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Book Review: “Clara’s Wish”

Posted by Nichole on January 7, 2014 in Book Reviews, Mystery |

Who else loves those true crime stories?  What about those Unsolved Mysteries re-runs?

So I’m not the only one?  Good.

Claras-Wish-by-S.M.-Senden

It’s those qualities that combine to make Clara’s Wish a great novel.

S.M. Senden takes readers back to the 1920s and the disappearance of a young woman.

The mystery is great and the characters are amazing.  From the historical aspects of the mystery, to the thoughts and actions of the contemporary characters, Senden creates a world that is completely believable.

The book spans several decades and brings a cold case to conclusion. It was a fast read, and really had something for everyone: romance, mystery, history.

This is the first novel by S.M. Senden and I’m looking forward to many more.

Keep reading!

Nichole

 

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Book Review: “The Sayers Swindle”

Posted by Nichole on January 7, 2014 in Book Reviews, Mystery |

I have a few confessions to make.  First, and foremost, I’ve never read Dorothy Sayers.  Nothing.  I’ve tried a few times to find her mysteries at the library, or via the online catalog for my library, and have come up empty handed.

Now that we got that out of the way, I will also admit that having zero knowledge of this Book Collector namesake didn’t deter from the story at all.

sayers swindle coverIn the second in this series, Victoria Abbott sends Jordan Bingham on a search to find some missing first editions of Dorothy Sayers which were stolen from Jordan’s employer, Vera Van Alst.  To make the search more difficult, the books were then sold by a reputable book dealer (she didn’t know they were stolen!), who has since suffered a brain injury.

By the time Jordan finds the missing books and thinks she’s got a real shot at getting them back, the owner of the books has disappeared.

Of course, the owner and his family aren’t who they say they are and a small town cop seems awfully nosey—as well as more than a touch needy—making Jordan’s job a bit trickier.

I enjoyed the story and reading it made me renew my desire to read a Dorothy L. Sayers mystery.  I will admit, however, that I enjoyed the first of the series (The Christie Curse) a bit more.  That may be because of my fondness for Dame Agatha’s mysteries.

Even though I just finished the book, I’m looking forward to another installment in the series.  Perhaps ” The Hemingway Heist” or “The Stolen Steinbeck” or “The Trouble with Twain.”  Whatever the next Abbott book, I’ll be looking for it.

Keep reading!

Nichole

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Book Review: A Deadwood Mystery series

Posted by Nichole on December 2, 2013 in Book Reviews, Mystery, Paranormal |

Mysteries.  Paranormal stuff.  Locations I know.

Three things I really enjoy.

And when I can get all three in a well-written series, I’m all over it!

Author Ann Charles uses Deadwood, South Dakota, as the backdrop for her Deadwood Mystery series.

The series follows single mother Violet Parker as she and her children move in with her aunt in the small town of Deadwood — famous for being the location of Wild Bill’s demise.  Violet is trying to raise her twins (a boy and a girl) in a safe location while she struggles to provide for them by becoming a real estate agent.

(Having been to Deadwood, I don’t envy Violet!  It’s reputation is more of a tourist town, and I would imagine selling houses there would be a tough gig.)

Nearly-Departed-in-Deadwood-Cover

In the first book, Nearly Departed in Deadwood, Violet is a brand new agent knowing she must sell a house to keep her job.  Try as she might, however, Violet is distracted.  Not only by her handsome client and the sexy (although somewhat odd) Doc, but by the fact that little girls a vanishing….girls about the same age as her own twins.

This book leans more on the “normal” side of the paranormal spectrum, with just enough to fall into the paranormal mystery genre.

Optical-Delusions-in-Deadwood

Book two, Optical Delusions in Deadwood, picks up where book one left off.  Only now not only is Violet concerned about her job, but her reputation since the “ghost talking” events of book one have become public.

This book steps a little further into the paranormal with more ghosts, a murder-suicide, and a mother-daughter team you should hope to never meet in real life.

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Book three, Dead Case in Deadwood, is more like chapter three of the same book than it is a separate book.  Violet is still trying to sell a house and is working up the nerve to tell her best friend that she’s dating Doc.

Violet has started to accept her reputation as the “go-to” girl for haunted houses and might even have a house sale go through without a hitch.  Maybe.

As of right now, there are four books in the series, but I haven’t read the fourth yet.  I’m sure I’ll find it at one of the tourist spots in Deadwood next time I go up there.  (Hey, that’s where I picked up book 2.)

