Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Book Review: Just Killing Time by Julianne Holmes (Clock Shop Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Well developed and real characters, plenty of conflict
Cons: Mystery a little weak
The Bottom Line:
New series debut
Characters already friends
You’ll get lost in book

Make the Time for This Debut

For the last year and a half, I’ve been a daily reader over at the Wicked Cozy Authors blog, and I’ve read all of their books and enjoyed them.  I’ve been counting down the days until I could read Just Killing Time, the debut from Julianne Holmes, the final author in the group.  That day has finally arrived, and I’m glad to say it is a fun read.

Ruth Clagan is shocked when she learns her grandfather has died.  While she was very close to him growing up, they had been estranged after her grandmother died and he had remarried.  She has inherited the family business, the Cog & Sprocket clock shop, from him, so she heads to the town of Orchard, Massachusetts, to reconnect with this part of her past.

She has not been in town long when she learns there is more to Grandpa Thom’s death than she initially thought.  While he died of a heart attack, there are signs that foul play might have been involved.  To Ruth’s surprise, he’d gotten involved in local politics and an effort to save town hall and the downtown area.  And there was a robbery at the clock shop not long before Thom died.  Did Thom interrupt another burglar?  Or was there another reason someone attacked him?

I knew from the first page I would love Ruth, and I was right.  She is a very fun main character who is rediscovering a part of her life that she’d left behind.  Over the course of the book, she reconnects with friends from the years she spent in Orchard as a child and makes some new ones.  I loved them just as much as I did Ruth.  I can’t wait to spend more time with them.

The plot includes quite a bit more about Ruth reconnecting with the clock shop and her life in Orchard than I would have normally liked, however, since I loved the characters, I enjoyed it.  And don’t misunderstand, there is plenty of conflict and a good mystery.  In fact, I can see threads of future mysteries or at least sub-plots in this book.  I’m definitely left wondering how things are going to progress as the series goes forward, and I can’t wait see just what develops.  As for this book, the mystery presented here is wrapped up with a logical solution at the end.

Because the victim was Ruth’s grandfather, this book took on a more somber tone than some of the books I read.  After all, Ruth needs to grieve for a man who was very dear to her for years.  I actually loved how that element was handled since it developed Ruth and several others over the course of the book.  As others talked about Thom, I got a great picture of the man, and honestly I wish we’d gotten to see him on the page.  This gave the book more depth than many I read, and I loved the book for it.

Just Killing Time is a polished debut that will leave you turning pages as you spend time with these delightful characters.  I’m already counting the seconds until I can revisit Ruth and the town of Orchard.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of this book to give away.  Because it is a physical book, the contest is limited to residence of the US.

Just leave me a comment with your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you if you win.  I will pick the winner next Tuesday, October 13th, so please leave your comment before 12:01AM Pacific Time on 10/13.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Ornament Review: Clock Shop - Noelville #10 - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Cute design
Cons: Not enough lights up
The Bottom Line:
One more shop visit
Noelville winds to an end
Wish it lit up more

Time is up for the Village of Noelville

Every year, die hard collectors wait in dread to find out which series Hallmark is ending in a given year.  This year, two of my series are ending.  (And I’ve started three more.  I was trying to cut back, honest!)  One wasn’t a surprise based on poor sales, but I was a little surprised to see that Noelville was ending.  However, the final entry, the Clock Shop, shows why it might be time for this series to end.

As always, this is a highly decorated and tasty looking gingerbread house.  There is glittered filled white frosting on parts of the roof and ground to represent snow with green holly leaves with red berries for trim on the front.  We have hard candy bushes on two corners of the building as well.  What makes it a clock shop?  Well, there is a cookie clock on the front over the door with a red bird popping out of a window above that.  It looks a little like a cuckoo cuckoo clock, in fact, an element I certainly love.

There were two reasons I started collecting this village.  The first was creative decorating with the frosting and candy.  This ornament has that with the clock element.  The second is the light element.  And this is where this ornament disappoints.

As is usual, the windows and various other elements of this ornament are colored see through plastic.  If you put the light from an ordinary string of Christmas tree lights in the hole in the back, it shines through these parts.  However, the windows in the front, are small and there are none of the sides.  Yes, you do get some glow through the roof and bushes in three corners (the gingerbread shop owner is in the fourth corner), but it’s not enough to make up for the solid sides.  Give us bigger windows!

