Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Fast and the Furriest - Cozy Mystery Review

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publisher

Sarah Grayson owns Second Chance, a shop that sells lovingly refurbished items, in the charming town of North Harbor, Maine. But she couldn't run the store without the help of her right-hand man, Mac--or her dashing rescue cat, Elvis.

Mac's life before North Harbor has always been a little bit mysterious, but it becomes a lot more intriguing when a woman from his past shows up in town, and then turns up dead. Suspicion falls on Mac, but Sarah--and Elvis--know he can't be the killer, and they hope they can prove his innocence quick as a whisker.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:
  I've heard raves about this series and this one sounded fun.

My Impression:
  I feel like I've been on a winning streak when it comes to cozies lately and this book just keeps that going!  I love a second hand shop and I love private investigators so the fact that this book contained both was definitely a bonus.  I loved Sarah and her assortment of relatives and friends really fleshed out the book.  I'm always a fan of a team dynamic and this had it in spades with input and theories from a number of the different characters.

The mystery was interesting.  Everyone has their secrets and learning about Mac's kept me turning pages.  Just who was he before he ended up in North Harbor and what is he capable of?  Even though I haven't read the other books in the series and don't have a history with Mac I couldn't help but believe in him just as much as Sarah, Rose, Liz, and everyone else did.  And of course I can't not mention Sarah's cat, Elvis.  He never hesitates to make his opinion known and adds a bit of humor to the book.

While this is the 5th book in the series I had no issue figuring out the setup for the series.  I do feel like I'm missing some of the history between Sarah and Nick but he had only a small part in the book so it wasn't distracting. This was a fantastic cozy mystery with a wonderful community, and a likable main character.  I'm so excited that I finally tried this series and can't wait to read more!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  Absolutely!  I'm looking forward to reading the first 4 while I wait for #6!

Would I Recommend this Book?
  If you enjoy cozies I think you'll love this series!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday Linkups - Claws for Concern

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Do you read hardcovers with the dust jacket on or off? Why or Why not?

My Answer:
Always off unless it's a library book with the cover taped on.  Hard backs tend to be a bit unwieldy at the best of times so keeping the paper cover on just ends up driving me crazy.  Plus, I don't want it to get damaged!

This week's book - Claws for Concern by Miranda James - is the newest book in a long running cozy mystery series that I'm just now really discovering.  I read the first book years and years ago and liked it but never went back and read any later books until recently.  I'm enjoying this series about Charlie, a librarian, and his Maine Coon Cat Diesel.

The Beginning:
I couldn't stop checking the clock in the wall nearby.  "Come on, three o'clock," I muttered under my breath.  "Get here already."

My Thoughts:
I can relate.  Why is that time just about stops when you need it to be going faster but flies when you're in a rush to get everything done?

The 56:
"Wanda Nell and I don't want that kind of attention, either.  For that reason I am not intending to use real names.

My Thoughts:
I never trust people who aren't using their real names in mysteries even if they have a valid reason.  It always seems like there's something shady going on.  Granted there's usually at least one dead body so that alone is pretty shady.

So how do you feel about dust jackets on hard covers?  On or off?  Would you keep reading?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The French Girl - Mystery Review

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publisher

They were six university students from Oxford--friends and sometimes more than friends--spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer getaway--until they met Severine, the girl next door.

For Kate Channing, Severine was an unwelcome presence, her inscrutable beauty undermining the close-knit group's loyalties amid the already simmering tensions. And after a huge altercation on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. There are some things you can't forgive, and there are some people you can't forget, like Severine, who was never seen again.

Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine's body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. Questioned along with her friends, Kate stands to lose everything she's worked so hard to achieve as suspicion mounts around her. Desperate to resolve her own shifting memories and fearful she will be forever bound to the woman whose presence still haunts her, Kate finds herself buried under layers of deception with no one to set her free.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:
  Secrets from the past and a body found a decade later?  No way I could resist!

My Impression:
  It's been awhile since I read a thriller and the last one I read I was kind of meh about so I was a bit nervous.  This one however was far from meh - in fact it kept me up late turning pages trying to figure out what had happened!

