Monday, August 20, 2018

REVIEW: The Lost For Words Bookshop

The Lost For Words Bookshop
Author: Stephanie Butland

Loveday Cardew's best friends are books. She tattoos the first lines of her favorite books on her body like a collection of fond memories she wants to keep close forever. She hides a secret about her past and never lets people past her defenses. Books don't judge. Books don't pity. She works in a bookshop, surrounded by the peace and feeling of safety the books give her. But, someone has found out about her past. And Loveday Cardew's quiet little world is about to tumble into chaos.

I loved this book! As the story progressed and I learned more and more about Loveday....her past, her thoughts, her secret....I found myself sympathizing more and more with her. Sometimes the past keeps a tight grip on a person that takes years to loosen. I know this experience personally from my disastrous relationships with my birth family. For Loveday, she hides from her hurts and emotions and only loves books...until she lets her defenses down just a bit. And the world comes crashing in. So realistic. I also love the idea of getting tattoos of first lines of favorite books, or those with personal meaning,

I listened to the audio book version of this novel.  Narrated by Imogen Church, the audio is just under 9 hours long. Church's voice is perfect for this book, and I loved the audio. Even with my hearing loss, I was easily able to hear and understand the entire book.

This was a binge listen for me.....I couldn't stop once I got immersed in the story. This book is sad, hopeful, and beautiful. Despite how we remember our lives Before, there is always a life After.

I absolutely loved this book and will be reading more by this author. I usually steer away from emotional fiction, but this story is beautiful. I have to admit that this book sat on my To-Read shelf for awhile before I worked up the courage to read it. I knew it would poke at the hurts still present from my own past...and I had to work up the courage to go there. I'm so glad I did.....totally rewarding experience. Full stars from me!

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

REVIEW: Trixie Belden and the Mystery on Cobbett's Island

Trixie Belden and the Mystery on Cobbett's Island
Author: Kathryn Kenny

I loved the Trixie Belden series as a young teenager. The tales of her sleuthing with help from her brothers and friends were my favorites for years. The final books in the series published in the early 1980s were the first books I ever pre-ordered. I babysat my spoiled nephew to earn the cash to buy those books. At one time I had the entire set. All matching. Before I went to college, I sold the whole set to a 12-year old. I hope she loved them as much as I did! This year I decided to revisit the Bob-Whites of the Glen and Sleepyside, NY out of nostalgia. I have been working my way through this series a little bit at a time and enjoying every minute! Some of the books were re-released in new editions, but most are long out of print. Luckily, it is easy to find used copies cheaply.

The Mystery on Cobbett's Island is the 13th book in the series. There are 39 books in total. I enjoyed this sailing and treasure hunt themed story. The kids go on vacation to Cobbett's Island. Trixie finds an old letter hidden in a book, sending the kids on a treasure hunt for hidden money. The story is entertaining and the mystery is light, but interesting. Totally age appropriate for middle grade kids. The series is definitely dated, but still fun to read.

I love the book lists in the back of these old the back of the old copy of Mystery at Cobbett's Island that I have it lists "The Meg Mysteries'' as a recommended series. I did a little bit of research....the Meg Mysteries is a series with a middle grade age amateur sleuth written in the late 60s. Sounds like a good series to try when I'm done re-visiting Trixie!

The first six books of the Trixie Belden series were written by Julie Campbell. The rest of the series was published under the pen-name Kathryn Kenny. The books were written by various authors all using this same pseudonym. It's very similar to how the Nancy Drew books were published. I wish I knew the names of the actual writers who penned the various books.....   I never knew that Kathryn Kenny wasn't a real person until I was an adult. I hope all the writers who anonymously penned these great books for kids realized how much enjoyment they brought to all of us who read their work!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

REVIEW: The Creature

Author; Hunter Shea

Kate Woodson suffers with autoimmune disease. Her health problems are slowly killing her. As an escape from her mounting physical problems and the subsequent damage to their relationship, her husband Andrew rents a cottage in Maine for the summer and takes a 3 month leave of absence from his job. They both need a break from their day-to-day lives. But, in the woods surrounding the seemingly idyllic cabin lurks something so horrible, something so monstrous it might just destroy them both. The lurks, it waits, it knows them.....

I love Hunter Shea's books. I love horror stories with monsters and Hunter Shea always delivers! He has creeped me out with everything from legendary beasties like the Jersey Devil to urban rats. This book hits close to home for me as I deal with physical and health issues on a daily basis. I identified with Kate Woodson and her husband. Physical pain and limitations have a direct and sometimes destructive effect on daily life and relationships. I wanted them to enjoy their summer in the backwoods of Maine.....and the downward spiral their attempt to escape took was horrifying in itself. I let myself get pulled totally into this story, reading it on my front porch in a comfy the dark....all alone....dark woods right across the street.....     Even the cup of hot, sweet, caramel flavored coffee sitting next to me wasn't enough to keep me from getting very much creeped out as the Woodsons started hearing leaf-crunching, branch breaking, heavy footsteps circling their cabin.....then rocks being thrown on the roof.....and a snuffling, roaring beastie standing just outside the door. The realization that the monster could bust through the glass patio doors at any time terrified not only the Woodsons, but me too. Perfect! I was immersed in this story from start to finish. I love how the plot relates to Hunter Shea's real life. I think that is why the story seems so real and grabbed my interest so thoroughly. Loved it!

Hunter Shea is the author of several other horror novels including The Montauk Monster and Jurassic Florida. Any lover of creature features or monster tales will love his books! This book gets full stars from me because of the personal connect I had with the characters and the totally creepy experience! Can't wait for his next book!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Flame Tree Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. No monsters were harmed in the writing of this review, although I did suffer quite a scare when my cat hopped on my lap while I was reading it in the dark. No permanent injuries to either of us. Luckily.**

Saturday, August 18, 2018

REVIEW: The Outsider

The Outsider
Author: Stephen King

Stephen King is pretty much hit or miss for me. Some of his books I absolutely love. And others (like Dreamcatcher, for example) I had to DNF....unreadable, in my opinion. His last couple of books have been enjoyable for I put myself on the library wait list for The Outsider and waited weeks for it to be my turn for the audio book. This book was well worth the wait. I was not disappointed. The story is suspenseful, creepy and classically King-esque.

An 11-year old boy is murdered in a completely horrific and terrifying way. The police have a suspect, a local youth baseball coach. Terry Maitland has never done anything illegal or broken any laws, but his fingerprints and DNA point to him as the killer. Local authorities believe they have an open and shut case. the time the boy was killed, Terry Maitland was hours away at a conference for teachers. Witnesses saw him at both the same time. How can a man be in two places at once?

This story is warped and disturbing yet mesmerizing, as only Stephen King can spin a tale. What starts out as an investigation into a brutal murder morphs into something much more dark and evil. Once I started the audio book, I listened while driving, while gardening, while cleaning.....I couldn't stop listening! I breezed through 18+ hours of this story in just 3 days. I was hooked on the story. It's been awhile since a King novel completely sucked me in.....loved it!

Narrated by Will Patton, the audio book is almost 19 hours long. Patton reads at a nice speed and manages different voices, the required King-esque creepiness and the acting required with great skill. I'm sure it's not easy to bring something as demented, strange and awesome as a King novel to life...but Patton did a great job! I really enjoyed the performance! I have hearing loss, but was easily able to hear and understand the entire book.

Warning: This book contains some graphic descriptions of child murder and rape. If that's something you can't handle, it might be best to pass on this one.  For King fans -- this story is classic.

Friday, August 17, 2018

REVIEW: S'more Murders

S'More Murders
Author: Maya Corrigan

Val Deniston usually caters meals from a set list of menu choices. But when a wealthy man offers her a lot of money to recreate a 10-course meal served to first class passengers on the Titanic, she agrees. Bills gotta get paid...and the money is too good to refuse. At first the dinner aboard his yacht, the Abyss, is enjoyable for the eight people seated at the table. It quickly takes a bad turn when the captain is knocked unconscious and the host disappears off the boat. Was it an accident....or murder?

