Thursday, October 12, 2017

REVIEW: Death by Eggnog

Death By Eggnog
Author: Alex Erickson

Krissy Hancock is looking forward to an entire week off from her bookstore cafe, Death by Coffee. She plans to spend the holidays with her father in California. But at the last minute things change....she isn't going to sunny California after all. So, she has a week off in Pine Hills, Ohio. All of her friends are busy with their own holiday plans, so Krissy decides just to relax and enjoy her time off.  Her zen just isn't meant to be, however. Krissy gets roped into taking the place of a sick elf in the annual holiday musical extravaganza. Her peaceful holiday soon turns into drama.....the director is too demanding, the performers are all gossiping backstage and there are fights over who will play the lead role. It all comes to a head when Chuck, dressed as Santa Claus, is murdered in the dressing room. Krissy steps in to investigate after her ex-boyfriend Robert is seen fleeing from the scene. Who killed Santa? Robert is a bit of a jerk, but Krissy is convinced that he didn't murder Chuck.

I really enjoy this series. Krissy is an enjoyable, intelligent, and capable main character. I like the mix of humor and murder mystery. The characters are all likeable and realistic. The coffeeshop/bookstore side theme is also one I enjoy. It gets used quite a bit in cozy mysteries, but I don't mind another series from that angle. I wish Death By Coffee was a real shop near where I live! I'd be there all the time! :)

Death By Eggnog is the 5th book in the Bookstore Cafe Mystery series. The mystery moved along at a nice pace. There were plenty of suspects, twists and turns. The holiday theme was well done. I have a weakness for holiday themed cozies -- so I really enjoyed this book! The Christmas theme was great, and the cover is adorable. All in all, another great book in this cozy series! The next book, Death by Espresso, will be released in June 2018!!

To find out more about the author and his books, check out his website: https://alexericksonbooks.com/

REVIEW: Trixie Belden & The Mysterious Visitor

Trixie Belden & The Mysterious Visitor
Author: Julie Campbell

Trixie Belden and her best friend, Honey Wheeler, notice that a friend from school seems quite unhappy. Di Lynch's family recently came into money and they now own a large home and have a new, luxurious life. So what does Di have to be sad and depressed about? To cheer her up, they invite her to spend the night at the Wheeler's estate. Di tells them that she is unhappy with some of the changes in her family's life (like servants controlling when she can see her little sisters and brothers). And she also explains that suddenly her mother's long lost brother Monty has appeared. Di doesn't like him and says she doubts he is really her uncle. The girls are on a mission to help Di cheer up so they get together and plan a Halloween party. At the last minute, Uncle Monty swoops in and takes over everything, to the chagrin of the girls. Trixie starts to think that maybe Uncle Monty really is an imposter. But, the man is such an impressive emcee at the party that Trixie can't get Honey, Di or any of their friends to listen to her suspicions. She needs to find evidence that proves Uncle Monty is a fake. Can she sneak around and find proof without getting caught, or hurt?

Trixie Belden & The Mysterious Visitor is the 4th book in the series and was first published in 1954. There are 39 books in all. This was my favorite book series in middle school. I had the entire set! I remember this book was one of my favorites. The storyline has great suspense -- Trixie really does get herself into some major hot water with all her sleuthing and sneaking about this time! I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this book!

Set in the 1950s the series is a bit dated, but still one of my favorites. With the help of OpenLibrary, I'm reading my way back through the series. So enjoyable to re-visit my old friends from Sleepyside, NY! I always liked Trixie better than Nancy Drew! I happily babysat my spoiled nephew back in the day to earn the money I needed to buy new paperbacks in this series. Nice memories!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

REVIEW: Death On Tap

Death On Tap
Author: Ellie Alexander

Sloane Krause loves her Bavarian themed hometown - Leavenworth, WA. The town goes all out for authentic atmosphere from German foods to locally brewed beers. There are several breweries in the small town. Sloane has worked for her in-laws' family brewery for years and loves it.....until she catches her husband Mac with his pants down. Literally. Reeling from getting an eyeful of her husband and a young bar maid, she gets a job at a new, rival brewery in town. Her new boss, Garrett Strong, says that he always wanted to open his own nano-brewery, and his recipe for a new citrus beer is amazing. Sloane helps him prepare for the grand opening of the Nitro Brewery. Everything is perfect. Their event is a total success. The next morning, however, things take a dangerous turn. Sloane comes in to work and finds a rival brewer dead in Nitro's fermenting vat. It only gets worse when Mac is arrested for the murder. Sloane is really really mad at her husband.....but she knows he isn't a murderer. For the sake of their teenage son and her inlaws, and because she knows Mac isn't guilty, Sloane jumps in to investigate.

This book is a great start to a new series, Sloane Krause Mysteries. I liked the brewery theme. The book contains many details about brewing, different types of beer, and the ingredients required for a quality beer. Although there are lots of details about brewing, the background theme didn't overpower the mystery....it added to it. This start to a new series is a cozy with a bit more bite to it....this isn't themed around a cute dog or cat, or knitting, but brewing beer and philandering husbands. Sloane is a tough, intelligent woman.....and cutesie just wouldn't be her style. The book is still a cozy though.....there is no spurting blood and no cursing. Just the implication of a 2/3 naked husband and lots of great beer. :) I liked the fact that the author didn't just include information on making the beer, but also details about regulations and restrictions on breweries and establishments that serve alcohol. I didn't realize some of the restrictions that pubs or breweries have to follow. Very interesting!

The mystery moves along at a nice pace. There are some great clues and twists along the way. The ending still caught me by surprise though -- I love it when that happens! I didn't see it coming! :)
Sloane is a capable MC, and all the side characters helped support the plot. I liked all the characters....even the cheating husband Mac (although I did want to seriously punch him a couple of times).  All in all, a well-written mystery that is enjoyable to read! I learned a lot about beer and gave me a new respect for micro-breweries.

Ellie Alexander also writes the Bakeshop Mysteries. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.elliealexander.co/  I am definitely going to check out her Bakeshop series while I wait for the next Sloane Krause book. Death on Tap is the best cozy I've read in a long time. Excellent writing and research!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy from St Martins Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


REVIEW: Rescued

Rescued
Author: Peter Zheutlin

I've been a humane society foster parent for years. I've seen many cases of abuse, neglect, and abandonment turn into happy endings. As a foster, the worst case I remember involved a litter of kittens dumped at the local landfill in winter. Some wonderful example of humanity had stuffed an entire litter of newborn kittens into a box filled with garbage, then put several trash bags on top of the box. The kittens were left outside in the cold to die, covered in rotting garbage. Landfill employees miraculously found the kittens, taking them across the street to the animal shelter. Shelter staff called the humane society. My family and I were having breakfast at Waffle House when I got the emergency call. We had our food boxed up and went to get the kittens. I was pissed -- whoever the ass was who abandoned them drove right past the county animal shelter that would have taken them in to sneak into the landfill and dump them to freeze instead. I thought the entire litter would die. They were ice cold and barely moving. Newborn kittens do not react well to being cold and hungry. Usually their organs shut down and they die. But I had to try. I brought them home and started warming them up. They were starving, but I knew not to feed a cold kitten. Using a heating pad, and having my family hold cold kittens next to their skin while petting and rubbing their limbs and talking to them, we warmed them up and I got formula ready. I warned my son not to get attached because there was a good chance that most or all of the litter would die within 24 hours. If they made it through the first day, their chances would improve. Surprisingly, not only did they make it through the first day, but every cat from that litter survived to be adopted out to homes from here in North Carolina clear north to Vermont. And the Karma bus is coming for the person that thought it was ok to leave a litter of kittens outside to freeze to death. They knew they were doing wrong, or they wouldn't have tried to hide what they had done. Not to mention the fact that they went right past the damn animal shelter to do it.  How callous can a person be? There is a soul cost to doing something that wicked. They will pay the price, eventually.

