Sunday, December 31, 2017

It's that time of year again.....bye bye 2017!

New Years Eve. It's that time of year again. Time to close out the old.....and make plans for the new.

On the home front and personally, this year was a pretty calm year. Not much went on, actually. But that means I really didn't make any progress toward anything. I think I was just recovering from the total CF of 2016. 2016 was an awful year. My husband was out of work with a back injury that required surgery for nearly the entire year on disability (Thank God for great insurance). I worked the year in retail for some extra money. I have ultimate respect for those who work retail.....people can really be A-holes. But hubby had his was a success.....and he returned to work, and in 2017 things went back to normal. The horrible year did give me a new respect for all the hard work my husband does....and a new found pride in our ability to work through difficulties. We did it! far as progress on my goals for our home and my health/fitness.....2017 was just a blank slate. Sigh.

Big huge goal for 2018 -- actually DO something!! lol

Let's get specific.......

I'm in a really awesome bootcamp exercise class with nice people and a great trainer. BUT.....I haven't been doing the homework (daily walking, diet changes......the Hard Part). So, my actual results have been lackluster. Although I do feel so much better, and I can tell I'm stronger. But weight loss? Being able to start running again? Nope. So, beginning New Year's Day, my normal class is twice a week in the evenings and I added a Saturday morning class at my trainer's larger facility. And I'm going to start doing the homework!! I replaced our scale (the old one broke about a year ago, and I never replaced it.)I'm going to weigh infrequently though, as it can be discouraging. If I'm really putting in the work, I will see results. Doesn't matter how fast I show weight loss. I lalso bought a nice accurate digital kitchen scale so I can start watching my portions more closely. I have learned over the years that I can really cook up some wonderful healthy meals.....I need to do that. Every night. And not get sucked into the lazy habit of going to McDonalds (one is 3 blocks from my house -- the horror!) because I feel too tired to cook.  I will cook up some meals ahead and put them in the freezer. No excuse when good food is just a few minutes away. I don't need McCrap food.

In short.....I started moving in the right direction, but really putting no effort into it. I need to find my motivation, and put in some actual hard work in 2018. Or all that money I'm paying my trainer is just money I'm wiping my butt on and throwing it into the street.  I want to return to joining in on local 5K races be more active.....healthier. I miss that! And living in western NC....there are trails, white water rafting, lots of outdoor sports.......I want to get back out there! It's beautiful here!

Home goals. Our house is 40+ years old. Things are starting to really wear out. In 2018, our plans are to really start fixing things up, and planning for larger repairs....  The roof needs reshingled, the heat pump needs to be replaced. We want to try to do one or both of those in 2018. Plus smaller repairs like replacing the water heater, closing in our screened porch, painting the house, repainting the porches.....   Our house is the biggest investment we have.....we need to do some sprucing up this year. And getting The Big Projects out of the way will let us just sit back and relax on the porch when we are old and going senile. We can just rock and yell curmudgeonly things at passersby, not wonder how we are going to fix our roof. This will be a multi-year project....just getting started in 2018. Taking it slowly, being financially prudent and planning ahead. One project at a time.

Reading and writing. I consider reading a hobby. I love to read. But my writing.....that's more of a side career. I have three partially written books....I need to finish them and get the editing process going. I'd like to look into self-publishing and other avenues in 2018. Three unfinished manuscripts saved on my computer do not make me a writer. I need to make my writing more of a priority. I've wanted to publish a book since I was 9 years old. Childhood dreams don't come true if you never put the work into them. I need less creative absent mindedness, and more focus & drive.

Reading and book reviewing. I've had a blog for nearly 3 years now. I just post book reviews on it because I enjoy writing them. A few people read them. My goal is not to make my mark, but to join in the discussion with other readers. Plus I enjoy sharing my thoughts and maybe helping a few authors sell some books. I think I have accomplished that.

In 2017, I read 278 books. There were only a couple that I didn't finish or didn't like. I consider that a success. I wanted to gain back some shelf space by reading as many of my own books as I could, donating or trading them when I was finished. While I did read a lot in 2017, I read more library and review ARC books than I did my own. Here are the stats to show that: audiobooks listened to  - 11; Kindle books read - 6; Local library books checked out & read - 62; read off my shelves  - 36; digital online books read - 11; read review copies 2017 - 152.

So....I did read a few from my own shelves. But new releases read for review purposes way outnumbered the backlist books I finished from my own crowded shelves, followed closely by books from my local library.  I really really really (really x 20) need to clear some shelf space in I am going to be more picky about books I read for review, and tackle some of the books that have been languishing, ignored and lonely, on my over-full bookshelves. I can't feel bad about reviewing so many new releases in 2017 -- I wanted to add more content to my blog. And I did that. I rarely get turned down for ARCs I accomplished that goal at least. Things are going to have to flip-flop around in the new year....

In 2018, I am going to be more picky about what I read for review purposes so I can focus on reading the older books off my own bookshelves. I'm embarrassed to admit that I have some books on my shelf that have been waiting 10 years for me to read them. I'm going to put them at the top of the TBR for 2018. I can't possibly read them all.....but I can knock out a few that have been waiting a decade for me to even look at them. Read, review and donate/trade. By the end of the year, my shelves will be more organized and with room for a few new ones. I will reach this goal by limiting my NetGalley shelf to 10 books....paring it down to that number during January...and I will keep it there. Only 10. And I must concentrate on my backlist books, not new releases. More old than new! I joined a challenge on Twitter to help me stay on track... #beatthebacklist! Lots of people with the same goal. I also need to limit my check-outs at the library to two at a time. Right now, looking at the shelf next to me as I type, I have 11 library books...and two more waiting at the library for me to pick up....and one more on hold in transit from another library. That is too many at one time. I end up hurrying to get them read by the time they have to go back....and sometimes I have to return them and come back in a couple days and check the same books out again. Too many at one time! Two is enough.....the others will still be there when I finish the ones I have.

Not only will those changes in my reading habits help me read my backlist books, clear some shelf space and better organize my personal library.....but I will be able to ENJOY reading more. I don't like having to rush. I don't like coming up against deadlines. I don't like those times when I HAVE to read something....I graduated college a long time ago. I don't want to HAVE to read something. I read because I WANT TO.  A couple times this year I let my NetGalley shelf edge up above 40....and I had to read the books in a certain order to get them all done by publication date. I don't enjoy that. I want to enjoy the books I at my own pace.....and then be able to think about my review and take my time. When I have 40 books I need to read......I can't do that. It becomes work then, rather than my zen.

I look forward to reading some of the books I've ferreted away in my collection. I acquired them all because I truly wanted to read them....great biographies, interesting series, scary horror, nerdy sci-fi & fantasy....I have a bit of everything.

I want 2018 to be a productive year!! I can't wait to get started!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!!!

Now......what book to read first?? I have the rest of today to decide!!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

BLOG TOUR!!! Between the Blade & The Heart - Amanda Hocking

Amanda Hocking has created a rich, vibrant world based on Norse and other mythologies. Gods, Goddesses, the's all in this new young adult series! Book one, The Blade and the Heart is coming out January 2nd from St. Martin's Press! I loved this book....the world building is rich, the storyline is amazing! Another great book from Amanda Hocking!

