Monday, October 31, 2016

The Champagne Conspiracy

Title: The Champagne Conspiracy
Author: Ellen Crosby
Expected Publication: November 1st 2016 by Minotaur Books
Format: eBook, Hardcover, 368 pages
Genre: Mystery
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press / Minotaur Books for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
Series: Wine Country Mysteries #7

Secrets, lies, greed and blackmail – pretty much the whole kitchen sink was included in the newest in the Wine Country Mystery series by Ellen Crosby, five years after The Sauvignon Secret, the reader finds Lucie Montgomery and her winery doing better than expected. Everything and everyone are on track until Gino Tomassi barges onto the vineyard property and accuses his cousin Quinn Santori of blackmail and deceit.

The two set out to solve the mysterious death of Zara Ingrasso Tomassi, Gino’s grandfather’s first wife, the daughter of a Prohibition-era congressman and possibly the mistress of President Warren Harding. At the same time, WWII veteran Roxy Willoughby dies and it is discovered that there was a last minute change to her will. At first blush, the two deaths decades apart do not seem related, that is until Lucie digs deeper and discovers too many similarities.

Where there is money there is greed and Lucie is determined to answer the questions that everyone else wants to keep hidden. It does get twisty since there are many parts to this story and from time to time, you are going to have to remind yourself who is related to whom and from which branch of the family, but after that, the story bounces along with an even tempo and might have you running to do a little side research.

There is a great deal going on in this book with the reader moving from story line to story line, then add in references from The Great Gatsby and Murder on the Orient Express and you will find yourself burrowing deeply to get to the end of this book and thankful that Ellen Crosby returned to this series. Other than following a titling trend, there is very little in this book about Champagne, granted there is a great deal about conspiracies, maybe Claret Conspiracy would have been better since a British saying was a turning point for Lucie.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ghost Times Two

Title: Ghost Times Two
Author: Carolyn Hart
Published: October 4th 2016 by Berkley
Format: eBook, Hardcover, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy Paranormal
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
Series: Bailey Ruth #7

If you could forgive the repetitiveness of this book – the repeated naming of the characters and their outfits, Ghost Times Two would have been an entertaining read. I do not know why Carolyn Hart continues to describe excessively, but that does seem to be her modus operandi.

Bailey Ruth, an emissary from Heaven, is once again sent back to Adelaide, Oklahoma to guide a lingering soul that does not want leave the love of his life and ascend the golden staircase. Jimmy is determined to stay by Megan’s side until she can see for herself that Blaine is not the right man for her and while he is still around to help clear her name in a murder or two.

During stressful times, anyone can question their sanity, but hearing voices is making Megan a bit confused. That is until she learns to accept, begrudgingly, that help from the other side is what it is going to take to clear her name and get to the bottom of this fiasco.

If you have not read the previous books, you might want to start there even though Ms. Hart does a good job in rehashing whom Bailey Ruth is and how she became an emissary. How she is perpetually flummoxing Wiggins – the Heavenly dispatcher, how the precepts are a nice idea yet she can never seem to stick to them, and how twenty-seven is the perfect age.

Yet again, this is another series that I continue with even though I have no idea why. The writing is basic and the plot lags in places. The monotony of excessive description tends to have the reader skipping whole paragraphs and the multitudes of wardrobe changes are over the top. Granted, there is humor and a break from reality is what is needed occasionally, but whole chunks of this book could be removed and the story would still hold.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Storm Front

Title: Storm Front
Author: Jim Butcher
Published: April 2000 by Penguin ROC
Format: Paperback, 355 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Dresden Files #1

This is not my typical read; there is something about urban fantasy that has never really appealed to me, yet after a friends urging, I picked up this book with a great deal of reluctance and by the end, I was surprised that Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, a wizard of all things, had me curious about book number two.

You are right, I am coming into this series very late and not a particular fan of this genre, but when it comes to investigation type storylines, all the boxes were checked. A damsel in distress looking for her wayward husband. A down on his luck detective with a barely functioning car who does not have a very good reputation with the local constabulary. Said law enforcement does not like said wizard but needs his help when a couple is found dead with their bodies having been horribly savaged. A case that starts sliding sideways early on so you add a bit of female distraction. Not to show favoritism, if you are going to throw in a wizard why not other beings, let’s say, a vampiress. Bad guys that want everyone dead so their private “ThreeEye” enterprise can continue. Pizza loving faeries are always good to have around and continuing down that road a couple magic spells, demons, a spirit that lives in a skull on a bookcase, a giant scorpion and to balance things out a normal love interest.