The books are easy reads and Violet is a down to Earth, believable character with a rash of bad luck.  The secondary characters are, well, characters.  From the obnoxious co-worker to Harvey, the “dirty, old man,” every character is multi-layered and quirky.

The only downside to the series is the use of some foul language, which some cozy readers may be put off by.  Personally, the language didn’t bother me, but I didn’t find it necessary for Violet’s character, either.  I guess it was a “50-50” kind of thing….

If you’re looking for quick reads and don’t mind an occasional “F-bomb,” pick these up.  You won’t be sorry!

Nichole

P.S.  No, I’ve not met Ann Charles…but I will one of these days!

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Book Review: “The Christie Curse”

Posted by Nichole on October 14, 2013 in Book Reviews, Mystery |

Imagine moving back to your hometown after a nasty break up to look for a job. You can’t rely on your family since they prefer a more…interesting life than the traditional 9 to 5 that you’re looking for.

Now what if your Master’s Degree was in English and you didn’t want to teach?

Meet Jordan Bingham.  She ends up finding a job working for the rich, eccentric, and widely despised woman in Harrison Falls, New York.  And not just any job, but one that uses her skills as a researcher, her love of books, and knowledge of English.

the Christie CurseThe job?  To solve an 80 year old quandary that has plagued mystery lovers since 1926, find a manuscript which may or may not exist, and live to tell the tale.

What’s the mystery?  Agatha Christie’s 11-day disappearance.  The missing work?  A play rumored to have been penned by the Grand Dame of Mystery.  The problem?

Other people who have been looking for the play have ended up dead.

This is the story written by Victoria Abbott, the pen name of photographer and short story author Victoria Maffini and her mother, Mary Jane Maffini, award-winning author of three mystery series and two dozen short stories.

The Christie Curse is a fun read and kept me guessing up to the end.

I think I liked this for a couple of reasons.  First, I am a huge Agatha Christie fan, so the take on her disappearance was both interesting and unique.  Second, the characters in the story are believable and just quirky enough to be interesting.  Finally, (and I didn’t know this when I first started reading it) I actually met Mary Jane Maffini years ago at a Mayhem in the Midlands conference and it’s always a blast to read authors I’ve met.

I’m looking forward to more of Jordan’s adventures in Harrison Falls and can’t wait until The Sayers Swindle is released later this year.

Nichole

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Book Review: Magical Bakery Mystery Series

Posted by Nichole on August 25, 2013 in Book Reviews, Mystery, Paranormal |

What if you were a professional baker?  What if you decided to move to one of the oldest and (reportedly) most haunted cities in America to help your favorite aunt and uncle start a bakery?  What if you’re a single woman who is attracted to two very different men?

All of that would probably be enough to keep you busy, right?

Now factor in the fact that you have just discovered your favorite aunt is a witch.  A hereditary witch.  You know, passed through the genes.

brownies

Surprise!

These are the problems facing Katie Lightfoot in the Magical Bakery Mystery Series by Bailey Cates.

(Since I’ve read the first two already, I’m going to go ahead an review them both here.)

The first book, Brownies and Broomsticks, finds Katie in Savannah, Georgia, ready to help her aunt and uncle open a bakery.  The move is great for 20-something Katie, who recently had some major changes in her life.

Right off the bat she meets her aunt’s friends and fellow “book club” members.  The bakery has also been picked as the location for a business-association meeting.

And that’s where things get hairy.

When one of the members of the association is murdered, Katie’s uncle is the prime suspect.  Katie, of course, is determined to clear Uncle Ben’s name. As she does, she finds out she’s a powerful witch, finds herself in the midst of an interesting love triangle, and still manages to get the Honeybee Bakery open on time.

biscotti

In the second installment, Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti, Katie has begun to come to terms with her witchcraft lineage.  She’s discovered that the recipes created at the Honeybee Bakery have a little extra…kick to them, since they’re really spells.  She’s getting to know the two men who, while both attracted to Katie, despise each other.

It’s these two men—Declan and Steve—who really play a big role in this sequel.  Katie is with Declan when she discovers a body.  And it’s from Steve she learns about the magical undercurrent in Savannah.

