Wednesday, February 28, 2018

REVIEW: The Haunting of Rachel Harroway 2

The Haunting of Rachel Harroway 2
Author: J.S. Donovan

Rachel Harroway sees dead people. Victims of crimes, freak accidents, horrible deaths....they appear to her, often begging for help. As a detective, she uses her "gift'' to solve murder cases. In this second book, a dead serial killer demands that she solve his murder. Somehow his dead spirit can touch her, harm her, threaten her.....it's the most terrifying experience she's had with the dead since her "gift'' changed her life.  Who killed The Roper? It turns out the answer to that is so much more complex than Rachel and her partner, Jenson Peak, ever expected.

This is a great story! I love the mix of murder mystery, suspense and supernatural. This final book in the Rachel Harroway series wraps up the storyline nicely. There is another series featuring Rachel, The Orphans, where she continues using her supernatural talents to solve murders. I'm definitely going to jump to that series now and continue reading!

I enjoyed seeing this series develop over a prequel and two books. The plots and writing improved, and there are fewer editing mistakes in this final book. I can't wait to find out what The Orphans series has in store for me! Rachel Harroway is a very strong, intelligent main character. She handles seeing really horrific things quite well. Much better than I would!

Great suspenseful and spooky story! This series has such spooky cool cover art as well! Nice touch!

REVIEW: Ricochet Joe

Ricochet Joe
Author: Dean Koontz

Joe Mandel is an average guy. He leads a normal life, has normal friends, a normal family and normal life plans, if wanting to be a writer is normal. He even volunteers to help his comunity. The day he heads out to pick up trash on the side of the road with a local group, Volunteers for a Better Future, turns out to be the last day his life will be normal. The weird feeling he gets about an elderly woman being mugged.....the weird feeling he gets about a business owner being threatened by thugs.......he runs headlong into danger without thinking twice. It's as if he isn't in control of his own body anymore. Because he isn't. And the daughter of the local police chief, Portia Montclair, is there to tell him exactly why his life will never be the same.

This short novella by Dean Koontz is an interesting read -- definitely classic Koontz (supernatural forces, normal people put in supernormal situations, a magical golden retriever, etc). I was curious about the Kindle-In-Motion illustrations and I like most of Koontz's books, so I paged through the ebook while listening to the audiobook version (came along with the kindle ebook). The actionn moves along quickly since it is a shorter story, with a nice building of suspense and some great action. Nice story! I found several other shorter Koontz stories that I think I will read too since this one was enjoyable.

The Kindle-In-Motion illustrations were ok -- they move a bit. It added an interesting depth (comic book or cartoonish artwork though) to the story. I'm definitely going to look to see what other books they have using the animated artwork.....reminds me of an Edgar Allan Poe app I have on my phone where the art moves just like that. It doesn't work on my PC version of the kindle software though....only on my Fire and my iphone. Drat! The Kindle for PC app just sucks....can't load docs on it so I can't read my e-galley review books on my PC and no animations on Kindle-In-Motion. Why?? I'd sure like to see the movement a little larger than on my iphone 6S or my Kindle Fire screen. *rabble rabble complain moan* :) But back to the story I'm supposed to be talking about.....

Great story! Had to laugh when the required Golden Retriever appeared. So Koontz. :) Woof!

REVIEW: Raspberry Danish Murder

Raspberry Danish Murder
Author: Joanne Fluke

Hannah Swensen is still reeling from the disappearance of her new husband, Ross Barton. He disappeared without a trace, leaving no explanation. When Ross' former assistant at KCOW-TV, P.K. Alesworth, is killed after eating poisoned candy that was left on Ross' desk, Lake Eden police start to investigate to find out if Ross might have been the intended victim, Hannah and her crew, of course, decide to also investigate. Turns out, there are a lot of discrepancies in the things Ross told Hannah about his past and his family. She is unsure if Ross is in danger and fled to avoid others getting hurt, or if he's just an outright cad. Was Ross involved in something dangerous? Or did the murderer intend to kill P.K.?

Well, first off, I am going to say that I enjoyed this book. Raspberry Danish Murder is the 22nd book in the Hannah Swensen series. I've read them all. And I love the characters! I've even baked many of the recipes from the books. :) When I got my review copy, I started reading immediately....and didn't stop until I finished the book.  I waited an entire year to find out what the heck happened to Ross so I devoured this book in one sitting. But, I do have to be honest and say that the feel is still a bit off. The last three books in this series seem to be different. The personality and behavior of some main characters are changed.  The writing style and dialogue seem to be amateurish at times. The writing is just not up to Joanne Fluke quality.  The books just seem.....different. That's the best word I can come up with. Not bad.....different. My best guess is that the new books might be written by a ghost writer. I can't be sure.....but it's just the feeling that I get. This newest book was tweaking my inner editor. There is some poorly written dialogue, overuse of characters' names and cookie names, too much repetition and over-explanation.  For example, several times characters discovered new evidence in the case and went to share that evidence with other characters, repeating the entire story about finding said evidence all over again. Or repeating character names within dialogue when it's obvious which character they are addressing. It doesn't seem like natural conversation. Nobody repeats a friend's name over and over again during a casual discussion. That's just poorly written dialogue. Now....did that damage my enjoyment of the story? No, not really. I feel the book could use another edit and some tweaking before publication....but.....it's Lake Eden, Hannah, and all the characters I love from this series I've been enjoying since the first book came out in 2001......I can overlook some issues.

The mystery mixes the search for information about Ross and the investigation into the murder of P.K. so there is always something going on. There is also a lot of baking and cookie munching, as usual. The crime wrap-up and the ending are a bit abrupt, but the ending does answer a lot of questions. Not all of them, but several important ones. I will be eagerly awaiting the next book!

Is this book the best in the Hannah Swensen series? No. Is it still an enjoyable read? Definitely!  I love this series. I read every book, and I watch the Hallmark movies, despite the fact they don't follow the books. And, I will continue to read this series until it reaches the final book.

There are lots of yummy recipes included between chapters in this book, as usual. I definitely feel a danish baking session coming on soon! :) Mmmmm....raspberry danish!! But not all of the recipes are for desserts. There is also pizza dip, asparagus rolls and other non-sweets. :) nom nom!

At the very end of the book, there is an exceprt from Winter Chill, a thriller also written by Joanne Fluke. She has written several suspense/thriller novels. Maybe I can read those novels to tide me over until the next Hannah book comes out!

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



Tuesday, February 27, 2018

REVIEW: Doctor Who - The 5 Doctors

Doctor Who - The 5 Doctors
Author: Terrance Dicks

The Five Doctors is a special Doctor Who movie special that aired in 1983. I have never seen the movie, but when I saw this audiobook from the novelization, I just had to listen to it! Jon Culshaw narrates perfectly! I had so much fun listening to his performance!

The five doctors and several companions are kidnapped from their different times and all (well with the exception of the 4th doctor who is stuck in a time anomaly. This is because Tom Baker declined to be in the movie, and they used scenes from an episode to fill in his on-camera scenes) are thrown into the Death Zone, a very dangerous area on Gallifrey. They battle Cybermen, Daleks, Yeti, traps, illusions and even The Master! Great Classic Who adventure!

The audiobook is just under 3.5 hours long. The production quality is great, as usual with BBC Audio presentations.

I highly recommend this to anyone who likes Classic Who. Now I need to go watch the movie -- and even listen to the Riff Trax version. :) I never watched the movie because my favorite Doctor -- The Fourth -- wasn't in it much. Silly me!


REVIEW: The Policeman's Daughter

The Policeman's Daughter
Author: Trudy Nan Boyce

It takes a cop to write an outstanding police procedural. Trudy Nan Boyce, a 30-year veteran of the Atlanta PD, delivers a hard hitting, gritty homicide procedural. The Policeman's Daughter is a prequel to her Detective Sarah Alt series and centers around the homicide case that got Alt promoted to homicide.