This is the first book in the 5-ingredient Mystery Series that I have read. S'More Murders is the 5th book in the series. I was easily able to follow the story and the characters without reading any of the prior books. There is some character development and background that I was lacking, of course, but I still enjoyed the story. I will definitely be backtracking to read this series from the start.

The mystery kept my attention. I liked the recreation of the Titanic dinner with a murder mystery game element added. There were plenty of suspects and sleuthing, and having the murder victim disappear off a ship at sea was a creative, interesting way to bump him off. Val and her grandpa are great characters, and I even liked all of the side characters. The fact that Val is helping her grandpa write a cookbook about old codger's favorite recipes made me smile. Cute! Plus, there are several yummy sounding recipes based on the Titanic cuisine in the back of the book! I love it when cozies include recipes that aren't all sugary desserts or cookies! An example of a first class dinner menu from the Titanic is included as well. I found it an interesting fact that none of the actual recipes for foods cooked on the Titanic still exist. Val had to wing it and create her own in the story. I'm surprised the White Star Line doesn't have a record of food preparation or recipes on its liners from that time....but I suppose the Chef also winged it and created his own versions of the foods. After finishing the book I did a little online research. Head Chef  Charles Proctor and most of his staff did not survive the sinking. The ship's Head Baker, Charles Joughin, did survive, floating in the water in a lifebelt until rescue arrived. So, no wonder there are no authentic recipes for the foods served to first class on that fateful voyage. There are several restaurants around the world offering a recreation of the last meal served to passengers -- one even offers a 1907 vintage wine that was actually salvaged from the wreck (I find this morally wrong....but they didn't ask my opinion) for nearly $2,000 per person.

Enjoyable cozy! I will definitely be reading the rest of this series...and more by this author!

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

Thursday, August 16, 2018

REVIEW: Spying on Whales

Spying On Whales
Author: Nick Pyenson

I've always had a fascination with whales, dolphins and other mammals that live in the sea. I think maybe it's because they are so like us, and yet so different at the same time. When I saw this book written by a Smithsonian paleontologist, I knew I had to read all about the past, present and future of whales. I'm glad I did -- this book is fascinating!

Nick Pyenson shares so many facts about whales...species that still swim in our oceans and ones that are long gone. He discusses the ancestors of the whales we know today, the life of whales now and what the future might be for some of the largest creatures on the planet. There is still so much about whales that we don't know because they spend most of their time in deep ocean where even modern humans have a hard time following. I found it fascinating that Pyenson shared the fact that some whales can live more than 200 there are some still swimming that saw wooden ships with sails skimming across the ocean. It made me wonder with awe what experiences the oldest whale in the world might have had over its long life.

There is a lot of information and facts shared in this book, and at times Pyenson does get a bit academic. I read this book in small pieces, not in large chunks. The information is interesting and fascinating. But at times, the author let his ego show a bit. I don't fault highly educated people for this at all....they have a lot of knowledge and experiences that I don't. For me, small doses is best with information dense nonfiction like this book. Every night I would read a chapter or two while the HD television across the room showed an ocean documentary for ambiance. It just so happened that I was reading this book while Shark Week was on Discovery it worked out perfectly. Sharks aren't whales of course...but the lovely ocean scenes made a perfect background for my enjoyment of this book.

Lovely book! A nice blend of Pyenson's personal experiences and facts, history and information about whales themselves. He presents the information in an interesting way. Pyenson actually gives tours at the Smithsonian. After reading his book, I imagine he is an awesome guide! Great read!

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

REVIEW: Cross My Path

Cross My Path
Author: Clea Simon

The first thing that caught my attention is the cover of this book. What a beautiful black cat! And then the premise of the series pulled me in the rest of the way.....  Carrie "Care'' Wright is a private investigator. She solves cases for those in need with the help of her cat, Blackie. Blackie isn't just a cat....he's special. The story is told from the cat's point of view.

Cross My Path is the third book in this series. Usually I am picky and prefer to read a series starting at book 1. When I chose this particular book for review, I didn't realize it was part of a series. As I started reading, I was a bit confused at first....having no previous knowledge of the characters or their background. But I quickly figured things out. Blackie is a very, very special cat.....and I immediately loved him! Such a creative and interesting character! But, I think it would have been best -- and less confusing -- to start this series at book one. I'm going to backtrack and start over....beginning with The Ninth Life and As Black As My Fur before re-reading this book. Even with the slight confusion over prior events, I enjoyed this story and will definitely be reading more from Clea Simon!

This is the first book by Clea Simon that I have read. I like her story and writing style. And I definitely liked the characters in this series. It has a very gritty, noir feel. Fun and enjoyable read!

Ordered a copy of The Ninth Life -- I have to read this series from the beginning!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Severn House via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. All black cats encountered during the reading of this book had their ears scritched and tummies rubbed, as required by Cat Law.**

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

REVIEW: Scream Site

Review: Scream Site
Author: Justina Ireland

Sabrina Sebastian dreams of being an investigative reporter. Right now she's a reporter for her school's paper, The Mount Clare High School Weekly, but she has her eyes set on a internship at the Daily Sun. A real reporting job! She wants to write an exciting story that will get her noticed. She decides to look into rumors surrounding a horror website, Scream Site. The site is sponsoring a contest to award a big prize to the maker of the video with the most likes and shares at the end of the year. But, rumors are circulating that girls who have posted popular videos to the site are disappearing. Sabrina starts researching the site and the rumors and discovers the stories might just be true. The whole thing might just revolve around the sponsors of Scream Site, a closed amusement park and a Scream Site user, Shady99. When she starts looking deeper into the disappearances, she starts receiving threats. Her perfect news story might just be a bit more dangerous than she thought!

The premise for this story makes for a great YA horror story. Horror video site gone horribly wrong. And for the first 2/3 of the book, I was completely engrossed in the plot. But....the ending fell flat for me. I felt the ending was rushed and a bit too convenient....a "safe'' ending? While it is important to remember the audience a book is written for, I think the end for this one was a bit too an old Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys ending. Too soft. I was waiting for a horrific finish......and I didn't get it.

But, I enjoyed the story up to that point. My son, who is a YouTube fanatic, would like this book. I think he would have the same comments about the ending that I did though.

I liked this book enough to read more by this author. The story was engaging and interesting. My only problem with it was the ending. I wanted more of a Scream from Scream Site. Justina Ireland has written several other YA books including Dread Nation and Vengeance Bound. Dread Nation sound so interesting! A zombie story set back in the Civil War era....definitely added to my TBR list!

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

Monday, August 13, 2018

REVIEW: Shelved Under Murder

Shelved Under Murder
Author: Victoria Gilbert

Taylorsford, VA is gearing up for its annual Heritage Festival featuring local arts, crafts and history. While she loves the festival, the fall foliage and the people, Librarian Amy Webber is not looking forward to the library's fundraiser at the event. Things get worse when Amy and her assistant, Sunny, go to pick up artwork from a local artist and find Rachel Wynn dead, stabbed with a palette knife. Her scupltor husband is nowhere to be found. When forged artwork is discovered hidden away on the Wynn property, the case becomes much more than just a murder investigation. Because Amy has a degree in art history, she is pulled in to help with the case. Who killed Rachel Wynn? And is her murder related to the forged artwork?

I am enjoying this new cozy series. Partially because I live near the Blue Ridge Mountains...but mostly because I like the characters. Amy is an intelligent main character with a nice mix of determination, skill and feisty-ness. I enjoy all the side characters and the background theme of a library in a small VA town. This second book in the Blue Ridge Library cozy series moved along at a nice pace. The mystery was engaging and kept my attention the entire time. Plus, there is some good character development in this newest book, helping move the series forward.

