Monday, August 21, 2017

REVIEW: Dog Dish of Doom

Dog Dish of Doom
Author: E.J. Copperman

Kay Powell is a theatrical agent representing animal actors. Her biggest client is Bruno, an intelligent and talented dog. His owners, however, leave much to be desired. They are annoying. Irritating enough that Broadway Director, Les McMaster, wants it written into the dog's contract that he doesn't have to deal with Trent and Louise. Just as Kay is feeling optimistic that Bruno will be cast as Sandy in the new revival of Annie, his owner Trent is murdered. His body is discovered face-down in Bruno's dog dish with a rather large knife sticking out of his back. Between her parents holding auditions for a senior citizen center show in her living room and a client's owner dead in a water bowl, Kay is not having the best week. When it appears that Bruno might be somehow central to the motive for the killing, Kay steps in to investigate, with the help of her parents (despite her vehement objections to their involvement, of course).

This book is a great blend of humor and light-hearted, cozy mystery. I absolutely adore Kay's parents. They are hilarious and really add to the flavor of the book. Kay is a great main character. She's funny, intelligent, and manages to handle chaos quite well. I guess you have to handle chaos if you represent animal actors!

This is a great start to a new series! Dog Dish of Doom is definitely full of E.J. Copperman's usual wit and humor. I always end up laughing out loud when I read one of Copperman's books. Always an enjoyable story!

E.J. Copperman is a pen name of author Jeff Cohen. He is the author of several series, including the Haunted Guesthouse series and the Asperger's Mystery series (which Copperman/Cohen co-writes with himself -- yes, he co-authors a book with himself...love it!) For any reader who likes well-written, humorous mysteries, I recommend any of his books. For more information on the author, check out his website: http://www.ejcopperman.com/



Sunday, August 20, 2017

REVIEW: The Vessel of Ra

The Vessel of Ra
Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Lucy and Octavia are born into the Klaereon family. For centuries their family has been bound to a contract to fight demons imprisoned in the abyss by King Solomon. At birth, a demon attaches to each child born to the family, acting as a familiar or companion until the child's 16th birthday. On that day, a battle ensues. If the Binder wins the battle, the demon is returned to the abyss to be summoned only for magic or, if evil, the demon can be banished. But if the Binder loses the battle, the demon takes control, using the Binder for its own purposes.

Lucy is seen as weak. Octavia is strong. The family is afraid that Lucy will lose her fight with Ra, and that the demon will be free to unleash its evil on the world. So, Octavia is trained to kill her sister on the day she is to battle Ra. Things go horribly wrong however -- Octavia is possessed by Ra and Lucy is murdered. Lucy comes back from the dead, determined to save her sister from the clutches of Ra.

This book is exciting and interesting! At the beginning, I had a bit of a difficult time figuring out what was going on and why....but as the story unfolds and more details revealed, I was totally hooked! I don't want to reveal too much of the plot in this review so there aren't any spoilers. All I'm going to say is that the plot, characters and setting of this book really impressed me. Very enjoyable fantasy novel!

The cover art is gorgeous! And the colored illustrations inside the book were awesome, too! This book will release from Curiousity Quills Press on September 12, 2017!

The Vessel of Ra is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. I can't wait to see how the rest of this series unfolds! For more information on the author, check out her website: https://cathschaffstump.com/

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Curiousity Quills Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Bout of Books 20!

I haven't participated in a read-a-thon for more than a year. It's time! I am slowly getting crushed under the huge TBR of review books I have accumulated....and it's time to clear some out! So, in the interest of clearing out the tbr and enjoying some great books, I'm in for Bout of Books 20!

I don't enjoy those high pressure hurry and finish read-a-thons where people post they've read 40 books and listened to 25 audiobooks in the first 24 hours -- not humanly possible people! So I enjoy Bout of Books...it's just a fun time, with lots of people talkin' about books and enjoying themselves!

Still time to join up before things get started on 8/21/17! Join us!

 Bout of Books 20

REVIEW: Death Shall Come

Death Shall Come
Author: Simon R. Green

In this 4th Country House Murder Mystery, Ishmael Jones and his lady side-kick, Penny, travel to the Cardavan House. The Cardavan family has the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world. Held under tight security, the collection has a new exhibit -- the mummy of Cleopatra. Not the Cleopatra of Marc Anthony fame....the first Cleopatra....a much earlier ruler lost to time. Ishmael's boss, The Colonel, is married to Chloe Cardavan. He asks Ishmael to accompany him to the house for the unveiling of the mummy. The trip isn't because The Colonel believes in the curse attached to the mummy, but because he feels George Cardavan might be involved in underhanded dealings to acquire his antiquities. He wants Ishmael to pose as an antiquities expert so he can get a feel for the goings on at the family estate and protect the family from harm if George is in over his head.

After the mummy is revealed, the deaths start. The Cardavans are being picked off, one by one. Are they being stalked by a reanimated mummy? Or is the killer simply a crazed human being?

I love this series! Every book is seriously creepy and different enough to keep the adventures fresh and interesting. Death Shall Come is a quick read at just over 150 pages -- but Simon R. Green sure packs a lot of action into such few pages!

I like how Ishmael and Penny work so well together. Where one is weak, the other is strong. Penny isn't afraid of Ishmael's....peculiarities.....and he is quite happy with her human-ness. I liked the plot of this book -- who doesn't love a scary mummy tale? I'm glad I read this during the day time and not at night! Lots of action, suspense and horror.....just a fun creepy read!! This series has not disappointed me yet!

Simon R. Green is the author of several sci-fi/fantasy series including the Nightside series. For more information on the author and his books check out his website: http://simonrgreen.co.uk/

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Severn House via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


Saturday, August 19, 2017

REVIEW: Mask Of Shadows

Mask of Shadows
Author: Linsey Miller

Sallot Leon is a thief. But Sal wants more from life. After robbing some nobles, Sal finds an announcement that there will be an audition to replace The Opal, one of four powerful assassins that work for the queen. They are represented by four jeweled rings the Queen wears on her left hand - a Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst and Opal. But, auditions to be part of The Left Hand are fights to the death, and only those who prove themselves worthy can participate.

I enjoyed the action in this book. The plot was exciting, and kept me reading. The pace was on target -- fast enough to keep the action going, yet suspenseful enough to add some urgency to things. I also enjoyed reading a book with a nonbinary MC. Sallot is gender fluid, but that was not a main, forced focus of the plot. It's part of the character....part of who Sallot is. The character isn't portrayed as melodramatic or conflicted about life. The book isn't written like the MC was an added "hey look I'm adding in a diverse character!'' forced plot point. WOOT!! That made me extremely happy. I felt that it was done perfectly. Better than other books I have read that seem to want to toot horns and march around trying to prove they are publishing a diverse book. This book is diverse, but not at the cost of the plot or focus of the book. It was a natural part of the character. Loved it!

My one issue with this book is......it has been done before. The plot, that is. There are so many stories about fight-to-the-death tournaments -- Hunger Games being the main one that popped into my head. It's one trope that really has been done to death. I really wanted the plot to be something new and fresh....something to wow me. But, it really is sort of a re-working of things I've already read. A mix of that, and a bit of this.....nothing new. I was a bit disappointed. Not that the action, characters and story weren't good -- this is a good book. I just wanted something, anything really, that jumped out at me as belonging only to this story. Besides Sallot being nonbinary, the rest was pretty much recycled.

So, I'm really middle-of-the-road on this one. I enjoyed it. I thought the MC was outstanding and well done. But, I am left a bit disappointed. That, however, is just my opinion.....many others really love the plot and don't share my feelings. So, read the book and form your own opinion.

