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28 June 2017

Rambling About.. The House of Memory by Carolyn Haines

Oh. My. Gosh. If I thought that The Book of Beloved had knocked my socks off, then the follow up has taken my knickers, too.

Raissa James and Reginald Proctor have teamed up to form the Pluto's Snitch private investigation agency which specializes in supernatural spooky stuff. She can communicate with the dead and he's quite gifted at reading the living (don't ever get into a card game with the man unless you want to lose!). Together they've earned quite a reputation and are summoned to consult with Zelda Fitzgerald about a friend of hers in trouble.

We get to see a psychiatric hospital practicing treatments worthy of gothic horror movies, possible evil possessions, ghosts galore, and Raissa being awesome. Reginald isn't bad, but Raissa is pretty dang kickass. It's 1920 and she smokes, drinks, drives, protests, investigates the seedy underbelly of society and communicates with ghosts? I would love to see a movie or tv series made out of these!

First line: The bow of the steamboat Miss Vandy cut through the dark water of the Alabama River as we moved north against the current.

Faves on 4s:
4% - "Have you ever considered that maybe your dead don't want you pining for them? Maybe that's why they don't show up." It wasn't a thought that had occurred to me, but I liked it.
24% - Unbelievable. Nurse Brady was no one's fool, yet Reginald had charmed her into doing exactly as he wanted.
44% - I walked the perimeter of the room, calming myself, opening up to the possibility of some other entity in that space. My mouth was dry, and my heart beat furiously -- I was afraid.
64% - "Curses don't always work the way they're intended."
84% - Their eyes rolled up in their heads, revealing only the whites. "Go away." Jagged red lines appeared at their throats. They widened into horrible gashes, and blood poured out.

27 June 2017

Teasing two by Carolyn Haines (Tuesday Intros & Teaser Tuesday)

I'm about 65% through the first of Carolyn Haine's Pluto's Snitch series, The Book of Beloved, and am tempted to just dive into the second, The House of Memory, as soon as I'm done. You might already know that I love her Sarah Booth Delaney series and this one is knocking my socks off even more!

There's a darker feel than the Sarah Booth books so far and, since the setting is the Southern US in 1920, that includes a lot of historical angst. The Civil War wasn't so long ago that there aren't still folks who remember and World War I is very much fresh in everyone's minds -- particularly those widowed young like Raissa James.

Raissa is a literature teacher and a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and J. Sheridan Le Fanu. She loves the creepy and mysterious and this all comes in handy when she's faced with dead bodies popping up -- both recently killed and the ghosts of those who have been long gone.

If you like history, intrigue, and things that go bump in the night, Carolyn Haines new series is definitely recommended!

I know ... "First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros" from Bibliophile by the Sea is on vacation ... but I'm used to doing these two together so I'm just going to stick with it. "Teaser Tuesday" at The Purple Booker asks for a random line or two from anywhere in the book currently being read.

20 June 2017

Summer at Buttercup Beach by Holly Martin (Tuesday Intros & Teaser Tuesday)

I know ... "First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros" from Bibliophile by the Sea is on vacation ... but I'm used to doing these two together so I'm just going to stick with it. "Teaser Tuesday" at The Purple Booker asks for a random line or two from anywhere in the book currently being read.



I started reading Summer at Buttercup Beach on my way in to work Monday night. I already knew the main characters somewhat, having had "met them" in Spring at Blueberry Bay. Roman's the brother of Bella, the heroine of Spring, and Freya's his best friend/employee at his glassworks shop. It was pretty clear in the last book that they were fighting feelings, because .... you know .... things are never simple.


I couldn't put this down once I started it (aside from getting my son ready for school). I carried my phone with me everywhere and even cut my post-work nap short so I could finish it and then try and find the right words for a good and proper review.

I can't do that, it seems, so instead I'm going to write an open letter of sorts to Holly.

Oh, my dear Holly Martin. I don't know how you always seem to know just what I need from a book. It's as though you've been teaming up somehow with my Kindle app and, I don't know, maybe my cat (I'm fairly certain he at least has his own Twitter or Tumblr). 

You've somehow niggled your way into my very being. 


Once again, you have delivered to me (via your brilliant publishers & NetGalley) a book that's hugged me close and let me snot all over its shirt (if a book wore clothing, that is) and whispered that everything really could work out in the end. You've made me shed an almost ridiculous amount of tears, followed by laughing until I snort beverages out of my nose, followed by more tears.

Once again, you have given me believable characters to love and root for. You've developed an amazing couple who are able to overcome past foibles and future fears to reach that happily ever after that seems so elusive at times. And even though we all know that it's where they'll end up, it isn't so contrived and cliched in its telling that is feels like you've just called it in.


So thank you, yet again, Holly. Every time I open one of your books my romantic sappy side grows a little bit stronger and my pessimistic side weakens. If you're ever in my area, I owe you a drink.

