Tuesday, October 31, 2017

REVIEW: Halloween Carnival Volume 5

Halloween Carnival Volume 5
Authors: Various

Halloween is absolutely my favorite holiday. Monsters, Ghouls, Ghosties, and all creepy things that go bump in the night! Bring 'em on!!

Halloween Carnival Volume 5 is the last in a series of 5 horror short story collections from Random House. The volumes will release -- one every week -- throughout the month of October. Love the covers! Love the variety of stories! Great way to scream your way to the holiday this year!

Volume 5, which releases on Halloween Day Oct 31st, contains five horrific tales. These tales are subtle, a smooth, slow build of uneasiness that morphs into horror just before the end. A slow ride....to hell. I prefer that type of horror story to the more in-your-face, spurting blood, b-movie sort.

Devil's Night by Richard Chizmar. Everyone has heard the news stories about the man who fought off a killer. But, nobody knows the whole story.  A nice creepy read that builds slowly before smacking you in the face with the truth. Great read!

The Last Dare by Lisa Tuttle.  Lane returns to her hometown to visit with her daughter and grand-daughter. She happens to meet Bobbi, her childhood best friend. They reminisce about all sorts of things, even the time Bobbi dared Lane to go into the Tower House.  Lane discovers that while her childhood home has been torn down, the old Tower still stands. And it's just as dangerous as it was in the 1950s. Dare to go in? Lovely creepy story. Every town has that One House -- the abandoned one nobody wants to enter. Probably for good reason.

The Halloween Bleed (A Dr. Sibley Curiosity) by Norman Prentiss. One really should not assume that evil and magic only come out on Halloween. Real magic can pop up anywhere at anytime....especially when it's a surprise. This is hands down my favorite story from this collection! Awesome ending!

Swing by Kevin Quigley. Swing music brings memories of Jessica to him. He remembers her dancing. He remembers her dying. But then again, everyone he loves dies. And he falls in love all the time. This is an odd, but mesmerizing, bit of creepiness. Definitely a twisted love story. After all, there are all different types of love. Right?

Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub. A famous Jazz musician recounts a tale from his childhood. But some tales are best kept secret. This story fell a bit flat for me....maybe because it develops slowly? I'm not sure exactly...but it was my least favorite of the 5. Worth a read....but not scary/horrific. More disturbing than frightening.

All in all, this is a Halloween anthology worth reading! The tales are not screaming, wild, ripper tales but more subtle in their horror. The sort of story that sneaks up on you, rather than chases you down the lane. I think the release of one story anthology a week throughout the month of October is an awesome way to lead up to Halloween! And the ebooks are affordable! Excellent short stories at a price any reader can afford. Although some readers might have to take a glance behind to see if something is following them, the stories aren't so frightening to give sleepless nights and vivid nightmares.

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

REVIEW: Rosemary, The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Rosemary, The Hidden Kennedy Daughter
Author: Kate Clifford Larson

Rosemary Kennedy, the third child of Joe & Rose Kennedy, was born in 1918. The doctor was late in coming to the home birth, and a nurse instructed Rose to hold her legs together and not push, to delay the baby's arrival til the doctor could get there. This delay deprived Rosemary of oxygen, leaving her learning disabled and mentally challenged. The Kennedy family was wealthy and powerful. In that day and age, having a retarded or mentally ill family member was a stigma, an embarrassment that the Kennedy family did not want. Rosemary's mental challenges were kept a secret. She was moved from school to school for decades as her parents searched for a way to make her seem "normal.'' When it finally was realized that Rosemary would never reach the intelligence and poise of her siblings, her father made a chilling decision. He had Rosemary lobotomized. She lived the rest of her life tucked away in an institution in Wisconsin. Her personality and character almost completely erased. Rose Kennedy publicly stated that an "accident'' had rendered her daughter mentally incapacitated. The truth would not be revealed for decades.

I listened to the audiobook version of this biography by Kate Clifford Larson. Larson gives background on the parents, the family, and the competitive, demanding lifestyle of the Kennedy clan. Rosemary just didn't fit into the family, causing frustration for her parents and siblings. Decades were spent trying to "fix'' her, rather than help her live within her capabilities.

