Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Murder on the Home Front - Review

Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers and Mysteries during the London Blitz by Molly Lefebure

Rating: 4 Stars

Description:  In 1941 Molly Lefebure is a young journalist who gets the opportunity to be the secretary of pathologist Dr. Keith Simpson.  What follows in an adventure through London's morgues and an interesting peek into the forensics of 1940s.

Genre: Non-Fiction

My Impression:

Pros:  Lefebure covers a variety of topics in this book from all the different deaths and crime scenes she deals with to the different attitudes of her friends regarding her job.  All of this is written about with a very matter of fact attitude, a good dose of humor and a touch of pride that she as a woman is able to hold her own in a world where women are basically unknown.  You can basically see her raising her eyebrows when she talks about the difference in her female friends' attitude about her work when they are alone or when there are men about.  I had to laugh when talked about having to hit a group of medical students in the back of the knees with her typewriter because they wouldn't get out of her way.  While the subject matter itself is pretty gruesome it doesn't feel like reading a gruesome read.  Her attitude cuts down on the shock value.  Even when she's talking about carrying a severed hand out of the morgue in a glove bag she's not focusing on the severed hand but more the irony of walking down the street carrying some a gory item in such a pretty nondescript package.

Cons: While she is a journalist Lefebure doesn't come off as a particularly polished writer.  The first couple of chapters are a bit bumpy and there are some slow parts in the book but that is often the case with nonfiction.  Some of the attitudes towards crime are dated - in particular there is a lot of sympathy regarding a case about a man who had killed his fiancee because he thought her father would end their relationship.  The sympathy to a man who killed a woman because if he couldn't have her no one else could was jarring but this was a pretty small part of the book.

Overall: When I came across this title on Netgalley I couldn't press request fast enough and was absolutely thrilled when I was approved.  While the writing is somewhat rough at times and the pace can drag a little I thought this was a fascinating book.  While the subject manner wasn't particularly unique the time period and voice are.  Definitely a good read!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Books to Read if You Like This show

It's Tuesday!  Time to link up with The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday.  This week's list took some thinking - Top 10 books if you like x show/play/movie/music.  Well I'm not a huge music fan and I have commitment issues with movies so I'm going with TV shows.  I do watch a lot of TV but as I discovered while I was trying to make this list I don't watch much of a variety of TV.  Mostly "dead body" shows as my husband calls them or cooking competitions.

TV Show: Cupcake Wars on Food Network

1.  Buttercream Bump Off by Jenn McKinlay (Review) - Cupcakes and murder and McKinlay is one of my favorite writers.  Her library series is especially good!  If you like all the Cupcake Wars than the behind the scenes bakery talk is really fun!

2.  The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue by David Sax (Review) - This one is non-fiction but it's fascinating if you love food.  Sax takes a really in depth look at food trends that I'm still quoting months after reading it.  I had no idea how much we're effected by food trends.

TV Show: Downton Abby

3.  Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen (Review)

Well pretty much any of the Royal Spyness will work for this.  You've got the whole upstairs/downstairs vibe most of it being rolled up in 1 person.  There's a little bit of mystery, a little bit of royal intrigue, a lot of worrying about social standing, dealing with relatives and figuring out how to pay for stuff when you're not able to work.

TV Show: Luther, The Bletchley Circle or pretty much any other police procedural

4. A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie

This is a fantastic mystery series.  She walks the line between being dark and gritty without being painfully so, character growth without turning soap opera-y and with only 1 exception I have loved each and every one of her books.  I love this series.  If you like mysteries and haven't read any of her books you're missing out!

TV Show: Sherlock

5. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

Another mystery series I really love. What happened if Sherlock faked his own death, moves to the middle of nowhere and falls in love with a very intelligent, strong willed, adventurous and independent young woman?  Basically he becomes a little more human and they go on adventures all over the world.  It's a fun read.

TV Show: CSI or the like

6. Body of Evidence by Patricia Cornwell
7. All That Remains by Patricia Cornwell

I was a faithful Cornwell reader for awhile but I gave up on her a long time ago and pretty much stopped reading after book #9 but these 2 still give me chills.  I"m not normally scared by books but these 2 books aren't ones I dwell on in the middle of the night if I want to get any sleep!

TV Show: Once Upon a Time

8. Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

I love this prequel to Alice in Wonderland that focuses on the Queen of Hearts.  The main negative is that this is only Volume 1 so we have to wait for the rest of the story.

TV Show:  Bates Motel

9. the Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier

So I'm straining a bit to use this one but I'm not sure I can emphasize enough what a fabulous job du Maurier did with this collection of short stories.  I've never really thought of books as being particularly scary but these are probably some of the spookiest stories I've read without being gore-y.  du Maurier has foreshadowing and building slow levels of dread down pat.

10.  Okay this is kind of cheating but if you love Agatha Christie you must watch The Wasp and the Unicorn episode of Doctor Who.  It's in season 4 and one of the few episodes featuring Donna that won't make you want to cry buckets but the very best part is that they talk in Agatha Christie titles.  Plus you can look at David Tennant and he's adorable.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Attachments - Review

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Rating: 3 Stars

Description:  Lincoln's job is to read other people's email.  He mindlessly does this issuing the required warnings until he comes across email exchanges between two women - Beth and Jennifer.  There conversations are entertaining and funny and he finds himself reading them without turning them in and looking forward to the next exchange.  When he finds himself falling for Beth he starts to realize what lines he's crossed.

