Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Snowed In with Murder by Auralee Wallace

Erica Bloom is back. Back at Otter Lake and trying to get back with her ex. But her plans for a romantic weekend at what is supposed to be her mother's deserted cabin. Unfortunately, she walks into what is supposed to be the next big reality show being filmed. There's a trophy wife, her hunter daughter, a wealthy man who claims that he is the victim of attempted murder, and his grandson. Also there, is his illegitimate child, a fourteen-year-old who no one seems to like. Also on the way? The storm of the century. And during a power outage, the family patriarch is murdered with his own cyanide. And then, madness ensues.
I read the first book but skipped the second. I'll probably give the fourth a try but really hope that Erica is a little more competent, less madcap, and gets the love triangle figured out. The mystery itself was fine but Erica was just a wee bit too inept for the story to be really enjoyable.

Three stars
This book comes out February 7

Monday, January 30, 2017

One More Kiss by Samantha Chase

Two years ago Vivienne Forrester went to visit Matt Reed at the height of his fame and the height of his drinking. At first, he didn't even recognize the gorgeous woman standing in the door as his friend's sister all grown up but then he (having just been chugging from a Jack Daniels' bottle) immediately starts kissing her but it is broken up by the band's manager who thinks that Vivienne is just another groupie.
Time has since passed and Matt's vanity project, a Broadway play fronted by himself, failed miserably in three days and now public opinion is very, very against him. So he goes to hide in his best friend's brand new house. And who's living in the little garden house behind? Vivienne! And Aaron (the friend/brother) is about to head out of town so Vivienne and Matt are forced in to close proximity.
I didn't love this book because there was quite a bit of wallowing. Oh, I don't begrudge Matt's feelings toward his father, it's the more recent stuff. And I didn't really feel the two of them clicking in a forever-after sort of way. I think most regular Chase readers won't be disappointed in this story though.

Three stars
This book comes out February 7

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Harley Quinn's Gang of Harleys by Jimmy Palmiotti; Frank Tieri

I'm assuming that the reissue of this book in ebook form is based on the popularity of Margot Robbie in the recent Suicide Squad movie. And this was an interesting book. A bit short on the story since there had to be some world and character  building and, well, it's a comic so generally rather short.
We meet Harley's new gang (almost all have some variation of her own name, picked by a round of tryouts) and find out that they will do good deeds... well, if they're paid enough. The problem is that it appears that Harley had been kidnapped. And, at first, it seems to be a set up by Harley herself to see if her gang can handle it. But then, she actually does get kidnapped and it's up the the Harleys and their friends to get her back.
Fast read and generally fun but will probably be better when it's part of the collected series.

Three and a half stars
This book comes out February 7

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Art of Vinyasa by Richard Freeman; Mary Taylor

I would definitely skip over the "teaching" sections of this book and go straight to the "practice" sections. Because, whoa, I'm not sure who this book is aimed at but I definitely wouldn't steer newbies this way. Within the first 40 pages, there were what seemed like a dozen deep thoughts that were skimmed over. This is definitely for a more intermediate yoga practitioner.
I always feel bad for leaving a low rating on a book, especially when you can tell that an author has tried really hard to get everything just right.And that's the problem with what I'm calling the "teaching" sections, where Mr. Freeman is giving details on history or expounding on ideas, he is trying to get everything so perfect that you don't get a sense of his own voice. The yoga books that I resonate most deeply with are the ones where the teacher's own sense of style comes through and you can get a sense of their personality. Most of this book, especially in the beginning, were just myriad facts thrown at you in rapid succession. There is not a real sense of flow and there is a striving for perfection that makes me think of the yoga classes that make you tense up and send your thoughts into monkey-mode trying to get every molecule into perfect alignment rather than the classes that just let you relax into the moment and enjoy your practice.
And this was part of the big bummer for me because I actually really enjoyed the more practice-based sections of this book when we got to experience some of Mr. Freeman's teachings. 

