Thursday, March 31, 2022

Book & Audio Review: Beguiled by Darynda Jones


Darynda Jones
Narrator: Traci Odom
Series: Betwixt & Between (Book 3)
Publication: Self-Published (February 22, 2021); Tantor Audio (May 11, 2021)
Length: 370 p.; 10 hours and 10 minutes

Description: Newly indoctrinated witch, and a charmling to boot, Defiance Dayne discovers there's more to life after 40 than she'd ever imagined possible. Especially since one neighbor is trying to seduce her, another neighbor is trying to steal her house out from under her, and a third neighbor is trying to get her kicked off the planet. Oh for three, but things start to look up when a new witch moves to town, one who says she's been sent to thwart an attempt on the charmling's life.

Dephne decides she has three things to do before she can die. Find out who killed her beloved grandmother, teach her BFF, Annette, the finer points of spellcasting before she blows up the world, and figure out how serious her relationship with the Adonis living in her basement really is. If it's heading in the direction she's hoping for, she can die happy. Though, admittedly, she'd rather not.

None of that will matter, however, if she can't figure out how to foil the supernatural assassin who's been sent to kill her. Until then, it's business - and hopefully romance - as usual. Now if she can only figure out how to tame a lacuna wolf.

My Thoughts: The final book in the Betwixt & Between trilogy is filled with humor and action. Defiance Dane has managed to return her grandmother from the dead but still really wants to know who murdered her in the first place. Defiance is also the target of someone who wants her because she's a charmling. And she is concerned about her relationship with her basement neighbor who is a hottie wolf. 

Throw in a best friend who believes she's psychic and who wants Defiance to conduct a seance and who seems to be developing an ability to may deadly poisons and you have a lot of confusion going on. 

This story had a lot of characters who were all fascinating people and who all had issues that kept pulling Defiance in different directions. I was especially fond of the three-year-old ghost boy from Salem's pilgrim past. 

I enjoyed the quirky humor which mixed nicely with someone wanting Defiance dead and the tension that brought to the story. 

While this book wouldn't stand alone, it was a great conclusion for those who have read the first three books in the series. 

Favorite Quote:
Be the reason someone smiles today.
Or the reason they drink.
Whatever works.
I bought this one November 29, 2021. You can buy your copy here.

ARC Review: Shadow in the Glass by M. E. Hilliard

Shadow in the Glass

M. E. Hilliard
Series: A Greer Hogan Mystery (Book 2)
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (April 5, 2022)

Description: Murder rocks a wedding celebration at an idyllic lakeside home—and librarian-turned-sleuth Greer Hogan could be next on the killer’s guest list in this second exciting installment, perfect for fans of Louise Penny.

Librarian Greer Hogan is on hand to celebrate her old friend Sarah Whitaker’s nuptials at the Whitaker summer home on beautiful Mirror Lake, just outside the upstate New York village of Lake Placid. But Greer has an ulterior motive—to gather information that could reopen the investigation into her husband’s murder, a crime for which she believes an innocent man went to prison. Her plans come to a shuddering halt when a wedding guest goes missing and turns up dead in the lake. The guest, Brittany Miles, was an employee of the Whitaker family whom Sarah had long suspected was up to no good at work.

The police have no leads, but Greer—an avid reader of crime fiction who possesses an uncanny knack for deduction—begins her own investigation. She learns that the victim was seen with a mystery man right before she disappeared. Then the autopsy reveals that she didn’t drown in the lake after all, but in the reflecting pool in the Whitaker garden.

The suspect list is as long as the guest list itself, with no apparent motive. Now, Greer must rely on the wisdom of her favorite fictional detectives to tease out truth from lies—and keep herself out of the killer’s sights.

My Thoughts: Greer Hogan is in upstate New York near Lake Placid to help a friend celebrate her marriage. She does have an ulterior motive: many of the guests were acquainted with Greer's murdered husband Danny and she hopes to find information to reopen the investigation of his death. She's convinced that the wrong man was convicted. 

Before she can begin her investigation, another case takes center stage. A young woman who might have been having an affair with the bride's father is found dead. Greer and her friends are eager to find out who wanted Brittany dead - but it looks like the murderer was one of the family. So many of the family members are keeping secrets from each other and some of the secrets could have led to Brittany's death. 

I liked the way Greer uses her job as a reference librarian and her love of mysteries to help her solve the case. I liked that there were a number of plausible suspects among the family. I also liked learning about the pasts of some of the characters. 

This was an engaging and well-plotted mystery. 

Favorite Quote:
I wondered what she really thought, but it wasn't an easy ask. "Do you think one of your relatives killed your least favorite employee, and if so, which one?" was not the kind of thing you could drop into conversation over dinner.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Book Review: As You Look by Veronica Gutierrez

As You Look

Veronica Gutierrez
Series: A Yolanda Avila Mystery
Publication: Bella Books (March 22, 2022)

Description: Former LAPD cop-turned private investigator Yolanda Ávila blames herself for her mother’s death. If she’d only followed her cop instincts instead of the juju—her random prophetic dreams—the perpetrator would have been off the streets and her mother would still be alive. The only salve against her guilt is Yolanda’s vow to reject that juju crap, and to solve cases using only good solid detective work.

