Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Review: The Dirt On Ninth Grave

The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson, #9)Author: Darynda Jones
Publication Date: January 12, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Series: Charley Davidson # 9

In a small village in New York lives Jane Doe, a girl with no memory of who she is or where she came from. So when she is working at a diner and slowly begins to realize she can see dead people, she's more than a little taken aback. Stranger still are the people entering her life. They seem to know things about her. Things they hide with lies and half-truths. Soon, she senses something far darker. A force that wants to cause her harm, she is sure of it. Her saving grace comes in the form of a new friend she feels she can confide in and the fry cook, a devastatingly handsome man whose smile is breathtaking and touch is scalding. He stays close, and she almost feels safe with him around.

But no one can outrun their past, and the more lies that swirl around her—even from her new and trusted friends—the more disoriented she becomes, until she is confronted by a man who claims to have been sent to kill her. Sent by the darkest force in the universe. A force that absolutely will not stop until she is dead. Thankfully, she has a Rottweiler. But that doesn't help in her quest to find her identity and recover what she's lost. That will take all her courage and a touch of the power she feels flowing like electricity through her veins. She almost feels sorry for him. The devil in blue jeans. The disarming fry cook who lies with every breath he takes. She will get to the bottom of what he knows if it kills her. Or him. Either way.

“A lot of people are alive because I shed too much hair to get away with murder.”

“Crazy chicks are usually pretty tough.”

“He was like a panther in the wild. Beautiful to look at. Far too dangerous to approach.”

“Men were weird. Especially men made of tempered steel and fire and perpetual darkness. Or men with penises. Either way.”

This series has long been one of my favorite urban paranormal series to read and follow. The ninth book in this long tale is much more mellow than the rest have been, mainly because of the events that transpired in the eighth book. In short, Charley now has amnesia and is known as Janey Doerr. Charley, or should I say Janey, is working hard to get her memory back and all the lovable secondary characters that we know and love work hard to help her without forcing her to remember. Charley has taken a job as a waitress at a local diner and her friends are “regulars” that frequent the bar hoping she will catch on. At first I did not know how I would feel about this story, but it turned out to be really refreshing to see Charley rediscover her gifts and the people who have known and loved her for so long.

Darynda Jones can make any story enjoyable. The dialogue is witty. Charley is still as sarcastic as ever. And, of course, Reyes is still as dark and handsome. Cookie is still Charley’s ride or die sidekick who is ready for everything and anything. Some things never change. Of course, some things are a bit different in this book and because of recent events, Jones was forced to slow down the pace and really write from a different point of view really. Charley is forced to solve crimes on her own and it was nice, in a sense, to see Charley do this alone. The tenth installment will be released later this year and I am very anxious to see where Jones is taking the story from here. Regardless of where she goes, I will always be a fan!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at St. Martin’s Press in exchange for my honest review***

Friday, January 22, 2016

Book Review: Medici's Daughter

Médicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de ValoisAuthor: Sophie Perinot
Publication Date: December 1, 2015
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot’s intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.

Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot's heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother's schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot's wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.

Médicis Daughter is historical fiction at its finest, weaving a unique coming-of-age story and a forbidden love with one of the most dramatic and violent events in French history.

Besides, I tell myself, as I twirl in my somber black gown, Mother would not solicit his hand for me if there was truly something wrong with him.

“You are my princess, not his, and I would not have you as far away as Spain however important the crown. Not even to please Mother.”

The kiss is brief, but the Duc is right: its urgency and the fear of being discovered make it intensely exciting. “Now,” he says with a smile, “I am ready for battle.”