Reading this enjoyable fall season cozy really put me in the mood for all the local festivals and county fairs that will be coming up soon! Plus pumpkin spice and apple flavored/scented everything! :)

I'm definitely going to keep reading this cozy series. The next book, Past Due For Murder, is set to come out in February 2019.

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

Sunday, August 12, 2018

REVIEW: Why To Kill A Mockingbird Still Matters

Why To Kill A Mockingbird Matters
Author: Tom Santopietro

I recently re-read To Kill A Mockingbird. The classic novel is one of 100 books chosen for The Great American Read. I remembered loving the book when I read it in high school and again in college. I think I liked it even more re-reading it as a middle-aged adult.

Tom Santpietro's book delves into the impact that the novel and the 1962 film version have had, touching on whether the book is racist and how it relates to the current culture in America. I loved this in-depth look at one of my favorite classic books (and classic film). I liked how the author pinpointed why this book is still relevant today. I didn't necessarily agree with all of his points and the discussion of whether this book is racist went on a little too long in my opinion. But, I thought it was a thoughtful and well-researched look into the novel and the impact it had on American, and global, culture.

Reading this book has given me the strength to finally read the copy of Go Set a Watchman that has been sitting on my TBR shelf since it's publication. I haven't been able to gather up the courage to read it since I know it changes the story somewhat (Atticus is racist and other major changes), and because I felt it might have been exploitation of the author to publish what is basically her first unpublished version of the story. I think I'm ready to brave it now.....and then spend some time thinking about how I feel about it.

This is the first book by Tom Santopietro that I have read. He's written several other books about films and culture including The Godfather Effect, Considering Doris Day, The Sound of Music Story, and The Importance of Being Barbra. I'm definitely going to read more of his books. This one was incredibly thought provoking for me and I enjoy how he relates literature and film to our culture.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St. Martins Press. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Saturday, August 11, 2018

REVIEW: The Fast-5 Diet and the Fast-5 Lifestyle

The Fast-5 Diet & The Fast-5 Lifestyle
Author: Bert W. Herring, MD

After having surgery 8 years ago, I have to follow a specialized diet that is sometimes incredibly challenging. Very low carb. No sugar. High protein. It's difficult to maintain. I slipped and over the last couple of years started eating foods I knew I wasn't supposed to have. Not only did it make me feel ill, but also caused me to gain weight. It's easy to pretend that pounds aren't creeping on....until seasons change...and trying on clothes that used to fit becomes a lesson in the stark reality that my rear has outgrown my wardrobe. So, I decided that it was time to suck it up and change how I was living my life.....increase my exercise again and find an eating plan that fit what works best for my franken-gut.

I read this book hoping that intermittent fasting would be the answer for me. And, I think it is!

In The Fast-5 Diet and the Fast-5 Lifestyle, Dr. Bert W. Herring outlines what intermittent fasting is (eating only in a set window of time each day) and his instructions for how to transition, solve problems and maintain this way of eating. I love this! The plan is common sense and simple. And it will work with any healthy, mindful eating plan. Modified fasting also alleviates some of the problems that total fasting can cause, especially for someone like me that has decreased absorption of nutrients from foods. I am currently still transitioning to an eating window of 5-10 pm. My breakfast is at 2 pm now, and I eat two meals. Over the next several weeks, I will transition my first meal of the day later and later until I hit that 5 pm mark. I am not starving myself. I eat very wonderful, healthy, nutritious foods with my family when it's within my window to eat. In my fasting hours, I can drink water, coffee, tea.....I'm doing fine. And, I'm feeling better already. My gut is no longer bloated. I have so much more energy. I sleep better. I still have to take a lot of nutritional supplements due to the intestinal modifications I live with....and I start taking those in the morning to get them all in by evening time. So, smooth sailing so far. It's all working wonderfully! I feel better, and I'm seeing a return to better physical health. I feel a little better every day. I am anxious to see how my bloodwork has improved when I go to my next doctor's appointment in September.

As with any major change in diet, it's best to consult your physician before attempting intermittent fasting. This program is not recommended for diabetics or others who have to eat every few hours for medical reasons. My husband is he isn't doing Fast-5 with me, but he is eating the same foods I make for myself, so the program is benefiting him indirectly.

Dr. Herring also has another book related to this introductory book: AC: The Power of Appetite Correction. It's also a wonderful tool that I am reading and learning so much from it. Being surrounded by junk food, greasy fast food options, constant television commercials about makes overeating, impulse eating and other problems common place these days. I highly recommend both books for anyone looking to transition to a more healthy relationship with food. For me, this is giving me a common sense approach to dealing with my diet restrictions and health concerns.

Friday, August 10, 2018

REVIEW: Killer Green Tomatoes

Killer Green Tomatoes
Author: Lynn Cahoon

Angie Turner finally finds a local supplier for fresh grown tomatoes. She's ecstatic because local produce is vital to her Farm-To-Fork restaurant, County Seat. Her happiness is a bit short-lived however, when Javier is arrested for murder. His girlfriend has been murdered and local law enforcement think he did it. Not only is Javier her new produce supplier, but also the cousin of Estebe, one of her kitchen staff. Angie loves her staff like family, so she agrees to help clear Javier's name.

Killer Green Tomatoes is the second book in the Farm-To-Fork cozy mystery series. I love the concept of a restaurant that serves only locally sourced produce and meats, so this is an enjoyable new cozy series for me. I like Angie as a main character. She is intelligent and a bit feisty, but a kind boss. The side characters all blend well to make the background theme of small-town Idaho and a farm-to-plate restaurant work well. The background theme doesn't over power the mystery, but helps build the plot. I like Lynn Cahoon's other cozies -- The Tourist Trap and Cat Latimer series -- and this newest series does not disappoint.

The mystery is nicely paced and interesting, with plenty of sleuthing required and a few twists. I'm definitely going to read more of this series. It provided me with a nice, relaxing evening of reading.
Plus the recipe for Fried Zucchini at the end of the book sounds amazing! There is no recipe for fried green tomatoes, but the traditional southern dish is mentioned several times during the story. I'm now motivated to try my hand at cooking some up before the end of the summer season. I've lived in the south for 15 years and have never tried the dish before. It will be an adventure!

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

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

REVIEW: The Mermaid

The Mermaid
Author: Christina Henry

What if the famed Fiji Mermaid displayed in the 1800s by PT Barnum had been real?

A mermaid, curious about humans, wanders too close to the shore and is netted by a fisherman. The man lets her go, but something in his gaze draws her to him. She leaves the ocean and lives with him as a human for years, until his death. Then she meets PT Barnum. Barnum doesn't want to display a fake mermaid poorly constructed from a monkey and fish.....he wants to give people the real thing. Although Barnum promises she can leave at any time, he is determined to keep his mermaid, and the money she makes for him, at almost any cost. Can Amelia have a happy-ever-after....or will she always be on display in Barnum's museum?

I enjoyed this story. Once I started reading, I couldn't put the book down. Amelia is such a complex and intriguing character. Living on land, but with an intense need to also be in the sea, she is conflicted even before being put on display by PT Barnum. The Mermaid is a magical and thought provoking story. I didn't really like the way PT Barnum is depicted. But being a businessman and showman, he might have been driven by a bit of greed and self-importance in reality. I just didn't like thinking of him as a liar and manipulator. I'd rather think of him as an interesting, slightly mystical, entertainer.....not a greedy, thoughtless bastard. That might be wishful thinking on my part, however, as the man made his living by tricking people much of the time. My favorite scene is one where Barnum's wife and kids discover that Amelia is the real was just an awesome scene! I love the premise that his mermaid is actually much cooler than the monkey-fish combo he really displayed. Can you imagine getting to see a real mermaid?? I would definitely have paid Barnum money to see that! :) But....would anyone stop to think about whether the mermaid was happy or not? And would she be safe?