I enjoyed Malin as a main character. She is very torn between duty and emotions. She has to deal with self doubt and the pull of relationship ties, as she tries to sift her way through secrets and dangers. For me, the story brought a new facet to the mythologies. I will definitely be reading more of this series as it comes out.

From the publisher:

When the fate of the world is at stake
Loyalties will be tested

Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner in this commanding new YA fantasy inspired by Norse Mythology from New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.

As one of Odin's Valkyries, Malin's greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend must decide where their loyalties lie. And if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk -- to the world and her heart.

As one of Odin's Valkyries, Malin's greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend must decide where their loyalties lie. And if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk -- the the world and her heart.

Amanda Hocking is the author of more than twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Buy Links:

Social Links:
Twitter: @Amanda_Hocking

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

REVIEW: Escape Claws

Escape Claws
Author: Linda Reilly

As a child, Lara Caphart spent a lot of time at her Aunt Fran's. She remembers the house was bright, her Aunt was happy, and a pan of brownies seemed to always be cooling on the stove top. Then after sixth grade, her parents moved, taking Lara with them. School, then College and being an adult took over....and it's been 16 years since she saw her beloved Aunt Fran. When her former BFF from grade school contacts her about a local businessman, Theo Barnes, threatening her aunt, Lara travels back to Whisker Jog, NH. Her aunt is in weak health and Lara is not going to let her be threatened by anybody. Lara isn't in town very long before she finds Barnes' dead body. Suddenly both her and Aunt Fran are being questioned and fingerprinted by the police. The case heats up when another body is found. Is it a suicide? Or another murder?

That's all I'm going to say about the plot. No spoilers from lil ol' me. :)

Escape Claws is the first book in the new Cat Lady Mysteries series. The story is definitely a great start to a new series! I thoroughly enjoyed it! The characters are small town quirky, but realistic. I liked the relationship between Lara and her Aunt. Even after 16 years apart, family is family. :) There is a little touch of supernatural to the story as well. Just a dab.....and it added a nice element to the tale. The mystery moved a bit slowly....but not too slow. Developments in the case were wrapped in character development since this is a beginning to a series. So, I didn't get impatient....I enjoyed the character's relationships and backgrounds as much as the mystery portion of the plot.

I will definitely be reading more of this series! Luckily I won't have too long to wait. The next book will be out in June 2018! :)

Linda Reilly also writes the Deep Fried Mystery series. For more information on the author and her books check out her website:

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

Monday, December 25, 2017

REVIEW: Better Dead

Better Dead
Author: Pamela Kopfler

Even after his death, Holly Davis' cheating, philandering husband Burl won't get out of her life. Just as she is toasting his abrupt exit from her life following a plane crash, his ghost appears. Burl needs her help with some unfinished business so he can move on to the afterlife. St. Peter won't let him in the gate until he clears up his mess. She reluctantly agrees to investigate the drug smugglers her husband got involved with so that Burl can rest in peace and to save her beloved B&B from the damage he caused their finances. Holly is under the gun....she has 30 days to get Burl into heaven or be stuck with his ghost for the rest of her life. Throw in a touch of romance, some great one-liners and lots of zany antics, and you have a great start to a new cozy mystery series!

I like Holly as a main character. She is intelligent and driven. She loves her family's plantation home, Holly Grove, and is dedicated to keep it in the family by operating a B&B. She is intelligent,  sarcastic and quirky...she can't cook, she's not above using feminine wiles to get her way and she's not about to take any more of Burl's crap, dead or alive. The banter between Holly and the ghost is cute, and added a lot of humor to the story. My favorite side character is Nelda, the B&B's housekeeper. I wish she had been developed a bit more, but I love her personality.

All in all, a great start to a new series. A second book, Downright Dead, will be out in September 2018. A third book, Hog Wild Dead, is in the works. I will definitely be reading more in this series!

For more information on the author and her books, check out her website:

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

Saturday, December 23, 2017

REVIEW: Historically Dead

Historically Dead
Author: Greta McKennan

Historically Dead is the second book in the A Stitch in Time Mystery series. Daria Dembrowski is a seamstress. She loves her period clothing business, A Stitch in Time. Most of the time, she busies herself making period wedding gowns, doing alterations, or making projects for local churches. But, when she gets the chance to create historic period clothing for reenactors or other fun special occasions, she's more than willing. This time a reality show, My House in History, is featuring two local elderly sisters, Priscilla Compton and Ruth Ellis, who are restoring their colonial period mansion. A historian, Professor Burbridge, is helping make sure everything added to the home is correct and authentic. Imagine Daria's surprise when she shows up for a meeting with the historian, only to find him dead! Theft, arson and other crimes soon follow....    Who killed Professor Burbridge, and how is it connected to the Compton Mansion?

I really love this series! I'm completely obsessed with history and would LOVE it if there was a period clothing shop like A Stitch in Time anywhere near where I live! I enjoy Daria as a main character, and the story lines in this series have been really interesting so far! Book one dealt with Civil War reenactors....and now the Colonial era. I am so curious what the next book will bring. I will definitely be reading it! I liked the fact that there was a bit of romance added in for Daria in this newest book, along with an ex-boyfriend showing up. Randall......ugh. Boo! Hiss! Jerk! Not saying any more .... no spoilers!

Definitely a nice addition to this series!

To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website:

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

REVIEW: A Murder for the Books

A Murder for the Books
Author: Victoria Gilbert

After the end of a bad relationship, Librarian Amy Webber moves to small-town Virginia to live with her aunt. She feels the mountains and a new job running the local library ought to help her forget her cheating boyfriend. She begins to settle into her new life and starts helping a neighbor, Richard Muir, with research on local history, including an old murder case. When a local woman is found murdered in the library archives, Amy and Richard wonder if the killing is tied to their investigation of the cold case. Soon more people who have information on the old poisoning case start turning up dead. Amy and Richard know they need to discover facts quickly to prevent more deaths.

This book is just so much fun to read! There are quirky small-town characters, a run down library that needs updating, a love interest for the main character, a cold case that's heating up again, and a killer determined to prevent the truth from being revealed. It's a nice mix of cold case investigation and cozy mystery. The story has a bit more "meat'' to it than some cozies...well-written, great characters and a great mystery plot! I will definitely be reading more of this series! I'm not going to say much more about the characters or plot as I want to avoid spoilers, but I definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy the cozy genre!

A Murder for the Books is the first book in the new Blue Ridge Library Mysteries series. The second book, Shelved Under Murder, will be out in July 2018.

