Saturday, September 23, 2017

To Be Where You Are - Fiction Review

To Be Where You Are (A Mitford Novel) by Jan Karon (Amazon)

Rating: Good
Source: Publisher

Description:   After twelve years of wrestling with the conflicts of retirement, Father Tim Kavanagh realizes he doesn't need a steady job to prove himself. Then he's given one--but what, exactly, does it prove? Meanwhile, newly married Dooley and Lace face a crisis that empties their bank account and turns their household upside down. Is the honeymoon over? Is this where real life begins? As the Mitford Muse editor stumbles on a quick fix for marital woes and the town grocer falls in love for the first time, Father Tim and Cynthia receive an invitation to yet another family wedding.
But perhaps the bottom line is this: While a star blinks out in the Mitford firmament, another soon blinks on at Meadowgate, and four-year-old Jack Tyler looks forward to the biggest day of his life--for now and forever.
Jan Karon weaves together the everyday lives of two families, and the cast of characters that readers around the world now love like kin.

Genre:  Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I've heard of Karon's beloved Mitford series for years so I couldn't pass up the chance to read the newest release.

My Impression: After reading this one I completely understand why this series is so loved.  These characters are REAL.  They're not perfect but they're not over-flawed, they're just your regular everyday people leading their regular everyday lives and trying to do their best and I couldn't helpu but fall a bit in love with them and the town of Mitford as a whole.

I think my favorite story line involved Dooley, Lace, and Jack Tyler.  Jack Tyler is such a sweet heart though he didn't ring quite true as a 4 year old.  Their struggles take the whole "when it rains it pours" expressions to new levels - some in a literal sense - and it felt so authentic.  I enjoyed Father Tim and Cynthia's story line as well though they didn't have very much page time.  Avis, who runs The Local, started out as kind of grumpy but it didn't take me to long to develop a soft spot for him.

This book is just nice.  The characters are nice, the town is nice and it was a thoroughly nice experience reading it!  While it did take me some time to get everyone straight and Karon confused me occasionally by jumping focus without making it clear just who exactly we were focusing on.  This was probably my only issue with coming into the series so late.  However, this in no way affected my enjoyment of the read. I completely understand just why this series is so popular and I"m looking forward to visiting Mitford again soon.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would!  This is a great hot tea and a warm blanket kind of book when you're wanting something calm and sweet without being sappy and a bit of humor.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would.  This isn't a quick or action paced read but it's calming and nice and like visiting with old friends.  If you're in the mood for that than I think you'd enjoy this book.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Linkups - Splintered

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:
In regards to banned book week, what are your favorite books that have been banned or challenged?

My Answer:
Going off this list of the most commonly challenged books in the U.S. I think 2 of my favorites are The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald and Wrinkle in Time Madeline L'Engle.

This week's book is a little different from my usual reads in that I don't typically read fantasy or YA and Splintered by A.G. Howard is both.  I am, however, really enjoying it and all it's wonderful terrifying weirdness!

The Beginning:
I've been collecting bugs since I was ten; it's the only way I can stop their whispers.

My Thoughts:
This is a pretty good indication that our main character is not your run of the mill average high school student!

The 56:
"She lost it," I blurt. "Attacked me."

My Thoughts:
And another indication that all is not well - especially since the main character is talking about her mother in this one.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  What banned or challenged book is your favorite?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wicked Deeds - Romantic Suspense Review

Wicked Deeds (Krewe of Hunters) by Heather Graham (Amazon)

Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Eager to start their life together, historian Vickie Preston and Special Agent Griffin Pryce take a detour en route to their new home in Virginia and stop for a visit in Baltimore. But their romantic weekend is interrupted when a popular author is found dead in the basement of an Edgar Allan Poe-themed restaurant. Because of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the corpse, the FBI's Krewe of Hunters paranormal team is invited to investigate. As more bizarre deaths occur, Vickie and Griffin are drawn into a case that has disturbing echoes of Poe's great works, bringing the horrors of his fiction to life.
The restaurant is headquarters to scholars and fans, and any of them could be a merciless killer. Except there's also something reaching out from beyond the grave. The late, great Edgar Allan Poe himself is appearing to Vickie in dreams and visions with cryptic information about the murders. Unless they can uncover whose twisted mind is orchestrating the dramatic re-creations, Vickie and Griffin's future as a couple might never begin...

Genre: Romantic Suspense - Paranormal

Why I Picked This Book:  I can never resist a Krewe book.  I've also really come to like Vickie and Griffin and how can I resist a book where the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe visits.

My Impression: This checked so many boxes for me!  History, historical mysteries, and ghosts are all things that make me a happy reader and this had all 3 in spades.  I really enjoyed all the Poe mentions and it made me realize just how little Poe I've actually read.  I'm hoping to correct that!

It was fun to see Vickie and Griffin in action again.  They're adjusting to more of a long term relationship and to a change in dynamics as Vickie will be going to the FBI academy and Griffin is trying to treat her more as a partner than someone he needs to protect.

The book is thick with creepy atmosphere between all the Poe related mentions (and Poe himself appearing), creepy wine cellars and evil lurking in the shadows.  It made for a thoroughly enjoyable, completely Halloween-y read.  My only issue was that at times the actual mystery seemed to fall to the background as I got more wrapped up with everything else.  While, like most Krewe books, this can be read as a stand alone I think you'd enjoy it more if you started with the first book Vickie and Griffin are in - Dying Breath.

If you're looking for a book to get in the Halloween mood but are looking for creepy more than horror this is the perfect book!  One of my favorite spooky reads so far this year!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I'm glad I've got a few of the earlier Krewe books to read while I wait for the next book!

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy romantic suspense this is a great series and this mini-series involving Vickie and Griffin is one of the strongest sets.  If you're a Heather Graham fan already you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Strange Scottish Shore - Historical Fiction Review

A Strange Scottish Shore (Emmeline True Love #2) by Julianna Gray (Amazon)

Rating: Good
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Scotland, 1906. A mysterious object discovered inside an ancient castle calls Maximilian Haywood, the new Duke of Olympia, and his fellow researcher Emmeline Truelove, north to the remote Orkney Islands. No stranger to the study of anachronisms in archeological digs, Haywood is nevertheless puzzled by the artifact: a suit of clothing, which, according to family legend, once belonged to a selkie who rose from the sea in ancient times and married the castle’s first laird.
But Haywood and Truelove soon discover they’re not the only ones interested in the selkie’s strange hide, and when their mutual friend Lord Silverton vanishes in the night from an Edinburgh street, the mystery takes a dangerous turn through time, which only Haywood’s skills and Truelove’s bravery can solve…

Genre: Historical Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:   This sounded like a historical mystery with an archaeology element.