Genre: Fiction

My Impression: Lately I've been doing my reviews divided in 3 parts - Pro, Con and Overall.  I don't think that's going to work with this book because my feelings aren't very clear cut about it.  I got it because Rainbow Rowell is one of those names I see everywhere and her book Eleanor & Park was on pretty much every list I've come across lately.  I guess I was expecting to be completely swept up in wonder by Attachments.  To start with it took awhile for me to be able to keep track of who Beth and Jennifer were.  Which one was the married one?  Which one was the movie reviewer?  Who was Lincoln interested in?  The emails were funny but the voices just weren't that different and the first part was mostly Instant Message so there was really no way to have character development.  I thought Lincoln was kind of an apathetic loser for quite awhile.  At about 30% completed I put the book down for about a week and it never crossed my mind which is never a good sign.  When I picked the book back up I was still thinking I didn't like it until all of a sudden I realized I did.  Lincoln getting his act together and developing a personality was kind of fun to watch.  I really enjoyed the ending.  It was a happy ending without everything being too easy.  There is some very dated tech talk (Y2K, Instant Messenger, Napster) but that didn't bother me - in some ways I thought it was kind of fun.  It reminded me of college when all that was really popular. It took me about a week to read 30% and then I read the rest in maybe 1 sitting.  While I didn't absolutely love it it was a fun read that I ended up enjoying even when I didn't expect too.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I didn't think so after reading the first part but the rest of the book convinced me to give her other books a try.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Maybe.  I wouldn't go seek this one out but if you really love Rowell or come across it somewhere it's a fun read.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Showcase Sunday - What I Got and What I Read

This week I decided to be wildly different and not only linkup with Vicky from Books, Biscuits and Tea but also show what I read.

First up is What I Got:

Answer - Not a whole lot.  I got 2 nonfiction, 1 romance and 1 mystery e-ARCs.

Secret Lives of the Tsars: Three Centuries of Autocracy, Debauchery, Betrayal, Murder and Madness from Romanov Russia by Michael Farquhar -
I have a weakness for Russian history especially Romanov history.

Food, Eating and Identity in Early Medieval England by Allen J. Frantzen
I love the idea of taking a look at how food is important in archaeological terms

Twelfth Night by Deanna Raybourn - I read her historical kind of romance last week (Review) and enjoyed it so was thrilled to get an opportunity to read one in her mystery series.

Suddenly Last Summer by Sarah Morgan - I have a friend who loves this author plus it involves a chef.  Looking forward to reading it.

What I Read -

This one is a little better.  I really wanted to participate in yesterday's read-a-thon but ended up kind of chickening out.  Next year though!

Despite not doing the read-a-thon I did get a few books read this week including:

Always on My Mind by Jill Shalvis (Review)

Zero Hour by Agatha Christie - I've got 2 more to read in the 1940s. Have mixed feelings on this one

Muzzled by Eileen Brady (Review)

Delancey by Molly Wizenberg - Review will be up May 5th

Attachment by Rainbow Rowell - Review will be up tomorrow

And Then He Kissed Her by Laura Lee Guhrke - This is basically comfort reading for me.  I picked it up when I wasn't feeling well Friday.

What I'm Reading - 

Dog Gone, Back Soon by Nick Trout

Murder on the Home Front by Molly Lefebure

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

Passionately Yours by Cara Elliott

Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow

Death Comes at the End by Agatha Christie

Peril in Paperback by Kate Carlisle

Saturday, April 26, 2014

City of Jasmine - Review

City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn

Rating:  4 Stars

Description:  It's the early 1920s and famed aviatrix and widow Evangeline "Evie" Starke gets a photograph in the mail of her late husband.  What is disturbing is this isn't a photograph she's seen.  This is her husband as with a few extra lines on her face - a man who is older but who shouldn't be older.  Desperate to find answers Evie heads to Damascus with her aunt, Lady Dove, the famous Victorian explorer and her aunt's annoying parrot.  She finds herself in the middle of an archaeological treasure hunt and a chase through the desert.  But can she trust the man who hurt her especially since he's been supposed to be dead these last 5 years?

Genre: Fiction

My Impression:
Pros:  I have read one of Raybourn's mystery novels and had been impressed with how richly detailed the background and atmosphere was.  This did not disappoint in this book,  Evie was both a fearless daredevil and a hurt vulnerable woman who was struggling to find her footing through most of the book in a way that felt natural.  This was far more of an adventure novel than a romance which to me wasn't a negative.  It felt a bit like a better plotted Indiana Jones movie in novel form.  There was some discussion on the political details in the region following World War 1 but not enough to get bogged own in details.

Cons:  I wish that Lady Dove had played a greater role in the story.  I thought she was an interesting character and she got sidelined for most of the book.  The ending felt a little rushed and messy with a time period of months being squished into less than 50 pages.  These are all pretty minor complaints and did not affect my enjoyment of the book.

Overall:  This was fun unique read.  I liked all the characters very much and loved their dash through the desert.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes there's a prequel novella that I'll probably buy today in fact!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Definitely!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Muzzled - Review

Muzzled by Eileen Brady

Rating: 3 Stars

Description:  Dr. Kate Turner is working as a temporary mobile veterinarian in upstate New York when she stumbles upon what at first appears to be a murder/suicide of 2 dog breeder clients.  When it becomes clear that all is not as it seems Kate is torn between taking care of the animals and keeping herself from becoming the primary suspect.

