Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Stolen Marriage - Historical Fiction Review

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain (Amazon Link)

Rating: Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina, a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.
The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town’s prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her, a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he’s letting on.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes the town, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess, who has a nursing degree, bucks Henry’s wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle her husband’s mysterious behavior and save her own life?

Genre: Fiction - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:  I've seen Diane Chamberlain's books around for sometime and have always wanted to try them. 

My Impression:  This book was really beautiful.  The writing was gorgeous but not overly lyrical, the setting was brought perfectly to life and the characters were extraordinarily vivid.  It was also incredibly sad.  I've heard quite a lot about polio from my Grandmother who grew up in a small southern town in the 30s and 40s.  Entire families were decimated in a week's time with no warning.  The boy who played in a high school football game one Friday night was dead by the next Friday night.  Swimming pools were closed and people stayed in their houses hoping to protect their children from the merciless disease.  In the age of modern medicine I've always had a hard time imagining that level of helplessness and fear though the imagery was so vividly grim.  However, Chamberlain's book brought it fully to life. 

My heart broke for Tess.  She's so full of life and happiness and determination in the beginning of the timeline and we then we see her so lost and scared and empty.  She's alone in a houseful of people with no support whatsoever except for little scraps of kindness she finds in unexpected places.  But when the polio epidemic hits Tess's new home of Hickory, North Carolina the sun starts to shine again though the sky is far from cloudless. 

While there were tears in my eyes many times through out the reading of this book it was all worth it to see Tess slowly start to find herself again and stand on shaky legs.  I would have liked more hope or a twist of humor to lighten things a little but that is personal preference and not a problem with the book.  If you're looking for vivid historical fiction that brings a time period to life than this is a great choice - just have tissues nearby!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would though I think I have to be in the right mood for her books.  While they aren't especially dark there is a bit more sadness than I'm typically drawn to.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy historical fiction with fully fleshed characters I think you'd enjoy this one.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Linkups - Stalking Jack the Ripper

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Off the book topic - What is your favorite scary movie?

My Answer:
I don't really watch a lot of horror movies because they seem to be really gore-y which I don't love.  I do love a good scary movie though.  Two of my favorites are probably The Blair Witch Project (though I haven't seen it in years - I should rewatch it) and The Conjuring.

This week's book is Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco.  I've been wanting to read it since it came out last year but just never got around to it.  I decided it looked like the perfect Halloween reading!  I also love a good Jack the Ripper mystery so that makes this even more appealing.  I haven't gotten very far in this one but so far I like what I'm reading.

The Beginning:
I placed my thumb and forefinger on the icy flesh, spreading it taut above the breastbone as Uncle had showed me.

My Thoughts:
I don't feel that this Uncle guy is a particularly kindly uncle.  There's something a little creepy about the sentence.

The 56:
The murderer truly must be a madman if he thought what he was doing was helpful or righteous.  And that thought was more terrifying than any other.

My Thoughts:
I can see how fighting a murderer who thinks he's on the side of the right would be especially difficult. 

So what do you think ?  Keep reading?  What spooky reads to you have going this Halloween season?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Lona Chang - A Super Hero Detective Story Blog Tour Review

About Lona Chang

• Paperback 
• Publisher: Seventh Star Press, LLC (August 30, 2017)

 When one of the world's greatest superheroes dies in her arms, Lona Chang takes it upon herself to investigate his murder. Armed only with a power she barely understands and a mysterious coded book, Lona begins a quest for answers that leads her down a dark rabbit hole of secrets—secrets the ancient organization known as the Guild is determined to keep hidden at all costs. Meanwhile, when a new threat descends upon Arc City, Lona's soulmate (and freshly minted superhero) Awesome Jones defies the Guild, dons the cape and cowl of his father and finds a group of unlikely allies. But can Awesome trust them—or himself? He'll have to fight his own demons first if he has any hope of defending the town–and the people–he loves. As tensions rise between the Guild, Lona, Awesome, his allies and Arc City's criminal underground, Lona realizes that life, and the answers to its questions, are never as simple as they seem in comic books.

Purchase Links


My Thoughts:  I wasn't quite sure just what exactly a super hero detective story was but this was pretty fun!  This is a straight up detective story in the middle of a world with super heroes, politics, and lots of secrets.   It did take me several pages to get really pulled into the flow of the writing and the story itself.  Part of the issue may have been that I didn't read the first book in the series.  While the story itself is stand alone the world and the relationships are fairly complex.  If you enjoy mysteries and super heroes this is a series you really need to read! 

About AshleyRose Sullivan

Originally from Appalachia, AshleyRose Sullivan lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their many imaginary friends. Her work has been published in places like The Rumpus, Barrelhouse, and Monkey Bicycle and her novels, Awesome Jones: A Superhero Fairy Tale and Silver Tongue are available from Seventh Star Press. She can be found at

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Duke of Desire - Historical Romance Review

Duke of Desire (Maiden Lane Romance) by Elizabeth Hoyt (Amazon)

Rating: Good
Source:  NetGalley

Description:  Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked-and nude!-Lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him . . . only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.


Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the Lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.


Much to Raphael's irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involves herself in his life-and bed. Soon he's drawn both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael's past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael's own demons?