One of things I don't like about the unreliable narrator type thrillers is when they give you nothing about whatever it is that happened in the past.  Elliott, however, gave me just enough.  I had the general idea of the setup and I knew the outcome which gave me just enough to keep me guessing and theorizing on just what had happened all those years ago in France.  As well all the characters with the exception of 1 are back in London and old grudges and desires are rising to the surface.

The story is through Kate's POV and I actually liked her which is unusual in this kind of psychological thriller.  She's intelligent with a  bit of a chip on her should but not so much that it annoyed me.  She's struggling to get her business going and having to deal with all sorts of emotions that she had spent a decade shoving out of her thoughts.

This was a really compelling read.  The pacing was good and I never felt like it was dragging or murky.  The ending wasn't entirely a surprise though it did have me holding my breath a time or two while I read on to see how it all played out.  

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  Absolutely!  It had a bit of a Ruth Ware feel but with more likable characters.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  If you enjoy mysteries with a psychological thriller edge  I think you'd enjoy this one.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Tuscan Child - Fiction Review

Rating: Very Good
Source:  Publicist

In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.

Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now…

Genre: Fiction - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:
  I'm a big Rhys Bowen fan and I just loved the sound of this one.

My Impression:
  Well now I need to go to Italy.  Specifically a small village in Tuscany to stay with a woman who will teach me all the wonders of cooking Italian food.  I will walk in the countryside, eat delicious food, and drink lots of wine.  I'm going to take a miss on the dead body and troubled paternal relationship though.

This book is told in two timelines and I really enjoyed both.  I found Hugo's story so compelling and was so caught up in his relationship with Sofia and his struggles to survive.  Joanna's story took me a little longer to get into.  There was a lot of hinting about some traumatic event and she just seemed so bitter and unhappy I didn't like her at first.  However, once she got to Italy and began spending time with the woman who rents her a room, Paola, she began opening up and I was completely on her side.  I loved how Joanna really let herself embrace the warmth and friendship offered by Paola and the cooking lessons made my mouth water. All the while my heart broke for Hugo as right from the beginning I knew the beginning of the story and the end but not what happened in between.  I felt like the fear, the frustration, and the scarcity of necessary supplies was really in focus here and I couldn't help but love Sofia for her positivity and resourcefulness.  My only problem was that the ending felt a little rushed and I would have liked a little more resolution on one particular plot point.  

This was a compelling read and a poignant one.  I enjoyed this look at the Italian home front which was more front than home.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I've really loved both of Bowen's historical fiction standalones and can't wait for the next one.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  If you enjoy historical fiction I think you'd enjoy this read.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Family Tree - Contemporary Fiction Review

Rating: Very Good

Source: Blog Tour

Sometimes the greatest dream starts with the smallest element. A single cell, joining with another. And then dividing. And just like that, the world changes. Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Los Angeles home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child. But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a yearlong coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she’s lost.

Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned judge. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.

Family Tree is the story of one woman’s triumph over betrayal, and how she eventually comes to terms with her past. It is the story of joys unrealized and opportunities regained. Complex, clear-eyed and big-hearted, funny, sad, and wise, it is a novel to cherish and to remember.

Genre: Fiction - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:
  I love Susan Wiggs and I adore anything involving an old cookbook!

My Impression:
  This is one of those books where I feel like the blurb does the book a disservice - at least for me.  That part about the cookbook and the age-old mystery?  Really shouldn't be in there at all and that was what I was most excited about.  I felt a bit like I rushed through a lot of the book looking for the part where she finds her grandmother's cookbook and end up with only a handful of mentions.  There are a number of sweet moments the come up about her relationship with her grandmother and getting back to cooking was important but there wasn't the generational connection like I was looking for.

This isn't to say I didn't really enjoy this one.  It's Susan Wiggs after all.  I loved Annie and just trying to imagine myself in her situation is absolutely terrifying.  I was rooting for her as she struggled to figure out what had happened to her and what happens in her present.  The Rush family was interesting and had their fair of heartbreak and struggle.  I loved how they rallied around to help Annie and how she began to heal.

