Monday, August 31, 2015

The Skeleton in the Closet by Angie Fox

I didn't read the first book in the series and do feel like I missed out on some of the story. Such as why there's an Ellis Wyatt in the first book by an Ellis Wydell in the second. But it was a fast read and just fun.
The Skeleton in the Closet (Southern Ghost Hunter, #2)Verity Long is back again. Her ghostly companion Frankie is still grounded to her house (or his urn? Because he can travel with her?) She's trying to help her sister, Melody, when Melody's rather irritating volunteer is found dead, by the sisters, in the reading room of the library. Why was she calling people late at night? What did she find that would change the course of the town's history? And why is Frankie so reluctant to get involved?
I'll be interested in reading the next one. Especially to see how Verity and her new love interest/ex-fiance's brother pans out.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

As the title says, this is a very Curious Beginning to what seems to be a series that I'm going to enjoy. If you've read Raybourn's Lady Julia series, you will immediately recognize the style of writing.
The protagonist is Veronica Speedwell. The book opens at the funeral of the second of two women who raised her. Veronica is not very sad since this particular "aunt" was not the warm and fuzzy type. Though she tried valiantly to pass on some sort of message before she died. Too bad it didn't get delivered. Veronica arrives back at her house to find that it's been thoroughly searched. But for what reason? The women who took her in when she was a baby weren't rich. There's no secret treasure. And then there's the strange German man who whisks her away to London.
A Curious Beginning by Deanna RaybournNow, at this point, a reader might wonder why Veronica, a woman, now alone in the world, allows herself to be taken away like that? Well, as a botanist, she's a world traveler who knows how to take care of herself and has weapons secreted on her body. And she's a pragmatist. It will cost less to go to London if this gentleman is paying for her. She then finds out that he knew her mother and knows more about Veronica's origins.
However, once they get to London, he drops her off with his friend, Stoker. At this point, I got worried because -- duh -- Bram Stoker. Are there vampires in this book? No (phew). Stoker is a scarred and tattooed man who is NOT happy to have Veronica in his space. And it gets even worse when the German man is murdered and the two have to go on the run...
I really, really liked that Veronica is not your normal heroine. And she's not the type of "modern thinker" that is dropped anachronistically into a story. Nope, in addition to being a pragmatic botanist, she's a follower of the free love movement. But she's got rules, she won't have sex with an Englishman and she won't do anything of "that sort" in England. So her growing attraction to Stoker (who has his own mysterious backstory) is becoming a problem.

Four Stars
Followed by A Perilous Undertaking

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Keeper's Reach by Carla Neggers

Keeper's Reach (Sharpe & Donovan, #5)A solid addition to the Sharpe & Donovan series.
This time the stories of Emma and Colin coincide with those of Colin's brother and his old flame, Naomi. Naomi is in England working. But she took a quick side trip to the Cotswolds where she interacts with Oliver's (big-time thief Colin and Emma were chasing in the first four books) handy man who has been hit on the head. But was it an accident or did someone knock him out? And for what reason?
Nothing spectacular but it is a solid addition to the series that longtime readers will enjoy. I would suggest that new readers start at the beginning. It's nice to see Emma and Colin progress but it does occur at the expense of Naomi and Mike's story.

Followed by Liar's Key

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thirteen Guests by J Farjeon

Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson FarjeonI requested this novel on a whim from NetGalley and liked it well enough but it's definitely not one of my favorites. There were definitely some parts in the middle that dragged for me and I had some trouble keeping characters straight.

The whole story is set at a weekend hunting party hosted by Lord Aveling at his country house, Bragley Court. We follow along as the guests (and two more people) arrive at the local train station. One of the uninvited guests is a young man who hurts his foot at the station and is invited to the house by one of the guests. The other lurks mysteriously in a hotel across from the station and watches the guests roll in.

There were supposed to be 12 guests but the injured man brings the number to an unlucky 13, the last to arrive being Mr. Chattery when he follows his wife in. Mysterious events begin to occur-whispered meetings between unmarried people, a sinister threat overheard, a dog stabbed, and then people start dying. What is the purpose of these murders and why were they committed?

