Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A High-End Finish: A Fixer Upper Mystery by Kate Carlisle

Shannon’s home-renovation and repair business is booming, but her love life needs work. On a blind date with real estate agent Jerry Saxton, she has to whip out a pair of pliers to keep Jerry from getting too hands on. Shannon is happy to put her rotten date behind her, but when Jerry’s found dead in a run-down Victorian home that she’s been hired to restore, the town’s attractive new police chief suspects that her threats may have laid the foundation for murder.

Determined to clear her name, Shannon conducts her own investigation—with the help of her four best friends, her eccentric father, a nosy neighbor or two, and a handsome crime writer who’s just moved to town. But as they get closer to prying out the murderer’s identity, Shannon is viciously attacked. Now she’ll have to nail down the truth—or end up in permanent foreclosure.…
Series: A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #1 | Publisher: Audible | Narrator: Angela Starling | Length: 8 hours and 52 minutes | Genre: Contemporary Cozy Mystery | Source: Publisher | Ratings: 3.5 Cups
I’m normally not one for books that feature home improvement themes because, to be honest, my house is sort of like that movie The Money Pit, so I usually avoid having to relive the home improvement drama that seems to abound here but this is a cozy mystery and I’m always up for a new and unique cozy mystery series.
Here’s what’s going on. When Shannon’s blind date, who happens to be a complete and utter wanker, is found murdered in a Victorian she’s been hired to restore, she becomes the new police chief’s prime suspect. It doesn’t help matters that her tool is the murder weapon.  And when Shannon is attacked, she along with her friends and family are determined to clear her name and catch the person out to get her.
For this one being a first in a series, I was surprised at how nicely the book flowed. Normally, they tend to be bogged down with introductions and backstories but I loved the pacing of this one.
I liked Shannon, for the most part, she’s determined, a little quirky, and she knows her way around a home renovation. But, at times, she seems a little too juvenile. I mean, she’s still having problems with the girls that were the ‘means girls’ in high school. And it was a constant complaint of hers throughout the book, so it got a bit annoying. She should really be over that by now.
Like most cozy mysteries, there’s a bit of a love triangle going on involving Eric Jensen, the new chief of police, and Mac Sullivan, a writer. While both men seem interested in Shannon, I find myself rooting more for the police chief than the writer and I’m eager to see where it goes.
I thought the mystery was well handled and I liked the way it was layered with several incidents. I did work out who it was fairly early on but it was still interesting discovering it along with the characters.
This was my first time listening to Angela Starling narrate and, I have to say, I rather enjoyed it.
Overall, I enjoyed most of this one. The ‘mean girls’ thing, I could have done without, but the rest of the book was fun.
Learn more about Lighthouse Cove and its residents HERE.

A High-End Finish (A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #1) 

This Old Homicide (A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #2) 

Crowned and Moldering (A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #3) 

Deck the Hallways (A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #4) 

Eaves of Destruction (Fixer-Upper Mystery #5) 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Wardrobe Malfunction by Samantha Towle

Vaughn West is at the height of his acting career. He's the it man of Hollywood - until the ultimate betrayal sends him into a downward spiral of alcohol-infused days, ending with a different woman in his bed every night. His only way out of the funk is accepting a new movie deal with the hottest director in Hollywood.
Charlotte Michaels is a designer-brands girl on a thrift-store budget until she lands the mother of all jobs as Vaughn West's wardrobe assistant on his latest movie.  

Only their first meeting doesn't go as planned, and now, Vaughn is acting like a jerk. So why do their clothes seem to keep falling off whenever they're around each other? And why can't Charly seem to keep her mind in the closet and off Vaughn? Things are about to get hot, dirty, and messy in Hollywood. Especially if Charly's closely guarded secret falls out of her closet. 

Publisher: Audible Studios | Narrators: Amanda Ronconi, Alexander Cendese | Length: 7 hrs and 58 mins | Genre: | Source: Publisher | Rating: 4 Cups

Challenges Read For:  Literary Pickers  - High Heels

I needed this book. 2018 has not been my year thus far so I needed something fun, witty, quirky, and deliciously sexy and Wardrobe Malfunction was that and so much more.   

