Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review: The Secret

Author: Beverly Lewis
Title: The Secret (Seasons Of Grace Book 1)
Publisher: Bethany House
Publish Date: March 31, 2009
Buy: Amazon
Book Blurb: In the seemingly ordinary Amish home of Grace Byler, secrets abound. Why does her mother weep in the night? Why does her father refuse to admit something is dreadfully wrong? Then, in one startling moment, everything Grace assumed she knew is shattered. Her mother's disappearance leaves Grace reeling and unable to keep her betrothal promise to her long-time beau. Left to pick up the pieces of her life, Grace questions all she has been taught about love, family, and commitment.

Heather Nelson is an English grad student, stunned by a doctor's diagnosis. Surely fate would not allow her father to lose his only daughter after the death of his wife a few years before. In denial and telling no one she is terminally ill, Heather travels to Lancaster County--the last place she and her mother had visited together. Will Heather find healing for body and spirit?

As the lives of four wounded souls begin to weave together like an Amish patchwork quilt, they each discover missing pieces of their life puzzles--and glimpse the merciful and loving hand of God.

Review: Beverly Lewis writes dramatic Amish fiction. Her books aren't about young Amish people courting and falling in love. There is always some drama with the church or with the family that will take 3 books to resolve.

In this book the drama surrounds Gracie Byler's mom, who leaves her husband and children behind. This is something that is simply not done in the Amish community. Lewis lets us see a little of Lettie's struggle within herself without giving away her secret. It is easy to feel sorry for this woman. She has something that she wants to share with her husband and her family, yet her husband is quiet and reserved and she never seems to be able to communicate with him.

There's also a young woman who comes to Lancaster after receiving a bad diagnosis from her doctor. Heather Nelson is obviously going to figure into this story at some point, more than just as a random Englischer. I have a feeling I already know who she is, but I want to read the other 2 books anyway.

The problem I have with Heather is her disbelief in modern medicine. Her mother died of cancer. At 24 she's received a similar diagnosis. We aren't sure though, because Lewis doesn't tell us. She just gives us this stubborn young woman that refuses to believe she's sick. Truthfully, I wanted to smack her senseful.

Gracie and her family are much more likable and they are faced with their own crisis. Their mother leaves and they are left with the aftermath and gossip. Gracie holds up well and she comes across as a loyal, loving daughter. I think she's probably one of my favorite Lewis heroines.

I do have one bone to pick with Beverly Lewis. She grew up in PA. How is it that Pittsburgh is spelled incorrectly twice in this book? That really irked me. Still, it is a good read for fans of Lewis and Amish fiction.

Rating: 4 flowers

Friday, March 30, 2012

Book Review: Trick Or Treat Murder

Author: Leslie Meier
Title: Trick Or Treat Murder
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publish Date: Oct 1, 1997
Buy: Amazon
Book Blurb: Haunted-house parties and ghostly galas. . .grinning pumpkins, mayhem and murder. It's going to be one heck of a Halloween for Lucy Stone and Tinker's Cove. . .

It's October in Maine, and everyone in Tinker's Cove is preparing for the annual Halloween festival. While Lucy Stone is whipping up orange-frosted cupcakes, recycling tutus for her daughters' Halloween costumes, helping her son with his pre-teen rebellion, and breast-feeding her brand-new bay, an arsonist is loose in Tinker's Cove. When the latest fire claims the life of the owner of the town's oldest house, arson turns into murder. . .

While the townsfolk work to transform a dilapidated mansion into a haunted house for the All-Ghouls festival, the hunt for the culprit heats up. Trick-or-treat turns deadly as a little digging in all the wrong places puts Lucy too close to a shocking discovery that could send all her best-laid plans up in smoke. . .

Review: This is my first Lucy Stone novel...needless to say, it isn't the first in the series, it is the 3rd. Oh well. I really liked Lucy's character and her family and friends. This is the first cozy series I've read where the heroine was married and had a family.

The murder in this story is tied to a string of arson in Tinker's Cove.

