Tuesday, October 17, 2017

SMP - Holiday Romance Release Blitz + Review of Deck the Halls

It's that time of year again!  The time when all the wonderful holiday romances are coming out!  St. Martin's Press has so many great ones that I'm having a hard time choosing!

There's something for everyone here from historical to cowboy to small town contemporary.  I loved the first book in Emma Douglas' Cloud Bay series so A Season of You is high up on my list.  In fact there's a little something for everyone here - historical, cowboy, Scottish, and your small town contemporary.

But when I really had to make the decision of just what my first holiday romance would be the choice was obvious - Deck the Halls by Donna Alward (Amazon Link).

Alward is one of my go-to contemporary authors and the Darling, VT series has been a favorite.  And since the beginning there has been George.  We meet him as a homeless man and see his gradual transformation as he begins to get on his feet throughout the series.  But George is haunted by something and closely guarded by his secrets and I desperately wanted to know what they were.  So when I saw that George is front and center in this new novella I couldn't resist!

It was wonderful to get to know George better in this novella.  Hearing his story was heartbreaking and I enjoyed getting a better understanding of how he ended up in Darling.  It was impossible not to sympathize with Amy, the sister of George's old friend and Army buddy.   I can't imagine losing someone so close and not knowing what really happened.  I thought as friends they helped each other begin to heal.

The connection between them developed pretty quickly but I was okay with that because there was a previous connection and I think George felt obligated to answer her questions and seemed ready to take the next step.  While I believed in the connection between the two I had a hard time believing that either were really ready for romance.  They are both lovely people and I fully believe they needed each other but a full romance just didn't quite feel right.

However, I was able to ignore that issue and just really enjoy this holiday read.  After three books getting glances of George's story this was a Christmas gift from Alward to Darling, VT readers.

Next up, will probably be Hope at Christmas by Nancy Naigle (Amazon Link).  I've been wanting to read Nancy Naigle's books forever and this involves a bookstore and all kinds of holiday-goodness.  I can't wait!  What holiday reads are coming up for you?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Ramblings from the Stacks: Audio Books

While it took me a little while to get into audio books I can now admit that I'm fully in love.  They're a fantastic way to get a little extra reading in and they make tasks that I've found incredibly tedious so much more pleasant.  I thought I'd share some of my favorites and not so favorites over the past few years.

Audio Book Wins

1.  In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware read by Imogen Church - I think I would have enjoyed reading both this book and Ware's 2nd book, The Woman in Cabin 10 but Church's narration really took this book up to another level.  I know I can't have been holding my breath for the entire thing but it felt like it!  

2.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows read by Paul Boehmer, Susan Duerden, Rosalyn Landor, John Lee, and Juliet Mills - This was the first book I listened to that had multiple narrators and it was absolutely wonderful.  This book is told in a series of letters and the different voices brought it completely to life.  

3.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming read by David Tennant - I think I would have enjoyed this book in print because the story is such fun but Tennant's reading made it spectacular.  The man could probably read me a grocery list and I would sit at rapt attention but throw in an adventure story written by the creator of James Bond and it's pure magic.

4.  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline read by Wil Wheaton - I don't think I would have gotten through this one if it wasn't for Wheaton's narration.  I'm glad I did because I ended up really enjoying it.

5.  Bossypants by Tina Fey - I actually read this one first and was kind of meh on it.  I mean it was funny but it wasn't as funny as I wanted it to be.  Then I saw the audio copy was available at my library's digital site and so on a whim I gave it a try.  It was 100 times better in audio.  There were parts were I laughed until I cried. 

Audio Book Losses

1.  Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty read by Cassandra Campbell - Cassandra Campbell is one of my favorite narrators and when I saw she was reading this Middle Grade fiction that was high on my TBR list I was really excited.   Except I didn't end up really liking it.  While I love Campbell's voice something about it just didn't work for me with this story.  I'd like to continue the series but I think I'll be reading instead of listening.

