Tuesday, December 31, 2019

REVIEW: The Shadow of the Pomegranate

The Shadow of the Pomegranate
Author: Jean Plaidy

After languishing in England for several years following the untimely death of her husband Arthur, Katharine of Aragon is married to Henry VIII. She has been a pawn in the games of kings for years, and she sees her marriage as a new beginning. She is queen of England now. But little does Katharine know....once a pawn, always a pawn. Everything rides on her producing a son...a healthy baby....a Tudor heir. Henry showers her with love and affection, and Katharine does her best to be a good wife and queen...but there is always the implied threat. Produce an heir....or else.

Or else what?

The Shadow of the Pomegranate is the second book about Katharine by Jean Plaidy, and the 3rd book in her Tudor Saga. It follows Katharine's life from the time of her marriage to Henry until the birth of her daughter, Mary. Katharine learns that the Queen of England can wield some power within court and the kingdom, but she is nothing when it comes to Henry's will. He wants a son....it is Katharine's duty to give him a healthy son. Henry tries to be a good husband and king, but as the years progress with miscarriages, babies who only live a short time, and a healthy daughter....he starts to obsess. No heir. That must be his wife's fault, right? What a precarious position Katharine found herself in! I can only imagine the stress, sorrow and fear that touched her life during those years. The pain of knowing that Henry was turning to mistresses.....that a mistress had given him a son but she could not.....  I can't even imagine. Katharine's life runs the full spectrum -- incredibly happy, joyous and powerful to completely sad, abandoned and powerless. Producing baby after baby without the desired result and seeing her husband begin to resent and even dislike her must have been incredibly difficult.

I have been collecting Plaidy's books for years. I am a completist and don't like to read a series until I have all the books on my shelf. That's a bit hard with writers like Plaidy (a pen-name for author Eleanor Hibbert. She also wrote under other names including Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr) because some of her books are long out of print. It finally dawned on me that it is ridiculous to collect an author's works for a decade, and not read any of them! So, with the help of 3 library cards (one metro, two small regional), online resources and buying a few titles still missing, I am finally diving into my Plaidy collection with gusto! I started with the Tudor Saga. I know the history, but I'm enjoying Plaidy's take on events. She takes the historical facts and fills in details -- conversations, thoughts, emotions, intrigue, drama....she puts the humanity and its faults in place. I wish I had started reading much sooner! These books are wonderful!

Plaidy does NOT write historical romance. These books are historical fiction. There is a difference. Plaidy weaves the tale of history, adding in what might have taken place between key figures. The main portion of the story is not romance, sex, etc.....the crux of the story is the history. What happened? Why? What was the result? How did the historical figures involved feel about it? Sure, there is some sex, emotions, relationships, drama....because we are dealing with kings, marriages, politics, and human lives. Readers who want a bit of history but more kingly bedroom antics need to turn to a romance writer's books. Those who are looking for history with just a tiny touch of sex and sin will enjoy Plaidy's works. It's all about the history, baby. Not Henry VIII's naughty bits. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with naughty bits.....just don't want readers to be disappointed that there are no heaving bosoms and passionate embraces in these books. Naughty bits are implied, but never dangle freely, if you know what I mean.

Awesome book! I pause before moving on to the next book, The King's Secret Matter. We all know what happens next.....and I'm not sure I'm ready to read Plaidy's account of the King's treatment of his first wife. I need to watch some Disney channel and read a couple middle grade books to clear my head before I delve into the last years of Katharine's life. Henry was a bit of a wanker.....and Katharine paid the price for disappointing him. Such a sad story....

Wonderful book!! I'm loving this series!

Monday, December 30, 2019

REVIEW: Katharine, the Virgin Widow

Katharine, the Virgin Widow
Author: Jean Plaidy

I have been collecting books by Jean Plaidy for years. Jean Plaidy was a pseudonym used by author Eleanor Hibbert. Hibbert also wrote under the name Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr, plus several others. Each genre she wrote in was under a different name. I can totally understand. She wanted her historical fiction separate from her gothic romance, etc.

Jean Plaidy books flesh out periods/events in history. Hibbert takes historical fact and brings in the details....conversations, thoughts, drama, politics, and intrigue, plus the humanity of the events.. Plaidy books are NOT historical romance, but historical fiction. There is a difference. Plaidy brings life to historical events.....not ripped bodices and naked royalty. For those types of stories, there are many, many other authors to choose from. Not bashing historical romance.....just stating that Plaidy books do not involve jauntily naked Tudors or heaving bosoms. Well, there might be a few heaving bosoms, but they are never the crux of the story. If you want to hear about Henry VIII's manly bits and details of what he did with said bits, Plaidy is not the right choice. If you want a fictional idea of what Henry VIII said to Katharine of Aragon on their wedding day (or his five other subsequent wedding days), then Plaidy is a good choice.

I started collecting Plaidy books (there are 77 of them) about 10 years ago. At the time, some were out of print and a bit hard to find. Several have been re-released since then. I love books and I'm a completist -- I want the entire series on my shelf before I start to read. That can get a bit difficult when dealing with out of print books. So in 10 years of collecting Plaidy novels, I only read one trilogy by her (the Norman trilogy) and the other multitude of books I own by her sat neglected on my shelves. Finally, this year, I told myself that it's ridiculous to have a collection of books for so long.....and never read any of them. I sorted my books and filled in a couple gaps so I could start reading....and found library copies or digital edition copies to fill in other spots. My goal is to read through my Jean Plaidy collection during 2020, and free up all this shelf space! I will donate/trade my copies so others can enjoy the titles too....even those that are now long out of print.

Katharine, the Virgin Widow tells the story of Katharine of Aragon. It starts with her being brought to England from Spain to marry Henry VIIs oldest son, Arthur. The Tudors just took the throne of England and Henry is determined to keep it. His heir must marry and have sons. The Tudor line must continue! But.....    (there is always a but, isn't there!) Arthur dies soon after marrying Katharine. Henry VII does not want to return her dowry, but what to do with her? Katharine is suddenly a virgin widow -- the marriage was never consummated because she was  young and Arthur was sickly. Cue politics, intrigue, plotting.  What will happen to poor Katharine? And now the younger son -- Henry -- is suddenly Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne.

There are three Plaidy books about Katharine of Aragon. Katharine, the Virgin Widow is the first. followed by The Shadow of the Pomegranate and The King's Secret Matter. These books are also books 2-4 in Plaidy's Tudor Saga.

I enjoyed this story. I already knew the facts, but I enjoyed this author's slant on it. Poor Katharine. She arrives in England not even knowing how to speak English. She misses her mother and her home country. She marries, but her husband dies soon after. She wants to go home....but politics and money is involved. She is a pawn in the games of kings. She has no real choices. She must do as she is told. Men hold all the power. Even when she is queen...her husband controls everything. She is just expected to have babies and be quiet. What a life -- spectacular and incredibly sad at the same time.

Great book! I'm obsessed with the Tudor era, so I am enjoying the Tudor Saga series!

On to the next book!

REVIEW: Dead in Dublin

Dead in Dublin
Author: Cate Murphy

When she finished up her military career, Megan Malone relocated to Dublin, Ireland. She works for Leprechaun Limos, driving tourists all over the city. It's about as far from her former military skills as she can get...but she loves it. Most days it's pretty routine....driving people here and there, giving a bit of touristy color and history to her clients. Until the day one of her passengers drops dead. A well-known restaurant and food critic, Elizabeth Darr, dies....after eating at a local restaurant. With the police investigating the eatery to  rule out food poisoning, Megan is concerned. The restaurant is owned by a friend, and she doesn't want its reputation ruined. She finds herself doing a bit of sleuthing to find out what actually happened to Elizabeth Darr. Who wanted the popular food critic dead??

I love this new series! The characters and setting are just fun and entertaining! Despite the fact that I can't properly pronounce any of the Irish names....I enjoyed this book! Megan is an interesting and intelligent main character. The side characters are quirky and entertaining. I'm not sure I would enjoy being a limo driver, but it might be a bit of fun to drive tourists around a city with such an interesting history and folklore behind it. I would definitely not want one of my passengers to drop dead before my very eyes though. Megan did a lot better job handling that situation than I would!

