Thursday, June 22, 2017

REVIEW: M is for Magic

M Is For Magic
Author: Neil Gaiman

I became an avid reader in first grade as I learned how to sound out letters and recognize words. Almost immediately I was reading everything that came to hand, even the back of cereal boxes at breakfast. All the way through the end of my college days, I always had a book in my hand. I even majored in Literature. But, alas, eventually life and adulting rammed it's way into my reality and I had to step back from my love of reading for a 20 year span or so while I worked two jobs, raised children, got married, divorced and married again, had a late baby, etc etc.  Life got in the way, and reading got bumped way down on my priority list.

But, my youngest child is now 12. I'm almost 50 years old and I have more free time than I did when I was younger. I know who I am, and I'm well set in my ways and comfy with my life and who I am. So.....slowly, reading has been climbing back up in priority.

There are a lot of wonderful books and authors that I missed while I was away.

Neil Gaiman is one of them.

I can hear it now.....OMG she never read Neil Gaiman??!!  Nope. Not until recently.

I knew his name.....had a couple of his books on my tbr shelf.....and watched television episodes written by him. But I never actually sat down and read any books by Gaiman until this year. I started with The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Loved it! Then a friend recommended American Gods.

I'm hooked.

I guess I should get to the point since this is a review of M is for Magic. After a huge Gaiman tome like American Gods (plus watching the show on Starz), I wanted to try out some of his short stories. I read a few reviews of M is for Magic and learned the stories in the book are reprints previously published in other books and magazines. But, as a new fan of Gaiman's work, they are all new to me.....so there won't be any complaints here about republishing stories.  For those who have read Gaiman before (which feels like everyone on the planet but me ha ha), be aware that all of these stories have been published before. Four were published in Smoke & Mirrors, another story anthology by Gaiman that I have waiting on my TBR shelf.

Stories included in M is for Magic are: The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Troll Bridge, Don't Ask  Jack, How to Sell the Ponti Bridge, October in the Chair, Chivalry, The Price, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, Sunbird, The Witch's Headstone, and Instructions.

I chose the audiobook version of this book. I like to hear Gaiman reading his own stories. :) Luckily, his voice is perfect for it.

All in all, I enjoyed this collection of stories. The themes are varied, but all share Gaiman's particular vintage of creepy-cool strangeness. Chivalry is my favorite. The concept of a woman buying the holy grail at a thriftshop is just too cool. :) The cover art is just fantastic as well!

Because I enjoyed this  little collection of tales so much, I'm going to delve into Smoke & Mirrors next. Very curious to find out what creepy goodness lurks between the covers of that book! :)

For more information on Neil Gaiman and his many books, check out his website: http://www.neilgaiman.com/


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

REVIEW: All The Missing Girls

All the Missing Girls
Author: Megan Miranda

Nic Farrell returns to her small NC hometown after years away to help her brother sell her father's house. Nic has tried to escape the memories of her youth...small town gossip, bad memories, the disappearance of her best friend Corinne, the police investigation and suspicion cast on her and her friends. Now she's back....and all the old memories come flooding in. Then, another girl disappears. Annaliese. She was dating Nic's old high school boyfriend...and now she's gone. Disappeared. Just like Corinne. Once again, Nic finds her family, her friends and her life surrounded by suspicion. What happened to Corinne 10 years ago? And where is Annaliese?

All the Missing Girls is a suspense story told in reverse. Each chapter goes further back in time...another step closer to Corinne and the night that destroyed all their lives. The closer Nic gets to the truth, the more afraid she becomes.

I enjoyed this story! Once I started reading, I couldn't stop! I don't often stay up until 3 am reading, but this book had me hooked from the start. Telling the story in reverse gives this tale a different feel. It reveals details slowly, with real suspense. I didn't see the ending coming. Every time I thought I had the mystery figured out, the plot zig-zagged in another direction. As I read the last chapters, the plot came full circle, finally revealing what happened to the missing girls. Wow. Just wow.

Several months ago I added myself to the wait list for this book on my local library's digital website. I was very curious about the book because so many people were waiting in line for their chance to read it. I'm so glad I waited it out and didn't cancel my spot in line. I don't often wait this long for a book. I definitely see now why this book is so popular -- From chapter 1, I was pulled into the story and couldn't stop reading. Nic thinks she's left her old life, her hometown and all of these past events behind her....made a new life, a new person, a new start. But once she returns to her childhood home,she realizes she just ran away....her old life is still there just hiding beneath the surface. That night 10 years ago when her friend disappeared didn't go away.....the facts from that night were just laying dormant waiting for her to come back and reveal the truth.

All The Missing Girls is a solid, masterful suspense story!I highly recommend it!

Megan Miranda has written several other books including Fracture, Hysteria and The Perfect Stranger. To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website at: http://www.meganmiranda.com/


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

REVIEW: The Titanic Murders

The Titanic Murders
Author: Max Allan Collins

What if there had been a murder on board the Titanic during its disastrous maiden voyage in 1912? Not only one murder....but two.

Famous American detective novelist Jack Futrelle is on board with his wife Mae. They are enjoying a second honeymoon after being gifted First Class accommodations by White Star Line Executive Bruce Ismay.  When a passenger who has been attempting to blackmail others on board is found dead in his stateroom, Captain Smith asks Futrelle to investigate.

Which passenger is a murderer? And, can the case be solved without damaging the reputation of the stellar First Class passengers, or the White Star Line? Futrelle puts his detective skills to the test, determined to identify the killer before the ship docks in New York.

Little does he know.....the ship will never reach New York.

I listened to the audiobook version of  The Titanic Murders. What an interesting story! The plot was a an intriguing mix of historical fact and fiction. Jack (known as Jacques) Futrelle wrote detective stories featuring The Thinking Machine....a detective that was compared to Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. And he died in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. The plot of the story enfolds the real life Futrelle, adding a fictional murder mystery to his final days.

The mystery was believable and engaging, with plenty of suspects and suspense. The ending was well done. All in all, an enjoyable mystery!  The book did not make light of the disaster, rather using it as a backdrop for the detective and giving historical facts about the passengers, the voyage and the ship. The book is tastefully done and well-written.

The Titanic Murders is the first book in the 6-book Disaster Mystery series. Each book in the series features a different main character, ranging from famous detective novelist Agatha Christie to Walter Gibson, creator of The Shadow.

I will definitely be reading more of this series! The Titanic Murders was well written, and a great homage to Futrelle.

Max Allan Collins is the author of many detective and crime novels. To learn more about the author and his writing, check out his website: http://www.maxallancollins.com/blog/

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Step Back in Time! Review - Blind Man's Bluff by Jacques Futrelle

Blind Man's Bluff
Author: Jacques Futrelle

First off, I have to admit that I was not familiar with Jacques Futrelle until I started reading The Titanic Murders by Max Allan Collins. The Titanic Murders is the first book in Collins' Disaster Mystery series. The main character is Futrelle, an American author who died in the Titanic sinking in 1912.

After enjoying a few chapters of the audio book, I knew I needed to pause and hunt up copies of Futrelle's stories to read. Futrelle was often referred to as the "American Conan Doyle.''  His detective character, Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen was a Sherlock Holmes type detective nicknamed The Thinking Machine. As a huge Sherlock Fan I just had to find out about this Van Dusen fellow. :) I am SO glad that I took the time to research Futrelle!

I was able to find most of Futrelle's work in digital format. I found a listing of 7 novels and 50 short stories. All but two of the novels and stories were easy to find. After digging a bit deeper I found one more novel. But the final book, Blind Man's Bluff, took a bit more ferreting. I'm a completist you see.....if I start finding writings by an author I have to have all of them. That can get a bit difficult when the books are 100+ years old. After a bit more weasling on the internet, I hit pay dirt and found Blind Man's Bluff (or Buff) in a scanned digital copy online -- Huge heart-felt blessings to the New York City Public Library!!!! And, as it was the hardest to find, I read it first!! Other books and stories by Futrelle are available in other spots around the internet. I found my copies from The Gutenburg Project site and in kindle format from Amazon.com. I'm sure there are other sites as well.

