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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

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.

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.

31 October 2015

Happy .... Christmas?

I know, it's really Halloween ... but I'm rambling today about two Christmas titles that I received from NetGalley so deal with it.

The first is Anne Perry's A Christmas Escape, due to be released on November 10th.

I believe this is Perry's thirteenth "Christmas" book, though it's the first I have read. Receiving my copy from NetGalley was a good excuse to finally get off my duff and read something of Perry's -- which I've been meaning to do for years.

Overall it was an enjoyable short read. I'm only giving it three stars out of five, though, because of the lack of seasonality that I was anticipating.

Charles Latterly (the brother-in-law of Perry's Victorian detective William Monk) is vacationing before Christmas on the volcanic island of Stromboli. The property where he is staying already has a handful of other guests who all know eachother -- teenager Candace Finbar and her great- uncle, the married bickering Baileys, uppity Colonel Bretherton and novelist Quinn. Charles immediately bonds with the Finbars and the property owner, Stefano. He's also immediately aware of the tension surrounding his relaxing vacation -- not only from his fellow guests but also from the volcano.

Between the bickering, a murderer in their midst, and a volcano getting ready to blow any real Christmas-y feel was lost. I had almost even forgotten that it was supposed to be a "holiday mystery" when a "Merry Christmas" was offered up at the very end. Still a decent little story and the descriptions of the scenery and the volcano were wonderful, but as a "holiday" read it's not one I'll add to my list of seasonal re-reads.

More likely to be on my holiday re-read list is the anthology from Poisoned Pen Press, Silent Nights, being published on November 3rd.

I love Poisoned Pen Press and they're commitment to uncovering lost treasures from the Golden Age of detective fiction and this anthology definitely fits. There are fifteen stories in all with a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar tales. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey, Margery Allingham's Albert Campion, and G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown all make appearances. These stories alone will be worth the purchase price for many fans, but I was more excited about some of the stories by authors I hadn't read, with three standing out for me more than the rest:

Leo Bruce's "Beef For Christmas" had me chuckling from the get-go and wondering why the heck I was unfamiliar with the characters -- especially after doing a search on Goodreads and seeing that there are eight Beef books I now have to add to my TBR. Swell. Thanks a lot, Poisoned Pen Press.

Edmund Crispin's "The Name On The Window" has added another eleven titles to my TBR since I need to find out more about Fen ... and whether or not he's always as flippant as he was here. I'm hoping that he was because I do so love a good bit of flippancy. Not a Christmas-tale, really, but I'll let them slide.

Ethel Lina White. Who? Oh ... the woman who wrote the stories that The Lady Vanishes and The Spiral Staircase were based on? Two of my favorite classic thrillers? I hang my head in shame at my ignorance ... and then perk up in delight that I have, yes, even more to read. "Waxworks," according to the introduction in the book was in print before White's first novel was published. I see, now, that there is also a novel by White titled Wax and I hope that it's a blown-up version of this story ... but, of course, different enough that I won't know what will happen.

29 October 2015

A Christopher Moore Double-Feature Ramble

I finished Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job before finally closing my eyes for my pre-work nap tonight. I realized that I never gave the book before, Bloodsucking Fiends, a proper ramble ... so I'm doing a double feature.

Like a drive-in, but books.

And no concession stand.

And no mosquitoes flying in through the window (unless, of course, you live somewhere that has mosquitoes in October and you're reading this with the window open ... in which case, you're just silly).

Technically the books are part of two different series according to Moore's website and Goodreads and the like. Moore is tricky, though, and does a lot of crossovers with characters. I'm guessing a lot of people could quite happily read one without the other but I'm not a lot of people. I couldn't make it far into A Dirty Job without backtracking to Bloodsucking Fiends because, as it turns out, there are certain itty bitty bits that make oh-so-much-more sense having read them in order.

Both stories take place in San Francisco and deal heavily in matters of death -- one of the main characters of BF being a vampire, and the main character of ADJ being a "Death Merchant" who collects souls and helps relocate them to new vessels. The two even cross paths, though you wouldn't necessarily know it unless you had read BF first .... or this ramble. There are actually three other characters from BF who appear in ADJ to some degree (well, 5 if you include the dogs) ... and one character mentioned in ADJ that will come in to serious play in the sequel to BF. Heck, one of the characters from both of these books made his first appearance all the way back in Moore's first novel, Practical Demonkeeping, waaaaaay back in 1992. Another character from ADJ debuted in a bit role in 1994's Coyote Blue.

I know, that last paragraph was kind of spoilery and I typically hate spoilery stuff (unless it's for a show I only kind of sort of care about ... and then I only read the spoilery stuff, I don't shove it in the face of others) .... but it's minor and no real spoilery specifics were give and it all only really matters anyway in that it helps to highlight the overlappiness.

(It's a word. Don't look it up. Just trust me.)

You know, screw the ramble.

Just read the books. All of them. In order of publication. Don't pay attention to what anyone (including Moore) claims to be a "standalone" or a "series" or any of that nonsense ... because Moore's world is just one big jumbled ball of delightfully heinous fuc......


That reminds me.

Do NOT read these books (or, probably, anything written by Christopher Moore) if you:
* get offended easily
* have no sense of humor
* don't understand sarcasm
* abhor profanity

Now I have to figure out what to read next. I was going to do more Moore ... but then NetGalley ... and the guilt from all of the other books I swore I would get to this year .... and ..... and ..... and ......

23 October 2015

#BookBeginnings and #Friday56 - Christopher Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends

I'm still working on Bloodsucking Fiends. Not getting as much reading done at work since I'm marathoning Sleepy Hollow on Hulu in order to be caught up for the big crossover with Bones ... but I'll get it done sooner or later!

In the meantime, though, I get to tease more of it thanks to Book Beginnings & Friday56! 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.

BB Thoughts: Hooray for the Emperor!!! This was the first time he was mentioned and he'll keep popping up in more Moore books. I mentioned on Tuesday that I had stopped reading another book because of a mention of a character from this particular series ... and that I first read Bloodsucking Fiends 20 years ago so felt the overwhelming need to backtrack, re-read & refresh. The Emperor wasn't the character in question that I remembered the overlap for, but I love that he's here so very much! Moore has such an amazing talent for characters that may not seem like much but are.

Friday56: Snapping turtles do not belong in the bathtub. They just don't.