Alt, whose street name is Salt, is a beat cop in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Atlanta, The Homes. Patrolling as a lone officer, she depends on her friend and fellow officer, "Pepper'' Greer, who patrols a nearby area. Salt and Pepper. The duo are well known to the residents of The Homes. When the body of Shannell McCloud is discovered, shot to death in the closet where she had been hiding, Alt is angry that there is nothing she can do to solve the problems in The Homes. With very little evidence and no witnessses willing to come forward, detectives tell Alt that there is very little chance of solving the homicide. But Alt is obsessed and determined to find the killer who shot the woman to death as she cowered. In the world of gangs, street crime, drugs and death, it's dangerous to be a lone beat cop, but Alt wants to make a difference.

I enjoyed this book, but it's a rough, gritty read. Boyce paints a bleak picture of life in Atlanta's gang-filled Projects, but not a hopeless one. Alt is a good cop. She really cares about the people and wants to make a difference. Boyce's years as a cop in Atlanta add a realism and truth to this story that mkae it raw and hard hitting.

I will definitely be reading more from this author. There are two other books in the Sarah Alt series. I can't wait to read them both! This prequel in the series is coming out in February 2018.

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

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from First To Read/Penguin-Random House. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Monday, February 26, 2018

REVIEW: The Tell-Tail Heart

The Tell-Tail Heart (Catterina Mysteries 1)
Author: Monica Shaughnessy

The Tell-Tail Heart is a fanciful story about how Edgar Allan Poe might have found the inspiration for his famous tale, The Tell Tale Heart. The story is told by his cat (and muse), Catterina Poe, a lovely tortoiseshell cat. Someone has murdered two people. Both victims are wealthy women, and both had a glass eye. Beautiful blue glass eyes. What reason would a murderer have for killing people who sport glass eyes? Why two in matching blue? Catterina is on the case.....and she valiantly works to get her master to understand her antics. It's hard to point out murder suspects when humans refuse to understand their cats!

I am a huge Edgar Allan Poe fan, so this story was so much fun to read! Catterina is a street-wise, intelligent kitty. The mystery is engaging and interesting. This series is so creative. The book also includes the text of Poe's a Tell Tale Heart at the end.

The cover art is awesome!

There is a prequel story about how Catterina met Poe and a second book, Black Cats, in the Catterina Mystery series. I'm definitely reading the whole series! :)




Sunday, February 25, 2018

REVIEW: Return to Labyrinth Vol 4

Return to Labyrinth Vol 4
Author: Jake T. Forbes
Illustrations: Chris Lie

I have had the first 3 volumes of this manga series by Tokyo Pop on my library shelf for several years. I never could find a copy of Vol 4 at a reasonable price. Because this year I am challenging myself to read more books from my shelves, I decided to try one more time to find the final book. And, I did! I found a copy at a normal price (not $35 and up like on ebay). I expected to receive a mostly dead , damaged used copy, but that was fine with me. At least I would be able to read it! I was pleasantly surprised today when the book arrived. It's brand new & beautiful!!! I was SO excited to finally get to read the finale of this series! I've gone years now not knowing how the tale ends!

Toby has been named the new Goblin King, but he's completely unsure of himself. Jareth is trying to gain control over Sarah through a new character named Moppet, who unbeknownst to her, is key to Jareth's plans. And then there is Queen Mizumi who wants control over the Labyrinth. The clock is ticking. Jareth has to win a bet with the queen or lose his kingdom.....and time is running out.

I loved this book! As far as I am concerned, it ended perfectly. The art is wonderful. I like the combination of anime style characters and fantasy characters from the movie. This series is American style manga reading from left to right, not right to left as in the Japanese style. I don't mind the American style. I love Labyrinth, so I don't care if it reads one way or the other.  I just want to enjoy the story! The cover is gorgeous. And, I finally have the entire series! Yay!

Now I will have all 4 books on my keeper shelf! :) Finally!!


REVIEW: Scary Stories 3 - More Tales to Chill Your Bones

Scary Stories 3 - More Tales to Chill Your Bones
Author: Alvin Schwartz
Illustrations: Stephen Gammell

This series of children's horror stories was a favorite of my oldest son. He presented me with copies of the books as he was leaving to serve in the Navy. Nostalgia from his childhood. What he remembered the most was the creepy-cool artwork by Stephen Gammell. Imagine my horror when I found out (while I was re-reading the series) that when they reprinted the books as a 30th anniversary celebration, they changed the artwork. While Brett Helquist is a talented artist, what made this book series really great was the strange art by Gammell. Luckily, I have older copies of this series with the weird art intact. I investigated online and found examples of Helquists illustrations. They are great...more of a literal interpretation of the stories....but....it just isn't Scary Stories without Stephen Gammell. Not sure what the publisher was thinking!

Scary Stories 3 gathers 25 more stories from folklore. There are notes about the stories and a list of sources in the back. As in the prior books, the stories vary, even including a bit of poetry and a song. The artwork perfectly accompanies the creepy tales. All the tales are middle-grade friendly.

An excellent collection of scary stories! I will pass on the 30th Anniversary edition. This series stands out because of the original artwork by Gammell. My son remembers these books 17 years after we first read them because of Gammell's artwork. It isn't the same outstanding series without the original art. I'm glad I have the full collection with the original drawings. These definitely have a permanent home on my keeper shelf!



Saturday, February 24, 2018

REVIEW: More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Author: Alvin Schwartz
Illustrations: Stephen Gammell

The Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz was a favorite of my oldest son when he was younger. We read the stories out loud to each other, and even his friends. We talked about what made a story scary, how to tell a great ghost story and the basics of acting and public speaking. My son is now almost 30 years old and he still remembers these books. Before he left to serve in the Navy, he brought me used copies that matched the ones he owned as a kid. As part of my personal challenge this year to read books off my own shelves and to read more of what I personally enjoy, I am re-reading these books. I'm enjoying the stories, and also thinking about a little boy that grew into a pretty awesome man. As my son is stationed thousands of miles away in Japan and I haven't 'seen him in two years, I can think fondly of him as I read these books that he so thoughtfully brought to me before he left home.

More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is the second book in the series. As in the first book, the tales are gathered from folklore. There is a notes section and list of sources in the back of the book. The 28 stories are accompanied by awesome bizarre artwork by Stephen Gammell. The artwork really makes this book something special. The stories vary from jump scares and scary situations to humor and even a song.

A great collection of kid-friendly horror!!


Friday, February 23, 2018

REVIEW: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Author: Alvin Schwartz
Illustrations: Stephen Gammell

My oldest son had a favorite three book set as a child. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The tales were spooky and the artwork was amazing. In fact, the bizarre art really made the book. Flash forward a few years and my son was getting ready to join the Navy. I hit that oh-my-god-one-of-my-kids-is-really-leaving mom moment and the oh-my-god-my-son-is-engaged-to-be-married event as well.....ahhhhhhhhhh! But, before he left to start his journey to being a grown man, he brought me a set of three books he found at a bookshop in Greensboro. Scary Stories, More Scary Stories and Scary Stories 3. Through the years of moving and just living life, his copies had been lost or given away.....but he remembered how much he loved the books and brought me copies so I could re-read them. He is now forward deployed in Japan with the US Navy. I haven't seen my son in two years now. I'm going to re-read these books and think about that little boy that has grown into a very awesome man.

