Monday, July 31, 2023

Secrets in the Dark - Romantic Suspense Review

Goodreads:  Secrets in the Dark (Blackbird Trilogy #2) by Heather Graham

Rating: Really Liked It (4 Stars)
Source:   Library

Description:  Over a century after Jack, a new Ripper is on the loose.

Following in the footsteps of notorious serial murderer Jack the Ripper, a killer is stalking the streets of London. The self-dubbed Ripper King strikes at night, leaving a trail of eviscerated bodies in his wake. Fresh off a case with potential ties to the recent rash of killings, FBI agents Della Hamilton and Mason Carter are all too familiar with a slayer set to rule with a lethal fist. And they’ll stop at nothing to end his reign.

The killer’s MO may be nothing new, but his desire to be infamous makes him dangerous. Della and Mason know it’s only a matter of time before their investigation emboldens this new Ripper, forcing the agents to work quickly before another woman winds up dead. But now that the heat is on, their game of cat and mouse takes an unexpected turn, leading Della and Mason into a deadly trap they never saw coming…

Genre: Mystery - Romantic Suspense

Why I Picked This Book:  I usually enjoy Graham's books and I really enjoyed the first book in this trilogy.

My Impression: In general I have found the second book in Graham's trilogies to be my least favorite.  So I went in to this one with some reservations.  However, I ended up really enjoying this one.  Part of this may be because I went the audio route.  I have noticed Graham's books are fantastic audio books and this was no exception.  

In this book we are back in London with Della, Mason, and the rest of the Blackbird crew.  I did enjoy that this book stayed in London (with a brief visit to Louisiana) and focused on one primary murderer.  It gave it a bit more of a cohesive feel and time to get really invested in the mystery.  I loved the look at the original Jack the Ripper case as well as seeing how it could be copied and investigated in today's time.  

The romance part of the book was on the subdued side.  Della and Mason are already a fairly established couple so there are a few references to them being a couple and a slightly spicier description or two but the focus really isn't on them.   My main negative is that the rest of the international team aren't really fleshed out.  We know their names but very little of their personalities or personal life.  

This was a fun follow up to an entertaining mystery and I'm looking forward to seeing how Graham closes out this trilogy.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author? Absolutely!  I'm looking forward to reading the next book and the rest of the Krewe series.

Would I Recommend this Book? If you enjoy romantic suspense with a bit of ghostliness this is a fun trilogy though I recommend starting with the first book.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Reading Books I'm Excited to Read - The Life and Times of Hercule Poirot

Goodreads:   The Life and Times of Hercule Poirot by Anne Hart

Rating: Really Liked It (4 Stars)
Source:   Publisher

Description:  ‘My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world.'

The dapper, moustache-twirling little Belgian with the egg-shaped head, curious mannerisms and inordinate respect for his own 'little grey cells' has solved some of the most puzzling crimes of the century. Yet despite being familiar to millions, Poirot himself has remained an enigma – until now.

From his first appearance in 1920 to his last in 1975, from country house drawing rooms to opium dens in Limehouse, from Mayfair to the Mediterranean, Anne Hart stalks the legendary sleuth, unveiling the mysteries that surround him. Sifting through 33 novels and 56 short stories, she examines his origins, tastes, relationships and peculiarities, revealing a character as fascinating as the books themselves.

Genre: Fiction 

Why I Picked This Book:  Poirot is one of my favorite fictional characters and I really enjoyed the similar book on Miss Marple.

My Impression: I can't imagine all the hours of research and reading  and notetaking went into the creation of this book.   Christie wrote a LOT of Hercule Poirot books and short stories and Hart went through each one pulling out every mention of his personal life and past.  It's fascinating to see all the information put together.   Not only does she look at Poirot but she also includes a detailed chapter on Captain Hastings which I found especially interesting.

This is a book for Poirot fans.  It doesn't read like a novel or even a straight forward biography.  Instead the book tackles different aspects of Poirot's life - past and present - and compiles it into a full profile.  It's a wonderful chapter a night read and it has me wanting to dive back into a massive reread of all of the Poirot books so I can revisit the man himself.

If you are a Christie fan I highly recommend this book and Hart's book about Miss Marple as well.  They are excellent additions to my Agatha Christie library.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would!  If Hart wrote a similar book about another favorite character I would pick it up in a heartbeat.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you already know and love Poirot absolutely!  If you are new to his mysteries this might be a bit dry.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Friday Fives - Five Short Reviews For Recent Reads

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much. This week I'm sharing 5 quick reviews for books I've read recently.

1.  With Love From London by Sarah Jio - This has been on my TBR since it came out and it did not disappoint.  Valentina is at loose ends when her husband leaves her only to receive a call from London notifying her of her long estranged mother's death and telling her that she is the sole benefactors of her mother's estate which includes a bookshop.  As Valentina tries to decide what to do with a failing bookstore and gets to know her mother through the people and things she left behind Valentina discovers what she really wants in life.  This was a sweet (without being over the top)story with lovely characters and a fantastic setting.  It's been awhile since I read anything by this author but I will definitely be reading more from her.  My Rating Really Liked It  (4 Stars)

