Wednesday, January 31, 2024

ARC Review: A Killer Romance by Maggie Blackburn

A Killer Romance

Maggie Blackburn
Series: Beach Reads Mysteries (Book 3)
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (February 6, 2024)

Description: Love and murder are in the air this Valentine’s day in Maggie Blackburn’s third Beach Reads mystery, perfect for fans of Eva Gates and Miranda James.

When Beach Reads bookshop hosts a Valentine’s Day event, “Romance by the Sea,” bookseller Summer Merriweather has no idea that the guest author is under investigation for her own husband’s murder. When that same author is found dead at the local bed and breakfast, nobody assumes it’s natural causes–there were plenty of people who wanted her dead.

As Summer searches for the truth about the author’s stranger-than-fiction life, Summer finds suspicious indications of shady behavior in the author’s belongings. But the casual sleuthing is quickly derailed when Summer’s friend Glads gets hauled in for the murder, and they launch a full-blown investigation to clear her name.

As Summer and company pick through the scant clues to solve the case, they may find more treachery and heartbreak than they bargained for.

My Thoughts: The third in the Beach reads cozy mystery series is set around Valentine's Day. Summer Merriweather, former college professor and Shakespeare scholar, is back home running her mother's romance bookstore after her mother's tragic death. She isn't a big fan of romance or a big fan of Valentine's Day. 

A Valentine's Day event at the bookstore brings author Lana Livingston to the store for an author event. Summer is disgusted that Lana has written a new version of Romeo and Juliet but with a happy ending which Summer feels means that Lana has missed the whole point of the play. But a badly sprained ankle is keeping Summer away from the event. She can only watch the video.

When it is learned that Lana has died at the B & B where she is staying and that the death was caused by poison, Lana needs to find the killer since one of her friends who innocently offered her a cup of tea is under investigation for the crime. 

Then a PI comes to town. He's been watching Lana since she had already been a suspect in the death of her husband. He's quick to pile on accusations that Summer's friend Glads was Lana's killer. But when Lana's belongings are mistakenly sent to Summer, a new picture begins to emerge. Her journal indicates her love for her terminally ill husband and her foray into drug running to pay off her husband's enormous medical debts. It also relates her troubled relationship with her stepdaughter Mary Laura who was seen hanging around the bookstore with a book about poisons in her backpack before Lana's poisoning. 

Summer calls on her old friend lawyer Cash to help Glads. Their relationship is just rebuilding after she left him at the altar when they were very young. Between her conflicted feelings for Cash and a PI who looks to want a romance with her, Summer has a lot on her plate for a woman who is confined to her couch and taking lots of pain pills for her ankle. 

The plot of the story was engaging. The writing was not. I had trouble getting lost in the story because I kept being jolted out of it by the prose style. There was a bit too much telling rather than showing to make the story engaging for me. I also got tired of so many characters being described as "smarter than the average bear."

Fans of cozy mysteries and particularly fans of the earlier books in this series will likely enjoy it more than I did. 

Favorite Quote:
"Okay. What kind of information do we want?"


"That's helpful."

"I mean it. You often don't know what you don't know until you need to know it."

Summer grinned. "Say that three times."

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

ARC Review: Hollywood Hustle by Jon Lindstrom

Hollywood Hustle

Jon Lindstrom
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (February 6, 2024)

Description: Set in the dark underbelly of the LA film industry, Hollywood Hustle is the perfect read for fans of Alex Finlay and Jeffrey Deaver.

Winston Greene, a has-been film star, wakes one morning to find his six-year-old granddaughter at his bedside—traumatized, unattended, and gripping onto a thumb drive. She comes bearing video proof that her mother, Win’s troubled adult daughter, has been kidnapped by a murderous gang demanding all his “movie money” for her safe return. But what they don’t know is…his movie money is long gone.

Unable to go to the police for fear the kidnappers will make good on their promise to kill his daughter, Winston turns to two close friends—a legendary Hollywood stuntman and a disgraced former LAPD detective.

There’s no easy way out for Winston or his daughter—the gang is violent and willing to do anything to get the money they’re after, and Winston begins to realize that to get his daughter back, he’ll have to beat the kidnappers at their own game.

This propulsive and tense thriller will transport readers to the seedier side of LA, depicted in bold prose by a Hollywood insider.

My Thoughts: HOLLYWOOD HUSTLE was a gripping and gritty thriller set in LA. Winston Greene is a working actor who has overcome his addiction to alcohol and recently gotten through a cancer diagnosis. When his granddaughter is dropped off at his home with a flash drive showing her mother's plea to get her away from her kidnappers, Win is in big trouble. He's almost completely broke after letting his health insurance lapse after his wife's death and paying off his medical treatments for his cancer. 

