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31 December 2015

Gail Carriger's Manners & Mutiny

Because of New Year's & all I'm not sure if Book Beginnings & Friday56 will be going as regularly scheduled or not ... but if they ARE then, hopefully, I'll come out of my intended cold-pill stupor long enough to link this up. If not, well ... whatever.  
Friday56 (share a blurb from the 56th page or 56% mark) is hosted at Freda's Voice & Book Beginnings (share the first few sentences) is at Rose City Reader.

I wasn't sure if I would end up reading Gail Carriger's Manners & Mutiny this month or not. I typically dedicate December to Christmas-y books and didn't figure that this would fit. Besides, it's the last in the Finishing School series and I've dreaded seeing it end because I've loved it so horribly much. Once I finished everything on my December TBR, though (including a few last-minute additions), I decided that I couldn't wait any longer to find out what happens with my Sophronia and her cohorts. After all, I had read the first book in the series last December so why not come full circle? How thrilled I was to discover that the book overlaps Christmas with the time-frame so it fits my month-long theme after all!

The time-frame of the book wasn't the only thing that thrilled me, of course. I have absolutely adored watching these characters mature over the course of the series and for the most part they got a proper send-off by Carriger. Granted, I would be thrilled to see several of them re-appear in her other series ... especially those few whose futures were more or less left with question marks dangling like participles. (This lack of info is the only reason I'm doing 4 stars instead of 5 on Goodreads ... and am I the only one who constantly writes it as GoodReads and then has to go back and lowercase the 'r'?)

All in all, a good finish to the Finishing School. Sure, there were some things I would tinker with and some twists I would have liked to see but I'm still thrilled with the series as a whole and I am definitely adding the first few books (at least) of the next chronological series (The Parasol Protectorate) to my Reading Thing for 2016!

22 December 2015

#TeaserTuesday # 41 - Holly Martin's Christmas At Lilac Cottage

The Book & The Tease
Christmas At Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin

I had started to read another book ... discovered that the story STARTS on Christmas Day ... and used that as an excuse to squeeze in an extra chick lit!

The Meme

21 December 2015

The Parisian Christmas Bake Off (@JenOliverBooks)

You know you maybe read too many cozy mysteries when you keep waiting for someone to be knocked off in pretty much anything you read... especially with a title like The Parisian Christmas Bake Off.

Will someone get pushed off the Eiffel Tower? Succumb to poisoned meringue? Be knifed in the back with some fancy cutlery?

None of these happened here.

My first UK chick-lit since Bridget Jones entered my life almost twenty years ago (YIKES!!! TWENTY YEARS?!?), I absolutely loved loved LOVED this book. Even with no one getting snuffed.

Rachel Smithson is a primary school teacher in the cozy English village of Nettleton. Her friends (which basically means the entire village) surprise her by entering her in a baking competition in Paris with Chef Henri Salernes (think Gordon Ramsey with a French accent).  Rachel grew up in the village bakery helping her mother. She has since passed and Rachel's so emotionally beaten up over it still that she doesn't know if she has it in her to compete. She doesn't want to go. She doesn't think she has it in her. She does, though, because they're all excited for her and, mostly, it would be a good escape from Christmas.

She's not a fan of Christmas.

I get it. I lost my mom in 2003 and still have a hard time with a lot of holidays ... and with a lot of cooking and baking things that remind me of her. I'll probably never make a Metropolitan Cheesecake because she made the absolute best. My baked macaroni and cheese is never quite right. I get it.

Back to the book, though.

Rachel goes off to Paris where her best friend has arranged lodgings for her through AirBnB and things are immediately off to a rocky start. Her room is an old servants quarters in an attic. She immediately gets picked on and belittled by Chef Henri when the competition begins. There are personality conflicts and some sabotage going on between the contestants. And it's still Christmas everywhere she looks.

Things improve, though, with the help of her own growing confidence, some new friendships, and the support of her mom. Even though she's passed on, she's still with Rachel in her heart and mind.

I get it.

I laughed. I cried. I wanted to eat. I wanted to bake.