My Impression:  Well that was not what I was expecting!  Reading the blurb I was expecting a fairly straight forward historical mystery with maybe a little tough of magic.  Instead, what I got was a time travel fiction.  There's a slight problem here - I'm not a big fan of time travel fiction.  But since I recently discovered that Juliana Gray is also Beatriz Williams whose books I've really been enjoying lately, I kept reading.

I liked the characters.  Emmeline is quick on her feet, logical, but also in a bit of turmoil regarding her feelings for Silverton.  Max is less than enthused about his recent rise to dukedom, he's intensely loyal to Emmeline, as well as completely curious about just what is going on.   Silverton has the air of your typical good natured aristocratic rake but even at the beginning it's clear there is more to him and as the book goes on his character development is fascinating.

Then there's the plot.  This gets a little tricky because my issues with it are mostly personal preference.  The writing and pacing are fantastic and I think the time travel elements are very well done.  I did have some questions about the hows and whys that I don't think were fully explained though a few of the details are cleared up. I think the world building was also well done and the different time periods felt very different.   However, this wasn't the book I wanted it to be.  I loved the 1906 Scottish setting and really wanted to explore the mystery of just what was going on with the Selkie suit and this just really wasn't that.    Had I been better prepared for what it was I probably would have enjoyed it more though I'm not sure I would have requested it in the first place.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would certainly read more of this author under this name or Beatriz Williams but I probably wouldn't read more of this series.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you like time travel books or more fantasy related stories I think you'd enjoy this.  Just don't go in expecting an Edwardian mystery.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - My Fall TBR

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Fall TBR.  I LOVE this topic because I get to think about the books I want to read in whichever season.  I'm not that great at actually reading them but I do enjoy picking out books for this list!

1.  The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart - I love Agatha Christie and the rest of the classic British mystery authors but I sometimes forget about the classic mystery writers over here and Mary Roberts Rinehart was one of the best.  I read this one years and years ago but remember nothing about it so I'm looking forward to reading it again.

2.  Faithful by Alice Hoffman - Several people have recommended this one to me (LaLa I'm looking at you!) and I've been wanting to try Alice Hoffman for years so I figure this will be the one!

3.  Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas - This is a reread for me and one of my favorite contemporary series by Kleypas.  I don't do much rereading but I love it and always try to schedule one in.  Whether or not it happens has nothing to do with it!

4.  Ghost Night by Heather Graham - This is the 2nd book in a romantic suspense trilogy that's full of ghosts and set in Key West.  I read the first one and loved it and listened to the first 2 chapters of the 3rd book and loved it so I really need to read book #2 so I can go finish up book 3!

5.  The Hollow by Ransom Riggs - I read Miss Peregrine several years ago and really enjoyed it but even though it was a super fast read I haven't gone back and continued the story.  Part of the problem is that I really want to read them in print because of the photographs which means I have to go get a physical copy of the book either from the store or the library and it always slips my mind.

6.  Cold as Ice by Julie Mulhern - This is one of my absolute favorite cozy mystery series and one of the few I'm actually caught up on!

7.  Death Overdue by Allison Brook - I love coming in at the beginning of a series and this cozy mystery series involves a main character who is a librarian and that library just happens to have a ghost!

8.  Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper - I've read one Molly Harper book several years ago and always meant to read more so I jumped at the chance to review this one!

9.  Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris - The Aurora Teagarden series is a kind of cozy mystery series that Harris has recently restarted and I'm so excited because it was my favorite by her! I'm really excited to see what Aurora is up to now.

10. Dead of Winter by Wendy Corsi Staub - I read this previous book in this series about modern day Lily Dale and really enjoyed it.  I've read a little about the history of Lily Dale and it's a fascinating place so I'm looking forward to revisiting it.

What books do you want to read this fall?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ramblings from the Stacks - Knowledge Gaps

This all started when I was playing a video game version of Jeopardy with J one day.  I was killing it.  I had basically answered all the questions on history and literature and had held my own in topics involving words that start with L and another one that dealt with football.  And then came astronomy.  Now I like to think I know a little bit about quite a lot but it turns out when it comes to astronomy I know less than zero.  Seriously, not only did I not answer any of the questions but I had absolutely no clue about what the answer could be.  My mind was a blank.

It turns out astronomy is one of my knowledge gaps.  Somehow in all the years of school and reading and working in the aerospace industry and being married to someone who works in the aerospace industry I somehow have absolutely no knowledge of stars.  I know some basic facts about planets but on stars - there's nothing.

I have some others - I discovered recently that I know almost nothing about French aristocracy other than Louis XVI and my grip on Asian history is incredibly weak.  How does this happen?  And more importantly how do you fix it?  Or should you fix it? Do I really need to know the political struggles of China and Japan in the 1600s?  Should I make myself research astronomy when it's clearly a subject that doesn't particularly interest me?

What do you think?  What are your knowledge gaps?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

This Week in Reading - September 17

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:

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon -  I'm pretty excited about this one.  I really enjoyed a previous Lawhon book I've read and I'm fascinated by Russian history.  The Anastasia story is one that especially intriguing.  (NetGalley)

Chained by Eileen Brady - I read the first book in this cozy mystery series about a veterinarian but then kind of forgot about it so I'm looking forward to catching up on it.  (NetGalley)

Many a Twist by Sheila Connolly - Connolly is one of my favorite cozy mystery authors and Ireland is one of my favorite settings so I had to request the newest entry into Connolly's cozy mystery series that is set in Ireland!  (NetGalley)


Reading:  To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon and Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris

Listening:  I just got Faithful by Alice Hoffman and I'm really looking forward to it.  

Watching:  I did a "Best of" rewatch of How I Met Your Mother but J and I haven't really settled on a show to watch together.  I'm thinking we might give River on Netflix a try.  Anyone watched that one?

Off the Blog:

Friday night we took Eleanor and her husband out to the Melting Pot to celebrate their wedding.  It was a lot of fun but so much food!  It doesn't seem like much because everything is just small bites but by the end I was stuffed.

We're still dealing with the whole mailbox catastrophe.  I'm not enjoying having to pick up my mail every few days!  We're also getting quotes which I hate doing because I always feel bad about not hiring someone if I like them and it seems like they really want the job.  And there's always the fear of making the wrong decision.

We are going camping next weekend and then the week after we are heading to Disney World!  I'm so excited but I've got so many chores and errands to get done with both trips that my to do list is getting a little unmanageable!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Ramblings From the Stacks - Knowledge Gaps
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - Fall TBR
Wednesday:  A Strange Scottish Shore - Mystery Review
Thursday: Wicked Deeds - Romantic Suspense Review
Friday:  Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: To Be Where You Are - Fiction Reivew

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hallmark Cozy Mystery Movies I'm Loving

Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel has been making my heart happy lately by turning all kinds of cozy mysteries into movies!  Now since I'm chronically behind in pretty much all my reading, watching, and listening I haven't gotten around to watching all these adaptations but I thought I would share 2 I'm really enjoying and 1 that fell a little flat.  Even though some of these have been released some time ago Hallmark replays them on a regular basis so if you're interested you should have no trouble catching them.

