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 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!!!!'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 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 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 graphic sex or violence. Just an author sleuthing out killers with grace and skill.

A Time For Murder is the 50th Murder She Wrote 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 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!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

REVIEW: Two Graves

Two Graves
Authors: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I enjoy the Agent Pendergast series by Preston & Child. In fact, I can pretty much just blanket statement it and say that I enjoy ANY book by Preston and/or Child. Action, adventure, investigation, intrigue, supernatural weirdness....they pretty much cover all of my loves in their books.

Two Graves is the 12th book in the Pendergast series. The action revs up immediately and doesn't stop for the entire book. Pendergast is out for revenge when his wife is kidnapped by a nefarious group of evil scientists. He pursues them to South America and makes a horrifying discovery about his wife's background. The story is quite gripping and definitely action-packed.

I thought this series would turn from this type of plot once the action with Pendergast's brother was concluded earlier in the series. But, this story sort of re-ignites that past storyline, but in an interesting way. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

There are currently 18 books (and a few short stories/novellas in between books) in this series, plus a new novel coming out in February 2020. Definitely read this series in order as the plots build on each other and there are some spoilers if books are skipped. There is also a new off-shoot series with Nora Kelly as the main character (with appearances by Corrie Swanson, too)

I listened to the audio book version of this story. The audio (Hachette Audio) is about 16.5 hours long and narrated by Rene Auberjonois. Auberjonois always gives a great performance and his portrayal of Pendergast is spot on as far as I am concerned. Great listening experience!

Another great book in the Pendergast series! I'm glad I decided to re-read this series from the beginning! :) On to the next....White Fire!

Friday, November 22, 2019

REVIEW: The Terror

The Terror
Author: Dan Simmons

I did not realize how heavily abridged this audio book is, until I finished listening. The unabridged performances are more than 28 hours long.....and this abridged version is about 9. So I missed a lot of the story. I will re-visit this novel at a later date to get all the details I missed. For now, the television show and this abridged audio book will have to do.

Great story! I love how Dan Simmons took a real historical event -- the 1845 Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage -- and added awesome horror elements to create a truly terrifying tale of an expedition gone horribly wrong. The truth was horrible enough -- an entire expedition lost and only buried remains found -- but Simmons version adds a supernatural/monster element that enhances the cold, brutal truth.

I was very disappointed to discover that I missed out on 2/3 of the story. I will rectify that by reading the novel as soon as I pare a few books off the top of my TBR pile. In 2020, I shall put this to rights!

This is the first book I've read by Dan Simmons. I have read one short story, included in Flight or Fright. I will definitely be reading more of his work -- this story was truly chilling and entertaining! After the first of the year, I'm going to read the entire novel since the audio book cut out so much of the story. I want the entire icy horrifying tale! And I want to re-watch the AMC series. It is really well done and worth watching.

Great book! I love supernatural/monster horror stories! This is one of the best I've enjoyed in a long time!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

REVIEW: Laying Down the Paw

Laying Down the Paw
Author: Diane Kelly

While on patrol in Fort Worth, Officer Megan Luz and her trusty canine partner, Brigit, meet a natural force that leaves them reeling -- a tornado. It overturns their police cruiser and leaves lots of property damage in it's wake. As she searches for victims needing assistance, Megan comes face to face with a gang of looters. Outnumbered in a very dangerous situation, she has no choice but to let them escape....but that doesn't mean she forgets. She's not only on the lookout for the gang members that threatened her, and the citizens/business owners of Fort Worth following a disaster, but she's also on the trail of a killer.

I enjoy this series. It always provides a nice mix of humor and light mystery. I like the short chapters from Brigit's point of view. Her doggie insights are always fun to read. :)

This series is cozy-ish -- there are some adult situations and a little bit of cursing. Not anything over-the-top, graphic or over-done.....but I know some cozy readers don't like sexual situations or curse words. I would recommend a bit of parental guidance before handing this series to a child under 13. And, for readers who adhere strictly to the usual cozy limits....this pushes past that just a bit.

This is rapidly becoming one of my favorite series. I like Megan as a main character. She has personality and can hold her own. I feel the same way about Brigit....she's quirky and knows just when to let her feelings be known....sometimes life requires chewing up shoes. It's a fact of life.

This series currently has 7 books, with an 8th coming out November 26, 2019. I'm definitely going to keep reading this series. I always enjoy entertaining light mysteries with a good dose of humor. Megan wields a mean baton! :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

REVIEW: Paw and Order

Paw and Order
Author: Diane Kelly

Paw and Order is the second book in the Paw Enforcement Cozy-ish Mystery series. Megan Luz and her K-9 partner, Brigit, are a great team. They solve crimes in Fort Worth, TX with skill....and attitude.

This time, Megan and Brigit are patrolling during a big local rodeo event. The event is filled with riding, roping, music, food, drink, fun.....and purse thieves. When the thefts escalate past purse snatching to more violent assaults, the duo are on the case to nail down the thief.

I like Megan as a main character. She is becoming quite skilled at her job, and has a crazy sense of humor. She also wields a mean baton. Brigit has become her sidekick and furry buddy, as well as her partner. There is a bit of character development for them in this newest story, as well as love interests, Seth and Blast. Great humor, an interesting mystery, a side plot or two.....  all in all, a fun, entertaining, light mystery.

