Monday, December 30, 2013

The Constant Princess review

The Constant Princess (The Tudor Court, #1)

The Constant Princess by Phillipa Gregory is the first book in the Tudor Court series. This fictional account of the life of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, follows the Spanish princess to England for her marriage to Arthur, Henry’s older brother.

Known best for being Henry VIII’s first wife and for being supplanted by Anne Boleyn, Catherine fought with everything at her disposal to become, and stay, the Queen of England. It was a lifelong struggle. Her marriage to Arthur should have prevented Catherine from becoming Henry’s bride but she fought the church, the King, and prevailing opinion in order to follow what she considered her destiny. Of course, the fight came full circle when she had to fight Henry and Anne in their attempt to remove her from the position she had struggled so long to gain.

Gregory deftly weaves historically accurate events together with fictional dialogue and a sympathetic portrayal of a young woman’s feelings upon being thrust into a strange country and a marriage to a man she’d never met. There is no pretense that Catherine was a saint - she was clearly manipulative and willing to do nearly anything to get and keep the crown. But Gregory shows us what could have led a young Spanish princess to the actions she took and gives us a more well-rounded version of a Catherine as a young woman rather than as the embattled queen most historians choose to focus on during Henry’s reign.

As always, Gregory’s writing is lush with vivid detail, easily transporting the reader back to Tudor England, and pulling us into the daily lives of these long dead monarchs. Detailed without being mired, Gregory educates and entertains in equal measure with The Constant Princess.

Synopsis


"I am Catalina, Princess of Spain, daughter of the two greatest monarchs the world has ever known...and I will be Queen of England."

Thus, bestselling author Philippa Gregory introduces one of her most unforgettable heroines: Katherine of Aragon. Known to history as the Queen who was pushed off her throne by Anne Boleyn, here is a Katherine the world has forgotten: the enchanting princess that all England loved. First married to Henry VIII's older brother, Arthur, Katherine's passion turns their arranged marriage into a love match; but when Arthur dies, the merciless English court and her ambitious parents -- the crusading King and Queen of Spain -- have to find a new role for the widow. Ultimately, it is Katherine herself who takes control of her own life by telling the most audacious lie in English history, leading her to the very pinnacle of power in England.


Set in the rich beauty of Moorish Spain and the glamour of the Tudor court, The Constant Princess presents a woman whose constancy helps her endure betrayal, poverty, and despair, until the inevitable moment when she steps into the role she has prepared for all her life: Henry VIII's Queen, Regent, and commander of the English army in their greatest victory against Scotland.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Murder Past Due review

Murder Past Due (Cat in the Stacks Mystery, #1)

Murder Past Due is the first book in the Cat in the Stacks cozy mystery series by Miranda James. The Cat in the Stacks series features librarian Charlie Harris and his cat, Diesel, as the amateur sleuth in the small college town of Athena.

As the first book in the series, Murder Past Due is really setting up the main characters and the setting as well as providing a murder mystery. Murder Past Due is well paced and interesting with a murder that has almost every resident in town as a viable suspect. James does an excellent job of painting a vivid picture of a small college town and the people who populate it while keeping the plot moving fluidly. As always, one of my main criteria for any mystery is that the author doesn’t make it too obvious who the killer is before the big reveal and James did a good job with that by providing some fairly obvious and some less obvious potential suspects for Charlie to investigate.

One of my more recent pet peeves with cozy mysteries, as regular readers of this blog will know, is that so many authors are now portraying the police as stupid or bumbling. James does not fall into this trap - in fact, Charlie is chastened to realize he may have caused a good bit of harm to the police investigation while he was trying to assist. He is smart enough and aware enough to realize that the police have to follow procedures and investigate every clue and possibility or a murderer could go free and that is quite refreshing after some of the portrayals I’ve seen in 2013.

While Charlie is a librarian and that does play into the murder mystery, there is far less time spent in the library or on library business in Murder Past Due than in the Library Lovers series by Jenn McKinlay that I’ve recently read. That’s not a bad thing - it is just different.

Overall, I very much enjoyed Murder Past Due and recommend it to any cozy mystery fan. I already have the second book ready to read on my next day off!


Synopsis


There's a cat in the stacks…

...and he makes the purr-fect partner for a librarian-turned-sleuth.
Everyone in Athena, Mississippi, knows librarian Charlie Harris-and his Maine coon cat named Diesel that he walks on a leash. They also know his former classmate-turned-famous bestselling novelist, Godfrey Priest.

But someone in Athena took Godfrey off the bestseller lists- permanently, and with extreme prejudice. Now, Charlie and Diesel must browse through the history section of the town's past to find a killer.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Vampire's Christmas Carol review

 A Vampire’s Christmas Carol

A Vampire's Christmas Carol by Cynthia Eden is a cute holiday novella that, true to its title, leans heavily on Dickens classic tale.

Ben is a vampire on the edge of being evil. Ever since he was turned and he lost the woman he loved, Ben has hunted human predators. But his beliefs on the rightness of his kills comes into question when a demon whose life he saved shows up on Christmas Eve. Can Ben see the error of his ways if other supernatural creatures show him his past, present, and future?

One of those supernatural creatures is Simone - the woman Ben thought dead for the last decade. Turns out she was an angel who turned vampire that night rather than dying. Simone makes a sacrifice for Ben's second chance - but will he take it?

Despite its short length, Eden packs a lot into A Vampire's Christmas Carol. We get the full treatment of the Dickens classic with her paranormal twist and interesting secondary characters that leave you wanting more of their story to go with Ben and Simone.

If you are looking for a quick holiday themed read and like paranormal romance, I'd definitely recommend A Vampire's Christmas Carol.

Synopsis

 

This holiday season has bite.
Ben Prescott hates Christmas—he’s a vampire, and to him, there’s certainly nothing jolly about the holiday season.  While the humans are running around being merry, he’s hunting in the shadows.  Ben plans to spend the holidays his way…by stalking deadly prey.
But fate has other plans for Ben.
Three visitors are coming Ben’s way…A demon who will force  Ben to face his past, a ghost who will show Ben the present he could have, and a shifter  who will reveal the darkness that waits in Ben’s future. Unless Ben can change his ways, he may just turn into a real monster, one who can’t be saved by anyone or anything.
‘Tis the season…to be undead.
Ben’s redemption rests in the hands of the one woman he loved and lost—Simone Laurent.  If Ben is going to have a chance at being more than just the beast in the darkness, he has to prove himself to the lovely Simone.  A very hard task, considering that, once upon a Christmas Eve, Simone died in Ben’s arms…
Warning: This story features one very tortured vampire, a sexy ghost from his past, and hot scenes designed to melt the winter snow. Plenty of action, adult situations, and steamy times are ahead. Happy holidays!

Some Kind of Wonderful review

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Some Kind of Wonderful is a holiday novella by Beth Ciotta set in her Cupcake Lovers world. The novella takes place in Sugar Creek, VT and can be read as a standalone without the other books in the series.

Fun and poignant, Some Kind of Wonderful features injured Marine Zach and his childhood best friend Maya. It's a little bit Christmas Carol, a little bit Cyrano de Bergerac, and a whole lot of cupcakes.

Zach hasn't truly lived in Sugar Creek since leaving for the Marines and Maya has a successful cupcake business in Orlando but they will be reunited at Christmas thanks to Zach's aunt and uncle. One small problem - Maya's friend, Giselle, has come along for the visit and the sexy letters that Zach has been receiving from Giselle were really written by Maya!