To find out more about the author and her cozy series, check out her website:

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

REVIEW: Murder in the Lincoln Whitehouse

Murder in the Lincoln White House
Author: C.M. Gleason

It's March 4, 1861.  Tension is riding high between the northern and southern states. War will soon break out, but for now, it's just rumblings and quiet threats. Newly elected President Abraham Lincoln has been sworn in, and a crowd has gathered for the Inaugural Ball. Fears of assassination or other violence are security around President Lincoln is tight. Allan Pinkerton, head of Lincoln's security team, and three other guards watch the crowd for signs of trouble. Adam Quinn, recovering from a wound he suffered while in the Kansas Territory, has been hired for security and also to act as a Jack-of-all-Trades for Lincoln. Quinn sees a man in the crowd acting strangely, but he is waylaid by women wanting him to dance, reporters and others at the ball, never making it over to the man. By the time he returns to the raised dais to check in with Lincoln an his entourage, something grave has happened. A man has been stabbed to death. Custer Billings, a banker, is dead, two knife wounds in his chest. Quinn quickly starts investigating the killiing. Was this a political killing? Related to Lincoln? Or a random act?

This book is a nice blend of mystery and historical fiction. The author obviously did quite a bit of research to capture the tensions, political climate and issues of 1861. I did have just a twinge of incredulity that Quinn would have paired up with a female reporter and a free black man to investigate this murder. I doubt there were many female reporters in Washington D.C. in 1861. For a moment, it felt like forced diversity for PC purposes....but I liked the characters and felt they meshed together as investigators. So, it was a momentary twinge only.

The story is an enjoyable, believable read. The mystery has plenty of action, twists and suspects. This is the first book in a series....great start! I can't wait to read more!

The second book in the series, Murder in the Oval Library, will be out in August 2018.

C.M. Gleason is a penname used by author Colleen Gleason. She writes action/adventure novels under C.M. Gleason, and paranormal and YA books under Colleen Gleason. To learn more about the author, check out her websites: and

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

REVIEW: Cold Vengeance

Cold Vengeance
Authors: Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston

Agent Pendergast is angry. Not just angry......really really really angry. And out for justice, with a shot of revenge. In the first novel in the Helen Pendergast trilogy (within the Pendergast series), he discovered new evidence in the death of his wife in a lion attack several years before. He swore he would find out who was behind her murder and avenge her. In Cold Vengeance, Pendergast not only discovers that the conspiracy is so much more diabolical and depraved than he thought, but he also discovers that Helen might still be alive.

This book really seems like a bridge between the first novel that introduced Helen and the plot behind her death and the last novel that I'm sure will wrap up the story in a grandiose Pendergastian way. I enjoyed the chase (some of the action scenes were just awesome and there are some great lines by Pendergast in this story), but the weak cliffhanger ending I just really didn't like. I'm a bit tired of the Helen story line, to be honest. I miss the weird cases that lead Pendergast to out of the way dusty museums and archaeological sites. I prefer the somehow distant and reserved Pendergast to this overly emotional, out for revenge version. BUT.....despite my eye roll at the end of the book, this is a good story. There is plenty of action....plenty of bad guys to hate....and enough mystery to the situation to keep it interesting. I will be glad to read through the next book and have the Helen mystery solved so the series can move on to something else. Not that I blame Pendergast for being pissed off that someone killed (or pretended to kill) his wife.....but the overly emotional, almost broken Pendergast is more creepy than his normal strange self. Just a weird vibe to the Helen story-line books. The Constance Green story angle is getting a bit weird also....I hope that gets resolved in the next book or two as well.

I listened to the audiobook version of this book. Rene Auberjonois narrates again. I like his reading pace and his voice. Plus I think he does a really good accent for the Pendergast character. I have partial hearing loss, and never have any problem understanding him. The audiobook is unabridged and just under 12 hours long. Good quality. Very enjoyable.

Cold Vengeance is the 11th book in the Pendergast series. There are 16 books currently, and a 17th coming out in 2018.

For more information on the authors and their books, check out their website:

Friday, December 22, 2017

REVIEW: A Case of Syrah, Syrah

A Case of Syrah, Syrah
Author: Nancy J. Parra

Taylor O'Brien and her Aunt Jemma live in Sonoma, CA. Aunt Jemma owns a small winery. Her home is located nearby, along with a pool and a building for wine tastings, weddings, etc. Taylor lives in the pool house. She moved back to Sonoma six months before after her Aunt had a heart attack. She loves the winery and helping her aunt run her business, but she's getting a bit restless. So, she buys a van and starts planning her own Wine Country Tours as a side business. "Off the Beaten Path'' tours will take people to some lesser known, but fabulous, small wineries in the area. Her first tour is booked by a group of local yoga instructors. The first tour might just be the last, however. One of the instructors is found murdered during the tour.  Even worse -- the murder weapon is Taylor's corkscrew. Who bumped off Laura Scott? None of the others who were on the tour seem too broken up about her death. In fact, Laura's husband remarries just days after the murder. Then another body turns up....  Can Taylor discover the identity of the killer before anyone else dies? Or before the murderer comes after her!

The background theme of California wines and wineries was interesting,and gave a nice depth to this book. I don't know a lot about wine so the little facts about wine sprinkled throughout the book were interesting to me. The mystery moved along at a nice pace with some great twists and action at the end. I didn't figure out the murderer ahead of was an exciting surprise. And the case led to some interesting developments for Taylor's tour business. I would have liked a bit more character development, and at times some of the characters and situations seemed a bit trope-y (pretty but snooty yoga instructors for example). But, all in all, this is a nice start to a new cozy series. I am interested in seeing how the characters and locations continue to develop in the second book.

Nancy J. Parra also writes as Nell Hampton and Nancy Coco. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website:

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

Thursday, December 21, 2017

REVIEW: Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra

Ramses the Damned: Passion of Cleopatra
Author: Anne Rice

Years ago I loved Anne Rice's book The Mummy: Ramses the Damned. The story of a famed Egyptian Pharoah returning to life was chilling, yet totally engaging. It didn't hurt that the now immortal pharoah was incredibly sexy too. When I saw that this new book was coming out....bringing back Ramses and adding in Cleopatra....I was on board immediately. Oh yeah. No question....just gimme the book and I'm reading it! :)

Even though I initially read The Mummy years ago when it first came out, I was easily able to jump into this new story. There was enough background and history given in the first sections of the book to remind me what happened in the first story. The basics: Ramses is preparing to marry his fiance, but makes the poor decision to revive the mummy of Cleopatra first. Cleopatra struggles with the changes in the world and how she will fit into it....and, well......things don't go well. I"m not going to say much more spoilers from me! Read the book!

If you haven't read The can choose to go back and read that initial book first....or just jump in with this new one. There is plenty of background and explanation given to explain what happened to Ramses in the first novel. It's a great book....I highly recommend it to all fans of the creepy cool stories Anne Rice writes. This new novel is a collaboration with her son, Christopher.

Not sure if there will be more to this story down the road.....I just hope it doesn't take quite so long this time. I was completely stoked when I saw this book was coming out! When you read a book in 1989 and still remember how good it was in 2017......that's a good book! Keep 'em coming, Anne & Christopher! Great story! And the cover art is fantastic!