This series is not really "cozy'' -- it's cozy-ish. There is a bit of cursing....nothing extreme. I know some readers prefer cozies with no curse words. I don't mind it doesn't bother me. There are also some minor adult situations. Again, nothing extreme. But I would advise parental guidance before handing these books to anyone under 13. There is no graphic violence, no spurting blood....nothing like that. There is light discussion of sexual situations, some crude humor, and a bit of minor cussing.

Another fun visit with Megan and Brigit! On to the next book! The series has seven books so far plus a couple of novellas. A new book, Paw of the Jungle, will release in late November 2019. I have a review copy of the new book waiting in the reading my way though this series. Always funny! Always enjoyable!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

REVIEW: Murder Off the Page

Murder Off the Page
Author: Con Lehane

Murder Off the Page is the 3rd book in the 42nd Street Library Mystery series. Ray Ambler is curator of the NY Public Library's Crime Fiction Collection. Along with his trusty assistant, Adele, he often ends up investigating crimes as well as curating the collection. 

This time, a researcher comes in to use the collection, but it seems she is not who she says she is. The woman doesn't really seem to know how to properly research, but spends days gathering information on a particular writer. Later, they come across the same woman drunk in a bar. A friend of Ray's, Bartender Brian McNulty, seems to know the drunk woman and takes her back to her hotel. Later when a dead body is discovered in the room, the woman and McNulty are nowhere to be found. When the woman herself is killed, McNulty is immediately a suspect. Ray and Adele are on the case to solve two murders and to discover facts about the woman's past, plus prove McNulty is not a killer.

I had to read a couple chapters of this book twice to fully understand the characters. I realize this is because this book is the third in this series.....but the first I have read. I still enjoyed the story very much .... the investigation is complex and interesting! And, it all works into Ambler's specialty -- crime fiction and crime authors. I liked how Lehane worked that into the plot. I think I would have understood the setting and characters a bit better if I had started this series from the beginning. But with careful reading, a reader could jump in at this book and thoroughly enjoy the characters and story.

The mystery unravels at a nice page. There are plenty of clues, side investigations and suspects to keep the plot interesting. Ray and Adele work together perfectly.

I enjoyed this story! I am definitely back-tracking to start this series from the first book. Then I will re-read this one with a better understanding of the characters, the Crime Fiction Collection and past events.

Great book! I'm definitely reading more by this author!

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

Monday, November 18, 2019

REVIEW: Midnight in Chernobyl

Midnight in Chernobyl
Author: Adam Higginbotham

Interest in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster has spiked since the award winning HBO mini-series aired. I watched the show and listened to HBO's accompanying podcast and several other podcast episodes on the accident and its aftermath. Several of the podcasts mentioned this book, so I secured a spot on the library's wait list for the audiobook. I'm glad I did! This book is excellent!

Higginbotham outlines the buildup of the soviet power grid and nuclear technology. Along the way there were accidents, cost cutting measures that had disastrous effects, mismanagement, poor training and flawed maintenance. All the mistakes culminated in the explosion at Chernobyl on April 25, 1986.

Higginbotham gives details about the people involved, the plant itself, the history of Soviet nuclear power, the accident, the evacuation of Pripyat, and the continuing aftermath of the accident. It's a very interesting, and concerning, story. Many countries have nuclear power plants now. It's an awesome way to generate electricity, unless there is an accident. In recent years, the Fukushima accident shows that an earthquake or other natural event can cause modern nuclear plants to become quite dangerous. But with mismanagement, bad maintenance, lackluster employee training and shoddy parts/construction, any nuclear plant can be potentially dangerous. With more countries around the world turning to nuclear power, the chances of an accident increase.....

I remember news reports in 1986 about the event. I can remember initial reports stating that it was known there had been some sort of nuclear event in the Soviet Union but scientists were not sure what had happened and no information was being released by USSR officials. When the full truth came out, it was horrifying. An entire city evacuated. Firemen and emergency response personnel dying. The struggle to prevent a melt-down. 33 years later, many are still interested in the accident and the lasting damage it caused. Pripyat is becoming a tourist attraction even. Yikes! I can think of much better vacation sites than one that is completely irradiated. Pripyat, and the surrounding region, will be not be safely habitable for more than 20,000 years.

Nuclear power is safe when handled responsibly by properly trained people. Most plants operating in the modern world are quite safe, and managed/maintained properly. But, a nuclear power plant can be potentially deadly if proper safety protocols are not strictly adhered to and the potential effects of natural disasters and other catastrophes are not properly taken into consideration. I hope it is a very, very long time -- or never -- that our planet ends up with another uninhabitable, radiation soaked region from a nuclear accident. The effects are long lasting, and far reaching.

Great book! Lots of highly researched information presented in an interesting manner. The audio book is about 14 hours long and narrated by Jacques Roy. Roy reads at a steady pace. His voice is easily understandable. Very enjoyable listening experience!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

REVIEW: The Ship of Dreams

The Ship of Dreams:
The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era
Author: Gareth Russell

I have read multiple books about the Titanic. I've read many, many facts and tales about the building of the ship, the White Star Line and its leaders, the race to build bigger and faster passenger ships in the early 1900s, the passengers, causes of the sinking, the trial and aftermath of the accident, etc. All that reading, and this book still provided details and information I had not read before! Gareth Russell digs down into the Edwardian Era and the people/time that created the Titanic and its sister ships. He also gives details about six different passengers on the ship....their privileged lives, what led them to be on board, and their fate.

So interesting!! I loved every single word of this book! Buying a copy for my non-fiction keeper shelf!

