Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Secret of High Eldersham by Miles Burton

I first heard about this book on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and thought, "Hm. A mystery that is turned into a detective story/thriller combo by runaway events? I MUST read this." And when it came up as an ARC on NetGalley? I requested it immediately. Thank you Poisoned Pen Press for re-releasing this book.
The first story to feature Desmond Merrion, this book starts out with the description of a small village, seemingly untouched by the modern day (the main road goes around it) and newcomers seem to have spates of bad luck that run them out of town. In fact, the only "newcomer" to have succeeded, though on a small scale, was the pubkeeper of the Rose and Crown. A former policeman, he had retired there to live the rest of his life and work in the garden. So why was he stabbed so ferociously one evening?
At first, Detective Inspector Young, called in from Scotland Yard thinks this is an open and shut case. But he soon discovers that the easy solution is not the correct one. So Inspector Young writes to a man he's known from the war, Desmond Merrion.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Tea Cups and Carnage by Lynn Cahoon

A new shop has opened up in South Cove, California. Run by a former beauty contestant runner-up who seems to be wrapping men around her little finger, Tea Hee is going to be a shop selling china. But she's not the only new person in town. There's also a biker that has taken to riding up and down the sidewalks, even injuring Jill's aunt Jackie.
Tea Cups and Carnage by Lynn CahoonThere is definitely a cloud around Kathi though. Her sister Ivy has followed her to town and seems to be spying on her. And then her cousin also comes to town, under an assumed name, and is shot in his hotel room. Who is doing all of this killing?
For some reason, Jill's insistence on solving mysteries when she keeps getting close to death at the end of each story didn't bother me as much. Maybe because she acknowledged it? Whatever, this is another nice addition to the Tourist Trap series and I'm definitely intrigued by the new series introduced at the end of this one.

Three and a half stars
Comes out June 7
Followed by Hospitality and Homicide

Sunday, May 29, 2016

From This Day Forward by Lauren Layne

From This Day Forward by Lauren LayneI don't generally love novellas since it's so hard to get to know the characters but this one wasn't bad.  I felt that Layne set up a nice back story for Leah and Jason so it wasn't a case of insta-love. The fact that if the two had just talked to each other they wouldn't have been so miserable for a year was annoying but they did come to that realization at the end. There was also some nice world building for the Wedding Belles series.
Leah McHale and Jason Rhodes are both photographers that have been asked to fill in for a high profile wedding at the last minute. Jason doesn't mind at all since he's been thinking about Leah ever since she ran away from their budding relationship but Leah isn't happy at all. In fact, their first meeting ends when she tosses a glass of water into his lap. But the two will have to work through their feelings and get over their knee-jerk middle school reactions to come together and create magical pictures for this important function. And maybe find their way back to each other.

Three and a half stars
This book comes out June 6

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Murder at the Spa by Stefanie Matteson

Charlotte Graham is an aging (at 60ish? I think they said her age but I lost track) movie star in the early 1990s (when this book was originally published. And it shows in the attitudes of some of the characters toward others in the book. Can you imagine the word "cripple" being used to describe someone today?)
Murder at the Spa by Stefanie MattesonAnyway, it seems Charlotte has gotten some press for helping to solve a mystery and so it's to Charlotte that her friend Paulina Laugenberg turns when something's rotten in Denmark. Or at least in the beauty empire that Paulina has built.
There are a LOT of characters in this book. From the great Paulina and her personal staff to the spa staff to the other guests at the spa. If you can sit down and read this book in a shorter span of time, I'd highly recommend it. Otherwise you can get mired in trying to remember who exactly is who.