I did not realize Christopher Rice was a bestselling author. I enjoyed this book and I'm going to check out some of his thrillers! For more info on his books,check out his website:

Check out Anne's website as well:

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

REVIEW: Murder in an English Village

Murder in an English Village
Author: Jessica Ellicott

It's 1920. England is recuperating from The Great War. In the quiet village of Walmsley Parva, American Beryl Helliwell seeks rest, relaxation and escape from Prohibition. There will be no bathtub gin for Beryl Helliwell! Her former school chum, Edwina Davenport, advertises for a boarder and Beryl jumps on the chance. The English countryside is just what she needs. The only problem is that Beryl is quite vivacious, brash and well, just un-Edwinalike. Edwin is prim, proper and .... very British. But all is not quite so simple and safe in Walmley Parva. Beryl mentions that she and Edwina will be looking into some shady dealings in the village....and maybe she even exaggerated a bit in her insinuations that they were in Her Majesty's Service.....but she didn't expect it to lead to Edwina being attacked. When the attack is followed by the murder of their housemaid.....well, things might not be all sunshine and roses in Walmsley Parva after all. Edwina and Beryl need to find out what's going on in their little village, before one or both of them end up dead.

This unlikely duo makes for a fun cozy mystery. Their personalities are so different, but together they make quite the team. I liked the mix of humor and mystery. The story moves along at a nice pace and there were plenty of suspects. A few times I wanted to grab hold of Beryl and shake her....but other than that, loved the characters and the story! I can't wait to read about their further exploits!

To find out more about the author, check out her website:

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

REVIEW: A Secret History of Witches

A Secret History of Witches
Author: Louisa Morgan

A Secret History of Witches tells the tale of five generations of witches in a gypsy family. Mothers pass the gift to their daughters. They are persecuted and have to hide their powers from others. Spanning the time from the early 1800s to WW2, the book is divided into five sections, one for each of the five Orchiere family witches -- Nanette, Ursule, Irene, Morwen and Veronica.

This book was at times a little too slow moving, but there is such a strong mother-daughter love through each generation that I felt that emotion was almost more important than the magic. The family grimoire and scrying stone speak differently to each generation as they receive their powers at puberty.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. At times, the plot moved along a bit slowly and I felt the ending was a bit lack-luster, even abrupt. But it didn't really hurt my enjoyment of the overall story.....the characters, their love for each other, and how the passed down power effected them all a bit differently was enough to keep me reading. What the story lacks in action, it makes up for in emotion and a sense of Family passed down through generations. Normally, I tend to not like stories that span multiple generations because the character/time/generation changes can seem abrupt or some portions of the story can be left unresolved. I didn't feel that way about this book, except at the very end. I felt this book was a nice mix of historical fiction and fantasy. I would definitely read more by this author.

The cover art is fantastic!

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

REVIEW: Year One

Year One
Author: Nora Roberts

Romance novels are not my thing, so I really haven't read many of Nora Roberts novels. The few I have read in the past, I did enjoy. She's a talented writer. Year One is a bit different from her normal romance with a bit of magic/supernatural added. It's the first book in a dystopian trilogy. It is enough of a step away from Roberts' normal genre that I put it on my TBR list immediately.

The basics: The world is decimated by a virus. In mere weeks, billions of people around the world are dead. Those who are immune are left behind, running from reported government forces who want to round them up for medical testing. The virus didn't just also altered some survivors. Many of those left behind begin showing strange powers....magical powers. Some begin using them for good. Some are overpowered by their new talents and become evil. Other survivors call them The Uncanny. They aren't welcome in most safe places. They are not trusted and often killed. A rag tag bunch of survivors band together in Roberts' book to learn to survive. Those with powers do their best to hide them from outsiders. They just want to survive.

I'm not going to say a lot about the characters or plot to avoid spoilers. But the group is varied....everything from a doctor and a reporter to newborn babies. They have to quickly learn how to survive, scavenging for food, supplies and gasoline....and hiding from violent people who are attacking and killing survivors. A few of them develop magical powers, which they use as discretely as possible to help them survive.

I can't fully know how I feel about this series until I've read the second book. This first novel was a lot of set up -- the virus and its aftermath, the development of magic and the gathering of the survivors the story will focus on. By the time all that was accomplished, the book was over. Great setup, and I think this could be an enjoyable trilogy. I just won't be sure until I read more.

I found it realistic how quickly society fell apart. When 2/3 of the population is dead and dying, the normal workings of daily life would change quickly and drastically. I think the magic side of things developed a little too quickly for me....groups of survivors started using terms like The Uncanny and even elves, faeries, etc really quickly. It wasn't something that hurt my enjoyment of the story....I just found using terms like elf and fairy to be a bit over the top....almost funny in a couple of places. But I would suppose if I was in the middle of the apocalypse with billions of dead people and supernatural magic appearing.....I might start using terms I'm already familiar with to describe the certain people and their powers.

All in all, a nice start to a dystopian series. It's going to be a hard fought war between good and evil. I'm anxiously awaiting the next book.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

REVIEW: The Lottery and Other Stories

The Lottery and Other Stories
Author: Shirley Jackson

What do you call a person who can be in the middle of a party crowd and feel desperately lonely? A person who wants a partner but floats somewhere even outside the Friend-Zone with everyone? Those who never fit in.....those who don't have a "real" life.....those who live in a fantasy world all their own.....the outsiders who let themselves be used and abused by others? What word symbolizes their lives? Disenfranchised? Socially inept? Abnormal? Invisible people? Weird? Weak? Unusual? Different? Oh holy F.....there is nothing worse than being different (note sarcasm). Even in modern society where we pride ourselves on lauding the diverse and extolling the rights of all......those deemed Different pay a price. Human nature? Society norms?

Shirley Jackson's short story collection - The Lottery and Other Stories -- delves into the feelings, lives and disjointed experiences of those people who live outside the norm.  I was pleasantly surprised by this collection of stories. I expected little snippets of ghostly encounters or maybe a bit of light horror.....but I didn't expect a look into the lives of The Separate. I really wanted to read The Lottery. I'd heard of the story so many times, but had never taken the time to actually read it. I'm trying to turn over a new leaf. Instead of saying "Oh, I'd really love to read that'' and then forgetting entirely about the great book or story that caught my interest, I am actually taking the time to read what interests me. So, I initially checked out this book just to read The Lottery.  It is, of course, the final story in this collection....and I couldn't just skip over 200+ pages of Shirley Jackson's work to get to one story. If I want to experience the author more fully, I need to spend time with a wide selection of her writing, not just the most famous or well-known bits. At first I found the stories weird. I reacted like I do to literary nose-in-air overdone fiction.....oh dear....more stories that make no sense but literature majors love to assign some ethereal meaning to in order to impress tired professors who no longer care. But as I read turned to "These stories....these people are Weird!'' Weird. Different. Living in the same cities, towns and world as all of us.....but seeing and feeling things differently. A girl who relishes the idea of the end of the world. A man who fixes dinner for a woman who doesn't care if he's alive or not. A woman who finds her job at Macy's ridiculously complicated. The boy who meets a strange old man on the train. A woman who finds herself unable to take back items stolen from her by another. It's the emotion that's important.....the peek into the life of The Separate. In a way it is horror.....society and each of our places in it is pretty scary. Imagine if you really didn't have a place...or if you did, but never found it. Or if you just couldn't function within your parameters at all. Lovely dark stories. I read each one and thought about how it made me feel, what I thought of the characters and their lives, before I moved another story closer to The Lottery.