All of my pets are rescues. Our lab dog, Ted. E. Bear, was found as a puppy under a burned out house after a fire. Roxie, a pit mix, was one of my first fosters. She was adopted by a family in West Virginia, only to be returned 4 months later, overweight and hyper. We declared her a foster fail at that point. Ted was ecstatic. He had missed Roxie badly, and was happy to have his pal back. Then we have Princess the Pomchi and Belle the chihuahua. Belle was hit by a car, and after weeks of taking care of her while she recovered from a broken pelvis and other injuries, I just couldn't part with her. And little 4 lb grandma is the last -- she's 16, no teeth and very little eyesight. She was abandoned at the animal shelter to be euthanized after her owner passed away. I was asked if I would give her a home until she passes....of course I will. She was someone's beloved pet for years. I will honor that bond and give the old gal a good home until it's her time to go. She is hilarious and just full of beans most of the time, running around with her tongue hanging out because she's toothless.

I love all my dogs. And they all have stories that should have made them dislike humanity. But they don't. Dogs have an endless capacity to love. They want to belong. They want a home. Rescue dogs more so than any others. That's what drew me to read this book....

Peter Zheutlin shares the stories of his personal pets and those adopted by others. Some rescue animals are easy to love -- others are destructive, untrained and take a lot of work. But, in the end, it's all worth it. When an animal who started out with behavior or fear issues settles down and feels at home....it's just a beautiful thing to see.

This book is a great read for anyone involved in pet rescue, either running a rescue, fostering animals or anyone who has adopted, or is thinking about adopting, a rescue animal. I've had many fur faces come through my life in the past few years....spent many nights rocking and feeding kittens with a bottle, setting alarms to check on sick puppies and kittens, and training my foster babies to be good pets. I am overjoyed every time I receive a photo of one of my fosters in their new furever homes looking contented and loved. This book contains all of that joy. Every story was wonderful, and I found myself reminiscing about my experiences as I read.

At times, the writing style and the amount of time the author spent talking about himself was not really my cup of tea, but overall I enjoyed this book. I think everyone involved in pet rescue should take the time to read it. From saving animals in dangerous situations to putting them on transport to their new homes, animal rescue is an emotional and rewarding experience. 

After I finished reading this book, I went and hugged my dogs....and my 4 cats (all rescues as well). 

For more information on the author and his other books, check out his website: http://peterzheutlin.com/

REVIEW: Ten Little Indians

Ten Little Indians
Author: Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie has been my favorite author since I was 9 and bought a box collection of old Hercule Poirot novels at a garage sale in my neighborhood. I still have those books, and many others by Christie in my personal library.

Ten Little Indians (or And Then There Were None) is a fabulous locked room mystery. A group of 10 people receive invitations to visit Indian Island off the Devon Coast. They arrive by boat, only to find out that none of them actually know the host, a Mr. U.N. Owen. While enjoying drinks and conversation, a recorded voice accuses each of them, one by one, of murder. The recording gives the name and date of each killing, leaving the group stunned and groping for excuses. Little do they know that they are all going to be picked off one at a time by an unseen killer.  As the group gets smaller and smaller, the survivors scramble to figure out where their host might be hiding, or if it's one of their group doing the killing.

Agatha Christie wrote this book in 1939, wrapping the plot around an old poem. The poem figures prominently into the plot, giving away the mode of death for each guest in order. Originally the poem used a racist term -- the N word. In fact the original title of the book was Ten Little N-----s.  In subsequent versions of the book, the wording has been changed to indians, soldiers and other terms, and the title of the book was changed to Ten Little Indians and also And Then There Were None. I prefer And Then There Were None....but my old copy of the book from the 80s is titled Ten Little Indians. The recent miniseries with Sam Neil changed it to Soldier Island and the 10 statues on the table with one disappearing after each death were little soldiers. My modern sensibilities can't wrap around the fact that the title of this book originally had the N word in it.....I am glad that the world has changed enough that the word was removed, allowing the mystery to remain classic without being offensive.

Offensive language aside, this mystery is acknowledged as one of the best ever written, and it has been imitated many times in the nearly 80 years since its publication. The language and situations are a bit dated now, but the story is still enjoyable and surprising. I can't imagine the panic and desperation that the characters felt, trapped on an island while a killer murders them one by one. Re-reading this book for the first time in years, I had to say that I was a bit incredulous that a group of people would accept an invitation without doing any checking on the person it came from.....but then again, modern people often trust strangers they meet on social media and dating sites. It's the same sort of situation. I guess we all feel that murder and dangerous situations happen to other people.....and I'm sure that's how this group of 10 characters felt. They were flattered to be invited to the estate on this island and didn't think there would be any danger. Boy, were they ever wrong.

I enjoyed re-reading this book, and now that I'm finished I'm going to watch the miniseries again. It stays closer to the book than the classic Black & White movie does (20th Century Fox, released 1945).

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

REVIEW: The Persian Always Meows Twice

The Persian Always Meows Twice
Author: Eileen Watkins

Cassie McGlone is a cat groomer, and runs her own business, Cassie's Comfy Cats. She deals with finicky felines all day and loves her job. Her job gets a lot more serious when she makes a house call to groom a client's pampered persian, only to discover the dead body of George DeLeuw. Reeling from the shock of finding her best client murdered, Cassie receives permission to board his cat, Harpo, until the will is probated. That's where the real trouble begins. Suddenly, everyone seems to want the cat for reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that Harpo is a gorgeous persian. Who killed George DeLeuw? And where does his orphaned kitty figure into it? Cassie knows for both George and Harpo's sake she needs to discover the killer's identity.

This is a great start to a new cozy series -- The Cat Groomer Mystery series! I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. The mystery is very well written with some real surprises. Cassie is an intelligent and fun main character. The background theme of cats and cat grooming added to the plot, and made the book more interesting. I do not envy people who choose a career that involves bathing cats on a daily basis -- so Cassie is not only smart, but BRAVE. :) There were a couple side plots that helped with character development, but not in such a way as to overwhelm the mystery elements of the story.

I did have to laugh at one point though...Cassie is thoroughly against cats being allowed to sleep in her bedroom at night. BUT....she is ok with them being on the table when she eats. I think I would much rather have a warm kitty cuddled with me at night than have them on the table near my food while I'm eating. :)

All in all, a great cozy mystery that I very much enjoyed. The cover is awesome. Who can resist a sweet persian punim! :)

A second book in the Cat Groomer Mystery series, The Bengal Identity, will be released in March 2018! :)

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

REVIEW: Halloween Carnival Volume 2

Halloween Carnival Volume 2
Authors: Various

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Put that together with one of my favorite pastimes - reading - and I'm in heaven.

Throughout the month of October 2017, Random House is releasing a series of five Halloween short story anthologies. One will come out each week. The stories are subtle horror....the sort that sneaks up then creeps the bejeezus out of you. That's my favorite type of horror tale. I'm not much into the slasher, blood-spurting, gore fest sort. I prefer the more slow building, atmospheric, creepy kind. This series of short stories has put me in the mood for Halloween this year!

Halloween Carnival Volume 2 contains 5 stories:

Mr. Dark's Carnival by Glen Hirshberg. A college professor in Montana asks for primary source proof of Mr. Dark's Carnival - a horrific spectacle that appears only on Halloween. Ask and you shall receive, Professor Roemer! I loved this story from start to shocking finish! Excellent pace and suspense. Just creepy fun to read! This one is my favorite from this anthology.

The Facts in the Case of My Sister - Lee Thomas. A young boy hypnotizes his sister to protect her from her fear of monsters....with disastrous consequences. Sometimes believing in monsters is a good thing. This is a great story....what a powerful ending!

Mischief Night - Holly Newstein.  A Mischief Night prank goes awry. This one was just ok for me...a good story, but not really horror.

The Ghost Maker - Del James.  A career criminal dislikes Halloween. After all, you never know who might come knocking at your door.  This story really wasn't my cup of tea either....not that it isn't well-written. Just not my style. I have the feeling that it might be a bit hair-raising for others though. Always be careful when you open the door on Halloween. Be prepared.

The Pumpkin Boy - Al Sarrantonio. Children start disappearing, and rumors start about a strange Pumpkin Boy seen roaming the area. Detective Len Schneider is on the case, frantically searching to find whoever is behind the disappearances. He discovers there are some things worse than a dead child.  This story has great creepy vibes to it. Nice pace, scary atmosphere and a whopper of an ending!