As a mother, this book was hard for me to take. I am so glad that I didn't grow up in an age where families hid children who weren't perfect and where there were no services or assistance to help them grow into functioning adults. And I was shocked that Joe Kennedy would choose to have his daughter lobotomized to keep her from embarrassing the family. What a horrific and terrible choice! Then he hid her away in an institution in the midwest and never saw her again. Wow -- how cold and callous. The political aspirations of his sons were more important than the life of his mentally challenged daughter....so he had her lobotomized. For 20 years nobody in the family asked where Rosemary was or attempted to visit her because Joe had complete control over his family. When he died, Rose and the family visited Rosemary and even brought her home for visits. Rose tried to say that she didn't realize what was done to Rosemary, but documents have since proven that was not the case.

Some good did come from the events though. The Kennedy family, especially Eunice Shriver, backed many important programs for special education, including the Special Olympics. In later years, the Kennedy siblings did admit that they had a retarded sister and that the care and quality of life for those with mental challenges should be a priority.

Rose Marie "Rosemary'' Kennedy died in the Wisconsin institution in 2005 at the age of 85.

This book does a great job of presenting facts about Rosemary's life, before and after her surgery. It details what the family did to educate and try to accommodate Rosemary's limitations and mood swings. Larson doesn't pull punches about how mental illness, retardation and physical deformities were considered a stigma, something to be hidden away. The concept of Eugenics was big at the time, and declared that any abnormalities were due to genetic inferiority. The Kennedy Clan kept Rosemary a secret to prevent any damage to the family's social standing. They weren't the only wealthy, powerful family to do so -- the practice was common. So sad. But later efforts by the Kennedy family paved the way for education programs, social services and much better care for mentally and physically challenged children and adults. I'm glad that some good came from the situation in the end. And, Rosemary was very well treated and loved by the nuns at the Wisconsin institution where she lived out the rest of her life.

The audiobook is narrated by Bernadette Dunne. She reads at a nice pace. Her voice is pleasant and easily understood. I have partial hearing loss, but was able to easily understand Dunne's reading. The audiobook is almost 8 hours in length.

Kate Clifford Larson presents a well-rounded history of Rosemary, and the Kennedy Family's attempts to help her. She gives details both from Rosemary's point of view and the family's. She also includes historical facts and the era's attitudes towards the mentally challenged to explain why certain decisions were made, not to excuse those choices. The book is very well researched and written, but disturbing.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

REVIEW: Wayne and Ford

Wayne and Ford
Author: Nancy Schoenberger

Over the span of more than 20 years, John Wayne and John Ford made 14 movies together. Most were westerns, and all of them featured Wayne as a tough but kind heroically masculine figure. A man's man. One of my all-time favorite movies -- The Quiet Man -- is a classic Wayne and Ford movie.

In Wayne and Ford, Nancy Schoenberger presents interesting facts and background on both men, touching on their careers, personal life, health and relationships. I was surprised to learn that it took John Wayne more than 10 years to achieve success as a leading actor. He made a lot of B westerns and serials before finally being cast in more major roles.  Ford made a wide variety of movies ranging from military films to academy award winning drama Grapes of Wrath. But Schoenberger points out that Ford always returned to what he loved best -- films for men about being men. Ford loved making westerns despite knowing he would never win awards for them. Ford was passionate about his work, often pushing actors and crew to the breaking point. Schoenberger doesn't try to hide the volatility of Ford's personality. She shares tales of his temper, physical altercations with actors (he even punched Maureen O'Hara in the face for no reason! yikes!), and his sometimes ridiculous expectations.

Each film that Ford and Wayne made together is featured in the book with information on plot, casting and behind-the-scenes facts. I found this information very interesting! There are lots of photos from the movies as well.

My husband is a huge western fan. Movies, television, books ..... if it's set in the Old West, he loves it. Every Christmas I buy him a special western-themed gift. The last few years it's been Gunsmoke memorabilia, but this year I decided on books.  I bought him a copy of Tom Clavin's recent book about Dodge City, and also preordered a copy of Wayne and Ford because I know he will absolutely love this book!

After reading this book, I plan to re-watch all of the films that these two cinema legends made together. It's an awesome list of great, classic films! I've seen them all before but now that I know more background details on each film, I know I will enjoy seeing them all again. I can't wait for my husband to get his copy of this book because I know he will enjoy it even more than I did!

This is definitely a great book for any western movie fan! Wayne and Ford is set for release from Doubleday Books in October 2017.

Nancy Schoenberger is the author of several other books including Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and the Marriage of the Century.

