Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Good Earl Gone Bad by Manda Collins

Good Earl Gone Bad by Manda CollinsManda Collins is a 3/4 star writer for me and this book tipped into that four-star territory. The story of an earl, probably a gambler, but not interested in driving, and the first woman invited into the Lords of Anarchy, a driving club, whose gambler father has just lost her new driving pair. To Lord Saintcrow, no less. Who confronts her before her first outing with the club. Of course, her father hadn't bothered to tell her. So when Hermione (our heroine) shows up at Lord Saintcrow's house to find him dead, with the Earl of Mainwaring (our hero), Jasper Fawley, not far behind, she's obviously in a bind. Luckily (?), Jasper has already decided that he wants to save her from her father, so why not from herself as well?
While reading the story, I highly enjoyed it. Thinking about it later has given me some pause but I really enjoyed the fact that Jasper talked to Hermione, thus avoiding many of the Big Misunderstandings that might have made this book a little less enjoyable.
Three and a half stars -- this book comes out on October 6

Followed by Good Dukes Wear Black

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Sound of Murder by Cindy Brown

I hadn't read the first book in this series (at least according to Goodreads, but the character sure felt familiar). I will be looking for "McDeath" to read though because I quite enjoyed this book. There were issues (didn't see a lot of character development (part of the first book?), story was a big convoluted, took some time to ) but I overall liked Ivy Meadows (real name Olive Ziegwart) and her zany antics (car catches fire? No problem, that's why she carries a fire extinguisher.)

The Sound of Murder by Cindy BrownThe mystery is that several residents of a retirement community seem to be committing suicide. And Ivy, as a part-time consultant  in her uncle's detective agency, is asked to help. She's also house-sitting and performing in a mash-up of "The Sound of Music" and "Cabaret." There was a lot going on in the book (also Ivy has a brother (with whom she has a complicated history), she's dating a new guy, and... and... and...). It crossed zany into overwhelming a few times but I plowed through the book in one sitting and was fairly happy when it was done.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Hay

I heard about this story on the Classic Mysteries podcast and was delighted to see it was available on NetGalley. Like many of the books from this time period, it took me awhile to wade through the story, even though the premise hits a lot of my catnips.
The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel HayOld English country house (check), set at Christmas (check), money-hoarding patriarch (check), family that's resentful (check). What's not to love? And I just can't put my finger on why it took me so long to finish this book. Part of it was the varying POVs. It got a bit confusing in the beginning. Especially with so many characters.
All of Sir Osmond's children have some reason to resent him. Whether it's his daughters who are threatened with marrying "suitable" men or being cut off or his sons who can't break free from his reins. Then there's the pretty new secretary and the fact that Sir Osmond is threatening to change his will. What was it that drove someone to dress up like Santa Klaus, hand out some gifts to the children, and then shoot Sir Osmond?
An intriguing mystery, especially if you like 1930s English cozies, but, again, can be plodding in points.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Christmas Cottage / Ever After by Samantha Chase

The Christmas Cottage / Ever AfterThree stars, two stars for the first and second story respectively. Rounded up for the good communication and pragmatism of 3/4 of the characters. Good god, I wanted to take Ava by both ears and just shake her until the stupid fell out. Would I have finished this book if it weren't an ARC? MaybeThree stars, two stars for the first and second story respectively. Rounded up for the good communication and pragmatism of 3/4 of the characters. Good god, I wanted to take Ava by both ears and just shake her until the stupid fell out. Would I have finished this book if it weren't an ARC? Maybe. But you better believe there was a LOT of skimming going on.

The Christmas Cottage
Lacey Quinn is ready to help her friend, Ava Callahan, do anything. Even get married to the wrong man. Even when Ava turns into a Bridezilla. Even when Lacey's long-time crush, Ava's brother, comes back into town... wait, what? Yes, it's been a long time, but Lacey was never more humiliated than when she threw herself at Ean and he threw her back.
But Ean has never forgotten that girl. And he's impressed with the woman she's become. Once they've spent the night in the enchanted family cabin (which, admittedly, neither actually believes in), it's destined to be true love forever.
Ever After
This story was just painful. So painful. I didn't see a copyright date from earlier than 2013 which makes it that... much.. more... painful. 
Ava's a twit. Quite frankly, not someone I'd want to ever meet. She was so self-involved, I was surprised she had time to notice how hard Brian McCabe was chasing her.. But you better believe there was a LOT of skimming going on.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Rogue You Know by Shana Galen

The Rogue You Know by Shana Galen
Since Lady Susanna's brother married Marlowe, a former pickpocket, her invitations to social events haven't dried up completely, but there's a noticeable lack of opportunities. Especially since her mother has clamped down even more. Susanna can't even go to the bathroom alone.
Until the night a man, Gideon Harrow, dives through her window. He's just stolen a necklace that is supposed to get him out of the same gang Marlowe was part of. And now Susanna has it. And she wants adventure in exchange for its return. And adventure she gets, not least because he's run off with the necklace he was supposed to turn over to Beezle (a baddie we saw in the last book) and the necklace's last "owner" is out for his blood as well. 
An okay book. At least "bubbies" were only brought up a couple of times in this one.
Three stars.