Genre: Romance - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:  I've been wanting to try Hoyt's Maiden Lane series for awhile because of a number of really glowing reviews so when this book came up on NetGalley I couldn't resist.

My Impression:  This was my very first book by Elizabeth Hoyt and while I had read lots of great reviews for her books I really didn't know what to expect.  While I love historical romance there can sometimes be a sameness about them.  Not all authors stand out but Hoyt is one of the ones who does.  Her writing and the world she has created in this book - and I'm assuming the series as a whole - is like no other.

This is not a love match and really Iris and Raphael barely even know each other but the marriage is necessary for Iris's survival.  I loved that while Iris doesn't blindly follow everything that Raphael tells her she also isn't so insistent on having her own way that she falls into the dreaded To Stupid To Live territory.  Raphael reminded me a bit of a classic historical romance hero.  He's such an alpha male that he's almost a stereotype and he has the whole tortured hero thing down.  However, his baggage is seriously real and he also has a softer sweeter side and is willing to actually listen and converse with her.  While he is fiercely protective of Iris (for good reason) they also develop an emotional connection that was really lovely to watch.

My main issue was the Lords of Chaos.  They are most definitely villains but I struggled with their level of debauchery and cruelty.  While the scenes aren't particularly graphic there is mention of sexual assault as well as sexual abuse on children which kept me from fully enjoying the novel as much as I would have without that.

While I did struggle with an issue in the plot of this particular book I'm in love with Hoyt's vivid characters and writing style.  This is a world I'm already looking forward to visiting again.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Definitely!  I already have a novella by Hoyt ready to go.

Would I Recommend this Book?  With reservations.  I love the couple and their connection but the level of darkness was a little difficult for me.  Just go in prepared.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

SMP - Holiday Romance Release Blitz + Review of Deck the Halls

It's that time of year again!  The time when all the wonderful holiday romances are coming out!  St. Martin's Press has so many great ones that I'm having a hard time choosing!

There's something for everyone here from historical to cowboy to small town contemporary.  I loved the first book in Emma Douglas' Cloud Bay series so A Season of You is high up on my list.  In fact there's a little something for everyone here - historical, cowboy, Scottish, and your small town contemporary.

But when I really had to make the decision of just what my first holiday romance would be the choice was obvious - Deck the Halls by Donna Alward (Amazon Link).

Alward is one of my go-to contemporary authors and the Darling, VT series has been a favorite.  And since the beginning there has been George.  We meet him as a homeless man and see his gradual transformation as he begins to get on his feet throughout the series.  But George is haunted by something and closely guarded by his secrets and I desperately wanted to know what they were.  So when I saw that George is front and center in this new novella I couldn't resist!

It was wonderful to get to know George better in this novella.  Hearing his story was heartbreaking and I enjoyed getting a better understanding of how he ended up in Darling.  It was impossible not to sympathize with Amy, the sister of George's old friend and Army buddy.   I can't imagine losing someone so close and not knowing what really happened.  I thought as friends they helped each other begin to heal.

The connection between them developed pretty quickly but I was okay with that because there was a previous connection and I think George felt obligated to answer her questions and seemed ready to take the next step.  While I believed in the connection between the two I had a hard time believing that either were really ready for romance.  They are both lovely people and I fully believe they needed each other but a full romance just didn't quite feel right.

However, I was able to ignore that issue and just really enjoy this holiday read.  After three books getting glances of George's story this was a Christmas gift from Alward to Darling, VT readers.

Next up, will probably be Hope at Christmas by Nancy Naigle (Amazon Link).  I've been wanting to read Nancy Naigle's books forever and this involves a bookstore and all kinds of holiday-goodness.  I can't wait!  What holiday reads are coming up for you?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Ramblings from the Stacks: Audio Books

While it took me a little while to get into audio books I can now admit that I'm fully in love.  They're a fantastic way to get a little extra reading in and they make tasks that I've found incredibly tedious so much more pleasant.  I thought I'd share some of my favorites and not so favorites over the past few years.

Audio Book Wins

1.  In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware read by Imogen Church - I think I would have enjoyed reading both this book and Ware's 2nd book, The Woman in Cabin 10 but Church's narration really took this book up to another level.  I know I can't have been holding my breath for the entire thing but it felt like it!  

2.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows read by Paul Boehmer, Susan Duerden, Rosalyn Landor, John Lee, and Juliet Mills - This was the first book I listened to that had multiple narrators and it was absolutely wonderful.  This book is told in a series of letters and the different voices brought it completely to life.  

3.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming read by David Tennant - I think I would have enjoyed this book in print because the story is such fun but Tennant's reading made it spectacular.  The man could probably read me a grocery list and I would sit at rapt attention but throw in an adventure story written by the creator of James Bond and it's pure magic.

4.  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline read by Wil Wheaton - I don't think I would have gotten through this one if it wasn't for Wheaton's narration.  I'm glad I did because I ended up really enjoying it.

5.  Bossypants by Tina Fey - I actually read this one first and was kind of meh on it.  I mean it was funny but it wasn't as funny as I wanted it to be.  Then I saw the audio copy was available at my library's digital site and so on a whim I gave it a try.  It was 100 times better in audio.  There were parts were I laughed until I cried. 

