Monday, December 31, 2012

Reading Challenge Addict Recap

This challenge will begin on January 1, 2011 and end on December 31, 2011.

Track all of your challenge accomplishments.


I completed 77% of my Challenges


I have the attention span of a senile goldfish and every other year I set out with high hopes of joining and completing numerous reading challenges only to fizzle out sometime before I have completed my goal.
This year, even though I did not finish what I had set out to accomplish, I did manage to make it through September. 
For 2013, I will not be joining any challenges, but I will be working on series that I have started and hopefully, I will make a major dent into the list that I have started.

Reading From My Shelves (20/25)
First in a Series (15/15) COMPLETED (September)
Library Challenge (12/12)- COMPLETED (April)
Audio Challenge (12/12) - COMPLETED (May)
Mystery and Suspense (12/12) - COMPLETED (September)
Serial Killer (4/10)
New Author (10/10) - COMPLETED (March)
What’s in a Name (6/6) - COMPLETED (August)
Finishing the Series  (15/17)
Cozy Mystery (15/15) - COMPLETED (July)
eBook (10/10) - COMPLETED (June)
Eclectic Reader (12/12) - COMPLETED (August)
An Illustrated Year: 2012 Picture Book Reading Challenge (24/24) - COMPLETED (June)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Review - Three Hens and a Peacock

Title: Three Hens and a Peacock
Author: Lester L. Laminack
Illustrator: Henry Cole
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (March 1, 2011)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 32
Genre: Children’s
Source: Library
Ages: Recommended for 5 and up, but I think your younger children will enjoy the illustrations

Life on Tuckers Farm is just fine. The cows have their place, the dog has his and the hens just cluck, peck and lay eggs. Nothing unusual happened – until that peacock showed up.

The farm is in turmoil since Mr. Peacock has no idea where his place is. To top it off, he is now receiving more attention from those stopping by for their vegetables and eggs. Well, the hens just will not stand for this show boater and start brewing trouble.

Dog comes up with a likely solution. Why don’t they change places? The hens can put on their finery and attract customers and Mr. Peacock can try to lay an egg or two.

After a bit of hilarity, it is obvious that they each have their own special talents and it is best to stick with what you are good at.

Cute story and great illustrations. Your young reader will enjoy reading this over and over.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Review - Me...Jane

Title: Me…Jane
Author and Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (April 5, 2011)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 40
Genre: Children’s
Source: Library
Ages: 2 and up

A simple introductory book about Dr. Jane Goodall and how her hopes and curiosity lead to a dream come true.

This book has much to offer all that read it. Beginning with young Jane receiving a stuffed chimpanzee name Jubilee, through her curiosity with nature and her love of the Tarzan of the Apes books; and ending with Jane’s wishes of going to Africa, your young reader will meet an inspirational character. Adults will love the final couple of pages in the book where they can learn more about Dr. Goodall’s works and charities.

Dreams are what carry children, and hopefully, they will connect with a young girl that grows into a remarkable woman – and can see that with perseverance, dreams can come true.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review - Not Your Mother's Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook

Title: Not Your Mother's Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook
Author: Jessica Fisher
Publisher: Harvard Common Press (October 9, 2012)
Format: Softcover; Pgs 416
Genre: Cookbook
Source: Library
Series: NYM (Not Your Mother’s

I was more impressed with this “Not Your Mother’s” cookbook than I was in the previous book that that I tried. Like Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes for Two, this one does not have pictures, but what it does offer are usable dinner solutions, with shopping lists and planning schedules, that will get you through the shopping and cooking process smoother and easier.

Another added bonus is that not all the recipes depend on tomato products as fillers. Other cookbooks that I have checked out in regards to make-ahead freeze recipes seem to be tomato heavy and after awhile that gets a bit redundant.

Jessica Fisher takes the time to introduce the concept and explains the ideas behind freezer cooking. What can and what cannot be frozen. Storage lengths and freezing techniques. Even spelling out specifics as to what containers and freezer bags will be needed.

Overall, this is a very good resource for busy families or even for those that are new empty nesters that are beginning to question the practicality of cooking for yourself every night.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - Grounds to Kill


Hosted by Breaking the Spine


Title: Grounds to Kill
Author: Wendy Roberts
Publisher: Carina Press / Amazon Digital Services(January 7, 2013)
Format: e-book (364 KB)
Genre: Mystery
Series: Sounds like it could be turned into one, but I do not know for sure

Overview:

Barista Jen Hanby's coworkers give her a hard time for bringing coffee and pastries to a homeless man who sits outside her café—but she has a secret. The scruffy man is her father.

She's also hiding the little matter of why her palm itches. But how can she explain that her hand has a mind of its own and writes messages from the beyond? Right. That'll get her Employee of the Month.

When she finds herself scrawling your boyfriend is cheating on you! to herself on the bathroom mirror, she immediately dumps the guy. But then his little fling—who just happens to be her half-sister—turns up dead, and suddenly Jen's homeless father is the prime suspect.

Jen knows he is being framed and must take matters into her own hands to protect him. But will anyone believe that the crazy old man is innocent? Or that his spirit-writing daughter holds the truth?

Chapter 1:

There’s a superstition that says if the palm of your hand is itchy you’ll soon be receiving money. If that were true, I’d be a gazillionaire instead of an underpaid barista. Instinctively, I felt my itchy hand might one day bring me luck. So far, nada.

I rubbed my burning palm on the countertop while I concentrated on whipping up a large café mocha, no sugar, no whip, extra-dry, half skim, half whole milk with chocolate syrup.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Review - Kissing Christmas Goodbye

Title: Kissing Christmas Goodbye
Author: M.C. Beaton
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (November 4, 2008)
Format: Paperback; Pgs 256
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: Library
Series: Agatha Raisin #18


Once again, Agatha is bored with the typical missing cat type of investigations that are coming through the doors of her detective agency. Things seem to be picking up a bit with the morning mail when she receives a letter from Phyllis Tamworthy, a wealthy woman who is convinced that her family is trying to kill her.