I really liked the way Lucy went about looking for the killer. I also liked that she didn't really solve the mystery in the usual sense. She has a lot of suspects, Dr. Mayes, the victim's husband, Krissy the owner of the new gym, who was having an affair with Dr. Mayes and the gas station owner, who is more than a little bit crazy.

This story was so colorful and Tinker's Cove is a New England town, and it is Halloween. Lots of fun autumn things going on here to make the story a delightful read.

My only huge gripe is when Lucy is in the hospital at the end, a victim of another fire, and no one is at the hospital with her. No one? Not a single family member? That doesn't seem right? Oh and she just walks right out? I don't think so. Not even in the late 90s would that happen. I can't imagine her feeling up to walking out of a hospital after suffering the smoke inhalation she must have had.

This was an enjoyable introduction to the series, and I'm definitely going to be making this a series that I'll keep reading. I like Lucy, Bill and her kids. Fun times!

Rating: 4 flowers

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Review: The Cowboy Father

Author: Linda Ford
Title: The Cowboy Father
Publisher: Love Inspired Historical
Publish Date: Feb 2012
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley
Book Blurb: With Alberta in the grip of the Depression, Louisa Morgan is desperate to bolster her family's finances. But how can she tutor bedridden Ellie Hamilton? The little tomboy is more interested in making mischief than studying sums. And the girl's bond with her handsome papa is another reminder to Louisa of the children she'll never have.

For Emmet Hamilton, strength means shouldering burdens alone. He never thought he'd let himself share his child, or his heart, ever again. But before long, Louisa's kindness and optimism start to change the cowboy's mind. Maybe he can gain the courage to trust again—in Louisa, in God's grace, and in this new family.…

Review: The Cowboy Father is a very sweet love story. It takes place during the depression in Alberta, Canada. While the plot is something we've seen before, the characters are so real that it is easily overlooked.

Your first impression of Emmet's daughter, Ellie, is not a good one. She's in a body cast after a fall from a tree, breaks her leg. (I'm not sure why a broken leg would require a body cast, but I'm going to assume Ms. Ford did her research and that this is correct). She is the most stubborn obnoxious child, I've ever read about. However, she is a motherless little girl and she's cooped up in a house with nothing to do while she recovers, so her misbehavior is almost understandable.

Louisa is totally sweet and hardworking. However the diagnosis of her barrenness after a long illness is taking over her life. In a way, she comes across as feeling sorry for herself. No one could love her because she couldn't have a baby. The same is true for Emmet. He lets what he feels are failures from his past dictate his future. The reason for his guilt is revealed toward the end of the story, and deals with the death of his parents. I don't want to spoil the story for any of you, but I will say, when you read it, you will cry. I know I did.

This two broken people are definitely suited for each other, but it takes a lot to get them together. Oh and not to worry, there's another child for both Louisa and Emmet, but you'll have to read the book to find out more!

Rating: 4 flowers

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Goddess Fish Book Tours Book Review: Flidderbugs

Author: Jonathan Gould
Title: Flidderbugs
Publish Date: Aug 30, 2011
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: The Goddess Fish Book Tours and the author
Book Blurb: As Kriffle the Flidderbug investigates why his fellow 'bugs find it impossible to agree on the pressing issue of how many points there are on the leaves of the tree on which they live, he finds that the truth is more complicated, and ultimately more terrifying, than he ever could have imagined.

Flidderbugs is a political satire, a modern fable, or maybe just a funny little story about a bunch of insects with some very peculiar obsessions.

Review: Almost from the start of Flidderbugs, I was reminded of one of my favorite sci-fi authors, Terry Prachett. The Krephiloff Tree is where the two tribes of Flidderbugs live.  The two tribes are the Triplifers and the Quadrigons. The two tribes essentially want the same thing but they have opposing viewpoints...or perhaps I should say leaf points.

I definitely saw the political satire in this, thinking a lot of the US's Democrats and Republicans. Neither will venture to where the other tribe lives and neither seem to want to work with the other, and that's why the tree is endanger of falling down.

The two lead characters are Kriffle from Triplifer and Fargeeta from Quadrigon. They are the son and daughter of the their tribe's leaders and both are poised to take over ruling. Through Kriffle's curiosity the two are brought together for the common good of the tree.