Three stars
This book will be re-released as an ebook on June 7

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sleepless In Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

Sleepless In Manhattan by Sarah MorganThis book is evil. EVIL I tell's ya. I could NOT put it down. It was horrible. Just horrible. Did I have problems with the "she's my best friend's sister, so hands off" storyline? Yes. Sarah Morgan worked her magic and made it <i>almost</i> reasonable. But still felt a little false. And in this story, the best friends were a little <i>too</i>. Eva was too sweet, Frankie was too prickly. But I'm guessing that will be straightened out in their own books. The books which I can NOT wait for. Hopefully they're already in the pipline because I am distraught (distraught, do you hear me?) that I can't read Frankie and Matt's (Paige's brother) story.
Also, did we have to have yet <i>another</i> trio of one blonde, one brunette, and one redhead? Couldn't they be a trio that are ash, mousy, and platinum blondes?
But I quibble. And despite my numerous quibbles, this was a REALLY good book. Even the end (not the end-end but the lead up was a little too pat and predictable for me) couldn't knock this down to three stars.
Paige is on Cloud 9, convince that she is about to be promoted only to find out she (and half of the company she works for, including her two best friends) have all been fired. It's Jake (her brother's best friend and her lifelong crush) who convinces the women to go into business for themselves. He's a handsome and successful bazillionaire who dates a new woman every month. So when his attraction to Paige finally boils over, sparks will fly (or is that mixing metaphors?). Either way, this is definitely a book worth picking up!

Four Stars
Followed by Sunset in Central Park

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Fairest of Them All by Cathy Maxwell

Oh. I really wanted to like this book. When I read the excerpt of the Gavin looking the ballroom over and being ready to choose his duchess, I was very excited. And then... he turned into such a douche. And he wasn't even the main character. Instead, his decades-missing twin brother turns up and swipes the girl that Gavin had just set his eyes on. Literally, hasn't even met her (though Jack has)and thinks that he's going to lurv her forevs. Even after this book though, I'm still ready to find out what happens with Gavin and Sarah, Charlotte's aunt.
The Fairest of Them All by Cathy MaxwellAnyway, Jack is astonished to see the young woman who had pick pocketed his friend at the duke's ball. And the more time they spend together, the more he wants to be closer to her. Like, a LOT closer. This book is wrought with more drama than most Maxwells.
As I mentioned, I didn't love this book but I did like the first in the series am still looking forward to the next one.

Two and a half stars
This book comes out on May 31

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Underdogs by Sara Hammel

The Underdogs by Sara HammelI was zooming along, this was a perfectly nice book told in first person by Chelsea Jestin. It was a little confusing at first because it switches between "before" the murder and "after" but both are done chronologically so it gets easier as you read. The golden girl of the country club, Annabel Harper has been murdered and left by the pool. As the story unfolds, it seems like there are so many people who might have wanted her dead. But Chelsea and her best friend Evie are the only two who are invisible enough to wander around the club hearing all the pieces of the puzzle.
This story is not just about Chelsea, who has a pretty horrific past, but also about the evolution of Evie. And it was the ending, the ending that was fairly clued, that just sent me over the edge. A slow start but a killer end.

Four stars
This book comes out May 31

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Winning the Brain Game by Matthew May

Winning the Brain Game by Matthew MayIt took be a little bit to get into this book. I generally enjoy "brain" books and thought the description of this one on NetGalley sounded interestingBasically, the author posits that our brains have seven flaws and he presents the solutions with reasons and examples of why his way is better. It follows the very familiar pattern of [problem] [solution] [anecdotes about why solution is the correct one] but it did make me think, which was nice.

Three stars
This book comes out May 27

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Discovering You by Brenda Novak

Regular Novak readers are going to love this book. LOVE it. It's got the drama and the feels and just that... Novak-ness that regular readers have come to expect. Will new readers to the Whiskey Creek series enjoy this book as much? I think so. While we do get some characters from previous books, it makes sense when they come in (no shoehorning here.)
Discovering You by Brenda NovakIndia Sommers has lost her husband in a horrifying manner. And she blames herself for what happened. It all stems from her love of bad boys. So when she comes up on Rod Amos soon after he beats a guy (the guy really had it coming), she feels the attraction, but doesn't want to act on it. Although, to be honest, she doesn't really hold out all that long. She feels like she can probably be in and out of a very physical relationship before her daughter comes back from visiting her grandparents.
Rod is a complicated guy who is a couple of sort-of-in-but-not-really-and-I'm-sure-the-girl-understands-that relationships when he meets India. He knows that he's attracted to her and he knows that she's attracted to him. So why won't she just get together with him already?
Well, when her past comes a'calling, it's Rod that India turns to for help.
I didn't love the last quarter of this book so it took it down a little but it's still three and a half stars for me.