2.  The Body in the Wetlands by Judi Lynn - This is the second mystery in a cozy series involving houseflipper Jazzy, her boyfriend Ansel and an assortment of cousins and other family members who have various levels of handiness.  The mystery was interesting enough.  While renovating a house Jazzy and her crew learn about a missing adult and shortly after an elderly man goes missing while walking his dog (dog is fine and alerts Jazzy there's a problem).  I had a guess of who was the bad guy but was never fully sure until the very end.  What kept this book from being a winner for me was the fact that I just didn't like Jazzy very much.  She's kind of judgey especially of the woman around her and while she's an incredibly capable house flipper she doesn't have much common sense.  As well I found it a bit bizarre that the lead detective has Jazzy go along with pretty much every interview - even of the suspects when she hasn't met them and there isn't really a reason.  I'm willing to suspend quite a lot of belief with a cozy but this seemed a bit too far.  I enjoyed this while listening to it but it isn't one that will stick with me and I don't see me continuing with the series.  My Rating: Liked It (3 Stars)

3.  The Cuban Heiress by Chanel Cleeton - Cleeton has been on my radar for years and when this book involving an actual seagoing tragedy came out I couldn't resist and I so enjoyed it!  There are two women on board the SS Morro Castle and both have mysterious motives - but motives that definitely seem a bit nefarious.  I was caught up in the glamourous clothes and setting of the book and loved that the dark underside was always lurking in the shadows of the book.  This book pulled me in from the first page and I enjoyed it from start to finish.  My only problem was that I wanted a bit more of the story.  I really wanted to know more about Raymond and more about just what happened on the SS Morro Castle.  My Rating: Really Liked It (4 Stars)

4.  The Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff - I picked this book up on a bit of a whim.  I hadn't heard of it or the author but I love vintage clothes so I figured I'd give it a try.  I'm so glad I did!  I absolutely loved this book.  The description of the clothes were stunning and had me looking up pictures.  I really enjoyed getting to know Phoebe as she comes to terms with the death of her best friend Emma, gets her vintage clothing store off the ground, and gets to know Therese Bell and learns the story of the child's blue coat in Mrs. Bell's closet.  I was pulled in from the start and while I wasn't sure I would like Phoebe at first I ended up being fully invested in her life and this book.  The ending was a bit tied with a bow but I loved these characters so much I didn't my mind.  My Rating: Really Liked It! (4.5 Stars)

5.  The Beach House by Jane Green - This was another book I picked up on a whim.  I had DNF'd my previous audio book and just grabbed this one because it was on my library wish list and available now.  I ended up SO enjoying it.  There are essentially 4 storylines all coming together at Nan's house in Nantucket and all involving family and relationships.  I really liked all the characters and enjoyed their stories.  My only real flaw was how Jess's (the teenage daughter of a newly divorced couple) behavior was treated and how dismissive her father especially was about therapy.  The girl clearly needed some help.  The ending is a bit trite and might not be a winner for those that don't like things tied neatly in a bow but I found it a delightful bit of escapist reading that I enjoyed from beginning to end.  My Rating: Really Liked It (4 Stars)

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Books from the Backlog - Duck the Halls

Today I'm linking up with Carole from Carole's Random Life of Books for Books from the Backlog.  I really enjoy the chance to feature a book that's been hiding in the piles of books for far too long!

Goodreads:  Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews

Blurb:   The brilliantly funny and talented Donna Andrews delivers another winner in the acclaimed avian-themed series that mystery readers have come to love. A few nights before Christmas, Meg is awakened when Michael is summoned to the New Life Baptist Church, where someone has rigged a cage full of skunks in the choir loft. The lengthy process of de-skunking the church requires its annual pre-Christmas concert to relocate to Trinity Episcopal, where Mother insists the show must go on, despite the budget-related protests of Mr. Otis, an elderly vestryman. Meanwhile, when Meg helps her grandfather take the skunks to the zoo, they discover that his boa has been stolen—only to turn up later during the concert slithering out from the ribbon-bedecked evergreens.

It’s clear that some serious holiday pranksters are on the loose, and Meg is determined to find them. But before she can, a fire breaks out at Trinity, and Mr. Otis is discovered dead. Could this be a bit of nasty revenge from the now deposed Pruitt family? Or harassment from the Evil Lender? As Meg searches for answers she also races to finish all of her Christmas shopping, wrapping, cooking, caroling, and decorating in time to make the season jolly for Michael and the twins.

Why It Needs to Come Off the Shelf:  I absolutely love this series and the Christmas books are my absolute favorite.  

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Shadow of Death - Romantic Suspense Review

Goodreads:  Shadow of Death (Amy Larson and Hunter Forrest FBI #3) by Heather Graham

Rating:  Really Liked It (4 Stars)
Source:   Publisher

Description:  You can cut off the head of the snake, but another will emerge.

When two hikers go missing within a series of daunting caves outside of Denver, Colorado, FDLE special agent Amy Larson and her partner, FBI special agent Hunter Forrest, have good reason to suspect foul play. The pair of hikers are only the latest to vanish after a rash of disappearances that’s left local law enforcement stumped. But in searching the dank caverns near the Arkansas River, the agents aren’t prepared for the horror they uncover: a muddy pit littered with corpses. Covered in bite marks. Made by human teeth.

When a tiny toy horse is found on the scene, Amy and Hunter recognize the calling card. They’ll have to move quickly before the already sizable body count can grow. Their investigation soon draws them down the rabbit hole of a dangerous cult with a sinister mandate—one that involves human sacrifices. Anything to further their twisted cause. But when more people go missing, it becomes clear the cult’s reach extends beyond state lines, leading Amy and Hunter deep into the Florida Everglades to set a perilous trap, one that stands to risk everything they hold dear, including their lives.

Genre: Mystery - Romantic Suspense

Why I Picked This Book:  I really liked the first book and liked the second book in this series so of course I had to pick up the third book.