This isn’t the first ornament in the series to not light up enough for my tastes.  The first four were great with plenty of light, but several in the middle were this dark.  The last few were getting lighter again, but with this ornament being darker, it actually makes me feel better about the series ending.

Since this is a building, the ornament has a nice, flat base.  Someday, I intend to set all of the series out in a display.  There is a 10 in a Christmas tree on the bottom of the ornament since this is the tenth in the series.

There is a loop in the middle of the Clock Shop’s roof, so you can hang it on your tree.  It does hang straight, although that could always be pulled off based on how the light string pulls on the ornament.

If more of the ornaments in the series had been like the first few, I would be sorry to see Noelville end.  But the Clock Shop, while not bad, shows why I am okay saying goodbye to this village.

Be sure to check out the earlier places in Noelville.

Original Price: $19.95

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Book Review: The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy (Hero's Guide #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful characters, fun plots, lots of laughs
Cons: This is the end of the series
The Bottom Line:
Fairy tales unite
For this fun final chapter
Wraps up series well

Framed for Murder and on the Run

When I read the second book in the Hero’s Guide series a couple of months ago, I determined that I was going to finish the series as quickly as possible.  I just had to know what was going to happen to all of these characters.  So it was with much anticipation that I sat down to read The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw.  While I’m sad to see this trilogy end, I loved every page of this book.

For those who might have missed the previous two books, they are another in the increasingly popular fairy tale mash up genre.  In this case, the focus is on the Princes Charming, who might be slightly less heroic than you would imagine.  I’m not talking about being evil, but I am talking about sillier or just less charming overall.  But when duty calls, they can come together and find a way of being heroic.  These princes are from neighboring kingdoms in a realm called the Thirteen Kingdoms.  Being the third and final book in the series, I do not recommend you start here.  Trust me, you won’t be sorry you read these books in order.

As this book opens, tragedy has struck the kingdom of Avondell.  The princess Briar Rose has been murdered.  While the kingdom goes into mourning (obviously by subjects who don’t know her well), the decree goes out to arrest the League of Princes and their accomplices (you know, people like Snow White, Ella, and Rapunzel) for this horrible crime.  With the reward being untold riches, every bounty hunter in the Thirteen Kingdoms is after our heroes.

As crazy as it sounds, the Princes do have motive based on what Briar Rose has done to them in the past.  But they are innocent of the crime, and they figure the only way to save themselves and their friends is to find the real killer.  What no one realizes is that this is merely part of a fiendish plot to take over all of the Thirteen Kingdoms.  Can the Princes clear their name?  Will they be able to defeat this new plot as well?

One reason I was anxious to read this book was the character arcs from the previous book.  I could tell where some of these things were going to go, and I was anxious to see if I was right.  I’m pleased to say I am very happy with where the characters wound up at the end of this book.  No real surprises there, but the target Middle Grade audience might not pick up on the arcs as easily as I did as an adult.  And, it’s not a bad thing at all to leave us with happily ever after, especially for a fairy tale series.

Where the surprises came into play was the plot.  This book is about 515 pages long, and I was never bored.  The story moves forward quickly with plenty of action.  I saw a few twists coming early, but there were others I wasn’t expecting.  Everything leads up to a climax that is creative, suspenseful, and nicely wraps up everything from the trilogy.

Of course, one reason I loved this series was the plentiful humor with is once again on display here.  I can’t count the number of times I laughed, chuckled, or at least grinned over the course of this book.  A few of the characters are downright silly, and they provide great laughs.  There are some funny situations and witty banter as well.

Circling back to the characters, author Christopher Healy has done a great job making all of the main characters likable.  There were a few I didn’t care for as much in the first book, but by now I really do know them and think they are truly great.  Even the silliest have had moments that showed true character.  Liam, Gustav, Duncan, and Frederic, our four Princes Charming, are very different as well, so it is easy to keep them straight.

With a book this long, I figured I would be happy to finish it in four days.  I finished in three.  That’s a testament to how quickly the pages fly by and how much I was enjoying it.  I rarely wanted to put the book down.

So if you’ve enjoyed these books, be sure to pick up The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw.  And if you have yet to meet the League of Princes, start this charming series today.