My son is getting interested in baking and cooking thanks to watching Food Network shows with me like Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen and Holiday Baking Championship. For Christmas he's planning on making chocolate peppermint brownies. Nothing will be from scratch and nothing will be Bake Off quality once done ... but it'll all be made with love and with my mom watching over us just like Rachel's mom was watching over her. If Jenny Oliver wasn't an ocean away I'd have us bake up an extra batch just to say "Thanks" for this book.

Matthew West - Today Is Day One

Thanks to the weekend being crazy busy and not getting much reading done, I'm still only just about finished with The Parisian Christmas Bake Off. I'm sure I'll ramble on about that at some point, I'm sure.

There wasn't no reading time, just very little. Luckily, that's all the time that's been needed each day for Matthew West's new devotional book Today Is Day One.
I requested a copy from NetGalley since I enjoy West's music. Add to that the fact that my son decided a few weeks back that we should start going to church again and I figured a new devotional book of some sort would be nice.

This little book has 200 devotional readings in it. Some days are just a short paragraph or two. A couple seem to overflow a full page by a line or two. Now, don't forget that I've got an e-ARC so the formatting is probably different but still ... pretty short stuff. The handful that I've read have been nice little bits to get one thinking. A bit of advice, a bit of encouragement, a bit of "hey, you're not alone."

Personally I was hoping for something a bit more in depth. A paragraph here and there is probably the perfect length for most. Just the right amount to be able to read with the first cup of coffee of the day, for example. My first cup takes a while so I think I'll dust off some of my Merton or Bonhoeffer.

18 December 2015

#BookBeginnings & #Friday56 - The Parisian Christmas Bake Off

I spent several hours last night obsessing over UK ChickLit ...and I fully admit that it all started because 1) I forgot my intended book at home and 2) the covers are all absostinkinlutely gorgeous. I haven't really read much in the way of "ChickLit" for several years but once upon a time it was my go-to genre. Now that I've started to discover a whole slew of authors with gorgeous books AND British accents ... well ... here's hoping that Santa comes through with that Amazon Gift Card at Christmas.

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) is at Rose City Reader.

16 December 2015

Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen by Vicki Delany

The beginning of a new cozy mystery series set in a town that celebrates Christmas all year AND that town is in my dear New York State?!? Yeah, I was in love with this book before I even hit the "Buy Now" button on Amazon.

Vicki Delany's Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen takes place in the fictional town of Rudolph, New York on the southern shores of Lake Ontario. Not familiar with New York geography? Here's some help:

(original map found here)

Oh how I wish it WAS a real place because see that little heart in the center(ish) of the state? Yeah ... that's home. It would take a couple of hours TOPS to go and indulge in the yums from Victoria's Bake Shoppe and pick up some locally crafted gifts at Mrs Claus's Treasures. Of course, with how much I love all things Christmasy we'd probably end up having a day trip turn into an overnight and we'd hole up at The Yuletide Inn  (if they had vacancies, of course) after some dinner at the Touch of Holly Restaurant (and some dessert from North Pole Ice Cream). Alas, all I can do is read about it all.

Now, Rudolph didn't start out being all festive. The town was named after its founder whose last name was Rudolph and he was thought to be a hero of sorts during the War of 1812. When it was discovered that he was, in fact, a spy .... well .... the focus switched to the reindeer that shares the name and ever since it's been Fa La La and Ho Ho Ho and Jingle All The Way. On the day of the big Christmas parade there was even an English reporter from an international travel magazine in town chatting folks up and taking pictures for a story highlighting Rudolph as "America's Christmas Town." 

Oh, yeah. That's where the book opens. At the beginning of the parade. See? I knew I was supposed to be rambling about a book and not just obsessing over someplace I can never go. (Watch. Next someone will tell me that Hogwarts doesn't exist, either. Bah.)

Merry Wilkinson is our main character and the owner of Mrs. Claus's Treasures. She has a rambunctious Saint Bernard puppy named Matterhorn (Mattie, for short), her best friend owns the Bake Shoppe, and her nemesis since youth is now a local police officer. At the parade after-party Vicky treated everyone in town to amazing gingerbread including one specially made to look like Charles Dickens for the magazine guy that Merry got to serve since she was dressed as Mrs. Claus. After the party, Merry takes her pup for a much-needed walk in the park and Mattie finds said magazine guy laying in the snow. 