First off -- this book is non-fiction. This is not a narrative story or filled with fictionalized drama. This book presents facts -- lots and lots of details. The writing style keeps it interesting, but be aware that this is 300+ pages of non-fiction -- not a story. Russell gets down to the nitty gritty of society at the time, details about specific passengers, text from reports, letters, telegrams, facts about the ship and other ships of the day, the crew, interior of the ship compared to other ships of the era, the White Star Line.....I could keep going. There is a lot of information tucked into this book. Readers who like Titanic facts but don't enjoy reading non-fiction might want to skip this one. I love non-fiction, so all of the details, facts, information did not bother me one bit.  Loved it!

This is the first book by Gareth Russell that I've read. I will definitely be reading more! It is obvious that he did a huge amount of research and I like his writing style. The facts are all laid out in an interesting manner. I read this book slowly -- one chapter a night to let all the facts and details soak in. In my opinion, this is the best book on the Titanic and its sinking (that I have read). Interesting, sound research, and an in depth look at the aftermath of the sinking and the era that created larger, faster and much fancier passenger ships. Awesome read!

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

Saturday, November 16, 2019

REVIEW: The Turn of the Key

The Turn of the Key
Author: Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware never disappoints me. I've enjoyed several of her novels and they never fail to be creepy, incredible reading experiences! I listened to the audio book version of The Turn of the Key. I couldn't stop listening. Even with a college class, back-to-school week for my son and other adulting keeping me incredibly busy....I still managed to binge listen to this book in two days. I couldn't stop! When a book has me listening during every little bit of spare time I can find, it's' definitely a good story!

The basics: When Rowan is passed over for a promotion at work, she just feels a bit let down by her life. She's spent 10 years in child care and really wants a better job. Then she sees a newspaper ad. It offers a residential position as a nanny with a generous salary. She prepares her resume, paints on a smile and gives a stellar interview. But once she starts her new job, she realizes the smart house is a nightmare, the children are difficult, and her employers are absent most of the time. What starts out as a dream job, tears her life apart. Yes...she lied to get the position. Yes...she made huge mistakes. Yes....she was freaked out by all the cameras in the house, strange noises at night, and the rumors of ghosts. But, she doesn't deserve to be in jail on a murder charge. She didn't kill anyone.

This story is like an updated version of Turn of the Screw. Nanny put into a strange house with weird vibes. Difficult, odd children. Isolated. That classic story always gave me the creeps....and this one did, too! I found myself talking to my phone...making comments about the awful tech in the house, the horrible parents, the weird children, the entire situation. I could never, ever work in child care....and a live-in nanny position for rich clients would be my own personal nightmare. This story, however, took the nightmare up just a few notches. The entire house was well on the way to a smacked bottom in my book. I could not tolerate being in a similar position. I would completely just lose my mind.  My husband laughed a few times when he caught me making comments to my phone. Yeah....I know....talking back to the book doesn't make the characters straighten up in any way. But it certainly made me feel better! :)

This story kept me on edge the whole time. It was a slow build....but the story always had my complete attention. I didn't see some of the twists and the ending all caught me by surprise. I love it when a suspense story just runs right over me....this one definitely did. I felt the nanny's confusion, frustration and even anger at a dream job that turns into a nightmare. There were a couple plot points that I thought were a bit too coincidental or far-fetched, but by that time I was already sucked in by the story and didn't care. Ruth Ware got me again.....   I binged The Woman in Cabin 10....The Death of Mrs. Westaway....and In a Dark, Dark Wood. And this time was no different. I have The Lying Game from the library queued up on my phone ready to listen already....I'm sure that will be another binge event for me. Whatever this author has in store for her readers next, I will definitely be one of the first in line to read it! She has quickly become one of my favorite authors!

Friday, November 15, 2019

REVIEW: The Institute

The Institute
Author: Stephen King

In recent years, Stephen King novels can be a bit hit or miss for me.  The Institute is definitely a hit. I loved it! The story caught my attention from the beginning and kept it throughout! I was lucky enough to get onto the hold list for the digital audio book in the #2 slot at my local I didn't have long to wait. The waiting time for King novels can get quite long. When I finished this book and returned it, I was curious so I clicked into the book info to see how many library patrons were waiting. The wait list at the metro library I belong to is 9 weeks on 24 copies. And the smaller more local library, the queue is at 103 with 6 months of waiting for those at the very end of the line. The line for the print book is even longer.  Metro: 120 patrons and 7 weeks. Rural: 213 in line and 6 months of waiting.

This story is worth the wait.

Luke Ellis is peacefully sleeping in his bed inside his parent's home in Minnesota one night when he's drugged by strangers and taken away. He wakes up in a room that looks like his room....exactly like it....but it isn't his room. There is no window. And when he opens the door, there is a hallway....and other doors. Other rooms. With children who were also taken and brought to...The Institute. He discovers every child brought here has special abilities. Psychic abilities. The other kids tell Luke that they are in Front Half, where tests are done on them. After awhile, kids who have been at The Institute the longest are taken to Back Half. Nobody knows exactly what happens there. Kids that go to Back Half never come back. Luke wants to save his friends. He wants to escape the tests, the headaches, the horrible fear of Back Half...  But nobody has ever escaped The Institute.....   Nobody.

This was a perfect tale to listen to on audio. The story kept my attention from start to finish. I can't imagine how scary it would be for 12 year old to be stolen from his house in the middle of the night and wake up somewhere like The Institute. I enjoyed listening as the kids formed friendships, endured horrible testing and experiments, and joined to fight back.

