Sunday, August 1, 2021

State of the Stack #110 (August 1, 2021)

This is my monthly post which details progress made on review books. I want to thank the authors and publishers who have contributed their books. 

Read This Month 
  1. At Summer's End by Courtney Ellis (August 10)
  2. The Family Plot by Megan Collins (August 11)
  3. A Terrible Fall of Angels by Laurell K. Hamilton (August 17)
  4. All Night Long with a Cowboy by Caitlin Crews (August 18)
  5. Eyes of the Forest by April Henry (August 19)
  6. Murder Most Fair by Anna Lee Huber (August 24)
  7. Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche by Nancy Springer (August 25)
  8. Breaking Badger by Shelly Laurenston (August 26)
  9. Striking Range by Margaret Mizushima (September 1)
  10. A Fire in the Night by Christopher Swann (September 2)
DNF
  1. Designs on the Dead by Emilia Bernhard
Read Previously But Posted This Month 
  1. Fallen by Linda Castillo (July 1)
  2. Back from the Brink by Emery Hayes (July 7)
  3. Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman (July 8)
  4. Fatal Family Ties by S. C. Perkins (July 14)
  5. Last Guard by Nalini Singh (July 15)
  6. A Good Day for Chardonnay by Darynda Jones (July 22)
  7. Bad Scene by Max Tomlinson
  8. Murder Most Fowl by Donna Andrews (July 28)
  9. Death in Castle Dark by Veronica Bond (July 29)
New This Month 
  1. At Summer's End by Courtney Ellis (August 10)
  2. A Terrible Fall of Angels by Laurell K. Hamilton (August 17)
  3. Best in Snow by David Rosenblat (October 12)
  4. Mercy Creek by M. E. Browning (October 12)
  5. Miss Moriarty, I Presume? by Sherry Thomas (November 2)
  6. You'll Be The Death of Me by Karen M. McManus (November 30)
  7. In Every Generation by Kendare Blake - not on Amazon yet
  8. Desolation Canyon by P. J. Tracy (January 18, 2022)
  9. The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont (February 1, 2022)
  10. Behind the Lie by Emilya Naymark (February 8, 2022)
All TBR Review Books

September
October
November
December
January 
February


Saturday, July 31, 2021

Book Review: Cursed Luck by Kelley Armstrong

Cursed Luck

Author:
Kelley Armstrong
Series: Cursed Luck (Book 1)
Publication: KLA Fricke Incorporated (May 7, 2021)

Description: Kennedy Bennett comes from a long line of curse weavers. For centuries, her family has plied their trade in Unstable, Massachusetts, an unconventional small town that’s welcomed paranormal practitioners since the dawn of spiritualism. Kennedy has recently struck out on her own, opening an antiques shop in Boston, where her specialty is uncursing and reselling hexed objects.

Then Aiden Connolly walks into her life with an offer she really should refuse. The scion of a wealthy family of luck workers, Aiden has a scheme to get his hands on the most famous cursed object of all: the mythical Necklace of Harmonia. He’s not the only one after the necklace, though. And he’s not the only one looking for a curse weaver to fix it. Kennedy’s sisters are kidnapped, and she finds herself plunged into the underbelly of the magical world where even Aiden is in over his head.

My Thoughts: CURSED LUCK begins a new urban fantasy series. Kennedy Bennett is the middle daughter in a family of curse workers. While they are able to place curses on objects, their specialty is removing them. Kennedy has moved from Unstable, Massachusetts, where she grew up to Boston where she has opened an antique store that specializes in formerly cursed objects.

Kennedy is just building her business. She finds it hard to turn down an offer to help Aiden Connolly, from a family of luck workers, find and uncurse the famous, or maybe infamous, Necklace of Harmonia. This object promises eternal youth and beauty but also great misfortune. 

Despite Kennedy being attracted to Aiden's looks, they don't hit it off when they first meet. Kennedy is impulsive and sometimes even reckless and Aiden is the quintessential stuffed shirt. But when Kennedy's sisters are kidnapped to force them to try to undo the curse, Aiden is about the only one she knows isn't involved. 

Kennedy finds herself involved in the gray magic world which is totally alien to her and filled with all sorts of competing factions who want the Necklace of Harmonia cursed or uncursed. She'll do anything to find and rescue her sisters - even contend with ancient immortals.

