10.06.20

The Nidderdale Murders by J. R. Ellis

Posted in Review at 4:50 pm by Amber

Title: The Nidderdale Murders
Author: J. R. Ellis
Publisher: Amazon Publishing UK
Source: Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

In a Yorkshire Dales village everyone has a motive for murder—except the killer.

A retired judge is shot dead outside the Dog and Gun inn in the remote Yorkshire village of Niddersgill. There’s a witness who saw everything, and the gunman’s on the run; the case should be open-and-shut for DCI Jim Oldroyd. But the murderer had no motive for wanting Sandy Fraser dead and, what’s more, no trace of him can be found.

As Oldroyd and his team cast the net wider, they discover that Fraser wasn’t without enemies in Niddersgill. As the wealthy owner of a grouse moor, he’d clashed with farmers, debtors, hunt saboteurs and blackmailers. But none of them were at the scene of the murder. And when a local shopkeeper is gunned down in a second senseless attack, it’s clear that these killings are anything but random.

Surrounded by the dramatic beauty of the Yorkshire Dales, Oldroyd faces a race against time to connect the crimes and find who’s behind them. But with all the evidence sending him down dead ends, can he get one step ahead before someone else is killed?

Book cover of The Nidderdale Murders

This is the 5th book in the series. J. R. Ellis sometimes refers to previous cases worked on by Detective Chief Inspector Oldroyd and his team but knows how to give just enough information without bogging the story down.

The pacing of the novel was very leisurely. This mystery has a twist and I was able to figure it out but not determine the who behind it. For some reason I wasn’t in any hurry to finish reading to find out.

09.30.20

Book Club & W.W. Norton Present: Nick Flynn in conversation with Paul Lisicky

Posted in Event at 8:03 pm by Amber

Book Club & W.W. Norton & Co. Present: Nick Flynn in conversation with Paul Lisicky

This Is The Night Our House Will Catch Fire is a breathtaking work of spare lyricism and astonishing insights. Rarely does a memoir speak so openly about marriage alongside childhood trauma. And rarely does a work engage so deeply with how our sorrows affect our children. Flynn’s masterpiece confronts our deepest ethical dilemmas and imparts the hard-won knowledge that “love, like everything, is a daily practice.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nick Flynn is the author of three previous memoirs, including the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award-winning Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, and four volumes of poetry. A professor on the creative writing faculty at the University of Houston, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Paul Lisicky is an American novelist and memoirist. He is an associate professor in the MFA Program at Rutgers University-Camden, and the author of several books. 

I was browsing Crowdcast looking for an event that I knew was supposed to be this week but I hadn’t signed up for and I came across this about 2 minutes before it started. I’m a Nick Flynn fan and didn’t even know he had a new book out last month. It’s definitely going on my TBR list.

When his daughter was seven she earnestly asked him what his life was like at her age. He began telling stories to her about his life then such as trying to get as close to the grumpy old man’s house without getting shot, and the night his house caught on fire. As a child he was told raccoons in the attic caught the house on fire. As an adult, he realized that his mom actually committed arson, and as a father he realized setting the house on fire with children inside was really irresponsible. Through three trips back to his hometown with his daughter in tow, he revisits that time of his life.

Flynn and Lisicky are old friends and the conversation flowed very naturally. I wish you could’ve seen the enthusiasm when they were talkin about the books they’d read in the last 5-6 months.

09.18.20

Faking It by Rebecca Smith

Posted in Review at 11:28 am by Amber

Title: Faking It
Author: Rebecca Smith
Publisher: Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter
Source: NetGalley

Meet Hannah Thompson: wife, mother, teacher and… secret erotica author?

My Guilt List:

1. If we have a date night then I’m always asleep before it’s halfway through and honestly, if I had to choose, I’d rather have a hot bath and read my book than engage in any other nocturnal activity.

2. If we do actually have you-know-what then it’s not unheard of for my mind to wander… and I’m not talking about sexy things – I’m talking about what food there is in the fridge and when the car is due for its next service.

3. I am struggling to write about anything that could be classed as even a little bit sexually adventurous which is a problem when I’m supposed to be an erotica writer and I am speaking at Sex Con in exactly one month.

