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Book Reviews

A Few Random Updates and a Great Book

The weatherman took away our chances for rain that used to appear for the weekend. (See post below about Liars.)

I read On the Edge (The Edge, Book 1) by Ilona Andrews. I keep threatening to do a review, but suffice it to say I could not order the next in the series fast enough. (Bayou Moon (The Edge, Book 2)) I have loved everything Ilona Andrews writes. The Edge is easily going to make my top books of the year. It’s one of the rarest of the rare that I’ll probably re-read. It’s a mix of urban fantasy, fantasy and romance. Every word of it is done well with awesome characterization and plotting.

New Email Sign Up

I’m going to implement a sign up for people to subscribe via email to my blog. I’ll post the details, but if you want to be a beta tester, the signup is over on the left sidebar. Basically if you want an email containing the latest blog posts (sent once daily), you sign up and the daily blog posts will be delivered to your inbox. That way you won’t miss a single complaint about the weather–or the weather report!

Posted: August 31, 2011
Filed in Book Reviews

A Freebie or a Deal

Soooo, Ms. FarFromHome recommended the Calamity Jayne series by Kathleen Bacus as a funny and zany read. I couldn’t resist, of course. I admit though, the first 1/3 of the book it was pretty over the top for me. I set it down a couple of times because Calamity was just a wee bit too annoying. The thing is, there was a plot under there that wanted to get out. And I wanted to find out what happened. The main guy (Ranger Rick. Yes, she really called him that. Along with a bunch of other names) wasn’t all that likeable either. He ran pretty close to condescending and arrogant. BUT. But. I read it anyway, and it did make me laugh in one spot.

Or, for an almost better deal, you can get all FIVE books for 9.99 in the Kindle boxed set! So if you know you like zany books like Lisa Lutz, Janet Evanovich, Molly Harper, you might just want to grab the series. I do not know how long these deal prices will last, but the series is worth a look. It’s hard to resist books when they cost less than 2 dollars each. Or maybe I just have a hard time resisting books? That could be…

Posted: August 9, 2012
Filed in Book Reviews, Under $5
Tags:, ,

A Great Bargain

savingThis entire boxed set is only 99 cents and it comes recommended by April the Dragon–she said the first book had a character that reminded her of Amelia Peabody (one of THE FINEST characters of all time, I might add). I’ve already downloaded the first, but now this! All three for 99 cents! EDITED TO ADD: I’ve read the first two. Definitely makes the list of great books under five! I enjoyed them both!

Society for Paranormals

It’s also available at Kobobooks but you might need a coupon to get the lower price. For my updated list of coupons, see the list here. The link can always be found on the left sidebar halfway down this page under Book Links. I keep it updated as I find new Kobo books coupons!

Edited to add another find: Prince of Tides is only 9 cents right now on Amazon (probably a typo so act fast if you see this). You can then buy the audio for about 4 dollars.

A New Lilith Straight Book!

Michelle Scott has just released the sequel (book 2) in the Lilith Straight series: Straight to Heaven.

In celebration Straight to Hell (the first in the series) is on sale for 99 cents!

If you tried Straight to Hell and found it too dark, well, I have good news. Go Straight to Heaven. (See how I did that? I’m so clever. 🙂 ) Heaven is much more of a cozy book than book one. Hell was sort of a cozy, but it was also noir, and there were parts that drove me a bit crazy with the desperation of it all. Do not ask me how an author comes up with such a combo. It takes more talent than I have to try such. I think it comes from writers who are used to writing fantasy (Michelle has published fantasy with Mundania Press, a fantasy imprint). Fantasy writers seem to do everything in a three-part series so in the first book they can leave the heroine in the lurch and no one thinks much of it. Cozy readers, well we expect darn close to a happily ever after ending.

If you haven’t read either, I think these books can be read stand alone without a problem. I received an Advanced Review Copy of Heaven and I liked the storyline even better than the first book. I admit I was on pins and needles as I read Heaven, hoping that this time, Lilith would have some good things come her way.