I loved the world building in this one where immortals and magic users live among us regular people. I liked Kennedy's attitude, intelligence, and sparkling wit. I like the way she interacted with Aiden and was constantly teasing him. I liked that there wasn't an insta-romance but that the possibility of a future romance exists. I liked the references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek in the story. I liked Kennedy's relationship with her cat which provided some additional humor to the story. I liked that both humor and deadly danger filled the book.

I can't wait for the next book in the series which is due in 2022.

Favorite Quote:
After a moment, Connolly says, "That's actually a good idea."

"One of these times, you will stop sounding so shocked when you say that."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Friday Memes: Cursed Luck by Kelley Armstrong

 Happy Friday everybody!

Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City ReaderThe Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Beginning:
Aiden Connolly is making me an offer I can't refuse, even when I know I should.
Friday 56:
The Necklace of Harmonia carries a curse that falls on the owner. The only way to reliably lift it is to uncurse the object while it's still in that owner's possession.
This week I am spotlighting the first in a new series by a favorite author. Cursed Luck by Kelley Armstrong is an urban fantasy with some romance. Here is the description from Amazon:
Kennedy Bennett comes from a long line of curse weavers. For centuries, her family has plied their trade in Unstable, Massachusetts, an unconventional small town that’s welcomed paranormal practitioners since the dawn of spiritualism. Kennedy has recently struck out on her own, opening an antiques shop in Boston, where her speciality is uncursing and reselling hexed objects.

Then Aiden Connolly walks into her life with an offer she really should refuse. The scion of a wealthy family of luck workers, Aiden has a scheme to get his hands on the most famous cursed object of all: the mythical Necklace of Harmonia. He’s not the only one after the necklace, though. And he’s not the only one looking for a curse weaver to fix it. Kennedy’s sisters are kidnapped, and she finds herself plunged into the underbelly of the magical world where even Aiden is in over his head.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

ARC Review: Death in Castle Dark by Veronica Bond

Death in Castle Dark

Author:
Veronica Bond
Series: A Dinner and a Murder Mystery
Publication: Berkley (August 3, 2021)

Description: Actor Nora Blake finds her dream job when she is cast in a murder-mystery troupe that performs in an imposing but captivating old castle. When she stumbles upon a real murder, things take a nightmarish turn in this first book in an exciting new series.

Maybe it was too good to be true, but when Nora Blake accepted the job from Derek Corby, proprietor of Castle Dark, she could not see any downsides. She would sink her acting chops into the troupe’s intricately staged murder-mystery shows, earn free room and board in the fairy tale–like castle, and make friends with her new roommates, which include some seriously adorable kittens.

But something sinister lurks behind the walls of Castle Dark. During Nora’s second performance, one of her castmates plays the part of the victim a little too well. So well, in fact, that no one can revive him. He has been murdered. Not ready to give up her dream gig—or to be the next victim—Nora sets out to see which one of her fellow actors has taken the role of a murderous real-life villain.

My Thoughts: Nora Blake is an actress in search of a job when she is offered a dream position: become part of a dinner theater troupe doing mysteries in an old castle outside of Chicago. Things go well, at first, as she makes friends with some of the other live-in cast members and crushes on one of the gardeners. But things go horribly wrong when one of the other cast members is found murdered in the chapel.

As Nora looks into the other cast members to try to figure out who murdered Garrett Perth, she discovers some secrets and puts herself in danger when she gets too close to the murder.

The story is filled with interesting characters and the setting is first-rate. Nora is a nice character and a nice person stuck in a confusing and frightening situation. I liked her budding romance with Detective John Dashiell who has been undercover as a gardener because of a plot not relating to the murder.

This was a great start to a new cozy series. I look forward to more adventures. 

Favorite Quote:
Just for an instant, I once again had the sensation that I was being drawn into some elaborate illusion, that everyone around me was playing a part, that I was somehow being duped, deceived, lured into a web of intrigue in a remote castle where I would not be able to run for help...
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.



Wednesday, July 28, 2021

ARC Review: Murder Most Fowl by Donna Andrews

Murder Most Fowl

Author:
Donna Andrews
Series: Meg Langslow Mystery (Book 29)
Publication: Minotaur Books (August 3, 2021)

Description: A Shakespearean twist on the long-running Meg Langslow mystery series in Murder Most Fowl, the next installment from Donna Andrews, award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The Falcon Always Wings Twice.

