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27 November 2015

#BookBeginnings & #Friday56 -- Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

For well over a decade now I've had people & websites recommend Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen cozy mystery series to me. There was always something else in my mind that I wanted to read next, though, so it kept getting shoved aside. Then came this week when the Thanksgiving-y book I was reading wasn't doing anything but annoying me and I decided that I needed some fluff to bide my time until Thanksgiving passed and my holiday read-a-thon could really officially begin. So I finally picked up the first in the series, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, and it was just the perfect amount of fluff needed! 

It's your typical cozy with the amateur sleuth who somehow manages to be more awesome than local law enforcement when it comes to solving crime (they even encourage her to do so) ... all the while managing to run her own bakery and coffee shop and juggle her dysfunctional family. The downside is that I'm having a big huge cookie craving now. The upside? It was delightfully easy to zip through in a couple of days and now I'm all set to get my ho-ho-ho on! (AND I have another series to add to the ever-growing pile!)

As always, Friday56 (share a blurb from the 56th page or 56% mark) is hosted at Freda's Voice & Book Beginnings (share the first few sentences & your thoughts) is at Rose City Reader.

23 November 2015

Reading With John : Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye

We were going to hold off and post this for Teaser Tuesday, but just couldn't hold in our excitement any longer for tomorrow's release of Tania del Rio & Will Staehle's Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye from Quirk Books. We're so thankful that NetGalley made it available to us to read early and that Quirk accepted our request to do so!

(I may still link it up to Teaser Tuesday when it goes up tomorrow because it's too good not to share repeatedly!)

John and I both loved the book. The artwork has an eerie Victorian feel to it and the pages are laid out with two columns per page which I bet is absolutely gorgeous in hard copy. The copy we got was an e-ARC and not all of the artwork was there yet so we'll definitely at least be picking it up at the library to see what we missed, but it was delightful enough that we may buy it outright as a "keeper."

We were originally drawn to it over the hotel aspect since John's father and I both work at hotels so they've been a part of his life forever. The Warren Hotel is a bit different than the places he's been used to, though ...

And now a word from our sponsor ... errrr ... John!

Thinking ahead ...

I've been thinking a lot lately about my Reading Thing* for 2016 (* "it's like a plan but with more greatness") and I think I may have it ... roughly. If this coming year is anything like this year has been, it's a pretty safe bet that I can average five books a month and rather than trying to do any of the challenges that other blogs are setting up or attempting an A-to-Z deal again, I want to focus on my own little categories based on what I know I have & want to get to. SO I each month I'll read:

* one middle grade/YA book not with John (although we may end up reading whatever it is together at some point anyway)

* one book written by an author who died before I was born (so they had to kick it before December 10, 1975)

* one book from a series I've already started

* one book that I've been meaning to get to but haven't because ... oh! look! a squirrel!

* one ARC from NetGalley or elsewhere

If I make it to a sixth book that will be my Sharyn McCrumb Ballad Series read. At least half of the series will be re-reads for me, but they're SO worthy of re-reading and it's been so long since I left them behind that a re-read is definitely in order.

So how about you? Are you making any plans (or "things") for what to read in 2016 or are you just going to wing it?

20 November 2015

#BookBeginnings & #Friday56 -- The September Society

I found out quite by accident that the third book in the Charles Lenox Mystery Series by Charles Finch is set at Christmastime which will be perfect for my holiday read-a-thon this year! Of course, before I can do that, I have to read the second book -- The September Society. I've only just started, but I'm already loving it just like I loved the first one. Lenox and his cohorts from the first novel are back and as unassumingly wonderful as they were the first time around. When he mentions being bored because of no cases being had his best friend, Lady Jane, offers to rob a bank so he has something to do. When a case does potentially arrive on his doorstep, his medical examiner friend McConnell comes running -- even though all he knows about the case at the time is that there's a dead cat. I really love these people. Right now I don't care so much about the murders since there's a side story I'm dying to have sorted out ... but, as I've said, I've only just started.

As always, Friday56 (share a blurb from the 56th page or 56% mark) is hosted at Freda's Voice & Book Beginnings (share the first few sentences & your thoughts) is at Rose City Reader.

18 November 2015

Krista Davis - The Diva Runs Out Of Thyme

I admit, holidays can stress me out. I'm a decent cook and we never host anything anyway so there shouldn't be much to stress out over, but still ... I start digging up recipes weeks in advance in case I may decide to channel my own inner domestic diva. If that ever actually happens I'll be sure to let you know. In the meantime, though, we can all just live vicariously through the characters in Krista Davis' Domestic Diva Mystery series! Reading about cooking is so much more fun than actually doing it anyway ...