Great start to a new series! I will definitely be reading more! The second book in the Dublin Driver Mystery series, Death on the Green, will be out in September 2020.

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

Sunday, December 29, 2019

REVIEW: Another Man's Moccasins

Another Man's Moccasins
Author: Craig Johnson

Very rarely do I find that I enjoy both the book version and television adaptation of a series. The Walt Longmire series is one such rare case. I actually watched the television series long before I read the books. That breaks one of my cardinal rules of reading and film/television watching -- always read the book(s) first. But, in my defense, at the time I didn't know that the television show was based (a bit loosely in spots) on Craig Johnson's books. When the television show ended, I learned that there were several books. It was like hitting the western-adventure-cop-story-loving-bibliophile mother lode. That moment was where I butted up against one of my other book behaviors. I'm a bit OCD when it comes to reading series .... I can't read books out of order if they are in a series and I want the entire series available to me before I start reading. So I started collecting the books....one here, one there, used copy found here, gift copy from friends there. I started collecting while Netflix was showing the final season of the show....and in 2019, I still hadn't started reading the books.

I'm turning over a new leaf. I don't wait to have physical copies of books any more.....I have 3 library cards. Yep -- three. A large metro and two smaller regional libraries. There are now very few books I can't find at a library either in physical or digital format.....and those elusive few books are the ones I spend time weaseling up a physical copy. I can still keep my OCD reading habits.....the whole series lined up and waiting. I just read some of the books on my Ipad or online. Tink, tink, tink -- Longmire fell into place. And....I'm reading!

The best thing about the entire situation?? The Longmire book series continues!! In fact, Craig Johnson just put out a new book in the series in 2019. The television series might be finished, but I can still get my Longmire fix! Yahooooo! Vic is still salty. Henry Standing Bear is still spiritual. Longmire still catches the bad guys. I love it!

Ok....well I suppose I am technically supposed to be reviewing Another Man's Moccasins -- the 4th book in the Longmire series. Through the lovely offerings of my library peeps, I am listening to the audio book versions of the first few books. The holiday season does not lend itself to long reading jags....so while cooking, cleaning, and doing the usual festivities, I have been listening to George Guidall read Johnson's book to me. Guidall is an excellent voice actor....he brings the story to life. I still see the television actors from the series in my head (I have to imagine Katee Sackoff with dark hair though since the book description of the character is so different from the actress) as I listen.(Casting was excellent for that show!)

The story is part flashback to Walt's time in Vietnam during the war and part present day. A Vietnamese woman is found dead along the side of the highway. Turns out, the death is related to one Walt investigated while in Vietnam.

This book series has won awards for a reason. The stories are always well-written with strong, developed characters. I love the mix of humor, police investigation and tribal culture.

I don't usually care for stories that pop back and forth in time, but in this case it worked. The story grabbed my attention in the first few pages and kept it until the very end. Definitely another great story in this series!

There are currently 15 books in the Walt Longmire series, plus a few novellas published in between full-length books. I'm  moving on to #5 -- The Dark Horse.


Wednesday, December 25, 2019

REVIEW: Kindness Goes Unpunished

Kindness Goes Unpunished
Author: Craig Johnson

I liked the Longmire television series, but I'm enjoying the books even more! Kindness Goes Unpunished is the 3rd book in the series. Walt and Henry travel to Philadelphia to visit Longmire's daughter, Cady. The trip is supposed to be an enjoyable visit, but things get much more serious when Cady is attacked. As she lies in ICU in a coma, Walt works with the Philadelphia police to find out who hurt his daughter and why. Turns out, it's much more complicated than expected....and dangerous.

I listened to the audio book version of this story. Narrated by George Guidall, the audio is just shy of 9 hours long. I enjoy Guidall's performances. He always does a great job of acting and voicing the characters. Always an entertaining listening experience!

I like the mix of humor and serious investigation in this series. Longmire is a skilled law enforcement officer and Wyoming sheriff. He's just the right mix of folksy and professional. I love the characters....Vic, Henry, Cady, Dog...they all combine to make this a great western cop suspense series. The characters are a bit different than in the television show. Vic is a lot more snarky and foul mouthed in the books. Henry is much more spiritual. Longmire seems a bit older and more rural in the books. This is actually one of those times where I'm glad I watched the television series before reading the books. I think I would have liked the film version less if I had read the characters how Johnson wrote them first. I love how Vic lips off to Longmire in the books and would have missed the higher level of snark. And I would have been disappointed at all the things they removed from Henry's character to tone him down for television. As it is, I can enjoy both without being disappointed.

Another great story in this series! On to the next -- Another Man's Moccasins!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

REVIEW: True Fright - Trapped Beneath the Ice!

True Fright: Trapped Beneath the Ice! and Other Stories
Scarier than Fiction
Author: Ted Pedersen

I read a lot of children's fiction. A middle grade book with a good story is an excellent palate cleanser in between heavier adult fiction. Some of my favorite go-to kids books are collections of stories about strange/weird occurrences.  After reading one of Ted Pedersen's other books, I found this one in a thrift store and it just had to come home with me! I read it last night while cooking supper. So entertaining!

True Fright - Trapped Beneath the Ice is a collection of 15 short tales of (supposedly) true scary or strange happenings. From a skater falling through thin ice to a tale about a cursed ship, the stories are varied and interesting. Are they all true? Nah....but still fun to read!

These stories are very short....just a couple of pages each. They are definitely written for children. Nothing graphic or traumatic. A couple are lightly scary, but not overly so. Age appropriate, and easy to read. I could see this book being used to coax a reluctant reader to enjoy a book. Or for supplemental reading in a classroom. Or just for fun reading at home. For me, it was a bit of a nostalgia read. I remember buying books like these from the order forms they gave us at school. My friends and I would order different books....read them....then trade. Books like this one fostered my life-long love of reading!

The tales are all entertaining. They are well written, but obviously geared for young readers. There are no illustrations. The stories are short. Perfect for kids who might have a bit of trouble with longer chapters,but also entertaining for those who just like to read. As an adult, I enjoyed this book. It was a nice break from the heavier fiction/non-fiction I usually read. It made for a nice, relaxing, easy bit of reading!

Monday, December 23, 2019

REVIEW: Uneasy Lies the Head

Uneasy Lies the Head
Author: Jean Plaidy

After the killing of Richard III at Bosworth Field, King Henry VII takes the throne of England. But can he keep it? Traitors. Schemers. Pretenders. Henry VII believes many are lurking in the shadows with designs on his throne. He hastily plans an alliance with Spain, by planning a marriage between his heir Arthur and the young Spanish Infanta, Katherine of Aragon. But plans will go awry when Arthur dies and his younger brother Henry becomes Prince of Wales in his place. What will happen to Katherine? Will King Henry marry again? Who will the new heir be wed to? So much political intrigue! An aging king desperate to keep hold of his throne. Heirs dying. Alliances, planned marriages, scheming. Henry VII finds himself in a power struggle of sorts with his own son, the soon to be Henry VIII.

The Tudor era in English history is one of my favorite time periods to study. So much change, upheaval, and intrigue! The Plaidy books stick relatively close to historical fact, diverging a bit here and there to take advantage of historical guesswork and conspiracy theories (like the fate of the two princes in the tower). Plaidy's books are fictionalized history.....the basic bones of the story are factual with some heaving bosoms, passionate speeches and drama thrown in for entertainment purposes.

Jean Plaidy is a pen name for author Eleanor Hibbert, who also used multiple other pseudonyms such as Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr. Each genre she wrote in used a different name. I have been collecting Plaidy novels for about 10 years, trying to get them all (or at least one or two complete series). I have three shelves of her novels -- it's time to start actually reading them! I decided to start with the Tudor Saga. There are 11 books in the Tudor series. Uneasy Lies the Head (also published as To Hold the Crown) is the first book in reading order, but actually the last published.