This book comes out May 24
Follows A Winter Wedding

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match by Juliana Gray

I somehow picked up a bunch of children's books and novellas that were all being published around the same time. This, I thought was a longer book and also somehow believed this to be a mystery. And it is, but more, it's a romance with mystery undertones.
The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match by Juliana  GrayIt was an interesting story with the hero, the Duke of Olympia (first name never known) is seventy-four, and the heroine, widowed companion Mrs. Penelope Schuyler, is fifty. There was some character building but I wish there had been a bit more. I'm guessing this is the prequel to a new series and as such, it was okay but could it could definitely have been better if it had been built out to a full-length story.

Three stars
This story comes out May 17

Thursday, May 12, 2016

King Garnet Stories by Marianne Parry

King Garnet Stories by Marianne ParryBased on the cover and length, I thought this was a picture book. And I probably would have given this book another star if the cover's illustrator had been invited to make such a book out of the first story only. Otherwise, the adventures of King Garnet are just fine. and will probably be amusing to young readers with his strangely growing legs, Queen Amanda's bossiness (which seems a little sexist), and the misunderstanding between he and King Grundle though the latter two are nowhere near as good as the first.
There are some relatively harder vocabulary words like "mused" that seem somewhat out of place. And there's a lot of editing that needs to be done. 

Three stars
This book came out May 9

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Pressing Engagement by Anna Lee Huber

A Pressing Engagement by Anna Lee HuberKiera is in love with her fiance, Sebastian Gage, but that doesn't mean that she's free of bridal jitters. Luckily, she is distracted by the arrival of her cousin Jock who comes bearing a wedding gift. Surprisingly, it is not some dead animal, but a Scottish torc. In fact, a Scottish torc that looks very much like one that Kiera and Gage have been looking for. The fact that Jock found it in a pawn shop gives Kiera the very excuse to leave the house that she's been looking for. The search brings them back into the path of Bonnie Brock Kincaid, "the head of Edinburgh's largest and most notorious gang of criminals." And it seems that Bonnie Brock is after the favor that Kiera owes him.
A lovely little novella and just a perfect bite for in between books.

Four and a half stars
This novella comes out May 17

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book by Frank Caiafa

The Waldorf Astoria Bar BookOkay. I have to admit that I skimmed a large part of the recipes. But the beginning of the book with the author's history and the setup of the book was interesting and well-written. The tidbits after every cocktail were also entertaining. And while I think that many of the items the author lists would be WAY to fancy for my house, I think there are many people who would enjoy setting up and creating his concoctions.

Four Stars
This book come out May 17

Monday, May 9, 2016

Regency Makeover Part III by Darcy Wilde

The story opens with a lot of information, but none of it feels like a purge of backstory. Instead, we just meet the hero and heroine as they meet each other; Lady Helene Fitzgerald barges into her host's library, ostensibly to find a book, while he, Marcus Edicott, the Duke of Windford is already there. Really, Helene is trying to find Marcus' sister Adele after she fled from her overbearing sister.
Marcus is immediately intrigued. Though Helene is supposed to be a harridan bluestocking, he rather finds her a smart conversationalist who is hiding her light under a bushel.
Regency Makeover Part III by Darcie WildeHelene has escorted her cripplingly shy friend Madelene to the party. Madelene's family was so grateful to have her off their hands, they didn't even mind consigning her to the care of a woman that few in society cared for. But she is tired of being a wallflower and tired of Adele and Madelene being consigned to the same fate. She has conceived of a plan to triumph in Society, but she'll need the help of a fairy godmother, a role novelist Deborah Sewell can fit to a T.
So Helene helps to save herself. And her friends. I was really enjoying this story until the last Big Misunderstanding. It was so unnecessary. And I wish I had read the other two stories. It wasn't absolutely necessary but it would have filled in some gaps.

