Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Haunting is Brewing - Review

A Haunting is Brewing by Juliet Blackwell

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Mel Turner can't say no which is why she finds herself renovating a local Victorian mansion turned museum for free to get it ready for a fundraiser.  When one of the volunteers is found dead in the mansion one morning and the eerie life size dolls just won't stay still Mel calls in witch and vintage clothing store owner, Lily Ivory.  With Lily's spells and Mel's ability to talk to ghosts they'll have this museum up and running by Halloween and hopefully put some family secrets to rest.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:  I really enjoyed the Mel Turner book I've read and really wanted to try Blackwell's other series.  What better way than in a novella that contains both characters?

My Impression:
Pros:  This was a really fun paranormal mystery. Mel and Lily are both really likable and work well together.  I liked that Mel wasn't sure of the whole witch thing but Lily was okay with it.  The Spooner House is delightfully creepy with life size dolls made to look like the family who lived there and don't always stay where they're put.  The detective is one who has worked with Mel before and is the right mix of skeptical but willing to go along with it.  I read this in one sitting and loved every minute of it.

Cons:  The same con that could be made for any novella.  With the low page numbers it's hard to get much character development.  While Mel and Lily could hold their own the college students got a little lost.  I had a hard time remembering the names of the ones who weren't important to the plot.  Though to be honest I don't really consider this a con - especially with a novella!

Overall: With a creepy setting and likable characters this is a seriously fun paranormal cozy read!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  I already knew I enjoyed the Mel Turner series and now I'm looking forward to reading more about Lily Ivory.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Absolutely!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Forbidden Ground - Review

Forbidden Ground by Karen Harper

Rating: 3 Stars
Source: NetGalley

The three Lockwood sisters have reunited in Cold Creek, Ohio for the youngest sister Tess's wedding.  Oldest sister, Kate, an anthropologist, is hoping to get a look at a burial mound belonging to the prehistoric Adena  civilization that just happens to be on the best man's land.  Grant Mason, the best man, is less enthusiastic about Kate's idea.  Is it really because of his grandfather's belief that the dead just be left alone or is he hiding something?  After overhearing a few tense conversations and the murder of one of Grant's oldest friends Kate just can't be sure.  As they become drawn into the murder investigation and fight their mutual attraction Kate still has to question if she can trust him.

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Why I Picked This Book:  I've been in a romantic suspense mood lately and the addition of prehistoric history intrigued me.

My Impression:
Pros: While Kate and Grant didn't fully click for me I liked how their relationship progressed.  While they were attracted to each other it wasn't an insta-soul mate kind of thing,  When they go through a traumatic event together it brings them closer which made sense.  The small town setting was interesting and had enough characters to make it seem real but not so many it was difficult to keep track of.  I liked how Kate responded to her estranged father coming to Tess's wedding.  She wasn't overjoyed but she wasn't unwilling to reasonable about it.  I thought it seemed realistic that she had the hardest time dealing with his presence because she was the oldest and remembered most of what their early childhood had been like (neglected, not abusive).  I liked that they talked about why Grant's lumber mill was successful and why his brother's paper mill failed.

Cons: Unfortunately, a lot of this book didn't really work for.  While Kate and Grant are interesting characters their relationship didn't really connect for me.  Kate's obsession with Adena burials didn't interest me after awhile and it seemed to be her primary personality trait.  I'd also like to do a little more research of the timber thieves thing.  I fully believe that trees are as valuable as talked about but I still found the thieving part of the plot hard to really believe - especially close to a house.  I've had trees cut down and it's seriously loud and at the fastest takes a couple of hours.  I also found Grant's full blow grief over the tree a little hard to buy.

Overall: While I really wanted to love this book it just didn't quite work for me.  Part of it may have been the mood I was in because I will fully admit to being somewhat distracted during the time I was reading this.  While it wasn't a bad book it wasn't what I'd call a page turner either.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Possibly.  I like what I saw of Tess and Gabe and wouldn't mind reading their story and I'm curious to know more about Char so I might try their books.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  I wouldn't NOT recommend it but it's definitely not one I'd say you'd have to read.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Top Ten Books to Read to Get in the Halloween Spirit

This week's Top Ten Tuesday Topic from The Broke and the Bookish is either the Top Ten Books/Movies to get you in a Halloween mood or Top Ten Characters to Dress Up As.  Now since I don't read much fantasy or sci-fi my book characters either dress modern day or 19th century and while I love my characters a hoop skirt for Halloween just isn't happening!