Two and a half stars
This book came out December 27

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Wolves Return by Celia Godkin

A nice book about the return of the wolves and the ensuing trophic cascades. A little bit romantacizes it an definitely anthropomorphizes some of the animals. But the pictures are beautiful (almost pointillism) and look fairly accurate for body type/structures of the animals.

This book came out January 18
Three and a half stars

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Between the Devil and the Duke by Kelly Bowen

Angelique Archer is trying to support her family in the only way she knows how, by counting cards at the only club open to women, LaVoie's. She revels in the knowledge that she can feel safe because she is unnoticeable and completely forgettable.
Except someone has noticed her, Alexander LaVoie, club owner and rumored assassin. He is curious about this woman who comes in and always wins... but never extravagantly, never drawing attention to herself. And then he finds out how truly wonderful she is at mathematics. Between her brains and her wit, he feels himself start to slide into love.  He's just convinced her to become a dealer in his nightclub (she wants to know how much his customers should win, she's worked out the probabilities and is prepared to keep it to whatever level Alex likes), when her brother, a marquess, is arrested for murder.
Angelique is going to need not only the help of Alex to get her brother out, but the Chegarre Agency as well.
Angelique was a little annoying just because she was SO SMART and Ms. Bowen kept showing us HOW SMART she was but I really liked that she created her own agency, even when it seemed like it should have been unavailable as an unmarried woman of that time.

Four stars
This book comes out January 31

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James

Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa JamesEugenia Snowe is well known in the haute ton as being the proprietress of the premier governess service in England. But when Edward Reeve starts demanding replacements for the women caring for his half-siblings, Eugenia is pushed harder than she ever has been before.
Edward Reeve is a bastard, but his brother and sister are not. They were, however, scarred by living with the mother that the three of them shared. Now their mother's mother is trying to gain custody of them and she is a Duchess while Edward is merely the bastard child of two aristocrats. When he meets Eugenia, he falls immediately into lust. He doesn't realize that she is not only the daughter of a marquis but the widow of a viscount and assumes that she is just a former governess, someone that is perfectly acceptable for him to dally with.
Overall a nice book. I didn't love the kidnapping but if anyone could make it even slightly less than super-creepy Eloisa James is the one.

Three stars
This book comes out January 31

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

On Second Thought by Kristan HigginsDamn it, Kristan Higgins. Why must write such wonderful books full of so many feels? All the feels. I think I started crying around page 10 and then just kept going. I loved the characters in this book, even the ones we didn't really get to know (Nate). Even the despicable Eric could have been painted as much more a two-dimensional villain but came off as more deluded than anything else. Ainsley was maybe a little (a LITTLE) too goody two-shoes but she also let a guy walk all over her for too many years so it was nice to see her develop a spine. Especially nice that it was for herself and not because of some new relationship.
The book opens with newlywed Kate reflecting back on the last day with her husband, Nate. They were heading off to a cancer-free celebration for her (half)-sister's boyfriend. We get a rich picture of all four of them almost at once. Kate and Nate (just realized how twee that is!), both older, in a whirlwind romance that they're just figuring out after being married for four months; her sister Ainsley who never really had a chance to fit in with the rest of the family, being a result of a father who cheated on his first wife, then happily gave her the responsibility of raising his second wife's daughter when the second wife died and he re-married the first wife; and Eric, a fairly narcissistic man who is used to being adored by one and all.

Four and a half stars
This book comes out January 31

Monday, January 23, 2017

Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering

Drew and Madeline are enjoying a quiet night at home when they're interrupted by a telephone call from an old Etonian friend of Drew's, "Beaky" Bloodworth. There are mysterious happenings going on at his house and his new wife is not understanding. Drew is anxious to help, especially when he realizes he knows Beaky's new wife (and is somewhat suspicious of her motives for marrying Beaky.
When they get to Beaky's family home, it's to discover that Sabrina is missing (though quickly recovered) and that no one can help Drew figure out why the vicar has been murdered.
An interesting story and a nice addition to the series.