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

REVIEW: Full Curl

Full Curl
Author: Dave Butler

Banff National Park Warden Jenny Willson is outraged when someone begins hunting animals illegally in the park. First a huge elk is discovered shot, skinned, and antlers removed, left to rot. More animals follow. As she investigates the crimes, she comes up against government bureaucracy, reluctant local officials, and international jurisdiction issues. When the crimes escalate to include drug trafficking and murder, she knows law enforcement needs to move quickly to track down the local guides and hunters behind the poaching.

It isn't often that a book makes me angry. But this one did. Hunting is one thing, but killing protected animals within a park for trophies is reprehensible. Cutting off horns, antlers, etc and then leaving the meat to rot....ohhhhh.....very angry feelings. Very. Angry.  I had to read a few chapters....then put the book down and watch a sitcom episode or two to calm down. I was never more happy to get to the part where the bastard criminals are caught and get what's coming to them than in this book!!!!

My feelings about poachers and trophy hunters aside, Full Curl is very well-written and suspenseful. I have to admit I was first drawn to this book by the unusual front cover.....and then by the plot outline. As a suspense/crime thriller, this book is different, focusing on park wardens and illegal poaching in a Canadian national park, rather than the usual police procedural fare. Unusual theme -- and utterly enjoyable (yet maddening!) story! When a book elicits an emotional response, it's good story craft! And this book definitely got me going!

Jenny Willson is a strong, intelligent and driven main character. So glad to see a female law enforcement officer depicted as skilled, respected and, frankly, ruthless. She kicked some ass! Great female MC!

The pace of the story was perfect, keeping the suspense going until the end. The characters are believable and not over-done. All in all, a very enjoyable crime thriller.

Full Curl is Dave Butler's debut novel and the first book in the new Jenny Willson series. So glad there will be more books to come! I will definitely be reading more! For more information on the author, check out his website: http://www.davebutlerwriting.com/

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

REVIEW: Halloween Carnival Volume 4

Halloween Carnival Volume 4
Authors: Various

Hydra (Random House) is ringing in the Halloween season this year with a series of five short story anthologies. One ebook will be released each week in October, with the last coming out on Halloween, Oct 31st.

Each ebook contains five stories with a Halloween theme. These are not jump scare, spurting blood, serial killer chasing people down the street sort of stories. They are more literary horror.....the type you read with your imagination turned up to 11 to feel the atmosphere, hear the screams.....

Volume 4 features:

The Mannequin Challenge - Kealan Patrick Burke. Theo decides to attend his office Halloween party, despite his social awkwardness. But, unfortunately, he finds out he really doesn't fit in. This story is bizarre, yet satisfying. Haven't we all been in a social situation where we felt totally out of place and uncomfortable? However, Theo's way of dealing with his emotions is a bit strange....   Nice creepy opening for this anthology.

Across the Tracks - Ray Garton.  Kenny and his friends know the rich side of town has the better Halloween candy, but unfortunately it also has the school bully and his cronies. The boys learn quickly that there are worse things than bullies....    An interesting story with a nice creepy Halloween atmosphere, but, for me, the ending could have been a bit better. It seemed too abrupt.

The Halloween Tree - Bev Vincent.  It always beneficial to have good friends -- buddies who always have your back. Even when it comes to seriously scary things. This story has the Stranger Things/Goonies/ET feel to it for me -- the group of kids who are friends through thick, thin and deadly. Great story! My favorite in this anthology!

Pumpkin Eater - C.A. Suleiman.  Peter loves Halloween and DIY projects just about as much as he hates his wife. So why not combine all that together? Halloween decorations definitely take on a sinister feel in this story. This was was just ok for me....a good story, but probably my least favorite of the bunch.

When the Leaves Fall - Paul Melniczek.  The boys were warned to stay away from Graver's Farm. They should have listened. Great story! Nice creepy build up....great ending.  As a teen, I probably would have been tempted to go down that dirt road too.....just to see if the stories were true. Unwise.

I like the more subtle atmosphere of literary horror. For me, it's more frightening to let my imagination grab ahold of the story and pull me into it....rather than having basic violence and more in-your-face frightening acts be the only scary features. I like horror to sneak up on me slowly....like the frog sitting in a pot of water not knowing the heat is turning up on the stove burner below it. These are well-written creepy stories that are bound to get readers in the mood for Halloween. :) And I definitely like the idea of a new volume releasing each week during the month of October.