Audio Book Losses

1.  Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty read by Cassandra Campbell - Cassandra Campbell is one of my favorite narrators and when I saw she was reading this Middle Grade fiction that was high on my TBR list I was really excited.   Except I didn't end up really liking it.  While I love Campbell's voice something about it just didn't work for me with this story.  I'd like to continue the series but I think I'll be reading instead of listening.

2.  Faithful by Alice Hoffman read by Amber Tamblyn - I didn't dislike the audio and I really loved the book but it took me a little while to get into and I think part of my problem was with Tamblyn's narration.  While I think her voice was perfect for the main character her pacing was very slow.  Once I increased my speed to 1.25 I ended up loving the book much better.

3.  Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon  read by Bahni Turpin and Robbie Daymond - Now part of the problem here is that this book didn't really work for me (I know, I know, please don't throw anything at me) but I did have some issues with the narration that didn't help.  I love Bahni Turpin's voice but found it too old for the teenage main character.  As well it drove me crazy that Daymond's voice was used in the IMs but Turpin did a male voice when the boy talked in conversation.  This drove me crazy!  

Now I know plenty of people who loved all three of these in audio book format so I know this is purely personal preference.  Are you an audio book lover?  Any books or narrators work for you or really don't?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

This Week in Reading - October 15

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

Now that You Mention it by Kristan Higgins - I loved her last book that was more women's fiction than romance so I'm really looking forward to this one!  (Publisher)

Once Upon a Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt - I've never read Hoyt before but this novella looks to cute to pass up.  Plus, there's mistaken identity in a bookstore so that sounds pretty great.  (NetGalley)

Deja Moo by Kristen Weiss - Even if I hadn't read and enjoyed the 2 previous books in this cozy mystery series about a paranormal museum I would not have been able to resist this title! (NetGalley)

No Place Like You by Emma Douglas - I really enjoyed the first book in the Cloud Bay series and I'm excited to read this one which features a best friend's brother romance.  (Publisher)

Cowboy's Legacy by B.J. Daniels - I haven't read a cowboy romance in awhile and I enjoyed the last book I read by Daniels so I couldn't resist.  (Blog Tour)

Bel, Book and Scandal by Maggie McConnon - I read the first book in this cozy mystery series around a quirky family that runs a wedding destination manor house.  This involves a mystery from the main character's past that was referenced in the first book and I'm super excited!  (Publisher)


Reading:  The Betrayed by Heather Graham and Lona Chang by AshleyRose Sullivan

Listening:  I just finished The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan (LOVE!) and am now listening to How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell and read by David Tennant!

Watching:  Not a huge amount but my oldest and my sister-in-law talked me into watching The Voice and I'm enjoying it.  I like that they're not mean - even to the ones who don't get on the show.  

Off the Blog:

Disney was amazing!  We went to Legoland and then all the Disney World parks.  We went to Mickey's Halloween party, hung out with Storm Troopers, Chipmunks, and all kinds of other characters.  We rode all the rides and walked almost 50 miles.  It was so much fun that I hated to leave but it's good to be home in my own bed and I'm already planning my next trip. 

This weekend I'm in south Mississippi visiting my grandparents but after that I'm looking forward to being home for awhile and getting out Halloween decorations and getting back into the regular routine.  

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Ramblings from the Stacks - Audio Book Wins and Losses
Tuesday:  SMP Holiday Romance Release Blits w/ review of Deck the Halls
Wednesday: TBD
Thursday: Lorna Chang - Mystery Review
Friday: Friday Linkups with current book
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Comfort Food Diaries - Foodie Nonfiction Review

The Comfort Food Diaries: My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart by Emily Nunn (Amazon Link)

Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley

Description: One life-changing night, still reeling from her beloved brother's sudden death a few weeks earlier, Emily Nunn was dumped by her handsome architect fiancĂ© and evicted from the apartment they shared, losing in the same moment all sense of family, home, and financial security. After a few glasses of wine, heartbroken and lost, Emily—an avid cook and professional food writer—poured her heart out on Facebook. The next morning she woke up with a terrible hangover and a feeling she’d made a terrible mistake—only to discover she had more friends than she knew, many of whom invited her to come visit and cook with them while she put her life back together. Thus began the Comfort Food Tour.
Searching for a way forward, Emily travels the country, cooking and staying with relatives and friends, among them renowned chefs Mark Bittman and Ina Garten. She also travels back to revisit scenes from her dysfunctional Southern upbringing, dominated by her dramatic, unpredictable mother and her silent, disengaged father. Her wonderfully idiosyncratic aunts and uncles and cousins come to life in these pages, all part of the rich Southern story in which past and present are indistinguishable, food is a source of connection and identity, and a good story is often preferred to a not-so-pleasant truth. But truth, pleasant or not, is what Emily Nunn craves, and with it comes an acceptance of the losses she has endured, and a sense of hope for the future.

Genre: Nonfiction - Foodie

Why I Picked This Book:  I'm a sucker for a good project memoir - especially when it involves food!