Very interesting read! I'm already reading the second book in this series, Katharine, the Virgin Widow. It repeats a bit of the story told in this first book, starting with the Katharine's arrival in England.

Just an aside....Plaidy's writing is NOT historical romance, but historical fiction. She focuses on the history, and splashes in a bit of drama and passion to round out the story. Readers who want a story that is lighter on history and more about romance, sex, courtly melodrama, heaving bosoms, etc might be happier with a historical romance author. There are many of them to choose from! Plaidy gives details on politics, social issues, and historical figures....and molds fiction around the actual history. Readers looking for detailed sex scenes with the king/queen, tales of sexual exploits, melodrama and more excitement......I recommend choosing another author. That sort of thing just isn't in her books. Those who like a fictionalized fleshing out of historical events -- you are in the right place. Just had to say this after reading a few reviews saying Plaidy's books have "too much history'' in them. lol. For a naked, horny Henry VIII, you will have to look elsewhere. He's out there strutting his kingly stuff....just not in Plaidy's novels. :)

Sunday, December 22, 2019

REVIEW: Mistress of Mellyn

Mistress of  Mellyn
Author: Victoria Holt


For the last two years, one of my main reading goals has been to revisit series and authors that I enjoyed in years past. I've re-read Trixie Belden books, revisited a couple Father Koesler mysteries and Wagons West books plus several other series I loved, enjoyed Agatha Christie, Stephen King and other favorite authors. So just before this year ends, I decided it was time to pay a call on Victoria Holt (aka author Eleanor Hibbert who wrote under multiple pen names including Jean Plaidy and Phillippa Carr. Under Victoria Holt, Hibbert wrote many gothic romance novels.)

I loved these books when I was in high school and college. Dank old castles or mansions. An evildoer in the shadows. A passionate, usually forbidden or otherwise unexpected love affair, and dark danger. Great fun and suspense for a teenage girl to read. I decided to re-read the Victoria Holt novels in order. So Mistress of Mellyn is first. The book was first published in 1960, and has been reprinted many, many times. I don't usually read romance novels these days....so I was curious if I would still enjoy the story. I did! It had been so many years since I last read this book, I didn't remember the characters or the final outcome. So the mystery was enjoyable....and it was mostly suspense with just a splash of romance.

The Basics: This is a Jane Eyre type novel. A penniless woman takes on the job of governess to make her way in the world. What else is there for unmarried women of a certain age to do? She arrives at her post, and finds a bit of gossip/intrigue about the death of the master's wife a year previously. Martha decides to investigate a bit and discovers the truth...putting herself in danger.

This is the usual light, gothic romance fare. The plot is entertaining and suspenseful, but not complex. There are a few passionate clenches, but nothing graphic and the romance doesn't overwhelm the suspense portion of the plot. I guessed at the final outcome and was partly correct/partly wrong, so the ending wasn't completely transparent. But it wasn't a strange surprise out of the blue either.  Well written. Interesting plot. I enjoyed it!

On to the second book published under the Victoria Holt name -- Kirkland Revels! I also have a lot of Jean Plaidy books on my TBR shelves. I have been collecting the Jean Plaidy historical fiction books here and there over the past 10 years or so trying to get full series so I could read them. I think in 2020, I need to get those books all read, and free up several shelves of book space! I think books by Eleanor Hibbert/Victoria Holt/Jean Plaidy and all the other pen names for this author are going to be a priority for me in 2020. Such a prolific writer....and I enjoy her story telling! Plus.....I can free up 3 shelves of space by reading all of her books that I own! Goals! :)

I'm glad I decided to revisit these books!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

REVIEW: Undead Ultra - Lost Coast

Undead Ultra: Lost Coast
Author: Camille Picott

Kate, an ultrarunner, is holed up in a former college dorm with a rag tag bunch of former students and soldiers. They are getting in good physical condition, learning to gather supplies, and honing their zombie-killing skills. Things are finally looking up for the group of survivors. But, then they start to notice a change in the zombies. The zoms are forming organized packs headed by alpha zombies. When a huge horde descends on the town, the group struggles to survive. Zombies are bad enough....but huge hordes of zombies led by intelligent alphas? That's bad.....really, really bad.

Lost Coast is the 3rd book in the Undead Ultra series. In this newest story, the survivors face new challenges and some tough choices have to be made. Alpha zombies force them to up their game in order to survive. Not only that, but a long time friend of the group needs their help. When the whole world has disintegrated into constant fear and the constant possibility of death, friendships mean so much more. They have to find a way to help Alvarez.

Another great story in this series! I enjoyed the action, interesting developments for established characters, and some new characters joining the group. Can't wait for the next book!

**I received a review copy from the author in exchange for a honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Friday, December 20, 2019

REVIEW: Undead Ultra - Dorm Life

Undead Ultra: Dorm Life
Author: Camille Picott

After running 200 miles to find her son at his college during the zombie apocalypse, ultrarunner Kate finds herself holed up in a dorm with her son and other surviving students. Kate is determined to keep these kids alive. They have to learn to survive in a world that will never go back to the way it used to be. There will be no more days wasted playing xbox, living like a couch potato, or counting on fast food or the cafeteria for meals. These kids have to learn to scavenge. They need to be in better physical shape. And, they have to learn survival skills. If anyone can teach them how to survive, it's Kate.   But....turns out zombies aren't the only things that are dangerous. Other surivors can be even  more deadly than the undead.

Dorm Life is the second book in the Undead Ultra series. I'm always game for a great zombie story....and I love how creative this series is. I have read zombie stories involving college students before....and just about every other scenario possible. But, this is the first time I have read a series about ultrarunners surviving during the apocalypse. There's a lot more than blisters, refueling and muscle fatigue when the undead are out to kill you.

Great addition to this series! I enjoyed every word!

The series really needs to be read in order. This is a continuing saga that starts with Undead Ultra (book 1). After Dorm Life, the story continues with the newly released Undead Ultra: Lost Coast. There is also a prequel story: Dawn Patrol.

Love this series! Always an entertaining read! Can't wait for more from this author!


Thursday, December 19, 2019

REVIEW: Undead Ultra

Undead Ultra
Author: Camille Picott

I love to run. But....for me....at 50 & being a bit of a chunky monkey, it's more of a jog/wog sort of thing. But I love to join in on local 5Ks and earn my t-shirt. Usually, I am the one in the very back of the pack just ahead of the strollers and elderly women walkers, just smiling and doing my thing. I don't care when I cross the finish line....if my time is under 50 minutes and I cross that finish line, I'm happy! :)

When I came across this series by Camille Picott, I immediately fell in love with the idea of extreme distance runners dealing with the zombie apocalypse. What do you do when the undead want to kill you, the military has all the highways blocked, and your loved ones are 100+ miles away? You gather up supplies, and start running!

The basics: Kate and Federico are long distance runners. They love to run ultramarathons -- 100+ miles over a day or two. Crazy right? Well imagine running twice that distance -- with zombies after you. They do have excellent motivation -- Kate's son is at college 200 miles away when the outbreak occurs and Federico's estranged daughter is on the way. So, they pick out their best running shoes, gather what supplies and food they can carry and head out. Can they make it without hitting the wall....or becoming zombie snacks??

There are two books and a novella in this series so far....with a new book coming out very soon! Picott also writes the Sulan series, a futuristic sci-fi series about a math prodigy who becomes an underground hacker.

Already reading book 2 (Dorm Life) on my way to the new book.....I have to find out how this story ends! I will never be able to run 100+ miles (zombies or no zombies)...so I will just have to live vicariously through these characters and Picott's tales about her running adventures (the author is actually an ultrarunner herself!)


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

REVIEW: Death Without Company

Death Without Company
Author: Craig Johnson

In this second book in the Walt Longmire series, the sheriff is pulled into an investigation of a death at an assisted living facility. Former sheriff Lucian Connally is adamant that the woman was murdered, even though her death at first appears to be from natural causes. As he investigates, Longmire discovers a complex web of secrets and lies. As the case heats up, it becomes dangerous. There is a lot more to the death of Mari Baroja than just one poisoned elderly woman in a care home.