Both of the books were quick, light reads.  I wasn’t fond of Katie’s parents adopting a “let’s not tell her she’s a powerful witch” attitude, but it wasn’t enough to make me dislike the story.  And, let’s be honest, parents have a way of doing what they think is best at the time and it turns out to be a questionable decision in the long run, right?

charms

If you’re looking for a light-hearted paranormal cozy with a touch of romance, this series would fit the bill.  And this is a good time to pick up the first two since installment number three—Charms and Chocolate Chips—has a November 5, 2013, release date.

Nichole

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Headed to adventure

Posted by Nichole on March 28, 2013 in Life in General |

My husband and I are world travelers.  Norway. France. Germany. Hungry.

Of those places, we’ve only both been to Germany.

And we weren’t there at the same time.

Such is the life of an active-duty military couple.

To be perfectly honest, we didn’t even know each other when we went to some of these place.  However, each spot shaped our personalities and we have fond memories of the people and places we’ve seen.

Our travels together, though, have been much more limited.  We’ve visited family in Texas and Nebraska.  Took a vacation to Yellowstone National Park.  And…nope, that’s it.  We never had a honeymoon and our weekend getaways can be counted on one hand.

In about six weeks, though, all that will change.  We’re going on a cruise to the Caribbean.

Yes, we’ve seen the news.  Cruise ships are having a few issues lately.  It happens.  Our ship was even one of them that made the news.  Does that worry me?  Nope.  Chances are that our ship will then be fixed before our departure date.

I love the water.   I’ve lived near the Atlantic Ocean when I was stationed in Virginia and my grandparents had a cabin on a small lake in Nebraska.  I’m not sure my grandpa’s fishing boat will even compare to the city on the water I’m going to experience.

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My basic training photo

 

Don’t get me wrong.  We’re both nervous about this trip.  But it’s an excited “what’s going to happen” nervous.  Heck, I’d never been on an airplane until I flew to Lackland Air Force Base for basic training.  Talk about nervous!

No matter what, my husband and I are going to have an adventure.  Together.  We’re looking at it like a belated honeymoon.  An adventure to remember in the years to come.

And neither one of us needs to pack combat boots.

Blessings!

Nichole

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Book Review: “Murder on the House”

Posted by Nichole on January 27, 2013 in Book Reviews, Mystery, Paranormal |

I just finished number three of the Haunted Home Renovation Series, and I wasn’t disappointed.  murder-on-the-house-200 Murder on the House features construction general contractor Mel Turner, who is coming to terms with her ability to communicate with the dead.    Of course, since she was recently “outed” in the Haunted House Quarterly, Mel doesn’t have much choice.

She’s contacted by a couple who want to create a haunted bed and breakfast to restore an historic home to its former glory.  Since the house already has ghosts, Mel is really more interested in the construction aspect.  Well, to be honest, Mel is always more interested in the construction part–the ghost part is normally an annoying aspect of getting the job done.

Since the house is haunted, however, Mel has to remain in the house one night.  With her competition.  That would have been fine, except that the rightful owner of the home is killed in the gardens that same night.

Being the third in the series, the characters are well defined and often the back-stories are continued from previous books, although I don’t think you’d need to read the first two in order to follow the story.  This is one of my favorite series, and I look forward to each of Juliet Blackwell’s works.  I didn’t much care for the ending of this one, but I’m not sure the story could have ended any other way.

I’m really looking forward to more of this series!

Nichole

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Book Review: “Bruja Brouhaha”

Posted by Nichole on January 21, 2013 in Book Reviews, Mystery, Paranormal |

bruja-200Around this time last year I wrote up a review for Who Do, Voodoo?, the first in a series by Rochelle Staab.  I was finally able to pick up the second, Bruja Brouhaha, and am glad I did.

As the book opens, Liz Cooper and her boyfriend, Nick Garfield, are celebrating the 60th wedding anniversary of their friends, Paco and Lucia Rojas.  The Rojas couple are devout Santeria practitioners and anniversary guests are encouraged to ask Obi—a god—a question.  Liz’s answer is anything but positive.  Within hours, Paco is shot and killed on his front steps and the senseless violence pushes Lucia over the edge.  At Paco’s wake, she utters a hex on the neighborhood, only to be lifted when the killer is caught.

Psychologist Liz is sure the hex is nothing more than a distraught woman seeking answers to the death of her love.  Religious Studies Professor Nick isn’t so sure.  Together, though, they vow to find the answers Lucia is seeking.

One of the things I really like about this series is that Liz looks at the occult as something she just doesn’t believe in.  Her skepticism forces her to look for other answers to the mysteries she and Nick come in contact with.  I also find the characters Staab has created to be realistic and delightful.  The personal struggles each one faces are struggles that either I or someone I know has faced—the loss of love, death, finding a place in the world after a major change.