Sure that the old woman is off her rocker, and with the help of Sir Charles Fraith, Agatha travels to the family home and represents herself as a friend while trying to gage the dysfunctional family. Having had enough of the whiney insufferable clan, Agatha and Charles plan their getaway when Phyllis Tamworthy is found dead. Declared a heart attack by the family physician, Agatha has different ideas and with her suspicious mind, sets out to answer a few questions of her own.

In addition to investigating this suspicious death, Agatha has once again decided that she will put on the perfect Christmas meal. If you have read her previous books, you will remember the time that she almost burned down the village community center when she tried to cook a turkey, so her friends and loved ones are a bit suspicious when it comes to this attempt. Agatha is determined. Even though her feelings for James Lacey are lukewarm, she is determined to make this special for him – she just does not know if he will arrive.

Taking place over a three-month period, you see Agatha interweaving the mysterious death of a penny-pinching bully with her own remembrances of a non-idyllic childhood as the daughter of two alcoholic parents. You see her desperate need to transform the life of a new employee, a seventeen year old that is bringing out Agatha maternal side, all the while putting the perfect Christmas dinner on the table. What is most important, you are once again seeing Agatha growing as a person. She may be kicking and screaming with a squeaky hip, but she is definitely mellowing and putting others before herself.

I would not call it a “Christmas Book”, but more of a “ draw those that you love close and appreciate them more” type of book; and in doing so, you just might get a special gift from friends that want to make it special for you too.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Review - The Gingerbread Pirates

Title: The Gingerbread Pirates
Author: Kristin Kladstrup
Illustrator: Matt Tavares
Publisher: Candlewick; Reprint edition (September 11, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 32
Genre: Children’s
Source: Library
Ages: 4 and up

I have to admit, I had never thought of Santa Claus as a cannibal, but now that I see the world through the eyes of a gingerbread man, I can see his point quite clearly.

This year as little Jim is making Christmas cookies with his mother he has a brilliant idea, since pirates are his favorite thing, why not make gingerbread men that look like pirates.

That evening, as Jim is going to sleep, he wishes that Captain Cookie had a pirate ship.

They must have been magical words since suddenly Captain Cookie burst to life wondering where his crew is and who is this “Santa Claus” that wants to eat them.

What ensues is a very funny magical story involving cliffs, hungry mice, rescuing his crew and a terrifying encounter with a cannibal.

A very funny Christmas yarn that will become a family favorite.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Review - Holiday Buzz

Title: Holiday Buzz
Author: Cleo Coyle
Publisher: Berkley (December 4, 2012)
Format: Paperback; Pgs 384
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Coffeehouse Mysteries #12


Usually, when I read a book from the Coffee House Mysteries series, I cannot get enough coffee. As I said before, I swear they are in cahoots with my favorite independent café, but this time, I am lusting over the cookies at my local bakery.

I guess I should be glad that the writing team of Cleo Coyle changed it up, but let’s face it, there are more calories in cookies than in coffee so I cannot win either way.

The busy little baristas from the Village Blend, complete with holiday hats, are knee deep in the Great New York Cookie Swap when Clare notices that one of her crew has wandered off; taking a cold winters night stroll she discover the body of Moirin Faigan dead on the carousel. What ensues brings out both the best and the worst in people.

The NYPD are quick to point their fingers at a serial assaulter referred to as “The Christmas Stalker”, but Claire thinks there is more to it. When a second body appears and there is an attempt on Claire’s life people begin working double time to solve this. Unfortunately, she runs into a major nemesis, Detective Fletcher Endicott A.K.A Mr. DNA, that is too busy trying to write another book than to take Claire seriously. Add in two “Real Housewives”, an ex-rocker turned retirement home entertainer, a detective boyfriend only available on alternate weekends, a narcissistic hockey player and soon you will have a fun filled winter cozy full of wild antics that Lucy and Ethyl should be starring in.

If you love mixing your foodie tendencies with cozy mysteries, this is a perfect series. Just be forewarned that you will spend an inordinate amount of time drinking coffee and lusting over baked goods and mile high roast beef sandwiches.

Review - Christmastime

Title: Christmastime
Author and Illustrator: Alison Jay
Publisher: Dial (November 8, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 32
Genre: Children’s
Source: Library
Ages:2 and Up

Oh, there is a surprise at the end. Just when you think that you have reached the end, there is a surprise that brings you right back to the first page and a treasure hunt, of sorts, has you looking at the illustrations in a completely different way.

Alison Jay brings the vocabulary of Christmas to your young child. Each word – mistletoe, stocking, toys, angel, etc. are accompanied by folk art drawings that bring the season to life. There is no storyline, just words and drawing and as I said, when you reach the end, there is a listing of Christmas songs that enhancements each drawing.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review - Proof of Heaven

Title: Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife
Author: Eben Alexander, M.D.
Publisher: Simon and Schuster (October 23, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 208
Genre: Spiritual
Source: Library

By the time I finished this book, I was convinced that two people had written it. For all his knowledge and expertise, Eben Alexander could not dummy down the neuroscience side of this book, but then at the same time, he could not come up with plausible names for the experiences that he encountered.

Using terms like Core and Gateway are acceptable, but when we get to Realm of the Earthworm’s - Eye View, Om (his name for God) and Spinning Melody, I was a bit convinced that I was reading something that was just being made up as he went.

Being in conflict between his educational background and the perceived reality of his near death experience (NDE), Dr. Eben Alexander takes the reader on an adventure from the first day that he did not feeling well, to waking from a coma seven days later.