This is my entry in this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Ornament Review: Happy Halloween! #2 - Ghost - 2014 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great details in a scene creatively presented
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
This haunted scene is
Presented in a pumpkin
Creative and fun

The Case of the Haunted Pumpkin

Since I wasn’t collecting Hallmark’s Happy Halloween! series, I didn’t pay much attention to the second entry, which came out last year.  I think if I had, I might have given it more than a ghost of a chance.  The details in it are that much fun.

Each ornament in this series features a spooky Halloween scene in a pumpkin.  And from my bad pun, you’ve probably guessed correctly that the second in the series features a ghost.  The orange pumpkin is just a tad wider than it is tall, and instead of a face, this ornament has a house carved in the front.  It’s just the outline, but it’s the shape of an old Victorian house just like is always haunted in movies or illustrations of ghost stories.  And sure enough, there is a white ghost grinning at us from the center of the scene inside.  But if you look closely behind him, you’ll see that the back of the pumpkin is etched to include two chairs sitting in front of a fireplace.  There are even windows on the sides with the curtains blowing as if a cold draft is passing through the house.

It think it was the details of the scene behind the ghost that really sold me on the ornament.  That just makes it fun.  They are very subtle, so you have to be paying attention to notice them, but I like that subtlety here.  The fact that the scene is framed by an outline of the house is great, too.

The ornament is thick enough to make the base of this ornament sturdier than the first in the series.  It still rocks a bit, but I think it would take a strong push to knock it over.  You’ll also find the series marker, a 2 in a Christmas tree, down there.

Fortunately, there is a loop attached to the stem at the top of the pumpkin, so you can hang it.  Slip a hook through it, and you’ll find that tips back a little, but that’s actually okay because it allows you to see the scene inside the pumpkin better.

The creativity of the Hallmark artists never ceases to amaze me, and that holds true with the details of the second Happy Halloween! ornament.  If you don’t hunt this one down, you’ll be haunted by regret.

There's more spooky fun with the rest of Hallmark's Happy Halloween! series.

Original Price: $12.95

October 3rd's Weekly TV Thoughts

A couple of shows returned this week, but I felt like I had less to watch.  Probably something about all those two hour premiers I complained about last week.  Next week gives me two more news shows, however, so we shall see how I do.

Once Upon a Time – As long as they are going to make Emma the Dark One, I’m glad they went all out and made her truly evil.  While I was watching her struggle, I was hoping that wasn’t all we’d see.  I also liked that they had the characters reacting the same way I was to their memories being erased.  “Again!”  I’m very curious to see how this all plays out.  So, did Regina play Hook into freeing Zelena?  We’ll probably never know that.

Big Bang Theory – Okay, I guess I was expecting too much of a resolution on a sitcom, but I feel like the ending of the Penny/Leonard issue was a bit of a letdown.  Easily the worst part of the episode, but if it resolves this stupid plot that I never bought, I’ll be happy.  Loved the rest of it.  The Shamey breakup is hilarious.  And Raj and Howard were pretty funny, too, as was Bernadette’s scene with Penny and Amy.

Dancing with the Stars – I didn’t know half of those theme songs since they were from shows I never watched.  Still, the routines were impressive – mostly.  There are still the obvious couples who should be going soon, but hopefully they will.  I wasn’t rooting for Kym and Tony, but I’m sorry to see them go, especially this way.  That’s never how I want anyone out of the competition.

Castle – Seriously?  What are they thinking?  That is not how you handle a problem when you are married, and I don’t see it working for the characters.  I will not give up on the show based on this, but they had better really make it worth our wild if I am expected to stick around for this nonsense.

The Muppets – Overall, I found the show more fun this week.  However, the adult jokes bothered me more.  Go figure, right?  The jury is still out, but I will keep watching for now and see if it can truly find its stride.

Agents of SHIELD – I’m not completely back on board.  It’s still got flaws.  But I am certainly curious where they are going with everything, especially since Ward and HYDRA aren’t the group that we were fighting against this week.  Looks like that is coming next week, but who are these others?  Where is Simmons?  Still not sure quite what to think, but I’m willing to give it a little time to develop.