Posted: May 2, 2012
Filed in Book Reviews

April the Dragon: Romance and Children

Continuation of April the Dragon’s Halftime book report:

Next up, romance and children! Those two go together, right? Ahem. Anyway, here is the list for this grouping:

scandalLast Night’s Scandal by Loretta Chase. What I like about Loretta Chase’s romances is that she knows what romance is, and it isn’t just two beautiful people who like how they look together. She also knows how to include smiles and laughter in her stories. They’re just as improbable as all the rest but loads of fun! There are onscreen naked people, be warned!

goodearlOne Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean is one of a group of stories about several ‘scoundrels’ who are all involved in the ownership or management of a ‘gaming hell’ as the romance books call their local casinos. There are definitely sex scenes in this one. Don’t open it if you don’t want any of that. The main is very book smart but not very people smart (naturally) and the man she ends up pestering is mostly trying to save her from herself. Very sweet, highly improbable and extremely romantic.

amandaDangerous by Amanda Quick is a standard regency romance with a clever and original heroine and a rich and sarcastic hero. Sweet, often funny, this is a cozy read for anyone who likes a bit of romance to while away a few hours.

educationThe Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict is sort of a prequel to the popular middle grade series, The Benedict Society, and deals with the mysterious founder of the Benedict Society when he was an orphan boy. A bit sad in lots of parts and a great deal of kid on kid bullying with lots of clever evasions of same. Fun and interesting but mostly of interest to those who have already read the Benedict Society series.

Posted: August 3, 2013
Filed in Book Reviews

April’s Best Reads for First Half 2012

It’s always fun to see what other people are reading and enjoying. April, who is part dragon, is an avid reader. Until she got her Kindle she used to cart around the back of cereal boxes for emergency reading. In short, she reads almost anything! She has at least one book on this list that she rated 5 stars–and I rated it ONE. How’s that for “different strokes for different folks?” She also re-read and gave five stars to the first three books in Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. I couldn’t agree more. 🙂

So without further ado, here are April’s favorite 5 star reads so far this year (In the spirit of buddy reviews, I commented on those books I have also read. Feel free to add your opinion in the comments):

Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant, #3) Aaronovitch, Ben – This is the third in the series, the first is Midnight Riot and they are urban fantasy set in London. The main character is a cop and finds out that magic is possible when he realizes that he has just tried to get a witness statement from a ghost. I like this one because the character’s sarcasm is terribly funny but he is also very sweet, intelligent and normal sounding. I also love that he follows police procedure even when dealing with monsters and demons and ghosts. That part also brings up quite a few funny scenes. How DO you document demons and ghosts for the authorities?

(Maria’s notes: I’d describe this as the British mystery gone urban fantasy. It has many cozy elements via the characters, but is more a general mystery than a cozy. Throw in a ghost and a few murders and you’ve got a good story going.)

Timeless (Parasol Protectorate, #5) Carriger, Gail – the fifth in the Parasol Protectorate, the first being Soulless. I like this one because it is silly and serious and funny and romantic. It is considered steampunk because of the atmosphere of the Victorian period, the scientific sensibilities of some of the characters and the inclusion of vampires and werewolves.

(Maria’s notes: The first is more your typical romance and suffers from some of those cliches, but manages to almost pull off the mystery side of things without a hitch.)

Factotum (The Foundling’s Tale, Part Three) Cornish, D.M. – The first book in this series, The Foundling, surprised me. I had put it on my ‘to read’ list because of the synopsis but when I saw the cover, with a giant monster on it, I was worried. It is actually a very interesting and fun YA story about a kid who lives in an orphanage but who is shipped off to become an apprentice. He ends up not where he is supposed to be as he is traveling alone and gets caught up in some dodgy dealings and has adventures and meets interesting characters. A very unique world where certain people augment their abilities via implants and potions so they can go out and hunt monsters. Sweet, scary and a definite page turner.