Four stars
This book comes out January 31
Followed by Death at Thorburn Hall

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Crimson Snow: Winter Mysteries by Martin Edwards

The Ghost's Touch by Fergus Hume
I had read The Mystery of a Hansom Cab and enjoyed it so I wasn't surprised that I enjoyed this short story as well. The narrator (Lascelles) is spending Christmas at Ringshaw Grange where the owner is very poor but has the family estate while his cousin is very rich but has no property. The narrator is invited to the family estate for Christmas where it turns out the entire party is all men under the age of thirty. Also at the family estate? A ghost that is supposed to be a former Ringshaw bride who kills people who sleep in a certain room. The room the rich cousin is put in. The rich cousin who has a heart problem. 
Lascelles smells a rat and surreptitiously switches rooms with the rich cousin. The story plays out in a wonderful and enjoyable manner.

Four stars.

The Chopham Affair by Edgar Wallace
A blackmailing gigolo (Alphonse/Alphonso RIbiera) is found dead in a car next to an equally dead car thief.

Short, sweet, interesting. 4 stars

The Man with the Sack by Margery Allingham
Albert Campion has been invited to Christmas by one of his insufferable relatives. At first he's going to decline, but then his cousin writes him also pleading for him to come. It seems that she is in love with a poor man whose father was sent to jail for theft but her mother is pushing her at the young man of their guests, the son of an insufferable, newly wealthy family.
On the way down, Albert sees someone that he recognizes, a thief that he saw prosecuted many years ago. But he puts it in the back of his mind as he settles in for Christmas with his family, with the rich guests, and his cousin's beau. There is mention of a twelve thousand pound (cost, not weight) necklace that, of course, goes missing and the beau is immediately accused of the theft.

Pure Campion goodness, 4 stars

Christmas Eve by S. C. Roberts
A Sherlockian play where a young woman comes to Holmes for help because her employers necklace has been stolen but Holmes can't seem to follow the plot.

Serviceable, three stars

Death in December by Victor Gunn
Chief Inspector Bill "Ironsides" Cromwell is going to his assistant's family home for Christmas. Begrudging and grumbling as usual, he is nonetheless as shocked as his assistant to see a mysterious figure in the drive who disappears and leaves no footprints. Then someone brings up the subject of the family "Death Room" and a particularly annoying neighbor becomes insistent on spending the night, despite the host's obvious discomfort. In a surprise, he is not the one who ends up dead. Rather he sees a dead body but it has then mysteriously disappeared and now he has descended into what may be permanent lunacy.
Ironsides seems to have a clear idea of what might have happened even when the others seem stymied. The solution is a little out there but I enjoyed it.

Four stars

Murder at Christmas by Christopher Bush
A former swindler is murdered. There are a few of his victims in the small town and it's up to the narrator to help figure out how, with so many good alibis, the man could have died.

Three stars

Off the Tiles by Ianthe Jerrold
A woman, trying to help her neighbor get into her locked house, has fallen off the roof. Was it the neighbor who hated the dead woman for trying to woo her nephew into the arts (literally, he's a painter)? Or was there something more sinister at work?

An interesting twist, three and a half stars

Mr. Cork's Secret
Monsieur Aloysia, hotel manager, has a few problems. His hotel is overrun by the press hoping to get pictures of a film star and his new wife (who haven't yet arrived), his hotel is booked to the gills and there are still people asking to come, and there's a dead body in room 143. Luckily, the well-known insurance man, Mr. Cork, is one of the people wanting a room. It seems Mr. Cork has ensured some of the film stars' jewelry for a rather fabulous amount and he wanted to see about his investment. And it's a good thing he did so he can help solve the murder.

Three stars

The Santa Claus Club by Julian Symons
A detective is hired to protect a man who is receiving threatening letters. The man is a very rich one who gathers with other rich men to very ostentatiously raise money for charity every year. They take turns dressing up as Santa and collecting the funds. Our detective's customer ends up dead by the detective is able to solve the case.