There is no question that Dr. Alexander was admitted to the hospital with an e. Coli meningitis type of infection, but what happens during the seven day coma is what has me scratching my head. A man that has an extreme command of medical terms, conditions and science, who goes into medical school depth when trying to convince the reader that he does truly know what he is talking about, but when describing the ether world he comes across sounding more like a twelve year old watching Star Trek or Disney’s Fantasia.

Calling himself a C & E’er (Christmas and Easter Church attendance) when it comes to his religious experience, Eben Alexander had no preconceived concepts of near death experiences. Being in the neurological field, he has heard stories but had always discounted them. Now, he is apparently living one and as he tries to come to terms with his education and his personal experience - the reader is taken on a fantastical journey (that was an exaggeration) where he tries to explain cumbersome limitations of a body and earth.

What I think was most disappointment for me with this book was the very end, where this whole book was leading up to a giant advertisement for a non-profit publicly supported charity lead by Dr. Alexander. Really? This was solely a moneymaker for your “charity”. Dang – I have been duped! “No kidding”, some of you will say, but I guess I was holding out hope that maybe, just maybe, there was something here to be learned.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - What a Ghoul Wants


Hosted by Breaking the Spine



Title: What a Ghoul Wants – A Ghost Hunter Mystery
Author: Victoria Laurie
Publisher: Signet (December 24, 2012)
Format: Paperback; Pgs 352
Genre: Paranormal Cozy
Series: Ghost Hunter Mystery #7



Overview:

M. J. Holliday has the unusual ability to talk to the dead. But when it comes to a vengeful ghost and a mysterious drowning, this time she may be in over her head….

Kidwella Castle in northern Wales is rumored to be haunted by a deadly ghost—the Grim Widow, who allegedly drowns unsuspecting guests in the castle’s moat. Not long after M. J. and her crew arrive at the castle to film their ghost-hunting cable TV show, Ghoul Getters, two new victims are added to the Widow’s grisly roster. <

Fear ripples through the castle, especially when it’s discovered that the victims may have had help into their watery graves from the land of the living. The local inspector suspects father-son serial killers, but M. J. thinks that theory is all wet. To catch the true culprit she will need to dive deep into the castle’s past and bring some long buried secrets to the surface.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mailbox Monday - A Reason to Kill



Currently on a Blog Tour with a New Host Each Month


Title: A Reason to Kill
Author: Jane A. Adams
Publisher: Severn House
Format: Paperback; Pgs 250
Genre: Mystery
Source: Paperbackswap.com
Series: Rina Martin #1


Overview

For Rina Martin, the sleepy seaside town of Frantham is the perfect place to retire from a successful acting career and open a cozy boardinghouse. For transplanted detective Sebastian "Mac" McGregor, it's a place to forget a recent tragedy. But when murder strikes, Rina and Mac discover that behind Frantham's quiet facade lie some dangerous secrets.

Who would savagely beat to death a harmless old lady? Somehow, the victim was connected to two locals: a troubled teenage boy and his protective older sister. The return of their abusive father brings chaos and danger back into their lives. When another murder occurs, Mac and Rina -- who picked up a few tricks playing a detective on television -- connect the dots. But as a disturbing picture of violence, terror and desperate acts emerges, it's hard to sort the criminals from the victims....

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Review - The Reader

Title: The Reader
Author: Amy Hest
Illustrator: Lauren Castillo
Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing (October 2, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 32
Genre: Children’s
Source: Amazon Vine Program
Ages: 4 and up

A Boy, A Dog, A Sled, an Imagination and a very wonderful secret in a brown suitcase that the reader, or more commonly know as a little boy, trudge up a snow-covered mountain to spend time together and to share a very special moment.

The dog is very good at waiting and when the time is right, two very good friends share a story, then soar across the world together, and land at home. Together.

A sweet book, not all glossy and overdone, just simple illustrations to tell a simple story of the love of reading and time between a boy and his dog.

If you are using this as an early reader, there will be a word or two (loopy and impeccably) that your child might stumble over, but the flow will remain and the illustrations will come in handy to show what the words mean.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

First Paragraph First Chapter - Kissing Christmas Goodbye

Title: Kissing Christmas Goodbye
Author: M.C. Beaton
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (November 4, 2008)
Format: Paperback; Pgs 256
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: Library
Series: Agatha Raisin #18




Hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea




Chapter 1

Her detective agency in the English Cotswolds was thriving, but the cases were all small, niggling and unexciting, and yet took a great deal of time to solve. She sometimes felt if she had to deal with another missing cat or dog, she would scream.

Dreams and fantasies, that cushion she usually had against the realities of life, had, to her astonished mind, disappeared entirely. She had dreamed so long about her neighbour and ex-husband, James Lacey, that she would not accept the fact that she did not love him any more. She thought of him angrily as some sort of drug that had ceased to work.

So although it was only early October, she tried to fill her mind with thoughts of Christmas. Unlike quite a number of people, Agatha had not given up on Christmas. To have the perfect Christmas had been a childhood dream whilst surviving a rough upbringing in a Birmingham slum. Holly berries glistened, snow fell gently outside, and inside, all was Dickensian jollity. And in her dreams, James Lacey kissed her under the mistletoe, and, like a middle-aged sleeping beauty, she would awake to passion once more.

Her friend, the vicar’s wife, Mrs. Bloxby, had once pointed out that Christmas was to celebrate the birth of Christ, but Agatha’s mind shiedaway from that. To her, Christmas was more Hollywood than church.


Overview

Agatha Raisin is bored. Her detective agency in the Cotswolds is thriving, but she’ll scream if she has to deal with another missing cat or dog. Only two things seem to offer potential excitement: Christmas, and her ex, James Lacey. This year Agatha’s sure that if she invites James to a splendid Christmas dinner, their love will rekindle like a warm Yule log…but that fantasy will have to wait for now. A wealthy widow—who sent Agatha a letter before her death saying one of her family intended to kill her—has been found dead. Now Agatha must set out to find the murderer, even though, in her heart, she’s still dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones she and James used to know….