Determined to do anything he can for his daughter, he calls on some old friends including a disgraced police officer turned Private Investigator and a legendary stuntman. He is willing to do anything he can to gather a ransom to rescue his daughter, but he doesn't have much to work with.

Meanwhile, we get to know the kidnappers who are all lazy, entitled men who think the world owes them a good living and are willing to kill or steal to get it. And we meet Win's daughter Clare who is also an addict and who was instrumental in the beginnings of the plot to get money from her father. The plot quickly goes out her her control making her an actual prisoner of her three co-conspirators. 

I liked the action in this thriller which pits a troubled but decent man against villains who are just barely under control of themselves and who have no respect for anyone but themselves. Lindstrom created a fast-paced plot inside an excellent setting. The contrast between the villains and Win and his friends was stark. 

Fans of gritty thrillers with a Hollywood connection will enjoy this one very much. I did.

Favorite Quote:
"Now you, I've heard a lot about. Win's always sayin' how he's gonna run away with this 'Lauren' woman. Now I see why."

"A pleasure to meet you too," she replied. "Are all of Win's friends such lying charmers?"

"I understood it was a requirement."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

ARC Review: The Antique Hunter's Guide to Murder by C. L. Miller

The Antique Hunter's Guide to Murder

C. L. Miller
Publication: Atria Books (February 6, 2024)

Description: In this irresistible and thrilling debut novel, a former antique hunter investigates a suspicious death at an isolated English manor, embroiling her back in the dangerous world of tracking stolen artifacts.

What antique would you kill for?

Freya Lockwood is shocked when she learns that Arthur Crockleford, antiques dealer and her estranged mentor, has died under mysterious circumstances. She has spent the last twenty years avoiding her quaint English hometown, but when she receives a letter from Arthur asking her to investigate—sent just days before his death—Freya has no choice but to return to a life she had sworn to leave behind.

Joining forces with her eccentric Aunt Carole, Freya follows clues and her instincts to an old manor house for an advertised antiques enthusiast’s weekend. But not all is as it seems. It’s clear to Freya that the antiques are all just poor reproductions and her fellow guests are secretive and menacing. What is going on at this estate and how was Arthur involved? More importantly, can Freya and Carole discover the truth before the killer strikes again?

My Thoughts: Freya Lockwood is entering a time of change in her life. Her daughter has gone off to college in the US and her ex-husband is pressing her to sell the family home. Then she receives a letter from Arthur Crockleford, her estranged mentor from the time she worked with him as an antiques hunter, which brings her back to the village and life she led more than twenty years earlier.

When Arthur dies in what looks like an accident in his antiques shop, Freya is called back home to support her Aunt Carole in her grief and maybe get a glimpse of what her new future will be. She is immediately involved in Arthur's business and soon becomes convinced that his death was not the accident it seemed. 

She and Carole are given a letter Arthur left in case of his death which contains clues that the two of them can decipher to find out what happened and what secrets Arthur was holding. They find themselves attending an antiques weekend at a local manor and find themselves mixing with a variety of suspicious characters. 

Since the story is told from multiple viewpoints, we have the opportunity to know more about each character's agenda than Freya and Carole do. However, the viewpoints are obscure enough that the reader isn't sure who the good guys and the bad guys are or even if there are any good guys. 

As Freya unravels the clues to a tragic episode in her past, she is also reclaiming it and paving the way for her new future. It was intriguing watching a woman who let her husband belittle her and damage her self-esteem find her way to reclaim it as she solves Arthur's murder. 

This is a first novel and has some strong and weak points. I was engaged with Freya's characters and her struggles and was glad to see a smart and adventurous woman rebuilding herself. 

Favorite Quote:
"Up you go, darling." Carole nudged my shoulder.

"I'm not a performing monkey," I replied.

"I know that and it's quite disappointing. If you were, we would've already had the keys in our hands."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

ARC Review: The Tainted Cup by Robert Jackson Bennett

The Tainted Cup

Robert Jackson Bennett
Publication: Del Rey (February 6, 2024)

Description: A Holmes and Watson–style detective duo take the stage in this fantasy with a mystery twist, from the Edgar-winning, multiple Hugo-nominated Robert Jackson Bennett

In Daretana’s greatest mansion, a high imperial officer lies dead—killed, to all appearances, when a tree erupted from his body. Even here at the Empire’s borders, where contagions abound and the blood of the leviathans works strange magical changes, it’s a death both terrifying and impossible.

Assigned to investigate is Ana Dolabra, a detective whose reputation for brilliance is matched only by her eccentricities. Rumor has it that she wears a blindfold at all times, and that she can solve impossible cases without even stepping outside the walls of her home.

