Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: Promise Lodge

Promise Lodge (Promise Lodge - Book 1) by Charlotte Hubbard

Publication Date: 02/23/2016
Publisher: Kensington
Imprint: Zebra
Genre: Christian Fiction
Pages: 320
ISBN-10142013941X
ISBN-13978-1420139419

(Received for an honest review from Kensington Zebra)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Charlotte Hubbard on the WEB: WebsiteFacebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from Promise Lodge, courtesy of the author's website

Synopsis:

It's a better life, a fresh start--and a heaven-sent second chance. Founded by three Amish sisters determined to put misfortune behind them, Promise Lodge is a colony where faith's abiding promise can be fulfilled--and love can make all things new…

Energetic widow Mattie Bender Schwartz is working day and night to get Promise Lodge going. She's also hoping the change will help her son Noah's heart to heal after his broken engagement. But his former fiancĂ©e, Deborah, is looking for a fresh start too. Filled with regret, and cast out by her dat for a reason she can't yet reveal, Deborah can only pray Noah will forgive her foolishness. 

Deborah is the last person Noah expected to show up at Promise Lodge. But with her cruel words still ringing in his head, he's reluctant to accept her apology--even if the Old Order ways demand he try. If only he could obey Christ's most important commandment: love one another. But one thing is certain--his mother and aunts, and their beloved Preacher Amos, will do their best to help him get there. 


Thoughts:

Charlotte Hubbard brings readers a story of faith and second chances in her new book, Promise Lodge. Christian Fiction readers who are looking for a book that tackles some of the big issues in Amish communities will find Hubbard's take a refreshing and honest portrayal of the good and the bad. Hubbard doesn't shy away from the hard questions nor do her characters turn a blind eye to violence and abuse. This is an interesting take on the Plain People.

What I liked:

I want to start off by saying that I had some issues with this book in the beginning. But there were also some very good things about this one as well. Hubbard gives readers some intriguing characters in the three sisters, Mattie, Rosetta and Christine. But it was Deborah who really stole the show here. The sisters have decided to leave their community due to some issues involving abuse and violence. They start Promise Lodge, a new community dedicated to caring for those looking for a new start. Deborah arrives at Promise Lodge looking to renew her relationship with Mattie's son, Noah after being thrown out of her own community. 

Hubbard does a wonderful job with giving readers interesting characters who are facing some pretty tough decisions in their lives. The sisters give up everything for a new start. They are very independent and smart, but they do have some strong opinions. Not exactly what you would expect from typical Amish characters. I think Hubbard was going for something different. She wanted to show a different side of the Amish community and she had to have strong characters to pull that off. Deborah is a strong woman in her own right. But she has made some mistakes along the way... haven't we all. I loved her a lot. I wanted her to find love, but most than that I wanted her to find herself and Hubbard shows a lot of growth in all of the characters throughout the book.

I also enjoyed the atmosphere of this book. There is just something about a fresh start, the beginning of something new that kind of pervades this book. Readers will feel like they want to jump right in and help get Promise Lodge ready for some new inhabitants. I loved the idea that Hubbard was trying to convey. I think she wanted readers to see that the Amish have some of the same problems everybody else has. They may live a more simple lifestyle so far as possessions are concerned but their family lives can in some cases be as traumatic as anyone else. 

What I didn't like:

I had some issues with this one. I wanted to love it all and there were parts that I really enjoyed. The premise was good, second chances and forgiveness, that's exactly what I would expect from a Christian novel, especially one involving the Amish. I love Amish stories. I love the simplistic life and the fact that faith and family are most important.

I also realize that not every Amish family is perfect. They have their issues the same as any community. But I felt like Hubbard was especially hard on the Amish here. She portrayed them in the beginning of the book as slave drivers, abusive and violent with leaders who tolerate or even encourage that kind of behavior. She does redeem that idea along the way, but I think the damage was already done. She was trying to show the seedier side, but she forgot to say that most Amish are not this way. I just felt ill at ease with the portrayal of the Amish in this one. This wasn't just a few instances along the way, it made it seem like every Amish family was hiding deep dark secrets. More judgmental than I was expecting.

The sisters had a great idea, striking out on their own and showing they had it in them to be independent and strong women, but there were moments that it seemed a bit too overdone. They were crossing the line between being women who could take care of themselves and being women who thought no man was worthy to try to take care of them. I'm a pretty independent gal, but I also love tenderness and passion in my life. You can't always get that from a friend. I just wanted to see the sisters believe that a man was good for something other than piling on abuse or making them a slave to their wishes. 

