In Libris Vita

NetGalley and other reviews.

Good stuff!

The Pickled Piper  - Mary Ellen Hughes

Mary Ellen Hughes has been a favorite of mine since I read the Craft Corner Mystery series she did from 2006 - 2008.   She's been on my Facebook for what seems like forever, and on a personal level is a kind and considerate friend.  I was extremely excited when I heard she had a new series coming out, because it had been way too long since I'd gotten to read a new story from her.

 

But what about the new book? Okay, okay, I'm getting there!   Coming from a background where my  mother and grandmother pickled, preserved, canned, and froze everything possible from large gardens, I was intrigued by the premise for this series before I ever got my hands on it.  I would never have considered a shop devoted to pickling as a setting, but Mary Ellen sure made it work.   Piper is a likable and engaging herione, and the small town setting is authentic and well done. Not that I expected anything less. 

 

Now I'm not one who always tries to figure out "whodunnit" before the answer is revealed, usually preferring to remain surprised when the author gets there with the culprit in his or her own good time.  So as usual, I never saw the ending for this one coming.  The one thing I did manage to guess about one of the red herrings made me giggle, though.  It's always fun when a character behaves the same way I would, in the same situation!

I need a scorecard - or a genealogy chart!

Sparrow Hill Road - Seanan McGuire

So, everyone's heard of The Phantom Prom Date, or The Girl on the Side of the Road. She's distinct from Chicago's Resurrection Mary in that she can pop up just about anywhere, while poor Mary seems to be bound to the area around Resurrection Cemetery (which I have passed, and one day want to stop at...in daylight, though!).

 

Meet Rose. This is her story.

 

Seanan McGuire is one of my favorite writers, and her October Daye and InCryptid Series are two of my very favorite urban fantasy pleasures, so I was really looking forward to this book. I wasn't disappointed.  Sometimes it can be a fine line between creepy and horror but Seanan treads it well. 

 

I would, however, love to know where the Healys and the Prices come into this world. They're mentioned a few times. And I'd also love to know if Laura Moorhead is going to be showing up in future stories, as she's both a character and an "expert" in the chapter headings.

 

Anyway, if you like ghost stories, grab this book and prepare for some shivers....

Well, well, well...

Midnight Crossroad - Charlaine Harris Games Creatures Play - Charlaine Harris, Toni L.P. Kelner

I know a LOT of people weren't happy with the way that the Sookie Stackhouse series ended.  I was in a distinct minority on that one - I loved the ending and though it was just right.  Besides - it's not like we're living "Misery" -  it was Charlaine's creation, and she had the right to do whatever she liked with it.  But all that aside - I also know a lot of people were so mad about the way she ended Sookie that they didn't plan to read this new series.  Well I have two words for those people - READ IT. 

 

There are a few mentions of old friends - Harper Connelly and Lily Bard - and if you read "Games Creatures Play"    you'll have already met Manfred Bernard, the main character in "Midnight Crossroad".  I'd LOVE to have a timeline for when that story took place in regards to when this book was set.  I also am dying to know who Marilyn is....but I digress.

 

I really enjoyed this book.  Of course, any time you combine mystery and a bit of the supernatural, I'm going to be all over it. But Charlaine is a master at that combination and she doesn't disappoint with this story.

 

There are still secrets to be uncovered in Midnight, Texas, though, and I am eagerly looking forward to the next two books (I think this is supposed to be a trilogy?)

Why did I wait so long??

Bootlegger's Daughter (Deborah Knott Mysteries, #1) - Margaret Maron The Buzzard Table - Margaret Maron

I remember seeing this series on my mother's bookshelves, but they didn't really attract me at the time.  If I'd known then what I know now, though....I'd have been all over them like white on rice. Well, better late than never, I suppose (and yes, I think I'm done with the idioms now...)

 

Anyway - I finally got my hands on the whole series, and absolutely ADORE them.  I read all 18 books in the series one after the other. I haven't binge-read a series like that in a LONG time. 

 

I got so investing in the characters that I really didn't want to read anything else.  And since the last two books incorporated Sigrid Harald, I guess I'll just have to binge-read those, too.

Excellent!