19 June 2017

Rambling About.. A Walk on the Dead Side by Lucy Quinn

Amazon Description
All Cookie James wanted was a romantic island picnic with her sexy handyman, Dylan Creed. What she got was a lobster trap full of drugs. As an ex-FBI agent, Cookie's determined to hand the evidence off to local authorities and stay out of the fray. But when a package arrives with a gory warning, she has no choice but to call in her former partner, Hunter O'Neil and investigate the case.
Hunter’s arrival brings more than crime fighting expertise. He'd like his connection to Cookie to finally be more than professional. There's no denying the sparks between them. Except with Dylan in the picture, Cookie's realizing someone else might be lighting her fire. Unfortunately, her love life is going to have to wait. Between kidnappings, attempted murder, and stolen kisses, Cookie James has a case to solve.


This is the third of the Secret Seal Isles Mysteries by Lucy Quinn (you can see my rambles of the other two here). I highly HIGHLY recommend reading them in order so you aren't completely lost as to who is who and what is going on.

In fact, if you haven't read the others yet you may want to hold off on reading this ramble until you've done so.

I'm just saying. Some things may get slightly spoiled. They may not. It's hard to tell sometimes, you know?

Just over a month has apparently passed between the first book and this one and, once again, it begins with Cookie's mom acting outrageously and Cookie and Dylan attempting to go on a proper first date -- to the same island they attempted the last time. This time they don't stumble upon a dead body ... but they do retrieve a lobster trap pull of cocaine which Cookie insists on keeping possession of until the local authorities can retrieve it. Of course, she also calls hunky former FBI partner, Hunter, back to the island to help out.

Poor Dylan. Last time I said that Cookie couldn't catch a break but maybe it's really Dylan we should be feeling sorry for here! Just when he thinks he finally gets a chance, something always seems to happen.

Dead people. Drugs. Body parts being delivered to the inn. Hunter. Cookie being flighty as heck.

Yeah, for a former FBI agent, the girl has some serious issues she needs to get in check.

It's a fast read at 181 pages according to Amazon. I was able to knock it out during a work shift while also actually doing my job and cavorting with friends online. As I was able to do all three simultaneously, you can probably guess that it's not a mentally strenuous read. Sometimes those are the type you need, though.

While I enjoyed the story and it kept me guessing as to what in the world would happen next, Cookie just wasn't as much of a star for me as she was probably intended to be. Yeah, she's the "main character" and all, but the more of these that I read the more I become enamored with her mom. I kind of wish they were her books and that Cookie was just a secondary character rather than vice-versa.

This woman has some seriously funny bits and I'm pretty sure that if it wasn't for her I'd be more or less "eh" about the rest. I kind of want to be her when I grow up ...

16 June 2017

Einstein by Miles Gibson (Book Beginnings & Friday 56)

This isn't the book I'm actually reading at the moment ... but I'm saving all teasers for that one until it's publication date, so I'm teasing what I'll be reading next instead -- Miles Gibson's Einstein. It was a random NetGalley grab for me, but it sounds interesting and the opening and 56% mark are encouraging for it living up to that.

As always, Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice & Book Beginnings is at Rose City Reader.

13 June 2017

Double Cover Reveal! Vivian Conroy's #CornishCastle

I am beyond thrilled to be able to share with you the oh-so-exciting news about Vivian Conroy's upcoming Cornish Castle series! I have absolutely loved her Lady Alkmene books so jumped at the chance when she asked if I wanted to be part of the cover reveal for the the first book in her new series, Death Plays a Part.

What's even better than being part of a cover reveal?

Being part of a DOUBLE cover reveal!!! Especially exciting when the covers are this much fun!

And even better than a double cover reveal for books with super fun covers?

A double cover reveal with a sneak peek blurb!!!

I am so so SO excited about these books and the first one is out on July 7th! They've got some of my favorite things -- history, mystery & Cornwall plus a canine sidekick and all by an author I already adore!

Pre-order NOW!!!

Death Plays a Part

Welcome to Cornisea island and spend your summer holidays in a Cornish Castle.

Guinevere and her trusted dog Dolly have arrived on Cornisea island in Cornwall for the summer. But what should be weeks of cataloguing books and sunny walks on the beach turns deadly when murder strikes!
The first book in the Cornish Castle Mystery series with the second instalment RUBIES AMONG THE ROSES coming August 2017!

Rubies in the Roses

Welcome to Cornisea island and spend your summer holidays in a Cornish Castle.

Guinevere and her Dachshund Dolly are happily enjoying their summer by the Cornish coast - sun, sea and delicious food. Until a long-lost treasure and a mysterious death turns her holiday into a search for justice!
The second book in the brand new Cornish Castle Mystery series, don’t miss DEATH PLAYS A PART - the first in this new cozy crime series.