A well-written historical fiction novel is really the best kind, at least in my mind. Medici’s Daughter follows Marguerite de Valois, Catherine de Medici’s daughter. Drama surrounds Marguerite’s life from the very beginning, and the entire story covers a ten year time span. Margot, short for Marguerite, narrates her own story and her voice is absolutely tantalizing. Readers will soon find themselves wrapped in drama, politics, and Margot’s power struggles. Following Margot had its ups and downs, I felt for her in a sense because she was always trying so incredibly hard to please her famous, always in the limelight mother, Catherine. On the other hand, Margot made some choices throughout the novel that I had to cringe at a little bit, but I must say that I loved reading this book from her perspective, when at first I thought I might not.

Not only do readers get an inside look into Margot’s life, but we get to enjoy the company of her entire family. Catherine shows up, of course, in all her devilish glory, as well as some of Margot’s siblings: Charles and Henri. The center of the story I feel is Margot’s love choice, which happened in a time when princesses did not make their own love matches. I felt that everything was so well-done and as dramatic as I am sure something like this played out, Perinot managed to write with class and sophistication. Margot had some difficult choices to make and really had no one that she trusted. Every character was out for self and I had no clue who was going to stab whom in the back next. Catherine is terrifying; let me just reveal this up front. Everything about this novel was so fantastically written.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Thomas Dunne Books in exchange for my honest review***

Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Review: Tricky Twenty-Two

Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum, #22)Author: Janet Evanovich
Publication Date: November 17, 2015
Publisher: Bantam
Series: Stephanie Plum #22

Something big is brewing in Trenton, N.J., and it could blow at any minute.

Stephanie Plum might not be the world's greatest bounty hunter, but she knows when she's being played. Ken Globovic (aka Gobbles), hailed as the Supreme Exalted Zookeeper of the animal house known as Zeta fraternity, has been arrested for beating up the dean of students at Kiltman College. Gobbles has missed his court date and gone into hiding. People have seen him on campus, but no one will talk. Things just aren't adding up, and Stephanie can't shake the feeling that something funny is going on at the college - and it's not just Zeta fraternity pranks.

As much as people love Gobbles, they hate Doug Linken. When Linken is gunned down in his backyard it's good riddance, and the list of possible murder suspects is long. The only people who care about finding Linken's killer are Trenton cop Joe Morelli, who has been assigned the case, security expert Ranger, who was hired to protect Linken, and Stephanie, who has her eye on a cash prize and hopefully has some tricks up her sleeve.

I bought a load of comfort food and went home to eat it. Snickers bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, York Peppermint Patties, M&M’s, Twizzlers, everything I could find that contained caramel, plus three tubs of ice cream.

“Well, I’m just sayin’. I keep my skin silky soft with lanolin, and I don’t want no welts. What’s the world coming to when a girls allows for welts on her booty?”

He plays by his own rules, and I don’t have a complete copy of his rule book.

 A lot of people, from the reviews I have read so far, seem to be fed up with this long running series and want Evanovich to put an end to Stephanie’s reign as the Queen of Mystery. I, on the other hand, fly through each book like it is the very first to be released. Yes, they have become a bit predictable. Yes, I would like to see a change in Stephanie’s love life and an end to the Ranger-Morelli-Plum love triangle. No, I am not ready to see the series end. Stephanie Plum is one of my favorite characters of all time and I can finish any of these books in one sitting. The mystery, although predictable at times, still kept me hooked and gave me that fabulous gut feeling of dying to know what is going to happen next.

All the same loveable characters have returned: Ranger, Lula, Morelli, and of course Stephanie Plum herself. I do not want to release any spoilers, but by the end of the book I feel that we have moved forward a little in the love department. Now who knows how long it will last or where Evanovich will take it from here. I love how all of Evanovich’s books draw in multiple new characters and allow the reader to question all of them when it comes to who committed the crime. Stephanie has a tendency to be working on several cases at a time and most of them manage to be connected somehow. I love the journeys she goes on with Lula and all the crazy, funny conversations they have.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Bantam in exchange for my honest review***

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Review: Curio

CurioAuthor: Evangeline Denmark
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Blink
Series: Curio # 1

Grey Haward has always detested the Chemists, the magicians-come-scientists who rule her small western town. But she has always followed the rules, taking the potion the Chemists ration out that helps the town’s people survive. A potion that Grey suspects she—like her grandfather and father—may not actually need.