Genre:  Mystery

My Impression:
Pros:  This is the first book by veterinarian turned author Eileen Brady.  To be honest I expected a somewhat silly cozy mystery with (hopefully not) talking animals.  What I got was a sensible woman who thought out her actions and genuinely cared about the animals she was taking care of.  I found the information regarding her treating the animals really interesting.  While periodically her behavior did dip into busybody mode - asking too many questions from people who had no reason to answer them - it was only when the police weren't investigating.  Since she had actually found the bodies I gave that a pass.

Cons:  The pace started dragging in the middle and I got a bit restless.  I have some knowledge of the dog breeder culture having grown up with agility dogs but if this is completely unfamiliar to you all the talk of breeding and bloodlines might be confusing or seem unrealistic.

Overall Impression:  This was a strong debut novel that featured a fairly unique concept.  I don't think I've ever come across a veterinarian lead character in a mystery before.    While Kate does veer dangerously close to busybody territory this is mostly a well plotted mystery with an interesting lead character.  While I enjoyed it I'm also familiar with the dog breeder/dog show atmosphere and like dogs.  If you're in no way interested in animals than this probably isn't for you.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  Yes

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, to mystery readers who have an interest in animals.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Always on My Mind - TBR Thursday Review

My TBR shelf (okay bookcase) (okay 2 bookcases) is starting to groan and creak.  In an effort to try and relieve it a bit I decided to dedicate every Thursday to a review off my TBR shelf.  These won't be brand spanking new books though most will be on the newer side.  This week's book is a romance since I've been heavy on the mysteries lately.

Always on My Mind by Jill Shalvis

Rating: 4 Stars

Description:  Leah Sullivan is taking a break after something happens on a televised baking competition.  She's home in Lucky Harbor running her grandmother's bakery and trying to come up with an exit plan before the finale of the show.  She's not looking to complicate her life until she accidentally does just that.  It starts when the mother of an old friend comes into the bakery after a hard chemotherapy treatment and worries about her son.  Life starts getting really complicated when Leah opens her mouth to tell her that her son, Leah's old friend firefighter Jack Harper, is actually in a relationship with HER.  What happens when old friends have to pretend to be something more?  What happens when it isn't pretending anymore?

Genre: Romance

My Impression:
Pros: The friends turned something more is one of my favorite plots in a romance and add in the fact that Leah's a pastry chef and this has the makings of a perfect book for me.  Shalvis did provide a twist with this because they weren't friends who gradually ended up being more.  Jack and Leah were friends who had been ALMOST more for years.  Jack is fantastic.  He's tough, he loyal, he's dedicated and he's smart.  I loved the interaction between him, Luke and Ben.  I loved Leah's relationship with her grandmother and friends Aubrey and Ali.  The whole concept of Leah being a contestant on a baking competition show was interesting.  I'm a huge fan of cooking competition shows but I've never really thought about what happened after the show is over but before everyone knows what happened.  This was definitely a novel and interesting concept.

Cons:  I got frustrated with Leah and Jack's lack of communication. For two people who had been close friends for so long it seemed like they should be better at it or at least nicer to each other.  I wanted a longer part of time with them actually together.  Though I supposed that happens in the next book which is Aubrey's story and is also great so it's not to big of a con!

Overall Impression:  I love the way Shalvis does the Lucky Harbor series. In so many multi-book series they end up being so interconnected that it involves a chart to keep track of each couple and the couple from book #1 has the required appearance in book #10 and so on.  Shalvis has broken the Lucky Harbor series into basically sets of trilogies.  Lucille is in all the books and places from the town are the same but we don't see characters from way past books unless it makes sense to see them.  Like Sawyer from book #3 had an appearance in this book but it made sense and we didn't need to know all about his relationship with Chloe.  That being said I do recommend reading the trilogies in order - start with Ali's book before this one but read this before Aubrey's. As usual Shalvis delivers a fun interesting romance with great male characters and a fantastic ending.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Guidebook to Murder - Review

Guidebook to Murder by Lynn Cahoon

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description:  Jill Gardner is busy running her own shop and working with the Chamber of Commerce in the little town of South Cove, California.  When her elderly friend Miss Emily is found dead after receiving an odd letter threatening to condemn her home Jill is heartbroken and surprised.  Miss Emily was older but surely her health was excellent.  When an autopsy proves Jill right and the will proves that she is the heir to Miss Emily's much bigger than guessed estate Jill's busy life goes to chaotic.  Suddenly she finds herself trying to solve a murder, trying to figure out if Miss Emily had other heirs, trying to keep the city from taking away her new home, and spending way too much time with handsome but possibly married Detective Greg King.

Genre: Mystery
My Impression:
Pros:  Over the years I've probably read thousands of mysteries.  During that time I've been burned quite a few times with badly done and overly cutesy type cozies.  Luckily, this is not one of those.  I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery.  Cahoon did a good job of making Jill a part of the investigation due to her friendship with Detective King but not running around trying to figure out the murder portion by herself.  I thought Jill calling in her aunt to run the book and coffee shop was a good idea because this was already a pretty full book and adding the details to running the business on top of the mystery and the home renovations would have been way too much detail.  The murderer was a surprise which is nice and doesn't happen to me very often.

Cons: I wish Jill would've just cleared the air with Greg right after she found out he was married.  She spent the next 150 pages agonizing over it every time they were together when a simple (if awkward) question would've fixed it.

Overall:  This is a fun mystery and the start of a series with lots of potential.  The characters are interesting and for the most part likable.  I enjoyed the home renovation/art subplot in this one but also look forward to more about the bookstore and coffee shop in future books.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes - I'll be keeping my eye out for the next in the series

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Characters Who Piss Me Off

Top Ten Tuesday if a fabulous link up hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Today's topic is Top Ten Characters who piss us off, would be our BFFs, stole our heart or whatever.  I figured this would be a good time to list out all of my fiction pet peeves.  I'm going to stick with character type instead of a specific name.