Not all parts of this book were appealing, but I did enjoy the humor. Who could not laugh with a book that borders on the ridiculous but keeps you shaking you head all the way through? Harry is likable but after book number two, I just might find myself heading over to the DVD’s since the first book was more on the visual side and I think that they might be even more appealing to watch.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Random Acts

Title: Random Acts
Author: R. A. Jance
Published: August 9th 2016 by Witness Impulse
Format: eBook; Pgs 112
Genre: Police Procedural
Series: Ali Reynolds #11.5; Joanna Brady #16.6

I was surprised that this was billed as both a Joanna Brady and Ali Reynolds novella since Ali plays such a small and insignificant part. Even Joanna had mentioned that it was strange how Ali had reached out to her when they barely knew each other.

Yet, reach out is exactly what Ali did when Joanna’s mother and stepfather are in a devastating accident and Ali, with High Noon Enterprises is there to run surveillance, that is after she questions who is going to pay for it, to capture the person that is responsible.

I guess J. A. Jance was trying to grab a larger audience by including Ali Reynolds, but there really was no benefit to that series with this novella.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Sinner

Title: The Sinner
Author: Amanda Stevens
Published: September 27th 2016 by Mira
Format: eBook, Paperback, 384 pages
Genre: Paranormal
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
Series: Graveyard Queen #5

‘The Sinner’ was clearly worth the wait. It took me a couple of chapters to find the cadence that is very much an Amanda Stevens book, but once there, I could not put it down.

Book number five in the Graveyard Queen Series has Amelia Gray back doing what she loves. The restoration of graveyards is backbreaking work, but it a field that she has been drawn to. Maybe it is the history or maybe it is the unbound energy left behind by the dead, either way, she has taken a commission to restore the Seven Gates Cemetery in Ascension, South Carolina. What she did not expect was the discovery of a mortsafe and for that matter, a newly deceased young woman found trapped within. Mortsafes have a history dating back to an era when the wealthy could protect their recently deceased from grave robbers, but that is not the case here, there is something much darker occurring and once again Amelia is drawn into a murkier world, this one of transmigrated souls.

There are many layers and paths that have you not sure as to which way to turn. You will find yourself as untrusting as Amelia and just when you think that she has found peace, and you can catch your breath, you too are taken on the next turn of this rocky upheaval. Like me, you may have a struggle with the beginning of this book, but once you get to the midway point, it is a quick and scary ride to the end.

Monday, October 10, 2016

An Obvious Fact

Title: An Obvious Face
Author: Craig Johnson
Published: September 13th 2016 by Viking
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Genre: Police Procedural
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Group Viking for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
Series: Walt Longmire #12

Is Walt Longmire the Sherlock Homes of the west? I never really thought about it that way, but when you get to the section of this book where he describes abductive and deductive reasoning, you cannot help but to draw a parallel.

Walt and Henry Standing Bear arrive in Hulett, Wyoming, a town that is hosting 500 bikers for an annual rally so Henry can compete in the Jackpine Gypsie Hill Climb an event that he won years ago and would like another chance at. What he did not expect was to come face to face with Lola. Yes, that Lola, the one that he named his ’59 Thunderbird after, the person that he considers poison. What he was not prepared for was her son, Bodaway Torres. A young man that may or may not be his child and who is barely holding onto life in the ICU.

It is clear from the beginning that Bodaway’s crash was no accident and now the ATF is making their presence known. Since Bodaway’s motorcycle was not large enough to be carrying drugs, Walt is sure that it is the “F” part of that acronym that has everyone’s attention. The picture is not adding up until he finds a small plastic cube that had been hidden away and suddenly a clearer image is forming.

When an ATF agent is found with a bullet in his chest and a secretive bunker is discovered in the hills, Walt cannot let things slide. So with the help of Vic, Henry and a 250-lb ham loving dog, plus a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle to help them get into the trickier spots, you can image that thing will be whipped into shape quickly.