So  here are the Top Ten Books (and 2 movies) I'll be reaching for to get me all nice and spooky feeling!

1.  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
This is a subtly creepy book.  If you go in expecting a horror story I think you'll be disappointed but it's definitely got some eerie creepiness.  Listen to the audio if you get a chance!

2.  The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
I haven't actually read this book but J and I saw it in play form.  Going in we were thinking how scary can a local theater play be?  Answer?  Really really scary!

3.  The Blue Dahlia and the rest of the In the Garden series by Nora Roberts
This is a somewhat darker trilogy from Roberts' with a really creepy ghost.

4.  Ammie, Come Home by Barbara Michaels
I love this classic ghost story from Barbara Michaels.  It's just spooky enough and I love the history mixed in.

5.  Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
You can't have a spooky book list with out mentioning Rebecca.  Mrs. Danvers anyone?  That scene where the main character runs into Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca's old room gives me goosebumps!

6.  The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
I expected some creepiness since this is by the author of Rebecca and this is a story that inspired Hitchcock's movie of the same name.  This is seriously creepy though!  I haven't been quite comfortable seeing a flock of birds since reading this one.

7.  The Crying Child by Barbara Michaels
Another Barbara Michaels and another ghost story though this features a secluded island in Maine, 2 women yearning for different things and the eerie call of a child in the night.

8.  The Ghost Hunter's series by Victoria Laurie -
This is definitely a little sillier than the previous books but they're still a lot of fun.  MJ and her sidekicks explore some creepy locations and take on an assortment of ghosts.

9.  The Shining -
This is on my list of Stephen King books to try when I get up the courage.  As for now both movie forms I've seen (the Jack Nicholson movie and a mini-series) have definitely made me look over my shoulder and avoid dark hallways!

10. The Amityville Horror - I actually really enjoyed the newer version with Ryan Reynolds though of course the original is good too.

Hercule Poirot - The First Four

Today was supposed to be a review for The Ripper's Wife but the reading isn't going so well for that one and I'm still a little fuzzy-headed from Friday's oral surgery so instead you get the first four Hercule Poirot books by Agatha Christie.  This is quite a group - we have not only Poirot's introduction to the world but Agatha's first book as well, her first short story collection and her first controversial book.  In these Poirot becomes the fully fleshed out character with a host of quirks and eccentricities that will continue on for the next 50 years in pretty much every entertainment medium imaginable.  

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1921)
This book begins not with our meeting Poirot but with our meeting Captain Hastings as he is arriving at Styles Court to stay with friends while recovering from a combat related injury.  There is quite a large family staying at the house.  In addition to Hastings' friend John and his wife Mary, there is John's brother Lawrence, a cousin named Cynthia Murdoch, a kind of gardener/assistant Evelyn Howard, John's step-mother Emily Inglethorpe and her new husband Alfred Inglethorpe.  The tension is high as Emily is in charge of the money, everyone hates Alfred, John and Mary's marriage seems to falling apart and an assorted cast of characters are wandering about looking to engage in flirtations.  And then Hastings runs into an old friend, the amazing and not so humble detective, Hercule Poirot.  When Emily Inglethorpe is murdered in a locked room Hastings calls in Poirot and the local police call in Chief Inspector Japp who we will see quite a bit of over the years.  This is a great introduction to Poirot and though it can be a little dry the twists and turns are marvelous and not to be missed!
4 Stars

Murder on the Links (1923)
Some time has passed since we last saw Poirot and Hastings.  The War is over, Hastings has a job with the government and Poirot is comfortably settled in London and working as a private detective for the elite.  When they receive an urgent letter from South American millionaire Paul Renauld they hurry to his home in France only to find the man already dead, killed during what would now be deemed a home invasion.  All is not quite as it seems however as Poirot recognizes that something about the whole setup is familiar to him. There seem to be a pretty large cast of characters and it can get a little difficult to remember who is who and how they fit in.  While this isn't my favorite we do meet an important character in Hastings life which is pretty fun.  The reveal is definitely Agatha worthy as well.
3.5 Stars

