Monday, September 1, 2014

Review: Tempest in a Teapot by Amanda Cooper

Description (from cover):

'Tucked away in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is the charming town of Gracious Grove, where time moves slowly, gossip spreads quickly and the scones are to die for...

When her fashionable Manhattan restaurant goes under, Sophie Taylor retreats to her grandmother's cozy shop, Auntie Rose's Victorian Tea House, where serenity is steeped to perfection in one of her many antique teapots. The last thing Sophie expects is a bustling calendar of tearoom events, like her old friend Cissy Peterson's upcoming bridal shower.

Not everyone is pleased with the bride-to-be's choice of venue--like Cissy's grandmother, who owns a competing establishment, La Belle Epoque, and has held a long-simmering grudge against Rose for stealing her beau sixty years ago. Tensions reach a boiling point when Cissy's fiance's mother dies while sampling scones at La Belle Epoque. Now, to help her friend, Sophie will have to bag a killer before more of the guest list becomes a hit list...'

My thoughts:

Typically, when a new series is released, I tend to read them and then either love or hate them. Nothing really in between. For some reason, I have the worst luck when it comes to the first book in debut series. I usually tend to hate them and then really get into the series by reading the books that are later released. This one was different. I love it from the very first page. The main character, Sophie, has a great head on her shoulders. She's not like some other sleuths who make horrible decisions. She seems very educated, very smart and quick on her feet. I love her background and what she brings to the cozy mystery genre. 

Sophie returns to Gracious Grove, New York, the place where she spent her summer vacations while growing up to assist her grandmother with Auntie Rose's Victoria Tea House. Sophie had an upscale restaurant in Manhattan that unfortunately was a flop. Nursing her hurts, she returns to Gracious Grove anxious to move on with her life and to plan how to exactly move forward. Well, that was her plan, until someone ends up dead at the rival tea house in town. Sophie uses her old friends and her new connections to help her solve this perplexing crime. Who wanted the victim dead and why? She doesn't have much faith in the local law enforcement and she realizes that it is up to her to solve the crime before someone else gets hurt or worse.

I liked this one because it has something a little different. I would have never thought that I would enjoy reading about tea shops and teapots, but this one was delightful. It was a leap of faith to try something new and I am very glad that I did. I most definitely will be following this series as the author does a fantastic job of keeping her readers engaged and perplexed. This series shows a lot of promise and intrigue in the future and I cannot wait to see what is in store for the characters and the townspeople of Gracious Grove, New York.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  Tempest in a Teapot
Author:  Amanda Cooper
Series:  Teapot Collector Mystery #1
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  June 3, 2014
Pages:  304
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was purchased by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: Grace Against the Clock by Julie Hyzy

Description (from cover):

'When Marshfield Manor hosts a charity event, Grace Wheaton, the mansion's curator and manager, is happy to lend a helping hand--until a killer makes an unwanted donation...

With the town clock in desperate need of repair, local lawyer Joyce Swedburg and her ex-husband, Dr. Leland Keay, are trying to put aside their differences to organize a benefit at Marshfield Manor to raise money for restoration of the beautiful timepiece. While Grace appreciates the opportunity to support such a good cause, the tension between the unhappy exes is giving her the urge to put both of the organizers in time-out.

But after Leland collapses onstage, poisoned during the festivities, Grace suspects there was more going on behind the scenes. Now, she's in a race to catch a ticked-off murderer, and, if she's going to prevent anyone else from getting hurt, every second will count...'

My thoughts:

I usually enjoy this series a lot more than I did with this book. For some reason, this book didn't capture my attention like the others in this series usually do. I am not quite sure why. Maybe it's the main character's indecisiveness in this one that irked me a little or maybe it just is not what I expected from this series. The ending was good, the meat of the book was good, but there was really nothing that really made me say "wow." When I read other books in this series, I felt like I got a little something more out of it than this go around. Don't get me wrong, it still was a good read. I just had a hard time enjoying it as much as other cozies I have read recently. 

Grace's character in this one, irked me more than usual. Grace is normally so put together, wonderfully in charge and inquisitive. That is what drew me into her character to begin with. However, in this book,  I got an indecisive Grace who was second guessing everything about her personal life and I spent the majority of the book begging for her to make a decision and move on.  I understand character development, but in this, it was annoying. It just felt so out of character for one who normally knows what she wants and is not afraid to go for it. It just seems that Grace lost a part of who she was and it was just weird for me as I was reading it.