The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries based off the series by Charlaine Harris

Movies in Order of Release:
A Bone to Pick (watched)
Real Murders (watched)
Three Bedrooms, One Corpse (watched)
The Julius House (watched)
Dead Over Heels
A Bundle of Trouble

My Thoughts:  I've watched the first 4 and have really enjoyed them.  While Harris' original series is got a little more grit and grimness than most cozies the Hallmark version has smoothed out the edges and upped the cozy factor.  Even Aurora's prickly coworker has softened though they'll never be friends.  All but the most recent movie are based (very loosely) on the books but the tone is so much lighter that if neither will spoil the other for you.  My favorite character is Martin who appears in Three Bedrooms, One Corpse though Aurora's friend Sally, the reporter, is a close second.  As well I'm in love with the concept of the Real Murders Club and have been really glad that not only does it stick around through several movies (unlike in the books) but at times they get together and discuss the case that Aurora is working on.  I want to be in that club!

This is a Hallmark movie so there's some cheesiness but the mystery has been entertaining and well done and the cast is pretty stellar which makes these a good choice for when you're in the mood for a movie and a cozy mystery at the same time.  My favorite so far is The Julius House and least favorite is A Bone to Pick.  It isn't bad but suffers a little from series setup as it's the first.  While you could jump in at any movie this series may be best watched in order as there is quite a bit of character development.

Garage Sale Mysteries based off the two books by Suzi Weinert

Movies in Order of Release:
Garage Sale Mystery (watched)
Garage Sale Mystery: All That Glitters (watched)
Garage Sale Mystery: The Deadly Room (watched)
Garage Sale Mystery: The Wedding Dress (watched)
Garage Sale Mystery: Guilty Until Proven Innocent (watched)
Garage Sale Mystery: The Novel Murders (watched)
Garage Sale Mystery: The Art of Murder
Garage Sale Mystery: The Beach Murder
Garage Sale Mystery: Murder by Text
Garage Sale Mystery: Murder Most Medieval
Garage Sale Mystery: A Case of Murder

My Thoughts:  I love this series!  I love Jennifer (Lori Laughlin) and her friend and business partner Dani (Sarah Strange) and seeing what new things they pick up for their antique store and how it manages to pull them into a murder.  They're both just nice people and I really like that Jennifer has a friendly relationship with the police department.   This series makes me want to go antique shopping while simultaneously making me want to avoid it so I don't fall over any bodies.

As usual there's a certain amount of triteness but it hasn't kept me from enjoying the movies.  There are some actor changes as the movies progress but it hasn't bothered me more than an occasional "Is that the same guy that played Jennifer's husband in the last movie?" thought.  My favorite so far is The Wedding Dress but only by a little bit and I've really enjoyed all of them so I don't have a least favorite.  I haven't read the books these are based on so I have no idea how well they connect but the movies are probably my favorite.  While these aren't one note characters there isn't much relationship development so you can jump in anywhere.

Flower Shop Mysteries based off the books by Kate Collins

Movies in Order of Release:
Flower Shop Mystery: Mum's the Word (watched)
Flower Shop Mystery: Snipped in the Bud (watched)
Flower Shop Mystery: Dearly Depotted (DNF'd)

My Thoughts:  I don't like these at all for some reason.  The 1st one was okay but I made myself watch the 2nd and finally turned the 3rd off 20 minutes into it.  The acting is good and the mysteries are pretty decent but the movies just didn't work for me.  I think the chemistry between the Abby (Brooke Shields) and Marco Salvare (Brennan Elliot) feels very forced as well as Abby coming off almost aggressively curious.  This is no reflection on the books as I haven't read them so can't say how closely these follow the books but I do love the concept and plan on reading them.  However, when it came down to it I found Brooke Shields' portrayal of the main character just a little too jarring to watch.

Have you watched any of the Hallmark cozy mysteries?  What did you think?

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Summer That Made Us - Fiction Review

The Summer that Made Us by Robyn Carr

Rating: Loved it
Source: Little Bird Publicity

Description:  That was then... For the Hempsteads, two sisters who married two brothers and had three daughters each, summers were idyllic. The women would escape the city the moment school was out to gather at the family house on Lake Waseka. The lake was a magical place, a haven where they were happy and carefree. All of their problems drifted away as the days passed in sun-dappled contentment. Until the summer that changed everything.

This is now... After an accidental drowning turned the lake house into a site of tragedy and grief, it was closed up. For good. Torn apart, none of the Hempstead women speak of what happened that summer, and relationships between them are uneasy at best to hurtful at worst. But in the face of new challenges, one woman is determined to draw her family together again, and the only way that can happen is to return to the lake and face the truth.

Genre: Fiction 

Why I Picked This Book:  It's by Robyn Carr.  How could I turn that down?

My Impression:  Sometimes a book just clicks with you and ends up being exactly what you wanted in that moment.  This was one of those books for me. For one thing this checked a lot of boxes for me.  I love ensemble casts, I love books that involve elements of the past, and I love characters that are trying to find something in their environment and within themselves and this one had all three.  The characters that this book really focuses on are Meg, Charley, and Krista.  Both Charley and Krista are really trying hard to help Meg who has stage 4 cancer and all three are trying to figure out just what went wrong that summer.  There was more than just the tragic drowning of the youngest cousin.

I typically avoid books that involve the death of a child but this one is handled in such a way that while it was sad and tragic it didn't wallow in the gut wrenching sadness of it all.  The focus was more on how that event had changed everything and was there more to it.  While I wouldn't classify this as a mystery there is some suspense as the 3 cousins probe their memories and try to reconnect and figure out how everything had gone to pieces the way it did.

There are lots of visitors to the lake house this summer.  Family members, spouses, and a character or two from the past.  They add a complexity to the book as each character means forging a new connection and making peace with the old.  There's a lot of sadness but it never felt overwrought or manipulative and there is a lot of joy and healing that balanced that out for me.  Overall, this is comfort reading at its finest.  There's heart, there's love, there's more than a little bit of drama and there are characters that I will miss now that I've put the book down.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I typically enjoy Carr's books and this was my favorite one yet.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Yes!  Even if you aren't typically a romance reader if you enjoy books involving family relationships and connections I think you'd enjoy this one.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Eight is Enough - Nonfiction Review

Eight is Enough: A Father's Memoir of Life with His Extra Large Family by Tom Braden

Rating: Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  Tom Braden had a colorful career: He parachuted into Nazi-occupied France, directed the CIA’s covert operations program during the early years of the Cold War, ran for public office, owned a newspaper, served as executive secretary for the Museum of Modern Art, and cohosted the CNN show Crossfire. He counted among his friends David Brinkley, Robert Frost, Kirk Douglas, and Nelson Rockefeller. But Braden considered fatherhood both his most important job and his biggest adventure. No wonder; he and his wife, Joan, a State Department official and Washington society hostess, raised eight children during one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.
In this diverting family memoir, Braden shares a treasure trove of amusing anecdotes—from the time his youngest daughter’s pet sheep interrupted a dinner party with a Supreme Court justice to the telegram US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sent after the birth of the Bradens’ eighth child: “Congratulations. I surrender.” (The Kennedys had seven children at the time). With wit and wisdom, Braden also addresses some of the most serious issues, including drugs, alcohol, and premarital sex, faced by parents in an era of deep distrust between generations.

