Thursday, October 6, 2016

Review -- In Such Good Company

This behind-the-scenes look at the eleven seasons of the Emmy Award-winning Carol Burnett Show is just a delight. It recalls so many fun characters, guests, skits and general hilarity, but it also shares some of what was going on in the background. Do you know how the show found its way on-air? That’s an interesting tale. Do you know how the main stars Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, Lyle Waggoner and Tim Conway ended up on the show? Read some lovely anecdotes about guest stars and friendships that lasted decades.

Part of the beauty of this book is you feel like you’re sitting chatting with Carol Burnett. Her voice is so authentic and you’re suddenly transported back to the fun of the show with all its laughter, music and even some characters who tugged at our heartstrings.

You’ll be glad you spent some time together with one of comedy’s most iconic stars and you’ll be In Such Good Company.

5 Stars

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Review -- The Widower's Wife

The Widower's Wife
by Cate Holahan
Crooked Lane Books

When insurance investigator Ryan Monahan opens an investigation into the death of Ana Bacon, who fell overboard, disappearing into the ocean during a cruise in the Bahamas, he has no idea where it will lead. It’s his job to see if there is a way for his company to deny the ten-million-dollar claim, but his investigation takes him in a direction he never expected.

Ana and her husband Tom have had some problems in their marriage, as well as in their personal and professional lives. What secret is the widower Tom hiding? What secrets did Ana take over the side of the ship?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this thriller told from the alternating points of view of Ryan and Ana – investigator and victim. What I got was an addictive page-turner that I thoroughly enjoyed. Ms. Holahan tells a compelling story and writes so you feel like you’re right there with the characters. I’m looking forward to her next novel!

Five stars.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review -- Mata Hari's Last Dance

As she awaits her execution as a spy in Paris in 1917, Mata Hari tells a reporter the story of her life. She endured a tough existence, but the dancer known as Mata Hari is not the kind of person to give up. She finds her niche and makes her way in pre-WWI Europe. From humble beginnings to a challenging marriage to the pinnacle of notoriety in Paris, Berlin and Madrid, Mata Hari is never one to shrink from a challenge. While she is scandalous and the subject of much talk, while she sleeps with men across the Continent, she is also a vulnerable woman with many secrets.

Once again, talented author Michelle Moran takes a woman whose name is well known from history and brings her readers that woman’s story, mixing fiction and real life seamlessly. You will feel Mata Hari’s desperation and longing, her need to succeed and why, the pain of her final betrayal.

Don’t miss reading Mata Hari’s Last Dance, but don’t pick it up if you have to go to work tomorrow. You won’t want to stop reading.

5 Stars

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Review -- Live and Let Growl

Live and Let Growl
by Laurien Berenson

When Melanie Travis and her aunt Peg Turnbull set out for the Kentuckiana Cluster dog show, loyal fans know the trip will be adventure-filled. And author Laurien Berenson does not disappoint in this newest addition to the series.

It’s spring break, and Peg has been invited to judge Poodles at the show, so off to Kentucky they go, meeting some of the series regulars there – Bertie, Terry and Crawford, top handlers and friends, who are showing. While in Kentucky, Peg reconnects with Ellie Gates Wanamaker, with whom she’d showed thirty years earlier and who had retired from the breed ring after a mysterious event a decade ago. Melanie, enlisted to squire Miss Ellie around the show, is surprised by the varying reactions to the legend in the Poodle world – from warm welcome to dislike.

Ellie comes from a wealthy family deeply involved in the Thoroughbred industry as well, which comes in handy since Peg has just inherited a pregnant Thoroughbred broodmare. Peg and Melanie visit the mare and discover how much there is to learn about becoming a horse owner.

In typical Melanie fashion, she’s drawn into solving an unexpected murder…this one with lots of twists, turns, Thoroughbreds and terriers.

Don’t miss this new Melanie Travis adventure…horses are the icing on the dog-filled tale this time.

Five stars

Friday, August 19, 2016

Review -- Deception Island

Deception Island
Brynn Kelly
HQN Books

 When Holly Ryan is mistaken for American heiress, Laura, by kidnapper, Rafe Angelito, her life takes a turn for the worse. Well rewarded for body doubling for Laura, who is supposed to be sailing the world solo, Holly thinks she has a solid re-set for her life. But first she has to survive her kidnapping and encounter with some real-life pirates, out to collect a big payday. Little do they know Laura’s father isn’t about to lay out any money to save Holly.

When Rafe’s son is taken and used as a pawn to control this sexy legionnaire, he kidnaps former con artist, Holly. Then he realizes the real socialite isn’t who he is sharing a deserted island with, and he is devastated by what may happen to his son.