My Impression:  While I have loved Graham's Krewe of Hunter's series I tend to not enjoy her books that focus on the same couple for multiple books so I had some reservations before picking this one up.  I also had thoroughly enjoyed the first book but had only kind of liked the second book.   

This book hit somewhere in between.  While it wasn't quite as fast paced as the first book it didn't have the 2nd book syndrome of a whole lot of setup with very little payoff.  The book starts off with Amy and Hunter on vacation when the 3rd horseman makes an appearance starting with the disappearance of a businesswoman in Colorado.  As the mystery unravels it becomes more and more difficult to determine just who is good and who is bad and I really enjoyed being along for the ride.

This is definitely part of a series and unlike Graham's Krewe of Hunters books it really does need to be read in order.  I really like seeing Amy and Hunter getting a bit more settled in their relationship.  They trust each other's instincts and work well together.  Hearing regularly how gorgeous Amy is gets a bit old and it is a bit dialogue heavy but overall this was an entertaining and creepy read. 

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Definitely!  I almost always enjoy this author's books and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next with these characters.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy romantic suspense this is a good series though I recommend starting with the first book.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading in the 2nd Half of 2023


My focus this year has been to read the books I really want to read instead of putting them off for other things so that they never get read.  I finished reading my first list of books I hA little while ago the Top Ten Tuesday topic was about anticipated releases for the second half of the year and it was so fun to look at the upcoming books.  It got me thinking about focusing on another ten books that I'm excited to read.  Some are new or upcoming releases and some are just books that have been sitting on my TBR for far too long.

1.  Now You See It by Carol J. Perry - I kind of thought this series was done so I was so excited to see this new release coming out in September.

2.  Midnight at the Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan - I adored The Christmas Bookshop and am so excited to visit that world again.

3.  Let It Crow! Let It Crow! Let It Crow! by Donna Andrews - I love this series and the holiday books are always my favorite.  This one looks so fun.

4.  A Traitor in Whitehall by Julia Kelly - I've only read one book by this author but I really loved it and this one sounds really good.

5.  The Inheritance by Nora Roberts - This first book in a new trilogy by Roberts involves a ghost and I love her ghost books!

6.  The Little Italian Hotel by Phaedra Patrick - I've been wanting to read this author for years and actually own a few of her books.  This one has really caught my eye.  Not only does it have a gorgeous cover but I love a found family plot.

7.  The Grace of Wild Things by Heather Fawcett - This is a middle grade fantasy that I've heard such good things about and it looks absolutely gorgeous.

8.  A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry - This is the first in a cozy mystery that looks so fun and I've heard such good things about it!  I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

9.  Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt by Lucinda Riley and Harry Whittaker - I got this from the library but decided I would prefer it on audio so I returned it.  And I still haven't listened to it.  I've really loved this series and am so looking forward to seeing how everything is resolved.

10. Homecoming by Kate Morton - This is another favorite author and this one really looks fantastic.  I'm excited to prioritize picking this one up before the year ends.  

Monday, July 24, 2023

A Fatal Groove - Cozy Mystery Review

Goodreads:  A Fatal Groove (A Record Shop Mystery #2) by Olivia Blacke

Rating: Really Liked It  (4 Stars)
Source:   Publisher

Description:  It’s springtime in Cedar River, Texas. The annual Bluebonnet Festival is brewing and the whole town is in harmony. Juni Jessup and her sisters Tansy and Maggie thought opening Sip & Spin Records was going to be their biggest hurdle, but the Frappuccino hits the fan when the mayor drops dead―poisoned by their delicious coffee.

Since Tansy was the one to brew the coffee, and Juni was the unfortunate citizen who stumbled upon the mayor’s body, the sisters find themselves in hot water. Family is everything to the Jessups, so with Tansy under suspicion, the sisters spring into action.

Between the town festivities, a good old-fashioned treasure hunt, and an accidental cow in the mix, Juni will have to pull out all the stops to find the mayor’s killer.

Genre:  Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I enjoyed the first book in the series and was curious to see what trouble the sisters would get into next.

My Impression:   I enjoyed my second visit to Cedar River.  The record shop is up and running and the annual Bluebonnet festival is keeping Juni and her sisters busy.  I really enjoyed seeing more of the town and was fascinated by the treasure hunting and the story of the 1956 bank robbery.  I really enjoyed Juni's brother in law's role in the story.  He's a good lawyer but he's also a good brother with a sense of humor.  

The murder happens pretty quickly in the book and the investigation gets moving.   It takes some digging to find out just who would want to killer the mayor and why.  It's also fun to watch the Jessup family go all out to protect Tansy.  I really wasn't sure just who it was until almost the end and I enjoyed spending time in Cedar River while I figured it out.  

This is the second book in a fun and interesting series.  The coffee shop aspect isn't unusual for a cozy but the music/record store adds a fun touch.  

Would I Read More of this Series/Author? Definitely!  I've really enjoyed both books in this series.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Absolutely!  Since this is only the second book in the series you can also get in early on the series which is always a good thing.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Sunday, July 23, 2023

This Week in Reading - July 23

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

What I Got:

The Fatal Folio by Elizabeth Penney - I've enjoyed the first two books in this series and can't wait to read this one.  (Publisher)


Birder, She Wrote by Donna Andrews
and The Life and Times of Hercule Poirot by Anne Hart

Listening:  'Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost

This was a weird week.  There was lots of good.  We went swimming a few times and finished school with enough time for a full two weeks off before the school year starts again.  I got the science curriculum I wanted and a few fun add on and am so excited to start our school year fresh.

