(Review) A Trace of Deceit by Karen Odden

Publisher and Publication Date: William Morrow/an imprint of HarperCollins. December 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction. Mystery. Detective. Fine art. Victorian.
Pages: 416.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from William Morrow, but was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers who love detective/mystery stories.
Rating: Very good.

A Trace of Deceit is book 2 in the series. Book 1 is A Dangerous Duet.

Amazon link

Barnes and Noble link

Link for the tour page: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

About the Author:
Karen Odden received her Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays and chapters to books and journals, including Studies in the Novel, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and Victorian Crime, Madness, and Sensation; she has written introductions for Barnes and Noble editions of books by Dickens and Trollope; and she edited for the academic journal Victorian Literature and Culture. She freely admits she might be more at home in nineteenth-century London than today, especially when she tries to do anything complicated on her iPhone. Her first novel, A Lady in the Smoke, was a USA Today bestseller and won the New Mexico-Arizona 2016 Book Award for e-Book Fiction. Her second novel, A Dangerous Duet, about a young pianist who stumbles on a notorious crime ring while playing in a Soho music hall in 1870s London, won the New Mexico-Arizona 2019 Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. A Trace of Deceit is her third novel. She resides in Arizona with her family and a ridiculously cute beagle named Rosy.
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Praise:
“Odden’s third effort injects a refreshing level of complexity, both in character development and plotting, into what one typically expects to find in historical cozies. This will appeal to fans of Victorian mysteries, as well as those interested in art history.” –Booklist (starred review)

“Odden keenly evokes the physical as well as cultural milieu of Victorian England, and peoples her setting with fully realized and intriguing characters. This book will delight readers who like their mysteries cloaked in well-researched history.” –Publishers Weekly

“…this thrilling, action-packed story [is] an absolute delight to read.” –Historical Novel Society

“Odden’s literary brushstrokes vividly portray the misogyny and gender bias experienced by women in Victorian society, especially a woman battling to exercise her artistic talent. ” –Washington Independent Review of Books

“Fans of Anne Perry, Deanna Rayborn, and Tasha Alexander will root for Karen Odden’s newest heroine, Annabel Rowe—aspiring painter and now amateur sleuth—investigating the murder of her art forger brother. The novel’s a delightful mix of mystery, history, and romance, served with a delicious helping of lush period detail, while chemistry between Annabel and the investigating Scotland Yard detective add spice to the adventure.” –Susan Elia MacNeal, New York Times bestselling author of the Maggie Hope series

“A darkly thrilling story filled with suspense and secrets, a courageous heroine, an edgy climax, and an atmospheric setting that perfectly captures the underbelly of London’s art world in the Victorian era. A Trace of Deceit is an absolute winner!” –Stefanie Pintoff, Edgar Award winning author

Summary:
From the author of A Dangerous Duet comes the next book in her Victorian mystery series, this time following a daring female painter and the Scotland Yard detective who is investigating her brother’s suspicious death.

A young painter digs beneath the veneer of Victorian London’s art world to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder…

Edwin is dead. That’s what Inspector Matthew Hallam of Scotland Yard tells Annabel Rowe when she discovers him searching her brother’s flat for clues. While the news is shocking, Annabel can’t say it’s wholly unexpected, given Edwin’s past as a dissolute risk-taker and art forger, although he swore he’d reformed. After years spent blaming his reckless behavior for their parents’ deaths, Annabel is now faced with the question of who murdered him—because Edwin’s death was both violent and deliberate. A valuable French painting he’d been restoring for an auction house is missing from his studio: find the painting, find the murderer. But the owner of the artwork claims it was destroyed in a warehouse fire years ago.

As a painter at the prestigious Slade School of Art and as Edwin’s closest relative, Annabel makes the case that she is crucial to Matthew’s investigation. But in their search for the painting, Matthew and Annabel trace a path of deceit and viciousness that reaches far beyond the elegant rooms of the auction house, into an underworld of politics, corruption, and secrets someone will kill to keep.

My Thoughts:
This is the first book I’ve read by Karen Odden. I’m hoping to read other books she’s written in the near future.

Several reason why I love this story!
~I became quickly apart of the story.
~Annabel Rowe is a painter. She has an artist vision. She describes her environment as an artist because she looks at color and shape through an artist’s discerning eyes.
~When Annabel is told about her brother’s death I felt her reaction believable. Her reaction is not over the top in hysterics. Her reaction is not without emotion. Annabel, in being true to her character and personality, shows a remarkable strength in hearing the news. In the days and weeks after his death, I saw her grieving as important. Grieving is hard work. Grieving takes physical and emotional strength. A great part of her character is in how she handled herself during this event. I consider Annabel a person of high character. She is an admirable person.
~I love the unique blend of this story: Victorian, fine art, mystery, detective, family saga, and romance.
~The romance is gentle and real. I love how the couple grew close as partners and friends.