When ABC proposed adapting Eight Is Enough for television, Braden found the idea so preposterous he sold the rights for one dollar. The award-winning series starring Dick Van Patten and Betty Buckley ran for five seasons and launched the Hollywood careers of many young actors, including Willie Aames and Ralph Macchio. A celebration of the joys and tribulations of fatherhood, Eight Is Enough speaks with warmth, humor, and compassion to parents and children everywhere.

Genre: Nonfiction - Memoir

Why I Picked This Book:  While I've never watched the show (my husband is still shaking his head in horror over THAT revelation) I thought this sounded really interesting.

My Impression:  This memoir is really more of a collection of essays over the course of a number of years.  This style really works for Braden's writing style and makes it possible to keep track of which kid is which.  Eight may be enough but it's also a LOT to keep track of!  Most of the stories revolve around the challenges of managing a household of eight children which led for some pretty entertaining moments.  Braden adds a lot of humor to the situation.  It's clear he loves his wife and his family but at the same time I have a feeling he spent a lot of time either tuning out the chaos or with very strained patience and rueful humor.

I think my favorite story was the one about the Braden children vs. the Kennedy children but they were all enjoyable.  This wasn't a book I flew through but one I tended to pick up and read an essay from as needed.  This is perfect travel reading, sick bed reading, or to read during the commercial breaks as you obsessively watch hurricane coverage on The Weather Channel.  I hadn't watched the show when I started reading it but I'm off to find some episodes now!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would!  I really enjoyed his writing style and his sense of humor.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Yes!  If you're looking for an entertaining memoir that allows you to dip into here and there this is perfect!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Chesapeake Bride - Contemporary Romance Review

The Chesapeake Bride (The Cheseapeake Diaries #11) by Mariah Stewart (Amazon)

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publisher

Description: Architect Cassidy Logan has sworn off good-looking adventurers. Newly divorced, she’s focused on building ecologically friendly, historically accurate homes on the Chesapeake Bay for her father’s construction company. Traveling to Cannonball Island—where there has been no new construction in nearly one hundred years—Cass is sensitive to the heritage of the island, and has come up with plans so perfect she’s determined to buy a home for herself. Even the fact that Owen Parker—a local who she dismisses as a lightweight and a player—seems to be everywhere isn’t enough to deter her from building her dream house.
Owen Parker is and always has been sinfully handsome and wickedly clever, a magnet for mischief as well as girls. He’s a rolling stone, going and doing whatever appeals to him, from flying a mail plane in Alaska, to working on a cattle ranch in Australia, a shrimp boat in Louisiana, and surfing and diving in Costa Rica. When an old friend offers him a job salvaging a sunken ship on the Chesapeake Bay, Owen gladly accepts. Something’s been telling him it was time to head home to Cannonball Island, and a job is as good an excuse as any. And he’s totally smitten by the pretty architect on the scene, but it seems he’s finally met a woman who’s immune to his charms. Sooner or later, Owen will have to face the reason why he always runs, because this time, leaving just might be harder than staying.

My Impression:  In the past I've had a bit of a complicated relationship with Mariah Stewart.  Some of her books were fantastic but some were meh.  However, I think it's time to be done with that as the last few books - including this one- have been firmly in the fantastic realm.

The romance was good though there are some strong "thou dost protest too much" elements.  Owen is definitely going to leave as soon as he finishes the job he's on.  Just ask him, he'll tell you.  Cass is quite convinced Owen is a player and anyway she has no interest in being in a relationship.  Just ask her, she'll tell you.  This can easily be overdone and fall into the irritating category but that wasn't the case here.  It just explained why they were a little reluctant to jump into a relationship.  I really liked both characters.  Cass is intelligent and committed to doing the best job she can rebuilding and selling some of the houses on Cannonball Island.  I liked that her motivations were really to do a good job and honor the history of the island and not just get ahead.  Owen is a nice guy who is committed to his family - especially his great-grandmother which was lovely to see.  He's self aware to realize that there may not be that much time left with her and is trying to figure out what to do about it.  As well, he's able to really apologize when he needs too which is also a big plus in my book.

This isn't strictly a romance.  We see a lot of the community of Cannonball Island especially which I really loved.  I loved seeing the history of the place and enjoyed the discussions on how to realistically preserve it so that the past residents won't be forgotten.  Stewart has created a world that I really enjoyed visiting and am already longing to revisit.  While some of the earlier books didn't wow me the last few have been wonderful and this is a series I'm really looking forward to continuing with!


I love the changing of the seasons—and I think summer into fall might be a favorite, being as how I relate to the whole “autumn of my years” thing. That’s how I see myself, anyway. If sixty is the new forty, I believe seventy must be the new fifty, eighty the new sixty, and so on. Therefore, I fall into that third quadrant. Don’t try to change my mind or confuse me with facts.
One of the reasons I love this time of the year: the steady influx of tourists into St. Dennis begins to wane. Not that I don’t love our visitors. Why, without them, St. Dennis would have continued to languish and would never have become the Eastern Shore mecca it now is. But there’s something sweet about having your hometown belong to you and yours again, even if it’s just for a while. I know soon enough the holidays will be upon us and many will flock to town for all the beautiful festivities—the Christmas House Tour, the weekend of caroling, the tree lighting at the square on Old St. Mary’s Church Road, Christmas at the Inn (a favorite of mine), and, oh, yes, the shopping! But this little respite between the beginning of September, when the families leave to return their offspring to school, and the holiday madness belongs to us, we old St. Dennis folk who like a little downtime.
Not to say there’s nothing going on here! There are new babies to celebrate and a special wedding on the horizon, one that makes me especially weepy. My dear nephew, Alec, will be marrying his lovely Lisbeth in an event that will be the talk of both St. Dennis and Cannonball Island for a long time to come. I’m not privy to all the details, mind you, but since my daughter, Lucy, is planning the wedding, I’ve heard bits and squeaks of what she has in mind, and it will, no doubt, be perfectly wonderful.
When we were children, Mama told us that when good folks passed, they earned a star in the heavens where they could sit and shine down on all the goings-on here on earth. Our brothers scoffed, but we girls believed her, and so it is that I know my beloved sister, Carole, will be watching happily from her star as her son marries his bride out on the point in just a few more weeks.
Thinking about the point makes me think of all the changes that are coming to Cannonball Island soon. So much, it could make your head spin! For the first time in roughly two hundred years, new dwellings will be going up on what had once been barren land. I heard from one in the know that some of the older homesteads—mostly those that have fallen into ruin or have been abandoned—will be replaced with new versions more suitable to modern living. Some are up in arms about this, but frankly, it’s about time. Those dilapidated old shells offer no shelter and, if anything, detract from the beauty of the island. My good friend Ruby Carter—the island’s matriarch—has given her blessing, and that’s good enough for me. Besides, Alec will be serving as the environmental consultant, so I feel confident that all will be well. The new homes are being designed with the island’s history in mind, so the legacy of those early settlers will be well protected. The architect is a lovely young woman who is serious about this project, so I know, eventually, all will be well.
Of course I do.
I know, too, that a certain islander with a “rolling stone” reputation will be finding his rolling days coming to a halt