Great Halloween story collection! There were a couple that just didn't work for me....but the beauty of a story anthology is that the writing, subjects, and characters are varied. Each of these stories is different....not just the same old spooky setting. What didn't gel for me, might be perfect for another reader!

I definitely love the fact that one anthology ebook is coming out each week in October. Great idea! These scary tales are definitely bringing out the Halloween spirit in me! Halloween Carnival Volume 2 will release October 10th, 2017.

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



Monday, October 9, 2017

REVIEW: Dial Meow For Murder

Dial Meow For Murder
Author: Bethany Blake

Daphne Templeton knows she's in for a bad night when she shows up to the annual gala fundraiser for Fur-Ever Friends Pet Rescue dressed as a witch....only to discover nobody else is dressed in Halloween costumes. The Flynt Mansion is elegantly decorated with twinkle lights, black chandeliers and jack o'lanterns. Everything is perfect for a great fundraiser to benefit charity....until Lillian Flynt's body is discovered. The eccentric woman has been electrocuted in an upstairs bathroom.  The investigation into Lillian's death soon becomes a homicide investigation. Who killed the eccentric, wealthy old woman? The investigation turns up everything from old family secrets to a questionable local cat rescue. Daphne realizes she needs to discover the identity of the killer quickly....because someone is stalking her!

I really enjoy this series! Dial Meow for Murder is the second book in the Lucky Paws Petsitting series. Daphne is a bit of an air-head about some things (her cell phone never works, she loses things, and she's never on time for anything....), but when it comes to amateur sleuthing, she's tops! She's a fun, feisty and intelligent main character. Former Navy Seal turned local detective Jonathan Black really wishes that Daphne would stop discovering dead bodies and meddling with investigations. Daphne's mother and sister also disapprove of her sleuthing. But Daphne is bound and determined to jump right into danger to solve a mystery!

I like the pet sitter/baker theme of this series. Recipes for the Halloween pet treats mentioned in the story are included at the back of the book. The pet sitter theme doesn't overpower the mystery portion of the plot, but adds to it. Daphne's dog, Socrates, is a great side character! Not to mention Jonathan's one-eared chihuahua and lab dog, too! The mystery moved along at a nice pace, with plenty of twists, turns and surprises. The Halloween theme is nicely done as well. This book is definitely a fun, enjoyable autumn read! I loved the atmosphere of the dark, creepy, possibly haunted old Flynt Mansion. :)

To find out more about Bethany Blake and her books, check out her website: http://www.bethanyblakeauthor.com/   A third book in the Lucky Paws series, Pawprints & Predicaments, will be coming out in spring 2018!! I can't wait!! :)

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

REVIEW: The Girls of Atomic City

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II
Author: Denise Kiernan

In 1942, construction began on Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The town was different than any other in the state. The facility built there and housing for thousands of employees surrounding it was related to one of the most secret projects of World War II -- The Manhattan Project. The work done at Oak Ridge was so secret that employees were not allowed to discuss their work, the facility or anything about the town with anyone -- even other employees or family members. They had no idea what they were working on....they just reported for work, did as they were told and went home again.  In reality, they were helping develop the first nuclear bombs.....the bombs that exploded over Japan, destroying two cities, causing that nation's surrender.

Thousands of people lived in Oak Ridge. They rode buses from the housing areas to the facility and back home again. Shifts went around the clock. The pay was excellent, so most were happy to have the job. Nobody wanted to risk being fired. There could be someone listening or watching at any time. Those who spoke out of turn or acted suspiciously would be fired and escorted outside the fence immediately. Despite the restrictions, those who lived and worked at Oak Ridge learned to socialize, form friendships, and survive the war. Many of the employees at the facility were women, and they made significant contributions to the war effort.

This is a non-fiction book detailing the experiences of several women who lived at Oak Ridge. It details what their daily lives and jobs were like. At work, they often sat adjusting controls, monitoring dials, and recording data without knowing what any of it really meant. They just knew they were supporting the war effort and their family members who were overseas fighting. And after work they had to deal with rationing, factory housing, segregation and other problems.....in addition to not being able to discuss any work related topics at all with anybody.

I loved this book! The stories were fascinating to me. I enjoyed reading about the secret aspects of their work, and the way the war impacted their daily lives. They had to learn to re-use many items that were unavailable because of the war. For example, during the war, lipstick was packaged in flimsy cardboard tubes instead of metal because the factory that  made the metal tubes had been reassigned to war related items. So, the women would scrape lipstick out of a cardboard tube into a pan and melt it down, then pour it into a metal tube that had been carefully saved.

Black workers faced racism. Black workers at Oak Ridge lived in hutments and trailers while white workers had nicer accommodations. Black married couples were not allowed to live together, but were separated into men and women only areas. White married couples were allowed to share a home.

I can't imagine working a job so secret that I couldn't be allowed to know or really understand my own job, or the work of friends, family members or even my spouse. It is amazing what they endured and what they produced, terrible though it was.

Before reading this book, [;ease understand that it is non-fiction and not a "story.''  The information is interesting and fascinating to read for those interested in history, The Manhattan Project, or the role of women in World War II. Those looking for something that reads like a  wartime novel or love story, better pass this one by. This isn't that sort of book. It is very well written. The details and facts are presented in an interesting way. The personal accounts of several women are featured, along with information on Oak Ridge itself, the Manhattan project and wartime issues in the United States.

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

REVIEW: The Couple Next Door

The Couple Next Door
Author: Shari Lapena

When I read the book blurb about this story, I decided it was a perfect read for October. When autumn is in the air, I love a good thrilling suspense story! I took the book with me to a hair appointment this week. Normally I hate when I have to have my color completely refreshed....it takes 3 hours (darn grays messing up my mojo!). There just aren't enough interesting articles in 3 year old copies of People Magazine to fill 3 hours. But, the time just whizzed by.....I finished the book by the time she was on the last step...putting in my signature blue stripe. The last 30 minutes I just sat in the chair while the stylist finished up.....mulling over the whopper of an ending. Yeah.....total holy crap ending. (I actually said "Holy crap'' as I finished reading and then had to explain I was talking about the book ending and not what my hair looked like....lol....did not want to cause stylist angst.)

The basics:  Ann and Marco live in the 'burbs. They're going next door for dinner and drinks with the neighbors, but at the last minute their babysitter cancels. What to do? The slightly bitchy wife next door, Cynthia, doesn't like how much their baby girl cries and specifically told them not to bring her over. They decide to leave Cora in her bed, take the baby monitor over to Cynthia and Graham's house, and they will take turns coming over every half an hour to check on Baby Cora.

Worst. Decision. Ever.

At first, all is fine. 11pm. 11:30pm. 12. 12:30.......

But when Ann goes back home at 1 to check on the baby.....

She's gone.

Ann's entire world begins to fall apart. She has suffered from post-partum depression but she still loves little Cora. She didn't want to leave the baby home alone. It was Marco. She blames Marco. And the police suspect that one, or perhaps both of them, may have killed their child. 

What happened to Cora? Did someone abduct her? Kidnappers? Or did Ann or Marco harm their child?

Many, many twists and turns in this story. I couldn't put it down. Even if I hadn't been stuck in a hairdresser's chair all afternoon, I still would have been completely mesmerized by this book.

As a mother, this was difficult for me to read. I have no clue what I would do if my child disappeared......but I never would have left any of my babies at home for any reason. Especially not to go drink with douche neighbors.

All in all, a nice suspense read. Definitely surprised me in the end. No spoilers here -- read the book!

I immediately went to my local library and checked out the other suspense novel by Shari Lapena -- A Stranger in The House. Can't wait to start reading it!


Saturday, October 7, 2017

REVIEW: Trixie Belden & The Mystery in Arizona

Trixie Belden & The Mystery in Arizona
Author: Julie Campbell

Trixie and all her friends are excited about winter break from school. The newest member of the Bob-Whites of the Glen (their club), Di Lynch, has announced her uncle is inviting them all down to Arizona. The B.W.G. will spend break at Uncle Monty's Dude Ranch!

