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Monday, October 31, 2016

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan

Setting: New York City
Genre: Holiday Romance
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: November 29, 2016



Sarah Morgan's latest romance features the third of three business partners. Frankie, Paige, and Eva run a successful event planning company. While the other two have found true love, Eva's not as lucky. She still misses her grandmother and longs for a man who will at least satisfy one urge. She doesn't harbor fantasies of finding her dream man at this stage.

Her latest job is to housesit and decorate the penthouse home of bestselling author Lucas Blade. His charming grandmother's worked her way into Eva's heart, and Eva's only too happy to take the job his grandmother offers. All she has to do is stay in a lavish home for a few days, fill a fridge and freezer with home-cooked meals, and add some holiday cheer to the otherwise sterile environment. Little does Eva know that Lucas lied to his family and his Vermont getaway never happened. He's actually home when she arrives. He's also not too thrilled to have a surprise guest.

New York City is in the midst of a blizzard, so there's no way Eva can leave. The question is can she handle living in the same home as this grumpy author who has absolutely no holiday cheer in him?

Miracle on 5th Avenue is a fabulous conclusion to the trilogy surrounding the owners of Urban Genie. I liked the instant attraction between Eva and Lucas, even if he was a bit of a Scrooge throughout a good portion of the romance. Eva's hopeful nature kept driving the potential for romance, and I really enjoyed the way in which she stood up to him.

Part of me is sad to see the trilogy come to an end, but the other part of me is happy to have found it. Each story stands alone, but you'll become so involved with the characters that you'll want to read them all. There's a touch of humor, emotional pull, and likable characters that keep you hooked to each book.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fun Science: A Guide To Life, The Universe And Why Science Is So Awesome by Charlie McDonnell

Genre: Science/Non-Fiction
Publisher: Quadrille Publishing
Release Date: October 18, 2016



I admit I had no idea who Charlie McDonnell was. My college-aged daughter, however, knew immediately and started reading it before I could even look at it. She told me to take some time and read the book because Charlie makes science entertaining. I totally agree.

Fun Science: A Guide to Life, the Universe and Why Science is so Awesome is a riot. It's informative, has humorous snippets that stick in your head, and keeps you hooked. Learn about the universe and the Big Bang Theory, reproduction, anatomy, the elements and so much more.

There are neat little facts that taught me things. I know hair grows regularly, but I never thought about the fact that you grow about 10 miles of hair per year. It's the little facts like that that make Fun Science so entertaining and a must-have for your bookshelf.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

Setting: Nashville, TN
Genre: Suspense
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: November 1, 2016 (Paperback)



Five years ago, Aubrey Hamilton's husband disappeared without a trace. They were at a hotel for his friend's pre-wedding events. While she checked them in, he walked to the bachelor's party and vanished. For five years, Aubrey's been the subject of scrutiny and scorn.

Her mother-in-law pushes to have Josh declared dead at five years. It's right after getting the official court papers that Aubrey spies a man who doesn't look anything like her husband, but the man's mannerisms certainly match Josh's. It's not long before she's falling for this mysterious stranger. There are so many unanswered questions, and Aubrey's determined to get to the bottom of Josh's disappearance and gain the freedom to move on.

No One Knows bounces from Aubrey's point of view to her mother-in-law's to Josh's. The changes are clearly noted and give a complex picture into the lives each party led before Josh's disappearance. As the novel progresses, readers start to see the detailed picture involving Josh, often knowing clues before Aubrey.

This is a suspense along the lines of so many other suspense novels as of late that offer so many twists and turns that you cannot possibly predict the end. I couldn't put this book down. I was hooked. Then I hit the ending. I don't want to give out spoilers, but the ending left me feeling a little disappointed. Had I offered a rating based on the first half of the book, I would have easily said five stars. By the time I reached the ending, I had to drop it to a three.



Friday, October 28, 2016

The Next: A Novel of Love, Revenge, and a Ghost Who Can't Let Go by Stephanie Gangi

Setting: New York City
Genre: Suspense/Thriller/General Fiction/Women's Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: October 18, 2016



I'm still not sure how best to classify The Next: A Novel of Love, Revenge, and a Ghost Who Can't Let Go. It is the debut adult novel from Stephanie Gangi, and it's definitely a unique plot.

