Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gratitude should be expressed much more often than once a year, 
but I for one am glad there's one holiday that reminds us to stop and give thanks.

Here are a few of the things I'm most grateful for this year:

Game nights
Beautiful mountain trails
Blue skies and sunshine
Enough to eat
A warm place to sleep
Letters in the mail
Homemade cookies
Good books, bubble baths, and cute boots
Family & Friends
Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness!

Enjoy some turkey and a piece of pumpkin pie and have a very happy day of Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Would Like To Meet by Rachel Winters

A brief summary: Evie Summers is 29 and living in London. She once dreamed of becoming a screenwriter; instead, she's been a lowly agent's assistant for the last seven years. And now, in order to save her job, she has to convince arrogant Ezra Chester to actually finish the screenplay he's been promising her boss for the last year. Only Ezra claims romantic comedies are unrealistic and completely beneath him. (Evie suspects he has writer's block.) To help him out, she offers to reenact those meet-cute scenes from her favorite rom-com movies to order to prove to him people really can fall in love like they do in the movies. Only so far it isn't working. She's spilled orange juice on a stranger, attended a book group, and even gotten her heel stuck in a sewer grate in the hopes a handsome stranger will rescue her. The results? Public humiliation and failure. And Ezra still isn't writing. What is she going to do?

My thoughts:  There is a lot to like about this book! It's entertaining and humorous and it has that happy "ahh" moment at the end. Evie's attempts to recreate her favorite meet-cute movie moments made me smile, especially when those moments came from some of my own favorite romantic comedies. My favorite parts were Evie's interactions with single dad, Ben, and his seven-year-old daughter, Anette, who witness several of her less-than-successful attempts to meet a cute guy. The way her friends cheer her on through their group texts was also fun. And what happens on the red carpet and at her friend's wedding totally made me laugh. I do wish Evie had stood up to her boss and Ezra more often, because neither one deserved her help or loyalty, but I was glad she finally stood up for herself at the end. It's hard to put a fresh spin on a romantic comedy, but Winters manages to do it well. Of course, the happy ending was completely predictable, but I thought it was cute and very satisfying. All in all, I'd give this one 4 stars.

Happy Reading!

P.S. I won a free copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

Happy 200th Birthday, George Eliot!

Mary Ann Evans was born on November 22, 1819. She grew up in Warwickshire, England and moved to London in 1851 where she met George Henry Lewes. Though they never married, she and Lewes lived openly together for 24 years, a daring move in Victorian times. More importantly, Lewes encouraged Mary Ann's writing. Under the name George Eliot, she published her first novel in 1859. Five more classics followed. Eliot became the foremost woman novelist of her day. She died in 1880 at the age of 61.

George Eliot in Love by Brenda Maddox is an excellently written biography of this amazing writer. It details the most important moments in her life and gives you a sense of what kind of person she was. I really liked it, almost as much as I love these three favorite novels by Eliot, and these favorite quotes:

"Love once, love always."

"It is never too late to be what you might have been."

"And, of course, men know best about everything, 
except what women know better."

"It will never rain roses: when we want to have 
more roses, we must plant more roses."

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A new favorite historical mystery...

Murder is not uncommon in Regency London. Charlotte Sloane and the Earl of Wrexford have already solved several murders together. But this time it's personal; this latest victim is Charlotte's childhood friend and cousin. And the supposed murderer? His twin brother. Only Charlotte is certain he's innocent. And as her friend, Wrexford is determined to help her prove it, whether their investigation leads to opulent drawing rooms, secret scientific societies, or somewhere much darker.
"That was the trouble with murder, thought Wrexford. All too often, the moment of Death wasn't the end of Evil, it was merely the beginning. Like a stone hitting water, its impact could ripple out, bringing secrets to the surface that were best left submerged. And suddenly there were more victims."
Murder at Kensington Palace by Andrea Penrose is the third Wrexford & Sloane mystery and I loved it every bit as much as I did the first two books in this series. Why? The characters! Charlotte is independent, strong-willed, artistic, clever and spunky. Wrexford is intelligent and sardonic and does not suffer fools gladly. He can also laugh at his own flaws and foibles. And he's a great friend to Charlotte and the two street urchins, Hawk and Raven, who live with her. The mystery itself is interesting, the writing compelling, and the growing romance between Charlotte and Wrexford charming. I hope Penrose writes many more in this series.

Happy Reading!

Other books in this series:

Saturday, November 16, 2019

A Bookish Update

Look what Goodreads Giveaway I recently won:

I'm excited to read this latest book by Joanna Schaffhausen. Ellery Hathaway and FBI Agent Reed Markham are two of my favorite characters; although, when I first met them in The Vanishing Season, I wasn't sure I was going to like either one. But that quickly changed. And now I can't wait to read this latest adventure about them. (The second book about them, No Mercy, is also awesome.)