This is Linsey Miller's debut novel. A second book is due out in 2018. I'm definitely going to read the second book to see how the plot and characters progress!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Sourcebooks via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are solely my own.**

Friday, August 18, 2017

REVIEW: The Spirit of Grace

The Spirit of Grace
Author: Terry Lynn Thomas

Sarah Bennett returns home to her father's house after spending most of a year in a mental asylum. She has no memory of the night her mother died after falling down the stairs at Bennett House. Some believe that she killed her mother, but Sarah knows she didn't. She hopes coming back home might jog her memories and help her remember what happened that fateful night. Unfortunately, she finds immediately on her return that home just isn't the hospitable place it used to be. Sarah is shocked to find that her father has remarried, and her stepmother obviously doesn't want Sarah in the house. When another family member is murdered, suspicion once again falls on Sarah. She knows she has to remember what happened to her mother and prove she isn't a murderer twice over. Her investigation brings to light the identity of the murderer, but also some closely guarded family secrets. Soon, Sarah finds her life in danger, and she must fight to finally clear her name.

I listened to the audiobook version of this first novel in the Sarah Bennett Mysteries series. The audio version is narrated by Lillian Yves. Her voice is pleasant and easily understood, and she read at a moderate pace. I have partial hearing loss and sometimes have difficulty understanding female narrators, but I had no problem understanding this audiobook. A very enjoyable experience!

The Spirit of Grace is well-written and suspenseful -- a great start to a series! Sarah Bennett is a strong female character. She finds it difficult to re-establish family relationships and life in general after a year in an asylum. She steadily gains strength and confidence in herself as the story progresses, and fights to regain her life. She faces family secrets with courage, and doesn't let shocking developments weaken or defeat her.

All in all, an enjoyable ghostly suspense tale! There are 3 books in the Sarah Bennett Mysteries series. I definitely plan to read them all -- I already have book 2 waiting in the wings for me to post this review!

For more information on Terry Lynn Thomas and her books, check out her website: http://terrylynnthomas.com/

**I voluntarily listened to a review copy of this audiobook on Audible.com. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. **

REVIEW: The Lighthouse Keeper

The Lighthouse Keeper
Author: Lily Night

I'm always on the lookout for a good ghost story. The premise of this story definitely intrigued me. An artist, Laura Carlisle rents a cottage on the sea. Soon she starts seeing a mysterious girl in white who seems somehow tied to the lighthouse up on the nearby cliff. The lighthouse is being renovated by new owner, Ben Winscombe. Turns out Laura and Ben are both seeing the ghost. Trying to discover the identity of the spirit, they uncover a tragic tale of deceit and murder, hidden for decades.

The Lighthouse Keeper is a quick read, at 68 pages. The story is interesting and I enjoyed it, but it needs editing. Repeated words and phrases, typos and some flow problems need just a few tweaks to improve its readability. But, the few rough spots did not hamper the story. It's still a spooky, interesting read! As a lover of almost all things ghostly, I have more positive feelings about this story than negative. The second half of the book where the suspense really started coming to a head was better written, and really sucked me into the story.

The characters could have been a bit more developed, but in a quickly developing ghost story this might hamper the quick, exciting suspense of the plot. In this instance, I think the story was more important than the characters.....so I wasn't looking for missing detail.

All in all, an enjoyable story. The ending is perfect. This would be a 4-star novelette if it had some professional editing. Just needs some tweaking in places. Great premise, and nice suspense in the last half. I'll give it a strong 3 star rating.

Lily Night is also the author of Elixir, a vampire story set in Las Vegas. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.lilynight.com/

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this story provided by BookBuzz.net via NetGalley. Opinions expressed are entirely my own.**




Thursday, August 17, 2017

REVIEW: Miss Seeton's Finest Hour

Miss Seeton's Finest Hour
Author: Hamilton Crane


This book is a departure from the usual Miss Seeton novel. Instead of a lively tale of the elderly, retired Emily Seeton solving mysteries, Miss Seeton's Finest Hour jumps back in time to 1940. She's 29 years old, living with her mother, and helping in the British war effort. In spare moments when she isn't involved with the local canteen, Miss Seeton ventures out to draw. Her artwork, however, lands her in hot water, as a few of her drawings seem to show advance knowledge of military plans. Someone reports her as a possible fifth columnist. After a meeting with her, a local major is sure she isn't a spy, but he isn't quite sure what she is....how could such a quiet young girl figure out the things she sketches in her drawings? But he's determined to put her mind to work for England! Miss Seeton finds herself working in a Spitfire factory as a "war artist." She is to sketch things she sees at the plant and try to ferret out the cause of recent sabotage at the factory. When things escalate from faulty wiring in aircraft to serious accidents and murder, Miss Seeton finds herself in danger!

I loved this peek into Miss Seeton's past. The story not only shows what she was like as a young woman, but also explains a bit about her talent for knowing impossible things. It also sheds a bit of light on the reason Emily Seeton is a spinster. I liked the portrayal of war-time England.....girls carrying gas masks to work in a plane factory, sky lights pulled out and boarded over, windows taped and draped with blackout material, rationing and fear of spies. The plot was believable and not melodramatic. A very enjoyable read!

The Miss Seeton series has 22 books. The first five books were written by Heron Carvic, with the rest penned by Hampton Charles (Roy Peter Martin) and Hamilton Crane (Sarah J. Mason). Farrago's re-release of this series has brought it back to life! For the first time in 20 years, there will be a new Miss Seeton novel this year! Miss Seeton Quilts The Village will release in September!

I am so glad I found this series! I am a huge fan of similar characters like Miss Marple, Mrs. Pollifax, and Jessica Fletcher. Miss Seeton seems like an elderly version of Columbo....appearing a bit bumbling, feather-brained and scattered when actually she sees things quite as they are and expresses it in her art. The difference is that Miss Seeton knows things, but doesn't always realize or understand what she knows. Being an avid mystery reader since 1977, I am not sure how I missed this series. But I'm so glad to be reading it now!

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Farrago via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**









Sunday, August 13, 2017

REVIEW: The Pearl Harbor Murders

The Pearl Harbor Murders
Author: Max Allan Collins

In his Disaster Mystery series, Max Allan Collins takes a major event in history and wraps it in a fictional mystery, placing a famous person in the midst of the turmoil. The Pearl Harbor Murders is the third book in the series. The first two mysteries occurred on the Titanic and at the scene of the Hindenburg disaster. The Titanic mystery introduced me to a mystery writer I hadn't heard of before: Jacques Futrelle (who actually died in the Titanic sinking). Since then I have enjoyed many of his detective stories! The Hindenburg mystery featured creator of The Saint, Leslie Charteris, investigating a murder on board the famous airship before it exploded. (Charteris was not on the Hindenburg when it exploded, but he was a passenger on its earlier maiden voyage). I loved both of the first books in the series....so I quickly moved on to The Pearl Harbor Murders.

The basics: Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs is on the island of Oahu with his son in December 1941, enjoying the Hawaiian sun. Two days before the Japanese attack on the harbor, a young Japanese singer, Pearl Harada, is found murdered. She had requested a meeting with a local Naval officer, but was killed before it could take place. Burroughs believes the girl had information about Japanese spies in Hawaii, but was silenced before she could tell what she knew. Just as Burroughs and local detectives start seriously delving into Harada's murder and the possibility of espionage, the Japanese attack. With ships burning in the harbor and bullets raining from the sky, Burroughs and his son must figure out who killed the singer and who helped the Japanese military plan their attack.

There is truth in the plot of this book. Edgar Rice Burroughs was actually on the Island of Oahu during the attack in 1941, and helped patrol the harbor after it was over. He became the oldest war correspondent during World War II after the US entered the war. The author was outspoken about the events, even writing a letter containing his eyewitness account of the attack. He addressed the letter to: Whomever Gives a Damn. Needless to say the man had cast iron balls and the attitude to go with them. But what do you expect of the man who created Tarzan?!

Here is a link to the text of his letter: http://www.erbzine.com/mag10/1023.html

I enjoyed The Pearl Harbor Murders. It was a bit slower paced than the first two books, but once the story got going, it was great! The Disaster Mystery series does not make light of the actual historical events, and many actual facts are included in the story. The mystery portion of the plot is fictional -- but the plot was believable and mixed well with actual historical events.