At her side is her new assistant, Dinios Kol, magically altered in ways that make him the perfect aide to Ana’s brilliance. Din is at turns scandalized, perplexed, and utterly infuriated by his new superior—but as the case unfolds and he watches Ana’s mind leap from one startling deduction to the next, he must admit that she is, indeed, the Empire’s greatest detective.

As the two close in on a mastermind and uncover a scheme that threatens the Empire itself, Din realizes he’s barely begun to assemble the puzzle that is Ana Dolabra—and wonders how long he’ll be able to keep his own secrets safe from her piercing intellect.

By an “endlessly inventive” (Vulture) author with a “wicked sense of humor” (NPR), The Tainted Cup mixes the charms of detective fiction with brilliant world-building to deliver a fiendishly clever mystery that’s at once instantly recognizable and thrillingly new.

My Thoughts: THE TAINTED CUP is a mystery fantasy that begins a new series. Dinios Kol has won a position as an assistant to Ana Dolabra through some slightly shady means. Ana Dolabra has been exiled to a dangerous canton near the sea walls that keep might leviathans from coming ashore during the wet season and wreaking magical havoc. 

To battle the leviathans, the Empire has made changes to many of its citizens. Din has been altered to remember everything that he hears, sees, and reads so that he can bring the information back to Ana who is wildly eccentric and not at all eager to leave her home. She spends her time devouring data from books and other things Din brings her. She is able to put together all the input from what she has read and what Din brings to her from his onsite investigations to come to startling deductions.

Their new partnership is tested when there is a murder. An Engineer is found dead at the home of one of the wealthiest families in the Empire. He is found to have been killed when a tree grew out of his body and devoured him. Such contagions aren't unknown in the Empire. In fact, one whole canton was abandoned and burned to the ground when overtaken by a similar contagion.

Ana's investigation into the murder takes the pair to a canton even nearer the dangerous wall where they discover that the engineer's death was only one of a number of strange deaths and discover political intrigue that has been building for years and threatens the security of the Empire.

The worldbuilding was intriguing and complex. The characters were interesting people with depths and secrets. While the blurb compares the main characters to Holmes and Watson, I saw more of a similarity to Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin and was glad to see that those characters were part of the author's own reading history. A smart young assistant with some secrets of his own and a reclusive genius of an employer brought Wolfe and Goodwin to mind. But while Wolfe and Goodwin worked for profit, Din and Ana work as agents of the Empire keeping it together despite many threats from inside and outside of it. 

I look forward to reading more adventures for these characters in this world.  

Favorite Quote:
And besides, you've had a horrid few days, and I think you need reminding of what the Empire is even for.

I cocked an eyebrow at her, puzzled.

"It's not all this!" she said. She waved her hand at the shuttered window. "It's not all walls and death and plotting! Nor is it dreary dispensations and bureaucracy! We do these ugly, dull things for a reason -- to make a space where folks can live, celebrate, and know joy and love."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, January 29, 2024

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (January 29, 2024)

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 nice week. We are in the middle of a January thaw which gave my brother a chance to get the snow off the solar panels. In fact, I just heard some more slide off and fall to the sidewalk as I was preparing this post. We didn't make any power at all from January 5 - January 25. Lest you think we are sitting here in the dark and the cold, our system is tied into the local power grid. When we don't make power, we pull from the grid. When we do, the power is fed into the grid and decreases our monthly bill. 

There is no snow in this week's forecast and temperatures will remain above average. However, it is still going to be at least partly cloudy which will limit the amount of solar power we generate. While a sunny day is predicted for today, right now it is cloudy and a little foggy. I want some sunshine!

This week should be another quiet one. I do have one appointment for Thursday which will get me out of the house long enough to visit my clinic for my 3-month blood draw. Maybe I'll get some shopping done that day. I do need to get license tabs for my car before the end of February. 

I've spent a lot of time listening to audiobooks this past week. I had the first of Mercedes Lackey's Collegium Chronicles on my calendar and liked it so much that I added the rest of the 5-book story arc to my calendar too. I read these when they were first published and own the hardcovers. I may even have reviewed them here or on my YA blog in 2010 or so. I think it's time to review them again. 

All of this listening is putting me a bit behind on my review copies though - at least by my standards. I like to have a review scheduled well in advance of when it will show up on my calendar. I need to stop listening to audiobooks for a while and catch up. And I will right after I finish Bastion...

Last week my brother was home for dinner every day and we cooked. This week not so much. His shifts have changed from 9AM - 4PM to 3PM - 10PM. I'm on my own for dinner and have no idea what I'll be making yet especially since we'll likely be eating something dinner-ish before he goes to work. 