I enjoyed this book and will definitely read more by this author!

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

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

REVIEW: Kiss the Girls

Kiss the Girls
Author: James Patterson

Alex Cross is a skilled, and dedicated, detective from Washington, DC. When he discovers his niece is missing from her college in NC and might possibly have been kidnapped by a serial killer, he jumps into the case with NC authorities and the FBI. Women are disappearing. All beautiful, very intelligent women. Some are found murdered. And others are just gone, with no clues as to their whereabouts. When one victim escapes, Alex and the FBI find out that this case might be much more complex and dangerous. The NC kidnappings and murders might be related to similar crimes in California.  Alex and the FBI race to solve the case and find the missing victims before more of them are killed.

I am really enjoying this series. I read the first book because it was listed as part of the Great American Read, and continued on because I like the characters, especially Alex Cross. Cross is a complex character. He is a ruthless investigator, but a kind and gentle father to his two kids. The plots are interesting and very suspenseful. Kiss the Girls is not for the feint of heart. It contains quite graphic depictions of torture, rape, kidnapping and abuse. There was one scene with an assault involving a snake that made me have to turn the audio book off for awhile and watch a Disney movie. It was.......intense and disturbing. The bad guy in this story is crazier than an S-house rat....and very, very dangerous. The point of view jumps around quite a bit ..... changing from victims, to killer, to Alex Cross. I'm not usually a fan of stories that jump around like that, but for this book, it worked perfectly. It just heightened the suspense, and developed the characters. The crimes were chilling and horrible. The story definitely kept me on the edge of my seat.

I usually listen to audio books outside while I do yard work. But this one was a bit too intense and graphic. It wasn't appropriate for listening to outside because our neighbors on one side have small children, and the neighborhood gossips are on the other side. I had visions of the gossips calling around telling people I was listening to dirty sex books in my front yard. ha ha.  I chose to enjoy this suspenseful story in the privacy of my kitchen, saving me from any neighbor side eye. :) Very, very good book -- just a note of caution for those who have small kids at home or have qualms about books with rape/torture themes.

Narrated by Michael Kramer, the audio book version I listened to is just shy of 11 hours long. I would have preferred a black voice actor narrating, but Kramer did a good job. I have hearing loss, but was easily able to hear and understand the entire book.

I'm definitely going to read more of this series! Very enjoyable so far! The books are bestsellers for a reason. I wish I had started reading sooner! Not sure why I never read this series. Fixing my error now!

Monday, August 6, 2018

REVIEW: Murder at the Mansion

Murder at the Mansion
Author: Sheila Connolly

Katherine Hamilton is the manager of an upscale hotel in Baltimore. She finally has all her ducks in a row and loves her life. Then a high school friend, Lisbeth, comes to visit her, begging her to return to their hometown, Asheboro, MD to talk to the city council. Lisbeth won't say why, but it's a short trip across the state, so Katherine agrees. Turns out that Asheboro is nearly bankrupt. The city leaders want her to help them turn an old Victorian mansion in town into a tourist destination. Old issues crop up almost immediately because her old high school enemy, Cordelia Walker, has presented an alternate plan. Things get even worse when Cordelia is found dead and Katherine becomes a murder suspect. Katherine finds herself not only investigating the mysteries of the old mansion...but Cordelia's murder as well.

This is a  nice start to a new cozy series. I like the characters and the setting. The mystery was nicely paced and there were plenty of suspects and small town gossipy clues to keep me interested. I like the fact that the old house had some mystery to throw in to the mix as well. I definitely like Katherine as a main character. She is an intelligent and driven woman, but still was willing to put her career aside to help her hometown (no matter how much hot water it got her into!) I sympathized with her and felt a certain kinship, as I always seem to find myself knee-deep in crap every single time I put personal interests aside to help someone else. I had to smile knowingly several times when Katherine really tried to do something good...and ended up with egg on her face. Maybe instead of the old saying being "You can't go home again'' it should be "You SHOULDNT go home again. Don't do it!''

I will definitely be reading more of this series. Very enjoyable read!

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

Sunday, August 5, 2018

REVIEW: The Woman in the Woods

The Woman in the Woods
Author: John Connolly

I usually have a rule about reading book series in order. The book blurb for this one sounded interesting enough for me to break my rule. The Woman in the Woods is the 16th book in the Charlie Parker series. While some characters from prior novels pop back up in this one, I was able to follow the story and figure things out enough to really enjoy this book. The plot is complex...the characters gritty....and the suspense almost unbearable. I loved it! I now have to back track and start the Charlie Parker series from the beginning! Some events and discussion of past cases will make much more sense if I re-read this after reading the prior books.

A mummified corpse is discovered in the woods. Charlie Parker is hired to investigate and identify the dead woman. Apparently the woman died soon after giving birth, but the infant's corpse is not present. It turns out the case is much more complicated than an unidentified dead woman. And dangerous.

I loved how all the different story lines going in this book all came together. The characters are amazing and the complex plot was just awesome. This is the first book by John Connolly that I have read -- I will most definitely be reading more. A lot more. Like everything this man has written. Just outstanding -- great writing and a creative, suspenseful plot.

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

Saturday, August 4, 2018

REVIEW: Cusp of Night

Cusp of Night
Author: Maya Sinclair

Maya Sinclair is recovering from a nearly fatal car accident. She was dead for more than two minutes, but resuscitated by medical staff. She remembers flitting images, or at least the feeling, of being in the Aether. It was like a holding ground for spirits who would be returning to earth. Maya goes to Hode Hill, PA to spend time with a friend and recover from her physical and mental ordeal. She gets sucked into local lore and gossip almost immediately. The Hode family has run things in Hode Hill for generations, much to the annoyance of some. A secretive research facility on the outskirts of town is tied to at least one death. And, every year the town has a festival formed around local folklore about The Fiend, a murderous, supernatural devil-like creature that murdered several Hode Hill residents in the 1890s. Maya discovers the history revolves around Lucinda Glass, a medium with blue-toned skin, who was killed by The Fiend. When sightings of the monster begin anew in Hode Hill and ghosts haunt the brownstone she's renting, Maya starts delving deeper into the Hode Hill legends.

OMG -- I love this book! I am a sucker for creepy, supernatural horror, and this story just sucked me right in. I couldn't stop reading! The story switches point of view, alternating between Maya in the present day and Lucinda Glass more than 100 years ago. Usually I'm not much of a fan of POV jumps, but for this story it worked perfectly. I am happy to discover this is the first book of a series. The second book, End of Day, is coming out in January 2019! This is the kind of horror that I love to read -- Halloween-y type creepy stories and not gore fests. The monster does attack people in this story, but there are no graphic descriptions of severed limbs or spurting blood. I am happy to discover that another series, Point Pleasant, centered around the Mothman legend. I think I have found the first series I'm going to start reading for Halloween prep this year! I can get myself into the mood of the fall season early this year! Woot! I will most definitely be reading more by this author.

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

REVIEW: Poisoned Prose

Poisoned Prose
Author: Ellery Adams

Oyster Bay, NC is hosting a storyteller's retreat. The best storytellers from around the country are coming, with the headliner being Violetta Devereaux. Violetta is by far the most famous guest, renowned for her talent at captivating entire rooms of listeners with her stories. The Bayside Book Writers Group is a bit surprised at how secretive and closed off the performer seems to be. Violetta doesn't give interviews. She doesn't stay after performances or mingle with fans. Olivia Limoges is surprised when Violetta agrees to see her. The storyteller answers a few of Olivia's questions, but seems resigned to meeting some strange fate in Oyster Bay. She calls the coastal NC town her Gethsemane. Her strange future vision comes true when she is found strangled just minutes later. Who killed Violetta? And why?

This mystery is complex and a bit dark, but very enjoyable. Secrets never stay hidden. Some main characters in this series have secrets that come out in this book....but none compare to the secrets hidden by their famous storyteller. It makes for a fast-paced, suspenseful and creative story!