Of course.

The murder weapon? A poisoned gingerbread cookie.

The two people who had the most recent contact with the last cookie he was known to have eaten (and, therefore, the main suspects from the get-go)? 

Merry and Vicky.

Of course.

Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without murder and mayhem, would it?

Have I mentioned yet that I love this book? Oh. Yeah. I think I have. 

Even though Rudolph only exists on the pages it feels real. You know these people. You love some. You dislike some. You want to hit some over the head with a candy cane. You want this nasty murder business solved and out of the way for Vicky and Merry and the entire town because, really, murder in "America's Christmas Town" would not be good for tourism. You know, for the town that no one can really get to anyway.


15 December 2015

#TeaserTuesday # 40 - Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen by Vicki Delany

The Book & The Tease

The Meme

Murder Goes Mumming by Charlotte MacLeod (writing as Alisa Craig)

In early October I was a little rough on the first book in the Rhys series, A Pint of Murder, since I was slammed with a spoiler before I even started to read it ... but now I look back at it with delight. In this second installment, Murder Goes Mumming, we get to learn ooooh so much more about our dear hero, Madoc Rhys of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We learned a lot about his sweetheart Janet in the first book so it was nice for him to finally get more of a backstory, too. (And the fact that there's a good reason for the delay? Yeah ... MacLeod was a freaking master.)
Madoc has some time off for Christmas and is thrilled to be able to spend it with Janet. His mother wrangles the two of them an invitation to a holiday house-party at Graylings, home of the Condrycke family. The family is a bit, well, nuts. There's cantankerous old Granny who refuses to be seen because her dentures have gone missing. There's Aunt Addie who speaks without thinking which gets interesting since she also appears to be a bit psychic. There's the head of the house, Squire, and his various children and their spouses and their children and Janet's ex-boyfriend (awwwwwkward). There's the household staff, as well, but we really don't get to see much of any of them aside from Ludovic, the butler.

Of course there's a giant snow storm coming in that's so bad that Madoc and Janet get helicoptered in thanks to the RCMP ... and no one can get out for at least a few days since the estate is in the middle of nowhere (aren't they all?). No worries, though, since the family has a schedule full of activities planned and keep things interesting with jokes and pranks and a lot of food and alcohol ... and murder. 

I seriously love Charlotte MacLeod. Madoc and Janet are absolutely darling. She uses phrases like "dollar to doughnuts." The supporting cast is a hoot and I hope that at least some of them are seen again. The solution to the mystery at hand wasn't completely obvious nor was it completely shocking when revealed. She writes bits like this:
Fa la la, indeed!

11 December 2015

#BookBeginnings & #Friday56 -- Murder Goes Mumming

Ahhh, Charlotte MacLeod (under the pen name Alisa Craig). How happy I am to have another Christmas-y book! The first MacLeod book I read was Rest You Merry and I instantly became a fan. Now I have two series of hers going and another two lined up in thee ol' TBR. 

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) is at Rose City Reader.

10 December 2015

Dickens of a Murder by Joyce & Jim Lavene

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving (drat it all -- I should have read this a month ago!) former-librarian and mystery-writer-wannabe Lisa Wellman is busy getting everything ready for the opening of her new bookstore in Portsmouth, Virginia. Well, it's not entirely her bookstore. She's partnered up with Simon Canterville, a long-time patron of hers from her days at the library and they're planning on setting up shop in his antique-filled Victorian house in Olde Town. Both also live in the house -- her quarters are in a third floor turret and his are in the basement. One person in particular is trying to stop the store from opening -- a curmudgeon named Ebenezer Hart. He's found dead on the roof of the house right outside of Lisa's window and Simon is the top suspect on the list after it was discovered that the murder weapon was an antique pistol matching a pair found in his room.

Poor Lisa! She's already having trouble with the book she's been writing for the past two years and now her friend/partner/co-habitater is being accused of murder? It gets even worse, though, since the ex-husband she hasn't spoken to in twelve years is the one in charge of the case and the ghost of Charles Dickens has decided to show up to "help."

