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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review: Dark Lycan

Title: Dark Lycan
Author: Christine Feehan
Page Count: 326 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was purchased by me

Back Cover Summary:
Tatijana of the Dragonseekers spent centuries encased in ice with her sister, trapped in limbo between life and death, never speaking to a soul other than those who tormented her. Now, she has been freed from her frozen prison by an unknown descendent. Awakened in human form, Tatijana yearns to explore the modern world in which she now lives—a world with more mysteries than she is prepared for.

Fenris Dalka has returned to the Carpathian Mountains after a long absence to be with his brother. He is scarred by centuries of battle, and every hard-won victory. But the real reason for his return home could prove deadly if discovered by the wrong man—or woman. Upon his arrival, he is compelled by a beautiful and enigmatic stranger who carries the scent of fresh earth, of forest, of the night itself.

In time Tatijana and Fenris will discover all that unites them—their secrets and pasts, their predators, and the hot flush of passion that stirs their souls. Yet just as surely, seduced into the silvery darkness of a full-moon night, they’ll also discover everything ancient and evil that exists to destroy them.
*****

This is not a mistake- I am indeed reviewing another novel from the Carpathian series because I did indeed read the next one, even though I made all kinds of statements saying I was waiting for Skyler and Dmitri's book and that's that.  I know, I know.

Admittedly the first reason I succumbed and bought this one was the fact that Skyler and Dmitri's book is next.  Wouldn't it suck if I did all that waiting and all that griping and skipped this story only to find out it was important to the one that I was waiting for?

Well, not to be spoilery, but I'm glad I didn't skip.  I'm glad I dug out this series' number, so to speak, and agreed to a talk over coffee about our relationship.

This installment did a good job of getting us ready for the big shebang (Dark Wolf, due out January 7th.) Not only did we get to meet a thoroughly likable leading man in Fenris, Dmitri's older brother, but we also got to know a pretty important character from previous books- Tatijana, one of the aunts who was trapped in dragon form in the evil mage's cave.

I admit, at first, I had my standard reaction to a new Carpathian book, which is WHY ON EARTH DO WE NEED MORE CHARACTERS AT THIS POINT.  The cast is huge at this point, with people all over the world, fighting fights that are resolved and then never spoken of again; why do we need to add more to the fray?  In this case, I'm happy to report that getting to know Fenris meant we got to know Dmitri, and in a way, I think that will make Dmitri's book better, since we only got very brief looks at him in previous books that took place years ago, within the timeline of the story.  A lot has happened since then, and I'm kind of stoked that we'll be able to skip to the good stuff and see Skyler get the good things she totally deserves at this point without having to go through all the angsty drama that is pretty characteristic of this series at this point.

It's hard to spend too much time describing the plot here without getting spoilery but one thing I enjoyed about it was that elements from previous books were drawn on to weave the story, not just random things that had never been mentioned before (cough cough the weird sex flowers in the last book cough cough.)  It's a huge accomplishment to have a series that's 24 stories strong at this point but I feel like one of the challenges is to keep things fresh and cohesive at the same time.  It hasn't always been a perfect situation but I'm sufficiently pumped for the next book.  Maybe you'd noticed.

Overall Grade: A

Hello friends!

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to those who partake, and to those who don't, welcome back! It's been awhile (again) and a lot has happened since my last apology for abandoning my blog to the internet wolves, so to speak, but the joys of the holidays means there's actually time to sit down and do things for fun. Hooray!

Anyway, as 2013 draws to a close, it's time to do the annual round of looking back and seeing how things went. For the first time in a long time, I will have read less than 50 books this year. That's a big change- for a long time I was averaging around 200 per year. I certainly miss having more free time!

Just like I did last year, I went back to see if I had written any goals for myself, since offhand I'm not able to remember what they might have been. I found my first post of 2013 and read my own words, saying I was going to focus on reading for fun and writing here when the mood struck me. Frankly, the mood didn't strike a lot this year.

I think that's because, for a long time, I was devoting a significant amount of time and energy to blogging and the blogging world, and recently I've found my interest to be shifting to other things. Running (I'm training for my second half marathon- eek!), crafting, and working on certification to become a BCBA have all claimed significant portions of my time, and I'm happy for that. It's good to have diverse interests.

Being able to leave WBiT? alone for so long and then come back to it has proven an important point for me. Reading has been something I've loved for as long as I can remember, and it's one of the best hobbies out there because there's nothing to practice and no skill to maintain, once you're proficient. I could walk away from books and stories and come back and it's like I never left. That's what happened this past year- every book I've read has been 100% for pleasure. For my record keeping, I only track new-to-me books for the purposes of my yearly total, but I've reread so many books, some multiple times. It was so awesome to go back and visit my favorite stories without any pressure to do otherwise.

The books I've read have followed two trends this year- they've either been dark horses, books I grabbed at the library because the cover was interesting or the blurb was intriguing, or they've been books by my go-to authors. It's safe to say I have definite favorite authors now, whereas before I think I would have waffled on that a little bit.