Total love! I love old books.....the odd, archaic turns of phrase, the imaginings of a bygone era....it just makes me supremely happy. From the first chapter of Blind Man's Bluff (published in 1914
posthumously) I was totally in rapture.



 Basics of the plot: Mr. John Smith of Passaic, New Jersey has traveled to Paris on business. Usually Mr. Smith is the assistant paying teller in a bank, but on this trip he is totally out of his element. He does not speak French. He does not enjoy travel. He frankly just wants to go home to Passaic. Eight days at sea on his passage to France from the United States have made him tired, hungry and sleepy. But, he is also a man on a mission.....and he's determined to complete his quest. He is looking for W. Mandeville Clarke, an officer in the bank where Smith works, to confront him about a theft, perhaps even beat him to a pulp. But first he has to find the man, in a large city where he is incapable of speaking even a single word of the language. Unfortunately the language barrier causes misunderstandings, and Mr. Smith ends up followed and arrested by the Paris police who suspect that he is himself W. Mandeville Clarke. Things only escalate from there. But never fear, the lowly bank clerk is not only intelligent, but quite feisty.

The story is witty and fun to read. At 185 pages, it's a quick enjoyable bit of light detective fiction. Alas, I chose a book that did not feature Futrelle's most famous detective, Van Dusen the Thinking Machine....but I think the lowly bank teller did a fine job of ferreting out information and solving a rather serious situation. The plot is peppered with witty humor and plenty of early 1900s references. When John Smith told a cab driver "Skiddo for you! Twenty three!'' I just had to smile. :) I had to look up some references to actors of the day and other sayings I wasn't familiar with....but the internet is a marvelous thing for quick research. Even after 103 years, this story is still funny, light-hearted and an enjoyable read.

Here is the link to the book for anyone else who wants to read it!  https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433112068113;view=1up;seq=1   It's an actual scan of the physical book, so the covers are shown and it has the original old-style formatting and font.

Now that I've read one of Futrelle's books, I'm going to return to listening to The Titanic Murders by Max Allan Collins. After I finish that book (which is awesome,by the way....a great mix of history and fiction! Review coming soon!), I'm going to delve into more Futrelle -- I'm very curious about Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen (with a name like that he has to be brilliant!).






Friday, June 16, 2017

REVIEW: Great Classic Hauntings

Great Classic Hauntings (audiobook)
Various Authors

I love a great ghost story. An entire shelf of my home library is dedicated to ghostly tales ranging from classic haunted house tales to urban legends. When I saw this audiobook available on my local library's digital service, I borrowed it immediately. I never pass up the chance to enjoy a good spooky story!

Great Classic Hauntings gathers six spooky tales from classic authors including Ambrose Bierce, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Edgar Allan Poe. I had read all of these stories before, but there is just something enjoyable about having them read to me, even if the plots are familiar. :)

Geraint Wyn Davies does a superb job of narrating these stories. Davies is a British-Canadian stage, film and television actor/director. He read the tales with perfect clarity, pitch and speed. So enjoyable! I am learning to like audiobooks and already know that the wrong narrator, or an annoying voice/reading style, can ruin the experience. That was not the case with this audiobook -- Davies was a perfect choice for reading these six great tales!

Tales in this audiobook anthology include: A Watcher By the Dead by Ambrose Bierce; The Body-Snatchers by Robert Louis Stevenson; The Adventure of the German Student by Washington Irving; Dickon the Devil by J. Sheridan Le Fanu; The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe; and The Open Window by Saki.

My favorite was The Fall of the House of Usher. Poe is a masterful storyteller, and Davies narration was spine-chilling!! But, every story in this audio anthology was awesome!

All of the stories are unabridged. Running time for the audio book is just under 3 hours.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

REVIEW: Bad Housekeeping

Bad Housekeeping
Author: Maia Chance

There is an old saying: You can never go home again. Perhaps, a more true statement might be that you SHOULDN'T go home again. 28-year old Agnes Blythe has returned to her hometown, only to have her life implode. She can't escape the ghosts of her high school self, her professor boyfriend breaks up with her because he's been sleeping with the local pilates instructor, she loses her job, and then on top of it all, she becomes a murder suspect. One body.....then two bodies....then three.  Seems anywhere but Naneda, NY might be better for Agnes. She teams up with her great-aunt Effie to sleuth and to restore the dilapidated, old family inn. Hopefully it will only be the old inn that's condemned, as the bodies start stacking up.

Bad Housekeeping is heavy on the humor and small-town charm and light on the mystery, as with most cozy mysteries. I love the characters in this first book in the Agnes and Effie Mystery series. Agnes believes carbs will cure all ills, and Effie turns to cigarettes and liquor. Agnes is reeling from sudden life changes, but is supported by her eccentric and outspoken great-aunt. As a team, they really kick some butt. Add in Cousin Chester and local hunk Otis to round out the group and it really turns out to be a fun group of characters working to save the Inn and ferret out a killer. The group reminds me of a grown-up Scooby Doo team, minus the dog. I found myself totally rooting for them all the way! I half expected the killer at the end to be Old Man Smithers in a disguise. :)

I will definitely be reading more of this series. It was a fun, light-hearted read that made me laugh out loud several times. I like the characters and the concept. This was an enjoyable read from beginning to end. The mystery was well-paced, the humor was great, and there were plenty of suspects.

Maia Chance is the author of several other cozy mysteries. For more information on the author and her books check out her website: http://www.maiachance.com/

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


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

REVIEW: The Halloween Children

The Halloween Children
Author: Brian James Freeman & Norman Prentiss

Stillbrook Apartments is a complex much like every other apartment complex in any major city.  It has the usual mix of people....suburban working parents, teenagers who like to bully younger kids, elderly residents who complain all the time, families who break the no pet rules, loud upstairs neighbors, annoying leasing office staff. Harris and Lynn live in the complex with their two kids. Harris is the complex handyman and his wife works from home as a computer help desk tech. All is well (or at least relatively ok) with their little family.....until Halloween. When the Halloween Children come out to play.

This book is a quick, creepy read! It would be perfect for a chilly Halloween night's scare. The tension builds slowly to an ending that caught me by surprise. I was thoroughly creeped out. Awesome scary story! There were a few gross moments...so readers with queasy stomachs be forewarned. No chips and salsa snacking while reading this book. ha ha :) The gore is subtle...not overdone....and adds to the horror perfectly. What this story does in just 174 pages is beautifully horrific.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. So I'm always in favor of a good Halloween theme story. The Halloween Children did not disappoint. The story is told from the point of view of several of the characters. I don't usually like changing points of view, but for this story it worked. It kept the pace and tension building slowly and steadily until the very end. This would be a great quick read for any horror fan looking for an evening of creepy reading or while handing out Halloween candy to the neighborhood kiddos.

Both Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss have published many works of horror fiction. I'm definitely going to be checking out more of their writings!

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

REVIEW: Cat With a Clue

Cat With a Clue
Author: Laurie Cass

I absolutely love the Bookmobile Cat Mystery series. :) Minnie Hamilton, librarian extraordinaire, and her kitty sidekick, Eddie make me smile. Minnie is independent, intelligent, a bit feisty, but still sweet. The side characters are interesting and more than a little small-town quirky. It makes for a funny and entertaining cozy mystery series.

Cat With a Clue is the fifth book in the series. It isn't necessary to read them in order. A reader could jump in with this book and still enjoy the story. To fully know the background of all the characters, it's best to start at the beginning of the series but Cat With a Clue doesn't really depend on any monumental occurrences in previous books for its plot.

The basics: Minnie comes into work one morning to shelve books. While she's puttering around inside the library, she nearly trips over a dead body. The woman is lying on the floor with a knife sticking out of her chest. Andrea Vennard had recently come to town to attend the funeral of her great aunt. But how did she get into the library before it opened? And who killed her? Before the police really even get started on their investigation into the murder, a baffling string of break-ins begin around town. Even the bookmobile is broken into. The common denominator is books. Minnie wonders if the murder and the break-ins are related somehow, but isn't sure what the murderer might be looking for. Can she and Eddie solve the case before someone else gets hurt or killed?