Read Last Week
  • Shield's Lady by Jayne Ann Krentz (Audiobook) -- This is a reread of one of Krentz's early science fiction romances from 1989. It was enjoyable and had Krentz's typical characters - self-sufficient, goal-driven, and reluctant to fall in love. My review will be posted on February 20.
  • Foundation by Mercedes Lackey (Chirp Audiobook) -- This is the first in the Collegium Chronicles which introduces Mags who is an orphan of unknown parentage raised in a mine under a cruel master and who is Chosen to become a Herald of Valdemar. My review will be posted on February 15.
  • The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik (Mine) -- This is the middle book in the Scholomance trilogy which sees El find friends and allies and forge a plan to free all the children from the Scholomance. My review will be posted on February 10.
  • Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey (Chirp Audiobook) -- This is the second in the Collegium Chronicles and tells the story of Mags who was a slave in a mine and is now on track to become a Herald of Valdemar. My review will be posted on February 22. 
  • The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik (Mine) -- This story finishes the Scholomance Trilogy which is a much darker version of Harry Potter but without adult influences. My review will be posted on February 24.
  • Changes by Mercedes Lackey (Chirp Audiobook) -- This is the third in the Collegium Chronicles. My review will be posted on February 29.
  • Murder by Lamplight by Patrice McDonough (Review; February 20) -- Debut author; historical mystery set in 1860s. Female doctor joins police inspector in solving a series of gruesome homicides. My review will be posted on February 13.
  • Redoubt by Mercedes Lackey (Audiobook Reread) -- This 2012 release is the fourth in the Collegium Chronicles. I own the hardcover and read it first when it was published. I'm enjoying the adventure even more since I don't have to wait a year or two in between episodes. My review will be posted on March 7.
Next Week
Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

  • Bastion by Mercedes Lackey (Kindle & Audiobook)
  • Redoubt by Mercedes Lackey (Kindle & Audiobook)
What was your week like?

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Book Review: Kris Longknife: Admiral by Mike Shepherd

Kris Longknife: Admiral

Mike Shepherd
Series: Kris Longknife (Book 16)
Publication: KL & MM Books (November 1, 2017)

Description: Admiral Kris Longknife should have known the job offer was too good. Really, she knew by now that what was too good to be true really, really isn't. Still, she jumped at the chance to be the first human emissary to the Iteeche Empire.

Only when she got there, and met the Emperor, a teenage kid swamped by his throne, did Kris find out that there was a little civil war going on in the Iteeche Empire. The loyal forces were losing, and they needed the best fighting admiral they could get. So they got Kris Longknife.

Now Kris is sweating out collecting a fighting force -- that won't make her their first target. Now she's trying to figure out how to fight ships identical to hers, that outnumber her four to one or worse. Oh, and she's got to keep the merchant princes in her embassy from making a mess of everything.

A whole lot of people are hoping this Longknife can pull a grizzly bear out of her hat. A whole lot of other Iteeche are hoping the bear takes off her arm.

This continuation of the Longknife Saga is 112,000 words of battle, intrigue and assassinations including a few wrong turns on Kris's part. Enjoy!

My Thoughts: Admiral Kris Longknife was sent to the seat of the Iteeche Empire as an emissary from humanity but finds herself dragooned into becoming the Admiral of the loyal fleet who must fight against rebel forces to keep the teenaged Emperor on his throne. 

She has 36 battlecruisers, the enemy has thousands. She needs to build a force using Iteeche forces and forge them into a fighting force that can win against three-to-one odds. However, all the rebels aren't away from the seat of power, and she has to face attempts against her life and her people right under the Emperor's nose.

Just as she's getting her troops trained to fight in the human way, news comes in that one of her strongest supporters among the Iteeche needs immediate help. His planetary seat is being taken over by the rebels. It would normally take a month to get there, but Kris can use the fuzzy jumps that humans have discovered which will cut the time drastically. So, the combined fleet is gathered and dispatched only to find that the revolt on that planet was a feint to clear her and her forces away from the Imperial seat. 

There are no direct fuzzy jumps into the Emperor's planet and when Kris and crew wind up one jump short, they discover a rebel force that outnumbers them five-to-one that they have to keep from making the jump and capturing the Emperor's planet.

The story is filled with space battles and strategies and constant reminders that the Iteeche are aliens and don't think at all the same way that humans do. 

It was an exciting story that carries on nicely from Emissary and leads neatly into Commander because it will take more than one battle, no matter how horrendous, to put down the rebellion. 

Favorite Quote:
"Ah, the old ways were never so good, though they are now much beloved and held onto so tightly even as they pass from our lives. How well I know that trait."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Friday Memes: In the Likely Event by Rebecca Yarros

 Happy Friday!