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review - Sick of Shadows

Title: Sick of Shadows
Author: Marion Chesney
Publisher: Minotaur Books (March 24, 2005)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 224
Genre: Historical Mystery
Source: Library
Series: Edwardian Murder Mystery #3

It never ceases to amaze me how I can love one series from a writer but not connect with other books that are written by the same person. For instance, Marion Chesney is also MC Beaton. I love the Agatha Raisin books, but there is something about the Edwardian Mystery series that does not work for me.

Maybe it is something as simple as the fact that I do not like Lady Rose Summers. In the first book, Snobbery with Violence, there was a spark there that I liked, but as the series continued on, I lost interest in this woman and her silly goings on. Rose is still playing her games with Captain Harry Cathcart and the two have entered into an engagement of convenience. Meaning that she has told her parents that they are engaged only so they will not send her off to India.

Being a failed debutant due to her intellect and unconventional ideas, Rose has to figure out this marriage thing – something that will give her a home of her own, but at the same time, not force her to be tied down with a husband and children. There is something about Captain Harry Cathcart, who has been around since book one, but since her family does not want their only child marrying a man in trade, other pickings are slim for Lady Rose.

Rose is helping the beautiful Dolly Tremain in her very first debutant season. These are very treacherous waters for a young woman and when Rose sees Dolly about to make a horrible mistake she rushes to her aid only to discover that someone had murdered her and her body has been laid out to look like the Lady of Shallot.

Soon Lady Rose’s life too is in danger and with the help of Harry and a small group of friends, the duo ferrets out the goings on of the rich and famous and those that will do anything they can to be a part of that world.

I have tried my best with this series, but just do not think that I can force myself to read the final book. I wish Captain Cathcart and Lady Rose Summer my best, but they will have to get along without me.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Review - Boot and Shoe

Title: Boot and Shoe
Author and Illustrator: Marla Frazee
Publisher: Beach Lane Books (October 2, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 40
Genre: Children’s
Source: Library
Ages: 4 and Up (but I would recommend younger)

I wish I could put my finger on why this book did not appeal to me. Maybe it was the expression “got all up in Boot’s business” or the peeing bonding moment, but all I know is that I did not like this book as much as others.

Boot and Shoe are littermates adopted into the same home, they do everything together with the one exception being that Boot is a back porch kind of dog and Shoe is a front porch kind of dog. Ok, every dog needs there private space – that is until a squirrel appears on the home front.

For no reason, this squirrel upsets the delicate balance of their home life to the point that the dogs cannot find each other. They have never spent any real time apart, and as each searches for the other with no luck the sun sets and the dogs must spend their first night without the other.

As the sun rises, the fateful moment appears when their bladders are tugged and they find their long lost littermate at their favorite spot.

Let’s face it, this is a so-so story with no real message for the reader. I am sure that the simplicityof the storyline and illustrations will appeal to the very young reader, but anyone over the age of four will quickly tire and not want to sit through a third or fourth reading.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Review - Casual Vacancy

Title: Casual Vacancy
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 27, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 512
Genre: Fiction
Source: Library


I will be the first to admit that when a book does not hit me as either good or bad, I have a hard time writing about it. I am sorry, but this will be a very dull uninspiring review. I cannot help it, that is how the book left me.

When I first picked up this book, I did not understand what all the fuss way about. How could so many people dislike a book just because the author branched out and wrote something different? From time to time, authors need to explore other storylines. I have no problem with that – loved when Grisham writes books other than legal thrillers. However, for some to find the need to compare everything to Potter was just ludicrous.

The first hundred pages were mostly character development; I must confess that I had to do an internet search to keep them all straight. Still not understanding the dislike by many, since I like British mysteries and found this book to start out the same way, I trudged on.

Then I got to page 200’ish. Dang this story is not moving. OK, maybe it is me. Then page 300 and 400. Darn it. I had such high hopes for this book. It was not until page 400’ish of 500’ish that I actually enjoyed what was being told. Sorry, but that is too late for anyone.

Even after finishing the book, I will not say that is was horrible, just wanted more mystery or suspense I guess. Nowhere was this book billed as a mystery, but for some reason that is what I had in my mind. As I said before – it was me developing a preconceived notion as to what this book was about.

Billed as a tragicomedy, the novel is set in a suburban town called Pagford and begins with the unexpected death of Barry Fairbrother. With Barry’s death, there is an open seat on the council up for grabs. What ensues is an all-out war amongst the people of Pagford even before an election can be held for his successor.

For such a small town, this place is full of secrets and when they suddenly come to the surface in blog postings, no one is safe. Class wars and social issues are the running theme in this book. There are sections that are laugh out loud funny and other sections that are downright cringe worthy.

If you are a fan of epics, which I just might think that was designed to be, take a chance. There is definitely a love it or loath it debate surrounding this book.

As a side note, I just read this morning that BBC will be turning this book into a series. It is expected to air in Britain in 2014, but with no immediate plans to bring it to the US.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Review - The After Wife

Title: The After Wife
Author: Gigi Levangie Grazer
Publisher: Ballantine Books (July 10, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 320
Genre: Fiction
Source: Library

As soon as I finished this book, I started missing the characters. I had not realized that I had invested so much into their lives, laughter and disappointments.

There is very little in their world that I would call real, there is nothing practical or logical within this group of friends, but what they do have is each other. For better or for worse, they are there to bring Hannah Bernal and her daughter Ellie through the worst time of their lives.

No one could be more in love with their husband than Hannah, but on a fateful day, she receives the call than any wife in love would dread. Her writer/ chef husband John has been killed by a hit and run driver.