Here’s what’s going on. When Hollywood heartthrob Vaughn West discovers his girlfriend’s been sleeping with his best friend via a talk show, he decides the best way to get over the hurt is by drinking and shagging his days away. That is until a hot movie deal lands in his lap, now Vaughn’s getting his act together and focusing on the movie until his wardrobe assistant catches his eye.

Charly’s landed her dream job but it’s not exactly going as planned and the fact they can’t keep their hands off each other isn’t helping. Neither’s sure what’s going on between them but the one thing they do know is that they want to keep it quiet. Charly has secrets she needs to keep and Vaughn has his tarnished reputation to rebuild.

Charly and Vaughn were great together. They just clicked and I loved the easy banter they had. And they had the best first meeting, ever. Seriously, how can things not be interesting when the first time they meet he gets aroused when she’s taking in his pants and she accidentally pokes him in the balls with a straight pin.

So, this one definitely started with lust. They were both attracted to each other and gagging for a shag but they weren’t looking for a relationship. Vaughn needed to sort himself out and get back on track after being a party animal and Charly was hiding things. The relationship was gradual and bloomed when they spent time at Vaughn’s house away from his celebrity lifestyle. I liked seeing them grow as a couple.  

I wasn’t a fan of the drama in this one, which is why I gave it 4 instead of a 5-cup rating. I’m never a fan of drama for drama’s sake and this is what it felt like. The argument/misunderstanding when Vaughn’s ex pops back up in his life then Charly’s little surly moment when she thought Vaughn wasn’t going to ask her to his sister’s wedding, they seemed to be added in just for the sake of drama. Then there was the big requisite blow up, which could have been avoided if Charly just would have told the truth. Seriously, a five-minute conversation over a cup of tea or coffee and it would have been done and dusted.  Also, throughout the book, this ‘secret’ was built up to seem like something more than what it turned out it be and that just annoyed me. I need something more substantial for my dramatic moments.

I’ve really been enjoying dual narration in my audiobooks lately. It just adds something extra to the book. Of course, Amanda Ronconi is one of my favorite narrators so I’m always thrilled when she narrators. This was my first time listening to Alexander Cendese and I enjoyed his male narrations, although his female narrations were a little too whiny.

Overall, this was the book I needed at time I needed it. It had wit, humor, heat, and fun. Yeah, there were a few blips with the drama but I liked characters and I liked they were different. I’ve been enjoying seeing more crafty heroines, Charly’s a seamstress, and this, I believe, was the first time I’ve read a book where the hero was an actor.

Are you a fan of dual narration? 


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Death & the Viking's Daughter by Loretta Ross

Next on Wren and Death's Appraisal List:
Item #1: An Old Family Feud.
Item #2: A Missing Woman.
Item #3: A Body in the Rosebushes of their Dream House

Auctioneer Wren Morgan and her private eye fiancé Death (pronounced "Deeth") Bogart are ready to meet each other's parents and settle down together. But their sleuthing days are far from over. While Death and Wren are helping prepare auction items at an old supper club, a Viking reenactor nearly dies at the historical settlement next door. The cause? Seeing the ghost of his daughter, who went missing twenty years ago.

As Wren looks into what happened to the Viking's daughter, Death is hired to investigate the theft of historical items that have high sentimental value. When their respective investigations turn out to be connected, the couple gets caught in a deadly conflict.