Book Beginnings is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader. She asks that the first sentence is posted along with the author and title of the book and the reader's initial thoughts on the sentence, the book, or anything else it inspires. 
Carrie at Reading Is My also provides a linky for sharing first lines and connecting with others. This meme asks that the chosen books be PG or marked as Mature if they are not. 

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda at Freda's Voice. This meme is currently on hiatus but many of us are still including a sentence from page 56 or from 56% of the ebook. Anne @ Head Full of Books is picking up the slack until Freda is ready to return. I think this link will get you to the correct place

Kabul, Afghanistan
August 2021

This was not the Maldives.
Friday 56:
She went limp in my arms, her eyes closing.

"Bring her back!" The paramedic jogged to the back of the rig as the doors burst open and someone brought down a stretcher. 
This week I'm spotlighting In the Likely Event by Rebecca Yarros. I chose this one because I really like Fourth Wing and wondered about her other books. Here's the blurb from Amazon:
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of Fourth Wing, Rebecca Yarros, comes a sweeping romance about the sustained power of chance encounters.

When Izzy Astor gets on a plane to go home, she isn’t expecting much. It’s the usual holiday travel experience: busy, crowded, stressful.

Then she spots her seatmate, who is anything but ordinary. Nate Phelan sports dark hair, blue eyes, and a deliciously rugged charm that Izzy can’t resist. Their connection is undeniable. Izzy never believed in destiny before, but she does now.

Just ninety seconds after takeoff, their plane goes down in the Missouri River.

Their lives change. They change. Nate goes on to a career in the military while Izzy finds her way into politics. Despite a few chance encounters over the years, the timing never feels right.

Then comes a high-stakes reunion in Afghanistan, where Nate is tasked with protecting Izzy’s life.

He’ll do anything to keep her safe. And everything to win her heart.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Audiobook Review: The Serpent on the Crown by Elizabeth Peters

The Serpent on the Crown

Elizabeth Peters
Narrator: Barbara Rosenblat
Series: The Amelia Peabody Series (Book 17)
Publication: HarperAudio (March 31, 2005)
Length: 12 hours and 7 minutes

Description: New York Times best-selling master of suspense, Elizabeth Peters, brings an exotic world of adventure, intrigue, and danger to vivid life, in a tale as powerful as ancient Egypt.

The Emersons have returned to the Valley of the Kings in 1922 and Amelia Peabody and her family look forward to delving once more into the age-old mysteries buried in Egypt's ever-shifting sands. But a widow's strange story, and even stranger request, is about to plunge them into a storm of secrets, treachery, and murder.

The woman, a well-known author, has come bearing an ill-gotten treasure, a golden likeness of a forgotten king, which she claims is cursed. She insists it has taken the life of her husband and unless it is returned to the tomb from which it was stolen, more people will die.

Amelia and her clan resolve to uncover the secrets of the statue's origins, setting off on a trail that twists and turns in directions they never anticipated, and, perhaps, toward an old nemesis with unscrupulous new designs. But each step toward the truth seems to reveal another peril, suggesting to the intrepid Amelia that the curse is more than mere superstition. And its next victim might well be a beloved family member...or Amelia Peabody herself.

A novel filled with riveting suspense, pulse-pounding action, and the vibrant life of a fascinating place and time, The Serpent on the Crown is the jewel in the crown of a grand master, the remarkable Elizabeth Peters.

My Thoughts: It is 1922 and the Emersons are in Egypt when the widow of an antiquities collector asks Emerson to take charge of an artifact from his collection. She is convinced that the golden statue is cursed. Emerson is intrigued by the statue and wants to find out where it came from. It is of a time period that is the same as Tutankhamun's though his tomb has yet to be discovered. Common wisdom believes that there are no undiscovered tombs remaining in the Valley of the Kings.

Emerson was long since banned from excavating in the Valley of the Kings but has gotten a toehold when he was allowed to reexamine KV55 which had been excavated in a haphazard manner years earlier. Meanwhile, Ramses is intrigued by papyrus fragments from one the other sites that Emerson has charge of. 

When the widow disappears Amelia's first thought is that it is a publicity stunt designed to reignite her career as the author of sensational novels. It leaves her stepson and stepdaughter as suspects in her disappearance. 

Then the attacks begin on Ramses' life. There are other suspicious incidents too regarding both the woman and the statue. Even with many "little lists" Amelia and her family are having trouble figuring out who wants what. 

This was another enjoyable episode in the Amelia Peabody series. 