Guess what? Good ol' Dickens comes off as a bit of a ... well ... a dick. He's quite excited about the mystery aspect of being there but is quite dismayed at Lisa's writing.
Oh, and then Simon gets poisoned but still isn't off the hook for Ebenezer's murder since he could have poisoned himself. Right. Yep.

With Lisa being as well-versed as she is in mysteries she jumps right in to help clear Simon's name and discover what really happened to Ebenezer Hart. This means a lot of contact with her ex, Daniel, and a lot of criticism from Dickens. Through it all, though, the relationships with Daniel and Simon and even Dickens were the highlights of the book for me. I "awwww"-ed more than once over Daniel, shook my head more than a few times at how old-fashioned Simon can be, and snorted hot cocoa through my nose over Dickens and his antics.

With the joy that came with reading the story, though, also came the sadness in knowing that Joyce Lavene passed away shortly before the publication date. It's a delightful premise for a series -- the bookstore being haunted by literary greats (yes, there are more than just Dickens). It's like curl-up-in-a-blanket cozy ... when the ghosts aren't making you snort hot cocoa. Of course, I will completely understand if Jim Lavene opts not to continue without Joyce, but I do selfishly hope that there will be more. At least her spirit will live on for readers with the dozens of books previously published ... all of which are being added to my TBR.

08 December 2015

#TeaserTuesday # 39 - Anne Perry's A Christmas Journey

The Book & The Tease

The tease for this week comes from the 25.4% mark of Anne Perry's A Christmas Journey. I still haven't read any of her actual series books yet (still on my to-do list), but from what I understand this a prequel of sorts to the Thomas Pitt series focusing with the main character here being the future aunt of one of the main characters there ... or something like that. A bit more Christmas-y than the last Perry "Christmas" book I read, but still not terribly festive and fa-la-la-la-in-your-face. This isn't so much a mystery as tale of redemption, I would say ... although there are a couple of mysteries cleared up and the real redemptions are internal more than anything. Uncomfortably cozy, if that makes any sense at all ... and if it doesn't, just grab the book and find out for yourself. 

The Meme

07 December 2015

Christmas Is Murder by C. S. Challinor

Christmas Is Murder is the first book in C. S. Challinor's series starring Scottish Crown Prosecutor Rex Graves. He has received an invitation to spend Christmas at a English manor-turned-hotel from a friend of his mother's and, since it beats spending the holidays alone, he goes. By the time he arrives (on makeshift snowshoes made out of tennis rackets with a new stray puppy in his coat pocket), a death has already occurred and the local authorities and medical personnel cannot make it through the snow storm to get to the hotel. I guess they don't have any tennis rackets of their own.

Rex soon meets the remaining guests -- paramedic Charley and his new wife Yvette, gay interior designers Patrick and Anthony, recently divorced Wanda traveling with her friend Helen, and a literary agent from New York named Miriam. Upon finding out that Rex is a criminal attorney, Charley tells him that he believes the recently deceased guest was a victim of cyanide poisoning and the two go poking around trying to find out who killed the old man.

And then there's another victim.

And another.

And ... well, you get the idea.

Very And Then There Were None-ish. In fact, it's even mentioned in the story along with Murder On The Orient Express and my favorite Belgian, Hercule Poirot. It's like a light-hearted Christie mish-mashed with the board game Clue right down to the big reveal with everyone who's left gathered together at the end. Christie it definitely is not, but it is a cozy little jaunt (I finished it in a work-shift while also folding laundry and doing other job-related stuffs) reminiscent of some other favorites like Charlotte MacLeod and M.C. Beaton. And I already have the next book in the series in my Cloud waiting to be read ...

I Am Half-Sick Of Shadows by Alan Bradley

It's Christmastime at Buckshaw -- home of the de Luce family and my favorite chemistry/poison-obsessed youngster, Flavia. Facing financial angst her father has rented out the house to a film crew  including famed actress Phyllis Wyvern. As a favor to the vicar she and her co-star agree to put on a short performance for the locals to help raise money for the church. While dealing with the movie crew, the majority of the town showing up for the performance, and her everyday hassles with her two older sisters, Flavia is also making plans to try and capture Saint Nick. Of course someone ends up dead, a blizzard strands everyone at Buckshaw, Flavia butts her nose in where it shouldn't be, and all is well in the end.