Over the next few days, I'll be posting the reviews of my favorite books I've read this year, the ones that stand out in my memory even if they were read months ago. I'm looking forward to doing more of the same in 2014. The point of this endeavor was and is to talk about books. I'm game to get back at it.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Emerging from the Time Warp...

No, not that one.

Anyway! I'm back! It's been a busy summer, filled with work, studying, and travel to interesting places.  Places like Wall, South Dakota, where they have a giant statue of a jackalope.  No, really.

Doing stuff and making things and generally being out and about means that I haven't been checking in here. I know right? Cue the dramatic noises! Time was I would have been really worried about this. Even though I haven't written anything myself I still check in with my feed reader on a daily basis and it seems like I'm not alone in this.  Will people stop reading if I stop writing?  Are they even reading anyway?

I digress.

The point is, I have been reading some excellent books lately, and I'll be doing another roundup of reviews.  I kind of like that format actually- checking in every five books or so and then you, dear readers, get a bunch of quick reviews all at once!  Plus with the impending start of the school year it's probably not a bad deal to have some kind of a plan for when I want to write about books but just don't have the time.  Plans are good, right?

Anyway, I didn't forget about you guys, and I'll have more to say in future posts.  Stay tuned!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Everyone Loves a Read-a-thon- Library Books Read-a-thon!


Summer vacation is off to a great start and after an extremely productive trip to the library yesterday I'm ready for the first read-a-thon of the summer! I'll be keeping track of my books here and am hoping to really dig in this weekend.  I'll be going out of town on the 26th and have a final exam to take before I go so I'll be frontloading this one for sure, but still!  Anyway, on to the good stuff:

Completed Books:
The Fleet Street Murders by Charles Finch

Currently Reading:
The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn

Head over to Rachael Turns Pages to sign up!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Speedy Reviews: Time to Get Caught Up

The biggest downside of long breaks in between blog posts, other than the implication that there are lots and lots of other things going on that require my attention, is that when the dust finally settles, there are lots of reviews waiting to be written.  A lot of time has elapsed since I read the books though- what to do, what to do...

Anyway, here's the solution! Six books from my review queue, with brief thoughts.  Then, on to more recent, more detailed things.

Heart of Brass by Kate Cross (obtained from my public library)- The first in a steampunk romance, this is the story of Arden and Lucas.  Lucas has disappeared and everyone except Arden thinks he's dead; when he appears, brainwashed by the enemy and assigned to assassinate Arden (his wife,) things are, as they say on Facebook, complicated.  I think I would have enjoyed this book a little bit more if I hadn't been reminded of this:
Overall, not as much steampunk goodness as I would have liked, a decent romance and setup for the next book, generally an okay book.

Rating: 3/5



Wild Invitation by Nalini Singh (book purchased by me)- I will follow this series to the ends of the earth and this anthology was a good bridge between full length novels.  I had read two of the included stories already but it was nice to have my own copies.  The two new stories were excellent as well.  I loved it but I would totally start this series at the beginning and enjoy all that it has to offer.

Rating: 5/5






Gloomcookie Vol. 1 by Serena Valentino (obtained from my public library)- I don't read a lot of graphic novels but picked this one up after seeing it mentioned on another blog (I forget which, but I'll link up if I remember.)  I confess I wasn't really impressed with this story- I enjoyed the dramatic circusy artwork and the visual elements but the story didn't stay with me at all.  Maybe I've just officially become old and can't get into the OMG he likes you/no he doesn't/I hate you/you don't understand me element? Don't know, don't care, but I won't be continuing with this series.

Rating: 2/5




Geist by Philippa Ballantine (obtained from my public library)- This is the first book in this series, and honestly I think it suffers a little bit for that.  The characters come on too strong in some segments and washed out in others and I think it's because there's so much worldbuilding to be done in a really short number of pages.  There are lots of different genres making an appearence- fantasy, romance, adventure, steampunk- and I love genrebenders typically, but I think this book might have fared a little better if one had been a little more prominent than the others.  Not sure if I'll continue with this series or not.

Rating: 3/5



A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley (obtained from my public library)- I really enjoy this series and I think it's very telling that although I think this is the weakest book in the series so far, it's still outstanding and was a fun read.  Gypsies, town history, mystery, the antics of an eleven year old, and of course chemistry all come together to tell a fun and intriguing story.  I admit I wasn't quite as satisfied with the ending of this one as I had been with the past two books, it's a small quibble and I'm still a huge fan.

Rating: 4/5




I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (obtained from my public library)- Christmas, Flavia de Luce style!  This was an interesting book for the family dynamics of the de Luce clan- Flavia thinks her family pretty much wants nothing to do with her but certain things happen that make her question that assumption.  The financial troubles of Papa de Luce also take center stage, as without them there'd be no need for this story!  I enjoyed this book tremendously- Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Overall Rating: 4/5



And there you have it!  Six short reviews, with full reviews coming back in the next post. What have you been reading lately- good, bad, or indifferent?