While there have been similar stories before, King definitely puts his slant and full storytelling talents into his version. The characters are vivid and the events a mother, there were portions of this story that were hard to stomach. But I was invested in the story and enjoyed every word of it!

I'd love to see this book made into a movie or series. The characters would be fantastic. The story reminds me a bit of Stranger Things... if it were set in the hospital where Eleven was created. 

The audio book, narrated by Santino Fontana, is 19 hours long. Fontana gives an awesome performance. He reads at a nice pace and gives a great acting performance. There are a lot of characters, and multiple ages/personalities of children and adults...he breathed life into each one. Excellent listening experience!

I got lucky and didn't have to wait weeks or months to enjoy this story.....but I would have felt it was worth the wait, even if I had.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

REVIEW: Anne Boleyn - A King's Obsession

Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession
Author: Alison Weir

I have read many, many books about the Tudor era. It's an obsession on my part. Henry VIII, even almost 500 years after his death, is still larger than life. A bad king obsessed with the continuation of the Tudor line he made poor decision after poor decision and left England almost bankrupt. But when the dust settled after his death (and his other children died), Elizabeth was on the throne and ruled for 44 years. At least history got more than scandalous stories out of Henry's years on the throne. Elizabeth was one of the greatest monarchs in English history. All is well that ends well? Maybe?

But I digress.....Anne Boleyn:A King's Obsession is part of Alison Weir's Six Tudor Queens series. The series starts with Katherine of Aragon, Henry's first wife.....and continues with this book about Anne before proceeding to Wife #3, Jane Seymour.

I enjoyed this book, but it seems pretty evident that the author does not like Anne Boleyn....or at least has little sympathy for her. Anne is portrayed as a vengeful, jealous, often paranoid (sometimes rightfully so), emotional wreck. But, to quote Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones...."When you play the game of thrones, you win....or you die." Anne didn't win. So history paints her as a pawn...a schemer....a whore.  And she might have been all of those things, but perhaps she was just a very strong, intelligent woman who got caught up in the business of kings and paid dearly for it. Women today often make the mistake of dallying with powerful, married men and pay a big price. At least they don't cut our heads off on a scaffold anymore! Divorce is much simpler these days.

Weir also takes a bit of creative license with history. This is historical fiction so a bit of that is expected. But some of the changes I found a bit cringe Katherine of Aragon being murdered. It was rumored at the time that Anne had Katherine poisoned, but most likely it was a natural death from cancer or just years of stress and depression from The Kings Great Matter. There is no historical proof that Katherine was poisoned with herbs. It's difficult to fill in emotions, thoughts, and motivations for people who all died almost 500 years the author filled in the blanks with the stuff of fiction. It makes for a good read.....but it's not historically accurate. In this case, that's ok....this is historical FICTION. She can do that.....for the most part she sticks true to actual events. I read a few reviews that totally attacked this book for being historically inaccurate. It's a fictionalized story about Anne Boleyn.....not a non-fiction reference book. Jumping off the main track for the purposes of drama is allowed when writing a fiction novel, even about real historical characters. Want pure history? Read non-fiction. Want to experience the drama of court and a bit of Henry VIII style naughtiness? Read historical fiction.

I listened to the audio book version of this story (Recorded Books, Inc) Narrated by Rosalyn Landor, the audio is just short of 20 hours long. I caught myself a few times talking back to my phone as I listened. When Anne waxed long about how it would be when she was queen and how much Henry loved her, etc etc....I just kept saying "No! Don't do isn't going to end well!''  But, offering advice to women who had their heads forcefully removed centuries in the past doesn't change the outcome. Messing with powerful, wealthy, married men didn't end well in the 1500's and it still doesn't end well today. Monica Lewinsky is a great example. Poor decision.....very public shaming. At least she didn't lose her head over it!

Enjoyable read. Since I have already read the 3rd book on Jane Seymour, I'm moving on to the fourth book in this series....Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

REVIEW: Paw Enforcement

Paw Enforcement
Author: Diane Kelly

Megan Luz is a police office in Fort Worth, Tx. She has aspirations of becoming a detective, but she's going to have to control her temper a bit better if she ever wants to fulfill her dream. After using her taser to shoot her former partner in the testicles, she's reassigned to another partner. A female partner. A furry female partner. Neither of them are that impressed with the other. Megan doesn't want a dog cramping her style. And Brigit has no respect for Megan. But, as they get to know each other, go through training, and work together, they soon form a team. Add in a cute fireman and his bomb sniffing dog and you get a great recipe for a fun, light mystery.

Paw Enforcement is the first book in this series. There are 7 books, with a new book coming out in November 2019.

For those who love cozy mysteries....this book is cozy-ish. There is no spurting blood. No graphic sex. No extreme violence. But...there is some cussing and a bit of adult theme. Nothing F-bombs....but I would recommend reading this one before handing it off to a child/teen to read. Readers who don't like swearing....pass this one by. Those who don't really care -- there are a few words here and there, but not many. I didn't mind it. In fact, most of the time it was funny. :)

Megan Luz is a fun, entertaining main character. She wields a mean baton.....and is often tempted to use it as a tool of correction for lunk heads. Both Megan and Brigit have some rough spots. Brigit loves to destroy shoes. And Megan's temper gets her in trouble sometimes. I didn't really care for her love interest much, but I'm willing to give the character a chance for more development in subsequent books.

I listened to the audio book version of this story. Narrated by Coleen Marlo, the audio is just over 10 hours long. Marlo reads at a nice, steady pace and does a great job of voice acting the different characters. Her performance made this an entertaining, fun listening experience! She has a pleasant voice that is easy to listen to.