Death is not a subject to laugh at, but Hannah’s “Grief Team” is made up of a self-enamored group that she has gathered along the way. Animal lover Chloe that is so unaware that she brings a wild animal into her home thinking that it is a dog needing to be rescued; Aimee who has been an “aspiring” actress for decades and Jay, her TV producing partner, who is perpetually searching for his Mr. Right. Not people that you would usually run to in a time of need, but when that is all that you have, you learn to make do.

As Ellie gets kicked out of her pretentious preschool for talking to and about her dead father and Hannah’s life spinning out of control with the threat of losing her beloved home “Casa Sugar”, she finds herself standing in her backyard under an avocado tree – when out of nowhere a voice answers her question of “why me”?

This is where the book takes the woo-woo turn, apparently, the previous owner, now deceased, of Casa Sugar – Trish, has dropped by to help Hannah through her grief and seems to have brought other spirits with her. Somehow, in Hannah’s grief she has developed a bright light of some sort that draws the “present in spirit though absent in body” world to her.

You have to learn how to laugh at the darker sides of life and though inappropriate at times, this book had me laughing at what people with more money than common sense find important.

Part of me wishes that this book could be turned into a several book series because of the disjointed look that the grief team has of viewing the world around them, but then again, a good thing can be overdone and maybe it is best to leave the people of Santa Monica’s NoMo district alone.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

First Chapter First Paragraph - Holiday Buzz

Title: Holiday Buzz
Author: Cleo Coyle
Publisher: Berkley (December 4, 2012)
Format: Paperback; Pgs 384
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Coffeehouse Mysteries #12



Hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea






Prologue

She’s coming. I see her…

Short and slight with blunt-cut bangs and a cheap black coat, the little assistant baker wended her way through the well-heeled crowd like a crow strutting through peacocks. The night was near freezing, yet the girl’s coat hung open. As she walked along, she took drags from a cigarette.

“Here I am,” the little baker announced waving the burning butt.

“Obviously,” the figure said.

Chapter 1

Earlier that day …

“So how’s the weather outside?” I asked. “Frightful?”

“Far from it,” said Tucker Burton, pulling a woolen stocking cap off his floppy brown mop. “There’s not even a hint of snow…”

There was no hint of murder, either. Not then.


Overview

At the Great New York Cookie Swap, pastry chefs bake up their very best for charity. Clare is in charge of the beverage service, and her famous Fa-la-la-la Lattes make the gathering even merrier. But her high spirits come crashing down to earth when she discovers the battered body of a hard-working baker's assistant. Police suspect a serial attacker whose escalating crimes have become known as "The Christmas Stalkings." Clare's boyfriend, NYPD detective Mike Quinn, finds reason to believe even more sinister forces are involved. Clare isn't so sure, until she finds a second bludgeoned baker and becomes a target herself. Now Clare must investigate "Saint Nick," crash a pro-hockey party, and dodge a pair of reality TV divas--because she's not going to rest until justice is served.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mailbox Monday - If Fried Chicken Could Fly



Currently on a Blog Tour with a New Host Each Month


Title: If Fried Chicken Could Fly
Author: Paige Shelton
Publisher: Berkley (January 3, 2012)
Format: Paperback; Pgs 304
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: Paperbackswap.com
Series: Country Cooking School Mystery #1


Overview

At Gram’s Country Cooking School, Betts and Gram are helping students prepare the perfect dishes for the Southern Missouri Show-Down, the cook-off that draws the first of the summer visitors. Everything is going smoothly until they discover the body of local theater owner Everett Morningside in the school’s supply closet, and Everett’s widow points an accusatory finger at Gram. Now, Betts has to dig deep into Broken Rope’s history to find the modern-day killer—before the last piece of chicken is served...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Review - Bear Has a Story to Tell

Title: Bear Has A Story To Tell
Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator: Erin E. Stead
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (September 4, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 32
Genre: Children’s
Source: Library
Ages: 2 and Up

This simple story has a big message about friendship and patience.

It is almost winter and Bear has a story to share with his friends before his big yawns put him to sleep for a very long time. As he approaches Mouse to ask if he would like to hear a story, Mouse is distracted with his need to find seeds to get him through the winter, so being a good friend, Bear helps him to gather what he will need, but when the time comes for the story, Mouse is already burrowing in until spring.

The story is not much different with his friends Duck who is getting ready to fly south. Bear is a good friend, he help Duck to take flight for warmer parts.

Oh, there is Frog, surely he would like to hear a story, but alas, Frog needs to find a warm place to sleep. Bear cannot let frog down so he sets off to make the perfect bed for his friend.

As the first snowflakes begin to fall, Bear too must find a place to burrow in for the long winter months. As the season passes and the snow melts Bear can tell his story, but first Bear must make sure his friends are ok.

As story time rolls around, all his friends wait for the tale that Bear has longed to tell – if only he could remember it.

A sweet story about sharing and caring and what it means to be a friend.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Review - Junkyard Dogs

Title: Junkyard Dogs
Author: Craig Johnson
Publisher: Viking Adult (May 27, 2010)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 320
Genre: Mystery
Source: Library
Series:Walt Longmire #6

I wish that someone could explain why Craig Johnson would sell the name, to a wonderful book series, to a group of writers and producers that have apparently never read the books. If you are expecting to find the very lacking “Longmire Series” within these pages you will be disappointed.

The books are outstanding, the characterizations human, the humor is so dry and sudden that you wonder how you are laughing at serious situation, yet knowing all along that anyone who swears that the TV serialization of Longmire is the best show on television, does not get half of what Walt is about.

You just know it is not going to be a good day when you get calls that an old car is dragging an old man into town by a rope. Nope, not a good day, but for Walt Longmire it is not as bizarre as it sounds. Neither is the severed thumb that turns up in the local junkyard.