My one issue with this series is that it tends to get a bit overly emotional for me. I'm not one for romance novels. I like mysteries....and this series just tends to wing off into romance land, or women's fiction type melodramatic scenes, a bit too much for my taste. But -- I am invested in the characters and I love the creative plots. I do occasionally have to roll my eyes when Olivia goes into some soliloquy about how much she loves her boyfriend....I just have this snarky little voice in my head that goes "OK love the guy...get back to the mystery!''  :)  Just being honest.  I do like the fact that the books don't abruptly come to an end when the mystery is solved. There is always a chapter or two of wrap up and character development. I could just use a bit less lovey-dovey sappiness.  But....for those who enjoy romance novels and cozies, this would be the perfect mix!

Just a bit of a head's up -- there is sex and some adult themes in this series. No cursing and no graphic stuff, but it does get a bit adult here and there. I wouldn't hand this book to anyone under 13 without reading it first to be sure it passes your personal appropriate guidelines.

Poisoned Prose is the 5th book in this series of 8. Three more to go! :)

Friday, August 3, 2018

REVIEW: Bring Me Back

Bring Me Back
Author: B.A. Paris

Twelve years ago, Finn's girlfriend disappeared while they were vacationing in France. Finn told the police that while stopped at a service station, Layla simply vanished. That was basically the truth....but not the whole truth. Now years later he is engaged to Layla's sister, Ellen. But someone is sending strange emails and leaving things for both Ellen and Finn to find.....things that hint Layla might not be dead. If Layla is alive, what does she want? And if she's dead.....who is stalking them?

All I can say As I read this book, I thought I knew what the ending was going to be. I had it all mapped out in my head. But, the story managed to wallop me with a complete surprise. I love it when that happens!

Bring Me Back is a psychological thriller. Most of the story is told from Finn's point of view, with a few chapters from Layla's perspective. The whole situation is completely screwed up....Layla gone for 12 years, Finn getting ready to marry her sister, Finn never telling the truth about what happened. Then Russian nesting dolls start showing up everywhere. Layla and her sister both loved those dolls as a child. Now dolls show up on their backyard fence, on the windshield of their car, tucked in with their bill at a restaurant....  Seriously creepy.  Not to mention the emails. Someone hinting that Layla isn't dead. Slowly, the story unfolds and Finn tells the truth.....but the whole story doesn't come into focus until the last few pages. The epilogue....the very last page of the book....brings it all full circle. Chilling, creepy and awesome!

This is the first book by B.A. Paris that I have read. I'm definitely coming back for more!

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Girls' Night Out

Girls' Night Out
Author: Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Three women take a vacation to Mexico in an attempt to mend their relationship. The problems between Ashley, Natalie and Lauren are complicated. Lauren blames Ashley for the death of her husband. Natalie wants Ashley to agree to sell the corporation they built together. And Ashley wants to keep control of her life, her business...and her secrets. But she also wants her two best friends back. The trip takes a strange tangent when Ashley becomes obsessed with a local man. Marco talks about native rituals, ceremonies and magic.....a way to bring peace back to life. And Ashley just loses focus. When she disappears, things careen out of control for Natalie and Lauren. Natalie can't remember what happened that last night, and Lauren regrets things she said and did. What happened to Ashley? And will their lives ever be the same?

Wow....this book was suspenseful, disturbing and awesome. It kept me guessing until the very end. Just as I thought I knew what happened....the story would take a twist and leave me wondering again. What a bunch of F'd up people. But aren't we all just a little F'd up? Not to this extreme I hope....but we all have secrets, regrets, friendships we screwed up, mistakes made, lessons learned. These three women want to re-forge their friendship, but sometimes it's difficult to rebuild burnt bridges or get past insurmountable personality differences. None of them are totally honest with any of the others. And that sort of fake, yet emotionally binding, friendship has a cost. It's a toxic mix.  Each one is selfish in their own way, wanting the friendships to last for their own gratification not for any bond or caring for any of the others. I disliked, yet sympathized, with each of them. Ashley is clueless about her controlling and manipulative behavior. Natalie is weak-willed and lets others take control, then resents it. Lauren blames others for the crap in her life, rather than admitting the fault is her own. They are all whiny, immature, manipulative bitches......yet very very human. Just like all of us. Ultimately, they all pay a price for their mistakes.

This book sucked me right in. I couldn't stop reading. I stayed up way too late because I had to know what happened! Definitely a binge reading event! Loved it! The characters frustrated the piss out of me....but I couldn't stop wondering what the hell was going to happen to them. Perfect. Love-hate relationship with the story. It definitely kept me reading! Like a soap opera keeps you watching, even though you want to look away.

This is the first book I have read by these authors. I'm definitely reading more! Great book!

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

Monday, July 30, 2018

REVIEW: Turtles All The Way Down

Turtles All The Way Down
Author: John Green

Russell Pickett is missing. The wealthy businessman is just trace, no calls or contact with his kids, no activity on his bank accounts. There is a $100,000 reward for information leading to his whereabouts. Local teenager Aza and her sidekick Daisy decide to become amateur sleuths, hoping to claim the reward. Aza tries to keep her spiraling obsessive thoughts under control, while suffering through therapy appointments and being lax with her meds. Her friend Daisy helps to keep her functioning, although it is at times more than she can take. They befriend Pickett's older son, Davis and his little brother, Noah. Where is Russell Pickett?? But, really, this novel isn't about Russell Pickett at all. It's about relationships, mental illness, family, emotions.....just about everything else but Russell Pickett.'s beautiful.

At first, I didn't know whether I was going to like this book or not. I try to steer away from novels that are deeply emotional or deal with difficult subjects. I don't like to finish a story and feel depressed. But I gave this one a chance. I'm glad I did. While the book is hard-hitting and emotional, I didn't finish it with depressed feelings. I felt like the story was realistic....a coming-of-age tale told with truth and hope.

The characters are engaging and realistic. I loved and sympathized with them all. Aza is my favorite. She battles her demons with all her might, while realizing her faults and mistakes. She comes to understand so many things about herself and others. She learns to love, to forgive and to respect herself. Daisy is a close runner up. She has her faults, but she loves her best friend. No matter how difficult that is at times.

Before I read this book, I wondered why the coverart was so weird....but now I totally get it. The cover is perfect.

This is the first book by John Green that I have read. I'm definitely going to read more. This was a "heavier'' story than I usually allow myself to read, but incredible.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

REVIEW: A Cold Flame

A Cold Flame
Author: Aidan Conway

As Rome is sweltering in the summer heat, a killer lurks...striking out in horrific ways. Five illegal immigrants are burned to death, unable to escape a flat where the doors have been sealed from the outside. Then a priest is killed, his body horribly mutilated and a pipe bomb goes off at a university. Detective Michael Rossi and his partner Luigi Carrera are on the trail of a terror organization and a brutal killer. Can they stop the killer before more people die?

A Cold Flame is the follow up book to A Known Evil, the first book in the Michael Rossi series. While it isn't completely necessary to read the books in order, to get the full scope of the characters and setting, it might be best to read A Known Evil first. I loved the gritty, fast paced plot in A Known Evil, and this second book didn't let up one bit. The action started at page 1 and kept up a steady, suspenseful pace all the way through. I love the fact this series is set in Rome....lots of politics, intrigue, corruption. It really makes for an exciting read! There is plenty of action and twists in this book. The characters are engaging and the crimes gruesome. A Cold Flame is a great addition to this new series.

I'm not going to say much about the plot, as this is a book readers want to experience with as few spoilers as possible. Once I got sucked into the story, I couldn't put this book down. I like the international feel and grit of this series. Very enjoyable! I will definitely be reading more of this series.