Halloween Carnival Volume 4 will be available October 24th, 2017.

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

REVIEW: A Plague of Giants

A Plague of Giants
Author: Kevin Hearne

I am a huge fan of Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series. When I heard he was starting a new high fantasy series, I was so excited! I totally jumped at the chance to get my hands on an advanced reader copy of this book. I cleared my schedule and spent two days just devouring this book.....total binge reading!

Sometimes when a favorite author goes in a totally new direction, it's a hard change. There have been times that I was so engrossed in a series that ended after multiple books that I just needed a break from that author, or was just unable to make the transition to a new, different series. As a big Iron Druid fan, it took me a day or two after I got the digital ARC for this book to build up the courage to start reading. But once I started....I couldn't stop.

Wow! I loved this book! It is totally different from Iron Druid -- don't expect it to be similar in any way.  Best to approach this series as something totally new.

Hearne creates a world filled with magic that is invaded by giants. The tale of the war and the aftermath of battles is told by a bard, Fintan. Over the space of 19 days, Fintan tells the story of the Giants invasion, taking on the appearance of different leaders, victims and heroes as he does so. His storytelling is magical and mesmerizing.

Usually I am not a fan of multiple, changing points of view, but Hearne weaves his story well and this time, it worked. The story of invaders, death, fear, destroyed cities, victory and defeat.....all of the many aspects of war....... really worked well with the changing points of view and Fintan morphing into one character after another during his performances in the City of Pelemyn.

This book is high fantasy. Hearne delivers a detailed, exquisite world ravaged by war, yet where there is still hope for humankind. I'm not going to divulge much about the plot because each reader needs to have the story unfold for themselves. For me, I could see each scene playing in my head like a movie for the imagination. My favorite character, hands down, is the tidal mariner. Her duty is to protect the city's port. She glides through the water looking for trouble, and when she finds it, she can magically manipulate water. Her kenning comes at a price (as for all who wield magic in this world). The more magic she uses, the faster she ages. She might go in the water in her mid 30's, but come out much older.

All in all, a beautifully complex and engaging fantasy tale! I can't wait for more books in this series! I want to know what happens next! A Plague of Giants is the first book in a trilogy, The Seven Kennings. The other books in the series will be titled A Blight of Blackwings and A Curse of Krakens.

The cover art for this first book in the trilogy is supremely awesome!

With the final book in the Iron Druid series slated to come out in 2018, I wondered what fantasy series could possibly fill the void left in my fantasy genre reading. I think I've found it. The fact that it's also written by Hearne makes it perfect. The Seven Kennings is totally different from The Iron Druid, but magical and mesmerizing!

For more information on Kevin Hearne and his books, check out his website: https://kevinhearne.com/

Saturday, October 21, 2017

REVIEW: The Skeleton Paints a Picture

The Skeleton Paints a Picture
Author: Leigh Perry

When I heard earlier this year that the Family Skeleton Mystery series was one of many cozy mystery series being cancelled by a large publisher, I was afraid that I wouldn't get to read more about Dr. Georgia Thackery and her rather bony friend, Sid. I was so happy when this series was picked up by a new publisher! I think it's the mixture of humor, great mystery and creativity that keeps me coming back for more Georgia and Sid! Sure, the idea of a girl growing up with a walking, talking skeleton as a friend is far-fetched, but it makes for a great cozy mystery series!

The Skeleton Paints a Picture is the 4th book in the series. The Basics: Georgia has a new position as an adjunct professor at an art college. Sid misses his bestie (he lives in the house owned by Georgia's parents), so he packs himself into a box and mails himself to Georgia. While this does complicate things for her a bit (she has to keep him hidden from other people because....well....how do you explain that your best friend is a skeleton that walks and talks?), she is glad to see Sid. Things in her new home of Falstone, MA are just a bit lonely for her. New job. New people. New everything. But the very night Sid shows up on her doorstep, something bad happens. Sid gets a bit restless so he goes out for a late night walk in the snow. Georgia's house is back from the road and well hidden by trees. So Sid figures if he puts on clothing to cover his bones that he can take a walk at that late hour without being seen. What he doesn't figure on is seeing a wrecked car down an embankment. He rushes back to the house and wakes Georgia. They find a dead woman laying in the snow. Later, Georgia finds out that it's not just any dead woman......the woman worked at the same art college where she teaches. Things get complicated pretty quickly. The police start investigating the death of Kelly Griffith, who ran the writing lab at the art college. Turns out her death wasn't an accident. So not only are the adjunct professors all vying for one tenured position, but one of them might be a murderer. Georgia and Sid are on the case again to find out who wanted Kelly dead.