Bottom Line:

I love Amish fiction and thankfully this is not the only Amish story I have ever read. I loved the characters and the premise of the book, but that love kind of got lost in the details for me. I felt like the author was trying to show a different side of the Amish community but she didn't do the best job of pointing out that not every Amish family is like this. I loved the sisters, but they got a little overbearing. Deborah was the shining jewel in this book and her character showed me that Hubbard is worth reading again. I hope to see her lighten up a little bit with the story lines in later books in the series. Not every Amish man is abusive and not every Amish woman feels like a slave. Take it all with a grain of salt and let me know what you think of this one.

Promise Lodge is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 3 out of 5 apples from my book bag!





About the Author:


Drawing upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi, longtime Missourian Charlotte Hubbard writes of simpler times and a faith-based lifestyle in her new Promise Lodge series. Charlotte considers it her personal mission to feed people--to share hearth and home. Faith and family, farming and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle, and the foundation of all her Amish romance series. She's a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and when she's not writing, she loves to try new recipes, crochet, and sew. Charlotte now lives in Minnesota with her husband and their border collie.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Review: Bitter Bite

Bitter Bite (Elemental Assassins - Book 14) by Jennifer Estep

Publication Date: 02/23/2016
Publisher: Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books
Imprint: Pocket
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 400
ISBN-101501111272
ISBN-13978-1501111273

(Received for an honest review from Pocket Books)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Jennifer Estep on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

Elemental Assassin

1. Spider's Bite
2. Web of Lies
3. Venom
4. Tangled Threads
5. Spider's Revenge
5.5. Thread of Death
6. By a Thread
7. Widow's Web
8. Deadly Sting
8.5. Kiss of Venom
8.25. Parlor Tricks
9. Heart of Venom
10. The Spider
11. Poison Promise
12. Black Widow
13. Spider's Trap
14. Bitter Bite


Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.




Excerpt from Bitter Bite, courtesy of the author's website

Synopsis:

Which is stronger: blood ties or a battle-tested friendship? That’s the question Gin Blanco asks when a friend’s long-lost relative strolls into town. The suspicious reunion is a surprise for everyone—and a big problem for Gin. Book fourteen in the New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series RT Book Reviews calls “unbeatable entertainment!”

It’s not easy being queen bee of an underworld abuzz with crooks and killers. Wielding my potent Ice and Stone elemental magic will only get me so far—my real secret is my tight-knit makeshift family, a motley crew of cops and criminals, dwarves and playboys. My foster brother Finnegan Lane is my right-hand man, but when his suddenly not-dead relative comes back into the picture, I’m the one on the outside looking in.

It’s funny how life works: one minute your best friend is rock-steady, and the next he’s doe-eyed and buying into this whole loving-relative routine to the point of ignoring you. I’d like to be happy for Finn, I really would. But all of my instincts are telling me that beneath the syrupy sweet demeanor and old-fashioned charm, this sudden interloper is planning something. The whole shtick leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. This person might have avoided the grave once, but I’ll put anyone who hurts Finn in the ground—for good.


Thoughts:

Gin Blanco is an assassin and a good one. In Jennifer Estep's fourteenth Elemental Assassin's book, Bitter Bite, readers get to see a more emotional Gin. When her relationship with foster brother, Finn is challenged by a long lost relative, Gin takes the high road. But as always she ends up with a stack of bodies in her wake and her heart on her sleeve. Fans of this iconic series will love this addition to the series. Is this a new story arc, I see? And a bit of a cliff hanger... oh my!

What I liked:

This series is kind of close to my heart. When I picked the very first book in this series, Estep had me from page one. If you read a lot of books like I do, there are authors that are run of the mill and when you pick up their books, it's nothing really new or exciting. With Jennifer Estep's books it's a whole other kind of experience. Estep's attention to detail is so remarkable that readers can almost feel the pinch of Gin's knife as it goes in. Her descriptions are next to flawless. Her style is somewhat raw and edgy but it really works with this series. Love the author and have loved every book in this series. Bitter Bite was no different.

I, like most fans of the Elemental Assassins series, know that the end is near. I figured with Bitter Bite readers would start to see that final push to the end of the series. What really surprised me was that Estep had something different in mind. She does wrap up some story lines in this one, but that's typical of the author. She never leaves you hanging too long on any given thread. But she also starts a whole new story arc. It may be the last one and if it is, then she starts it off with a bang. I can't wait to see what happens to my favorite assassin and her cadre of quirky friends and associates.