Follows: Earls Just Want to have Fun

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver

Oof. I am loving this series as much for the exploration of Amory and Milo's marriage as the mysteries that Amory keeps tripping into. After the reconciliation of the last book, Milo (seemingly?) continues his amorous ways after only a couple of months.

But the book doesn't start out that way. It begins with a dinner party. One where the hostess, knowing of Amory's involvement in solving a murder, pulls her aside and asks for help discovering who is stealing her jewels. The group that is gathered at her party is comprised of the same people who have been in the house for each theft. An injudicious statement by the hostess' nephew sets Amory and Milo back onto a bumpy road and it's not helped when Amory insists on investigating the death of that same nephew.
While the enjoyment I had for this book makes me desperately ready to read the next book, I truly hope that the push-pull of this marriage and Amory's feelings don't continue past that tome. It's nice now, but it's getting repetitious fast. We either need to see more of Milo's feelings or have Amory actually stick with her resolution at the end of this book.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Last Chance Christmas Ball - Anthology

The Dowager Countess of Holbourne, Lady Holly, is throwing her 50th Christmas Ball (also known as The Last Chance Ball, and is determined that this year's crop of new love will be no different.

The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Mary Jo PutneyA nice Christmas anthology (three stars total), that, at almost 400 pages, will definitely be worth the price of the book.

True Love Hath My Heart by Joanna Bourne
A jewelry designer who doesn't think that she deserves to marry her nobleman lover finds out differently when he helps her carry out revenge against a customer who stiffed her.
Three and a half stars

A Scottish Carol by Susan King
A story of love-lost/love-reunited makes up the second tale. Clary and Henry were once in love when he was the student of her doctor father. But something tore them apart and he left abruptly one day and she ended up marrying her cousin. Now they're back together and exploring what exactly went wrong in their past and if there's some way to correct their future.
A quiet story but mostly enjoyable.
Three stars.

Christmas Larks Patricia Rice
Sarah Jane Langsdale is surprised to discover that Ivo, Lord Harris, has returned to the house his family used to own. At least until his father left it to the local church. But Ivo has sustained a head injury and has no idea that the hose is about to be turned into an orphanage. Luckily, as Sarah Jane nurses him back to health, the two fall in love.
A little too twee for me.
Two and a half stars

In the Bleak Midwinter by Mary Jo Putney
Captain the Honorable Kimball "Kim" Stretton was just a child when he met Roxanne "Roxie" Hayward. Kim has been horribly injured in the war against Napoleon and has been hiding in his room ever since. Roxie is ready for one last ditch effort before she gets engaged to another man.
Three stars

Old Flames Dance by Cara Elliot
Lily Tremaine has lived in India for a long time. But she's returned to England to attend her godmother's Christmas Ball. And to learn if she and her childhood love, Edward, Lord Holborne (Kim's brother and the man  (possibly) about to be betrothed to Roxie) is as handsome as she remembers.
The two have some obstacles to overcome but in the end, love conquers all.
Three and a half stars.

A Season for Marriage by Nicola Cornick
Caroline (sister to Edward and Kim) had always loved her husband Piers. But she felt so guilty about accidentally compromising him into marriage. PIers had never wanted the kind of marriage that his parents had -- where they were so wrapped up in each other that they had no time for their children. Caroline's feelings have scared him into retreating from her. So how can they work their way back to each other?
Three and a half stars

Miss Finch and the Angel by Jo Beverly
As a companion to Lady Holly, Miss Clio Finch has been a complete flop. She knows she'll have to leave soon but she does feel like she's gotten very good at fading into the background. But Gabriel, second son to a duke, notices her. And wonders what he can do to break her out of her shell.
Three stars

Mistletoe Kisses Anne Gracie
Allie is about to leave her family home. Oh, she'd be welcome to stay but she'd be the unpaid help that supervised her cousin's five children. So she's going to have one last Christmas at home, attend Lady Holly'd fiftieth Christmas Ball, and then find work as a teacher. So when an unexpected carriage ride dumps John, Lord Kelsey, and his sister at her door, she's grateful for the Christmas company. And for the chance at something more.
Could have one without the last Big Misunderstanding. Three stars.