This is a story that everyone can benefit from reading. In a humorous fashion, you get a take on politics. You know, like watching The Daily Show or The Colbert Report. It is a quick read of less than 50 pages on my Nook and it works for just about any age group.

Loved it!

Rating:  5 flowers

Goddess Fish Promotions Guest Post: Jonathan Gould

It’s really great to be here with A Chick Who Reads. Thanks for having me along.
So what exactly is Dag-Lit? Put simply, it’s the name I’ve devised for the particular style, or genre, of the books I write. They’re not easy books to describe. They don’t easily fit into the regular genres, like romance, or action-thriller, or science-fiction. They’re stories that stand out from the crowd.
But just because a story doesn’t clearly fit into a recognised genre doesn’t necessary mean that it could be described as Dag-Lit. There’s a particular, not easily definable, quality that it needs to have before it can have that title bestowed on it.
If you’re a bit confused at this point, I probably need to explain (or remind, for anybody a little familiar with my work) that dag is Australian slang for a person who is uncool or unfashionable bit in a genial and fun kind of way. With this in mind, I tried to come up with a few characteristics that may help to define Dag-Lit as a genre:
1.       It pays absolutely no attention to what is currently fashionable or popular
2.       If it ever made it into a bookshop, the staff would have no idea what shelf to place it on
3.       When sent to publishers, it tends to ping-pong back and forth between adult and children’s sections (and yes, this actually happened to something I wrote)
4.       It’s the sort of book you’d hide at the back of the shelf when sophisticated friends came to visit – but if they found it they’d probably want to read it too
5.       It’s completely pointless – and that’s the whole point of it
6.       Because it’s never in fashion, it can never go out of fashion
7.       It could be applied to stories in a bunch of different genres. Each individual story is daggy in its own way
8.       It’s not for everyone, but if it’s right for you it will put a smile on your face that will last all day.
Still confused? For more information, check out my What is Dag-Lit page at Dag-Lit Central. Or better still, take the plunge. If this sounds like the kind of story you’d like to read, why not sample some good old, dinky-di, Dag-Lit today.
Thank-you, and goodnight.

Book 1

Title: Doodling
Genre: Comic fantasy
Blurb: Neville Lansdowne fell off the world.

Actually, he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.

Doodling is an engaging comic fantasy which relates the events that befall Neville after he finds himself abandoned by the world and adrift in the middle of an asteroid field. Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll (with just a touch of Gulliver's Travels) as Neville wanders through his new home, meeting a variety of eccentric characters and experiencing some most unexpected adventures.

Book 2

Title: Flidderbugs
Genre: Satire/fable/fantasy
Blurb: As Kriffle the Flidderbug investigates why his fellow 'bugs find it impossible to agree on the pressing issue of how many points there are on the leaves of the tree on which they live, he finds that the truth is more complicated, and ultimately more terrifying, than he ever could have imagined.

Flidderbugs is a political satire, a modern fable, or maybe just a funny little story about a bunch of insects with some very peculiar obsessions.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Guest Post: Eileen Cook w/Giveaway

I’ve been known to do some stupid things in my life, possibly more than my fair share. This may be why I like writing flawed heroines. I understand the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” approach to problem solving.

In my new book, DO OR DI, the main character, Erin, has given up on the idea of fairy tale romance. She’s willing to settle for Prince Good Enough and a satisfying career. She agrees to be a part of the Positive Partnership program as a way to impress her boss, and she’s matched with a teen girl in need of a mentor. The problem comes when the girl she’s mentoring thinks she’s channeling Princess Diana. She isn’t interested in taking advice from Erin, she’d rather offer love advice. And Erin just might need it.

Erin knows what she wants, but her plan for how to go about getting it doesn’t always work. She’s the co-host of a talk radio show, which gives her plenty of time to spout off on her opinions, but listening is a skill she needs to work on. I love classic romantic comedies like The Thin Man, His Girl Friday, and When Harry Met Sally. I enjoy having a chance writing my own sarcastic banter between characters. One of the best parts of writing fiction is the chance to have the perfect come back line at the perfect time. In real life the best thing to say may not come to you until hours later, but when writing you can scroll back and put that line in.