For the first half of this book, I was genuinely disappointed and wondered what was going on. I have loved Craig Johnson’s book, but this one seems to be starting slow and just staying there. Then you hit the middle of the book and every time you think that you have it figured out something worse comes along and complicates it even further.

Friday, October 7, 2016


Title: Vanish
Author: Tess Gerritsen
Published: August 29th 2006 by Ballantine Books
Format: Paperback, 401 pages
Genre: Police Procedural
Series: Rizzoli and Isles #5

Boston Medical Examiner Maura Isles is used to hearing her building making noises at night when everyone else is gone, what she did not expect was to find a corpse alive. Calling for an ambulance, this unknown woman is rushed to the hospital and thus begins a far-reaching investigation that has the reader not knowing for sure who the good guys and bad guys are.

Jane Rizzoli cannot be too far from both the crazy and the dangerous so during courtroom testimony a very pregnant and overdue Jane tackles a defendant thus conveniently breaking her water and necessitating her own trip to the emergency room.

Thus, the two stories converge.

Turns out the not quite dead woman, Olena, is now holding people in the emergency room hostage so she can tell her story of government contractors enslaving and murdering her friends. During the negotiations, Rizzoli’s husband FBI agent Gabriel Dean enters the picture. Turns out that the hostage takers will only speak with one person, a local writer that they had contact with in the past. This does not sit well with those in charge, but Gabriel does whatever it takes to keep Jane safe.

In an overkill maneuver, everyone but Jane and Gabriel are dead and when the federal agents swoop in and remove all the evidence, something does not feel right to these two well-trained agents. Within days of giving birth, Jane and her husband are on the trail of the real reason the federal government wanted Olena dead.

As I said, telling the good guys from the bad is a bit twisty and that will keep the reader engaged. The books are nothing like the television series and interplay between Rizzoli and Isles is minimal. There are parts that are unrealistic, but this is fiction and you have to give the writer some leeway. Overall, the further that I get into this series, the more that I am enjoying it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White

Title: Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White
Author: Melissa Sweet
Published: October 4th 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover, 176 pages
Genre: Childrens
Age Range: 7 - 10 years
Source: My thanks to Amazon Vine for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book

When I first picked up this book, I put it down right away, I am not a fan of the scrapbook style, but giving it a couple of days, I tried again and loved what I had found the second time around.

Coming from a large family that was more like a small kingdom unto themselves, young En lacked for nothing except confidence. As the youngest son of a piano man, there were many instruments but no real talent in the White household and as a creative outlet, Elwyn Brooks White began journal writing and would always end his entries with a question so he would have something to think about when he fell asleep.

Being full of curiosity, he had missed the first couple of days at Cornell University because he was drawn to the city and all it had to offer. It was during his senior year that this young man decided to take up writing as a career since he was in no hurry to have a regular job.

Thus begins the writing adventures of one of the most beloved authors of our time. Not quite hiding away in Maine, but being where he was meant to be, enabled “a spider, a pig, a gaggle of geese and all the other animals (including a rat)” to come to life.

Told in traditional and scrapbook style with copies of original manuscripts and in depth research, Melissa Sweet once again brings this beloved man to life. From his quips regarding Stuart Little “would seem to be for children, but I’m not fussy who reads it” to his studying spiders for a year to get them just right, E.B. “Andy” White comes alive once again.

As William Shawn once wrote, “he was ageless and his writing timeless” and because of that, both parents and children alike will be drawn to this brilliant book.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Behind Chocolate Bars

Title: Behind Chocolate Bars
Author: Kathy Aarons
Expected Publication: October 4th 2016 by Berkley
Format: ebook; Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
Series: Chocolate Covered Mystery #3

Good thing that sob/tear/cry were not drinking words or I would not have made it through this book. I do not recall the last time that certain words popped out so obviously in a book, but after a while, they became quite annoying.

Best friends Michelle Serrano and Erica Russell run their respective businesses Chocolates and Chapters out of the same storefront in the sleepy little town of West Riverdale. While preparing for the annual Halloween fair, the body of a woman is discovered in an unfinished housing development, nicknamed Cuesta Verde aft the Poltergeist movies and it appears that Dylan Fenton, their new teenage intern and his friends from Erica’s comic book club, know more than they are willing to tell. Faith Monette, or whatever name she is currently going by, has left a trail of unhappy men and with Dylan’s arrest for her death, Michelle and Erica jump right into the fray to save their new friend.