All in all, a very entertaining start to this series. There were some spots where I had to suspend reality a bit....police department policies regarding K-9 dogs, etc. But....this is meant as a light mystery with Brigit being a main character and not a hard-hitting police procedural. I'm willing to let a few things go by for the sake of a fun plot. And this was definitely fun!

I enjoyed this first book enough to binge read the rest of the series. I have a review copy of the newest book in the series waiting in the wings, and the remaining books checked out or on hold from the library. Plus I purchased a novella, Upholding the Paw (book 2.5). I'm settling in with Megan and Brigit for awhile. The humor in this first book made this such a fun read that I'm looking forward to reading something light and fun for awhile!

Moving on to book #2, Paw and Order!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

REVIEW: Fatal Throne

Fatal Throne
Author: Various

I'm not sure why I'm such a sucker for Tudor era history and fiction. I've read more pages on Henry VIII and his wives than any other historical figures. I think it's a mix of things....shock at so much power in the hands of one man and how misguided that sort of power can make even the strongest person....the sheer political grasping and manipulating of upper class men and women in that time...and the role of English women in the 1500s. Six women destined to be queen.....six women finding out that being the queen was the highest rank in the country, but not the safest or most secure spot. Was the reward worth the cost? I think not. Divorced, Beheaded, Died. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.

So much drama. So much manipulation. So much sorrow. And death. And betrayal. And lies. The whole situation so F'd up that people still talk about it more than 450 years later.

When I saw the blurb for this book, I had to read it! Seven YA authors coming together to write a book from the POV of each wife and Henry VIII. The emotions, the behind-the-scenes manipulation, the realizations, the reasons why.....

Although some changes were made (for instance a couple names are spelled differently in the book to avoid confusing people with similar names. It's fiction, not a non-fiction narrative of events, so I didn't mind the switch.) and the events are toned down a bit, this was a very interesting and enjoyable take on events. I liked the fact that this was written by several different authors. The changing styles between each chapter was fitting. All of Henry's wives were very different people, so the style changes really brought that concept home. My favorite chapter was the one about Anne of Cleves. In my opinion, she fared better than any of Henry's other wives -- divorced, but very wealthy.

This book definitely illustrates the fact that women were often used in bargaining for political power, riches and place at court. These women had little or no choice....if Henry showed interest in them at all, their families wanted to capitalize on it. Women had no power outside of manipulation....even when married to the King. In his quest to have an heir to carry on the Tudor line, Henry positioned himself so that he could do as he wished with his wives.....divorce, execution.....all for that heir. Sad. And he bankrupted the country. Worst. King. Ever. Worst. Husband. Ever.

I enjoyed this book! The stories are well-written, emotional and engaging. Each chapter is followed by commentary from Henry VIII's point of view. At the very back of the book is a timeline for the Henry's life and reign.

I wouldn't recommend this book for children under 14. There are some very adult situations and a little bit of sex. Nothing graphic. Just Henry trying to get his heir. Ugh. There is also a little bit of description of why this proved impossible or incredibly gross......nothing graphic, but it's impossible to tell the story without discussing impotence, morbid obesity, festering leg sores, etc.

This is the first book I've read by any of these YA authors. I'm definitely looking into their other books. Very enjoyable reading experience, despite the heaviness of the subject.

Monday, November 11, 2019

REVIEW: The Twenty Ninth Day

The Twenty-Ninth Day
Author: Alex Messenger

This book recounts the true story of the author's trip through the Canadian wilderness at 17. Alex Messenger spent summers  and winter breaks trekking through the wilderness building up to this longest and most remote trek available from Camp Menogyn. 42 days of hiking, canoeing, portaging.....sleeping, eating and living in the wilderness with five other teens. 42 days of wild rivers, lakes, and forest. Fresh air and freedom. A 17 year old boy's dream. Until.....

......the grizzly bear.

I love adventure stories, especially those set in remote wilderness areas. This book was such an exciting and enjoyable read. It grabbed my attention immediately and held it throughout. I can't imagine what I would do if I was badly mauled by a grizzly bear far away from a hospital or any assistance other than a group of friends. These boys wanted an adventure....and they got much more than they bargained for. It definitely proves wilderness is beautiful....but also very dangerous and unpredictable.

This is an incredible story of strength in incredibly dangerous circumstances. Great book!

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

Sunday, November 10, 2019

REVIEW: Tracking Game

Tracking Game
Author: Margaret Mizushima

This series is one of my favorites. I have a very soft spot in my reader's heart for stories that involve K-9 units. Margaret Mizushima always delivers an exciting, interesting, and often dangerous case for Mattie and Robo to investigate.

Tracking Game is the 5th book in the Timber Creek K-9 series. I enjoyed this newest adventure. The action started immediately and didn't let up until the very end. There are all different types of predators, both man and beast. This time, Mattie and Robo will face down both.

A reader could jump into this series at this new book and still enjoy the characters and the mystery. There is enough background given to understand basic relationships, past cases and all of the characters. But to get the full effect of the characters, prior relationships, some issues with Mattie's past, the town, etc., it might be best to start with book one and read the entire series.