1. The Idiot Cop - a common occurrence in a cozy mystery.  At least one law enforcement person involved in the investigation - generally the primary one - is woefully incompetent.  Sometimes this is because of a bias they have against the main character sometimes it's because they're just not real smart.  The only time I've come across this working is in Rhys' Bowen's Family Blood (Review).  This worked because not only was the policeman a small character but the location, time period and regional politics made both his incompetence and vindictiveness make sense.

 2. The Expert - one of the easier ones to get past but when it's badly done can be super annoying.  The main character is an expert in EVERYTHING.  Medieval literature? Know it.  Celtic ghost stories? Check.  Bio-metric based security systems?  Got it.  This is well done in Beverly Connor's Diane Fallon series but can be maddening in others.  Nancy Drew is also a culprit in this one.  I remember rereading one where Nancy just happened to know the correct name and phone number to identify the tracking number on a pigeon.

 3. The Secret Keeper - this one shows up in romance novels and it drives me crazy.  9 times out of 10 the actual secret isn't that big of a deal and would've resulted in a little spat at most if the air had been cleared early on.  A good example of this is Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas (Review) where the lead guy was completely upfront.  I loved him for it.  Another of example of this being done right but done a little differently is When the Rogue Returns by Sabrina Jeffries (Review) where secrets were kept but the reasons were doing so were so serious that it made sense.

 4. The Over Reactor - this seems to happen across the board in all fiction categories.  Your boyfriend didn't tell you he was going to be 30 minutes late?  The audacity! Your mother/sister/best friend/co worker had to cancel dinner plans for some kind of emergency?  They secretly hate you.  It's exhausting.

 5. The To Stupid To Live - I'm not sure if this character needs further explanation but they make a regular appearance in just about all fiction.   I once read a book where a woman took her small son to a confrontation with someone she knew to be a murderer without letting anyone know.  I believe this all happened while standing on a catwalk over a vat of something toxic.  I wish I was kidding.

  6. The Immature one - this ties in to the above 3 but it annoys me enough where it gets it's own mention.  Normally their actions combine all 3 into one charming temper tantrum pitching sulking supposed grownup.

7.  The Surprise Baby - as soon as unprotected sex is mentioned in a romance you know what's going to happen by the end of the book.  It has to be a really really good book or it's getting put down quick.  This isn't really a character but it's a plot twist I dislike so much it's going on the list.

 8.. The Busy Body - Unless the main character is law enforcement, a private investigator or directly involved with whatever incident happened I'm not answering their questions.  Especially if they're rude and in bad cozy mysteries they frequently are.

9.  The Mean Friend - this is a character who doesn't necessarily ruin the book.  This is generally a side character and if I'm very very lucky is limited to only a few scenes.  Anytime the main character calls this friend she's just plain mean.  Mean in a  you have a massive drug addiction so I'm going to give you tough love to scare you straight kind of way except it's directed at some minor flaw on the main character's part.  Yes she may be too nice/letting the boyfriend stick around too long/rude to her mother but really?  Must we be so hateful?

And because I can't think of a #10 here's one character I love -

10. Sir Harry Valentine from Julia Quinn's What Happened in London.  Mostly because he realized Olivia was spying on him and starting wearing strange hats just to mess with her. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Here and Now - Review

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Rating: 3 Stars

Description:  Prenna James and her community are used to living by a list of rules.  Rules that are supposed to keep them safe and keep others from finding out their secret.  Because Prenna and her group aren't from around here.  They're from another time, a time when things have gone very badly and they've come back to see if they can make the future better.  But they can't let anyone know, they can't get close to anyone and they absolutely can't fall in love.  Things begin to not look quite so black and white when Prenna falls in love with Ethan.  A regular boy from a regular family.  The more she examines the world around her the less she knows who to trust.  What if they rules that are supposed to be keeping her safe aren't doing that at all.

Genre: SciFi/YA

My Impression: 
Pros:  I liked Prenna and Ethan.  Ethan was intelligent, insightful, sensitive but willing to fight and just thoroughly nice.  Prenna was smart and somewhat cynical.  She was willing to question authority but not blindly rebellious.  Ethan and Prenna's quest to figure out what is going on and find the truth about the rules versus reality is interesting.

Cons:  While I enjoyed this book it did seem to be missing something - a certain depth of characters or environment.  I never got a clear picture of where they actually were and the action felt very rushed.  This is one of those books that you put down and say "It was good but..." but can't exactly put your finger on what it was.  For me I think the book felt a little fluffy for the seriousness of the topics and characters.

Overall Impression: This is a fast and enjoyable read but it felt like it was missing a little depth or substance.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Probably not anymore science fiction but I'll give the Traveling Pants series a try.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  To a YA reader who loves science fiction.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunday Showcase

Once again I'm linking up with Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea to list out what I got bookwise this week.  It's been another quiet week in the book acquiring line but that's not always a bad thing!  I've been getting caught up a little on my reading and am feeling less like I'm drowning in books.  When I start having daydreams involving building forts out of books and sitting in it reading it's probably a sign to stop buying books!

So here we go:

Real Books

Dancing with the Virgins by Stephen Booth - I've never read any of his before but when I came across the series it definitely looked like my kind of book.  A British police procedural with connections to an ancient monument.  I'm hoping it will prove to be as promising as the summary suggests

The Affair of the Blood Stained Egg Cosy by James Anderson - I have no memory of picking this one so I was a bit surprised when it showed up in the mail.  In involves a house party at a country house in the 1930s so I'm looking forward to it even though I don't remember choosing it!