Joanna DeAngelis never imagined the love of her life would be a much-younger man. She also never imagined he'd walk away. Now that she's dying, all she wants is to get revenge. She's furious that he moved on and found fame with his new girlfriend. As hours pass with her daughters and dog keeping vigil, when she does finally pass, she has her chance to get even before moving into whatever comes next.

I have to say that The Next became a little darker than I first imagined. It transformed from women's fiction to almost horror at times. I still liked it, but it wasn't what I expected and that threw me. I also found myself truly feeling sad for Joanna's daughters, who were struggling in their own rights, especially after she dies.

While the narrative was gripping, it was also depressing at times. This is why I found it so hard to classify exactly what genre I'd call it. It is part women's fiction with a touch of horror and suspense from time to time. It's definitely unique, but now that I'm done, I'm still not sure I loved it. I am dying to hear what other readers think!


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hello Nature: Draw, Color, Make and Grow by Nina Chakrabarti

Genre: Coloring Book
Publisher: Laurence King
Release Date: March 2016



Hello Nature: Draw, Color, Make and Grow is packed with DIY projects, coloring pages, activities and informative guides to nature. It's suitable for all ages, though I will admit my college-aged daughter saw it and raved over the content and activities.

Throughout the 200+ pages, there are things you can color, draw, or do. One of my first was to make the bird feeder towards the back. I also loved the bird food menu, as there were some items I didn't realize birds would eat, such as coconut shavings. I have to say, they still go for peanuts and sunflowers more than I've seen them heading for coconut.

There are things I would have loved to see more in depth. Perhaps for a second book! These included more regional birds and animal track identification pages. Still, I haven't had as much fun with a coloring book in quite some time, so this is definitely a keeper that I highly recommend.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Whole Latte Murder by Caroline Fardig

Setting: Nashville, TN
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Alibi
Release Date: November 8, 2016



Juliet Langley's developed a knack for finding bodies. In A Whole Latte Murder, once again she stumbles her way into a murder. This time, the victim is one of her neighbors. During an attempt to return a customer's scarf, Juliet finds her neighbor in the bathtub with a toaster. Juliet's new beau, Detective Ryder Hamilton, asks her to stay out of it as he's newly promoted to the homicide division and wants to do his job perfectly, but even he can't help but ask Juliet to put her snooping skills to the test and find out a few things.

When one of Juliet's employees disappears, she and her best friend Pete dive in to see what's happening in their community. With her growing concern for Ryder's safety, the fact that he's working long hours, and multiple disappearances or murders, Juliet can't rest until a killer's found.

I've been following the Java Jive Mystery series from the start and love watching the characters grow and change. A Whole Latte Murder finds Juliet facing new challenges. She wants Ryder to be happy, but she also worries about him chasing down murderers for a living. On the other hand, he's just as concerned by her ability to stumble into murders. This creates a new conflict for the couple, and I enjoy the realistic approach to their struggles.

Cozy mysteries are my preferred subgenre, so I'm always thrilled when I find one that I can't put down. That's the experience I get from Caroline Fardig's books. I become engrossed with the plot, characters, and mystery at hand. This one kept me guessing, which made it even better in my opinion.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Colonial Spirts: A Toast to Our Drunken History by Steven Grasse

Genre: Cookbook
Publisher: Abrams
Release Date: September 13, 2016



Buy a copy of Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History and have it in hand for this year's Thanksgiving celebrations. It's a stunning tribute to both the Nation's history and our ancestors.

In Colonial Spirits, Steven Grasse begins by looking at the foundations of alcoholic beverages. He talks about the items used to make liquors, beers, and wines, such as barley, spruce tips, and even a chicken. Yes, I did say chicken, and I admit that's one recipe I don't ever see myself trying.

There are recipes I immediately had to try and absolutely loved. The Orchard Mimosa (OJ and hard cider), Fish House Punch, and non-alcoholic Strawberry Rhubarb Lemonade are three I had to make. Despite my husband's dislike of rhubarb, even he admitted that was an excellent lemonade.

Throughout the book, learn how to make wine, beer, and a variety of punches, cocktails, and hot mulled beverages. There are recipes for flavored syrups, shrubs, barley water, and beverages used to treat illnesses. You'll also find neat recipes for things like Rose Water Toner for the skin. This is a comprehensive book that is going onto my keeper shelf.