I admire people who take risks. You may not get what you want by going after it, but if you don’t even try- you won’t for certain. When I created Erin I wanted to show a strong woman who believes in her dreams and isn’t the type to sit back and wait to see if they happens. Granted, she gets herself into some difficult situations, but you can count on it to be amusing while she gets herself out of it.

I hope readers enjoy Erin as much as I do- I look forward to hearing from you!

About The Author: Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in six different languages. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer.  Her latest release, Unraveling Isobel came out in Jan 2012

You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at  Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.

Giveaway: Eileen is giving away one ebook copy of Do Or Di to a random commenter. Leave your name and email address to qualify. The winner will be announced on April 5th.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: Do Or Di

Author: Eileen Cook
Title: Do Or Di
Publish Date : Jan 22, 2012
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: The author
Book Blurb: Erin Callighan has given up on the idea of a fairy tale romance. Having dated her own version of the Seven Dwarves (including Grumpy and Sleepy), she's letting go of the idea of Prince Charming and settling for Prince Good Enough. Erin’s focused on reaching her dream of having her own talk radio show, even if it means having to temporarily co-host with the annoying “Voice of Seattle”, Colin Stewart. To score points with her station manager, she agrees to be a part of the Positive Partnerships program that matches her with Diana, a troubled pre-teen who swears she's channeling the spirit of the late Princess Diana. She's supposed to be mentoring Diana, but the channeled princess has a lot to teach Erin about love and happily ever after endings.

Review: Most chicklit books/romances etc focus on the woman who is cheated on. In Do Or Di, Erin is the other woman, and an unlikely one. She's a radio personality and she's dating a married man, who for all intents and purposes is an absolute jerk.

The story is more a tale of how this woman saw the light about the married guy, rather than a romance about how she found Mr. Right. You kinda guess that she's going to end up with Colin, the obnoxious guy from the station, who doesn't end up being that obnoxious. But it is finding out what an absolute pig Jonathon is that makes you keep turning the pages.

It is hard to believe a woman that is as smart as Erin could settle for this guy for any amount of time, because he is the stereotypical married guy on the prowl.

But there is more to the story than just Erin and Jonathon, there's Diana, the teenager who just happens to think that she's channeling Princess Diana, because she was born on the day Diana died.

I absolutely loved Princess Di, so I found this bit of the story such fun, and Diana was a sweet kid, if not a bit misguided. I also loved her dog Rooster. She really made the story, because her wackiness was part of the reason, Erin woke up and smelled the coffee, so to speak. (That along with a bombshell from her mom).

Erin's writing reminded me of Jennifer Crusie, especially her older stuff that was published by Harlequin.  The radio station setting reminded me of "Charlie All Night" which is one of my favorite Crusie novels. The chemistry between Erin and Colin is fun too. It isn't overly sexual, but you know that these two like each other deep down.

I'm looking forward to reading more by Eileen in the future!

Rating: 4 flowers

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Book Review: A Life Of Joy

Author: Amy Clipston
Title: A Life Of Joy
Publisher: Zondervan
Publish Date: January 31, 2012
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley
Book Blurb: Take a trip to Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, where you'll meet the women of the Kauffman Amish Bakery in Lancaster County. As each woman's story unfolds, you will share in her heartaches, trials, joys, dreams ... and secrets. You'll discover how the simplicity of the Amish lifestyle can clash with the 'English' way of life---and the decisions and consequences that follow. Most importantly, you will be encouraged by the hope and faith of these women, and the importance they place on their families. In A Life of Joy, the fourth installment in the series, eighteen-year-old Lindsay Bedford has reached a crossroads. Should she stay in the small Amish community she's known and loved for four years or return to the English life in her hometown in Virginia where her older sister is a college student? An extended visit to Virginia might just tip the scales as Lindsay reconnects with friends, joins a new church, works on her GED, and is pressured by her sister to stay and 'make something of herself.' Will Lindsay leave her aunt Rebecca and become English or settle in Bird-in-Hand and join the Amish church? Legions of Clipston fans want to know. Full of well-researched Amish culture, Clipston's book is true to form, delivering the best of the Amish fiction genre wrapped around a compelling story, with characters who will touch the hearts of loyal fans and new readers alike

Review: A Life Of Joy is quite different from most of the Amish fiction out there. Why? The main character, Lindsay, grew up English, and came to Lancaster County to live with her sister and aunt when her parents died. Her older sister Jessica, left the Amish way of life behind, but Lindsay embraced it. This story revolves around Lindsay and her struggle to decide whether she wants to join the Amish church.