Poirot Investigates (1924)
I'm not usually a fan of short story collections - especially with a mystery - but Agatha is a master.  In these stories you get 14 Poirot mysteries involving everything from figuring out why the rent of a flat was so cheap to solving murders.  Some of these are with Hastings and some without and one is the mystery that Poirot considers his greatest failure. If you're trying to figure out if Poirot is a detective you want to read than I'd definitely recommend this collection.
4 Stars

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is Agatha's most controversial novel.  When it was published it immediately made her a household name.  The Agatha twist was called everything from brilliant to cheating.  She vigorously denied the cheating accusation saying the clues are in the book and if you read it carefully you will figure it out.  It's definitely a fun one to read both before and after knowing what all happens.  In this we see Poirot in the first of many retirements.  He has ended up in a little village without his good friend Hastings and is trying to grow perfect vegetable marrows.  When 2 upstanding and prominent citizens die close together Poirot is called in to figure out what is going on and sort out the many suspects.
4 Stars

Saturday, October 25, 2014

This Week in Reading - October 26

It's Sunday!  Time to link up with The Sunday Post hosted by the awesome Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer

What I Got:

As usual I'm very excited about the books I got this week!  I'm at least mixing up how I'm acquiring books instead of a straight up NetGalley binge so I'm calling it progress!

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth - I won this retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale in a giveaway hosted by Teddyree over at The Eclectic Reader.  I'm not going to lie - there may have been squealing and a little dancing when I got the email I had won.  So excited!

Headhunters on my Doorstep by J. Maarten Troost - I really enjoyed his first 2 travel memoir books. I have the 3rd one on my shelf and am really looking forward to reading #4 as well (paperbackswap)

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin - I love foodie books and essays about food just sound like fun. (NetGalley)

Death in the English Countryside by Sara Rosett - there's a murder in England on a film crew that's looking for a location to film the latest Pride and Prejudice adaptation.  I'm not strong enough to pass that up! (NetGalley)

The Wanderer and The Newcomer by Robyn Carr - Kristen over at Always with a Book took pity on me about never having read any Robyn Carr and sent the first 2 in the Thunder Cove series.  So excited!


Reading:  The Ripper's Wife by Brandy Purdy though I'm not very far into it and I'm almost done with Agatha's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.  Next up is Mission to Murder from Lyn Cahoon and Forbidden Ground.

Listening: Nothing - not a thing.  I really need to find an audio book and get back in the habit again!

Watching:  J ended up going out of town this week so my watching habits became much less violent.  I'd been watching Criminal Minds on Netflix on my Kindle during the day but after the first night where my brain kept flashing images of a scary guy standing in the dark in a hoodie (they're always in a hood) I switched over to Flea Market Flip which is fun.  Emma and I recruited Paul to watch Bachelors in Paradise in all it's epic awfulness and we ended up having a lot of fun with it.  They got recorded months ago so we've been joking about everything from the weather warnings to the craziness of the show and all 3 of us have ended up basically crying with laughter.  Other than that I've been watching Cutthroat Kitchen and Food Network's new show Hungry Games which is really interesting.  It's kind of similar to Good Eats but without the recipes.  I am looking forward to getting caught up on my scary stuff and Doctor Who.  I'm SO behind on Doctor Who somehow and there's an Agatha Christie-ish episode that I still haven't watched!  They're on the Orient Express.  Why I haven't watched it yet is beyond me.

Off the Blog:

Ever had a week where you just don't feel prepared?  That was this week.  J ended up going out of town at kind of the last minute and oral surgery got moved from this coming week to this past Friday.  Throw in a heavy dose of appointments and stuff to be arranged it just seemed like a lot of running.  Add in the older kids' dentist appointment that I completely forgot about!  I've never been so grateful that Emma can drive as I was when I saw that reminder card!  I ended up having to dash up to school to drop off a note letting them check out so it didn't end up being an issue other than making me feel a little flustered.  Well, I did have to deal with the attendance person who makes me crazy.  Last time I needed Emma to check out after it was too late just to send a note with her I called and the woman told me I could email but it'd take hours for her to process it so it'd be best to just run a note up.  This time I run a note up and she gets huffy and tells me I could just email it.  AAGH!! 