All in all, an exciting and interesting book. The mystery had enough possible suspects and suspense to keep me listening intently through this entire audio book. Dan John Miller narrated. His voice and pace were perfect, making it an enjoyable listening experience.

I have read many books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but I did not know that he was in Hawaii at the time of the Japanese attack. I have a new respect for the man after learning what he did to assist during the aftermath and about his work as a war correspondent.

Burroughs wrote nearly 80 books. Most were in the adventure and science fiction/fantasty genres. His most famous characters are Tarzan and John Carter of Mars.

Max Allan Collins is an award winning author and has written many books about detectives and criminal investigations including several CSI stories and the Nathan Heller series. For more information about the Disaster Mystery series and his other books, check out his website: http://www.maxallancollins.com/blog/



Saturday, August 12, 2017

REVIEW: Tracker's Canyon

Tracker's Canyon
Author: Pam Withers

Tristan Gordon did everything with his dad -- hiking, climbing, swimming, tracking -- just about any outdoor adventuring activity they mastered and loved. But, one day eight months ago, his father disappeared in Swallow Canyon. Searches were conducted but no body was ever discovered. The insurance company won't pay out without proof of his father's death, and Tristan's mother sinks deeper and deeper into depression and mental illness. Depending on the generosity of an uncle to keep them afloat, Tristan juggles school and trying to help his mother. He resents the presence of their new age obsessed housekeeper, who also is the caregiver for his mother while he's at school. He wishes the money his uncle spends on her salary could be used for groceries and more important things than the weird spiritual mumbo-jumbo she uses to calm his mother.

Tristan feels called to track his father in Swallow Canyon to find out what happened. But he knows that just the mention of him going climbing into a canyon will be enough to tip his mother over the edge.

After months of avoiding canyoneering, Tristan gets invited on a trip down into the upper portion of Swallow Canyon. The group is being led by a 19 year old girl, the new guide for a local adventuring company. He enjoys his day out, but wonders why he was invited on the trip.

The housekeeper, Elspeth, keeps telling him that he needs to go down into the canyon and retrieve something, anything that belonged to his father. She says a token from his dad is all it will take to bring his mom out of the fog and back into living. As they run out of money and other options, Tristan realizes that he needs to venture into Swallow Canyon to find answers about what happened to his father. But what will he find? And will it really help his mom?

This book is a quick, exciting read! Perfect for middle-grade to adult readers. There is a little bit of language, but nothing that bad. Nothing any teenager wouldn't say in the same situation. The adventuring, canyoneering theme is really interesting and suspenseful. The plot also delves into the confusion and life-altering effects of mental illness, grief and loss. Tristan is just a kid, but he's dealing with so much trying to keep his mother going while worrying about buying groceries and keeping their family going. It's an adventure story and a coming of age tale.

A lovely book! I got pulled into the story quickly and didn't want to stop reading! The story is well written, moves along at a perfect pace and has enough suspense to hold a reader's interest.

Great book for kids and adults alike (I'm nearly 50 years old and I loved the story!), especially those who like the outdoors and adventuring! It really made me want to put on my hiking books and hit the trails here in western NC!

Pam Withers has written 18 adventuring books for young readers. She lives in Vancouver. For more information on the author and her other books, check out her website: http://www.pamwithers.com/pw/

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Dundurn Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Friday, August 11, 2017

REVIEW: Paws and Effect

Paws and Effect
Author: Sofie Kelly

Librarian Kathleen Paulson and her two magical felines, Hercules and Owen, return in Paws and Effect, the 8th Magical Cats Mystery.

Kathleen meets three of her boyfriend Marcus' old college buddies. They are environmentalists and in town to stop a proposed development just outside Mayville Heights.  When one of them turns up dead, evidence initially points to Marcus as the killer. Kathleen knows he didn't kill his friend, but she has to investigate to prove it. Who killed Dani and why is the murderer trying to frame Marcus?

I enjoy this series! Kathleen is an excellent main character. She is independent, witty and intelligent. Hercules and Owen are cats of distinction, each with a bit of magic. Owen can become invisible and Hercules can walk through solid walls. Kathleen is a very capable amateur sleuth, putting her research and people skills to good use. With a little help from her two feline sidekicks, she always manages to solve the case.

Paws and Effect is an enjoyable read. The mystery moves along at a steady pace, with plenty of suspects and plot twists. The ending was exciting and believable. All in all, another great visit with one of my favorite fictional librarians!

Sofie Kelly is a pseudonym for YA author Darlene Ryan. She also writes under the name Sofie Ryan (Second Chance Cat Mystery series -- another favorite of mine!)The next book in the Magical Cat series, A Tale of Two Kitties, comes out in September 2017. I can't wait to read their next adventure! For more information on the author, check out her website: http://www.sofiekelly.com/

Thursday, August 10, 2017

REVIEW: Picture Miss Seeton

Picture Miss Seeton
Author: Heron Carvic

Miss Emily Seeton is a retired art teacher who seems to magically thwart criminals and evil-doers armed only with a trusty umbrella, grace under pressure, and her drawing talents. She is naive yet incredibly observant and astute. Miss Seeton definitely reminds me of Miss Marple, with innocent, unintentional humorous antics added. I absolutely adore her!

Picture Miss Seeton is the first in the 22-book series. The book was originally published in 1968 by Heron Carvic, who wrote the first 5 Miss Seeton books. The remaining books were authored by Hampton Charles (pen name used by Roy Peter Martin) and Hamilton Crane (pen name of Sarah J. Mason). I had never heard of the Miss Seeton books before the re-release of the series by Farrago. The first 3 books are available separately, or can be purchased together as an ebook set.

In this introduction to the series, Miss Seeton attends the opera. After the performance while still lamenting over Carmen's tragic end, she comes across a young man being rough with a woman. Rapping him with her umbrella, she intends to tell him off about his behavior -- young men just shouldn't accost women in the street, after all! But, as he knocks her to the ground, Miss Seeton discovers he did more than just smack the girl around a bit. As police officers and others gather to help her up, they find that the girl is dead. She's been stabbed to death. The perpetrator runs away into the night. The police are concerned about Miss Seeton's safety as the crook made off with her purse containing her address and keys, until they learn she is moving from London to a nearby village the very next day. As will happen in villages, word gets around about the heroic actions (or possibly her villainous intentions and nefarious criminal past, depending on which person is telling the story) of Miss Seeton. It might all have ended there if the village vicar didn't get tongue tied and blurt out Miss Seeton's location to the media. The criminal element follows Miss Seeton to her new home, and more run ins with evil creeps follow. She is spied upon, nearly shot, kidnapped, gassed, and almost drowned before it's all over! The police can't help but laugh as Miss Seeton miraculously uses her umbrella, laundry soap and her unfailing luck and wits to escape all attempts to do her in.

This book is just a delightfully fun story! At 224 pages, it's a relatively quick read. I love Miss Seeton as a sweetly clueless amateur sleuth, who just seems to come upon the facts without even realizing it. The supporting characters, especially the police, are left following behind, often laughing, at the miraculous ways Miss Seeton dispatches justice.

From murdering teenagers to shady lawyers, Miss Seeton rises to the occasion and triumphs in often hilarious ways. Thanks to Farrago, I have the next two books waiting on my Kindle. I can't wait to see what Miss Seeton gets herself involved in next!

Off to start reading book 2, Miss Seeton Draws The Line. :)












Monday, August 7, 2017

REVIEW: Laura Ingalls Wilder - A Biography

Laura Ingalls Wilder - A Biography
Author: William Anderson

I first read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder in grade school. Growing up in a small Kansas town, I loved reading stories of the prairie and pioneers. I remember imagining what it must have been like to travel in the back of a covered wagon, and to be a homesteading pioneer family. Many, many children (and adults) have happily had those same thoughts, ever since the first Little House book was published in the 1930's.