My Impression:  The book starts just as Emily's life is starting to crumble.  She thought she had built the perfect cozy nest but within the first few pages the cracks are very obvious and that was before she brought up her issues with addiction.  As readers we see her at what must have been her lowest point - struggling to not just fix a broken heart but to rewrite her entire outlook on life.  A random Facebook post kick starts that journey though it takes a little while and a lot of soul searching for her to really get started. 

Not that it takes awhile to get into the food portion of the book.  Right from the beginning Nunn is describing food so clearly and so beautifully that that all I want to do is grab a fork and dive in to Ezra Pound Cake, or pizza with Toni's Tomato Sauce.  Her descriptions make things that I don't even like sound appealing - I've never once craved a Country Ham biscuit but I'm beginning to reconsider that after several of her mentions!

Once her Comfort Food Tour really got going the food descriptions really increased (seriously - do not read this book hungry!) and the book got a bit happier though no less introspective.  I was really intrigued by the question of just what is comfort food.  It's a term we hear bandied about quite a bit but everyone's interpretation is so personal that it takes a little soul searching to really figure out your answer.  I've been thinking about it since I started the books and am still not quite sure I've really defined mine!

This is a book about self-discovery, healing, and most of all food.  Nunn's writing is incredibly honest but not overly dramatic and within the first few pages she felt like a friend.  Just be careful not to read while hungry or you might go dashing out in search of a country ham biscuit!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I really enjoyed her writing style and this book.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would!  If you like project type books or enjoyed the book Stir by Jessica Fechtor I think you'd enjoy this one.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday LInkups - In the Woods

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Who is your favorite horror/suspense author and why?

My Answer:
I don't read much horror but I love a good suspense book.  When I'm in the mood for a straight up creepy read Shirley Jackson is probably my go-to.  The Haunting of Hill House is so creepy and eerie and all of her short stories are filled with this subtle unease even though I can never put my finger on what's so terrible.  If I'm in the mood for a little lighter romantic suspense I love Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunters series.  I love how she mixes in a little history with all the ghosts and creepiness.

This week's book In the Woods by Tana French is one I've been wanting to read pretty much since I started blogging.  For some reason Tana French never landed on my radar before then but once she did I heard nothing but raves.  Finally after far too long I'm reading her first book and am loving it!  I'm not finding it to be the fastest paced thriller but the story is all kinds of creepy and definitely pulls me in.

The Beginning:
Picture a summer stolen whole from some coming-of-age film set in small town 1950s.  This is none of Ireland's subtle seasons mixed for a connoisseur's palate, watercolor nuances within a pinch-sized range of cloud and soft rain; this is summer full-throated and extravagant in a hot pure silkscreen blue.

My Thoughts:
This creates quite the picture of the perfect summer day.  I wonder how much is real and how much is just romanticizing a memory.

The 56:
Nobody remembered the Tracksuit Shadow, either, which reinforced my suspicion that he had been either some perfectly normal guy from the estate out for a walk, or else Damien's imaginary friend.  You get people like this in every investigation, people who end up wasting huge amounts of your time with their compulsion to say whatever they think you want to hear.

My Thoughts:
I can imagine how frustrating this would be for a detective involved in a very intense very high profile murder investigation.

What do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cold as Ice - Cozy Mystery Review

Cold as Ice (Country Club Murders #6) by Julie Mulhern (Amazon Link)

Rating: Loved it!
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Ellison Russell’s life resembles a rollercoaster ride. And rollercoasters make her ill. Her daughter Grace has a crush on a boy Ellison doesn’t trust and she’s taken to hosting wild parties when Ellison goes out for the evening. Worse, the bank which represents Grace’s inheritance from her father may be in trouble.

When a meeting with the chef at the country club leads to the discovery of a body, Ellison can’t afford cold feet. She must save the bank, find the killer, and convince Grace (and herself) that powerful women don’t need men to rescue them.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book: This is one of my absolute favorite cozy mystery series and I can never resist the newest one.

My Impression:  I feel like every time I review a book in this series I declare it my new favorite but this time I really mean it.  This was definitely my favorite of the series and considering how much I enjoyed all the previous books that's saying quite a lot.

The mystery was very personal to Ellison and her motives for fining out just who was the killer were stronger than just stumbling over the body.  There's also quite a lot of intrigue going on at Ellison's late husband's bank which now belongs to Ellison's daughter Grace.  Ellison is determined that Grace's inheritance from her father will not disappear.  With each book Ellison seems to be getting a little more confident and a little more capable which is really fun to see.  She's learning to figure out how to solve her own problems and channel her mother when she needs too.  There's a lot of character development here both with Ellison and Grace and I was completely pulled in.  They both feel like friends and I enjoy the time I spend with them.

The mystery isn't as front and center as I usually prefer in a mystery but it was good and well constructed.  I didn't know just who the killer was until the very end - though I did have a guess or two.  I would have liked more explanation into the some of the motives but I was satisfied with the wrap up.  This kept me reading far later than I intended because I had to know what happened and I didn't want my time with Ellison or Grace to end.  This read was a complete delight!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Yes!  I can't wait for the next one!