By working at her grandfather’s repair shop, sorting the small gears and dusting the curio cabinet inside, Grey has tried to stay unnoticed—or as unnoticed as a tall, strong girl can in a town of diminutive, underdeveloped citizens. Then her best friend, Whit, is caught by the Chemists’ enforcers after trying to protect Grey one night, and after seeing the extent of his punishment, suddenly taking risks seems the only decision she can make.

But with the risk comes the reality that the Chemists know her family’s secret, and the Chemists soon decide to use her for their own purposes. Panicked, Grey retreats to the only safe place she knows—her grandfather’s shop. There, however, a larger secret confronts her when her touch unlocks the old curio cabinet in the corner and reveals a world where porcelain and clockwork people are real. There, she could find the key that may save Whit’s life and also end the Chemists’ dark rule forever.

She braced a bloody palm on the brick wall and pushed to her feet. Eyes locked on the nearing teeth, she scrambled around the pallets. Warm blood seeped down her leg and glued her stockings to her skin.

Father and Grandad were anomalies in Mercury City, even rebels. But Defenders? Her textbooks called the race violent and cruel.

She sprinted into the darkness of the alley. The thrum of the engines faded. Then grew louder. It didn’t matter. All she could do was run.

I read this book in one sitting! This was a great way to start off my year. Chemists. Unique worlds. Porcelain dolls coming to life. Magic. Steampunk. Romance. I am in love with this book and am so thrilled that it will be a series. The author has created two different worlds for readers. Mercury City and the world behind the doors of the magical curio cabinet. Her imagination must be out of this world. Everything felt so alive and so real. The town where Grey Haward, our heroine and protagonist, grew up feels like a dystopian world almost. It is so restrictive and downright cruel, but this has only served to make Grey brave, able to think on her feet, resourceful, and highly adaptive. Grey will stop at nothing to make things right in her world and to do away with the Chemists. These people are part of the elite and run the town, making everyone else fall merciless at their feet. There is just so much to love about this story!

Grey is by far my favorite thing. She is full of flaws and insecurities and the author writes her in a way that makes her appealing and relatable to readers. This story is full of adventure; whether Grey is in Mercury City or Curio City, both worlds need saving and she seems to be the only saving grace. The story is fast-paced and needs no help reeling in readers; I promise you will be mesmerized from the opening pages. I am not sure how long I can wait for the next book in this series. I was also very shocked to find out that this was the debut book for this author! I am already so very impressed with her writing style and I am so anxious for more!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Blink in exchange for my honest review***

Monday, January 11, 2016

Blog Tour Book Review: At Love's Bidding

At Love's Bidding (Ozark Mountain Romance #2)Author: Regina Jennings
Publication Date: December 1, 2015
Publisher: Bethany House
Series: Ozark Mountain Romance # 2

After helping her grandfather at their Boston auction house, Miranda Wimplegate discovers she's accidentally sold a powerful family's prized portrait to an anonymous bidder. Desperate to appease the furious family, her grandfather tracks it to the Missouri Ozarks and makes an outlandish offer to buy the local auction house if they promise not to sell anything until he arrives.

Upon their arrival, however, they discover their new business doesn't deal in fine antiques, but in livestock. And its manager, ruggedly handsome Wyatt Ballentine, is frustrated to discover his fussy new bosses don't know a thing about the business he's single-handedly kept afloat. Faced with more cattle than they can count--but no mysterious painting--Miranda and Wyatt form an unlikely but charged partnership to try and salvage a bad situation getting worse

With her last view of the salon, she spotted the mysterious man from the carriage tucking his number into his waistcoat pocket and departing with a satisfied smile.

She’d walk through anything rather than spend another moment in his company. With all the dignity she could muster, she heaved open the wide, wooden door.