Gotta start at the beginning. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Originally I ordered this book from one of those school book order forms. Every parent with school age children has been given these forms, crinkled from being in a backpack,and filled them out. My kids always waited impatiently for their book haul to arrive. Because this book was about stories that could be told in the dark, I remember that we took turns reading the stories out loud, showing the pictures at appropriate intervals. I think that being able to read aloud is a great introduction to public speaking and even acting, so we read out loud to each other often. This book was fun to read. All these years later I still remember us working on our scary voices. :) We even got his friends in on it. I remember one sleepover where the boys huddled in sleeping bags while we told ghost stories....some from this book. Snacks were eaten, much soda was drank.....and those pre-teen boys slept with the lights on. :)



The 29 stories are varied....jump scares, ghosts, monsters, evil people, and humorous horror. The horror comes in mixed formats as well -- short stories, poetry, a song, and supremely creepy artwork. The stories are taken from folklore, and there is a notes section in the back of the book that talks about their origins and the sources used.

I had so much fun re-reading this book! So much nostalgia for my son and I. I messaged him to let him know I was reading it. :) These book stay on my keeper shelf. I'm whittling down my personal library by reading and donating many of the more than 3000 books I own, but these three books are special. They get to stay. :)

On to More Scary Stories!


Thursday, February 22, 2018

REVIEW: Chocolate Tiramisu Murder

Chocolate Tiramisu Murder
Author: Susan Gillard

Heather Janke and her fiance, Ryan Shepherd, have finally tied the knot! They are now Mr. & Mrs. Shepherd. After an eventful wedding in France (murder was involved, of course), they have travelled to Italy for their honeymoon. They have an incredibly happy, uneventful trip and return home refreshed and relaxed.....no wait.....that didn't happen.  What actually happens is this.....they arrive at their hotel, Heather has an altercation with a very rude Italian celebrity, who happens to be murdered outside the hotel the next day. Add in paparazzi digging for dirt, a disgruntled disinherited daughter, a famous actress and a snooty chef, and the Shepherd's honeymoon is anything but relaxing and uneventful! Who killed the rude Italian celebrity? Heather is determined to investigate to clear her own name....and also so that she might be able to enjoy at least part of their stay in Italy.

Despite the Italian characters being very stereotyped, this is an enjoyable read. I felt sorry for the main characters because they couldn't enjoy their trip. Heather seems to be a murder magnet....but she is a main character in a cozy mystery series....so that's just par for the course. The mystery was a bit light in this story....one second Heather is nose deep in the investigation....and suddenly it was solved and everything was wrapped up tight. These are shorter stories....so at times the endings feel a bit rushed. Despite the zippy finish, I enjoyed this story. I'm enjoying this series. It is definitely light reading and the mysteries aren't all that complex, but I like the characters and the doughnut theme.

Chocolate Tiramisu Murder is the 9th book in the Donut Hole Mystery series. There are 60 books in the series, so I have a lot of reading ahead!!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

REVIEW: Color Me Murder

Color Me Murder
Author: Krista Davis

I was already a big fan of cozy mysteries by Krista Davis. Her Paws & Claws series is one of my favorites. After reading this first book in her new series, I know the Pen & Ink Mysteries are also going to be on my favorites list!

Florrie Fox works at a bookshop, Color Me Read, in Georgetown. Professor John Maxwell owns the shop. He's a bit of an eccentric and known for dashing off to exotic places on all sorts of adventures (what can you expect from someone who has the Indiana Jones theme as the ringtone on their cellphone). Professor Maxwell's family is well known in Georgetown and quite wealthy. He offers Florrie his carriage house to live in, rent free. He has a craptastic nephew and wants to prevent him from thinking he can move into the carriage house. It's a win-win situation -- Florrie gets a place in Georgetown two blocks from work without a huge rent, and Professor Maxwell doesn't get his horrid nephew Delbert living in his backyard. It all goes to plan....but Florrie is barely moved in before the nephew is showing his true colors, stating he will inherit the shop and the house soon enough and Florrie will be out a place to live and lose her job. And then someone tries to break into the carriage house! Florrie is sure it was Delbert. What a jerk! She tells Professor Maxwell, and he promises that he will take care of the problem. Imagine Florrie's surprise when a hidden trapdoor is found in the bookshop the next day....and inside.....Delbert's dead body. She knows the Professor would never murder anyone -- even his horrible nephew. The detective on the case is a jerk....so she starts looking into the case herself to help the Professor. Many people probably wanted to kill Delbert.....or had at least thought about it.....but who was it that stuck a spear through his chest and dumped his body into the tiny space under that trapdoor?

I loved this book!! Florrie is an artist and publishes adult coloring books. When she's thinking through a problem or gathering clues she draws in her sketchbook. As a main character she is intelligent, strong and resilient. Add in some interesting and quirky side characters, a bit of romance and a bookshop......great start to a new cozy series!!

The front and back covers of the book can be colored as well. I would have a hard time coloring on a book.....so mine would stay white....but the concept is so creative and cute! I think I would scan the front and back covers and color the copies! I can't bring myself to write in a book. :) There are also recipes in the back of the book.

I can't wait for the next book! :)

Krista Davis is also the author of the Domestic Diva and Paws & Claws cozy mystery series.

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

REVIEW: Snowglobe 7 (Doctor Who)

Snowglobe 7 (Doctor Who)
Author: Mike Tucke

By 2099, global warming is destroying much of the polar ice, so habitats are preserved in large glass domes around the world. Some of the giant snowglobes remain scientific preserves and others have been turned into recreation areas. The Doctor and Martha arrive at Snowglobe 7 in Saudi Arabia only to find that there is an epidemic going on. Not only that, but when they grabbed the ice to seal inside the dome, they also captured something else -- an alien creature. The creature has been dormant for centuries, but moving it inside the dome has started to wake it up. And....well, that's not a good thing. Not good at all.

This is an exciting and interesting Doctor Who adventure! Lots going on.....Martha running around doctoring and the Doctor running around fighting alien creatures. All inside a gigantic snowglobe. Very cool!

At just shy of 2 1/2 hours long, this is an easy listen. Georgia Moffett narrates. She reads at a nice steady pace and is easily understandable. As usual with BBC audio presentations, the production quality is high. Very enjoyable audiobook!

I have listened to several Doctor Who adventures in audiobook form lately. I am really enjoying them! Perfect length, and great stories!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

REVIEW: Mudshark

Mudshark
Author: Gary Paulsen

Lyle Williams, nicknamed Mudshark by his classmates, is the go-to guy at school for finding lost items and solving small mysteries. His mind is always working....his memory is amazing. He can remember where he saw lost items and solve almost any mystery or problem. Pretty good for a 12-year old, eh? But he finds himself with a feathered rival when the school librarian gets a parrot. The parrot seems to be psychic. It can answer  kids' questions about lost homework and misplaced books faster than Mudshark can. Rumors shoot around the school in lightning speed that the bird can out-think Mudshark. Will he lose his cool reputation at school? And, if he's being out manuvered by a bird who will find the escaped gerbil, solve the mystery of the faculty restroom and discover why erasers are disappearing from classrooms? Mudshark is on the case.....before he loses to a psychic parrot!

This book is incredibly cute and funny. It's been sitting on my bookshelf for months, waiting for me to notice it and start reading. I'm SO glad I finally took the time to read this delightful children's book! This is the first book by Gary Paulsen that I have read....I will definitely be reading more of his writing! Mudshark is a great main character. He likes his position at school....his reputation as an amazing brain. And he gets quite ruffled when he realizes his place might be usurped by a bird. The mysteries he solves are a hoot -- like the kid who wanted to be a magician and made his father's new car disappear.....then couldn't make it re-appear. :) Mudshark solved that problem quickly. :) (Never have a 16-year old cousin "help'' you do magic tricks!)

Sometimes I have to take a break from more serious adult reading. Those are the times I just love to read some children's lit. Stories like this make reading fun.....and clear the mind from more serious adult-type thoughts. I had a wonderful time sipping my morning coffee and enjoying this tale of middle school mysteries and challenges. :)

Fun read!

