Let’s talk about READING:
As the third child in a family of six, my mother didn’t have time to read us all bedtime stories. Fortunately, I was blessed with a vivid imagination. I’d tell myself stories of fairy princesses and mythical creatures until I nodded off to sleep, and eventually moved on to making up new ones for my nieces and nephews as they grew up. You’d think that would mean I took to reading like a fish to water. Nuh-uh! School nearly squashed any desire I might have had to read a book when they put Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Woodlanders’ on our required reading list. It wasn’t until my early teens that I met Agatha Christie (fictionally speaking, of course) and discovered the real joy of reading. I still read mostly cozy mystery and quite enjoy the new-ish subgenre of light paranormal mystery.
Here’s what I #amReading right now:
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Suggested Reading (with my comments):
Writing a review helps other readers to find a good book so I make an effort to write up my thoughts about a story I’ve enjoyed and then post it on GOODREADS – and no, I don’t take author requests or compensation of any kind; I’m strictly being a reader here! If you are also a reader, feel free to add your favourite mysteries in the comments for others to try along with why you enjoyed them.
Following are the latest books that I’ve read and want to recommend to others:
View all my reviews
In THE LEFT-BEHIND BRIDE, author Mahrie G. Reid does a superlative job in capturing the frustrations, hardships and courage of women who lost their men in WW1 while also gaining confidence in their own abilities to work outside the boundaries of household chores and childrearing.
When war and the sea steal two chances at love, Maggie Conrad Benson knows she has to rely on her own strength to support herself and her younger brother, but society in 1920s Nova Scotia is not supportive of independent women and her efforts are thwarted at every turn.
The author deftly captures the flavor of the prohibition era, maritime culture and the outport traditions of her setting and honors this generation of resilient women on the cusp of personhood. Maggie’s story rings true as I found myself reminded of my own grandmother’s ‘sock money’ tucked away in secret so that she wouldn’t be left penniless in an emergency. This is a book for fans of Canadiana, women’s studies or just a great yarn about rum runners and the high seas! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
I requested Grave Secrets by Alice James from NetGalley, with no obligations, as an uncorrected Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) but even without the final polishing, there is no doubt this one is a gem. It’s been an exceptionally long time since I’ve had to stop reading to wipe the tears from my eyes because I was laughing so hard. That’s what happened before I was even a quarter of the way into the book. The protagonist, Lavington (Toni) Windsor, a real estate agent by day and necromancer by night, is delightful as the first-person narrator of this story, a twist on Stephanie Plum with Vampires and Zombies. With lines like, “What I lack in strategy, I make up for in overkill!” Toni barrels through a fast-paced adventure that is not without its share of blood and guts but is also full of warmth and friendship, romance, and great humor. The setting of rugged rural Britain, with cozy village life, is seamlessly woven into the plot and further reinforced by the British colloquialisms peppered throughout the dialogue.
GRAVE SECRETS is the first of a series and the author hints in the Acknowledgements that at least nine more are in the pipe. This debut is due out September 1, 2020 (US) and September 3 (UK) and I would suggest that anyone who enjoys Janet Evanovich and Patricia Brigg’s will love this one.
Book 2 continued seamlessly from the first story in this trilogy and gave more insight into the relationship between Phoebe Kilsen, the heroine, and Dax, her shifter boyfriend and business partner. In Book 1, Phoebe’s best friends are threatened but when Dax is the one in danger, our heroine is really fierce. Deanna Chase does an excellent job of ratcheting up the emotional tension along with the suspense as time seems to be running out on Dax’s hold on sanity and even his life. Thrills and chills are poured on every page and just when you are catching your breath at the very end, the author drops a bomb of a cliffhanger to lure you into Book 3!
I didn’t realize this trilogy was a spin-off from another set (Crescent City Fae) by the same author but it didn’t seem to impact my enjoyment of the story or characters in this one. Based on Book 1, Last Witch Standing is an urban fantasy in the tradition of the kickass heroine, hunky hero, non-stop action variety and I was hooked from the word go. The witch heroine has powerful magic and a big heart which means she has a circle of close friends she protects and a few frenemies who make her life interesting. The hero is a shifter who also is her business partner and he brings brains and brawn to the party. The setting for the series is New Orleans which allows for all kinds of supernatural opportunities so I’m in for Books 2 and 3 for sure.