Why wasn’t he happy that she decided not to leave after all?

I have never read a Regina Jennings story that I have not thoroughly enjoyed. She is able to pen everlasting stories with inspirational and emotional themes and writes some of the smartest, most wonderful characters I have read. This is the second book in the series, but I feel it could be read as a standalone novel. The story follows Miranda and Wyatt as they work in their spiritual journey to help others around them that are less fortunate. They share a lot in common, but still come from two completely different backgrounds. Wyatt is fine with his comfortable life until Miranda comes in and throws him for a loop – and I mean that in the best sense possible!

The message was very inspirational and talked about God in a manner that was not intrusive but enlightening and motivational for those reading. I was fully invested in both of these characters and I cared about the same things they cared about. They were smart, strong, and completely determined to better themselves and their goals. The book has a very real and serious message behind it, but Regina Jennings writes scenes that are witty and full of humor. She makes the character’s lives and problems seem very real, but she still allow them to joke and have a good time while enjoying each other’s company. I am looking forward to so much more from this series!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the wonderful people at Litfuse in exchange for my honest review***


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Book Review: Cinnamon Toasted

Cinnamon Toasted: A Spice Shop MysteryAuthor: Gail Oust
Publication Date: December 15, 2015
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Series: Spice Shop Mystery # 3

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Case in point: Piper Prescott's former mother-in-law Melly. Beneath her twin sets and pearls beats the heart of a geek—a geek whose programming changes for the point-of-sale software in Piper's shop have the owners of the program ready to make her an offer she can't refuse. "Trusty" Rusty Tulley and Chip Balboa swing by Brandywine Creek—just in time for the town's annual Oktoberfest, which has cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom flying off Piper's shelves in record numbers. News spreads faster than a text message, and Melly is the toast of the town.

But it isn't long before Melly's status changes to public enemy number one when Chip's body is found at the foot of her basement stairs. Questions start to pile up when handsome police chief Wyatt McBride arrives on the scene and the coroner sets the time of death for the previous evening. McBride wants to know why it took Melly so long to report the incident—especially after she admits to arguing with Chip about the contract he wanted her to sign. Piper knows Melly would never hurt a fly, so she enlists the help of her BFF Reba Mae to clear her name—but can they find the real killer before Melly gets sent away for good? A mouth-watering entry in Gail Oust's delicious Spice Shop series, Cinnamon Toasted is sure to delight cozy fans of all stripes.

  Cinnamon from Ceylon. Nutmeg from Grenada. Cloves from Madagascar. A regular United Nations lines the shelves of Spice It Up!

Melly raised her cup. “It’s five o’clock somewhere, son Care to join us?”

I wouldn’t spoil Melly’s time in the limelight for all the spice in Grenada.

I decided to take some time off from reading and reviewing near the holidays, but this cozy mystery was just what I needed to get back into the swing of things! Gail Oust has been one of my favorite authors since I discovered her first Spice Shop Mystery novel. What I loved most about getting back into this series is to see how much the secondary characters are developing. This story focuses more on Piper’s ex-mother-in-law, Melly, and I must say that I LOVE her character. Melly is actually the leading suspect in the murder that takes place this time around. I love seeing Piper and her mother-in-law being able to work so well together. Piper is one of the best female sleuths and her characteristics make her seem all the more relatable and realistic.

My biggest complaint regarding this story is that I wish I would have been given more clues as I was reading the mystery. That is not to say that I did not enjoy the story; it was just not my absolute favorite. As always, I feel that Piper makes the story what it is: relaxing, cozy, and entirely warm-hearted. Her life is not ideal, but that is what makes her great to follow as a female lead. She is living a good life and doing what she loves, and getting back at her ex-husband by doing it. Of course, another plus with Oust’s books is the incredible weaving in of spices and baking. Don’t read this bad boy while you are hungry!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Minotaur Books in exchange for my honest review***