The Tornado has outgrown all his pants and I ended finding jeans in the boys department instead of the baby/toddler section.  It made me want to cry a little!  The good thing is that if he's officially in the boys section it will be a lot easier to find clothes for him.  The 2 sad racks of boys clothes in the baby sections of most stores can make things challenging.  He's gotten into challenging questions lately.  On a 10 minute drive this week he asked me - How do babies get in mommies' bellies?  Is God real or pretend? and What makes something alive?  

This week looks like it's going to be much calmer.  Surgery done, Halloween stuff purchased, no more appointments.  All I have to do is survive the Tornado's questions!

On the Blog:

What Happened This Week:

Monday: Deadly Tasting- a review for a murder mystery featuring  a wine expert!
Tuesday: The Top Ten Series I Want to Start plus a feature about a WW1 era historical fiction Dance the Moon Down
Thursday: The Bone Room - Review
Friday: Link Ups with excerpts from Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Saturday: Fairy Homes and Gardens - Review

Coming Up:

Monday: The Ripper's Wife (maybe?)
Tuesday: 10 Books to get in the Halloween spirit
Wednesday:  Mission to Murder - Review
Thursday: Forbidden Ground - Review
Friday: Linkups with excerpts from my current book
Saturday: Cookbook linkup?

Happy Reading!

Fairy Homes and Gardens - Review

Fairy Homes and Gardens by Ashley Rooney and Barbara Purchia

I'm going to do this review more like a cookbook review because it's a book of photos.  There's no real written content, no plot and really you either like the topic or you don't.  If you're not a Fairy Garden person there's nothing I can say that will make you interested in this book (unless maybe how to get a fairy to give you gold or something).

That being said - I loved this book. I love miniatures and have been wanting to make my own fairy garden since seeing some on Pinterest.  So, when I saw this book come up on NetGalley I couldn't hit request fast enough.

One thing I want to be very clear on is that this is not a How-To book.  There are no laid out projects or how to turn something into something else in step by form  There's really not any suggestions for a regular reader in the book itself.

There are, however, pictures.  Tons of pictures.  Glorious pictures.  There are pictures of beautiful detailed fairy gardens in tree stumps, flower pots, bird cages, chairs, and anything else you can think of.  There is a little caption about each paragraph - who made it, where it is, and sometimes details about the materials used. While there is no instructions there is tons of inspiration.  With all the looks and materials used there is going to be something that works for you.

My only complaint is that my eARC was in PDF form.  This is a book that should be read in print form. I'm looking forward to getting a copy and paging through all the wonderful photographs.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Linkups: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

*I want to apologize for not being around much today to visit everyone else's links.  I love seeing everyone's answers and book choices but I'm going to be having very minor surgery today and will most likely be out of it for the rest of the day.  I'm looking forward to visiting everyone hopefully tomorrow but definitely in the next few days

It's Friday!  Time to link up with Coffee Addicted Writer for Book Blogger Hop

You accidentally released ghouls from a novel and they are now running amok.  Which fictional hero (book or film) would you like to help you defeat the ghouls?

My Answer:
I haven't read many ghoul catching books other than Victoria Laurie's Ghost Hunter series and while Heath is not bad I think I'd rather hang out with the ghouls than deal with Gilley.  So, I think I"m going to go a little out of the box and pick Ty Garrison from Jill Shalvis's Lucky Harbor series book Lucky in Love.  He has some crazy military training and I'm thinking he'd be quick on his feet and good in a crisis.  Any ideas for some ghoul hunting books I need to read?

This week's book is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (I know you're shocked).  While until this point Christie had enjoyed moderate success, it was this book that made her famous.  This was the book that got everyone's attention.  Some people accused her of cheating, some people called her brilliant but everyone read it.

The Beginning:
Mrs. Ferrars died on the night of the 16th - 17th September - a Thursday.  I was sent for at eight o'clock on the morning of Friday the 17th.  There was nothing to be done.  She had been dead for some hours.

The 56 (from page 56 of my paperback):
" "No suspicious strangers been hanging about anywhere?"
"Oh!" I said suddenly.
"What is it, doctor?"
"I met a man this evening - just as I was turning out of the gate.  He asked me the way to Fernly Park." "

So what do you think?  Keep reading?