Meg Langslow’s in for a busy summer. Her husband is directing a production of Macbeth, and most of the cast and crew are occupying spare bedrooms in their house. She also has to keep an eye on Camp Birnam, where a group of medieval reenactors are commemorating the real-life Macbeth by setting up what they fondly believe is an authentic medieval Scottish military camp.

And then there’s Damien Goodwin, a filmmaker who has been hanging around, trying to document the production. When Goodwin hosts a showing of some of the footage he’s taken, he manages to embarrass or offend just about everyone. The next morning Meg isn’t exactly surprised to find that someone has murdered him.

But who? Some people’s motives were obvious from the footage: the couple whose affair was revealed . . . the bombastic leader of the reenactors, who could be facing years in prison if the evidence from the video helps convict him of sheep stealing . . . the actress who’s desperately trying to downplay a health issue that could cost her the role of her life. Other motives are only hinted at―did the filmmaker have other footage that would reveal why one of the actors is behaving so furtively?

Unfortunately, whoever murdered Goodwin also destroyed all the electronic devices on which his video was stored. So Caerphilly’s chief of police―and Meg―must rediscover the same secrets the filmmaker did if they want to catch a killer.

My Thoughts: Meg Langslow is having a busy summer. Her husband is directing a production of Macbeth and, because of politics at the local college, the actors and crew are staying with them at their home either in their guest bedrooms or in tents on their grounds. There have been a series of vandalisms ranging from red paint on a copy of a script to underwear strung up in their library to obscene graffiti painted on a hallway's walls. 

Besides that, Meg is dealing with reenactors who are camping next door in her parents' woods and who are stealing local livestock and requiring daily visits from the fire marshal and the health department. Throw in a documentary filmmaker who is constantly underfoot and Meg is almost at her wit's end.

Add in a lead actress's gastrointestinal issues which could be stress or could be poison and potential evil witchcraft being done in the bone-dry woods and Meg barely has time to craft a spooky dagger for the production at her forge.

When, after previewing his film and angering just about everyone he used as a subject, the filmmaker is found dead, Meg and the police chief have more than enough suspects to his murder. 

This is the 29th episode in this series but worked perfectly well as an entry point for this new reader of the series. Yes, I wanted to know more about Meg's very large family who have a variety of walk-on parts in this story, but I learned enough to be intrigued rather than confused. I liked Meg who is an organized and phlegmatic character who isn't going to let all the chaos around her disturb her equanimity. This was a great introduction to a series I'm adding to my wishlist.

Favorite Quote:
The bagpiper was drawing near, playing either "Scotland the Brave" or a slow-tempo version of the theme from Gilligan's Island. I could tell the chief was as relieved as I was when MacLeod shooed him away.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Book Review: The Assassins of Thasalon by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Assassins of Thasalon

Author:
Lois McMaster Bujold
Series: Penric and Desdemona (Book 10)
Publication: Self-Published (May 10, 2021)

Description: An unholy attack upon his brother-in-law General Arisaydia pitches sorcerer Learned Penric and his Temple demon Desdemona headlong into the snake-pit of Cedonian imperial politics. But they will not travel alone. The mission from his god brings Penric some of his strangest new allies yet, and the return of some of his most valued old ones.

My Thoughts: Penric would be perfectly content to stay in Vilnoc translating texts and spending time with his daughter and pregnant wife. But when an assassination attempt targets his brother-in-law and the method is unique, Pen's god sends him and Desdemona to Thasalon to solve the problem.

Pen is traveling with a Saint of his order and the would-be assassin who was spared by his god. The saint is Blessed Iroki who would rather be fishing and the assassin is a young woman named Alixtra who was forced into her new career because of threats against her five-year-old son. Alixtra was given a demon by a Learned in the Bastard's order at the urging of Minister Methani who is one of the minor Emperor's regents. She is completely ignorant about demons and what her responsibilities toward them are. As they travel back to Thasalon, Pen gives her a quick course in the theology of demon handling.

Upon arrival, they seek the assistance of Lady Tanar Xarre and her mother. Tanar is the fiancĂ© of Pen's brother-in-law Adelis. She is wealthy and politically connected but not part of Minister Methani's party. She is also excited to pave the way for her fiancĂ© to return to Thasalon. While Pen is more interested in the theological part of his mission and needs to bring the Saint in contact with the rogue Learned Tronio, he realizes that he is neck deep in the political implications too. 

This was another engaging episode in the further adventures of Pen and his demon Desdemona. I really like the relationship between the two of them. I also like Pen as a teacher setting Alixtra on her path of demon-tending. 