Since this is my favorite cozy series, I knew I was going to enjoy this book before I even read the first page. :) The mystery was engaging and there were plenty of suspects and surprises. I always enjoy the side plot of Minnie's aunt matchmaking for her summer boarders, and her aunt's lovelife with neighbor, Otto. All in all, this is another fun addition to the series!

To learn more about the author and this series, check out her website at: http://catmystery.com/

The next book in the series, Wrong Side of the Paw, will be coming out in late July! :) I can't wait!!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

REVIEW: Ensnared

Ensnared
Author: Rita Stradling

Take Beauty and the Beast.... add in robots, AI technology and other sci-fi gadgetry...and you've got Ensnared.

Alainn Murphy is determined to keep her father out of prison. He was hired to create an ultra-advanced robot for a reclusive wealthy man and has been working on it for months. But the deadline has come and gone and the Rose project isn't finished. The project's backer, Lorccan Garbhan, has refused to extend the deadline or provide more funds. In his mind, Alainn's father has stolen from him, wasting his money on gambling instead of completing the robot he was hired to design. Alainn's brother and the family's AI robot are working to complete the project. To buy more time, they decide Alainn should enter Garbhan's household pretending to be the completed robot. Then when the project is actually completed, the new robot and Alainn will switch places and nobody will be the wiser.

But, the plan goes wrong. Horribly wrong. Not only is Alainn stuck pretending to be a robot, but she's falling in love with Lorccan.

I love the Beauty and the Beast story! When I saw this book listed as a futuristic retelling of the story, I knew I had to read it! In a lot of ways, the story does mirror the basics of Beauty and the Beast, but it just didn't have that magical feel of the more traditional story for me. The romance between the main characters fell a bit flat because Lorccan thinks she's a robot. When Alainn was unable to suppress her human reactions to things -- laughing, showing desire, needing food -- -how could he not have realized he was being tricked and that she wasn't a robot?

I didn't dislike the book -- I enjoyed reading it! The story line was really interesting -- I loved the sci-fi angle. The retelling is original and engaging. But the characters just fell a bit flat for me.  I really didn't feel invested in the characters or their romantic situation. I think maybe if I wasn't such a big fan of the original story that I would have enjoyed this futuristic retelling a bit more.

This is a retelling aimed at adults. There are sexual scenes in this story and some language, so parental guidance is required before letting anyone under the age of 16 read this book.

To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website: http://ritastradling.wixsite.com/rita-stradling-books


Thursday, June 1, 2017

REVIEW: A Just Clause

A Just Clause
Author: Lorna Barrett

A Just Clause is the 11th book in the Booktown Mystery series. I've been wanting to try out this series for some time, so when I saw the newest book available for review, I jumped right on it. I'm glad I did!

Although it is always best to read a series in order to get all the developing nuances of character and place, I had no trouble following the plot and characters. I will definitely be back tracking to read the rest of the series in order up to this point though, as there were some situations and characters from prior books mentioned. I'd like to know the whole story of Booktown before the next book comes out!

The basics: Stoneham, New Hampshire found a niche to bring in the tourist trade -- bookstores. The streets are lined with bookstores and related businesses of every sort. Tricia Miles runs her mystery bookstore, Haven't Got a Clue. Her sister, Angelica, lives in town as well and owns a couple inns and restaurants. Other than the occasional murder to investigate,  life in Stoneham is great for the sisters.....the one problem they have is with their father. He's a scoundrel. A thief. A liar. The list could go on for quite awhile. And after previously sneaking out of town owing money to nearly every business in Stoneham, he's back. And chaos follows. Their father isn't back in town for a day before a woman, Carol Talbot, is found murdered after slapping both him and an author who was in town for a signing at Tricia's shop. Reluctantly, the girls start investigating the killing because even if their father is a scoundrel, he is still their father and they don't want him prosecuted for a murder he didn't commit. Who killed Carol Talbot and why? And what are they going to do about their father's antics this time?

I enjoyed this book! The characters are quirky and interesting. Main characters, Tricia and Angelica, are independent, intelligent and feisty women. The mystery was interesting and engaging with plenty of suspects and twists and turns. The ending was believable. All in all, a great cozy!

I will definitely be backtracking to read the earlier books in this series! :)

Lorna Barrett writes under several pen names and is the author of several popular mystery series including the Victoria Square series. For more information on the author and her books check out her website at: http://lornabarrett.com/ \\

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. **

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

REVIEW: A Hiss Before Dying

A Hiss Before Dying
Author: Rita Mae Brown

I have been a fan of the Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown (with the assistance of Sneaky Pie Brown) since the very beginning when Mary Minor "Harry'' Harristeen was the postmaster of Crozet, Virginia and took her lovely pets to work with her at the post office. The series now has 26 books! Alas, I have not read all of them.....life got in the way and somewhere back just after Harry remarried her ex-husband Fair (the local vet) I lost track of the series. Now that I'm a bit older (just how old I refuse to admit  discuss lol) and no longer have little ones getting in to everything, I have more time to read. I've come back to one of my most favorite mystery series! When I saw this newest book as available for review, I jumped right on it! I wanted to know just what Harry, Fair, Mrs. Murphy, Tee Tucker, Pewter, Boom Boom and all the other lovely folks in Crozet have been up to in my absence.

A Hiss Before Dying is a mystery within a mystery. Two men are murdered in present day Crozet. One of the men had just purchased a bronze slave pass medallion dating from the post-revolution era in Virginia. That medallion ties in with events that occurred in the 1780s. The story switches back and forth between present and past. At first it was a bit difficult keeping the characters straight with all the switching back and forth, but luckily the author included a list of all the characters in the front of the book. When I got confused about who was who in the post-revolutionary story line, I just paged back to the list and got a reminder.

While I'm not normally a big fan of stories that jump back and forth in time, I enjoyed the double-mystery. I didn't know what a slave pass (or chit) was and I found the historical information the author provided to be very interesting. The story is well-written and paced. I enjoyed how the two mysteries intertwined. The antics of Harry's furry pals are still much the same as earlier in the series, adding a bit of humor and animal wisdom to the story. Harry is still her pragmatic, hard-working, spunky self, surrounded by a cast of friends and citizens of Crozet who make these stories so enjoyable. I definitely need to backtrack a bit and read the books in the series that I missed. All 11 of them! :)  I have a lot of reading to do!

It really isn't necessary to read the other books before this one. It's enough of a stand-alone story that a reader could jump in at book 26 and still enjoy the story. The series is great though, so I highly recommend reading the earlier books.

Rita Mae Brown is the author of many books including Rubyfruit Jungle and the Sister Jane series. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.ritamaebrownbooks.com/

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Random House Publishing via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**




Tuesday, May 30, 2017

REVIEW: Bearly Departed

Bearly Departed
Author: Meg Macy

Sasha Silverman helps manage her family's factory, Silver Bear Shop and Factory, in Silver Hollow, Michigan. Her parents have semi-retired from the business leaving Sasha, her sister Maddie and Uncle Ross to run the business. The family prides themselves on the great quality of Silver Bears. Imagine Sasha's surprise when the company sales manager, Will Taylor, returns from a meeting with her father stating that the family patriarch has agreed to cut staff and move most of the factory operations overseas to cut costs. Unable to reach her parents to confirm Taylor's statements, Sasha refuses to believe Taylor's claims. It soon becomes a moot point when Taylor's dead body is discovered inside the factory. Heated words exchanged between Taylor and Sasha's Uncle Ross make her uncle a suspect in the man's murder. In order to save her uncle and the family business, Sasha knows she needs to investigate and find out who killed their sales manager.

The minute I saw the cover for this book, I knew I had to read it! I have been a teddy bear collector for years. The theme of this cozy mystery had me hooked before I even read one word. Luckily, the story lived up to my expectations. This is a well-paced, fun to read cozy mystery! I liked the story and the characters just as much as I like the teddy bear theme. The cover art is incredi-cute as well.