2.  Faithful by Alice Hoffman read by Amber Tamblyn - I didn't dislike the audio and I really loved the book but it took me a little while to get into and I think part of my problem was with Tamblyn's narration.  While I think her voice was perfect for the main character her pacing was very slow.  Once I increased my speed to 1.25 I ended up loving the book much better.

3.  Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon  read by Bahni Turpin and Robbie Daymond - Now part of the problem here is that this book didn't really work for me (I know, I know, please don't throw anything at me) but I did have some issues with the narration that didn't help.  I love Bahni Turpin's voice but found it too old for the teenage main character.  As well it drove me crazy that Daymond's voice was used in the IMs but Turpin did a male voice when the boy talked in conversation.  This drove me crazy!  

Now I know plenty of people who loved all three of these in audio book format so I know this is purely personal preference.  Are you an audio book lover?  Any books or narrators work for you or really don't?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

This Week in Reading - October 15

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

Now that You Mention it by Kristan Higgins - I loved her last book that was more women's fiction than romance so I'm really looking forward to this one!  (Publisher)

Once Upon a Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt - I've never read Hoyt before but this novella looks to cute to pass up.  Plus, there's mistaken identity in a bookstore so that sounds pretty great.  (NetGalley)

Deja Moo by Kristen Weiss - Even if I hadn't read and enjoyed the 2 previous books in this cozy mystery series about a paranormal museum I would not have been able to resist this title! (NetGalley)

No Place Like You by Emma Douglas - I really enjoyed the first book in the Cloud Bay series and I'm excited to read this one which features a best friend's brother romance.  (Publisher)

Cowboy's Legacy by B.J. Daniels - I haven't read a cowboy romance in awhile and I enjoyed the last book I read by Daniels so I couldn't resist.  (Blog Tour)

Bel, Book and Scandal by Maggie McConnon - I read the first book in this cozy mystery series around a quirky family that runs a wedding destination manor house.  This involves a mystery from the main character's past that was referenced in the first book and I'm super excited!  (Publisher)


Reading:  The Betrayed by Heather Graham and Lona Chang by AshleyRose Sullivan

Listening:  I just finished The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan (LOVE!) and am now listening to How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell and read by David Tennant!

Watching:  Not a huge amount but my oldest and my sister-in-law talked me into watching The Voice and I'm enjoying it.  I like that they're not mean - even to the ones who don't get on the show.  

Off the Blog:

Disney was amazing!  We went to Legoland and then all the Disney World parks.  We went to Mickey's Halloween party, hung out with Storm Troopers, Chipmunks, and all kinds of other characters.  We rode all the rides and walked almost 50 miles.  It was so much fun that I hated to leave but it's good to be home in my own bed and I'm already planning my next trip. 

This weekend I'm in south Mississippi visiting my grandparents but after that I'm looking forward to being home for awhile and getting out Halloween decorations and getting back into the regular routine.  

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Ramblings from the Stacks - Audio Book Wins and Losses
Tuesday:  SMP Holiday Romance Release Blits w/ review of Deck the Halls
Wednesday: TBD
Thursday: Lorna Chang - Mystery Review
Friday: Friday Linkups with current book
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Comfort Food Diaries - Foodie Nonfiction Review

The Comfort Food Diaries: My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart by Emily Nunn (Amazon Link)

Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley

Description: One life-changing night, still reeling from her beloved brother's sudden death a few weeks earlier, Emily Nunn was dumped by her handsome architect fiancĂ© and evicted from the apartment they shared, losing in the same moment all sense of family, home, and financial security. After a few glasses of wine, heartbroken and lost, Emily—an avid cook and professional food writer—poured her heart out on Facebook. The next morning she woke up with a terrible hangover and a feeling she’d made a terrible mistake—only to discover she had more friends than she knew, many of whom invited her to come visit and cook with them while she put her life back together. Thus began the Comfort Food Tour.
Searching for a way forward, Emily travels the country, cooking and staying with relatives and friends, among them renowned chefs Mark Bittman and Ina Garten. She also travels back to revisit scenes from her dysfunctional Southern upbringing, dominated by her dramatic, unpredictable mother and her silent, disengaged father. Her wonderfully idiosyncratic aunts and uncles and cousins come to life in these pages, all part of the rich Southern story in which past and present are indistinguishable, food is a source of connection and identity, and a good story is often preferred to a not-so-pleasant truth. But truth, pleasant or not, is what Emily Nunn craves, and with it comes an acceptance of the losses she has endured, and a sense of hope for the future.