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

Book Review: Dog Tags by David Rosenfelt

Dog Tags

David Rosenfelt
Series: Andy Carpenter (Book 8)
Publication: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (June 1, 2011)

Description: In this "riveting" legal thriller, a German Shepherd police dog witnesses a murder -- and if his owner, an Iraq war vet and former cop-turned-thief, is convicted of the crime, the dog could be put down (Publishers Weekly).

Few rival Andy Carpenter's affection for dogs, and he decides to represent the poor canine. As Andy struggles to convince a judge that this dog should be set free, he discovers that the dog and his owner have become involved unwittingly in a case of much greater proportions than the one they've been charged with.

Andy will have to call upon the unique abilities of this ex-police dog to help solve the crime and prevent a catastrophic event from taking place.

My Thoughts: This eighth book in the Andy Carpenter series has Andy defending a German Shepherd named Milo. Milo was taken away from his owner Billy when Billy was accused of murdering a man named Erskine. Now, for some reason no one will explain, Milo is in a kennel and there is a twenty-four hour guard outside his cage. 

Andy and his new fellow lawyer Hike manage to get Milo out of the kennel but no one will explain why he was under guard there. Since Billy is a friend of Andy's friend Pete which convinces Andy to take Billy's case. Billy was a former cop turned soldier who lost his leg in an explosion that killed 20 in Iraq and who has turned to theft to make his living upon his return to the US. 

Erskine was in charge of the security for the bombing that injured Billy which looks to give him a good motive for killing him. And there is all sorts of evidence not least of which is that he was found standing over Erskine's body and his prints were on the murder weapon. 

As Andy investigates, he comes to believe that Erskine's death was only a small part of a much bigger plot. Other points of view in the story confirm this since we hear from the killer who is taking care of loose ends and the man who is in command of this secretive operation. Andy is even more sure that there is more to discover when he learns that both the FBI and the Army want to interview one of his witnesses.

This was an engaging mystery. I like Andy's sarcastic personality and his unabashed love for dogs. I also like his relationship with Laurie who is still recovering from events in a previous book. Fans of the series will enjoy this episode. 

Favorite Quote:
The good news is that Judge Catchings then decides to put off Eli's first witness until tomorrow. The bad news is that there is likely to be a tomorrow.
I bought this one December 17, 2022. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Book Review: Kris Longknife: Emissary by Mike Shepherd

Kris Longknife: Emissary
Author: Mike Shepherd
Series: Kris Longknife (Book 15)
Publication: KL & MM Books (May 1, 2017)

Description: Kris Longknife has discovered that this desk job is not at all what she expected. Being desk bound hasn't even decreased the number of assassination attempts! Then Kris gets home to find her two kids playing with an Iteeche. Ron has come back to human space with a request. Should Kris honor it? Can she finally get some straight answers for her Grampa Ray, King Raymond to most? Does she risk taking the kids into a situation with a whole lot of unanswered questions? Oh, and what can go wrong? Kris knows something will go wrong. Something always goes wrong.

My Thoughts: Kris has been getting very tired of her desk job trying to bring the Navy up to her specifications. Sure, she's enjoyed going home each night to her husband and two children, but work is not what she had hoped. 

When Ron, the Iteeche Kris knows best, comes from his Emperor asking that Kris be sent as Emissary of her people to the Imperial Court, Kris is intrigued. She knows that this is a big job that she may not be totally qualified for, but she has the encouragement of her king and a free hand to build the team she thinks will help her do the job.

Only things are not as they seem. It seems the Iteeche are in the middle of a civil war which no one thought to mention to Kris. And she has been saddled with the role of being Speaker for Humanity along with assorted ambassadors from most of the human settled worlds who all have differing agendas. This doesn't count the large horde of human merchants who are all looking to get rich as the interact with the Iteeche industrial base. 

Then there is the journey which includes an Admiral in command of the escort force who isn't on board with the new Navy Agenda and who needs to be relieved when their convoy is threatened by an Iteeche Rebel space fleet. 

And once they get to the planet where the Emperor lives, they have to fight their way to his palace through other forces who don't want them to meet. Once the meeting is achieved, Kris is saddled with another impossible job: the Emperor puts her in charge of his Imperial Navy and wants her to battle the rebels. Unfortunately, they are all equipped with the same ships and tactics as the Imperial Fleet. Kris has never fought a battle of equals. But she's a Longknife and a smart and tricky one. 

This book definitely has a cliffhanger ending tempting me to begins Admiral which is the next in the series right now. 