Monday, October 24, 2016

Pop Goes the Weasel by M.J. Arlidge

Genre: A Detective Helen Grace Thriller
Publisher: NAL
Release Date: October 2015



My apologies for the gap between reviews. After trying to find a solid replacement for the client who decided to quit the world of SEO and web analytics, I ended up taking a job outside the home. It's been a new experience trying to balance my remaining writing clients, book reviewing, and adjusting to a commute and training.

In Pop Goes the Weasel, Helen Grace is back. This time, she's up against a sadistic killer who literally tears her victim's hearts out and then leaves them for the victim's loved ones to find. It all starts with a happily married family man who's found in an area where prostitutes are known to work. No one can figure out why he was there or why he was killed.

For Helen Grace, it's clear the killer is angry. Until she can figure out why, she'll struggle to find the killer before another victim is found.

Once again, M.J. Arlidge draws you in and holds you captive in a twisted murder case. It's said in the description that the killings are reverse Jack the Ripper, and I'd say that's a fair take on these killings. They are pretty brutal and graphic at times.

Charlie's back after her loss and she and Helen are definitely having issues. This adds a dynamic layer to the personal relationships. I've always been a fan of Charlie's, but I also enjoy Helen, and I was eager to see how it played out.

I do really enjoy the Helen Grace series. It has the gritty detail and brash attitudes that I enjoy in the crime series The Fall that stars Gillian Anderson. If you enjoy that show, you're going to love M.J. Arlidge's series.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Beautiful Maids All in a Row by Jennifer Harlow

Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Publisher: Alibi
Release Date: October 11, 2016



Dr. Iris Ballard gave up her life as a forensic psychologist after tragic events ended her husband's life. When a woman she knows disappears, Iris can't help but let her former partner, FBI Special Agent Luke Hudson, draw her back in. Someone is brutally raping, torturing, and killing woman, and Iris has the skill it's going to take to catch the sadistic madman known as the Woodsman.

Iris is quick to figure out the killer's identity, but catching a powerful man proves difficult, especially when she's still haunted by her own demons. She'll do everything it takes, but he's just as determined to use her past to destroy her.

I did find myself drawn into Iris's story. She hides from her past with a bottle, a house in the middle of nowhere, and her German Shepherd. That she so easily gave them all up when Luke came calling seemed odd, but I moved on from that and let myself get absorbed in the story.

Iris is a smart cookie, but the killer is an equal match. He bugged me, but then he also came off as very convincing. Was it coincidence that the killer was buddies with Donald Trump? Not sure, but it did get me to snicker a few times.

In the end, this is a solid suspense/mystery. I'm curious to see where Iris goes from here, so I definitely got drawn in and want more.

Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes

Genre: Short Stories
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: October 18, 2016



A few years ago, Jojo Moyes skyrocketed on my favorite author list. Paris for One and Other Stories is uniquely different. There are some romance stories, some that feel like she's been spying on me, and a few that simply surprised me with unexpected twists.

1. Paris for One shares the tale of Nell. She and her boyfriend should be in Paris together, but he ditched her. Now this shy traveler must figure a way to get through a trip to Paris on her own.

2. Between the Tweets is a humorous tale of a TV celebrity who finds himself accused of having an affair. The online accusation isn't going away, so he hires an investigator to get to the bottom of it.

3. Love in the Afternoon finds Sara and Doug taking a surprise anniversary trip. After more than a decade of marriage, their marriage has become a little stagnant and Sara isn't sure what to make of her husband's "surprise" getaway.

4. A Bird in the Hand introduces Simon and Beth. They head off to a party that Beth isn't looking forward to. Things get worse when she bumps into an old flame at the party.

5. Crocodile Shoes introduces Sam, a working woman whose husband lost his job. He's been lax at finding a new one, and Sam's tired of it. When someone swaps their gym bag for hers, she never expects the surprise in that bag will change her life.

6. Hold Ups involves a robbery at a jewelry store. Things certainly do not end up as expected.

7. In Last Year's Coat, Evie desperately needs a new winter coat, but layoffs and stagnant salaries make it impossible. She has her eye on a dream coat, but she needs a miracle to happen if she's to afford it.

8. Thirteen Days with John C involves a lost cell phone, some sexy messages, and one bored wife who is about to experience the unexpected.