But when her godson is kidnapped and his parents are suspected of murder, Yolanda finds herself caught between what she feels and what she knows. And with the escalation of the case comes the escalation of her dreams. Until she can no longer ignore their importance.

If she wants to overcome the guilt and deal with her pent-up grief, Yolanda must confront the juju and learn to trust its place in her life. If she doesn’t, she risks losing yet another loved one. And she can’t possibly let that happen.

My Thoughts: This mystery introduces Yolanda Avila. She a former LAPD cop who left because of harassment since she's a competent woman, Hispanic, and a Lesbian. None of those traits endeared her to her fellow officers. Now, she's trying to build a new career as a private investigator.

Yolanda receives a panicked call for her best friend who tells her that her six-year-old son Joey has been kidnapped. Her friend Carmen first suspects her estranged husband since they have been arguing about custody. But Luis is as baffled as Carmen and as innocent. 

As Yolanda investigates, she finds herself looking into unions and construction projects that could be the cause of the child's disappearance. Yolanda has a psychic gift that she isn't willing to trust. After all, trusting it may have led to the death of her mother in a road rage accident perpetrated by the person Yolanda was looking for because she looked in the wrong place based on her visions. Despite getting psychic clues, Yolanda is determined to find her godson using traditional detective skills.

The child is found but problems don't end. Yolanda's investigation has led to something that the criminals want hidden. Yolanda is assaulted and her ER Doctor wife Sydney is threatened before the case can be solved.

I enjoyed this story despite the large amount of untranslated Spanish that was interspersed. It showed me a place and culture that was unfamiliar to me. I liked the relationship between Yoland and Sydney and the acceptance they get from both their families. 

The mystery was well-done and filled with intriguing plot twists. 

Favorite Quote:
"You sound like Sydney. She thinks that blocking out the juju keeps me from grieving for Mom. But grief isn't the issue. My cross to bear is all this guilt."
I received this one from a publicist at Kaye Publicity. You can buy your copy here.

ARC Review: Cleopatra's Dagger by Carole Lawrence

Cleopatra's Dagger

Carole Lawrence
Publication: Thomas & Mercer (April 1, 2022)

Description: A journalist in nineteenth-century New York matches wits with a serial killer in a gripping thriller by the prizewinning author of the Ian Hamilton Mysteries.

New York, 1880. Elizabeth van den Broek is the only female reporter at the Herald, the city’s most popular newspaper. Then she and her bohemian friend Carlotta Ackerman find a woman’s body wrapped like a mummy in a freshly dug hole in Central Park—the intended site of an obelisk called Cleopatra’s Needle. The macabre discovery takes Elizabeth away from the society pages to follow an investigation into New York City’s darkest shadows.

When more bodies turn up, each tied to Egyptian lore, Elizabeth is onto a headline-making scoop more sinister than she could have imagined. Her reporting has readers spellbound, and each new clue implicates New York’s richest and most powerful citizens. And a serial killer is watching every headline.

Now a madman with an indecipherable motive is coming after Elizabeth and everyone she loves. She wants a good story? She may have to die to get it.

My Thoughts: This historical thriller set in New York City in 1880 introduces socialite and reporter Elizabeth van den Broek. After college at Vassar, she was hired as a social reporter at the New York Herald. One day on her way to work, she sees a woman being assaulted by a man in a third-floor window as her train passes by. 

When she and a new friend from her apartment building are taking a morning walk, they discover the body of a young woman wrapped as a mummy and left in the pit where the new Cleopatra's Needle will be placed. Elizabeth begs her editor to let her pursue the story since she has recently made a connection with Detective Sargeant William O'Grady who came to investigate the crime. 

Given permission by her editor and with an introduction by OGrady, Elizabeth and a photographer visit the morgue and get a chance to see and photograph the body. There, Elizabeth learns that the young woman had been strangled and had all her blood drained through an incision that looks like an Egyptian symbol of some kind. 

As Elizabeth pursues her leads and writes stories that make her a celebrity, the villain who believes he is the reincarnated Osiris is planning and executing more murders all with an Egyptian theme. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is facing prejudice and assault at work, dealing with the mental illness of her older sister Laura, and trying to understand her mother. 

Elizabeth also meets a handsome young doctor who has some new ideas to treat her sister. She also makes friends with Carlotta Ackerman who is an artist with a studio in her apartment building and her brother Jonah who is flirting with socialism and a great admirer of Karl Marx. 

The great strength of this story was the historical setting which was filled with intriguing details and characters. What Elizabeth was allowed to do and the attitudes of the men around her seemed realistic. Her desire to be a reformer and pathfinder for women coming along behind her made Elizabeth interesting. Details about the corruption of the police added to the story. The mystery was somewhat weaker as it all seemed to be summed up rather abruptly. 