Yes....a dude ranch. Just the idea made me smile and whisked me back in time to the 1950s when spending time at a tourist ranch was considered an adventure vacation. :) And, this story was quite the
adventure for the B.W.G!

Trixie Belden is a teenage amateur sleuth from Sleepyside, NY. Along with her two older brothers, her pals Di and Honey, and Jim, Honey's adopted brother, they form the Bob Whites, a club that always seems to find a mystery to solve. The Mystery in Arizona is the 6th book in the Trixie Belden series. This time around Trixie is in hot water -- she is failing a couple classes at school and fears she will be left behind as the group makes its trek to Arizona. Her brothers and Jim come to her rescue offering to tutor her while on vacation so that she can pass her midterms when they return. But Trixie doesn't count on a mystery at Uncle Monty's ranch making it hard for her to concentrate on math and her essay on the Navajo tribe. Each time she tries to study, she finds her head impossibly bogged down in the ranch mystery -- why did the Orlando family suddenly leave Uncle Monty's employment with no explanation or warning? Trixie knows there must be an explanation, but each time she tries to discuss the matter with her fellow B.W.G.s she gets lectured about not studying and not working as hard as the other members. The group of teens spends vacation having fun, but also replacing the Orlandos as ranch staff -- cleaning, waiting on tables, washing dishes and doing whatever Uncle Monty wants them to do. Between the mystery and working at the ranch, Trixie wonders if she will ever get any studying done. But isn't it more important to find out what happened to the Orlandos? And, will any of her friends finally listen to her?

I love the 1950s feel of these stories. I guess that is why I owned the entire set in paperback in the 1980s. I loved getting the books as gifts on holidays or making a trip to Waldenbooks to pick up the next book in the set. I read the final Trixie Belden book when I was in high school. I remember feeling excited, but a bit sad, that there would be no more books in the series. And before I left for college that next fall, I sold my set of books to a mother who had two middle school age girls at home. I hope they enjoyed the books as much as I did! For me Trixie Belden out-sleuthed Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I couldn't get enough of the B.W.G. and the mysteries they solved.

I was a bit hesitant to re-read the series as an adult because I didn't want my happy memories of the books to change, but once I started reading I was glad to be back in Sleepyside with my old pals. As an adult, I do find the plots use some long-gone stereotypes and ideas, but I know I need to judge the stories by the era in which they were written. For example, the brothers sometimes call the girls "squaws'' and make commentary about them being lazy, needing to cook and serve them, etc. Brothers have been teasing their sisters like this since the dawn of time...ha ha....and although the verbage may have changed to "Why don't you go in the kitchen and bake me a pie!'' or somesuch, the good natured sibling squabbling is still the same. I didn't let a couple words or phrases ruin my enjoyment of the book.

This book gives information on Arizona, local Native American customs and life on a ranch. Although out-dated and overly simplistic at times, the story is still quite enjoyable. I found myself wondering as much as Trixie what possibly could have happened to make the Orlandos leave a job they enjoyed with no warning.

The mysteries in these books are age appropriate. There is no spurting blood or gruesomeness.....mostly the stories are about unusual strangers, missing or stolen items, or unusual occurrences. In this 6th book, the gang has a great time in Arizona, makes some money by helping Uncle Monty, meets some interesting people, and gets to solve a mystery! And poor Trixie gets to do math lessons and write a report on the Navajo....while complaining about it the entire time. ha ha

This 6th book is the last one written by Julie Campbell. The rest of the series was written by various authors under the pen-name Kathryn Kenny. The series was published from 1948-1986.  There are 39 books in the series. The first few books were reprinted several years ago, but the rest of the series is currently OOP. However, most of the books are available to read online at www.openlibrary.org. The site uses the Internet Archive to give access to many OOP and rare old books!! All copyright laws are strictly adhered to. Books that are in the public domain are available for download. Others are offered as ebooks that can be checked out for 2 weeks. The site is free...just requires a quick signup and a working email address. I've read several awesome old books through this site! It's definitely a treasure trove for bibliophiles!

One thing I love about OpenLibrary is that if you read the text online, the pages are actual scans of a physical book. I got to read about Trixie and the Gang's trip to Arizona while seeing the awesome illustrations included in the 1958 hardback edition. :) It made the book so much fun to read!

Definitely a nostalgia read for me! I'm going to continue reading my way through the series. :)

Monday, October 2, 2017

REVIEW: A Hive of Homicides

A Hive of Homicides
Author: Meera Lester

Former Police Officer Abigail Mackenzie loves her new life. She happily runs her farmette, raising crops and keeping bees. She's a bit concerned about other things though. Her friend, Paola, is renewing her wedding vows, but her husband Jake is a womanizing cad. Abigail is torn between wanting her friend's day to be a joyful one, but also wondering if she should tell her that her husband is a total jerk. In the end, the day is ruined anyway when someone shoots Jake and Paola soon after their vow renewal. Jake is dead. Paola is seriously injured. Was it revenge from one of his many girlfriends on the side? Or something more sinister? As Paola clings to life in the hospital, Abigail is on the case to discover who hurt her friend. Was the philandering husband the target? Or did someone mean to kill Paola? When a second body turns up, Abigail realizes she needs to work fast to solve the case.

A Hive of Homicides is the third book the the Henny Penny Farmette series. I enjoy this series. Abigail is a strong, intelligent main character. She uses her former police experience to really dig into the grit of things and come up with clues, facts and leads, despite local law enforcement really wanting her to stay out of things. I like the side theme of the farmette and bee keeping. Each chapter has little facts about bees, honey or farming. It just adds to the cozy side of these mystery stories.

In this latest addition to this series, the mystery is well paced. The story is a nice mix of the background theme and the murder investigation. There is some character development to further the series. And, it had a nice build to the end (no spoilers from me!) All in all, this was a fun read and I like this series! Each book has been great! I can't wait to read Abagail's next adventure!

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




Sunday, October 1, 2017

REVIEW: Halloween Carnival, Vol 1

Halloween Carnival, Vol 1
Authors: Various

Halloween has been my favorite holiday since childhood. Costumes. Ghost Stories. Jack O'Lanterns. Gruesome legends. Things that go bump in the night. Love it all! So when I saw the awesome cover for this short story collection, I had to read it! Sucked me right in -- I'm already SO ready for autumn with pumpkin-flavored everything and Halloween! Bring on the ghosties!

Halloween Carnival,Vol 1 features five Halloween theme stories. I was not familiar with any of the authors and that made me even more excited about this book.  I love discovering new-to-me horror writers! I'm already planning my October TBR pile -- all things scary!

This collection of creepy stories includes:

Strange Candy - Robert McCammon. A weird, unwrapped piece of Halloween candy sends a man on a supernatural mission. McCammon is the author of several books including They Thirst and Blue World. Check out his website here: http://www.robertmccammon.com/  Strange Candy is an excellent story! Great way to start out this anthology!

The Rage of Achilles or When Mockingbirds Sing - Kevin Lucia. A new priest hears an unusual story in the confessional on Halloween night. Author of The Jabberwock and Things Slip Through, Kevin Lucia's website is here: http://www.kevinlucia.com/  The covers for his horror novels look so creepy-cool! If this short story is any indication of his talents as a horror writer, I can't wait to read more by this author!

Demon Air - John R. Little. A discount flight to Australia takes a hellish turn. John R. Little is the author of several books including Soul Mates and DarkNet. Check out his website here: http://www.johnrlittle.com/  Demon Air defnitely made me rethink discount airfares!

La Hacienda de los Muertos - Lisa Morton. A Mexican legend turns out to be true. Author of horror stories and non-fiction books about the history of Halloween, Lisa Morton definitely entertains with this short story about spooky occurrences on a Mexican film set. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website here: http://lisamorton.com/zine/

#MakeHalloweenScaryAgain - Mark Allan Gunnels. A Facebook post by a writer about bringing fear back to Halloween has unexpected consequences. This story is set in a town 40 minutes from where I live....definitely made it a creepy read for me! :) Loved it! If Halloween in Greer and Spartanburg gets all shades of horrific crazy this year, we all know who to blame! :) Mark Allan Gunnells has written nearly 50 horror novels, novellas and short stories. Check out his website here: http://markgunnells.livejournal.com/ 

I enjoyed all 5 stories in this anthology. #MakeHalloweenScaryAgain is my favorite....not only because it's well written, but also because it's set in my neck of the woods.   All 5 writers showcased in Halloween Carnival Vol 1 are new to me....I look forward to reading more by each of them!