I love this series! I like the characters and the respectful depiction of native culture and beliefs. I enjoyed the television series based on these books/characters. I'm happy to finally be reading the books! I have to say...so far....I like the books a bit better than the television version. Vic is a bit more snarky. Henry is a bit more spiritual. Longmire is a complex mix of lonely widower, skilled investigator and small town sheriff. There is a nice mix of humor, quirkiness and skilled police work in the novels.

I listened to the audio book version of this story (Recorded Books). Narrated by George Guidall, the audio is just shy of 10 hours long. I enjoy Guidall's performances. He has a nice voice, reads at an even pace, and always gives a great acting performance.

There are 15 books in the Longmire series so far. Moving on to #3, Kindness Goes Unpunished! :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

REVIEW: A Night's Tail

A Night's Tail
Author: Sofie Kelly

A Night's Tail is the 11th book in the Magical Cats Mystery series. This series is one of my favorites! Anyone who is owned by a cat(s) knows that sometimes it seems like cats can go through closed doors or disappear at will. The main character in this series knows that better than most. Kathleen Paulson's two cats don't just seem like they are magic....they really are! It makes for a cute, fun cozy mystery!

I enjoyed this newest book in the series. There is some long awaited character development, as well as the usual investigation and kitty magic. Kathleen's brother is in town with his band, The Flaming Gerbils, when of course someone turns up dead. Unfortunately, the band members had an altercation with the dead man...so Kathleen has to do a bit of sleuthing to help clear them. Turns out quite a few people disliked the dead man. The mystery moves along at a steady pace with plenty of suspects, clues and interesting developments. The background fluff about the band, songwriting, etc doesn't overpower the mystery portion of the plot, but adds to it. Very entertaining cozy!

I listened to the audio version of this story. The audio, narrated by Cassandra Campbell, is just over 7 hours long. Campbell reads at a steady pace, has a pleasant voice and does a great job of voice acting. It made for a nice listening experience.

All in all, a great addition to one of my favorite cozy mystery series! These books always provide an entertaining, fun reading experience! I always eagerly await the next book!


Monday, December 16, 2019

REVIEW: The Cold Dish

The Cold Dish
Author: Craig Johnson

I loved the Longmire television series. When I first started watching it, I did not realize it was based on a book series by Craig Johnson. Usually I have a rule that I read the books first before watching a television or movie adaption of a story....but this time, I did things backwards. Turns out....that's ok. The television series is a lot different than the books.

For those who watched the television series, the characters are similar...but different at the same time. My two favorite side characters in the books...and the show....are Vic Moretti and Henry Standing Bear. In the books, Vic is much more mouthy. There were moments that her commentary made me laugh out loud as I read. She pops off at Longmire most of the time, but she is very skilled at her job and has a deep affection for her boss. Henry Standing Bear has been a friend of Longmire's since they served in Vietnam. They are truly friends, and Longmire knows when to call on Henry for help. One line from the show that is directly from the book made me smile. Henry answers the phone at his bar "It is a beautiful day at the Red Pony and continual soiree.'' LOL I love it!

In this first book, a teenager is found dead in Absaroka County near the reservation. Turns out, the boy was involved in the rape of a Cheyenne girl. He and three other boys got off lightly, despite the fact the girl was mentally challenged. As Longmire and his officers investigate the killing, he realizes the other boys might also be in danger. It's a race to find out who is seeking revenge before all of the boys are dead.

I listened to the audio version of this book (Recorded Books). Narrated by George Guidall, the audio is just shy of 13.5 hours long. Guidall gives a great performance! I like his voice and he does a great job of voice acting. Awesome listening experience!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

REVIEW: Hunting Hour

Hunting Hour
Author: Margaret Mizushima

Hunting Hour is the 3rd book in the Timber Creek K-9 series. This series is one of my favorites! I like the characters, the setting and the suspenseful plots.

This time, Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner, Robo are searching for a missing teenager. When they discover her body behind the high school, the case quickly becomes complicated. It only gets worse. Another girl disappears, and this time it's Sophie Walker, daughter of the local vet. As they investigate and search for the missing little girl, the case gets even more confusing and strange. But Mattie is determined to find Sophie before her kidnapper kills her.

This story was so engrossing and suspenseful! Lots of suspects, investigation and action going on. Mattie is a great main character. She is intelligent and very good at her job. She handles Robo quite well, and they both worked hard to solve this case. There is some significant character development in this book. I'm enjoying the progression of the characters and their relationships, as well as Robo's continued growth as a police dog.

I listened to the audio book version of this story. The audio is just shy of 10 hours long and is narrated by Nancy Wu. Wu reads at a nice pace and does a great acting job, as usual. A very entertaining listening experience!

I'm definitely continuing to read this series. It has quickly become a favorite! Just one more book to read, Burning Ridge, before I get to read my review copy of the newest book....Tracking Game!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

REVIEW: Monster, She Wrote

Monster, She Wrote - The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction
Author: Lisa Kroger

Warning: This book will definitely add many titles to your TBR list! Even if you've read these horror novels before, I guarantee horror lovers will be rushing to read them again after reading the facts shared in this book!

I love a good scary story! Whether it's a gothic supernatural mystery in a dark, dank castle or a crazed killer chasing co-eds, I'm always up for a good scare. This book starts back with the earliest female writers who terrorized their readers up to the more modern ones. A lot of the recommended books I have read before (Frankenstein, Flowers in the Attic, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, etc) and some I have not (The Cipher, The Woman in Black, A Master of Mysteries). Many of the featured authors I was familiar with already...but some are completely new to me. Every recommended book sounds interesting, so I have decided to read at least one book by each of the featured authors starting in January 2020.

The book gives a short biography of each author including facts about their contributions to the horror genre, and also a recommended reading list from each one. I loved how it gave one "if you only read one book by this author....'' recommendation followed by the titles of other works. For some of these authors I have read the top recommended story....but the other titles listed are new to me. So excited to read some of these!!

Awesome book! I am going to have a blast reading through the wonderful writings of all of these talented women. The facts presented were interesting....and the book lists are fantastic!! I am buying a copy of this book for my keeper shelf!

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

REVIEW: My Fair Latte

My Fair Latte
Author: Vickie Fee

Halley Greer's great uncle Leon leaves her an old movie theater in Utopia Springs, AR. She has wanted a new direction for her life, and decides to use her experience as a barista to make a go of renovating the Star Movie Palace into a classic movie theater with a coffee and wine bar. Just as she gets started, problems begin. It starts with vandalism, and escalates when a local is murdered in the theater on opening night.

This is the first book by Vickie Fee that I've read....and I loved it! I like Halley as a main character, and the local quirky characters are great! The idea of renovating an old theater, combining classic movies and a coffee bar sounds so cool! The mystery was interesting and kept my attention from start to finish. All in all, a fun, entertaining cozy mystery. I will definitely be reading more of this series! Can't wait for the next book!

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


REVIEW: Shatter the Night

Shatter the Night
Author: Emily Littlejohn

Detective Gemma Monroe is shocked when a friend is killed in an explosion moments after she last spoke with him. He was receiving anonymous threats, so Gemma immediately jumps on the case to catch a killer. The case turns out to be incredibly complex, with other similar killings tying in with it. Is this a case of revenge? Or is a serial killer on the loose?

Shatter the Night is the 4th book in the Gemma Monroe series. This is by far the best in the series so far, in my opinion. The plot was suspenseful and engaging. There were plenty of suspects, and the case evolved at just the right speed to keep me reading. I couldn't put this book down....I was reading until 3 am to find out the killer's identity. I had a guess for how this story would end -- and I was completely wrong! I love it when a suspense novel surprises me!

This book can be read as a stand alone story, but to completely understand the characters, their relationships, etc...it really is best to read this series from the beginning.

