s brows slammed together. “Einar? I do not know that name.”

“He was just right here,” she murmured, glancing at the rear door. “He must have slipped out the back.”

“Nobody has come or gone since your sisters left,” Tait said, troubled.

“I can assure you they did. A woman, then a man. Einar.” She folded her hands in front of her and focused on the bigger problem. “You had no right to barge in here. Please leave.”

“Actually I had every right.” He continued eying the place, looking for Einar. “This is my lodge, woman.”

His lodge? How unfortunate. “My name is Lauren.”

Tait shrugged as an annoying grin tugged at his lips. Apparently, he was done searching out another man. He gestured at the water.  “You will bathe, then join your sisters in the main lodge, yes?”

“That was the plan, yes,” she allowed.

“Then please,” he headed for the corner table, “do not let me disturb you.”

She frowned as he filled a mug with what appeared to be ale.  “What are you doing?”

He gave the mug a pointed look.


“Then please do so outside.”

“But this is my lodge.”

“Then I will need another lodge.”

“No.” Tait shook his head. “I can only be so far away from you and will sleep nowhere but here.”

Her eyes widened. “We are not sleeping in the same room.”

“We will if we have to.” He gestured at the tub again. “Right now you do not need to worry about sleeping, but bathing.”

Lauren inhaled deeply and remained calm. “As much as you would probably enjoy it, I am not bathing with you here.”

“Well, I am not leaving because whether or not I saw anyone enter, I heard a man in here. So I will not leave you alone.”

He considered her before he murmured something and a tall screen appeared in front of the tub. “There. Now I will not be tempted by you, woman.” He removed his fur, plunked down and narrowed his eyes at her when she narrowed her eyes on him. “Now I can focus my thoughts on Shannon.”

Lauren ignored her strong reaction to his words and smoothed her expression. Regardless, there was no controlling the flare of defiance that screamed inside her. A defiance that had her doing the last thing she intended. Something she found extremely appalling and would never normally do. Something she would judge harshly if she saw another woman do it. Especially one who was married.

She tested his resolve about Shannon as she held his eyes and took her time stripping down before she sauntered around the screen and got into the tub.

Sky is the best-selling author of over twenty-five novels and several novellas. A New Englander born and bred, Sky was raised hearing stories of folklore, myth and legend. When combined with a love for nature, romance and time-travel, elements from the stories of her youth found release in her books.

Purington loves to hear from readers and can be contacted at Sky@SkyPurington.com. Interested in keeping up with Sky's latest news and releases? Visit Sky's website to download her free App on iTunes and Android, or sign up for her quarterly newsletter. Love social networking? Find Sky on Facebook and Twitter. 

To access the complete tour schedule, just click on the button below!


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Shelf Candy Saturday No. 201: The Last Ever After, by Soman Chainani

Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!

This is my weekly feature
showcasing beautiful covers!
It also provides information, 
if available, on their 
very talented creators!

Here's my choice for this week!

The Last Ever After
(The School for Good and Evil, Book 3) 
Soman Chainani
Hardcover, 672 pages 
July 21, 2015
Fairy Tale Retellings, Fantasy, Romance,
Young Adult Fiction 


My Thoughts About This Cover

This is truly a mind-blowing cover! At least it is, for me. 

Usually, I'm not that enthusiastic about perfectly symmetrical covers. With this one, though, I am willing to make an exception;  I LOVE this cover!!

There are many contrasts in this image, which, of course, mirror the title of the whole series. Thus, light is juxtaposed with dark, on several levels. 

There's the level of interpersonal conflict, as in the confrontation between the two characters portrayed in the top section of the cover. who are glaring at each other. There's also the archetypal level, as the two swans, one black, one white, also seem about to do battle. Then there's the national level, as two armies, presumably from different countries, face off in the bottom section of the cover. 

So this is really not only an apparently symmetrical cover, but also a tiered one. This type of cover is also not usually my favorite type, but again, the design works perfectly here. Everything just ties together beautifully!

I love the colors used, too. The golden blonde hair of the girl on the right is gorgeous, as is the deep raven-black hair of the girl on the left. The greyish background hints at trouble brewing on the horizon, while the beautiful bluish light at the bottom of the cover, between the two armies, hints at some sort of peace.

The whole design is tied together by the banners which display the title of this book, as well as the series title. These banners are appropriately medieval.

In short, the whole design just flows harmoniously, in spite of its apparently disparate elements. 

Last but not least, I LOVE the drawing style! it's not quite similar to manga, and yet, it is. There's a great balance between realism and stylized drawing in the depiction of the two characters, as well as the swans.

The brilliant artist responsible for this GORGEOUS cover is Iacopo Bruno, and he has just joined my list of favorite book cover illustrators! I have just checked out his portfolio, which is available on his website, and.....OMG!! I want to collect ALL of the books whose covers I saw there!! That's how very AWESOME he is!! 

The only information about this artist I've been able to get is that he's an illustrator and graphic designer living in Milan, Italy. If I'm able to find out more, I will definitely return and revise this post.



 What do you think of this 
week's cover?
Do you agree or disagree 
 with my analysis?
Please leave a comment and 
let me know!