The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride by Victoria Alexander -
I've read tons of Alexander books but I kind of gave up on her about 12 books into the Effington series.  I couldn't keep track of them even with the family tree and every character from every previous book was making cameo appearances.  It just got to be too much.  This is a new series (or at least a non-Effington series) so I'm hoping it will be a fun read.

Half Moon Harbor by Donna Kauffman - I've never read any of her work before but basically if you put a landscape on the front cover I'm in.  Also it's got an Irish main character so how could I resist?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Cottage on Juniper Ridge - Review

The Cottage on Juniper Ridge

Rating: 3 Stars

Description:  Can a book change your life?  That's the question that too busy Jen Heath and the members of the Icicle Ridge find themselves asking.  When they pick an Icicle Ridge resident's book Simplicity as their January selection they have no idea what kind of journey this will send them.  For Jen - is it possible to give up the life she can't afford and doesn't enjoy in Seattle?  Can Stacy find a way to clear out her stuff while still being able to enjoy her treasures?  Can Chita find time for herself?  Can Toni find a common ground for her family to connect on away from WiFi and cell phone service?

Genre: Fiction

My Impression:

Pros:  I love a good rebuilding your life story and Jen Heath's story is excellent.  As a character she was fun to read about - intelligent, nice and willing to really change.  Her sister and her sister's family were also good characters and they were facing problems that I think are becoming more and more of an issue to most families with dealing with all the available technology.  I also thought Stacy's journey to figuring out how to turn her love of finding treasures into something that could really work for her was interesting.  The relationship between Stacy and her husband Dean was so sweet and so supportive that it was nice to read.  The idea of having all the characters trying to find ways to simplify their very different lives was interesting and something most of us probably could do.  The overall atmosphere of the town was lovely.  Icicle Ridge definitely comes off as a town you'd want to visit.

Cons:  The romance.  I was fine with this being a very mild romance (no sex scenes) but I don't find it very romantic when one is constantly judging the other and finding them lacking.  I understand that Garrett had had a very bad experience with his ex-wife but he has so many hangups and is so harsh on Jen that I really can't see how this will be a happily ever after.  Another thing is the large number of story lines.  There are a lot of characters which if they had been left just as side characters would've been fine.  However, several are given their own story lines that end up feeling very rushed.  Charley may have had an earlier book but I don't believe Chita did and I would've loved to have a book about her and her relationship with Dr. Wolfe.

Overall:  It took me a few chapters to really get involved in this book but when I did I read it pretty much in one sitting.  I loved the parts where it was just the women and the town but disliked pretty much any of the scenes regarding Garrett.  If hadn't been for him I would've been trying to decide between 3 or 4 stars instead of 2 or 3 stars.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely.  I really enjoyed the Icicle Ridge setting.  If I come across a story that interests me I'd definitely pick it up.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Possibly but with a disclaimer regarding the romance

Friday, April 18, 2014

This Week in Reading

What I Read:

I made up for my reading fail last week by actually getting some books read this week!  It was kind of nice to get back to reading.

The Cottage on Juniper Ridge by Sheila Roberts - Review will be up tomorrow.  After a rough start I ended up enjoying this one.

Guidebook to Murder by Lynn Cahoon - Review up Wednesday

What I'm Reading:

City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn - I've read on of her mysteries in the past and enjoyed it so I was intrigued by her romance books.  This is set in the early 1920s which is also a plus.  So far so good.

Towards Zero by Agatha Christie - First one of the non-series books from the 1940s.  

I've got a few others going but none that I'm really involved enough with to say I'm actually reading.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Royal Blood - TBR Thursday Review

Since my TBR bookcase is getting a bit of out control I decided to dedicate one day a week to a review from a book off that shelf.  This was inspired by Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer after I participated in her March TBR Challenge.  Today's book is book 4 in the Royal Spyness series.  I have 5 and 6 waiting on me!

Rating:  4 Stars

Description:  Georgie (34th in line for the throne) is on her last dime when her brother Binky and his hateful wife Fig show up in London. Luckily the Queen sends her to a remote castle in Transylvania to represent the family in the wedding of Georgie's old school friend Matty.   The castle looks like something out of a horror story, Matty is found with what looks like blood dripping down her chin, a mysterious stranger is seen lurking in the castle and one night at dinner an important but hateful guest falls dead after drinking a toast.  It's up to Georgie to make sense of it all.

Genre:  Mystery

My Impression:
Pro:  This is easily one of my favorite mystery series right now.  I love the back and forth between Georgie's aristocratic background and what is expected of her against how little money she actually has.  She's a smart resourceful character without being too perfect.  I loved the different setting in this book.  The history and atmosphere of Transylvania along with some of the tensions between the local royal families was a nice little shakeup to the series.  The introduction of Queenie provides some comic relief and was an interesting look into how ladies' maids are supposed to behave (or in her case shouldn't behave).  Normally the idiot police detective is one of my pet peeves but in this case it worked very well.

Con:  I could have done without Belinda and Georgie's mother in this book.  I very rarely like her mother and Belinda came off as unusually shallow.  They seemed like unnecessary annoyances in this one.  I really want a happy ending for Georgie and I want it to come now but that's strictly my love of unrealistic happy endings.  I wish there had been a few more clues to the mystery throughout the book as the end did feel a little rushed.

