Wednesday, September 13, 2017

review: the girl in the castle by santa montefiore

The first book in a trilogy, the first few chapters of The Girl in the Castle are the slow establishment of the characters’ personalities and relationships with each other. As the younger characters (primarily the wealthy Kitty, her friend/maid, Bridie, and the son of the local veterinarian, Jack) grow up, the tumultuous times leading up to and during the Black and Tan War in Ireland greatly affect their lives, especially since Kitty is Anglo Irish. The Girl in the Castle, which is beautifully written, is filled with romance, betrayal, and strife as the characters’ lives entangle and the curse on the Deverill clan seems to come to fruition. The final pages reveal some surprises to compel the reader to pick up the second book, The Daughters of Ireland.
4/5
I purchased this book.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

top ten tuesday: loved during the first year

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every Tuesday the site has a new top ten list with this week's being Ten Books I Loved During The First Year I Started My Blog. All the links below are to my reviews and interviews with the authors.

1. Belle in the Big Apple by Brooke Parkhurst
2. Misery Loves Cabernet by Kim Gruenenfelder
3. Guyaholic by Carolyn Mackler
4. How Perfect Is That by Sarah Bird
5. The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum
6. The Charlie McNally series (Prime Time, Face Time, Air Time) by Hank Phillippi Ryan
(This reminds me that I still need to read the fourth book, Drive Time.)
7. How it Ends by Laura Wiess
8. The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate
9. The Sugarless Plum by Zippora Karz
10. Tall, Dark & Fangsome by Michelle Rowan

Monday, September 11, 2017

review: exposed by laura griffin

Shortly after finishing up shooting photos of an engaged couple, Maddie Callahan, an employee at The Delphi Center, is mugged. She's primarily concerned about the loss of her camera and memory card, but realizes something much bigger than her mugging has occurred when the FBI becomes involved. The agents think she may have captured the images of some men involved in the abductions and murders of young women. Those men could now be after Maddie and one of the agents takes particular interest in keeping her safe.

Although the first three books of the Tracers series felt like a trilogy, the rest of the series read more like standalone novels (which is good since I somehow skipped over this one while moving halfway across the country) with an interconnecting thread of The Delphi Center, an independent crime lab. The suspense part of Exposed was great with the various components of the mystery unfolding with nice pacing and not being easily guessed. The romantic elements didn't work as well though. Brian came across as overly possessive (especially considering he'd only just met Maddie) and Maddie seemed to be forcing herself into the relationship due to feelings of needing to move on after the death of her daughter, subsequent divorce, and her ex-husband's announcement of expecting a son with his new wife.
4/5
Review copy provided by the author.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

review: the decorator who knew too much by diane vallere

With the fourth book in the Madison Night series, Diane Vallere changes things up by shifting the setting from Dallas to Palm Springs and providing some of Tex's perspective. Madison and Hudson (who are now a couple) travel with their pets to Palm Springs to help Hudson's brother-in-law with a construction job. But right away things get off to an iffy start as Madison and Hudson are run off the road by an erratic driver. Then Madison spots a body in the river! Unfortunately, the Palm Springs police aren't as willing to believe her story as Tex would be. Tensions rise and Madison learns that even though she's no longer in Dallas, she can't seem to escape being tangentially involved in crimes.

As with the previous books in the series, The Decorator Who Knew Too Much incorporates comedy into the mystery, but this one has more romantic overtones now that Madison and Hudson are together. And even though Madison is dating Hudson now, don't count Tex out! The chapters from his perspective allow for the possibility of something developing on that front too. As for the mystery, it's fantastic with plenty of twists and red herrings to keep the reader guessing while Madison tries to piece things together (since the police are initially quite uninterested in her information). One thing felt a bit off though--Madison's mention of her married former lover. My impression from the second book of the series was that he had lied about being married.

About the audiobook: The Decorator Who Knew Too Much is read by Susie Berneis, who continues to be the perfect voice for Madison. She does well with the other characters too, including Heather (Hudson's young niece); some narrators have a tendency to make children sound shrill, but Berneis doesn't fall into that trap. The audio version was published by Dreamscape Media April 2017 and runs 7 hours.
4/5
Review copy from Audiobook Jukebox.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

review: wonder light: unicorns of the mist by r.r. russell

After an incident with her stepsister, 12-year-old Twig is sent to the fictional Island Ranch in Washington state. Island Ranch is described as a pony farm and ranch for troubled girls run by the Murleys who are certified counselors and foster parents. There's little focus on the troubled girls aspect though (references to the girls committing petty crimes are dropped throughout, but R.R. Russell doesn't delve into any of it) because Twig quickly discovers that the horses who live outside the confines of the ranch are actually unicorns. There's also a boy living alone on the island. Wonder Light: Unicorns of the Mist is a sweet story for middle grade readers, but it takes an odd turn about midway through the book. The boy discloses to Twig that there's a entrance to a mystical land on the island; Twig then goes with him to engage in a battle between evil unicorns and good ones. By switching to such a fantasy plot with only half of the book left, the first half of Wonder Light ended up feeling like a lot of unnecessary background. It is also disappointing that a book aimed at young readers would put such an emphasis on a boy giving a girl self-confidence.
2/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

review: the lost letter by jillian cantor

The Lost Letter is an incredibly powerful World War II story split between 1938 Austria and 1989 Los Angeles. As the story unfolds in alternating chapters, the upside-down stamp on the unsent letter found by Katie in her father’s stamp collection becomes clearly tied to the apprentice of a Jewish stamp engraver from the 1938 chapters. Partially in an effort to distract herself from her divorce and her father’s decline, Katie (along with a stamp appraiser) sets out to learn more about the unusual stamp, the author of the letter, and the intended recipient.

Although The Lost Letter is a work of fiction, it is based in reality—stamp engravers did play a role in the Resistance. By bringing in historical facts (the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 which seems to be the reason Jillian Cantor chose that year), the stories of these characters become all the more poignant. Cantor also expertly weaves together the two timeframes so that every piece is important.
5/5
Review copy provided by Amazon Vine.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

review: accidental sire by molly harper

Accidental Sire continues the vampires living openly in Kentucky story from Molly Harper's Half-Moon Hollow series. This time around a student at the University of Kentucky agrees to be turned after suffering a life-threatening injury from an Ultimate Frisbee toss gone awry. She then accidentally sires the student she was supposed to have a date with. There's an immediate question of how Meaghan was able to do so though as the circumstances are atypical. Jane (from Harper's Nice Girls Don't... series) takes both Meaghan and Ben into her home so the two new vampires can be studied. While Meaghan and Ben pursue their feelings for each other, they are pursued by a mad scientist intent on learning all he can about their unusual vampire traits. The developments in Accidental Sire allow Harper to freshen up the vampire story and advance the plot forward for later books in the series. Accidental Sire didn't have quite the same snark and wit of the first book in the series (Ben's moodiness dampens the fun), but it's still highly entertaining and incorporates many of the characters from the previous books.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Star.