A Taste Fur Murder - Dixie Lyle

I loved this!  I'm a sucker for "woo-woo" in my mysteries, to begin with, so this one pretty  much had me at "ghost cat".   But the dialogue hooked me from like the second page and in between gales of laughter, I ended up reading out loud to the cats.  They graciously pretended they were interested.  There are only a few other authors who have the effect of making me wanting to follow someone around, reading great chunks of books out loud to them! 

 

If Dixie Lyle can keep this up, this will be a series to be reckoned with!  I can't wait for the next book!

Love this series!

Home For the Haunting - Juliet Blackwell

Ok, well, to be honest, I love everything Juliet Blackwell writes.  They could probably put her name on the phone book and I'd at least try to read it.

 

This latest entry in the Haunted Home Renovation series doesn't disappoint.  Characterizations so real that I wanted to slap Cookie (Mel's sister, who shows up unexpectedly) a few times, are hallmarks of Blackwell's excellent writing. 

 

In this adventure, Mel still sees ghosts.  No surprise there, but this plot has more twists and turns than usual, I think.  An excellent red herring led to a completely unexpected villain.  Don't miss this one!

Chicagoland Vamps? Yes, please!

Howling For You  - Chloe Neill House Rules  - Chloe Neill Biting Bad - Chloe Neill Biting Cold - Chloe Neill Drink Deep (Chicagoland Vampires, Book 5) - Chloe Neill Hard Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires, Book 4) - Chloe Neill

Most any urban fantasy series set in Chicago is going to catch my attention.  A large part of why The Dresden Files is way up there with me, in spite of the recent depressing storylines, is the setting. 

 

This series not only caught my attention, it's holding it very well.  There are a lot of series, even in my beloved Cozy mysteries, that I won't read the e-novellas.  Not this one.  I devoured Howling For You in one sitting and was ready for more - good thing the next book comes out soon! 

 

I'm not one of those readers that waits until a series is complete to start reading - I actually enjoy (for the most part, see above Dresden Files for an exception - endless delays make me cranky) the anticipation of wondering what the characters will get themselves into next time. 

 

Even though this series does seem to be heading down the path of, "Don't these people EVER catch a break?"  which seems to be prevalent in ongoing urban fantasy series these days (and which I'm not really happy about as a trend),  there's enough humor and good stuff to keep me reading.  

Bitter Spirits

Bitter Spirits (Roaring Twenties) - Jenn Bennett

Disclaimer:  If you don't like sex scenes, don't read this - there are some seriously HOT sex scenes in this.  Don't say I didn't warn you.  Also: I'm tired tonight, so if this review is a little disjointed, that's why.

 

The combination of the Roaring Twenties, ghosts, a medium, bootlegging,and a San Francisco setting was almost guaranteed to make me like this book.  Which is probably why I bought it! 

 

Jenn Bennett is no stranger to the urban fantasy scene, she also writes the Arcadia Bell series (which I have, but have yet to read).  I enjoyed the snappy dialogue and the atmospheric place and time descriptions. 

 

About the aforementioned sex scenes - normally I don't go for a lot of explicit sex in my urban fantasy.  I'm all about the ghosts/shifters/vamps and heroes or heroines kicking a little ass, but not so much about what they do in the bedroom.  I have to say, though, that the sex scenes in here were very well done. 

2013 in reading

Left Drowning - Jessica Park The House at the End of Hope Street - Menna van Praag City of Dark Magic - Magnus Flyte

I thought New Year's Eve was an appropriate time for a retrospective of my 2013 reading.  Although I usually end up with about 150 books a year, I didn't keep track by numbers this year, instead by memories.  I tend to read so fast and so much that sometimes, unless the book is really memorable, I can't tell you what I'm reading. This year was a bit different for that.

 

I had a banner reading summer.  I got on a novel and historical fiction kick, and found some really great books, reading out of my usual "comfort zone" of cozies.   Three of the standouts were Left Drowning by Jessica Park,  The House at the End of Hope Street by  Menna Van Praag, and City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte. Not that there weren't standouts in cozies, too, there definitely were, but the non-cozies were what stuck in my head.

 

They were all very different, and all excellent. 