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I LIVE!

Indeed! It's been a long time but the school year is over and therefore my time is significantly more available for the next couple of months.

Seriously, it's all coming together!  I decided not to teach summer school this year so except for a few things here and there I'm looking forward to lots of days by the beach and FINALLY getting caught up on all the books I want to read (and reread, too!)

Here are just some of the things I'm excited to finally dive into in the coming weeks:

My annual Harry Potter re-read.  Hooray!

Re-reads for other favorite series: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Kate Daniels, etc. Oh yeah, and finally starting and hopefully getting through a bunch of new series too!

Speed round reviews and logs of books.  I set my Goodreads challenge at 100 books for 2013 and I am incredibly behind for possibly the first time in my life.  Being a grownup is hard!

More Moers!  I decided to do it!  I'll be doing a week of reviews of nothing but the quirky and awesome books by Walter Moers.  Schedule TBD but there is fun to be had!

Can't wait! Happy summer everyone!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday REWIND: Top Ten Favorite Places to Read

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Tuesday!  This week is a rewind week, so we get to pick any previous top ten list and run with it! This week, I'll be talking about my top ten favorite places to read!

I have to say at the onset though, I can read anywhere!  If there are printed words, I'm there. Just saying.

Anyway, and in no particular order...

Top Ten Favorite Places to Read

1. In Bed.  Especially in the morning on the weekend.  I love that feeling of being able to read a book start to finish and not have to worry about anything else that needs to get done or anything else that's going on.  It's a rare luxury these days so I definitely savor it when the opportunity arises.

2. At the Beach.  Here's a picture of my beach:
I live about four miles away from the ocean so it's delightful to pack my stuff and spread out in the sun.

3. On the Couch.  Under the couch is where I store all my library books so when I'm feeling spontaneous I'll grab a book off the stack and just start reading.  Good times.

4. In the Waiting Room.  I'm a very good patient at the doctor because I always have a book with me so I don't stress out about how long I've been there.

5. Car Rides.  Maybe not print books, but I LOVE listening to audiobooks while I'm driving long distances.  Makes the time fly!

6. With Kids. I love sharing stories with the students in my class!

7. Airplanes.  If you have to wait for hours for something, you might as well pass the time in a nice way.

8. On the Swing Set.  Maybe not so much anymore, but when I was little I used to love to sit at the top of my slide with a book.

9.At the Park. Lay out a blanket and stretch out with a book.

10.At the Library.  When a book is finished there are plenty more to choose from?

What are your favorite reading places?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review: The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

Title: The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag
Author: Alan Bradley
Page Count: 364 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: historical mystery
Copy for review obtained via my public library

Back Cover Summary:
From Dagger Award–winning and internationally bestselling author Alan Bradley comes this utterly beguiling mystery starring one of fiction’s most remarkable sleuths: Flavia de Luce, a dangerously brilliant eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders. This time, Flavia finds herself untangling two deaths—separated by time but linked by the unlikeliest of threads.

Flavia thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacy are over—and then Rupert Porson has an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. The beloved puppeteer has had his own strings sizzled, but who’d do such a thing and why? For Flavia, the questions are intriguing enough to make her put aside her chemistry experiments and schemes of vengeance against her insufferable big sisters. Astride Gladys, her trusty bicycle, Flavia sets out from the de Luces’ crumbling family mansion in search of Bishop’s Lacey’s deadliest secrets.

Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What of the vicar’s odd ministrations to the catatonic woman in the dovecote? Then there’s a German pilot obsessed with the BrontĂ« sisters, a reproachful spinster aunt, and even a box of poisoned chocolates. Most troubling of all is Porson’s assistant, the charming but erratic Nialla. All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head?
*****

So I'm pretty notorious, at least in my own mind, for starting a series and loving the first book and then not keeping up with the series, right? Well, stop the presses, because I have continued reading a series in a timely fashion compared to when I started it.

That series is the Flavia de Luce series, which features, quite possibly, my favorite narrator under the age of 13 in any book, ever. Flavia is what could charitably be called precocious, which as anyone knows is a word that people use when they don't want to say "that kid is annoying." She's smart as a whip (far too smart for her own good in fact,) terribly observant, insatiably curious, and has a mind like an endless filing cabinet. These characteristics come together to make a narrator who's a chemist, an investigator, and a believer in justice, even when she's not sure what an affair is or how to tell if her older sisters are having fun at her expense.

As I'm writing this review, I've read the next two books in the series as well (reviews forthcoming) and I have to say that as far as the mystery goes, this book's puzzler was my favorite. I loved the descriptions of the puppets and the puppet show and I thought it was great the way the history of the town of Bishop's Lacey was intertwined with the mystery of how the puppet man died and why it clearly wasn't an accident. But who could want to murder a guy that, as far as anyone knew, nobody had met before that week? Well, read the book and find out!