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Harper Impulse/Killer Reads via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Thursday, July 26, 2018

REVIEW: Indianapolis - The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in Naval History

Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in Naval History
Author: Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic

I am ashamed to admit that I knew nothing of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II until I saw a documentary on it during Shark Week on Discovery Channel in 2007. Years of history classes...many on the two world wars....for a college degree....and I knew nothing about the most disastrous sinking in US Naval history.  Most stories about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis focus on the sharks that attacked both dead bodies and live sailors in the water after the sinking, but this book focuses on the entire story, not just the dramatic survival parts. Information on the ship, its officers and crew, the war, its mission just before the ship was torpedoed, the men who died and the survivors who floated in the ocean for four days before being rescued. The intent of the authors is to present the information necessary to prove that Captain Charles McVay III was not at fault. Captain McVay was court martialed after the sinking, but later pardoned. His naval record was wiped clean decades later after his death.

The authors definitely did a lot of research. The facts are presented in an interesting and detailed fashion, while still being respectful of the Sailors who lost their lives in the sinking. This book dispels a lot of rumors and misinformation caused by movies and television shows. For example, the sharks did not appear for a couple days after the sinking not instantly as portrayed in a recent movie. The animals were lured in by the scent of corpses and injured sailors in the water. A majority of the deaths after the sinking were not due to shark attack. About 300 men went down with the ship. 900 went into the water. After dehydration, injuries, salt poisoning, lack of food, exhaustion....and sharks....took their toll on the survivors, only 316 sailors survived.  The book also explains why Captain McVay was not zigzagging the boat at the time it was torpedoed, and why it took four days for suvivors to be rescued. The Indianapolis had just completed delivery of top secret war materials (uranium and materials for the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan) so it's position and orders were secret. Nobody knew where the ship was and when it was supposed to return to port except for a very, very few people. It took days for them to realize the ship was even missing.

Very interesting book! I enjoyed hearing the entire story. I never knew the ship was severely damaged by a suicide bomber just months before a torpedo sank the ship. I never knew why the captain was not zigzagging, as ships were usually directed to do to make it harder to target them. Because I learned about the sinking initially on a Shark Week documentary, I thought most of the men in the water were attacked by sharks. Not true. Some were, but most died of exposure, exhaustion and untreated injuries.

All in all, a great, very informative book. I will definitely read more by these authors!

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

REVIEW: Young Hitler

Young Hitler
Author: Paul Ham

How did a young man who wanted to be an artist end up one of the most reviled, evil men of recent history? As a mother, I have often wondered what horrible mistakes his family must have made to raise a son that ordered the deaths of millions of people. It turns out the answer really isn't as simple as a bad childhood or abuse or whatever go-to reason we might ascribe to it today. Paul Ham's book on the youth and young adulthood of Adolph Hitler is well researched and points out some pivotal times in the creation of a monster.

The book not only includes information about Hitler's upbringing and young life, but also the history of politics and social upheaval in Germany, Austria and Europe at the time. All of those historical elements set the scene for Hitler to develop into the dictator he became. His life moving from soldier to revolutionary to political leader to dictator is fascinating and sad at the same time. I wonder what would have become of Hitler had he been accepted into art school as a young man, instead of being rejected? In the end, I guess it really doesn't matter what "might have been'' as history can't be changed. But it is thought provoking to think that one or two small changes in this man's life might have prevented the deaths of millions across Europe.

Ham obviously put much research and thought into his book. He did say that tracing facts about family lineage and youth of the Fuhrer is difficult because many of the records were destroyed by the Nazi party so they could build him up as a perfect leader. They created lies and propaganda to cover up the illegitimacy and questionable background of one of his parents and anything deemed less than stellar in his background. The author does not present Hitler in a totally negative light. He shares the good and bad that he discovered about Hitler as a young man. He was not born totally evil. He morphed into it over years. And, as we all know, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

All in all, a very interesting book and I learned a lot that I didn't know. It is a hard subject to read about as I had family members who fought in the war, and extended family in Germany who were killed. I read the book in small doses....when it got to be too much, I would take a break and come back after a rest from it. As a mother I'm glad I read this book. It shows that the sum of a man's adult decisions do not necessarily stem from his upbringing, but as a total of his life experiences, environment, outside influences and other factors. I can't imagine what it would be like to be the parent of a evil, murderous person. Hitler's mother died in 1907 way before her son killed anyone. I'm glad that she never knew what her little boy would grow up to become. And, I'm sorry that little boy ended up the way he did. Nobody is born evil. It's unfortunate that he made the life choices that he did. Not out of concern for him.....but for the millions of people that he had murdered. My family members....and the family of so many, many others. Sad.

Great book! Very well documented. The facts are presented in an interesting fashion without becoming dry, tedious or repetitive as some non-fiction books can be. I'm definitely going to read more non-fiction by this author!

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Pegasus Books/W.W. Norton via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Sunday, July 22, 2018

REVIEW: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

I first read this book in high school, and again in college. But, I didn't fully understand it. I read it in-depth and thought I knew what it was all about. But, I had to re-read it at age 50 to really get it. There are just some nuances a younger me didn't a person can surround themselves with friends, yet have no real a person can sit in a room filled with others and be some live behind a facade hiding their real selves....the line between the phenomenally rich and normal people just can't be easily crossed....and the huge price some people will pay for obsessive love. I got a lot more out of this book re-reading it in middle age. It made Gatsby a much more tragic character. He had everything.....and nothing at the same time. And lost it all. Over a woman who didn't deserve his feelings for her. Much more powerful experience reading this book when I understand the underlying emotion better.

Gatsby lives on Long Island. He has a huge mansion, expensive cars, expensive friends.....hell, expensive everything. He is lavish. He is larger than life. He is the life of the party. But it's all fake. Inside he is lonely, desperate and empty. The story is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, who watches as the man disintegrates. All the glitz and glamor of the 1920s colors this novel. Fitzgerald lifts the veil off the upper class, showing the darker underside of the golden age.

I listened to an audio version of this book. William Hope narrated. His reading pace was perfect and his voice is easy to understand. I have partial hearing loss, but was easily able to hear and understand the entire story.

The Great Gatsby is one of the 100 books chosen for The Great American Read. I enjoyed re-visiting this story. Jay Gatsby is a memorable and tragic hero. Fitzgerald really was a master of his craft. This book is truly a classic. This is the 14th book I have read on my quest to read the entire list of books chosen for The Great American Read. A listing of the books is here:   86 to go! :)

Saturday, July 21, 2018

REVIEW: Written in Stone

Written in Stone
Author: Ellery Adams

Oyster Bay, NC has a witch....a strange fortune teller woman, Munin Cooper, who lives outside town. Olivia Limoges thinks it's a bit unusual when a friend tells her that Munin has summoned her. She is busy trying to help plan the Coastal Carolina Food Festival, but it's just too intriguing to ignore so she goes to visit Munin. The strange woman has much to say about Olivia's past and her mother, leaving Olivia with many questions. Unfortunately, the witch woman is murdered, leaving the questions unanswered and Olivia a suspect. Munin left behind a piece of her artwork....a memory jug filled with clues. Will the items sealed in the jar lead to a killer?

Written in Stone is the 4th book of 8 in the Books By the Bay series, so I'm halfway finished with this series. The mystery was nicely paced and kept my interest from beginning to end. There were some surprises in this one. I like how Ellery Adams not only finishes out the mystery portion of the plot, but takes time to flesh out some more character development and background story in each book. The tale doesn't just abruptly halt when the killer is discovered. I do have to add that at times the events do get a bit too melodramatic for me. I like the mix of mystery and women's fiction.....and dislike it at the same time. Does that make sense? Let me explain -- I enjoy the extra character and story development....but I dislike the characters constant whining about the past, the saga of love relationships and mucka-muck that drown much of women's fiction until it's like reading a story from the Lifetime Channel. That is the very reason I avoid the romance genre like the plague. BUT....the mystery plots in this series are unique enough to keep me coming back. Plus the series is set in NC where I live -- I love reading stories set in my home state. :) So I still roll my eyes when the female characters in these books start getting overly emotional....but I can enjoy the story.