I adore the setting of a mansion that is open to the general public. It reminds me a lot of the Biltmore House in North Carolina, where I live. It just seems like a place that I would love to be a part of, seeing as I love history. The ending in this one was explosive and probably the best part of the whole book. I will say that the author does leave the ending open for the next book and I am curious to see what happens next for Grace and Marshfield Manor. I have to say that this is most definitely not the best in the series, but a good effort, just not one that really one comes to expect with this series.

Overall Rating: 3

Title:  Grace Against the Clock
Author:  Julie Hyzy
Series:  Manor House Mystery #5
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  July 1, 2014
Pages:  304
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was purchased by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Review: The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gortner

Description (from cover):

'Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary's court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London's treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen--or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner's The Tudor Conspiracy.

England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she's betrothed to Phillip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England's heir and only hope--the queen's half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.

Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth's undoing.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess's private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing--and no one--is what it seems.'

My thoughts:

I love a suspense novel that can really bring it. I love the thrill of the novel that can keep me on the edge of my seat dying to know what happens next. Gortner has created a novel with that power in this novel. I simply couldn't put it down. At times it seems a little too much, but there is never a dull moment if you are reading this one. The ending leaves a lot for a sequel and I cannot wait to see how the Tudor court intrigues play out. Gortner certainly has done his homework in this book and its interesting to see his spin on the Tudors. I have read a ton of books about the Tudors and I always appreciate a different view of things. I got that in this book.

Brendan Prescott is the underdog that you root for. He is a flawed character, but I really enjoyed that about him. He seems such a real character and I think Gortner has done a fantastic job in creating this deeply flawed, yet likeable character. I like that this book focuses more on the spying and political intrigue of the Tudor era. It is a fresh spin on a genre that likes to focus mainly on Elizabeth or Mary and how they handled things at the time. I think that Prescott is a well developed character that paints the reader a different picture of how things were really like during that tumultuous time period.

If you like books that have a different view of things, but that will keep you turning page after page, then I suggest you discover this book. I truly enjoyed it and I am glad to see that there is another one in the works. The ending left me wanting to know what happens next and I am curious to see how things play out politically and personally for Brendan's characters. Of course, with historical fiction, most times the reader knows how the story is going to play out, but it still is intriguing to see how things are in a different light. 

Overall Rating: 4

Title:  The Tudor Conspiracy
Author:  C.W. Gortner
Series:  Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles #2
Publisher:  St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date:  July 16, 2013
Pages:  352
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: Book Clubbed by Lorna Barrett

Description (from cover):

'New York Times bestselling author Lorna Barrett is back in town--Booktown, that is--with another page-turning mystery. This time bookstore owner Tricia Miles and her sister, Angelica, put their own problems on the shelf to catch a killer who turns a bookcase into a murder weapon.

Cranky Chamber of Commerce receptionist Betsy Dittmeyer is done reading people the riot act. After she's crushed by a fallen bookcase, the next item to be read is her last will and testament--which is packed with surprises. It soon comes to light that Betsy was hiding volumes of dark secrets behind that perpetual frown of hers--and one of them just might have been a motive for murder.

While Tricia tries to help Angelica--the newly elected Chamber of Commerce president and Betsy's boss--solve the mystery, she discovers a hidden chapter in her own family history that rocks her to her very core. And with her ex-husband and the chief of police vying for her affections, it's double hard to focus on who might have buried Betsy in a tomb of tomes. 

But as Tricia and Angelica try to read between the lines, they need to watch their step and make sure the killer doesn't catch them between the stacks.'

My thoughts:

Who doesn't love a return to Booktown? I know I do. This is one of those series that I have to read as soon as they come out. I was fortunate to get this copy from the library, but I had to wait as it was so popular. I understand why. This author simply knows how to do a cozy mystery. I will say that I was worried that I would have forgotten the characters and the basic background of the series while waiting for this book to be released, but once I started reading it, everything came back into place. I have to say that I really do enjoy this series and I cannot wait to see what the author has in store for her readers next.