After their last mystery solving adventure, Michelle and Erica wanted no part in this investigation that is until Reese Everhard, the annoying local newspaper blogger invents some lurid headings, and they feel that it is their duty to clear this young man’s name.

Surprisingly, Kathy Aarons introduces a subject matter that is not often discussed in the cozy mystery arena. Michelle’s brother Leo continues to suffer the effects of his time in Afghanistan and with his recent motorcycle accident and Michelle’s life in danger, he spirals down into a PTSD depression that he might not get out of. This brother and sister team is all that they have left of their family and with their love for each other, they will make it through as long as this cannot compare to the worst day of their lives.

There are additional marginal stories going on in this book and most of them have no true relevance. The reader is constantly jumping for one antic to the next and then brought back to the chocolate shop and the truffles that Michelle are either selling or inventing. Maybe it was me, but the book was too busy, half of the layers that Kathy Aarons tried to add could have easily been removed and the story would have had a more consistent flow.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

October Releases

The Study in Scarlet Women
Sherry Thomas

Paperback, 336 pages
Expected publication: October 18th 2016 by Berkley

With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

The Magnolia Story
Chip Gaines, Joanna Gaines

Hardcover, 208 pages
Expected publication: October 18th 2016 by Thomas Nelson

Are you ready to see your fixer upper?

These famous words are now synonymous with the dynamic husband-and-wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of HGTV s Fixer Upper. As this question fills the airwaves with anticipation, their legions of fans continue to multiply and ask a different series of questions, like Who are these people?What s the secret to their success? And is Chip actually that funny in real life? By renovating homes in Waco, Texas, and changing lives in such a winsome and engaging way, Chip and Joanna have become more than just the stars of Fixer Upper, they have become America s new best friends.

The Magnolia Story is the first book from Chip and Joanna, offering their fans a detailed look at their life together. From the very first renovation project they ever tackled together, to the project that nearly cost them everything; from the childhood memories that shaped them, to the twists and turns that led them to the life they share on the farm today.

They both attended Baylor University in Waco. However, their paths did not cross until Chip checked his car into the local Firestone tire shop where Joanna worked behind the counter. Even back then Chip was a serial entrepreneur who, among other things, ran a lawn care company, sold fireworks, and flipped houses. Soon they were married and living in their first fixer upper. Four children and countless renovations later, Joanna garners the attention of a television producer who notices her work on a blog one day.

In The Magnolia Story fans will finally get to join the Gaines behind the scenes and discover: The time Chip ran to the grocery store and forgot to take their new, sleeping baby Joanna s agonizing decision to close her dream business to focus on raising their children When Chip buys a houseboat, sight-unseen, and it turns out to be a leaky wreck Joanna s breakthrough moment of discovering the secret to creating a beautiful home Harrowing stories of the financial ups and downs as an entrepreneurial couple Memories and photos from Chip and Jo s wedding The significance of the word magnolia and why it permeates everything they do The way the couple pays the popularity of Fixer Upper forward, sharing the success with others, and bolstering the city of Waco along the way

And yet there is still one lingering question for fans of the show: Is Chip really that funny? Oh yeah, says Joanna. He was, and still is, my first fixer upper. "

Ghost Times Two
Carolyn Hart

Hardcover, 304 pages
Expected publication: October 4th 2016 by Berkley

Bailey Ruth Raeburn’s latest mission is to guide the happy-go-lucky spirit of a deceased young man named Jimmy to the next life. But Jimmy is determined to watch over his still-living girlfriend Megan, whom he wants to be happy even without him—which is easier said than done.

As if being haunted by her late boyfriend wasn’t enough, Megan is dealing with an arrogant, manipulative senior partner who threatens to fire Megan’s vulnerable secretary if Megan accepts a partnership at another law firm. She’s in an impossible bind.

Since Jimmy refuses to move on while Megan is being blackmailed, Bailey Ruth agrees to help him. But after the partner turns up dead and Megan is found at the crime scene, Bailey Ruth and Jimmy have to find a way to uncover a killer before the love of Jimmy’s life is ordered to spend a lifetime behind bars...