before too long. It will be amusing, to say the least, to see him meet his match. Will he be bested?
The smart money’s on the new girl. That’s all I have to say about that.
And so much excitement over all the goings-on at the mouth of the river on the other side of Cannonball Island! Who knew such mysteries lay beneath the water, waiting to be discovered—and now that they have been, well, the flurry of activity these days has my poor old head spinning like an old-fashioned top. I cannot wait to see what they find, and I’m more than happy that one of the principal players is staying at the inn. Not that I’d pry, but if one overhears a snippet of conversation now and then . . . well, let’s just say it’s good to keep informed. Now, how all this is going to affect the construction that was slated to begin in November, well, I suppose everyone will have to wait and see. Could be there will be delays, which will keep the new girl around for a while longer and will keep the rolling stone on his toes.
My, what fun this will be~

Grace ~

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books I Loved During My First Year of Blogging

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is a throwback freebie so I'm doing one of their suggested topics - 10 Books I Loved During My First Year of Blogging.  Now I officially started this blog in August of 2013 but I didn't put much effort into it until 2014 so I'm looking at some of my favorites from that year.

1.  The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes and Fed Up with Fondue by David Sax - I loved this book!  There's a lot of talk about how food trends start - some organically and some structured - and how they grow as well as a look at why some things catch on and some fizzle out.  It was also incredibly readable and entertaining.

2.  The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson - This was an interesting Young Adult title where the main character is the 15 year old daughter of a deposed leader.  The family has fled the country and is essentially in hiding.  Suddenly Laila finds herself going from living in a very privileged but very controlled life to an American public school as the family struggles to adapt.

3.  When the Rogue Returns by Sabrina Jeffries - This book pretty much cemented Jeffries' status as one of my very favorite historical romance authors.  While one of my most hated plot devices in a romance is "the Secret" and secrets are the primary conflict in this book it was done so perfectly that I was instantly hooked.  This may be the one version of "the Secret" done right!

4.  Home to Seaview Key by Sherryl Woods - I loved this one!  It's a slow burn romance that focuses around older than usual romance novel characters (both MCs are in their mid to late 40s) and was just really wonderful.  I loved the world that Woods created and that the main focus of the story was the heroine finding her home again.

5.  The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier - So I've seen bits and pieces of Hitchcock's movie The Birds and was always a little underwhelmed.  I mean how scary can birds really be?  Than I read the short story that Hitchcock had based the movie off of and got my answer - really freaking scary.  The rest of the short stories in this collection are good too but The Birds is a must read.  I've never felt quit comfortable around birds ever since.

6.  Guidebook to Murder by Lynn Cahoon - This is the first book in a series that would come to be one of my favorite cozy mysteries series.  It was a great introduction with a great mystery though I spent a lot of time screaming at the MC to just ask this guy if he was actually married.  She did eventually but these book characters are not great listeners!

7.  City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn - I forgot all about this one but it was so amazing!  The setting is 1920s Damascus and the heroine is a famed aviatrix who happens to get a photograph in the mail of a man who looks just like her deceased husband.  It's quite the adventure!

8.  Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers, and Mysteries During the London Blitz by Molly Lefebure - This is the memoir of a woman who ended up being the secretary for the medical examiner in London during World War II.  She followed him around to all the crime scenes and everything.  It was absolutely fascinating.

9.  Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage by Molly Wizenberg - I loved Wizenberg's earlier book and was so excited for this one.  It was totally different but did not disappoint.  I loved seeing just how much work it takes to get a restaurant off the ground and how it affects marriage, cooking and just general life.  On a side note I will never ever ever open a restaurant.

10. The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow - I love a good historical fiction and this one was marvelous.  I can't sew but this book made me want to learn and all the talk about the sewing workshops in the castle were just fascinating.

What are some of your favorite throwback reads?

Monday, September 11, 2017

All the Secret Places - Mystery Review

All the Secret Places: A Gin Sullivan Mystery by Anna Carlisle (Amazon)

Rating: Just Okay
Source: NetGalley

Description: Gin Sullivan is back in Pittsburgh on an extended leave from her job at the Chicago medical examiner's office and rekindling an old flame with her high school sweetheart, Jake. Gin is readjusting to life at home when Jake receives harrowing news early one morning. The new housing development his construction firm is building has caught fire and underneath one of the burnt homes is a dead body. When the body is identified as a man who may very well be the violent offender who terrified Gin's childhood town years ago, the pool of suspects broadens and it becomes a greater challenge to pinpoint his killer. Gin is determined to unearth old demons, hers included, but soon finds some people will kill to keep them buried. Small town secrets cast daunting shadows in All the Secret Places, Anna Carlisle's riveting second Gin Sullivan mystery.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:  I really like that the main character is from the medical examiner's office and that this seemed to focus on an older mystery.

My Impression:  I wanted to like this one - I really really did.  I love a medical examiner MC and am always on the lookout for one since Beverly Connor seems to have stopped writing my favorite Diane Fallon series a decade ago.  This one sounded like it might fit the bill but it came up a little short.  It isn't bad - in fact I found it incredibly readable with excellent pacing but I can't say I especially enjoyed it either..

I found it to be more character driven than I like my mysteries to be and to have serious leanings towards the overwrought side.  Gin has a lot going on - she's recovering from a devastatingly personal case (book #1), trying to figure out her relationship with her parents, trying to determine what to do with her life, and navigate an increasingly complicated relationship with her former high school sweetheart/ current significant other Jake.  There's also quite a lot of business trouble for Jake and political issues between Gin, Jake and the police department who were convinced Jake committed murder in the previous book.