Shirley Jackson's writing is subtle. It makes you think. She throws emotions and situations out, and then lets them settle into a reader's brain. It's up to each reader to figure out what is significant. I think the story that packed the most punch for me is Like Mother Used To Make. David Turner lives alone. His apartment is Just So....everything in its place, nothing out of order. He cooks lovely meals. He lives a peaceful life. His existence is orderly and tidy. His neighbor Marcia, however, is messy, haphazard and so different from David. But he likes her. So he cooks dinner for her. In the end, he finds himself down the hall from his own warm, orderly apartment, cleaning Marcia's mess while the woman enjoys the company of a co-worker in David's own house, while she pretends the meal and the nice apartment are hers.'s really in human nature to wish for what we can't have, to aspire to things either out of our league, out of reach, or even beneath us. David is orderly, but he's drawn like a moth to flame to disorder. He wants Marcia....but she doesn't even really see him. She uses him. And poor David ends up cleaning up her mess instead of receiving any thanks, caring or consideration. The epitome of unappreciated. But yet something prevents him from standing up for himself. He just allows himself to be used. I think every adult has been in a situation where they allowed themselves to be used. Maybe not to the extent that David Turner did.....but a loss of self pride nonetheless. Do those moments always stem from grasping at things (or people) that are beyond our reach, things that don't fit into our lives, things we really can't possibly have/achieve/fulfill? Opposites attract? And after that initial attraction, they often rip our lives up trying to escape. I have an ex-husband who was my Marcia......Lord have mercy, I wish I had left that man alone. But I was determined to have what didn't fit into my life. Whammo! I was left cleaning up the mess just like poor old David Turner.

I read and enjoyed the first 24 stories in this book....and then finally, there it was.......The Lottery. I'm so glad I finally read it!! This story has definitely inspired so many other authors over the years. Jackson definitely packed a lot of chilling dread into just 11 pages. It's a tale of sacrifice, the power of tradition and mistaken human beliefs. Loved it!

All in all, a strangely creepy, chilling collection of strange little tales. A trip into the weird. I loved this book!

Shirley Jackson wrote six novels and many short stories during her writing career. She passed away in 1965.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

REVIEW: The Happy Valley Mystery (Trixie Belden)

The Happy Valley Mystery (Trixie Belden)
Author: Kathryn Kenny

Trixie Belden and her group of family & friends from Sleepyside, NY return in this teen sleuth mystery, #9 in the Trixie Belden series.

The BWGs (Bob Whites of the Glen) are on spring break from Sleepyside Junior-Senior high school. After holding an antique show to benefit UNICEF and a winter ice carnival to help earthquake victims in Mexico, the group is bored at the thought of an entire break from school with nothing exciting to do. Trixie's Uncle Andrew saves the day. He travels through town before leaving on a trip to Scotland and invites the kids to spend spring break at his farm in Iowa. And there's a mystery afoot -- sheep are mysteriously disappearing from Happy Valley Farm. And of course, the BWGs are on the case to find the evil sheep-nappers!!

The first thing that struck me about this story is that the newest member of the BWGs is left entirely out of the story. Dan Marsden joined the club after the Black Jacket Mystery was solved.....he appears for one page at the start, stating he can't travel to Iowa because he's being tutored at school over break. I read an old hardback copy of this book from the 70s....and Dan's picture hasn't been added to the drawings of the BWGs that appear on the leaves at the begnning of the book. Hmmmmm. I'm not sure that bodes well for the newest member of the gang. Will Dan become a regular character? Or perhaps he will just disappear with no explanation. I read every book in this series in middle school....but I can't remember whether Dan became a "real' member of the group or not. Everyone forgot poor Dan....even me. ha! :)

Also in this book it is stated that Di Lynch's house is located "just past" The Manor, the large estate owned by Honey Wheeler's family (Trixie's BFF). In prior books, the Lynch house was not located that close to the Wheelers or the Belden farm. Another Hmmmmmm moment.

I think perhaps those discrepancies might be due to the fact that after book six the series was written by various authors all using the pen name Kathryn Kenny. One author added a new character.....but the next one didn't want to include the new kid? Who knows.....but the discrepancies jumped out at me as I re-read this book. When I was in middle school and collected this entire series, I didn't notice. I just wanted to know what mystery the kids were going to get involved in next. :) As an adult, I can't help but notice when they move someone's house.....or drop a new club member. In an earlier book when Trixie's grades were hurting, she didn't miss out on a trip with the gang....the older boys offered to help tutor her over break. Nobody spoke up for Dan Marsden......he was just left at home without another mention by the other club members. There was no "Geepers, I really wish Dan was here.'' or "Boy, I'm really sorry Dan is missing this cool trip.''  They didn't mention him once. Not once. Poor Dan. Even when they were returning home, nobody mentioned poor Dan slaving over his school books.

My guess -- the book was written at the same time as Black Jacket Mystery by another author....and the few sentences giving Dan an excuse for not being there were added for continuity, leaving poor Dan at home sitting through tutoring sessions while his "friends' gallivanted off into the Iowa countryside without a backward glance to look for disappearing sheep. Poor Dan.

Those little things aside.....this was another fun read for me. I loved this series when I was young, and I'm happily re-reading them again now. :) I do see things a bit differently as an adult....but that doesn't make the stories any less enjoyable.

The Trixie Belden series was written from 1948-1986. There are 39 books in the series. The first six books were written by Julie Cambell. The rest of the series was written by various authors all using the name Kathryn Kenny. The differences in writing style are apparent to me as an adult, but it doesn't change my love of this series.

There was one cute scene at the end of this story between Trixie and Jim...... awwwwwww. :) Made me smile.

On to the next book!!! The Marshland Mystery! 

Monday, December 18, 2017

REVIEW: Death Wears a Red Hat

Death Wears a Red Hat
Author: William Kienzle

Death Wears a Red Hat is the second book in the Father Koesler Mystery series. The first Koesler mystery, The Rosary Murders, was the first adult thriller novel I ever read. I thorougly enjoyed it....but being 14 at the time, I moved on to other books and never read the rest of the Koesler books. Given the fact that the librarian called my dad before allowing me to check out the book, it could have been that the library didn't have the rest of the series. Or maybe I was embarrassed to take another Catholic theme murder novel up to the desk to check it out from my former catechism teacher. lol. Whatever the reason.....I never read any more books by William Kienzle. 30+ years later I am rectifying the situation, and coming back to see what trouble Father Koesler got himself into after that first book. I knew from the creepy cover to this second novel that I was in for something truly gruesome and exciting!

I was not disappointed.