I enjoyed the mystery this time. The case was interesting and had some sneaky twists here and there to spice it up. All in all, another great story in this series! I do have to say that I am getting a bit weary of the relationship problems between Mattie and Cole and the ongoing issues between Cole and his ex-wife. I think Mattie stressing about her past and its possible effect on her relationship, her parents, etc just needs to be wrapped up.... it's just dragging on too long. Either get together or don't.....   And while Olivia is important because of Cole and the kids, that side plot is getting old (for me anyway) and needs to be worked out so the plots can move forward and the characters develop past this point. But....I'm not a reader who reads a series for the romantic angle. I'm there for the investigation. Maybe someone who enjoys romantic stories would feel differently.

Very enjoyable addition to this series! I am eagerly awaiting the next book!

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

Saturday, November 9, 2019

REVIEW: Twelve Nights at Rotter House

Twelve Nights at Rotter House
Author: J. W. Ocker

Felix Allsey is a travel writer. Well, he wants to be a travel that focuses on the macabre. But his previous works have been largely ignored. So, he decides to spend 13 nights totally immersed in a haunted house. No leaving the house. No contact with the outside world. Just the house. Nothing else. No electricity. No internet. No cell phone. No distractions. And it's not just any haunted house. It's Rotterdam Mansion. Or Rotter House, for short. In its 200 years, the house can boast 3 stories, 40 rooms, 3 suicides, 8 murders, 2 deaths of undetermined cause, 4 deaths of a weird sort,  2 disappearances, and a stint as hideaway for a murderer. Not to mention its years as a boarding house of ill repute and a bordello. Felix is determined to stay for 13 nights in the house. He even invites a friend to join him. His friendship with Thomas has been on the rocks for awhile....and maybe this adventure will help work things out.

I love haunted house stories, so thoroughly enjoyed this book! There are a lot of film and book references sprinkled in the dialogue between Felix and Thomas. I took many reading breaks to check if certain films were on Netflix or Amazon Prime.....and to check if my library had a copy of certain classic haunted house stories. Not to mention all the reading breaks for looking up the history of Ouija boards, the Amityville Horror scandal, Gail Russell's difficulties on the set of The Univited, etc. I have enough horror films and creepy books on a list to last me for a few months. :) Fun!

This story is a tale about a haunted house....but also a story about the relationship between Felix and Thomas. They talk a lot while investigating the house. I liked how their friendship and investigating the house intertwined together. The story definitely kept my attention from start to finish. It is well-written, definitely creepy in spots, and the ending was great!

This is the first book by J.W. Ocker that I've read. I like his writing style, all the movie/book references and the plot. I will definitely be reading more of his work!

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

Friday, November 8, 2019

REVIEW: Blind Search

Blind Search
Author: Paula Munier

I have a very soft spot in my heart for books that involve K-9 officers. I'm not sure how I missed book 1 of this series, but I jumped at the chance to read a review copy of book 2! So glad I did...I can tell this series is going to quickly become one of my favorites!

Mercy Carr is a former Army MP. Her fuzzy sidekick, Elvis, is a retired bomb sniffing dog. They team up with local game warden Troy Warner and his search and rescue dog to investigate a killing. A young autistic boy was lost in the woods and may have witnessed the murder. Someone is after the boy now, too. So, the two dogs....and their two people....have to team up to protect the boy and catch a killer.

A reader could jump into this second book without reading the first story. There are enough clues to the characters, relationships and background stories to fill in any gaps. But, I am going to backtrack and read book one, then re-read this one. I want to get the whole picture! In fact, I have the first book, A Borrowing of Bones, waiting for me at the library.

The investigation moved along at a nice pace, with plenty of clues, suspects, twists and action. There are also some secrets, past relationships and a bit of drama in the character development. I like the setting in Vermont. And several of the side characters are just awesome! Henry is an awesome character. I hope he shows up in later stories!

All in all, a very entertaining reading experience. Well-written, suspenseful and engrossing! It definitely kept my attention from start to finish.

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

Thursday, November 7, 2019

REVIEW: Songs From the Deep

Songs From the Deep
Author: Kelly Powell

Moira knows the Sirens who inhabit the sea around her island home are dangerous. But she still sneaks near the beach to watch them. She plays her violin from her hiding place, letting her music travel through the salty sea air to the mysterious creatures. She carries iron to protect her from their mesmerizing, magical songs. When a boy's body, bleeding and broken, is discovered on the beach, the villagers are quick to blame the death on a siren attack. But Moira feels something is wrong. Very wrong. Why would sirens leave a dead 12-year old boy on the beach? Wouldn't they have dragged his body to the sea? With the help of a childhood friend, Moira is determined to discover the truth.

This story is so engaging and interesting! Part sea monster tale and part murder mystery, this book kept my attention from start to finish. Moira and Jude work well together. I enjoyed their investigation and the development of their characters throughout the story.

This is a YA book. There are no gory death details or graphic sex. No cursing. The sirens are a bit scary and there are the story might be a bit much for someone under 13. Parental guidance suggested, as with any monster story.

The front cover art for this book is perfect. It is what first interested me in reading this story.

This is the first book by Kelly Powell that I've read. I will definitely be reading more. I like her writing style. The suspense, action and mystery are well-written, perfectly paced and definitely engrossing.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Simon & Schuster. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

REVIEW: The Deep

The Deep
Author: Rivers Solomon (with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)


Haunting. Magical. Deeply emotional.

Yetu remembers. She holds the memories for all of the Wajinru. Remembering is too traumatic for everyone to always carry the history of their people.....the fact they descend from pregnant African slave women tossed over board from slave ships. Born under the waves, they forgot the world of humans. Once a year, they have The Rememberance. Yetu will tell everyone the story of their people. But, carrying all the memories, all the pain, all of their past is tearing Yetu apart from the inside out. She flees from her people and goes on a journey to discover herself. But she discovers the power of the past, the memories, the emotions.....deep, so deep.