Another enjoyable book in this series! The mystery is perfectly paced, with plenty of humor, investigation and college professor drama. Sid and Georgia make a great team. The cast of side characters is mostly different since Georgia took the new job at the art school. The drama involved in being an adjunct is still the same though.....competing for tenure, constant staff changes and frenemy relationships.

This is one of my favorite cozy mystery series, and I'm so glad that it got picked up by a new publisher! Sid lives! :) And this is a great new addition to the series! I can't wait for the next book!

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

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

REVIEW: Death Overdue

Death Overdue
Author: Allison Brook

Carrie Singleton is a free spirit. She doesn't stay in one place too long. She likes her freedom. But, then she gets offered the job as head of programs and events at the library in Clover Ridge, CT. It's a better paying and more permanent job than she has ever had before. She not only discovers that the job is a bit hectic, but that the library has its own resident ghost. Things get out of hand for Carrie immediately. Her first event is a presentation by a retired local police detective. Al Buckley claims he has new information about a decades old local murder case. But, before he can reveal the new evidence....he drops dead. Right in the middle of the library. Carrie feels a bit guilty because Al was poisoned at her library event, so she decides to investigate not only the death of Al Buckley, but the old murder case of Laura Foster as well.

I loved this book! Not only because of the haunted library theme -- perfect for an October release! But also because I just enjoyed the characters, the plot and the premise for this new series. Carrie is a strong and intelligent woman who loves her freedom but also realizes that being an adult requires....adulting. The ghost of a former librarian is a hoot -- and a helpful side character that is woven into the plot. Nicely done! And I got sucked right into the story from the beginning. Poor Carrie -- her first event at her new job and the speaker drops dead. Not only that but there is a bit of job tension, jealousy and funny goings-on at the Clover Ridge Library. I had to keep reading to find out if Carrie survived both her promotion, all the adulting, and her amateur sleuthing. :) A great mix of mild spookiness, humor and mystery. Great start to a new series!

The mystery moved along at a nice pace with a nicely complex plot. There were several situations going on with multiple suspects. It was a well-written,enjoyable read!

As with most cozy mysteries, the cover art for this book is supremely awesome. :) Definitely eye-catching!

I will definitely be awaiting new books in this series! Allison Brook is a pen-name for author Marilyn Levinson. For more information on the author and her other books, check out her website: http://www.marilynlevinson.com/

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Crooked Lane via NetGalley. I also won a print ARC from Goodreads. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

Friday, October 20, 2017

REVIEW: Dark Matter

Dark Matter
Author: Blake Crouch

Jason Dessen is married. He and his wife have a teenage son. He teaches college. His life is happy for the most part, although he sometimes looks back and feels a bit of regret about decisions he made. Those regrets that all adults feel sometimes. The What-Ifs.

Then one night on the way home from congratulating a colleague for winning an award, he purchases ice cream and heads home to dinner with his family.  And this is where his life takes a drastic turn -- he will never make it home to dinner. A stranger kidnaps him, and asks him a strange question.....

Are you happy with your life?

Jason Dessen lies unconscious after the strange attack. When he wakes up, he realizes his life will never be the same again. Nothing will be the same.

Wow.......Blake Crouch has totally blown my mind. Again.

I listened to the audiobook version of Dark Matter. It had me hooked immediately. The idea of the multiverse is just mind-numbingly interesting to me. And it made this story creepily suspenseful and terrifying. Usually when I'm listening to an audiobook I have to backtrack multiple times and re-listen to sections because my attention wandered and I missed part of the story. I didn't have to do that a single time with his particular book -- the story grabbed my attention and I wanted to hear every word. I used all the spare moments I could find. I listened when I took the dog out to do her business. I listened while driving and while waiting in car line at my son's school. I listened while doing the dishes and cooking meals. I listened while in the bath tub. And I even listened for a few minutes each night before going to sleep. No backtracking....this was 8 hours of completely enjoyable listening for me. Perfect book for cool October nights......a creepy thrill ride.