REVIEW: A Mortal Likeness

A Mortal Likeness
Author: Sarah Joh Rowland


A Mortal Likeness is the second book in the Victorian Mystery series. I have not yet read the first book, The Ripper's Shadow, but was easily able to follow the plot and characters in this story. So, it isn't necessary to have read the first book to enjoy this newest book in this series. There are references to the first book, however. I very much enjoyed this book, so I'm going to backtrack and read The Ripper's Shadow.

Sarah Bain is a photographer and a detective. Sarah is hired by Sir Gerald Mariner to find his infant son, Robin. Sir Gerald says the boy has been kidnapped, but the case turns out to be much more complex than a child abduction. As Sarah and her partner investigate the baby's disappearance, some secrets from Sarah's past complicate things. The story moves at a nice pace and builds suspense. Some nice twists and turns definitely kept my interest for the entire story. There is also some character development for Sarah in this newest book, along with a bit of romantic tension as well.

The cover art is excellent! The cover is what first got my attention and made me want to read this book. :)

I'm going to read The Ripper's Shadow now! I like the characters in this series, and can't wait to read the next book!

Sarah Joh Rowland is also the author of the Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte series and the Sano Ichiro series.

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

REVIEW: A Treacherous Curse

A Treacherous Curse
Author: Deanna Raybourn

A Treacherous Curse is the third book in the Veronica Speedwell series. I absolutely love the main character in this series. Veronica is intelligent, outspoken and strong. Readers looking for a series featuring a strong, female main character will love this series! This third book focuses on Stoker Templeton-Vane. His former partner has disappeared from a dig site along with a priceless artifact from the tomb. Unfortunately, the item is allegedly cursed, causing Anubis himself to appear in London. Wickedly creepy and mysterious, this story was so much fun to read!

I like this series....it's a nice mix of wit, mystery and suspense with a nice dash of creepiness thrown in for good measure. I like the fact that this book focuses on Stoker, revealing more about the character. It keeps the series fresh, and made for a nice action-filled story. Veronica Speedwell is a creative and different sort of main character. She breaks social norms, lives on her own terms and is an awesome strong female character.

Another great addition to this series. I can't wait for the next book!!

Deanna Raybourn is also the author of the Lady Julia Grey series.

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

Monday, February 19, 2018

REVIEW: The Feast of the Drowned (Doctor Who)

The Feast of the Drowned (Doctor Who)
Author: Stephen Cole

A naval ship is lost at sea with a loss of all aboard. But, the dead do not rest easily. Deceased crew members are being seen all over London.....all talking about the upcoming feast of the dead. Rose Tyler's friend, Keisha, lost her brother in the wreck. His spirit appears to his sister and to Rose, asking to be saved, for help so he can escape the upcoming feast. The Doctor and Rose must investigate the wreck -- who caused the ship to sink? What is this feast? And why are the dead appearing in London?

What an incredi-creepy and exciting Doctor Who adventure! I really enjoy these BBC audio adventures,especially when they are narrated by David Tennant! The production value is top notch and Tennant's performance is more acting than just merely reading. At just over 2 hours this story is an easy listen. I listened while doing household chores....makes the time go by so much faster! Great story by Stephen Cole.

I will definitely be listening to more of these audio adventures. It's a great way to get a Doctor Who fix until the new television season starts.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

REVIEW: The Cat of the Baskervilles

The Cat of the Baskervilles
Author: Vicki Delaney

West London, MA is gearing up for the tourist season. The West London Theater Festival will feature the stage production of The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring an aged British film star, Sir Nigel Bellingham. Gemma Doyle, owner of the Sherlock Holmes Bookstore and Emporium, and her friend Jayne, who runs the Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room next door, volunteer to help with fundraising and publicity for the Festival. At an afternoon tea fundraiser catered by Jayne, Sir Nigel is obviously drunk and completely flubs his lines during an short performance for guests. After the fundraiser, Sir Nigel can't be found. The actor is found dead at the bottom of a nearby cliff. Could he have been drunk enough to fall? Or did someone push him over the edge? Sir Nigel was obviously a cantankerous, alcoholic, washed up actor....but did someone have enough of a grudge against the old man to kill him??

I enjoy this series. I'm a big Sherlock Holmes fan, so I like the idea of a Sherlock themed bookshop and tea room. The Hound of the Baskervilles is also one of my favorite Holmes stories. The mystery in this latest book moves along at a nice pace and there are plenty of suspects and plot twists, including Jayne's mother Leslie being a prime suspect. I like the background theme and the characters (although I think Gemma ia a tad on the rude side). Moriarty the shop cat is awesome and shows much cattitude. The background characters are all quirky and interesting. I like how the two main characters complement each other. Gemma is direct, very organized and details oriented,and very observant. Jayne is a bit ditzy, tends to fall for the wrong type of men, and is more flexible and impulsive. As best friends and business partners, they work very well together. Where one is weak, the other is strong. All in all, a nice entertaining cozy mystery!

The Cat of the Baskervilles is the 3rd book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series. Vicki Delaney is the author of many mystery novels, including the Year-Around Christmas cozy series and the Constable Molly Smith series.

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

REVIEW: Lemon Chiffon Murder

Lemon Chiffon Murder
Author: Susan Gillard

Heather Jayne and her fiance Ryan Shepherd are in Paris with friends to celebrate their wedding. Staying at the Hotel Saint James, everything seems magical until one of the guests drops dead after eating one of Heather's doughnuts in the hotel kitchen. Who poisoned Jane Duvall? Heather's employee Angelica who came to help with the wedding is arrested, but Heather knows she had nothing to do with the crime. Ryan and Heather team up, along with Heather's BFF Amy, to prove Angelica's innocence and find the real killer.

This is my least favorite book in this series so far. The French characters are stereotypes....rude hotel staff, snooty chefs, impossibly ridiculous reporters. And the author chose to use the term "frog'' to refer to French people. I don't like that. This one just fell a bit flat for me. I hope the next one is better.

Lemon Chiffon Murder is the 8th book in the Donut Hole Mystery series. The books are short and light reading. The plots are simple, but the characters are likable and the doughnut shop theme is entertaining. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

REVIEW: Wildwood

Wildwood
Author: Elinor Florence

Molly Bannister's life is unraveling. She has lost her job with an accounting firm in AZ, and her savings is dwindling fast. As a single parent, she is almost in panic mode when she receives word from a lawyer that her great-aunt left her a farm and house in northern Alberta, Canada.  The will stipulates that she has to live on the old homestead for a full year before gaining ownership. With money dwindling and no other options, Molly and her 4-year old daughter Bridget move to Canada. The old farmhouse has been watched over by neighbors since her great-aunt went into a nursing home. Other than a lot of dust and cobwebs, it's not in bad shape. But there is no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no internet, no phone, and the closest neighbor is 8 miles away. 365 days -- can they brave an entire year on the old homestead? Molly finds her great-aunt's journal and reads a little bit about her early married life each night before going to bed. She finds strength and wisdom in the pages, and learns a lot about herself as well.

I absolutely loved this book! At first Molly comes to Wildwood out of desperation. She has nowhere else to go. She counts the days until she can sell the farm and return to the United States with plenty of money to live life on her own terms. But, living out at the old homestead without any of the modern conveniences, reading her great-aunt's journal, and learning to survive has such a profound effect on her life and her daughter. She scrubs the house clean, learns to cook, wash laundry by hand and make do with what they have. Along the way, she discovers that she is a stronger person than she ever realized.

Once I started reading, I couldn't put this book down! I loved how Molly grew stronger and defeated the demons from her past as the story unfolded. As her mother became a stronger person, Bridget's life and behavior also improved. I enjoyed this story so much that I definitely want to read Elinor Florence's other novel, Bird's Eye View.

