Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Perfect Obsession - Romantic Suspense Review

A Perfect Obsession (New York Confidential #2) by Heather Graham

Rating:  Good
Source:  NetGalley

Description: Someone is murdering beautiful young women in the New York area and displaying them in mausoleums and underground tombs. The FBI is handling the case, with Special Agent Craig Frasier as lead.
Kieran Finnegan, forensic psychologist and part owner of Finnegan's, her family's pub, is consulting on the case. Craig and Kieran are a couple who've worked together on more than one occasion. On this occasion, though, Craig fears for the safety of the woman he loves. Because the killer is too close. The body of a young model is found in a catacomb under a two-hundred-year-old church, now deconsecrated and turned into a nightclub. A church directly behind Finnegan's in lower Manhattan.

As more women are murdered, their bodies discovered in underground locations in New York, it's clear that the police and the FBI are dealing with a serial killer. Craig and Kieran are desperate to track down the murderer, a man obsessed with female perfection. Obsessed enough to want to "preserve" that beauty by destroying the women who embody it

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Why I Picked This Book:  Heather Graham is my kryptonite and this looked interesting.  I love a spooky serial killer!

My Impression:  I don't think I realized exactly what this one was when I requested it.  Instead of a stand alone type series like her Krewe of Hunters books this is more of a continuing series featuring an Irish pub owner/psychologist and her family and an FBI agent. However while Kieran and Craig as well as the rest of the Finnegan family are actually introduced in the first book - Flawless - I didn't feel like I had come in mid-story.  It read very well as a stand alone.

I liked the mystery quite a bit.  It's got a bit of a Criminal Minds feel with a seriously twisted killer scattering super staged corpses around and a mix of the FBI and the psychology of it all.  I had a few suspicions on the killer but was surprised by how the reveal came about.  I really love seeing the investigation from inside the FBI with the discussion of suspects and compiling the information gathered from interviews.  I feel like I'm right there with them standing around the board debating theories.  The setting is fantastic as well.  While a New York setting is always great I especially enjoyed the below ground historical look.  It's interesting to think just how old New York is and what could be buried below all the newer buildings.  I also enjoyed the relationship between Kieran and her brothers as well as the atmosphere in Finnegan's itself.

I did have some issues with this book however.  I felt like Kieran's role was a bit ambiguous with the group she works with.  She's a psychologist not a psychiatrist like the rest of the doctors yet she's still educated and highly qualified.  However, at times they treat her very much as a lackey using her to drop off files at the FBI or to take notes for them.  As well, while the characters were all interesting, they all felt a little flat at times and I never felt like I was fully pulled into the book.

While this book isn't perfect it is a lot of fun.  When you're in the mood for a light read that's spooky with a twist of romance there's really no one better than Graham and this kept me entertained!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  I can never resist a Heather Graham book though I do think I prefer the Krewe books.

Would I Recommend this Book?: I would but with reservations.  It's a fun read but probably not one I'd recommend if you'd never read anything by Graham before.  Start with The Hexed from the Krewe series.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Authors I'd Like to Meet

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Ten Authors I'd Like to Meet or Have Met.  Now meeting authors has never been high up on my list.  I'm not sure how much I want to see behind the curtain.  I mean what do you do if you meet your favorite author and they're really mean?  Will they still be your favorite author?   As well a number of my picks would involve a time machine!

1.  Agatha Christie - Besides being my favorite author Christie had a fascinating life as a world traveler and spent lots of time on archaeological digs with her husband renowned archaeologist Max Mallowan.  Since she hated being asked about her books I'd stick with discussing archaeology!

2.  Barbara Michaels/Barbara Mertz/Elizabeth Peters - Under the name Barbara Michaels she has written some of my favorite guaranteed slump-buster romantic suspense books.  Under the name Elizabeth Peters she's written tons of mysteries.  Under her actual name of Barbara Mertz she had a PhD in Egyptology and has two books on Ancient Egypt that have been in continuous print since publication in the 1960s.  I think she'd be a fascinating person to get to know.

3.  Elizabeth Enright - I know almost nothing about her as a person but her children's books in the Melendy series and in the Gone Away Lake series are so delightful that she just has to be a lovely person.

4.  Sarah MacLean - I heard a number of interviews with MacLean on the podcast Avon on the Air which hasn't had a recent podcast in months which makes me sad.  However, MacLean is hilarious and I really enjoyed her take on some of the more classic romances.  I love that not only is she a romance writer but she is clearly an enthusiastic romance reader.