This didn't hit my sweet spot but if you enjoy classic mysteries, it may hit yours.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Uncle Scrooge: Pure Viewing Satisfaction by Jonathan Gray

Uncle Scrooge by Jonathan GrayI remember reading Disney comics when I was a kid in the 90s. For nostalgia factor, this was an 8/10. Except for two little phrases, I could have been reading a book from my childhood (oh, and the fact that it was an ebook....). Purely fun reading. Nothing spectacular but a very good book.

Comes out in a week, you should give it a try!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen FlinnYet another memoir interspersed with recipes? Hasn't that been done to death? Kathleen Flinn proves the answer is no. In this delightful book that moves seamlessly between time periods, Finn gives us an intimate glimpse into her life. I don't know who Kathleen Flinn is (probably a famous chef or cook?) but this book is a fantastic look at no only her own life in 1970s Michigan but how her family operated even before she came along. There are fantastic passages like "Burnt toast makes you sing good. Be thankful; no matter how little you've got, someone's always worse off than you. You can't give anything away, it always comes back. [My parents] handed down these simple life lessons to me as surely as they did their recipes."
I can't tell you yet how good the family recipes are, but I can tell you that I can't wait to read the rest of Ms. Flinn's story.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins

A recent "Smart Bitches, Trash Books" podcast episode called Kristan Higgins an author who writes "all the feelings" (or something close to that) and this book certainly brings them all out.

If You Only Knew by Kristan HigginsThe book is about the changes two sisters are going through, different points in their life. Jenny Tate is a well-known wedding dress designer. She's had a modern divorce; she's still friends with her ex and his new wife. In fact, the book opens with Jenny attending the new wife's baby shower. And yes, the ex didn't want to have kids while he was with her. But she's moving out of town, and hopefully these meet ups will lessen. And luckily, she has a hot new landlord to distract her. A hot, new landlord with a tragic backstory.
But Jenny's story line pale for me in comparison to that of her sister, Rachel. Rachel has what appears to be a perfect marriage. A man she loves, two gorgeous little girls, house, etc. But an unexpected text reveals that her marriage isn't as picture-perfect as she had thought.
Are their stories ones we've read in romance before? Certainly. But with her usual flair, Higgins manages to make something old fresh again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What to Do with a Duke by Sally MacKenzie

In the 1600s, the Duke of Hart's great-something-grandfather seduced a woman who then cursed the family. If the men didn't marry for love, they wouldn't live to see their heir born. Also, she set up a spinster house which was to be available to any single woman, past a marriageable age, along with a stipend. 

What to Do with a Duke by Sally MacKenzieMiss Hutting, Isabelle "Cat" Catherine, is the oldest daughter of the village vicar. Most of her nine siblings still live her parents' tiny house and she is desperate for privacy. So when the previous resident leaves rather abruptly, Cat knows that the house is meant to be hers. Too bad two of her friends are also anxious to have the house. And too bad the handsome Duke really seems to believe in the curse...
While not my favorite MacKenzie (I didn't buy that her friends would be so vindictive), I'm liking the setup for the series and am already ready to read the next book in the series.
This book goes on sale next Tuesday!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan

The Gratitude Diaries by Janice KaplanThis was a well-written book that I was able to zoom through. It seems well-researched and might might work well as a book club book where members try out keeping journals and being grateful, tracking how it works for them.