This book introduces several characters who have repeating roles in future books, and their inclusion added some interesting historical aspects to the story as well, especially Dieter, the German pilot who was a POW but couldn't bring himself to leave after the war was over.

Unsurprisingly, Flavia saves the day and puts the facts together in a new and unusual way, and I don't think that's a spoiler because it wouldn't be much of a mystery if our detective didn't solve it, right? One of my favorite parts of these stories is the big reveal at the end, where Flavia and the Inspector sit down and compare notes, and the Inspector tries not to be too impressed or too annoyed at the eleven year old that beat his own cops at figuring out the story.

I'm pretty sure I'm the last person on earth to start reading this story, but just in case you're actually that person, I highly recommend making a place for Flavia on your TBR. My next two review slots are taken up by the next two books in this series, and then I'll only have one book to go before I'm current! Imagine that!

A Favorite Quote:
I am often thought of as being remarkably bright, and yet my brains, more often than not, are busily devising new and interesting ways of bringing my enemies to sudden, gagging, writhing, agonizing death.

Overall Rating:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Books I Read Before I Was A Blogger

Believe it or not, there was a time when WBiT? did not exist! I'm a lifelong reader and have been squirreling books away to enjoy for as long as I can remember, and not all of my perennial favorites have made their way on to the blog.  Here's a chance to spotlight some old favorites though! Leave a link to your list in the comments- I'd love to see what books have stood the test of time for you!


Top Ten Favorite Books I Read Before I Was a Blogger



1. Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates by Tom Robbins- My favorite book of. all. time. I love the crazy language and the chaotic yet hilarious story.  I love everything Tom Robbins writes but this is far and away my favorite of the bunch.







2. Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore- Again, I love everything Christopher Moore writes but this was the first book of his that I picked up and so it has a special place in my heart.  Cargo cults, fruit bats, shenanigans- I love it!






3. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams- I picked the cover of the omnibus for this line on the list because once you pop, the fun don't stop.  And yes, I always know where my towel is.








4. Harry Potter
- The whole series is like one giant book in my mind so it gets one line on the list.  You know a book is awesome when you're up until the small hours reading because you have to hand the book off to the next family member first thing in the morning (true story.)






5. The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers- All of his books are awesome and illustrated and adventurous and great- I think I need to do a week featuring his books here on the blog.  Maybe call it More Moers.  Zing!







6. A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole- My love affair with PNR and urban fantasy was in full swing by the time I started blogging and I was blowing up the request form for interlibrary loan on a regular basis.  Many of the series I started reading back then have become auto-buy favorites.  IAD is certainly one of them.





7. Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh- Another one of my favorite series that has its roots in my pre-blogging days.  I would follow this series to the ends of the earth. Sigh.







8. Hercules and Other Legends of Gods and Heroes by Donald Richardson- I have had this book since middle school.  It has been lost, found, left out in the rain, dried out, you name it.  I still have, and I still love it.







9. The Rabbit Factory
by Marshall Karp- I've reviewed this book nine ways to Sunday as well as the rest of the Lomax and Biggs series and it will never, ever get old. Ever.







10. If Angels Burn by Lynn Viehl- This was another series I glommed during my PNR awakening a few year ago and I'm stoked to see that there are tons of other related books released now to feed my love of these characters.  This is one of those series that you can read again and again and enjoy each time, so I saved it for a rainy day.  Maybe that day needs to get here.






What about you? What books have stood the test of time and stayed true even after the blogging bug bit?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Case of the Missing Servant

Title: The Case of the Missing Servant
Author: Tarquin Hall
Narrator: Sam Dastor
Length: 8 hours, 27 minutes
Publisher: AudioGo
Genre: mystery
Copy for review was purchased by me

Back Cover Summary:
Watch out Alexander McCall Smith! Here comes the first novel by the highly acclaimed writer Tarquin Hall in an entrancing new mystery series set in India.

The portly Vish Puri is India’s most accomplished detective, at least in his own estimation, and is also the hero of an irresistible new mystery series set in hot, dusty Delhi. Puri’s detective skills are old-fashioned in a Sherlock Holmesian way and a little out of sync with the tempo of the modern city, but Puri is clever and his methods work.

The Case of the Missing Servant shows Puri (“Chubby” to his friends) and his wonderfully nicknamed employees (among them, Handbrake, Flush, and Handcream) hired for two investigations. The first is into the background of a man surprisingly willing to wed a woman her father considers unmarriageable, and the second is into the disappearance six months earlier of a servant to a prominent Punjabi lawyer, a young woman known only as Mary.