The Diva Runs Out Of Thyme is the first in the series (there are nine at last count -- with more to come). I've debated starting the series off and on for years thanks to her involvement with Mystery Lovers Kitchen and I'm SO glad that I finally did! I was in the mood for some Thanksgiving-y reads and the few books I have on hand that would fit I've either already read or are parts of series I haven't caught up with yet (and you know how I am about skipping ahead). A first in a series AND a cozy mystery AND the right holiday? It's like it was meant to be.

I absolutely adored this book.

Sophie Winston is a 44-year-old divorced event planner in historic Alexandria, Virginia. Her ex-husband, Mars, lives nearby with his girlfriend, Natasha ... who happens to be Sophie's childhood rival and a local uptight and glamorous Martha Stewart-type. While at the grocery store to get the fixings for a stuffing competition and the Thanksgiving dinner she'll be hosting for her visiting parents, sister and soon-to-be brother-in-law, Sophie is stopped by a strange man who tries to talk her into adopting a kitten. She refuses but has a change of heart and looks for him in the parking lot when she leaves the store. She finds him ... dead in a dumpster. Her picture is found on the seat of his vehicle but until the kitten incident she swears she'd never seen him before. When the head of the stuffing competition is also killed Sophie becomes a suspect for both murders and things, of course, just get more complicated from there.

My heart really went out to poor Sophie. I think I get stressed over holidays?!? I don't have to deal with an ex constantly around with his snarky other, meddling family members, an ex-mother-in-law staying in my guest room and talking to dead people, and the best man from my wedding camping out in my den WHILE a Peeping Tom is roaming around my neighborhood, I'm faced with having to write my own less-uppity domestic advice column, I'm a murder suspect myself, and almost every one around me is acting suspiciously. Oh, and we can't forget the exasperation of the hot-and-cold hunky investigator in charge of the cases who one minute seems to think I'm wonderful and the next seems to think I'm guilty.

My life is boring and wonderful and my holiday stress is nothing.

Even with all the angst going on for Sophie, this is truly a "cozy" with delightful light-hearted bits. Each chapter begins with a column blurb from either Natasha or Sophie. Of course, most of Natasha's advice I wouldn't ever attempt, but I'm actually thinking about trying some of Sophie's if the need and opportunity ever arise! Her best friend is the kind of friend I wish I had living across the street and there's plenty of comic relief from her and some of the other neighbors. Even the family pets get in on the fun of it all without being as obnoxious as book pets can sometimes be.

Oh, and the mystery? I totally didn't see it until the big reveal and totally wanted to give Krista Davis a big hug for that whole fantabulous scene.

And now I want to go make some stuffing.

I do have one more Thankgiving-y book lined up to read but I'm guessing that it'll be another fast one so I'm going to delay it until next week. Besides, I have to play catch-up with another series for my post-Thanksgiving Christmas marathon but if you're looking for something yourself, though, my next Thanksgiving-y read will be Jessie Crockett's Drizzled With Death. There's plenty of time still to get the ebook OR the actual book-book in a "real" store or online with decent shipping options (*cough*Amazon Prime*cough*).

13 November 2015

#BookBeginnings, #Friday56 & A Ramble -- The Châtelet Apprentice by Jean-François Parot

I promise this will be my last French-to-English ramble for a while. I'll have to largely ignore NetGalley (or, at least, Gallic Books), but my brain needs a break and something a little more ... well ... not French. For now, though, I'm set to finish up The Châtelet Apprentice by Jean-François Parot within the next day or two. Perfect timing for Friday 56 and Book Beginnings!

As always, Friday56 (share a blurb from the 56th page or 56% mark) is hosted at Freda's Voice & Book Beginnings (share the first few sentences & your thoughts) is at Rose City Reader.

The story opens in early 1761 -- Louis XV was still ruling over France. The country was five years in to the Seven Years War and thirty years away from the beginning of the French Revolution. To say that things were a bit stressful in the country would be an understatement. I might not remember an awful lot about the European history courses I took in college, but I do remember that.

