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.


"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!


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.



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

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.


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.



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.



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.


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.


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.


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!


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. 


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.


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…