With a book to publicise, Hannah has no choice but trade her M&S cardis for S&M parties, and become her writing alter-ego. What could possibly go wrong…

So, Hannah is married with children at home, has written a published erotica novel titled More Than Sex under the pseudonym of Twinky Malone, and teaches part-time. Surely we can all agree that competing priorities and imposter syndrome can get in the way of success, right?

I found Hannah’s predicament very relatable. She’s got heart and struggles to juggle those priorities. Hannah figures out whose opinions matter the most to her and definitely has a story arc of change from the beginning to the end.

Some readers have found this laugh out loud funny but not me. I found some of the situations and descriptions to be humorous. Overall, this was a sweet, funny book.

09.14.20

Swashbuckling Cats edited by Rhonda Parrish

Posted in Review at 4:34 pm by Amber

Title: Swashbuckling Cats
Editor: Rhonda Parrish
Publisher: Tyche Books
Source: NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book cover of Swashbuckling Cats

If you think cats and water don’t mix, think again.

Plunge into worlds of piratical cats: some selfish, some mischievous, all fond of hitting the catnip stash. From ships on the deep blue sea, to ships flying through the depths of space, and even visiting from beyond the veil, these cats are determined and on a mission.

Featuring fourteen “tails” of adventure-loving cats, puns, and fun by: Megan Fennell; S.G. Wong; Rebecca Brae; Grace Bridges; Lizz Donnelly; Blake Liddell; Frances Pauli; JB Riley; Joseph Halden; Leslie Van Zwol; Krista D. Ball; Chadwick Ginther; Rose Strickman; and Beth Cato.

May 26th was the virtual release party for this book of short stories. I’m a friend and fan of Rhonda’s. I’m not a fan of cats (a barn cat peed on me when I was 10) but I can appreciate them and I figured I’d get around to reading it at some point. Lo, and behold, a few days after the release party when I was looking through available books on NetGalley I saw it was available. So I asked for it and was approved!

Overall, this short story collection is a good one. I always love to see the diversity achieved with the same prompt. These swashbuckling cats aren’t confined to nautical vessels. And the cats include ghost cats, pirate cats, shape-shifting cats, and kittens. Definitely not a one size fits all anthology.

My favorite story was “Buccaneer’s Revenge” by JB Riley. It tackles the pirate cat angle completely differently from the others. No, I won’t spoil it! There are puns for names which some might find childish or silly. I found them quite clever and they made me smile.

My second favorite story was “All Cats Go to Valhalla” by Chadwick Ginther. From the title it’s easy to guess this is a viking themed story. From the opening line you know it’s bad but you don’t know just how bad this journey is for another paragraph or so. Does Odin allow cats into Valhalla or do they go to Folkvangr with Freyja? You’ll have to read it to find out.

09.09.20

Ink & Sigil by Kevin Hearne

Posted in Review at 5:52 pm by Amber

New York Times bestselling author Kevin Hearne returns to the world of his beloved Iron Druid Chronicles in a spin-off series about an eccentric master of rare magic solving an uncanny mystery in Scotland.

Ink & Sigil is escape reading, and I loved every word.”—Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author of A Longer Fall

Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails—and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.

But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective—while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.

I was approved to review this on NetGalley and am looking forward to reading it! Publication Date was 8/25/2020. We could have a read-off to see who finishes it first. 🙂

09.03.20

The Big Get-Even by Paul Di Filippo

Posted in Review at 10:45 pm by Amber

Title: The Big Get-Even
Author: Paul Di Filippo
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Source: NetGalley

A disbarred lawyer and an ex-arsonist cross paths and find themselves organizing an elaborate real estate scam to bilk a shady rich speculator out of twenty million dollars. The sting is personal for ex-arsonist Stan and for a woman named Vee, who plays an essential role in the caper. Glen, the narrator and former lawyer, finds himself at first just along for the money. Eventually, as bonds deepen among the conspirators, Glen too discovers he has a lot more at stake than simply the loot.

This cast of lively eccentrics discover along the way that getting to the big payoff might just be more scary fun than the monetary prize itself.