Series: Auction Block Mystery #4 | Publisher: Midnight Ink  | Genre: Contemporary Cozy Mystery| Source: Publisher| Rating: 4 Cups

Challenges Read For:  Literary Pickers  Caravan/RV

The ending of the last book gave just enough of a tease that left me itching for this mystery and when I received the ARC, I read it in one sitting. Yeah, when these are in book form rather than audio form, they don’t last very long.
Like the mysteries in previous books, this too centered had a bit of an historical bend to it. Death has been hired to look into a forged painting that’s value is more sentimental than monetary. Along the way, he discovers that several historic items with sentimental value have been replaced with forgeries. While he’s been sorting out his mystery, Wren makes a discovery of her own in the form of a blood-caked costume like the Viking’s daughter was last seen wearing. As they continue their investigations, they soon realize the two are connected.  
I really enjoyed watching Wren and Death settle into their relationship. They’re still working through some issues. Death’s still getting a handle on his PTSD and he’s worried about sharing such a close space with Wren. He also has the new complication of meeting Wren’s parents. Wren’s dealing with her mother questioning whether she makes the best relationship choices given her last fiancĂ© came out as gay. I just loved watching them grow in their relationship. They’ve finally found their footing and I’m so thrilled for them.
The mystery was a bit different in this one and I enjoyed that she changed up the formula while keeping true to the series. Like the previous books, there are several threads to the mystery and while I had an inkling about some things, I was surprised by the ending.
The secondary characters are just amazing. The entire Keystone brood just makes me smile. They’re a bit kooky at times but so entertaining and lovable. They bring so much heart to this series. Then there’s Randy, Death’s brother, he’s bit over the top but such fun and always there for Death and Wren. This is the first time Wren’s parents made an appearance and I enjoyed them, they added a nice touch.
Although this one is labeled as a cozy mystery, it’s has so much more depth to it and it brings so many serious issues to light and I like how she incorporates the hard-hitting issues with the lightness and humor of the characters without diminishing seriousness of the issues.
Overall, this one is another great addition to the Auction Block Mystery series. It has a bit of everything history, mystery, romance, serious issues, and comedy. I cannot wait to see what’s next for Wren and Death.
On a sidenote, it was a bit eerie reading about the Beverly Hills Supper Club, it’s the supper club the one the Keystones were auctioning off was modeled after, because the tragedy is part of the history of my area. Since it was so close, a lot of people from Southern Ohio were there the night it caught on fire and I had heard stories from people who were there or who had known someone there that night. So, it added a bit more depth for me.  

 Auction Block Mystery Series

#4-Death and the Viking's Daughter


Monday, February 12, 2018

Playing House by Amy Andrews

Eleanor is content with her boring life—mostly. She’s even fine being the quirky sister in a bevy of beauties. So imagine her surprise when one of her brother’s Sydney Smoke mates hits on her at an engagement party. Her. The weird sister, who wears vintage dresses and prefers her books to parties.

Bodie is shocked the next morning to find the soft, sexy virgin who seduced him with corsets is his best friend’s little sister. If he could kick his own ass, he would. And two months later, she’s got an even bigger surprise for him. Now he needs to convince the corset-loving wallflower that he loves her uniqueness if they’ve got a chance at forever.

Series: Sydney Smoke Rugby #5 | Publisher: Entangled: Brazen | Release Date: February 12, 2018| Genre: Contemporary Romance | Source: Publisher | Rating: 3.5

Challenges Read For: All About the Trope (forced proximity)  Literary Pickers  - bathroom mirror
She’s a wallflower with a love for all things Victorian and a penchant for wearing pantaloons. He’s a hotshot rugby player who’s been getting over his ex by going through a revolving door of women. How can things not get interesting when the two get together?


Here’s what’s going on. All Eleanor wants to do at her brother’s engagement party is blend into the background until Bodie strikes up a conversation with her and she realizes she’s finally found the one to lose her virginity to. Bodie can’t seem to get enough of Eleanor, even after he learns she’s his best friend’s little sister. And now that there’s a consequence of their night together, he realized he can use this as his chance to get to know the woman he can’t get out of his mind.


I loved Eleanor and Bodie. They were a bit like chalk and cheese but they were so good together, which is why I read this book in one sitting. Seriously, it was a put a do not disturb sign on the door, don’t answer the phone, let the hot tea go cold, can’t put it down type of book.