Gin and Finn have always been close. The bond between them is one of the things that I have liked most about this series. In Bitter Bite, that bond takes a hit. Finn has to makes some not so savory decisions in this book that will have fans of the series scratching their heads. Readers will on one hand want Finn to be happy but on the other hand they will cry for what he is throwing away. I thought Estep did a great job of showing that familial bonds are not necessarily as strong as the bonds with make in life sometimes. A great look into this wonderful relationship.

Gin is over course Gin. Such an amazing heroine throughout this series. She is an assassin, but not one of those cold fishes you would expect. The Spider is deadly and she has her wicked moments but she is still a woman, and the thought of someone hurting her dear friend is about all she can take. Yet she stands back and watches and lets Finn make his own decisions. That's what a real friend does. Gin has a lot on her plate in this book and pretty big baddie to take care of. I was into the relationship parts of this book as I was into the action. Such a great balance.

Bottom Line:

I loved this one. I always love books from this author. Yes, Gin is a female assassin. Yes, she has elemental earth magic. Yes, it has a paranormal twist. All of those are things that I love, but it's a lot more with this author. Something about this series just appeals to me and I think there will be plenty of readers who agree. The details are precise, the descriptions are so realistic. I just can't say enough good things. Bitter Bite is anything but... 

Bitter Bite is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:



Jennifer Estep is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea. Spider’s Bite, Web of Lies, Venom, Tangled Threads, Spider’s Revenge, By a Thread, Widow’s Web, Deadly Sting, Heart of VenomThe Spider, Poison Promise, Black Widow, Spider’s Trap, Bitter Bite, and Unraveled, along with the e-shorts Thread of Death, Parlor Tricks, and Kiss of Venom, are the other works in her red-hot Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. Jennifer is also the author of the Black Blade and Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series and the Bigtime paranormal romance series. For more on Jennifer and her books, visit her at www.JenniferEstep.com and @Jennifer_Estep.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Review: A Girl's Guide to Moving On

A Girl's Guide to Moving On (New Beginnings - Book 2) by Debbie Macomber

Publication Date: 02/23/2016
Publisher: Random House
Imprint: Ballantine
Genre: Women's Fiction/ Romance
Pages: 352
ISBN-100553391925
ISBN-13978-0553391923

(Received for an honest review from Ballantine Books)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Debbie Macomber on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

New Beginnings 

1. Last One Home
2. A Girl's Guide to Moving On


Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.




Excerpt from A Girl's Guide to Moving On, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature

Synopsis:

In this powerful and uplifting novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber, a mother and her daughter-in-law bravely leave their troubled marriages and face the challenge of starting over. Leaning on each other, Nichole and Leanne discover that their inner strength and capacity for love are greater than they ever imagined.

When Nichole discovers that her husband, Jake, has been unfaithful, the illusion of her perfect life is indelibly shattered. While juggling her young son, a new job, and volunteer work, Nichole meets Rocco, who is the opposite of Jake in nearly every way. Though blunt-spoken and rough around the edges, Rocco proves to be a dedicated father and thoughtful friend. But just as their relationship begins to blossom, Jake wagers everything on winning Nichole back—including their son Owen’s happiness. Somehow, Nichole must find the courage to defy her fears and follow her heart, with far-reaching consequences for them all.

Leanne has quietly ignored her husband’s cheating for decades, but is jolted into action by the echo of Nichole’s all-too-familiar crisis. While volunteering as a teacher of English as a second language, Leanne meets Nikolai, a charming, talented baker from Ukraine. Resolved to avoid the heartache and complications of romantic entanglements, Leanne nonetheless finds it difficult to resist Nikolai’s effusive overtures—until an unexpected tragedy tests the very fabric of her commitments.

An inspiring novel of friendship, reinvention, and hope, A Girl’s Guide to Moving On affirms the ability of every woman to forge a new path, believe in love, and fearlessly find happiness.


Thoughts:

Debbie Macomber brings readers an inspiring new story of two women reinventing themselves after facing infidelity. Cheating runs in the family in this novel and readers will sympathize with Leanne and Nichole and their husbands cheating ways. Many readers will be able to relate to this novel no matter what reason they have for starting over. A great new book from a trusted author.

What I liked:

I have read so many books by this author. Debbie Macomber is one of my go to writers when it comes to heartwarming, feel good stories. She has a knack for developing characters a reader might meet on the street in their own town. They are very down to earth and accessible. These are the kind of characters readers can easily identify with and sympathize with. Macomber also excels at creating an atmosphere where her characters can grow. Readers will see a lot of growth in the ladies from Macomber's latest book, A Girl's Guide to Moving On.