Readers do need to be aware that the language is very strong, the action is violent and the sex is hot in this one.
This is the first story I’ve read by Mercedes Lackey so I didn’t know what to expect other than something in the fantasy genre. Hunter is a strong introduction to fantasy for a young tween/teen reader. It reminded me of Hunger Games but with a lighter touch. It’s written in first person by a 15/16 year old heroine who was raised by monks in the mountains. It a contented upbringing but not idyllic as this is a dystopian world where even the youngest child must fight off monsters from the outside. Suddenly she is summoned to join a distant relative in the city and must build a new life in a dangerous political world where she doesn’t know the rules. For an adult reader, the events are predictable but for a young reader, the story will be more exciting with an imaginative mix of creatures, a nicely developed dystopian magical world, and a likable heroine with a shamanistic philosophy overlying the more typical teenage angst. There is no harsh language or overt sexuality in this book so a young teen could read this one as well as a young adult.
This is the first time I have ever pulled out the credit card and bought a 6-book series in one click on Amazon! I read @AnnetteMarie’s Guild Codex: Spellbound series and loved it so I was thrilled to find Annette Marie had another series available, set in her STEEL & STONE UNIVERSE. And I was confident I’d enjoy this too discovered I could buy the entire series at a discount.
Annette Marie is amazingly talented. Her worldbuilding is extraordinary in Book 1, CHASE THE DARK, and only gets moreso as her series evolves. Her characters are so well developed, you worry about them when you aren’t with them and you can not stop at one book – thus, the one-click Amazon purchase. I read the entire series in one marathon session – including a couple of all-nighters!
My favorite character is Ashtoroth, although he is the dark hero and the antagonist of the series; I never can resist a fallen angel. The protagonist is Piper who is tough, stubborn, (somewhat) irritating but sympathetic when you first meet her in Book 1. She’s the only child of the (male) Head Consul, caught between the powerful supernatural daemon world and the powerless human world, as a biracial child of both – without magic. Along with Ash, Piper has Lyre, an incubus daemon as her best friend, and a cast of other fully developed secondary characters as an integral part of her incredible world. I should say, ‘worlds’, since the author creates three distinct realms within the Steel and Stone Universe and the means to travel between them. The plot is thick and full of tension, action, and emotion that keeps you turning pages as Piper builds her relationships with Ash and Lyre and develops her self confidence and strengths in this epic fantasy.
Since I was able to read these in one long session (which is why I’m writing a ‘series review’ rather than a book-by-book review’) I can’t say if it would be frustrating to read them out of order or as stand-alones. While each story had a solid plot arc, there was an episodic feel to the books with a cliff hanger ending until the conclusion of Book 6. That said, I didn’t feel dissatisfied at any point and the wrap up of the series was complete and climactic.
This is classified as new adult but if a reader loves fantasy and adventure, pick up this series, clear your calendar and dive it. It’s fabulous.
NOTE: I would recommend reading the Spell Weaver Trilogy first if you have an opportunity. It provides a backstory on Pipers best friend and daemon/incubus Lyre. It didn’t inhibit my understanding of the S&S series but would have given me a bit more understanding of Lyre’s character- I read the trilogy immediately after the S&S series. Yup I’m totally addicted to this author’s work!
This short story is an introduction to Jayne Castle’s SciFi romance series set in the futuristic world of Harmony, a planet settled and then abandoned for reasons unknown by a race of aliens. The series starts 200 years after an energy curtain closed down suddenly cutting off travel between planets and leaving colonists from Earth stranded in Harmony. The planet has given their descendants paranormal abilities and is laced with underground catacombs of green quartz containing hidden treasures and unknown dangers. The whole series has a bit of a steampunk feel to it and is a great mashup of contemporary romance and sci-fi worldbuilding.