On Tuesday the weather got really bad.  We've had a lot of storms this summer which isn't too surprising because pop up storms are a pretty normal thing.  The weird thing is how long the storms linger.  Tuesday was a massive storm.  The weather service has come out and said it was an F0 tornado but I've also heard straight-line winds.  Whatever it was the winds were about 80 mph and it went right over my house and took out more than a dozen trees.  Luckily nothing hit our roof or any other structure and my husband's truck which was in the driveway only received minor damage.  the top of a tree missed it by about a 1/4 of an inch.  Then on Wednesday we discovered that all the power surges had fried our upstairs A/C unit.  Luckily, our downstairs unit is fine so we have moved downstairs until the replacement is installed.  The upstairs temperature is in the 90s but we bought a humidifier to keep the moisture damage to a minimum.  

We've been very lucky but it's been a stressful few days!  Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Vanish with the Rose - Keeper Shelf Review

Goodreads:  Vanish with the Rose by Barbara Michaels

Rating:  Really Liked It! (4.5 Stars)
Source:   Publisher

Description:  Fearing for the safety of her missing brother, lawyer Diana Reed will do anything to get to the truth. Taking a job as a landscape architect at the last place Brad was seen—the sprawling estate where he worked as a caretaker—she prowls the strange old house determined to unlock its secrets. But each mystery Diana uncovers is more unsettling than the last, as odd visions, scents, and sounds pervade an atmosphere of dread and barely suppressed violence. And in her zealous search for answers, she may have inadvertently opened a door to something frightening and deadly that can never be closed again.

Genre: Mystery - Gothic

Why I Picked This Book:  I'm reading books off my keeper shelf to determine if they still deserve their place on the shelf.

My Impression:  This is one of my favorite Barbara Michaels' book and every time I reread it I remember exactly why that is.  Diana is at the the Nicholson home under false pretenses.  This house was the last place her brother was seen 8 months ago and she is determined to figure out what happened to him.  I'm all about a good quest and especially when that quest becomes a team effort.  The team is Diana - young lawyer pretending to be a landscaper, Andy - the son of the owner, lover of dogs, cactus, old cars, and wild theories, Mary Jo - ex-wife of main suspect in Diana's brother's death, fleeing said suspect as he has no issues with violence, hard worker but someone who has kept her world stripped bare while she focuses on bettering her life, and Walt - actual landscaper who worked with Diana's brother at one time.  There's also a lot going on with flashes of supernatural memories, a long dead skeleton, and just what happened to Diana's brother all those months ago.  

This book is a lot of fun.  I really liked the team in this one.  They're very different people and tend to drive each other crazy but they also have each other's backs and all bring their own unique strengths to the table.  I love the talk of the roses and gardens and I loved the character of Baby, a St. Bernard, with an usual protective habit. At just over 400 pages it is a bit of a heftier page count for Michaels but reads super fast.  What keeps this from being a 5 star read is a few minor plot points that don't resolved as well as wanting a bit more detail with the actual resolution.  Overall, this book has definitely earned its place on my Keeper Shelf and I'm looking forward to reading it again.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Of course!  Barbara Michaels (and her other pseudonym Elizabeth Peters) is one of my favorite authors and I have so many of her books that I enjoy rereading.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Absolutely!  If you love mysteries with a bit of a gothic feel this is an entertaining read.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Friday Fives - Five Non-Bookish Things I'm Loving Right Now

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much. This is a not so much as I'm looking at five things I'm really enjoying right now that aren't book related.

1.  Blackberry Lemonade - I have been on a big lemon everything kick and have been really enjoying lemonade.  A little while ago I picked up Blackberry Lemonade at Publix and I am absolutely in love with it!  If you have a Publix near you and enjoy lemonade give the blackberry lemonade a try and if you don't I highly recommend that flavor combination!

2.  Calm App - I got a 3 month trial to the Calm App with my YouTube premium account and I'm absolutely loving it.  They have mediations, music, exercises, and my favorite sleep stories along with a few other categories.  I've had a much easier time getting to sleep since I've been using it and I absolutely love the sleep stories.  My favorite is The Rules of Cricket which I have listened to several times but still don't know the rules of cricket because I fall asleep so fast.

3.  Anti-Chef channel on YouTube - I discovered Jamie's channel earlier this year and have become absolutely obsessed.  He decided to teach himself to cook and filmed himself learning.  He's pretty capable now but things still go wrong periodically.  He's got a few projects going at the moment.  My favorites are where he is cooking through The Art of French Cooking and where he is cooking a dish from every country going in alphabetical order.

4.  Tree Hut Sugar Scrubs - I have long been a fan of these sugar scrubs and their summer scents this year have been my absolute favorite!  

5.  Documentaries about scams, cults, or conspiracies - I've long been an avid true crime watcher but recently I've fallen down a rabbit hole on documentaries involving the scammier side of true crime.  I've really enjoyed Bad Vegan and Trainwreck: Woodstock 99 (not so much a scam but definitely a disaster), and one about a Canadian crypto king.  I've got a bunch more on my to watch list and I cannot get enough.

What non-bookish things have you been enjoying lately?

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Books from the Backlog - The Santa Claus Man

Today I'm linking up with Carole from Carole's Random Life of Books for Books from the Backlog.  I really enjoy the chance to feature a book that's been hiding in the piles of books for far too long!