Sasha Silverman makes a great main character. She is an inventive business woman who works hard to market the family's teddy bear line. And when pulled into a murder investigation, she puts her wits to work to discover the culprit. The side characters aren't as developed, but add nice flavor to the plot. The background details about toy manufacture and how stuffed animals are assembled is interesting and adds nice flavor to this cozy.

Bearly Departed is the first book in the new Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear Mystery series. A second book, Bear Witness to Murder, will be published in 2018. I am definitely going to be reading more of this series! I can't resist teddy bears -- and the mystery kept my attention from beginning to end!

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


Saturday, May 27, 2017

REVIEW: The Ship

The Ship
Author: Antonia Honeywell

Lalla's life began as the world started to end. Famine, floods, disease, governments failing, thousands of people dying on a daily basis......the complete destruction of civilization. She lives in what is left of London with her parents. Life is constant hardship. Threats of death if required identity papers are lost. Long food lines. Government news broadcasts showing mass killings of those without identity papers. It is a life of horrors. Lalla hears her parents talk about The Ship. A vessel that will take them to safety. Away from the killings. Away from the dangerous, starving masses in the streets. Lalla isn't sure the ship is real. Maybe it's just a story. But then the day comes when it's time to board the vessel and leave the last remnants of society behind. 500 people on a ship stocked with enough supplies to last 20 years or more. The last bit of humanity. But even if everyone else follows her father like some sort of cult hero, Lalla is confused. Is the ship their salvation? Or just another horror?

I have to honestly state that this book was hard for me to read. It's well written and a beautiful piece of fiction. But, I had a hard time finishing this book because it was just emotionally draining.

Depressing.

Lalla's realization that The Ship and her father's plan to save humanity was completely flawed was just rough. The story made me feel so many emotions, and more than once I wanted to stop reading. But I continued with the tale to the end. I can't really imagine how a 16-year old girl would feel to be basically living through the end of humanity. Rough topic.

The end was the worst part for me. No spoilers from me.....but the lack of any resolution just left me with a WTF-did-I-just-read feeling. It's hard to enjoy a story that is basically without hope. I kept waiting for some glimmer of something besides doom, but nothing ever materialized. Then the ending basically left everything unresolved.

Looking back, if I had fully realized what this story was....and how it would make me feel....I wouldn't have read it. Too bleak.

Well written.....just not my cup of tea.


REVIEW: A Midwinter's Tail

A Midwinter's Tail
Author: Sofie Kelly

The Magical Cats Mystery series is one of my all-time favorite cozy mystery series! I enjoy the feline antics of the mysteriously gifted Owen and Hercules and I really like the main character, Kathleen Paulson.

A Midwinter's Tail is the 6th book in the series. Although I'm a bit obsessive about reading a series in order, a reader could jump in with book 6 and still enjoy the series. But to get all the background on the characters, the cats, and happenings in Mayville Heights it would be best to start at the beginning. :)

The basics: Winter has come to Mayville Heights. Kathleen is busy planning a fundraiser for the library's Reading Buddies program. The fundraiser is ruined when the ex-wife of a prominent resident drops dead in front of everyone during the event. Everyone at the fundraiser was given a box of fancy, handmade chocolates. But someone tampered with Dayna Chapman's candies. Someone who knew she had a severe allergy to nuts. Suspicion immediately turns to Burtis Chapman, her ex-husband. Kathleen believes Burtis is innocent. So with the help of her friends and two wonderous cats, she once again is on the trail of a murderer!

I like this series because of the cats of course.....Kelly makes them special, but it's not over-the-top. Just fun! And I like the characters. Kathleen is independent, intelligent and creative. And her friends are sweet and quirky. It just all combines for a enjoyable cozy mystery!

On to book 7, Faux Paw!

To learn more about Sofie Kelly's books and the Magical Cats series, check out her website: http://www.sofiekelly.com/


Friday, May 26, 2017

REVIEW: Hospitality and Homicide

Hospitality and Homicide
Author: Lynn Cahoon

Because I love Lynn Cahoon's Cat Latimer cozy series, when I saw Hospitality and Homicide available for review, I jumped right on it. The book is #8 in the Tourist Trap Mystery Series, but as with most cozy series a reader can usually jump in mid-stream and still enjoy the story. I'm so glad I read this book! I just started a very challenging new job, and I'm really feeling the pressure. Today was my day off....I curled up on the couch with some awesome coffee and devoured this book from cover to cover!

Delightful!!!

I am definitely going to read the rest of this series!

The basics: Jill Garner runs her own business, Coffee, Books and More, in South Cove, CA. She is dating local hunky cop, Greg, and has many friends and associates around town. Mystery writer, Nathan Pike, is in town to do some signing events, research at the local police department (much to Greg's chagrin) and write. Things heat up in South Cove when a local B&B owner is found murdered in a gruesome way that mirrors a scene from Nathan's new book. As in most cozy mysteries, Jill decides to put her amateur sleuthing skills to the test and ferret out the murderer. Again, much to Cop boyfriend Greg's chagrin.

The plotline is pretty much standard cozy mystery. Shocking murder. Main character starts investigating for clues, even after multiple cautionary statements from local police. Trouble ensues. Killer discovered. Kiss Kiss. The end. :)

It wasn't the plot that made me like this book so much. I love the characters! Jill is independent, intelligent, and feisty. Her aunt is controlling, yet endearing. The employees at the coffee house are a bit stereotypical, but very likable. And the cop boyfriend isn't controlling or condescending....he's patient, intelligent and good at his job. Cahoon did not paint local law enforcement as bumbling idiots who needed assistance from a local businesswoman to solve a crime....but rather as hard-working cops trying to solve a case. Jill was providing extra information that she gleaned through talking to people, listening to gossip and being a bit sneaky. All in all, the characters, the setting, and the smooth flowing plot made this an excellent book to lose myself in on my day off.

I'm going to backtrack and read the first 7 books in this series. That should tide me over until Lynn Cahoon finishes another book. :) Book 3 in the Cat Latimer Series, Of Murder and Men,  comes out this November. And book 9 in the Tourist Trap series, Killer Party, will be available this July!




Wednesday, May 17, 2017

REVIEW: Uniformly Dead

Uniformly Dead
Author: Greta McKennan

Daria Dembrowski is a seamstress. Usually she keeps busy making wedding gowns, doing alterations and sewing church banners but with Civil War reenactors in town she picks up some extra work sewing period clothing. As Laurel Spings, Pennsylvania seems carried back to the 1860s with the mock Civil War battles waging just outside town and a movie crew in town filming a period piece, Daria works hard sewing an authentic looking Civil War Confederate coat for Confederate Colonel Windstrom. The reenactor is obsessively concerned with wearing only perfect reproductions, berating and bullying anyone that is a farb -- a reenactor who has cheap, modern knockoff copies of uniforms or gear. When Windstrom is murdered in his tent at the reenactor's event, Daria is shocked. Surely someone didn't kill a man for being surly, unsociable and overly obsessed. When a museum theft and another murder put her brother at the top of the suspects list, Daria starts snooping around to discover the killer's identity. Will she find out the truth before her brother is arrested for murder?

Uniformly Dead is a fun, quick read. The mystery is well-paced. There are plenty of suspects and some interesting twists and turns.  The subplot of Civil War reenactment and reproducing period uniforms did not over-power the mystery but added to it. I love Daria as a main character. She has flaws (like her fear of driving a car), but is strong, independent and intelligent. The supporting characters are not just hanging around in the background for comedy relief or subplot, they actually help with the case. When Daria is weak, her friend Allison and her brother Paul are strong. They make a great team! My favorite supporting character has got to be Allison, Daria's renter who sings lead vocals for metal band Twisted Armpits.

Uniformly Dead is Greta McKennan's first book. She is already at work on the second book in the A Stitch in Time Mystery series. Historically Dead will be released in December 2017. I will definitely be reading more of this series! I love the period clothing theme and the characters!

