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29 November 2016

Anita Davison's Murder at Cleeve Abbey (Tuesday Intro & Teaser Tuesday)

[Please note that this has since been retitled as Betrayal at Cleeve Abbey.]

Last week I had the great joy of reading Anita Davison's Murder on the Minneapolis, and now (thanks to NetGalley and the publisher) I'm about a quarter of the way through the second in the series -- Murder at Cleeve Abbey

The story opens two years after the events of the first and Flora has moved on from being Eddy's governess and onto married life. She returns to Cleeve Abbey, though, upon receiving news that her father has died. Of course, she has a difficult time believing that it was an accidental death. Since she also still has questions about her mother's death when she was young, it's a very emotional visit that, hopefully, will answer a lot of questions.

I'm not far enough in to be able to spoil much (not that I willingly would, anyway), but so far it is just as beautifully written and compelling as the first!

"First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros" is from the first paragraph of a book being read now (or in the future) and is hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea. "Teaser Tuesday" from Books and a Beat asks for a random line or two from anywhere in the book currently being read.

28 November 2016

Rambling About.. Aunt Bessie Assumes by Diana Xarissa

Title: Aunt Bessie Assumes
Author: Diana Xarissa
Publication: 21 May 2014 -- Amazon Digital
Amazon Description:
Aunt Bessie assumes that she'll have the beach all to herself on a cold, wet, and windy March morning just after sunrise, then she stumbles (almost literally) over a dead body.
Elizabeth (Bessie) Cubbon, aged somewhere between free bus pass (60) and telegram from the Queen (100), has lived her entire adult life in a small cottage on Laxey beach. For most of those years, she's been in the habit of taking a brisk morning walk along the beach. Dead men have never been part of the scenery before.
Aunt Bessie assumes that the dead man died of natural causes, then the police find the knife in his chest.
Try as she might, Bessie just can't find anything to like about the young widow that she provides tea and sympathy to in the immediate aftermath of finding the body. There isn't much to like about the rest of the victim's family either.
Aunt Bessie assumes that the police will have the case wrapped up in no time at all, then she finds a second body.Can Bessie and her friends find the killer before she ends up as the next victim?
First Lines: Elizabeth Cubbon, known as Bessie to her friends, rubbed her eyes and checked the clock by her bed. It was 6:06, which meant her internal alarm was a few minutes off today.

Favorites on 4s:
4%: Bessie drew herself up to her full height of five feet, three inches and glared back at the man. "I'll thank you to keep you sexist and ageist remarks to yourself, young man," she told the policeman.

34%: 'Obviously, a murder investigation is no place for a random civilian, but you're something of an institution in Laxey. If anyone is going to hear that little bit of information that we need, it's you."

64%: After ten rings she decided she had better answer the call. Anyone that was willing to hang on that long deserved an answer.

74%: "Someone was trying to get rid of you and I want to make sure that whoever it was doesn't get a second chance."  Bessie nodded sleepily. She tried to thank the inspector, but actually making words felt like a huge effort.

I'm so horribly glad that I stumbled upon Diana Xarissa's Aunt Bessie series while in a mad search for an author whose last name begins with X ... and who isn't writing erotica or Chinese. (Not that I have anything against the Chinese ... I just wasn't in the mood.)
Set in the village of Laxey on the Isle of Man, Aunt Bessie Assumes is the first in a series starring elderly spitfire Elizabeth Cubbon. She never married or had children of her own but over the years has become the honorary aunt to pretty much anyone and everyone. She's fiercely independent and set in her ways and absolutely adores reading mystery novels.
There's so much to love about this story beyond Bessie herself.
- The setting is an unusual one -- and not one that I can ever recall having read about in the past. This, of course, led me to hours of oohing and aahing and "oh I want to go there now"-ing on the web -- including finding a list of other books set there.
 - Bessie's friends and neighbors are an absolute delight. The young policeman, Hugh, who used to stay at Bessie's as youngster and is temporarily back under her roof is a particular favorite of man.  I've been marathon-watching past seasons of Gilmore Girls and there's just something very "Kirk"-ish about him.
- The mystery itself was nice and fits the "cozy" niche well. There's nothing too strenuous here and plenty of red herrings to make you scratch your head. The who, why and how all tied up nicely and made sense -- which isn't always the case. (I hate it when the bad guy is revealed and you end up going "but ... how the heck?!?")
All in all, more people should be reading Xarissa! She's got oodles of books listed on Goodreads and I'll definitely be working my way through at least all of the ones with Aunt Bessie!