The Name of the Game by Jennifer Dawson

The Name of the Game by Jennifer  DawsonI was attracted to this book because of its description on NetGalley. Uptight professor and flighty, sexpot baker are attracted to each other but can't tell because it comes out as fierce arguments. And this book delivered that. Along with a few tropes that will be very familiar to romance readers (neither is what they appear, family and friends know what's going on before the couple do and are smug about it, etc.) but with a lot more sex. A little more explicit than Shannon Stacey but I think there would be an overlap with fans. Something Jennifer Probst fans would enjoy as well. I'm going to head back to the beginning on this series and am also intrigued to see what will happen between Penelope and Evan.
Three and a half stars.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Marry Me at Christmas by Susan Mallery

Jonny Blaze, mega-super-action star, needs help arranging a wedding for his one and only sister. So who does Mayor Marsha pick? Could it possibly be the woman who proclaimed her ever-lasting love for Jonny Blaze in the last couple of books? Madeline Krug? Would it be a romance if she weren't the one? Maybe. But probably not.

Marry Me at Christmas by Susan MalleryMadeline seems like a decent person and so does Jonny. They are friends first which was really nice in a romance. In fact, we really see more of their friendship than of the romance. It's a quiet story (surprising since Jonny's a star. Didn't know that? Oh, well it's mentioned. A lot. So is how surprised he is not to be treated like a star. We're almost bludgeoned over the head with it.)
I may have liked this book a little more if "Thrill Me" hadn't hit such a sweet spot for me but I'm not sure. And, as always, shoehorning in past characters was just painful.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Wedding in Truhart by Cynthia Tennent

This was an okay book. The romance was somewhat underdeveloped as were the characters. There was nothing horrifically wrong with the book, just tiny things like the plot being a little thin. And I quite frankly never warmed to the heroine. She was just... whiny. I get that she was having problems and that she loved her family but good god, it was all so unending. 
Annie is that heroine. She's back in Truhart, MI to help her mom and brother run the family inn. They're just a down-home family, pragmatic while still eccentric. But she, her mother, and her aunt are all currently in Atlanta to celebrate her sister's engagement. Annie is delighted to learn that her high school crush is going to be the best man. And, even though she keeps saying that she's going to "divorce" him from her thoughts, she keeps jumping his bones.
Nick Conrad is happy to see Annie, even if she brings up bad memories of his hometown. And the fact that his problems with the town seem to crop up so fast and get solved the same way. 
I'm guessing this is a first book for Cynthia Tennent (which Goodreads seems to uphold) and, while this book may not have tripped my trigger, I think she's just going to get better.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Little Men by Megan Abbott

The Little Men by Megan AbbottAt 36 pages (according to my ereader; according to Goodreads, it's 71), this is a short, short story. But, oof, is it effective.
As part of the Bibliomysteries: Short tales about deadly books, this story has a short connection to mysteries, especially "Gaudy Night," one of my favorite Dorothy Sayers mysteries.
Penny is an ex-actress who has decided that makeup artistry will be more lucrative. But she is no innocent ingenue, our Penny. She has a past. And in 1953, this is not a good thing. But things are looking up. She's found a good apartment and she has a job. Too bad the apartment has a history. One that Peggy seems doomed to repeat...
Four stars for readability. Four Mwa-ha-has for creepiness factor
Comes out on Sept. 15

Donald Duck: Shellfish Motives by Romano Scarpa, Dick Kinney, Jonathan Gray

Donald Duck #1 by Romano Scarpa, Jonathan H. ...I honestly couldn't tell if this was a vintage story at first (the thugs, the kidnapping, the eyes on the ducks) but the copyright date says 2015 so I'm going with it. A great piece of nostalgia with the main story being about a scientist from Gourmaind coming over to the States and being kidnapped. But reporter Donald Duck is on the case. Thank goodness he's getting some help from his nephews.
Will come out on September 29, 2015.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Scam by Janet Evanovich, Lee Goldberg

The Scam by Janet Evanovich
Evanovich and Goldberg are really hitting their stride in this book. I tore through every chapter enjoying almost every moment. The absolute craziness of the series all comes together in this story. I liked this one even better than The Chase. Would this be a good stand-alone? I don't know. I feel like the build up of the first three books is nice to have so that you can understand exactly how the utter zaniness of this book (using modified land mines to deter coyotes, Kate's dad taking on a member of the Yakuza, bringing in a driver whose last misdeed was to steal a tour bus... with the tourists on it) is central to the series.
I am also really enjoying the interplay between Kate and Nick. With some series, it's just like "Get ON with it already already!" but I tend to feel that more keenly with love triangles (I'm looking at you, Joanne Fluke). Evanovich and Goldberg have created (probably more the former, based on her other books) a great repartee between the two where the sexual tension is at a nice simmer.
This time, Kate (FBI agent) and Nick (sorta-not-really-reformed criminal) are after a casino magnate who is laundering dirty money for some really bad dudes. It's up to them to infiltrate the casino and bring the bad dudes to justice. AND doing it while meting out justice for a friend of Kate's dad and even managing to have some fun.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Knights Bridge Christmas by Carla Neggers