The main character of the series, Nicolas Le Floch, has been sent from Brittany by his godfather to Paris in order to train under the Lieutenant General of Police, Monsieur de Sartine. He was hesitant about all of it, feeling inadequate since he was an orphan found in a cemetery, but his godfather was a Marquis and a friend of the Lieutenant General and sent him with a sealed letter of recommendation. After a brief inspection of the boy, Sartine sends Nicolas off to Commissioner Lardin for training and lodging. For fifteen months Nicolas trained with Lardin while reporting back to Sartine (sometimes about Lardin) and being sent on undercover missions. He was a hard worker and fast learner and grew up quickly. He returns home as his guardian is dying and when he returns to Paris he discovers that Lardin himself has disappeared. Of course, it's put to him to figure it all out.

This has NOT been a fast read, but that may be because the week in general has seemed busier than usual for me. Parot is a diplomat and French historian and the detail and care he puts into telling his tale is splendid. He scatters non-fictional characters into the narrative seamlessly and the fictional characters are so believable I found myself hitting Google more than once to see who was real and who was not. A lot of historical fiction tends to read like my old text books, but Parot has managed to avoid that. I even have the next two in the series already floating around my storage cloud! Now, if only I could find the French tv series with English subtitles I would be all set.

10 November 2015

#TeaserTuesday # 36 - Jean-François Parot - The Châtelet Apprentice

The Book & The Tease
Jean-François Parot - The Châtelet Apprentice

I'm only 20% in right now and already want to get the next ones in the series ...
AND find the French tv series with English subtitles to devour and marathon!

The Meme

08 November 2015

Claude Izner's Murder On The Eiffel Tower

A big thanks goes out to NetGalley and especially to Gallic Books for giving me the opportunity to read Murder On The Eiffel Tower at no cost. Gallic is also the publishing house that introduced me to The Poisoning Angel. I'm already loading up my TBR with more titles from their publication list (in fact, my next read is also thanks to them & NetGalley!) -- and their upcoming Aardvark Bureau imprint. 

Before I get too carried away oohing and aahing over more Jean Teulé's and book titles involving phantoms and elves and hedgehogs, let's get on with a little ramble about the first in the Victor Legris series from Claude Izner (who is actually Liliane Korb and her sister Laurence Korb Lefèvre). I made the mistake and glanced at the Goodreads score for the book when I was adding it to my shelf and was a little disheartened over the lowness of it ... until I remembered that Goodreads has a whole bunch of silly people on it who likely wouldn't know a good book if it bit them in the ankle. 

Victor Legris is a bookseller and amateur photographer in 1889 Paris. The World Exposition is happening and, as part of that, the debut of the Eiffel Tower. A woman dies from a supposed bee sting on the Tower at the same time Legris is there to meet with his friends about an upstart newspaper. As it turns out there may be something more sinister to it than a simple bee sting as similar deaths happen. Legris already has his hands full with running the bookstore and dealing with his married lover. Now, on top of those, he has a newspaper that wants him to write for them, a crush on the newspaper's cartoonist, and possible murders that may be linked to someone close to him. While the mystery aspect of the book fell a bit flat for me, I loved the historical aspects and the richness of the details surrounding Paris and the Expo. It felt almost as though the book was written as a straight historical look at Paris and the Expo and then the mystery storyline and characters were tossed in after the fact. I kept hoping for a little more about the characters and that Victor would stop being quite so flighty. It was enjoyable enough, though, that I have already checked with my public library to see if I can get the next book in the series!

Reading With John - I'm An Alien And I Want To Go Home

John recently finished Jo Franklin's I'm An Alien And I Want To Go Home thanks to NetGalley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group, and Clarion Books. It's set to be released this Tuesday, November 10th, and John thinks it definitely worth buying!

From Mom:
Daniel doesn't look anything like his family. He's tall and awkward and when his sister tells him it's because he's an alien and not really part of the family at all he believes her -- especially when they only thing he finds in the photo album where his baby pictures should be is a newspaper clipping about a meteor crashing nearby on the same day he was supposedly "born" to his Earth parents. With the help of his two best friends, Eddie and Gordon, Daniel sets out to get home to his "real" family. It's not the deepest middle grade book we've ever read (that honor still goes to The Goblin's Puzzle for me), but some lessons are learned about friendship and family and bravery ... even in the midst of "thin-crust laptops" and fart jokes.

Five Things From John:
* I liked the pictures (by Marty Kelley). They were really detailed and funny.
* I liked when Dan rescued his parents because he was really brave.
* I did NOT like that Dan's parents were kidnapped by the wackos. It was mean.
* I liked the staring contests over the laptop.
* I liked when they tried cryostasis on Dan his mom freaking out.