There is a sad memory that is reflected on but is not developed for the larger part of this story. It is something that happened in the past. I am glad people can read about this character’s sad story of abuse and understand how it affects life. This particular type of abuse causes a soul wound.

Giveaway:
During the Blog Tour, we are giving away one paperback copy of A Trace of Deceit! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on October 2nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Direct link to the giveaway.

Banned Books Week: September 27-October 3, 2020

Banned Books Week is an annual event bringing readers a chance to celebrate a love of reading in freedom. It also focuses on the hope to end censoring books in schools and libraries.
To read more information about Banned Books Week: ALA office for intellectual freedom.
To read a list of books often challenged: Frequently Challenged Books.

(Review) A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City by Anonymous

Publisher and Publication Date: Picador. 1953. My eBook Kindle copy, 2017.
Genre: Memoir. World War II. Germany. Post World War II. Women and Literature.
Pages: 300.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of World War II memoirs.
Rating: Excellent.

The translator of the diary is Philip Boehm.

Amazon link
The Kindle price is $2.69 today.

Summary:
A Woman in Berlin is a diary (kept in 3 notebooks) by a 34 year old German woman during the final weeks of World War II and the first few weeks of post war Germany.
She had worked as a journalist. She’d traveled in Europe before the war.
The diary began April 20, 1945. The diary ends June 22, 1945.

Two important points:
~This is a diary and not a complete historical record of World War II. It is the personal life and private thoughts of this German woman.
~The memoir is a trigger for people who have been sexually abused.

Warning! The memoir depicts graphic rape scenes.
In other books I’ve read, the rape scenes are not described in detail like this book. This memoir is the before, during, and afterwards of rape. Nothing in this memoir is romantic and beautiful. It is heart-wrenching, sad, and painful.

My Thoughts:
~I am a survivor of sexual abuse. This book triggered my difficulty in sleeping, flashbacks, and an overall uneasiness.
~I saw through her eyes the German soldiers as they retreated. In addition, she provided a surreal and disturbing account of the bombings, basement sheltering, scarcity of food and water, starvation, the violence of the Soviet soldiers, and civilian death and burial.
She acknowledges the harsh bitterness against the Nazi’s who caused this.
She confesses: “We’ve been led by criminals and gamblers, and we’ve let them lead us, like sheep to the slaughter.” Page 129.
~The 100,000 German women who were raped by Soviets were of all ages. The Soviet Army did not always discriminate who they plundered. German women who had babies might be ignored. Girl children might be ignored. Teenage girls were vulnerable because they were thought to be virgins. Elderly women were plunder. Females were considered war plunder with no rights and they were to accept this behavior!

Other Thoughts:
~In Berlin, at the end of the war, there were women, children, and old men.
~Women began to have a different attitude towards men. They were surviving (or not) without the men who had led them astray. They had a bitter attitude towards men. They had a pitiful attitude towards men.
~After the war is over information came to her and others about the Holocaust.

Final Thought:
The diary doesn’t reveal what she knew about the Holocaust before the war ended. I don’t know what she knew or what she thought. When she heard about the crematory in the camps it was one more thing to add to her oppressed soul.

I searched online to find who was the anonymous woman author. Her name was Marta Hillers (1911-2001).

Quote of the Week

“Everything was so strange-the stranger for its being night in the day-time, and the candles burning with a white flame, and looking raw and cold-that I read the words in the newspaper without knowing what they meant, and found myself reading the same words repeatedly. As it was of no use going on in that way, I put the paper down, took a peep at my bonnet in the glass to see if it was neat, and looked at the room which was not half lighted, and at the shabby dusty tables, and at the piles of writings, and at a bookcase full of the most inexpressive looking books that ever had anything to say for themselves. Then I went on, thinking, thinking, thinking; and the fire went on, burning, burning, burning; and the candles went on flickering and guttering, and there were no snuffers-until the young gentleman by-and-by brought a very dirty pair; for two hours.”
Bleak House. Page 43. Charles Dickens (1812-1870).

(Review) Ephesians: The Love We Long For, Study Guide with Leader’s Notes by Scotty Smith

Publisher and Publication Date: New Growth Press. August 24, 2020.
Genre: Christian nonfiction. Bible study.
Pages: 160.
Source: I received a complimentary eBook copy from New Growth Press, I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Christian readers who love Bible study.
Rating: Very good.

For more information on the Ephesians study at New Growth Press.

Author Info:
Scotty Smith graduated from The University of North Carolina, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Covenant Theological Seminary (DMin). Smith planted and pastored Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN, for twenty-six years. He worked on pastoral staff of West End Community Church as teacher in residence and also served as adjunct faculty for Covenant Seminary, Westminster (Philadelphia), RTS, Orlando, and Western Seminary in Portland, OR. He authored Unveiled HopeObjects of His AffectionRestoring Broken ThingsEveryday PrayersEvery Season Prayers, and Ephesians: The Love We Long For. Scotty and his wife of over forty-five years, Darlene, live in Franklin, TN.