This series just continues to get better and better. I just finished Book 6 and now I’m desperate to see where the author will take the characters in the next book. At the same time I’m terrified that the next book might be wrapping things up for these characters. For any readers who love urban fantasy with some nice light romance Woven through anintriguing plot line with strong characters I can’t recommend this series enough.
I never tire of reading the Mercy Thompson series and Smoke Bitten (#12 in the series) doesn’t disappoint. All the usual characters are present and the plot is intricate and exciting. If you haven’t been following along, you could pick this one up as a stand-alone but why not start at the beginning and enjoy the whole wild ride.
Just when I think there’s nowhere else for this story to go, the author comes up with another way to pull me back into the complicated and compelling life of the Elemental Assasin and her growing band of wonderfully strange friends. In this one the author maintains the urban fantasy world at her consistent high standard and moves the plot along with exciting twists and turns but it was particularly fun to see the deeper relationships between secondary characters skillfully demonstrated in their interactions at unexpected moments. I have to keep picking up the next book to see what trouble the crew is mired in this time and how they will pull together to come out of it stronger than ever.
This is a really quirky series but I’m quite enjoying it. While the first book was set in the US this second one has the heroine, a self-aware fake physic witch, relocated across the pond and the author has shaped the mystery to fit a British cozy mystery with a paranormal element thrown in to give it a bit of a gothic feel. There’s a cold gothic castle, odd eccentric villagers, and strange goings-on across the moors – wait now, there are no moors, but there really should be ’cause they’d fit right in with everything else in the story. Tamara Berry has developed an interesting heroine and is on track for a fun series that any fan of Agatha Christie with ghost stories will surely enjoy.
It’s so exciting to find a new series that you can’t wait to dig into. The Eleanor Wilde series is one of them. If you love the Juliet Blackwell’s Wishcrafter series or other cozy paranormal mysteries, this one is for you. Its told in the first person by the heroine and she’s tough without being harsh. The plot is tight and keeps you guessing,the paranormal element is well handled, and the dialogue has some funny moments. It’s a solidly-written and fun read. I’m settling in to enjoy what I hope will be a long relationship with Eleanor Wilde!
This series opener is making me consider setting up a new shelf – Holiday Romantic Mystery because it has a wonderful balance of all three elements. The setting couldn’t be more Christmas-y with the fictional town of Mistletoe Maine and a tree farm with reindeer, complete with a cafe with lollipop-shaped stools and a menu that references endless items of holiday cheer. The heroine may have the cutesy name, Holly White, but she is smart and focused after she finds an elderly resident bludgeoned to death outside her door. The sheriff is hot, of course, but equally smart and fully capable of solving the complicated crime without Holly’s help. The plot and romance move along at a perfect pace with just the right amount of tension and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. This is a great book to read over the holidays or any time you need a boost to your mood.
This is Chicagoland Vampires 2.0 and just as well written. All the first generation have had a child who are now friends. There is action, adventure, magic and romantic tension. This second storyline is set in rural Michigan and is about a band of wolf shifters who are disintegrating under poor leadership. Chaos ensues and unravelling all the lies while staying alive makes for a wonderful read. This promises to be another great long lived series.
Five books in about as many days will tell you how much I loved this series by @authorAnnetteMarie. The Guild Codex:Spellbound series is intended for the young adult audience but if you enjoy light paranormal, this will be a fun read for you. The series is filled with magic, romance, humour and adventure but, at its core, is the universal story of a tough young woman from a bereft upbring finding her people and place in the world. And the author has done it really well. The mythical world is tightly woven into the real City of Vancouver, the magic is imaginative and balanced with a well-paced storyline, and there is a romantic tension that is lovely to watch as it slowly simmers just under the surface. The author has taken the time to develop her main characters beyond what could have been four stereotypes-the abandoned woman, the rich guy, the guy with the secret background and so on, and yeah, they are all extremely gorgeous, but we’re talking fantasy here people! Book Six came out this January so I’ll be savouring it as I read because, no matter how prolific Annette Marie may be, I doubt she’ll have Book Seven ready for me by next week.