Macomber's new book is somewhat of a departure from her usual style. It is the second book in Macomber's New Beginnings series. A Girl's Guide to Moving On is not as dependent on setting as was Macomber's Cedar Cove series or the Blossom Street books. This novel is more character driven and has a different feel to it. Some long time fans of the author might find that a little disconcerting, but I liked it. I thought Macomber sawed how versatile she was as a author. Proves that an author can be very successful breaking out of their comfort zone. 

Macomber's characters, Leanne and Nichole are finding life outside their comfort zone as well. Both women are the victims of infidelity. Leanne has spent years with an unfaithful husband and Nichole marries Leanne's son, who also become unfaithful. I'm not going to say it... yes I am... Like father, like son. Ughh! I wasn't too sure I was going to able to sympathize with Leanne because she stayed in the marriage so long, and basically turned a blind eye to Sean's infidelity. But, I think she like a lot of women. Afraid to take that first step because of the harsh changes it might require in her life. I started to see her as a women who finally has enough. Someone who finally decides to take her life back and that was amazing. 

Nichole on the other hand didn't let the grass grow under her feet when she finds out that Jake has been unfaithful and gotten another woman pregnant. What I really loved about her character was the fact that she didn't just leave Leanne to her own devices. Not many women would try to help her mother in law the way Nichole did. She hated to see her in the same situation. I loved the friendship that developed between them. Friends between women can be such a wonderful thing and Macomber just knows how to write them. 

Both women have a second chance to reinvent themselves and be who they want to be. Infidelity doesn't have to be the reason for that in a woman's life. I think this would be a great book for a reader who might be like my mom. We recently lost my dad in an accident and my mom is finding herself in a position where she has to reinvent herself whether she wants to or not. For now it's hard, but I can see her eventually stepping out into the world and finding her new place in it. Any reader who is looking for a book about finding themselves or changing up their life will love this book.

What I didn't like:

This book is women's fiction. There is some romance, but that is certainly not the focus of the book. Most readers who are used to reading Debbie Macomber's books will be expecting a lot more romance than they will get with this one. It's just something they will want to remember when picking it up. Nichole meet's Rocco, a tow truck driver and Leanne meets Nikolai, a baker. Part of moving on with your life is moving on with your relationships and that was an important step for both women. But this one isn't all about the love story and I actually like it for that reason. Not really what I didn't like about the book, but what some people might not like.

Bottom Line:

If you love Debbie Macomber you are gonna love this book. It's more women's fiction than romance and for me that wasn't a bad thing, just something readers may want to consider before picking it up. I loved the friendship between the two main characters and the whole theme of reinventing themselves. There was a point where the men in their lives decided they wanted them back and I got a little worried, but I think readers will love the choices they make. A great new book by Macomber.

A Girl's Guide to Moving On is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!





About the Author:


Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today's most popular writers with more than 170 million copies of her books in print worldwide. In her novels, Macomber brings to life compelling relationships that embrace family and enduring friendships, uplifting her readers with stories of connection and hope. Macomber's novels have spent over 750 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Eight of these novels hitting the number one spot.

In 2015, Macomber's all-new hardcover novels include Last One Home (March), Silver Linings (August) and Dashing Through The Snow (October). Paperback editions will be issued in 2015 for Blossom Street Brides (March) and her Christmas novel, Mr. Miracle (October). In addition to fiction, Macomber has published cookbooks; inspirational and nonfiction works; as well as acclaimed children's books.In addition to fiction Macomber has also published two bestselling cookbooks; numerous inspirational and nonfiction works; and two acclaimed children's books.

Macomber's Cedar Cove Series became Hallmark Channel's first dramatic scripted television series, Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove, now enjoying its third season. In addition, Macomber's upcoming Christmas novel, Dashing Through the Snow, will be adapted as a Hallmark Channel movie in fall 2015. 

Macomber owns the Victorian Rose Tea Room and A Good Yarn Shop, named after those she featured in her novels. She and her husband, Wayne, serve on the Guideposts National Advisory Cabinet, and she is World Vision's international spokesperson for their Knit for Kids charity initiative.

A devoted grandmother, Debbie and her husband Wayne live in Port Orchard, Washington (the town on which her Cedar Cove novels are based) and winter in Florida.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review: Ghost Talker

Ghost Talker (Ghost Seer - Book 4) by Robin D. Owens

Publication Date: 02/16/2016
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: InterMix
Genre: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Pages: 281
  • ASIN: B00RW1VN7E

(Received for an honest review from InterMix)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, itunes, Kobo

Robin D. Owens on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

Ghost Seer

1. Ghost Seer
2. Ghost Layer
3. Ghost Killer
4. Ghost Talker

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.