Two desperate people with secret pasts and current secrets come face to face with danger and neither may make it out alive.  Tossed together by circumstances and attracted to one another, can they beat the odds? Can they defeat ruthless pirates who want to take everything from them? Can they trust the love growing between them? Can they find a future or will they pay the ultimate price on Deception Island?

4 Stars

Monday, August 8, 2016

Review -- A Haven on Orchard Lane

A Haven on Orchard Lane
Lawana Blackwell
Bethany House Publishers 

When Charlotte Ward attempts a comeback on the London stage of the 1880s, she has more than one challenge to overcome. And not everything goes well, but her daughter Rosalind steps up and relocates her mother to a quiet coastal Port Stilwell. It means Rosalind must leave the teaching job she loves, but there are compensations, including getting to know the mother she believes abandoned her as a child.

As Charlotte and Rosalind heal their relationship and then begin reach out to others in need, their lives expand in joy, love and friendship.

The cast of characters is interesting, and you want to get to know them, cheering for them to find their way and to find love and build futures, although some choose not to take the steps needed to improve their lives.

This sweet novel of love, forgiveness and growth is a wonderful read.

5 stars

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Review -- The Semester of Our Discontent

The Semester of Our Discontent
A Lila Maclean Mystery
 Cynthia Kuhn
Henery Press

When newly minted English professor Lila Maclean keeps showing up at the scenes of crimes at Stonedale University, suspicion is cast her way…until her cousin and fellow professor is arrested for murder. Lila decides she has to find out what is going on, now that the police believe the case is solved. A second murder keeps Lila in the crosshairs of the detective looking for the second killer, until another professor is arrested.

Her investigation puts her in the path of danger and when she comes face-to-face with the killer, Lila may not live long enough to clear her colleagues, let alone work towards tenure at Stonedale.

Ms. Kuhn has written an impressive debut cozy mystery. Her descriptions of academia and the stress of aiming for tenure hit the mark. And her writing style draws in the reader to see, hear and experience life on a campus. I, for one, am eagerly anticipating the second installment of the Lila Maclean mystery series.

Five stars!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Review -- Glory over Everything

Glory over Everything
Beyond the Kitchen House
Kathleen Grissom
Simon & Schuster

In 1830s Philadelphia, James Burton was a wealthy, respected, talented silversmith, but even more he was a man with a huge secret—he is the son of a slave and the master of Tall Oaks plantation in Virginia. He has been passing as white, but when his aristocratic married mistress Caroline becomes pregnant, he knows his identity could be revealed. Then his beloved servant Pan is abducted and sold as a slave. Fulfilling a promise to Pan’s escaped slave father, the man who helped him when he reached Pennsylvania, James agrees to head south to find and bring Pan home.

Caroline’s father, though, has learned James’ secret and threatens to reveal all unless James leaves his daughter and Philadelphia behind.

James knows the slave hunters who tracked him when he killed his own father and escaped Virginia are still searching for him. His journey is fraught with danger, but aided by new friends, he locates Pan and makes for the Underground Railroad, with the young boy and the woman who helped them escape. Will they all make it through the Great Dismal Swamp and back to freedom?

Seen through the various points of view of James, Pan and others, Glory over Everything is not a book you will soon forget. Although it’s a continuation of Grissom’s The Kitchen House, it’s also a stand-alone. It’s not necessary to read the first book to be drawn into the characters and their stories in Glory over Everything. It’s poignant, haunting, beautiful and filled with what love and loyalty, friendship and kindness can accomplish against horrible malevolence.

Five stars.  

Friday, April 1, 2016

Review -- The Summer Before the War

 The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

The Summer Before the War
Helen Simonson
Random House

It’s the summer of 1914 in East Sussex, England. Young Beatrice Nash arrives in the small coastal town of Rye, mourning her father’s death and hoping to land a position as a Latin teacher since she is now penniless, but she was raised to think for herself and may stand out in Rye…and not in a good way. Hugh Grange is home from his studies to become a doctor to visit with his uncle, who works in the Foreign Office, and his aunt. Hugh and his cousin befriend the young teacher, helping her make her way in Rye’s social circles.

It is a summer filled with expanding horizons, facing the harsh realities of being a single young woman in late Edwardian England, learning the social steps in a small town, discovering boundaries, stretching boundaries, facing a war and all its pain, and falling in love.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, rooted for the characters, ached for their pain, cheered for their joy. Ms. Simonson has a way of drawing you in to each one’s dilemmas and desires…making you really care about each one. Beautifully written, with attention to details that draw you into the time and the place, The Summer Before the War is a story that will stay with you beyond when you close the cover after the last page is read.

