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 fianc√© 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 fianc√© 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?

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Book Review: The Bookman's Promise by John Dunning

The Bookman's Promise 

Author:
John Dunning
Series: Cliff Janeway Novels (Book 3)
Publication: Charles Scribner's Sons (February 24, 2004)

Description: Cliff Janeway is back! The Bookman's Promise marks the eagerly awaited return of Denver bookman-author John Dunning and the award-winning crime novel series that helped to turn the nation on to first-edition book collecting.

First, it was Booked to Die, then The Bookman's Wake. Now John Dunning fans, old and new, will rejoice in The Bookman's Promise, a richly nuanced new Janeway novel that juxtaposes past and present as Denver ex-cop and bookman Cliff Janeway searches for a book and a killer.

The quest begins when an old woman, Josephine Gallant, learns that Janeway has recently bought at auction a signed first edition by the legendary nineteenth-century explorer Richard Francis Burton. The book is a true classic, telling of Burton's journey (disguised as a Muslim) to the forbidden holy cities of Mecca and Medina. The Boston auction house was a distinguished and trustworthy firm, but provenance is sometimes murky and Josephine says the book is rightfully hers.

She believes that her grandfather, who was living in Baltimore more than eighty years ago, had a fabulous collection of Burton material, including a handwritten journal allegedly detailing Burton's undercover trip deep into the troubled American South in 1860. Josephine remembers the books from her childhood, but everything mysteriously disappeared shortly after her grandfather's death.

With little time left in her own life, Josephine begs for Janeway's promise: he must find her grandfather's collection. It's a virtually impossible task, Janeway suspects, as the books will no doubt have been sold and separated over the years, but how can he say no to a dying woman?

It seems that her grandfather, Charlie Warren, traveled south with Burton in the spring of 1860, just before the Civil War began. Was Burton a spy for Britain? What happened during the three months in Burton's travels for which there are no records? How did Charlie acquire his unique collection of Burton books? What will the journal, if it exists, reveal?

When a friend is murdered, possibly because of a Burton book, Janeway knows he must find the answers. Someone today is willing to kill to keep the secrets of the past, and Janeway's search will lead him east: To Baltimore, to a Pulitzer Prize-winning author with a very stuffed shirt, and to a pair of unorthodox booksellers. It reaches a fiery conclusion at Fort Sumter off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.

What's more, a young lawyer, Erin d'Angelo, and ex-librarian Koko Bujak, have their own reasons for wanting to find the journal. But can Janeway trust them?

Rich with the insider's information on rare and collectible books that has made John Dunning famous, and with meticulously researched detail about a mesmerizing figure who may have played an unrecognized role in our Civil War, The Bookman's Promise is riveting entertainment from an extraordinarily gifted author who is as unique and special as the books he so clearly loves.

My Thoughts: This story begins when Cliff Janeway appears on a radio program and talks about a rare book that he bought at an auction in Boston. He paid more than $29,000 for a copy of Pilgrimage to Medina and Mecca by Richard Burton. After his appearance, he hears from all sorts of people including those who want to sell him items by the actor Richard Burton. One of the calls, which he thought came from just one more nut, came from Josephine Gallant who tells him that the book was stolen from her family.

When Mrs. Gallant - nearly blind, over 90, and dying - comes to see him in Denver, Cliff begins to believe her story but wonders what he can do to find a book collection that has been missing for more than 80 years. Mrs. Gallant is befriended by a couple while she's in Denver and dies in their home. Just days later, the woman in the couple is found to have been smothered to death and her husband is the prime suspect. Cliff is determined to find her killer and to keep his promise to Mrs. Gallant to find her family's missing collection of Burton's books.

As Cliff investigates, we get a look into the world of book collecting as we see his friend Judge Lee Huxley and a pair of fourth generation book collectors in Baltimore. We meet Erin d'Angelo who is a mentee of the judge and Cliff''s new love interest. We also meet Koko Bujak who is a retired librarian who has hours of tape documenting Mrs. Gallant's life and a pair of rangers at Fort Sumter who are also fans of Richard Burton.

Woven through this whole story is Richard F. Burton who was a master linguist, soldier, spy, explorer and chronicler of his travels who was an immensely prolific author and a very important nineteenth-century character. Although he wrote about everything, there is one three-month period of his life that is missing. He traveled through the American South just before the Civil War with Charles Warren, the man who amassed the large collection of Burton's works that is the object of Cliff's hunt. 

I really enjoyed the way the story was written. It is a memoir written after the time when Cliff tracked down the collection, hunted for a killer, and learned more about himself as a book collector. It includes a section about that missing three month period garnered from Mrs. Gallant's memories of what her grandfather told her and her own reading of the missing journal. 