Unicorn on Speed Dial Cottrell, Jeanette – As far as I know this is a stand alone book. No series. I wish there were more though. I love the sincere kindness of the main character and her family and I adore how her family relates to each other. Lots of fun around a serious plot. Mom has to save the world, her children, their home and many animals from evil and greedy people.

(Maria’s notes: I LOVED THIS BOOK. It’s a must-read for cozy readers and fantasy readers. It is soccer mom with unusual pets–and more than just the usual fantasy adventure!)

Maybe This Time Crusie, Jennifer – another stand alone, this one is both a romance and a ghost story. At times creepy and scary, it is still full of humor and sweet romance.

An Echo in the Bone (Outlander, #7) Gabaldon, Diana – Book number 7 of an unfinished series. Each book is around 800 pages. Some people are scared off by books so large but I love them. In any case, the best description of this series I’ve ever heard is the one the author quotes on her website and it is from “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting “Scrooge McDuck” comics.” Each book can be read on its own as a stand alone (she designed them that way) but they are much better enjoyed in order as a series to get the full effect.

(Maria’s notes: You couldn’t pay me to read an 800 page book.)

Three Men in a Boat Jerome, Jerome K. – (Maria’s Note: This was free when I posted this; check price!) I had this on my ‘to read’ list for a while because after reading (and loving) Connie Willis’ ‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’ I heard that Jerome’s book was part of the spark for that story. The first chapter had me howling with laughter. But, be warned, this is a period piece about a time very different from ours with different ways of speech and thinking. I actually skimmed much of it because it got to be too much of the same thing but if a book makes me howl with laughter, it automatically gets good marks.

My Most Excellent Year Kluger, Steve – This is a quiet story about three high school friends and one year when things happened to change their lives. Lots of humor and baseball facts.

The Fire Rose (Elemental Masters, #1) Lackey, Mercedes – I call this one historical urban fantasy because it is a story about elemental magic and its practitioners but has an urban setting where the world isn’t fully aware of the magic they don’t see all around them. It isn’t a rollicking, butt-kicking urban fantasy but there is action. Set in old San Francisco, the sensibilities of the characters are very different from today. It also has a touch of romance. One of my favorite parts is that the main character, a woman, is passionate about learning and at one point, when given carte blanche at a bookstore, nearly chortles with glee. I can definitely relate!

(Maria’s Notes: I think I read this one ages ago. The cover remains one of my all-time favorites. It captures everything I love about a good fantasy–perhaps more importantly it captures my imagination! Cover art by: Darrel K. Sweet) The Kindle version of this book can only be purchased direct from Baen.

Tin Swift (Age of Steam, #2) Monk, Devon – While there is quite a bit of death and many zombies to be destroyed, at heart it is an adventure romance. But, while that romance is sweet, it is an underlying portion of the story and the main plot deals with trying to get a magic weapon out of the hands of an evil thing. This one is also steampunk, set in America but with magic, werewolves, zombies, innumerable gadgets and airships. The evil thing is very evil. Monk might want to start writing horror stories, she seems to have the knack. Gave me the creepies.

The Rook O’Malley, Daniel – Another one that was very different than I expected. But it was very, very good. The main character has no memory and yet she works in the heart of a secret organization that helps keep those things that go bump in the night out of sight and away from humans. She doesn’t know who to trust or from where the next attempt on her life will come. Full of action and interesting characters, set in modern London with the addition of vampires and demons and augmented genetics.

Mastiff (Beka Cooper, #3) Pierce, Tamora – Third in a series, the first is Terrier. Beka Cooper is what we’d call a cop but in a fantasy world with a monarchial society. She has a cat with purple eyes who may be more than he seems, especially since he can talk. I like this one because Beka is such a good character. She is someone I’d trust and who I could really like if I met her in real life. Sort of a fantasy mystery with touches of magic.