25 November 2016

Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs (Book Beginnings & Friday 56)

We're quickly approaching the end of the year and, therefore, the end of my alphabet-centered challenges. Quite frankly, I don't think I'll succeed at finishing them both but I refuse to give up without a fight. I was scrolling through Amazon looking for Christmasy/Wintery reads by anyone with last names ending in U, X & Z ... and it suddenly hit me that I had been meaning to get my hands on Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs the last time we went to the library. Of course, the library branch we were at didn't have it and it isn't one that's available in ebook (yet) through our system ... but it is on Scribd and they have a 30 day free trial deal.

Based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, it's a lovely spin on an old tale - enjoyable for the middle grade crowd (its "intended" audience) and adults who remember all too well. The main character, Hazel is 11 years old and in the fifth grade and the only thing about her life that really seems "right" is her best friend, Jack. She's different and awkward and more than a bit geeky and I saw my younger self in her so many times. Heck, I saw myself now in her so many times, too.

So many stories are sprinkled throughout this book -- new (Hazel's a big Harry Potter fan) and old (other Andersen story characters appear throughout the second half). I'm not sure if kids (or adults) not familiar with Andersen would get the same "oh oh oh" feelings that I got but, as I alluded to before, I'm different and awkward and more than a bit geeky. Even without the background knowledge of the originals, though, I think most lovers of magic and fairytales would still find this enjoyable.

Friday 56 (share from the 56th page or 56% mark) is hosted at Freda's Voice (today 56%) 
& Book Beginnings (share the first few sentences) is at Rose City Reader.

The winner of numerous awards and recipient of four starred reviews, Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs is a stunning and heartbreaking story of growing up, wrapped in a modern-day fairy tale.
Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. But that was before he stopped talking to her and disappeared into a forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. Now it's up to Hazel to go in after him. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbs is a stunningly original fairy tale of modern-day America, a dazzling ode to the power of fantasy, and a heartbreaking meditation on how growing up is as much a choice as it is something that happens to us.
In Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu tells, in her one-of-a-kind voice, a story that brings together fifty years of children's literature in a tale as modern as it is timeless. Hazel's journey to come to terms with her evolving friendship with Jack will deeply resonate with young readers.

22 November 2016

Anita Davison's Murder on the Minneapolis (Tuesday Intros & Teaser Tuesday)

[Please note that this has since been retitled as Flora's Secret.]

Another historical mystery series to fall in love with? Yes, please!!!
Flora Maguire is a passenger on the maiden voyage of the ship S. S. Minneapolis. She's governess to thirteen year old Eddy and the two are returning to England after a short stay in New York with his family. It's early in 1900 (thanks to Google I now know the maiden voyage began on March 29, 1900) and the world is rapidly changing. Class lines are beginning to blur. Automobiles are becoming more than just a passing fad. The Strand Magazine is immensely popular and publishing stories by Arthur Conan Doyle on a regular basis -- of which Flora is a huge fan.
Shortly after the voyage begins, Flora comes across the body of another passenger -- dead at the bottom of a stairwell. Although the crew all insist that it was an accident, Flora isn't at all convinced and soon has other passengers (including the slightly nerdy and adorable 'Bunny' Harrington) questioning what really happened.
It's a fabulously well-told story with just the right amount of historical information without feeling text-booky and just the right amount of romance without making me want to hurl. As for the mystery aspect, it felt a bit "Golden Age" in its writing. Of course, since so many of my favorites fit into that original genre, I absolutely love this and look forward to reading more. (Luckily, when I found this on NetGalley I was also able to request the second in the series! Win!)
"First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros" is from the first paragraph of a book being read now (or in the future) and is hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea. "Teaser Tuesday" from Books and a Beat asks for a random line or two from anywhere in the book currently being read. Both the intro and teaser come from early on in the book because, well, "intro" is a bit self-explanatory and the teaser? There were a lot of great bits I bookmarked here and there as potentials to tease, but when it came right down to it: Pirates.