Tricia Miles cannot stay away from a mystery. When Betsy, the local Chamber of Commerce's receptionist is killed by a falling bookcase, everyone thinks it is just a freak accident. That is, until the medical examiner's report comes back. Soon they learn that Betsy was murdered and Tricia cannot leave it well enough alone. She starts digging into Betsy's life and learns some startling things. Like the fact that Betsy was more financially well off then she let on. But Tricia is focused mainly on finding out who wanted Betsy dead and why. Her sister Angelica and her friends help her to figure out what happened and who exactly had motive to want Betsy dead. 

I simply devoured this book. I could have read it in one sitting had I not had to go to work or do other life things. This is the type of book that would be perfect on a rainy Saturday where one just wants to stay in and read a good book. I simply love this author and can't get enough. I love how the author makes the characters seem so real by giving them real life struggles and challenges. That fact alone really endears me to the characters and makes me come back for more. I can't wait to see how things play out for Tricia in her life and the ending in this one had me on the edge of my seat. Waiting for the next installment is going to seem like forever.

Overall Rating: 5

Title:  Book Clubbed
Author:  Lorna Barrett
Series:  Booktown Mystery #8
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  July 1, 2014
Pages:  320
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was selected from the library by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams

Description (from cover):

'Who would resort to murder?

Tucked away in the rolling hills of rural western Virginia is the storybook resort of Storyton Hall, catering to book lovers who want to get away from it all. To increase her number of bookings, manager Jane Steward has decided to host a Murder and Mayhem Week so that fans of the mystery genre can gather together for some role-playing and fantasy crime-solving.

When the winner of the scavenger hunt, Felix Hampden, is found dead in the Mystery Suite, and the valuable book he won as his prize is missing, Jane realizes one of her guests is an actual murderer. Amid a house full of fake detectives, Jane is bound and determined to find a real-life killer. There's no room for error as Jane tries to unlock this mystery before another vacancy opens up...'

My thoughts:

This book caught my eye a couple of months ago when it was excepted in one of Adams' other book series. Of course this book lover and cozy mystery lover is going to love when the two combine into a delightful mystery. I knew that I just had to read this book and I was not disappointed. I have to say that this author is like the queen of cozy mysteries as everything she writes seems to turn to gold. I love her writing style and the characters she comes up with. Storyton Hall seems like heaven on earth and I wish it existed in real life as I would book my vacation there today. Who wouldn't want to go on vacation to an old mansion where books define everything? It was nice to escape to Storyton even if I couldn't go for real.

Jane Steward is a widowed mother of twin boys who is the manager of Storyton Hall, her family's ancestral home and resort. She loves the old house and everything it stands for. It needs some repairs and Jane decides to bring in some money to the resort by hosting a Murder and Mayhem Week event. Little does she know that a real murder will take place and she has to solve it before her resort goes bankrupt. Using the help of the staff of the hall, she discovers a secret about her family and learns a motive for the killing. She is determined to make sure that her beloved home is safe for her guests and for her family.

I simply couldn't get myself to put this one down. As I stated earlier, I tend to love Adams' mysteries and this one was no exception. I cannot wait to read the next one and return to the lovely Storyton Hall and Storyton Village. Adams has a new hit series on her hands and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next. If you love cozy mysteries and books this is the perfect series for you. I cannot recommend it enough and hope that you will have the pleasure of reading this one soon.

Overall Rating: 5

Title:  Murder in the Mystery Suite
Author:  Ellery Adams
Series:  Book Retreat Mystery #1
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  August 5, 2014
Pages:  304
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was purchased by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Review: Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen

Description (from cover):

'Lady Georgiana Rannoch, thirty-fifth in line for the British throne, knows how to play the part of an almost royal--but now she's off to Hollywood, where she must reprise her role as sleuth or risk starring in an all-too-convincing death scene.

My mother, the glamorous and much-married actress, is hearing wedding bells once again--which is why she must hop across the pond for a quickie divorce in Reno. To offer my moral support, and since all expenses are paid by her new hubby-to-be, Max, I agree to make the voyage with her.

Crossing the Atlantic, with adventure in the air and wealthy men aboard, Mother all but forgets about Max and matrimony--especially when movie mogul Cy Goldman insists on casting her in his next picture.

Meanwhile, I find myself caught up in the secret investigation of a suspected jewel thief. Lucky for me, the lead investigator happens to be my dashing beau, Darcy!