Blurb:  Before the charismatic John Duval Gluck, Jr. came along, letters from New York City children to Santa Claus were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office. Gluck saw an opportunity, and created the Santa Claus Association. The effort delighted the public, and for 15 years money and gifts flowed to the only group authorized to answer Santa’s mail. Gluck became a Jazz Age celebrity, rubbing shoulders with the era’s movie stars and politicians, and even planned to erect a vast Santa Claus monument in the center of Manhattan — until Gotham’s crusading charity commissioner discovered some dark secrets in Santa’s workshop.

The rise and fall of the Santa Claus Association is a caper both heartwarming and hardboiled, involving stolen art, phony Boy Scouts, a kidnapping, pursuit by the FBI, a Coney Island bullfight, and above all, the thrills and dangers of a wild imagination. It’s also the larger story of how Christmas became the extravagant holiday we celebrate today, from Santa’s early beginnings in New York to the country’s first citywide Christmas tree and Macy’s first grand holiday parade. The Santa Claus Man is a holiday tale with a dark underbelly, and an essential read for lovers of Christmas stories, true crime, and New York City history.

Why It Needs to Come Off the Shelf:  This sounds fascinating and a way to get some Christmas in July without going to the typical cozy mysteries or romances.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Macarons Can Be Murder - Cozy Mystery Review

Goodreads:  Macarons Can Be Murder (A Paris Kentucky Bakery Mystery #1) by Rose Betancourt

Rating: Just Okay (2.5 Stars)
Source:   Publisher

Description:  Living in Paris, Kentucky, and having a sidekick cat named Pepe le Pew gives Marci Beaucoup’s life a certain je ne sais quoi . Combining her love of baking and France, Marci opened La Belle Patisserie to bring her small Southern hometown a bit of French flair and lots of croissants. Everything is sunshine and macarons at the bakery until her landlord calls to tell her she’s selling the property. Marci’s relieved to hear that if the top bidder, an enchanting Frenchman named Antoine Dubois, gets the property, he’ll renew her bakery’s lease. Charmed by Antoine, Marci figures this development isn’t half bad and sees a handsome new landlord in her future—but then Antoine’s estranged ex-girlfriend Kelly turns up dead in front of her bakery. Sacrebleu!

Everyone calls Marci’s pastries “to die for,” but nobody’s actually died at La Belle Patisserie before. Antoine quickly becomes the main suspect to everyone in Paris—including to womanizing detective Maverick Malone. Who else would have killed Kelly but the ex-boyfriend she was just seen fighting with on the day of her death?

Marci finds out from her landlord that if Antoine is arrested, his purchase of her building will fall through—and her landlord will sell to developers instead, who plan to demolish the building and construct a strip mall in its place. Enamored with Antoine and with her patisserie dreams hanging in the balance, Marci is determined to prove Maverick and the rest of Paris wrong and find the true killer before Antoine winds up in jail—and she has to say au revoir to her bakery.

Now Marci finds herself mixed up in the murder investigation, and she must find the killer before her half-baked theories result in her untimely death.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I love a foodie cozy and I can never resist a new series.

My Impression: I do love a foodie cozy and I love the idea of a French bakery in Paris, Kentucky.  There's an interesting collection of characters and the main character Marci has a cat and a dog which is a selling point.  The mystery was interesting and the motive ended up being solid.

That said this one fell a bit flat for me.  I was never able to fully connect with either the story or Marci as a character.  We spent way too much time in Marci's head and a lot of her decisions and conclusions didn't make a great deal of sense.  Her investigation seemed to involve sneaking repeatedly into the victim's workplace with every movement described in detail.  All of the thoughts and detail got a bit repetitive and definitely impacted my enjoyment of the read.  As well, I felt this kept me from feeling connected to any of the characters including Marci herself.  

I really liked the premise and the framework of the story but the execution just didn't quite work for me.  I will probably try the second book but this wasn't a winner for me.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I've read another book by this author (under another name) and enjoyed it so I will give this series another try.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Umm - probably not.  If the second book is much stronger I would change my mind but at this point I'd be hesitant to recommend it.  

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday - Books with One Word Titles on My TBR

Today I'm linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl which is all about lists.  Since lists are one of my favorite things this is one of my favorite linkups!  Today's topic is about books with one word titles.  This was harder than I expected but here are Books with One Word Titles on My TBR!

1.  Omens by Kelley Armstrong - This author's books have been on my TBR for ages and this one looks fantastic!

2.  Burned by Edward Humes - This is a nonfiction book about a housefire that looks like a dive into a mystery.  I'm very intrigued.  

3.  Run! by Patricia Wentworth - This is coming up on my Wentworth read/reread list and I'm so excited!  

4.   Honeymoon by Tina Seskis - A thriller set in the Maldives just sounds like so much fun - and perfect summer reading.

5.  Toast by Nigel Slater - This nonfiction memoir sounds fantastic and I've always had good luck with Nigel Slater's recipes so I'm looking forward to this one.  

6.   Belleweather by Susanne Kearsley - I know so many people who have really enjoyed this author's books and this one sounds amazing.  

7.  Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz - I've been wanting to read this author for awhile and this book looks great.  

8.  Shadowkiller by Wendy Corsi Staub - I'm not sure if this title is a real world but this author tends to write such fun reads.  

9.  Tinseltown by William J Mann - This nonfiction story of early Hollywood scandal sounds like seriously compelling reading!

10. Rosemary by Kate Clifford Larson - I've been wanting to read more about Rosemary Kennedy's heartbreaking story so this book has been on my TBR for quite some time.