Fans of historical mysteries will enjoy getting to know Elizabeth. 

Favorite Quote:
Secrets were slow poison, doing their damage in the dark, she reflected as she watched the ebb and flow of life on the streets below. The city, too, had secrets nestled within its breast -- dark, dangerous ones, she thought as she stepped at last out into the late-afternoon haze. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Amazon Prime. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Book & Audio Review: Game On by Janet Evanovich

Game On: Tempting Twenty-Eight

Janet Evanovich
Narrator: Lorelei King
Series: Stephanie Plum (Book 28)
Publication: Atria Books (November 2, 2021); Simon & Schuster Audio (November 2, 2021)
Length: 299 p,; 7 hours and 3 minutes

Description: Stephanie Plum returns to hunt down a new kind of criminal operating out of Trenton in the 28th book in the wildly popular series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Janet Evanovich.

When Stephanie Plum is woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of footsteps in her apartment, she wishes she didn’t keep her gun in the cookie jar in her kitchen. And when she finds out the intruder is fellow apprehension agent Diesel, six feet of hard muscle and bad attitude who she hasn’t seen in more than two years, she still thinks the gun might come in handy.

Turns out Diesel and Stephanie are on the trail of the same fugitive: Oswald Wednesday, an international computer hacker as brilliant as he is ruthless. Stephanie may not be the most technologically savvy sleuth, but she more than makes up for that with her dogged determination, her understanding of human nature, and her willingness to do just about anything to bring a fugitive to justice. Unsure if Diesel is her partner or her competition in this case, she’ll need to watch her back every step of the way as she sets the stage to draw Wednesday out from behind his computer and into the real world.

My Thoughts: The 28th novel in the Stephanie Plum series was another fun romp. Stephanie and her partner Lulu are busy tracking down bail bond jumpers. On her plate are a homeless man arrested for killing and eating ducks from a park, a man arrested for mooning an unwilling woman, and a guy who was arrested for breaking into a cop's house who claims he just entered the wrong house. Then there is the woman who shot up a bakery when they closed early so she couldn't get an eclair.

Meanwhile, Diesel has come back to visit and decides to break into Stephanie's apartment in the middle of the night. Diesel works for a mysterious organization and has been gone for two years. Now he's back and looking for a computer hacker who has a nefarious plot in mind. 

Stephanie gets involved when she realizes that her housebreaker and Diesel's hacker are the same guy. She needs to stick close to Diesel if she wants to get her fee. But the hacker/housebreaker has decided to add murderer to his resumé leaving Diesel and Stephanie to find some local hackers before the killer does. 

This has typical Stephanie sorts of activities. She has not one, but two cars, destroyed, and buys her newest from a shady dealer that Lulu recommends. She also has quite a juggling act between her boyfriend Morelli, the mysterious Diesel, and the even more mysterious Ranger. Throw in some Grandma Mazur antics and Stephanie's mom's newest stress relief - knitting, and you have a fun, chaotic story.

Fans of the series will enjoy this episode.

Favorite Quote:
The ritual of death was important in the Burg. It was your last chance to look good.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

ARC Review: The Art of the Decoy by Trish Esden

The Art of the Decoy

Trish Esden
Series: A Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (April 5, 2022)

Description: Perfect for fans of Jane K. Cleland and Connie Berry, Tricia Esden's series debut is sure to please.

After her mother is sent to prison for art forgery, Edie Brown returns to Northern Vermont to rebuild her family’s fine art and antiques business. She’s certain she can do it now that her mother is gone. After all, butting heads with her mom over bad business practices was what drove Edie away three years ago, including a screwup that landed Edie on probation for selling stolen property.

When Edie scores a job appraising a waterfowl decoy collection at a hoarder’s farmhouse, she’s determined to take advantage of the situation to rebuild the business’s tarnished reputation and dwindling coffers. In lieu of payment, Edie intends to cherry-pick an exceptional decoy carved by the client’s renowned Quebecoise folk artist ancestors. Only the tables turn when the collection vanishes.

Accused of the theft, Edie’s terrified that the fallout will destroy the business and land her in prison next to her mom. Desperate, she digs into the underbelly of the local antiques and art world. When Edie uncovers a possible link between the decoy theft and a deadly robbery at a Quebec museum, she longs to ask her ex-probation officer, and ex-lover, for help. But she suspects his recent interest in rekindling their romance may hide a darker motive.

With the help of her eccentric uncle Tuck and Kala, their enigmatic new employee, Edie must risk all she holds dear to expose the thieves and recover the decoys before the FBI’s Art Crime Team or the ruthless thieves themselves catch up with her.

My Thoughts: Edie Brown is back in Northern Vermont trying to save her family's antiques business after her mother is sent to prison for nine months for art forgery. Edie had her own brush with the law when she was accused of selling stolen property. After three years away honing her skills in the antiques and fine arts business, she's back.