I remember several family vacations where we drove hours out of our way to visit Ingalls and Wilder family homestead sites and museums. It was always worth the drive. We would all gather around the displays and point out possessions we remembered from the books. Seeing photographs of the family was amazing as well. It made the pioneer era seem so close...and yet so far away. A time gone by, but remembered fondly.

I still love her books. Her writing is simple, but strong, conveying the strength, determination and love her family had for each other and the land.

William Anderson's biography of Laura shares details about her family, each of their home sites, facts about their friends and neighbors, and the challenges they faced. At 232 pages, the book is a quick read, telling the history of the Ingalls and Wilder families in a charming, informative way. There are several black and white photographs and illustrations as well. I enjoyed learning about Laura's later years writing magazine articles, newspaper columns and her books. That was a portion of her story that was new to me.

I enjoyed learning more about her childhood and young adult life as well. I had forgotten how many times Laura's family moved due to financial hardship, natural disaster or other reasons. It must have been hard to pick up and leave everything behind so many times. Reading about Laura's life definitely brought back all the warm feelings I have for this family. I spent many hours as a child reading their story, and it was nice to revisit old memories.

This book would be a great read for anyone who enjoys the Little House books, young and old. It's a quick read, but very well written and informative.

William Anderson has written several books about Laura Ingalls Wilder including The Little House Sampler and The Little House Guidebook. For more information on the author and his books, check out his website: http://www.williamandersonbooks.com/


Saturday, August 5, 2017

REVIEW: Wrong Side Of The Paw

Wrong Side Of The Paw
Author: Laurie Cass

Big changes are ahead for Librarian Minnie Hamilton and her lovely cat Eddie in Wrong Side of the Paw, the 6th book in the Bookmobile Cat Mystery series. One thing remains the same though....Minnie is a magnet for dead bodies. Wherever she goes....one seems to appear. This time Eddie discovers the body of a Chilson, Michigan builder. Dale LaCombe's lifeless body is found in the bed of a pickup truck. Unfortuantely, his daughter Leese is driving the truck. She immediately becomes a murder suspect. Minnie knows Leese didn't kill her father, so she and Eddie are back on the case to find the killer.  Turns out that lots of people had reasons to dislike Dale Lacombe....but who hated him enough to kill him?

This cute series has been my favorite since book #1. Minnie Hamilton is a likable main character with intelligence, spunk and ingenuity. Eddie is, of course, a very charming cat that chimes in with his signature "mrrr'' often. And I enjoy all of the side characters: Minnie's aunt, her BFF kristen, the other library employees (except for the constantly horrific directors they keep hiring lol), and her pal Rafe with the constant never-ending DIY remodeling project.  This book was a bit more serious than the previous ones...but there are some big shifts coming for several characters. So this book was not only a mystery but also development in the characters and dynamic for the series. I'm not usually big on change (I will totally admit that)....but I enjoyed this book. The changes are good ones! It will be a nice refresh for the series. Not giving any spoilers....you will have to read the book! :)

The mystery was a good one....it progressed at a good pace and had a number of suspects and plot twists. But, I do have to admit that the perpetrator was a bit obvious in this one. I figured out who it was....just not the whys or how until the plot developed a bit further. I didn't mind though....the book was an enjoyable return to my favorite cozy characters. Nice to see their lives developing and changing a little.

The cover for this new book is awesome as usual. Very colorful with the bookmobile in the background and Eddie showing his Cattitude. :)

I do hope that in the next book they have a better library director. Ugh. :)

I can't wait for book 7 now! :) Mrrr!

Laurie Cass also co-authors the Victorian Square series with author Lorraine Bartlett. For more information about Laurie and her books, check out her website at http://catmystery.com/


Friday, August 4, 2017

REVIEW: Jane Austen At Home

Jane Austen At Home
Author: Lucy Worsley

2017 marks the 200th anniversary of  Jane Austen's death. Historian Lucy Worsley's new book, Jane Austen At Home, gives us a peek into her home life and family relationships. Austen's life was not one of excitement, but a life lived within the constraints of society. Worsley does not fictionalize or sensationalize, but gives facts and details about Austen's life in a witty and engaging style.

This is the first book by Worsley that I have read, but I have watched several of her historical documentaries. Her wit and humor make history interesting and accessible. I found her book to be much the same.  Some of the events in Austen's books mirror challenges or hardships faced by her and her family. I find I have a greater understanding of her writing and characters after reading this book. I can't imagine living within the constraints of Georgian society. An unmarried woman could face huge financial and property issues...not to mention the difficulties faced by female writers. The fact that Austen faced these challenges and produced several books that remain widely popular after 200 years is astounding and beautiful.

It took me several days to finish this book because I read it a little bit at a time. I enjoy historical non-fiction in small bites, rather than gulping my way through it all at once. I think this is why I enjoyed this book so much....rather than reading it quickly and getting bogged down in all the detail, I took it slowly and savored my time in the Austen household. It was so interesting learning about what actual life was like for Austen and other women of the time period.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in history and Austen's writing! I hope that Worsley does a documentary or series on this topic as well!

Worsley is the author of several books on history including The Courtiers, The Art of the English Murder and If Walls Could Talk. For more information on her books and television documentaries, check out her website here: http://www.lucyworsley.com/

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from St Martins Press via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Among the Dead

Among The Dead
Author: J.R. Backlund

Rachel Carver left the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation after a particularly rough case ended in the shooting of an innocent woman. Rachel just couldn't stomach her superiors' efforts at covering up the incident, so she quit. A former colleague contacts her asking for help solving a murder case in western North Carolina. The small mountain town just isn't equipped to investigate the case, and it's going to be too long before the state can send investigators. The case turns out to be much more than just a killing. As the case becomes more complex and officers are killed, the state steps in and takes over. Rachel stays at the request of local law enforcement to continue investigating on her own. What she discovers is a shocking and sinister plot, perpetrated by someone they never would have suspected.

I live in western North Carolina, so the setting for this book is what got me interested at first. It didn't take long for me to become completely engrossed in the story. Rachel Carver is an intelligent, strong and skilled main character, although she has flaws. But that just makes her more believable and human. She makes some mistakes along the way -- like rekindling an old relationship with a local officer. I definitely enjoy a great suspense novel featuring a fiercely independent and intelligent woman as the main character. The action is fast paced with a lot of suspense. The plot is believable and engrossing. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop!

The cover art is gorgeous!

This is a promising start to a new series. I look forward to the next book!! I will definitely keep reading!

Among the Dead is J.R. Backlund's first book. He is currently at work on the second book in the series. Check out his website: https://www.jrbacklund.com/

**I voluntarily read this book from Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

REVIEW: Cat About Town

Cat About Town
Author: Cate Conte

Maddie James returns to Daybreak Island off the Massachusetts coast for her grandmother's funeral. She grew up on the island but now lives in San Francisco where she owns a juice bar. Planning to only stay on the island a few days to visit with family and friends, Maddie is perplexed when she discovers a local businessman, Frank O'Malley, is trying to force her grandfather to sell his house, even resorting to threats. Rescuing a stray orange tabby cat helps distract her from O'Malley's nonsense for awhile....until the kitty discovers his dead body. Who murdered Frank O'Malley? And who keeps leaving information about cat cafes for Maddie to find? Does someone want her to stay on the island?

I adore the idea of cat cafes! So I knew I just had to read this book! Loved it! A great start to a new cozy series! Cat About Town has a nice mix of humor and mystery. The mystery is engaging, and not entirely predictable. I like Maddie James as a main character .... she is intelligent and has spunk. The side characters are nicely developed and interesting, adding some depth to the story. JJ, the lovely ginger rescue cat, is awesome, of course. I was a bit skeptical about a former stray and adult cat adjusting immediately to being on a leash though.....I think in reality most adult cats would balk at a leash and require some time to get used to it. But.....it is a cozy mystery.....and a cat on a leash is just darling. So...I'm willing to suspend reality and just relax.