To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.gretamckennan.com/

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

REVIEW: The Woodpecker Always Pecks Twice

The Woodpecker Always Pecks Twice
Author: J.R. Ripley

Amy Simms loves running her shop for bird lovers, Birds & Bees. But lately she's a bit tired because a woodpecker has been waking her up early every morning tapping on a tree outside her bedroom window. Imagine her surprise when she picks up a pair of binoculars to get a good look at her feathered nemesis only to see a murder in progress across Ruby Lake at the old McKutcheon house. Even though the police find nothing -- no body, no crime scene -- to prove anyone was killed, Amy still thinks something strange is going on at the old house. Her suspicions are confirmed when a local woman is found dead in the woods near the house. What's going on at the old McKutcheon house? Will the legend of a dead McKutcheon ancestor rising from the lake on the anniversary of her death really happen? And did Amy really see a murder?

The Woodpecker Always Pecks Twice is the third book in the Bird Lovers Mystery series. I enjoy this series! Amy Simms is a fun, independent, spunky main character. The quirky group of supporting characters around her are great, especially her unwanted boarder, the curmudgeonly Esther Pelaster (AKA Esther Pester). This newest book in the series, in my opinion, is the best so far. The mystery was well-paced with plenty of twists and turns. There are lots of suspects and some great surprises. The theme of birds and bird watching doesn't overpower the mystery portion of the plot, but adds color and flavor to the story. I will definitely be reading more of this series! I recommend it to anyone who enjoys birds and cozy mysteries.

It isn't necessary to read the books in order. A reader could jump in with this book and still be able to follow the plot and characters relatively easily. As with most cozies, the books are light, enjoyable reads suitable for teens to adults. There is no bad language or detailed sexual situations.

The next book in this series, To Kill a Hummingbird, will be released in July 2017. I can't wait! :)

J.R. Ripley is a pseudonym of the author Glenn Meganck. For more information on 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 Kensington via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

REVIEW: Raising Royalty

Raising Royalty
Author: Carolyn Harris

Raising a prince or princess is much more than the Once-Upon-A-Time of fairy tales. Bringing up a royal child is parenting on a grand scale - preparing the next generation of rulers, setting political alliances, and maintaining the grandeur and expectations of a 24/7 public role. Raising Royalty presents the stories of 20 different royal families and their children over the past 1000 years. From grand palaces to lonely exile, arranged marriages and political intrigue, to armed rebellion, overindulgence and even abuse, the stories tell an ever evolving tale of what it means to be royal.

I loved this book! From Edgar the Peaceable to the modern Prince William and Catherine Middleton, it shows not only the progression of monarchy over time but the changes in the way royals parent their children. Some had only rare contact with their children. Others saw them as political rivals. And some were doting, loving parents. Harris writes in a style that makes the family history of 20 royal families interesting and accessible.

I've read many books on European history, but this is the first I've read that focuses on royal family life and parental relationships. So interesting! The book is organized by date and ruling couple. Harris gives information on the rulers' childhoods and how their youth formed their parental style (or lack thereof in some cases). Any reader with interest in the history of Europe and royals would enjoy this book!

Harris, who teaches history at the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies, has also written two other books on history - Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada, and Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website at: .http://www.royalhistorian.com/

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




Tuesday, May 2, 2017

REVIEW: Magick & Mayhem

Magick & Mayhem
Author: Sharon Pape

Things in Kailyn Wilde's life seem to be going awry lately. When you own a centuries-old magick shop, daily life isn't quite normal anyway....but Kailyn senses that there is something more to her current problems than meets the eye. Any magick around her is going wrong. She tries to summon a familiar and ends up calling forth a famous wizard from antiquity. Potions and spells from her shop start having unexpected results, and even her Aunt Tilly's Magick seems to be fizzling lately. Then Kailyn discovers her attorney dead in his office. Things are going from bad to worse! Who killed Jim? What is behind the curse causing her magick to fizzle?  And what is she going to do about Merlin?

I can sum up this story in one word:  FUN!! I enjoyed the characters, the quirky story and the mystery! Sharon Pape interjects a lot of personality, humor and sass into her characters. Aunt Tilly was perfect as the slightly ditzy older aunt. And Kailyn is independent and strong, but a bit stressed by the pressures of being responsible for the magick shop handed down in her family for generations. Both Tilly and Kailyn are extremely vexed and confused when their magick powers start going a bit off. Merlin joins in the mix and even his powers start to get a bit crazy. The scenes where the ladies are trying to introduce Merlin to modern society were cute and fun to read. I can't imagine trying to explain cars, space travel, television and the internet to a person from Arthurian days! :) Add visits from deceased relatives into the mix and it makes for a fun, quirky paranormal mystery!

I also love the cover art for this book! It's perfect!

Magick & Mayhem is the first book in the new Abracadabra Mystery series. A second book, That Olde White Magick, will be coming out in November 2017. I am definitely going to read more of this series! Any reader who enjoys paranormal cozy mysteries, or those with humor and wit interjected throughout will love this book!

Sharon Pape is also the author of the Portrait of Crime and Crystal Shop mystery series. For more info on the author and her books, check out her website at http://www.sharonpape.com/


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

REVIEW: No Charm Intended

No Charm Intended
Author: Mollie Cox Bryan

GIVEAWAY:  I am giving away one copy of No Charm Intended, a new cozy mystery from Kensington! US ENTRIES ONLY due to international rights restrictions. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your email address. One winner will be chosen randomly from all entries on Friday April 28th,  2017.  Winner will be notified by email.

REVIEW: 

Just as Cora Chevalier and her friend Jane start hoping that their latest crafting retreat will go off without a hitch, an ominous text message, a missing nanny and a murder get in the way. Can the pair run the retreat and work to ferret out a killer? If anyone can, it's Cora and Jane!

No Charm Intended is the second book in the Cora Crafts Mystery series. I like the two main characters. Cora is enjoying her new life in Indigo Falls, NC, while still trying to work through anxiety caused by her former job at a women's shelter. Jane is raising her daughter London after leaving an abusive marriage. Both are strong, independent, intelligent women who can run a business and teach others how to make beautiful handcrafts. The idea of craft retreats in a huge, victorian house sounds awesome! I live in western NC and wish Kildare House were real! I would book a retreat weekend in a heartbeat!

The mystery portion of the plot is interesting and engaging. I enjoyed the fact that even the retreat guests got involved in sleuthing. The subplots of crafting and the video game industry didn't overpower the mystery but added depth to it. I enjoyed the fact that a portion of the action was at the abandoned Wizard of Oz theme park in NC.The park actually exists. It closed in 1980 but opens for special occasions and a once a year fall tour, "Autumn in Oz.'' It was nice to have it featured in a cozy mystery!

The book also includes some craft instructions and tips related to projects the retreat guests made at Kildare House during the story.

I enjoyed this second installment in the Cora Crafts Mystery series even more than the first and I am definitely looking forward to the next!

Mollie Cox Bryan is also the author of the Cumberland Creek Mystery series. To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website: http://molliecoxbryan.com/

REVIEW: What The Dead Leave Behind

What The Dead Leave Behind
Author: Rosemary Simpson

The Blizzard of 1888 brings New York City to a halt. The snow blocks transportation and 200 people that venture outside during the storm freeze to death. The storm will also completely change heiress Prudence MacKenzie's life. Her fiance, Charles, is found dead on a bench, the back of his head caved in. Officials rule that a falling tree branch knocked him unconscious and he froze to death. Prudence believes the cause of his death might be much more sinister.

Following the death of her father, Prudence's stepmother is in complete control over the household and slowly making her stepdaughter addicted to laudanum. The family attorney informs Prudence that inheritance from her father's will depends on her marrying Charles. With his death, her stepmother gains control of everything -- the house, the money,  even Prudence's dead mother's jewelry. Soon, Prudence finds it hard to even leave the house. Is her life in danger? Is Charles' death murder? What is her stepmother up to? With the help of the family attorney and a former Pinkerton agent, Prudence begins to delve into family secrets. What she discovers is shocking.