Some Kind of Wonderful is a short but sweet story about two friends and how they might find love along with a good dose of holiday cheer, family, and the wonderful residents of Sugar Creek.

Synopsis


Growing up in Sugar Creek, Maya Templeton and Zachary Cole were best friends. After high school, each went out into the world in search of adventure. Maya moved to Florida to explore her passion for baking and pastry-making, eventually establishing her own business: Cupcakes & Dreamscapes. Zach joined the military and became a Marine Scout Sniper. Now, after years apart, they’re both going home for the holidays. They don’t seem to have much in common anymore. In fact, Zach seems to have the hots for Maya’s business partner. But when the two get stranded together during a blizzard, they are forced to reexamine their connection. Are Maya and Zach better off “just friends”—just as they were when they were young? Or could it be that true love was there all along?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Enchanted review


Book Cover: Enchanted (E-Book Version)

Enchanted by Patti Berg was a Christmas book but it actually takes place in the summer. A little odd but it worked okay. Enchanted was pretty well-written but it needed another round of editing - there were too many typos for my taste. I enjoyed the main characters - Merry, Mac, and Kathleen - and even the secondary characters were solidly written.

The romance between Mac and Kathleen was just okay. It seemed that they were always talking at and around each other rather than to each other. Also, neither of them was willing to address the very real issues between them. The relationship built in fits and starts and seemed a little stilted.

I did enjoy the slight magical element in the form of Merry (who is fairly clearly Mrs. Claus) and her husband, Nicky. The Christmas themed store, Holly's, that appeared and disappeared, was a cute way to add the element in and to give it a holiday twist despite it's summer time setting.

All in all, not a bad book especially if you are looking for a quick Christmas read but it could definitely use another pass with an editor.

Synopsis


WITH A LITTLE TOUCH OF CHRISTMAS MAGIC, TWO HEARTS CAN FALL IN LOVE

A Christmas story for those who believe when love is involved, anything is possible. Mac O'Brien is wealthy and powerful - but since the death of his father, the magic has gone out of his life. So he makes a wish for happiness, and Merry Nicholas, his new housekeeper, breezes into his world.

Merry, with twinkling eyes, rosy cheeks, and snow-white hair, reminds Mac of Mrs. Claus, and when she pulls knitting needles from her candy cane-striped carpetbag, she weaves an enchanted spell around Mac, leading him to happiness, and to the woman he's destined to love.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Keepers: Christmas in Salem review

The Keepers: Christmas in Salem

Keepers: Christmas in Salem is an anthology of connected novellas by four different authors and is set in the world of the Keepers. Novellas include Do You Fear What I Fear by Heather Graham, The Fright Before Christmas by Deborah LeBlanc, Unholy Night by Kathleen Pickering, and Stalking in a Winter Wonderland by Beth Ciotta.

Each novella features a female Keeper in Salem who are all related to each other. Like the recent Los Angeles Keepers novels, these Salem Keepers are new to the job and young, having unexpectedly inherited the positions because of deaths or the sitting Keeper being called to the Council. The connecting factor throughout each story is the need to find out why Salem is blanketed in perpetual night and to reverse whatever magic or paranormal activity is causing it before it destroys the town. That plot point develops and moves forward in each story while the individual main Keeper changes and has her own relationship issue to deal with.

I enjoyed each novella and liked the connecting threads that were woven throughout the book. The Keeper world was familiar but the new setting made it interesting and different from the previous books in the series. Each author is a fantastic writer and includes the right balance of detail and character building to create a full story in few words. That said, a couple of the novellas could have used a few hundred more words to fully explain points or to flesh out relationships.

Overall, Keepers: Christmas in Salem is a fun holiday book and is perfect for the reader looking for something to read in short intervals throughout the holiday craziness.

Synopsis

 

This holiday season, armed with love and passion, can the Keepers stop the reign of Darkness? 
Christmas is coming to Salem, but so is an evil force that threatens all mankind. In this memorable collection led by New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham, four powerful Keepers must save their community as a strange, eternal night creeps over the town. Forced to choose between their time-honored responsibilities or the lovers their hearts desire, these four extraordinary women must risk their own happiness to save the holiday. But Christmas is a time for miracles, and as each Keeper's greatest longing is met, the Season of Light returns. Don't miss this magical holiday collection from Heather Graham, Deborah LeBlanc, Kathleen Pickering and Beth Ciotta.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Here There Be Monsters review

burning up cover

Here There Be Monsters by Meljean Brook is an Iron Seas series novella that first appeared in the Burning Up anthology printed but was released as a stand alone ebook in October. It is technically the second story in the series but I read it after reading The Iron Duke, the first full length novel in the Iron Seas series

Here There Be Monsters stars Mad Machen and Ivy, who readers of the Iron Duke will recognize and it also has a prominent role for Lady Corsair. It's a fun novella and I enjoyed learning more about the characters that briefly appeared in The Iron Duke

Brook keeps with the wonderful steampunk world of the Iron Seas series and heavily features automaton creations, kraken, and Megs which are all important parts of the entire series. Here There Be Monsters is an entertaining and interesting glimpse of the Iron Seas series and should make any reader want to delve more deeply into the world Brook masterfully creates.

Synopsis


Two years ago, blacksmith Ivy, desperate to flee London, purchased her overseas passage by agreeing to spend the voyage in the bed of the pirate captain, Mad Machen. Saved at the last minute by his rival, Ivy scraped out a new life in Fool’s Cove…until Mad Machen finds her, forces her to accept a job that will create a monster, and reminds her that she still owes him the price of a journey…

Friday, December 13, 2013

Keepsake Crimes review

Keepsake Crimes

Keepsake Crimes by Laura Childs is the first book in the Scrapbook Mysteries series. I have read many of Childs' Tea Shop Mystery series books so I thought I'd check out this series as well. 

Keepsake Crimes was a decent mystery in that I didn't guess who the killer was until the reveal. It had an excellent setting and provided interesting scrapbook details especially for someone like me who doesn't do scrapbooking. Maybe if you do, this isn't as good but I found it to be just enough detail without being overwhelming.

The main character, Carmella,  was just okay. I actually didn't like her much as a person. Her husband leaves and four months later she still hasn't filed for divorce - Who does that? Her reactions seemed kind of unreal in a lot of situations. Carmella's husband, Shamus, had no redeeming qualities - none - but she acts like he's prince charming.

Carmella's "friend" and employee, Gabby was not a friend at all. Who asks a friend to hold their job and they'll come back when your troubles are over? That's completely ridiculous and Carmella's reaction to that situation was one example of how unreal her reactions were. The appropriate reaction is - show up and work your shifts or find a new job. Instead, Carmella is a complete pushover and thinks it is acceptable!

The rest of the secondary characters in Keepsake Crimes were overly stereotypical or just completely flat. Several of the store's customers were so similar that I kept getting them confused.

Overall, Keepsake Crimes is a decent mystery but the characters leave something to be desired. If you are looking for a cozy mystery series with great characters and solid mystery plots, I'd recommend Childs' Tea Shop mysteries over the Scrapbook Mystery series.