I am a bit weary of the budding love triangle cozy trope though. Maddie has a couple local men showing interest in her in this first story......just hoping this doesn't become a major plot point. Too formula. And....I'll be honest....the MCs never seem to choose the one I like best in these situations....or they end up marrying some other character that pops in from out of the blue, leaving both men in the lurch. Bleck. Just skip the love triangle.....and focus on the kitty cafe, IMHO. :) \

I enjoyed this light-hearted cozy mystery and look forward to more books in this series! The cover artwork is just darling!

Cate Conte is a pen name used by the author Liz Mugavero, author of the Pawsitively Organic Mystery series. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://lizmugavero.com/wp/

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

REVIEW: Faux Paw

Faux Paw
Author: Sofie Kelly

Faux Paw is book 7 in the Magical Cats Mystery series. I've enjoyed each book so far! The series is a fun mix of humor, mystery, and feline magic. Kathleen Paulson is a librarian in Mayville Heights, MN. She adopts two unusual cats from a nearby feral colony. Owen and Hercules have strange powers. One can become invisible and the other can walk through solid walls. As a cat owner, I have frequently joked that my felines can materialize out of thin air, especially when I open a can of food. I think the antics and awesomeness of Owen and Hercules are why I enjoy this series so much!

In Faux Paw, the library is sponsoring an art exhibit. Kathleen is being run ragged by the curator who demands installation of a high-tech security system among other requirements. Imagine Kathleen's surprise when she stops by the library late one evening to find the curator dead on the floor and the most famous sketch in the art collection missing! She's soon on the trail of a murderer and thief!

The mystery in this 7th book was engaging with plenty of suspects and suspense, but I don't think I read this series for the mystery. I enjoy the characters and the humor. It's a series that I know I can pick up and just have a relaxing evening of reading. It's like a reunion with old friends. I like the cute supernatural aspects of Kathleen's cats. It isn't overdone....it's just a bit of specialness added to them. :)

Each mystery in the series is its own separate story, so it isn't vital to read them in order. But, the character's relationships and story do develop with each book....so for those who would like to read the entire series, I really recommend starting at the beginning. Kathleen is a great MC -- intelligent, witty and determined. The side characters all come together to add depth to the setting and the plots. It's just an enjoyable cozy series! I highly recommend it for cat lovers and cozy mystery fans!

Sofie Kelly is a pseudonym for YA author Darlene Ryan. She also writes under the name Sofie Ryan (Second Change Cat Mystery series -- another favorite of mine!) There are 8 books in the Magical Cats series, with the 9th book (A Tale of Two Kitties) coming out in September 2017.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

REVIEW: The Hindenburg Murders

The Hindenburg Murders
Author: Max Allan Collins

On May 6th, 1937, a German passenger airship, The Hindenburg, burst into flames as its crew attempted to dock at Naval Airstation Lakehurst in New Jersey. 36 people died in the disaster: 13 passengers, 22 crewmen, and 1 mooring worker on the ground. Many theories about the cause of the disaster have been put forth over the years -- sabotage, static electricity, lightning, engine problems, leaking hydrogen, etc. But no definitive cause has ever been pinpointed.  The disaster changed public opinion about the safety of airship travel and marked a rather abrupt end to that mode of transportation.

The Hindenburg Murders takes the sabotage angle, and formulates a fictional mystery around the disaster. The plot does not make light of the historical disaster, or the deaths it caused, in any way. It merely poses a fictional account of what happened on the ship leading up to the disaster. Famous Author Leslie Charteris (author of mystery novels featuring a mysterious sleuth, The Saint) is a passenger on the Hindenburg. Charteris enjoyed passage on the Hindenburg's maiden voyage the year before, and is happy to be travelling on the airship once again. Although he does notice immediately that security on the airship has been heightened to almost ridiculous levels by the Nazis. Once the voyage has begun, Charteris is warned that his cabinmate is actually an undercover state police agent onboard to ferret out any anti-Nazi sentiments or behavior among the passengers. Soon after, his cabinmate disappears. All that is left is a bit of the man's tie stuck in one of the airship's windows. One of the passengers or crew is a murderer. The Nazi crew expresses fears of sabotage or a possible time bomb on board the airship as well, asking Charteris to aid in their investigation of the killing.

Not only does the story give some awesome details about the airship itself, but the mystery portion of the plot has some awesome and suspenseful twists and turns. I had no idea about the murderer's identity, or the exact reasons why, until the moment of reveal. The other passengers are interesting and well-developed, not merely caricatures of stereotypical political/social issues of the period before WWII. They discuss politics, fear of the state police and the Nazi regime, relations between their countries and other topics that would have concerned people of the era in a believable way, adding depth and intrigue to the plot.

The Hindenburg Murders is the second book in the Disaster Mystery Series. There are six books in all. Each one is a separate, stand-alone story, woven around actual historical events and featuring a different famous writer or actor as the main character. Max Allan Collins uses real historical events as a setting for these stories, mixing fact with fiction. The disasters are portrayed respectfully and not in a light manner. The books are well-written and excellent mysteries, adding in background, information and real details of the actual disasters. I'm definitely going to read the rest of the books in this series!

I listened to the audiobook version of The Hindenburg Murders, narrated by Simon Vance. The quality is outstanding. Vance's voice and reading style is excellent. Very enjoyable audiobook!

Max Allan Collins is the author of several books, including CSI novelizations and the Reeder & Rogers Secret Service books. For more information on the author, the disaster series and his other books, check out his website: http://www.maxallancollins.com/blog/

Leslie Charteris wrote his novels featuring Simon Templar, The Saint, from 1928-1963. Saint stories after 1963 were ghost written by other writers. The Saint was also adapted into radio drama, movies and television shows.  Charteris is listed as a passenger on the maiden voyage of The Hindenburg May 6-9, 1936. It was not the first flight for the airship, but rather its first trip to North America. On the day of the disaster in 1937, there were 36 passengers on board (the ship's maximum capacity was 72 passengers). Charteris was not on board The Hindenburg on the day of the disaster. The airship, once it caught fire, took only seconds to crash to the ground. News crews were on site to document the landing of the airship in America, so the disaster was well documented. Herbert Morrison's radio coverage of the event for Chicago radio station WLS is probably the most famous eyewitness accounts of the disaster.


News coverage of the disaster:







Saturday, July 22, 2017

REVIEW: The Life She Was Given

The Life She Was Given
Author: Ellen Marie Wiseman

Blackwood Manor is a chilling place, hiding family secrets in its locked rooms and forbidden spaces. Lilly and Julia both live in the house, 19 years apart. One shut in the attic as an abomination until she is sold to a passing traveling circus as a freak. And the other growing up with no love from her parents, an ignored outcast until she runs away. Years later, when Julia inherits the manor and surrounding horse farm, she will discover the horrible truth.

I found this story mesmerizing and disturbing at the same time. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop...but I still found it difficult to continue. The life Lilly and Julia face in Blackwood Manor at the hands of horrific parents is bleak. The father is weak and the mother is clearly mental. I found myself wishing I could jump into the story, throttle both of them and take the girls out of their horrible lives. But, the story does end with hope -- good does come out of the bad. So, in the end, there is peace and renewal for one of the girls.

The story does depict child and animal abuse as necessary parts of the story. If that would be too disturbing, then it might be best to pass this book by. For me, the hope at the conclusion of the story made up for all the duress. There is one scene with a circus elephant though that I found particularly disturbing. I refuse to attend circus performances because I feel the animals are abused, and this scene shows the worst sort of abuse that early 1900s circus animals faced. The scene is painful to read, but an important and necessary part of the plot. The abuse of the animals and performers in the circus just brings home the difficult lives that those with defects or differences of any sort faced only decades ago -- and, in many cases, still face today. More horrific though was the abuse and neglect of two girls, years apart, in Blackwood Manor.