Overall:  I love pretty much everything about this series - the time period (between the Wars), the characters and the royal connection.  I'm always worried every time I start a book in a series that I enjoy that the new book will disappoint.  So far Bowen has yet to disappoint.  This is a fun and unique series that stays light and entertaining without falling into the trap of being too silly.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes I have the next 3 in this series waiting for me and I'm looking forward to reading them.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Alpine Yeoman - Review

The Alpine Yeoman by Mary Daheim

Rating: 3 Stars

Description:  There's a lot going on the 25th book in Daheim's Alpine series.  Newlyweds newspaper editor Emma Lord and Sheriff Milo Dodge are adapting to being married and sorting out the differences with their respective jobs.  Two local girls have runaway in an unusually short amount of time.  When a dead body shows up near the fish hatchery everyone expects the big story to be how he got there not trying to figure out who he is.  In the middle of the chaos Deputy Sam Heppner goes missing.  There are hints and rumors flying around everywhere but no one really seems to be saying much of anything.

Genre: Mystery

My Impression: 
Pros:  I like the combination of editor and sheriff and the time devoted to them balancing their personal life and their jobs was interesting.  I also enjoyed how the primary mystery was investigated through the sheriff's office while the secondary was investigated through the newspaper.  The juxtaposition of methods was interesting.  Emma and Milo were interesting and likable though flawed.  The writing style and pacing were well done and the mystery was enjoyable.

Cons: There's a lot of back story.  Every character that shows up has at least a paragraph explaining who they are, what legal trouble they or someone they're related to has been in and if there have been any problems associated with them.  I understand in a small town you have a limited amount of characters and after 24 books everyone has been involved in one way or another but it got to be just a lot of information.  It wouldn't have been a problem except that all the previous history was still affecting that character in someway that needed to be dealt with.  While this would be true in real life it's a bit exhausting to keep up with in fiction.  There was a lot of sniping back and forth between characters and anger unrelated to the mystery itself which cluttered up the story to the point where the mystery got lost at points.  I also, and this could be purely personal as I'm a 2nd wife myself, but the constant conversations about Milo's ex-wife got to be a bit much.  They talked about her every day and almost every interaction.involved her.  Considering she doesn't even live in Alpine it just got a bit much.  Knowing that Mulehide (as they call her) can't cook rice really doesn't improve the story or flesh out any of the actual characters.

Overall:  I ended up liking this book especially in the last half when the mystery really got going.  I wish there had been less time spent of so much detail and everyone being angry and more time spent on the investigations themselves.  I enjoyed the combination of newspaper editor and sheriff and liked that they were both in roles where they could legitimately investigate.  I think an earlier book in the series before there was so much back story would've been much more enjoyable.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes - an earlier one.  I was confused enough in #25 that I think I'd need a chart to make sense of #26

Would I Recommend this Book?:  If you've been reading this series than definitely.  If you're new to Daheim than you may want to start with something else.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Top 10 Bookish (that are not books) Things I'd Like to Own

Today's Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish isn't technically about books.  It's about book related stuff.  I'm indulging my love of book related things with this list and making my dream office/reading room which will occur when I have a few empty bedrooms around here!

1.  A secret room hidden behind a bookcase - okay I probably won't have this one but if I was building a dream house it would be there!

This photo of Agatha Christie surrounded by her books - framed

3.  This sweatshirt from Out of Print sold on Modcloth

4.  This ordinary looking copy of Nancy Drew is actually a hollowed out book safe!  I found it on etsy from SecretSafe Books and they have tons of options.  I'm partial to Nancy Drew but I love the Alice in Wonderland as well.

5.  I adore this mug from LennyMud on Etsy especially since I enjoy having a cup of tea with my book

6.  Words can't describe how much I want this candle from Frostbeard on Etsy.  They have other scents like Old Books and Book Cellar as well as book inspired scents like The Shire, Trashy Romance Novel and Don't Panic (Fresh Towel Scent).  They also have non-book but still awesome inspired scents like Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey and Exterminate!.  Seriously I want one of each.

7.  It's a blanket with books on it!  It's also on sale at CafePress right now but I shall be strong.  They also have one that has what looks like a typed page of The Raven but I watched the first season (and the second but we're not talking about that) of The Following so I'm not going there.

8.  This reading chair or something like it.  I like ottomans.  I have a comfortable chair I use for reading now but when I sit kind of sideways and put my legs over the arm they eventually fall asleep.

9.  This disappearing TARDIS bookmark which actually came from this pattern.  Though first I'd have to learn how to sew.

10.  A cat who actually sits on my lap while I read.  I'm not a big cat lover but this would be nice.

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Paris Kitchen - Review

My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

Rating: 4 Stars

Description:  Ten years ago American chef David Lebovitz moved to Paris and began to study French food as it is eaten by the average French person.  This book tells the tale in both stories and recipes.

Genre: Cookbook/Food Memoir

My Impression:  I loved this book and actually more for the stories than the recipes themselves.  His basic philosophy of food which basically boils down to quality ingredients and simple methods definitely inspires my thinking while cooking.  I loved his story about a French journalist condescendingly explaining the different kinds of lettuce incorrectly.  His detailed explanation about the tools he uses and why would be helpful to any cook just starting out.  I found the look inside how regular French people eat fascinating.  I also had no idea that the French were so territorial when it came to food - who knew that Parisians didn't like food from Provence?  Many of the stories made me chuckle a bit - all were interesting. The main negative for me was that many of the recipes require a stand mixer which is not something I own and therefore makes a number of the recipes useless to me.  I was also somewhat surprised to see a decent number of Middle Eastern recipes mixed in.  He did explain the availability and popularity of certain Middle Eastern ingredients which was interesting but I was more interested in French food than food from other regions.  While some of the recipes involve ingredients that I'd either have to order or hunt for many were simple.  All of the desserts were drool worthy and I'm looking forward to trying several of them.  If you're interested in food in general, French food or French culture this is definitely a book worth reading and cooking from.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Showcase Sunday

It's time for Showcase Sunday!  This is a linkup hosted by Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea where you showcase all the books you've collected through the week.