Synopsis


As the bawdy Pluvius parade rolls through the streets of New Orleans, something goes very wrong atop the giant sea serpent float. Carmela Bertrand, owner of Memory Mine, a scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter, is shocked when a body is suddenly handed down - a dead body! If that isn't bizarre enough, her soon-to-be-ex husband, Shamus Meechum, quickly comes under fire as the number one suspect! As Carmela kicks off a new round of scrapbooking classes and designs a commemorative scrapbook for St. Cyril's above-ground cemetery, Shamus appeals to her for help. And Carmela uncovers an important clue in a very unlikely place - one of her customer's scrapbooks!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mine to Keep review

Mine To Keep

Mine to Keep by Cynthia Eden is the second story in the Mine series but the first full length novel. Trace and Skye were first featured in the novella Mine to Take.

I really enjoyed reading more about Trace and Skye and following their story further than just the novella. We learned a lot about their past in the novella but Eden explored more of Trace's past while away from Skye in Mine to Keep and he felt like a fuller character for it.

In Mine to Take, the threat to the couple comes from Skye's recent past but in Mine to Keep, it is Trace's past that brings the danger and conflict. Given that he was a soldier and then a mercenary, the idea that he has enemies who would want revenge is not surprising. We also get to meet some of Trace's military contacts like Noah and Drake! Noah's story is the next book and I sincerely hope that Drake gets his own as well.

While reading, I had two suspects as to who was behind the whole thing but the real culprit was a complete surprise to me when it was revealed. Overall, Mine to Keep is a well written, mysterious plot with great characters. I definitely recommend this series to any fan of romantic suspense.

Synopsis


Love is the most dangerous obsession…
Skye Sullivan is trying to put the pieces of her life back together. She survived a brutal stalker and escaped his abduction, and now she is looking to the future—a future that includes Skye’s lover, billionaire Trace Weston. Skye thinks the danger is finally over for her.
She’s dead wrong.
When Trace’s past comes back to haunt him, Skye discovers that the man she loves isn’t quite who he seems to be. Trace has been leading a double-life. An ex-special forces agent, his military training turned him into the perfect killing machine. He made more than his share of enemies during his time in the military—and as he built his security empire—and one of those enemies is striking back.
He won’t lose her.
Skye is the one weapon that can be used against Trace—his only vulnerability. But he won’t let her go—he can’t. Trace will do anything necessary to protect Skye. Anything. Yet when she discovers the secrets that he’s tried to keep hidden, Skye’s pain and rage may send her running directly into the cross-hairs of a killer…

Monday, December 9, 2013

Thankless in Death review

Calculated In Death book cover


Thankless in Death by JD Robb is the 37th (!) book in the In Death series and Robb is still going strong. It's always a joy to visit Dallas and Roarke's world with each new book.

At the beginning of the series, I thought I loved it because of Eve and Roarke but I've come to realize it is the secondary characters, both reoccurring and one time appearance characters, that make the books so enjoyable for me. Whether they are funny, crazy, pompous, or self-involved, Robb's secondary characters turn a murder mystery in New York into a vivid world that sucks me in each time.

Thankless in Death focuses on the chase rather than the whodunnit as Eve and the rest of the NYPSD, and the readers, are perfectly aware that Jerry is the killer from the very beginning. But luck is on Jerry's side for most of the book and he keeps managing to slip through Eve's grasp. Eve's ability to think like a killer keeps her hot on Jerry's trail but sometimes that's just not close enough and I could feel Eve's frustration and anger at each near miss.

Given that Thankless in Death is set during Thanksgiving, we get another visit from the ever delightful Irish relatives, and we also get a return appearance of Nixie and her new family which was a nice, and very emotional, touch.

Robb deftly writes the juxtaposition of Thanksgiving and the joy of distant relatives descending on Roarke and Eve with the brutal family murder and ungratefulness of Jerry but without beating the reader over the head with it.

Thankless in Death is a fantastic addition to the In Death series and if you haven't been reading these wonderful books, I highly recommend starting at the beginning - if you're anything like me, you'll devour the whole series!

Synopsis


In the latest suspense thriller in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, the year 2060 is drawing to a close in New York City and loved ones are coming together for Thanksgiving. But sometimes the deepest hatreds seethe within the closest relationships, and blood flows faster than water…

Lieutenant Eve Dallas has plenty to be grateful for this season. Hosting Roarke’s big Irish family for the holiday may be challenging, but it’s a joyful improvement on her own dark childhood.

Other couples aren’t as lucky as Eve and Roarke. The Reinholds, for example, are lying in their home stabbed and bludgeoned almost beyond recognition. Those who knew them are stunned—and heartbroken by the evidence that they were murdered by their own son. Twenty-six-year-old Jerry hadn’t made a great impression on the bosses who fired him or the girlfriend who dumped him—but they didn’t think he was capable of this.

Turns out Jerry is not only capable of brutality but taking a liking to it. With the money he’s stolen from his parents and a long list of grievances, he intends to finally make his mark on the world. Eve and her team already know the who, how, and why of this murder. What they need to pinpoint is where Jerry’s going to strike next.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Due or Die review


Due or Die by Jenn McKinlay is the second book in the Library Lover's series, following Books Can Be Deceiving. It is a solid second book but I felt the mystery was too obvious.

I enjoy McKinlay's writing a great deal. She writes with wonderful detail but at the same time keeping the pace of the story without bogging down. Characters new and old are well written and the variety of situations that Lindsey finds herself in throughout the book are alternately funny and scary. The small town atmosphere is maintained despite the addition of characters - both local and visiting - and the relationships are cohesive from book to book.

The chemistry and back and forth banter between Lindsey and Sully was my favorite part of Due or Die! Sully begins to open up and Lindsey and he have an undeniable attraction without being cliche or overdone. The interplay between them, and between Lindsey and her friends about Sully, is great fun to read.

Due or Die is a decent second book in a series that I think will end up being a must read for cozy mystery lovers. 

Synopsis


Answering tricky reference questions is excitement enough for library director Lindsey Norris. Until a murder is committed in her cozy hometown of Briar Creek, Connecticut, and the question of who did it must be answered before someone else is checked out--for good.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Magic Burns review


I'm back...I know it has been two months (!) since I've posted but I promise that I won't drop off the face of the planet like that again. To get back in the groove of reviewing, I'm posting about a book in a series that I devoured in a couple of weeks - the entire series is compulsively readable!

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews is the second book in the Kate Daniels series and Kate is quickly becoming one of my favorite book characters! She is smart, sarcastic, strong, and willing to fight for what she believes in - what more could you ask from a lead character?

Magic Burns has us revisiting the Atlanta of Magic Bites and this time a magic flare, a once every seven years event, is happening and ramping up the magic powers around the city - including the magic in Kate's blood.
Great except it also amps up the magic of anyone Kate has to go up against as well and there are never a shortage of people for Kate to kill!

Andrews retains the vivid writing and world building that she began with Magic Bites and introduces some new characters and some new hints at the source of Kate's power in Magic Burns. We also get to visit the People and the Pack as well as the Order and the Guild so lots of familiar faces to go with all the interesting new ones.

All in all, Magic Burns is a great second book and follows up Magic Bites nicely. I highly recommend checking out the Kate Daniels series if you enjoy paranormal romance or urban fantasy books.