This is the first of a series and it is going to be a fun read if Three Mages and a Margarita is any indication. The world building is great, the characters are wonderful and the pacing of the story is dead on. The book has a young adult feel to it but not so much that it can’t be fully enjoyed by any age. I’m going to look for the next one right away to see what is next for this band of misfits.
Reading this series is like eating vanilla ice cream; you take a bite, and it’s great, but it’s not perfect. So you take another bite, savouring it in your mouth this time, trying to figure out why you really like it but still don’t love it. It has all the things you enjoy on a hot summer day but it just doesn’t quite quench that craving. Then suddenly you have it, and you snap your fingers and say, “but it’s not chocolate ice cream.” The Cat Deluca Mystery series is a fun read, with a heroine who gets the villain with the help of 2 superhero men who love her, the support of her whacky family, and a lot of dumb luck…yes, this is Stephanie Plum 2.0… but it isn’t. Which is actually a shame because K. J. Larsen has really GREAT plots, something which gets lost in the too-close comparison to that other series. The Cat Deluca stories are well written suspenseful mysteries, with snappy dialogue that works, but if you have read the SP series the similarities will knock you out of the story at inopportune times. With just a bit more thought, I truly believe K.J. Larsen could have given the Cat Deluca series a unique spin that might have knocked it out of the ballpark. That said, I’m still going to finish reading the rest of the series because who doesn’t enjoy good ice cream?
Let me just say…WOW! It’s been a long time since I had to stay up all night to finish a book. Kelley Armstrong is best known for her urban fantasy stories but this debut novel in the suspense thriller genre proves she can write that as well if not better. The author skillfully introduces her first person narrator, a damaged female homicide cop, in the familiar cold urban setting usually found in the thriller genre. Then Armstrong throws in her first twist- events force our cop to quickly relocate to a town buried in the remote forests of the far north, run by a shadowy Council, where people with questionable character and mysterious pasts come to hide. Toss in escalating threats from feral ‘settlers’ hovering in the surrounding woods and gruesome serial murders, and you’ve got DELIVERANCE meets THE FIRM. An excellent, nail-biting read. I can’t wait to pick up the next in this series.
This is The Godfather Part 2 meets Upstairs/Downstairs, if either was set in Bourbon distillery country! Told from the perspective of the female horticulturist (landscape gardener) who has caught the eye of one of the sons of the super wealthy family who own the distillery. But life begins to unravel when the bodies start to pile up and the money isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Like in The Godfather, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the idealistic younger son to take up the reins of a corrupted empire and rebuild it. But without a slush fund as a foundation, does he have the skill and experience to do it the hard way? Or will he fall into the traps set by his father before he can unravel the mystery of what his father was up to and where all the money went? A fast-paced and intriguing read.
You would think that a victim being eaten by lobsters would be a silly premise for a mystery but the author pulled it off with polish and aplomb. This was an intriguing story that kept me guessing. I’m getting quite hooked on this series.
I always enjoy a good origin story and this one doesn’t disappoint. The author doesn’t allow the short length cramp her style in presenting her character or weaving her story magic. Another entertaining read.
I have been reading British style cozy mysteries since my early teens and I never tire of them. Agatha Raisin is the comfortably the same while refreshingly new. Agatha is a media executive who decides to retire early to the English countryside without quite knowing what she’s getting into. This a classic fish-out-of-water setup and watching Agatha clomp her way through rural etiquette is delightfully entertaining. In this debut story, Agatha doesn’t let a little detail like the fact she doesn’t know how to cook stop her from entering a quiche baking competition as a way to introduce herself to her new community. Her urban competitiveness springs to the forefront when she tries to cheat her way to the top by purchasing her entry only to end up as the prime suspect in a murder by poisoning of a judge. The author captures the setting as a character within the story, along with the cast of quirky village folk so necessary to a cozy mystery. The plot is interesting with red herrings, twists and turns along with the entertainment of watching Agatha, joined by her equally urban former employee, who happens to also be gay and a wonderful counterpoint to Agatha’s dry personality, try to untangle Agatha from the hole she’s dug herself into. A great series for any fan of cozy mysteries.