----------------------------Do not read if you enjoyed the book ------------------------------------

One of the main complaints I read about "TheHappiness Project" was that the author was a rich, white woman writing about her problems. I had the same problem with this book and it just started out by grating on my nerves when the author tells of a series of events that should have frustrated her but then explains how she was able to turn it around and be grateful for every single one. Every… single… one. This sort of forced gratitude doesn’t seem like a pleasant sensation to me. It seems wrong, like she was putting up a false front. And the name dropping! But I kept reading. That, and the fact that, objectively, I could tell this was a well-written book was why it ended up with three stars. It's nothing new under the sun but readers new to the idea of gratitude should really enjoy this book.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Starting Over by Stacy Finz

I've read one of Finz's "Nugget" stories all the way through and flipped through the other two. None really caught my interest and I was ready to write off the series. But I saw this one on NetGalley and was curious as to how Ms. Finz was going to pair Nathan "Nate" Breyer. I had liked him in the first book, a business-like man who was enigmatically kind toward his sister and agreed to donate sperm to his best friend so that she and her partner could have a child. Nathan is now dealing with the consequences of that action, in love with his biological daughter but unsure how much he can contribute to her life without overstepping the bounds of his original agreement. I wish we could have seen more of that struggle but it was resolved well (I thouhgt). Ms. Finz specializes in off-beat families/romantic pairings, and, though not quite as gritty, remind me very much of Brenda Novak.
Starting Over by Stacy FinzI rather liked Sam Dunsbury, the woman who reminds Nate so much of the fiancee who dumped him the night before their wedding. Sam actually did the same thing, leaving the man she was to marry hours before the wedding. Rich playgirl, that's what he's mentally categorized her as.
Sam thinks Nate's hot but can't understand the hostility he seems to have for her. She knows that she hasn't worked before but also knows that this is the kind of job that she can excel at. Hell, she's been doing it for free for years.
I loved watching the dance of these two proud people. And really enjoy that this book actually has the feel of a small town. We're not hit over the head with "Hey- this is a small town," it just is. There were definitely some misunderstandings that could have been cleared up if they had just <i>talked</i> to each other. Also, the end was a little too pat. Pages and pages of misunderstandings that cleared up in a few paragraphs? A little rushed. But, overall, an enjoyable book.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis

New series from Jill Shalvis. An okay start but I wasn't really feeling this particular book. I have a feeling other Shalvis fans may disagree. Definitely not bad enough for me to give up on the series.
Second Chance Summer by Jill ShalvisThe Kincaid family is an unusual one. Aidan and his brother, Gray, found out later in life that his father had two other families, twin boys and a girl. Eventually, all of the sibling ended up living with his mother. Their father was nowhere in sight. Now the family is struggling because their father mortgaged the family resort. When he sees that ex-flame Lily is back in town, he's stoked to see her.
Lily Danville is back in Cedar Ridge, not by her own doing. Her boss in San Diego had ordered her to leak some gossip to the press and then not only fired her, but blackballed her, when it all went south. Now Cedar Ridge Resort, working for her best friend Jonathon, is her only option. Even though it's the place where she lost both her sister and her father. And that was part of my problem with the story, how she worked her way through that (not a spoiler, this is a romance people). She is not very happy to see Aidan. He was a big part of the worst part of her life. Just because he's a super-hot firefighter/search and rescue dude doesn't mean that she's going to fall into bed with him. Except that, again, romance novel.
As I mentioned at the beginning, an okay story but I really didn't feel like Lily worked through her issues. There was more than a whiff of "magic wang" about this story.

Followed by: My Kind of Wonderful

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Pedestriennes: America's Forgotten Superstars by Harry Hall

The Pedestriennes by Harry HallEndurance races seem to be growing in popularity as your "Tough Mudders" and 100 mile races get into the news more and more. But this is not a new phenomenon. In the 1800s,  endurance/fast walking was great entertainment. People used to pay good money for people like Robert Barclay Allardice, Captain Barclay, to walk for up to 6 day with little to no respite. In fact, Barclay managed the feat of 1,000 miles in ~1,000 hours, an astonishing thought at the time (and even now quite frankly.)
By the mid-1800s, women were looking to cash in on similar feats. And there were some big names who did some amazing things. Most of the book is taken up with Ada "Madame" Anderson who walked 4,000 quarter miles in 4,000 hours (1,000 miles in just over 166 days). When she succeeded, pedestrianism exploded. But then, as always seems to happen, the tide turned.
This book could have used some better editing (words misspelled and even missing) but it was an interesting look at an early endurance sport.