 

I also started really trying to write reviews in 2013. I hate writing reviews. I know authors love it when you do, though.  Look at the near-celebrity status of Dru Ann L Love in the cozy community if you don't believe me.  Her review blog gets thousands of hits, she does guest columns on the cozy blogs, and is universally loved by all the cozy authors and fans.  It's well deserved, Dru Ann's a great person and writes a killer review, plus that, she keeps it positive and is just a sweetheart.  But I digress - I hate writing reviews. But becoming a librarian and signing up for NetGalley and Edelweiss sort of forced me into it. I like to think I'm getting better at it, but who knows?  After the Goodreads debacle this fall, I sort of stay over here at Booklikes and mind my own business, so I'm thinking my reviews aren't getting a ton of exposure.

 

My TBR (especially for ebooks) is overflowing more than ever - it apparently is a side effect of being in a library all day around all those books - and my physical shelves will soon be overflowing as well.  If 2014 keeps the momentum going, I'll run out of shelf space!

 

Unfortunately, despite the fact that I've been acquiring books at a rather alarming rate lately, both ebooks and physical ones, I'm currently in a bit of a reading slump.  I'm blaming it on the holidays and just being busy; and so tired that when I do sit down with a book, I go almost straight to sleep.  i'm hoping that once the holidays are over, and winter socks me in, I'll have more time and inclination to read some of my backlog and find some more memorable stories to inspire me.

In Depth - Behind the Fairytale

While Beauty Slept - Elizabeth  Blackwell

This was a DRC from Edelweiss.  Publication date is expected to be February 20th.

 

 

So we all know that Sleeping Beauty's prince woke her with a kiss from a hundred  year sleep,  after she was felled by a spindle due to a curse from a wicked fairy, right? 

 

Put the tale in the proper time period, tell it like it was historical fiction, and add a Grimm twist (ha, see what I did there?) to it with a pox epidemic, and you've got this book. 

 

I'm  usually somewhat of a sucker for fairytales retold, and this was no exception, which was the reason I requested a DRC of it.  However, it turned out to be a bit darker than I had expected. 

 

If you like historical fiction, you will enjoy this.  It does tend to ramble a bit, but the ending is more than worth the effort to get there.

 

 

The Perfect Distraction

Duck the Halls - Donna Andrews Murder With Peacocks  - Donna Andrews

I've been hooked on Donna Andrews'  Meg Langslow series ever since I read the first one, Murder With Peacocks, years ago.  For the longest time, after the fourth book in the series, I was at a standstill.  The reason?  Publishers being stupid.  Although the complete series is available in ebook now, that wasn't the case just two years ago.  So I set out to finish all the current books in the series, and am very pleased to say they are all excellent reads. 

 

We get to follow Meg and her large, eccentric, extended family from her return to her Virginia hometown, to her engagement and  wedding, to her adventures as the mother of twins.  Along the way there's always a body, usually showing up at the most inconvenient time and place. 

 

With a lot of series, the fun ends once the characters get married, but not with this one. Ms. Andrews' skillful writing makes this series just as fresh and fun with Michael and the twins added as it was with just Meg.  There's not a dud in the bunch.  Highly recommended reading, especially if you've got something you want to get your mind off of.

Much darker than anticipated

Delia's Shadow - Jaime Lee Moyer

Still an excellent read, I just wish I'd been better prepared for the level of violence/gore/horror. 

 

Delia sees ghosts. But one in partcular, her "Shadow" follows her all the time, across the country.   When she returns to San Francisco to help celebrate her best friend's wedding, Shadow gets demanding. 

 

At the same time, the local police are dealing with a serial killer (ok, this should have been my first warning - I normally avoid books about serial killers).  Since the prospective groom is helping with the case, the girls can't avoid being dragged into it.  Once the police are convinced that Delia's "talent"  for seeing ghosts is real, her help is not only requested, but necessary.  Her "Shadow" is the only one who can make the connection between this batch of killings and one that took place a few decades earlier. 

 

I think the author took a chance mixing horror into historical and urban fantasy.  It just depends on the reader on whether or not that chance paid off.   For me it didn't, but I know a ton of people who will thoroughly enjoy this book. 

Gave me chills.

The Circle - Dave Eggers

Creepy...but not in the traditional sense.  I don't know if anyone but me remembers the movie Anti-Trust.  Well, this was Anti-Trust crossed with Big Brother on steroids.  Rage-y steroids...*shudder*  I gave it five stars, because I could NOT put it down, even though I was thoroughly creeped out.