Genre: Nonfiction - Foodie

Why I Picked This Book:  I'm a sucker for a good project memoir - especially when it involves food!

My Impression:  The book starts just as Emily's life is starting to crumble.  She thought she had built the perfect cozy nest but within the first few pages the cracks are very obvious and that was before she brought up her issues with addiction.  As readers we see her at what must have been her lowest point - struggling to not just fix a broken heart but to rewrite her entire outlook on life.  A random Facebook post kick starts that journey though it takes a little while and a lot of soul searching for her to really get started. 

Not that it takes awhile to get into the food portion of the book.  Right from the beginning Nunn is describing food so clearly and so beautifully that that all I want to do is grab a fork and dive in to Ezra Pound Cake, or pizza with Toni's Tomato Sauce.  Her descriptions make things that I don't even like sound appealing - I've never once craved a Country Ham biscuit but I'm beginning to reconsider that after several of her mentions!

Once her Comfort Food Tour really got going the food descriptions really increased (seriously - do not read this book hungry!) and the book got a bit happier though no less introspective.  I was really intrigued by the question of just what is comfort food.  It's a term we hear bandied about quite a bit but everyone's interpretation is so personal that it takes a little soul searching to really figure out your answer.  I've been thinking about it since I started the books and am still not quite sure I've really defined mine!

This is a book about self-discovery, healing, and most of all food.  Nunn's writing is incredibly honest but not overly dramatic and within the first few pages she felt like a friend.  Just be careful not to read while hungry or you might go dashing out in search of a country ham biscuit!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I really enjoyed her writing style and this book.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would!  If you like project type books or enjoyed the book Stir by Jessica Fechtor I think you'd enjoy this one.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday LInkups - In the Woods

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Who is your favorite horror/suspense author and why?

My Answer:
I don't read much horror but I love a good suspense book.  When I'm in the mood for a straight up creepy read Shirley Jackson is probably my go-to.  The Haunting of Hill House is so creepy and eerie and all of her short stories are filled with this subtle unease even though I can never put my finger on what's so terrible.  If I'm in the mood for a little lighter romantic suspense I love Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunters series.  I love how she mixes in a little history with all the ghosts and creepiness.

This week's book In the Woods by Tana French is one I've been wanting to read pretty much since I started blogging.  For some reason Tana French never landed on my radar before then but once she did I heard nothing but raves.  Finally after far too long I'm reading her first book and am loving it!  I'm not finding it to be the fastest paced thriller but the story is all kinds of creepy and definitely pulls me in.

The Beginning:
Picture a summer stolen whole from some coming-of-age film set in small town 1950s.  This is none of Ireland's subtle seasons mixed for a connoisseur's palate, watercolor nuances within a pinch-sized range of cloud and soft rain; this is summer full-throated and extravagant in a hot pure silkscreen blue.

My Thoughts:
This creates quite the picture of the perfect summer day.  I wonder how much is real and how much is just romanticizing a memory.

The 56:
Nobody remembered the Tracksuit Shadow, either, which reinforced my suspicion that he had been either some perfectly normal guy from the estate out for a walk, or else Damien's imaginary friend.  You get people like this in every investigation, people who end up wasting huge amounts of your time with their compulsion to say whatever they think you want to hear.

My Thoughts:
I can imagine how frustrating this would be for a detective involved in a very intense very high profile murder investigation.

What do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cold as Ice - Cozy Mystery Review

Cold as Ice (Country Club Murders #6) by Julie Mulhern (Amazon Link)

Rating: Loved it!
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Ellison Russell’s life resembles a rollercoaster ride. And rollercoasters make her ill. Her daughter Grace has a crush on a boy Ellison doesn’t trust and she’s taken to hosting wild parties when Ellison goes out for the evening. Worse, the bank which represents Grace’s inheritance from her father may be in trouble.