9. The Christmas List shares Chrissie's tale. Her mother-in-law is coming and Chrissie's husband decided it's up to Chrissie to find the picky things his mom wants.

Paris for One and Other Stories does a great job at mixing up settings, topics, and character ages. I loved many stories and found a few others felt a little too true. When I hit the name "Farnsworth" in one of the stories, I snickered thinking the author definitely tapped into my mind.

Some stories bring a tear to your eye, some make you laugh, and all make me feeling very lucky that I got to read this solid collection.



Saturday, October 15, 2016

It Must Be Christmas by Jennifer Crusie, Mandy Baxter, and Donna Alward

Genre: Holiday Romance Anthology
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Release Date: October 4, 2016



There's always a sense of disappointment when you pick up what you believe is a new book and discover it's not new at all. That's the case with It Must Be Christmas, a holiday anthology with three Christmas romances by Jennifer Crusie, Mandy Baxter, and Donna Alward. None of these are new stories. As soon as I started reading Jennifer Crusie's story, I knew exactly how the story went, so I ended up skipping to the next, only to find the exact same situation. All three were released as novellas in the past two years.

Here are 2014 and 2015 reviews of the three novellas:

Jennifer Crusie - Hot Toy

Mandy Baxter - Christmas With the Billionaire Rancher

Donna Alward - Christmas at Seashell Cottage

I definitely enjoyed them all, but I wish I'd caught that they were all reissues. Had I paid full price for stories that I'd already read and remembered well, I would have been disappointed.




Monday, October 10, 2016

Just Fine With Caroline: A Cold River Novel by Annie England Noblin

Setting: Missouri
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: October 11, 2016



Caroline O'Connor definitely deals with a full plate. Her mother has Alzheimer's, so she and her father balance her mother's care. As he's the town's retired, yet still very busy doctor, and Caroline runs her family's bait shop, she barely has time to relax.

Things become incredibly challenging when a handsome stranger takes over the general store across the street. The store's been empty for years, so it's a surprise when a Cranwell returns to town with intentions on opening the store back up. Noah Cranwell is part of the eccentric Cranwell family, but Caroline knows little about him, other than he's definitely caught her eye.

As Caroline gets to know Noah, she learns there's a connection between Noah's grandfather and Caroline's mother. She doesn't know what it is, but she's determined to find out.

Just Fine With Caroline is all about the setting and characters. The Cranwell's are elusive figures in this novel and the mystery surrounding them resolves slowly over the book's pages. Details impress with the picturesque setting and the steamy hot summer that's in place during the majority of the story.

The romance between Caroline and Noah never rushes. It builds at a realistic pace and leaves the reader feeling warm and cozy with each passing day. The mystery involving the O'Connor and Cranwell families isn't shocking, but it definitely adds depth.

My own mom is in the early stages of dementia, so I sympathized with all Caroline and her father faced. I liked that aspect of the story. It's not glossed over. It's a real struggle that the family faces, and one where they cherish each moment of clarity. I really liked that.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Family Sins by Sharon Sala

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: October 25, 2016



While out in the woods, Stanton Youngblood is shot in the back and left to die. Before he passes, he's able to scratch his killer's identity in the dirt. His widow, Leigh, knows exactly who killed her husband. She's not about to let her family get away with it. When she went against her father's wishes to marry Stanton, he vowed Stanton would die. Leigh's shocked it took decades for it to happen.

With her grown sons by her side, Leigh vows there will be justice for her husband's death. The hard part is finding out who killed him when the Wayne family is very good about hiding behind their money and each other.

Family Sins was part mystery and part romance. Leigh's oldest son is back in town. He left years ago after the love of his life refused his marriage proposal. Now that he's back, the learns the truth behind her refusal. He's determined to see things through this time and won't leave without her.

I never felt the mystery part was that surprising. I had it pegged early into the story and think many other readers will too. That said, the pacing and suspenseful tone never let up. This was a fast-paced read that set the mood. I hated many characters, but I never stopped seeking the same justice Leigh deserved.


Friday, October 7, 2016

Christmas in Eternity Springs by Emily March

Setting: Eternity Springs, Colorado
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Release Date: October 4, 2016



Claire Branham, aka Miss Christmas, lost her Christmas spirit many years ago. When her she catches the man of her dreams in a lie, she leaves everything behind and moves to Eternity Springs. There, she opens a year-round Christmas shop in hopes of regaining the joy Christmas once brought.