While this has not been my favorite Flavia tale by a long shot, there were some delightful bits and pieces. The relationship between Dogger and Flavia gives me so many warm fuzzies it almost makes up for the fact that the mystery aspect of the story seems to have been thrown in as an after-thought. It was also nice to see some surprise guest appearances by characters from previous books and even Aunt Felicity.

All in all, not one that I'll probably add to the re-read list, but a nice addition to the series as a quick Christmas-y read.

04 December 2015

#BookBeginnings & #Friday56 -- Alan Bradley's I Am Half-Sick Of Shadows

Oh, Flavia at Christmastime! I've only just begun so I'm not quite sure what all will be happening with my favorite poison-obsessed 11-year-old, but I do know that there's at least a plot to capture Santa in the works ...
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.

03 December 2015

Jennifer Harlow - Death Takes A Holiday

So, this has ended up being my least favorite of the first three F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad series. I thought it was going to be awesome since it starts out with Bea going home for Christmas and leaving the whole angst of the triangle behind in Kansas -- possibly for good. How was the new confident Bea going to adjust being home again? Would she fess up to anyone that she hasn't really been setting up executive daycare centers around the country since leaving? (Yeah -- that was her cover. Do people actually get paid to do that?) Would she meet someone new and have the triangle shatter ... or become a rhombus? Would there be killer Santas or zombie elves or psycho reindeer? All of these thoughts went barreling through my mind in the minutes between finishing the second in the series (ramble here) and starting Death Takes A Holiday.

Without really spoiling anything: Awkwardly. Eventually. (Still don't know.) Kind of. Sadly, no.

Way too much focus on thee ol' Triangle of Angst in this one for me and, I hate to admit, I found myself skimming quite a lot. Not because of steamy stuff like I typically skim ... but I'm just getting so. dang. fed up. I get it. The girl/wolf/vamp thing is popular ... and I'm sure that there are plenty out there who read the series primarily for that. Me? Give me more of the F.R.E.A.K.Sy stuff, please. Pick one. Pick the other. Pick someone else. What.Freaking.Ever.

Maybe it's just that I missed Bette. She hardly got any page time and that's just not cool. Bea's best friend April almost made up for it but .... nah.

There's a fourth book in the series but it'll be a while before I bother with it. After all, I've got Christmasy stuff all lined up and, as far as, I know not a triangle in sight.

01 December 2015

#TeaserTuesday # 38 & A Ramble -- Jennifer Harlow's F.R.E.A.K.S Squad series 2 & 3

I read the first book in Jennifer Harlow's F.R.E.A.K.S Squad series back in October. If you want to catch up on the teaser and ramble on that, go ahead and do so now. Neither one is very wordy so it won't take long.

Okay. Ready?

I mentioned in my ramble of the first book about the love triangle and that takes a bit more center-stage in the second book, To Catch A Vampire, but not obnoxiously so. In fact, for the vast majority of the book we only actually see main character Bea and hot vampire Oliver who are off on a vampire hunting special assignment. The hot werewolf is on vacation doing wolfish things for the first 3/4 of the book or so. Of course, this gives Bea and Oliver plenty of time to bond (especially since their "cover" is that of husband and wife), but of course it's not all that simple to rule out Will because of, well, plot-line stuff and whatnot. 

Yeah, I'm not telling. You shouldn't be surprised.

Everything I loved about the first book is there to love about the second. The humor and snark gets joined by some confidence and grit. Bea is really growing in her investigative skills and how to use her gifts (although she still cringes when anyone calls them that). Bette (Bea's machete) even gets a makeover and some nice action. The rest of the Squad, although largely absent from the tale, make a huge impact when they are around and after plenty of "holy *$%^$" moments, I already can't wait to see what's happens next ....

So, I won't.

On to the third book!!!

The Book & The Tease
Jennifer Harlow - Death Takes A Holiday

The Meme