Young governess Flora Maguire is on her way home from America on the maiden voyage of the S.S. Minneapolis with her young charge Eddy, Viscount Trent, when she discovers a dead body.
Unconvinced when the death is pronounced an accident, Flora starts asking questions, but following threats, a near drowning and a second murder, the hunt is on for a killer. Time is running out as the Minneapolis approaches the English coast.
Will Flora be able to protect Eddy, as well as herself, and uncover the identity of the murderer?
Is her burgeoning relationship with the handsome Bunny Harrington only a shipboard dalliance, or something more?

18 November 2016

Rambling About.. Skottie Young's I Hate Fairyland Vol 1

I was scrolling through the hoopla app on my phone to see if anything jumped out at me to borrow for myself or John and stumbled on Skottie Young's I Hate Fairyland Volume 1 : Madly Ever After

Hmmm ... I haven't read comics regularly in quite a while but there was just something about this ...

Perhaps the kickass cover?

The "oooooh this sounds fecking awesome" description?
From superstar writer and artist Skottie Young (Rocket Raccoon, Wizard of OZ, Fortunately, The Milk), comes the first volume of an all-new series of adventure and mayhem.
An Adventure Time/Alice in Wonderland-style epic that smashes it's cute little face against grown-up, Tank Girl/Deadpool-esque violent madness. Follow Gert, a forty year old woman stuck in a six year olds body who has been stuck in the magical world of Fairyland for nearly thirty years. Join her and her giant battle-axe on a delightfully blood soaked journey to see who will survive the girl who HATES FAIRYLAND.
The fact that it's already mid-November and I still didn't have a "Y" for my A to Z Authors list?

         Yeah. That's actually what clinched it for me, to be completely honest.

Granted, there were other options for "Y" so the cover and description did help once I had a couple of others to choose from. I hopped onto Amazon to see if there were preview pages for any of them and once I got to this part from the I Hate Fairyland preview, I knew we had a winner:

Yeah, might not be the clearest of all images ... I do believe they do that on purpose ... but the Kindle version is only $1.99 or, you know, you might be able to borrow it from your library like I did.

Even if you don't normally "do comics," if you have any snark in you at all I'm pretty sure you need this. Gert is amazing and her little chain-smoking bug companion is even amazinger. (I know. It's not a word. Suck it.)

Volume 2 is coming out in about a month and I'm hoping hoopla adds it, but if they don't? Yeah, I'll probably end up buying both in paperback ...

Jenn McKinlay's Read It and Weep (Book Beginnings & Friday 56)

I was trying to find something Thanksgiving-y for my next read, but when I saw the cover of Jenn McKinlay's Read It and Weep I opted instead for the loveliness of the falling leaves like the ones that are currently all around me. (Well, not currently since I'm sitting at my desk inside -- but I think you know what I mean!)
This is the fourth book in the series and I highly recommend reading them in order. I know ... I always do ... but a lot would be missing in your understanding of who's who and what's going on without the backup. Besides, if you're reading this you obviously love books and with that typically comes a love of libraries and since the main character is a librarian, why would you not want to read them all?
Once again, McKinlay has written a story that I absolutely love and it's filled with twists and turns and humor and just enough romance to make the heart skip a beat here and there. Added to the usual McKinlay-awesomeness is the fact that the story revolves around a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (one of my top three Shakespeare loves) and it may have just enthralled me even more than the last one -- and that had pirates!