Military man Jax Lancaster will do whatever it takes to make his son whole again. The boy suffered an unimaginable tragedy. One that left the young boy with many fears. After a summer camp in Eternity Springs seems to bring the boy out of his shell, Jax makes the tough decision to move to Eternity Springs.

Working as a local handyman, Jax soon finds himself enamored with not only the town, but also with Claire. His soon seems to be warming up to the quirky shop owner too. Can this broken trio find true happiness together?

Kicking off the holiday season a little early, Christmas in Eternity Springs is a touching tale of hope renewed. I love Eternity Springs, but I really fell for Jax and his son. Claire was equally enjoyable. Each hides secrets, some that the reader knows, but others are more of a mystery. When they're revealed, it all makes sense.

If you want a heartwarming character-driven story, you can't go wrong with any of the books in Emily March's Eternity Springs novels. Christmas in Eternity Springs is the best yet.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

Setting: Mount Adams, Ohio
Genre: Suspense
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: October 4, 2016



Catherine McKenzie and her novel Fractured caught my attention when I saw it in a list of suspense/thriller books you shouldn't miss in the fall of 2016. I picked it up and was hooked.

John Dunbar, his wife Hanna, and their two teens live in a community outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. They're happy enough, but a new neighbor threatens to change everything.

Author Julie Prentice hopes this new town is what she needs to get away from a stalker. Mount Adams seems charming and it's far from her stalker. She soon befriends John and they become jogging partners. That one connection, however, threatens the very privacy Julie craves.

I'll start by saying the tranquil neighborhood creeped me out a bit. I've always imagined that being in a tight community like Mount Adams sounds great, but one of the neighbors in particular, the head of the neighborhood association, really bugged me. I wasn't a fan of John's wife either.

The pace with the story is key. You flip between the past and present. Something's happened, but you don't have a clue as to what. There's Julie's stalker who seems intent on staying in Julie's life. And there's the relationship between nosy people in the neighborhood and the rest of the people who simply want to go about their daily business. It made for a very compelling novel.




Monday, October 3, 2016

The Crown Maple Guide to Maple Syrup: How to Tap and Cook with Nature's Original Sweetener by Robb Turner

Genre: Cooking
Publisher: Abrams
Release Date: October 18, 2016



The Crown Maple Guide to Maple Syrup: How to Tap and Cook with Nature's Original Sweetener by Robb Turner serves as both a very detailed guide into how maple syrup is made and a cookbook.

The details that go into this book make it a must-read for anyone doing a research project on the process used to gather sap, boil it down, and end up with the golden, rich syrup. After that come a number of delicious recipes. First on my list to try were the Glazed Maple-Pecan scones that make this book a keeper.

Find recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner within The Crown Maple Guide to Maple Syrup. Maple Pulled Pork, Spiced Maple Cauliflower Salad, and Maple-Bacon-Bourbon-Peanut-Chocolate Chip Cookies all stand out as recipes you don't want to miss.




Saturday, October 1, 2016

Someone Must Die by Sharon Potts

Setting: Miami, Florida
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: June 28, 2016



She barely knows her grandson, but her son finally gives her a chance to spend time with the six-year-old boy. Diana Lynd never expects their time together to go so horribly wrong. Diana takes the boy into a carnival's fun house. Ethan runs ahead of her and vanishes into thin air.

Aubrey Lynd gets the call that her nephew is missing. She rushes to Florida to support her mother. She knows her mother and brother have a tentative relationship, and this will rip apart all the steps they'd taken.

With a detective and FBI agent taking the case, Aubrey hopes the boy will be found quickly. It isn't long, however, before it's clear her mother is hiding something. When Aubrey discovers her mother has a ransom note, she has no idea what will happen next. That note says they cannot go to the authorities or the boy dies. Worse, the only way to get Ethan back is if Diana kills her fiance.

Sharon Potts does an exceptional job at building tension. I kept reading to see what would happen next. The story does bounce back and forth from one character to the next, and it also takes a few visits to the past. Keeping up with the shifts isn't difficult, but it can be a little jarring when the chapter ended with a bit of a cliffhanger.

Someone Must Die is a great suspense novel. It did have moment where I wished the characters would smarten up, but that seems to happen a lot when I'm reading a mystery.