Mother's movie and Darcy's larceny lead everyone to Cy's Hollywood hoe, where the likes of Charlie Chaplin are hanging about and there's enough romantic intrigue to fill a double feature. But we hardly get a chance to work out the sleeping arrangements before Cy turns up dead--as if there wasn't enough drama already.'

My thoughts:

This is a series that I return to time and time again. I love this author and I love her writing style. I also can't help but love Georgie's character. She is smart and very humorous at the same time. I love reading about her antics and her impossible relationship with her mother and her lady's maid, Queenie. I find the characters so amusing that I usually find myself laughing out loud with all the silliness. Bowen has a way with creating a mystery that I can enjoy each and every single time she releases a book. This series never gets old for me and I look forward to the next installation with anticipation.

Gerogiana Rannoch, is a very distant relation to the current King of England. She has quite the adventures in England and the reader gets to see her interact with royalty and the upper crust of English society. However, in this book, Bowen tries something a little different with Georgie on a trip to America with her not-so-loveable mother. Her mother is trying to arrange a quickie divorce so that she can be with her wealthy beau, Max, and asks for Georgie to join her for her trip across the pond. Of course, Georgie, good sport that she is can't turn down that offer and off she goes. While they are on board the ship, mysterious circumstances occur and Georgie of course cannot ignore the signs that something sinister is at play.

If you haven't read this series yet, I ask, well why not? I absolutely adore this series and like I stated before, I eagerly await the next installation. I am always sad when my time with Georgie ends and I have to wait months for our next adventure. This author simply is amazing and can write an engaging and entertaining book every single time. I usually get bored quickly with series, but not with this one. If you enjoy strong characters, that are very silly at times and yet are very smart, this might be a series you might want to check into.

Overall Rating: 5+

Title:  Queen of Hearts
Author:  Rhys Bowen
Series:  Royal Spyness Mystery #8
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  August 5, 2014
Pages:  304
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was purchased by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Godiva by Nicole Galland

Description (from cover):

'From the author of The Fool's Tale comes a brilliantly crafted retelling of the legend of Lady Godiva.

According to legend, Lady Godiva lifted the unfair taxation of her people by her husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, by riding through the streets of Coventry wearing only a smile. It's a story that's kept tongues wagging for nearly a thousand years. But what would drive a lady of the court to take off everything and risk her reputation, her life, even her wardrobe--all for a few peasant's pennies?

In this daringly original, charmingly twisted take on an oft-imagined tale, Nicole Galland exposes a provocative view of Godiva not only in the flesh, but in all her glory. With history exonerating her dear husband, Godiva, helped along by her steadfast companion the abbess Edgiva, defies the tyranny of a new royal villain. Never before has Countess Godiva's ride into infamy--and into an unexpected adventure of romance, deceit, and naked intrigue--been told quite like this.'

My thoughts:

So, I picked this one up thinking that it was going to be bland historical fiction and that I would be hopelessly bored. I was completely wrong. I really enjoyed this one. Lady Godiva is someone that I knew of, but really knew nothing about. It was interesting to read about her and her life and the circumstances that made her legendary. This author does a fantastic job of creating historical fiction using strong characters and an interesting storyline that had me anxiously waiting to see what happened.

Lady Godiva and her friend Egdiva are protesting the King's tax on the people. The bulk of this book is about Godiva dealing with the King asking her to either forfeit Coventry, which she owns, or to ride a horse naked in front of all of the townspeople. The King thinks that she will not even consider doing this and the storyline has Godiva going back and forth between her options. She seeks counsel from some friends, her husband and the local bishop in making her decision. I loved the ending of this one and how it was unexpected in a way.

This is a fantastic read for historical fiction lovers who love a little something out of the ordinary. Lady Godiva is not someone that I would expect that I would enjoy reading about, but this author did a fantastic job of taking Godiva and making her story very interesting. I applaud her for that as this might have been a book I skipped over had I not been asked to review it by the publisher. I was shocked as to how much I enjoyed this book, even though I have read this author before and liked her other works. Goes to show that you can never judge a book by its cover.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  Godiva
Author:  Nicole Galland
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  William Morrow
Publication Date:  July 2, 2013
Pages:  336
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.
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