The first story in this Dashiell Hammett collection, Red Harvest, has lost nothing in the years since it was first published in the late 1920s! This is a hard-boiled, noir detective novel with a gritty plot, tight prose and classic gangster characters like ‘Whisper’, Mickey, Lew Yard and the femme fatale who falls somewhere between dangerous bombshell and lost soul. The plot is also classic: a town Bigshot brings in gangsters to squash The People and ends up control of his town to those gangsters. The Anti-hero/narrator, an unnamed hardboiled detective is brought in the clean up the town and mayhem ensues.
Hammett is a master and weaves in more double and triple crosses than you can shoot down with a machine gun. The darkness of the theme and tough talk is not created with easy swear words or graphic blood, guts, and gore; and there are no sex scenes. Yet the pace and tension are knuckle gnawing. Bodies drop like Fall leaves, but it’s the dialogue that is to die for…pun intended…although at times it is a little hard to understand; Hammett has created almost a dialect in places. As the story progresses the line between the good guys and the bad guys gets really murky which is what makes this story as current today as it was back in the roaring ’20s.
I’m always on the lookout for good cozy paranormal mysteries and I recently found the first book in the Haunted Library series. Death Overdue introduces a heroine with a troubled past who takes over as Events Manager in a small town library. While adjusting to the quirky staff, both nasty and nice, she meets a resident ghost who is ready to help her when her first guest speaker-a retired detective -keels over dead just as he is about to name a killer in their midst. To save her new job, Carrie digs into the cold case the detective was working.
The story is full of twists and turns and intriguing characters. The author does an excellent job of weaving two cases together, one a fifteen year old cold case and the other in the immediate present. There are a few little points where the behaviour is a bit dated-at a big family Thanksgiving dinner, only the women take care of the dishes while the menfolk sit on their butts and eventually move to the den to watch the game. But generally the writing is strong and the story well constructed.
Death Overdue is a great start to this series and I’m already looking for the next book.
This series is a typical cozy mystery series set in the Scottish Highlands. The local copper in a small village is considered lazy by many because he doesn’t want to be promoted away from his home town, and in the pursuit of that goal he allows his rather stereotypical idiot superintendent to take the credit for investigations that he solves. Hamish Macbeth is rather like a male and younger version of Miss Marple, solving the crimes mostly by knowing his people and doggedly asking questions. This series isn’t as entertaining as the Agatha Raisin books by the same author but is equally well written and the plots keep you turning pages.
If you love reading traditional cozy mysteries in the style of Dorothy Sayer or Agatha Christie, you will love this story from Ellery Adams. The setting is a historic inn in an isolated village in rural Western Virginia, complete with quirky characters, a deep family secret, and the formal British style language. Murder is afoot when the inn brings together aficionados of the old-time detectives, from the last century and a beautiful woman dies in mysterious circumstances. More dead bodies quickly follow, as our heroine, a widowed mother of young twins, races to find the killer before her family and guests are put in further peril. The plot is tight with appropriate twists, turns, and suspects. Pacing keeps the reader turning pages to the end. If a beautiful inn offered a retreat that focused on the love of books, I’d be making a reservation in an instant.
Ilona Andrews does it again with the debut of this spin-off from their bestselling Kate Daniels urban fantasy series. The main character in the Iron Chronicles is Kate’s nemesis Hugh D’Ambray, the surrogate son of immortal villain Roland-an anti-hero if ever there was one for sure and an impossible redemption story in less skilled hands than these authors’. The heroine is a mysterious witch-like creature who is more than a match for our dark hero. Using a classic marriage-of-convenience story device to lock the two in battle forces a fascinating emotional character arc, and the authors then keep the pages turning with wondrous monsters, epic battles, and mounting suspense peppered with tantalizing tidbits and appearance from series favorites Kate, Curran, and, of course, Roland. The authors suggest you read this story before Magic Triumphs from the Kate Daniels Series but promises 2 more books to round out Hugh and Elara’s story.