Unmasking Miss Appleby by Emily Larkin (Tuesday Intro & Teaser Tuesday)

This book was so much freaking fun! 
It's the story of Charlotte and Marcus. She's been granted the ability to change shape by a faerie godmother and he's an Earl with more than a few difficulties in life. Someone is out to ruin him (or maybe multiple someones are) and after his secretary is injured seeks a new one. Enter Charlotte, who has taken the form of a man named Christopher and applied for the job. Of course he gets it ... and of course she ends up falling for Marcus ... and of course she has to keep the truth of her ability a secret....ish.
It's part fairytale, part mystery, part romance and, as I've mentioned, so much freaking fun. I cracked up over Charlotte's naïvety and how she dealt with her new male bits ... swooned over the steamy bits (I know, right? I'm beginning to think that maybe I'm okay with the steamy stuff as long as it's pre-1900 .... and well-written) ... gasped over the violent bits. Amazingly, none of it was overdone so skimming was involved. I happily read every last word and will happily get my hands on anything else Emily Larkin has to offer!
I know, I know ... "First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros" from Bibliophile by the Sea is on vacation ... but I'm used to doing these two together so I'm just going to stick with it. "Teaser Tuesday" at The Purple Booker asks for a random line or two from anywhere in the book currently being read.

09 June 2017

Bad Housekeeping by Maia Chance (Book Beginnings)

I normally pair Book Beginnings with Friday 56, but today I'm only doing the beginning. I didn't want to snip the first paragraph down and, really, it's all I needed to know that I had a great book on my hands!

Bad Housekeeping is fourth Maia Chance book that I've read and the first in her new Agnes and Effie Mystery series. Unlike her other two series, this one has a contemporary setting and stars 28-year-old Agnes (who is definitely a kindred spirit for me) and her great-aunt, Effie. They live in a fictional town on a fictional lake in the not-at-all fictional Finger Lakes region of New York. (Instant love for me here since I live oooh so close!)  The two of them are hilarious and their blossoming relationship is far from boring. They snark at each other and practically everyone else on a regular basis and while I can see how this could get on some people's nerves, I love the snark. It's almost like a satirical cozy with so many over-the-top situations and shout-outs to some of the great pop culture mysteries -- Nancy Drew, Murder, She Wrote, Magnum PI, and my beloved Velma Dinkley. In fact, with the addition of Agnes' cousin and high school crush, it's almost like a dogless Scooby gang!

From the very beginning I knew that this was going to be another hit for Maia Chance. By the time I reached the end, I was anxious for the next book in the series! Of course, I'll have to wait a while... Bad Housekeeping comes out on June 13th!

Amazon Description
When 28-year-old Agnes Blythe, the contented bifocals-wearing half of an academic power couple, is jilted by her professor boyfriend for the town Pilates instructor, her future is suddenly less than certain. So when her glamorous, eccentric Great Aunt Effie arrives in town and offers a job helping to salvage the condemned Stagecoach Inn, what does Agnes have to lose? But work at the inn has barely begun when the unlikely duo find the body of manipulative Kathleen Todd, with whom Agnes and Effie both have recently had words. Words strong enough to land them at the top of the suspect list. 

The pair have clearly been framed, but no one else seems interested in finding the real murderer and Agnes and Effie's sleuthing expertise is not exactly slick. Nevertheless, they're soon investigating a suspect list with laundry dirtier than a middle school soccer team's and navigating threats, car chases, shotgun blasts, and awkward strolls down memory lane.

In Bad Housekeeping, the first novel in the Agnes & Effie cozy mystery series by Maia Chance, danger mounts, deadlines loom, ancient knob-and-tube wiring is explored, and the ladies learn a thing or two about the awful, wonderful mistake that is going back home.

Book Beginnings is hosted at Rose City Reader

06 June 2017

A Suitable Affair by Erica Taylor (Tuesday Intro & Teaser Tuesday)

Take any word I have ever used to describe a book that I have absolutely loved and apply it here.... and then grab a thesaurus and look up words I haven't thought to use yet and apply those also. Erica Taylor's A Suitable Affair deserves all of the good words and even ones that haven't even been created yet. (And Amberjack Publishing does, as well, for publishing this glorious book and making it available on NetGalley so I could read it before its release .... which just so happens to be today so go buy it!)

It's captivating and enthralling and hilarious and luscious and  .... captithrallious??? Sure. Captithrallious. That almost covers it, but even that doesn't seem good enough. 

Elizabeth and Darcy? Eh. Emma and Knightley? Nah. I'm over here swooning hardcore over Susanna and Westcott. I didn't even skim over the steamier bits and you know that never happens! It's a fabulous romance with a bit of mystery mixed in and Susanna and Ian kept me guessing and laughing and aww-ing all the way.

Even the supporting characters are amazing and had me begging the author on Twitter to tell me that we'll be seeing them again (and we will! Huzzah!)! I want prequels and sequels and .... sidequels? What have Susanna's siblings been up to while she's been running around being the heroine of this story? I need to know everything about everybody ... and, quite possibly, make up some more words along the way.

I know, I know ... "First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros" from Bibliophile by the Sea is on vacation ... but I'm used to doing these two together so I'm just going to stick with it. "Teaser Tuesday" at The Purple Booker asks for a random line or two from anywhere in the book currently being read.