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




REVIEW: The French Girl

The French Girl
Author: Lexie Elliott

Six college friends spending a holiday together in a French farmhouse should be idyllic....a lovely break from everything. But cracks have already started forming in their solid friendships....they have dallied in sexual relationships with each other, some have secrets, others are starting to look towards careers and "real'' life outside university. And then....Severine. The beautiful French girl staying in the house next door comes in and shatters them all apart. The cracks explode into fragments. Severine disappears. And is never seen again.

......until her body is found in the well behind the farmhouse 10 years after that fateful holiday in France.

That week in France, what it did to their lives, and what happened to the beautiful French girl all comes rushing in to their adult lives to tear things up all over again.

I found this story to be much more psychological than thriller. Human relationships, emotions, memories and long kept grudges and secrets can be quite complex. I think we all have one person in our young adult past that we would like to forget....or wish we could go back and make one different decision. One night. One bad decision. Lasting repercussions. Or maybe, like for main character Kate Channing, it's a string of bad decisions that she never really got over. Bad relationship choices, bad emotional responses....the last tantrum of childhood before really growing up.

But did any of them murder Severine and throw her body down a well??

I have mixed emotions about the ending of this story. I"m both satisfied and dissatisfied....possibly because it's entirely realistic. Nothing ever wraps itself up perfectly -- all wrongs righted, all mistakes atoned for, all problems solved -- by the last actions in a story. But some things can be fixed.....some things are brought out into the light.....and some things are best forgotten. It doesn't make realism any easier to take.....just take a swig of your drink after and wash it down with a sweet swish of adulthood and understanding. Sometimes you take what you can get......and walk away from the rest. Perfect.

The story is well-written. It moves a little slowly, but that's what makes the psychological power of this tale work its magic on readers. It gives each person time to think on their own past as they see Kate Channing's past and present come crashing together. It takes time for rumors to get started, time for old emotions to come bubbling to the surface, and it takes time for her to figure out what happened on a fateful night 10 years before.....who killed Severine? And why? And do you ever really know anybody? Really KNOW them.....or do you just get to see the parts of themselves they choose to share?

I loved the fact that Kate Channing sees the dead French girl nearly everywhere while she is trying to piece the facts together in her mind. She sees her as she was in life, and also sees her dead, white grinning skull. The vision never interacts with her, never speaks, never touches her....but she's always there. Dead Severine.In both her beauty and her ghastly final silence. Seeing the dead girl really added something to the story, and kept Kate focused on the fact that this was really about a girl that was murdered, and not entirely about her emotions about that week in France that broke up their friendships.

All in all, a great book! Very enjoyable. More psych than thriller/suspense for me.....but to others it might feel differently. Just the fact that it pulled up old emotions in me from my own college days means that it's quite an effective story. No dead bodies in my college past.....but a lot of little barbs remain in the recesses of my brain. Lost friendships. Lies that destroyed relationships. The first "real'' breakup. And those I said goodbye to at graduation and never saw again. Bad decisions. Regrets. What ifs.  Everyone has them. Kate Channing's just happen to blossom into a murder investigation.

Great story!! Loved it!

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


Friday, February 16, 2018

REVIEW: Red, White and Blueberry Murder

Red, White and Blueberry Murder
Author: Susan Gillard

Heather Janke's favorite customer, Eva Schneider, is in the hospital in a coma. Someone attacked her and hit her over the head. Heather is in total shock. Who would want to hurt Eva? She's a sweet, elderly woman with seemingly no enemies. So who hit her over the head? Donut Delights is just not the same without Eva coming in for a doughnut and coffee each morning. Despite her detective boyfriend's wishes that she not investigate crimes, Heather feels this attack makes this case personal. Ryan might get upset with her....but she is going to find out who hurt Eva!

This series is light reading. The plots are not complex, and the stories are all relatively short. But I like the main characters and the doughnut shop theme is entertaining. At times I do have to suspend reality a bit...but that's a common occurrence with cozy mysteries. I've had these ebooks on my Kindle for a long time.....and I'm trying to make a concentrated effort to clear out my bookshelves and my digital tbr pile this year. So.....reading through the Donut Hole series finally! The stories can get a bit trope-y at times, but they are entertaining enough to keep me reading.

Red, White and Blueberry Murder is the 7th book in the Donut Hole series. There are 60 books in the series. I have a lot of reading to do! :) So far I have resisted the urge to eat a doughnut while reading, but I'm sure before I'm done with the series I will give in!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

REVIEW: Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Beneath a Scarlet Sky
Author: Mark T. Sullivan

Pino Lella is a typical Italian teenager...he enjoys his friends, girls, music....what all young people enjoy. Then Milan is bombed by the Allies, and World War II tears his world apart. Pino leaves Milan and joins a group that helps guide Jews over the Alps to safety in Switzerland. As he nears his 18th birthday, his parents push him to join the German Army to prevent his being sent to the Russian front with the Italian forces. Pino joins the German army, but he isn't a Nazi.....he is acting as a spy, passing information on to the Allies. As he drives a German general all over Italy, he is gathering intel to help the Allies win the war. He sees so many atrocities -- Jews being worked to death, cattle cars filled with people being sent to concentration camps, people shot in the streets.....   Pino Lella was a forgotten hero of WWII and his remarkable story is finally being told.

I enjoyed this book. I listened to the audiobook version. The descriptions of what Pino Lella saw and experienced during the war in Italy was very emotional for me. I can't even imagine experiencing so much violence, death and fear. My father fought in the war and then was stationed in Germany following Germany's surrender. He would rarely talk about it, but said the aftermath of the fighting was so horrifying that he didn't want me to know what it was like. Towards the end of the book, Pino sees fascists and collaborators being executed in the streets following the German surrender. Those scenes immediately brought my dad's words about the horrific nature of war back into my mind. He said he hoped that I never had to experience anything remotely like it. My father wasn't even 20 years old and had to see people being shot in the streets, civilians so worn down by war and violence that they killed themselves by jumping in front of trains, and children starving to death because there wasn't enough food. I can't even imagine it.

I loved most of the story. But, at times, the book rambled on a bit too long and got more than a little melodramatic, especially regarding Pino's girlfriend. When I got to the end of the story, it made more sense why Anna was mentioned all the time and the effect she had on his entire life. But.....for most of the book I was rolling my eyes when he went on and on about her beauty, their love, etc. I suppose it really is what an 18 year old in love for the first time would say and do...... but, for me, it really slowed down the plot development in regards to Pino's spying and the war a bit too much. And the long descriptions of how she looked, smelled, talked......it got old by the end of the story. I was also just a little bit incredulous that Pino could actually have done all of the things credited to him -- meeting Mussolini and witnessing his death, a post-war warning to James Dean not to buy the car that ultimately caused his death, miraculously escaping so many deadly situations, etc. He just seems a little bit overdone....too "larger than life.''  I'm not saying that I don't believe Sullivan's research....I just think things might be just a bit exaggerated in places. In my opinion, at times the writing style comes off as a bit juvenile.....melodramatic, over-simplified and exaggerated...and that has an effect on the impact of the story. But, I have to remind myself that the story is about an 18-year old boy who is thrown into an experience of violence and terror that those of us who weren't there (or who have never experienced war destroying our country) cannot possibly really understand. I have the suspicion that some facts are exaggerated.....but overall the story is so powerful that I'm not sure I really care if some of the events and deeds by Pino Lella didn't happen exactly as reported. That he was willing to spy at all.....or help Jews across the mountains....or resist the Nazis in any way when it meant death to be caught makes me have a deep respect for the man. Many normal citizens were too afraid to do anything.....they pretended not to notice the murder of millions of Jews because they were afraid for their own lives. Would I have had the guts to resist and face almost certain death for it??? I'm not sure I would. None of us can really be sure unless we are faced with those same life-and-death situations. If some of the details are exaggerated, then so be it. Pino Lella's story should be told. Even if a few details are over-blown, that doesn't negate the fact he risked his life on a daily basis to do what was right. That is a lot of courage for an 18-year old to possess and quite a scarring way to grow up. 