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you are a mystery fan you really must try this series.  I don't think you would be disappointed.  While I do think you could start here without too much trouble I think it would be even better to go back to the beginning so you can get to know all the characters.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Quackery - Nonfiction Review

Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen (Amazon Link)

Rating: Good
Source: NetGalley

Description: Discover 67 shocking-but-true medical misfires that run the gamut from bizarre to deadly. Like when doctors prescribed morphine for crying infants. When snorting skull moss was a cure for a bloody nose. When consuming mail-order tapeworms was a latter-day fad diet. Or when snake oil salesmen peddled strychnine (used in rat poison) as an aphrodisiac in the '60s. Seamlessly combining macabre humor with hard science and compelling storytelling, Quackery is a visually rich and information-packed exploration of history's most outlandish cures, experiments, and scams.
A humorous book that delves into some of the wacky but true ways that humans have looked to cure their ills. Leeches, mercury, strychnine, and lobotomies are a few of the topics that explore what lengths society has gone in the search for health.

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Picked This Book:  The title caught my attention and I love looking at weird little parts of history.

My Impression:  When the first few pages of a book makes your jaw drop in disbelief I figure that's a good sign and this definitely did that!  Did you know that a compound of mercury was used as a teething remedy up until the 1920s?  Or that beer and crushed garlic was given to induce vomiting after a snake bite?  Or that radium was thought to cure "sexual indifference" in women?  Or that strychnine was given to men with the same problem?  This book is packed full of bits and pieces that had me saying "I had no idea!" and lots of things that made me happy to have been born long after the era of leeches, blistering, and tobacco disinfectant.

This isn't really a book I can imagine sitting down and reading from cover to cover but instead is a fun book to flip through.  I think it'd be fantastic to have on hand when someone in your household is sick and being a bit whiny so you could pull it out and inform them what treatment they could have gotten at an earlier time.  I imagine that would make the most cranky sick person head back to bed quietly and a bit gratefully.

While the pictures aren't particularly explicit some of the descriptions can be a bit graphic.  This isn't really a book I'd want to eat a meal while reading but it was incredibly entertaining.  This is a fun book to flip through and full of all kinds of crazy remedies that will make you glad for antibiotics and Advil.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Yes, particularly if the premise of the book was entertaining.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you have a strong stomach this book is pretty entertaining.  I also think it'd be a good gift for doctors or nurses.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Fall-ish Covers

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is all about the covers.  Fall covers to me have 2 types.  The first is all about the colors - orange, red, gold, etc - and falling leaves.  The second is spooky and Halloween-y.  I've tried to find a few of both!

The Betrayed by Heather Graham - It doesn't hurt that this book actually takes place during the fall but the spooky house and gloomy colors just scream Halloween.

Grave Errors by Carol J. Perry - This is another book that takes place around Halloween - in Salem, no less - and with the spooky cemetery, arched back cat and full moon it looks like the perfect Halloween read.

The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit - The colors on the cover just scream fall to me though the book really doesn't have much to do with the season.

Death in Abstract by Emily Barnes - If I remember right this book actually takes place during the winter but with all that fall foliage in the back the cover at least says fall.

Send in the Clowns by Julie Mulhern - Another fall foliage book and this one involves a masked figure lying in a leaf pile.  The book has a haunted house, trick or treating, and of course clowns!

Trick or Deceit by Shelley Freydont - Carved pumpkins and a spooky looking house with a purple sky! 

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson - Everything about this book is Halloween-y.  The creepy house, the bare branches and the glowing orange sky.

Cider Brook by Carla Neggers - The barn, the leaves, the title.  Really the word "cider" is enough to make me think fall.

Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie - The pumpkin, the color, the full moon and then there's the title!

A Killer Crop by Sheila Connolly - The whole cover just screams fall harvest (even without looking at the sign!).  It makes me want to sip apple cider and pick out a pumpkin.

So apparently Halloween themed covers are a strong pull for me when looking for covers that say fall.  What do you look for?  Any favorite fall covers?

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Witches Tree - Cozy Mystery Review

The Witches' Tree: An Agatha Raisin Mystery by M.C. Beaton (Amazon)

Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Cotswolds inhabitants are used to inclement weather, but the night sky is especially foggy as Rory and Molly Devere, the new vicar and his wife, drive slowly home from a dinner party in their village of Sumpton Harcourt. They strain to see the road ahead―and then suddenly brake, screeching to a halt. Right in front of them, aglow in the headlights, a body hangs from a gnarled tree at the edge of town. Margaret Darby, an elderly spinster, has been murdered―and the villagers are bewildered as to who would commit such a crime.

Agatha Raisin rises to the occasion (a little glad for the excitement, to tell the truth, after a long run of lost cats and divorces on the books). But Sumpton Harcourt is a small and private village, she finds―a place that poses more questions than answers. And when two more murders follow the first, Agatha begins to fear for her reputation―and even her life. That the village has its own coven of witches certainly doesn't make her feel any better...

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book: I love Agatha Raisin.  She drives me crazy sometimes but I can't help but love her and the mysteries are always entertaining too.

My Impression:  If I was making a list of series that I really enjoy but sadly neglect Agatha Raisin would be high on my list.  This is a series that I'd love to go back and start at the beginning.  The mystery is good and Agatha herself is flawed, at times annoying, but always herself and I can't help really liking her.  I loved how she was brought into the mystery in this one.  There's quite a lot of curiosity, a little bit of deception and a surplus of vicar's wives.