The Most Private Investigator novels offer a delicious combination of ingenious stories, brilliant writing, sharp wit, and a vivid, unsentimental picture of contemporary India. And from the first to the last page run an affectionate humour and intelligent insights into both the subtleties of Indian culture and the mysteries of human behaviour.
*****

If I remember correctly, I grabbed this book during one of the many sales that Audible has had since the start of this year. I was willing to break my rule of audiobooks (only listen to books where I've already read/enjoyed the print version) since for five or seven bucks, there's not much to lose. I'm happy I did, because this was a fun mystery with a great cast of characters, showcased to perfection by an excellent narrator. Had enough superlatives yet? If not, read on.

I have to say, if you're expecting something tremendously different in the field of mystery novels, you may be disappointed. What makes this book unique is the setting (modern day India) and the tongue-in-cheek observations made about life in India and Indian society. The overall mysteries and the mini mysteries aren't that hard to figure out and are often deduced by logical thinking and arranging the facts in order. If you're a fan of Agatha Christie or other mystery novelists of that ilk I think you'll find a lot to like, but if you were expecting some grand reconfiguring of the genre then you might not. Just saying.

The back cover summary does a good job summing up what the book is all about, so I'll make my contribution by saying the usage of the classic elements of a mystery novel- gathering the clues, arranging the facts, etc. into something that was fun and engrossing with a new setting you don't often see were the big selling points of the book for me. The narrator does an excellent job of giving characters individual voices and personalities and he kept the narration moving at a good pace. I think my favorite character is Mommy-ji, Puri's mom, who makes a fair detective in her own right, although her son would never admit that in a million years. Decades of marriage to a police detective weren't wasted apparently.

Even though I had figured out the whodunnits before the big reveals (it takes a lot longer to listen to a book than to read it in print) I was totally sucked in to this story. I'm training to walk a half marathon right now and this book was one that I listened to as I went around and around the jogging track at the park trying to build mileage. If you like fun mysteries, great characters, and excellent narration, get this book on your TBR.

Overall Rating:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review: Winterblaze

Title: Winterblaze
Author: Kristen Callihan
Page Count: 400 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: historical paranormal romance
Copy for review was purchased by me

Back Cover Summary:
Once blissfully in love . . .

Poppy Lane is keeping secrets. Her powerful gift has earned her membership in the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals, but she must keep both her ability and her alliance with the Society from her husband, Winston. Yet when Winston is brutally attacked by a werewolf, Poppy's secrets are revealed, leaving Winston's trust in her as broken as his body. Now Poppy will do anything to win back his affections . . .

Their relationship is now put to the ultimate test.

Winston Lane soon regains his physical strength but his face and heart still bear the scars of the vicious attack. Drawn into the darkest depths of London, Winston must fight an evil demon that wants to take away the last hope of reconciliation with his wife. As a former police inspector, Winston has intelligence and logic on his side. But it will take the strength of Poppy's love for him to defeat the forces that threaten to tear them apart.
****

This is truly a series of excellence. In the span of three books Kristen Callihan has become an auto-buy author for me- I will follow her wherever she goes storywise at this point. With that said, in the interest of not spoiling the awesome reading experience for anyone, there are probably spoilers in this review for previous books in the series. Ye be warned and all that jazz.

Poppy Lane is a bad, bad girl. She went from having a great marriage with her detective husband Winson and a million skeletons in her closet to having all her dirty secrets out in the open and a husband who (she thinks) can't stand the sight of her. She bears so much responsiblity and can't set it down, even now when her life has gone to crappy crap crap.

Winston is recovering from a life-threatening attack and the added bonus feature of finding out his wife is keeping about a million secrets from him. He has a top-shelf mantrum and starts trying to figure out what to do with all this new knowledge he has, all while ignoring Poppy. Things come to a head when they're both on the same ship; Lord knows close quarters with no relief in sight is awesome when you're trying to avoid someone.

I have to say, the beginning of the book took a little while to get going. I would have been totally happy had the whole book been nothing but me reading along as Poppy and Winston dealt with their issues, but I wasn't surprised at all when there was a supernatural bad guy that had to be defeated. At about 8% the plot kind of gets the Heimlich and we find out that there's a super bad demon on the loose that Poppy has fought and temporarily defeated before; we don't know how much of an influence this demon has had Poppy and Winston's past.

I loved Poppy and Winston as a couple, and I loved watching them find their way back to each other. If I have a complaint about this book, it's that we had to deal with all of their backstory all at once- the issues that came up in this book were never mentioned before and there were times that it felt like they had to be developed so there would be a conflict besides 'you lied to me, no I didn't you never asked the right questions.' I'm super excited to find out about Poppy and Winston's baby as well as to watch Mary whip Jack Talent into shape in the next book.

Yes, NEXT BOOK! I thought for sure this was supposed to be a trilogy, but I am wrong about that- there is going to be at least one more book in the series! Shadowdance is due out in November 2013, according to Goodreads, and I will definitely be reading it. Hooray for good news!