This book carries quite an impact in its few pages. Powerful story. Perfectly written.

The story is based on the 2017 song The Deep by rap group, The Clipping. I listened to the song several times while reading this novella. The song and this story are powerful and haunting.

I'm not going to say anything more about the spoilers. Read this without any prior knowledge....and feel the emotions. This isn't a story you just's a story you Feel.

Read it. Feel it.

This is the first book I've read by Rivers Solomon. I'm definitely going to read An Unkindness of Ghosts!

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

REVIEW: The Family Upstairs

The Family Upstairs
Author: Lisa Jewell

Wow....this story is completely disturbing, creepy and wonderfully suspenseful! On her 25th birthday, Libby Jones inherits a house in very posh part of London. The mansion is run down and has a sinister reputation. Libby, adopted as a baby, just wants to know her past.....but she discovers that dredging up the past isn't always a good thing. Sometimes you discover....darkness.

This book jumps from past to present, juggles POV and involves several different story lines all interwoven together. Usually all that jumping around pulls me out of a story....but this tale is so dark and strange, that it all just pulled me further in. At first I was a bit confused, but as more and more of the details unfolded, the full picture of events came into focus. Yikes! Double Yikes! I can't imagine what it would be like to be adopted and wonder about your birth parents your entire life.....only to discover really terrible things. How devastating! It made for a great psychological thriller!

Great story! Very psychological. Lots of suspense and dark weirdness. This is the first book by Lisa Jewell that I've read. I'm definitely going to read more!!

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

REVIEW: What I Lick Before Your Face

What I Lick Before Your Face...and Other Haikus by Dogs
Author: Jamie Coleman

As the proud owner of 4 rescue dogs, I totally needed this book! Not only is it filled with doggie wisdom in poetry form, but it also has lots of awesome photos as well. Fun and entertaining!

This collection of 64 Haiku covers just about everything Dog from drinking out of the toilet to turning in circles before laying down. The verses are funny, cute and sometimes disturbing. Who wants to think about what a dog licks before it licks your face? :) The photos are adorable and picture dogs of all sizes, big and small.

My favorite is this gem:

An Offering

I do not have much

But what little that I do

I place in your shoes

I have had many an early morning's awesome discovery of slobbery dog bones tucked lovingly into my shoes for safe keeping. There is just nothing like the slick feel of partially eaten Nyla bone on bare toes. *Shudder* 

As I read these poems I kept chuckling to myself. Yeah, my dogs could have penned each and every one of these little snippets of doggie joy. :)

I highly recommend this book for dog lovers! It would make a great gift to anyone who loves their fur babies, or just for a fun, cute read for anybody! 

Full marks from me! Great fun!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Atria Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. My dogs approve this review. Woof, woof!**

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

REVIEW: Island of Last Resorts

Island of Last Resorts
Author: Mary Ellis

Kate Weller has had some ups and downs in her current relationship, mostly from her own insecurities. She looks forward to having some time with Eric and his family in Charleston. But, an email from her boss at Price Investigations, puts a bit of a bump in the road. Kate and Eric are invited to take part in a week-long retreat for all Price Investigations employees in Georgia. But, unknown to them, the retreat has re-located to an island. The wealthy owner of the island made Kate's boss a deal. It's going to be like a murder mystery party. If the group of investigators can solve the crime presented to them by the island employees, then their stay is free. But, it turns out that there is a lot more at stake than a free week's stay at an island get-away.

Island of Last Resorts is the third book in the Kate Weller series. I haven't read the other books in the series, and I think that would have understood the characters in this story much better if I had read this series in order. I recommend reading these books in order if you are a reader that cares about backstory and character relationships/development. If you are in it for only the investigation and current plot, then jump right in. I was able to enjoy this story even without fully understanding the minor characters, the agency and the main character's relationship/backstory.

Although the premise seemed a bit contrived, I still enjoyed this story. There were plenty of suspects and some interesting investigation to figure out the motivation for not only the weird island weekend but also the original crime. Interesting premise and setting. Well written and kept my attention throughout.

This is the first book by Mary Ellis that I've read. I will definitely be reading more of her books. This was an entertaining story!

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

Monday, November 4, 2019

REVIEW: A Marvelous Life

A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee
Author: Danny Fingeroth

The introduction to this awesome biography makes an important point. Most people, when asked to name famous comic book creators/writers, would respond, "Stan Lee.'' Because there are very few people who don't know who Stan Lee is (I can't bring myself to use past tense there). And for most people who aren't avid comic book fans, Stan Lee's name is the only one they can come up with. There are other greats (which my husband is introducing me to a bit at a time -- he's been a comic book fan for decades. I'm just now learning.), but Stan Lee was just a force all to himself.

This biography includes interviews, behind-the-scenes stories, background information on Marvel Comics, the characters Stan created, and his life from childhood until his death. I love how the book doesn't just focus on Marvel comics but on the man himself. It gives a full account of his life, experiences, and his writing.

I took my time reading this book. I enjoyed it a little bit at a time. Most of the time I followed up a chapter by reading a comic from my husband's extensive collection or watching a Marvel movie. I will truly miss Lee's cameos in Marvel movies. I always waited with expectation for the cute scene with Lee in it. It always made me smile. I don't remember a single theater experience where the audience didn't clap or show appreciation for the cameos. He will be missed by many.