A slight note of caution -- this is technically a cozy mystery series because there is no spurting blood or cursing, etc. BUT, this series does have sex in it. It isn't graphic or overdone....but there are some more adult themes. If looking for a cozy series with no sex or one that is appropriate for sharing with your kids, I would pass this one by.

On to the next book! I'm very curious what will happen with this likable cast of characters in the final 4 books in the series!

Friday, July 20, 2018

REVIEW: Purrfection

Author: Sophie Macheteau

This is quite simply a book about cats for people who love cats. Purrfection has a little bit of everything from cute cat photos and facts about the history of cats to crafts and links to download kitty fun online (apps and audio of cat purrs) This book would be a perfect gift for a cat lover or someone bringing home their first feline companion.

Purrfection is a quick read at 96 pages. Every page has a photo or illustration on it. I enjoyed the section with yoga poses that people could do with their cat. But, I expect my four cats would all freak out at being picked up like that. The wide variety of information is fun to read. I not only kitty companions, but I foster for the local humane society as well, so I enjoyed every little tidbit of information about kitties. :) The photos are cute and engaging, and the cover is eye catching.

An enjoyable read! And definitely a great gift idea for any cat owner or new adopter!

My littlest foster kitten, Little Orphan Annie, gives this book a 5 Toe-bean rating. She sat on my desk and "helped'' me read by batting at all the kitty pictures with her paws and meowing in her little squeaky way. She is a tortoiseshell kitty....and torties always speak their mind. Even tiny ones. She was definitely engaged with all the beautiful photos of cats. I'm not sure she really read the text though.....maybe skimmed it. :) I did not try yoga with her. Torties do not appreciate yoga. I figure reading time together is about as zen as she is going to get.

Little Orphan Annie, guest book reviewer
**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Schiffer Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. All meows and feline commentary are totally Little Orphan Annie's idea, too. Meow. Dogs stink. (Annie made me add that last bit).**

REVIEW: The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water
Author: Guillermo del Toro, Daniel Kraus

An expedition from the Occam Aerospace Research Center treks into the Amazon to find the legendary Gill God, an aquatic creature rumored to live there. They capture it and bring it back to Baltimore. Elisa is mute and works as a janitor at the facility. While her muteness cuts her off from some facets of society or makes people treat her differently, she finds ways to express herself like wearing colorful shoes she loves to work. Nobody else does janitorial work in high heels, but it makes Elisa happy. When she befriends the man-fish creature they have trapped in a holding tank at Occam, she feels she understands his feelings of being trapped, the emotions he must feel about being "other'' and misunderstood. She knows that the creature will die if kept in captivity, so she hatches a plan to rescue him.

The Creature From the Black Lagoon is my favorite monster movie. When the film version of this story won academy awards, I knew I had to read the book....and then watch the film. I have a firm rule....always read the book first. So I did -- even though with this particular story the film and book were released at the same time. The film concept came first.....the book after. A special situation....but I still followed my rule. I read the book. And I now have the sealed Blu Ray Disc on my desk to watch later today. :) I'm glad I read this story. While it is about the capture of a creature from the wild, it's also a complex commentary on how society treats those who are different. Other characters in the book also feel that "otherness''....Elisa is mute. Giles is gay. Strickland has PTSD. His wife yearns for more in an era where women are supposed to be content being wives and mothers. Zelda is black and trapped in a bad marriage. Dr. Hoffstetler has a deep desire for knowledge and scientific discovery but is victimized by the politics and greed of others. It isn't just the "monster'' that's trapped.

Elisa ends up having emotional ties to the fish creature. While that is a bit disconcerting if looking at things in a realistic manner....this story isn't realistic. It's fantasy. So the story line and ending work perfectly.

This story left me feeling very thoughtful about life, my place in it and my own sense of "otherness.'' Sometimes you just have to find inner freedom within individuality. But I do sympathize with the creature in the tank.....I'm sure we all feel a bit chained at times.

Beautiful story! I can't wait to watch the movie!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

REVIEW: Claws of Death

Claws of Death
Author: Linda Reilly

Claws of Death is the second book in the Cat Lady Mysteries series. Aging former filmstar Deanna Daltry has come home to Whisker Jog, NH. Lara Caphart and her Aunt Fran run the High Cliff Shelter For Cats. They are delighted when Deanna adopts two kittens from them. Their delight turns into concern when someone begins targeting the former star with, at first, mean pranks hinting at something in the woman's past. When things escalate into dead bodies being discovered on Deanna's property, Lara is on the case to be sure Deanna and her newly adopted fur babies are safe. Unfortunately Deanna is the number one suspect in the murder of a local teacher. Who is out to get the aging star...and why?

I enjoy this series. I like the mix of humor, small town atmosphere and mystery. I foster kittens for the local humane society, so I identify with Lara and Aunt Fran's concerns and hopes for their shelter. The mystery was nicely paced. The kitten/shelter background theme did not overshadow the mystery, but enhanced the main plot. The pacing was perfect. There were plenty of suspects and twists. All in all, Claws of Death is a nice addition to this new cozy mystery series.

I like Lara as a main character. She is funny and feisty, and definitely out to protect the kittens and cats they adopt out. Aunt Fran is a hoot. She's my favorite character in this series so far. Fran is feisty, smart and determined.

I'm definitely looking forward to more books in this series. It won't be a long wait! Book 3, Claws for Celebration, comes out in December 2018!

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

REVIEW: Baby Teeth

Baby Teeth
Author: Zoje Stage

Hanna loves her daddy. And she knows her daddy loves her. But everything would be so much better if mommy would just disappear and die. Dead Mommy. Bye bye Dead Mommy.

Move over, Damien. Hanna is here.

This book is so creatively creepy. The seemingly sweet little girl who hides so much. The mother who wants so badly to love her daughter, even if she's afraid of her. And the father who is trying to make sense of what is happening to his family.

The thought of a truly psychotic and dangerous villain wrapped up in the cute visage of a little girl is truly terrifying. At first I was a bit angry at the father for not noticing what was going on.....but then I thought...wait a second....would I believe that my little girl was capable of that sort of vicious behavior when I never saw it myself? I would be just like the father wanting to protect and make the proper decisions for his child, perhaps even blaming the adults in the situation rather than the child. After all, children aren't really capable of malice, deviousness, and murderous intent. Right? *Shiver*

This book gave me the same shivers that I got from The Little Girl That Lives Down the Lane when I read it years ago. A child hiding dark secrets, dark thoughts, and dark deeds. Baby Teeth is even more psychologically terrifying because the girl involved is only 7. At first, I was thinking a 7-year old couldn't possibly cause much damage. But once the story sucked me in and I couldn't put it down, it dawned on me that this little girl is capable of even more harm than an adult. Because nobody expects it.

Baby Teeth is Zoje Stage's debut novel. I'm definitely going to be reading more by her in the future. This first novel creeped me the hell out.

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Monday, July 16, 2018

REVIEW: The Butcher's Daughter

The Butcher's Daughter
Author: Victoria Glendinning

Agnes Peppin is the daughter of a butcher. As a young girl she makes a mistake. She meets a boy and becomes pregnant. Having disgraced her family, she is sent to Shaftesbury Abbey to have her child and then become a nun. She is lucky. The only reason she is accepted at Shaftesbury is because her mother has powerful connections through her family. When Agnes has the baby, it is sent away to be raised by the father's family and she settles in to life in the Abbey. Agnes is chosen as assistant and secret-keeper by the Abbess because she can read and write. Unfortunately King Henry the VIII is on the throne and his Great Matter threatens the abbey. The king divorces one wife, marries another, beheads the new wife....and along the way monasteries and abbeys are dissolved, their assets taken by the crown and the buildings razed. It's not a safe time to be Catholic. Finally Agnes is faced with the question of where she will go when Shaftesbury Abbey is no more.