Three stars

Deep and Crisp and Even by Michael Gilbert
I'm not sure that I completely understood this one. A young policeman, Petrella, is left in charge while in between Superintendent's and believes that something nefarious may be going on at the local boarding house.

Two stars

The Carol Singers by Josephine Bell
Mrs. Fairlands lives in her converted house quite happily, even at eighty-one years old. At least, she lives that way until Christmas Eve when she is robbed, tied up, and left to die in her own home. It's up to Inspector Brooks to figure out this... rather confusing mystery.

Three stars

Overall a nice pick of mysteries and a book I enjoyed. 4 stars
This book came out January 3

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Body on the Barstool by Lolli Powell

Erica "Ricki" Fontaine left New York City after divorcing her husband. It was an amicable divorce which is why she's shocked that she's considered a suspect in her husband's death. Granted, he was found in her bar stabbed with one of her knives, but still. Even his new husband doesn't suspect her. At the same time, she's finally finding the hot men in this small Ohioan town. Too bad they're a detective and a reporter.
Her ex-husband's new husband flies into town to stay with Ricki and the mysterious happenings start amping up.

I generally liked this book and am glad that the possible love triangle seems to have been resolved by the end of the book. The ending was a bit rough but I'm liking the world building and am excited to see the next book.

Three and a half stars
This book came out November 2016

Accidentally on Purpose by Jill Shalvis

Accidentally on Purpose by Jill ShalvisThe relationship between Elle and Archer has been mysterious throughout the other two books and I've looked forward to learning more about their past.
The book opens with Archer asking (sort of) Elle to help them with a honey pot scheme. Apparently she has done so in the past and this is no different. During this exchange, we see a bit into where they are now. As the book progresses, we get to see a bit more of her history and their history together.
Of course, the road to HEA won't be easy. Elle's sister come back into town bringing up a lot of Elle's issues again.
And the ending. Oh. The Shalvis endings lately have been depressingly similar. Public. So Public. Always with the public. And the overwrought. This was not my favorite book in the series.

Three stars
This book comes out January 24

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pirates in the Library by Nadia Ali

What happens when pirates find a treasure map that points to the library as having treasure? Well, there's a lot of explaining by the librarian for one!
The lesson learned is the expected one (books are treasures). There are a lot of words for a kids book. It reminded me a little of the Polar Express, might be a longer read-aloud. An interesting book and obviously a labor of love by some librarian.

Three stars
This book came out October 2016

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Resurrection Man by Charlotte MacLeod

When I saw this book was available as an ARC, I sort of recognized the author's name. I had read the previous book in this series last year and had had little problem jumping into the story. That was not so with this book. There are a lot of characters. A LOT. And while there is some background given for each, knowing the characters ahead of time would have been very beneficial.
Unlike the previous book, this book actually focuses on the titular series characters. Max is somewhat restricted because of a broken leg but that doesn't stop him from getting interested when a flighty artist friend mentions that she's working for a group that does restorations. Then he further discovers that almost of the restored items are being stolen.
This was generally an okay story but the ending got weird. Really, really weird.

Three stars
This book was re-released December 2016

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tangled Up by Erin Nicholas

Max has loved Bree for almost all of the twenty-five years that he's known her. But he knows that they can never be anything more than friends. She's made that abundantly clear. Literally, she's told him that she just wants to be friends. And, practically, he knows that she changes her mind about things all the time, moving from job to job. She can't even keep a favorite ice cream. So no, they're better just being friends. Even if a near-miss with a tornado made for some adrenaline-pumping moments where they hooked up. Well, mostly.
For her part, Bree isn't sure where these feelings are coming from. She loves adrenaline and getting the feeling of a nice rush. So why is Max so against it? Yes, her feelings for Max are sort of out of the blue but why not have some fun?