This book starts out with a mention of Agatha Christie which is always a good sign and the mystery didn't let me down.  Just who was Margaret Darby and how did she get herself in the Witches' Tree?  Agatha gets involved in what seems like a fairly tame but bizarre village mystery which quickly turns sideways when the body count starts rising and the threats start appearing.  The mystery starts with a humorous note (never base a dinner party on a dinner party held in a Miss Marple mystery) and quickly turns intriguing.  I was immediately pulled in and flew through this one all the way to the end.

Agatha Raisin has a LOT of back story - 27 books worth at this point.  However, I've never had a problem jumping in at random places in the series and this book proved no different.  While I don't know all of the history between Agatha and Charles or Agatha and many of the other characters I had no problem getting the general idea very quickly.  Beaton makes Agatha so real that I don't feel like I need to know all the ins and outs to understand her as a character. 

If you enjoy a solid mystery with a character you love but sometimes want to reach into the book and give a Gibbs-style head slap  this is a mystery for you.  This mystery is quirky, page turning, and lots of fun!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author? Absolutely!  I'd love to do a big binge read but until that happens I'll settle for reading a book in the series here and there.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy a mystery you really must try this series. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

This Week in Reading - October 8

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

This week has been Disney World week!  We actually are supposed to get back fairly late Saturday night but I'm guessing (this is written before we left) that I'm going to be tired and ready for bed and some quiet.

So next week I'll update on books gotten, read, and listened to and I'm sure sharing an overload of Disney pictures!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  The Witches Tree - Mystery Review
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday: Best Fall Covers
Wednesday: Quackery - Nonfiction Review
Thursday: Cold As Ice - Cozy Mystery Review
Friday: Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: Comfort Food Diaries - Foodie Book Review

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Key Trilogy - Contemporary Romance Review

Key of Light by Nora Roberts  - This book starts with a mysterious invitation and 3 strangers traveling to a creepy and palatial house overlooking a small town.  We quickly learn that the 3 strangers are Malory - art gallery manager, Dana - librarian, and Zoe - hairstylist.  All 3 are of similar age and are in similar situations regarding employment status and they all very much want to own their own place.  Shortly after, mysterious and gorgeous Rowena and Pitte, enter the scene and the choice for an adventurous quest is offered.  Malory, Dana, and Zoe can choose to search for 3 keys to unlock the souls of the 3 Daughters of Glass and claim 1 million dollars if they succeed or lose a year of their lives if they fail.  If they agree to the choice they will receive $25,000 immediately.  A lot of the book is spent figuring out what is real and what is myth as well as getting to know the main characters.  The three women are shortly joined by Dana's brother Flynn and his two best friends, Jordan and Brad, who both have an unexpected connection to Rowena and Pitte and the Daughters of Glass. I enjoyed seeing the relationship between the men and watching the friendship grow between the women.  While the focus of this book is on Malory and Flynn and Malory's search for the key there is some setup for the next two romantic relationships.  This is a fun read.  Watching the characters scramble to get a handle on just what is going on and what they can believe is entertaining and kept me turning pages.  As soon as I finished this one I wanted to immediately pick up the 2nd in the trilogy!

Key of Knowledge - While I enjoyed the first book in this trilogy it was the second book that earned a place on my keeper shelf.  The first part of the quest is complete and now it's time for Dana to take center stage along with her ex-boyfriend Jordan.  There's enough unresolved issues between them to sink a ship and Dana's not so sure that she wants Jordan in her life again, much less taking part in this all important quest.  There are a lot of things that I absolutely love in this book. I loved the fact that both characters are very bookish and that this is very much a second chance romance. Both Jordan and Dana are huge readers and both have built their careers in book related fields.  Dana is a librarian with aspirations to own a bookstore and Jordan is a successful author.  There discussions about books and reading were wonderful and just feel like they were written by someone who actually reads which adds a little pocket of delight.  The quest itself was a fun read - different enough from Malory's to be entertaining but still similar enough that they all fit together.  I enjoyed seeing more of Malory and Flynn and seeing Zoe and Brad start to form a relationship.  And Moe is just awesome.  I mean I don't want to own him but I want to know the person who does!  Now I can't wait to jump into the third book which is a sign of a good trilogy!

Key of Valor - Finally we come to Zoe's journey.  Zoe is a single mother from a hard background who has worked incredibly hard to get where is today.  She's smart, talented, and not exactly sure how to accept help from anyone - especially not heir to the Vane fortune and a home improvement retail empire.  But Brad isn't a spoiled rich boy but a hard worker in his own regard.  He has a vision for what he wants professionally and as soon as he meets Zoe and her son, 9 year old Simon, he has a vision of what he was in his personal life.  This book was less about Kane, the villain, and the quest in general and more about Zoe herself.  How she got to where she is now, her feelings, her decisions, and finally what she wants.  I liked the relationship between Zoe and Brad.  He's always there for her and completely believes in her but he isn't always calm and patient.  If she pokes at him he has no problem poking back which was fun.  The relationship between Brad and Simon was very special and was a nice element of the book.  The conclusion tied up all the threads from the trilogy in a very nice way and left me smiling and maybe a little teary eyed.