Excerpt from Ghost Talker, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.

Synopsis:

In the latest from the author of Ghost Killer, Clare Cermak and Zach Slade adjust to living as psychics—and a couple—as they encounter vengeful souls...
 
An angry poltergeist is stirring up trouble at Buffalo Bill’s grave, and Clare and Zach have been hired to investigate. Assisting them on the case as usual is their ghost dog Enzo, but they’re also aided by the restless ghost of Bill’s friend, Texas Jack. Meanwhile, the most well-known psychic in Denver is angered by Clare’s involvement in the case and will do whatever it takes to stop her.
 
Of course, facing threats both living and undead are nothing new for Clare and Zach. Their relationship has weathered many storms. But there is a growing danger inside of Clare that could tear them both apart...


Thoughts:

Robin D. Owens returns to the Ghost Seer series with the fourth book, Ghost Talker. Readers who have followed the series, will love that Clare and Zach are settling into their relationship and into life as psychics. This is a series that takes the original paranormal character, the ghost, and uses it as the focal point for a couple of psychics who solve crimes and lay ghosts for a living. Intrigued yet? You should be... this is a great new addition to the series!

What I liked:

I have read this entire series and loved every book. Robin D. Owens is a celebrated author, but this series is a bit of a change for her. The other books she has written were more of a cross between science fiction and paranormal romance. This series is something different. It leans more to the paranormal romance side but also has some very good mystery aspects. Zach is a former cop who has some psychic abilities that he has refused to explore until he meets Clare who has only recently learned to use her gift for laying ghosts or helping them reach the other side.

In Owens' latest installment to the series, the couple is finally getting used to the idea that they can see more than the average person, including a ghost dog named Enzo. What I liked so much about this one was the way Zach and Clare worked together. Clare's gift is generally confined to a certain time period. Ghosts of the old west, which is explored in every book in the series. In this one Buffalo Bill's grave is stirring up some trouble and his friend Texas Jack is haunting Clare. He won't rest until it's sorted out. Zach is ever by Clare's side and helping her to solve her cases. I loved the way they worked together and how Owen's incorporates Zach's abilities as well. 

I have wanted Zach to embrace his psychic abilities from the beginning and seeing him so relaxed and comfortable in his own skin was great in this one. Clare brings out that part of him, just like she brings out his psychic gift. The chemistry between these two has always been great but in this one it seems more real and lasting than before. Zach needs her and she needs him. A great couple and very fun to read about. I like their passion and their romantic sides as well.

What I didn't like:

I love this series. Nothing to dislike here. If you like the paranormal, this one has everything you need in a good series. If you like romance it has that too. And there is mystery. How many books have all three? Not too many.

Bottom Line:

Buffalo Bill has always been one of those old west characters that I have loved. He was such a big personality and I liked that the mystery involved Bill and his friend Texas Jack. I always wondered how things might have been between these two in real life. Owens does a fantastic job of incorporating historical elements into her stories. I love Zach and Clare and the fact that both of them are becoming comfortable with each other and their abilities. A great addition to this wonderful series!

Ghost Talker is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag.





About the Author:


RITA® Award Winning novelist Robin D. Owens credits the telepathic cat with attitude in selling her first futuristic/fantasy romance, HeartMate, published in December 2001. Since then she has written fourteen books in the series, Heart Fire the latest in November, 2014.
Her five book Luna series included average American women Summoned into another dimension to save a world. Her Mystic Circle series was a mixture of contemporary urban and romantic fantasy set in Denver.
And her newest stories, about an uptight accountant who sees Old West ghosts and helps them move on, will start with Ghost Seer in April of 2014. She is profoundly thankful to be recipient of the 2004 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year award as well as the 2011 Writer of the Year Award, the Colorado Romance Writers Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2010 Best Paranormal and Best of the Best Daphne Du Maurier Award…actually, after winning an award she tends to dance around bored cats.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review and Giveaway: A Familiar Tail

A Familiar Tail (Witch's Cat Mystery - Book 1) by Delia James

Publication Date: 02/02/2016
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Obsidian
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 336
ISBN-100451476573
ISBN-13978-0451476579

(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Delia James on the WEB: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from A Familiar Tail, courtesy of the author's website.

Synopsis:

Magic and meows meet in the first enchanting Witch’s Cat mystery!
 
Unlucky-in-love artist Annabelle Britton decides that a visit to the seaside town of  Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is the perfect way to get over her problems. But when she stumbles upon a smoky gray cat named Alastair, and follows him into a charming cottage, Annabelle finds herself in a whole spellbook full of trouble.
 