(Maria’s notes: This broke a cardinal rule for me in changing a character that we knew and knew well to suit the story and fulfill the plot. People do change in real life, but in books, when you break a character, it’s cheating. Worse, I don’t believe it was done particularly skillfully in this story, so by the end, it wasn’t believable for me.)

Grave Witch (Alex Craft, #1) Price, Kalayna – Urban fantasy, first in the series. Good character with an interesting world. She helps people settle family business or solve crimes by speaking to the shades of the dead. She did tend to miss too many meals though.

(Maria’s notes: The woman needs to eat! This is a good start to an urban fantasy. I enjoyed the characters. There’s some unique ones and I like that they are complex and well-drawn.)

The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles, #1) Riordan, Rick – I listened to this one on audiobook. The first in a series of two books (I don’t know whether there are more planned yet), about two kids, a brother and sister, who are descendents of Egyptian gods. Because of this, they are able to harness the magic of those gods and thus are feared by all other magicians in the world.

Dragons of Wendal Schneider, Maria E. – You guys know this one already. Stand alone – though we all hope for more. Good characters, dragons and gryphons, magic, romance..what’s not to love??

(Maria’s notes: I’ve heard of this one.) 🙂

All the Paths of Shadow Tuttle, Frank – You’ve heard Maria crow about this one too. Very good steampunk cozy fantasy. It isn’t technically steampunk but has many of the sensibilities (don’t tell Maria, she doesn’t like steampunk!) like innovative, one of a kind gadgets created by people tinkering in their basements. Or magicians. Them too. Anyway, a fun and funny fantasy story about Meralda who’s job is currently to do the impossible to please the king. Of course, she doesn’t count on spies and the ghosts of old magicians making trouble for her either.

(Maria’s notes: Y’all have heard enough from me on this one! Steampunk??? Who knew???)

The Mischief of the Mistletoe (Pink Carnation, #7) Willig, Lauren – This is straight regency romance and part of a series though all can be read as stand alones since they each deal with different characters. I liked this one because the main character is sensible, smart and realistic. The hero is also a riot. Not anything like you’d expect a romantic hero to be. Lots of laughs, French plots against the British, society plots and schoolgirls getting up to lots of mischief.

(Maria’s notes: This one has caught my attention. Sensible, smart and realistic? I must check it out.)

Maria here again–Big Thank You to April for compiling this magnificent list. What an accomplishment–this is only her FIVE star reads. Just imagine the rest of the list!!!

Y’all comment and let us know what your top reads are so far this year. Okay, you may not have time to list them all–how about just the best read of the year so far??? Inquiring readers want to know!!!

Posted: August 28, 2012
Filed in Book Reviews

April’s Top Reads 2012 Part Two

In no particular order, the second set of April’s favorite reads:

Tin Swift by Devon Monk – a steampunk western adventure with airships, wolf shifters and a villain that seriously gave me the creeps. Lots of adventure and touches of romance. Also, anyone who prefers their stories to not have any graphic violence should steer away from this one, as I said; the bad guy is not someone you want to read about on a dark night just before bed.
(Maria’s comment: I’ve only tried one book by Devon Monk and it was too dark for me. So I’d say if you like dark UF, these might be for you.)

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley – a fantasy spy adventure that seems to be a cross between The Twilight Zone and James Bond. Parts of the story are strange and very pulp sci-fi. Other parts are twisted bureaucratic red-tape-filled spy maneuverings. Add in some amnesia scenes, a bit of classic vampire with a twist and dysfunctional family shows and you may have a blurry picture of what this book is like. It is strange and wonderful and pretty much unputdownable.

(Maria here: Weird. I might have to check this one out.)

The Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters – the second in the Amelia Peabody series, I re-read this book just for the fun of it. I wanted to see if it held up and it very much did. Anyone who enjoys quirky characters and mysteries with a touch of humor will most likely enjoy these. If you haven’t read them yet, you should get right on it.
(Maria’s comment: Elizabeth Peters remains a re-readable favorite!!!)

