Monday, June 30, 2014

Jennifer, Gwyneth and Me - Review

Jennifer, Gwyneth and Me by Rachel Bertsche

Rating: 5 Star
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Want to have toned arms and legs like Jennifer Anniston?  Cook like Gwyneth Paltrow?  Dress like Sarah Jessica Parker?  Work like Tina Fey?  Writer Rachel Bertsche sets out to tackle each of these things month by month to see if trying to live like the stars (with a budget) can make her feel like she has it all together.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I loved the premise - kind of Happiness Project meets Julie and Julia but funny.  I had read a book last year that had promised this kind of mash up last year but with Martha Stewart that I ended up being really disappointed with so I was hoping this would fill that void.

My Impression:
Pros:  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I loved how Bertsche set out clear parameters for each celebrity.  Instead of jumbling them all up we have one clear chapter on Jennifer's workouts and how Bertsche implements them into her life.  She discusses budgets and time and how it makes her feel.  There's some talk about diet and she uses a cookbook from Jennifer's personal chef but the focus is clearly exercise.  The next chapter is Gwyneth where she focuses more on cooking and the cost and benefits associated with it.  She talks about other things including exercise, public perceptions and a smattering of her personal life but it all falls under the umbrella of the cooking.  This kept it where it made sense but it was still funny and interesting.  Bertsche does a good job about mixing in facts and statistics about the positives and negatives on holding celebrities up as our role models as well as talks about what goes on behind the scenes to make Angelina look so put together while she's herding 19 kids through an airport.  I loved that there was thought applied to how she developed this project.  Like would Tina Fey really stay up until 1AM working if she didn't have too?  I also loved the glimpses into Bertsche's personal life as she and her husband struggle with infertility.  They both just seem so nice.  The kind of people you'd like to go to coffee with or end up talking to for an hour when you bump into them while running errands.  It did make me think about what I was doing in my own life that I could make better.

Cons:  For once I really can't think of anything I didn't like about it this book.  I can see a possible argument being made that the subject matter is shallow but I didn't think it was.

Overall Impression: Obviously, I loved this book.  It was funny and entertaining and it made me think.  I really enjoyed her overall conclusions about balance and making celebrity life styles work in real life.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Absolutely!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

This Week in Reading - June 28

It's Sunday so it's time for the weekly wrap up with Sunday Post from Caffeinated Book Reviewer where we get to talk about what's going on, what's coming up and anything bookish and not so bookish.

What I Got:


The Hexed by Heather Graham - I read The Cursed earlier this month and really enjoyed it so I'm looking forward to the next one in this supernatural romantic suspense series.

Harbor Island by Carla Neggers - this is the 3rd of Carla Negger's books that I've read but the first one not in the Swift River Valley series.  This is a romantic suspense involving art theft and Ireland.

The Way You Look Tonight by Belle Andre - this author has been highly recommended and while I still haven't read the previous one of hers that I have I decided to go on and get this one too.

Embellished to Death by Christina Freeburn - I've been in a cozy mystery kind of mood lately and this fit right into that.  I like that there's a PI involved to keep it from being the random woman whose asking questions she has no business asking and expecting people to answer them.

That's it from NetGalley this week and while I have some requests still pending I'm going to give the request button a rest for awhile until I get caught up.  


Only one book from other sources this week and that was The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman.  I've been intrigued the premise and hooked by the stunning cover for awhile so I was really excited to get this book in a giveaway from the awesome April from Bookishly Speaking.  Can't wait to read it!


As I mentioned last week I'd just figured out how to get audiobooks from the library.  I ended up getting 3 and so far I've really been enjoying listening to them.  I've had some trouble figuring out an activity that's mindless enough I can focus on the book but still doing something so I don't get distracted.  I started with Sarah Silverman's book Bed Wetter.  I don't really care for her comedy acts but I thought a humor book might with not much of a plot might be a good way to start.  I'm not sure I'd want to read it but I enjoyed listening to it.  I've now moved onto The Great Gatsby which I've been meaning to reread for ages.  Question though - does anyone feel like audiobooks are kind of cheating towards a book count?  I listened to the entire Silverman book but I feel funny about counting it on Goodreads because I didn't actually physcially read it.  Anyone else have that issue?
Also, I discovered my library has a number of different language books so I've been teaching myself Irish this week.  It's been very entertaining.

Other Stuff:

I picked my first regular size tomato yesterday!  I was so excited to have my first BLT of the season.  So yummy!  I've got tons of cherry tomatoes that already ripe but they're not so great for sandwiches.  I do need to make a pasta salad or something with them soon though.

We bought The Lego Movie last week for the Tornado.  We saw at the theater when it came out and he loved it.  We have literally watched it everyday for a solid week.  I can basically recite the movie now and I'm kind of surprised I don't dream in Lego figures.  The good thing is he's gotten back to really playing with his Legos and it's not Yo Gabba Gabba which we had been watching.

On the Blog:

Last Week:

A review of the paranormal romantic suspense The Cursed by Heather Graham
A Top Ten Tuesday about favorite cover trends - it was really fun to see how different everyone's opinions were. 
A somewhat disappointing mystery - Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes
A fun romantic suspense with Julia Quinn's The Sum of All Kisses
Some excerpts from the newest cozy I'm reading Home for the Homicide by Jennie Bentley
A review for a gothic romance from Victoria Holt with The Secret Woman

Next Week:

The review for a really fun non-fiction - Jennifer, Gwyneth and Me by Rachel Bertsche
My top ten favorite classics though I haven't decided what genre
A Friday linkups with the blog hop question, book beginning and 56 though I can't promise that this week won't be an Agatha Christie
And at least 2 more book reviews.