Follow Scotty Smith on Twitter (@ScottyWardSmith) and Facebook.

Summary:
There’s Nothing More than the Gospel
New Bible study of the book of Ephesians reveals the boundless, timeless, endless, bottomless love we all long for.

Am I loved? The central question of every human heart is answered with a resounding yes in Ephesians: The Love We Long For (New Growth Press/August 24, 2020) by Scotty Smith. Through this easily accessible, self-contained small group study, each participant will grow in their understanding of the riches of God’s grace and how the love of Christ shapes every relationship and interaction they have with others.
 
Smith invites men and women to reflect on the God of the Bible by reading the book of Ephesians slowly. Through the study guide, they will discover the implications of God’s love for every aspect of their lives and relationships—including husband and wife, parent and child, in the workplace, and within the church family.
 
The author describes Paul’s letter to the church as swinging on a hinge. The first five lessons of the study guide examine the first three chapters of Paul’s letter, on the first side of the door. “Having explored the wonders of salvation in Christ, at the end of chapter 3, Paul kneels to pray that the Father would fill the Ephesians with that gospel,” Smith writes. “He asks that they ‘may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge’ (Ephesians 3:18–19). This is the boundless, timeless, endless, bottomless love we all long for.”
 
The seven lessons that follow go into an in-depth examination of the second half of Paul’s letter. “Paul swings open the door, as it were, and walks into the Ephesians’ daily lives. The Ephesians were the fruit of Paul’s missionary work, so he realized they were living in a culture that neither knew nor understood Jesus and his life-giving message. With this in mind, he addresses topics that range from patience and contentment and industriousness to parenting and singing and sex. But he never forgets how he got there. He keeps calling the Ephesians—and us—back to the hinge. The love we long for is the why and the how, and importantly the who, of a believer’s whole life.”
 
Each of the twelve lessons in Ephesians: The Love We Long For includes rich discussion questions, exercises, and articles to encourage deep examination of the text for one-to-one discipleship, small group, or large group settings. The study will help readers see how the New Testament letter presents God’s great love for us in Jesus. As Smith explains, there’s nothing more than the Gospel, just more of it. Ephesians is a book crammed full of the riches of God’s grace.
 
Of Smith’s Bible study, Scott Saulsauthor and pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church (Nashville) writes, “This wonderful, practical work on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a treasure. Part commentary and part devotional, we learn about the church and also ourselves as seen through the eyes of the One who loved us and gave himself for us. Whether you use this book to prepare talks or sermons, as devotional material, or for group discussion, I pray that its effect on you will be contagious, and that the very truths that have gripped the author’s heart will also get a grip on yours.”
 
Ephesians: The Love We Long For is part of The Gospel-Centered Life in the Bible series published by New Growth Press in partnership with Serge. Each book in the series examines how the gospel story is revealed throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The other new releases in the series are Revelation: Hope in the Darkness (also by Smith) and Titus: Life-Changing Truth in a World of Lies by Jeff Dodge. Ruth: Redemption for the Broken by Jared Wilson and Jonah: Grace for Sinners and Saints by Iain Duguid are also available. The Gospel-Centered Life for Students series includes studies of Exodus and Mark.

Endorsements:
“Titus is one of the most potent but often overlooked books in the New Testament. In this helpful resource, Jeff Dodge admirably brings Titus’s message to bear for contemporary believers.”
~ Jason K. Allen, President, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Spurgeon College
 
“If you ever spend any time with Jeff Dodge, you will notice within five minutes that he exudes gospel clarity, missional gravity, and Christian joy. That combination comes through in this book, as he guides the reader through the riches of Paul’s letter to Titus. This book shows how similar our world is to that faced by Paul and Titus, and then applies the triumphant power of that letter. You will be strengthened and equipped by this book.”
~ Russell Moore, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
 
“With a shepherd’s care and a teacher’s insight, Dodge excavates fresh, helpful, and clarifying riches from this important epistle that are sure to strengthen your heart and your walk with Christ.”
~ Jared C. Wilson, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry at Spurgeon College; author of The Gospel-Driven Church

My Thoughts:
What I love about the Ephesians study:
~A Gospel Glossary is included at the end of the book. Words like glorification and propitiation are sometimes unknown to new Christians. The glossary is not lengthy but beneficial.
~Leader’s Notes. These notes (over lessons 1-12) are not just for the leader in the study, but for people who are reading the book and want clarification and understanding. This is important additional teaching to clarify the “conversation sections.”
~Each of the 12 chapters have a lesson section, article to read, and exercise (questions). These are brief reading sections.
~I feel the Bible study is clear, concise, approachable, and reflective.

The Ephesians study is more for a group study. The study can be managed for single personal use.