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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Untraceable review

Untraceable by Laura Griffin is the first in the Tracers series. The Tracers are the nickname of the scientists and investigators who work at the Delphi Center Crime Lab - a private lab that works with federal, state, and local law enforcement to process evidence and stop criminals.

I found Untraceable to be just okay. It was full of action and drama - but the drama wasn't always the good kind. The story flowed well, it was well written, and it kept me guessing what would happen next.

The "hero" was Nathan and frankly, I didn't particularly like him. He treated Alex like she was incapable despite the fact that she's a successful private investigator. He also calls abused women looking to escape "basketcases" which I found deplorable. He doesn't seem capable of compromise. He's a decent cop and investigator but not what I want in a romantic hero.

Alex was a good PI but did not have great people instincts most of the time. She was smart and idealistic but unwilling to trust some people and too willing to trust others - which was at least slightly understandable as you learn about her. She let Nathan get away with way too much crap but also didn't call him, as a cop, when she really should have during her investigation. 

I might give the second book in the Tracers series a shot as I do like the premise of the series but Untraceable just didn't do much for me.



Private investigator Alexandra Lovell uses computer skills and cunning to help clients drop off the radar and begin new lives in safety. Melanie Bess, desperate to escape her abusive cop husband, was one of those clients. But when Melanie vanishes for real, Alex fears the worst, and sets out to discover what happened. Using every resource she can get her hands on -- including an elite team of forensic scientists known as the Tracers, and a jaded, sexy Austin PD detective -- Alex embarks on a mission to uncover the truth.

As far as homicide cop Nathan Deveraux is concerned, no body means no case. But as much as he wants to believe that Alex's hunch about Melanie's murder is wrong, his instincts -- and their visceral attraction -- won't let him walk away. As a grim picture of what really happened begins to emerge, Nathan realizes this investigation runs deeper than they could ever have guessed. And each step nearer the truth puts Alex in danger of being the next to disappear....

Monday, August 12, 2013

Books Can Be Deceiving review

Books Can Be Deceiving (Library Lover's Mystery, #1)

I've been reading a lot of cozy mysteries lately trying to find that elusive series that pulls you in and won't let you go. I think I've found it with Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay, the first book in the Library Lovers Mystery series.

I really liked Lindsey. She was a very relatable character and it was easy to see aspects of yourself and your friends in her. Lindsey enjoys her community, is always there for her friends, and is still hurt by betrayal of ex-fiance. She's someone you feel like you know and would be friends with if she was in your town.

Lindsey's best friend Beth reminds me of the best possible elementary school teacher you can think of - the teacher we all want for our kids because she's creative and really wants kids to love learning. Beth's not overly confident in self and wants to rescue people which can be annoying but she also shows spunk and humor and has a backbone at unexpected times keeping her from tipping over the line of being weak.

The Crafternoon book club members were awesome! I loved reading about this group of characters. They had fun, distinct personalities, and were all ready to lend a hand when needed as the story moved forward. These secondary characters can make or break a book, especially one set in a small town like this, and the Crafternoon characters definitely helped take this book from good to great.

The obligatory love interest of our intrepid librarian, Sully was actually an interesting but slightly inscrutable character. I was surprised that he seems like a good match for Lindsey and was very happy that McKinlay didn't feel the need to try to create a "love triangle" as so frequently happens in cozy mysteries - to the detriment of the overall plot in most cases.

Beth's boyfriend Rick is an icky, pompous jerk and I didn't like him at all. I was glad he was killed and frankly, I think some of the characters in the book were glad too! Of course, he caused even more problems for Beth dead than he did alive - which is saying something!

If you like cozy mysteries, I highly recommend Books Can Be Deceiving. I will definitely be reading the rest of the Library Lovers Mystery series and am going to read McKinlay's other cozy mysteries as well.


Lindsey is getting into her groove as the director of the Briar Creek Public Library when a New York editor visits town, creating quite a buzz. Lindsey's friend Beth wants to sell the editor her children's book, but Beth's boyfriend, a famous author, gets in the way. When they go to confront him, he's found murdered-and Beth is the prime suspect. Lindsey has to act fast before they throw the book at the wrong person.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lord of Vengeance review

Lord of Vengeance

Regular readers of my reviews will be familiar with my love-hate relationship with historical romance novels. On the one hand, the ones that are good are amazing and I love them. On the other hand, the ones that are bad are truly awful and make me ask myself why I continue to read historical romance. Unfortunately, I seem to find far more of the latter than the former.