When she gets a chance to appraise a collection of carved decoys, she thinks this is the first step of their business recovery. But then the collection goes missing and Edie will be accused of the theft if she doesn't find the decoys in three days. But the missing decoys are only the tip of the iceberg. There was a theft from a Quebec museum which also included a murder that may be connected to the decoys. 

There is also complex family dynamics among the owners of the decoys that have some connection with Edie's mother. Edie's former parole officer and one-time lover is also hovering. Edie would like to trust him, but he fits the profile of the person or persons who stole the decoys.

Throw in the FBI Art Crime Team who might also be looking suspiciously at Edie. Edie, her Uncle Tuck, and new employee Kala have their hands full trying to stay ahead of the FBI and some dastardly villains as they try to get to the decoys first.

This was a fun, action-packed story. I liked most of the characters but didn't form a very good opinion of Edie's mother who seems like a major screw-up although there were hints that her crime might have been another frame job. 

This book is supposed to be the first in a new series. I'll be eager to read the next.

Favorite Quote:
Buy low. Sell high. Be as knowledgeable as possible and sharper than the next person. Have lots of connections. Rules to live by if you want to survive in the antiques and art trades.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, March 28, 2022

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (March 28, 2022)

 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.

Want to See What I Added to My Stack? links to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Marlene at Reading Reality.

Other Than Reading...

This was another nice week despite a brief return to winter weather with the dreaded "wintery mix." Looks like we have another couple days of the same from Tuesday to Thursday this week too. Luckily, I have no reason to go anywhere and Spring Training baseball games are keeping me entertained. 
My brother is hoping that our trend of making solar power will mean the power bill we are expecting this week will be the last one he has to pay until next year. I know that I am enjoying the additional sunshine. 

We tried a couple of new recipes this week and both are going into the "Make That Again - Soon" stack. He found his one pan skillet pork chops, red potatoes, and broccoli with a maple syrup sauce in the newspaper. I found my one pan skillet chicken thighs with green beans and baby Bellas with a cream cheese sauce online from Betty Crocker. The only negative was that his didn't leave leftovers. I like leftovers for the days when he works through the dinner hour and I'm on my own. 

This week there were too many tempting books either for review or on sale or because I wanted to read more in a series which means my TBR stack really increased. There were so many that I want to read RIGHT NOW that I'll be having a hard time choosing. When I get a break in my schedule, I can't wait to read The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time in many, many years. The three audiobooks total about 57 hours!

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.)
  • The Sweet Goodbye by Ron Corbett (Review; April 19) -- Intriguing mystery introduces undercover agent Danny Barrett as he undertakes a case in the Maine Woods. Great characters. My review will be posted on April 12.
  • Rescued by David Rosenfelt (Chirp Audiobook) -- This mystery in the Andy Carpenter series was filled with snark and had a nice, twisty plot. My review will be posted on April 14.
  • Go Hex Yourself by Jessica Clare (Review; April 19) -- This urban fantasy introduces Reggie Johnson who is a normal human who finds herself working for a two-thousand-year-old witch and falling for her 500-year-old nephew. My review will be posted on April 13.
  • As You Look by Veronica Gutierrez (Review; March 22) -- This mystery introduces Yolanda Avila, former LAPD and lesbian, who is trying to build a career as a private detective. My review will be posted March 30.
  • A Perilous Perspective by Anna Lee Huber (Review; April 19) -- This latest Lady Darby mystery reveals secrets of Keira's past and mixes murder with art forgery. My review will be posted on April 14.
  • Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl by Julie Kagawa (Review; April 26) -- This Disney tie-in was a fast-paced Middle Grade adventure. My review will be posted on April 19.
  • The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King (Kindle & Audiobook) -- The fifth Kate Martinelli mystery was a mashup with the author's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series and was a mystery filled with engaging characters. It also had an intriguing plot. My review will be posted on April 16.
  • Mad for a Mate by MaryJanice Davidson (Review; April 26) -- This humorous urban fantasy is filled with quirky characters (and footnotes.) My review will be posted April 20.
Next Week
Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

  • As You Look by Veronica Gutierrez (March 22) -- Surprise in the mail from publicist.
  • With Child by Laurie R. King (Kindle & Audiobook)
  • Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews (Audiobook & Kindle via BookBub for $1.99)
  • On the Edge by Ilona Andrews (Audiobook)
What was your week like?

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Book Review: A Baby's Bones by Rebecca Alexander

A Baby's Bones

Rebecca Alexander
Series: Sage Westfield (Book 1)
Publication: Titan Books (May 1, 2018)

Description: Archaeologist Sage Westfield has been called in to excavate a sixteenth-century well, and expects to find little more than soil and the odd piece of pottery. But the disturbing discovery of the bones of a woman and newborn baby make it clear that she has stumbled onto an historical crime scene—one that is interwoven with an unsettling local legend of witchcraft and unrequited love.