Favorite Quote:
She found she had to chuckle. She was actually looking forward to getting her teeth into this whole mess. If she was hones with herself, she'd been missing the excitement of the new and awful.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Audiobook Review: Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths

Smoke and Mirrors

Elly Griffiths
Narrator: James Langton
Series: The Brighton Mysteries (Book 2)
Publication: Blackstone Audio (October 18, 2016)
Length: 7 hours and 37 minutes

Description: In the sequel to Zig Zag Girl, DI Edgar Stephens and the magician Max Mephisto hunt for a killer after two children are murdered in a tragic tableau of a very grim fairy tale.

It's Christmastime in Brighton, and the city is abuzz about a local production of Aladdin, starring the marvelous Max Mephisto. But the holiday cheer is lost on DI Edgar Stephens. He's investigating the murder of two children, Annie and Mark, who were strangled to death in the woods, abandoned alongside a trail of candy - a horrifying scene eerily reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel. Edgar has plenty of leads to investigate. Annie, a surprisingly dark child, used to write gruesome plays based on the Grimms' fairy tales. Does the key to the case lie in her unfinished final script? Or does the macabre staging of Annie and Mark's deaths point to the theater and the capricious cast of characters performing in Aladdin? Once again, Edgar enlists Max's help in penetrating the shadowy world of the theater. But is this all just classic misdirection?

My Thoughts: The second of the Brighton mysteries takes place at Christmas time. Max Mephisto is busy starring as the villain in the Christmas pantomime and Edgar Stephens is searching for two lost children. 

When the children are found strangled to death, Edgar and his team are on the case. The case brings to mind Grimm's fairy tales since the children are found surrounded by candy. Annie and Mark disappeared after school one day when they were supposed to be rehearsing one of the plays Annie wrote with the younger children who are their actors. 

As Stephens investigates, they find a childless, widowed man who has built a theater for them in his garage and a man who runs the corner store as possible suspects. Diablo also brings to mind another death of a young actress at the same time of the year but forty years earlier making Edgar wonder if there is any connection between the two crimes. 

Annie's new play also connects to Grimm's fairy tales because it is the story of two lost children where the villain is part of the children's own families. After Annie and Mark's death, Annie's younger sister Betty is determined to put on the play but she is kidnapped herself on opening night. 

I really enjoyed this mystery narrated by James Langton. He does a good job dealing with the various voices and really showing how frustrated the police are as they try to track down the murderer and save Betty before she becomes the next victim.

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

ARC Review: Of Hoaxes and Homicide by Anastasia Hastings

Of Hoaxes and Homicide

Anastasia Hastings
Series: A Dear Miss Hermione Mystery (Book 2)
Publication: Minotaur Books (January 30, 2024)

Description: The second in the delightful Dear Miss Hermione mystery series from Anastasia Hastings―when you represent the best-loved Agony Aunt in Britain, fielding questions from both irate housekeepers and heartbroken mothers is par for the course...

"Dear Miss Hermione―what is a mother to do?"

Sensible Violet Manville and her very ladylike half-sister Sephora are absolutely bored, thank you very much. Though neither of them would ever admit it aloud, they're missing the thrill of playing detective.

So when Violet receives a letter from "A Heartbroken Mother" sent to her alter-ego, the Agony Aunt known to the world only as Miss Hermione, her pulse can't help but quicken. The daughter in question has gotten caught up in a cult: the Hermetic Order of the Children of Aed. Rumors of human sacrifices, mystical doings, and a ghost in the ruined Alburn Abbey where the Children pray have gripped the public consciousness, helped along by a series of novels about the group, written by the mysterious Count Orlando, and clearly this girl has fallen prey.

Miss Hermione’s investigation soon collides with very real life when Violet discovers a surprising connection to the cult. With the dashing-but-frustrating Eli Marsh turning up and a member of the Children poisoned, Violet and Sephora―along with their ever-trusty housekeeper Bunty―may have more intrigue than they can manage.

My Thoughts: This story is the second in the Dear Hermione mysteries. It is set in England in 1885 and stars two very different sisters. Violet is the practical, scholarly one and Sephora is the young, flighty and romantic one. As the story begins, both young ladies are bored with their lives after the excitement of solving a murder in the first book. 

When Violet, who has taken over the role of agony aunt from her aunt, receives a letter from a despairing mother whose daughter has joined a cult, she is determined to investigate and bring the young lady home to her parents. 

Then Violet discovers that the missing young lady is Sephora's best friend Margaret who had entangled herself with the Children of Aed. Penny dreadfuls written about the cult speak of human sacrifices and other atrocities. Violet is determined to go to the cult to find Margaret and is equally determined to leave her flighty younger half-sister behind safe in London. But Sephora isn't content to stay out of the investigation and ends up trailing Bunty to all sorts of dodgy places and inserting herself in the investigation.