Lord of Vengeance by Tina St. John, an alternate pen name for Lara Adrian, falls into the awful category for me. I hate to say that as I love Adrian's paranormal romance novels. In fact, her vampire books are the reason I decided to read Lord of Vengeance in the first place. 

"Have I been that cruel? Have I mistreated you so, you were willing to risk your life to be away from me?" - the answer is yes and sums up this book almost entirely.

Gunnar is not even remotely a hero, in any sense of the word. He's out for vengeance, a not uncommon theme in historical romance, but he's not a good guy or a gentleman. It's frustrating to read a "hero" and not want him to get the girl. Is he better than the villain? Yes, but that doesn't make him good or a hero. Being better than completely evil isn't good enough.

Raina was completely insipid and rather pathetic. I get that this is a historical romance so she's not going to be a 21st century woman but I don't read these books for accuracy. I want a female character with a spine and a brain - even if the story is set in medieval times. Raina has neither of those things.

The romance between Gunnar and Raina isn't believable. Lust, sure, but not love. He treats her like crap and she harbors rage and hatred because he wants to kill her father. Then suddenly they are in love. Um, no. It just wasn't believable.

Unfortunately, I can't recommend Lord of Vengeance and I won't be reading any more historicals by St. John.


Taken captive by Gunnar Rutledge, a dark knight sworn to destroy her father, Raina d’Bussy must teach forgiveness to a man who knows no mercy and lives only to exact revenge on his enemy. But time in Gunnar’s keep stirs an unwanted passion in Raina, and something far more perilous, when she finds herself falling in love with the one man she should never desire.

For Gunnar, vengeance is all that matters. He seeks the ultimate price from his enemy’s beautiful young daughter, claiming Raina as his hostage. But the proud beauty defies him at every turn, tempting him like no other. Setting out to break Raina’s glorious spirit, Gunnar instead finds himself bewitched by her goodness, her strength. Can he seize the justice he is due without losing Raina forever?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rising Darkness review

Rising Darkness

Rising Darkness by Thea Harrison is the first book in the Game of Shadows series. It is very different from the Elder Races series though they are both paranormal.

Rising Darkness is much darker than the books about the Wyr. The premise is that there is a group of alien beings who, centuries ago, transformed themselves into humans in order to follow and execute a criminal who had escaped to Earth. This group, of which there were seven - three soul mate pairs and one single female, is reborn repeatedly as they try over and over to find and kill the Deceiver and can remember each of their past lives but not until they are at least teenagers.

Mary is an okay character. I didn't have strong feelings about her one way the other. She doesn't seem to have much survival instinct and, in fact, often did really stupid things when she was in danger. She is a born healer not a fighter and will never be much of a warrior.

Michael is a total alpha warrior. He has both psychic and physical strength and not much in the way of personality. He was all about getting the job done - which on the one hand is completely understandable since the Deceiver could destroy the world but on the other, he is supposed to have just found his soul mate after however many hundreds of years and there wasn't really any indication that he had any feelings about that.

Astrid is the most mysterious character. It's not clear that she's actually good despite being one of the original seven who came to destroy the Deceiver. I suspect she's someone that's mentioned several times in the book but never named - it was hinted at a little too broadly for her not to be. That was a little vague but I don't want to spoil it for other readers.

Rising Darkness was an interesting book with a solid premise. It's clear at the end that it is part of a series because the end wasn't really an ending. I'll be interested to read the next book when it comes out and see what surprises are in store for Mary, Michael, Astrid, and the Deceiver.


In the hospital ER where she works, Mary is used to chaos. But lately, every aspect of her life seems adrift. She’s feeling disconnected from herself. Voices appear in her head. And the vivid, disturbing dreams she’s had all her life are becoming more intense. Then she meets Michael. He’s handsome, enigmatic and knows more than he can say. In his company, she slowly remembers the truth about herself…

Thousands of years ago, there were eight of them. The one called the Deceiver came to destroy the world, and the other seven followed to stop him. Reincarnated over and over, they carry on—and Mary finds herself drawn into the battle once again. And the more she learns, the more she realizes that Michael will go to any lengths to destroy the Deceiver.

Then she remembers who killed her during her last life, nine hundred years ago…Michael.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pleating for Mercy review


Pleating for Mercy by Melissa Bourbon, who also writes as Melissa Bourbon Ramirez and Misa Ramirez, is a fun cozy mystery with a hint of the paranormal and is the first book in the Magical Dressmaking Mystery series. Pleating for Mercy had good pacing and was a fast read but there was just a little too much going on in the book.