And one more thing from John:
* I like being able to read books before other people can!

06 November 2015

#BookBeginnings & #Friday56 & A Little Ramble -- Death by Tea by Alex Erickson

I totally dropped by the ball last week and forgot to actually blog my Book Beginnings & Friday 56 post (although I did Instagram it), but this week my head is screwed on slightly tighter it seems!

As always, Friday56 (share a blurb from the 56th page or 56% mark) is hosted at Freda's Voice & Book Beginnings (share the first few sentences & your thoughts) is at Rose City Reader.

I just finished the soon-to-be-released Death By Tea by Alex Erickson thanks to NetGalley. It's the second book in the Bookstore Cafe Mystery series and I rambled about the first one back in May. Of course, because I read an advanced copy there may be some textual changes with the final release ... but I hope that these two bits at least stay the same!

Knowing from the first book that Krissy has a tendency to get into trouble, I had to wonder from the get go what in the samheck she had gotten herself into. After all, it's a cozy mystery and she's the "star" so that means trouble has to be around the corner if not right in her face waiting for her to stick her nose into it.

And she does.


In a nutshell: The bookstore cafe that she runs with her best friend is doing well enough that they've been able to hire a couple of employees to help out and are getting ready to host the annual book club competition (do such things REALLY exist???). One of the members from the competing team is found dead in the store and Krissy is at the top of the suspect list. Of course she didn't do it and she sets out to prove it -- much to the dismay of just about everybody.

One of the things that I enjoy about this series is that people call Krissy out on the fact that she isn't really a detective and doesn't really have any business sticking that aforementioned nose into things. She gets in way over her head and reads way too much into things sometimes and rarely seems to think things through before she acts or speaks. So many cozy series have heroines that also have no business detecting and, yet, it's rare that anyone seems to notice. Having her so real and fallible and dimwitted at times is a nice change of pace from the same ol' same ol' cozy routine. I still haven't decided if I actually like Krissy, but I do enjoy the secondary characters and how they interact with her and her shenanigans.

The mystery angle was pretty predictable for me as far as whodunnit, but that happens and it isn't necessarily a negative. The next book in the series isn't coming out until next October (Death By Pumpkin Spice!!!) but I'm already looking forward to it ... if only to see if someone finally slaps some sense into her.

03 November 2015

Teaser Tuesday # 35 (& a ramble) - Jean Teule's The Poisoning Angel

The Book & The Tease
Jean Teulé - The Poisoning Angel

The Meme

The Ramble
Have you ever found yourself enamored with a book but without being able to pinpoint exactly WHY? I finished Jean Teulé's The Poisoning Angel in the wee small hours of the morning and I loved it ... but I'm not exactly sure why. I do know that I'm awfully glad that NetGalley was offering it up as a "Read Now" selection and that I decided to take a chance on it ... but I'm not exactly sure what it was about the book that delighted me so.

It's not a delightful subject matter with a delightful heroine, that's for sure. It's a fictionalized account of the life of Hélène Jégado -- a serial killer from the early 1850's. Born in 1803 in Brittany, she grew up listening to the old stories, folklores and superstitions of the Celts and seeing those beliefs mashed together with the increasing influence of the Roman Catholic church. She also learned at a very early age, according to this telling, how to kill. Her specialty was masking poison in foods that she cooked. Likening herself to Ankou -- the Breton henchman of Death -- she killed without discrimination or remorse. Friends, employers, family, strangers, lovers. No one was safe. 

She was found guilty of three murders, three attempted murders and multiple thefts in 1851. There would have been more but there was a ten year statute of limitations. The number of deaths linked directly to her is 36. Some think that number is even greater. 

See? Not a delightful heroine. 

Some highlights -- in random order:
* the Mass scene where she does her rosary of victims so far
* the blue dish
* her collection of souvenirs from her completed "tasks" 
* the random reappearances of the Norman wigmakers (if she had been Hamlet they would have been Rosencrantz and Guildenstern)
* her utter delight in "caring" for the ill -- and her utter dismay when someone wouldn't eat what she had made for them
* the defense's argument at her final trial

I should not have enjoyed this book so much. I feel like I should be saying some Hail Mary's over it all and I'm not even Catholic. And yet, it's a book I can definitely see myself rereading by an author I'll be reading more from.