The Life She Was Given -- the title has two distinct meanings in this beautiful, yet haunting, tale. This is a book that will keep you thinking and feeling for days after you finish reading.

Ellen Marie Wiseman is the author of several books including Coal River and The Plum Tree. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.ellenmariewiseman.com/

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Kensington Books via NetGalley. Opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Friday, July 21, 2017

REVIEW: Dark Screams - Volume Seven

Dark Screams - Volume Seven
Authors: Various

Dark Screams: Volume Seven is a horror short story collection featuring six creepy stories:

The Lizardman - Robert McCammon. A gator hunter encounters something otherworldly in a dark, Florida swamp.

A Monster Comes to Ashdown Forest - James Renner. Winnie the Pooh and The Hundred Acre Wood take on a sinister twist.

Furtherest - Kaaron Warren. Four beach houses amid the dunes and strange memorials to the dead. A prize for who dares to venture the furtherest.....

West of Matamoros, North of Hell - Brian Hodge. A photo shoot beneath a statue of Santa Muerte leads to bloody terror.

The Expedition - Bill Schweigart.  Nazis on a trek through Romania are pursued by a wolf....or is it something more?

Snow Shadows - Mick Garris.  A teacher realizes his affair with a co-worker was a disastrous mistake with supernatural, deadly consequences.

While I didn't find these stories particularly horrifying, I did enjoy all six of them. My favorite is A Monster Comes to Ashdown Forest. The story gives a great creepy slant to Winnie-The-Pooh. All of the stories in the collection are delightfully creepy and grotesque, but for me, fell a bit short of being actually scary. A better term might be unsettling....or maybe disturbing. The collection was definitely enjoyable and I look forward to the next volume of stories!

This was my first visit to Dark Screams. I will definitely be reading the first six collections, and look forward to any future ones! I hope some are a bit more scary than these stories....but, in this case, creepy and disturbing is still enjoyable for this horror fan.

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy from Random House Publishing via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**




REVIEW: The Best Dr. Thorndyke Detective Stories

The Best Dr Thorndyke Detective Stories
Author: R. Austin Freeman

I have been obsessed with Golden Age detective stories since I was 9 years old and found a box set of five Agatha Christie novels at a neighbor's garage sale. I was immediately hooked on detective stories, spreading out to encompass other greats like Arthur Conan Doyle and more contemporary crime fiction writers like Anne Perry, Robert B. Parker and Michael Connelly. I even delved into the adventurous side with Clive Cussler and the opposite, more gentle sub-genre, the cozy mystery. If there was any sleuthing going on, I was in line, eyes at the ready to read any and all that came my way. Everything from Trixie Belden to Dr. Kay Scarpetta....loved it all!

But, I missed a few great, classic writers while stampeding my way through many great writers of mysteries and mayhem. For instance, I had never read anything by Jacques Futrelle until this year. Futrelle wrote detective stories in the early 1900s. His well-known character, Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Duren, was known as the The Thinking Machine. Futrelle died in the Titanic disaster in 1912 after publishing 7 detective novels and 50 short stories. I eagerly devoured Futrelle's writing, amazed that I had never come across his works before. I had the same feeling when I saw this anthology of Dr. Thorndyke stories available for review. Another great mystery writer that was new to me! I pounced eagerly on the chance to review this "best of'' collection. I'm glad I did!!

R. Austin Freeman wrote 22 novels and 40 short stories starring Dr. John Evelyn Thorndyke from 1907 to 1942. Thorndyke is a doctor who uses his medical knowledge and experience to investigate crimes. Freeman's stories give details about the crime itself first, then follow Thorndyke as he unravels the mystery using scientific methods. I'm not sure how I missed Freeman's work during my 40 years of avid mystery reading....but I'm ecstatic that I have another classic detective character to enjoy! This anthology of stories whetted my appetite for enjoying the other books and stories featuring Dr. Thorndyke.

The 8 stories included in this anthology are: The Case of Oscar Brodski, A Case of Premeditation, The Echo of A Mutiny, The Mandarin's Pearl, The Blue Sequin, The Moabite Cipher, The Aluminum Dagger, and 31 New Inn.

These stories are definitely beautiful examples of the classic detective story, but with an added scientific approach. Lots of detail is given about Thorndyke's experiments and equipment, putting more emphasis on the science behind his sleuthing, rather than just powers of deduction. It's CSI 1900's style. I enjoy Freeman's writing. I found it refreshingly different. He brings his readers along for the crime, first detailing how the suspect commits the criminal act before setting Thorndyke on the trail to ferreting out the facts. It's like a backwards detective story. First he shows us who did it, how and why it was done, then details how Thorndyke can deduce that information from evidence at the crime scene.

I enjoyed all 8 of these stories! Despite their age, the stories remain quite readable and interesting. I found Freeman's style of detective story to be engaging and witty. I am definitely going to read the rest of the Dr. Thorndyke stories!

I highly recommend this anthology of Dr. Thorndyke stories to any fan of classic or golden age detective stories. It's an awesome introduction to a great writer and a fabulous classic detective!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy from Dover Publications via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own**

Thursday, July 20, 2017

REVIEW: Dead Storage

Dead Storage
Author: Mary Feliz

Professional Organizer Maggie McDonald is shocked to discover her best friend Stephen is a suspect in the murder of a local business owner. Stephen is a witness to the killing but is arrested for impeding the investigation. The local DA also wants to press murder charges because Stephen was found at the crime scene covered in blood. Maggie knows Stephen is innocent, but she soon discovers he is withholding information to protect another witness. Maggie must race the clock to discover the killer and help prevent a key witness from being deported before Stephen is charged with first degree murder.  Can she solve the case in time to prevent Stephen from being sent to prison?

I enjoy the Maggie McDonald Mystery series. The plots are always well-written. The characters are likable, well-developed, and diverse. Dead Storage is the third book in the series, and I enjoyed this book just as much as the two prior novels! The mystery was paced perfectly, drawing out the suspense until the last two chapters. It kept me guessing until the end!  I liked the fact that Maggie was not only investigating the murder, but also trying to find and assist the witness that Stephen was protecting. I had a bit of a hard time with the fact that Stephen made Maggie promise not to tell his partner Jason that he had been arrested. Jason is in law enforcement and is out of town when Stephen is arrested. Realistically speaking, I feel if his partner is facing a pending murder charge, someone would have contacted him to let him know what was going on. I don't believe it would have remained a secret for as long as it did. And Jason was only really mad at Maggie for two pages. Hiding the fact that his partner is in jail and possibly facing a murder charge would warrant being pissed for more than two pages. I would have remained angry for at least an entire chapter, if it had been me. :)

All in all, another great Maggie McDonald cozy! I can't wait for the next book! :)

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

REVIEW: Killer Party

Killer Party
Author: Lynn Cahoon

Jill Gardner returns in Killer Party, the 9th book in the Tourist Trap Mystery series. Jill is settling into her relationship with live-in boyfriend, Greg, while juggling her college classes and her business, Coffee, Books & More. Greg invites her to spend the weekend at local luxury hotel, The Castle, to join him for the annual reunion weekend with his best college buddies. Jill looks forward to meeting his old friends, relaxing by the pool and reading. Her plans change abruptly when one of Greg's friends is found dead, floating in the hotel pool. Could one of Greg's friends be a murderer?

As usual, Lynn Cahoon delivers a great cozy mystery with this new Tourist Trap book. The mystery is well-paced, with lots of possible suspects and unexpected twists and turns. I enjoy Jill as a main character. She is intelligent, independent, and a skilled amateur detective. I like how she works together with Greg (a local police officer) to gather clues. The side characters -- Aunt Jackie, Brenda, Deek, Toby, Amy, etc -- add a nice depth to the story. This latest installment in the series kept me guessing until the end. Every time I thought I had it figured out, the story took a turn in another direction. The ending is great -- believable and surprising! Loved it!