This book is the third in a five-book series. I want to know more about the past that is just briefly referred to in this one. He mentions leaving the police force under something of a cloud but I want to know more about Cliff and his transition from detective to bookseller and book collector. 

Favorite Quote:
"Can you imagine what it's like to write for years and get nowhere? To know in your heart that you're something special and watch your books get rejected and rejected and rejected, over and over till the paper they were typed on begins to come apart. I'll tell you what happens to writers like that. One day they wake up and they're old. All that promise just seems to flush away overnight and they've got nothing to show for it except a wasted life."
I bought this one September 26, 2015. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Friday Memes: The Bookman's Promise by John Dunning

 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:
The man said, "Welcome to Book Beat, Mr. Janeway" and this was how it began.
Friday 56:
It was now twilight time, the beginning of my long nightly journey through the dark. For the moment the Treadwell business had played itself out. I didn't want to leave it there, but there it sat, spreading its discontent. I didn't want to go home. I didn't want to call a friend, catch a movie, do a crossword puzzle. I sure as hell didn't want to sit in a bar full of strangers as an alternative to Erin d'Angelo's luminous presence. When all else fails I usually work on books, but that night I didn't want to do that, either.
This week I am spotlighting The Bookman's Promise by John Dunning. This hardcover has been on my TBR pile since September 26, 2015. Here is the description from Amazon:
Cliff Janeway is back! The Bookman's Promise marks the eagerly awaited return of Denver bookman-author John Dunning and the award-winning crime novel series that helped to turn the nation on to first-edition book collecting.

First, it was Booked to Die, then The Bookman's Wake. Now John Dunning fans, old and new, will rejoice in The Bookman's Promise, a richly nuanced new Janeway novel that juxtaposes past and present as Denver ex-cop and bookman Cliff Janeway searches for a book and a killer.

The quest begins when an old woman, Josephine Gallant, learns that Janeway has recently bought at auction a signed first edition by the legendary nineteenth-century explorer Richard Francis Burton. The book is a true classic, telling of Burton's journey (disguised as a Muslim) to the forbidden holy cities of Mecca and Medina. The Boston auction house was a distinguished and trustworthy firm, but provenance is sometimes murky and Josephine says the book is rightfully hers.

She believes that her grandfather, who was living in Baltimore more than eighty years ago, had a fabulous collection of Burton material, including a handwritten journal allegedly detailing Burton's undercover trip deep into the troubled American South in 1860. Josephine remembers the books from her childhood, but everything mysteriously disappeared shortly after her grandfather's death.

With little time left in her own life, Josephine begs for Janeway's promise: he must find her grandfather's collection. It's a virtually impossible task, Janeway suspects, as the books will no doubt have been sold and separated over the years, but how can he say no to a dying woman?

It seems that her grandfather, Charlie Warren, traveled south with Burton in the spring of 1860, just before the Civil War began. Was Burton a spy for Britain? What happened during the three months in Burton's travels for which there are no records? How did Charlie acquire his unique collection of Burton books? What will the journal, if it exists, reveal?

When a friend is murdered, possibly because of a Burton book, Janeway knows he must find the answers. Someone today is willing to kill to keep the secrets of the past, and Janeway's search will lead him east: To Baltimore, to a Pulitzer Prize-winning author with a very stuffed shirt, and to a pair of unorthodox booksellers. It reaches a fiery conclusion at Fort Sumter off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.

What's more, a young lawyer, Erin d'Angelo, and ex-librarian Koko Bujak, have their own reasons for wanting to find the journal. But can Janeway trust them?

Rich with the insider's information on rare and collectible books that has made John Dunning famous, and with meticulously researched detail about a mesmerizing figure who may have played an unrecognized role in our Civil War, The Bookman's Promise is riveting entertainment from an extraordinarily gifted author who is as unique and special as the books he so clearly loves.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

ARC Review: A Good Day for Chardonnay by Darynda Jones

A Good Day for Chardonnay

Author:
Darynda Jones
Series: Sunshine Vicram (Book 2)
Publication: St. Martin's Press (July 27, 2021)

Description: From the New York Times bestselling author Darynda Jones comes the second novel in her laugh-out-loud Sunshine Vicram mystery series, A Good Day for Chardonnay.

Running a small-town police force in the mountains of New Mexico should be a smooth, carefree kind of job. Sadly, full-time Sheriff―and even fuller-time coffee guzzler―Sunshine Vicram, didn’t get that memo.

All Sunshine really wants is one easy-going day. You know, the kind that starts with coffee and a donut (or three) and ends with take-out pizza and a glass of chardonnay (or seven). Turns out, that’s about as easy as switching to decaf. (What kind of people do that? And who hurt them?)