What's ahead for you this week?  Happy reading!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Secret Woman - Review

The Secret Woman by Victoria Holt

Rating: 2 Stars

Source: NetGalley

Description:  Anna isn't happy as the poor relation living with her antique dealer Aunt Charlotte.  She keeps herself happy by learning all there is to know about antiques.  However when Red Stretton, the illegitimate son of Edward Crediton, shipping magnate and owner of Crediton Castle briefly enters her life she finds both joy and tragedy.  She finds herself living in the Castle with her Aunt Charlotte's former nurse, Chantal, Redvers, and the legitimate son of the Credition fortune, Rex.

Why I Picked This Book: I had read some of Victoria Holt's book in high school and college but didn't really remember much about them other than they were fairly gothic-y.  When I saw this on NetGalley I thought it'd be a fun read.

Genre: Romance

My Impression:
Pros:  The actual premise is good and the atmosphere is interesting from the Queen's House, Crediton Castle, the ship and the island.  Chantal is an interesting character despite the feeling that she's up to something.  While she might not actually make the best decisions she at least makes decisions.

Cons: It's probably a bad sign when the notes I made for the first 1/3 of the book consisted of one word - "sssllllllooooooooowwwwww".  While I liked Chantal I found Anna to not be particularly inspiring.  It wasn't that I didn't like her - I actually did.  It was more that she didn't do anything except worry and think and worry and think and swoon and then worry some more.  There were some timeline inconsistencies too.  At one point it sounds like events occurred in one order, then a story is told that has them in a different order and then later we're back to the first way.  There's lots of foreboding and foreshadowing but not much after that.

Overall Impression: I didn't dislike this book but I didn't really love it either.  In many ways I just never quite got interested in it.  While I really wanted to like this book if I had to sum up my opinion in one word unfortunately that word would be "boring".

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I'm not going to discount Holt altogether because I really did enjoy Chantal's part in the story and her ability to create exotic and dramatic settings is impressive but the premise would really have to interest me or it would have to be very highly recommended.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  No

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Linkups: Home for the Homicide

It's Friday which means I'm linking up with Coffee Addicted Writer for the book blogger hop, Rose City Reader for Book Beginning and Freda's Voice for the Friday 56.

First up the question:
Do you follow a lot of blogs that but rarely read them or follow a few you read regularly?

Can I say both?  I follow a lot of blogs on bloglovin' and I do try to read them all though time does get in the way.  There are a few that I automatically go to because I know my reading taste is similar but for the rest I'll go down the list on my feed and read any that interest me.  I wish I could read more blogs because there's so many interesting books, bookish stuff and people out there.

This week's book is the newest in the Do It Yourself Mystery series by Jennie Bentley - Home for the Homicide.  This is a fun cozy series which features textile designer turned house flipper Avery Baker and her carpenter turned boyfriend turned husband Derek.  I've really enjoyed this series.  It's not a flawless cozy but I love the restoration aspect of it and the characters are just nice.

Book Beginnings: 
"The Christ Child is gone!" Kate announced dramatically as she flung her coat over the back of a chair.
I looked up from where I was bent over a particularly stubborn piece of interior design software on the laptop.  "Excuse me?"

Friday 56:
I'm cheating a little on this one because page 56 happens when they're exploring a house and while it's interesting in context I couldn't find an excerpt that was interesting on it's own. So from page 59 (flip the 9 over and you have a 6.  Basically the same thing right?")

"I put the lid aside and grabbed my cell phone.  Got up on my knees to shine the light into the crate.  And screamed."

So what do you think?  Interested?  Also how many blogs do you follow and of those how many do you actively read?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Sum of All Kisses - TBR Review

This book was one of those that I got months ago and was really excited but then waited ages to read it.  Julia Quinn's books are always solid reads for me but the last few have been good but not amazing.  Part of it I think is that she was amazingly fresh and funny with spectacular dialogue when she came out and so she really stood out.  Now so many authors have caught up to her that while her books are still good they're not quite as groundbreaking.  Any day that involves a new Quinn is still a good day though!

The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Source: Mass Market Paperback off my Spring TBR stack

Description:  Lady Sarah Pleinsworth only hates one person.  He is the person who caused her cousin to have to flee the country and the person who caused her first season to be delayed which she meant the biggest year of eligible gentleman.  But is it possible that Hugh Prentice may not be the bad guy that she believes?  Is it possible that once she gets past all her anger that he might actually be nice? And could she possibly be falling in love?

Genre: Romance

Why I Picked This Book:  Quinn is an auto-buy for me.

My Impression:
Pros: Once again Quinn is an expert at drawing warm, likable and just plain entertaining.  I loved Sarah's sisters and cousins - especially Iris and Frances - and am already looking forward to later books.  Hugh is just plain dreamy.  He is incredibly strong and intelligent and has had to rely so completely on his own that you just want to hug him.  That being said he has a sweet side as well as we see when defends unicorns for Frances to the other girls.  I really think Sarah and Hugh work well together.  You can see the common interests and how they compliment each other.  And the ending...the last 20 pages or so were just perfect Quinn.  This is a couple you really want a happy ending for.

Cons: It took me awhile to warm up to Sarah but I did get over that pretty quick.  My primary issue was something that happened about 2/3 of the way through the book.  The reaction to the issue seems way over the top.  I can see being upset, I can see trying to find work arounds but Sarah's reaction just seemed ridiculous.  I also question how much sense the story of why Hugh is such a villian if you hadn't read the book before this one.