Three Stars
This story comes out May 17

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Who Broke the Teapot by Bill Slavin

Who Broke the Teapot?! by Bill SlavinA nice, rhyming story with a lovely rhythm. A little difficult to follow the flow of the dialogue sometimes because the pictures are so bright. Another thing about the pictures, some of them are dual-paged, which makes reading this as an ebook odd.
Overall, a nice story and one that I think will make younger readers chuckle as they get the joke.
This book came out April 26.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham

Jerry Challoner picks up a girl at the bus station with a blister on her heel and drops her off at a giant house where she seems apprehensive about going. He pauses to let a storm go past and hears a gunshot coming from that same house. A truly evil man has been murdered and the local police are bewildered about how to go on. Luckily, Jerry is the son of Detective Chief Inspector W. T. Challoner so he knows who can help.
At first, the answer seems obvious, but that is so rarely the truth in these stories. So, of course, we get to trace many of the suspects as they move through the story. Short, fast, good read.
Three and a half stars

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde

A Useful Woman by Darcie WildeLife hasn't been particularly kind to Rosalind Thorne in the last five years. She came home from a ball on cloud nine from a ball, certain that she was about to be engaged. To a second son, but she loves him. Or could. But her world collapses when she learns that her father has lost their family's money and is running away in shame, taking only Rosalind's older sister. Over time, her mother died and Rosalind was given a home by her godmother. Rosalind has also managed to make a little place for herself in the society that has shunned her by helping others who are in an untenable situation. One of those women is Honoria Aimesworth. And Honoria's mother is asking for help again. But this time, Honoria is about to be engaged to a duke, Rosalind's former love. Rosalind turns them down but when Honoria's brother turns up dead in the hallowed halls of Almack's and Rosalind is the one to find him, she finds herself drawn into the mystery.
I really liked this story and hope that somebody does some really good line editing before it goes into print (lots of sighs, a countess addressed as "Your Grace," and some interesting comma placements). This is very much like a Maisie Dobbs but set in an earlier time. I do like the fact that Rosalind seems to be fallible with several characters mentioning that she often misplaces her loyalties (although did it need to be mentioned quite so much?)
It was a fast read and I'll definitely put the second book on my "watch for" list.
This book comes out today
Three and a half stars

Troublemaker by Linda Howard

I know I have a bit of a pet-peeve with condom use but, c'mon, Ms. Howard is a veteran romance writer. There are more reasons than pregnancy to use a condom. At the very least she could sit down and have the characters talk about being tested. More than just "It's okay, I'm on the pill." Blergh. It always takes me out of the story. 
There is a special brand of Howard WTFery that I look forward to in her books. And in this book, while it was a good book, that craziness was way toned down. I mean, the books I think of when I think Linda Howard have agents whose memories have been imperfectly wiped, bear stalkings (again, black bears don't do that), the only road into a small town being shut down so a team of bad guys can retrieve a microfilm, etc. This, this was strangely devoid of any of that-- but still a good book. And what Howard does nicely is depicts small town life. There's a line in her book that even pokes gentle fun saying that people in big cities always expect small-town folks to all know one another but they don't -- one of my major major pet-peeves (see here Fool's Gold, a town of 125,000 where they somehow not only ALL know each other but everyone's extended history).
Anyway, Morgan Yancy is a super-duper, undercover agent who's had a hit taken out on him that was nearly successful. In order to figure out what's going on, his team leader, Axel, sends him to recuperate in West Virginia. The specific person Morgan is being sent to is Isabeau "Bo" Maran, Axel's ex-step-sister. It seems the two had a contentious relationship when their parents were married for eight months and Axel has never quite gotten over it. 
Bo is the chief of police in a small town but her position is supposed to be more clerical than anything, taking care of the paperwork so that her deputies can do the on-the-streets work that they feel more comfortable with. There were some plot points and character issues I had with Bo and this job (she has, like, three) but, again, used to WAY more craziness from Howard so these were minor.
Then there is the plot moppet, Bo's golden retriever, Tricks. I am a huge Goldie nerd and Tricks sounded about right for that breed of dog but, dang, half the book was an ode to the dog. I would have loved to see a little bit more about what was going on in the discovery of who was trying to kill Morgan (view spoiler) or more about their relationship development. Although, I do have to admire the deft touch of covering major swathes of time with a deft touch. It cured the book of insta-love/lust.
Overall, a nice addition to the Howard canon and I think that regular readers will really enjoy the book. I personally missed the crazy (it's the reason I requested the ARC) but others may not even notice it's gone.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Killer Cocktail by Tracy Kiely