Mine has been a pretty quiet week.  Not as quite as last week where for the first time in as long as I can remember I got no books.  I'm starting to catch up a little on my reviews which is lovely but I want new books!  This week I ended up with 3 - 1 actual and 2 e-ARCs.

Pies and Prejudice by Ellery Adams - I got this one in the mail through Paperbackswap this week.  I've read one of Adams' Books by the Bay series and while I found her writing style enjoyable I didn't like the characters.  I'm hoping this will be better.  Plus it involves books and baking so I can overlook quite a bit for those.

Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murders and Mysteries During the London Blitz by Molly Lefebure

I was really excited when this came through on Netgalley.  This is the story of a young journalist who becomes the secretary of a forensic pathologist during the war.

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt - I'm a little nervous about this one.  It looks like it could be a little angst-y and I don't particularly love angst.  I am curious to see what the older sister's secret is and the plot itself does look intriguing.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Why Cleaning has Meaning - Review

Why Cleaning has Meaning: Bringing Wellbeing Into Your Home by Linda Thomas

Rating: 2 Stars

Description:  A detailed and deeper look into cleaning.  The author explores cultural, religious and psychological reasons for cleaning other than just getting rid of dust.

Genre: Self-help 

My Impression:  I'm reasonably neat but I don't really enjoy cleaning.  My husband is a major neat freak and so I was hoping this book would inspire me to find a little more enjoyment or purpose in cleaning for his sake. While I thought a lot of the information was interesting - especially the cleaning rituals and reasons in other cultures - the book just felt cumbersome.  While I liked the basic message about cleaning being important that feels like the only message.  This leads to a lot of repetition and the feeling kind of like reading in circles.   I admire the author for her research and for the tenacity in getting her business off the ground but I didn't really enjoy the book.  It felt a little like reading someone's thesis paper.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I'd read an article by her but probably not a full length book.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  No

Friday, April 11, 2014

This Week in Reading

What I Read:

This is kind of embarrassing.  I got one book read this week.  And not only did I only get 1 book read this week it was a book that I was already pretty much finished with last Friday.

This was the last book in the 4 non series 1930s books.  It's amazing and definitely one of her best.  I know I keep saying that but every book up until we hit the 1960s is well detailed and full of tons of twists and turns.  

What I'm Reading:

This redeems the above section a little.  I'm almost done with these 4:

The Alpine Yeoman by Mary Daheim - I meant to finish this last night but I realized with about 20 pages to go that I was essentially sleep reading.  It will get finished today and the review will be up Wednesday.

The Cottage on Juniper Ridge by Sheila Roberts - currently not in love but I'm hoping it improves.  I've finally hit the point where the plot is about to take off so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares - I'm not sure if I love this one but the writing definitely grabs me.  

Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen - This is the 4th book in a very enjoyable mystery series.  I've got about 100 pages left and so far it's been as good as the previous books. Review will be up Thursday.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Agatha Christie Challenge - 1930s Non Series

I decided that this was the year I was going to read all 85 of Agatha's books in one year.  I tried in 2012 and didn't quite make it so I thought I'd do a retry.  Turns out 85 books is a lot of books especially when you're reading other things.

This is a group review for the 4 books that were published in the 1930s that aren't attached to a series.  The 30s started the maddening trend of Agatha's books having 2 titles - one from the US and one from the UK.  This makes for lots of fun when trying to collect them as sometimes the titles are anywhere close to each other and they're both available pretty much everywhere.  This led to some frustrating double buys when I was trying to collect them all at used bookstores before the internet was easily available.

Murder at Hazelmoor or The Sittaford Mystery (1931)

The premise of this book is so good.  At a dinner party in a snowbound village the guests decide to hold a seance.  During the seance it is revealed that a friend in a neighboring town has been murdered.  No one knows what to think when it is discovered to be true.  Luckily the very clever Emily Trefusis, Inspector Narracot and reporter Charles Enderby manage to unravel the puzzle.  This was a really fun read based off an unusual concept.  Emily is really the star of the book.  She's a classic Christie heroine - smart, quick on her feet, willing to take a risk and very likable.  4 Stars

Why Didn't They Ask Evans? or The Boomerang Clue (1934)

When Bobby Jones, a minister's son in a little town in Wales, is playing his usual terrible game of golf he does not expect to find a body.  So he is quite surprised to find a man who has just fallen off a path barely clinging onto life.  He has a photograph in his wallet of a beautiful girl and manages one sentence - Why Didn't They Ask Evans? before he dies.  Bobby and his friend Lady Frances Derwent begin an adventure into England to discover who the man is, who the woman in the picture is and who on earth is Evans.  This has a very similar feel to The Seven Dials Mystery but is even more full of twists and turns.  I loved this one.  4 Stars

Murder is Easy or Easy to Kill (1939)