I really enjoyed Eleanor. She walks to the beat of her own drum and I admire that—I also admire anyone who can sew a corset without losing their mind and wear them daily without fainting. She’s lived her life on a cattle station (Australian ranch) with Jane Austen as her guide and a stack of Victorian romances that’s served as her personal dating guide. It took her a bit of time to find her footing and come out of her shell and I was really rooting for her to figure out how to balance the wallflower with the more outgoing person she was becoming.


Bodie’s been playing the field of a bit—he was hurt and figured a string of women was the best way to save himself from going down the same path and getting involved with someone who only wanted him for his celebrity and trust fund. So, when he meets Eleanor and she starts chattering away about Victorian hypnotist, he’s enthralled. He’s also just an all-around good bloke. He caring, considerate, and feels guilty that’s he’s sleeping with his best friend’s sister but he doesn’t want to give her. And when he learns about the consequences their one night together, he goes with the flow rather than having a meltdown.


The romance started as insta-lust then evened out but even at the beginning they had such great chemistry and it continued to grow. Neither was sure what to expect and they had a bit of figuring out to do.


While I loved the majority of the book, the last few chapters just seemed off, which thoroughly disappointed me. Given the foreshadowing, I figured what was going to happen but the fallout just seemed out of place and a bit like drama for drama’s sake. And I don’t understand why the blame was placed on Bodie and why he felt like he had to make amends.


So, this one was a sports romance and I wasn’t sure what to expect—they can go either way for me—but, thankfully, this one was centered around a sport I watch so I actually knew what was going on and I didn’t feel like I was out in left field. Of course, the romance was center stage, but I felt this offered a nice balance between the sport and the romance. This one made me realize I need to read more rugby romances.


Overall, while the last few chapters weren’t my favorite, I did enjoy this one. It was fresh and unique and I’m interested in reading the previous books in this series.

Sydney Smoke Rugby series

Playing By Her Rules
Playing It Cool
Playing the Player
Playing With Forever
Playing House

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday #71: Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

 Title: Bellewether Author: Susanna Kearsley
Publisher/Release Date: Simon & Schuster Canada April 24th 2018, Sourcebooks Landmark October 2nd, 2018
Why it’s my WoW: Because I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it! lol I’m seriously thinking about buying it from S&S Canada because Kearsley is one of those I need it now authors. I absolutely love her writing style and the fact she writes modern day gothics.  If you haven’t read her before, I highly recommend her.


Some houses seem to want to hold their secrets.


It’s 1759 and the world is at war, pulling the North American colonies of Britain and France into the conflict. The times are complicated, as are the loyalties of many New York merchants who have secretly been trading with the French for years, defying Britain’s colonial laws in a game growing ever more treacherous.


When captured French officers are brought to Long Island to be billeted in private homes on their parole of honour, it upends the lives of the Wilde family—deeply involved in the treasonous trade and already divided by war.


Lydia Wilde, struggling to keep the peace in her fracturing family following her mother’s death, has little time or kindness to spare for her unwanted guests. French-Canadian lieutenant Jean-Philippe de Sabran has little desire to be there. But by the war’s end they’ll both learn love, honour, and duty can form tangled bonds that are not broken easily.


Their doomed romance becomes a local legend, told and re-told through the years until the present day, when conflict of a different kind brings Charley Van Hoek to Long Island to be the new curator of the Wilde House Museum.


Charley doesn’t believe in ghosts. But as she starts to delve into the history of Lydia and her French officer, it becomes clear that the Wilde House holds more than just secrets, and Charley discovers the legend might not have been telling the whole story...or the whole truth.


What are you waiting on?


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tuesday’s Tea and Tome: Bel, Book, and Scandal: A Belfast McGrath by Maggie McConnon

Bel McGrath tries her best to keep herself on the straight and narrow but she just has a taste for trouble. This time danger arrives in the form of a newspaper left behind by visitors to Shamrock Manor--and a photograph that jolts Bel out of the present and back into a dark chapter from her past. The person in the photo is Bel's best friend Amy Mitchell, long gone from Foster's Landing, at a commune in upstate New York shortly after her disappearance. The picture, and Bel's burning desire to find out what happened to Amy--and whether she may still be alive--is the catalyst for a story in which old secrets are revealed, little by little...and certain characters are shown to not be as genuine as Bel once thought.