Friday 56 (share from the 56th page or 56% mark) is hosted at Freda's Voice (today 56%) 

& Book Beginnings (share the first few sentences) is at Rose City Reader.

Answering Shakespeare trivia comes with the job description for library director Lindsey Norris. But when the Briar Creek Community Theater mounts their newest production of the Bard, she has no intention of leaving the stacks for the stage. Unfortunately a villain is waiting in the wings…
Former Broadway actress Violet La Rue is holding auditions for A Midsummer Night’s Dream—and everyone from the sour spinster librarian Ms. Cole to Lindsey’s youthful library pages are trying out for parts. Brought in to play the mischievous Puck is the flirtatious professional actor Robbie Vine, who seems to have eyes for Lindsey. Before her blush has faded, the Bard’s dream turns into a nightmare—when one of the cast is poisoned. Now Lindsey and her crafternooners must take center stage to unmask the culprit before the final curtain call…

15 November 2016

Vivian Conroy's Deadly Treasures (Tuesday Intros & Teaser Tuesday)

I have to say that I'm going to be completely and utterly smashed if Deadly Treasures is the last of Vivian Conroy's Lady Alkmene mysteries. It's the third that I've read since September and the thought of being without new adventures for Alkmene and Jake gets me a bit misty-eyed. 

As has been the case with the others in the series, it's a fabulously told story that constantly had me guessing. Of course, it also doesn't hurt at all that I have an enormous book crush on Jake Dubois. I may have a wee crush on Alkmene, too. Each book sees her a bit more confident and bit spunkier and I love the back and forth between her and Jake (and, well, her and anyone who may underestimate her!).

This latest installment, due out November 21st, sees Alkmene and Jake in Cornwall at the site of an archaeology dig being run by a childhood friend of Alkmene's. He's suspected of murdering someone at the dig site and it's all potentially tied in to an old story of missing gold that may or may not have ever existed.

"First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros" is the first paragraph (or two) of a book being read now or in the future and is hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea. "Teaser Tuesday" from Books and a Beat asks for a random line or two from anywhere in the book currently being read. 

Lady Alkmene Callender has little interest in marriage, especially when her father is up to his matchmaking tricks, but when the opportunity arises to visit an archaeological dig she cannot resist.
However, when she arrives to find her potential groom under arrest for murder Lady Alkmene begins to wonder if she isn’t in the right place at the right time.
Putting her extensive sleuthing skills to good use, Lady Alkmene along with reporter Jake Dubois, starts to investigate hoping to uncover the real killer before she too ends up six feet under…

11 November 2016

Jenny Colgan's The Bookshop on the Corner (Book Beginnings & Friday 56)

I fell in love with the premise of the latest Jenny Colgan book ever since I first saw it advertised with its UK title, The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After. I was having an awful time finding a copy, though. Every couple of weeks since February I would check my typical dealers and shops and then hit up my library. I absolutely love that I'm able to check ebooks out of my public library and that if they don't have something that I really want to read, I can recommend that they get it and then they'll email me when they do. Such was the case with Jenny Colgan's The Bookshop on the Corner -- which, as it turns out, is the North American release title for that book I was obsessing over! I received notification Wednesday morning that my library had gone ahead and added it to its e-library ... and then within half an hour I received another notification that it was ready to check out!
Of course, Wednesday there was a bit of turmoil going on over here in thee ol' U-S-of-A and I couldn't focus enough to read any more than the first paragraph over and over. But, oh ... what a fitting first paragraph for this week! My plan for the weekend is to curl up with this as often as possible. I may not ramble more about it here (I can pretty much already guarantee that I'm going to love it as I have every word I've read of Colgan's), but feel free to check up on me and it on Goodreads come Sunday or so.

Friday 56 (share from the 56th page or 56% mark) is hosted at Freda's Voice (today 56% of the Kindle version I checked out of my library) & Book Beginnings (share the first few sentences) is at Rose City Reader.

Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more. 
Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.  
From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.