Yet there is more to the case than a four-hundred-year-old mystery. The owners of a nearby cottage are convinced that it is haunted, and the local vicar is being plagued with abusive phone calls. Then a tragic death makes it all too clear that a modern murderer is at work . . .

My Thoughts: Archaeologist Sage Westfield and a couple of students are excavating an old well from the 1580s and find bones - human bones. The dig was begun because the new owners of the cottage had planned to add an extension before the husband was diagnosed with cancer. Now the wife and young daughter are dealing with a gravely ill husband and father and are also dealing with a cottage that seems to be haunted. 

The discovery of the bones of a baby and woman send Sage, who is also pregnant, on a hunt to discover who they were and how they ended up in the well. Her hunt leads her to the local lord of the manor and the historical society and also to the local pub which is a great resource for the stories that have been passed down for hundreds of years.

Sage is also having a difficult time in her personal life. She has tried to break things off with her married lover, but he isn't willing to get out of her life. She also learns some disturbing things about her parents when their marriage crumbles. And she meets a new man - widowed Vicar Nick Haydon - and begins a romance with him. 

Meanwhile, we are given glimpses of the Tudor past of the area via the journal and memoirs of Vincent Garland who was the illegitimate son of the previous Lord Banstock and the Steward of the present Lord.

The two stories echo each other in forbidden love, obsession, and murder. I really enjoyed the way the stories were woven together. I liked the information about archaeology. I liked the way the past spawned stories and legends still told in the present. 

Sage was an interesting character. I liked getting to know her and see her life. 

Favorite Quote:
'This is your uterine wall. This.' she indicated a line, 'is the edge of your placenta, lying low, possibly over the cervix. It's called placenta praevia.'

'I know. It's one of those complications you skip over in the books.'
I bought this one December 15, 2021. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Friday Memes: A Baby's Bones by Rebecca Alexander

 Happy Friday everybody!

Book Beginnings on Friday is 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.

Monday 25th March

It was a bone from a baby's arm. Like a twig on Sage Westfield's glove, the ends crumbled away by the action of the sieve, it was still distinctive to a trained eye.
Friday 56:
Saturday 13th April

'Lady George?' Sage took a step into the hall. the golden retriever padded over, wagging her tail, followed by Lord Banstock, who took a bite out of a sandwich held in one hand.
This week I am spotlighting a recent arrival on TBR Mountain. A Baby's Bones by Rebecca Alexander is the first in the Sage Westfield series. It was a Kindle Daily Deal for $1.99 then. Here is the description from Amazon:
Archaeologist Sage Westfield has been called in to excavate a sixteenth-century well, and expects to find little more than soil and the odd piece of pottery. But the disturbing discovery of the bones of a woman and newborn baby make it clear that she has stumbled onto an historical crime scene—one that is interwoven with an unsettling local legend of witchcraft and unrequited love.

Yet there is more to the case than a four-hundred-year-old mystery. The owners of a nearby cottage are convinced that it is haunted, and the local vicar is being plagued with abusive phone calls. Then a tragic death makes it all too clear that a modern murderer is at work . . .

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Audiobook Review: Night Scents by Carla Neggers

Night Scents

Carla Neggers
Narrator: Amanda Dolan
Publication: Audible Studios (June 5, 2015)
Length: 10 hours

Description: Carla Neggers has a magic touch for weaving spine-tingling suspense with romance so sensual it takes your breath away. Here she's at her best, in a delightful potpourri of dangerous intrigue, enchanting wit, and spellbinding desire.

This time Piper Macintosh's great-aunt has really gone too far. Eighty-seven-year-old Hannah, who fancies herself a witch, has sold her historic Cape Cod house to a Tennessean whom she claims is the man for her niece. Piper doesn't think they're a likely match - particularly not after she meets the reclusive tycoon while trespassing in his garden.

Clate Jackson has come to the windswept Cape to forget, not to get involved with the woman who's digging up valerian root for her great-aunt's crazy potions. But when Hannah reveals an old family secret and warns of danger on the horizon, Clate reluctantly works with Piper to solve a long-ago murder. Unraveling the secrets of Clate's past, however, will take what only Piper can supply: her healing love and her own boldly passionate heart.

My Thoughts: This was a nice romantic suspense title set on Cape Cod. Piper Macintosh was born there and is happy crafting, teaching classes, and dealing with her very old home. Her aunt Hannah who used to live next door has sold her house to Nashville entrepreneur Clate Jackson. He needed an escape from his high-pressure life in Nashville; Hannah was looking for the man of her great-niece's dreams. 

Hannah is perfectly content living in her brand-new condo with electric plugs on every wall and making up her herbal concoctions. She thinks of herself as a sort of witch/herbalist. Folks around town are starting to think that she might be losing her mind, but her niece Piper is her staunch defender.