The basics: During an adult confirmation ceremony at a Detroit cathedral, pandemonium breaks out when a child notices that the red cardinal hat suspended from the cathedral's ceiling has an actual human head in it. Police are baffled as to why someone stuffed local gangster Rough Rudy Ruggiero's severed head into the huge red religious symbol. That's just the start....more heads of local thugs show up in various churches across the city. The severed heads all bear grimaces of extreme horror and are perched on top beheaded statues of saints. The saints are chosen according to the sins of the murdered victims. Father Koesler is called on to help with the investigation and to provide information on the saints and various aspects of Catholicism as Detroit Police struggle to find clues and identify the serial killer.

The mystery is quite interesting in this second Father Koesler mystery. It has a little bit of everything in it......gruesome severed heads, Catholic mysticism, patron saints and even Voodoo.

I was loving this book clear up until the very end.....    The ending fell flat for me. Father Koesler discovers the identity of the murderer, but doesn't disclose it to the police. He says that it is something deemed a "Professional secret'' that he can't divulge. Really?? A priest knows the identity of a killer who murdered six people in a really horrible way, displaying the heads in churches.......and he doesn't tell the police? He allows them to close the case as unsolved? No matter how terrible the victims were....there is no excuse for that. But.....a church that covered up sexual abuse of children and other horrible crimes by its own clergy....I guess I can see the reality of a priest not revealing the identity of a murderer. My rating of this book chunks down a star because of the ending. Great mystery. Crappy ending.

There are 24 books in the Father Koesler series, written from 1978-2002. William Kienzle was able to incorporate the ins and outs of Catholic life, politics and the priesthood because he actually was a priest for 20 years before leaving the church.

I will definitely continue reading this series.....but I really did find the ending of this book to be an incredible let down. Bleck.

2018: Beating My Overwhelming TBR Pile into submission!

Every year I make a pledge that I am going to read books off my own shelves. And every year I get sucked into that new release vortex and end the year with just as many books stuck in TBR limbo as I had the previous year. I always mean well....and I'm not against new awesome stories coming out....but I gotta read my own books!!

I still have a couple weeks to pare the pile down a bit more before I tally up the year's total of review books, library books and owned books that I read during 2017. But just a preliminary gaze at the numbers tells me that once again I read more new release and review books than backlist and shelved books. In 2018, I really need to free up shelf I'm joining up with other awesome bibliophiles to #beatthebacklist in 2018!

I'm still going to review new books, but I'm going to be more selective. I don't have to read every awesome book before its release date.....I want the freedom to read what I want, when I want.  I'm going to concentrate on reading a lot of great books that have been patiently waiting for me to get to them....some for years. I need to set some limits....I have a few days to think on that before I make my end of the year post. I'm going to set a monthly limit of ARC requests and stick to it. And I'm going to make a list of series that I've sitting on my TBR for a long time that I actually want to READ instead of just letting them take up my shelf space. There are also some great series that I started....but never finished. And some that I've wanted to re-read, but never seem to get to. In 2018, I'm mopping up my mess! Yay!!  I collected all these books because I truly wanted to read them. Letting them languish on my shelves is just a waste of great stories!

I'm still mulling over my Goodreads challenge # for 2018 as well. I'm not sure.....I set it at 200 this year. I'm currently at 265 books read in 2017. But I felt rushed a few times over this past year. I think I will set my # at 150. And if I reach that goal early....I can increase it. I want to enjoy my reading, not feel obligated, rushed or like it's a job. It's my zen time.....I'm going to treat it as such.

Looking forward to reading my own lovely TBR pile in 2018!!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

REVIEW: Illuminae

Authors:  Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

The audiobook version of this sci-fi thriller is just amazing. It's full cast, with amazing acting and sound effects. The story grabbed me right from the beginning. This is an action packed, entertaining, sci-fi story.

The basics:  When Kady breaks up with her boyfriend Ezra, she thinks that is the extent of the stress for her week. She couldn't have been more wrong. That same day the planet is attacked by a corporation, BeiTech, that wants to take over the mining operation there. The attack causes death and chaos. To make matters worse, those who escape the planet face a virus, mutating and spreading among the survivors. The AI that controls the weapons, life support and other vital systems malfunctions. And, in the distance, a ship is coming.....a ship that means to destroy everyone who is left.

Wow! This story just blew me away. The full cast audio book made this a truly entertaining experience. I'm not going to give away much about the plot so that I don't spoil anything. I will say the story is a great blend of action and emotion.....a tale about the strengths and weaknesses of humanity, the dark,empty beauty of space, and the many facets of love. I enjoyed the full story....but the last hour, it definitely kept me right at the edge of my seat. Don't discount this book because it's classified as YA....just as the main character can't be judged for only being 17.  Kady is such a strong, intelligent, brave character. The story is told through ship's logs, instant messages and emails, interviews, and recovered documents. Creative!

All in all, a great sci-fi action story! I loved every minute of it!

This is the first book in the Illuminae Files trilogy. Book two, Gemina was published in 2016, and book 3, Obsidio, will be out in 2018.  I will definitely be reading (or listening) to the rest of this series!

To find out more about the authors check out their websites: and

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

REVIEW: Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Mr. Dickens and His Carol
Author: Samantha Silva

A Christmas Carol by Dickens has been my favorite book ever since the first time I read the story as a child. I re-read it every year and watch every movie version from Alastair Sim to the Muppets. :) When I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. :) I'm glad I did!

First of all, don't confuse this book with the book or movie "The Man Who Invented Christmas''....that is another story by another author (Les Standiford). Standiford's book is non-fiction, telling the tale of how A Christmas Carol reignited Dickens' career. This book -- Mr. Dickens and His Carol -- although it contains some factual information here and there, is a work of fiction. Silva states at the end of the book that the story is a re-imagining of how A Christmas Carol was written. It's meant as an homage to Dickens, not as a factual story. I read and enjoyed Silva's book with that in mind.

I read this book wrapped up in my favorite fuzzy purple blanket, a cup of hot Earl Grey beside me, my fat cat asleep on my lap, and Alastair Sim in the movie A Christmas Carol (1951) playing in the background for ambiance. Full on Christmas spirit goin' on around here. :) The only way I could have felt more Christmas-y would be if I had strung twinkle lights around my head before sitting down to read. I couldn't read a book about my absolutely most favorite beloved story without everything being just right. I wanted to enjoy every word. The minute I started to read, I couldn't put the book down. It's a delightful story! Before Alastair Sim as Scrooge pretended to fire Cratchit for being late to work after Christmas, I had devoured this entire book. I loved it! And the cover is awesome! It made this Dickens fan totally happy!

Anyone who loves A Christmas Carol will enjoy this book. Just remember to read it as a work of fiction -- not a factual account.

Mr. Dickens and His Carol is Samantha Silva's debut novel. For more infoformation on the author, check out her website:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

REVIEW: The Giver

The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry

I had never heard of this book or the author before my son came home from school with a permission slip for me to sign. The book had some "sensitive subject matter"in it (as far as the school is concerned) so they asked for parental permission before assigning the kids to read it. I looked up a blurb on the book, read a little about it, and listened to the first couple of chapters of the audiobook. I signed the slip. I would have signed it no matter what the content of the book. But I would have carefully read it and had discussions with my son about the book if it had sexual or other situations I thought warranted some parental involvement. I didn't feel the book warranted Mom-mode, but the little bit that I read did pique my curiousity. I spent today doing some heavy cleaning and packing up items to donate to local charity and I needed something to listen to while I worked. I remembered I still had the audiobook loaded on my phone. The unabridged audiobook is only 4 1/2 hours long....perfect companion for a day of housework.