The author of this book worked with Stan Lee for more than 40 years. And it shows. This biography is well researched, complete and obviously heart-felt. I loved every page!

RIP Stan Lee. Excelsior!

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

Sunday, November 3, 2019

REVIEW: A Midnight Clear

A Midnight Clear
Authors: Various

This ain't your mama's holiday short story collection. Not by a long shot. A Midnight Clear gathers six horrifying holiday season tales. Every story is different and adds a delightfully creepy edge to the holiday festivities.

I loved every story in this collection! The tales are wickedly varied and fun. Demons, Werewolves, insane Elves, winter gods, curses and general Yuletide mayhem. My favorite story of the collection is Sam Hooker's The Dauntless. An elf is on trial for murder because he was part of the annual expedition to deliver holiday coal to Cthulhu in R'leyah. The trip did not end well. Other stories in the collection are provided by: Aley Leyva, Laura Morrison, Cassondra Windwalker, Dalena Storm and Seven Jane. This is my first experience with all of these writers, and I am definitely reading more by each and every one of them!

Usually with story anthologies, I find I like most of the tales, but find a few that just aren't for me. This time I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed each story. All are well-written, interesting and incredibly creative. A werewolf bitten by a human? A holiday murder in the Stanley Hotel? I didn't expect fun stuff like that! Dark humor. Creative horror. Madness all around! Happy holidays!

This is the one time I can say I happily read a Christmas theme book before Halloween. It fits right in with the season.

Lovely story collection! Full marks from me!! Not a bad tale in the bunch!

**I voluntarily read an advance review copy of this book from Black Spot Books. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. No elder gods, monsters or demons were angered in the writing of this review. I hope.**

Saturday, November 2, 2019

REVIEW: The Chocolate Shark Shenanigans

The Chocolate Shark Shenanigans
Author: JoAnna Carl

The Chocolate Shark Shenanigans is the 17th book in the Chocoholic Mystery series by JoAnna Carl. I've had most of the books in this series on my TBR shelf for a very long time. When you own thousands of books, it takes awhile to bring a series to the top of the pile. When I saw the front cover of this newest book, I knew it was time to start reading this series!

I don't usually jump into a series on book 17....but I did this time. I'm learning to take chances in my old age. ha ha. I knew if I didn't just jump in, that this series could remain in TBR limbo even longer than it already has. I'm glad I finally tested the waters and "met'' the owners of TenHuis Chocolade!

I enjoyed this book! I think I would understand the characters better starting at the beginning of the series, but I still enjoyed this fun mystery. The characters are quirky. There's lots of humor. And some great investigation as well. All in all, a fun, entertaining cozy mystery. I'm definitely back-tracking and starting this series from book 1 though....I want to see how this all got started!

The basics: Lee Woodyard's husband decides to buy a house to remodel and flip. She's not too keen on the idea, but goes along with it. When a hidden gun and a dead body are discovered in the house, they all get pulled into investigating a past crime and a present killing. Who knew flipping a house could be so dangerous?

I liked the humor and fun in this story most of all. Sometimes a really entertaining cozy can just be so refreshing and fun to read. I needed this dose of humor. This whole series appears to be this way if the covers are any indication! I can't wait to read the rest of the books! I need a little Lee -- and her constant use of wrong words -- in my life! I don't often give cozy mysteries full stars because they are such light reads and often written in a definite formula....but I had so much fun reading this entertaining, cute story that I'm giving it full marks.

Cute story! Fun read! I will definitely be reading this entire series!

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

Friday, November 1, 2019

REVIEW: Chocolate With a Side of Murder

Chocolate With a Side of Murder
Author: Meredith Potts

I love listening to cozy mystery audio books while working in my garden and yard. It's nice to have an interesting story to listen to while I work. This week, I had a huge amount of leaves to rake and this short, easy listen was a perfect companion!

Sabrina Daley manages the family coffee shop, Daley Buzz. Treasure Cove is usually a quiet, seaside town but lately there are some strange goings-on: strange lights flickering in the windows of a long abandoned house, men in matching suits attending a "by invitation meeting,'' and a local developer approaching every business owner downtown to buy up their shops. When the local chocolate shop owner is found murdered in an alley, things take a decidedly dark turn. Because her sister disappeared without a trace years before, Sabrina really hates the fact that local law enforcement (including her detective boyfriend David) are coming up empty on clues in the case. She doesn't want another case to go unsolved, so she decides to do a little sleuthing on her own.....

There were a few minor plot and writing issues with this story (police procedure inaccuracies, abandoned plot points, repetition of the same words and phrases), but none of the problems prevented me from enjoying this first book in the Daley Buzz series. The story is a fun and engaging light mystery. There were plenty of suspects and a few twists along the way to keep me interested in the story. Totally willing to over look a few rough spots. Sabrina is an interesting main character, although I would term her investigation methods as bullying with style. :)

I listened to the audio book version of this story. Narrated by Lainie Pahos, the audio was just over 5 hours long. Easy listening length. At first, I had a rough time getting used to Pahos' voice and reading style. After a couple chapters, I was in the groove and got into the story. There were a few editing mistakes in the audio and an audible hiss in the background -- the recording quality needs some improving. But, overall, it was a good listening experience.

Fun start to a cozy series! I'm definitely going to keep reading and listening to this series! There are 10 books so far in the Daley Buzz series and several more books by Meredith Potts that are also set in Treasure Cove.

On to book 2 -- Caramels and a Side of Murder!

**I received this audio book for free from the author. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**