Synopsis


Down in Atlanta, tempers – and temperatures – are about to flare…

As a mercenary who cleans up after magic gone wrong, Kate Daniels has seen her share of occupational hazards. Normally, waves of paranormal energy ebb and flow across Atlanta like a tide. But once every seven years, a flare comes, a time when magic runs rampant. Now Kate’s going to have to deal with problems on a much bigger scale: a divine one.

When Kate sets out to retrieve a set of stolen maps for the Pack, Atlanta’s paramilitary clan of shapeshifters, she quickly realizes much more at stake. During a flare, gods and goddesses can manifest – and battle for power. The stolen maps are only the opening gambit in an epic tug-of-war between two gods hoping for rebirth. And if Kate can’t stop the cataclysmic showdown, the city may not survive…

Monday, October 7, 2013

Salvage review

Salvage by Meljean Brook is a novella featured in the Enthralled anthology and is story 3.5 in the Iron Seas series. I am reading these stories out of order which I don't normally do but it hasn't been a problem with this series at this point.

Georgiana is strong and independent but wants her husband around in a way her father never was while she was growing up. Thom married Georgiana but then left to earn a living and make her proud.

There were a lot of mistakes made and most revolved around miscommunication between Georgiana and Thom. There is a lot of misunderstand about each others intentions and wants.

Southamptom is an aristocrat in the worst sense of the word. He has absolutely no honor. Mrs. Winch was the only secondary character who seemed like she was not too bad despite being a mercenary working for Southampton. The rest of the crew working for Southampton was barely introduced so there wasn't really much to the secondary characters.

Lady Corsair and Archimedes Fox, who we met in Iron Duke and then who had a book of their own, make an appearance which was fun.

I liked visiting the Iron Seas world again because I really enjoy Brook's steampunk world. Salvage might even make me move the rest of the books in the series to the top of my to-read pile.

Synopsis


A man who’s lost everything returns home to find that not only is his marriage in jeopardy, but he must now fight air pirates who intend to steal his one remaining treasure — his wife.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Magic Bites review

Magic_Bites1

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews is the first novel in the Kate Daniels fantasy series, though apparently there is a prequel novella that I haven't read. I am blaming my new obsession with this series on Elle J Rossi since she is the one who recommended it to me. *shaking fist at Elle*

The first thing that I loved about Magic Bites was the absolutely fantastic world building. It is based in the familiar city of Atlanta but with a very magical overlay that comes and goes between technological cycles. During magic cycles, technology doesn't work and during technological cycles, magic doesn't work.

Kate is my favorite kind of female lead character. She is a sarcastic magic mercenary and a total smart ass. She has a mysterious power that she guards very carefully because just the knowledge of it would scare people enough to get her killed. She can kick ass with the best of them and has difficulty trusting anyone.

The Order is a rigid group but protects humanity and doesn't worry about money. The People are a group of power hungry necromancers who worship Roland even though none have ever seen him. To the People, money is everything. The Pack is the group of shapeshifters who live by following the Beast Lord and have a code of ethics. They are mortal enemies of the People. Curran is the Beast Lord in charge of the Pack but isn't sure what to make of Kate at all.

One thing in this book that I found rather amusing was that all of the male characters seemed to think that being a "leader" is synonymous with being an asshole. Kate really throws them for a loop which is fun to read.

Magic Bites is full of vivid details, has an interesting plot, and with a different twist on vampires and shifters. I knew what the bad guy was early on and figured out the who sooner than the reveal but that didn't lessen my enjoyment of this fantastic book one bit. I can't wait to read the next book!

Synopsis


Atlanta would be a nice place to live, if it weren’t for magic…

One moment magic dominates, and cars stall and guns fail. The next, technology takes over and the defensive spells no longer protect your house from monsters. Here skyscrapers topple under onslaught of magic; werebears and werehyenas prowl through the ruined streets; and the Masters of the Dead, necromancers driven by their thirst of knowledge and wealth, pilot blood-crazed vampires with their minds. In this world lives Kate Daniels. Kate likes her sword a little too much and has a hard time controlling her mouth. The magic in her blood makes her a target, and she spent most of her life hiding in plain sight. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, she must choose to do nothing and remain safe or to pursue his preternatural killer. Hiding is easy, but the right choice is rarely easy…

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ecstasy Under the Moon review


Ecstasy Under the Moon by Lucy Monroe, is a Children of the Moon novella and falls between Moon Burning and Dragon's Moon in the series. Ecstasy Under the Moon is part of the Enthralled anthology.

Una is an eagle shifter of Elan who was traumatized by wolf shifters at 14 and has been basically in hiding ever since. She never leaves the Elan territory and rarely lets any adult close to her. The fear has nearly paralyzed her life. Then the Faol move into the Elan territory to further mend relations between the two groups of Chrecte.

Bryant is a wolf shifter of Faol but with Elan royal blood in his ancestry. He is from the Balmoral clan and fully and passionately believes in trying to reunite the Chrecte. Bryant is one of the small group of Faol that volunteers to move into Elan territory in order to show that the Faol are trustworthy.

When the Faol move into the Elan territory, Una finds herself inexplicably draw to Bryant. Bryant knows at the first smell of her scent that Una is his true mate but he's not sure if he can overcome her terror of the Faol after what happened to her.

Both characters are well written, as are the surrounding characters, and the relationship is built in such a way that it seems natural and realistic. Despite the novella length, the story is fully developed and the plot moves swiftly but without seeming hurried or lacking in detail.

I would recommend reading the series in order or some parts of Ecstasy Under the Moon will not make sense. 

Synopsis


Lucy Monroe, national bestselling author of the Children of the Moon novels…unleashes the feral passions of a werewolf on the body, mind, and soul of his prey, his lover, his lifemate.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Cloche and Dagger review


Cloche and Dagger by Jenn McKinlay is the first in a fun new cozy mystery series. It was quirky, smart, and was definitely a good mystery.

Set in a very vibrant London, Cloche and Dagger features an American, Scarlett, who flees Florida after a spectacular breakup that went viral on the Internet to help out her cousin Vivian at the hat shop their grandmother owned. Scarlett was a strong woman but she had a touch of needy in her personality and she doesn't know how to not be part of a couple. She is very real - her character is someone I could easily imagine knowing and being friends with. She's smart, she's hard working, and she's a people person.

The clear love interest is Harrison, a handsome Brit who is the business manager for the hat shop. I honestly didn't care for him much - he seemed judgmental and there was just something about his interaction with Scarlett and his attitude that rubbed me the wrong way. That's not to say he wasn't a good character but he certainly wouldn't be someone I would be interested in dating or even being friends with.

Viv, when she showed up, seemed a little too spacey to own and run a successful business. I get that she was supposed to be the artist but even artists have to properly run a business or they won't have one for long. However, Viv was very supportive of Scarlett but also told her the truth rather than what Scarlett wanted to hear and I do love characters like that since that is what my best friend does for me.

The secondary characters, always an important gauge to me, were also excellently written. The society ladies, the neighboring photographer and his lover, the shop assistant, and the police officers were all full characters with great personalities and provided the necessary details that help create the world in which the mystery happens.

The mystery was definitely a mystery! I had no clue who the murderer was until McKinlay revealed it. And yet, it made perfect sense when it was all lined up for me. The talent required to pull that off in a book is mind boggling and yet McKinlay does so in both series that I've read.

If you are looking for a good mystery with solid characters and a great setting, I'd definitely recommend Cloche and Dagger. I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the series and, if you haven't read it, I highly recommend McKinlay's Library Lovers series as well. The first book in that series is Books Can Be Deceiving.