I highly recommend this book to any fan of short stories and Halloween-theme horror. There will be five volumes in the Halloween Carnival collection. I'm definitely going to read all five!

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














Tuesday, September 26, 2017

REVIEW: Trixie Belden & The Mystery Off Glen Road

Trixie Belden & The Mystery Off Glen Road
Author: Julie Campbell

The Mystery Off Glen Road is the 5th Trixie Belden Book. Trixie and the other members of their club, The Bob Whites of the Glen, worked hard to earn the money to repair their new clubhouse, the neglected old gatehouse on the Wheeler Estate. But a big storm hits, knocking down many trees around Sleepyside, NY, damaging the roof and one wall. The kids band together and volunteer to act as gamekeepers for Mr. Wheeler's game preserve on his large estate to earn money, and to ensure that Trixie's brother Brian can still buy the old car he's had his eye on for some time. While patrolling the game preserve looking for poachers, Trixie and Honey come across a dead deer and a rabbit in a snare. Someone is poaching on the Wheeler Estate after all! They need to catch the poachers to earn the $50 they need. 

This story really isn't a mystery. It's more of an adventure with the kids trying to find out what is going on in the woods. It's also a heart-warming story about a sister who works really hard to make sure her brother gets his first car. The Bob Whites have a rule -- the only money they can use for the club has to be worked for and earned. They can't get money from their parents to help. So, it took a lot of work and effort to fix the old building up. The storm damage to their club is devastating for them because they have to earn enough to repair the damage quickly before the interior and furnishings are damaged. They all band together to solve the problem. I enjoyed this story! It was enjoyable to read about all the kids chipping in to repair their club house and help Brian. 

The characters make me smile. Six year old Bobby is loud and precocious. Trixie's brother Mart likes to use big words to annoy his sister. They all roll their eyes at Brian and Jim a bit because they are so good and never do anything wrong. Trixie always seems to get them embroiled in a mystery or difficult situation. And....when faced with a dilemma....they all decide NOT to tell their parents, other club members, or the police. It always has to be a big secret because they are afraid of being in trouble or getting made fun of, etc. As an adult, I want to scream WILL YOU JUST TELL SOMEONE! But as a kid, I probably would have made the same decision to not tell any adults, or my friends, brothers, etc. :) 

The Trixie Belden series has 39 books, written between 1948 and 1986. It's very similar to Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. The first six books were written by Julie Campbell. The rest of the series was written by various authors, under the pen name Kathryn Kenny. The first four books were reprinted about 10 years ago. The rest of the series is OOP. I found this book available online as a scan from OpenLibrary. They use Internet Archive to make available many OOP books. They also list ebooks available from Project Gutenberg and list publication information for any print books that are available. Some of the scans you can read online (several formats including pdf and mobi are available) and others you can borrow for a set period of time, just like a lending library. The site follows copyright laws. Only OOP books in public domain are available for download. Sign up for a free OpenLibrary account here: https://openlibrary.org/  It is a fabulous resource for finding older books that just aren't available any more! They have quite a few of the Trixie Belden books! 

The photo accompanying the review is from the 1980s reprints of the books. I chose the picture because that's the version I owned as a girl. :) 

Monday, September 25, 2017

REVIEW: Trixie Belden and the Gatehouse Mystery

Trixie Belden and The Gatehouse Mystery
Author: Julie Campbell

Trixie Belden is a teen amateur sleuth. She lives in Sleepyside, NY with her family. Her best friend, Honey Wheeler, and Honey's adopted brother, Jim Frayne, live at the large estate next door. Mysteries always seem to come their way. The series is similar to Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. There are 39 books in the series, written between 1948 and 1986. The original six books were written by Julie Campbell. The rest of the series was written by various authors, using the pen name Kathryn Kenny.

This was my absolute favorite book series when I was a kid. I had the entire series. Every holiday, birthday, or special event usually brought me new books and I remember being incredibly happy when several new books came out in the 80s. Before leaving for college, I sold the entire series to a mom who had two middle school age
girls at home. I hope they loved the books as much as I did! The first four books were re-released a few years ago, but the rest are OOP. Luckily, I found scans of many of the books on OpenLibrary, so I'm going to re-read as much of the old series as I can find! Revisiting my old Sleepyside buddies as an adult has given me some mixed emotions, but all things considered I'm enjoying it.

The Gatehouse Mystery is the third book in the series. Honey and Trixie are out walking and stop by the old Gatehouse on the Wheeler estate. The old building is overgrown with vines and neglected. They are shocked when they find a diamond in the old gatehouse wedged between two floorboards. Then they hear someone lurking in the bushes listening to their conversation. Who hid the diamond on the Wheeler estate? And are they in danger after finding it? Honey and Trixie know they need to discover the truth before the criminals attempt to recover the valuable stone.

As a young girl, I loved reading about Trixie and her friends' adventuring. I spent many an afternoon laying across my bed reading about their exploits. I sympathized with Trixie's occasional annoyance at her little 6-year old brother. My young nephew was a pain in the butt sometimes too when I was 11 or so -- he's 38 years old now -- and I often had to babysit him much to my chagrin. I also remember laughing at the constant teasing between the siblings and friends in the books. :) I ran around with the neighbor kids back in the day myself and I think every one of us had a creative nickname, mostly insulting stuff. I fell in the creek once and got called wethead for a few weeks. So I liked reading about the teasing among the characters. It made the group seem a lot like my own gang of friends. At the time, I did notice that the wording and situations were a bit dated, but I didn't care. As an adult, I had a few problems re-reading this book. For example, the use of the word "squaw' as an insult. One of Trixie's brothers uses that name to tease the girls. It might have been acceptable back when the original six books were written, but it's pretty much seen as racist and derogatory now. I cringed a bit each time Mart teased his sister about being a " lazy squaw'' who should bring him food, and do her chores faster. It was meant as good natured teasing between siblings in the story,  but it did bother the adult me. I have seen a few negative comments in reviews of the Trixie Belden series because the dad goes off to work and the mom takes care of the house, home chores, canning food, gardening, etc. I didn't see it as a negative when I originally read the books, or now. It's not sexist. For many families, that's how life was during that time period. I don't see it as belittling of the mom in the stories. The kids and the dad constantly talk about how awesome she is for being such a good cook, mom, gardener, and home maker. What's wrong with that? She gets way more praise and attention than the dad, who gets mentioned only rarely. A reader has to remember that these books are set in the 1950s. It was a much different world back then. I like the fact that the kids all have chores to do each day to help out, and for the most part they obey and respect their parents. The mysteries are a lot like those from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys....unusual events, mysterious strangers, hidden treasures, etc instead of murders or anything too gruesome.

So, despite the fact that I read the stories with a much older outlook than when I was a teenager, I'm still enjoying reading my way through this series again. I enjoy the dated language for the most part. When there is a word or phrase I find a bit offensive, I have to remind myself that the series is 60+ years old, and take things in the spirit in which it was originally meant.

The Gatehouse Mystery is one of the Trixie Belden books that was re-released. I read an ebook copy using OverDrive through my local public library. I'm finding most of the OOP books in this series on OpenLibrary. They have many scans of OOP books available through Internet Archive. Register for an account here: https://openlibrary.org/ They provide links to books from Project Gutenberg, OpenLibrary scans, and publication information when print books are available. Everything is done with respect to copyright laws. All scanned materials and downloadable ebooks are in the public domain, or available to borrow and read online for a set time, just like a lending library. It's a great resource!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

REVIEW: The Mountain Between Us

The Mountain Between Us
Author: Charles Martin

I had never heard of this book until I saw a trailer for the movie that will be out soon. The concept sounded interesting, so I put a copy on hold at the library. I picked it up this afternoon and started reading. I couldn't put it down until the last page! Great book!