5.  Kathleen Flinn - I've really enjoyed all 3 books I've read by Kathleen Flinn and I'd really love to take a cooking class taught by her.  She comes as so nice and down to earth in all her books and Kitchen Counter Cooking School changed the way I think about ingredients.

6.  Sophie Hannah - I haven't actually read any of her books with her own characters but I have read both of her Poirot books and I know she was sanctioned by the grandson of Agatha Christie.  I would love to talk over her research and just Poirot in general.

7.  Jill Shalvis - I love Jill Shalvis' books and I love her Instagram feed and I love every interview I've ever heard from her.  She seems like she's just fun to hang out with plus she has lots of dogs which would make it even better.

8.  Douglas Adams - I love Adams' sense of humor and the fact that he can take the most ordinary situation and make it laugh till you cry funny without even seeming to try.  I'm curious on how that would translate to his speaking.

9.  Susan Wiggs - I really love Susan Wiggs' books but I really want to meet her to beg for the 3rd book in the Bella Vista Chronicles.  I adored The Apple Orchard and The Beekeeper's Ball and there were hints that a 3rd book was in the works and an open ended discovery at the end of the 2nd book and then NOTHING.  It's been years.  She's had other books that were wonderful but I want another Bella Vista Chronicles!

10. Tony Horwitz - Basically I just want to have Tony Horwitz's job.  He does these fascinating and funny travel/history books and I'd really just like to follow him around on one of his trips.  If you haven't read Blue Latitudes about Captain Cook or A Voyage Long and Strange about North American between Columbus and the Pilgrims I highly recommend them both.

Who would you like to meet?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Agatha Christie Project - Poirot Part 5

Murder in the Mews (or Dead Man's Mirror and Other Stories) (1937) - This is actually a collection of 4 short stories ranging from almost 90 pages to around 30 pages.  These consist of Dead Man's Mirror, The Incredible Theft, Murder in the Mews and A Triangle at Rhodes.  While the mysteries are satisfying and expertly done this isn't one of my favorite books.  All but the title story feel like tweaks on other books or are more of an analytical exercise.  Without Hastings or really any kind of partner (with the exception of Murder in the Mews which has Chief Inspector Japp) we kind of lose Poirot and he doesn't seem to have as much presence in these stories as he normally does.  The title story is really my favorite and has an interesting perspective.  Poirot definitely makes his presence known here and I think the reveal would surprise most readers. This story raises the whole collection a star for me.  Overall, it's an entertaining and quick read.  Rating 4 Stars

Appointment with Death (1938)- I know I've said it before but I LOVE Christie's exotic location mysteries.  This book takes place in Jerusalem and centers around an American family called Boynton.  Poirot doesn't actually make an appearance in this book until the second half so the Boyntons were front and center with all their issues and they have some serious ones!  There is a wealth of suspects and motives floating around with none being less likely than the others and while Christie does play by the rules by giving the reader all the information I was still surprised when the killer was revealed.  While Poirot isn't the focus of the book I did enjoy his arrival into the story and the interplay between him and the law enforcement who bring him into the mystery.  This is probably one of my favorite books and one that I don't think gets nearly enough attention.  Rating 4.5 Stars

Sad Cypress (1940) - Elinor Carlisle thinks her whole life is planned out.  She and her cousin by marriage Roddy Welman are to be married and they will inherit Aunt Laura's fortune and live happily every after.  Except Roddy falls in love with pretty Mary Gerrard and Aunt Laura dies without a will - leaving all her money to Elinor alone.  Elinor is still reeling from her aunt's death and the engagement being called off when Mary dies and Elinor is arrested.  The case looks like an easy one and Elinor is sure to be found guilty when Aunt Laura's doctor calls in Hercule Poirot to save the day.  I feel like Christie was a little distracted when she wrote the ending of this book.  The plot itself is going nicely along and some holes are poked in the case against Elinor and then wham the reveal and the story is ended.  I was satisfied with the ending but it felt a bit like she had a 400 page novel and was told she had to cut it down to 350 pages but needed to keep the ending the same.  Rating: 3.5 Stars