As a parting thought, I'm giving this book a full rating of 5, even though there were a couple of pacing issues I wasn't expecting. I was so pleased with the ending, the incorporation of elements for future stories, and just, oh, everything that I was able to overcome my stumbles very quickly.


A Favorite Quote:
“If you die on me, Winston Lane, I shall kill you.”
His lips tilted. “Don’t worry, sweeting. I live to thwart you.” Then his eyes slid closed.

Overall Rating:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Review: Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains

Title: Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains
Author: Catriona McPherson
Page Count: 293 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: historical mystery
Copy for review obtained via my public library

Back Cover Summary:
Welcome to Edinburgh, 1926. Dandy Gilver, a wealthy and witty aristocrat (and sometimes amateur sleuth) receives a letter from Lollie Balfour, who insists that her husband of five years is having her followed and her mail is being steamed open.

The only way for Dandy to help is by pretending to applying for a job as a lady’s maid in Lollie’s house. Dandy gets a crash course from her own maid and arrives at 31 Heriot Row, ready to put all of her detection skills to good use. Why does Mr. Balfour want to get rid of his wife? And can Dandy stay in disguise long enough to evade the villains?

Charming and funny, Dandy Gilver is an irresistible sleuth who is sure to win over mystery lovers everywhere. Readers who can’t get enough of Dorothy L. Sayers, Barbara Pym, and Dorothy Parker will definitely find a new favorite in Catriona McPherson’s smart and original mystery.
*****

Remember how, when I was reviewing the first book in this series (After the Armistice Ball) I commented on how glad I was to have read the first book first?  Well, happily enough for me, that wasn't a requirement for the rest of the series, since I apparently had grabbed this, the fifth book in the series, in one of my library forays.

Having read the first book was helpful because I had met most of the characters already, but the mystery itself definitely stood on its own.  Dandy goes undercover as a lady's maid in order to find out why Lollie Balfour's husband is acting cray cray and trying to kill her.  Everyone who knows Dandy finds the idea of her passing for a second as a servant to be hilarious, and Dandy herself is very honest in her appraisal of her own abilities to pass as a lady's maid.  In fact, the reactions of several members of the Balfour household end up being the key to the whole business.  Sometimes it isn't what a character says, but what isn't said, that ends up being the biggest clue.

With that said, I did figure out who the bad guy was fairly early on, although I didn't see the precise details come together until they were revealed in the course of the story.  This wasn't/never is a problem for me- I like to see a plan come together.

The most fascinating (and unexpected) part of this story was definitely the peek into how the lives of servants and workers were different from those of the people you generally read about (wealthy people.)  At the same time as the events of this story was a general strike in Britain; Dandy has to consider how her attitudes towards working people were shaped by her and her husband's social position and finds that meeting these people in the flesh is a lot different from reading about people in the newspapers.  The book doesn't preach, just provides some food for thought, and it's clear that Dandy leaves the Balfour household with a lot to think about.

All in all, this was another fun venture into this series, and when I went to put my next installment on hold, I made sure to find book number two.  I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing all the shenanigans that Dandy gets up to- this is rapidly becoming one of my favorite historical mystery series.

Overall Rating:

Review: A Rogue by Any Other Name

Title: A Rogue by Any Other Name
Author: Sarah MacLean
Page Count: 386 pages
Publisher: Avon
Genre: historical romance
Copy for review was purchased by me

Back Cover Summary
What a scoundrel wants, a scoundrel gets...

A decade ago, the Marquess of Bourne was cast from society with nothing but his title. Now a partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell, the cold, ruthless Bourne will do whatever it takes to regain his inheritance—including marrying perfect, proper Lady Penelope Marbury.

A broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships have left Penelope with little interest in a quiet, comfortable marriage, and a longing for something more. How lucky that her new husband has access to such unexplored pleasures.

Bourne may be a prince of London’s underworld, but he vows to keep Penelope untouched by its wickedness—a challenge indeed as the lady discovers her own desires, and her willingness to wager anything for them... even her heart.
*****

I had seen this title bandied about on various blogs a couple of months ago, right before the second book in this series was released, and filed it away for future reference. After reading enough good reviews and seeing that the price had temporarily dropped on Amazon, I was ready to dive in.

The story was a nice tale of redemption for Bourne, one of the owners of a notorious gambling hell who, in his wild younger years, made a stupid mistake that changed the entire course of his life. That mistake was, for whatever reason, gambling all of his holdings that weren't entailed on a single hand of cards. It's something a young and stupid person would do but for whatever reason Bourne was surprised when the scumbag he was playing against held him to his bargain. Bourne's obsession with regaining his family estate was born on that night.

Enter the other half of the equation- Lady Penelope Marbury, whose family estate bordered on the one that Bourne (Michael) lost in the card game back when they were children. Penelope had a secret crush on him when they were both young, but kept it a secret and nurtured her feelings in private, writing and never sending lots of letters and the like. Fast forward to the present day of the story and Penelope is something of a pariah, having broken an engagement years ago when she found out her fiance was in love with someone else. The fiance is happily married with children; Penelope is a walking punch line and her family really wants to get her to the altar.