Suddenly saddled with a witch's wand and a furry familiar, Annabelle soon meets a friendly group of women who use their spells, charms, and potions to keep the people of Portsmouth safe. But despite their gifts, the witches can’t prevent every wicked deed in town....
 
Soon, the mystery surrounding Alistair’s former owner, who died under unusual circumstances, grows when another local turns up dead. Armed with magic, friends, and the charmed cat who adopted her more than the other way around, Annabelle sets out to paw through the evidence and uncover a killer.


Thoughts:

Delia James starts readers off with the first book in a new paranormal cozy mystery series. The first book in The Witch's Cat mystery series, A Familiar Tail introduces readers to Annabelle Britton who has no idea that the 'vibes' she has had all her life are a bit on the witchy side. Readers looking for a series that is mysterious and magical will find this one right up their alley. With everything from covens to cats, this is a story readers won't soon forget.

What I liked:

As many of you know I am a big fan of paranormal reading and a big fan of cozy mysteries. With Delia James' new series, you get a little bit of both. The paranormal characters in this book happen to be witches, but a knowledge of witchcraft isn't needed to enjoy it. The mystery surrounds the death of woman who has a large cat that attaches itself to the heroine. Both parts of the story work in combination to give the reader an interesting read that has a great paranormal premise.

When it comes to reading this kind of book, I look for a couple of things, background and the balance between paranormal and mystery elements. This is the first book in the series, so we don't have a lot to go on, as far as, background in the beginning. James does a wonderful job of describing Annabelle and her gift. We also meet Alastair, the cat and we learn a lot about Annabelle's family and their connections to the town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Annabelle learns that her vibes are feelings related to the fact that she is a witch. All of this really held my interest as I got to know the heroine and her feline friend. So James gets top marks for the background part of the story. 

Balance is everything when it comes to a series that has to basically marry two genres. James had to give readers a good mystery and a good paranormal tale. I felt like this book leaned a little more to the magical side of things but that stemmed from setting up the series in general. James had to give readers a lot of background here and most of it had to do with witches and covens and the like. The mystery was still a prominent part of the story. 

There's a killer in Portsmouth and Annabelle and her new found friends must figure out whodunit. I liked the mystery aspects of the story for a couple of reasons. Alastair, the cat, belonged to the victim. He has taken up with Annabelle and he such a great part of the story. He basically leads Annabelle to the cottage where is owner lies dead and where the story truly begins. The clues were well thought out and they occurred at the right times in the story. There weren't a lot of red herrings, but that didn't seem necessary with all of the other things going on. When a second murder occurs, things get even more complicated. A very good mystery and paranormal even though the balance was a little off.

What I didn't like:

There wasn't much I didn't like about this one. I was skeptical because there are so many books that involve magical cats. I was expecting it to be a little predictable, but to my surprise it wasn't. Also, most of the paranormal cozies are about witches. I figured that part would be overused as well. But James proved me wrong by giving this one an interesting premise that dealt with witches but wasn't really contingent on knowledge of the craft. So no real complaints here.

Bottom Line:

This is a great new cozy mystery with some very interesting paranormal aspects. Annabelle was a believable heroine and she asked a lot of the right questions. Alastair is a character I am sure than many readers will enjoy. The other ladies of the coven will probably provide great future stories. For the first book in a new series, this one had great background and the balance was pretty good, though not perfect. Read this one... it might change your mind about paranormal cozies.

A Familiar Tail is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!






About the Author:


Born in California and raised in Michigan, Delia James writes her tales of magic, cats, and mystery from her hundred-year-old bungalow home. When not writing, she hikes, swims, gardens, cooks, reads, and raises her rapidly growing son.


Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of A Familiar Tail by Delia James.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US Addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, March 8th.

1. Please leave a comment describing a favorite cat you may have had or someone close to you has or had.

2. Please fill out the FORM.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: To Catch a Rake

To Catch a Rake (Rake's Handbook - Book 3) by Sally Orr

Publication Date: 02/02/2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Imprint: Casablanca
Genre: Historical Romance
Pages: 352
ISBN-101492630039
ISBN-13978-1492630036

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Casablanca)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Sally Orr on the WEB: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

Rake's Handbook

1. The Rake's Handbook
2. When a Rake Falls
3. To Catch a Rake
The Rake's Field Guide


Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.




Excerpt from To Catch a Rake, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.