Series: Belfast McGrath #3 | Publisher: St. Martin's Press | Genre: Contemporary Cozy Mystery | Source: Publisher | Rating: 4 Cups
So, I sort of jumped into this one at an odd spot—it’s the third book in the series and it happens to be the end of a mystery that’s arced across the series. Surprisingly, this one worked as a standalone.
Here’s what’s going on. When a potential client leaves behind a newspaper, Bel instantly recognizes Amy Mitchell, her best friend who has been missing and presumed dead since they were teens. Now Bel finds herself visiting an old commune in New York’s Hudson Valley and meeting a man who seems to be hiding more than he is willing to tell. As her search for Amy continues, Bel finds herself wading deeper and deeper into danger and questioning whether or not she wants to know the secret that drove Amy away.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this one, especially since I started in such a weird place in the series but I was hooked from the first chapter. The entire zany McGrath clan just drew me in and the mystery kept me turning the page.
Bel was a rather interesting and quirky chef-turned-amateur-sleuth. She’s a bit all over the place as she tries to uncover the truth about Amy’s disappearance, keep her nosy family at bay, work as chef at her family’s business, and deal with dating drama. She’s more than a bit harried from being pulled in so many different directions but she’s determined to discover the truth about what happened that night.
Bel’s brothers added so much entertainment and drama to the mix and it was fun seeing which one was going to come up with something outrageous to do. Although out of her four brothers, I liked seeing her relationship with Cargan. She knew he would always have her back and I liked the way he supported her.
The mystery was a bit different from the ones I’ve read before in cozy mysteries and I liked the change of pace. I also liked that I wasn’t really sure of what the outcome would be. I had an inkling and I was partly right but this one played out nicely.
Like most cozies there’s a bit of romance—or rather romantic drama—for Bel. Like the mystery, the romantic drama played out in the previous books so rather than witnessing it, this book dealt more with the fallout and the figuring out what to do next. While I thought it was handled well, the ending was a bit vague.
There were a few bumps in the road with this one.  Bel was occasionally a bit over the top, there was a part of the book where she went on about how her cooking was so amazing one bite would make a suspect confess all he knew. The second was how abrupt a character who was helping Bel investigate Amy’s disappearance dropped out of the story. She brought a lot to the story as both a new friend for Bel and a sleuthing partner so when she was pulled out of the book it felt a little uneven. Also, the fact a character was named Tweed Blazer was a bit annoying. I’m just not a fan of weirdly named characters. While I did have a few problems, they didn’t pull me from the book.
Overall, this one kept me on my toes. The mystery was solid and the McGrath family was a riot. While I probably should have read the previous books to get the full flavor of this one, it wasn’t necessary.

Seeing as Bel and her family are Irish—as were a few other characters—I paired this one with a nice cup of Irish Breakfast Tea from Twinings of London. It’s a nice full-bodied black tea that’s smooth. I like mine strong and plain and it suited this cozy mystery.

The Belfast McGrath Series
Wedding Bel Blues
Bel of the Brawl
Bel, Book, and Scandal


Monday, February 5, 2018

Looking for Captain Poldark by Rowan Coleman

Four strangers, united by their shared love of POLDARK, come together on a trip to Cornwall in search of their hero...

Lisa has sworn off love and relationships after a really bad experience, but lately she’s been tempted to take a chance on a more exciting life. First she meets other fans of the TV show Poldark online. Then she proposes a very special road trip to Cornwall, in search of where their favourite show is being filmed.

But can four strangers find friendship, as well as a certain sexy hunk on their trip south?