The basics: Jonas is nearing his 12th birthday. When kids in his community turn 12, they get assigned their jobs in life. Everything changes....they start training for their vocation, there is less time for play with their former classmates, and they are on the track to adulthood. It's an important milestone. More important than their naming ceremony the first year, the year where they lose their comfort item they've slept with since infancy, the 9th year when kids get their first bicycle......all of the other milestones pale in comparison to Twelve. Jonas is nervous. What if he gets wrongly assigned to a job he won't like? He's excited, but a bit scared too. He hopes that whatever he get assigned that he will perform well and not make mistakes.People who can't follow the rules or make mistakes can get corrected...but sometimes they are released. Old people are released. Sickly infants are released. They leave the community to go Elsewhere and are never seen again. Jonas really doesn't wonder much about Elsewhere. He's sure they are happy and productive there. Jonas has no clue what his Twelfth year will mean for will change his entire life.

I'm not going to give away any spoilers. But, I do understand why the school asked permission for sixth graders to read this book. It's not bad....nothing sexual or completely over the top....just some deep subjects that do require a bit of discussion. My son isn't quite to the part where I know he is going to have some questions -- or want to rant a bit. But I did let him know I've read the whole thing, and I'm ready for when he gets to certain parts. The plot isn't anything's been discussed in many books before. But it does add some new elements to the story. When is it ok to control choices and limit decisions, experiences......and what happens when it goes too far? When does trying to prevent injury, pain and harsh life experiences become so total that other parts of what it means to be human also disappear? Things like love, the value of life, and individuality.  Very interesting concepts....and the iffy portions of the subject matter are not graphic or over dramatized. The book is well-written...and chilling. I'm glad my sixth grader is reading it....and I look forward to discussing the book with him as he gets a bit further in the story.

The audiobook I listened to (enguin Random House Audio Publishing) is just a bit under 5 hours long. Ron Rifkin narrates. He reads at a good pace and is easily understandable. I have hearing loss, but was easily able to hear and understand him. The recording quality is excellent.

The Giver is part of a 4-book series. I'm definitely going to read the rest of the series!

To find out more about the author and her other books, check out her website:

REVIEW: The Trouble With Murder

The Trouble With Murder
Author: Kathy Krevat

Colbie Summers is trying to build her organic cat food business, raise a 12-year old boy and help her ill father. Her life in beautiful Sunnyside, CA is busy and chaotic. She has a chance to increase distribution of her Meowlio Batali products to a health food store chain that owns seven locations in the San Diego area, and she's networking like mad to get as much local exposure as possible. She's even joined the Sunnyside Power Moms, a group for female home business owners in the area. The SPMs are having a trade show in a gated community and Colbie is helping with setup. She fields complaints about booth space, competing products and other catty in-fighting among the SPM members, but the show goes smoothly otherwise. During the show, her father becomes ill at home so Colbie has to leave early. Her friend Twila offers to pack up her products and drop them off at her house after the show ends. Later, Colbie and her father return to the product show site, only to find that Twila has been murdered. Not just killed...she has a Meowlio Batali brand knife sticking out of her chest. Suddenly Colbie's life is a whole lot more complicated.... she's a suspect in a murder investigation!!

The Trouble With Murder is the first book in the new Gourmet Cat Mystery series It's a quick, fun read and gives a great introduction to the characters and their lives in Sunnyside. I like Colbie as a main character. She is trying to improve her life by building her business but still takes time out to help her father recover and to make sure her son gets what he needs to thrive. She also supports her son's love of theater. I also had to smile at the relationship between her and her father. They grouse at each other occasionally, but are always there to support and love each other, even if it's in secret. The mystery moved along at a good pace and had some nice surprises. I pretty much had the murder figured out before the end....but the ending was action-packed and exciting, so I didn't mind that the murderer's identity wasn't a surprise. All in all, a very enjoyable, fun cozy mystery! And the cover is totally cute! :)

I will definitely be reading more of this series! Luckily, I don't have too long to wait! The second book, The Trouble With Truth, will be out in August 2018.

Kathy Krevat also writes the Chocolate Covered Mystery series (published by Berkley) under the name Kathy Aarons. To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website:

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

REVIEW: Fever Dream

Fever Dream
Authors: Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

So far, this book is my favorite in the Agent Pendergast series. Fever Dream is the 10th book in the 16-book series. A 17th book, City of Endless Night, is coming out in 2018.

Pendergast's wife, Helen, died 12 years before during a safari in Africa. She was attacked and killed by a lion. While in New Orleans at his family's home, Pendergast discovers evidence that Helen's death was not an accident. It was murder. Immediately he knows he must investigate, identify Helen's killer, and get justice (or revenge) for his wife. He enlists the help of NYPD officer Vincent D'Agosta. As they investigate, Pendergast discovers that there were things about his wife that he didn't know. She was researching a dangerous, mind altering virus and illegal medical experimentation and someone wanted her silenced. Pendergast is willing to go from the jungles of Africa to the swamps of Louisiana to find out who killed his wife.

Pendergast is still tall, pale, brooding and upper class snooty. A'gosta remains city tough and  NYPD through and through, with a strange loyalty to Pendergast. And Captain Laura Heywood is still pissed that Pendergast always seems to get A'gosta injured or in trouble. This story gives some new insight into Pendergast....his past and how he deals with emotion. We see some chinks in the FBI agent's armor. There were so many things about his wife that he didn't know, and he struggles with that knowledge while hunting for her killer. This book is an action-packed thriller. I think the series has found new direction following the ending of the Diogenes storyline. I can't wait to see where it goes from here.

I don't really care for the Constance Green portion of the story. I felt like it was inserted inbetween portions of the investigation just to keep readers reminded that Constance is still around....still strange. She goes from being in a tibetan monastery, to on board a ship, to in a mental hospital....bleck. I know that her storyline will be picked up in a subsequent book, but I almost feel like it's an unnecessary cord attached to the Diogenes plot. I'd rather the series just moved forward with new, creepy investigations without opening the can of worms that is his time-displaced, strange ward, Constance. But, I know it's a strange black cloud on the horizon.

I enjoyed this book....and I love this series. It's creepy, weird and exciting. I'm definitely moving on to book #11!

I listened to the unabridged audiobook version of this book. It was narrated by Rene Auberjonois.He reads at a nice, even pace and is easily understood. I have partial hearing loss but am able to easily hear and understand him. I also like his accent and the way he does dialogue for Pendergast. After listening to most of this series on audiobook, I prefer Auberjonois as narrator. The audiobook is about 14 1/2 hours long. The quality is great. Enjoyable listen!