Five stars!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Review -- A Devious Lot


When Molly Appleton and her new husband go to England for their honeymoon, she promises no sleuthing or adventures. It’s a tough promise for the reporter and senior staff writer for Collector’s Weekly, but she’s sticking to her word. Then they go to tiny Marlow Crossing to visit Molly’s Aunt Tessa and her neighbor turns up dead. Molly agrees to help the local inspector with his investigation. Molly’s husband has to return to the US, but she stays on to work on the case. Soon, two more villagers are missing and the suspects are adding up. Who is a murderer and who is an innocent bystander?

With side trips to London and another village to follow the clues and ask some questions, for a while Molly is no closer to finding the murderer than is the inspector. When things start to heat up, you won’t know who she is in the most danger from…and neither will Molly.

From antiques to new friendships, there’s plenty to enjoy in A Devious Lot, so grab your copy, a hot cuppa and enjoy!
Four stars.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Review -- Karma's a Killer

Karma’s a Killer
By Tracy Weber
Midnight Ink

When Seattle yoga instructor and dog owner Kate Davidson is invited to teach a dog-and-owner yoga (doga) class at a fundraiser for a no-kill shelter hosted by her pet supply store owner boyfriend Michael, she has no premonition it will end in murder. But before long, there’s a protest by animal rights activists, a suspicious fire and a drowning…and Kate is in the middle of trying to figure out if the mother she believes abandoned her as a child had a hand in any of it. With her pregnant best friend Rene at her side, Kate investigates, all while coping with her mother’s arrest for murder, ongoing home renos, the hospitalization of Michael’s father, and the attempted dog-napping of her special needs German Shepherd rescue Bella. As they navigate the practice and politics of animal rescue and animal activism, they encounter a number of people who could’ve committed the murder—co-workers, other rescuers, family…it’s a wide circle of suspicion. When Kate and Rene find themselves face-to-face with the murderer, how will they and Rene’s unborn twins survive the encounter?

This is my first Tracy Weber novel, and it definitely will not be my last. Ms. Weber creates appealing, multi-dimensional characters you want to cheer for…and villains you want to see get their comeuppance. She has a deft hand with her animal supporting cast as well and also sprinkles in interesting yoga information. The plot has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing who-dun-it, and you may think you’ve figured it out a couple of times. Ms. Weber is skilled at setting a scene, so from the controlled chaos of a fundraiser dog walk to the serenity of a yoga class, you will feel like you are right there.

If you want to sit back with an enjoyable cozy mystery read, don’t miss Karma’s a Killer.

Five stars!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Review -- A Room with a Pew

A Room with a Pew
by Peg Cochran
Beyond the Page Publishing

A Room with a Pew is book four in the series, and the laughs continue to abound, along with murder and mystery. When fifty-something homemaker Lucille Mazzarella (like mozzarella but with an “a,” as she explains) stumbles across the body of her cousin Louis in his car in the parking lot of their parish church, it’s not long before she’s on the hunt to find out who killed him. Was it a professional hit? Was it related to the big wad of money the notoriously cash-poor Louis had stashed away? What was Louis doing to that ended up with him dead in the church parking lot?

Lucille and her best friend Flo are soon searching for clues to the identity of Louis’ killer, and from a job interview at what turns out to be a strip club to festive family dinners to worrying about family issues to being kidnapped by a serial killer, the action just keeps on coming in A Room with a Pew.

There is a healthy dose of humor in this easy-to-read mystery as well. In A Room with a Pew, it’s kind of like discovering bounty hunter Stephanie Plum’s mother and her mother’s best friend are now out and about solving murders, mysteries and more in her hometown. There is a full cast of interesting characters and lots of action, but nothing too graphic or gory. This is a good book to grab on a stormy weekend or to relax with after a busy day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Review -- The Newsmakers by Lis Wiehl

 When Erica Sparks lands a dream job as a reporter for Global News Network in New York City, she’s ecstatic. It’s a chance for her to turn her life around, make a success out of an almost-scuttled career and perhaps even get shared custody of her daughter Jenny.

Ready to make her mark in the cable news game, Erica is on her first assignment for GNN when a horrific ferry accident occurs. Erica’s skills are highlighted as she reports live from the scene, scooping every other news service. Another incident occurs when she’s interviewing a top political candidate live on-air. Once more, Erica is spotlighted and she’s soon offered her own show­­­—a real coup in the cable news business.

But is it coincidence that these things have happened, or is there a sinister plot afoot to create the news…and a news star?