When Hannah tells Piper that she has just recalled some events from when she was seven and her parents died, Piper agrees to did for buried treasure under a wisteria. Only she has to trespass on her new neighbor's property to do so. Clate is not excited to have these interactions with his new neighbor, but gradually the two fall in love.

As they begin to unravel the secrets of Hannah's past, Piper finds herself in danger from someone who wants to find the treasure first. Clate and her own loving family are there to help her though Piper really prefers to hold on to her independence. 

Hannah's secrets are not the only ones in the story. Clate's own past is a secret he has kept from everyone until he falls in love with Piper and decides he needs to confront his own past. 

This was an engaging story with the right blend of suspense and romance. Amanda Dolan did a great job narrating it. 

This one was included in my Audible subscription. You can buy your copy here.

ARC Review: Summer Nights with a Cowboy by Caitlin Crews

Summer Nights with a Cowboy

Caitlin Crews
Series: Kittredge Ranch (Book 3)
Publication: St. Martin's Paperbacks (March 29, 2022)

Description: He doesn’t believe in love…

Traveling nurse Janie Atwood has come to Cold River to uncover old family secrets and maybe, if she’s lucky, find a new home. That the gorgeous, glowering sheriff next door thinks her caring for his elderly neighbor is a nefarious scheme is a bonus. Having never been anything but a good girl, Janie finds Zack Kittredge’s simmering suspicion an excellent reason to try being a little dangerous instead…

She doesn’t believe in squandering it…

Sheriff Zack Kittredge is okay with being… intense. He takes his loner status as seriously as he takes his responsibilities to protect Cold River. And he thinks cheerful Janie might be a threat to the town. But the more he gets to know her, the more he faces the truth―she’s brighter than sunshine and he’s like a moth to her flame. When Janie suggests he could use a few charm school lessons, he surprises them both by accepting. He doesn’t need help. But it’s clear he might need her…

Because the only thing hotter than the summer sun in the Rockies is the forbidden passion that burns between them…

My Thoughts: Caitlin Crews returns to Cold River for another engaging romance. Sheriff Zack Kittredge is from one of the founding families. He left the ranch where he had had a difficult childhood, moved to town, and became the sheriff. 

Janie Atwood is a traveling nurse who came to Cold River to look after a patient. She also came looking for her past. After being raised by her grandparents until their deaths, Janie finally had a chance to look for the part of her past that had been kept from her. It maybe led her to Cold River.

Janie doesn't make a good first impression of Zack when she trips and douses him with a coffee drink. In fact, she is humiliated at her characteristic clumsiness and embarrassment. But Zack, who has kept his emotions on a tight leash, is intrigued by this newcomer.

Through this story, love grows, secrets are revealed, and relationships are healed. While I thought the story could have been a good deal shorter, it was still a nice romance.

Favorite Quote:
And the trouble with Janie wasn't her. He couldn't get enough of her. The trouble with Janie was that being around her made him lose the grip he kept on himself, and he couldn't have that.

I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Audiobook Review: River Road by Jayne Ann Krentz

River Road

Jayne Ann Krentz
Narrator: Amanda Leigh Cobb
Publication: Recorded Books (January 7, 2014)
Length: 9 hours and 53 minutes

Description: It's been thirteen years since Lucy Sheridan was in Summer River. The last time she visited her aunt Sara there, as a teenager, she'd been sent home suddenly after being dragged out of a wild party - by the guy she had a crush on, just to make it more embarrassing.

Obviously Mason Fletcher - only a few years older but somehow a lot more of a grown-up - was the overprotective type who thought he had to come to her rescue. Now, returning after her aunt' s fatal car accident, Lucy is learning there was more to the story than she realized at the time. Mason had saved her from a very nasty crime that night - and soon afterward, Tristan, the cold-blooded rich kid who'd targeted her, disappeared mysteriously, his body never found.

A lot has changed in thirteen years. Lucy now works for a private investigation firm as a forensic genealogist, while Mason has quit the police force to run a successful security firm with his brother - though he still knows his way around a wrench when he fills in at his uncle' s local hardware store. Even Summer River has changed, from a sleepy farm town into a trendy upscale spot in California' s wine country.

But Mason is still a protector at heart, a serious (and seriously attractive) man. And when he and Lucy make a shocking discovery inside Sara' s house, and some of Tristan' s old friends start acting suspicious, Mason' s quietly fierce instincts kick into gear. He saved Lucy once, and he' ll save her again. But this time, she insists on playing a role in her own rescue.

My Thoughts: This story was Jayne Ann Krentz at her romantic suspense best. The characters were amazingly life-like. Well, except for the fact that, if men life Mason Fletcher exist, they are staying well away from me.

The story begins with a prequel. Lucy Sheridan, age 16, is being hauled away from a wild party by her crush, the responsible and mature 19-year-old Mason Fletcher. She leaves town the next day and doesn't return to Summer River for thirteen years. What Lucy doesn't know is that she has been targeted by Tristan Brinker who wants her to star in his latest rape video and Mason saves her from that fate.