When a meeting with the chef at the country club leads to the discovery of a body, Ellison can’t afford cold feet. She must save the bank, find the killer, and convince Grace (and herself) that powerful women don’t need men to rescue them.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book: This is one of my absolute favorite cozy mystery series and I can never resist the newest one.

My Impression:  I feel like every time I review a book in this series I declare it my new favorite but this time I really mean it.  This was definitely my favorite of the series and considering how much I enjoyed all the previous books that's saying quite a lot.

The mystery was very personal to Ellison and her motives for fining out just who was the killer were stronger than just stumbling over the body.  There's also quite a lot of intrigue going on at Ellison's late husband's bank which now belongs to Ellison's daughter Grace.  Ellison is determined that Grace's inheritance from her father will not disappear.  With each book Ellison seems to be getting a little more confident and a little more capable which is really fun to see.  She's learning to figure out how to solve her own problems and channel her mother when she needs too.  There's a lot of character development here both with Ellison and Grace and I was completely pulled in.  They both feel like friends and I enjoy the time I spend with them.

The mystery isn't as front and center as I usually prefer in a mystery but it was good and well constructed.  I didn't know just who the killer was until the very end - though I did have a guess or two.  I would have liked more explanation into the some of the motives but I was satisfied with the wrap up.  This kept me reading far later than I intended because I had to know what happened and I didn't want my time with Ellison or Grace to end.  This read was a complete delight!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Yes!  I can't wait for the next one!

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you are a mystery fan you really must try this series.  I don't think you would be disappointed.  While I do think you could start here without too much trouble I think it would be even better to go back to the beginning so you can get to know all the characters.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Quackery - Nonfiction Review

Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen (Amazon Link)

Rating: Good
Source: NetGalley

Description: Discover 67 shocking-but-true medical misfires that run the gamut from bizarre to deadly. Like when doctors prescribed morphine for crying infants. When snorting skull moss was a cure for a bloody nose. When consuming mail-order tapeworms was a latter-day fad diet. Or when snake oil salesmen peddled strychnine (used in rat poison) as an aphrodisiac in the '60s. Seamlessly combining macabre humor with hard science and compelling storytelling, Quackery is a visually rich and information-packed exploration of history's most outlandish cures, experiments, and scams.
A humorous book that delves into some of the wacky but true ways that humans have looked to cure their ills. Leeches, mercury, strychnine, and lobotomies are a few of the topics that explore what lengths society has gone in the search for health.

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Picked This Book:  The title caught my attention and I love looking at weird little parts of history.

My Impression:  When the first few pages of a book makes your jaw drop in disbelief I figure that's a good sign and this definitely did that!  Did you know that a compound of mercury was used as a teething remedy up until the 1920s?  Or that beer and crushed garlic was given to induce vomiting after a snake bite?  Or that radium was thought to cure "sexual indifference" in women?  Or that strychnine was given to men with the same problem?  This book is packed full of bits and pieces that had me saying "I had no idea!" and lots of things that made me happy to have been born long after the era of leeches, blistering, and tobacco disinfectant.

This isn't really a book I can imagine sitting down and reading from cover to cover but instead is a fun book to flip through.  I think it'd be fantastic to have on hand when someone in your household is sick and being a bit whiny so you could pull it out and inform them what treatment they could have gotten at an earlier time.  I imagine that would make the most cranky sick person head back to bed quietly and a bit gratefully.

While the pictures aren't particularly explicit some of the descriptions can be a bit graphic.  This isn't really a book I'd want to eat a meal while reading but it was incredibly entertaining.  This is a fun book to flip through and full of all kinds of crazy remedies that will make you glad for antibiotics and Advil.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Yes, particularly if the premise of the book was entertaining.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you have a strong stomach this book is pretty entertaining.  I also think it'd be a good gift for doctors or nurses.