Before she can say iced mocha latte, Sunny’s got a bar fight gone bad, a teenage daughter hunting a serial killer and, oh yes, the still unresolved mystery of her own abduction years prior. All evidence points to a local distiller, a dangerous bad boy named Levi Ravinder, but Sun knows he’s not the villain of her story. Still, perhaps beneath it all, he possesses the keys to her disappearance. At the very least, beneath it all, he possesses a serious set of abs. She’s seen it. Once. Accidentally.

Between policing a town her hunky chief deputy calls four cents short of a nickel, that pesky crush she has on Levi which seems to grow exponentially every day, and an irascible raccoon that just doesn’t know when to quit, Sunny’s life is about to rocket to a whole new level of crazy.

Yep, definitely a good day for chardonnay.

My Thoughts: This book was an emotional roller coaster. I went from laughing out loud (several times) to sobbing equally loudly. It would be hard to summarize this plot because there were so many threads and so much happened in this story. The book blurb gives some hint of the variety of things that happen in the book but leaves out a lot too.

I loved the way the characters - especially Sunshine and her daughter Auri - interact. The characters from the old woman who confesses to every crime and the flasher who haunts the park and the guy in pest control Sunshine's parents set her up with for a blind day and who now won't stop texting her all add interest, humor, and mystery to the story. The chapter headings which are adds for various local business also provide a lot of humor. 

I like the romance plots too. Auri's young first love sort of romance with Cruz was touching. And Sunshine's growing romance with Levi Ravinder was also really entertaining. I liked the friendships in the story too. Sunshine's best friend is her Chief Deputy and he is quite a character. In fact, all the deputies are unique characters.

I really, really enjoyed this story and hope that there is more to come in this series. There were plot threads left hanging. I want to know what happens next for these characters.

Favorite Quote:
She was so close she could taste victory. Or wishful thinking. Emotional figures of speech tasted startlingly similar.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Book and Audio Review: Part-Time Gods by Rachel Aaron

Part-Time Gods

Author:
Rachel Aaron
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller
Series: DFZ Book 2
Publication: Aaron/Bach (June 9, 2019); Audible Studios (June 9, 2019)
Length: 336 p.; 11 hours and 8 minutes

Description: Life in the magical mess of the Detroit Free Zone is never easy. When you’re laboring under the curse of a certain prideful, overbearing dragon, it can be down right impossible.

My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner. At least, I used to be. Thanks to the supernatural bad luck that turns everything I do against me, these days I’m more of a walking disaster. Getting rid of this curse is the only way to get my life back. Unfortunately, dragon magic is every bit as sneaky and deadly the monsters behind it, and just as hard to beat.

But I’ve never been one to take her doom at face value. Cornered doesn’t mean defeated, and in an awakened city that rules herself, dragons are no longer the biggest powers around.

My Thoughts: This is the middle book of a trilogy and, therefore, doesn't really have a beginning or an ending. Opal Yong-ae works as a Cleaner in the Detroit Free Zone. She is desperate to earn money to pay her debt to her father - who happens to be an old and powerful dragon, but he has cursed her with bad luck because he doesn't want her to get free of him.

Opal has always felt like a failure in her family because, despite being genetically engineered to be an exceptional mage, she has never been able to get magic to work for her. Her spells are usually failures  which backfire on her. 

She has teamed up with another Cleaner named Nik who is a product of the DFZ and has the scars and cyber-enhancements to prove it. They try to get around the curse by having Nik do the buying and selling but it isn't working. When Opal's dad calls in her debt, she has to find another way to make money fast. When she and Nik go to a more dangerous than normal part of the DFZ they are attacked and Opal has to use her magic to save him. 

Opal manages to save Nik but she manages to detach her soul in the process. She's been given the name of a shaman who might be able to help her get a handle on her magic. Opal has a low opinion of shamanistic magic because she's been trained in a different school. But the shaman makes sense and also turns out to be one of the priests of the spirit of the DFZ who offers Opal a job. 

Opal doesn't want to be a priest of the DFZ. She is trying to be free of all ownership. She is almost pathological about being independent. But when her dad needs her, she realizes that while she's angry with her dad, she doesn't want him deal. So Opal takes the DFZ's deal...

And we have to wait to read book three - NIGHT SHIFT DRAGONS - to find out how things work out.

I enjoyed Emily Woo Zeller's narration of this story. She made each character distinctive. 

Favorite Quote:
"Wait, you're not planning to eat that potato in your bag, are you? 'Cause we just sold your microwave and your convection oven."

"It's not for eating!" I cried. "That's my magic potato!"

I knew how bad that sounded as soon as it came out of my mouth. Unfortunately, everything I could have said to explain it made even less sense.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Book and Audio Review: Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Crocodile on the Sandbank

Author:
Elizabeth Peters
Narrator: Susan O'Malley
Series: Amelia Peabody (Book 1)
Publication: Blackstone Audio (August 23, 2002); Mysterious Press (February 10, 2010)
Length: 8 hours and 47 minutes; 246 p. 