Back in September 2017 I think I finished this book in record time, began to write the review, and a lost internet connection lost the review. Frustration can get the best of me at times. (This is why you get this review about three years after I read it.)

This book was not frustrating at all. It had an old time caper or heist feel to it but had a few modern touches to indicate the the story is set in the present day.

To some this might be boring but I really like it when I’m reading a book and the imagery is so vivid I can picture it playing out like a movie in my head.

07.22.20

Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten

Posted in Review at 3:39 pm by Amber

Title: Dead Perfect
Author: Noelle Holten
Publisher: HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter
Source: NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. To be Published October 2020

Dead Perfect Book Cover

A murdered woman…

When the body of a young woman is found in a local park, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she’s dealing with no ordinary killer.  The murder victim has been disfigured; her outfit changed to resemble someone else.  Someone Maggie knows all too well…her close friend Dr Kate Moloney.

A determined detective…

Maggie is determined to keep her friend safe, but with Kate already struggling with a threatening stalker, Maggie now fears Kate’s life is in real danger.  Who else would want to harm Kate and why else would the killer be turning his victims into exact replicas – his living dolls?

Can Maggie find the depraved killer?  Or will Kate become his next living doll?

I didn’t enjoy much about this novel. Some of the ARCs I receive have formatting issues which I overlook but this went beyond that.

The Good:

  • The cover is awesome.
  • You don’t have to read any of the other books in the series to pick up on the characters, relationships, or the plot.
  • References to the last book were minimal.
  • The ending leaves an opening for fans to have another book in the DC Maggie Jamieson series.
  • I wasn’t able to identify who the serial killer was but I was able to mark off all of the suspects as they were presented.
  • Some of the chapters were of the serial killers actions and some were of the potential victim and main investigator.

The Bad:

  • The pacing was off. It was really slow until the end.
  • There was a lot of telling and not showing.
  • Dialogue could be stilted and awkward at times.

I received this book in May and it’s not set to be published until October. There’s probably another ARC copy floating around that’s gone through another round or two of edits.

06.18.20

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka

Posted in Review at 8:35 pm by Amber

Title: The Last Place You Look
Author: Kristen Lepionka
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Source: Columbus Metropolitan Library

Book Cover of The Last Place You Look

I listened to this on audio book so I missed small details that I’d normally catch when reading the ebook or print version but I still really enjoyed it. The narrator was perfect.

It has bits set in Columbus so it was nice to see my hometown so prominently featured. It has neighborhoods and restaurants that are still around so it didn’t come across as dated.

It was interesting reading this during a pandemic and a time of protests against police brutality and racial inequality. The accused murderer is a black man on death row for allegedly killing the parents of his white girlfriend who went missing the same night and is presumed dead. Roxane is going to parties to do more investigative work.

It’s really well written. There was a red herring that I didn’t believe, partly because it was halfway through the book and partly because Roxane was so adamant that it was the right answer. The situations in this book were taken from headlines.

Roxane Weary is a complicated character and I’m glad there are more books featuring her. (The fourth one comes out next month.)

Before this one was published, a mutual friend who knows Kristen said that Kristen had done a ride-along with the police as part of the research. Our mutual friend is a big pusher of Kristen’s books! 🙂

I actually met Kristen at The Great American Read Trivia Night 2018 at the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Our mutual friend got a lot of ribbing that night because she wasn’t there. I attended that night with members of my book club, which includes our mutual friend. Without knowing Kristen was there we all ended up at the same table.

06.03.20

Unfamiliar Familiars by Megan Lynn Kott and Justin DeVine

Posted in Review at 1:18 pm by Amber

Title: Unfamiliar Familiars
Author: Megan Lynn Kott and Justin DeVine
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Source: NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Book cover for Unfamiliar Familiars

The witch and her black cat are an iconic partnership, but every witch is different—shouldn’t you have a familiar as unique and powerful as you are? Leave the toads and crows to the basic witches and consider some unconventional options when seeking your own arcane animal companion!

With a helpful quiz to get you started, UNFAMILIAR FAMILIARS is a lighthearted and humorous guide to finding the familiar best suited to your personality and particular magical needs. Filled with playful pop culture references, unusual and engaging animal facts, and aww-inducing artwork, UNFAMILIAR FAMILIARS brings a magical twist to the animal fact book for companion-seeking witches everywhere.