A Knights Bridge Christmas by Carla NeggersWoot, woot! Another librarian book! Too bad this book suffers from the return of too much backstory. Every time a character is introduced, we're reminded of what happened in a previous. And, actually, it's not just when they're introduced. It's repetitively knocked over the reader's heads.
Clare Morgan is new to Knights Bridge. She's moved to replace the last librarian who is getting married. This is a change from her, from the hustle and bustle of Boston but she's trying to raise her six-year-old son by herself (she's a widow) and isn't interested in romance.
Neither is Dr. Logan Farrell. He loves his job as an ER doctor but, after meeting Clare, he's realizing there might be something more to life.
This was overall an okay story, but it felt so... shallow. Everything was on the surface. Where was more backstory about Logan's grandparents and great-uncle? What was with that limp last sentence before the epilogue? And what was supposed to be the tie-in with the Christmas Carol? It was started but never really followed through. Well, the characters kept bringing it up but... it felt unfinished.
Two and a half stars.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Bhakti Flow Yoga by Rusty Wells

This is a well-written and thoughtful exploration of yoga. I'm just not sure who it's aimed at.
Product DetailsThere is a LOT of information in the first part of this book. Like, a lot. A lot. A cavalcade. And because of that fact, none of it is very in depth. While I'm guessing this may be aimed at new-to-yoga practitioners, it is guaranteed to be overwhelming. There are entire books, entire retreats that cover things that half the page in this book.
And then in the second part, the descriptions aren't always clear, poses build on other poses that haven't yet been introduced, and all of the pictures have the most difficult version of the pose. This part is more clearly aimed at someone who has had some experience with in-person classes.
Personally, I got lost in the first part and enjoyed most of the pose descriptions. An okay book but not sure who I would recommend it to.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Secret Son by Joan Kilby

The Secret Son by Joan KilbyUgh. I really wish NetGalley would warn you when a book is going to be a novella. I really liked the description of Alex Chernoff, successful ladies man, spontaneously deciding to blow off his fabulous vacation because the dad who deserted him sent a birthday card. But the novella form was not long enough to really develop the characters of either Alex or his heroine, Emma, who is in visiting her family at the same time Alex is discovering his. She is very entwined in the lives of Alex's father and siblings and very suspect of Alex. Nor was this book really long enough to do anything other than rush the plot development. I
Had this been a longer book, I suspect I would have very much enjoyed it. Not quite a Whiskey-Creek-Novak book but reminded me of the writing style with just a smidge less angst. Considering that Alex's half-siblings are total sequel bait, I'll be on the lookout to try this author again.
Two and a half stars.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hanover House by Brenda Novak

Hanover House by Brenda Novak
A perfect book for a spooky fall, Hanover House sets up a new series with psychiatrist Evelyn Talbot as the main character. When she was sixteen, her boyfriend murdered three of her friends and nearly succeeded in slitting her throat as well. Since then, she's studied serial murderers, trying to figure out what makes them tick. Her baby is a project called Hanover House, a prison being built in a small Alaskan town, not far from Fairbanks.
But the locals aren't exactly excited to have a bunch of sociopaths shipped up from the Lower 48. In fact, someone's been messing around in her building, writing nasty words on the wall and tearing down some of the construction.
Local law enforcement, Sergeant Benjamin Murphy, colloquially known as Sergeant Amarok, calls the good doctor to come up and see the damage.
Because this is such a short story, I don't want to give too much away. This is the start of a nice departure from a more heavily romance book to a bit more suspense for Novak. Her books have never been "comfort reading" for me so this fits in nicely to my perception. I just hope that Jasper (the ex who escaped from prison almost as soon as he was put in) is either sidelined for awhile , becomes more a background noise, or is dealt with quickly. He had way too much action and if that continues, it will get old fast.
WARNING: I didn't read the description carefully. This book is a prequel. It is short.

Followed by Her Darkest Nightmare

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Big Nate: Welcome to My World by Lincoln Peirce

In this book, Nate's grandparents visit his school and we find out where some of that precocious snark comes from. We also get a glimpse of what happens when Nate really tries and actually studies.
Big Nate by Lincoln PeirceI've been reading Big Nate books for over a decade. They're a fast and easy to read, nothing offensive for kids. A little snark, but nothing serious.
A great addition to the Big Nate canon.