While the mystery itself was solid I felt like it was overshadowed by the personal drama and conflict which kept me from fully enjoying this mystery.  That said, this was an easy mystery to be pulled into.  Even when I was irritated by Gin's or one of the other character's behavior I was never tempted to put the book down and I felt invested enough that I did want to see how everything worked out.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Probably not.  While I do think there are a lot of positives in this book I don't think Carlisle is the author for me.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy a character led mystery I think you might enjoy this one.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

This Week in Reading - September 10

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:

The Silent Fountain by Victoria Fox - I know nothing about this author but I love the cover and there's crumbling villas, film stars, and all kinds of old secrets.  (NetGalley)

Deck the Halls by Donna Alward - I love Donna Alward and have always really enjoyed her Christmas stories so I couldn't turn down this novella!  (Publisher)

Hope at Christmas by Nancy Naigle - There's coming home, finding your footing again AND a bookstore in this holiday romance that looks like it's got quite a bit of heart in it.  (Publisher)

Always You by Denise Grover Swank - I've really enjoyed the first two books in this contemporary romance that's centered around weddings (though it makes me very glad I went the courthouse ceremony myself) and am excited to read this one.  (NetGalley)

Death and the Viking's Daughter by Loretta Ross - With its strong history element this cozy mystery series that's centered around a PI and an auctioneer has quickly become one of my favorites.  And this one involves a 20 year old missing person's case which has me doubly excited.  (NetGalley)


Reading:  The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr and To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon

Listening:  Finishing up Splintered by A.G. Howard.  So far it's been really good and really weird!

Watching:  I've been watching a show on Hulu called Supersizers Go which has Sue Perkins from The Great British Bake-Off except in this one she and a restaurant critic are exploring the food and general daily life of different time periods.  I just finished the 1920s and before that was The Regency Era.  This is actually a rewatch but I'm enjoying it just as much this time as the first time around.  Just don't watch it when you're eating - especially some of the older time periods.

Off the Blog:

So our drama this week was hearing a crash Friday morning and going out to find a car on top of our once large brick mailbox which is now lying on the ground.  No one was hurt and it really wasn't that big of a deal.  Their insurance will cover it and we had a nice chat while waiting for the police to get there to right the incident report.  However, after everyone had left (though I must say watching a SUV get towed off a pile of brick is pretty entertaining) we had one of those "What now?" moments.  Yes, I'm sure we'll hear from their insurance company but until then how do we get mail?  And how do you get the big pile of brick off the grass?  And just how exactly does one find a brick mason?   It's just one of those many innocuous moments that they really don't prepare you for.  My last one was when my SodaStream exploded (tip - when they say put the soda syrup in AFTER you carbonate the water they mean it).  Turns out a liter of soda can make quite a mess in high velocity spatter.  I figured we'd have to move because the mess was never going to get cleaned up.  However, it all worked out (well except for the SodaStream - that was kind of the end of that) and I'm sure this one will too.

J and the Tornado had a Boy Scout camp out this weekend so I've been home by myself except for the dog and cat who have been tormenting each other - mostly cat tormenting the dog if I'm being honest.  I'm a bit of a nervous person so any noise is automatically someone coming to kill me so I try to only watch happy non-violent shows when I'm by myself at night.  Which made me realize just how violent my TV taste is!  All but maybe one show involves murder.  I'm thinking about rewatching the Anne of Green Gables mini-series with Megan Follows.  Not much is happier than that!

Like most people my thoughts are on Florida right now.   There's so much to say and to worry about and to hope that I'm struggling for words but my thoughts and prayers are there.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  All the Secret Places - Mystery Review
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - Throwback Blogger Favorites
Wednesday:  Chesapeake Bride - Romance Review
Thursday: TBD
Friday:  The Summer That Made Us - Fiction Review
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

All Facts Considered - Nonfiction Review

All Facts Considered: The Essential Library of Inessential Knowledge by Kee Malesky (Amazon)

Rating: Good
Source: Purchased

Description:  For the bestselling miscellany market, an NPR librarian's compendium of fascinating facts on history, science, and the art.

How much water do the Great Lakes contain? Who were the first and last men killed in the Civil War? How long is a New York minute? What are the lost plays of Shakespeare? What building did Elvis leave last? Get the answers to these and countless other vexing questions in a All Facts Considered. Guaranteed to enlighten even the most seasoned trivia buff, this treasure trove of "who knew?" factoids spans a wide range of intriguing subjects.

Written by noted NPR librarian Kee Malesky, whom Scott Simon has called the "source of all human knowledge"
Answers questions on history, natural history, science, religion, language, and the arts
Packed with valuable nuggets of information, from the useful to the downright bizarre

Genre:  Nonfiction - Reference

Why I Picked This Book:  Years ago I listened to an interview with Kee Malesky and really enjoyed it so I figured I needed this book.

My Impression:  This book isn't quite what I wanted it to be.  I think I wanted more of a memoir of the experience of being the librarian in charge of digging up crazy assortments of facts - with facts included of course - but this book is much more of a reference book.  There is no personal element to it at all.

The book is divided into 3 broad categories: history, science, and art.  Each category is divided into a few more subcategories and than each subcategory has dozens of subjects with as little as a paragraph to as much as a page and half written about them.  There is a little bit about everything you could ever possibly want to know about in this book and it is one of those that I find myself opening to a random page and reading a little bit about Hometown Names, Lost Words of the Bard, or The Secret Ballot.

While this isn't a book you'd sit down and read from cover to cover it is a fun book to have around as a coffee table or guest room book.  There's bound to be something in here that everyone finds interesting.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I probably wouldn't buy another reference type book but I'd love to know more about the librarians that run all these facts down and their process.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy reference style books this is a very fun one to have around.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Something Like Happy - Fiction Review

Something Like Happy by Eva Woods (Amazon)

Rating:  Very Good
Source:  Little Bird Publicity

Description:  Annie Hebden is stuck. Stuck in her boring job, with her irritating roommate, in a life no thirty-five-year-old would want. But deep down, Annie is still mourning the terrible loss that tore a hole through the perfect existence she'd once taken for granted—and hiding away is safer than remembering what used to be. Until she meets the eccentric Polly Leonard.
Bright, bubbly, intrusive Polly is everything Annie doesn't want in a friend. But Polly is determined to finally wake Annie up to life. Because if recent events have taught Polly anything, it's that your time is too short to waste a single day—which is why she wants Annie to join her on a mission…

One hundred days. One hundred new ways to be happy. Annie's convinced it's impossible, but so is saying no to Polly. And on an unforgettable journey that will force her to open herself to new experiences—and perhaps even new love with the unlikeliest of men—Annie will slowly begin to realize that maybe, just maybe, there's still joy to be found in the world. But then it becomes clear that Polly's about to need her new friend more than ever…and Annie will have to decide once and for all whether letting others in is a risk worth taking.