Gotta love this bookish tote from Out of Print! Fun isn't it?
(I should buy some for my niece and nephews who love both dinosaurs and books.)
A few more laughable spam comments...from the inexplicable to the indecipherable:
 (Can you guess my favorite one this time?)

1. whoah this blog is magnificet i really like reading your articles. Stayy up the great work!

2. As he was logging off of his laptop and gathering up work to complete at home later, the receptionist alerted him that a Beverly Hills flower supply bike messenger had one thing for him.

3. Thank you for the writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
 Look advanced so far agreeable.

4. That is the sum of it. Betting is completely legal.

Recent read that I totally loved but didn't review 
(mostly because I just couldn't find the right words):

Recently checked out of the library:

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson
The Cold by Rich Hawkins
Vulnerable by Mary Burton
Fallen (Alex Verus #10) by Benedict Jacka
Deep Dark by Laura Griffin
The Lady in the Coppergate Tower by Nancy Campbell Allen

Ever wonder why there aren't a lot of Thanksgiving reads?
Now you know...

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Breaking Creed by Alex Kava

From the blurb:
Ryder Creed and his dogs have been making national headlines. They’ve intercepted several major drug stashes being smuggled through Atlanta’s airport. But their newfound celebrity has also garnered some unwanted attention.  To make matters worse, Creed helps one of the cartel’s drug mules escape—a fourteen-year-old girl who reminds him of his younger sister who disappeared fifteen years ago.

Meanwhile, FBI agent Maggie O’Dell is investigating a series of murders — the victims tortured, killed, and dumped in the Potomac River. She suspects it’s the work of a cunning and brutal assassin, but her politically motivated boss has been putting up roadblocks.  By the time she uncovers a hit list with Creed’s name on it, it might be too late. The cartel has already sent someone to destroy Creed and everyone close to him.

But Creed and his dogs have a few surprises in store on their compound in Florida. 

What I liked:  Ryder Creed and all his dogs! Creed is an ex-marine, one of those ruggedly handsome guys with a penchant for taking in strays. He has a compound in Florida where he trains cadaver dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, and even drug sniffing dogs. That's what Grace, his Jack Russell terrier, does. She can also air scent, and she loves her pink elephant squeaky toy. Then there's Bolo, his overly protective Lab and several more. Ryder and ALL his dogs are awesome. I also liked FBI agent Maggie O'Dell. She's got an eye for detail and is trained as a profiler. She and Ryder make a great team. (Apparently Kava has written several mysteries with Maggie as the main character, but I haven' read any of those.)

This book is well-written. The mystery is compelling. And it reads fast. But it's the characters who made it a 4-star read for me.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

November's Bookish Art...

Carl Wilhelm Holsoe-- Interior with Woman Reading

"Between the pages of a book
is a lovely place to be."

Thursday, November 7, 2019

One Way by S.J. Morden

Xenosystems needs workers to help them build Mars Base One on time and under budget. They need men and women who won't ask too many questions, who will follow orders, who have the necessary skills, and who no one will miss. Most importantly, they need people who are expendable. Who do they find? Frank, Zeus, Marcy, Declan, Abigail, Zero and Dee--seven felons serving life sentences in a Panopticon prison.
"We've been bought and sold. Xenosystems owns Panopticon. Panopticon owns us. But we all said yes when they asked us to go to Mars. It's going to be as good as we want to make it. It's going to be our home from now on ... We do our jobs, we take care of ourselves, respect each other as human beings. You wanted more out of life than that? Maybe we should have all thought just a little bit harder about our life choices."

Of course, things never go as smoothly as one hopes. Frank quickly learns that as he and the others are put through a rigorous training somewhere in the Nevadan desert. They hope things will be better once they get to Mars...but they know they'll never really be free.
"XO are getting edgy over whether you can keep it together up there... Once you're on Mars, there's no Hole. No discipline. No one to keep you in line. You'll fall apart, and with it, the project. You know how much Uncle Sam is ponying up for this? ... Trillions. And you, and your fine fellows, are now the only people standing between Mars Base One and an expensive failure. Which is why I'm going with you."
I've always been drawn to books about exploring and colonizing Mars, and One Way by S.J. Morden does not disappoint. From the first page to the last, I could not put this one down. I immediately liked Frank, just an ordinary guy in prison for murder, who's also good at getting things done. Now he's on Mars trying to get the base built on time even though they don't have all the necessary equipment, all while keeping himself and his fellow prisoners alive despite their overseer's cold indifference. All he really wants to do is make it back home to see his son. But that's looking more and more iffy as everything on Mars starts to go wrong. There's science and mystery in this one, and adventure, too. The suspense really builds as XO's ultimate plan for the seven convicts is revealed. Talk about a compelling read!
"Mars was a thing. A living, breathing thing. ...Tomorrow, they'd all build, and by night fall they might have done enough to mean they'd actually made an impact on Mars. A Mars that had already taken two of them."
I'm glad this book has a sequel!
Happy Reading!