I found myself completely engrossed in this story from the start. The backdrop of Gilded Age New York and the aftermath of a massive blizzard is engaging. Simpson paces the story perfectly, letting the tension build up until the very end. Although the final outcome is not shocking, the way it comes about is surprising. Well done!

I liked all of the characters. The "bad guys'' were supremely horrible. I felt justified in despising them right from the beginning. Prudence is a great main character. She is feisty, intelligent, self-reliant and brave. Former Pinkerton agent, Geoffrey Hunter, is a great male lead as well. He is dedicated to getting to the bottom of the case and protecting Prudence. I was very happy to discover that this book is just the first in a planned Gilded Age Mystery Series. Simpson has announced two more future books, Lies That Comfort And Betray and Final Portraits. I will definitely be reading more of this series!

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

**I voluntarily read an Advance Readers Copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

REVIEW: Ararat

Ararat
Author: Christopher Golden

An earthquake and subsequent avalanche reveals an age-old secret on Mount Ararat. The timbers and hulking remains of a ship encased in ice. Scientists, historians and others rush immediately to Turkey. They all want to be the first to explore and document what might be Noah's Ark. Adam Holzer and his fiance Meryam pull strings to get exclusive access to the discovery. They climb the mountain with a group including guides, a priest, turkish officials, a UN rep, scientists and historians. As they investigate the timbers of the ancient ship, they discover a coffin that encloses horrific misshapen remains. The terror that ensues will be of Biblical proportions.

The tension and horror of this story builds at a steady pace. There is enough action, suspense and surprises to keep a reader's attention from start to finish. I was engrossed in the story right from the beginning. It's easy to understand why Adam and Meryam are so excited to jump right on this discovery. I don't know of any explorer or scientist who wouldn't want to explore the remains of Noah's Ark. And, through this story, it was so intense to experience their slow realization of just what horror they had uncovered. Not to mention the fact that they are all trapped at the top of  Mount Ararat during an intense storm. The ending of the story caught me by surprise. A perfect ending for a horror-filled tale.

Christopher Golden is the author of many books including Snowblind, and The Gatekeeper Trilogy. For more information on the author and his books check out his website http://www.christophergolden.com/

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

REVIEW: The Star Thief

The Star Thief
Author: Lindsey Becker

The Star Thief is a magical steampunk adventure for middle-grade readers!

Honorine is a maid in the house of Lady Vidalia. The household hasn't been the same since Lord Vidalia disappeared mysteriously. Honorine's life is a steady stream of dusting, cleaning and boring tasks, amid her dreams fueled by Lord Vidalia's dusty maps of the world, books and strange treasures. One night, Honorine finds magical black feathers and fiery footprints leading through the house. Hearing strange voices coming from Lord Vidalia's study, she discovers sailors ransacking the room. Suddenly she finds herself whisked out of the house by a girl with wings into the middle of a battle between living constellations and the crew of a floating steamship. Honorine discovers she is much more than a maid, and constellations are more than stars in the sky.

This is such a fun middle-grade steampunk adventure! The characters are sparkling and the action is out of this world! It is just a fun, exciting read. The plot is creative, interesting and well-executed. The characters are engaging and have depth. Honorine finds herself torn between both sides in this epic battle. I loved her as a main character because she followed her heart and conscience, forming moral decisions based on her own inner compass. She did not make decisions based on battle lines, but by what was right. She is definitely a strong, independent female character even though still a child.

This book is age appropriate for middle-grade readers, but also enjoyable for adults to read. The plot is original and the quick pace keeps the action exciting.

**I voluntarily read an Advance Readers Copy of this book from Little Brown Books via NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**






Saturday, April 8, 2017

REVIEW: Give the Devil His Due

Give the Devil His Due
Author: Steven Hockensmith & Lisa Falco

Alanis McLachlan, reformed con-artist turned tarot reader, knows something is up when a ghost from her past appears at her occult shop in Berdache, Arizona. Biddle, her deceased mother's former lover, just shows up out of the blue. Alanis last saw him 25 years before being walked into the desert by thugs. She presumed he was dead. But...here he is....decades later obviously not dead. Is he there to come back into Alanis and her sister's lives? Or is he running a con of some kind? Her con-radar is jangling like crazy. You can't con a con,right? It can't be coincidence that the minute Biddle shows up, a private detective starts skulking around The White Magic Five and Dime Shop, and promptly turns up dead, murdered in his car. Alexis wonders what Biddle has pulled her into when the bullets start flying.

Everything from a velvet Elvis painting and a strange woman with an uzi is included in this book. Bad guys pop out of everywhere. And Alexis (with lots of help from her friend GW and her sister Clarice) wants to know why. It's amazing how much trouble a long-lost father figure can cause in just a few days!

This book is a fun read. Lots of humor and quirkiness. Alanis is a spunky, indepedent main character. GW, her small time crook friend, is hilarious and very protective of her. He brings his street smarts to the table, and helps with the investigation. Clarice, and her girlfriend CeeCee, are research and computer experts, helping find information on suspects in legal and illegal ways. Throughout the story, Alexis uses tarot readings to help her decide how to proceed in the investigation. The illustrations and explanations of the cards are so interesting! The tarot subplot really brought some sparkle to the story! It didn't overwhelm the mystery portion of the plot, but added to it.

This book is classified as a cozy mystery, but for those readers who don't like profanity of any kind in a cozy, this book might not be for you.  There is a bit of profanity and a few instances of sexual and criminal themes in this book. I didn't find it offensive. It was nice to have a story line that was a bit different with characters that aren't completely good guys. Alexis and her friends are con-artists.....they have just turned their skills to solving crimes rather than ripping people off. The result is an edgier cozy mystery....I enjoyed it!

Give the Devil His Due is the third book in the Tarot Mystery series. The books don't necessarily have to be read in order. This is the first book in the series that I've read and I was able to easily jump right in and enjoy the story. Fun story! I will definitely be back-tracking to read the first two books in this series! I look forward to reading the continuing story as well!

Steven Hockensmith is the author of several books including the Holmes on the Range series and the the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies series. To find out more information on the author and his books, check out his website: http://www.stevehockensmith.com/   Lisa Falco is the tarot expert of this writing duo. In addition to the Tarot Mystery series she also wrote another novel, A Mother's Promise.

**I voluntarily read an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Midnight Ink. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**






Tuesday, April 4, 2017

REVIEW: Defy the Stars

Defy the Stars
Author: Claudia Gray

The planet Genesis was once an Earth colony. But its people have been fighting a decades long war for independence from Earth. It's difficult to defeat the armies of mechs that Earth sends through the space gate near Genesis, forcing the planet's leadership to form a desperate plan to give them a window of time to rebuild their ravaged forces and attempt to finally put an end to the war. At 17, Noemi Vidal is a soldier ready to give her life to aid her planet. When her only friend is injured in a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself on a long-abandoned ship near the space gate. Its only other occupant is a mech named Abel who is more advanced and intelligent than any mech Noemi has encountered before. Through strange circumstances, they end up working together to attempt to destroy the space gate. During their journey, Noemi learns that Abel is more than a machine. And Abel discovers he can form an attachment to a human  that is so much more than just his programming. Can these two mis-matched warriors save a planet?

I loved this book! Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. Although the plot has been done before in various ways, I found this story engaging, emotional and interesting. I liked Noemi for her independence and strength. And Abel was so desperate to experience new things and develop his mind and emotions much further than his basic programming. When forced to make certain moral decisions, he learned to not just follow his programming but to discern the right thing to do. It was so interesting how his character developed throughout the book. The rag-tag bunch of supporting characters were not as well-developed, but still likable and integral to the plot.

The ending hinted at a continuing series. I can't wait to find out what the future has in store for both Noemi and Abel.