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I loved The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and all the Happiness Project movements so I thought it'd be fun to see a fictionalized version of a project.

My Impression:   This wasn't an easy book.  I mean it was an easy book to connect with and an easy book to read but I don't feel the author took the easy way out on this.  These aren't happy people doing a project involving Instagram and hashtags.  There aren't magic tricks that make all their problems go away because they're remembering to smile at strangers and dance in the rain.  Annie and Polly have problems that legitimately suck.  Problems that would be too much for anyone to bear.  And at the end they still have those problems.  However, can you be happy with such opposition and can being happy make those problems a little easier to bear?

It was interesting to see the project progress and how it changed their lives.  There aren't unicorns riding rainbows and eating cotton candy at the end but there's is more laughter, more joy, more hope, and maybe a few tears.  I loved watching the project evolve and getting to know the characters.  I loved that while Annie's world especially opened up she was still very much herself.

This was a really wonderful read and just the read I needed at the moment.  It inspired me to shift my focus a little bit and focus on the positive.    This is a fantastic read if you're looking for characters you can really connect to and need your own bit of inspiration.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  This was a really great read.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy a heart felt women's fiction that doesn't get too sappy this is one not to miss.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Conspiracy in Belgravia - Historical Mystery Review

A Conspiracy in Belgravia (Lady Sherlock #2) by Sherry Thomas (Amazon)

Rating:  Very Good
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Being shunned by Society gives Charlotte Holmes the time and freedom to put her extraordinary powers of deduction to good use. As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” aided by the capable Mrs. Watson, she’s had great success helping with all manner of inquiries, but she’s not prepared for the new client who arrives at her Upper Baker Street office.
Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte’s dear friend and benefactor, wants Sherlock Holmes to find her first love, who failed to show up at their annual rendezvous. Matters of loyalty and discretion aside, the case becomes even more personal for Charlotte as the missing man is none other than Myron Finch, her illegitimate half brother.

In the meanwhile, Charlotte wrestles with a surprising proposal of marriage, a mysterious stranger woos her sister Livia, and an unidentified body that surfaces where least expected. Charlotte’s investigative prowess is challenged as never before: Can she find her brother in time—or will he, too, end up as a nameless corpse somewhere in the belly of London?

Genre: Mystery - Historical

Why I Picked This Book: I really enjoyed the first in the series and was excited to see what adventures Charlotte gets into in this book.

My Impression:  I had some issues with the first book.  It took awhile to get things setup and Charlotte isn't the easiest character to connect to.  I had hoped that these would not be problems with the second book and I was right!  This book hits the ground running and while Charlotte is still Charlotte I was thrilled to see her again.  As well, the end of the first book had raised an issue that could become a problem for Charlotte and Mrs. Watson's relationship and that had me very concerned.  However, I loved the way it was handled.  It seemed fitting to both characters and I was very relieved.

If you like your mysteries to focus on the main mystery this is probably not the book for you.  There is a LOT going on in this mystery.  There are several different cases, some connected and some not, as well as personal issues for several characters.  However, the story never felt cluttered and I was caught up in wanting to see how all the different issues worked out.  While a few threads are left open ended most are resolved by the end of the book and I was thoroughly satisfied at the end.

This is a complex and enjoyable historical mystery.  Things are not easy for Charlotte despite being able to have the career that she wants to have.  She feels an obligation to her sisters and to a lesser degree her parents to make their lives better.  As well not everyone in Charlotte's life is able to get past her scandalous past and it colors their opinion of her and her supporters.    I thought that added a more realistic element to the book and really enjoyed it.  Conspiracy in Belgravia lived up to all my expectations and hopes from the previous book and my only real complaint is that I have to wait a year for the next book!  This is a fascinating historical mystery with interesting characters and all kinds of juicy problems!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Yes!  I can't wait for the next book and I'd really like to go try some of Thomas' historical romances.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Absolutely!  If you enjoy historical mysteries like Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series I think you'd love this series.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Cherry Cake and a Cadaver - Cozy Mystery Review

Cherry Cake and a Cadaver (A Lily Gayle Lambert Mystery #2) by Susan Boles

Rating: Good
Source: Author

Description:  Lily Gayle and the gang set out to find a killer after local baker Luxen Natolovich is found dead hours before the grand opening weekend at the new Bed and Breakfast in town, Midnight Dragonfly.
As Lily Gayle deciphers the clues around Luxen's death she uncovers a conspiracy of lies and half truths that could very well be tied to a refugee camp in Mississippi during World War II.

The deeper Lily Gayle digs the deeper the consipiracy runs and the closer she comes to being the killers next victim.

Genre:  Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  The first book in the series had interested me so when I got the chance to review this one I couldn't pass it up.  Plus, I've been spending quite a lot of time in small town Mississippi (though my small town is much farther south) so I thought this sounded like fun.

My Impression:  For starters Susan Boles is my hero for mentioning the massive variety of Southern accents.  On television almost everyone from the south sounds like they're from Texas and it drives me CRAZY.  Someone from Georgia will not sound like someone from Mississippi and neither of them will sound like someone who lives on the coast.  But that really doesn't have much to do with the mystery or the book.

Luckily, the book made me just as happy as the comments about the accent.  This is just such a cute read with all kinds of quirky characters.  The murder happens a little later in the book so I had plenty of time to get to know Lily Gayle and her friends as well as getting a bit of an idea about the town.  I really loved getting to know more about the mysterious victim and it was fun to see Lily Gayle realize how little she knew about him even though he's been around all her life.

This is a super quick read and a thoroughly entertaining one.  It's on the light side and drifts over into cutesy territory a time or two but I still enjoyed the read.  It's perfect for when you're wanting a mystery but aren't looking for anything dark or grim.  This is a fun and light hearted read and not even a dead body can dim Lily Gayle's spirits or cure her nosiness!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Definitely!  This was really cute and I'd like to spend some more time with Lily Gayle and the rest of the characters.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you love a quirky cozy this is a fun read!  While this is the 2nd book in the series I think you could jump in here with no problems.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I Struggled With But Ended up Loving

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Books I Struggled with But Ended Up Loving.  This doesn't happen all that often but just enough to make DNFing a book a hard decision!  What if I give up on a book I would have loved too soon?

1.  A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas - The beginning of this one felt dry and disjointed.  There's a lot of series setup and at times it was just so slow.  I'm not sure how well I would have gotten through the book if I wasn't listening to it on audio.  Once the story gets going though I really began to enjoy it and I'm loving the 2nd book in the series.

2.  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - This is another book that I'm not sure I would have stuck with if not for the audio.  I loved Wil Wheaton's narration!  I loved the parts about the quest but when I got too real world (at least for the first half) I found myself wanting to put it down for awhile.