All in all, despite a few little things here and there, I enjoyed this book. I had never really read anything about the situation in Italy and what happened there once Germany surrendered. The audiobook is narrated by Will Damron. He read at a nice, even pace. I have hearing loss but was still able to easily hear and understand everything. The audiobook version is just under 18 hours long. It kept my attention except in a few spots where it focused on his love life a bit too long. The reason didn't become apparent until later in the story. I can see why those chapters are included now, but I still feel that all that detail slowed down the story. Some could have been edited out to shorten the book, while still preserving the idea that she was very important to him.


REVIEW: The Nightmare of Black Island (Doctor Who)

The Nightmare of Black Island
Author: Mike Tucker

This is a deliciously creepy Doctor Who audiobook adventure.  The Doctor and Rose Tyler arrive at a village on the Welsh coast just after a fisherman is killed by a creature from the sea. Children in the village are plagued by nightmares, and monsters roam at night. It isn't safe to go out after dark. The villagers blame a local old man for the goings on, but the Doctor wants to know how the old lighthouse, the monsters that roam around after dark and strange figures seen in the priory figure in to the problem. When he uncovers a plan to resurrect an alien being, the Doctor knows everyone involved is in serious danger, especially the children.

This was an exciting and seriously creepy story! Anthony Head narrates. He reads at an even pace and did an excellent job. Just over 2 hours long, this audiobook is an easy listening length and, as with all BBC Audio presentations, the production value is top notch.

I listened to this story while reorganizing my bookshelves, dusting and moving furniture. It was great company and made the time pass quickly. :)

I'm really enjoying these Doctor Who audiobooks from BBC Audio. I will definitely be listening to more! I'm hooked!! It's a great way to fill in time until the TV series starts up again. :)


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

REVIEW: A Grave Issue

A Grave Issue
Author: Lillian Bell

After 10 years away, Desiree Turner has returned to her hometown, Verbena, CA, and the family business -- Turner Family Funeral Home. Soon after she returns, a prominent Verbena businessman is murdered...shot through the forehead. The problem all started with feuding neighbors, dogs, a dead emu and a fist fight between two women at a funeral. It's not just small town drama because a man is dead, and a longtime Turner family friend is arrested for his murder. Desiree knows Kyle Hansen didn't kill anyone. But she's going to have to prove it.

I enjoyed this book. It was fun reading about Desiree's return to her hometown....dealing with former boyfriends, rivals, and annoying reporters. The story is a bit of a double mystery....the murder and all the drama surrounding it, plus the disappearance of Desiree's father two years before. The mystery moves along at a nice pace with plenty of suspects, gossip and investigation. Desiree does a good job of juggling funerals and sleuthing. I like her as a main character. She's feisty, but not foolish. Her friend Jasmine is a great sidekick and there are enough small town quirky folks to make the tale interesting. The ending was not a surprise, but there were some nice action packed events leading up to the final arrest. All in all, a nice beginning for a new cozy series!

Lillian Bell also writes the Popcorn Shop cozy series (as Kristin Bell). She also writes as Eileen Rendahl and Eileen Carr. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.eileenrendahl.com/

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


Monday, February 12, 2018

REVIEW: The Girls in the Picture

The Girls in the Picture
Author: Melanie Benjamin

It seems strange and very intriguing to me that silent movies and the beginnings of the film industry in Los Angeles happened more than 100 years ago. It doesn't seem possible that we are a century away from the old black and white "flickers.''  This book is about the friendship between Actress Mary Pickford, who was touted as America's Sweetheart back in the early days, and Frances Marion, an early screenwriter. Both women were incredibly famous in their day and paved the way for women in the film industry. Both won academy awards for their work. And both are largely forgotten. A century of time can erase all things......unless it's preserved on film.

As I read this book I took breaks and watched Mary Pickford films just to get the feel for what these women created. My favorite is Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, released in 1917. The Screenplay was adapted by Frances Marion from the classic novel and the film stars Mary Pickford and Eugene O'Brien. The film is grainy and silent. The title cards and credits jump and jerk around on the screen. The makeup gives the actors raccoon eyes and a melodramatic look. But.....it was one of the first films with a real plot and for me it's amazing that I can watch a performance that took place over 100 years ago. Long dead actors appearing as young, dedicated performers still, after all these years. Film magic!


I enjoyed this book. I know very little about Mary Pickford except that she was married to Douglas Fairbanks. And I had never heard of Frances Marion before this book. In 1972, Frances Marion wrote a book, "Off With Their Heads,'' about her experiences in Hollywood. She died soon after it was published. After reading The Girls in the Picture, I definitely want to read Marion's book!

Once I started reading I couldn't put this book down. It tells the story of how the movie industry got its start, and about the early lives of two powerful pioneering women in the industry. Mary Pickford was the highest paid actor back then, but paid a price for her fame. The story unfolds to include other notable classic early performers -- Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and more. I learned so much about the early days of film and these two strong women. Great book!! 

Anyone who loves old movies and Old Hollywood tales will love this book!! 

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



REVIEW: Unearthed

Unearthed
Authors: Amie Kauffman & Meagan Spooner

Mia is a scavenger, stealing artifacts and tech items from a distant world, Gaia, far from Earth. She is trying desperately to buy freedom for her little sister. Jules is the son of a disgraced scientist....the man who released information and a dire warning about Gaia to everyone on Earth. The two meet on the surface of the planet, teaming up out of necessity. They both want to discover what is at the heart of a temple, left by an alien race known as the Undying. They will have to solve puzzles and avoid traps to survive. But what about the warnings of danger and destruction received in a transmission from this alien race?

I loved this story! Lots of action and sci-fi thrills.....an alien planet, strange writing and technology, danger and deception! The story has lots of surprises and twists. This book definitely kept my attention from beginning to end! It does end with a cliffhanger, but book 2 in the series, The Undying, is coming out in 2018. The chapters alternate perspective between Mia and Jules. I usually don't like constant perspective flip-flopping....but this time, it worked. The switching not only helped develop both of the main characters, but it also heightened the suspense. Mia and Jules have completely opposite reasons for being on Gaia, but they have to work together to survive. I think the authors did a great job of portraying the development of their relationship, and building the plot and action around their dependence on each other while facing dangers on an alien world.

The cover is gorgeous!

Great book! I can't wait for book two!

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


REVIEW: Nightmare House

Nightmare House
Author: Douglas Clegg

Ethan inheirits his grandfather's house, Harrow House. Returning to the strange home after years away, he remembers childhood visits there. He meets the household servants and tries to settle into his new life. But, Harrow House holds some very dark secrets.....family secrets so terrible that nobody entering the house is ever quite the same again.

I really, really, really wanted to enjoy this book.....I love spooky tales and ghost stories and the Harrow House series sounded just like what I enjoy. But.....I listened to the audiobook version of the story. And.....to be honest, I couldn't stand the narrator. Michael Taylor has a very deep, booming male voice, and to me it just didn't fit the nature of this book at all. When Taylor attempted to do female voices or elderly male voices, his tone was just awkward and, for me, annoying. It really put a damper on my enjoyment of this book. Taylor's voice might fit a western story, a regular children's story, or maybe a comedic type book....but, in my opinion, it was not a good choice for a horror or suspense novel. I finished listening.....but couldn't fully immerse in the story because I just hated his voice and narration style. This happens sometimes with audiobooks.....it doesn't mean he is a bad narrator. His style, in this case, just isn't for me. Others might have a different opinion and love it.