02 June 2017

The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach by Kat French (Book Beginnings & Friday 56)

I have quite enjoyed Kat French's The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach , which really hasn't surprised me at all. See, Kat French = Kitty French and thanks to Melody Bittersweet she has quickly become one of my favorite chick lit authors. I hit the request button for this on NetGalley so hard I actually scared my cat a bit. 
This has so much of the same sense of fun and snark as my beloved Chapelwick Mysteries. There's a bit more romance which makes up for the lack of ghosts (although I was kind of hoping one would show up in the cellar), and I have to admit that some of the steamier scenes were almost skimmed over. Luckily there weren't too many and they weren't too long. (You know how I am about stuff like that in my books!)
All three of the main characters play off each other beautifully. The friendship between Winnie, Stella and Frankie was truly one of the highlights for me. It seemed that Winnie's individual story got a bit more attention than the others, but not so much to have me think of the other two as backup ... much. Maybe a little. I still quite enjoyed the book, though, and definitely wouldn't mind making another trip to Villa Valentina in the future!

Amazon Description
Winnie, Stella and Frankie have been best friends forever. When their lives unexpectedly unravel, they spontaneously decide to buy a gorgeous B&B on a remote Greek island.
Drenched in hot sun, Villa Valentina is the perfect escape from reality. But when Winnie meets Jesse, their brooding neighbour, she finds that Greece is full of its own complications – not least how attractive he is…
Meanwhile, Frankie and Stella are discovering that Villa Valentina has its own secrets – starting with the large supply of gin in the cellar and the arrival of a famous rock band. A band with one very good-looking member who just might distract Frankie from thoughts of her husband…

As always, Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice & Book Beginnings is at Rose City Reader.

01 June 2017

Rambling About.. Elizabeth, The Witch's Daughter by Lynda M Andrews

If you've been around me at all, it likely doesn't shock you to be told that I'm a ginormous anglophile. I frequently lament being born on the wrong side of the pond and have already informed my son that his life goal should be to get a good enough job to be able to send me on a cruise across the Atlantic. You probably have also figured out already that I'm a bit of a history nerd .... but ....

I kind of feel like I need to hang my head in shame for a moment or two.

When it comes to English history? I've only ever really paid attention to anything pre-1400s and post-1700s. I'm not quite sure how, but I've pretty much skipped 300 years of anything more than just basic knowledge.

Lynda M. Andrews is changing that, though, with Elizabeth, The Witch's Daughter. I knew (thanks to my basic knowledge) about Elizabeth I being "The Virgin Queen" and the daughter of Henry VIII. I knew he went through wives like some monarchs went through ... well ... not toilet paper because that's only been around since the mid- to late-1800s. You know what I mean, though. It was fascinating for me to get a glimpse into what her life might have been like growing up with a distant father and a revolving door of stepmothers after her own mother had been killed when she was just a toddler. She went from being told that the was a princess and would some day be Queen to a subject much like any other -- under the rule of her own half-brother and then her half-sister. She went from feeling in control and cherished to scrutinized and threatened. The poor girl was on a roller-coaster before they even existed!

I quite fell for Bess. She felt fiercely independent because she had to be and, at the same time, had a deep longing to have someone she could depend on as she probably would have been able to depend on her mother under normal circumstances. She did have Kat Ashley, her governess and companion for much of her early life, and that relationship was a joy to read .... most of the time. Any relationship Elizabeth had with anyone was bound to be rocky since she had such enormous trust issues and, as Kat pointed out on several occasions, she was definitely her father's daughter when it came to stubbornness and temper.

Really, my only complaint about this book is that I flew through it far too quickly. Granted, even if it was twice as long I'd still probably feel like it was too short. It's okay, though, because now I feel like I have to catch up on the missing 300 years worth of England's history via books, movies, and television series. It'll be the gift that keeps on giving.

30 May 2017

The Quick and the Thread by Amanda Lee (Tuesday Intros & Teaser Tuesday)

I know I whine a bit about cozy mysteries having the heroine as shopkeeper-turned-super-sleuth so many freaking times .... but .... it still ranks right up there towards the top of my favorite genres list and I let the ridiculousness of it all slide. It's like my everlasting love of Hallmark movies. This stuff just doesn't happen in real life, but it's totally okay in books. Even better when those books are then made into Hallmark movies and, so far, I could totally see Gayle Trent (writing as Amanda Lee)'s Embroidery Mystery series fitting in  well on the small screen. It's not real gritty or gripping or strenuous on the little grey cells. It's basically fluff, but sometimes that's exactly the kind of book I need. Thanks to the main character being a classic movie loving bibliophile who also knows her way around an embroidery hoop (even though she gets some stitch names confused), I'm thrilled to now have yet another go-to series for when those times strike!

I know, I know ... "First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros" from Bibliophile by the Sea is on vacation ... but I'm used to doing these two together so I'm just going to stick with it. "Teaser Tuesday" at The Purple Booker asks for a random line or two from anywhere in the book currently being read.

29 May 2017

Rambling About.. The Norths Meet Murder by Frances & Richard Lockridge

Frances & Richard Lockridge

Publication: Original 1940; MysteriousPress.com/Open Road reprint March 8, 2016
First Line: Mr. North came home rather early that Tuesday afternoon, and as soon as he came in Mrs. North realized he was in a mood.
Faves on 4s: (in the ebook, story ends at 84% with a preview of the next book following)
14% - "Men with no clothes, croquet-mallets, cats and screwy people," he said, indignantly. "And the guy ain't even got a record," he added, piling on what was evidently the last straw.
34% - His hands clutched momentarily, desperately at nothing and he had time to think "This isn't me - this is somebody else - this isn't happening - " before he he did not think; before he died with his own scream in his ears.
64% - "Wow," said Mullins, when they were out. "You've sure got a way with dames, Loot." Weigand told him to shut up.
74% - It was a puzzle with pieces missing, and one is not annoyed at the maker of a puzzle. The pieces were around somewhere.