As far as I can tell, it all boils down to the thumb and Walt’s need to keep Santiago on the job. If it had not been for this tiny little thing, Walt would not have dug his feet into the on goings at the junkyard, he would not have been treated as a chew toy by a jealous psycho dog. Santiago would not be having second and third thoughts about leaving Durant and Walt would have had enough time to spend with Victoria in her obsessive house hunt.

Now of course there was the whole thing about the housing development that borders the junkyard, but with all the characters and plotlines and sub-plotlines and sub-sub-plotlines, I just held on and hoped that in some way it would all come together without Walt’s elementary school teacher being caught up in anymore embarrassing situations.

If you are looking for a hardboiled murder mystery, this is not going to fill that need. If you are looking for a series with interesting people in an interesting place, then you have found a gem. This particular book is a little twisty, but the humor and dialog will keep you glued to the pages. Do yourself a favor, start at the beginning, learn the people and the places and realize that it is not a bad thing to laugh at other peoples misfortunes. I know that sounds bad, but Walt Longmire has a way of turning the negative into a very humorous situation.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - Holiday Buzz


Hosted by Breaking the Spine



Title: Holiday Buzz
Author: Cleo Coyle
Publisher: Berkley (December 4, 2012)
Format: Paperback; Pgs 384
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Coffeehouse Mysteries #12



Overview:

At the Great New York Cookie Swap, pastry chefs bake up their very best for charity. Clare is in charge of the beverage service, and her famous Fa-la-la-la Lattes make the gathering even merrier. But her high spirits come crashing down to earth when she discovers the battered body of a hard-working baker's assistant. Police suspect a serial attacker whose escalating crimes have become known as "The Christmas Stalkings." Clare's boyfriend, NYPD detective Mike Quinn, finds reason to believe even more sinister forces are involved. Clare isn't so sure, until she finds a second bludgeoned baker and becomes a target herself. Now Clare must investigate "Saint Nick," crash a pro-hockey party, and dodge a pair of reality TV divas--because she's not going to rest until justice is served.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mailbox Monday - Fairy Bad Day




Title: Fairy Bad Day
Author: Amanda Ashby
Publisher: Speak (June 9, 2011)
Format: Trade Paperback; Pgs 352
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Paperbackswap.com

Overview

While most students at Burtonwood Academy get to kill demons and goblins, fifteen-year-old Emma gets to rid the world of little annoying fairies with glittery wings and a hipster fashion sense. She was destined to be a dragon slayer, but cute and charming Curtis stole her spot. Then she sees a giant killer fairy and it's invisible to everyone but her! If Emma has any chance of stopping this evil fairy, she's going to need help. Unfortunately, the only person who can help is Curtis. And now, not only has he stolen her dragon-slayer spot, but maybe her heart as well! Why does she think it's going to be a fairy bad day?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Review - Little Elephants

Title: Little Elephants
Author and Illustrator: Graeme Base
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers (September 1, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 40
Genre: Children’s
Source: Library
Ages: 4and up

Children’s books have come a long way since I was growing up. The illustrations are an absolute work of art and I am getting to the point that I spend more time looking at the drawing than focusing on the words that accompany them.

Poor Jim, he loves his pet mouse Pipsqueak, but when there is plague to worry about and his mother is convinced that where there is one mouse to be found, others will be attracted, the mouse has to go. Times are tough and if they lose this year’s wheat harvest the farm would be finished.

One day Jim spies a stranger in the field, he offers the man some wheat and asks if he could stay and help bring in the harvest. No, he said, but he was sure that the wind would bring good fortune.

Later that night, Jim heard scuffling sounds. Pipsqueak had retuned, but he was not alone. No, the sounds were not other mice. Something much more interesting was waiting for him under his bed.

It is hard to hide a herd from your mothers, but right now, there are bigger things to worry about, a swarm of locust is heading toward the farm and they would destroy the crop.

With the sound of a faraway trumpet, the herd appeared and an amazing thing was about to happen on a little farm with only a mother and her little boy to witness.

This book brought tears to my eyes. The simplicity of the story intermingled with the hopes and promises of a child are wonderfully displayed in this amazing book.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Review - Mossy

Title: Mossy
Author and Illustrator: Jan Brett
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (September 18, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 32
Genre: Children's
Source: Library
Ages: 3 and Up

First, with the name Jan Brett you know that you will not be disappointed with the illustrations. What she is able to put on the page is just phenomenal.

Second, the storyline is always tender with a lovely moral to be shared. One cannot go wrong with any of her books.

Mossy, a young Eastern Box turtle loves the damp coolness of Lilypad pond and spends so much time there that little pieces of moss begin to grow on her back. As the season changes, the moss and other seeds begin to grow and Mossy is able to look into the water and see the beautiful garden that is growing on her back.

One day, as she is looking into the water a pair of beautiful red eyes looks back at her. Scoot, a young male turtle, has never been as fascinated with another turtle as he is with Mossy.

Young love must have its challenges and when a botanist discovers Mossy, she is whisked away to be the center attraction at a local museum. The two young turtles long for each other and it takes the loving heart of a young child to see what Mossy is missing.

The illustrations are what will keep you coming back to this book. Around each of the pages is a border that a young child and reader can point to and discuss. Butterflies and mushroom and seashells, plus so much more to keep each entertain throughout several reading of this wonderful book.

I highly recommend both this and any book that has been written and illustrated by Jan Brett.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Review - The Sandman

Title: The Sandman: The Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie
Author and Illustrator: William Joyce
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (October 2, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 48
Genre: Young Reader
Source: Library
Ages: 7 and up
Series: Guardians of Childhood

A Wish Always Begins with a Dream

After reading The Sandman, I had wished that I had started with the first book in the Guardians of Childhood series – The Man in the Moon. This book is for advancing readers, not suggested for 3 and 4 year olds like so many of the children’s books currently on the market.