One Two Buckle My Shoe (or The Patriotic Murders or An Oerdose of Death) (1941) - This is basically a mystery wrapped in a puzzle seasoned with conspiracy and served with a side of red herring.  With a mysterious Greek with ties to espionage and blackmail, the backbone of the British financial structurek, a renowned private detective, and an American anarchist all lurking around the last person anyone expects to be dead is the ordinary dentist..  Yet it is regular ordinary conservative Mr. Morley who lays dead with a bullet to the skull.  Luckily for justice one of his last patients was Hercule Poirot and he is not satisfied with the verdict of suicide.  There's a lot to unwind here and it's an interesting flip on a typical victim.  No one would want to kill Mr. Morley but everyone else around him has more than enough people who would want them dead.  The reader and Poirot come continually back to the one point - why is Mr. Morley dead?  The ending was satisfying and it was fun to see a case that made no sense be suddenly explained.  Rating: 4 Stars

Sunday, March 26, 2017

This Week in Reading - March 26

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:

Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison - I've really enjoyed the first two books of this series so when I was offered book #3 I jumped at the chance.  This one focuses on Iris's writing a little bit more and I can't wait to see what happens.  (Publisher)

A Reference to Murder by Kym Roberts - I've been wanting to try this series for awhile because it involves a bookstore but I couldn't resist this one which features a missing persons case that's connected to a much older missing persons case (NetGalley)

The Antique House Murders by Leslie Nagel - There's an abandoned old house and I can never resist abandoned old houses - especially if they're full of stuff! (NetGalley)

Buns by Alice Clayton - I've been wanting to try Clayton for ages and I took a chance and requested this one.  I'm super exited to start reading!  (NetGalley)

Miraculous Mysteries: Locked Room Mysteries and Impossible Crimes edited by Martin Edwards - I love these short story collections from Poison Pen Press and I've always been a fan of locked room mysteries.  I'm looking forward to finding some new authors.  (NetGalley)


Reading: The Lake House by Kate Morton and Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  I think I made a mistake reading both of these at the same time because they're both on the long side and it just feels like I'm making NO progress.  I think mixing one in with a shorter faster paced book would have been a better idea.  As well I'm reading Dying on the Vine by Marla Cooper on my Kindle.

Listening:  I just finished Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming and am waiting for At Home by Bill Bryson to come available.  I read it a few years ago but don't remember much about it except I kept dropping the hardback on my face.  I thought it might be a fun listen.

Watching: I gathered my courage and have been watching the 4th season of Sherlock.  I've watched the first 2 and hope to watch the last one tomorrow. It's super weird and I'm enjoying it though the 1st part of the 2nd episode was just too bizarre.  I'm about to start Victoria with Jenna Coleman which I'm looking forward to watching.  Movie-wise we've got Diamonds are Forever coming up since I just finished the book.

Off the Blog:

I think I've almost recovered from being out of town for 8 days.  I always feel like it takes just as long to recover as the time I've been away.  Thankfully I'm somewhat caught up on laundry and the Tornado is getting his sleep schedule kind of under control.  Vacation hours and daylight savings time combined has us staying up super late and sleeping late and we're all naturally night owls as it is.  That first morning the alarm went off I thought I was going to cry.
Emma and the ridiculously large dog who is quite convinced he's a lap dog

Emma and her boyfriend were able to come join us for part of the vacation which added to the fun.  My grandfather is doing really well and is back to feeling like his old self.  He isn't as mobile as he'd like but he's getting there.   We also came home with a motor home which we're figuring out how to use and looking forward to future adventures.  If anyone has any tips or resources please share!

This week is book fair week at the Tornado's school which is always lots of fun.  I'm volunteering some and J is going to come eat lunch with him and then go visit the bookfair with him.  I'm sure he'll end up with stacks and stacks of books! 

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Agatha Christie Project - Poirot Part 5
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Authors I'd Like to Meet
Wednesday: A Perfect Obsession - Romantic Suspense Review
Thursday:  Dying on the Vine - Cozy Mystery Review
Friday:  Friday Linkups
Saturday:  Food Resolutions Check In