This was a strong trilogy where each book really held its own.  There was no story to suffer through to get to the next one and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each couple.  This is a trilogy that I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting and would really love to check back in with the characters.  Maybe Simon can get his own story one day?  I really think Nora Roberts' books from the late 1990s and early 2000s are some of her best and this trilogy is one of my favorites.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Last Christmas in Paris - Historical Fiction Review

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb (Amazon)

Rating: Loved it!
Source:   Blog Tour

Description:  August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

Genre: Historical Fiction

Why I Picked This Book: So many reasons!  World War 1, Paris, Hazel Gaynor, the cover, a final letter!  How could I resist it?

My Impression:  This is my second book by Hazel Gaynor and I was not quite sure if this book could live up to my love of The Cottingley Secret.  With its epistolary format I just didn't see how it could be quite as magical.  But it was!  The personalities come out so strong in the letters that I felt like the letter writers were real.  I could imagine Evie sitting at Will's writing desk alternately writing the letter and looking out the window.  I could see Thomas taking a break from training or taking a a little time away from his men once they got to France to dash out a letter to Evie.  I could sense Evie's frustration and forced good cheer as well as Thomas' fatigue and desperation for a connection to home.  There are a number of other letter writers.  There is Evie's brother Will as well as the occasional family member or friend and while their voices are distinct Evie and Thomas are the characters I connected with the most.

This isn't a book that I can really go on and on about but not because I didn't love it but more because in its own way it's a quiet book.  The world is falling apart around the characters and my heart hurt for them but at the same time this isn't action oriented book.  The letters catch snapshots of fear, pain, love, and hope through the perspective of the letter writer.  I became completely immersed in the world they created and I was sad when the time came to leave. 

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Yes!  I want to read more books by either Gaynor herself or this writing team right now!

Would I Recommend this Book?  Yes!  This is a wonderful read.  If you enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society I think you'd love this one.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Splintered - YA Fantasy Review

Splintered (Splintered #1) by A.G. Howard

Rating: Very Good
Source: Library (Audio)

Description:   Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

Genre: YA - Fantasy

Why I Picked This Book: I love an Alice in Wonderland retelling and the cover is so eye catching. 

My Impression: First a disclaimer - while I have read the original Alice in Wonderland I'm not a fan.  I love the Disney movie (the original) and have enjoyed some of the recent story adaptations but I'm not devoted to the original story.

Okay, that being said - that book was absolutely bonkers!  The imagery was insane and wonderful all at the same time and I loved this particular spin on the original Alice story.  Alyssa is a good narrator for this bit of madness.  She's smart and seriously motivated to get this all figured out.  She's not at all sure of herself which did get a little annoying at times but she was definitely a realistic 17 year old (minus the talking bugs and flowers of course).

This version of Wonderland is much darker than the original (not that the book version is exactly all rainbows) and there's quite a bit of danger and more than a little sadness lurking in the shadows.  The adventures are on the nail biting side and while there is a time or two that luck is a factor it's more often than not either Alyssa figuring something out or using her training.  I loved that they also refer to the original book occasionally for clues.

There's a bit of a love triangle here which is typically something I hate but it really worked here.  There's human world Jeb who has some serious baggage and whose protective attitude towards Alyssa drove me crazy frequently.  He meant well but there were times he needed to just take a breath and step away.  I did like that he was clearly on her side and proud of her accomplishments.  On the Underworld side is manipulative deceptive Morpheous whose motives are never quite clear and no one can quite trust.  He reminded me a little bit of Jack Sparrow from The Pirates of the Caribbean movies but younger and with wings and much much smarter.

There were a few pacing issues at the beginning but when the quest got going I was pulled along and really didn't want to quit listening.  I loved how this wrapped up and am super curious to see what happens next.  I've seen some complaints on how the mental health care of Alyssa's mother is represented and it definitely feels inaccurate and primitive.  However, it isn't the focus of the book and works with both the overwrought atmosphere and as a motive Alyssa's action so I felt it worked.

Audio Note:  Rebecca Gibel does the narration and she is amazing. Her voicing for Alyssa and the rest of the characters is spot on and I loved her accents.  If you have a chance to listen to this I highly recommend it.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would!  I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens next in this series and I want to try the new series by Howard as well.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy an Alice in Wonderland retelling I think you'd like this one.  I'm not a big Fantasy or YA reader but I really enjoyed this one.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sugar Pine Trail - Contemporary Romance Review

Sugar Pine Trail (Haven Point) by RaeAnne Thayne (Amazon)

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publicist

Description:  Librarian Julia Winston is ready to ditch the quiet existence she's been living. She's made a list of new things to experience, but falling for Jamie Caine, her sexy military pilot neighbor, isn't one of them. Julia's looking to conquer life, not become the heartbreaker's latest conquest. But when two young brothers wind up in Julia's care for the holidays, she'll take any help she can get—even Jamie's.
Happy to step in, Jamie reveals a side of himself that's much harder to resist. Not only is he fantastic with kids, he provides the strength Julia needs to tackle her list. She knows their temporary family can't last beyond the holidays, but the closer she gets to Jamie, the more she wonders if things could be this merry and bright forever…

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  RaeAnne Thayne writes my very favorite Christmas books so there was no way I could resist this one!  Especially not with that cover and a librarian as the main character.