Now, Lucy is grown up and working as a forensic genealogist. She works for a private investigation firm and finds lost heirs. She is a successful woman in all areas of her life except her romantic life. She has dumped her fiance after finding him in bed with another woman. Her therapist tells her she has commitment issues. She is currently trying to find Mr. Right by using an online matchmaking service.

She has returned to Summer River to settle her aunt's estate. Her beloved Aunt Sara and her partner Mary Colfax recently died in an automobile accident. Lucy has inherited her aunt's estate and some shares in Colfax Inc. from Mary. She is being urged to sell Sara's house and land to turn it into a vineyard and she is being wooed by various Colfax family members who want those share back, too.

Mason Fletcher has returned to Summer River too. He has established a successful private investigation business specializing in cold crimes with his younger brother Aaron. But when a case goes wrong, he heads for home to rethink his life. He is working in his uncle's hardware store when Lucy comes in for light bulbs. An offer to help her with some home improvements lead to the discovery of Tristan Brinker's body bricked up in her aunt's fireplace which starts a chain of events that combine the past and the present.

I loved that both characters were strong people and that, in the course of their falling in love, they didn't have misunderstandings that hurt each other. I also liked the way Krentz wove events and characters from the past into the mystery. She also managed to surprise me when she revealed the villains of the story. I really enjoyed this story and couldn't put it down. For me, it was a compelling page-turner.

I listened to the audiobook of this story. The narrator was very good at distinguishing the female voices but not as good for the male voices. At times it was difficult to know when character was speaking in conversations between Lucy and Mason. 

I bought this one from Chirp. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Book & Audio Review: Jovah's Angel by Sharon Shinn

Jovah's Angel

Sharon Shinn
Narrator: Tamara Marston
Series: Angel (Book 2)
Publication: Ace (April 1, 1998); Audible Studios (July 20, 2010)
Length: 365 p.; 15 hours and 31 minutes

Description: National bestselling author Sharon Shinn returns to the compelling world of Samaria in an extraordinary novel of angels and mortals, music and mystery, science and faith...

More than a hundred years after the time of Rachel and Gabriel, Samaria is in deep turmoil. Charismatic Archangel Delilah has been injured and forced to give up her position, and she has been replaced by shy, uncertain Alleluia. What’s worse, ungovernable storms are sweeping across the country, and the god never seems to hear the angels’ pleas to abate the bad weather. Unless those prayers are offered by the new Archangel...

My Thoughts: One hundred and fifty years have passed since the events of ARCHANGEL and Samaria is undergoing something of an industrial revolution. They are also enduring very difficult weather conditions and Jovah seemingly isn't hearing angelic requests for weather interventions.

Worst of all, the current Archangel Delilah and her escort are caught in a terrible storm which kills a number of them and damages Delilah's wing so that she can no longer fly. Alleluia, a quiet scholarly angel, is named by Jovah to be the new Archangel. She feels vastly underqualified for her new position. 

When the final music player fails, she begins to hunt for an engineer to see if it can be repaired. She finds Caleb Augustus who is a man of science and who has lost his faith in Jovah as the result of an experiment with electricity the killed his father and damaged the Kiss embedded in his right arm at his birth which dedicated him to Jovah. 

Meanwhile, Alleluia has to search for the man who will be her angelico and perform at the upcoming Gloria. The only problem is that the oracles are getting very vague answers when they query Jovah about him. All they are told is that he is a son of Jeremiah which isn't nearly enough to locate him in time. It does spur Alleluia's interest in the oracles and the way they communicate with Jovah. She learns the language needed and makes her own queries at Mount Sinai which no longer has an oracle based there. 

Her enquiries lead her to being teleported to the ship orbiting Samaria where she learns that the people are being guided, not by a deity, but by a computer programmed to assist the settlers. And that computer is in need of repair which is why the angels aren't being heard when they pray to Jovah. Luckily, Caleb is able to make the repairs and learn even more of the technology that the settlers had abandoned.

But the discovery of the spaceship has thrown Alleluia into a crisis of faith that has dented her view of her world and her purpose on it. 

This was an engaging story that neatly blends science and faith into a very compelling book. The characters, especially Alleluia, have many hard decisions to make. This is the second book in a five book series. I can't wait to find out what happens next on Samaria.

Favorite Quote:
"Men have always, through the centuries, found ways to create what they did not find in the natural order. And men have always, through the centuries, sought to put themselves in the context of the universe. The universe has remained too vast for them to quantify. Thus they hypothesize and entity even more vast as a vessel to contain it."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

ARC Review: Evil in Emerald by A. M. Stuart

Evil in Emerald

A. M. Stuart
Series: A Harriet Gordon Mystery (Book 3)
Publication: Berkley (March 29, 2022)

Description: Craving a change of pace, Harriet Gordon, joins a local musical theatre production but when a fellow cast member is brutally killed, Harriet and Inspector Curran must turn the spotlight on murder in this all-new mystery from the author of Revenge in Rubies.