Synopsis


Not only is Scarlett Parker’s love life in the loo—as her British cousin Vivian Tremont would say—it’s also gone viral with an embarrassing video. So when Viv suggests Scarlett leave Florida to lay low in London, she hops on the next plane across the pond. Viv is the proprietor of Mims’s Whims, a ladies’ hat shop on Portobello Road bequeathed to both cousins by their beloved grandmother, and she wants Scarlett to finally join her in the millinery business.

But a few surprises await Scarlett in London. First, she is met at the airport not by Viv, but by her handsome business manager, Harrison Wentworth. Second, Viv—who has some whims of her own—seems to be missing. No one is too concerned about the unpredictable Viv until one of her posh clients is found dead wearing the cloche hat Viv made for her—and nothing else. Is Scarlett’s cousin in trouble? Or is she in hiding?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fierce review

Fierce

Fierce by Sabrina York is an erotic novella in the 1 Night Stand series by Decadent Publishing. Fierce was a fun story in a fun series. There are a massive number of 1 Night Stand stories and I have only read a handful so you don't need to read them in order or anything.

Katie is a loyal woman - she was loyal to her husband and loyal to her best friend who has a big mouth. She swears off men after her husband cheats on her. She is in no way interested in being with another man any time soon despite her best friend's insistence.

Sebastien only has one night stands after his wife cheated on him as he is not interested in trusting another woman with his heart. He finds Katie physically attractive but it is her loyalty that takes the attraction into the emotional realm.

Katie and Sebastien are hooked up after Katie's best friend signed her up for Madam Eve's 1 Night Stand service. The attraction is written really well and when they get together, it makes sense and "feels" right.

Fierce is an erotic novella and as the series title should tell you, the majority of the story is graphic sex. But the plot wrapped around that sex is something most readers can relate to or at least empathize with.

Synopsis


The last thing Katie is expecting—when she meets her friend Joy for a girls’ weekend in Vegas to celebrate her divorce—is an ambush. But Joy, determined to get Katie “back on the horse,” has submitted her profile with Madame Eve—who’s found her the perfect man.

Katie doesn’t want another man. She certainly doesn’t want or need confirmation that it’s her fault Mark could never satisfy her.

When Sebastian—scarred by the infidelity of his wife—overhears Katie’s confession, and the fact that she was faithful to her husband for ten years even though he never met her needs, he’s intrigued. More than intrigued. He’s determined to prove to this gorgeous, tempting, fascinating woman that she is not frigid. In fact, she is fierce.



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Brown Eyed Girl review

BROWN EYED GIRL by Mariah Stewart

Brown Eyed Girl by Mariah Stewart is a well-written and medium paced romantic suspense novel.

I have to admit it has been awhile since I read a Stewart book though I have always enjoyed them. My mom actually gave me Brown Eyed Girl  because my hometown is mentioned in it several times.

Leah is strong and creative but she is still hurting from the loss of her sister Melissa. Missy disappeared on her way home from college and Leah is determined to find the answers about what happened to Missy. A large monetary reward for information is available and a serial killer, Raymond Lambert, contacts Leah saying he has information but wants the reward money. Leah agrees but before Lambert can tell her what she wants to know, he is killed in prison. Leah is determined to find the answers without him and goes to the person she thinks is an expert in Lambert and his crimes.

Ethan has been hiding away from the world in rural Maine after his wife's death at Lambert's hands. He is giving and selfless, agreeing to help Leah find answers despite the pain it causes him. Ethan is also very protective and more likely to recognize the signs that something is wrong than Leah is. He's also more willing to take drastic action to keep those he loves safe.

The secondary characters, particularly Holly and Tom, Ethan's father and daughter, make this story. The interactions between Ethan, Holly, and Tom give Ethan's character a depth it wouldn't have otherwise had. Leah's remaining family, her cousin Catherine, is less revealing of Leah's personality. Catherine is a little standoffish and snobby and is a fairly flat character.

The mystery of the killer is done well and I didn't guess anything until his identity was revealed. However, the "unexpected twist" wasn't particularly unexpected as I guessed the involvement of that character early and easily.

Synopsis


A fashion magazine features editor, Leah McDevitt is haunted by the memory of her cherished younger sister, Melissa, who vanished years ago. Missy, whose extraordinary eyes -- one blue, one brown -- may have lured her abductor to her....When Leah receives a letter from death row inmate Raymond Lambert, she eagerly agrees to pay him the long-standing reward for information about Melissa -- even if it means coming face-to-face with a notorious serial killer.

But before Lambert can impart his secrets, he himself is killed. Devastated but determined, Leah heads to the Maine woods to seek out private investigator Ethan Sanger, who authored a book about Lambert in exchange for yet another of Lambert's terrible secrets. Leah and Ethan strike a sparking passion with the power to heal their painful pasts. But someone has his eye on Leah...someone who knows more than he should...and who won't be satisfied until Leah sees the truth with her own eyes.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hell on Wheels review


Hell on Wheels by Julie Ann Walker is the first book in the Black Knights series of contemporary romance.

Hell of Wheels features the couple of Ali and Nate aka Ghost. The loss of Grigg, Ghost's partner and Ali's older brother, causes massive problems for this couple. Grigg had always told Nate not to go near Ali so Nate tried to avoid her because he loved her at first sight. Grigg's death just cemented Nate's belief that he wasn't good enough for Ali. Ali thinks Nate doesn't have any use for her so she fights her lust.

Nate is a pretty typical alpha with asshole moments. While he is close to the team at Black Knights, he doesn't really emote. Ali is a little naive but with a backbone of steel. I think she is maybe a little too forgiving of Nate's asshole moments but it works in the book.

Hell on Wheels introduced us to the whole team of Black Knights, our group of ex-military government contractors. It also completely sets up the next book with the included secondary storyline around Frank aka Boss and Rebecca aka Becky.

Overall, Hell on Wheels is a great contemporary romance with hard core alpha males. I definitely want to read more on the various team members and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Synopsis


HOLD ON TIGHT…
Ex-Marine Nate “Ghost” Weller is an expert at keeping his cool – and his distance – which makes him one hell of a sniper.  It’s also how he keeps his feeling for Ali Morgan in check.  Sweet, sexy Ali has always revved his engine, but she’s his best friend’s baby sister… and totally off limits.

ROUGH ROAD AHEAD
Ali’s never seen anything sexier than Nate Weller straddling his custom Harley – or the flash of danger in his eyes when she tells him she’s in trouble.  First something happened to her brother, and now’s she’s become the target of some nasty organization.  With Nate, her life in the most capable hands possible – but her heart in another story altogether.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Hotshot review

Hotshot (Buchanan-Renard, #11)

Hotshot is the latest romantic suspense novel by Julie Garwood. While I enjoyed the plot of the novel, the characters left something to be desired.

Peyton is all drama. She says one thing but does another time after time. She does not seem very bright and is a little wishywashy. Peyton had to suddenly leave her job as a food critic because her boss is not willing to take no for an answer and he wants to have sex with her. She is threatened and almost killed but does she take her evidence to the police or even to the owner of the company? No. She goes on and on about needing to make the guy pay but she never tries to follow through. It came across as fairly ridiculous to me.