Dragons of Wendal by Maria E. Schneider – A standalone fantasy adventure that you probably know all about so I’ll just mention that I enjoyed every minute of it [well, perhaps not the library destruction scene] and if you haven’t read it already you should give it try.

(Maria’s comment: :))

Alif the Unseen
by G. Willow Wilson – I was a bit hesitant to read this book despite all of the good things I kept hearing about it. I was hesitant because often books that describe different cultures don’t have enough for me to relate to so that I can enjoy the story itself. I’m glad that I finally did read it because while it may be set in a very different culture with all sorts of rules and standards that are miles apart from our daily lives here in the US, the basic story is one we can all relate to. I’ll not lie, some of the computer programming language whizzed right over my head but didn’t harm my enjoyment of the story.

(Maria here: I’d like to thank April for visiting the blog all year and her many contributions! She is obviously an avid reader and I love that she is willing to share the gems she finds. Thank you, April!)

Posted: December 9, 2012
Filed in Book Reviews

Bargain Book Gem: Mystery

savingI sampled a lot of books last weekend and then started reading a book that I wasn’t sure was my genre…and what do I discover? A gem!

Saving Gracie by Nancy DeMarco is a good old fashioned mystery; not too cozy, not too thriller, but just right. Remember The Crossing Places (Also at Kobo and coupons work!) by Elly Griffith?

Saving Gracie has the same kind of real relationships, people complications and as for the mystery, oooh, my favorite kind of layers and a few twists to really make the plot hum right along. I liked the zany character, Gracie, even though everyone thinks she’s nuts because she can see ghosts! What’s nuts about that???

This was a really great read. If you like a good mystery and/or enjoyed The Crossing Places, I think you will really love this book. Try: Fbr50 at kobobooks for 50 percent off. If that code doesn’t work, email me and I will see if I have another one.

saraShe has also written: Finding Sara!

Finding Sara at Kobobooks Coupons do work with this book.

Posted: May 28, 2014
Filed in Book Reviews, Under $5

Bargain Monday Cozy Mystery: Hoe Lot of Trouble

troubleHoe Lot of Trouble by Heather Webber is a cozy. This was a decent and fun little read. The mystery itself did not knock it out of the park (and in fact I felt there was an unanswered plot hole) but the characters and their relationships were interesting enough to hold the story together, if barely. There were some character plot holes too, and a few too many events occurred at just the right time to forward the plot (left the cell phone in the car, battery died on cell phone, etc) but if the character building continues in the series, this series is worth a look–the first book is $2.99 and the ones I saw after that were all under 5.

Thanks to Dee for telling me to check it out!

Posted: November 4, 2013
Filed in Book Reviews, Under $5

Bargain Monday Urban Fantasy: Cry Baby Hollow

cry_hollowCry Baby Hollow by Aimee Love is a wonderful 5 star story. I’m fairly picky these days, but I had no problems falling in love with the story. There’s romance–but it’s the real kind where it starts slow and might actually be based on personalities and common interests. There is one scene in particular that I found very touching because in real life saying “I care” often has less to do with physical attraction and more to do with little things one person does for the other.

There’s also more than one mystery going on and the actual paranormal element doesn’t really rear its head until the end of the book. The book takes place in an unusual literature setting–rural Tennessee. It’s full of interesting twists and turns. There’s cozy parts, thriller parts and weird parts. The beginning starts off on a bit of a jarring note that left me wondering if the story would be too harsh for me, but these necessary scenes are handled deftly and blend well with the also realistic brighter times.

There’s some great humor between many of the characters and very good secondary character development. In the end, it all comes back to a compelling story, and this book, despite any small flaws, not only held my attention, but made me smile and left me wanting to read another book in the series.

At 2.99 it’s a great Monday bargain and is easily going to make favorite reads of the year.

(There will be ANOTHER Monday bargain tomorrow–this time cozy!)

Posted: October 20, 2013
Filed in Book Reviews, Under $5
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