Great book! I can't wait for the next story in this series! I like Gemma Monroe as a main character....she struggles with being a working mom but loves her job. I like all the side characters and the plots are always engaging.

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

Friday, December 13, 2019

REVIEW: Stalking Ground

Stalking Ground
Author: Margaret Mizushima

When a fellow deputy's girlfriend disappears, Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner, Robo, are on the case. Turns out, it's a lot more complicated and dangerous than a missing person's case....

I love this series. The characters are engaging. The setting in Colorado is perfect. I like Mizushima's writing style. Mattie is an intelligent and skilled main character, but with flaws and past demons to work through just like everyone else. She's dealing with pent up emotions from a shattered childhood and dealing with it the best she can. Her relationship with her furry partner is perfect. Robo knows his training and Mattie watches out for him. Makes for a great story!

There is a new book in the series coming out soon so I'm listening to all the stories in order before jumping into the new one. Stalking Ground is the 2nd book in the series. The first book, Killing Trail, was excellent. There is more character development (a look into Mattie's past, strengthening of relationships with her co-workers Brody, Stella and Rainbow, and further bonding between Mattie & Robo, the vet becomes a major character, etc) in this second book. The secondary elements in the story kept my interest just as much as the crime-related plot. The character development added to the story without taking away from the main investigation.

I listened to the audio book (Blackstone Publishing) version of this story. The audio is just over 9 hours long and narrated by Nancy Wu. Wu reads at a steady pace and does an excellent job of reading/voice acting. Excellent listening experience!

Another great book in this series! I'm moving on to book 3, Hunting Hour.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

REVIEW: The Last Kids on Earth

The Last Kids on Earth
Author; Max Brallier

I love monsters...zombies, giants, mutants....doesn't matter what kind. If a story has a monster in it....I'm gonna read it. Even when the book (technically) is written with children in mind, and not 50 year old grandmas. My teenager doesn't even get embarrassed anymore when I leave the library with stuff like "The Goo that Ate My Teacher.''  I can always say I'm checking it out for my grand kids (The closest one lives several states away....but shhhhh...don't tell). In all actuality, there are many, many adults who also enjoy children's books. For me, the stories are wonderful because I can get a favorite genre fix without the heavy themes and more adult situations. I review a lot of adult horror, thriller and suspense novels....and after a really gruesome tale, I just need something more....fun. Something that doesn't weigh me down. That's when I turn to books like this. I call it palate cleansing. Sometimes I just really, really need a fun story about middle school students surviving monsterpocalypse in their tree house. All the trauma of screwed up killer gone.....some nice laughs and smiles. Perfect.

This book is awesome! Seriously. I listened to the audio book version...but I also had the hardback on my TBR shelf. The physical book is full of fun illustrations and caricatures of the characters...it really adds to the humor. But the audio book is a fun experience too. Narrator Robbie Daymond gives a great performance! His voice is PERFECT!! This book would be great in a class room setting to coax reluctant readers or for supplemental reading. Kids who are more visual would love the illustrations in the physical book, and those who respond to a story teller would really enjoy the audio. Lots of action. Funny situations. Plus zombies and monsters. Although the kids are fighting the monsters, the emphasis is on their relationships, problem solving, and the humor. The book is not scary. Even the faint of heart where zombies are concerned could read this book with no nightmares.

The basics: The monsters took over 42 days ago. Jack Sullivan has been hiding out in his tree house ever since. Most people were zombified or evacuated to the west. Slowly Jack builds a group of the Last Kids left....and they hold out against the monsters at their fortified tree house.

Fun book! I will definitely be reading the rest of this series! There are 4 books in the series, with a 5th book -- The Last Kids and the Midnight Blade -- coming out in September 2019. I have also heard that Netflix is going to do an original series based on the books (Publishers: could you maybe STOP putting huge white and red stickers on the front covers of books about upcoming film versions? It really messes up the cover art -- stick in a postcard ad, or wrap the book in plastic wrap with the sticker attached, or use a REMOVABLE sticker if you really must plonk it right in the middle of the artwork! Glad you are venturing forth into Netflix/other film versions.....but I hate stickers on my books....sticky spots were they were removed....or torn/damaged covers from trying to remove a permanent huge white and red sticker from the front of my book!) I will definitely watch the Netflix series! :) The first season of the animated show will premiere on Netflix September 17th, 2019!!

I highly recommend this book. The story is FUN! It made me smile and even laugh out loud, totally erasing the dark fog in my brain following a review of a pretty heavy adult thriller. On to the next book in the series -- The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

REVIEW: Killing Trail

Killing Trail
Author: Margaret Mizushima

Officer Mattie Cobb has a new partner: K-9 Officer Robo. They have just completed their training at the academy and returned to Timber Creek, CO. As she learns to apply what she learned during training and to trust her dog, the two of them are pulled into a case where the dog could be key: The death of a local teenager. As the case unfolds, it becomes evident that someone doesn't want Robo on the case. But Mattie and her partner are determined to sniff out the killer.

The plot is a little bit predictable in this first book in the Timber Creek K-9 series, but still immensely enjoyable. There is great suspense and character development. The best part is the developing working relationship between Robo and Mattie. Robo is NOT a pet dog....he is an intelligent, highly trained, police dog. Mattie learns to trust the dog above all else and Robo learns how to give the correct signals to his partner so she knows what he's telling her. I didn't know much about what canine officers do before reading this book. Not sure how accurate it is, but I found it interesting and exciting!

I have read one book in this series previously. I jumped in at Book 4 and read it without any prior knowledge of the series. Before diving into the newest book, Tracking Game, that comes out in November 2019, I thought it would be best to back up and read the series from the start. This first book is a great introduction to Mattie, Robo, local veterinarian Cole Walker and his family, plus the key characters from the Timber Creek police force. It isn't necessary to start at book one. I enjoyed the 4th book when I read it. But to get all the character and relationship developments, it's best to read the books in order.

I can only imagine the difficulties of being a K-9 Officer in an area with such rough terrain. Forest, mountains, backwoods trails....CO must be a real challenge! Where I live in NC there is dense forest and the Blue Ridge, but the elevations are much lower than the Rockies. All that Robo and Mattie go through makes for a very suspenseful, exciting story! With all the place and character development necessary to start out a series like this, I can understand why the mystery portion is a bit predictable. Plus, in real life, cases don't often have mysterious exciting twists every few chapters. I liked a more realistic touch this time. Nicely done! Very, very enjoyable book! Good boy, Robo! :)

Very enjoyable series! I listened to the audio book version of this story. My local library's digital site has the whole series on audio! The audio, narrated by Nancy Wu, is just shy of 9.5 hours long. Wu gives a great performance. Her reading and acting skills are quite good! This is the first audio book I have listened to with Wu narrating. I will gladly listen to more of her performances!

On to book 2 -- it's already loaded on my phone! (Love, love, love my library's digital site!)



Monday, December 9, 2019

REVIEW: Seeds of Deception

Seeds of Deception
Author: Linda Castillo

Seeds of Deception is a novella in the Kate Burkholder series. This story is a prequel to events depicted in book 5, Her Last Breath. The story is set back when Kate was 14 years old and still living as Amish. Her best friend Mattie is a little bit wild and not a bit afraid to break rules. She tends to drag Kate right along with her. But....a line is crossed, and Kate will have to decide between telling a lie to protect a friend or telling the truth. What she learns about herself will be the foundation for her becoming a police officer later.

I enjoy this series and plan to read every book and novella. I liked this story despite the fact I didn't feel it really added anything to the series. The events were explained in book 5. This short prequel tale did flesh things out a bit more, but it isn't something that has to be read to enjoy the series or understand the characters. Seeds of Deception is listed at book 7.5 in the series reading order. I enjoyed the quick read before jumping into book 8, Among the Wicked.