Lucy, Peyton's sister, is completely obnoxious. Sister or not, if she'd treated me the way she did Peyton when they first started at the resort, I'd have broken her nose. The romance between Lucy and Christopher was not believable to me. Unless you are five years old, picking a fight is not the appropriate way to show someone you like them.

Finn as a fairly typical FBI guy, a quintessential alpha protector. He was not very smart with women and didn't seem to be able to understand his own feelings. He was smart, protective, and sometimes funny but he didn't always treat Peyton well which I disliked.

The secondary characters were also not up to Garwood's usual level. They were fairly one-dimensional and stereotypical - the evil developer, the greedy cousin, and the heir-less uncle. They felt flat to me which is disappointing because Garwood usually writes very vivid secondary characters.

Overall, Hotshot was not one of my favorite Garwood books. But when you write as many as she has, there's always going to be one that doesn't work even for your biggest fan!

Synopsis


Peyton Lockhart and her sisters have inherited Bishops Cove, a small, luxurious oceanfront resort, but it comes with a condition: The girls must run the resort for one year and show a profit - only then will they own it.

A graduate of a prestigious French culinary school, Peyton has just lost her job as a food critic. Out of work and in a bad place personally, a year doing something completely different sounds wonderful.

There are countless challenges and too many people who want to stop the sisters from succeeding. Among them are Peytons contentious cousins, who are outraged that they didn't inherit the resort, as well as a powerful group of land developers who have been eyeing the coveted beachfront property.

Its soon apparent to Peyton that their efforts are being sabotaged, but she refuses to let the threats scare her - until she's nearly killed. She calls on her childhood friend and protector, Finn MacBain, now with the FBI, and asks for his help. He saved her life once; he can do it again.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wolf Hills review

 Wolf Hills Cover

Wolf Hills by Bianca D'Arc is the sixth book in the erotic paranormal series Brotherhood of the Blood. The book features Sally, the last of the female group of friends that have been close since college. 

Sally is a cop so it should surprise no one when she notices things about the paranormal people surrounding her when she arrives to visit Carly in Wyoming. How Carly thought Sally wouldn't notice and call her on it, I'm not sure but it ended up being a pretty moot point anyway. 

Sally quickly meets Jason, local alpha werewolf, who readers will have met in Phantom Desires. The chemistry between the two is palpable to the other characters but also to the reader - D'Arc writes so that the lust basically rolls off the page!

Revelations of shifters and vampires are the least of the problems Sally finds herself facing however. The Venificus hunters haven't been defeated and have popped up again plus there's a reveal about Sally - I won't spoil it - to contend with. And she thought it was going to be a relaxing vacation :)

I really liked Sally and Jason. They were both interesting characters, independently, and they worked well for me as a couple. I also enjoyed the bond between Sally and Carly - another strength of D'Arc's writing is the strong and realistic friendships she portrays. The secondary characters were also well-rounded and interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing more of those same characters later in the series. 

Overall, Wolf Hills is a hot and fun read with solid characters, an interesting and engaging plot, and it left me wanting more. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series. 

Synopsis


"Danger prowls on two legs "

A "Brotherhood of Blood" Novel

Detective Sally Decker s Wyoming trip to visit her newlywed friend, Carly, turns into a dangerous adventure into the unknown when she learns Carly s husband is a master vampire, and there s a pack of werewolves living just up the road. As if that wasn t alarming enough, the sexy Alpha wolf has taken a shine to her.

Jason Moore is an Alpha on a mission to make Sally his own. His very public seduction doesn t sit well with the pack s available females, but instinct tells him that Sally can handle anything, including any werewolf bitch dumb enough to challenge her.

Romance gives way to a call to arms when the pack s children come under attack. Their rescue mission turns into a mating dance and the hunt is on in more ways than one. Their attraction is mind-bendingly hot, though startling revelations about his magic and her origins could drive a wedge between them forever. Can love help them bridge the chasm between their worlds?

Warning: This book contains bombs, bullets, bare-knuckled and bare-naked lust, and some serious ass kicking. Please do not feed the frisky furballs, unless you re willing to risk drawing back a bloody nub.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Huntress Moon review

 Huntress Moon (Huntress/FBI Thrillers, #1)

Huntress Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff is the first book in the Huntress/FBI series. It is a suspense thriller that digs deep into the psychology of killers and victims.

I found Huntress Moon to be very psychologically creepy. It wasn't overly graphic in the portrayal of blood and gore but the crime scenes and the discussions of who and why were deeply disturbing. I was also kept off balance because Sokoloff switches back and forth between what the FBI agents are doing and what the killer is doing but when reading the killer's viewpoint, there is never any indication of who you are reading about and yet the reader gets to know a lot about her.

Another aspect of the story that kept me off balance while reading was that it isn't a straight forward "FBI agents are good guys and killers are evil" set up. In fact, I wasn't at all sure who is good and who is bad as I was reading Huntress Moon. While the killer is a killer, she is never portrayed as evil or psychotic. I found myself torn between cheering for the killer and wanting Roarke to catch her.

Sokoloff doesn't reveal everything in Huntress Moon - there are many unanswered questions at the end of the book but I guess that's the nature of writing a series. I enjoyed reading about the characters even as I was torn about what I wanted to happen. You can't ask anything more than that and I look forward to reading Blood Moon, the second book in the series.

Synopsis


FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal organization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can't believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of "accidents" and murders, and who may well be that most rare of killers: a female serial.

Roarke's hunt for her takes him across three states...while in a small coastal town, a young father and his five-year old son, both wounded from a recent divorce, encounter a lost and compelling young woman on the beach and strike up an unlikely friendship without realizing how deadly she may be.

As Roarke uncovers the shocking truth of her background, he realizes she is on a mission of her own, and must race to capture her before more blood is shed.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cover Reveal for Alabaster Nights by Elle J Rossi

For Just A Reader's very first cover reveal, we have the cover of Alabaster Nights by Elle J Rossi!



A Vampire with a soul. A Huntress with a knife. In Nashville, Blood equals Power. Will one taste of Josie Hawk cost Keller everything?


Isn't that gorgeous?!?! Alabaster Nights is a novella that will be out in December. It is a companion story to Elles's Josie Hawk series. 

You can read the first story featuring Josie and Keller in the anthology A Celtic Tapestry. And, in honor of the cover reveal, Elle has agreed to giveaway a digital copy of A Celtic Tapestry. So, anyone who comments on this cover will be eligible and I'll do a random drawing this weekend from the posts.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Killer Librarian review

Killer Librarian

I had such high hopes for Killer Librarian by Mary Lou Kirwin. I mean, it's a cozy mystery about a librarian called Killer Librarian - how could it not be great? Unfortunately, I was very disappointed in it.

Small town, middle aged librarian Karen is our sleuth. She loves nothing more than a mystery novel especially if that mystery novel is set in England. So her planned vacation with boyfriend Dave to England is a serious life event. So far, so good. Then Dave dumps her just hours before the trip. Karen goes anyway and mayhem ensues.

I found Karen to be whiny, with an addition to too much drama, and an attitude that was all woe is me. I couldn't figure out why anyone would date her in the first place and certainly understood why she seemed to have only one friend and that was her employee! Other than being a librarian who liked to read and her excitement about finding rare and old books to collect, I didn't find much redeemable about Karen.