What One Word Titles do you have on your TBR?

Monday, July 17, 2023

Reading Books I'm Excited About - Death in the Family


Goodreads:  Death in the Family (A Shana Merchant Mystery #1) by Tessa Wegert

Blurb:   A storm-struck island. A blood-soaked bed. A missing man. Senior Investigator Shana Merchant believes it all adds up to a killer in their midst—and that murder is a family affair.
Thirteen months ago, former NYPD detective Shana Merchant barely survived being abducted by a serial killer. Now hoping to leave grisly murder cases behind, she's taken a job in her fiancé's sleepy hometown in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York.

But as a nor'easter bears down on her new territory, Shana and fellow investigator Tim Wellington receive a call about a man missing on a private island. Shana and Tim travel to the isolated island owned by the wealthy Sinclair family to question the witnesses. They arrive to find blood on the scene and a house full of Sinclair family and friends on edge.

While Tim guesses they're dealing with a runaway case, Shana is convinced that they have a murder on their hands. As the gale intensifies outside, she starts conducting interviews and discovers the Sinclairs and their guests are crawling with dark and dangerous secrets.

Trapped on the island by the raging storm with only Tim whose reliability is thrown into question, the increasingly restless suspects, and her own trauma-fueled flashbacks for company, Shana will have to trust the one person her abduction destroyed her faith in—herself. But time is ticking down, because if Shana's right, a killer is in their midst and as the pressure mounts, so do the odds that they'll strike again.

My Thoughts:  This has been sitting on my shelf since sometime in 2019 and while I wanted to read it the second I got it I somehow never did - until this year.  This was quite the ride.  Shana has a checkered history and a relationship that is all red flags both of which make her question if she's really able to handle an intense investigation.  So when she and her colleague Tim end up on a private island in the middle of a storm with a missing man, a mattress soaked in blood, and a whole family full of really terrible people all with possible motives she questions her sanity almost as much as she tries to find answers.  It took awhile to warm up to Shana and I'm not sure I liked her by the end though I did end up sympathizing with her and rooting for her to get her act together.   The mystery did keep me guessing.  There's some questions as to just what is going on and everyone on the island has at least one motive and several have more.  And just what happened is in question until really the final reveal.  This was an entertaining mystery with a truly awful bunch of suspects and I'm curious to see more of Shana Marchant's investigations.  My Rating: Really Liked It (4 Stars)

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Reading Update - July 16

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

What I Got:

Snow Place for Murder by Diane Kelly - I have read the previous books in this series and really enjoyed it. (Publisher)

The Proof of the Pudding by Rhys Bowen - I've really been enjoying this series and am looking forward to this latest book.  (Publisher)

Mrs. Jeffries Aims to Win by Emily Brightwell - Another series I really enjoy! (Publisher)

Cursed at Dawn by Heather Graham - I really liked the first book in this trilogy about an international investigation and am looking forward to reading the third book to see how it all ends. (Publisher)

A Troubling Tail by Laurie Cass - I've seen such great things about this series so I decided to go on and jump in with this one.  (Publisher)


Reading:  Vanish with the Rose by Barbara Michaels and A Fatal Groove by Olivia Blacke

Listening:  'Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost

Another fairly quiet week.  It is still taking some getting used to to not have medical appointments most days.  Will is doing so well being done with chemo.  His energy and appetite have increased so much.  When it's not raining we've been getting a lot of pool time and all the swimming has really helped him get some exercise and build up his strength.  I'm going to start getting him to go on dog walks with me and maybe hiking to get him ready for all the walking Disney World will entail in a couple of months.  I'm so ready to go somewhere fun!

This is our last week of school.  With all the craziness of this past school year we are definitely down to the wire but will get it done with enough days for him to have a two week summer.  I am excited to have a more normal school year starting in August and am having a good time with planning curriculum.  

I have next week off from dog classes I teach and have been enjoying really focusing on my own dog.  We've been doing a lot of work on our own on the agility field.  I'm calling it "Let's Not Be an Idiot" training but it's really just working on his focus and getting a stronger recall.  Slow progress but we are getting there.

Have a great week!

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Mrs. Pollifax Pursued - Mystery REview

Goodreads:  Mrs. Pollifax Pursued (Mrs. Pollifax #11) by Dorothy Gilman

Rating: Really Liked It! (4 Stars)
Source:   Library

Description:  The last thing Mrs. Pollifax expects to find in her closet is a young woman hiding. Kadi Hopkirk insists that that she’s being pursued by two men in a van. Under the cover of darkness, Mrs. P. tries to drive Kadi home to Manhattan, only to have a dark green sedan give them a run for their money and, Mrs. P. begins to suspect, their lives.

Finally Kadi shares the startling truth: her friend, Sammy, is the son of the assassinated president of an African country, and unbeknownst to the young man’s bodyguard, he passed her something important during a recent meeting. Ever resourceful, Mrs. P. puts in a call for help to her CIA colleague, Carstairs, who installs them in a safe house—at a carnival! Before Mrs. P. knows it, a dash to safety expands into an assignment that leads to hair-trigger violence in exotic places…

Genre:  Mystery 

Why I Picked This Book:   I'm reading through the Mrs. Pollifax series and this was the next book in the series.

My Impression:   I always enjoy catching up with Mrs. Pollifax and this was an especially fun read.  The usual setup for this series is Mrs. Pollifax being sent into some kind of situation that starts out looking fairly simple but than quickly goes awry.   In this book Mrs. Pollifax is going about her usual day gardening and running errands when she realizes something is not as it seems.