The story itself seemed rambling and not all that scary or suspenseful. 

All of the audiobooks for the Harrow House series are narrated by Michael Taylor. So, I will be leaving this series after finishing book 1. Just not for me.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

REVIEW: Pest Control

Doctor Who: Pest Control
Author: Peter Anghelides

I did not realize how much I missed Donna Noble and the 10th Doctor until I started listening to this audiobook. Donna Noble's sass and the Doctor's humor come out within the first minute of the production and it doesn't stop until the very end! Great chemistry! David Tennant, as narrator, does a wonderful imitation of Catherine Tate's Donna. I could envision the actress in my head saying the lines. :) Ahhhh, the wonderous days of the 10th Doctor. I miss him! (Tom Baker as Doctor #4 is still my favorite....but David Tennant as #10 is a very close second).

There's a little bit of everything in this adventure.....battlefield action, warrior centaurs, giant beetles, a lost TARDIS and a violent exterminator robot. I loved it! The best part was when the doctor introduced himself and Donna Noble as Doctor McCoy and Captain Kirk. :) Great Doctor Who adventure!

As usual, this BBC audiobook is great -- nice sound effects and perfect narration and acting by David Tennant. At almost 2.5 hours long, the audiobook is of easy listening length. I enjoyed listening while doing household chores and driving in my car. Very enjoyable story!

I'm definitely going to listen to more of these BBC Doctor Who audiobooks read by David Tennant. So far I have loved every one I've listened to!


Saturday, February 10, 2018

REVIEW: The Ghost Notebooks

The Ghost Notebooks
Author: Ben Dolnick

Nick and Heather are tired.....tired of the city, tired of their apartment, tired of their lives. They need a chance of scenery. Heather applies for a job as caretaker at a museum in upstate New York and before they even realize it's really happening they are moving to Hiberia, NY. The museum is dedicated to an obscure and strange philosopher and writer, Edmund Wright. At first, living in the historic house is a nice change for them. They enjoy planning events for school kids, leading tours and walking in the woods. They learn a bit about Wright, the death of his son in an accident, and read some of his writing. Then things start to go wrong.....Heather develops severe insomnia, stops taking her medication, seems distant and upset, and starts hearing voices in the old house. Is the house haunted? Is she losing her mind? Then Heather disappears one day......and Nick's life will never be the same.

After finishing this book I feel a bit like I'm back in college, sitting in the middle of a lecture hall for classic literature class, and the professor has called on me for my interpretation of some famous poem or line from a famously classic book. All eyes turn to me, and I have to admit.....I don't really get it.   I have to be honest and say.....I read this entire book from beginning to end, waiting to see what was going to happen, what the answer was, what was in store for the characters.....and then it was over......and I just feel a bit puzzled and drained. But I think I understand.....this is a slog through the mire that is the human psyche and emotions. Anger, guilt, sadness, confusion, loss, depression, mental illness.....this is not a supernatural tale, but a very natural one. A raw peek into human nature, relationships, mental health and gut-wrenching loss. Sometimes there is no answer.....sometimes there are only questions and hard as hell reality.

The story is well-written and interesting, but a bit too cerebral for me. And I'm unsure if what I take away from this book are the thoughts and feelings that Dolnick meant to inspire. The story builds quietly....and then jumps deep into the abyss that is mental illness, severe anxiety and suicide. Heavy stuff.

I can't fault the book -- it's very well-written. I think the subject matter is just intrinsically uncomfortable. The atmosphere is creepy and the slow build of the story is strange and unsettling. But, that was the effect it was supposed to have on readers.

Powerful story......but strange and uncomfortable.

The author made his point, but I'm still strangely unsure exactly what it was.

It's sort of like that strange prickling feeling you can get in a strange place.....like someone is watching you from just out of your sight....and the only thing you can think of is getting away and going somewhere light and sunny. Haunting and creepy......yet so real and human.

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

REVIEW: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Author: Iam Fleming

I think every avid reader must have a list (even if it's just in their head and not actually written down) of books they would like to read, but never seem to find the time. My list of "someday'' reads is quite extensive, but I have vowed that this year I will read more books from my own library shelves and also more books off my I'd-really-love-to-read-that list.

When I found out years ago that Ian Fleming (author of all those lovely 007 spy novels) wrote a children's book that one my favorite Disney movies is based on, at first I didn't believe it. I had to look it up to get proof. At that point, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang made it onto my list of books I wanted to read. And I finally did it! Well, I listened to an unabridged audiobook version -- but that still counts! And.....it was just....lovely!!!! The book is almost completely different from the movie....but that's true of almost any children's book Disney adapts into an animated film.

The Pott family includes Commander Caractacus Pott, his wife Mimsie and their two children Jeremy and Jemimah. Sometimes the family has a bit of financial trouble because the Commander is a bit eccentric....he's an inventor. Sometimes the things he invents are quite useful....and sometimes not. One day he invents a sweet that whistles and sells it to a candy company. He uses the money to buy a car.....and not just any car. After a bit of sprucing up, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang joins the Pott family. She's not just a car.....but a very very special car. A drive to the beach will teach the Pott family just how special Chitty is! What adventures they have!

I still love the movie with Dick VanDyke (the whole scene with the whistling candy had me humming Toot Sweet in my head).....but....the book is just happy, lovely and wonderful!!!

The audiobook I listened to is narrated by Andrew Sachs. It is unabridged and runs just shy of 2.5 hours. Sachs did a wonderful job...he reads at an even pace, and did great sound effects and voices for the characters. I have hearing loss, but was easily able to hear and understand every bit of the story.

So glad I finally got to enjoy the original story. I hope someday they make a movie that follows the book....the story really is great!!

REVIEW: To the River (Cattarina Mysteries Prequel)

To the River - The Cattarina Mysteries Prequel
Author: Monica Shaughnessy

Cattarina is a Tortie. That in itself makes her a special cat. But, she is also Edgar Allan Poe's cat, which makes her even more special. The Catterina Mysteries series is about how Edgar's kitty solves some mysteries while acting as her companion's feline muse. To the River is a prequel to the series, telling the tale of Catterina's kittenhood behind a shop and her chance meeting with Poe.

I started reading book one of the Catterina series before I realized there was a prequel. I put book one (The Tell-Tail Heart) on hold for just a bit, in order to read this story.

I am a huge Poe fan. Even after more than 170 years his stories still chill the blood of readers, and his genius is still completely apparent. So far, I really like the Cattarina series. Behind every good and creative man is a great cat, of course (ha ha!), and the idea of his kitty helping him find story ideas is just such a creative premise for a book series.

The stories are told from the cat's point of view. I have read other books that tried this type of point of view and failed, but Monica Shaughnessy pulls it off. Catterina is wise and street savvy, plus she loves her companion....her Eddy.

I'm glad I paused my reading of book one long enough to read this prequel. It gave some insight into the characters, and set the scene a bit more for book one.

The cover art is awesome, featuring a Tortie with bewitching amber eyes below a scene of Old London. Just beautiful!

Any cat lover who also enjoys Poe's writing will like this series! :)

Friday, February 9, 2018

REVIEW: How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon
Author: Cressida Cowell

At the moment, I'm reading an intense historical fiction novel set in Italy during WWII. After awhile I need a break from such a serious subject. I came across this lovely audiobook narrated by David Tennant, and knew that was just the thing I needed to listen to! I'm glad I did! Before now, I had only seen the animated movie of this story. I had never read the book. I love the movie.....but the book is so much better!