What fun this was! I remember listening to the radio show occasionally when I was growing up thanks to my local NPR station playing a lot of old time radio ... and I vaguely remember seeing the Gracie Allen as Mrs North movie at some point when I was young. Somehow it didn't dawn on me that they were based on a book series until I was poking around the hoopla app from my library one day.
Jerry and Pam North live in New York City where he works in publishing and she plans parties, shops, has lunch ... you know, the difficult work. She gets it into her head that she wants to have a party and that the vacant 4th floor studio of their apartment house would be the perfect spot for it. When she and her husband go up to start planning what would go where and what would need to be cleaned first, they find a dead man naked in the bathtub.
When they call the police, Lieutenant Weigand is assigned to the case and it mostly ends up being his story. The Norths are quite prominent, of course, but he seems more of the lead than either of them. Mrs North, especially, tries to help when she can but it's not like a modern cozy or even a Miss Marple where the police are bumbling about while the amateur woman takes control.
Suspects abound and so do red herrings ... and a cat named Pete (who, according to the disclaimer at the beginning of the book, is the only character not made up by the authors).  It's a fun and timeless story -- the lack of technological advances like cell phones and computers being the only real hint that it wasn't set within the past twenty years.
One down and twenty-five to go! (And the tv series which, as luck would have it, is at least mostly on YouTube!)

26 May 2017

Chocolate Chocolate Moons AND Sherlock Mars by Jackie Kingon (Book Beginnings & Friday 56)

Once upon a time, not very many years ago, I found myself more-or-less begging some of my author "friends" on Facebook for at least one of them to come up with a fun cozy mystery series set in space. What could be better for a geek like myself? I had several "well, that would be interesting" ... but none of them took me up on the idea. One suggested that I write one myself, but my brain just isn't quite that creative. I took a creative writing class or two in college and had one short story published in a magazine when I was in high school, but I'm apparently far more suited to just rambling on about other people's creative leanings.

Imagine my delight, then, when I was poking around NetGalley and came upon something called Sherlock Mars. A comedic mystery set ... you betcha ... on Mars! Even better? It's the second in a series following Chocolate Chocolate Moons! Comedy, mystery, space AND chocolate?!? I grabbed myself a copy of CCM, sat back, and laughed through Kington's glimpse of the 24th century. And then I continued the ride straight into the next book. 

The heroine, Molly, is kind of like the love-child of Veronica Mars and Arthur Dent -- with more than a little bit of Sara Lee mixed in (as in the cheesecake I'm now craving).  There are definitely aspects of this that I can see not appealing to some. The humor is absurd and punny, much like Piers Anthony's Xanth books. Even for me -- a great lover of puns and Xanth -- it was a bit much to take sometimes and I found myself skimming here and there. (Enough so that I plowed through most of both books in less than 24-hours.) 

Is there such a thing as a book hangover?

As always, Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice & Book Beginnings is at Rose City ReaderBoth of the "Friday 56" quotes this week are from the 56% marks of the ebooks.

Amazon Description

25 May 2017

Rambling About.. Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant

Wendy Brant
Publisher: KCP Loft (April 4, 2017)
 Amazon Description:

First Line: I hold Josh's TI-84 in my left hand, press a few buttons just for show and wait for the vision to come.
Faves on 4s: 
4% - I focus on accomplishments I can master: running a six-minute mile, solving the Riemann hypothesis, picking up dropped items with my feet. 
24% - I talk about how, in a world of shades of gray, sometimes it's nice to have black-and-white answers.
44% - I touch his jacket or his phone and once I even place my hand lightly on his arm, because skin-on-skin fractals are the strongest and clearest. Slowly I've started to put together his puzzle.
64% - If family history seemed complicated before, now it seems like an episode of One Life to Live.
84% - "God, you make even Chebyshev method sound dirty."

Eva is just a normal high school senior. Well, she is if "normal" means being a math genius pastor's kid with quadruplet toddler siblings and not really caring about "teenage girl things" like shopping, school dances, makeup or dating. 

Oh yeah. 

There's also that little thing about her getting visions (sortof -- more like senses of feelings -- she refers to them as "fractals") about people whenever she touches them or something close to them. One of the things that makes her such an excellent math tutor, for example, is that all she has to do is touch the other student's calculator and she gets a sense of where their difficulty lies. More personal objects like jewelry, clothing and cell phones tell her a lot more so she avoids touching them -- and other people -- as much as she can. Her hope is that she'll get in to a good college (and get the scholarships needed to afford it), study neuroscience and cure herself. That's really her one focus (aside from helping to care for her siblings, of course).

Then she meets Zenn.