Women in the Cassidy family each have a special "gift" that is just a little supernatural. Harlow believes that she is the first in the family to not inherit such a gift but it is clear throughout the book that she did get one and just doesn't recognize it for what it is. Harlow was a good character - talented, smart, loyal, and interesting. While I have no ability to sew even a button on a shirt let alone create an entire piece of clothing, it was neat to read about the art of sewing and creating clothing.

Will, the handyman and apparent attempt at a love interest, was rather strange and frankly, kind of rude to Harlow most of the time. He wasn't really a handyman and yet he agreed to be one for the Cassidy women. The love interest bit didn't really work for me but perhaps as a set up for a love story down the road, it could be built into something believable.

The rest of the supporting characters were excellent. There were a good group of them, with each one having a different, clear personality but not too many so as to be unable to keep them all straight. From political personalities to teenage girls and everything in between, these characters really made Pleating for Mercy work.

As it is a mystery, I have to say that I had not figured out who the killer was until Bourbon made the reveal in the book so points for that. Pleating for Mercy needed a little work to be great but I will be reading the second book in series because it was interesting and fun.


When her great-grandmother passes away, Harlow Jane Cassidy leaves her job as a Manhattan fashion designer and moves back to Bliss, Texas. But when she opens a dressmaking boutique in the turn-of-the-century farmhouse she inherited, Harlow senses an inexplicable “presence”. Her old friend Josie orders a gown for her upcoming wedding, but when Josie’s boss turns up dead, Harlow has to find the killer-with a little help from beyond.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Daughter of the Spellcaster review

I definitely enjoyed Daughter of the Spellcaster by Maggie Shayne which is the second book in The Portal series. It follows Mark of the Witch and I'd recommend reading them in order or it might be confusing. There is also a prequel novella, Legacy of the Witch, but I haven't read that.

Lena is a powerful witch who is loving but doesn't trust her power enough. She is the reincarnation of the original Magdalena, one of the original three sisters who was sacrificed by an evil priest. She and Ryan have history as is clearly evidenced by her pregnancy but she left him when he unequivocally stated that a woman getting pregnant was trying to trap a man into marriage and take his money. 

Ryan is not really a bad guy but he certainly tries to make you think he is! First, he is determined to keep his playboy image despite being in a committed relationship with Lena. Second, he refuses to fall in love - as if he has any control over that! - and doesn't trust anyone because of his father issues. He is also completely dismissive of Lena's beliefs and power which irritated me more than the rest. Ryan also has a tendency to stick his foot in his mouth whenever he opens it to Lena which is equal parts frustrating and endearing.

Lena's insistence on proving she isn't trying to trap Ryan and Ryan's attempts to protect himself from heartbreak are the main problems in this story. Yes, there is a crazy demon trying to kill Lena and steal the baby but honestly, that is far easier for them to deal with than their personal and emotional issues. Fighting an outside enemy is always easier than addressing your own internal problems, isn't it?

Both books in the series have featured seriously messed up "priests" for lack of a better word. In Daughter of the Spellcaster, it's Barhu, a world traveling holy man who seeks spirituality in all its forms and seems to take on whatever pieces of various belief systems he likes. He is creepy but not as creepy as Father Dom, the Catholic priest in Mark of the Witch. Bahru is also not as evil as Father Dom.

The one problem I had with Daughter of the Spellcaster was: Where the hell was Indira? As the first "sister" from Mark of the Witch, why wasn't she there to help Lena? It didn't make sense to me that Indira and Tomas had just taken off for a honeymoon when they knew what was happening and that someone would be showing up to take the second step of helping free the imprisoned soul.

Overall, I enjoyed Daughter of the Spellcaster a great deal and am looking forward to reading the conclusion of the series, Blood of the Sorceress.


Has a spell been cast?

Lena Dunkirk is a practicing witch, Ryan McNally a wealthy playboy. Logic says mismatch, yet from the first they share a passion that defies reason, as if they know each other from another place, another time. Then Lena gets pregnant and runs for the safety of home.

Months later, when Ryan appears at her door looking to help raise their child, Lena doesn’t know whom to trust–particularly now that “guru to the stars” Bahru has taken an interest in her baby, offering gifts forged of magic.

Soon she and Ryan are sharing eerie dreams of ancient lands, while a vengeful demon plots to take possession of their child. As the moment of birth approaches, the demon’s power rises, forcing the hand of love to wield the blade that will decide the fate of a child’s soul–and the future of the world.