Scream Queens – Who was the ice cream cone?  Was that someone we knew or just a random guest star/extra?  I mean, we didn’t lose anyone major with either of the deaths in the episode, but I don’t expect the big deaths to come until late in the season.  There’s no secret that there are two of them now, and we know who one of them is.  But why?  Obviously, it has to do with the death/baby from 20 years ago, but who is the second killer?  How did this person get a partner?  And why does the main killer think this will help at all?

Survivor – Wow, that was quite the dramatic turn in the one tribe in the course of a couple of days.  Way to find a weakness and exploit it.  But it is obvious who you can’t trust.  Good thing everyone else was on board because loose lips could have sunk that plan.  I was okay with who left.  Of the two, I didn’t really like her and I want Spencer to stick around for a while longer since I kind of like him.

Heroes Reborn – Less impressed than I was before.  I’d forgotten this part of the show where the characters wander around with no apparent purpose for episodes on end.  It reminds me of a story I used to write with some friends.  Anyway, I hope some kind of direction shows up soon.  The one thing that really got me this week is Zachary Levi’s character starting to show some powers.  Don’t know why that surprised me so much, but it really did.

Amazing Race – I was sorry to see the cousins go.  I’m not sure they would have gotten much further, but I liked them, and I would have enjoyed seeing them longer.  I wasn’t paying much attention, but I’m not sure why the jocks hate the green team so much.  And I was sorry to see one of the jocks get injured racing for second.  Seems a little crazy to me.  We will have to see how that affects them going forward.

Girl Meets World – It was an okay episode for sure, but definitely not one of their better episodes.  Having said that, the dancing was fun, and Dewey was much more fun this time around as well.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Ornament Review: Grateful Gobbler - Keepsake Cupcakes #4 - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Delicious looking turkey cupcake
Cons: Not actually edible
The Bottom Line:
November ready
With gobble gobble cupcake
Fun decoration

Let’s Talk Turkey about Hallmark’s Next Keepsake Cupcake

The calendar says it is fall, but I’m having a hard time believing that since it is currently in the upper 90’s here in Southern California.  (And as a fan of hot weather, I am not complaining).  But we are beginning to see fall items in the stores, and Hallmark is no exception.  They’ve just released Grateful Gobbler, the fourth in their yearlong Keepsake Cupcake series, and it’s a great piece.

Since this is the November cupcake, is it really surprising that the focus is a turkey?  The cupcake in question is obviously a chocolate cupcake, which we can tell thanks to just a bit of the cupcake that is peaking out of the reddish orange wrapper.  There is a bit of green frosting circling the outer side of the cupcake.  And in the middle is the turkey.  He looks like he is made out of chocolate frosting, at least the parts that are right next to the cupcake.  I’m not sure what the head and neck that rise out of the cupcake are supposed to be made from.  Fondant maybe?  There are two cookies shaped like wings sitting on the cupcake and a third rising out of the back of the cupcake for the turkey’s tail feathers.  And the feathers on the tail section?  Why pieces of candy corn, or course.

The plastic on this cupcake looks so much like the items I’ve described that my mouth waters a bit when I look at it.  The overall effect looks like Thanksgiving, so it is perfect for November.  And the foil on the cupcake nicely evokes the fall season, so it perfectly fits as well.  I don’t think we could ask for a better November cupcake.

Being a cupcake, this has a nice flat bottom so you can set it out as part of your display of the rest of the series or any Thanksgiving decoration display.  You’ll also find the 4 in a Christmas tree series marker on the bottom of the ornament.

If you want to hang this ornament somewhere, you’ll find the loop behind the turkey’s head, right in the middle of the cupcake.  He actually tips forward very, very slightly, but it is hardly noticeable unless you are looking for it.

While the choices in Grateful Gobbler might be a bit obvious, the execution is plenty of fun.  I’m thankful to have this in my collection, and you will be as well.

Check out the rest of the delicious celebration with the Keepsake Cupcakes.

Original Price: $12.95

October 2nd's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Time for this week's Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I've got a book I just finished a few hours ago - The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw, the final part of a trilogy by Christopher Healy.  I loved it!  Not that I'm too surprised since I loved the first two books as well.

This is a middle grade book that mashes up fairy tale characters into a completely different story.  It's lots of fun filled with great humor that all can enjoy.