Ashley Knox and Ben Payne are both waiting for a plane out of Salt Lake City when an incoming snowstorm shuts the airport. Ashley needs to get home because she's getting married and Ben has surgeries to perform. Thinking a charter flight can beat the storm and get them to Denver, Payne hires the pilot of a small prop plane, offering Ashley a ride. Mid-flight the pilot has a heart attack, but manages to control the descent of the plane at least enough to save Ashley and Ben's lives. But they are injured and stranded miles from anywhere on the side of a mountain, just the two of them and the pilot's small dog. Over the next 28 days they struggle to reach civilization and medical treatment, knowing that one mistake could mean they both die. As they struggle to survive, both learn some very important lessons about life, forgiveness and love.

I can't believe I read this book in one sitting. I literally could not put it down. I love to read, but it's a rare event when I find a story that engrosses me so much that I don't want to stop reading. I even read while eating dinner tonight and I never do that. I was so into the story that I could have been eating my napkin and wouldn't have even noticed.

I love adventure stories, and there is plenty of adventure and struggle for survival in this story, but also a lot of emotion, healing and growth for the characters. Ashley learns that "settling'' is not really finding freedom or happiness. And Ben works through his past mistakes and discovers he has to forgive himself for them. Just a nice, "feel good'' sort of story that has some adventure built in and never gets too "sappy.'' This is as close to chick lit as I will ever get.....the outdoor adventure part of the plot made me not mind the emotional parts of the story.

To find out more about Author Charles Martin, check out his website: http://charlesmartinbooks.com/books/the_mountain_between_us#.Wbsw5siGOM8  The movie version (starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba) releases on October 6, 2017. I'm glad I read the book before the movie comes out.....I hope that they stick to the story Martin wrote. Sometimes movie versions are so disappointing. I'm hoping this one is awesome!



Saturday, September 23, 2017

REVIEW: Elementary, She Read

Elementary, She Read
Author: Vicki Delany

Gemma Doyle is English, but has moved to West London, MA to help her Great Uncle Arthur run his bookstore and emporium. The shop is located at 222 Baker Street and sells all things Sherlock Holmes -- everything ranging from books and magazines to busts and movie posters. Right next door, Gemma's best friend Jayne has a tea shop, Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room. Gemma loves everything about her new home, except maybe the shop cat, Moriarty, who doesn't seem to like her one bit.

I am a BIG Sherlock Holmes fan, so I knew from the start that I would enjoy this book series. I am however struggling under the Mount Everest of TBR piles....and it took me awhile to dig down to this gem. I wanted to wait to read this one until I had time to savor and enjoy it, rather than reading quickly to move on to another book. Finally, with the second book coming out this month, I spent two lovely days reading this book. I'm glad I waited.....and curled up on the sofa with a nice cup of tea to start this series.

The Basics: Gemma is a very observant person, and a bit.....impulsive. Both traits have gotten her into trouble in the past. This time, a tour group is visiting her store and the tea room next door. As they are shopping and picking out Sherlock goodies after having tea, Gemma notices a strange woman come into the shop. Later, she spies what appears to be a priceless Sherlock magazine from 1887 on the shelf -- it isn't anything she has in stock at the shop. In fact, a perfect copy of this particular issue is worth six figures.....a lot above the price range of items sold in the store. Gemma tracks down the strange woman, deducing what hotel she is staying in. Jayne and Gemma go there hoping to talk to her and return the priceless item, only to find the woman murdered in her room. Things go downhill from there....Gemma's inquisitive and observant nature takes over and she jumps into investigating the killing. While she does make progress, she also makes herself a suspect.  When the body count rises, Gemma digs herself in deeper and deeper.....    How can she discover the murderer without incriminating herself further? The game is afoot!!

I love this book! As a big Sherlock fan, the theme made me extremely happy before I even cracked it open. I like the characters and I found the mystery engaging and fun. The side characters help round out the plot, and I even love the feisty Moriarty (who loves everyone but Gemma, apparently, much to her chagrin).

I do have two things to say.....       Jayne has the patience of a saint where Gemma is concerned. Oh dear lord, if I had a friend who got me in as much serious hot water as Gemma drags Jayne into.....I would be looking for a new friend. ha ha :) I kept thinking that every time Gemma went into investigation mode, dragging poor Jayne along for the ride. Definitely reminded me of a few cases where Dr. Watson had a less than stellar time as Sherlock's trusty sidekick.   And, how can someone as observant and intelligent as Gemma do so many dumb things? She forgets to call an employee about working an extra shift for an event ..... leaving Jayne to fix her mistake. She makes herself a murder suspect by getting into situations (usually involving a dead body) that would have best been avoided.  But......really.....despite finding myself talking to the character while reading ("Oh for heaven's sake Gemma...really???? Poor Jayne!") this quirk of hers is what makes this story so much fun to read.  So, despite more than one facepalm moment, I enjoy Gemma as a main character and I will definitely read more of this series!

The mystery is nicely paced with several viable suspects. The ending caught me by surprise....which I like! I'm very happy that I have book two, A Body on Baker Street, waiting in the wings for me to enjoy right away! :) Elementary, She Read is definitely a great start for this new series! On to book two!

Vicki Delany also writes under the pseudonym Eva Gates. To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website: http://vickidelany.com/

Friday, September 22, 2017

REVIEW: Trixie Belden - The Red Trailer Mystery

Trixie Belden: The Red Trailer Mystery
Author: Julie Campbell

The Trixie Belden series is about a group of teen sleuths who investigate mysteries around their hometown of Sleepyside, NY. Trixie Belden lives on a farm with her brothers and parents. Her bestie, Honey Wheeler, lives nearby at a manor house with her wealthy parents. They have great adventures together. The series was written from 1948-1986.  The first six books were written by Julie Campbell. The rest of the series was written by multiple authors all under the penname Kathryn Kenny. The series is similar to Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys.

I loved the Trixie Belden series when I was in middle school back in the '80s. I received a couple books for every holiday and special event until I had the entire series. :) When I noticed that a few of the titles had been re-printed, I wanted to read the series again. I was a bit worried at first because I wasn't sure if I would enjoy re-reading them as an adult, and I didn't want to ruin my happy memories of reading about Trixie's adventures with her friends, Honey and Jim. After reading the first two books again, I'm glad that I decided to revist Sleepyside. The stories are a bit dated, but still so much fun to read!

The second book, The Red Trailer Mystery, is a continuation of the story from book one. Honey and Trixie have made a new friend, Jim Frayne. He came looking for his uncle, only to find out that the old man had passed away in the hospital. Jim runs away at the end of book one, fearing that his mean, abusive step-father is coming to take him away. He never finds out that he has inherited a lot of money from his uncle. In the second book Trixie and Honey, along with Honey's Governess Miss Trask, pack up the Wheeler family travel trailer to go find Jim. The boy expressed interest in finding a camp counselor's job at one of the nearby campgrounds, so they hit the road to find him and bring him home. Along the way, they discover a band of thieves who are stealing trailers and property from travelers. The girls end up in some hot water when the bad guys catch them following them to get proof to take to the police.

This book seems a bit simple and dated to the adult-me, but I still enjoyed it just as much as I did when I was 12. Maybe more for simple nostalgia than the actual story.  It was a fun afternoon read, and I'm looking forward to reading more of this series. Only a few of the books were re-printed so I'm going to have to do some hunting to find the complete series to read, but locating all the books will be part of the fun of re-visiting this series.

I always preferred Trixie Belden over Nancy Drew. I'm not sure why. I think I will re-read some Nancy Drew books as well and compare the two. Maybe I can come up with a reason why I loved Trixie and was more meh about Nancy.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

REVIEW: The Haunting of Rachel Harroway - The Beginning

The Haunting of Rachel Harroway - The Beginning
Author: J. S. Donovan

I love a good ghost story. When I saw the cover for this ebook and read the description, I knew I needed to read it. I'm glad I did! I thoroughly enjoyed this spooky read!

In this short introduction to the Rachel Harroway series, Rachel and her husband Brett move to Highlands, NC and purchase an old Victorian house. The Hadley House, built in the 1890s, has seen better days, but Rachel looks forward to restoring the old home with her husband. After moving in, strange things start happening in the house. Rachel does some research and learns that a family was murdered in the house in the early 1980s. When their ghosts start appearing to her, calling for her to find their killers, Rachel realizes she needs to investigate the murders to keep from losing her mind.