Claudia Gray is the author of several Young Adult books including the Firebird and Evernight series. To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website at www.claudiagray.com

**I voluntarily read an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Little Brown Books via NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

REVIEW: When the Grits Hit the Fan

When the Grits Hit the Fan
Author: Maddie Day

When the Grits Hit the Fan is the third book in the Country Store Mystery series. Robbie Jordan is still renovating the old country store building she purchased in South Lick, Indiana. Her restaurant, Pan N' Pancakes is on the main floor. She is tearing out plaster in the upstairs portion of the building in preparation to add some bed and breakfast style rooms. The restaurant business has slowed down a bit now that winter weather has arrived. While snowshoeing with her friend, Lou, they come upon the body of a local professor frozen under the ice. Unfortunately Lou just argued with the man over his stealing and publishing her research as his own. The local police immediately zero in on Lou as a suspect. Add in secret tunnels, small town secrets and hidden crimes and it makes for a completely engrossing cozy mystery!!

I haven't read any of the other books in this series but was able to enjoy the story and figure out the characters. So, it isn't absolutely necessary to read the books in order. I am going to go back and read the first two books after totally enjoying this one!

I like Robbie Jordan as a main character. She is intelligent, capable and does DIY like a pro! She flips pancakes at her restaurant, investigates murders and wields a pry bar to tear out plaster....and still has time for dinner and extracurricular activities with her love-interest, Abe O'Neill. I like the subplot about her renovating the old store, trying to keep it authentic looking and planning to add a B&B upstairs. The mystery is engaging. There are plenty of suspects and surprises. There were some portions I had figured out, but the very end was a surprise. Loved it!

I will definitely be reading more of this series! Very entertaining! (And made me hungry for pancakes!)

Maddie Day is a pseudonym for the author Edith Maxwell. For more information about the author and her other books check out her website at https://edithmaxwell.com/

Thursday, March 23, 2017

REVIEW: Abandon

Abandon
Author: Blake Crouch

Christmas Day, 1893 in Abandon, CO.....What should have been a warm holiday for the residents of the backwoods mountain mining town was a tragedy instead. Every resident -- every single man, woman and child -- living in Abandon disappeared. Never to be seen again. More than 100 years later an expedition to the ghost town arrives, led by a history professor. His daughter, a journalist, is intrigued by the legend surrounding the town. A psychic and paranormal photographer are also part of the group. It has been said that the abandoned town is haunted. They want to discover what happened that snowy Christmas night in 1893.  Little do they know that the professor has ulterior motives for hiking into the mountains to Abandon. His secret might just kill them all.

I love a good thriller, and Blake Crouch delivers yet another thrill ride with Abandon. The storyline alternates between the tale of the mining town residents from 1893 to the present day expedition, drawing out the tension and suspense until the very end. The action is perfectly paced and there were lots of surprises and tension-filled moments along the way. Sometimes stories that hop back and forth in time can get convoluted and confusing, but not this time. I liked how the action flashed back and forth between the past and present. When I finally finished the entire tale and closed the book, all I could think was "Holy Crap! That was intense!" Great story.

Blake Crouch is the author of many books including the Wayward Pines series and Dark Matter. Discover more about the author and his books on his website at http://www.blakecrouch.com/


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

REVIEW: Blueberry Cupcake Mystery

Blueberry Cupcake Mystery
Author: Naomi Miller

This book is simple, short and sweet.

I'm going to talk about the things I enjoy about this story first. Then I will delve into some constructive discussion of things I think are problematic.

First, readers should be aware that this is Christian fiction. If the Christian faith is not your belief or you are bothered by Christian themes, then avoid this book. The Christian theme is not overdone (I have read Christian fiction that just slammed you with scripture and Christian themes so much it over-powered the main plot), but presented as part of the Amish theme. The main character thanks God and talks about blessings in her life, etc. She does not sermonize and the book is not evangelistic or overly moralistic. It presents a theme of forgiveness, kindness and faith. The story is charming, not preachy.

While it did make the author's writing style seem a bit stilted at times, I enjoyed the use of Amish words (not sure if Dutch or German) in the conversation and thoughts of the Amish main character. I grew up with a German grandfather who mixed English and German as he spoke. So as I read the story I felt nostalgic for the times I spent with him as a young girl. I wish I could have my grandpa back for just one day. He used to speak to me in German and I would answer him in English. I've forgotten almost all of the German I knew as a child. This story made me smile and brought back fond memories of my Opa.

The cover of the book is gorgeous and well done. The book has an inviting appearance and the cupcake on the front looks absolutely scrumptious! Plus, there is a recipe included for blueberry cupcakes. :) mmmmmm :)

Now.....I have to also mention some disappointments with this book.

The font size is huge. This book is very short. The only way the story is extended to 91 pages was by using huge type and making the margins wide. I tried this once in school on a book report because I couldn't stretch "I didn't like this book'' to the required four pages. I got detention. So, this was a glaring no-no for me as a reader and reviewer.  It is a silly trick in elementary school...and a publisher should know better than to do this. There is very little character development, location description or details about the Amish in this book. With just a bit more detail and description added, the story could have been better and this story would have been book-length without resorting to a huge font. As it is, this is really a short story or very slim novella typed large to make it appear to be a book.

Along those same lines, throwing in some Amish language and having the main character fret about the behavior of Englishers does not make a story Amish fiction. There is just not enough detail or character development. Even if this book is classified as a children's or young adult book, there still needs to be some detail to flesh out characters and even just a little bit of background or subplot about the Amish, the town -- anything really -- to make this a flowing, interesting story. As it is, the characters are weak and undeveloped. And the only thing Amish in the story is a few foreign words and some behavior that isn't explained or detailed. While sweet, the story just lacks depth.

And my last point, the mystery is weak. I understand wanting to avoid a murder mystery in a Christian/Amish themed book. There is nothing wrong with a non-violent mystery theme. But, as with characterization and place, there is no real development or tension building. Their bakery business is broken into and items stolen and damaged. The culprit must be found. But the journey from incident to final solution is lackluster. This could be because of poor story development or the fact that the book is so short. I think maybe it's a combination of both problems.

This is the first book in this series. I haven't read the newest book, The Christmas Cookie Mystery. It could be that the writing style and story development improves with the second book. After reading only this first book, I have to say that this book might be better classified as a children's book rather than Young Adult.  I think a younger elementary age child would enjoy reading this story or having it read to them. I could see this book being used to help reading comprehension in a Christian homeschool environment. An adult or teenager might enjoy this book as a quick read. As for myself, I enjoyed its charming points, but the plot is just too simple for me. I'm going to give it a middle of the road rating because it reminded me of my Opa and made me smile. Without that nostalgia, my rating might have been lower.

I hope in the second book that the huge font becomes normal-size and the story lengthened with actual plot and character development. I'm going to read the next book and see if there are improvements. If not, I won't be reading more of this series.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

REVIEW: Single Malt Murder

Single Malt Murder
Author: Melinda Mullet

Single Malt Murder is the first book in a brand new series -- The Whisky Business Mystery series. The theme and the cover got my attention, pulling me in to read this book by new author, Melinda Mullet. I'm glad...this was an enjoyable read!

First, the basics: Following the death of her Uncle Ben, Abigail Logan inherits Abbey Glen whisky distillery in rural Scotland. Abi is uneasy about the situation. Not only because as an award-winning photojournalist, she knows nothing about whisky distilling, but also because she immediately begins receiving threats. Anonymous notes, bouquets of thistles and even a dead duck are left to warn her against a woman running Abbey Glen. Acts of sabotage are occurring at the distillery, too. When Abi and her friend, Patrick, discover an Abbey Glen employee dead in a vat of whisky, she decides to start investigating the events. Who doesn't want her running the distillery? Is the same person sabotaging the business? When another murder occurs, Abi starts to wonder if it's her fault....did her inheritance of the single malt whisky distillery just lead to the deaths of two people? Who feels strongly enough about it to kill?

This is an engrossing, enjoyable mystery novel! Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. The mystery portion of the plot is well-paced. There are a fair number of suspects and the ending caught me by surprise. Well done! Sprinkled throughout are interesting facts about the process of distilling and fermenting whisky. I had no idea it's such a long and involved process. The subplot didn't overwhelm the mystery, but added depth to the story. I liked Abi as a main character. She is a strong, independent woman who went about her investigations with skill. The supporting characters are interesting with enough small village quirkiness to make them interesting and appealing. There is a touch of romance within the story, but it isn't a main focus, rather like the frosting on the cupcake.