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

52 Pins in 52 Weeks - March Edition

I absolutely love Pinterest! My current pin count is just under 10,500 and I have dozens of boards. I alternate between pinning from the tons of food and craft blogs (I have a different system for book blogs!) and pinning after mindlessly scrolling through the "Everything" option where I can see all the pins that have been pinned and repinned recently.
 In 2015 I realized that while I relied on Pinterest for all kinds of things a lot of my boards were being seriously neglected and even in the boards I did use regularly there were still plenty of pins collecting dust. And that's where 52 Pins in 52 Weeks came from. At the first of the year I make a board called 52 Pins in 52 Weeks and fill it with 52 pins that I want to do over the course of the year. I've tried to include a good mix of food, holiday, and craft pins and push myself to step a little out of my comfort zone. I pin my results on my 52 Pins in 52 Weeks Results board. Some pins are wins and some are most definitely fails but it's always interesting to attempt them! 
 This year I hope you'll share your Pin Wins and Fails with me and link up below! The format is totally up to you. Just post about the pins you've tried over the month (it can be multiple posts) and link up here! The link up will the the last Saturday of every month and I can't wait to see what everyone is doing!

This was a fairly quiet month and I didn't get as many pins as I expect to complete finished.  The primary hold up is that we were out of town for 8 days which when I scheduled it didn't seem like that big of a deal but it turns out it is a schedule killer!  Especially since it seems to take me a solid week to prep and another week to recover!  April will be a super sized edition!

Week 10:

The Pin:  Lucky Rice Krispie Treats from Mandy's Recipe Box

The Basic Idea: A basic homemade Rice Krispie treat with the addition of a little bit of Lucky Charms including the marshmallows.

My Results:  Well first off homemade Rice Krispie treats are just ridiculously good and these were no exception.  I was surprised to find that the Lucky Charms did change the texture a little.  There are 4 cups Rice Krispies to 1 cup Lucky Charms so for the most part it takes like a standard treat but then I'd come up on an extra little crunchy bit or a marshmallow and it was a tasty addition.  The Lucky Charms marshmallows weren't as visible as I wanted them to be so I did take a few extra and press them into the top.  Next time I'd pull out about 1/4 cup or just a little less to have ready to do that.  I'll definitely make these again around St. Patrick's Day next year though they won't replace the standard Rice Krispie treat recipe.

Week 11:

The Pin:  Copy Cat Shamrock Shake from Number 2 Pencil

The Basic Idea:  A minty creamy milkshake similar to McDonald's Shamrock Shake.

My Results:  I'm going to be honest and admit that I have never actually had a Shamrock Shake so I can't be sure how close of a copy cat this recipe is.  However, I do like a good milkshake and this sounded fun for St. Patrick's Day.  We were split on this one.  The Tornado and I liked it but J (who isn't super fond of mint) said it was annoyingly minty - Just enough to be there but not enough to be refreshing.  I thought the mint was subtle and went well with the creamy vanilla flavor.   I did leave out the 3 tablespoons of sugar because I figured it would be sweet enough.  I'll definitely make this again next year though the recipe makes enough for 4 good sized milkshakes so I'll probably half it.

Week 12:

The Pin: off my To Buy board - Sonia Kashuk Sheer Berry - (original source has been deleted)

The Basic Idea:  Buying a sheer berry colored lipstick

My Results: So this is a little different since I didn't actually do anything than pick this up on my last Target run so I'll just give you my opinion!  I have kind of a love/hate relationship with lipstick.  My lips are on the pale side so lipstick is a must but I hate sticky gloss and super matte lipsticks really dry my lips out.  On the other had most of the sheers I've tried have so little staying power they're pointless. I was really pleased with this one.  It's definitely got a little punch of color without being dramatic and while it won't last through a meal it lasts several hours.  The texture is similar to Chapstick.  Actually I found the Sheer Berry color to be very similar to Cherry Chapstick just on steroids color wise.  For less than $10 I can see this ending up on my Must Buy list.

Next month I'll be doing lots of Easter baking and learning to fall asleep in less than a minute.  Come join me for the April linkup on April 29th!

I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday Linkups - Scandal in Skibbereen

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:
How do you handle negative comments left on your blog?

My Answer:
I've been lucky and never had a really negative comment.  There were 2 that came off as super critical.  One was on a post that was at least 6 months old when the person commented very harshly disagreeing with me about my thoughts on who the audience for the book was and I was able to pretty easily ignore that.  The other was an author who had an objection to something I didn't like about their book.  I didn't understand it really because while there had been a point that had annoyed me the review itself was very positive.  I made a non-committal answer to their comment and then have just avoided reviewing their books on the blog ever since.  I don't mind people disagreeing with me - a book worked for me that didn't work for them or vice versa - there are ways to discuss it nicely and that's what almost everyone does.