Overall Impression: I really enjoyed this book.  All of the negatives were things that could be overlooked and didn't ruin the book for me.  The characters are strong enough to overcome the few minor flaws.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Of course!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes though I think it might be more enjoyable if you read the book before this one.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Vertigo 42 - Review

Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes

Rating: 3 Stars

Description:  Beautiful Tess Williamson had been found dead at the bottom of a long flight of stairs in what was assumed a casualty of her spells of vertigo.  In that exact same spot 5 years before a little girl with a not so nice character had been found dead at a children's party.  Tess's death has never sat well with her husband who after many years of living with his suspicions comes to Jury hoping for answers.  With old friend Melrose Plant and assorted other friends in tow Jury goes out to solve this mystery along with the mystery of the beautiful woman in red found at the foot of a tower.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: I had devoured Grimes' earlier books when I was in college and always enjoyed her straight forward clean British police procedural.  I was excited to see what Richard Jury was up to now.

My Impression: 
Pros:  I love Richard Jury.  He's nice, he's quiet, he's smart and he's got a sly sense of humor.  He's a sucker for people who need rescuing but I'm not sure even he knows it.  If I had a book crush it'd be on him.  Melrose Plant, Jury's titled aristocratic friend who gave up his titles, is snarky and kind off the wall which provides a nice contrast to Jury's solidness.  The mysteries are both interesting and compelling and I really wanted to find out what happened in all 3 deaths.

Cons:  Reading this book felt like being at a party where you really only know one person well and are just on vague first name basis with everyone else.  I felt like I was constantly scrambling to remember who everyone was and what their relationships were.  There's a Diana, a Vivian, a Trueblood and a few other people who I kind of know.  It wouldn't have been a real issue if they'd had true parts in the book but they just periodically pop up to have random conversations at pubs so you never really get to figure out who they are again.  Both the mysteries of Tess/little girl and the woman in red are really interesting but the switching back in forth didn't work well for me.  It was annoying if they weren't connected because I thought both could stand on their own and annoying if they were connected because it would be coincidence piled upon coincidence.

Overall: I enjoy Grimes' writing.  Her primary characters are good and the mysteries are well done.  While this one didn't work for me I do want to go back and read her earlier books.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  Yes I probably would because I do enjoy her writing and I love Jury.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Probably not.  It's just a little to convoluted.  If you like good British murder mysteries give her earlier books a try though.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Cover Trends

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is cover trends we like or hate.  This took some thinking for me as while I do a lot of cover judging I don't do much thinking about it other than I like it or I don't.

Cover Trends I Love:


Houses and Buildings on the covers


Someone looking out the window or door.  I know this is crazy specific but I love the waiting it portrays.

Just part of a person - I especially like that so many romance novels are switching to this over the classic (and awful) clinch

Spooky buildings
Black and white photo

Simple and clean

The split cover 

Vintage-y looking

Stylized illustrations - love the Phrynne Fisher covers too!

What kind of covers make you happy?  What kind of cover makes it harder to pick up a book?  My least favorite are the badly done cartoons and the cliche romance half dressed couple.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Cursed - Review

The Cursed by Heather Graham

Rating: 3 Stars
Source: NetGalley Description:  Hannah O'Brien is used to ghosts being around her haunted B&B in Key West, Florida.  When a young couple is horrified to find a bloody man in the back yard she like everyone else assumes it's a ghost.  Unfortunately for everyone involved it isn't.

Genre: Romance/Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: I was intrigued by the Key West setting and I like a good ghost story.

My Impression:
Pros: I liked Hannah and how invested she was in both her home and the community itself.  The history of Key West and the treasure hunting was really interesting.  The ghost story side added an extra element of suspense and I love how Graham wound the haunted of history of Key West throughout the story with Hannah’s haunted tour.  The mystery itself was pretty good with part being pretty obvious and the other part being a surprise.  There’s a lot of back story with both Hannah’s friends on Key West and her cousin and the Krewe of Hunters at the FBI but while there may be a quick mention of it it isn’t too overdone with too much detail.  It definitely made me interested in reading the other books – especially Kelsey and Logans’s.  I liked that Dallas had a connection to Key West though 

Cons: The relationship between Hannah and Dallas developed way too fast.  He went from not quite trusting her to being willing to die for her in what felt like 20 minutes. I can understand an intense connection given the events but this was quite the switch.  Also, I did find it strange that given how small the island is and how many friends they have in common that not only had they never met but they hadn't even heard of each other. 

Overall: This was a fun ghost story/mystery and a great summer read!  I like the premise and will definitely be reading more of the series.  The romance wasn’t perfect but the book was fun enough to overlook that!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?:  Yes definitely!  I've already added the rest to my wishlist!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes - if you like ghost stories and treasure hunting this would be a fun read.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday Showcase and Post - June 22nd

Sunday means it's I'm linking up with Books, Biscuits and Tea for the Sunday Showcase and Caffeinated Book Reviewer for Sunday Post.  I'm pretty much caught up from being out of town last week and we're getting back into the summer routine. 

What I Got:


My Secret Life in Hut Six: One Woman's Experience at Bletchley Park by Mair and Gethin Russell Jones - I've been fascinated by Bletchley Park since I first heard about it ages ago.  Movies like Enigma and tv shows like Bletchley Circle haven't dimmed the fascination so I'm really looking forward to reading this title.

Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper - a landscaper, a private island with a faded-glory style mansion and ghosts make this look like a fun read!

How the Scoundrel Seduces by Sabrina Jeffries - I really loved the last book in this series and jumped at the chance to read this book.

Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History by Rhonda K. Garelick -  it's a biography about Coco Chanel.  There's really nothing else to be said.  How could I pass that one up!