Between working at her brother’s school and typing up Inspector Robert Curran’s police reports, Harriet Gordon has little time for personal pursuits and she has been enjoying the rehearsals for her role in the Singapore Amateur Dramatic and Musical Society’s latest production – Pirates of Penzance. But Harriet quickly discovers tensions run deep within the theatre company and when the leading man is found murdered, suspicions abound, exposing scandalous behavior as well as some insidious crimes.

Inspector Curran once again turns to Harriet for help with this difficult case, but his own life begins to unravel as a mysterious man turns up on his doorstep claiming to know more about Curran’s painful past than he himself does. And after the one person he has always counted on delivers him some devastating news, the line between his personal and professional life begins to blur. Now, more than ever, Curran needs Harriet’s steadfast assistance, and when another cast member meets a violent end, Curran and Harriet will have to close in on a killer determined to make this case their final curtain call.

My Thoughts: This is the third Harriet Gordon mystery. It is set in Singapore in 1910. This time the first murder is that of the leading man of the musical society Harriet has joined. Anthony Dowling was a handsome young insurance agent with a penchant for affairs with older, married women.

Inspector Robert Curran is on the case which seems to be intersecting with a case that didn't go well for 
him. Planter Lionel Ellis had beaten one of his native employees almost to death and was just given a slap on the wrist by a sympathetic judge. Ellis has sworn revenge on Curran for causing him trouble.

Curran is also dealing with the dissolution of his relationship with Li An. After getting together after a near death experience for both of them, she is ready to go back home and deal with her family and her past. Since she is native Chinese, their relationship has been difficult with neither culture accepting them. But Curran is deeply in love with her and doesn't want her to leave. 

Then Curran meets an unknown brother who comes to him with a problem with their missing sister. Curran's own childhood was negatively impacted by the loss of his father. He has very mixed feelings when he learns that his father had a second life and second family in India. He is also determined to help his new-found brother find and rescue their sister. 

With his personal life imploding and a man who wants revenge lurking, Curran needs to solve the murder which has a plethora of suspects. Dowling's death could relate to some insurance fraud he was a partner in, or it could have been the result of a jealous woman or jealous husband. And Dowling's is only the first death...

I liked the picture of life in Singapore during that time period. The characters were well-drawn and intriguing. Harriet's past as a suffragette in England plays a part. I liked the fact that Harriet is falling for Curran who is totally oblivious to her interest. The mystery was nicely twisty and the villain and motive was something of a surprise. The clues to that solution were dropped into the story throughout though for the observant reader. 

I'm looking forward to seeing where this story goes. Curran seems to be off looking for his lost sister on some sort of undercover mission. 

I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, March 21, 2022

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (March 21, 2022)

 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.

Want to See What I Added to My Stack? links to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Marlene at Reading Reality.

Other Than Reading...

This was a lovely sunny week with above average temperatures (for Minnesota in March.) 

I began the week by getting my taxes done. As usual, the Feds owe me money and I have to pay the State. Now I'm just watching my bank account to see when the refund lands. 

We called on our Irish heritage in the form of an Irish Great-Grandmother to have corned beef and cabbage. It was supposed to be a crockpot recipe, but I couldn't fit the veggies in. I ended up roasting the potatoes, carrots and cabbage. I also made a horseradish-mustard sauce to go along with the meat. It was really tasty both times we ate it this week. 

Otherwise, I finished listening to The Others series this week. I'm trying to decide if I want to listen to Wild Country or move on to other audiobooks from my stack. I've also been watching baseball again which I really like despite it cutting into audiobook time. 

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.)
  • The Alleluia Files by Sharon Shinn (Kindle & Audiobook) -- Reread of a book I read many years ago. This is the third in the Samaria series which combines faith and science fiction. I enjoyed it and will post the review on April 6.
  • Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop (Audiobook) -- Reread.
  • Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop (Audiobook) -- Reread.
  • If There Be Dragons by Kay Hooper (Mine since 2008) -- Contemporary romance with a paranormal twist. My review will be posted on April 9.
  • Miz Scarlet and the Imposing Imposter by Sara M. Barton (Mine) -- Self-published mystery with some problems with pacing. Interesting characters but too much plot for the book. My review will be posted on April 7.
  • Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop (Audiobook) -- Reread.
  • The No-Show by Beth O'Leary (Review; April 12) -- I read 20% and felt like nothing was happening. There were three main viewpoint characters that I didn't connect with at all. 
Next Week
Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

  • Hold Me by Susan Mallery (Fool's Gold #17) - Kindle Daily Deal and Audiobook
  • Kiss Me by Susan Mallery (Fool's Gold #18) - Kindle and Audiobook
  • Thrill Me by Susan Mallery (Fool's Gold #19) - Kindle and Audiobook
What was your week like?