Lynn Cahoon is also the author of the Cat Latimer Mysteries series. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website:  http://www.lynncahoon.com/

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

REVIEW: Meddling Kids

Meddling Kids
Author: Edgar Cantero

So.....what if the members of a certain famous teenage sleuthing group (and their dog) grew up into (seriously damaged) adults and realized they had been totally wrong about their most famous case? Throw in a bit of  Lovecraftian creepiness and serious homage to that-Saturday-morning-cartoon-that-shall-not-be-named (Cough...Scooby....Cough), and you've got Meddling Kids.

Back in 1977 the meddling kids and their dog solved the Sleepy Lake Mystery. Well, actually, they thought they did. It's now 1990, and the former members of the Blyton Summer Detective Club discover the old man they sent to prison wasn't really the culprit behind their famous case. The monster that was creeping through the woods wasn't an old man in a costume.....it was....a real monster.

[Insert familiar music stab here] Dah-da-dah-dah-dah!

I love this book! Not only is it sprinkled with a lot of references from my youth, but it's just a cool story based on what might have happened if certain meddling kids and their stupid dog actually ran up against a case that wasn't as easily solved as the others. The book is a fun read! I loved how the author chose unusual words and turns of phrase within the story. It just fit the quirkiness of the plot, and gave the story a fun(ny) edge.

As soon as I finished reading my digital review copy I put in a order for the physical book. This is definitely a fun, quirky read that is going on my keeper shelf. :)

This book is not for kids -- it's an adult book. There are some colorful metaphors and adult situations. The gang has grown up....so use parental guidance when allowing your meddling kids to read this one. PG13 at least in my opinion.

Edgar Cantero is also the author of The Supernatural Enhancements. To find out more about the author, please check out his website: http://punkahoy.blogspot.com/


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

REVIEW: Two Nights

Two Nights
Author: Kathy Reichs

I'm a long-time fan of Reichs' Temperance Brennan series, so when I saw that she had a new stand-alone novel coming out, I just had to read it.

The main character, Sunday "Sunnie'' Night is a recluse, living on an island off the SC coast by choice, following a severe injury that ended her law enforcement career. Her foster father is worried about her, so he recommends she take a case looking for a woman's missing granddaughter. The case is a lot more complex than just a missing teenager. The girl's mother and brother were killed in a bombing attack on a Jewish school. The missing girl was with them that day, but disappeared. Their grandmother is a wealthy and powerful woman....she wants to know who killed her daughter and grandson and where her granddaughter is. Sunnie takes the case, not for the money, but to help the teenage girl. The case quickly heats up....Sunnie is followed, shot and attacked multiple times as she starts her investigation. Is the missing girl, Stella, alive? Dead? Who took her and why?

I have mixed emotions about this book.

On the one hand, I love a good action-thriller story. The premise is exciting and there were some great action sections to the plot. The main character, Sunnie, is gritty, intelligent and capable. Her military and police training keep her in top form as she uncovers clues that this could be a much more involved case than she first thought.

But....there were times when I feel the plot was just a bit too much. Over-done. Not believable. Overly dramatic. Sunnie has so many demons from her past that I never really found a connection with her. Maybe if more details about her issues had been provided earlier in the story I might have understood her a bit more? That portion of the plot was just too slow to develop, and comes in fits and starts. A bit here. A bit there. More development of her character and information on her past earlier in the story and I might have been a bit more into it.

As it is, this is a departure from the typical Reichs' novel. It is a gritty, action-filled PI story. The book is well-written, as are all Reichs' books. I just think maybe it isn't a good fit for me. Sunnie Night just didn't grab my attention and emotions. I did enjoy the book. The basic plot was interesting and I wanted to find out what happened to Stella. But, I just really don't like the main character. I'm not sure if Reichs intends to make this a series....but, if so, it isn't one I'm going to pursue.

But, I do recommend that readers who enjoy PI thriller novels give this one a try! It's not my cup of tea....but it just might be the perfect summer thriller for someone else! Interesting plot. Great action scenes. And thrilling conclusion!

For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://kathyreichs.com/


REVIEW: To Kill A Hummingbird

To Kill A Hummingbird
Author: J.R. Ripley

Amy Simms is happy that her friend and former professor, Mason Livingston, is coming to Ruby Lake, NC on his new book tour. Mason is an ornithologist and arrives in style, driving a large truck pulling a tiny house decorated like a giant birdhouse. The man seems changed, however. He's drunk, is a no-show for the monthly Birds & Brews meeting, and just seems off. He does make it to his signing event at the local bookstore, Bookorama, and gives a lively presentation. Too bad it will be his last. Amy returns to the bookshop after hours to retrieve their copies of Mason's book, Hummingbirds And Their Habits, only to find the author dead, a pair of scissors protruding from his neck. Bookstore owner, Rose Smith, immediately confesses to the crime. But did she really kill Mason Livingston? Or is she covering for someone else? Amy immediately jumps into investigation mode to solve the murder of her friend.

To Kill A Hummingbird is the 4th Bird Lover's Mystery. I really enjoy this series by J.R. Ripley! Amy is a great main character. She's intelligent, independent and loves running her store for bird lovers, Birds & Bees. Much to the chagrin of the local police chief, Amy also seems to be a dead body magnet. If someone in town is murdered, Amy always seems to find the body. The cast of supporting characters, from the owners of the Biergarten next to Amy's shop, to the unwanted renter, Esther Pelaster (AKA Esther the Pester), add humor and depth to this series. The background theme of bird watching and bee keeping is always enjoyable. Hummingbird facts are sprinkled throughout this newest book. The mystery portion of the plot is well-paced, with plenty of suspects and lots of twists and turns. The ending is great!

The cover art, as usual, is amazing. The covers for this series are always bright and engaging.

It isn't necessary to read these books in order. A reader could jump in with this book and understand the characters and plot just fine. I highly recommend the entire series. Every book is a fun read with a well-written mystery and plenty of great bird and bee facts.

The Bird Lovers Mystery series just keeps getting better and better with each book! I can't wait for the next one! Luckily, I don't have long to wait. There are two more books in the series scheduled to release in 2017:  Chickadee Chickadee Bang Bang and How The Finch Stole Christmas are coming soon! Yay!

J.R. Ripley is a pseudonym for the author Glenn Meganck. Meganck has written more than 20 books. To discover more about the author and his books, check out his website at http://www.glennmeganck.com/

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Lyrical Underground/Kensington Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

Monday, July 10, 2017

REVIEW: 30 Second Death

30 Second Death
Author: Laura Bradford

Advertising agency owner and admitted chocoholic Tobi Tobias is back in 30 Second Death, a new cozy mystery by Laura Bradford. This is the 2nd book in the Tobi Tobias Mystery series.

The basics: To help out her Bestie, Hair Stylist Carter McDade, Tobi offers a part in a commercial to a problematic local prima donna, Fiona Renoir. Fiona causes problems wherever she goes and has little talent. She refuses to allow Carter to do her hair for a local production of Rapunzel, but happily leaves the cast when offered the commercial. On set, Fiona continues to cause problems. She throws tantrums, yells at the crew, and continues to make Carter's professional life a living hell. When Tobi informs her that she has no choice but to allow Carter to color her hair as part of the commercial, Fiona agrees. Unfortunately, seconds after he applies chemical to her hair, Fiona drops dead. Immediately the police suspect he killed her because of the feud they had going. Tobi jumps right into the case to clear her best friend before he is arrested and charged with murder. With the help of her grandfather and friends, Tobi sifts through suspects to prove Carter's innocence.