The audiobook version is narrated by Jon Lindstrom. I have partial hearing loss which can sometimes be an issue when it comes to understanding audiobooks. Lindstrom's voice, reading pace and tone are perfect. I had no problem hearing and understanding him. The book runs just over 10 hours. It took me about a week to finish it because I don't binge-listen. :)

I totally recommend this book to readers who enjoy sci-fi, thrillers and suspense! I don't often give 5 star ratings to books, but this one earns a perfect score from me.

For more information on Blake Crouch and his books,check out his website: http://www.blakecrouch.com/

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

REVIEW: The Twelve Slays of Christmas

The Twelve Slays of Christmas
Author: Jacqueline Frost

Holly White returns to Mistletoe, Maine after her fiance breaks off their engagement for a younger woman he met at the gym. The family business, Reindeer Games Christmas Tree Farm, is just what she needs to help put her life, and heart, back together. The farm, and town, are gearing up for Christmas. The Twelve Day of Reindeer Games at the farm, plus cookies and hot cocoa, are really packing in the tourists and locals. Everything is holly jolly until the head of the local historical society, Margaret Fenwick, is found beaten to death, her body gruesomely stuffed into the Reindeer Games sleigh display. Unfortunately the owners and staff at the tree farm immediately become suspects because the weapon happens to be a spike used to identify trees on the farm. Holly's father, Bud, was seen arguing with the annoying woman just before her death, making him look guilty. Holly knows her dad is not a killer....so she is on the case to ferret out the murderer!

I love holiday theme cozy mysteries! And I'm pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The background theme of a Christmas tree farm and all the holiday events really added to the plot of the book. The mystery moved along at a great pace with some great amateur sleuthing, several possible suspects, and some surprises along the way. I enjoyed Holly as a main character, she is intelligent and has spunk. The side characters were all believable and well-written. The murdered woman was annoying, but she was meant to be. I have dealt with over zealous historical society people before when I was a reporter.....and they can be incredibly over-the-top and annoying...just like Margaret Fenwick. Luckily, none of the ones I knew were ever murdered. :)

This is Jacqueline Frost's debut novel. I am definitely going to read more in this series! Although it's not even Halloween yet, this book really got my holiday spirit going! Great theme, awesome cover, and a fun read!!

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

REVIEW: Murder on the Toy Town Express

Murder on the Toy Town Express
Author: Barbara Early

Liz McCall runs a vintage toy shop, Well Played, in East Aurora, NY along with her father. The duo have a booth at the Toy and Train Expo. Liz expects the show to be a busy, but enjoyable event. Until she sees an enemy from her past. Her childhood nemesis, Craig McFadden, has a booth for his comic book shop set up right next to them. And Craig is still a jerk. His employee, Maxine, seems very nice and definitely competent, which makes the situation a bit better.

Liz's dad says that he has spotted some rather shady looking people at the expo. Liz thinks it might just be his former law enforcement career making him see criminals in any large crowd.....but strange things start to happen, culminating in Craig taking a swan dive from the cat walk of the expo building into the train display below. Was his fall an accident? Or something more sinister?

I used to own a comic book shop so all the discussion of comics, grading and selling collectibles was enjoyable for me. :) The author did a great job of portraying the collector crowd....and how they behave, or misbehave, at an expo event. The collectibles market can be fickle. People sometimes think they have a high dollar item and get rather upset when you have to tell them it's a reprint or too damaged to be worth anything. All those reality shows that portray people finding gems worth thousands in their attics made everyone believe they had a mint hidden away in their home. :)

I love the idea of a retired police officer running a vintage toy shop with his daughter. The fact that the father still has his cop intuition was a great addition to the character. He notices people in the expo crowd behaving strangely.....and he was right! Liz is a strong, intelligent and determined main character.  All of the side characters are believable and interesting. The toy and comic book background theme didn't overpower the mystery, but added to it. The mystery moved along at a good pace, with plenty of surprises and twists. I did not see the ending coming.....it caught me by surprise. But, it was one of those moments where I had to shake my head and say to myself that I should have seen it coming.....  :) All in all, great cozy mystery!!

Murder on the Toy Town Express is the second book in the Vintage Toy Shop Mystery series. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.barbaraearly.com/

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

Halloween Carnival Volume 3

Halloween Carnival Volume 3
Authors: Various

Halloween Carnival is a series of five ebooks from Hydra (Random House) featuring unique and creepy short stories. One volume will be released each week in October 2017, with the last coming out on Halloween.