There are some editing errors in this book -- just small ones -- some grammar mistakes and little things that caught my attention, but only for a second or two. The story is much more interesting than nit-picking for minor grammar errors. This story of a haunting isn't anything new.....spirits wanting closure or justice is a pretty standard haunting theme. But, the story is well-written and suspenseful, building to an awesome, exciting ending. The story kept my attention to the very end. So, it doesn't matter that it isn't a new spin on the ghost theme -- it's a well-told story that has me wanting to read more from this author. This prequel to the Rachel Harroway series is a quick read at 123 pages. There are two more books in the series.

J.S. Donovan also writes the kidnapped and EMP series.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

REVIEW: Body on Baker Street

Body on Baker Street
Author: Vicki Delany

Gemma Doyle runs the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium on Baker Street in West London, MA. Her best friend, Jayne, is next door at Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room. In this second book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series, Gemma and Jayne are excited (and stressed) about the last minute visit of famous author Renalta Van Markoff to the shop. Markoff writes the Hudson and Holmes book series. The books are a bit controversial (and definitely non-canon) because Holmes and Mrs. Hudson are lovers, with Mrs. Hudson being the real genius instead of Sherlock. With only a day or so to prepare a huge signing event, Gemma and Jayne are stressed and worried that something will go wrong. And, of course it does. At the signing a local Sherlock fan who hates Markoff's books makes a huge scene, accusing her of disgracing the beloved classic characters. The author gives as much as she gets, and ends up winning the argument......but, then she promptly drops dead. After his huge public fight with the author, Donald Morris is immediately the number one suspect -- but he swears he didn't do it. Markoff was a difficult person. Gemma and Jayne have no limit on suspects who might have wanted her dead. Can they investigate and deduce the truth before Donald faces murder charges?

I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan. So for me, this cozy series by Vicki Delany is just a joy to read. I love the facts and tidbits about Sherlock and Arthur Conan Doyle sprinkled throughout the books. I like Gemma as a main character, and all of the supporting characters are interesting, quirky and delightful. I catch myself wishing the bookshop and tea room were real. I would SO love to have lunch there and browse the shop after! :) The books are a nice mix of mystery and background theme. And there are always enough suspects to keep the reader guessing til the end. Lots of humor, too!

I will definitely be reading more of this series!

Vicki Delany is the author of several mystery series. For more information on her books, check out her website: http://vickidelany.com/

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

REVIEW: Chickadee, Chickadee Bang Bang

Chickadee, Chickadee Bang Bang
Author: J.R. Ripley

Ruby Lake, NC is gearing up for the fall festival car show. The guys in town are all being very secretive about the cars they are entering in the competition, while still bragging up a storm about how their particular car will steal the show. Everyone is curious about Chick Sherman. He's been bragging for years about a car he's been working on in his barn. So far, nobody has ever seen it. Rumors range from Chick's car being some experimental super car to there being no car at all. The whole town is instantly abuzz when he registers for the car show. Amy Simm, owner of the Birds & Bees shop in Ruby Lake, drives to his house one night and her curiousity gets the best of her. Surely Chick won't mind if she takes one little peek into his barn to see if there is actually some super car in there......  She sees something extraordinary, but it's not a car. It's Chick Sherman's dead body. Who killed the town eccentric? And can she discover the killer before anyone else gets hurt?

I really enjoy this series. Amy Simm is a feisty, fun main character. I love the bird theme. The side characters are quirky and interesting. Every book has been a fun read!

I'm not really a hot rod or car show fan. It's not a hobby that interests me. But, I still enjoyed this latest book in the Bird Lover's cozy series. The mystery was engaging and perfectly paced. There were several viable suspects and I wasn't quite sure about the killer until the very end. There is a nice mix of humor, mystery and side theme. It makes for a nice, balanced, enjoyable cozy mystery. Chickadee, Chickadee Bang Bang is the fifth book in the series, but a reader can jump in at this point and enjoy the story without reading the prior books. There is enough explanation of the characters and setting to read this book without starting at the beginning of the series.

The next book in the Bird Lover's Mystery Series, How the Finch Stole Christmas, will be out in November! :) I'm glad I don't have long to wait for the next book in this series!

J.R. Ripley is a pseudonym of the author Glenn Meganck. For more information on the author and his books, check out his website: http://www.glennmeganck.com/

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

REVIEW: Invictus

Invictus
Author: Ryan Graudin

In the far future, time travelers jump back and forth in time to make historic records of important events in history. But some travelers don't have good intentions. They skirt the law and go back in time to steal historic artifacts that disappeared or were otherwise lost, bringing them back to sell to collectors. Farway McCarthy is a perfect time traveler. He was technically born outside of time....his mother was a Recorder (a time traveler who creates records of historic events for posterity) from the year 2354 and his father was a Roman Gladiator from 95 AD.  After failing his final exam to be a recorder, Farway finds himself on a black market ship, stealing historic items from the past. But during a visit to the Titanic as its sinking, the crew meets an unusual girl who will change their lives and show them the truth about time travel and history itself.

This book was amazing! I love time travel stories (total Dr Who junkie), so I was very hopeful that this story would be well-written and enjoyable. I fell in love with all the characters almost immediately, and I got sucked right into the story from the start. The thought of being able to go back and visit the past and rescue historic items lost to time was intriguing, and I liked the idea of nefarious characters who deal in black market stolen history. The characters grow and develop over the course of the story. I was really wondering what the girl who magically appears on the Titanic was up to.....the suspense kept me totally engrossed in the story!

This was a great sci-fi romp through history. I enjoyed every page!

Ryan Graudin is the author of several books. To find out more about the author, check out her webpage: http://www.ryangraudin.com/

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

REVIEW: The Silent Corner

The Silent Corner
Author: Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz books are often hit and miss for me. Sometimes I love them. Other times he seems to repeat things from prior books too much (sentient or talking dogs, for example) and I end up DNF-ing the book. This time, I was pleasantly surprised. The Silent Corner is a Koontz victory for me!

Jane Hawk was an FBI agent before her husband killed himself. While his death is confirmed as a suicide, his behavior and the note he left seems odd to Jane. Very odd. Then she starts noticing a trend -- suicides of people who show no depression or suicidal tendencides previous to killing themselves, and bizarre suicide notes left behind. She quickly discovers that she is on the trail of a conspiracy when she begins to get death threats. Then the FBI puts her on leave. Jane is undeterred. The more threats she receives, the more she realizes she's on the right track. When they threaten to rape and murder her 5-year old son, she knows she has to disappear to protect her little boy. She goes completely off the grid to continue investigating what is making so many people kill themselves. What she discovers is absolutely terrifying.

This story tells a tale of the ultimate evil conspiracy. It's filled with action, suspense and surprises. I like the concept for this new series. Jane Hawk is intelligent, strong, and completely driven to achieve her goal. She uses her FBI training and experience to investigate her husband's death and to remain under the radar despite advanced surveillance methods. The second book, The Whispering Room, is coming out this November. I have a review copy on my TBR. I can't wait to read it!!

Completely and utterly happy that this offering by Koontz is different and not just a supernatural re-visit of plots he has done before. I was not disappointed this time!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

REVIEW: A Christmas Peril

A Christmas Peril
Author: J.A. Hennrikus

Edwina Sullivan, called "Sully'' by her friends, has retired from law enforcement to be the general manager of the Cliffside Theater Company. Most of the time she just deals with the budget, backstage problems, and difficult actors, but this holiday season her worries become a bit more serious. Her best friend Eric is accused of murdering his father. Peter Whitehall was a very important man in town before he was shot to death. So now she is juggling the budget for A Christmas Carol, dealing with a Scrooge with a drinking problem, and investigating a murder.....  It's going to be a perilous Christmas.