Monday, November 4, 2019

Mystery & Suspense...

Title & Author:  The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

The Setting:  Talgarth High, West Sussex, England

The Main Characters:  
CLARE CASSIDY -- a divorced high school English teacher who's writing a biography about the Gothic writer R.M. Holland (or at least trying to)
GEORGIA -- Clare's 15-year-old daughter who's into creative writing and Wicca (which her mother doesn't know)
HERBERT -- their fluffy white dog that's a cross between a cairn terrier and a poodle
DS HARBINDER KAUR -- the lead detective on the case who still lives with her parents and who also attended Talgarth High when she was a teenager

The Premise:  This well-written mystery begins with the murder of Ella Elphick, an English teacher at Talgarth High and Clare Cassidy's friend. The police think the murderer is someone Clare knows, but she can't imagine anyone wanting to kill Ella. Then she finds a note in her diary written in the same handwriting as the note the police found by Ella's body. How did the killer get hold of her diary? And is she next on the killer's list? Or is he killing for her?

My Thoughts:  Griffiths writes such engaging and compelling characters! The narrative rotates between three POVs: Clare's, Harbinder's, and Georgia's. And I liked them all. None of them are perfect, but I got caught up in each of their stories. Griffiths also weaves the fictional R.M. Holland's Gothic tale, The Stranger, throughout the narrative, adding another layer to this intriguing mystery. While I didn't guess the killer, I had fun trying to figure it out. I had even more fun reading this book with Melody. This is our fifth buddy read this year. Be sure to check out her review, and her questions for me that follow.

Happy Reading!

1. The author has written a suspenseful mystery with a Gothic tone in this story (and a story within as well.) What do you think of this "book within a book" concept? Generally, do you think it's a good addition or is it a diversion to the overall story?
I usually like it when an author uses this 'story within a story' device. It's always interesting to get an added layer and a secondary story to go along with the main one. But it doesn't always add to the mystery. In this book, for example, I think the overall story would have been the same with or without including those parts from Holland's short story, The Stranger, along the way. But even though the short story didn't tie in too tightly with the main mystery, I still thought it was fun to read. I just wish I could have read Holland's other short story, The Ravening Beast, too.  

2. To put this in a fun and hypothetical way, what do you think Harbinder and Gary had seen back when they were both students back at Talgarth High? Do you think it's the ghost of Alice Avery or is it their imagination, given the atmosphere of the old building?
Hmm... Harbinder doesn't strike me as the kind of person to be influenced by atmosphere or rumors of ghosts (even though she loved to read horror stories as a teen). So I'm going to say that they really did see the ghost of Alive Avery. The fact that neither she nor Gary ever told anyone about what they saw afterward also makes me think that they really did see something creepy and supernatural that night at the school that they both wanted to forget. I loved that practical, no-nonsense Harbinder had this unexplainable and eerie moment as a teen; it made me like her even more. 

Thanks, Melody, for another fun buddy read!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Haiku Reviews...

Day By Day Armageddon by J.L. Bourne

Written like a journal:
one man's fight to survive the
growing zombie hoard.

Apocalyptic fiction .... 200 pages .... 3/5 stars.
(There are a few flaws, and the ending felt way too abrupt, but overall a fun zombie read.)

Deadly Dreams by Kylie Brant

Ritual fires. Three cops dead.
Could Risa's psychic dreams help
Det. McGuire solve this case?

Mystery/Suspense .... 325 pages .... 4/5 stars.
(I really like Brant's Mindhunter Series!)

Murder at Half Moon Gate by Andrea Penrose

An inventor's murder
 draws Wrexford and Charlotte into
a maze of death and lies.

Historical mystery .... 358 pages .... 5/5 stars.
(I liked this one even better than Murder on Black Swan Lane.)

Cut and Run by Mary Burton

Missing girls, murder,
twin sisters separated at birth...
and one Texas Ranger.

Mystery/Suspense .... 323 pages .... 4/5 stars.
(Thanks for the recommendation, Rachel! I really liked this one.)

Happy Reading!