The plot was engaging and fast-paced. The world building was excellent and the characters all well-written. 

Favorite Quote:
"Knowledge is not the same thing as understanding. I have a profound need to understand. Everything."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, July 26, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (July 26, 2021)

 It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

Other Than Reading...

This was a nice week. The weather wasn't good though. Between the haze from very distant forest fires and general cloudiness, we didn't make much solar power. The temperatures were warm and the humidity high which made staying inside in the central air conditioning the best choice. We did actually get some rain when a line of severe thunderstorms rolled through of Friday night. We only got half an inch of rain which didn't do much to relieve our very dry conditions. We are 2 and 1/4 inches below average for the month with no additional rain in the forecast. 

A friend visited for the first time in almost a year. It was great to catch up on her life as we listened to audiobooks and I played computer games while she crocheted some cute animals. We got out to dinner twice while she was here. We went to Texas Roadhouse on the day she arrived and had leftovers for the next day. We also took my brother and went to Bridgeman's one evening which also yielded leftovers that are still in my refrigerator. On the night in between our restaurant trips, m brother and I cooked with him making his famous meatloaf and me contributing potatoes with cheese sauce. I think those leftovers will be our dinner again tonight. 

My friend and I didn't do much outdoor walking but did go shopping one afternoon which gave me some steps. She'd run out of one of the colors of yarn she needed for her project and also the energy drink that she always has by her side. We found the yarn but not the energy drink. It reminded me of earlier in the pandemic when I couldn't find Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi anywhere. 

The books I have listed as Next Week's are review books that will fill out my calendar until the end of September. I have one more review book to read for my August calendar. Then only the Monday posts will be unfinished. With 46 scheduled posts, I am taking the time to reread in audio format. Any that I haven't previously reviewed will be scheduled for sometime in October. I currently only have 5 review books being released in October which leaves lots of spaces to fill on my calendar.

Read Last Week

If you can't wait until the review shows up on my blog, reviews are posted to LibraryThing and Goodreads as soon as I write them (usually right after I finish reading a book.)
  • Murder Most Fair by Anna Lee Huber (Review; August 31) -- This is the fifth Verity Kent mystery and concerns going home and finally dealing with the death of her brother. There is a mystery that grew out of one the missions she did during the war and which are still secret from her family. My review will be posted on August 24.
  • Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche by Nancy Springer (Review; August 31) -- This YA is a new Enola Holmes adventure which has great worldbuilding and interesting characters. My review will be posted on August 25.
  • Breaking Badger by Shelly Laurenston (Review; August 31) -- This funny paranormal romance is the fourth in the Honey Badger Chronicles. The characters are so over-the-top that this was just so much fun to read. My review will be posted on August 26.
  • Otherwise Engaged by Amanda Quick (Mine; Audiobook) -- This was billed as the 3rd in the Ladies of Lantern Street trilogy but was actually a historical romantic suspense title with no hint of the paranormal. It was a reread and, though entertaining, I don't plan to review it again, but here is my review from 2014.
  • The Vanishing by Jayne Ann Krentz (Audiobook Reread) -- This is the first in the Fogg Lake trilogy which is contemporary paranormal romantic suspense. I enjoyed this the first time I read it and enjoyed it just as much as an audiobook. Here's my original review.
  • All the Colors of Night by Jayne Ann Krentz (Audiobook Reread) -- This is the second in the Fog Lake trilogy and is also contemporary, paranormal, romantic suspense. Here's my original review.
  • Penric's Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Mine; Audiobook) -- This is the first in the series of novellas Bujold began as her retirement project. It takes place in the World of the Five Gods and introduces Penric and Desdemona - a demon who is sharing his body. 
  • A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander (Mine since 2010) -- This is a historical mystery which also includes some romance. It is the third in the series. I liked the characters and the setting. My review of the audiobook version which I just bought will be posted on August 28.
Currently
  • Striking Range by Margaret Mizushima (Review; September 7)
  • Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh (Audiobook Reread) - I first read and reviewed this one in 2010.
Next Week
Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

Review:
Audiobooks:
  • Tinker by Wen Spencer (Audiobook since I already own the Kindle)
  • Wolf Who Rules by Wen Spencer (Audiobook since I already own the Kindle)
  • Crime and Punctuation by Kaitlyn Dunnett (Kindle Daily Deal and Audiobook)
Free Kindle:
What was your week like?