08 November 2016

Teasing A Summer of Secrets & A Winter's Wish by Alice Ross

So, Friday I had finished Alice Ross' An Autumn Affair and the next day I dove right into A Summer of Secrets. THAT I finished on the bus on my way in to work and dove right into A Winter's Wish! Before getting to the typical Tuesday tease for that, though, I need to oooh and aaah over A Summer of Secrets.

While I loved An Autumn Affair, I wasn't sure if I could handle another book with so much angst right away. There was absolutely no need for worrying, though, as A Summer of Secrets is just as glorious and oh-so-much lighter. Not that there aren't uncomfortable situations because there definitely are. I think this time, though, the characters felt more like neighbors than merely book characters -- in much the same way that I've always felt when watching Gilmore Girls. It's like Buttersley is just a British Stars Hollow. I care about the good, the bad and the ugly with its residents in the same way I care about everyone from the Gilmores themselves, to Sookie and Jackson, to Kirk and Michel (both of whom I always wanted more of a story for).

This week's Teaser Tuesday blurb is coming from a flashback scene in A Summer of Secrets when one of this installment's main couplings first encountered Buttersley:
"Teaser Tuesday" from Books and a Beat asks for a random line or two from anywhere in the book currently being read. I know that technically I went for more than a line or two, but it's a great little blurb!
Rich, of course, was wrong about Buttersley. Well, mostly. Enough so that it would be a place I would gladly lay claim to myself, and enough so that it makes me break my typical rule about not reading a series back-to-back!

I've only just started A Winter's Wish and I'm already loving it. In fact, the first page made me spurt coffee so far that I have to share the whole dang thing for my Tuesday Intro. "First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros" is the first paragraph (or two) of a book being read now or in the future and is hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea. I'm claiming this bending of the rules as totally okay because the 'paragraphs' are so short. And, besides, it's perfect.
Now, I don't really know much about Amelia yet but I do know the O'Donnell's since they've been at least in the peripheral of each book. I'm super-stoked that it looks like we're going to get to see more of them in this one (though I'm not super-stoked that the description indicates some stress ahead for them).

Of course, I have every intention of flying through this one just like I did the first two. And, of course, then I'll be awfully sad over a lack of Buttersley visits. I'm almost afraid to ask Ross if there will be more for fear that she'll say no. After all, we've only had Autumn, Summer and Winter. We at LEAST need Spring. Granted, once upon a time they said that Gilmore Girls was finished and now we've got A Year In The Life coming in just 17 days! Not that I'm counting or anything...

(I've also rambled at Goodreads!)

04 November 2016

Rambling About.. An Autumn Affair by Alice Ross

I picked up this book because I had requested another of Ross' books on NetGalley without realizing that it was the third in a series. Of course, being me, I couldn't possibly read the third one first so I hopped onto Amazon and bought the first two. Let me tell you, I'm awfully glad that I did.

This is not one of those light-hearted chick lits full of laughs and obvious endings. At times it is, in fact, humorous (there's a bit almost towards the end about a frying pan that may very well keep me chortling for eons), but it's also messy and uncomfortable. Above all, it's gloriously real.
Title: An Autumn Affair
Author: Alice Ross
Publication: April 21st 2015 -- Carina UK
Amazon Description:
Autumn is coming. Anything could happen…
Julia is contemplating an affair with ex-boyfriend Max after a chance meeting in the cereal aisle of the supermarket…and finding that he’s just as gorgeous as ever.
Miranda has got it all: expensive clothes, a huge house and her enormously wealthy husband, Doug. So why does she feel as if something is missing?
Faye is fed up of being treated like a child – she’s a teenager, and knows what she wants! She’s determined to escape her sleepy life at Primrose Cottage…
Three women, each with two options, needing to make one choice. When it comes to affairs of the heart, nothing is ever simple!
A perfect, feel-good read about love, life and family.
First Lines:
In her car, outside Primrose Cottage, Julia Blakelaw sucked in a deep breath and willed her heart to slow. Its worrying pace had continued the four miles home from the supermarket. Hopefully, though, she didn't look as guilty as she felt.