Louise's Blunder by Sarah R. Shaber -  I've enjoyed other books from this author so I'm really looking forward to a 1940s spy thriller set in D.C.

Meet Me in Barcelona by Mary Carter - Barcelona, people with secrets.  This looks like it has potential.

Queen of Hearts Volume 2 - I really enjoyed the first volume of this prequel to Alice in Wonderland and am looking forward to reading more of the stories.

Oliver and the Seawigs by Phillip Reeve and Illustrated by Sarah McIntyre - a fun looking children's book.


Something Borrowed, Something Bleu by Cricket McRae -  I have like 4 of this series and I have yet to read any of them.  I should really give it a try.

Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed by Judith Flanders - I saw this mentioned in a review of Bill Bryson's At Home.  

I've also finally discovered how to get audiobooks from my library on my iPhone so I'm sure I'll end up with a few audiobooks through overdrive.  Now I just have to see if I can really listen to them.  I have my fingers crossed!  Any recommendations for audiobooks that aren't to be missed?

COYER Challenge:

I'm really excited about COYER starting yesterday.  I know a lot of people are making lists of the books they plan to take care of and I tossed that idea around as well.  But I kind of already have a list between review books, books I've pulled for TBR lists and books on hold at the library.  I think instead of a list of books to get through I'm going to focus on adding extra time in my day to read.  I'd like to get an hour of reading done a day in addition to when I stay up too late reading at night.  I'm also planning to participate in at least 3 or 4 of the weekend read-a-thons.

On the Blog This Week:

Nora Robert's The Collector
My Summer TBR
An interesting YA read from Dana Reinhardt
My most recently read from one of my most favorite and reliable mystery authors
The Friday link ups - My favorite reading medium and some excerpts from Christie's They Came to Baghdad
And finally a look back at Spring favorites on the first day of summer

Coming Up:

Monday: A suspense novel with ghosts and romance
Tuesday: My top ten favorite/least favorite cover trends
Wednesday: The latest mystery from an old favorite who I hadn't read in awhile
Thursday: The latest romance from Julia Quinn
Friday: Blogger Hop question and excerpts from whatever I'm reading and I'm going to try to be different and NOT use a Christie!
Saturday: A serious throwback with a recently re-released Victoria Holt

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Spring Favorites

Spring is officially over though I must admit that with temperatures in the 90s the last few weeks it feels like it ended a long time ago.  At least here in North Alabama we got the very rare gift of actually HAVING a spring.  Normally we go from cold to blazing with very little in between.

So on at the end of spring and beginning of summer I thought I'd do a quick post on what books and other things have really stuck out for me this spring.

Favorite Mystery:
In the cozy category I really loved Hannah Dennison's Murder at Honeychurch Hall.  I'm really looking forward to reading more by this author.  In the non-cozy category Necessary as Blood by Deborah Crombie was a great continuation of a series I really enjoyed.

Favorite Non-fiction:
This was a really tough one.  I've read a number of really great non-fiction this spring and it was a toss up between The Phantom of Fifth AvenueLouisa Catherine or Murder on the Home Front but I think the book I probably liked the most was Molly Wizenberg's Delancey.  This look at how she and her husband opened their pizza restaurant and how it affected their marriage and the way they looked at food was fascinating!

Favorite Romance:  While this has been a great season for non-fiction it was kind of flat in the romance section.  So far I haven't read any that I really just loved.  For contemporary I'd say my favorite was Her Cowboy Hero by Tanya Michaels which I really didn't expect to like but ended up loving the characters.  I also liked Jill Shalvis's Always on My Mind.  For historical I enjoyed Laura Lee Gurhke's And Then He Kissed Her but that was a reread and really doesn't count.

Favorite Fiction:  I really hadn't expected to like Hailey's Hotel but it proved a really interesting read.  I had really high hopes for Liz Trenow's The Forgotten Seamstress and it was one of those rare books that met every expectation I had.  On the opposite side of that while I did enjoy The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry my high expectations for the book caused me to be a little disappointed with it.

Favorite New Author:  There have been a few authors that I read my first book from them this spring and am really looking forward to seeing more of.  These are Tanya Michaels, Hannah Dennison and Meryl Gordon who has a biography on Brooke Astor that I'm really excited about trying.

Favorite Cookbooks:  If you like to cook and haven't tried Carla Hall's Cooking With Love you are missing out!  I wasn't too inspired by this book when I checked it out of the library but after making her Basil Bacon Bread I went out and immediately bought the book.  If you haven't had her Buffalo Chicken burgers you have my sympathy and I don't even like wings.  Great easy recipes, family friendly enough for weeknight meals but not so family friendly it's boring.

Favorite Meals:
I've made this Blue Moon Orange Chicken from Iowa Girl Eats and it's so good!  J doesn't like beer or fruit flavors in food and even he loves it plus it comes together pretty quick.  For an extra tasty meal I make the Pioneer Woman's mashed potoates to serve with it and you can pour a little of the sauce from the chicken over the potatoes.  Plus these potatoes are just fantastic even though they're not necessarily the most calorie friendly.  I don't use cream and only 1 stick of butter and can't taste the difference so that has to help a little right??  Also, when you bake these potatoes it kind of makes the lumps go away which I love because there's nothing worse than lumpy mashed potatoes.

Favorite Snacks: The chocolate chip cookies from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook has been a favorite around here lately and I have a family full of chocolate chip cookie lovers.  I always think I over-baked these but even though they're a little darker there always soft with a yummy slightly caramelized taste.  I'm looking forward to trying lots more out of this book.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Linkups! They Came to Baghdad

This Friday I'm participating in Book Blogger Hop hosted by Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings hosted by Rose City Reader and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice.