Combining myth, fantasy and folklore, William Joyce tells a tale of how the Man in the Moon needs help on the evenings where his visibility is low. He needs a guardian to help keep children safe from bad dreams. Spying a gentle dreamer, a man that guided shooting stars during the Golden Age, the Man in the Moon enlists a sweet little man named Sanderson Mansnoozie in fighting off Pitch, the Nightmare King.

Not your typical children’s book. This tale is a bit deeper and darker and will appeal to your curious seven or eight year olds, who think that they are too big for baby books, but will be transported to Sandy’s island of Dreamsand and will watch the battle between good and evil unfold.

I cannot tell you if I enjoyed the illustrations or the narrative more. I am sure that I would be offending Mr. Joyce by saying that I was reminded of Harry Potter when I read this book, but I do have to admit that Sanderson looks a bit like a mandrake and Pitch sure has something in common with Voldemort’s gang. I might be digressing.

Do not like let my strange association distract you from this book. It is a true gift to be cherished, one that your “I’m too old for baby books”, readers will enjoy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - Life Among Giants


Hosted by Breaking the Spine



Title: Life Among Giants
Author: Bill Roorbach
Publisher: Algonquin Books (November 13, 2012)
Format: Hardback; Pgs 352
Genre: Murder, Seduction and Revenge (do not know if that actually falls under one category


Overview:

David “Lizard” Hochmeyer lives across the pond from The High Side, a mansion the size of an embassy, home to the world famous ballerina Sylphide and her even more famous husband, the English rocker Dabney Stryker-Stewart.

When Lizard’s parents are mysteriously killed, he and his brilliant but unstable sister, Kate, are left adrift and full of questions. Lizard’s path to answers is more than circuitous; it’s a journey laden with pro football stars, a master chef tattooed head to toe, and a beautiful transvestite. It’s a path that leads back, again and again, to the fabulous couple on the other side of the pond, particularly the beautiful Sylphide.

We follow young Lizard through the years as he attempts to make sense of his. And what a varied and giant life it is: from football star at Princeton to Miami Dolphins quaterback, from confidant of the alluring Sylphide to owner and chef of a high-end restaurant, and all the while haunted by his parents' murders and determined to wreak his revenge--if only he can find the killers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

First Chapter First Paragraph -The Casual Vacancy

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday
Title: The Casual Vacancy
Author: JK Rowlings
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 27, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 512
Genre: Mystery
Source: Library



Hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea




Chapter 1

"Barry Fairbrother did not want to go out to dinner. He had endured a thumping headache for most of the weekend and was struggling to make a deadline for the local newspaper.

However, his wife had been a little stiff and uncommunicative over lunch, and Barry deduced that his anniversary card had not mitigated the crime of shutting himself away in the study all morning. It did not help that he had been writing about Krystal, whom Mary disliked, although she pretended otherwise.

"Mary, I want to take you out to dinner," he had lied, to break the frost. "Nineteen years, kids! Nineteen years, and your mother's never looked lovelier."

Mary had softened and smiled, so Barry had telephoned the golf club, because it was nearby and they were sure of getting a table. He tried to give his wife pleasure in little ways, because he had come to realize, after nearly two decades together, how often he disappointed her in the big things. It was never intentional. They simply had very different notions of what ought to take up most space in life."


Overview

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mailbox Monday - The Baker Street Letters



Currently on a Blog Tour with a New Host Each Month


Title: The Baker Street Letters
Author: Michael Robertson
Publisher: Minotaur Books (February 1, 2011)
Format: Trade Paperback; Pgs 288
Genre: Mysterybr /> Source: Paperbackswap.com
Series: Baker Street Letters #1


Overview

First in a new series about two brother lawyers who lease offices on London's Baker Street--and begin receiving mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes.

In Los Angeles, a geological surveyor maps out a proposed subway route—and then goes missing. His eight-year-old daughter in her desperation turns to the one person she thinks might help—she writes a letter to Sherlock Holmes.

That letter creates an uproar at 221b Baker Street, which now houses the law offices of attorney and man about town Reggie Heath and his hapless brother Nigel. Instead of filing the letter like he’s supposed to, Nigel decides to investigate. Soon he’s flying off to L.A., inconsiderately leaving a very dead body on the floor in his office. Big brother Reggie follows Nigel to California, as does Reggie’s sometime lover, Laura – a quick-witted stage actress who’s captured the hearts of both brothers.

When Nigel is arrested, Reggie must use all his wits to solve a case that Sherlock Holmes would have savored, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fans will adore.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review - Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil

Title: Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil
Author: Nancy Atherton
Publisher: Penguin Books (October 1, 2001)
Format: Hardcopy; Pgs 256
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: Library
Series: Aunt Dimity #6

When this book came up in a reading group, I was sure that I had read it, I love this series so when I went looking for my review, I could not find it anywhere. I was beginning to wonder if I had unwittingly skipped it.

As soon as I finished the first chapter I knew the story, well, I thought I did. The beginning was familiar, the middle was a mystery, but the ending relit the dim bulb that I am now calling my mind and I am glad that I had reread it to remind myself how far Lori has come.

Lori will always be attracted to men other than her husband, that does not mean that she would have disavowed her marriage, but what is a woman to do when there are attractive men coming to her aid and young (and old) love is in the air.

Lori has been called in to evaluate a rare book collection at Wyrdhurst Hall located in the middle of nowhere Northumberland. Knowing Lori’s sense of direction and driving ability is sketchy at best; the reader is not surprised to find Lori leaping out of her yellow Hummer just as it is being washed away in a torrent of water. What does surprise is that as Lori stumbles to safety and passes out just as she find a cabin, we next find her waking up naked in a strange man’s bed.

Being a Nancy Atherton book, we know that whatever Lori has gotten herself into is somewhat chaste. Lori does have a tendency to find perfect gentlemen that would never take advantage of the situation, but does not mean that she will not have some explaining to do.