Killer Cocktail by Tracy KielyNicole "Nic" and Nigel Martini, like the second "Thin Man" movie, have returned home to California. The book opens with them on the Oscars' red carpet with their Bull Mastiff, Skippy. He is handed off to their assistant DeDee. Later that night, DeDee is attacked, beaten nearly to death. Could the intruder have been after the home movies that Nic and Nigel found in their attic? The behind-the-scenes films done by the producer's daughter seem to have stirred up a hornet's nest. <i>A Winter's Night</i> was a movie that captured the hearts of a generation, not especially because former child star Melanie Summers died while filming the movie. It also launched several stars and set up the producer and director as major Hollywood players.
Rumors have always swirled around the movie. Could it be that these tapes haves something to do with Melanie's death?
Just a teensy bit below the first book in this series (story is a bit slim, WAY too many people to keep track of) but still a fun story.

Three and a half stars.
Follows Murder with a Twist
Followed by A Perfect Manhattan Murder
Comes out May 8, 2016

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long

Was it fate that had megastar John Tennessee (JT) McCord's truck dying in Hellcat Canyon? It sure seems like it when he lays eyes on the waitress at the Misty Cat. He's attracted to to her and that attraction sky rockets when she starts casually dropping words like "enigmatic."
Hot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne LongSome might say that Britt Langley's decision to stay in Hellcat Canyon is hiding out. But she feels safe where she is. And the fact that JT isn't going to be in town long? That goes right on to the "pro" side of her decision of whether or not to sleep with him.
A very cute story and I'm desperately hoping that JT's frenemy Franco Francone gets his own HEA. The Big Misunderstanding dragged on a bit at the end and I wish there had been better condom use but this book generally has me walking away with warm fuzzies.
Four stars
This book comes out May 31
Followed by Wild at Whiskey Creek 

The Yoga Lifestyle by Doron Hanoch

This is a very earnest book. The author definitely put a lot of thought into how he would lay out his process to living a yogic life.
The Yoga Lifestyle by Doron HanochIs it very different from other yoga books? Not really. There is definitely that very typical "yoga tone" that comes through in the writing. And it includes most of the same poses that you'll see in other yoga books. This book is nice in that some of the modifications actually get their own pictures, though none of the standing poses do. There is the addition of the doshas which is nice, but the discussion of them is super basic. This book does also include meditation and eating techniques so it really does encompass the whole idea of a Yoga Lifestyle.
Will non-yoga-practioners benefit from this book? Maybe. But I think a basic understanding of yoga (all the branches, not just asana (movement)) will be more helpful. The pictures are as helpful as possible but nothing beats going to a live class with a good teacher (a point that Hanoch does make)
Could you get the basic gist of the book just by reading the bullet points at the end of each section? Pretty much.
Overall an okay book. It's not really geared toward a yoga neophyte but there are some helpful hints such as recipes. There are quite a few yoga techniques that are renamed as being "Doron" techniques but they're not new or specific to this author.