3.  Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty -  I actually think the audio on this one made me like this one less.  I usually love Cassandra Campbell's narration but something about her voice didn't mesh well with the story for me.  I didn't think I liked the book at all until about 2/3 of the way through but the more I've thought about it the more the book has stuck with me and I'm looking forward to reading the 2nd book.

4.  Before the Fall by Noah Hawley - I really enjoyed this book which was a little strange because I typically don't enjoy disaster books.  However, about halfway through there came a point where I was just done with all the speculation and my heart was breaking for the little boy and it was all I could do not to put this one down.  I'm glad I didn't because I really enjoyed it!

5.  The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton - Agatha Raisin is a hard character to like.  She's a horrible flirt and a schemer and there is at least one point in every book where I just can't take another minute of her.  And then something weird happens and I realize I actually like her.  She still exasperates me but in a fond way.

6.  Attachements by Rainbow Rowell - This book is told through emails for the bulk of the book and for the first third or so I was completely lost.  I couldn't keep track of who was who and I just didn't get it.  And then it clicked and I loved it!

7.  The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin - I think my problem with this book was my expectations going in.  I think I was expecting a light memoir when instead this book is far more like a self help book.  Once I got past that I ended up really enjoying this book and really got a lot out of it.

8.  Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - I like Susan Elizabeth Phillips' romances for the most part but in the first part of this one everyone was just so mean to the heroine that I was seriously annoyed with it!  It got better and I ended up really enjoying the romance but I still didn't like most of the side characters.

9.  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - This was really the first dystopian type book I ever read (It's still not really my genre) and while I really enjoyed the writing style I struggled with the aspects of the book but ended up really liking it.

10. The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah - This was the first Hercule Poirot book that Hannah wrote and I really struggled with the first half of it because it was close this was not Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and I got really caught up in the comparison.  Once I was able to let that go I did enjoy it and I really liked the 2nd book.  And I've just reminded myself I need to go check and see if there's a 3rd book!

What books did you struggle with but end up loving?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Reviews from the Children's Section - The Saturdays and The Four Story Mistake

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 month's books are kind of a mix.  I discovered The Four Story Mistake as a child and adored it but didn't know there were more books about the Melendy family until a few years ago.

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright - And so we meet the Melendy family.  There's Mona, age 13, Rush age 12, 10 year old Randy, and 6 year old Oliver.  They all live in New York City in 1939 and at the opening of the book are bored.  This prompts a brilliant idea by Randy to pool their allowances so that they can each do what they really want to do instead of having to make due with just what each child gets a week.  The only rule is they must do something fun with the money and so adventures ensue.  And the adventures are a delight.  Each child gets their turn and it was fun to see what they each wanted to do.  My favorite story was Randy's meeting with Mrs. Oliphant whom the children had deemed boring but turned out to be wonderful with a fascinating back story. There's talk of art and music and theater and there's a little bit of danger but only in the safest of ways.  That being said the rest of the book is pure joy and just so much fun.  I loved getting to know the children and going on their adventure with them.   Rating: Loved It!

The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright - The Melendys have moved to the country to live in a funny house with a cupola at the top.  I read and reread this book as a child until my copy literally fell apart.  My dream is to have a house with a cupola that I can spend the night in and read books while it's storming.  But anyway - back to the book!  While The Saturdays was essentially four short stories with some connecting bits this book is much more of an ensemble cast.  The children have their own adventures but are also frequently together.  While they do get along better than real siblings do all is not perfect which is pretty fun to see.  I particularly love the relationship between Mona and Rush - those two can drive each other crazy!  They have all kinds of fun adventures - including one that involves an alligator and one that involves a long ago mystery (needless to say - this was my favorite part).  We see more of Cuffy, housekeeper extraordinaire, and I enjoyed watching her interact with the children - especially Oliver.  While I love The Saturdays, I'm glad I was introduced to the family with this book.  It's still my favorite and has a timeless quality that I think most readers will appreciate.  Rating: Loved It!

Both of these books were published in the 1940s so there are a few terms that would get an eyebrow raise today but not so many that it takes over the book.  As a parent I do appreciate that there is some parental guidance and they do ask permission.  However, Father and Cuffy are very much background characters so the children get up to the adventures on their own which appeals to children.

I think children who enjoy adventure stories would enjoy this series - especially around the age 7 to 9.  The writing is well done and the stories are delightful but since I fell in love with the children as a child I can't really say how it translates for readers finding these books as adults (though I suspect they'd enjoy them too!).

Sunday, September 3, 2017

This Week in Reading - September 3

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:

The Chesapeake Bride by Mariah Stewart - I love Mariah Stewart and I'm excited to go back to the Chesapeake Bay series!  The early books were a little inconsistent but the more recent books have been really great!  (Publisher)

A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert - There's a librarian, a historic mountain town in Virginia AND a murder.  How could I resist.  This is a new series and a new-to-me author so I'm really looking forward to it.  (NetGalley)

Rugged Texas Cowboy by Lora Leigh - It's been awhile since I've read a cowboy romance and this book with 2 novellas sounded too good to pass up!  (Publisher)

To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon - I've heard of the Mitford series forever but have never read any of them.  I'm really looking forward to this one and am hoping it's not to confusing to jump in this late in the season.  (Publisher)


Reading:  Something Like Happy by Eva Woods and Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent

Listening:  Splintered by A.G. Howard.  

Watching:  I watched a few classics last weekend with my Grandfather.  We watched Rear Window, Vertigo, and White Heat with James Cagney.  All 3 were really good though I think Rear Window is my favorite.  With football season starting I'm thinking I'm not going to be watching much of anything else.

Off the Blog:

I've been dragging this week.  Between all of last week's traveling and all the rain we've had the last couple of days I just want to curl up and take a nap!  J and the Tornado have both been sick in the past week so I'm trying to listen to my body and get plenty of sleep so I'm not the next victim! I was heading north Monday on I-59 and passed dozens of ambulances heading south towards Houston.  It was both a heartbreaking and heartwarming sight.

J's birthday was this week and instead of presents we've decided to focus on trips so the eclipse trip was his main present and we headed down to Birmingham Saturday for a few fun things.  Other than that this weekend will be pretty quiet.  The Tornado has Monday and Tuesday off from school and I'm hoping we can all get caught up on our rest and get back to feeling 100%

We are in the final stages of Disney World planning!  I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!  The Tornado has never been and it's been years since J or I was there.  We are in countdown mode now as we leave at the end of the month!  Tickets are bought, reservations are made and now we wait!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Reviews from the Children's Section - The Saturdays and The Four Story Mistake
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - Books I Struggled with but Ended Up Loving
Wednesday:  Cherry Cake and a Cadaver - Cozy Mystery Review
Thursday:  Conspiracy in Belgravia - Historical Mystery Review
Friday:  Something Like Happy - Fiction Review
Saturday:  TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!