Newlyweds Nicole and Jared Hollander own Wyrdhurst Hall, a hall that is bound by mystery and ghosts. What at first blush appears as unsettled spirits looking for a little excitement is actually much deeper, and much more dangerous. Lori find letters dating back to World War I that spell out a doomed love affair. An affair that was manipulated by a mentally deranged man that would have done anything to keep an unworthy suitor from his daughter.

As the story plays out, with the help of Aunt Dimity, Lori finds the secrets and in a netherworld conclusion, doomed lovers are reunited and a family haunted by its tragic past can now rejoice in a new and growing love.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Review - Discretion

Title: Discretion
Author: Alison Leotta
Publisher: Touchstone (July 3, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 336
Genre: I think she was aiming for Thriller
Source: Library


I do not know where to begin, this book should have been an out of the park homerun. There is political maneuvering, a police investigation, an escort service running the highest priced call girls in Washington D.C., and a maniacal killer on the loose. From the description alone, this should have been a winner.

Herein lies the problem. The book is lackluster. Just when Allison Leotta sparks some intrigue, she changes direction from the investigation to the main character’s love life. Personally, I have an extreme dislike for that, either write a thriller or write a romance, but the ability to blend the two seamlessly is out of reach for some writers and in my opinion is what ruined this book.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Curtis is trying to build a career of her own while at the same time trying to keep a romance going with Jack Bailey, the chief homicide prosecutor. She does not want anyone to know that they are together; she wants to build her career on her own merits and not by her association with the potential next U.S. Attorney. Anna is in a constant struggle trying not to losing her identity and everything that she has worked so hard to achieve. How can she find balance and maintain a career that she loves?

This time they are in deeper than either can handle when the body of a beautiful young escort falls from the private balcony of a well known and much loved Congressman whom is in a dogfight to hold onto his political seat. If only the story could be that cut and dried, but no, the reader is brought into the seedier side of life of the rich, famous, and political.

I picked up this book after reading Ms Leotta being touted as a female John Grisham. Trust me; Mr. Grisham has nothing to worry about. For me, the story was very superficial; I do not feel that I have come away from this book knowing anyone of the characters. I know that the ending was designed to be a shocker, but that too was flat and predictable.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - My Ideal Bookshelf


Hosted by Breaking the Spine



Title: My Ideal Bookshelf
Author: Thessaly La Force and Jane Mount
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (November 13, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 240
Genre: Non-Fiction

Overview:

The books that we choose to keep --let alone read-- can say a lot about who we are and how we see ourselves. In MY IDEAL BOOKSHELF, dozens of leading cultural figures share the books that matter to them most; books that define their dreams and ambitions and in many cases helped them find their way in the world. Contributors include Malcolm Gladwell, Thomas Keller, Michael Chabon, Alice Waters, James Patterson, Maira Kalman, Judd Apatow, Chuck Klosterman, Miranda July, Alex Ross, Nancy Pearl, David Chang, Patti Smith, Jennifer Egan, and Dave Eggers, among many others. With colorful and endearingly hand-rendered images of book spines by Jane Mount, and first-person commentary from all the contributors, this is a perfect gift for avid readers, writers, and all who have known the influence of a great book.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - Black House


Hosted by Breaking the Spine



Title: Black House
Author: Stephen King and Peter Straub
Publisher: Scribner (November 6, 2012)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 672
Genre: Horror



Overview:

Twenty years ago, a boy named Jack Sawyer traveled to a parallel universe called the Territories to save his mother and her “Twinner” from an agonizing death that would have brought cataclysm to the other world. Now Jack is a retired Los Angeles homicide detective living in the nearly nonexistent hamlet of Tamarack, Wisconsin. He has no recollection of his adventures in the Territories, and he was compelled to leave the police force when a happenstance event threatened to awaken those long-suppressed and dangerous memories.

When a series of gruesome murders occurs in western Wisconsin, reminiscent of heinous killings committed several decades earlier, Jack’s buddy, the local chief of police, begs Jack to help find the killer. But are these new killings merely the work of a disturbed individual, or has a mysterious and malignant force been unleashed in this quiet town? What causes Jack’s inexplicable waking dreams—if that is what they are—of robins’ eggs and red feathers? As these cryptic messages become impossible to ignore, Jack is drawn back to the Territories and to his own hidden past.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

First Chapter First Paragraph - Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil

Title: Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil
Author: Nancy Atherton
Publisher: Viking Adult (October 2, 2000)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 224
Genre: Cozy Mystery / British
Source: Library
Series: Aunt Dimity #6




Hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea





Chapter 1

It was a dark and stormy afternoon on the high moors of Northumberland. A cold October rain battered the Range Rover's roof and the fog was as thick as porridge. I hoped my hosts at Wyrdhurst Hall would hold high tea for me, because it looked as though I might be a bit late.

Thanks to the murky weather, I'd almost certainly missed the turnoff for Wyrdhurst's gated drive. To judge by the Rover's lurching progress, I'd somehow left the paved road altogether and veered onto a narrow, muddy track that seemed to be climbing straight into the clouds.

I could do nothing but climb with it. The moorland rose steeply to my right and fell sharply to my left. There was no place to turn around and I had no intention of backing down a road I could barely see.


Overview

With rain crashing down on her Range Rover, as it climbs up a steep embankment on the Northumberland moors, Lori Shepherd is beginning to doubt the wisdom of her decision to evaluate a rare book collection at Wyrdhurst Hall.

The grim, neo-gothic hall that greets her upon arrival is full of surprises-including a charming, secretive stranger, and a cache of World War I letters that tell a tale of doomed love and hint at a hidden treasure. It will take all of Dimity's supernatural skills to help Lori solve the puzzle and restore peace to a family haunted by its tragic past.