I'm not normally a big fan of 2nd chance romances with high school sweethearts.  All that pining away for someone you were in love with as a teenager makes no sense to me.  But the relationship between Annie and Fletcher was different.  Their problems weren't immaturity but a combination of dreams and responsibilities kept separating them.  There was no pining or wishing for the one that got away.  They went about their lives and were happy.  It didn't hurt that I adored Fletcher and that he was just truly an amazing guy.

While I wish more time had been spent on Annie starting to cook again and finding her grandmother's cookbook I did really enjoy this read.  I liked Annie, Fletcher, the Rush family, and all of Annie's friends.  I was pulled right into the town of Switchback and when I wasn't reading I wanted to dive in for "just a few pages".  If you enjoy books with strong likable characters who overcome pretty amazing obstacles and solid family stories this is a must read.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  Absolutely!  I'm already looking forward to my next book by Susan Wiggs.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  I would!  This is a great family story with wonderful characters.  While there is a bit of romance the focus is much more on healing and overcoming.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ramblings From the Stacks - The Trouble with Rereads

It all started with a Christmas Hallmark movie - Christmas with Holly to be exact.  It was cute and I remembered that it was based on the book Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas.  I remembered loving it but not much more.  So off to the library I went.  I love a reread!

And it was good.  I loved little Holly, Mark Nolan and his brothers, and Maggie.  I loved the setting of Friday Harbor and the dilapidated Victorian house that Mark is helping his brother Sam fix up.  However, this was one of my favorite reads of 2013.  Did it live up to that?  Big fat nope. I mean it was good and I was pulled into the story right away - it's Lisa Kleypas after all.  But while the fact that the hero had a girlfriend for at least half the book that wasn't the heroine didn't bother me in 2013 it drove me crazy this time around.  What I had rated a 5 Star book in 2013 became a 3 Star book a few years later.  The book didn't change but my connection to it definitely did.

While a good book is a good book so much of the reading experience is personal.  Sometimes a book can come along at the right time and be exactly what we want or what we're looking for in terms of tone or characters or just the plot itself. And sometimes it isn't.  I don't think a 5 star read will ever turn into a 1 star read but a perfect read can drop down to just good or even mediocre.

This is the kind of experience that always makes me a little nervous rereading a favorite book.  What if it doesn't live up to the magic of the first read?  Have you had this happen with a reread?  What do you think changed?  Does it make you nervous to reread an old favorite?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

This Week in Reading - February 18

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

It was quite a week!  

From Berkley Crime:

Plum Tea Crazy by Laura Childs

Last Chance Olive Ranch by Susan Wittig Albert

Marinating in Murder by Linda Wiken

Dead Cold Brew by Cleo Coyle

Dipped to Death by Kelly Lane

A Brush with Shadows by Anna Lee Huber

And then to mix in a few non-cozies I also ended up with

Why Kill the Innocent by C.S. Harris

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Dead Pretty by David Mark 

all from the publishers


ReadingThe Fast and the Furriest by Sofie Ryan and The French Girl by Lexie Elliott

Listening: I just finished Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris and am waiting for my next audio book.  Until then I've been listening to podcasts.  Right now I'm listening to Pack Your Mics which is a Top Chef recap podcast.

Watching:  We've been watching Top Chef and I'll be sorry to see this season end.  I've watched a little bit of the Olympics but not as much as I'd like - especially figure skating and curling.  

Off the Blog:

This week was kind of a loss.  I ended up not feeling good Sunday night and went to bed early thinking that would fix it.  It didn't.  Luckily it ended up not being the flu but I've had a ridiculously sore throat and almost no energy for a week.  It's getting better but I'm still managing only a couple of hours before having to go rest. 

Luckily the Tornado has stayed health but we've been spending a lot of time on the couch watching Odd Squad.  It's actually pretty good for a kids show and has some pretty funny moments.  I like how they solve problems with math and reason everything out.  

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Ramblings From the Stacks - The Danger of Rereads
Tuesday:  Family Tree - Contemporary Fiction Review
Wednesday:  The Tuscan Child - Historical Fiction Review
Thursday:  The French Girl - Mystery Review
Friday: Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday:  The Fast and the Furriest - Cozy Mystery Review

Have a great week and happy reading!