Although first person perspective is usually not my favorite, Laura Bradford pulls it off perfectly. The humor, advertising theme, and mystery makes this a fun, enjoyable cozy series! Tobi Tobias is an intelligent, funny and engaging main character. Her cast of supporting friends (and grandfather) add a nice depth to the books. As with most cozies, the mystery portion of the plot is light, but still engaging. No gore, no spurting blood, no cussing. So these books would be appropriate for readers from middle grade on up to adult. I enjoy the interaction between the characters -- a parrot who insists  on making snorting noises whenever he sees Tobi, the relationship between Tobi and her grandfather, and Tobi and Carter's ongoing dislike of their elderly, cantankerous neighbor (and their horror when the grandfather wants to date her).

I enjoyed 30 Second Death just as much as the first book in this series (Death in Advertising). The mystery is well-paced, interesting and has plenty of suspects, twists and turns. I enjoy the advertising theme and the humor sprinkled liberally into each story as well. I will definitely be reading more of this series! The next book, And Death Goes To...., will be coming out in December 2017. I can't wait! :)

Laura Bradford is the author of several other cozy series including the Emergency Dessert Squad and An Amish Mystery series. For more information on the author and her books,check out her website: http://www.laurabradford.com/

Sunday, July 9, 2017

REVIEW: Death Plays a Part

Death Plays A Part
Author: Vivian Conroy

Guinevere is a costume designer for a London theater company. When the theater closes for renovations, a friend helps her secure a temporary position on Cornisea Island on the Cornish coast cataloging the book collection of Lord Bolingbrooke. When she arrives, she discovers the local historical society is preparing for a re-enactment of an old island legend. Arthur Haydock, who is playing Branok the Cold-Hearted in the re-enactment, is also leading a push to take the castle and surrounding lands from Lord Bolingbrooke and open the island and castle up to the public as a tourist destination. When Haydock is discovered stabbed to death in a locked cell in the dungeons of the castle following a practice for the re-enactment, suspicion falls on Lord Bolingbrooke. Guinevere and Bolingbrooke's son, Oliver, team up together to solve the case before Lord Bolingbrooke is charged with murder.

This was a fun, quick read. The island characters are quirky and interesting. The mystery is well-plotted (despite a few cozy tropes -- slightly bumbling cops who need amateur sleuths to help them solve the case, stereotypical village residents, etc. But what's a cozy without a bit of trope?) with plenty of suspects, twists and turns. The ending was exciting and believable -- not overdone. I always enjoy a good locked-room mystery, and this one fit the bill! The story was a bit light (no in-depth characterization, no gory details about the crime, no hard-core investigation, etc) -- but this is a cozy mystery not a gritty procedural. Cozies are meant to be light, fun reads. Guinevere was a great main character....intelligent, insightful and determined. Her faithful dog, Dolly, added to the story with a bit of comic relief and a dash of doggie intuition. All in all, this was a fun, light summer read -- a perfect short book to read at the beach, on a summer trip, or on a warm afternoon lounging in the sun.

Death Plays A Part is the first book in the Cornish Castle Mystery series. A second book, Rubies In The Roses, will be published in August 2017. I will definitely be reading the second book when it comes out! This was an enjoyable, light-hearted, cozy mystery, and I look forward to reading more by Vivian Conroy. Conroy has written other cozy mystery books including the Lady Alkmene and Country Gift Shop series.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from HarperCollinsUK via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**




Monday, July 3, 2017

REVIEW: The Night She Died

The Night She Died
Author: Dorothy Simpson

The Night She Died is the first novel in the Inspector Thanet series. A pretty housewife is found murdered in her home....a knife sticking out of her chest. She was stabbed through her coat and clothes. Her husband, supposedly returning home soon after Julie Holmes was killed, found his wife's body on the floor. As Inspector Luke Thanet begins piecing together information from Julie's last few days, he finds that this case might just be more complex than it looks. Apparently Julie was a witness to another murder 20 years before. Could it be that the killer came back after two decades to stab the only witness to a long-cold murder case? Or is it someone in Julie Holmes' present day life that killed her?

I am impressed by this book. I love a great detective story, but this one stands out from the crowd. Mostly because the Inspector is talented at his job, but not portrayed as perfect. He makes mistakes, sometimes rushes to judgement, and can be overwhelmed by his emotions at times. He's human. The story not only shows him investigating the case, but also shows how his home life supports him and offers him a haven away from it all. He loves his wife and his kids....and they try to understand when he has to be away from them. Luke Thanet is portrayed as a well-rounded, human character which gives this story depth that some detective stories just don't have.

The mystery is well-written, with plenty of suspects, intriguing plot twists and an excellent ending. It is neither too simple nor too complex to be believable. The plot seems realistic, keeping my attention throughout. Both Inspector Thanet and his new sidekick, Sergeant Mike Lineham, are likable, professional, and skilled at their jobs. They are occasionally at odds with one another, but in the end work together perfectly to solve the case.

There are 15 books in the Inspector Thanet series. The series was originally published starting back in the early 1980s, but Open Road Integrated Media is releasing new ebook versions of the novels. Before being approved to read this first ebook release by Open Road, I was unfamiliar with this series. I'm so glad I read this first book! I will definitely be reading the rest of this series!

**I voluntarily read an advance reader copy of this book from Open Road Media via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**


Thursday, June 29, 2017

REVIEW: A Talent For Murder

A Talent for Murder
Author: Andrew Wilson


In 1926, author Agatha Christie disappeared. Ten days later she was found, nearly incoherent, in a hotel under an assumed name. She would never discuss the incident, even avoiding the subject in her autobiography. It was reported that she was suffering from amnesia brought about by stress from her failing marriage to Archie Christie, the pressures of her writing career, and severe depression.

Andrew Wilson's book, A Talent for Murder, suggests a different reason.

Blackmail.

This work of fiction takes Christie's factual disappearance and adds in a crazed doctor, a blackmail scheme and murder. Agatha does not want the press to know that her marriage is dissolving because her husband is having an affair. She wants to protect her soon-to-be ex-husband, daughter and precious dog, Peter, from harm and public scandal. They are all in danger from the corrupt, psychopathic doctor who offers the famous author an impossible choice -- the safety and privacy of her family....if Agatha will murder his wife.

Although I think the real Agatha Christie would have taken this matter straight to the police rather than be subjected to this sort of blackmail, I still loved this book! Agatha Christie has been my favorite author since I was 9 years old and read The Mysterious Affair at Styles. I found the story to be both creative and interesting. The mixing of fact and fiction was intriguing. Once I started reading, I couldn't put the book down! I definitely recommend it to any Christie fan, or mystery lover!

Andrew Wilson is the author of several other books including The Lying Tongue and Flame Thrower.

REVIEW: Desert Places

Desert Places
Author: Blake Crouch

Andrew Z. Thomas writes suspense novels. His newest book is about to be published and he has a long list of signings and public appearances scheduled. But then he receives a note that will change his life forever. The note tells him that a dead body is buried somewhere on his property, and the body is covered in his blood. The police will be anonymously tipped off as to the whereabouts of the body if Andrew doesn't do exactly as he is told. Soon he finds himself at a secluded cabin in the desert....at the mercy of a serial murderer. But, the killer isn't a stranger. He knows this person quite well....or at least he thought he did. 

This book completely freaked me out. Once I started reading I couldn't put the book down....I was horrified and intrigued at the same time. I kept wondering what I would do in the same situation. Not going to give away any spoilers, but Blake Crouch did a great job writing a demented, scary-as-hell thriller! The plot line is brutal, but doesn't descend into unnecessary gore-fests or spurting blood as some similar stories do. The violence is there, but the psychological aspect of the story is front-line rather than the act of murder itself. 

Desert Places is the first book in the Andrew Z. Thomas/Luther Kite series. I'm definitely going to read the other two books (Locked Doors and Break You). This first book was definitely creepy-cool enough to keep me reading! 

Crouch is also the author of the Wayward Pines series and Dark Matter. To find out more about the author and his books, check out his website: http://www.blakecrouch.com/