Synopsis:


No Good Rake Goes Unpunished

When George Drexel used his vast experience with women to write and publish The Rake's Handbook: Including Field Guide, little did he realize the havoc it would cause. Now years later, the rumor of a second edition has London's naughtiest widows pounding on his door, begging to be included. But George has given up his roguish ways and wants nothing more than to be left alone with his architectural pursuits...until beautiful Meta Russell tempts him from his work and leaves him contemplating an altogether different sort of plan.

The handbook may be years out of print, but it still has the power to ruin lives. Desperate to save her sister-whose inclusion has left her jilted-Meta tracks down the rake responsible, only to find a man who steals her breath and leaves her reeling. Banding together to put things to rights, George and Meta find themselves drawn inexorably together...but can Meta truly trust her heart to a man who wrote the book on being a rake?


Thoughts:

The Rake's Handbook series continues with the third novel, To Catch a Rake. Author Sally Orr captivates readers with eccentric characters and an interesting premise. Orr uses the historical building of the Thames Tunnel to give her novel credibility and authenticity. Readers who enjoy a good romance from this time period, with snippets of accurate historical detail will love this one. Orr shines in her third book in this popular series!

What I liked:

I love historical romances. I love the setting and the opulence. I love the characters and social norms in these kinds of novels. But the most important thing for me in finding a historical romance that I really enjoy is accuracy. Having read a ton of historical romances, it is easy to pick out those authors who have done their homework and those that just write with a lick and a promise. Sally Orr is a writer who knows what she is doing. It is obvious from all of her books that she has done her research and cares about adding real historical events that bring the period to life.

In To Catch a Rake, Orr uses the building of the Thames Tunnel as a backdrop to her romance. George Drexel, Orr's leading man, is an architect who is working on the project. What makes this interesting is the fact that the tunnels exists and was being constructed during the time period in which the book is set. I loved the historical detail and thought this added so much to the already wonderful romance. I love it when an author gets it right and Orr certainly does here.

The romantic aspects of the book also very well written and enjoyable. Meta's sister Lily has just lost her fiancee due to the fact that her initials may appear in a rather controversial novel, The Rake's Handbook. George is a driven and ambitious architect, but he also the author of the dreaded book. Meta sets out to prove that her sister is not one of the women that George has written about, but when she meets him she is completely blindsided by his charm and wit and his duty to his family. 

Orr gives readers a hero that is kind and generous, but who is also very intelligent and charming. George was a great hero. One of those men a lady wished she could meet. But he obviously has a bit of a wild side, because The Rake's Handbook is quite detailed. It was a fictional account and really had nothing to do with Meta's sister, but it brought the hero and the heroine together in this book, and made for a really unique story. George wasn't a brooding hero, he was just a man on a mission, driven and a bit eccentric. He was quite enjoyable to read about.

Meta, the heroine, is a widow who takes care of her younger siblings and her family. Family means everything to her and when her sister's reputation is at stake she has to take steps to put the situation to rights. She goes to George with intentions of making him change things for Lily, but she doesn't expect to find someone she is very attracted too. I loved watching her let down her guard and finally let George into her heart. This was one of those romances that has some steam and passion, but one that will also make readers feel warm and fuzzy and generally satisfied by the romance.

Bottom Line:

This one could have been your typical run of the mill historical romance, but Sally Orr makes all the difference with heartfelt romance and wonderful historical detail. I fell in love with George and his tunnel project. He was eccentric and passionate. Meta would have done anything for her sister and as a heroine she stood out among the many. Loved this one! You will too...

To Catch a Rake is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!




About the Author:


Sally Orr is a recovering scientist who worked for thirty years in medical research. One day a cyber-friend challenged her to write a novel. Since she is a hopeless Anglophile, it's not surprising that her first book is a Regency romance. She lives with her husband in San Diego, surrounded by too many books and not enough old English cars.

You can sign up for her newsletter at http://www.sallyorr.com/


Friday, February 19, 2016

Review and Giveaway: For Cheddar or Worse

For Cheddar or Worse (Cheese Shop Mystery - Book 7) by Avery Aames

Publication Date: 02/02/2016
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 320
ISBN-100425273326
ISBN-13978-0425273326

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Avery Aames (aka. Daryl Wood Gerber) on the WEB: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

Cheese Shop Mystery

1. The Long Quiche Goodbye
2. Lost and Fondue
3. Clobbered by Camembert
4. To Brie or Not To Brie
5. Days of Wine and Roquefort
6. As Gouda as Dead
7. For Cheddar or Worse


Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.




Excerpt from For Cheddar or Worse, courtesy of the author's website.