Description: Amelia Peabody, that indomitable product of the Victorian age, embarks on her debut Egyptian adventure armed with unshakable self-confidence, a journal to record her thoughts, and, of course, a sturdy umbrella. On her way to Cairo, Amelia rescues young Evelyn Barton-Forbes, who has been abandoned by her scoundrel lover. Together the two women sail up the Nile to an archeological site run by the Emerson brothers-the irascible but dashing Radcliffe and the amiable Walter. Soon their little party is increased by one-one mummy that is, and a singularly lively example of the species.

Strange visitations, suspicious accidents, and a botched kidnapping convince Amelia that there is a plot afoot to harm Evelyn. Now Amelia finds herself up against an unknown enemy-and perilous forces that threaten to make her first Egyptian trip also her last . . 

My Thoughts: Amelia Peabody is an independent woman. After caring for her father until his death, she learns that she has inherited his considerable fortune and decides to travel the world. She's 32 but proprieties demand that she have a companion. When her current companion proves to be unsatisfactory, she rescues a young woman named Evelyn Barton-Forbes to be her new companion.

Evelyn had run away with an unsuitable man who has now abandoned her in Rome. Her wealthy grandfather disinherited her and she is without hope. Amelia takes her under her wing and together the two head off for Egypt. 

Amelia falls in love with Egypt and with archaeology but danger seems to be following them. On a trip  up the Nile they meet the Emerson brothers who are archaeologists. The younger is Walter. He and Evelyn fall in love but she feels that, as a ruined woman, she has nothing to offer him. The older brother is Radcliffe who is as opinionated and strong-minded as Amelia herself. The two butt heads from the moment they meet. Their interaction was really fun to read.

The story is told from Amelia's point-of-view which is a unique one. She embodies most of the virtues and faults of the the wealthy Victorian lady tourist. She is certain that things would run better if people would just let her be in charge!

Susan O'Malley did a great job bringing Amelia to life. She also did an excellent job with the other characters. 

Favorite Quote:
"But why should any independent, intelligent female choose to subject herself to the whims and tyrannies of a husband? I assure you, I have yet to meet a man was sensible as myself."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, July 19, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (July 19, 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.

I will be combining my YA and adult reading and purchases on this one weekly roundup.

Other Than Reading...

This week just sped by. I didn't do anything except take a couple of walks. I watched a little of the Home Run Derby and all of the All-Star Game but really missed seeing my Braves play. I'm glad the regular season of baseball has begun again. 

I did get a haircut and walk around the Mall a little bit on Thursday. It is always interesting to see what new stores have opened and which ones have closed. There are lots of vacant spaces at our local Mall. I don't get there often. I've been avoiding places where people congregate for so long that I have gotten out of the habit of walking there. 

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.)
  • Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey (Mine) -- The hardcover was sitting on my shelves since 2012. I bought the Kindle and audiobook recently since the series was on sale. This was an entertaining urban fantasy story set in Michigan with great worldbuilding. My review will be posted on September 8.
  • Autumn Bones by Jacqueline Carey (Mine; Kindle Daily Deal & Audiobook) -- Second in the Agent of Hel series was also entertaining . My review will be posted on October 2.
  • Poison Fruit by Jacqueline Carey (Mine; Kindle and Audiobook) -- Finale of the Agent of Hel trilogy nicely wrapped up all the plot threads. My review will be posted on October 12. 
  • More Than Fiends by Maureen Child (Mine since April 17, 2008) -- This was a fun and funny urban fantasy that has been on my TBR mountain for years. My review will be posted on August 21.
  • All Night Long with a Cowboy by Caitlin Crews (Review; August 24) -- This contemporary Western Romance pairs up the local school librarian and the local playboy. It was entertaining and the female lead was a nicely quirky character. My review will be posted on August 18.
  • Eyes of the Forest by April Henry (Review; August 24) -- This YA mystery has a high school girl searching for her favorite author when he disappears. Told from multiple viewpoints including the missing author's. My review will be posted on August 19.
  • A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones (Mine; Kindle and Audiobook) -- This was a reread and first listen of a book I had for review last year. It worked very well as an audiobook.
  • Enola Holmes and the Boy in Buttons by Nancy Springer (Mine; Kindle and Audiobook) -- This novella was a brief case undertaken by Miss Holmes. 
Currently
Next Week
Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

Review:
Bought:
  • Derelict edited by David B, Coe & Joshua Palmetier (Kindle) - I've already read the story by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller which is the reason I bought the anthology. I'll be dipping into this one for the others someday, I'm sure.
  • Enola Holmes and the Boy in Buttons by Nancy Springer (Kindle Daily Deal and Audiobook)
What was your week like?