For example, here's how the prologue begins:

Outlaws have too many feathers in their hats.
Outlaws are allergic to seafood.
Outlaws never forget to floss.
Oh, and outlaws are people who are hunted down because they have been accused of terrible crimes.
Okay, I supposed it's possible you knew that last bit already.  But if so, then you may be wondering, "What's with all the outlaw stuff?  This is a book about the League of Princes, right?  Those guys are heroes.  Or at least hero-ish."

And here's the beginning of Chapter 1:

King Wilberforce was in a foul mood, as he had been ever since Prince Frederic had stormed out of the palace months earlier.  His son had never lashed out at him like that before.  And to think it was simply because he has banished his son's fiancee.

I mean, really, that's not a big deal, right?

One final quote, this time from page 56:

Duncan raise his chin and declared, "Duty calls, everyone!  I must go!"
He saw his family's faces droop.  "Don't worry, though.  I'll be back.  And I'll bring souvenirs!"  Everybody smiled again.

And there you have it for this week.  I'll be reviewing this book on Sunday, so if you want to learn more, come back then.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Review: Dead with the Wind by Miranda James (Southern Ladies Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters in a story filled with tension
Cons: None worth dwelling on
The Bottom Line:
Family wedding
Drama, not celebration
Great story for us

Celebration Turns to Tragedy

There so many great sounding series out there it is almost impossible to keep up with all of them.  That’s why when an author I keep meaning to read starts a second series, I often find myself reading that series first.  It’s a way for me to at least be caught up on one of their series.  I can now say I am up to date on Miranda James’ Southern Ladies Mysteries, and based on how much I loved Dead with the Wind, I am hoping to get to more of this author’s books soon.

Miranda (really a pen name for Dean James) spun this series off from the hugely popular Cat in the Stacks mysteries.  I’ve only read the first in that series, but that hasn’t affected my enjoyment of these books at all.  This series focuses on sisters An’gel and Dickce Ducote, two elderly spinsters who own an estate in Athena, Mississippi.  In the first book, they take in a young college student named Benjy as well as a dog, Peanut, and a cat, Endora.

In this book, An’gel and Dickce are thrilled to be heading down to Louisiana for the wedding of their cousin’s granddaughter.  Since they haven’t seen this cousin or her family in several years, they head down a few days early, looking forward to spending some time catching up before the main event.

However, when they arrive, they find the household in constant strife.  The bride-to-be makes most bridezillas look sane, and her behavior is taking a toll on the entire family.  The tension leads to one tragedy before a series of bad thunderstorms moves through the area.  In the aftermath of the storm, a body is found dead outside.  While some are quick to say the person was a victim of the storm, An’gel and Dickce think that doesn’t fit all the facts.  Can these two sisters figure out what really happened?

This book brings the conflict from the very beginning, and it doesn’t stop until we reach the climax.  I was always disappointed when I had to set the book down, and would pick it up again as soon as I could to figure out what was happening.  The tension builds to a wonderfully creative climax.  I did feel like the climax was a bit rushed, but everything was explained to my satisfaction, and the clues and red herrings throughout the book all make sense.

The characters are great as well.  In addition to An’gel and Dickce, Benjy and the two pets go along on this trip.  I love all five of these characters, so spending time with them again was a true pleasure.  The cast of new characters are strong as well.  A couple of them were a little weak early on, but by the end they were all well developed.  I could see several of them as the killer, which helped keep me turning pages as I reached the climax.

This book is a little unique in the cozy market because it is told in third person from multiple points of view.  A majority of the book is told from An’gel’s point of view, but we get scenes from Dickce’s point of view and even a few from Benjy’s viewpoint.  In the end, things these characters learn apart contribute to the solution of the mystery, and I like this approach because it is something different.

If Agatha Christie were alive writing mysteries set in the American South, she’d be writing this series.  We’ve got the mansion filled with characters that have motive.  There’s the unlikely sleuths.  And there are great twists to the story along the way.  All of these are hallmarks of her stories.  While these elements of the mystery might be familiar, the book itself is fresh and fun.  I loved how these elements were used in this story.

So if you are looking for a mystery filled with tension and puzzle, pick up Dead with the Wind.  Like me, you’ll be anxiously waiting for these Southern Ladies to have another case soon.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of this book to give away.  Because it is a physical book, the contest is limited to residence of the US.