While Violet is dealing with being drugged and seeing a man die of poisoning and seeing Margaret "confess" to the crime, Sephora and Bunty are trying to learn more about the murder victim in London where he is something of a man of mystery.

This was an engaging story with great characters. I like that Violet learns to see her sister Sephora better and begins to treat her as an equal instead of a burden. I also liked that Sephora showed that she was more than a propriety obsesses, fashion obsessed young person. 

Favorite Quote:
My exhalation of despair should certainly have plucked at the heartstrings of all who heard it. Which of course explains why Violet, in the chair opposite of mine, a book open in her hands, never flinched. But then, I am convinced Violet doesn't have a heart. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, January 22, 2024

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (January 22, 2024)

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 cold quiet week at my house. I don't think I left the house even once. I spent my time rearranging my library and finally finished moving lots and lots of books on Wednesday. With each shelf not packed full, I discovered that I needed some additional bookends and ordered some from Amazon which arrived on Saturday. It looks like I have one extra for later use. 

I had all of these bookshelves built and installed for me before I moved into the house. They have fixed shelves which is a comfort to my sense of order and symmetry. The bottom shelf is taller than the rest allowing for taller books. To keep the lines straight, there are some sections that are not as tall under the windows and to accommodate a heat run that I use for paperbacks or for taller books lying down. 

Here are the final results:

Living Room
East Wall of Living Room

Main Library
South Wall of Library and a bit of the East Wall too.

East Wall of Library

North Wall of Library

West Wall of Library
Guest Room
Left Section in Guest Room

Right section in Guest Room

Under the Guest Room Window

Detail from my Library:
Secretary my dad refinished for his mother which now contains some of my collection of figurines and Snow globes. It is topped with some retirement gifts. 

After getting that organized, I concentrated on reading and listening to books on my calendar. I have put a pause on my relistens to the J. D. Robb books until I get a month ahead on my calendar again. I enjoyed this week's reading and listening and am sure there are lots of good things on the calendar that I will also enjoy. 

There wasn't much cooking done this week. I did make a batch of marinara sauce and put it in the freezer for later use. We discovered that we have lots of containers of taco meat but no marinara there. I also want to make a batch of Mom's spaghetti sauce for the freezer and put it on this week's agenda. My brother works odd - for him - shifts this week. He's working 9AM to 5 PM every day he works which means we'll be able to eat dinner together all week. He's planning to make chili when he finishes work today and I'm contributing a new recipe for Sweet Cornbread to go along with it. The rest of the week is still undecided though there will certainly be leftover chili. 

This was the week that I finally came to the end of my Amazon gift cards. 
  • I added a couple of books by Sean Patrick Little, a man I taught with years ago. He writes mysteries now. 
  • I got another of the Lady Sherlock audiobooks by Sherry Thomas but am still missing a couple. I have a request in at NetGalley for the newest but haven't heard anything yet. 
  • I used an Audible Credit for a science fiction epic that runs more than 20 hours. I recently got the Kindle version of the same title so that I can follow along if I need to and so that I have idea of how things are spelled. 
  • The only book in my new arrivals that I have already read is And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander. I have the first two books in the Lady Emily series in print but prefer Kindle for rereads. I think, since I have reviewed the newest two, that it is time to go back and read the rest of the series. I've been gathering Kindle copies as they go on sale but am still missing a few of this seventeen-book series. 
Read Last Week
  • Divided in Death by J. D. Robb (Audiobook Reread)
  • Visions in Death by J. D. Robb (Audiobook Reread)
  • Highway to Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore (Mine) -- Finale of the Maggie Quinn trilogy has Maggie and her friend getting stranded in a town with a demon problem while they are on their way to Spring Break. My review will be posted on February 3.
  • Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews (Chirp Audiobook) -- Tenth in the Meg Langslow series has Meg dealing with the annual Christmas parade and with the death of the man who is supposed to play Santa. My review will be posted on February 6.
  • Origin in Death by J. D. Robb (Audiobook Reread) -- 21st book in the series. I was doing a sort of random reread of the series over the Holiday season. This is the last for a while. 
  • Fish Out of Water by Katie Ruggle (Review; February 13) -- Very humorous romantic suspense. My review will be posted on February 6.
  • At the River by Kendra Elliot (Review; February 13) -- Excellent contemporary thriller. Fifth in a series. My review will be posted on February 8.
  • The Lantern's Dance by Laurie R. King (Review; February 13) -- 18th in a long-running historical mystery series with great historical details and interesting characters. My review will be posted on February 7.
  • Reflex by Dick Francis (Audiobook Reread) -- One of my favorites from the author stars a jockey-photographer and has a couple of mysteries for him to solve. My review will be posted on February 8.
Next Week
Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

New Audiobooks
What was your week like?