To find out more about the authors and their books, check out their website:

Saturday, December 9, 2017

REVIEW: The Child Finder

The Child Finder
Author: Rene Denfeld

Naomi is The Child Finder. She's a private investigator who specializes in finding lost children. A little girl, Madison Culver, disappeared while on a trip into Skookum National Forest. She was with her parents and they were hunting for a Christmas tree. One second she was right there with them....and the next second she was just gone. Her parents searched for hours. Search teams scoured the area for days....she was never found. Three years later, the parents call Naomi. If anyone can find Madison, her body, or just some sort of sign of what happened to their little girl, it's The Child Finder. Why is Naomi so talented at finding lost little ones? She was once lost herself. She knows something happened to her as a child, but she has no memory of events before she was found wandering, naked. Some migrant workers dropped her off at a police station, and she was put into foster care. Naomi was once lost....and now she helps find the lost. Can she find little Madison?

This story is powerful and haunting. And not for the feint of heart. Warning: This book contains instances of child rape, abuse, and kidnapping. It is not described in graphic detail....but it is there. If that might be a trigger topic, or too much for a reader, it might be best to avoid this book. As a mother, I had a hard time reading this book. It's well written and suspenseful, but disturbing. If I had known beforehand that this story dealt with that level of abuse, I probably would not have read it. But -- that does not mean it isn't a good book. Some stories make a reader uncomfortable. Some stories hit where it hurts. Some stories are about truth that we don't want to acknowledge. That makes this a hard hitting, realistic story....not a bad book. If the subject of child kidnapping and abuse didn't make me uncomfortable....then I would have something to worry about.

There was one point in the book where I had an eyeroll moment. Naomi is talking about prior cases she worked. One was a kidnapping case where the girl was found alive. The girl's name was Elizabeth Wiley. Wiley? Badly veiled reference to Elizabeth Smart? I just felt that the name wasn't necessary....too melodramatic maybe? Or just a weird choice by the author. Or it could be I was already extremely uncomfortable with child rape references that the name choice just was an easy excuse to roll my eyes and put the book down for awhile.

All in all - as a mom this was a rough book to read. But, it is a well-written story of human strength, resilience and survival. Naomi brings light to the darkness.....her strength and determination lend hope to those broken by loss.

To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website:

Friday, December 8, 2017

REVIEW: The Black Jacket Mystery (Trixie Belden)

The Black Jacket Mystery
Author: Kathryn Kenny

This 8th mystery in the Trixie Belden series opens with the BWGs (Bob-Whites of the Glen) planning a carnival fundraiser to help the Mexican village of San Isidro following an earthquake. The money they raise will help buy books for the San Isidro school library that was heavily damaged in the disaster. The BWGs are busily planning the event, gathering prizes and doing all they can to have a fun carnival. But as usual, Trixie and the gang get pulled into a mystery. Regan, the Wheeler's groom, is acting strangely and seems to be hiding something. Trixie sees a paper in the Wheeler's tack room that might be pointing to some sort of legal problem. Soon after, there is a new boy on the school bus. He seems very unfriendly and seems out of place in his black leather jacket and hat. His name is Dan Manigan, and he starts talking some pretty rough talk in the cafeteria....gangs, fights, switchblades. Then strange things start happening....Honey's watch is stolen and the clubhouse is broken into. Is Dan a thief? Or are they misjudging him?

The plot for The Black Jacket Mystery is a bit predictable, but still an enjoyable read with a good message. There are some nice developments for the BWGs in this 8th story. As an adult re-reading these I am wondering one thing though......when is little Bobby (Trixie's little brother) going to start talking like a 7 year old and not a toddler? What 7 year old says stuff like "Holp! Holp!'' and "I losted it and Trixie tooked it.''  No kid that goes to school talks like that. lol.  C'mon Bobby -- you can be cute and little without talking like a two year old. As a middle schooler I loved these books. It was my favorite series. I had every book -- all matching of course -- lined up in series order on my bookshelf. :) And when the last few new books came out (I was in high school) I remember being so excited that the series was continuing. :) As an adult, I'm still very much enjoying the series, but I do notice I look at a few things (like Bobby's dialogue) with adult eyes.

Moving on to book 9! Next up is The Happy Valley Mystery!

The Trixie Belden series was written from 1948 - 1986. There are 39 books in the series. 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.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


Author: Meg Gardiner

The Prophet killed 11 people in the Oakland area in the 1990's. Then he disappeared. The fact the killer was never caught ruined the life of the lead investigator on the case. Detective Caitlin Hendrix knows that better than anyone else because that investigator is her father. Twenty years after The Prophet killings, a woman's body is discovered in a cornfield. She has been strangled to death. A crude symbol depicting Mercury has been pounded into her chest with nails.  It's The Prophet's signature. The symbol he left on all his victim. He's back......

OMG! This book just did not let up! Caitlin Hendrix is a great main character. She is determined to solve the case that destroyed her father and led her down a dark path as a teenager. She works relentlessly to break the code contained in strange poetry The Prophet leaves at each crime scene. The killer is methodical and ruthless. He taunts the investigators, terrifies the public with online videos and threats, and always seems one step ahead of the police. This story is so suspenseful and chilling! I loved it!

This is the first book by Meg Gardiner that I've read. I will definitely be reading some of her other books! A second book in the Unsub series, Into the Black Nowhere, is coming out on January 30th. I can't wait to find out what's in store next for Caitlin Hendrix!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

REVIEW: The Whispering Room

The Whispering Rooom
Author: Dean Koontz

Jane Hawk is back. She's still on the run....a fugitive....a rogue FBI agent. Following the apparent suicide of her husband, Jane discovered a conspiracy, something so evil and diabolical that she immediately knew she had to find those responsible and stop them. A group of powerful, wealthy people have developed technology that can hijack the will of any person...take over their brain. The person can be made to do anything. No resistance. No conscience. They will obey without question. Some people are made to kill themselves like Jane's husband. Others are made to commit terrorist acts. And some are just used as mindless sex slaves for the wealthy. They made a mistake when they killed Jane's husband. They made a mistake when they threatened the life of her young son. They made a mistake when they tried to kill her. And, they made the biggest mistake of all when they underestimated her power to bring them down, to exact revenge.

This book is hard hitting from the beginning and doesn't let up until the very end. I loved the first book in this series, The Silent Corner.....and I enjoyed this book just as much. Jane Hawk kicks ass. She is intelligent, resilient, and cunning. As a highly trained FBI agent, she knows how to use surveillance, interrogation and techonology to her best advantage. She also knows how to avoid being seen, unless she chooses to be noticed.

Dean Koontz is hit or miss for me. His horror books recycle plot elements a bit too much -- sentient dogs, groups of people battling supernatural forces, etc. But the Jane Hawk series is something from Koontz that's fresh and wonderfully written. He could even write in a talking dog and nobody would see a single eyeroll from me.....that's how much I like Jane Hawk. A strong, hard-hitting, brutal female main character.  The story has great realistic action and excitement. It's not often I sit and read an entire book in one sitting, but this series has had me burning the midnight oil twice now. I'm sure I will be totally into the third book, The Crooked Staircase, when it comes out in June 2018.

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