A young woman, Kadi Hopkirk, stumbled into her house while on the run from assailants with unknown motives and has been hiding out for several days.  Mrs. Pollifax has never one to sit idle and soon is jumping into the fray and going on the run with Kadi as they try to work out just what is going on.  This was completely unrealistic but very fun.  I really enjoyed that Carstairs takes a more active role in this book and he is as in the dark as Emily as they try to figure out just what is going on.  

The book ends with setup for the next book which I'm looking forward to reading.  The Mrs. Pollifax books require a pretty solid suspension of belief but they never fail to entertain.  

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Of course!  I'm looking forward to the next book though will be sad to see this series end.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Of course though I do recommend starting with an earlier book as there are aspects of this book that could be confusing without earlier explanations.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Friday Fives - Five Books I'm Hoping to Read to Help Me Forget That It's Summer

I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much.  Here where I live it is blazing hot and super humid and while I like warm weather for the most part getting a break from it now and then is nice.  Here are 5 books I'm going to pick up next time I'm needing a bit of a winter-y break from summer.

1.  Cross Her Heart by Melinda Leigh - Hot weather just begs for suspenseful reads and this one set in a chilly setting just sounds perfect.  

2.  Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford - I really enjoyed the first book in this series and this sounds like a perfect hot weather read that will have me wanting a cozy blanket and a cup of tea.

3.  To the Bright Edge of Beyond by Eowyn Ivey - This is a dual timeline novel set in Alaska and I feel a bit chilly just reading the blurb. 

4.  How the Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior - Antarctica and penguins with some family bonding.  What could be better?

5.  The Family You Make by Jill Shalvis - This cover just makes me want to put on warm fuzzy socks!  

How do you deal with hot weather?  Do you have any cold weather books that you enjoy?

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Books from the Backlog - The Twelve Clues of Christmas

Today I'm linking up with Carole from Carole's Random Life of Books for Books from the Backlog.  I really enjoy the chance to feature a book that's been hiding in the piles of books for far too long!

Blurb:  On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—well, actually, my true love, Darcy O’Mara, is spending a feliz navidad tramping around South America. Meanwhile Mummy is holed up in a tiny village called Tiddleton-under-Lovey with that droll Noel Coward! And I’m snowed in at Castle Rannoch with my bumbling brother, Binky, and sourpuss sister-in-law, Fig.

Why It Needs to Come Off the Shelf:  This is another series that I've read the beginning books and the most recent books but not the ones in the middle and this looks perfect for Christmas in July.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The Summer Skies - Fiction Review

Goodreads:  The Summer Skies by Jenny Colgan

Rating: Really Liked It (4 Stars)
Source:   Publisher

Description:  Morag MacIntyre is a Scottish lass from the remote islands that make up the northernmost reaches of the UK. She's also a third-generation pilot, the heir apparent to an island plane service she runs with her grandfather. The islands--over 500 dots of windswept land that reach almost to Norway--rely on their one hardworking prop plane to deliver mail, packages, tourists, medicine, and the occasional sheep. As the keeper of this vital lifeline, Morag is used to landing on pale golden beaches and tiny grass airstrips, whether during great storms or on bright endless summer nights. Up in the blue sky, Morag feels at one with the elements.

Down on the ground is a different matter, though. Her grandfather is considering and Morag wonders if she truly wants to spend the rest of her life in the islands. Her boyfriend Hayden, from flight school, wants Morag to move to Dubai with him, where they'll fly A380s and say goodbye to Scotland's dark winters.

Morag is on the verge of making a huge life change when an unusually bumpy landing during a storm finds her marooned on Inchborn island. Inchborn is gloriously off-grid, home only to an ancient ruined abbey, a bird-watching station, and a population of one: Gregor, a visiting ornithologist from Glasgow who might have just the right perspective to help Morag pilot her course.

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I love Jenny Colgan's books and this sounded interesting.

My Impression:  I have complicated feelings about this book.  Normally Colgan's books are warm and cozy reads with quirky characters and a cozy if somewhat dilapidated setting.  This was a bit different for me.  For starters I was never quite certain how I felt about Morag or Gregor.  On first meeting I didn't really like either of them and by the end I still wasn't sure I liked either of them but at the same time I could relate to Morag and was rooting for them.   I also found that it had a bit of a slow start.  I didn't care much about the history of McIntyre Air and didn't enjoy the pre-Scotland part of the book where the focus was just on Morag.  I honestly was considering DNF'ing it.

But then something happened.  I'm not exactly sure when it happened or what changed but suddenly I realized it was 2 in the morning and I really didn't want to put the book down even though I had a busy day the next day. I wanted to find out what happened next and how the story continued to progress.  When I finally made myself put the book down and get to sleep I couldn't wait to pick it up and get back to Inchborn island the next day.  

I can't say this is my favorite Colgan book and I can't say that I ever really grew to love Morag or Gregor but I did end up really enjoying it.  It has a bit of a different feel than the usual Colgan book and I'm so glad I stuck with it through the slower part.  This was an entertaining read with unusual characters and a unique premise.  

Would I Read More of this Series/Author? Absolutely!  Colgan is one of my favorite authors andd I always look forward to her books.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would!  Despite the slow start I ended up really enjoying this one.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books on My (Fictional) Christmas in July Readathon

Today I'm linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by 
That Artsy Reader Girl which is all about lists.  Since lists are one of my favorite things this is one of my favorite linkups!  Today's topic is a freebie and since my focus this month is Christmas in July I picked a list of books that I'd read if I got my act together enough to put aside the time for a Christmas in July Readathon.