First up is the Book Blogger Hop question:

"Do you prefer Nook, Kindle, other e-reader or paper book?"

My Answer:  This is actually something I've been thinking about lately.  I really can't stand cookbooks in e-book form.  I like having the actual book to flip through and tab and read from.  It just isn't the same in Kindle form.  I do a lot of my reading on my Kindle Paperwhite (which I love) partly because I read a lot of review books and also because it's just convenient just to carry that around and not multiple books but I always have at least 1 or 2 paper books going as well because there are situations that I don't want to take my Kindle into.  I think for the most part paper books and Kindle books are pretty interchangeable for me so I don't really have a strong preference.  I don't see myself switching exclusively to one or the other anytime soon though.

Today's book is an Agatha Christie and her first non-series book from the 1950s.  With this book we seem to be back to the early Agathas that are all about adventure and exotic places with beautiful young women with not much to lose, and adventurous spirit and quick on her feet.

The Beginning:
"Captain Crosbie came out of the bank with the pleased air of one who has cashed a cheque and has discovered that there is just a little more in his account than he thought there was."

And from page 56 of my falling apart 1980 edition:
"There was something of a calculated sensationalism about the late traveller.  He wore a kind of dark grey travelling cloak with a capacious hood at the back.  On his head was what was in essence a wide sombrero, but in light grey.  He had silver grey curling hair, worn rather long, and a beautiful silver grey moustache curling up at the ends.  The effect was that of a handsome stage bandit.  Victoria, who disliked theatrical men who posed, looked at him with disapproval."

So what do you think?  Interested? Intrigued? or bored?  What do you prefer to read on?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Necessary as Blood - TBR Review

This has been one of my favorite mystery series for years and one that somehow I got at least 3 books behind.  We're ignoring the fact that I'm still working on my spring TBR list after I posted my summer list!

Necessary as Blood by Deborah Crombie

Rating: 4 Stars

Description:  When Pakistani lawyer Naz Malik disappears and is later found murdered DI Gemma James is called in by mutual friends.  To make things more complicated Naz's wife Sandra had disappeared a few months earlier under mysterious circumstances.  Now James and her long time boyfriend Superintendent Duncan Kincaid must peak into their lives, Naz's murder and Sandra's disappearance.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:  Crombie is an automatic read for me because she does a great job of mixing really likable characters with gritty crime without getting too impossibly awful.  I was excited to catch up on this series.

My Impression:
Pros: For me a new Crombie is like hanging out with really good friends I haven't seen in awhile.  I'm excited to catch up with everyone and we still have our inside knowledge of each other.  Gemma, Duncan, Kit and Toby are so real that even though it's been years since I read the last book in the series I remember who they are with no problem.  They are genuine flawed likable people which helps make what's a fairly serious book a little lighter but in no way makes it silly.  The mystery is very well done and very compelling.  This is a book I found myself reading way into the night and sometimes when I didn't want to read it.  It's hard not to feel for Charlotte, the little girl whose secure happy little life was suddenly destroyed with no warning.  At times this book could be painful to read because I was worried so much about her.  The mystery and Charlotte's fate are wrapped up in a satisfying way with every end tied up but nothing too coincidental.  I'm looking forward to the next book so I can spend more time with these characters.

Cons: This wasn't my favorite Gemma book.  She spends quite a bit of time acting on a personal level instead of as a police officer.  While it was well done I prefer Gemma in a professional capacity.  I'm really quibbling here because Crombie does have to get creative to allow Duncan and Gemma to work together since they are no longer with the same department.

Overall: This is a fantastic British police procedural.  It's gritty and dark enough to really get into the really awful stuff and address it but warm-hearted enough to keep it from being too dark.  I think any mystery lover would enjoy this.

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

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes though while you could start the series at any point I recommend starting from the beginning so that you really get to know Duncan and Gemma.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

We Are the Goldens - Review

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

Rating: 3.5

Description:  Nell and her older sister Layla have always been really close and Nell is thrilled when she finally moves up to high school so that they'll be in the same school.  Suddenly even though they're going to the same school and on the same soccer team the sisters aren't just as close.  And suddenly Nell discovers that her perfect older sister Layla just may have a secret.

Genre: YA

Why I Picked This Book: This was an invite from the publisher through NetGalley and I was intrigued by the summary.  I wanted to find out Layla's secret.

My Impression:
Pro: : I really enjoyed how the book was written.  It was from Nell, the younger sister’s perspective and was written as a letter to her older sister Layla.  While it did give the reader a limited view of what was going on we really got a good look at what Nell was thinking.  The story takes place in the past as Nell is explaining the events that led up to her calling a family conference.  I liked Nell’s friend, Felix, he was just on this side of over-exuberant and so was a welcome bit of comic relief.  I also liked Parker and Duncan who are two boys that both Nell and Layla knew who died a few years before.  They appear as both Nell’s conscience and kind of imaginary friends.

Cons: I really would've loved to hear Layla's side of the story.  While I enjoyed seeing it all through Nell's eyes it did feel a little one dimensional.  Also, I wasn't quite satisfied by the ending.

Overall: This was an interesting YA read.  It wasn't overly heavy or fluffy and silly.  It was a short interesting read and I found Nell to be very sympathetic.

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

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, I don't read much YA and I enjoyed this one.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Summer TBR

It's Tuesday!  Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic hosted by The Broke and the Bookish is what are the top ten books on your TBR list for summer.  Now my Spring TBR list is far from completed.  I've read 3 and am working on 2 more which puts me at 50% if we consider the working on books read.  However, this does not stop me from making another list for summer.  Nor does it dim the optimism that THIS time I'll get the list read.