Eva and Zenn are more than a bit adorable as they get to know each other. "Adorkable" might actually be a better phrase. He's the tall, dark and handsome type. He has a similar sense of humor (there's a whole bit about sheep after they first meet that I'm still chuckling to myself over), is an amazing artist, and the only item of his that seems to set her off is his jacket. For the first time ever she feels like she can feel safely.


It couldn't possibly be that easy. 

So, of course, it isn't.

It's beautiful and funny and heartbreaking and so much more gray than black-and-white. I'm so glad I decided that I wanted to check for a different "Z" title for my alphabet challenge and that this was available on NetGalley when I did. I'll definitely be watching for future books by Wendy Brant!

24 May 2017

Rambling About.. When We Danced At The End Of The Pier by Sandy Taylor

Sandy Taylor
Publisher: Bookouture (March 31, 2017)
First Line: I wasn't sure how long I'd been sitting in the tree -- I think it was a long time cos my leg was going numb from trying to balance on the branch.
Faves on 4s:
4% -- I'd stood at the window, looking out over all the gardens of all the houses in See Saw Lane and I'd felt something wonderful was about to happen. I'd felt suddenly as if my life was about to change.
24% -- 'Corpus Christi,' said the priest, which means 'Body of Christ'. We had to let the wafer melt because Sister Aquinas said that if we chewed it, it would be like putting a knife in God's heart.
54% -- They didn't have to be dripping in diamonds and pearls to get noticed, there was just something about the way they held themselves that said 'I'm rich'. Whereas poor people spent their time apologizing for breathing.
84% -- None of us knew what was going to happen, none of us knew the moment we'd end up in the bottom of a smelly bucket, we just joined in the dance until the music stopped.

I wasn't sure at first if I was even going to read it. It's the third of Taylor's Brighton Girls Trilogy and I haven't read the other two (yet). I was bummed when I saw it on NetGalley and instantly fell in love with the cover because you know how I am about reading things out of order. Luckily, this time, there's been a trick. While this is the third in the series, it's also first chronologically. Once I found that out I hopped back onto NetGalley and hit the request button. Once I received my approval I flew through the book I had been reading and then lost myself in the pages (or screens, since it's on my phone) of this one. 

And now I'm a mess.

This is one of the hardest reviews I've had to write so far. There must be somebody chopping a ton of onions nearby and that's why my eyes have been watering so much. This book, after all, was far too beautiful and, at times, hilarious to be making me ugly cry. 

It must be onions.

It's the story of Maureen O'Connell and we follow it through her eyes from her childhood in 1930 through World War II and her young adulthood. It tells of growing up on the council estates in Brighton with a mother who worked full time and a father who wasn't well (though, as a girl, she didn't know how or why). Her sister, Brenda, was just a couple of years younger and there were also aunts and uncles nearby -- one pair wonderful and other not so much. On Maureen's first day of school she and Monica become best friends and not long after they meet Jack and Nelson. Before she had ever even spoken to him, Maureen knew that she and Jack were destined to be together.

This book is so .... just .... real. It's like reading someone's diaries or memoirs rather than a piece of fiction. Sandy Taylor gave life to these characters in such a way that I want to meet their children and grandchildren (or at least follow them on Twitter). Jack, Nelson, Maureen and Monica would have been similar in age to my grandparents. And, of course, Brenda. Oh gosh how I love Brenda! She reminds me so much of one of my grams younger sister, Clara. A sweet little riot she was! And the two of them together was, undeniably my favorite relationship in the whole book.

I'm still a sniffly mess. I'm a sniffly mess who then remembers something that made me snort my coffee out of my nose by laughing too hard. Now I'm a sniffly giggly mess.

I was going back through to grab my quotes for "Faves on 4s" and accidentally hit the 20% mark where Maureen and Brenda are at church lighting a candle for Nelson ... and Maureen's "exchange" with the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Now I realize that maybe you don't go in for murder but I'm hoping you might know someone who does. Perhaps you could have a word with that sinner who was hanging on the cross next to Jesus. You must know each other pretty well by now.
Yep. Maureen is trying to arrange a hit via the Holy Mother.

Probably the most splenderific (it's a word. Really. I just wrote it.) thing about this -- the thing that makes it the most "real" -- is how the thought patterns and use of language advances as the ages of the characters do. The beginning reads like an adolescent is telling the story and it matures as she does.

I am absolutely in awe of Sandy Taylor and look forward to reading more from her. I think I might wait a handful of months before I dive in to The Girls from See Saw Lane -- if only to give my tear ducts (and my coffee filled nasal passages) time to recover.

Stupid bloody onions.

23 May 2017

#20BooksofSummer 2017

***This will be a constantly edited post until September.***

We've got just over a week until June 1st and the official start of this year's 20 Books of Summer ... and I've got my first 20 (okay ... 25 .... or more .....) picked out!!! I've been reading freakishly fast the past couple of weeks so I may end up going way over, but this is at least where I'll be starting from (not necessarily in order).