Three stars

This book come out January 17

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Jolly Regina by Kara LaReau

Jaundice and Kale Bland are living in Dullsville, waiting for their parents to return from the errand that they left to do years ago. Neither sister really remembers their parents but they are content with the life they have, darning socks, eating cheese sandwiches, and reading from Dr. Snoote's Dictionary. They live utterly uniteresting lives and are happy to do so. That's why it's shocking when there's a knock on the door and somebody tells the girls that they are about to get a surprise.
The Jolly Regina by Kara LaReauLittle do they know that their bland lives are about to get a lot more colorful.
I enjoyed the story and liked the added vocabulary lessons. I also really liked that the sisters felt most comfortable at home and that adventure was not necessarily their end goal. So many kid books are about going on great adventures and I wasn't that kid and it's so nice to read about someone more like myself.

Four stars
This book comes out January 10

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Ready Set Rogue by Manda Collins

Torquil "Quill" Beauchamp, Marquess of Kerr, is very upset that his aunt left her property to four unmarried bluestocking spinsters. He is racing down to find out what is going on (and possibly block his aunt's will) when his carriage breaks down and he has to stop at an inn. There he sees a young woman, obviously a governess, trying to get on the mailcoach but she refuses to leave her bags and the coach driver says that they are too full to take them with. When Quill finds out she is Aphrodite "Ivy" Wareham, one of the heiresses, he reluctantly offers her  a ride. On the way, they get to know each other better (even though he starts off as a pompous jerk). Once they get to the property, they not only meet the other heiresses, they discover that Quill's cousin is there as well to act as chaperone. Oh, and Ivy gets a note that the aunt thinks she was murdered and Ivy should work with Quill to figure out what's going on.
The romance for me was just a little too fast. Happy Ever After in just a couple of days? Meh. I like to see a relationship unfold. And the whole book went just a little too fast for me, glossing over several parts. But overall this is an enjoyable read that regular Collins readers will enjoy. I'm looking forward to the next one.

Three and a half stars
This book came out January 3
Followed by Duke with Benefits

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

The first book in this series was fabulous. Ms. Raybourn's interview with the Smart Bitches was fantastic. And this book continues a streak.
A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna RaybournVeronica Speedwell is back. And bored. She's very bored. Just spending her days training with Revelestoke "Stoker" Templeton-Vane is not how she wanted to be spending her life. But their friend Lord Rosemorran who was going to finance an expedition for all of them tripped over his pet tortoise (yes!) and broke his femur. So when Lord Rosemorran's sister asks Veronica if she wants to go to the Curiosity Club, Veronica doesn't hesitate. Curiosity is the theme of this book and mentioned quite often in conjunction with our heroine.
It's what springs to the fore when she realizes that she has actually been tricked into meeting with one of her aunts. One of her father's sisters. The father who has never been able to publicly acknowledge her. This aunt wants her to help clear up the name of Miles Ramsforth, a man who is about to hang for murdering his pregnant mistress.
The mystery is well developed, we get to learn a lot more about the characters of both Stoker and Veronica (what they have in common, a little bit more about Stoker's past with his soul-sucking wife), and we get to meet the shadowy figure behind Sir Hugo Montgomerie, the head of Special Branch, Scotland Yard.

Four stars
This book comes out January 10
Follows A Curious Beginning

Monday, January 2, 2017

365 Ways to Live Generously by Sharon Lipinski

365 Ways to Live Generously by Sharon LipinskiThis book was literally a day-by-day list of small paragraphs helping people to grow their generosity through 7 habits that they will work on, one for each day. None of the ideas and exercises are spectacular or new (I recognized most of them from other self-help books I've read; I read from a wide variety and it appears the author does too) and include meditating, journaling, and specific exercises for donating both time and money. I was honestly hoping this would be more of an overarching book (by week, not by day).
It's an okay book if you haven't read anything like it before but really nothing new under the sun.

Three books
This book comes out January 8