Halloween is my favorite holiday, so I'm loving these story collections!! The cover art is fantastic & the stories are deliciously varied and creeptastic!

Each volume features five Halloween theme stories. In Volume 3:

The Way Lost - Kelley Armstrong. Every year on Halloween a kid in Franklin disappears. Dale knows they go into the forest and never come out. But why doesn't anybody ever ask any questions? This tale is delightfully chilling from beginning to end....a great opener for this anthology!

La Calavera - Kate Maruyama. She used to attend the Dia De Los Muertos Festival at Hollywood Cemetery with her friend Jasmine. But this year she's going alone. Or is she? This is an entertaining story. Nice build to a fantastically creepy end!

The Devil's Due - Michael McBride.  Prosperity in Pine Springs, CO comes at a high price that one man isn't prepared to pay. A wickedly cool tale of fear and sacrifice.

A Thousand Rooms of Darkness - Taylor Grant. Anne is afraid. Panic attacks. Phobias. She's especially scared of ghosts and Halloween. Turns out she has a very good reason for being afraid. OMG....this story was great! My favorite of this collection. The creep-o-meter maxxed out on this one for me. Fun, scary read!

The Last Night of October - Greg Chapman. Gerald knows kids should avoid the corner of Blake and Washington Streets and that Halloween is dangerous. He's known that since he was a kid and made a choice. One that comes back to haunt him every Halloween. Great story -- reminds me to always check the peep hole to see who is at the door before I answer it! You never know (especially on Halloween) who or what might be there....wanting in.

Halloween Carnival Volume 3 will release October 17th 2017 from Hydra (Random House). I heartily recommend it for anyone who enjoys horror short stories and Halloween!

Cool Internet Finds - Children's Story record albums

When I was a child, the focal point of my parents' living room was not a television, but the large, highly polished hi-fi. It was the nicest piece of furniture they owned. I was frequently given the chore of polishing the dark, beautiful wood. It was an important chore because the records that we played were our one source of family entertainment. You see, my older brothers had gotten into bad habits -- too much lounging in front of the television -- so, my parents removed TV from our house. I didn't miss it. Other than Sesame Street, I really didn't watch television as a kid. In today's digital age where the internet and video are mainstays, this seems absurd. But in the late 60s/early 1970s, it wasn't that uncommon. Television back then wasn't that great anyway. With an antennae, households could pick up nearby network stations or the newest technology -- cable -- could add in a few more stations. The channel knob on most TVs only had 12 channels or so, plus the UHF spot where you could tune in independent broadcasts. No remotes....if you wanted to change the station, someone had to get up and turn the knob. :) When I started kindergarten (and my brothers were out of the house attending college), my parents relented and bought a television. But for years, record albums were the entertainment for the household. 

The hi-fi was huge. It had 3 fabric covered built-in speakers on each side. Tucked inside the cabinet we had our collection of favorite record albums. They sat in an organized stack next to the turntable and the knobs for tuning the radio. I spent many an evening lounging on a floor pillow doing my homework while listening to music, or one of the many story telling records my mom bought for me. I loved the stories. They were all so well-done.....with lovely music, full casts and sound effects. Rip VanWinkle, Gullivers Travels, Peter & the Wolf, Arabian Nights.....I had so many awesome classic stories to enjoy. I listened to them over and over again. 

At some point, when record albums gave way to cassette tapes.....then CDs.....the record collection disappeared. I have no idea what happened to my parents' hi-fi. I'm sure at some point over the years it stopped working and was removed from the house. I was so busy growing up that I didn't even notice. 

On a whim, I started hunting around on the internet today for the awesome stories from those record albums. I've found many out of print books online, so thought maybe the old vinyl had been preserved as well. 

I was totally excited when I found a page listing MP3 files for many of the albums I remember!

I immediately downloaded my favorite -- Rip VanWinkle (one of the Tale Spinners albums). I listened to this album so many times growing up. :) The MP3 was amazing! It was the story I remember with the awesome full cast, great sound effects and the back ground hiss of vinyl. 

The MP3 files are free to download and enjoy. I'm sure that there are other online collections of old vinyl.....this is just the first site I've found that had the story albums I remember from my childhood. Added to the long list of Old Time Radio podcasts I listen to, I have hours of nostalgia ahead of me! 

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

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**