Penelope's family was kind of douchey in this book- I understand that Penelope's actions had consequences for them but the whole "we'd rather you be unhappy forever than have your choices impact me" line got old after awhile. It was her dad deciding that enough was enough and adding more land to Penelope's dowry that got Bourne on the scene to ruin Penelope's reputation in the first place. I wish there had been more explanation of how Penelope's dad came by some very sensitive information about Bourne's nemesis, but what can one do.

Anyway, the best part of the story was easily the blossoming romance between Bourne and Penelope. Penelope is the best kind of nice girl heroine- the one who is honest and true without being vapid or shallow, the one who has beliefs and lives by them and tries to make the best of a bad situation without coming across as naive. Penelope wants the kind of love that lasts a lifetime and resents the implications of oh, everyone she knows that she should be happy with a groom who is vertical and above room temperature. She decides to make the most of her marriage with Bourne, even before Bourne realizes that revenge isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Likewise, Bourne makes an excellent redeemed bad boy. He's faced with the inconvenient situation of actually falling in love with the woman he was supposed to marry to get his estate back and then forget about. She's determined for them to be happy together, and his friends at the gambling hell are happy as clams to see Bourne entangles so thoroughly. Meeting the other owners of the Fallen Angel conveniently introduces us to the heroes for future books in the series. It all works out nicely.

Overall this story was a pleasing way to spend an evening after work, and it definitely got me on board for future installments in the series. Each of the owners of the Fallen Angel has his own terribly convoluted story that true love can help sort out, so I'm excited to be around for the ride.

Overall Rating:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters I'd Have a Crush on if I Were a Fictional Character

I'm back! After a long, long hiatus, Top Ten Tuesday has returned to WBiT?!  Looking ahead, there are some excellent list topics coming up so I'm looking forward to participating and commenting.  Let the good times roll!

Topic of the Week: Top Ten Characters I'd Have a Crush on If I Were a Fictional Character


In no particular order:

1. Marak, the Goblin King (The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle)- This is one of my favorite unsung fantasy romances.  Even though he's a goblin and has all the requisite spooky and mysterious things going on, Marak is squishy on the inside.  Love this series.







2. Malkom Slaine (Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole)- Malkom is my favorite IAD hero so far.  His past is so dark yet through it all he's noble and brave and loyal.








3. Regin the Radiant (Dreams of a Dark Warrior by Kresley Cole)- Total girl crush here.  I love Regin, I love her sailor mouth and her war cries- I think hanging out with her would be both terrifying and awesome.








4. Fire (Fire by Kristen Cashore)- Another girl crush on a total badass heroine.  She's a great warrior, brave, with a sense of honor and integrity and an ability to get things done.  Oh and super powers! Love.








5. Cullin Seaghdh (Enemy Within by Marcella Burnard)- He's a captain! He's a spy! He's a spy captain!









6. Osborn (Lord of Rage by Jill Monroe)- He's a grumpy bear from a fun retelling of the Goldilocks story.  He can sit on all the chairs in my house if he wants to.  Just saying.








7. Wolf Who Rules (Tinker by Wen Spencer)- Sigh.  Even when he's being a goof or an accidental jerk he's still awesome.  Gotta love elf magic.









7. Dorina Basarab and 8. Louis-Cesare (Midnight's Daughter by Karen Chance)- One of my favorite power couples of urban fantasy- these two are so snarky and chaotic.  Even though they manage to destroy every structure they come near they seem like they'd be fun.







9.  Julian (Cynful) by Dana Marie Bell)- He's a geeky bear shifter that likes books and RPGs.  What's not to like?









10. Caitrin (Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier)- Caitrin seems like good BFF material.  She's not afraid to stand up to anything- creepy, crawly, ghostly, or otherwise.









And there you have it!  If you're participating in Top Ten Tuesday, leave a link to your list in the comments- I'd love to check it out. :D

Monday, April 1, 2013

Book Blogging Events- Because Participation is Fun!

Happy Spring Break!  The blessed week is finally here and with it some time to attend to blog related issues.  As of this writing, I have 9 reviews to write and every intention of reading a bunch of books!  Add to that a couple of fun blog related events and it's shaping up to be a fun, fun week.

Here's what's on the agenda:

Book Blogger Twitter Convention

Truth in advertising right here- a series of panels, all for book bloggers, all on Twitter! My Twitter account has been gathering dust lately except for autotweeting (and even that has been lacking) so it's nice to wade back into the fray. Here's the calendar of events, compliments of Parajunkee's View!

Page Count Contest at Reading Angel

Again, simple and straightforward- read, log your books, be eligible for prizes!  I'm going for a marathon of reading over spring break so it's a good month for me to sign up.  Here's the post for week one with directions on how to sign up!