ALL BY MYSELF, ALONE is a classic closed room style cozy mystery, except the isolated island is a luxury cruise ship. Other than that, the story has all the usual suspects; the professor, the wealthy widow, the strong heroine and the dashing young lawyer, the undercover agent who is hoping to catch the international jewel thief believed to be onboard. The climax is even accompanied by the requisite storm. Yet The author takes these well-known elements and winds them into an entertaining and exciting tale for modern mystery readers. Fans of Agatha Christie love Mary Higgins Clarke because she continues to be a master storyteller and is the reigning Queen of Suspense with good reason.
The author introduces a fresh new series in the crafter style cozy mystery genre. The heroine is likeable and well developed in a story that weaves the craft of rubber stamping into a strong plot set in her small hometown. A skull rolls up to the feet of April Buchert, as she works on a renovation with her contractor father’s company. Updated characters introduce family tensions as the plot unfolds and the reader is swept along as the heroine faces issues from her past entwine with her present circumstances.
I love the Lily Ivory series and have read them in order so I know the characters as if they are friends, but….it took me a while to get into this one. There was certainly lots of story – wedding plans, a Sailor body double, mother issues (who doesn’t have them around a wedding) along with the usual murder and mayhem – but….
The connection between Lily and Sailor still isn’t really working for me and some of Lily’s inner dialogue reinforced my own lack of commitment to their upcoming union. With him in jail throughout the book for a murder he didn’t commit, I was totally with Lily as she worked to get to the bottom of the mystery and see justice done but I didn’t really miss Sailor. The rest of the plot twists and turns kept me turning pages, and the uncovering of more mysteries from Lily’s past made me want to know what her future may yet hold for her. But…the enigmatic Sailor needs to heat things up on the home front or make room for a better hero IMHO.
Of course, that means I have to read Book #10 to see if that is exactly what Juliet Blackwell has in mind! Hummmm….
I’m not sure why but I enjoyed this book more the second time I read it- maybe it was my mood, or the time of year-who knows. I am a huge fan of the early Stephanie Plum, books 1-8 being my favourites, so maybe I was expecting this series to be the same thing only different. In some ways it is-snappy dialogue, cooky heroine, mysterious supermanish hero-but it isn’t fair to compare the two series. Think of this as Marvel comics on steroids and you’ll be better prepared for the stories that Evanovich has come up with this time. This one has a light paranormal element that requires the reader to plant tongue firmly in cheek and totally suspend disbelief. If you trust this author enough to do that, then you can thoroughly enjoy the Diesel and Lizzy series. I really did enjoy reading Wicked Appetite this time and I’m going to dive right back into her crazy universe for Book 2. I’m sure it’ll be another wild ride. If you find yourself heading to the beach with nothing to read, give this one a(nother) try. You might also be surprised.
This is the second in this series and builds on the strong community of characters introduced in Book 1. The story in Bookman Dead Style revolves around a murder during a celebrity-laden film festival. In this one, the author took the opportunity to turn her quaint mountain setting, Star City, into an integral character in its own right. The reader could feel the bite of frost in the air, near the crunch of snow underfoot, and see the rustic buildings on Bygone Alley. Our heroine, Clare Henry, is again driven by too much curiosity than is good for her, but follows her good intentions to find the important clues and feed them to her best friend, Jody, who is the cop on the case.
Once again, the plot keeps you guessing right until the final resolution, and all the characters, both the main cast, and the ones who will only be in this story, are equally well developed. I can already tell that the mysteries in this series will be well thought out and hope the author will continue to provide her characters with internal and external growth. I can’t wait to dive into Book 3 and would recommend this series to all fans of a good solid cozy mystery.
I really enjoyed this book as a ‘long weekend read’. The heroine was well developed and likable, and the plot had more depth that you usually find in cozies. There were twists and turns that kept me guessing until the end and I’m looking forward to finding the next one in this series.