Dave was a fairly typical asshole ex. He was clearly having a mid-life crisis which manifested in his new, much younger girlfriend. But Karen cares enough to try to warn them both when she thinks a killer is after them. Neither is grateful and frankly, Karen came across as just being a global stalker rather than trying to do the right thing.

Guy, the British gentleman Karen spills her guts to the first night in England while drowning her sorrows in a pint, is a strange and flat secondary character. He shows up repeatedly but his character has no depth and no real personality. A secondary character that was well written was Caldwell. Caldwell has personality and I did like his character but the whole attraction between him and Karen didn't feel real.

But the real clincher for me was that the actual mystery was an afterthought rather than the main storyline of the novel. Karen doesn't sleuth, she rambles along feeling sorry for herself or lusting after Caldwell and stumbles onto the fact that someone killed a fellow B&B guest rather than his dying from natural causes.

If you are looking for a good mystery featuring a librarian sleuth, you are better off reading the excellent  Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay.

Synopsis


Champion of the mystery section at a small-town Minnesota library, Karen Nash is about to embark on a dream trip to London—a literary tour inspired by every murderous intrigue, wily suspect, and ingenious crime found in the pages of the British mysteries that she devours. But she’s clueless why the love of her mid-life, Dave, would dump her hours before takeoff—until she spies him at the airport with a young honey on his arm! She decides the best revenge (for now) is to get on that plane anyway . . . and entertain schemes for Dave’s untimely demise while crossing the pond.

After touching ground in the hallowed homeland of Christie, Sayers, and Peters, she checks into a cozy B & B run by charming bibliophile Caldwell Perkins. Soon she’s spilling tears in her pint at the corner pub, sharing her heartbreak saga with a stranger. That night, a B & B guest drops out of circulation—permanently. And when Dave and his cutie turn up in London, Karen realizes they are an assassin’s target. With the meticulous attention to detail that makes her a killer librarian, Karen sleuths her way through her own real-life mystery—in which library science meets the art of murder.

Friday, September 6, 2013

I'll Be Seeing You review

I'll Be Seeing You

I'll Be Seeing You by Mary Higgins Clark is an older mystery but it was a very good one. It certainly kept me guessing all the way until Clark wanted the reader to know who the killer was - I never even considered the character as a possibility which shows how well Clark kept it under wraps. I was thrown off by some very well written and sneaky red herrings.

Meghan is a solid reporter and possesses a lawyer's mind but in the case of her father's death, she is far too emotionally close to be able to think about it rationally or logically. I felt for her because I don't think anyone who loves their father would be able to consider what the cops are thinking. On top of that, to see a dead body with your own face staring back at you would knock anyone for a loop, I suspect. Added to that is Meghan's attempt to be strong and supportive of her grieving mother and spending time with Mac who she has unrequited feelings for. It would be hard not to empathize with her!

Mac is pretty much oblivious to his own feelings so expecting him to have a clue about how a woman feels is probably a lost cause. He is protective, a good father and a good friend. His evolution in the story is a little abrupt but he's a good guy and it is easy to see why Meghan fell in  love with him.

There are a lot of secondary characters in I'll Be Seeing You and Clark does a good job of making them full characters with distinct personalities and depth. The secondary storyline woven throughout the book seems a bit superfluous until the end when its necessity becomes quite clear.

Overall, I'll Be Seeing You is a very solid mystery, if a little dated, and I look forward to reading more of Clark's backlist.

Synopsis


The murdered woman could have been her double. When reporter Meghan Collins sees the sheet-wrapped corpse in a New York City hospital, she feels as if she's staring into her own face. And Meghan has troubles enough already without this bizarre experience. Nine months ago, her much-loved father's car spun off a New York bridge. Now, investigators are saying that there's no trace of his car in the river, and they suspect he faked his own death. With frightening speed, links start to appear between Meghan's father and her dead lookalike. Meghan may be in danger herself, but she's determined to find the truth to the mystery. In a nightmare journey spiraling from New York to Connecticut to Arizona, Meghan finds that the truth can sometimes be deadly.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ready, Set, Jett! review


Ready, Set, Jett! by Lori Foster is a novella in The Guy Next Door compilation. It's the first story in the Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series.

Jett is a pretty typical alpha male. I found him amusing because he doesn't want a commitment but he does want women to want more from him than he's willing to give. In other words, he wants a woman to want more from him than he does from her. However, he's not a user or a cheater. When he's with a woman he is only with her. He manages that fine balance between being commitment phobic and being a jerk.

I really enjoyed Natalie's character. She had issues from her parents and childhood but she wasn't willing to let them control her. Natalie gives Jett exactly what he says wants and resists when he tries to push her. She holds her own against him.

I liked that Foster took us on Jett's emotional journey and Natalie's expanding trust in this romance. It's hard to write a complete story in so few words but it didn't feel unfinished or hurried. It had a good level of detail and balanced the emotions with the lust nicely. I definitely will read the full length novel that's next in the series.

Synopsis


A vacation from her no-strings romance with her sexy next-door neighbor. That's what Natalie Alexander needs to get her head—and heart—together. But her solo trip south turns into a disaster when gorgeous Jett Sutter turns up with another challenge.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Murder Spins a Tale review

Murder Spins a Tale (A Flock & Fiber Mystery #1)

Murder Spins a Tale by Veryl Ann Grace, the first in the Flock and Fiber cozy mystery series, was a fast read with some interesting parts but overall I was underwhelmed.

Overall, Murder Spins a Tale is a little slow and clunky. There are too many characters introduced and too much going on to make it cohesive. Some of the dialogue is very stilted and Martha is a little "formal" even with friends.

While Martha is a fairly interesting character who I could empathize with, I found the portrayal of her as a business owner less than compelling. She frequently just walks away from her business in the middle of the day and doesn't seem to put in much time on it. This just isn't realistic. She is loyal and willing to help out her friends whenever they need but there should have been a better balance in the story between her involvement in her friends' lives and running her business.

Murder Spins a Tale does contain a great deal of interesting background on spinning, weaving, knitting, etc. but a lot of it isn't explained very fully so readers might be a touch lost, especially if they're like me and have never done any of these craft hobbies.

Secondary characters and details are incredibly important in making a story work and unfortunately, Murder Spins a Tale falls flat on both. For the first three quarters or more, Martha drives a truck. In fact, she has a little bit of a riff on how everyone drives a truck or SUV in her small town. Then, all of a sudden in the last part of the book, Martha is suddenly driving a van. The switch from a truck to a van is never explained. Additionally, the secondary characters are fairly one dimensional and underdeveloped. The only characters with any decent kind of background and development are the murder victim and the killer.

Frequent readers of Just A Reader will know that I've been reading and ranting about cozy mysteries that have cops who don't do their jobs. It's like authors think that in order to have someone else investigate, the cops have to be portrayed as incompetent. Murder Spins a Tale is yet another cozy in this list. Grace doesn't have the cops do much at all in the way of investigating. They never called New Mexico to find out about the victim's past and they didn't look into Jack's background at all before accusing him.

Lastly, the mystery wasn't as mysterious as I would have liked. The killer's identity was obvious a chapter or more before Martha figures it out.