1.  Sleigh Bells Ring by RaeAnne Thayne - I love Thayne's Christmas books so much but have gotten behind and there are so many of her books that I need to read.  This seems like a good book to start out with to give me the warm and fuzzy holiday feels.

2.  Death of a Neighborhood Scrooge by Laura Levine - Now that I'm feeling all warm and cozy it's time for a nice murder mystery and how can I resist this title!

3.  Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb - After two lighter books I'll go a little more serious with this historical fiction set around World War I and by two authors I always enjoy.  

4.  Wrapped Up In You by Jill Shalvis - And now back to some lighter reading with a fun contemporary romance and with this author a lot of fun banter between the characters and a good animal side kick.

5.  'Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost - What is cozier than a cozy mystery set in a Christmas tree farm - well if you can overlook the murders of course!

6.  Ornaments of Death by Jane K. Cleland - Murder involving antiques isn't quite as cozy as murder in a Christmas tree farm but still cozy and I love the cover.

7.  Christmas at Rosie Hopkin's Sweet Shop by Jenny Colgan - I can't resist the title though I should probably read the first Rosie Hopkin's book before I get to this one.

8.  A Killer Carol by Laura Bradford - I have been wanting to read this cozy mystery series from Laura Bradford for quite some time and this looks like a good one to start with.

9.  The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews - This sounds like a lovely story and just the idea of buying an old farmhouse full of old furniture just makes me happy.

10. Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories by L.M. Montgomery - To end the readathon I'm going to pick up one of my favorite holiday reads - a collection of short stories and book excerpts all with a Christmas-y theme.  It's so sweet and cozy that it will definitely leave me with a nice Christmas-y feel.

What books would you put on a Christmas in July readathon list?

Monday, July 10, 2023

Reading Books I'm Excited About - The House at Riverton + The Secret Life of Violet Grant

In 2023 my reading goals were to focus on reading books I was excited to read or had been looking forward to reading.  Here are two recent reads that met that criteria.

Goodreads:  The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Blurb:   The House at Riverton is a gorgeous debut novel set in England between the wars. Perfect for fans of "Downton Abbey," it's the story of an aristocratic family, a house, a mysterious death, and a way of life that vanished forever, told in flashback by a woman who witnessed it all.

The novel is full of secrets - some revealed, others hidden forever, reminiscent of the romantic suspense of Daphne du Maurier. It's also a meditation on memory and the devastation of war and a beautifully rendered window into a fascinating time in history.

My Thoughts  I love Kate Morton's books with their complicated characters and gorgeous settings.  Somehow I missed reading her first book and to be honest - it wasn't my favorite.  While the setting at Riverton was gorgeous and the time period from 1914 to 1924 was fascinating when I came to the end I found I just wanted more from the story.  While I don't mind an ending that is a bit more open ended in this style of book I was left with more questions that I wanted especially given the page count for this book.  As well, I don't think Morton had quite found her balance with building suspense and giving information and because of that it felt like a lot of build up for a fairly rushed conclusion.  That said it is still a Kate Morton book so I still found myself pulled into the story and couldn't help but feel connected to Grace.  This was a gorgeously atmospheric story with a plot that didn't quite live up to its surrounding.  My Rating: Liked It (3 Stars)

Goodreads:  The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams

Blurb:  Manhattan, 1964. Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from Bryn Mawr College, has recently defied the privilege of her storied old Fifth Avenue family to do the unthinkable for a budding Kennedy-era socialite: break into the Mad Men world of razor-stylish Metropolitan magazine. But when she receives a bulky overseas parcel in the mail, the unexpected contents draw her inexorably back into her family’s past, and the hushed-over crime passionnel of an aunt she never knew, whose existence has been wiped from the record of history.

Berlin, 1914. Violet Schuyler Grant endures her marriage to the philandering and decades-older scientist Dr. Walter Grant for one reason: for all his faults, he provides the necessary support to her liminal position as a young American female physicist in prewar Germany. The arrival of Dr. Grant’s magnetic former student at the beginning of Europe’s fateful summer interrupts this delicate détente. Lionel Richardson, a captain in the British Army, challenges Violet to escape her husband’s perverse hold, and as the world edges into war and Lionel’s shocking true motives become evident, Violet is tempted to take the ultimate step to set herself free and seek a life of her own conviction with a man whose cause is as audacious as her own.

As the iridescent and fractured Vivian digs deeper into her aunt’s past and the mystery of her ultimate fate, Violet’s story of determination and desire unfolds, shedding light on the darkness of her years abroad . . . and teaching Vivian to reach forward with grace for the ambitious future––and the love––she wants most.

My Thoughts:  I really enjoyed this read!  I liked Vivian right from the beginning and loved her timeline.  The idea of this mystery suitcase was fascinating and I loved that Vivian was just as fascinated as I imagine I would be in her circumstances.  Violet's timeline took me a little longer to warm up to.  It was compelling but the red flags are basically hitting the reader in the face and I just wanted to reach into the book and warn Violet about what was to come.   I really enjoyed the Schuyler family even when they weren't the most likable and it was fascinating seeing the people in Violet's world.  I really wasn't quite sure what Vivian would uncover or just how everything would unravel but I enjoyed it from beginning to end and was well satisfied with the ending.  I'm looking forward to reading more about the other Shuyler sisters.  My Rating:  Really Liked It (4 Stars)