Synopsis:

In the new Cheese Shop Mystery from the Agatha Award-winning author of As Gouda as Dead, an extra-sharp tongued cheese critic is cut down during a summer cheese festival.

It’s time for the annual Cheese Festival in Providence, Ohio, and Charlotte Bessette’s cheese shop is packed with homemade specialties. Meanwhile, her friend Erin is prepping her dairy farm and inn for cheese makers, marketers, journalists, and one surprise guest—Lara Berry, pretentious cheese whiz, pompous bestselling author, and pungent critic whose extra sharp tongue can crumble a reputation. 
 
Even though any love for Lara by her friends curdled long ago, Charlotte is surprised when the foodie is smothered to death in her room at Erin’s inn. Accusations start flying, but the one laying blame on Erin strikes Charlotte as a crock. Now, to clear her friend’s name, Charlotte has to sift through Lara’s ex-lovers, former business partners, and unforgiving enemies to find a killer before Lara’s past casts a tainted pall on the festival’s future.


Thoughts:

Author Avery Aames concludes her Cheese Shop Mystery series with the seventh book, For Cheddar or Worse. Readers who have followed the series throughout it's publication will be sad to see it end. Charlotte Bessette's cheese shop is the pride of Providence, Ohio, but her antics as an amateur sleuth is what has readers coming back for more. Aames wraps this one up nicely with a well crafted mystery that is full of surprises and plenty of yummy cheese!

What I Liked:

So sad to see this one end. The Cheese Shop series has been one of my favorites. Though I have not reviewed every book in the series, I have read them all and loved how the series progressed. Avery Aames gives readers a captivating setting, wonderfully drawn characters and plenty of mystery in each of the books in this series. Returning to each book is like visiting an old friend. It's warm and cozy and just a bit intense with each mystery. Loved them all!

For Cheddar or Worse is the last book in the series and those are always hard for an author in my opinion. There are so many loose ends that need to be tied up and each character's growth and development has to come to close. Aames does a wonderful job with this final book. Charlotte is finally married to the love her life, Jordan. Erin's bed, breakfast and dairy farm is a success and the cheese lovers of Providence are going to see some murder free days. 

This book had everything a reader could want in a final installment. The annual cheese festival has come to Providence and with it, a lot of cheese lovers, marketers and journalists. There are a few unexpected guests. Lara Berry is not very well liked in the cheese community because of her condescending attitude and harsh dictates. And then there is the murderer who kills her. Neither were wanted at the cheese fest, but it makes for an interesting mystery. Lots of well thought out clues, motives galore and the suspect pool is large. Aames excels at red herrings and keeping the reader guessing.

One of my favorite parts of this series is the people and characters that inhabit Providence. Aames always creates characters that readers want to know more about whether they are re-occurring or just around for one book, they are all well drawn and have the kind of depth readers need in a good mystery. I was happy to see that Charlotte and her friends have their own happy endings, as well as, a great final mystery.

What I didn't like:

I have always felt that this series focused more on the people than on the mystery in each book and that's not a bad thing. But for mystery purists and readers who are all about the sleuthing it might seem like something is missing. Don't get me wrong I loved learning about Charlotte and Jordan and her other friends, family and townspeople, but sometimes I wanted to know more about who was dead and why. Make sense?

Bottom Line:

This has been an awesome series and I hate to see it end, but Avery Aames will likely give us more great mysteries in the future. Aames ends this series on a good note. The story was engaging and finding the killer was not easy. I didn't get it figured out until the big reveal and that's always nice. Another great book by a well liked author in the genre.

For Cheddar or Worse is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:


Avery Aames is the nationally bestselling author of A CHEESE SHOP MYSTERY series for Berkley Prime Crime. The first, The Long Quiche Goodbye, won the Agatha Award for "Best First Novel." Avery is the pseudonym for Daryl Wood Gerber. Daryl writes the nationally bestselling COOKBOOK NOOK MYSTERIES. Daryl also created the format for the popular sit-com, "Out of this World" and has won awards for her screenplays. Both Avery and Daryl like to read, cook, and garden. 

Avery & Daryl blog at Mystery Lovers Kitchen, http://www.mysteryloverskitchen.com - 
a blog for foodies who love mysteries. 

And some of their characters show up at the Killer Characters blog, http://killercharacters.com 

Visit Avery at her website: http://www.averyaames.com to see a sneak preview, her book trailer, find recipes, and more.
Visit Daryl at her website: http://www.darylwoodgerber.com for the same.



Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of For Cheddar or Worse by Avery Aames.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US Addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, March 4th.

1. Please leave a comment describing your favorite cheese or cheese dish.

2. Please fill out the FORM.