My Impression:  RaeAnne Thayne's Christmas stories are usually the equivalent of a warm blanket, a cozy fire, and a nice steaming mug of hot chocolate.  Sugar Pine Trail did not let me down.  I loved Julia.  She's smart, she's interested, and she's feeling terribly alone this holiday season.  But she still doesn't want to get involved with her new lodger Jamie and doesn't really believe he'd be interested in anyway. 

Julia's been a side character for awhile and it was really good to see her have her own story.  She can be a little standoffish at times but I found it impossible not to like and sympathize with her.  My heart broke right along with hers as she begins to get involved with 2 boys who have taken refuge in the library. 

Jamie's a little easier to like but not quite as easy to connect to - especially at first.  He's a nice guy who at first glance has gotten through life on his looks and charm.  But there is more than meets the eye with him as well. 

I loved the family they created and I loved the growing bond between Julia and Jamie.  These are 4 characters that need it each other very much even if they don't always realize it and I found it impossible not to root for them. 

This was a wonderful heartwarming book with characters I loved which is really what I expect from an RaeAnne Thayne Christmas story and she has yet to let me down!  While this is part of a series you can jump in here without any problems as the story focuses almost entirely on Julia and Jamie.  There was a thread or two that didn't get quite as resolved as I would have liked but it in now way impacted my reading experience.  If you're looking for the perfect Christmas-y romance look no further!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I always look forward to a new RaeAnne Thayne book and she has a back list I'd really like to explore.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy romance that is more about the emotional bond than hot and steamy Thayne is an author you should not miss. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ten Halloween Reads that Aren't Horror

This time of year always makes me want to pull out some creepy reads or Halloween themed reads!  Here are 5 of my favorites and 5 I'm hoping to get to this year.

Five Favorites

1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson -  This gets classified as horror quite a bit which is not really fair to the book.  It's creepy and eerie and unsettling but not horror.  That being said this isn't a book I'd want to read while home by myself.

2.  The Betrayed by Heather Graham -  it only does this take place in the town where Sleepy Hollow is based around Halloween but there's also headless corpses and lots of ghosts.  There's a little bit of romance and a big dog to take the edge off.

3.  Splintered by A.G. Howard - So this really doesn't have much to do with Halloween but it's creepy and spooky and weird so that's close enough.

4.  Witch by Barbara Michaels - I love Michaels' suspense novels and this one - complete with a ghost witch is probably the spookiest.

5.  Trick or Deceit by Shelley Freydont - A murder that takes place in the middle of a haunted house competition. It's hard to get more in the Halloween spirit than that.

Five I Want to Read:

1.  We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson -  I love Shirley Jackson but somehow I've never read this book.

2.  The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings by Edgar Allan Poe - I recently read a book that figured the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe and had a number of references to his writings.  I've been wanting to do a big reread ever since and this is the perfect time of year.

3.  A Good Marriage by Stephen King - I've somehow never read Stephen King but this novella is tempting me.  Plus, I love the do you really know your spouse trope.

4.  Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco - it's Jack the Ripper - I can never resist a Jack the Ripoer book and I've heard good things about this one.

5.  Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman - So I'm not sure how Halloween-y this is but there's witches and an old house and I really just want to read more books by Alice Hoffman.

What books do you want to read this Halloween?  What are some of your favorite spooky reads?

Monday, October 2, 2017

Reviews from the Children's Section - The Enchanted Castle

One of my favorite genres and one that is the easiest for me to push aside is middle grade fiction. This year to make sure I get a little more children's and young adult fiction I thought I would designate the first Monday of every month Middle Grade Monday.  While a lot of my picks this year are classics I am trying to branch out a little bit and read new or at least recent releases.  This week's book is classic but one that I've never read or really new anything much about - The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit.

The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit - Jerry, Jimmy, and Cathy stumble upon a mysterious castle with a beautiful princess asleep in the garden. The princess is really Mabel, the housekeeper's niece, who is only pretending to be royalty. But when she shows them a secret room filled with treasure where they discover a magical ring, enchantment becomes a reality.

E. Nesbit is an author I'd always known about but somehow never read any of her stories.  One of the reasons I started to set aside this day for Middle Grade books is to make time for books like this one.  I loved the magic of this story with the little girl dressed up in a princess dress pretending to be a princess and where the lines of magic and reality start to blur.  The three children are good and well behaved but still pick on each other like regular siblings which added a delightful bit of realism.

However, despite all that I found this book a little slow going.  Despite it's age I didn't find it particularly dated except for the pacing of the story.  While the children are pretty much constantly landing in one adventure or another it wasn't a book that really drew me in.  I felt like I was just hovering on the surface of the text throughout the entire read which was disappointing and frankly it took a number of days to finish because I didn't find myself able to read very much at one time without getting distracted.

While there is nothing here I would worry about my kids reading this isn't really a book I'd recommend for children either.  As for me, I'll probably give Nesbit another try because her name does seem so synonymous with children's books but going in my expectations will be much lower.  Rating:  Just Okay