This is Melinda Mullet's first novel. It was well-written and an excellent cozy mystery. I highly recommend it to mystery lovers and whisky connoisseurs alike. Thanks to this book the next time I take a sip of whisky I will definitely be thinking about all that went into producing it.

I can't wait to read the next book in the series! Death Distilled will be published in September 2017.




Saturday, March 18, 2017

REVIEW:Ghosts Who Went to School

Ghosts Who Went to School
Author: Judith Spearing

I love old books. Any sort. And there are few places better to troll for great old books than thriftshops. A couple times a month I set out with $5 or so in my pocket to visit all the local thriftshops looking for interesting books. Some of my best finds are old, often out of print, middle grade books...the type I used to beg my parents to buy for me from those book order forms in elementary school. I am in total nostalgic bliss when I find a bunch of old Scholastic books. I bring them home and read them, then donate the books to my local library. They resell them at their book sales I'm sure....then someone else gets to enjoy them! The library makes money to buy new books and someone else gets to enjoy a great kid's book! Win-win!

My latest find is a Scholastic book, Ghosts Who Went to School, first printed in 1966, with a reprint in 1989. I checked and although the book is currently out of print, it is readily available to purchase online. I found prices ranging from 33 cents plus postage to $5.49 with free shipping. So, not expensive. My copy was well loved with three children's names scrawled on the inside of the front cover, dutifully crossed out when the book passed to a new owner. I hope they all enjoyed the story as much as I did!

Ghosts Who Went to School was written by Judith Spearing. The book has a follow up, The Museum House Ghosts. The Author just passed away in January 2017 and is fondly remembered for her two children's books.

The basics: Wilbur and Mortimer Temple are ghosts. They live in the old Temple House, the abandoned old house that everyone says is haunted (because it is!). Their mother and father live there too...a happy, ghost family. But, the boys are bored. Haunting the same house day after day can get a little tiresoome. They decide to go to school. Wilber joins Mrs. Hartley's third grade class. While he means well, having an invisible student in class can be disruptive. When Mrs. Hartley grades Wilbur's first spelling test she finds his spelling is atrocious so she knows even ghost boys need to be in school. They reach an agreement. Wilbur must be visible for roll call and while he is answering questions in class,but he can be invisible the rest of the time as long as it isn't disruptive to the other students. So Wilbur and Mortimer blend right in, despite the fact that they're ghosts. Can they also solve the problem of the local bank that wants to sell their house?

The story is well-written and incredibly cute. Wilbur's classmates accept him and like having him as part of their class. Mortimer enjoys school as well. They get into a bit of trouble, but never for being mean-spirited. They help non-athletic kids make points in basketball, assist classmates with math and do a bit of invisible gardening to scare bankers. Nothing mean or destructive. It's just a happy, age appropriate story. This would be a great book for kids in 2nd to 5th grade. Lots of humor and great lessons! The book has cute illustrations as well.

This is a book I think Scholastic should reprint again. Kids at my son's elementary would love this story! Now that I've reviewed it, my copy is going to our local library. I hope that soon it has a 4th name scrawled on the inside of the front cover and gets many more readings before it wears out! It definitely gave me a couple hours of joy. There's nothing like a happy, entertaining children's book! A fun, happy read!!

I'm now on the look-out for the second book -- The Museum House Ghosts. I want to read about the other adventures of Wilbur and Mortimer!




Friday, March 17, 2017

REVIEW: The Illusionist's Apprentice

The Illusionist's Apprentice
Author: Kristy Cambron

Once the apprentice to the amazing Harry Houdini, Wren Lockhart now performs her illusions on the vaudeville stage. She is talented, but eccentric...shutting nearly everyone out of her life, dressing in men's clothing and ignoring most social conventions. She relies only on herself. Her past taught her that. The past she keeps secret. After a man is supposedly raised from the dead by another illusionist, Horace Stapleton, the resurrected man promptly drops dead. Stapleton was previously debunked as a fraud by Houdini and Wren knows he didn't raise anyone from the dead. So, what did happen? She is approached by FBI agent Elliot Matthews to help with the investigation. Stapleton is a fraud, but Wren knows he isn't a murderer.

Set in the Vaudeville and flapper era of the 1920's, this book has much historical color amid the vibrant backdrop of stage performers, illusionists and all the magic of the Jazz Age. The mystery is engaging and the characters are believable. I loved Wren's strength and independence. Elliot is intelligent, patient and determined. The action is great, and the story perfectly paced to build tension. I found myself carrying my Kindle with me everywhere so I wouldn't have to stop reading!

Kristy Cambron is the author of several novels including The Butterfly and the Violin. To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website at https://kristycambron.com/

**I volunarily read an Advance Readers Copy of this book via NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

Thursday, March 16, 2017

REVIEW: Equal Rites

Equal Rites
Author: Terry Pratchett

Wizards who are about to die always transfer their power to the eighth son of an eighth son before they gasp their last. But one night in the village of Bad Ass, a wizard mistakenly passes on his power to a newborn girl. Whoops. Never before has there been a female wizard in all of Discworld. This baby is going to have one heck of a time!

Equal Rites, the third book in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, is about Eskarine's adventures. She grows up living with a witch, Granny Weatherwax who teaches her about about herbs, healing and witchery. But, as Eskarine has a staff and wizardly powers that eek out by accident once in awhile, Granny realizes the girl needs to go to the Unseen University for wizard training. The problem? Girls aren't allowed to be wizards and therefore, the university doesn't admit girls. Esk sets out on a trek to attempt to gain admittance....and chaos ensues.

I really love this series. Pratchett's humor just makes me smile. And I love Esk....she is a child and completely innocent. She can't control her powers and often ends up in strange predicaments because of her magical staff. She notices things and helps people on her way to the wizard university and doesn't even realize she's using magic. In her mind, she's just being nice and helpful. Granny Weatherwax is wonderful too. Old, cantankerous and a wily witch in her own right, she's funny, endearing and just awesomely witchy. When the two of them arrive in Ankh Morpork, nothing will ever be the same again, especially the Unseen University. The battle of wills to get girls recognized as wizard material was awesomely epic.

A wonderful, funny journey through Discworld!!


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

REVIEW: The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency

The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency
Author: Mandy Morton

This is a very creative, humorous and quirky mystery novel. Cats are in charge. No humans. It's a world of anthropomorphized  kitties. Hettie Bagshot and her assistant, Tilly, have started a detective agency in a rented room behind a bakery. Hettie knows nothing about detecting or crime, but figures she can wing it and make enough money to pay the two pound a week rent. Their first mystery involves the theft of three dead cats from the Furcross Home for Slightly Older Cats. The three elderly cats had opted for the euthanasia package, but after their peaceful sendoff, someone snatched their bodies right out of the graves! Hettie and Tilly are hired by the owner of Furcross who begs them to discover the nefarious bodysnatchers before all the residents bail from the care home in fear.

There are lots of references, puns and cute jokes sprinkled throughout this book. It took me a chapter or two to really get into the story. But once I got used to the fact that all things were cat-centric in this cozy mystery, I began to enjoy the tale.

Hettie is a cute main character. I had to smile when she reminisced about her days in rock-and-roll. Tilly is a sweet side-kick. Her love of cardigan sweaters is endearing. All of the supporting characters are quirky and fun. The mystery is light. The mood is humorous and fun. It's baptism by fire for the cats on the No. 2 Feline Detective Agency's first case, and they rise to the occasion with kitty-like aplomb. The ending wasn't really a surprise, but it was thrilling with a sharp edge of humor.

For those looking for a mystery with good humor and lots of creativity, this is it! It's a light, quick read. Don't expect a detailed murder mystery, but enjoy a quick romp through an old folks home for slightly older cats.

There are four books in the Hettie Bagshot Mystery series.

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