Synopsis


Denied justice weaves a web of revenge and death in this new cozy mystery. A beautiful winter morning gives no hint of the danger that will engulf Martha Williamson, owner of The Spider's Web - a shop specializing in spinning and weaving. Living with her two Great Pyrenees dogs, Falcor and Denali, on a small farm near Black Hills, Washington, Martha has come to cherish the quiet life she created after the violent death of her husband in a car accident. However, the news spreads fast when Martha discovers a burglary of the town's beauty salon; and her friends fear another robbery. Gossip becomes reality; burglary becomes murder; and Martha's business card is found at the scene. When Falcor discovers the murder weapon and Martha is threatened, she is driven to find the killer. Taking the reader into her world of fiber arts, Martha, with Denali and Falcor at her side, spins her way through a tangle of clues, deception and danger.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Evil Inside review

The Evil Inside (Krewe of Hunters #4)

The Evil Inside by Heather Graham is the fourth in the Krewe of Hunters series and this one takes us to Salem, MA - where better to find ghosts, right?

While I loved the location and Graham's always vivid details that give a sense of place, there was a little too much emphasis on the history - reading this almost felt like getting a lecture in history class. It just wasn't as organic to the story as I'd have liked.

The Evil Inside was an excellent mystery - it kept me guessing right until the reveal but once that reveal happened, it made perfect sense. Unfortunately, the romance part of The Evil Inside didn't really work for me but I'd still recommend it for the mystery alone.

Jenna, the Irish import on the Krewe of Hunters, is very sweet but with a bit of a temper. I'd actually like if she let that temper loose a bit more but that's probably just me :) Jenna is also very loyal and quite intuitive. Her willingness to help is what led her to Salem in the first place. Her uncle called because he doesn't believe the boy accused of murder actually did it.

Sam is arrogant, condescending, smart, and a good lawyer. I'd want him to represent me if I was accused of murder but otherwise, wouldn't want him around at all. He was, for the most part, a complete jerk.

Graham always writes incredibly interesting and believable secondary characters and this was no exception. I often think (and say!) that secondary characters make or break a story and it's Graham's strong secondary characters that make her novels so fun to read. In The Evil Inside these characters include Salem Wiccans, the quintessential politician and cop, obnoxious teenage jocks, and helicopter parents.

If you enjoy a solid mystery that keeps you guessing until the end, definitely read The Evil Inside - though you might want to start at the beginning of the Krewe of Hunters series and work your way through.

Synopsis


For as long as it has stood overlooking New England's jagged coastline, Lexington House has been the witness to madness...and murder. But in recent years the inexplicable malice that once tormented so many has lain as silent as its victims. Until now. A member of the nation's foremost paranormal forensic team, Jenna Duffy has made a career out of investigating the inexplicable. Yet nothing could prepare her for the string of slayings once again plaguing Lexington House, or for the chief suspect ? a boy barely old enough to drive, much less kill. With the young man's life on the line, Jenna must team up with attorney Samuel Hall to pinpoint who - or what - is taking the lives of those who get too close to the past. But everything they learn brings them closer to the forces of evil stalking this tortured ground.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Sparks review

Sparks

I was sent Sparks by Sharon Horton in exchange for an honest review.

Sparks is a decent contemporary romance but there was a lot of - for my taste - unnecessary drama. If you like a very rocky road to your HEA, this book might be right up your alley.

Danny is the hero but other than being a firefighter I didn't find him to be heroic. He was a jerk most of the time and he started out misogynistic - with complaints that Callie was only hired because she was related to the mayor and as a woman wouldn't be able to do the job. He had never met her or even seen her credentials but she was a woman so she must not be capable. That started me out on the wrong foot with him and frankly he didn't recover as much as he should have.

Callie is a bit of an odd one. She says one thing but does the opposite pretty much all of the time. She also has massive foot in mouth syndrome but it was hard to believe that anyone could say so many things by mistake without doing it on purpose. That said, I really did feel for her when it seemed like no matter what, Danny wouldn't let them be together and be happy. 

Sparks was pretty fast paced - it seemed like as soon as the couple overcame one obstacle another one jumped out in front of them. The secondary characters were very strong and enjoyable to read. I particularly liked Bear because don't we all know a guy who is so big he looks scary but is really just a giant teddy bear? The rest of the firefighters were also well-written with distinct personalities that gave Sparks depth.

Synopsis


All her life, Callie O'Rourke wanted to be a firefighter. A lifelong nightmare of being in a fire has driven her to pursue a career to fight fires and save lives. She won't let being a woman stop her from achieving that goal. When her determination and training land her a job, Callie has no idea being the city's first female firefighter will gain the attention of more than just its citizens. 
 
Although haunted since childhood by the fiery death of his father, firefighting is in Danny Redmond's blood. He comes from a long line of firemen, all the way back to his great-grandfather. Callie's refreshing candor ignites Danny's interest. With her ability to fight fires, combined with the way she puts him at ease, it's not long before they become friends. Focused on being the best firefighters possible, neither is looking for romance. Yet the more they're together, the more they realize firefighting may not be their biggest challenge.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Perfect Fit review

perfectfit

Perfect Fit by Carly Phillips is the first book in the Serendipity series and it's the first book by Phillips that I've read. I enjoyed it enough that I will read the second book but I can't give it an unqualified recommendation.

The hero, Mike, is a cop who comes back to the small town he grew up in to take over his adopted father's role as Chief of Police while his father undergoes chemotherapy. Mike's loyalty to his family is the best part of his character. Unfortunately, Mike uses his biological father as an excuse to do whatever he wants no matter who it hurts, including his family. It's a cop out that irritated me through the whole book.

Cara is a bit of a puzzling character. She's loyal to a fault, she's an excellent cop, and she's a great friend to those she allows close. However, she judges her mother for not leaving a bad relationship but doesn't exactly run from an unhealthy one herself and she does not see the parallels at all. While I understand the difference between her parents' abusive relationship and her merely unhealthy relationship with Mike, I sort of expected Cara to be a bit more self-aware than she was.

Erin and Sam are Mike's siblings and are strong secondary characters that made me want to read more about them. They had true sibling interactions with Mike and Sam was very protective of Cara, his close friend, because he knows Mike better than anyone.

Alexa is Cara's best friend and another very strong secondary character. Alexa has her own issues but in true best friend fashion is willing to call Cara on her bs. I found Alexa to be a bit of a mystery and hope that Phillips gives her a book of her own.

Interesting secondary characters and setting and family drama make  Perfect Fit worth reading if you can overlook a hero who won't take responsibility for his own actions and a heroine who isn't as self-aware as she should be.

Synopsis


In the picturesque town of Serendipity, New York, three siblings have grown up in the shadow of their proud and respected police chief father. But what do love, fate, and fortune have in store for the next generation of Serendipity’s finest?

Always feeling like the odd man out in his family, Michael Marsden wanted to make it on his own. So he escaped Serendipity to become an undercover cop in Manhattan, where the Marsden name wasn’t known. But Michael’s independence is compromised when he returns home to replace his sick father as chief of police. Back in the shadow of his family, he’s as lost and restless as ever, until he’s challenged by someone he never anticipated.

Cara Hartley is the Serendipity cop with whom Mike had a one night stand three months earlier. Neither expected anything more but fate has other things in store. When Mike returns as Cara’s boss, the sexual tension between them is impossible to ignore – and the unexpected emotional connection continues to grow. But Cara’s a small town girl while Mike has a wanderer’s blood in his veins.

Both are convinced a future together is impossible. Until Mike’s real father’s secrets come back to haunt him and he realizes there are some things worth staying and fighting for. Including Cara.