  1. The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach -- Kat French✔
  2. A Suitable Affair -- Erica Taylor✔
  3. Bad Housekeeping -- Maia Chance✔  
  4. Unmasking Miss Appleby -- Emily Larkin✔
  5. A Walk on the Dead Side -- Lucy Quinn✔ 
  6. Summer at Buttercup Beach -- Holly Martin✔
  7. Curves, Kisses and Chocolate Ice Cream -- Sue Watson✔
  8. The Book of Beloved -- Carolyn Haines✔
  9. The House of Memory -- Carolyn Haines✔
  10. A House to Mend a Broken Heart -- Alison Sherlock
  11. Death Plays a Part -- Vivian Conroy✔
  12. A French Affair -- Katie Fforde
  13. These Ruthless Deeds -- Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
  14. The One That Got Away -- Melissa Pimentel
  15. Xoe: or Vampires, and Werewolves, and Demons, Oh My! -- Sara C Roethle
  16. The London Eye Mystery -- Siobhan Dowd

The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor by Amy M Reade (Tuesday Intros & Teaser Tuesday)

"First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros" is from the first paragraph or two of a book being read now (or in the future) and is hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea [who's on vacation, it seems ... which I discovered after putting together this post]. "Teaser Tuesday" at The Purple Booker asks for a random line or two from anywhere in the book currently being read.

When I first started The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor I thought that I would be getting spooky gothic ghost story. Nope. 

Then I thought that maybe I was in store for a cozy mystery with the main character, a home restoration specialist, playing amateur sleuth. Nope again. 

I thought that I was going to be horribly disappointed with neither of these scenarios being true. Yet again, a big nope.

What I had was a compelling story of Carleigh Warner not only restoring her friend Evie's family home, Peppernell Manor, but also her own life and, in a lot of ways, the lives of the Peppernell family (at least, those who survive the telling of the tale). 

Carleigh and her young daughter left Chicago for Peppernell Manor, located in South Carolina just outside of Charlotte. Carleigh and Evie had been friends since college and when Evie's grandmother decided that she wanted the home revived to its original splendor, Evie knew that Carleigh would be the perfect one for the job. Recently divorced after her husband left her for a stripper named Jilly (or "Jiggly," as Carleigh calls her), it was a perfect opportunity for Carleigh and three-year-old Lucy to get away from the stressors of life for a bit. Of course, the Peppernell household has its own share of stress going on housing three generations of Peppernells. Evie is there while her boyfriend is off traveling for business, her brother Heath lives in the carriage house on the property, his twin brother Harlan is nearby in Charlotte, and then their parents, aunt and grandmother all reside in the house full-time. There's also Phyllis, the house manager who happens to be descended from the slaves who built the house for the original Peppernell owners generations before. (One of her ancestors, her great-great-great-great-great grandmother, Sarah, is still present .... according to Phyllis, anyway.) 

Evie's grandmother wants the house restored and then intends to bequeath it to the state when she dies. Her mother and brother Harlan want to turn it over to an investment group to turn it into a tourist destination. Her aunt doesn't say much of anything, nor does her father who spends most of his time working on his latest novel, and Phyllis is constantly warning people that Sarah isn't happy about what's going on. The family dynamics are a bit whack and become even more so after Evie's grandmother dies. Plus we have romance, another death, crazy ex's, a freaking hurricane, a potentially cursed dog, vandalism, and an alligator attack. It's so much more than a ghost story or cozy mystery would have been. 

It was a fast read for me thanks to my unwillingness to put it down for long once I had started. A great part of that might be thanks to me being a bit of a history nerd. I absolutely loved the details involved in the restoration -- especially after ..... oh, just read it for yourself. 

22 May 2017

Rambling About.. The Antique House Murders by Leslie Nagel

Leslie Nagel
Publisher: Alibi (May 30, 2017)

I absolutely loved Leslie Nagel's first Oakwood mystery, The Book Club Murders, so I jumped at the chance to get the second one as soon as I saw it on NetGalley! Of course, since I've been reading an advanced copy any quotes may be different in the final version ... and the fact that I received my copy for free has had no influence over whether or not I enjoyed it.

And oh boy did I ever enjoy it!!!

"The house reeked of death."

That's how it starts and how great of a first line is that?!?

The house in question is Mulbridge House -- the once grand and stately home in a secluded wooded area of Oakwood. Augusta Mulbridge died 18 months ago and the house is being cleared out and much of its contents auctioned off by a close friend of Charley's family, Calvin Prescott. The heirs want to knock the house down and turn it over for a new housing development. The local preservation society wants to turn it into a museum. Charley just wants the vintage clothes and accessories to help stock her shop, Old Hat Vintage Fashions.

When Charley and her good friend (whom I quite fell in love with in the first book) Dmitri go to Calvin's to pick up her auction winnings, they find Calvin dead. Because of the events from the first book, Charley is all gung-ho about putting her detecting skills to use again to find out who killed her friend ... and her boyfriend, police detective Marc Trenault, is all gung-ho to keep her out of it (and out of danger). She promises not to get involved, but doesn't really mean it and is soon uncovering potential motives and suspects and pulling her friends along for the ride.
[from the 33% mark of the uncorrected proof -- final copy may differ]
A sure-fire way to my nerdish little mystery-loving heart? Toss in good Scooby references. (I just want to be Velma!)