Sheila Connolly has been one of my favorite cozy mystery authors since I started ready cozy mysteries!  Her Apple Orchard series is fantastic and I was really excited when I discovered that she was starting a series set in Ireland.  I read the first book shortly after it came out and really enjoyed it but the 2nd book just never made it to the top of the pile until now.  I'm super excited to be starting Scandal in Skibbereen and reading about recently relocated Maura's 2nd adventure in Ireland.

The Beginning:
Now that high season had arrived, Sullivan's Pub was busier than Maura Donovan had ever seen it.

My Thoughts:
I can just see the pub crowded with people laughing and talking.  I'm not sure what weather high season actually is in but in my head it's cold and there's a fire roaring!

The 56:
Mick noticed.  "No, but it falls to you to keep him in line.  You're the owner here now."
"I've never managed anyone in my life.  You think he'd be better off somewhere else?"

My Thoughts:
I feel for Maura here (she's the 2nd speaker).  Having to manage someone who really doesn't want to be managed is definitely a challenge - especially when you have no desire to do any managing!

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Last Chance Matinee - Women's Fiction Review

The Last Chance Matinee (Hudson Sisters #1) by Mariah Stewart

Rating: Loved it!
Source: Publisher

Description:  From New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart comes the first novel in her all-new series, The Hudson Sisters, following a trio of reluctant sisters as they set out to fulfill their father’s dying wish. In the process, they find not only themselves, but the father they only thought they knew.
When celebrated and respected agent Fritz Hudson passes away, he leaves a trail of Hollywood glory in his wake—and two separate families who never knew the other existed. Allie and Des Hudson are products of Fritz’s first marriage to Honora, a beautiful but troubled starlet whose life ended in a tragic overdose. Meanwhile, Fritz was falling in love on the Delaware Bay with New Age hippie Susa Pratt—they had a daughter together, Cara, and while Fritz loved Susa with everything he had, he never quite managed to tell her or Cara about his West Coast family.

Now Fritz is gone, and the three sisters are brought together under strange circumstances: there’s a large inheritance to be had that could save Allie from her ever-deepening debt following a disastrous divorce, allow Des to open a rescue shelter for abused and wounded animals, and give Cara a fresh start after her husband left her for her best friend—but only if the sisters upend their lives and work together to restore an old, decrepit theater that was Fritz’s obsession growing up in his small hometown in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. Guided by Fritz’s closest friend and longtime attorney, Pete Wheeler, the sisters come together—whether they like it or not—to turn their father’s dream into a reality, and might just come away with far more than they bargained for.

Genre: Fiction - Women's

Why I Picked This Book:  I really love Stewart's romantic suspense and have enjoyed her more recent Chesapeake Diaries series.  Also, the premise just really grabbed me.

My Impression:  This is going to be a hard review to write because I'm really trying hard not to gush. You know those books that are just easy to read?  The kind where you're immediately pulled into the world and can just visualize the characters?  The kind where you want to know what happens next and want to sneak off to read just a few pages more?  This was one of those books for me. Right from the start I was completely pulled into the story.  I loved seeing the sisters' relationship with each other and themselves grow.  Des and Cara are easy to like but Allie is super prickly and not so easy.  However, my heart broke for her because she's trying so hard at things she can't win and holding grudges that just make her miserable.  At the beginning of the book she's so incredibly unhappy and doesn't even fully realize it.

With the sisters building new relationships and trying to figure out how to get started with the renovation of the old theater the romance between Joe and Cara is kind of just a side plot but it is fully developed. We get to meet Joe and understand some of his motivations and see his relationship with his family and particularly his sister.  He's a good guy who is straight forward about his interest in Cara and it was funny to see Cara, who is typically open and relaxed suddenly go prickly.

While this first book is about all the sisters there is a slight focus on Cara who I really enjoyed getting to know.  She's a smidge on the granola-y side but very much a live and let live person.  Watching her relationship with Des grow was really wonderful as was the development of her relationship with Joe.  

I really loved this book.  It has heart and warmth and humor and was just a delight to read.  My only complaint is that I have to wait a year for the next book!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I'll be counting days until the next book is published and I'm looking forward to going back and reading the rest of the Chesapeake Diaries series.

Would I Recommend this Book?: Absolutely!  If you enjoy books about relationships with wonderful characters then this is a great read and a fantastic start to the series.