Given that my attention span has been about equal to that of a gnat's and that I'm still reading stacks of review books AND getting the Agatha Christie books read I'm keeping it pretty light.  From bottom to top here is my list.

1.  The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King - I have been neglecting this series for far too long considering this book came out 4 years ago and I've yet to read it.  It's been far too long since I've checked in with a slightly mellower Holmes and his fiercely independent and intelligent wife Mary Russell.

2.  I'm Kind of a Big Deal by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor - This is the 4th of Taylor's books and I've read the previous 3.  Her first about new motherhood made me laugh till I cried, her 2nd made me roll my eyes and want to yell at her "Yes I get it you drink a lot of wine!  Can we move on now?" Her 3rd was funny and thought provoking so I'm looking forward to reading #4.

3.  The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn - This is the first book by the woman who wrote The Kitchen Counter School and is about her time at Le Cordon Bleu.

4.  Murder on the Half Shelf by Lorna Barrett - another series I've neglected for far too long.  While the main character sometimes drives me nuts this series about a town of bookstores in New Hampshire is a great cozy.

5.  Death by the Dozen by Jenn McKinlay - I love McKinlay's books and I love cupcakes.  I also have 2 others in this series on the shelf so it's time to make some progress.

6.  Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell - the first in a series of cozies about a cookie shop has been sitting on my shelf for way to long plus there are several other books in the series that I want to read.

7.  Golden Malicious by Sheila Connolly - I adore Sheila Connolly's books and can't wait to read the newest in her apple orchard series.  Plus one of the characters is restoring an old house so double treat for me!

8.  Read It and Weep by Jenn McKinlay - I love the books in McKinlay's library series almost as much as I love Connolly's orchard books.

9.  If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance by Paige Shelton - I read Shelton's first book in the cooking school series ages ago and really enjoyed it.  Why I put off reading the second for so long I have no idea.

10.  Hometown Girl by Mariah Stewart - the fourth book in the Chesapeake Diaries series.  I'm determined to like this series even if the first 3 haven't been home runs for me.

I seem to be in a cozy mystery kind of mood right now!  What's on your list?  If you made one for spring how did you do?

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Collector - Review

The Collector by Nora Roberts

Rating: 4 Stars

Description:  When professional house-sitter Lila witnesses a murder in a neighboring apartment building she finds herself drawn into the lives of those involved.  She never expected to get close to the killer/victim's brother, Ash, or to find herself being hunted by a professional killer.

Genre: Romance/Mystery

Why I Picked This Book: A new Nora Roberts is always an automatic read for me and I was intrigued by both the Rear Window similarities and the professional house sitting.

My Impression:
Pro: I liked the characters.  Lila was nice and very maternal and Ash was also a nice guy and a protector.  You could really see how nice it would be for both of them to have someone take care of them for a change.  Ash's family is huge and while I like a big family this was beyond huge with ex-spouses, step-siblings and half siblings.  It could have gotten very confusing but I liked how Roberts handled it which was basically Ash saying "It's really confusing so don't worry about it."  I liked how the relationship between Lila and Ash progressed gradually instead of flipping from just met to passionately in love with each other.  I think it helped make the bond seem more real that they knew some of the same people.  I liked the side romance as well.  It was sweet but didn't really distract from the main story.  The information about the Romanov family was really interesting as well.

Cons: How Ash and Lila met definitely strained credibility.  It also reminded me quite a bit of her earlier book Three Fates which I loved.  I think my problem with Roberts may be that since she's written so many books we're starting to see some repeats in terms of characters or plot devices.

Overall Impression: This is a fast paced book with excellently done friendships (it's Roberts after all).  While I didn't like it as much as I enjoyed her earlier Three Fates it's probably my favorite of her most recent suspense titles.  Definitely a fun read!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Of course!

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Definitely!  This was a fun romantic suspense with a touch of history.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Post - 6/15

Linking up with The Caffeinated Book Reviewer to talk about this past week and the week that's coming up!

This Week:

The beach trip is over and I am glad to be home!  No matter how great a vacation is that first night of being at home with your own stuff and your own bed is absolute heaven.  Everyone had a lot of fun and I'm going to subject you to a few photos - but just a few!
Probably my favorite that I took of the Tornado and J
Baby tigers may be the cutest thing ever
The morning we were first there the beach was all moody and picturesque.  Luckily after a trip to the zoo it wasn't as pretty but much more fun to play in!

I managed to get some reading done despite having all 4 of my kids around and assorted other family members.  Reviews will be up starting tomorrow for those.  Oddly enough despite having a list full of books I planned to read at the beach only 1 off that list actually got read!

It's been so fun to come back and see everyone's Top Ten Lists and Friday 56s and everything!

I also got a LibraryThing account to attempt to organize my books a little better.  I like the layout quite a lot and how it categorizes so far but I'm still playing around with it. 

On the Blog:

Thursday: Off my TBR shelf - Old Haunts by E.J. Copperman
Next week is the beginning of the COYER Summer Challenge which I'm really excited about.  I also have reviews for Nora Roberts' Collector, an interesting YA book and a review for a British police procedural that came off my TBR shelf.  Also, look for my Top Ten list on Tuesday, my Friday linkups and my Spring Favorites post on Saturday.

Happy Reading!  

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Engaged at The Chatsfield and Her Cowboy Hero - Reviews

Engaged at The Chatsfield by Melanie Milburne

Rating: 2 Stars

Description:  Juliet Montague isn't looking forward to a Bachelorette Party for a school friend especially since she's the only one without a diamond on her finger.  That is of course until she invents one after an uncomfortable run in with a so-called friend.  The situation gets worse when the made up fiance, Marcus, who happens to be a friend of Juliet's brother actually shows up and forces the charade to actually become real.