I probably don't have to tell you how frustrated Marc gets with Charley. Even without reading either book you can probably imagine. I totally get it, too. I love cozy mysteries. I've been reading them for years and will probably continue to do so until I can read no more. The heroines (as the main character is almost always female) frustrate the bejeebers out of me, too, more often than not. They never seem to consider the danger they're putting themselves and their loved ones in by getting involved and sometimes I just want to grab one by the shoulders and shake some sense into them! Charley seems to be worse than most just because of the sheer multitude of people who seem to flock to her in support as potential innocent bystanders. 

I still pretty much adore her and her cohorts and her family and this series in spite of my urge to shake some sense into her. Leslie Nagel makes it difficult not to become part of Charley's gang, sifting through the red herrings attempting to uncover the truth ... and I still want to be Velma.

21 May 2017

Rambling About.. Elizabeth Essex's Highland Brides

I nabbed A Fine Madness off of NetGalley and then, of course, realized that it's the third in a series and went to grab the other two. I am so glad that I did!

1. Mad For Love
Publisher: ERB Publishing (March 26, 2016)
First Line: Marie Chantal Amelie du Blois never felt more French than when she was in London.

Marie (Mignon to friends and family) is the daughter of Charles du Blois who, much to her dismay, is a master art forger. It's 1790 and the two live in London, largely on the money he has earned selling his copies. One night when her father is out at an exhibit showcasing one of their family heirlooms (also a forgery created by her grandfather), Mignon catches a thief in their house. He happens to be gorgeous and he also happens to be Rory Cathcart -- an expert at detecting forgeries for Christie's. His friends tipped him off about du Blois and he was there to investigate more than steal. Of course, he couldn't tell Mignon that -- especially not when she later approaches him to have him help her steal her own statue from the exhibit before it can be studied for authenticity ... by Mr Cathcart.

A note at the beginning of the book indicates that it was written in homage to one of my all-time favorite movies, How To Steal A Million, starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole.

This had me worried at first because retellings are so often horrid, but Essex did a beautiful job (and included some of my favorite bits of dialogue!). It's also just enough different to have held my interest and make me curious about Rory's friends -- the men who will be the leads in the rest of the series!

Stars: *****

2. Mad About the Marquess
Publisher: ERB Publishing (April 5, 2016)
First Line: Lady Quince Winthrop had always known she was the unfortunate sort of lass who could resist everything but temptation.

This time we're revisiting the Robin Hood legends in 1792 Scotland with Lady Quince Winthrop standing in for Robin and Rory's friend Alasdair taking the Sheriff of Nottingham role. The two have history together as Alasdair used to court her older sister. Now she's all grown up (after all, it's 1792 and 19 was considered grown up) and he's working as a Member of Parliament. He has been tasked with stopping the thefts happening in the area while home tending to the castle he has recently inherited from his grandfather. Of course, she's the thief he's looking for.

Alasdair had a bit of a scandalous time in his youth and has worked hard to over come it, but there's something about Quince that makes him feel that being so serious isn't necessarily a good thing. Of course, considering who Quince is and what she does, it isn't necessarily a good thing to have her be any sort of influence in his life. At least, it wouldn't be in real life, probably. Luckily for them, they live in a book where two wrongs may not make a right but several may ... and they each do several wrongs along the way.

It's a fun romp with snark galore from both parties. You know how much I love my snark! It felt a bit too long and dragged out at times -- I would have been pleased as punch with it being half the length like Mad for Love -- but all-in-all it was still an enjoyable read.

Stars: ***1/2 

Publisher: ERB Publishing (May 2, 2017)
First Line: Elspeth Otis had never particularly liked birthdays.

It's June of 1792 and, at the ripe old age of 24, Elspeth Otis is officially a spinster. She has even received a birthday present of a little cap like spinsters are so known to wear by the spinster aunts she lives with. She also, though, receives a great big trunk from an aunt she never knew existed -- her father's sister, Lady Augusta Ivers. Lady Ivers had been writing and sending gifts and invitations for Elspeth to visit her in Edingburgh for Elspeth's entire life. Her spinster aunts, however, thought it best to keep this from her. They would have continued to do so had the trunk not arrived when Elspeth was present. Her aunts did refuse the trunk and when the delivery driver said that he was told to take it back to Lady Ivers if that happened, Elspeth insisted that he take her as well. I fell in love with her instantly!

Meanwhile, back in Edinburgh, Rory's half-brother Hamish has been given an ultimatum by their father : find a wife in under five weeks time or be cut off financially. Hamish doesn't want an arranged marriage. He doesn't have any interest in marriage at all, really, but if he doesn't want to settle for anything less than marrying for love like Rory did. He also doesn't want to be destitute, though, so when Lady Ivers approaches him with a business proposition regarding the republication of her late brother's scandalous (and censored) novel, he more or less jumps at the chance.

While Hamish is tasked with cleaning up the published novel, Elspeth is urged to finish the partial manuscript that was left in the trunk. You can pretty much already see where this is headed, can't you? It heads there splendidly, too, with the right amount of angst and the right amount of romance to overcome it.

Stars: *****