I listened to the audiobook version of this story. The waiting list for the ebook or audio at my local library was incredibly long....so I clicked on over to Audible and bought it. No sense waiting months when I can spend less than $2 and just buy it. I did smile at the thought that so many people are enjoying Castillo's books.....but a 9-month waiting list? At what point should a library buy a second copy? I'm relatively patient...but not that patient. lol. But I digress....   The audio is 1.5 hours long and narrated by Kathleen McInerney. McInerney reads at a nice, even pace and gives a great performance. An overall enjoyable listening experience.


Sunday, December 8, 2019

REVIEW: In a Dark, Dark Wood

In a Dark, Dark Wood
Author: Ruth Ware

I have been a big Ruth Ware fan ever since I read The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Death of Mrs. Westaway. I've had the rest of her books on my TBR list ever since....and I'm finally getting around to reading them!

I enjoyed this story of past friendships and hidden secrets. It's dark and disturbing. I wouldn't call this a thriller....more like a mystery of sorts, an unraveling of the past. Nora has tried for 10 years to leave her high school years behind her....and she feels she has. But then she receives an invitation to a girls weekend with her former best friend who is getting married. Nora hasn't talked to Clare since she left school. But it's just a weekend hen party....what could possibly go wrong?

Although I had a roundabout idea what the end was going to be.....I didn't guess the full darkness ahead of me. Ruth Ware always has horrible surprises in store every time I read her books! This story is no exception. The plot snuck up on me a bit....and the ending left me a bit traumatized. Great story!

I listened to the audiobook version of this story. The audio is just shy of 10 hours long and is narrated by Imogen Church. I've listened to several books narrated by Church and she always gives a top notch performance! Great listening experience!

REVIEW: Labyrinth of Ice

Labyrinth of Ice
Author: Buddy Levy

It is hard to imagine the extreme conditions, physical & mental challenges and isolation that A.W. Greely and the 24 members of his crew faced as they explored the far reaches of the north, attempting to do what several expeditions had previously tried & died doing. Extreme cold. Dangerous wildlife. Months without sunshine. Food stores dwindling. Trapped in the ice floes. Waiting for resupply ships that didn't come. It must have been terrifying.

This book is wonderful! The author obviously did excellent research into the voyage and the lives/deaths of these men. The highs and lows of their explorations are given in detail, including the horrifying descent into madness and cannibalism for some. This group of sailors and scientists risked all to fill in an area still blank on most maps: The arctic. In 1881, the northernmost areas past Greenland were still unknown. These men ventured forth to map, explore and document a vast, dangerous portion of the world. Greely was an experienced military man, but totally unprepared for commanding a ship and the extreme conditions they would face on the voyage. He kept a tight ship, expecting military discipline on board his ship, but his inexperience led the group to make some poor choices. In his defense, everyone is inexperienced when it comes to areas previously unexplored. But, it does seem a bit unusual that a man with no seafaring experience was chosen to captain a ship going into such a dangerous region.

Only six men returned alive. But the crew made history and some of them returned to tell the tale -- that's better than any other expedition of that area before them. The journals and reports from their expedition still exist today, and some of the data and information they brought back are still used. Amazing!

This is the first book by Buddy Levy that I have read. I am definitely going to read more, especially his book on David Crockett. Levy did a vast amount of research and included so much information in this book (even sharing some of the poetry Greely wrote to his wife while on this voyage). Excellent information! Very interesting to read!

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

Saturday, December 7, 2019

REVIEW: Death of an Outsider

Death of an Outsider
Author: M.C. Beaton

Nothing ever seems to go right for Hamish MacBeth. He's sent away from his usual post at Lochdubh to Cnothen while the local constable is away on an extended vacation. MacBeth arrives with his faithful dog Towser to discover the little village really doesn't like outsiders. Then there's William Mainwaring....an Englishman who seems to enjoy angering everyone he comes across with his snide know-it-all comments. MacBeth can't be his usual lazy, slow-going self with all the strange goings on....witches jumping out scaring people, disappearing locals and, of course, the dead body eaten by lobsters at a local fishery. With a sigh and resignation to responsibility, MacBeth is on the case to find out who turned a local character into fish food.

I enjoyed this book. There is some good character development for Hamish. He does more in this book than just pine for his dream woman, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe. He branches out a bit. Maybe being away from Lochdubh for a bit is good for him? Drama and murder follow him though....and the murder is definitely....distinctive. Tipping a body into a vat with lobsters is an interesting way to get rid of evidence. Eww. :)

Another great book in this series. Always a good mystery....and a lot of chuckles at the quirky village characters and Hamish's antics. The character reminds me of a Scottish version of Columbo. He seems to be bumbling....but he's actually very, very clever.

I listened to the audio book (Blackstone Publishing) version of this story. Narrated by Shaun Grindell, the audio is just under 5 hours long. Grindell reads at a nice pace and gives a great performance. Very enjoyable listening experience.

Death of an Outsider is the third book in the Hamish MacBeth series. There are 33 books in the series, so I have a lot of reading to do! Moving on to book 4 -- Death of a Perfect Wife. What trouble will Hamish get himself into next?? :)

REVIEW: Brewed Awakening

Brewed Awakening
Author: Cleo Coyle

The Coffeehouse Mystery series has been one of my favorites for years now. I like the main characters and the setting in and around a popular coffee shop in NYC. The plots are always good, and the coffee is always hot (or iced, or latte, or whatever new drink is all the rage at the Village Blend).  I like the discussions the characters have about coffee -- preparing, roasting, buying beans, brewing, etc. Each book also includes recipes.

This newest book I devoured in one awesome bout of binge reading, only taking breaks to refill my coffee cup. This time the authors went for something a bit different. Loved it! Clare Cosi wakes up in Washington Square Park. She has no idea how she got there....and she's lost 15 years of memories. She thinks her daughter is still a child....that her ex is still a supreme rat.....and that she no longer works at Village Blend. Her disappearance and subsequent reappearance with memory loss coincide with another crime. The police start to suspect her....is her memory loss real, or a put on? And....she has no memory of her fiance. Will she regain her memories and help solve the disappearance of a wealthy heiress.....or will she be arrested and charged with the crime?

There are several yummy recipes at the back of this book, as usual. I can't wait to try the recipe for KFC-style chicken...I've always wanted to try making a homemade version!

Brewed Awakening is the 18th book in the Coffeehouse series. I highly recommend these books to coffee and cozy lovers. Even if you don't care for coffee, the mysteries are entertaining and the characters are interesting. This series always provides an enjoyable mystery!

**I voluntarily read an advanced review copy of this book from Berkley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Friday, December 6, 2019

REVIEW: A Typo, a Werewolf and Two Dopey Dachshunds

A Typo, a Werewolf & Two Dopey Dachshunds
A Blue Moon Origin Story
Author: Steven Higgs

Ok....this story had me laughing within the first page. I think I'm going to love this series!

A simple typo in a half page ad in the local paper morphs a Private Investigator into a Paranormal Investigator. Tempest Michaels just wanted some attention for his new PI business, not a weird career change. But when the clients start rolling in immediately.....    Well, you go where the money is, right??

This novella is a quick read and a nice introduction to Tempest Michaels and the Blue Moon Investigations series. Werewolves. A Ghoul. The Invisible Man. Well, sort of....   And two cute miniature dachshunds! Cute story! Definitely an entertaining, quick read!

I like Steven Higgs' sense of humor. I will definitely be reading more of this series. I like the quirky characters, the humor and the interestingly weird beginning to this man's PI career.  He's great at investigating....his cases just seem to take a strange angle or two. This story was just a short intro but I have book one, Paranormal Nonsense, queued up on my Kindle app already! There are seven books in the series and several novellas, plus a related series The Harper Files. Lots of fun reading ahead!

**I voluntarily read a free copy of this novella that I received from the author. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**




Wednesday, December 4, 2019

REVIEW: Thin Ice

Thin Ice
Author: Paige Shelton

I enjoy Paige Shelton's Scottish Bookshop and Country Cooking School cozy mystery books. When I saw she had a new series starting, I jumped right on it. This new series is a bit more serious than the usual light-hearted cozy fare. Nothing graphic. But, there is a bit more meat to the characters and mystery plot. Loved it!