A harmless looking little old woman makes a comment to recently returned from India Luke Fitzwilliam about it being easy to kill it sticks with him. Especially when the woman is than later killed in a hit and run and then when the man she said was going to murdered is.  Luke goes down to the little village to figure out what is going on meeting the beautiful and interesting Bridget Conway while he's there.  This one didn't grab me as much as the others.  I wasn't as interested in the characters and the mystery while unique didn't have Christie's usual flare to it.  3 Stars

And Then There Were None or Ten Little Indians (1939)

The story of 10 muderers who can't be touched by law stuck on an island and being picked off one by one is one of Christie's best.  It is original, it is entertaining and it is unlike any of her other books.  This book is much more action oriented than her other books but still maintains her very thoughtful attention to detail.  The story bounces back and forth from different perspectives giving all 10 a complete in-depth personality.  We also see their crimes, hear their side of the story and how they're living with the consequences.  There is a racial slur used a few times in an expression which dates the book a bit but I believe it's only used twice.  Other than that this book is a classic mystery perfection.   5 Stars

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Other Side of Paradise - Review

The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba by Julia Cooke

Rating: 3 Stars

Description:  This book tells the tale of how life really works in modern day Cuba particularly by looking at the country's young people.  While there is a brief history lesson and talk of politics, government and economics woven through out the book this is predominately the story of how regular people live.  With each new person we look a little deeper into a different element of Cuban life.

Genre: Non-Fiction

My Impression: It took me awhile to get involved in this book.  The first bit was kind of clunky setup that seemed to be trying to cram too much into too few pages.  Even with the first profile about a woman named Lucia I wasn't particularly involved and I almost put the book down.  I'm glad I didn't because soon after Cooke seems to hit her rhythm and the stories start to flow.  Through her new landlords we see how the real estate market works both pre and post Castro, through Sandra we take a look at the prostitution industry, through Isnael we see religion and racism and through Adrian we look at the Cuban music industry.  This continues through person after person taking a deeper look into what makes Cuba Cuba.  Despite a slow and rocky start I ended up really enjoying this book and really finding it interesting.  I think Cooke's way of exploring the different facets of Cuban culture through different profiles was a unique and effective way to get the information across.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: This isn't an author that would be an automatic read for me but I would definitely try more of her books if the subject matter interested me.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Most Unique Books

It's time for the Top Ten Tuesday linkup with The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is Top Ten unique books.  This one gave me some trouble as until recently I never read much out of my comfort zone.  Also, I tend to overthink which led to many arguments in my head over what the word "unique" really meant.

1.  And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie - This is probably one of her best known books.  It has been turned into movies and plays and copied by other authors.  It takes the basic mystery concept of a locked room murder and amplifies it.  The idea of 10 people all guilty of murder that they can't be legally charged with being stuck on and island and picked off one by one is terrifying.  The twist at the end is one of Christie's best.

2. Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie - This is the book that made Christie truly famous.  It's another take on the locked room murder with a twist that is so unexpected there was public outcry.

3.  The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keen -  With this book we meet Nancy Drew.  Before Nancy there was no adventure type character for girls.

4.  The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson (review) - The POV on this was completely different than anything I've ever read.  The story is told by teenage girl who was the daughter of a king in an unnamed Middle Eastern country.  This is her story as she, her brother and her mother flee their country after a coup and the murder of her father.  We see her deal with that, the sudden availability of media and the realization of what public opinion about her country and her father really are as well as having to fit into an American high school as a normal teenage girl.  This book is fascinating and probably stuck with me longer than any book I've ever read.

5.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynne - I've never read a book quite like this and to be honest I'm not entirely sure I want to again.  The way the story unraveled, and watching the characters become more and more flawed was very well done and not something I've seen before.

6.  Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery (review) - Of course I can't have a list without a Montgomery!  This one truly is unique due to the POV.  We first meet Rilla in Anne of Ingleside when she is born but in Rilla she is a young woman growing up as everyone she knows is swept up in World War 1.  Most novels involving war are told through soldier's or politician's eyes.  This one is told by a teenage girl stuck in a little town on a little island in Canada as everyone she knows goes off to Europe.  Many don't come back and those that do are changed forever.   I openly wept through most of this book.

7.  Mangle Street Murder by M.R.C. Kasasian (review) - This may get the award for the strangest book I've ever read.  I was expecting a British procedural and got instead a Holmesian maze of oddness.  I like that while the detective takes the main character on as a ward out of duty he has no affection for her.  At the end he has a little respect for her but they're not friends and probably never will be.  This isn't a heartwarming story but a complex mystery.

8.  The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier (review) - Books normally don't scare me.  I've read my share of pretty awful crime books (early Patricia Cornwall was a favorite) but the fear doesn't stick with me. This is a handy trick given my penchant for crime shows.  However, this book - oh my.  I will never look at birds again.  du Maurier does a fantastic job at taking an innocent, harmless everyday animal and makes it more and more terrifying.  The other stories in this collection are very good too.  du Maurier has perfected dread.

9.  Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood (review) - The MC in this book is a new type for me.  She's smart, rich, loves clothes but was also desperately poor at one point of her life.  She fits in beautifully with English aristocrats but is new enough that she has an outsider's POV.  This book also primarily takes place in Australia in the 1920s which is a first for me.

10. American Afterlife by Kate Sweeney (review) - The subject of this book is not something I've come across before.  I've read Stiff by Mary Roach and several books by former medical examiners discussing what happens to bodies or how crimes are uncovered.  This book is more about the living and how the living deal with death.  She discusses the evolution of mourning, the funeral industry and how grief is expressed historically and currently.  I haven't looked at a cemetery or roadside memorial the same since reading it.