Just a quick heads up about some fun things happening out in the blogging world, enjoy!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Review: After the Armistice Ball

Title: After the Armistice Ball
Author: Catriona McPherson
Page Count: 303 pages
Publisher: Carroll & Graf
Genre: historical mystery
Copy for review obtained via my public library

Back Cover Summary:

Dandy Gilver, her husband back from the War, her children off at school and her uniform growing musty in the attic, is bored to a whimper in the spring of 1923 and a little light snooping seems like harmless fun. And what could be better than to seek out the Duffy diamonds, stolen from the Esselmont's country house, Croys, after the Armistice Ball? Before long, though, the puzzle of what really happened to the Duffy diamonds has been swept aside by the sudden, unexpected death of lovely young Cara Duffy in a lonely seaside cottage in Galloway. Society and the law seem ready to call it an accident but Dandy, along with Cara Duffy's fiancé Alec, is sure that there is more going on than meets the eye. What is being hidden by members of the Duffy family: the watchful Lena, the cold and distant Clemence and old Gregory Duffy with his air of quiet sadness, not to mention Cara herself whose secret always seems just tantalizingly out of view? Dandy must learn to trust her instincts and swallow most of her scruples if he is to uncover the truth and earn the right to call herself a sleuth.
*****

This was a random grab off the library shelves for me and I'm super glad for two things- one, that I took the plunge in what is looking like an impressive series, and two, that I read at least the first book in this series in the proper order.  I don't think, moving forward, that it's terribly important to read this series in order, as the repeating characters reprise their same roles and really it's the mystery that's different, but it was nice to have a proper introduction to the important folks.

The story opens five years after the end of World War I, and showcases people in England still trying to adjust to the world after the end of war.  Times are lean for many, so there's a certain level of resentment between folks who have titles and standing but few resources and up and coming wealthy folks.  When an annual dinner goes awry when the Duffy diamonds are stolen our intrepid investigator, Dandy Gilver, is asked by her best friend to investigate.  The best friend thinks the Duffys are trying to pull an insurance scam- if only that were the only thing going on.

This story was engaging, entertaining and thoughtful on a variety of levels.  Dandy is a fantastic narrator- she's witty and bright, and makes no bones about the fact that she's basically making up investigative strategy as she goes along.  Once she's got the scent of a conspiracy, she has to see justice done.  Turns out the missing diamonds are just the tip of the iceberg here, and murder isn't too far off.  But who actually was murdered? And when? And why?  Some of the answers are right there, and others have to be dug for.  It made for a satisfying story.

Another facet of the story that I enjoyed was Dandy's friendship and investigative partnership with Alec, fiance to the murdered Duffy daughter.  There's nothing romantic between these two, and I think they're more kindred souls- after the war, both were expected to just get on with their lives as if nothing had changed, when in fact everything had changed.  Dandy had been working to support the war effort and resented being sent back to basically answering the mail and being decorative, and the things that Alec saw and experienced during the war would not be forgotten any time soon. Having something on which to focus their efforts gave them both purpose and formed a great friendship.

The resolution of the mystery is one you need to read for yourself, and this is a series where I was super happy to find out that there are a lot of installments already in print.  I have the next book out from the library now and am looking forward to reading it.  Hooray!

Overall Rating:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Playing Series Catch Up

I'm one of those people who loves to start a series but has a really hard time finishing them, or even getting current until the next book comes out.  The worst part is that this is an especially big problem if the series is AWESOME.  I think it's because I know the books will be good, so saving them for when I need a sure thing seems like a good idea at the time.

This means that I have a lot of series laying around that aren't current or finished, and no real plan for how to get them finished or current before the next installment comes out.  One of the joys of refocusing on books I own or just want to read for fun is that some of these languishing series can finally get finished.  Here are some series that I'm currently working on getting current with (and a picture of the book in the series that I'm on):

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews- I love this series to teeny tiny pieces but have yet to read the most recent installment.  Need to get on this.










The Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole- one of my two favorite PNR series and I haven't read the most recent installment.  I know, I know.  On a side note, the audiobook versions of this series are FANTASTIC. Fan. Tas. Tic.








The Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley- so far I finished the second book (The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag) and am about to start the third.









The Charles Lenox series by Charles Finch- the first two books were awesome and are a great way to spend a weekend.  I'm looking forward to getting caught up!









The Lady Julia series by Deanna Raybourn- Julia and Nicholas Brisbane are a great leading couple and the first book that introduced them was great.  Not sure what my delay has been in getting to the rest of this series.








The Lady Emily series by Tasha Alexander- another great historical romance/mystery series with a great first installment.  Better get busy!









The India Black series by Carol K. Carr- detectives and a madam and historical mysteries, oh my!  I've only read the first book and am ashamed to say that I only knew about the second book in this series, not the third and the short story.  Shame on me!







Lots of great reading ahead?  Do you have any series on your shelf that you've been meaning to catch up on?   Share, share, share!
 
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