Beth Rivers is an author...a well known one. After a kidnapping incident where she was traumatized, she relocates to Benedict, Alaska to recover and hide out. Her kidnapper is still free....and she wants as far away from her memories, and him, as possible. She wants to hide her identity as an author and get her life back. Just as she starts trying to settle into her new remote Alaskan home, a resident of Benedict is murdered. The crime brings back memories of the hours she spent locked in a van, victimized by her kidnapper. But she's determined to help solve the crime.

I enjoyed this story! The characters have real personality. I liked the setting in a small rural Alaska town with its quirky citizens and its own culture. Beth is a strong and intelligent main character. The mystery moved along at a nice pace, with plenty of investigation and suspects. While the story started with quite a bit of background -- Beth's kidnapping, relocation, the town, etc -- the story didn't get bogged down in it. The mystery got started relatively quickly....with Beth's previous experience enhancing it, rather than taking away from it.

All in all, an entertaining read. I'm definitely going to read more of this new series!

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

REVIEW: Death with Dostoevsky

Death with Dostoevsky
Author: Katherine Bolger Hyde

Professor Emily Cavanaugh is back at Bede College, working on a book about Fyodor Dostoevsky and the effect his faith had on his writing. Her life has changed so much since she inherited money and a large Victorian home and moved away from her old life of teaching. The college has no classes during the entire month of January, so it's a good time for her to work on her book. No murder mysteries to solve....just a lot of library time.

Wrong.

Emily meets a student named Daniel and his girlfriend in the library. Daniel is working on a paper about Dostoevsky. Soon Emily is pulled into an issue concerning a female professor who is sexually harrassing Daniel. When the handsy prof is found dead in her office -- her head neatly bashed in -- Emily is on the case to prove Daniel isn't a murderer. So much for a peaceful month of writing and research.....

Death with Dostoevsky is the fourth book in the Crime with the Classics series. Katherine Bolger Hyde has also mixed murder in with Jane Austen, the Brontes and Agatha Christie. I enjoy each book in this series. The plots are always interesting....and the story is sprinkled with many literary references.

This newest story is engaging. The mystery moves along at a bit slower pace, but it still kept my interest. There are plenty of suspects, tangents and clues. The ending had a few surprises....   All in all, another enjoyable book in this series! I'm definitely eagerly awaiting the next book!

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

Monday, December 2, 2019

REVIEW: Lock Every Door

Lock Every Door
Author: Riley Sager

Still reeling from a bad breakup and finding herself with no place to live, Jules Larsen lands the dream apartment sitting job. She gets to live in the The Bartholomew, a stately and very expensive Manhattan apartment building. There are rules though ..... no guests, no spending the night away from the apartment, and absolutely no bothering the other tenants. The payment offered to her for living in the building will solve her current financial crisis, so she agrees. Befriending a fellow apartment sitter named Ingrid, she settles into life at The Bartholomew. But the longer she stays, the more she begins to notice that things might not be as they seem. In fact, she discovers a dark secret. One that will put her life in danger......

I got totally sucked into this story from the beginning. Jules is so excited about landing a dream job...and getting to live at such a posh address, even temporarily. The story starts out slowly....building up to the moments when she discovers it isn't a dream job....but a nightmare. Such a good story! I love a good, suspenseful thriller -- and this book definitely fits the bill!

This is the first book I've read by Riley Sager. I'm definitely going to read his other books! I really enjoyed Lock Every Door!

I listened to the audio version of this story. Narrated by Dylan Moore, the audio (Penguin Random House Audio) is just shy of 10.5 hours long. Moore gives a superb performance. Excellent listening experience!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

REVIEW: The Damned

The Damned
Author: Tarn Richardson

This story is suspenseful, dark, and bloody. World War I is raging in France....trench warfare, dying soldiers, brutality. ravaged bodies. It's a time of violence and fear. But something else is lurking....something much more dangerous. A creature that kills brutally and without remorse. When a priest is murdered, the Vatican sends an Inquisitor to investigate. He discovers a conspiracy....a secret so dark that it might just threaten humanity itself.

This story is well-written and amazingly suspenseful. But, it is not for the faint of heart. It's bloody and has moments of extreme violence. A mix of alternate history, monster tale, and a War story, this book pulls no punches. War is hell. Battling a creature with no fear or remorse is violent. And the Catholic church hides secrets of all sorts. If any of those things bother you.....best to pass this one by.

I don't normally review a book more than a year ahead of publication date, but my review copy of this book was set to archive so fast, that I was forced to get it read and reviewed way ahead of schedule. Because this book was published previously, I went ahead and reviewed it now, despite the fact this new edition (Red Door Publishing) doesn't come out until December 2020.

The Damned is the first book in the Darkest Hand Trilogy. I'm very interested where this story is going to go next. This first installation in the trilogy was quite good! I will definitely read the other books in this series.

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

Friday, November 29, 2019

REVIEW: Decaffeinated Corpse

Decaffeinated Corpse
Author: Cleo Coyle

This cozy mystery series centered around a much loved NYC coffee shop has been one of my favorites for years! In fact, the first book in this series was one of the first cozy mysteries I ever read. I have read many more since then by so many different authors...but I always return to this series! As part of my ongoing quest to revisit favorite books and ones that have been languising on my TBR for years, I'm re-reading this series. Loving it!

Decaffeinated Corpse is the 5th book in the Coffeehouse Mystery series. An old friend of Coffeehouse Manager Clare Cozi's ex-husband has discovered a naturally decaffeinated coffee bean. What seems to be a wonderful opportunity for Village Blend turns into a nightmare as dead bodies start stacking up. When someone close to Clare seems to be the number one suspect, she's on the case to find a killer.

I had to laugh at the references to decaf espresso as a "Why bother?'' Ha ha! :) Made me smile every time.

I listened to the audio book version of this story. The audio, narrated by Rebecca Gibel, is just under 7.5 hours long. Gibel reads at a nice pace and gives a great acting performance as usual. The mystery progressed at a nice pace and there was a good bit of character development. Clare's almost-relationship could move just a bit faster. Each time I think they are finally going to figure it out....they don't. Not that I was surprised....I've read these books before, even though it's been several years. I still found myself thinking "Oh will you just kiss her already and figure your S out, for God's sake!'' :) But....despite the slowwwwwwww road to "taking it slow,'' I still loved the story!

There are 17 books in this series, with a new one (Brewed Awakening) coming out in December 2019!


Thursday, November 28, 2019

REVIEW: How to Survive a Horror Movie

How to Survive a Horror Movie
Author: Seth Grahame-Smith

I love horror movies. Halloween is my favorite holiday. I relish thriller and suspense novels. I guess if I can dress up as, watch, or read about fictional horrific things, it puts the problems I encounter in life into a better perspective. Sort of like -- Hey I can handle a flat tire during a snow storm...piece of cake. At least I'm not that babysitter who got the call about the killer being inside the house. See? Perspective.

But, I do have to say, it is disappointing when a story is clocking down to the Final Girl and characters are making rookie mistakes, especially if the tale is a sequel. You guys couldn't learn the rules in the first 8 movies?? Damn. Get smarter murder-fodder. Years ago, my husband and I used to pause movies to discuss the mistakes the characters were making and guess their mode of demise. Ooops....ran up the stairs and shut herself in the bathroom. Yeah -- smart move, cupcake.  Ohhh, he's going down in the basement to flip the breaker switch? Alone? Another smart decision. Ohh look...the couple is going to walk through the woods to get help. Isn't that cute? Wrong!!!! Sigh....it's like they don't even have a clue. Even on television series there are similar moments that leave us shaking our heads. I remember well one zombie show we stopped watching because it drove us INSANE. None of the characters could remember to shut a damn door when they came inside. Ummm...hello? Zombies outside...neighbors being eaten....you SHUT the patio door. I can't sympathize with characters who screw up that bad....or a script that has such an obvious set up for munch-time. Bleck. We spent two episodes rooting for the zombies....and then stopped watching the show.