Genre: Romance

Why I Picked This Book: Really it was the picture of London at the bottom of the cover.  Also, I was intrigued by the upscale hotel setting.

My Impression:
Cons: It was hard to take Juliet seriously as a 29 year old woman.  She seemed so immature and insecure that I would've believed 19 but definitely not 29.  The length of this book was also definitely a negative.  There were so many characters and so much setup that the book really felt disjointed.

Pros: I love a friend turned more than type romance and it really worked given the length of this book. If this had been an insta-love subplot that took place over the weekend it would've strained credibility to the breaking.  However, since Juliet and Marcus already had some established history it worked.

Overall: This is the novella to setup a series that takes place at The Chatsfield Hotel and it definitely felt like it with the names that get thrown around at random.  While I didn't care for Juliet's character for most of the book the ending worked out nicely.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I might read more of both but I think I'd look for a longer novel.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Maybe if you have read The Chatsfield series and enjoyed it this would be a good one to go back for.  Otherwise, this is one I would search out.

Her Cowboy Hero by Tanya Michaels

Rating: 4 Stars

Description:  After an emotionally crippling loss Colin Cade really just wants to be alone and not have to think.  However, he also needs to eat so he takes a job with the "Widow Shaw" to help her turn her falling down ranch into a B&B.  The problem in "Widow Shaw" isn't the frail old woman he expected but a young determinedly optimistic single mother.  Both have experienced trauma and both have handled it in completely different ways but could it be possible that they could help each other?

Genre: Romance

Why I Picked This Book:  I'm not usually drawn in by the cowboy thing and I almost passed by this book because of that.  Luckily I saw the fixing up the B&B in the summary and decided to give it a try.

My Impression:
Pros: I didn't have high expectations going into this one as I had just finished a Harlequin series novel that I felt was mediocre.  However, this was a read in one sitting, sigh when finished and look at the clock and be surprised it's 2AM kind of read.  I loved Hannah and the fact her good attitude was an active decision.  I loved how she and Colin talked about their losses.  It seemed natural and realistic. I loved seeing Colin open up slowly.  It happened without him realizing it and it was nice to get a look at who he was.  The relationship between him and Hannah felt real even when obstacles were presented.  I normally don't care for children in romance novels but Evan was a small enough presence and vital enough to the story that it worked.

Cons: With such strong characters and a well done relationship the end felt a little hokey.  I thought they both deserved better.

Overall: I really loved Hannah and Colin.  I thought both the characters and the relationship felt very real.  This was a couple that you really hope everything works out for.  There was enough mention of Colin's brother and sister that I will be looking for their books as well.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes definitely!  I plan on reading Justin and Arden's stories and look forward to any new releases from Michaels.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes! This was a lovely romance full of thoroughly nice characters who you really root for.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Linkups! The Collector by Nora Roberts

Today I'm linking up with Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer for Book Blogger Hop, Freda's Voice for the Friday 56 and Rose City Reader for Book Beginnings on Friday.

Today's question for the blogger hop is:

"Do you think your blog reflects your personality? Does it show organization, a carefree attitude or some other trait?"

My answer: I think it reflect my personality in that I'm pretty organized and list-oriented but I don't always have the best follow-thru!  I think I'm fairly good at staying up to date on my posts, comments and replies but not so great at things like tags!  It's also a work in progress which I definitely am.  I've learned that to stay happy I have to keep learning and so the blog is progressing bit by bit as I figure different things out.  Also, it's about the books I read and what interests me so how can it not show some of my personality!  Probably in ways I'm not aware of.

This week's book:

This week's beginning and 56 are from Nora Roberts' latest hardcover The Collector.  I've been especially interested in this one because of the similarities to Hitchcock's Rear Window and I have a fondness for house-sitting since that was the best way to make some extra money in college!

The Beginning:

"She Thought they'd never leave.  Clients, especially new ones, tended to fuss and delay, revolving on the same loop of instructions, contacts, comments before finally heading out the door.  She sympathized because when they walked out the door they left their home, their belongings, and in this case their cat, in someone else's hands."

The 56 from page 56 of my Kindle edition:

""This is a nice space," he said, when he straightened.  "Good light."
"It really is.  And you're making small talk so I won't feel so weird.  Why don't I show you where I was when it happened?  That's the hard part, and that'll be done.""

So, are you interested?  Would you keep reading?

While I've always found Roberts a pretty reliable read (particularly if you overlook her books from the 80s) her last few haven't quite knocked it out of the park for me.  I mean I've enjoyed them but none were rereads.  Has any other Roberts reader found that to be the case or am I just getting to critical?  I'm hoping this will be the exception to that!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Old Haunts - TBR Review

This is the last book in the group of books I pulled off my jammed TBR shelf in March.  Needless to say I'm not making as much progress clearing out some books as I'd like but I guess any progress is good progress.  This is the 3rd book in the Haunted Guesthouse series and I have 4 and 5 waiting on me.

Old Haunts by E.J. Copperman

Rating: 3 Stars

Description:  Allison Kerby is trying to keep her haunted guest house going as well as keep her 10 year old daughter and 2 resident ghosts, Paul and Maxie, happy.  The last thing she needs is to have to run down what happened to Paul's ex kind of fiance or figure out who murdered Maxie's recently discovered ex-husband.  She really doesn't need to deal with threatening text messages warning her off and she really really doesn't need to deal with her ex-husband waltzing back into her life.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:  I have read and really enjoyed the previous 2 books in this series.  Plus ghosts and old houses always get me.
My Impression:
Pros: Despite the chaos and extra details this is a well done mystery.  Since Allison has a private investigator's license it makes sense as to why she is asking questions.  The police are helpful without falling all over themselves to be accommodating.  The ghosts provide enough background on the cases to be interesting without being overwhelming.  The fact that they can't leave the house helps a bit from too much ghost overload.  Allison herself is likable and the scheduling her actually haunted guesthouse to appear haunted but only to a certain group of guests is pretty funny.