This was a spur of the moment pick from NetGalley. I follow the publisher on Instagram and during the pandemic they’ve been posting a lot of stories which I actually watch and don’t swipe through. This cover caught my eye and then seeing who the publisher was… I grabbed it.

It appeared it would be a lighthearted read and possibly provide some laughs. At 96 pages it could be read in a day or two, but why push yourself? These 40 unique familiars aren’t going anywhere.

The books notes what a familiar is, how to choose one, and how to summon one prior to explaining who would make a good match for each familiar. It’s important to remember that a familiar is not a servant or a pet!

According to a decision tree (if you don’t want to summon a familiar), the Ball Python would be a good match for me. They are a limbless cuddler known for getting along well with witches allergic to dander.

That’s me, exactly!

Great at hugs. Cool. Shed their skin every 4-6 weeks which require renewing the pact? Okay. Renaming must also be done and can’t be a repeat of the last 6 names. Ummm. I guess that’s why the witches they’re paired with must have good memories!

The drawings are all cute. The descriptions of the animals as familiars veer into silliness. Who doesn’t need a bit of silliness now and then? As the authors noted, if the facts couldn’t be found, then they just made it up.

Bonus points to Megan Lynn Kott for proclaiming Valiant, the 3-legged Corgi as her familiar. I would’ve done the same.

05.28.20

The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton

Posted in Review at 11:28 pm by Amber

Title: The Rural Diaries
Author: Hilarie Burton 
Publisher: HarperOne
Source: Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Book Cover of The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton

 

New York Times Bestseller 

The beloved actress and star of One Tree Hill, White Collar, and Lethal Weapon, Hilarie Burton Morgan, tells the story of leaving Hollywood for a radically different kind of life in upstate New York with her husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan—a celebration of community, family, and the value of hard work in small town America.

While Hilarie Burton Morgan’s hectic lifestyle as an actress in New York and Los Angeles gave her a comfortable life, it did not fulfill her spiritually or emotionally. After the birth of their first son, she and her husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the star of The Walking Dead, decided to make a major change: they bought a working farm in Rhinebeck, New York, and began a new chapter in their lives.

The Rural Diaries chronicles her inspiring story of farm life: chopping wood, making dandelion wine, building chicken coops. Burton looks back at her transition from urban to country living—discovering how to manage a farm while raising her son and making friends with her new neighbors. She mixes charming stories of learning to raise alpacas and buying and revitalizing the town’s beloved candy store, Samuel’s Sweet Shop, with raw observations on the ups and downs of marriage and her struggles with secondary infertility. Burton also includes delicious recipes that can be made with fresh ingredients at home, as well as home renovation and gardening tips.

Burton’s charisma, wide eyed attitude, and fortitude—both internal and physical—propels this moving story of transformation and self-discovery. The Rural Diaries honors the values and lifestyle of small-town America and offers inspiration for anyone longing to embark on their own unconventional journey.

If you’re doing the Read Harder Challenge for 2020 this will qualify for the entry about a rural setting. I used it as my entry for that task.

So, the cover and the name caught my eye and I found the memoir aspect interesting. I didn’t know who she was – I wasn’t watching MTV when she was hosting Total Request Live. But at the mention of an incident of unwanted sexual contact on the set of the show, I recalled seeing her tweet about it. I am aware of her husband’s existence but I never think of him by his name. It’s his character’s name on The Walking Dead that makes me cringe and wonder how people can be awful to one another. 

Hilarie Burton Morgan’s book feels very authentic. It’s not a tell-all and she goes just enough into each story that you get the details of what happened without going so deep that the woman, her family, and her neighbors don’t have any privacy. 

She’s about to move to Paris, France when she meets a man 16 years her senior who she jokes is a midlife crisis. She ends up charmed and a new plan develops which involves a future Christmas tree farm. Stories about rural life, infertility, gender bias, coupledom, and being a good community member is what you’ll find in this book.

It was really very sweet and it’s obvious how much she cares for the animals that she’s been entrusted with to care for.

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