Just leave me a comment with your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you if you win.  I will pick the winner next Thursday, October 8th, so please leave your comment before 12:01AM Pacific Time on 10/8.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Monthly Reading Summary for September 2015

Since this is the last day of September, seems like the perfect day a monthly reading summary, wouldn't you agree?  Good, because here it is.  As always, the Index has been updated as well and the links will take you to my full review.

All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).

Cinderella Six Feet Under by Maia Chance (Fairy Tale Fatal #2) – 4
Ophelia and Prue have traveled to Paris where they hope to reunite Prue with her mother.  Instead, they find that Prue’s mother is missing and there is a dead body in Prue’s step-family’s home – a body wearing a ball gown and only one slipper.  Then Gabriel shows up and insists that’s not the only tie in to Cinderella.

The combination of fairy tale with cozy mystery is successful once again.  There are a couple of plot points that seem a bit rough, but for the most part the story is a fun, fast paces romp.  I love the trio at the heart of the series, and the rest of the cast is just as sharp and fun.  I already can’t wait to see where they go next.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Trick or Deceit by Shelley Freydont (Celebration Bay #4) – 5
The first annual haunted house contest in Celebration Bay ends in tragedy when the winning house is vandalized and a dead body is found in with the fake body parts.  Is the jealous runner up to blame?  Who else might have wanted to kill the victim?

This is my fourth trip to Celebration Bay in the last year, and I’ve enjoyed each of them.  Once again, the book provides some unique clues and red herrings that I found lots of fun.  It was great to visit the core characters again, although I wish we would see a bit more character growth in a few of them.  The new characters are just as charming.  This is a great stop for your Halloween (or any time of the year) reading list.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

That is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Williems – 5
When a Fox invites a Chicken to join him for a walk in the forest, it is not a good idea.  And as things continue to unfold, the bad ideas continue to evolve.  But who are they bad ideas for?

This is another unique picture book from Mo Willems with pictures on some pages and dialogue on others, kind of like an old silent film.  Then there’s a Greek chorus of baby chicks constantly giving the warning in the title.  The end of the book contains a great laugh, making this book so much fun.

Red Velvet Revenge by Jenn McKinlay (Cupcake Bakery #4) – 4
The summer heat is killing business for Fairy Tale Cupcakes, so when Mel and Angie get an offer to sell cupcakes at a rodeo in the mountains, it seems like a great idea.  However, when someone is shot at the opening parade, they begin to wonder what they’ve landed in the middle of this time.

I found the first quarter of this book very slow since it sets up several things that could have been handled in a few pages or a couple of chapters max.  Once the story does get started, it moves along at a great clip, however.  The characters, both old and new, are wonderful, and the climax actually made me tear up.

“B” is for Burglar by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #2) – 5
Kinsey is hired to track down a missing woman by the woman’s estranged sister.  It seems like a boring routine case at first, but the more she digs into it, the more Kinsey begins to question what is happening.  No one has seen the woman for months, and the normal avenues of inquiry just aren’t adding up.  What is going on?

I really got pulled into this book and great enjoyed it.  The plot is strong with plenty of clues and red herrings, but everything came together at the end.  The characters are sharp, often with just a few words or sentences.  It’s easy to see why this series has been so popular for so long.

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis – 4
Take a look at temptation from the other side as we see the letters that Screwtape, a senior demon, writes to his nephew and first time tempter Wormwood.  Wormwood’s assignment is a new Christian, and he tries to use family life, World War II, and even a new love to turn the Patient away from Jesus.  Will it work?

Keeping in mind that these are fictional letters, there is still much to chew on as we see how the enemy can twist anything and everything against us.  The subtly employed is incredible and rings true.  While some references can be dated (the book was published in 1941), Lewis’s view on how our society would progress is spot on scary.  About my only real issue is that he appears to be espousing the view that a Christian can lose their salvation, something I disagree with theologically.  Read it with discernment, but by all means read it.

Stone Cold Case by Catherine Dilts (Rock Shop Mysteries #2) – 4
In an effort to learn more about local rocks and minerals, Morgan has been taking a class from the local college.  While one a class field trip, she gets separated from everyone else and finds a mountain man guarding a skeleton.  The discovery reopens an unsolved disappearance in this small Colorado town.  But what happened all those years ago?