I enjoyed this book. It was a bit slow at the beginning, but as I got to know the characters and got pulled into the daily life of a disgraced girl in the Tudor era, I found myself mesmerized by the story. Agnes lives in an age where women had few mostly made their choices for them. I liked the fact that the story gave another angle to the tale of King Henry and his fracas with the Catholic Church. I had never really thought about what it might have been like for the nuns and priests who suddenly had no place to live and no church to worship in. It must have been terrifying and extremely sad for them. Not to mention dangerous. Agnes also discovers that there is much hypocrisy, lying and secrets hidden by those around her.

I found this book to be quite thought provoking. Agnes accepts so much without question or argument because she really isn't allowed to have an opinion. She's a woman.....a disgraced woman....and she knows her place in the scheme of things. At first, I thought she was weak, but then I realized she just knows things are they way they are. She has no hope of changing anything so why voice any dissent? And she learns that pointing out hypocrisy or problems usually just ends with her getting in trouble for noticing something that isn't her concern. So it's not really weakness....but wisdom on her part to remain silent. I don't think I would have survived had I lived in the Tudor era.

All in all, an interesting read. Anyone interested in the Tudor era would enjoy this story.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Overlook (W.W. Norton) via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

REVIEW: Staged 4 Murder

Staged 4 Murder
Author: J.C. Eaton

Staged 4 Murder is the 3rd book in the Sophie Kimball Mystery series. I enjoy the mix of humor and mystery in this series. The characters are kooky, intelligent and just plain entertaining. I love how Sophie's rag-tag mix of retirement community senior citizens help her go after the bad guys. It always makes for a fun reading experience.

This time around all the seniors are involved in a local production of Agatha Christie's Mousetrap. Phee is tired of hearing about the play and she's a bit distracted by the newest staff member at her detective agency, Marshall Gregory. She had a major crush on Marshall when she worked for the Mankato, MN police department....and now they are working together again. Major distraction. Phee has to put her thoughts of Marshall on the back burner when conflicts on the set of the play her mother and book club cronies are involved in causes problems. It starts out with diva behavior and a suspicious case of food poisoning but escalates into murder. Miranda Lee is found dead on the theater catwalk. Miranda was difficult and many of the cast did not like her. But who was upset enough to murder her?

I enjoyed this newest book just as much as I did the first two books in this series. The seniors are feisty and funny as usual. The mystery is well paced with plenty of suspects and surprises. Marshall is a nice addition to the crew. Overall, an entertaining and enjoyable cozy mystery. I can't wait to see what trouble the gang gets into next! It won't be a long wait....the next book, Botched for Murder, comes out in January 2019.

J.C. Eaton also writes The Wine Trail Mysteries series.

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

REVIEW: Jar Of Hearts

Jar of Hearts
Author: Jennifer Hillier

When she was 16, Georgina watched her boyfriend kill her best friend and helped him dispose of the body. The sight of Angela Wong's blank dead eyes haunted her for 14 years until her arrest. 5 years in prison for helping Calvin bury Angela in the woods. Georgina survived prison. Now she's back home again. But nobody wants her there. Dirty looks. Harsh treatment. Doors shut in her face. Nasty messages in red spray paint on her father's garage doors. Dead bodies left in the woods behind her father's house. The bodies are dismembered just like they did to Angela. They are a message to Georgina. Is Calvin coming to kill her?

This book seriously creeped me out...but I couldn't stop reading. I was completely engrossed in the story...until the ending. The plot had me....until I just couldn't reconcile the very end. It just seemed a bit too....convenient? Maybe that's not the right word. The end of this book just seemed too easy. I can't hint at events because I don't want to spoil anything. But I don't think a similar story in real life would end that way. Too simple. Too easy. Too forgiving. But,despite my slight disappointment in the last few pages, this book kept me up most of the night reading.....great story! The pacing was perfect, keeping the suspense going from beginning to end. The characters are likable and severely flawed at the same time, which is realistic. Georgina got caught up in an abusive, psychologically damaging relationship at a young age. The choices she made have far-reaching consequences for everyone around her. Sometimes people can be good and bad at the same time.

I enjoyed this book and will definitely be reading more by this author. Seriously creepy story....I can't wait to read more!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St Martin's Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Monday, July 9, 2018

REVIEW: I Am Still Alive

I Am Still Alive
Author: Kate Alice Marshall

Jess is alone. She is angry, hurt and struggling to stay alive. First she lost her mother in a car accident that left her injured and facing months of physical therapy. Then she was shipped off to live with her father in the Canadian wilderness. She barely remembers her father and she doesn't want to live with him in the middle of nowhere. No radio. No electricity. No nothing. Soon after she arrives, her dad is gone too and Jess is left to face the wilderness alone. Can she survive?

I love this book! Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. I had to find out what happens! I binge read the entire thing. The story is suspenseful and compelling. Jess is stronger and more capable than she believes at first. As she struggles to learn how to hunt and keep herself dry and warm, she comes to learn just how intelligent and resourceful she is. She not only takes care of herself and her dad's dog, Bo, but she prepares for a showdown with the people who took her father away. She knows they are coming back....but she's going to be ready for them. It's quite the showdown in the end! Great book!

I have a weakness for suspense thrillers set in the wilderness. This book was just what I love! I'm definitely going to read more by this author. The story was well-written and the pacing kept the suspense going from beginning to end! I don't binge read books very often...but this one I just could not put down.

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Penguin via First To Read. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Sunday, July 8, 2018

REVIEW: Damnation Island

Damnation Island
Author: Stacy Horn

In 1828, New York City purchased a small island. Located in the East River, Blackwell Island was the perfect location for a new asylum. At first, the plans were for a humane facility to help the mentally ill, indigent and criminal elements in the city. They estimated the number of mentally ill in the city to be less than .5% and planned an initial structure to house 200 people. The mentally ill and criminals would never be housed together and the facility might be able to help some of the chronically indigent in the city as well. They got a big surprise when the initial facility opened and had 199 patients (almost at max capacity) within days. The asylum was enlarged multiple times, and the plans for a humane facility was overpowered by cost cutting measures, bad planning and ignorance. In the 100 years Blackwell Island was used as an asylum the conditions, treatment of patients and medical services there were suspect and often cruel. Damnation Island tells the story of Blackwell Island and its inhabitants.

This book is very well researched and documented, which made it difficult to read. I had to read a chapter at a time...and go cool off....then return. What a grim picture of life in the 1800s. People could be committed for eccentricities or completely fraudulent reasons. Many women were committed because they were in the way or difficult, not because of any mental illness. Conditions in the institution were abysmal. Treatments were even worse. And this went on for 100 years!! Racism even played a part in the treatment of patients. The Irish were seen as incurable and intrinsically insane. Wow...really?? This book is a real eye opener about the use of institutions to pack away citizens seen as problems, without any real care about the quality of their life, health or care. At one point, the city was proud that they could run the institution at a cheap per-patient cost, completely oblivious to the fact that meant there was not enough food or medical supplies to go around. Patients were overcrowded, exposed to diseases and vermin, kept in unsanitary conditions and mistreated. Criminals housed on the island were hired as orderlies and workers and further mistreated patients. Just a sad tale all around.

I enjoyed this book, despite the grim subject manner. I am glad that there have been vast improvements in the mental health field, laws passed to protect people from fraudulent commitment, and health and safety regulations for institutions. I know that atrocities still occur, but I'm hopeful that they are nowhere near the level that happened on Blackwell Island.

Stacy Horn is the author of several non-fiction books including The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City's Cold Case Squad and Waiting For My Cats to Die: A Memoir.  Damnation Island is well researched and interesting. I will definitely be reading more by this author.

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