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III is the son of a chief. While that's pretty cool in itself, he still has to prove that he can catch and train his own dragon to become a real member of the Hairy Hooligans Tribe. He's a bit worried about it. The other boys have given him some great nicknames like "Useless''....so anyone can understand why he is a bit afraid of failing and being exiled. He and all the other Boys go on their adventure to capture their dragons.....and he does manage to get one. But, it's the smallest dragon anyone has ever seen.....and it won't listen to him. Somehow he has to train Toothless before the ceremony.....will he manage?

OMG! This story is soooooo cute! And, listening to David Tennant do all the voices is such a hoot!! This unabridged audiobook version is just a bit over 3.5 hours long. David Tennant reads at a nice even speed, and acts out the action very well. I have hearing loss, but I was easily able to hear and understand everything.

I had a great time listening and rooting for Hiccup & Toothless! :) There were some scenes that actually had me laughing out loud. :) Great book! I'm going to rewatch the movie now......both are very enjoyable.


REVIEW: Mint Chip Murder

Mint Chip Murder
Author: Susan Gillard

Kelly Carlson, owner and stylist at Shear Beauty in Hillside, TX, is murdered in her shop. Police are investigating, but finding few clues as to who may have murdered the hairdresser. Heather Janke, local businesswoman and amateur sleuth, finds out a few things about the case and shares them with her detective boyfriend, Ryan Shepherd. It's mind boggling who would have wanted Kelly dead...by all accounts she was sweet and had no enemies. But.....she must have had at least one, right? Can Heather gather some clues that might help police solve the case? 

Mint Chip Murder is the 6th book in the Donut Hole Mystery series by Susan Gillard. The books are short, entertaining reads. The mysteries are basic and move along at a fast pace. Each book adds a little bit more character development, at least for the main characters. I like seeing how this series is developing as it goes along....each subsequent book seems to be a little bit better. Better writing, a little bit more character development, a bit more complex mystery. These are books to read for enjoyment, not complex sleuthing. They are short, light stories. I needed a bit of a break from long novels, so I've been enjoying these little stories. They are a nice quick cozy mystery fix. 

In Mint Chip Murder there are some nice developments in the relationship between Heather and Ryan. A little bit of romance to sweeten the plot! :) Dave, the dog has a bit of a rough time in this one. Amateur sleuthing proves to be dangerous sometimes!

I like the fact that Heather still noses around to gather bits of information, but she gives all the info to the police, rather than sneaking around to sleuth by herself. Makes more sense! That way her sleuthing doesn't harm the integrity of the police department's case....and she isn't putting herself into danger with her penchant for nosing around murder cases. 

I will be reading more in this series. I've had quite a few of these ebooks waiting to be read for a long time. This year, I am trying to read more of my own books....and I'm working to actually read some of the digital books I've downloaded but never read. There are 60 novels in the Donut Hole Mystery series...and I own most of them. Time to read them, and clear out some room on my ereader!


Thursday, February 8, 2018

REVIEW: The Philosopher's Flight

The Philosopher's Flight
Author: Tom Miller

I love books about alternate history. But The Philosopher's Flight is something more....a combination of fantasy, sci-fi, alternate history...and pure magic.

The Basics: Certain symbols, called sigils, can be used to focus power. That power can be used for mundane things like making plants grow larger, curing illness or even flying, but also for more destructive actions like killing 40,000 enemy soldiers in one battle during the Civil War. Although some men can wield the power, women are much more talented at being Empirical Philosophers and using sigils.  Most counties in the United States have a resident philosopher to help with emergencies. Maj. Emmaline Weekes is a county philosopher in Montana in 1917. Her son Robert helps by ordering supplies, cooking and being support for his mother. America is entering the Great War in Europe. President Wilson has just announced a declaration of war against The German Empire. Robert;s dream is to fly Rescue & Evac, but women are much more talented at flying than men. The elite unit has never accepted a man into their ranks. After a emergency rescue following an attack by Trenchers, a group of vigilantes against sygilists, Robert proves that a male just might be able to make it in R & E. When he's accepted into college to become a philosopher, he realizes his dream might just come true!

OMG! I love this book!! The mix of real history with the fantasy of sigils and philosophers! Such a creative and awesome story! The book is filled with action and excitement -- trencher attacks, rescues, training and war -- and kept my attention from beginning to end. Reverse sexism adds an interesting angle to the plot as well. Robert goes through a lot being a male in college studying philosophy and wanting to join R&E when they don't accept males.

The Philosopher's Flight is Tom Miller's debut novel. I loved the story and his writing style. I will definitely be reading more by this author!

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

REVIEW: Chocolate Frosted Murder

Chocolate Frosted Murder
Author: Susan Gillard

Heather Janke is attending the 75th birthday party for Theresa Reyes, a family member of two of her employees at Donut Delights. Just as the festivities are ramping up, two police officers show up to notify the family that Gustavo Reyes has been killed. His body was found in the park, along with a gun and drugs. He was picking up his aunt Theresa's birthday present, and family members had commented that he was late. Now, he's not just late...but dead. The family asks Heather to look into his death because they all swear that Gustavo did not use drugs or own a gun. Heather decides to look into it to help the family. A suspect soon relates a story about what supposedly happened in the park, but states it was self defense. Can Heather find out if he's lying?

I'm enjoying this series. Each book is an entertaining, short read. I like the doughnut theme, even though most of the time the title of the book doesn't relate to the story. But then again, it isn't really necessary for the doughnut flavor from the cover to be a part of the story. I like Heather as a main character. She's a strong woman. She  respects her detective boyfriend's job and doesn't get angry when he is called away on police business. And, she treats her Donut Delights employees like family.

There are 60 short novels in this series. I'm definitely going to read more of them....they are fun, quick reads. :)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

REVIEW: Beignets and Broomsticks

Beignets and Broomsticks
Author: J.R. Ripley

I enjoy the Bird Lover's Mystery series by J.R. Ripley, so when I saw that he had another cozy series, I knew I had to give it a try! Beignets and Broomsticks is the third book in the Maggie Miller Mystery series. I haven't read the other books in the series, but I was easily able to follow the story. So, it's not necessary to start with book 1 in the series.....anyone jumping in at this newest book will be fine.

Maggie Miller runs the Beignet Cafe in Table Rock, AZ. Maggie is trying to make her new business take off.  Unfortunately her competition, Karma Koffee, is right across the street. Brainstorming for menu additions to bring in customers, she's purchased a used Belgian waffle maker and even an espresso machine. And because it's October, she adds a pumpkin spice beignet to the menu. On Halloween night, she decides to take leftover candy and beignets to Nancy Alverson, a loyal customer who lives in an apartment above Karma Koffee. Imagine her surprise when she not only sees a local woman running from the building, but discovers Nancy dead in her apartment. The woman has been strangled to death with a cashmere scarf. Maggie is also shocked to find Nancy's apartment filled with books on witchcraft and the occult. Turns out, Nancy was in over head, writing an expose on a strange occult group, The Sacred Church of Witchkraft, located on the edge of town. Was Nancy silenced before she could print her expose? Or is there more to the story? Maggie will not be satisfied until she knows the truth!

This story was a fun, entertaining read! The characters are quirky and the Halloween-theme plot was great! I like Maggie as a main character.....she a bit neurotic and flighty at times, but intelligent as well. The mystery is engaging and moves at a nice pace with plenty of twists and suspects. The strange witchcraft angle was perfect for the Halloween theme. I also love the front cover art!!

I have to admit a bit sheepishly that when I started reading I had no clue what a beignet is. I looked it up and found out it's a fried dough pastry that's a traditional treat from New Orleans. There is a French Quarter Beignets recipe on Foodnetwork.com for anybody who wants to try making them! Sounds yummy!!

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/french-quarter-beignets-recipe-2014039


Definitely another winning cozy series from J.R. Ripley (a pseudonym for author Glenn Meganck). I will definitely be back-tracking to read the first two books in this series!

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