 

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, basically all social media has been replaced by "Circling".  Working at the main Circle campus is everyone's dream.  (Sound eerily familiar yet?)  We follow a new employee named Mae, who thinks she's fallen into heaven. The place has everything, and then some.  Most people actually live on "campus", instead of maintaining offsite apartments.  The reader finds out why, soon enough - employees are not only expected to do the work assigned to them,  they are expected to be a part of the community, by participating heavily in "Circling" - commenting, "zinging", frowning, smiling. It's not only a full time job, it's their life. 

 

The general premise here is that the Circle demands real names, real addresses, social security numbers, etc.  There is no more internet anonymity, no more trolls.  Carrying the theme onward, soon people are installing "SeeCams", cameras no bigger than  your thumb, everywhere.  On buildings, in buildings, in their cars, even carrying them on their persons, to be what is called "transparent" , meaning their every action (except bathroom breaks and for some, sleeping), is broadcast to their circle of followers.  Once a few politicians decide that "transparency" is a good thing (no more secret meetings or deals), everyone starts jumping on the bandwagon and a completely "transparent" society is well on its way to being a reality.

 

The reader watches (in horror) as Mae gets completely caught up in the ideal of a transparent society - microchips for children (no more missing children, ever!),  a way to mark  and track convicted felons, (no more repeat offenders!), and as she's sucked farther and farther in to the ideal of transparency,  she even proposes mandatory Circle accounts, tied to forcing people to vote.  Democracy with 100% participation!  But the price she pays is that she never has a private moment unless its in a bathroom stall, and she is constantly 'onstage' due to the camera she carries. 

 

At this point, and after several personal tragedies, the reader would think (and hope), that Mae would realize that transparency comes with a high price.....

Pure love...

A Potion to Die For - Heather Blake

I should probably admit here that I  have loved everything I've ever read by Heather Blake/Heather Webber, and that she is also one of the sweetest people I have ever met. 

 

When I heard she was coming out with this series, I was highly excited and was even more excited when I scored an ARC via an online contest.  Potions, witchiness, mystery?  Surefire recipe for a winner of a book!

 

Well, (probably needless to say,) I wasn't disappointed. Loved it from the first word to the last.  Carly Bell is a good witch, and believes in staying firmly on the side of white magic. Her cousin, not so much.  Both run potions shops in their small town, and of course there's a bit of rivalry going on, but it is tied to a family mystery, as well.

 

When a dead body shows up in Carly's shop clutching a potion bottle, Carly's forced into desperate measures, including teaming up with her cousin, to solve the mystery and clear her name.  Add to all this a town and family full of what my mama would have called "characters", and this is simply a delightful read.  Don't miss it!

Solid debut

Forget Me Knot  - Mary Marks

*This was an ARC from NetGalley. Publication Date is January 7th, 2014*

 

I went into this one preparing to feel kind of "meh" about it, as I had never heard of the author, and it was a debut series.  I was wrong.

 

This is a solid debut mystery, with a twist I would never have seen coming, (although after it was revealed, I remembered I had read one other book, ages ago, with a similar plot device). 

 

I also never saw "whodunnit" coming up, so I was highly impressed.  Also, I enjoyed the touch of romance.  Just enough to make the reader say "awwww" but not enough to bog down the storyline.  I will definitely be reading the next in the series. 

Way to keep 'em coming back!

A Study in Darkness - Emma Jane Holloway

I was more than ready to start this, because I had recently finished the first title in the trilogy.  Masterfully wrapping up some loose ends from the first book, while opening other threads, it is obvious that the author knows her craft.  Ends on a heck of a cliffhanger, and I can't wait to read the third book to see what happens!  Way to keep an audience coming back!  Highly atmospheric, sometimes I could almost smell the London in the story, and the creepiness factor kept me turning pages and shivering. Loved it, can't wait for the next one!

Currently reading

Murder at the Book Group
Maggie King
The Whole Cat and Caboodle
Sofie Ryan
Alaska Traveler: Dispatches from America's Last Frontier
Dana Stabenow
Progress: 54 %