 Publisher: Ebury/ Penguin UK | Genre:  Contemporary Fiction | Source:  Purchased| Rating: 4.5 Cups
This one was one of those random impulse buys that turned out to be such a great find.
Here’s what’s going on. There’s been some catastrophes in Lisa’s life that’s left her a bit fragile and afraid. She’s more or less put her life on pause until she gets a wild and random idea to travel to Cornwall to find Captain Ross Poldark and tell him, or rather Aidan Turn the actor who plays him, what he has meant to her. Not wanting to journey alone, she opens the invitation to the other Poldarlings, members of an online Poldark fan group. Now Lisa finds herself traveling with three strangers from the internet, each with their own problems. As the journey progresses, Lisa soon discovers that there’s more to life than being afraid.
This was such an amazing short story about growth and self-discovery.
Lisa’s been wounded and it’s made her leery and afraid of everyone and everything. She’s decided to go on this journey with strangers from the internet and it wasn’t easy for her. Several times, I thought she was going to throw in the towel but, rather than giving in, each hitch made her stronger.
I don’t want to give too much away about the other three passengers Lisa’s traveling with because this is one of those books you need to discovers things as you go, but I will say they all had their own share of serious problems. It’s through the problems of the other passengers that Lisa learned how to let go of her fear and let others in.
While this one does have some heaviness to it, it’s funny and light too. I think the author did such an amazing job at balancing the scale. Yes, Lisa’s anxiety is practically bouncing off every page but Abby, second passenger Lisa picks up, is nice counterbalance. The things Abby said had me laughing on several occasions.
Seeing as this was a Quick Reads book, I knew it was going to be short (print version is only 79 pages), but I felt it was well rounded. I mean, yes I would have loved for it to have explored a bit more of the ending and what came next, but, for what it was, I was satisfied with it.
Each chapter opens with list that includes what track was playing on the radio during that part of the journey and I have to say, the soundtrack of the book rocks.
Overall, I really enjoyed watching the characters let go of their fears and connect with each other. Like all good journey’s this one had a few ups, downs, and surprises along the way. Whether you’re a Poldark fan or not, I think you should give this one a go.
What was your last surprisingly good read?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Saving the Sheriff by Kadie Scott

There's a storm brewing...

The day his wife died, Sheriff Cash Hill discovered she was leaving him for another man, one she'd loved since before their marriage. How could the single dad ever trust another woman again? But when Georgia's best friend, Holly, comes back to town, something about Holly's sweet, sassy vulnerability has his protective instincts kicking in hard.

Holly Jensen left La Colina, Texas with regrets. She's returned home to work as the new large animal vet and to watch over her best friend's daughter. But Holly's knowledge of Georgia's past could rip a family apart. And she's reluctant to go to the sexy…and single…sheriff, as he’s made it clear he wants nothing to do with her.

Both are faced with a choice…stay locked in the past or allow their reservations to be silenced by a passion hotter than Texas summer nights. Can they learn to trust their own hearts and each other.

Series: Hills of Texas #1 | Publisher: Tule Publishing | Release Date: January 23, 2018 | Genre: Contemporary Romance | Source: Publisher | Rating: 2.5 Cups

Challenges Read For: Literary Pickers (boots)

Since Holly returned to town as the new large animal vet, Cash has done his best to avoid his late wife’s best friend but his daughter has other plans. Now Cash finds himself bumping into her at every turn. He doesn’t trust Holly and Holly has problems of her own, one of them is knowing all of his late wife’s secrets. Even though they’re attracted to each other, neither’s sure they want to get involved.
So, I’m on the fence about this. As a romance, which is what it’s billed as, it fell short of the mark. It felt more like a family drama.
Both Holly and Cash are hiding secrets about Cash’s marriage and his late wife and every time they bump into each other, those secrets bubble to the surface causing problems between them.
While they were attracted to each other—and Holly had a thing for Cash before he married her best friend—I didn’t feel any chemistry between them. Then there’s the fact that Holly agreed to be a witness so another man could request a paternity test on Cash’s daughter. She does this without letting Cash know what was going on, so it just felt shady to me. I really don’t know how Cash, who has a mountain of trust issues, could ever trust Holly.
Overall, this one was high on family drama—and horse training—and low on romance. While it was easy to read, I had trouble getting behind Holly and the romance. So, if you’re looking for family drama, this is the book for you.

 Are you a fan of secrets in your romances?