Overall, this was a quick read and I’m looking forward to more by Staab.

Blessings!

Nichole

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Book Review: “Beneath a Dakota Cross”

Posted by Nichole on January 9, 2013 in Book Reviews |

dakota_cross_bm_largeIn 1874, General Custer led one thousand men to the Black Hills of South Dakota to investigate rumors of gold.  Some was found, and more settlers flocked to what I consider one of the most beautiful areas of the country.

That’s the background for Stephen Bly’s  Beneath a Dakota Cross, which was one of my walking books this past summer.  (Walking books would be ones I listen to while I take my walk.)

Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

IN SEARCH OF A NEW LIFE OUT WEST, BRAZOS FORTUNE FINDS HIS FAMILY ENDANGERED BY THE VERY QUEST HE HOPED WOULD SAVE THEM. With these simple words, Brazos Fortune sets out on his journey in the first of Stephen Blys new Fortunes of the Black Hills series. When locals threaten the lives and property of his family. Brazos abandons his Texas homestead for a new ranch in the West he has seen in a dream. Its a war against corrupt lawmen, wild outlaws, and bitter winter weather as Brazos wrestles with his new found hunger for gold and the burning desire to be reunited with his family. He must test himself against the untamed frontier, confront the greedy miners who try his Christian convictions, and find the new home God showed him Beneath a Dakota Cross.

Overall, I liked the story.  I’ll admit I didn’t know the Christian connection when I selected it.  I really picked it for the Black Hills connection.

If I remember correctly, it did drag a little in a few places, but the readers voice added an element of “the old west” that I enjoyed.  I also didn’t find the Christianity “overwhelming” because it fit with the characters.  I do have plans to eventually get the rest of the series and find out how Brazos’s adventure turns out.

Nichole

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Book Review: “Knit One, Kill Two”

Posted by Nichole on January 7, 2013 in Book Reviews, Mystery |

My first finished read of 2013 and I’m actually on the ball as far as posting a review.  I’m just as shocked as you are.

knit_160bKnit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton has been in my “To-Read” pile for a long time.  Although it lacked the paranormal aspect common in many of the books I read, it was a cozy and, hey,  I knit.

Let me start by saying I did enjoy the plot.  Although it was definitely a cozy (in that the amateurs solve what the professionals can’t), this time the protagonist is trying to fin answer to the death of  a loved one.

Kelly Flynn is a Washington, D.C., CPA who is in Colorado to take care of her Aunt Helen’s estate.  No one disputes Helen’s murder, however there are some inconsistencies in the case.  For example, why is the heirloom family quilt not hanging on the wall?  Why is one knitting needle broken?  What happened to the knitting?  Despite the vagrant in police custody, the columns don’t balance for our CPA friend and she goes off in search of answers.

Next to Aunt Helen’s cottage is “the House of Lambspun,” a yarn store that features yarns, fibers, spinning, classes, and community.  I found Sefton’s visual descriptions of the store spot on with my yarn store experiences.  I’m sure it helps that the House Of Lambspun exists.  (C.R. Yarn, my LYS or Local Yarn Store, isn’t nearly that big, but I love it!)

For anyone who’s ever participated in a “Knit Night,” a “Spin-In,” or a “Stitch & Bitch” you know there are a variety of women and a plethora of personalities.  It makes for amazing conversation.  However, it made for a confusing read, trying to keep all the people separate in my head.  I found little to distinguish members of Kelly’s circle of knitting friends. Yes, there was one male and the owner of the shop, but the other four or five women all kind of blended together for me.  Perhaps there wasn’t enough time to develop them on the page since there were so many.

I also found Kelly’s obsession with coffee a little over the top.  Don’t misunderstand.  I love my coffee and the people around me love me when I have my coffee, but I don’t think a chapter went by that didn’t include a reference to the drink.  At first the descriptions were so vivid that I felt sure the coffee was a clue to something.  By the end, I was tempted to skip over the paragraphs describing java.

Overall, the book was okay.  It’s the first in the series, with number ten recently being released, so I am going to assume that the characters get fleshed out as the books progress.  I may check the library or see if friends already own the books, however, before I purchase.

Oh, and there’s a chance that “Lambspun’s Whodunnit Shell” may eventually make it to my needles.

Nichole

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