Faves on 4s:
14% - She doubted they would miss her much if she was no longer there. In fact, she doubted if anyone would care, or indeed notice, if she was no longer there.

34% - Miranda balked. Oh my God. Is that how her daughter now saw her? As some kind of bling queen? Someone with too much money and crass taste? But then again, maybe that's exactly what she'd become.

54% - He closed the door and rested his head against it. He was being ridiculous. What on earth would a girl like Natalia see in him? And why did he want her to see anything in him?

64% - The leather shorts and skimpy top certainly made her stand out and, rather worryingly, appear much nearer to twenty-five than seventeen. But Miranda wasn't going to waste time worrying about Faye Blakelaw. The girl seemed more than capable of looking after herself.

84% - Because this time she meant business. Serious business. This latest fiasco with Faye had galvanised her determination to do something different; something exciting; something completely reckless and utterly outrageous.

03 November 2016

Be My Baby by A. L. Michael (Book Beginnings & Friday 56)

Friday 56 (share from the 56th page or 56% mark) is hosted at Freda's Voice (today page 56 of the pdf ARC provided to me by the author) & Book Beginnings (share the first few sentences) is at Rose City Reader.

Two’s company… 
If you asked Mollie whether she struggled as a single mum, she’d have to cover her daughter’s ears before answering. Surrounded by friends, watching Esme grow into the sassiest eleven-year-old in North London, and building her name as TV chef Mollie Makes, Mollie’s never been happier. Well, that’s what she’d tell you. But as her best friends pair off, and Esme starts getting into trouble at school, Mollie wonders whether life would be different – not better…but easier – with a team mate. 
Three’s a crowd? 
But Esme’s dad, Jamie, would be the last man Mollie would team up with. After all, he made it clear eleven years ago that he wasn’t interested in playing the family game. So when he suddenly reappears, Mollie can’t believe her eyes. And soon, she’s got to ask herself the hardest question yet: she knows she can succeed as a single mum. But what if her daughter doesn’t want her to?

I am both thrilled and heartbroken over being able to read the third book in A. L. Michael's The House on Camden Square series. Thrilled because I absolutely love this series and we've finally gotten to focus on Mollie -- my favorite from the beginning. Heartbroken because this is likely the end of the series. There were three friends to write about -- Evie was featured in Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday, Chelsea in Nice Day For A White Wedding, and now Mollie in Be My Baby. I even debated not accepting an advanced copy of Be My Baby from the author just so I could delay the inevitable a bit longer.  Alas, I couldn't even bring myself to wait until the release date of November 7th before diving in. Unless she does as I requested when first reading GRT and does a fast-forward sequel about a grown-up Esme, I'll pretty much be left alone with memories and re-reads (and this is one of those rare chick lit series that I have every intention of re-reading).

So, Mollie. The quiet one. The single mum. The one who hasn't dated in eleven years because she's been too busy raising her amazing wise-beyond-her-years daughter, Esme. The one who never quite got over the fact that her daughter's father just up and disappeared on her when she was pregnant with just a simple little note that said he was sorry. And now she and Esme are living in the house on Camden Square and have a new life with their "family-of-choice" of Evie, Chelsea, their significant others, and everyone else involved with the studio left to them by their dear departed Ruby. She's starting to dip her toes back into the dating pool and is getting her business creating healthy food for kids, Mollie Makes, off the ground.

And then he shows up -- Esme's dad.

Of course, there are oodles of "oh-no-I'm-not-crying-at-all" whimpers and a fair amount of ugly-crying and self-hugging, but there's also a good deal of laughter and whooping and "I-just-got-a-touchdown-while-sitting-on-my-bum" victory dancing ... and that's all just from me.

Another 5-stars and the highest of recommendations for the whole series (really -- you want to read them all -- and in order so as to not get all mixed up with the various relationship timelines).