But I digress...I am going to review this book. Promise.

Because my family watches horror movies and critiques them instead of being scared, I knew I needed to read this book. It first came out in 2007...but obviously none of the victims in horror movies in the last 12 years read it. They are still making the same mistakes. So....this new and improved edition released in 2019 should help save lives, right? At least the general public now has a chance to find out a few things:  1. Am I in a horror movie? 2. What do I do if I discover I am, in fact, inside a horror movie. and 3. How do I survive to the end credits?

I had the best time reading this book! I found myself nodding and agreeing with the lists and advice. Very entertaining and fun to read! And I now find myself wanting to sit and binge watch some horror. The characters will still make all those bad errors in judgement....but in the end, it's just fiction, right? Right? *Looks around nervously*  Was that a strange music stab? Are those really hooded figures chanting outside in my front yard? OMG...who drew that strange symbol on the floor of my office?

Uh oh.....

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Quirk Books via Edelweiss. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. No lost campers were slashed during the writing of this review. Honest.**

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

REVIEW: Paw of the Jungle

Paw of the Jungle
Author: Diane Kelly

Officer Megan Luz and her K-9 partner Brigit enjoy their patrol duties in Fort Worth, TX. Sometimes when the weather is nice and the day quiet, they like to go patrol a bit at the local zoo. But unfortunately, an animal napper is at work at their favorite hang-out. First a pair of valuable Macaws go missing.....then other animals disappear...even a black rhino. Who is stealing animals from the zoo? Officer Luz and Brigit are determined to catch the animal thief and bring peace back to their favorite patrol spot!

I enjoyed this latest visit with my favorite Texas crime fighting duo! The mystery is light, as usual...but this one had some interesting twists, lots of investigation and several suspects. The story moves at a nice pace, with the usual banter and humor. I like Megan as a main character. She's a bit snarky and mouthy at times, but dedicated to her job....and she wields a mean baton! Brigit is an awesome character as well. I enjoy the short chapters from her point of view. I imagine my dogs think the same sort of thoughts about me at times. Luckily, they don't chew my shoes. :)

This series is cozy-ish. The mystery/investigation plots are light...nothing graphic. But there is some minor cursing and adult situations. I recommend a bit of parental guidance before giving this series to a teen younger than 13. And...those who like their cozies strictly cozy.....be aware this one pushes past the usual cozy limits just a bit. No graphic sex scenes but there is some adult humor and a bit of cussing.

Another cute, entertaining read in this series. I can't wait for the next book!

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

REVIEW: Murder She Wrote - A Time For Murder

Murder She Wrote: A Time For Murder
Author: Jon Land (and Jessica Fletcher, of course)

I absolutely loved Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote. I watched the show every week when it was on television and still re-watch the series today. I love the characters, the setting and the cozy-ness of the series. No spurting blood.....no graphic sex or violence. Just an author sleuthing out killers with grace and skill.

A Time For Murder is the 50th Murder She Wrote novel.....so lots of people still enjoy Jessica Fletcher! I've read several of the MSW books, by Donald Bain...and after his death, Jon Land. While I wish that Angela Lansbury had come back to do a couple MSW movies, or even a new series, it's really too late now (and NOBODY ELSE could play Jessica Fletcher like her! If they put on a new series with someone else in the part, I completely refuse to watch it. Nope. Nope. Double nope. Triple dog Nope.), so I love the fact that I can get new Jessica Fletcher mysteries in these books with a smiling lovely Angela Lansbury on the cover!It makes this cozy mystery fan happy in her soul. A cup of coffee, my chihuahua curled up next to me, and Jessica Fletcher finding yet another murder to investigate! Perfect evening!

This time around, Jessica flashes back to her first ever murder investigation....the mysterious death of a high school principal.....as she returns to the high school to celebrate a friend's retirement decades later. When the friend ends up dead, there are links to that very first case.

I love the fact this story flashes back to Jessica's life when she was first married to her husband, Frank. It was nice having the two eras of her life come together....her married life....and her later life as an author and widow. The mystery moved at a nice pace, had all the characters I love....and Jessica still is a dead body magnet and skilled amateur sleuth.  I do see the differences in Land's portrayal of the characters and Donald Bain's vision.  The plots of Land's books are a bit more complex....and Jessica is just a bit different. A bit more snarky maybe? But.....anytime another author takes over a beloved character, there are going to be differences. I still enjoy the stories....and I'm willing to accept a bit edgier Jessica Fletcher. The more complex plots are actually nice. I think the extra snark and harder hitting Jessica is necessary now that she's solving cases with a bit more to them. So, I'm ok with the Land vision of the character. I can always visit the more grandmother-ly Jessica by watching the old show, or reading a Bain novel.

Love, love, love, love Jessica Fletcher! Full stars to this book just because I'm a huge fan of the series! I'm always up for a visit with Jessica!

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

Monday, November 25, 2019

REVIEW: The Dog Who Knew Too Much

The Dog Who Knew Too Much
Author: Krista Davis

The Dog Who Knew Too Much is the 6th book in the popular Paws and Claws Mystery series. I always love a visit to Wagtail, a completely pet-friendly town. I love the characters, the setting and the plots in this series. Always a relaxing, entertaining, cozy read!

This time, all of Wagtail is excited because a famous pooch is coming to town. Pippin is called America's Favorite Dog. Turns out, the television celebrity dog is a bit naughty....always running off and not minding. Holly Miller from the Sugar Maple Inn and her dog Trixie join in the festivities. During an outdoor treasure hunt, the two dogs find a dead body.....   Not only does Holly have a murder to investigate, but someone shows up claiming ownership of Trixie. Plus, there is a dognapper in town! Yikes! Lots going on in Wagtail!

I enjoyed this book! The mystery moves along at a fast pace with lots of Wagtail quirkiness to make it fun. There are a couple subplots in this newest book, but they add to the mystery rather than over-powering the main plot. Trixie's past comes back to nip Holly.....that bit of the plot had me wanting to jump into the book and slap a certain scruffy character. As the owner of two rescued dogs who were abandoned by prior owners, I have deep-set emotions on the issue. If anybody showed up saying my dogs belonged to them......oh I'd be kicking some butt. Immediate. Butt. Kicking. I got so worked up I was talking to the character as I read portions of the book.....I won't repeat what I said. This is a cozy review. No cussing. No graphic threats of violence.

The front cover is colorful, cute and engaging as usual!

I'm giving this book full stars. Any book that has me grumbling and wanting to punch a side character, plus gets me so engaged in the plot that I binge read the story in one sitting deserves full marks!

Enjoyable read as usual! Cute animals. Light humor. Fun mystery. Fun setting. And cozy all the way. No spurting blood. No sex. No cussing. Just a nice, fun,entertaining read! Krista Davis always delivers! I am eagerly awaiting the next book!

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


Sunday, November 24, 2019

REVIEW: White Fire

White Fire
Author: Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

White Fire is the 13th novel in the Agent Pendergast series. I love the Pendergast books. The stories are always an interesting mix of action, adventure and strange, often supernatural, occurrences.

Corrie Swanson, a protege of Pendergast, is working on her thesis. She heads to Colorado to investigate graves of miners killed 150 years in the past by a grizzly bear. She wants to document the types of injuries on the skeletal remains as part of her thesis. The town has exhumed the graves, preparing to move the cemetery as part of a development project. When she arrives, she finds town officials less than happy about her proposed project despite the fact the remains are already in storage. When Corrie is arrested and strange crimes start occurring in the resort town -- arson and murder -- Pendergast jumps in on the case to help.

This story was so interesting and entertaining! As usual there were a couple subplots going at once, and some side characters got to be up front and center this time. Great story! It definitely kept my attention from start to finish.

I listened to the audio book version of this story. Narrated by Rene Auberjonois, the audio is just shy of 13 hours long. Auberjonois gives a wonderful performance as usual. Great listening experience!

I'm glad I decided to re-visit this series from the beginning. I always enjoy books by Preston and/or Child!! On to the next book -- Blue Labyrinth!