Cons: The whole ex-husband subplot drove me crazy.  I found it odd that Allison who is officially divorced had never once seemed to think about the custody arrangement regarding her daughter. One would think this would be a requirement in a legal document regarding a divorce with a minor child involved.   It seemed wildly unrealistic and like it's sole purpose was to have some added drama.  I also don't love the semi-attraction between Paul and Allison but that probably wouldn't bother most people.

Overall Impression: While the personal drama got a bit old I did enjoy the mystery itself.  Overall, it was a fun read and the added ghost touch makes it unique.  I definitely plan to continue with this series.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes.  I already have the next 2 in this series and will look for more books by the author.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes though I would start with the first in the series because not only is there a lot of explaining but I probably liked it the best!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon

Rating: 4 Stars

Description:  This is a detailed look at the life of Huguette Clark, the daughter of the 2nd richest man in America who was nicknamed the Copper King.  This book goes from Butte, Montana, Paris and New York taking us from Huguette' childhood, her early life as a socialite and finally the seclusion that she spent most of her life as well as giving us a look at her father.  This book also looks at both sides of the fight to protect both Hugette and her estate.

Genre: Non-Fiction/Biography

Why I Picked This Book: The title first captured my imagination and then when I saw this was a biography on an heiress that I don't know much about other than a vague memory of an uproar after she died I was hooked.  I love biographies on people I haven't really heard of.

My Impression:
Pros: I loved the writing in this one.  Gordon manages to give you enough information to really flesh out her characters and explain their history without bogging you down in too many details.  She's also tremendously fair.  With the battle around Hugette's care and estate we see the motivations of both sides.  Even with her portrayal of William Clark who was a fairly ruthless and corrupt individual (the 17th Amendment was basically created just for him) we are shown not just his business side but him as a more loving family man as well.  I was concerned at first that too much time was going to be spent on the father and we weren't going to see much of Hugette but that didn't end up being the case.  You do get a look at William but he was so crucial to much of Hugette's upbringing, mental state and fortune that to leave him out would've been leaving a hole in the story and would've hindered the understanding of Huguette.  Gordon handles the other characters in Huguette's life with the same fairness and attention to detail.  This is a fascinating look at a fascinating and complex woman.

Cons: I would've loved to have seen more photographs of some of the main players in this story, the art or locations that were important to the Clark family especially since the author references dozens of pictures.

Overall: A fascinating look at an unusual woman.  This biography was as compelling as fiction while still being very informative.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, she has another book about Brooke Astor that is now on my wishlist.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes, to anyone interested in American history or just interesting people in general.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - My Top Ten Books So Far This Year

This is a fun linkup with The Broke and the Bookish.  Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is top ten books so far this year.  This has been an interesting reading year since I've really been trying to break out of my reading comfort zone a little.

My top ten books for the first half of 2014:

1. The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue by David Sax - This book is so fascinating.  I read it back in January but still think about it every time I'm at a grocery store or restaurant.  This is a great look at the food trend industry.

2. The Tyrant's Daughter by J. C. Carleson - This is the story of an ordinary teenage girl who is trying to fit in at school and deal with her family.  The catch is that she just happened to be the daughter of a dictator who just had to flee her country after a military coup and the murder of her father.  Watching her try to resolve all the different sides of herself was really interesting.

3. The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier - I have tried to force them on just about everyone since I've read it.  I've always thought the whole concept of The Birds was kind of silly until I read this book.  du Maurier is the master of the creepy short story.

4. Murder on the Home Front by Molly Lefebure - I found this look into the workings of the coroner's office in London during World War 2 absolutely fascinating.  Definitely worth a read.

5. Delancey by Molly Wizenberg - I may be a little biased because I loved Wizenberg's first book but this book about the opening of their restaurant was so enjoyable.  I didn't find as many good recipes as I had in A Homemade Life but I thought the actual content was even more interesting.

6.  And Then There Were None by Agatha Christe - Of course I have an Agatha on my list!  So far this is my favorite of the ones I've read this year though Crooked House, Why Didn't They Ask Evans? and the Man in the Brown Suit were good as well.  I'm not sure this is my favorite Agatha of all time though because there are a few Marples I really love and I'm sure there's a Poirot or two i'm forgetting about!

7. Louisa Catherine: The Other Mrs. Adams by Margery M. Heffron - I thoroughly enjoyed this book about Louisa Catherine the wife of John Quincey Adams.  She was really a fascinating woman in an interesting time.  We hear so much about the first John and his wife Abigail that we forget about the son.  If you're interested in American history at all this is a great one to pick up.

8.  Murder at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennsion - while not flawless this mystery was a lot of fun without being too cutesy.  I loved the characters and was able to sympathize with both Kat and her mother.  It was nice to see the inner working of a once grand estate in present day.

9.  The Other Side of Paradise by Julia Cooke - This look at modern day Cuba wasn't my absolute favorite when I read it but I find that I'm still referencing it months after reading it.

10.  Hotel by Arthur Hailey - I really wasn't sure what to expect with this one but I ended up really enjoying it.  This look into a high end hotel in New Orleans in the 60s was well done and really interesting.  I've recommended it countless times since reading.