It had been a while since I read the first book in this series, but it didn’t take long before I was back on board with the characters again.  They are wonderful, and I enjoyed seeing the growth in them.  The book had too many sub-plots, which crowded out the mystery a little at the beginning, but as the book when on the mystery took over and came to a very strong climax that kept me turning the pages.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Scam by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg (Fox and O’Hare #4) – 4
The unlikely duo of criminal Nick Fox and FBI Agent Kate O’Hare are after a casino owner who is knowingly helping launder money that goes to terrorists.  But as their con is set in motion, things quickly spiral out of control.  Will they be able to turn their target into an FBI asset?

These books are always light, fun reads and this book is no exception.  The characters could have more depth, but they are developed enough to keep my interest, and the crew that Nick and Kate always pull together is half the fun.  The twists and plentiful and the ride is fun.  I’m very anxious to get my hands on the next in the series.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Move Your Blooming Corpse by D. E. Ireland (Eliza Doolitle and Henry Higgins #2) – 5
Eliza and Higgins have gone to Ascot to cheer on the race horse that Eliza’s father recently bought a share of.  However, a woman is murdered in the stable and a man runs onto the track in the middle of a race.  Higgins things he could have stopped the tragic events of the day, so he starts investigating.  But another murder makes Eliza wonder if things are really that simple.  What is going on?

Those who enjoyed seeing these beloved characters again will be delighted with their return.  The writing duo behind these books has done a wonderful job of making them their own and continuing to grow the characters.  The mystery is fantastic as well with everything falling perfectly into place during the suspenseful climax.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Snow Way Out by Christine Husom (Snow Globe Shop #1) – 3
Cami Brooks is enjoying running her family’s curio shop and reconnecting with her friends.  One night, after hosting a snow globe making class, she is walking how through the park when she finds a man asleep on the park bench.  Only, he’s not sleeping, as she discovers when he falls over, revealing the knife in his back.  The scene looks just like a strange snow globe she’d seen in her shop before she left, but when she goes back with the police, it’s gone.  What is happening?

The characters in this book were wonderful.  I could feel the basis for their friendships and the loving relationships with Cami’s family.  They could have used a bit more development, but I would have been willing to revisit them if the plot were better.  Sadly, the book is filled with events happening to Cami; she doesn’t do much to drive the plot at all.  Worse yet, the climax is weak and the explanation for some of the events is adequate at best.  And let’s not discuss a scene that would never happen involving Cami and the police.

The Buccaneers’ Code by Caroline Carlson (Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #3) – 5
Hilary Westfield takes on Captain Blacktooth one last time, this time for leadership of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates.  However, there is much more at stake since the Mutineers are plotting once again to take over the kingdom, and this fight might be the only way to stop them.  But can Hilary rustle up any kind of pirate crew for the battle?

While I knew the broad outline of the story early on, I had a wonderful time getting to the end.  The characters are charming, and the plot moves quickly with a few surprises along the way.  I could hardly put the book down.  I also loved the humor of the book.  I’m sorry to see this series end, but I’m so glad I found it.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, retold in today’s English by Cheryl Ford – 4
Join Christian on his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City.  He’ll encounter many dangers and trials as he tries to stay on the straight and narrow path.  And then in the second half of the book, follow his wife Christiana’s journey.

I was obsessed with this story in other forms as a kid, and it was interesting to read the original many years later as an adult.  Christian’s journey is book, with many powerful lessons and morals that still apply today.  Even when the characters start to sermonize as they walk along, it is interesting.  The second half isn’t as engaging, however, and feels like it suffers the fate of the sequel.  There are still some good moments here, but overall the first part is better.  Bunyan never tries to hide his allegory.  This translation into modern English is very readable while still maintaining the voice of an author from the 1600’s.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Winners for Move Your Blooming Corpse Are....

It's time to draw some winners.  Yes, you are reading that right.  Thanks to the generosity of the authors, the giveaway has jumped from one winner to three!

So let's get to the lucky winners, shall we?  And that are...

Elaine Roberson
J Holden

Congrats to all three of you.

I'll have another giveaway starting on Thursday and two more next week, so be sure to come back and keep entering.