From humble beginnings to the top of the cable news business, Erica Sparks has the brains, beauty and talent to succeed. But can she get beyond her own past and how it haunts her? Can she discover the truth behind her biggest news stories? Can she survive the journey? Will she find love with Greg Underwood, the handsome former war photographer, now her on-air producer?

Author Lis Wiehl ratchets up the tension and suspense page by page as Erica Sparks digs in with her outstanding investigative reporter instincts to find out what the real story is.

An addictive read! Five stars. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Review -- Wedding Cake Murder

Wedding Cake Murder
By Joanne Fluke
Kensington Books

Fans of Joanne Fluke’s Minnesota-set mystery series have been anticipating the nineteenth whodunit, Wedding Cake Murder, complete with tasty recipes as always.

As Hannah Swenson prepares to marry her college sweetheart, Ross Barton, she’s also competing in a nationally televised baking tournament. Talk about pressure for Hannah, but with the support of her family and friends, she’s ready to take it all on—competition, a wedding and cooking on television.

In New York City to tape the first leg of the contest, Hannah meets the judges and other competitors, then wins the Hometown Challenge and brings the final rounds of the competition home to Lake Eden. Just as the rivalry heats up, one of the judges turns up dead in Lake Eden Inn’s walk-in refrigerator with a knife in his chest. Celebrity chef judge Alan Duquesne’s spiteful reputation means there is more than one person with a motive to murder him, including some of the contestants in the Food Channel’s dessert chef competition.

I’m a fan of the Hannah Swenson cozy mysteries, but I will admit I’m not thrilled with her marriage to Ross in this book. Perhaps the author has something in mind for a mystery going forward and this is part of that story arc, but Ross seemed to come out of left field after readers invested many hours following Hannah’s efforts to decide between Mike and Norman, rooting for one or the other to become Hannah’s partner in crime!

Readers will not be disappointed with the mystery or Hannah’s sleuthing escapades in Wedding Cake Murder. It’s an easy read and it’s nice to visit with the Lake Eden residents once again.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Review -- Last Prophecy of Rome

Last Prophecy of Rome
by Iain King
Publisher: Bookouture

When Oxford military history lecturer Myles Munro and his cable news reporter girlfriend Helen Bridle are vacationing in Rome, Myles is pulled into a potential terror threat to bring down the United States of America. With the clue that the US will fall for the same reason the Roman Empire did, Myles is soon on the track of a former love turned terrorist, Placidia, and her African warlord husband, Juma. Throw in a powerful US senator, his son who thwarts a bomb attack on Wall Street, poison, an ancient plague, and plenty of locales from New York to western Iraq, and you have all the elements needed for a story that will keep you turning pages quickly.

Will Myles and Helen solve this puzzle in time to stop the devastation of a modern superpower or will they be too late to stop a catastrophe like the one that brought an ancient empire to its knees?

It is clear author Iain King is familiar with the geography of the Middle East and zips the reader along desert roads to ancient Roman ruins in Iraq, as well as into Turkey, to the heart of New York City and into the centre of modern Rome and its ancient ruins.

The reader of this thriller will be racing with Myles Munro to try to figure out what the terrorists have planned. What brought down the powerful ancient Roman Empire—can the same thing happen, or be forced upon, the modern United States?

An engaging read!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Review -- The Forgotten Room

The Forgotten Room
by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig
Penguin Group Berkley, NAL/Signet Romance, DAW

 Three women, one mansion, a tangled history. The Forgotten Room traces three generations of women in a family, the secrets they’ve concealed and what has been hidden from them through the decades. From 1892 to 1944, the secrets are slowly revealed through the stories of these women linked to a mansion on East Sixty-ninth Street in New York City.

The architect who designed the house couldn’t know his daughter Olive Van Alen would end up working as a maid in the the Gilded Age mansion he created. The choices Olive made, what she’s hidden, would drive her daughter Lucy Young to travel to Manhattan from her home in Brooklyn in search of answers to questions about her past. Lucy’s daughter Kate Schuyler would work as a doctor in a private hospital in the converted home during World War II, caring for a mysterious, critically wounded patient to whom she is inexplicably drawn.

Why does Kate’s patient Captain Ravenal have a miniature portrait of a woman who resembles Kate? And why does it appear she is wearing a pendant that belongs to Kate, handed down to her by her mother?  How does this tie into the lives of Olive and Lucy?

Combine romance, misunderstandings and the secrets of a forgotten room at the top of a New York City mansion and you, too, will be drawn into the narratives of Olive, Lucy and Kate. Moving back and forth from one era to another over five decades, the reader gets to know these fascinating women and their mysteries. Richly layered with complex characters and their intriguing tales, The Forgotten Room is an addictive read.