This is a promising start to the new A Theater Cop Mystery series. I like Sully as a main character. She has rebuilt her life following the end of her cop career and her marriage. Her love life certainly is complicated. Her ex-husband becomes a suspect during the investigation and all through the book he kept trying to talk to her about something....but never managed it. Then she has other love interests. The ending leaves it all up in the air....maybe the second book will see some things fall into line along those lines. But.....I wasn't reading the book to follow Sully's love life (past or present). The mystery is engaging and nicely paced. I liked the characters and the setting. And, the ending actually caught me by surprise. Nice! I liked it enough to read more books in this series.

I had hoped that the story would be a bit more holiday themed....but it was long on mystery with hints of Christmas, Scrooge and romance. Nice mix, even though I was hoping for a bit more Christmas theme. All in all, a nice read. I look forward to seeing how this new series develops!

J.A. Hennrikus also writes under the name Julianne Holmes (Clock Shop Mysteries). To find out more about the author, check out her website: https://jahennrikus.com/2017/09/10/found-in-the-wild/

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


Saturday, September 16, 2017

REVIEW: Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase

Lockwood & Co.
The Screaming Staircase
Author: Jonathan Stroud

London has been plagued by ghosts for more than half a century. Those with hauntings turn to psychic investigator agencies to help them. Several such agencies operate in London. Lucy Carlyle came to London in hopes of joining a prestigious agency to fight the spirits. But....she ended up at the low end of the industry. Lockwood & Company is the smallest and most beleaguered agency in the city. In fact, the company has one last chance to prove itself, or be defunct. Their last chance is a doozy -- spend the night in one of the most haunted residences in London and come out alive.

Can they do it?

I'm not going to give away much of the plot....no spoilers from me. But I will say the story moves at a steady pace. The action and scares are wonderfully fun. The humor is witty and the characters engaging. This book was just fun to read, especially now that the weather is cooling down and I'm starting to think Halloween-y thoughts. This was a nice book to kick off the fright season. :)

The Screaming Staircase is a great start to the Lockwood & Company series. Witty humor, scary ghosts, and mysteries to solve -- a great mix for a middle grade book series! There are currently four books in the series, with a fifth book, The Empty Grave, coming out soon. My 6th grader wanted to read something scary this Fall leading up to Halloween. I'm definitely steering him towards this series. I think he will love it! Nice mix of humor and scary. :) A fun read for any age....I'm definitely going to read the rest of the series. :)

For more information on author Jonathan Stroud and his books, check out his website: http://www.jonathanstroud.com/

Friday, September 15, 2017

REVIEW: Cat Got Your Secrets

Cat Got Your Secrets
Author: Julie Chase

Lacy Crocker is the proud owner of Furry Godmother, a pet boutique and organic treat bakery, in New Orleans.  Cat Got Your Secrets is the third book in the Kitty Couture Mystery series. This newest installment is centered around Valentine's Day (without being sappy about it, too -- which I loved!) and a National Pet Pageant.

Lacy is on her way to deliver some treats when she sees emergency vehicles at a crime scene. She discovers that one of her father's friends has been murdered. The major problem is that the last person to see Wallace Becker alive was her father.  Lacy knows she has to act fast and investigate Becker's death to prevent her father from being arrested, while juggling her business, serving on the welcoming committee for the pet pageant, and her usual busy life.

Lacy is an enjoyable main character, although a bit spoiled and immature at times. Her mother is incredibly annoying (but the character is meant to come off as utterly impossible). I did find it a bit hard to connect on a personal level with the characters as they are not well developed, which happens sometimes in a fast-paced cozy. I may have had a bit of a disconnect because this is the first book in this series that I've read. I was able to pick up the plot and basic understanding of the characters so that I could enjoy the mystery, but maybe I would feel more connected with these characters if I read the first two books. But, my disconnect might be caused by the fact I don't really find the characters all that likable? They come off as rich and spoiled. But, I was reading the book for the mystery, not to fall in love with the characters. The mystery starts off almost immediately....and kept my attention for the entire book. Great mystery. Slightly annoying characters.

I liked the fast pace, humor, setting, and quirky characters (with the exception of her pushy, annoying mother). There were plenty of suspects, and the mystery is engaging. I enjoyed Cat Got Your Secrets enough to backtrack and read the first two books. Middle of the road rating on this one for me. The mystery kept me reading....but I didn't really care for the characters. If I change my mind after reading the beginning of the series, I will come back and amend this review.

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

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

REVIEW: Death Distilled

Death Distilled
Author: Melinda Mullet

In this newest Whisky Business Mystery, Abi Logan returns to Abbey Glen, the whisky distillery she inherited, after three months away from Scotland. The village of Balfour is still the same...but so is her best friend, Patrick. Abi immediately gets pulled into his latest scheme -- a distillery tour for a group of Japanese businessme. Abi knows distillery manager, Grant, is not going to like this idea and she really dreads the event. Before there can be much bickering about the proposed tour, human remains dating back at least 200 years are discovered outside the local pub, and Abi meets a new local celebrity, former rock star Rory Hendricks. She idolized him as a young girl when he was part of the Rebels, but now she finds herself working with him as his official photographer while investigating a series of threats and attacks on former band members. Rory is the last member of the Rebels left. Spray painted threats, break-ins and other strange events have followed him to Balfour. Who is killing off the Rebels and why?

I really enjoy this series. Abi is a fun main character. She's independent with lots of spunk and ingenuity, but still a little streak of sentimentality. She loves the distillery because it belonged to her uncle. She loves her dog, Liam. And she puts up with her best friend Patrick's shenanigans because she cares about him. So, she's strong, but still human. I laughed out loud in this book when her emotional side led her to bring home eight sheep.....as pets. The villagers just shake their heads and smile. :) (I would have brought the sheep home, too.)

There is more than one mystery in this second book in the series. Abi investigates the history of the village with the new vicar and the local librarian as a side plot, developing more background about Balfour and some of the side characters. So interesting! It didn't take away from the main investigation into Rory Hendricks and the attacks on the Rebels members, but added to the overall flavor of the book. The pace is spot on, and there were plenty of suspects. I wasn't sure who the killer was until the very end. Nice, exciting ending, too! And Oscar the sheep -- great BFF for Liam. :) I am definitely eagerly awaiting the next book in this series!

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

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Random House - Alibi via Netgalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

REVIEW: Asking for Truffle

Asking For Truffle
Author: Dorothy St. James

Charity Penn receives a strange letter in the mail. It states she has won a trip to Camellia, SC to take cooking lessons at the local chocolate shop. Penn knows she didn't enter a contest, and she doesn't know anybody from Camellia. The whole thing seems very strange to her. Penn's friend, Skinny McGee, agrees to stop by the little town and check things out. Her father is wealthy, and although her dealings with his family have never been good, she has frequently been the victim of scams and tricks by people trying to get mits on her father's money. Skinny calls once from the little SC town leaving a message that says that she needs to come down. He has found out who invited her on the trip and why....but before she can contact him, she discovers Skinny has been murdered. His dead body is discovered in the very chocolate shop Penn has been invited to visit. Penn rushes to SC to investigate Skinny's murder, but ends up meeting the two lovely older ladies who run the chocolate shop. She takes the cooking lessons....but soon her sweet visit to Camellia gets even more complicated, troubling....and dangerous.

This book is so much fun to read! From descriptions of chocolate goodies to Stella, the little papillion who bites....just entertaining from beginning to end!! I can't eat chocolate for medical reasons, but I can certainly enjoy reading about it!! Penn's background and feisty, independent personality make her a great MC in this mystery. The side characters are quirky and interesting. The bad guys are adequately horrible. I found a couple characters that I could enjoy hating...but it took me a bit to figure out which one was a murderer and not just a jerk. The plot is nicely paced, with plenty of surprises. There were a few things I figured out pretty quickly....but plenty that I didn't see coming.

For chocolate fans, there are recipes at the back of the book. :) Mmmmmmmm. Cook up something yummy in my honor because I can't have any! :)

The cover art is colorful and just awesome! Cozy mysteries always have the best covers!! Stella doesn't look like she would bite, does she? ha ha. It's the little dogs that are always the most feisty (I have two chihuahuas)! :)

All in all, a great start for a new cozy series! I'm definitely going to read the next book!

Dorothy St. James also writes the White House Gardener series. To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.dorothystjames.com/

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