This story has a lot of family struggles. Lindsay and Jessica don't see eye to eye on how they want to live their lives. Jessica is very much a worldly girl and she often foists her view on her sister, who is very comfortable living the "plain" life.

Linsday has many challenges to face. Her parents good friend is hurt in a fall, and she is sent back into the "English" world for a summer. This is really her rumspringa (running around time), for those familiar with the Amish Culture.  Her aunt Rebecca discovers she's pregnant shortly before she leaves, and she almost successfully keeps the difficult pregnancy from her, so she can enjoy Virginia. I can understand why Rebecca would do that, though at times I struggled with the reasoning of the Amish to not tell people when they are "In the family way."

There are times when you aren't sure if Lindsay is going to return to Pennsylvania, but her heart belongs in Bird-In-Hand. She no longer fits in with her old friends in Virginia, but she does take the time to explore things when she is there. What she learns is not very surprising, because she really seems to have embraced the Amish way of life.

I really enjoyed Clipston's characters. They seemed more real than some in other Amish fiction. Their struggles where more "real life." This is Book 4 in the Kaufmann Amish Bakery series. I haven't read the other 3 books, but I definitely want to go ahead and find them. I love books set in Lancaster County. It is a place I'm familiar with from family vacations. Reading books set in this location always makes me feel like I'm back there.

If you like Amish fiction and are looking for an author besides Lewis or Brunstetter, Amy Clipston's series will delight you.

Rating: 4 flowers

Friday, March 23, 2012

Historical Fiction Book Tours Review: The Dragon's Harp W/Giveaway

Author:Rachel Pruitt
Title: The Dragon's Harp
Publisher: Dragon Harp Publications
Publish Date: Feb 16, 2012
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Historical Fiction Book Tours and the author
Book Blurb: Before Gwenhwyfar became Queen - before Arthur met Merlin - a tribal Welsh princess met a young Heatherlands Mage. Together, they will create a legend. Inside a mist of beauty and brutality waits the Arthurian legend as you’ve never heard it before. Enter the world of THE DRAGON'S HARP, a realm of blood lust and vengeance, of spellbinding magic from the beginning of time. The realm of Princess Gwenhwyfar: a young girl torn between magic and desire, born with magical powers she can either wield to save her people from destruction - or deny to save her soul. IN AN ERA OF DRAGONS A YOUNG GIRL COMES OF AGE First in a five book series of historical fantasy, Rachael Pruitt’s unique take on a beloved legend reintroduces the mythic characters of Gwenhwyfar, Merlin, and Vortigern against the gritty backdrop of sixth century Wales, where scenes of shape-shifting and heartbreaking romance vie with torture, murder, and battle in a dragon-haunted land.

Review: The Dragon's Harp is the story of the days before Gwenhwyfar and Arthur become King and Queen. This is before the legend of Camelot. Here we see Gwenhwyfar as a young girl growing up. These are feudal times when there is much fighting and much magic.

The fighting at times makes it a very gruesome read. Heads can often be found on sticks to forever guard the surrounding lands.

I wasn't sure how I felt about Gwenhwyfar throughout most of the story. She came across as a brat and a spoiled one at that. Her relationship with her mother disturbed me as a result of certain events in the story. (I can't tell them, it would spoil everything) Gwen is not exactly a character that you'll have much sympathy for later on in Arthurian legend.

I do love the portrayal of Merlin, as her uncle, he appears wise and nurturing. He is the easiest character in this story to like. Maybe that is because he is there and not there for a good portion of the story.

The novel is very entertaining and the introduction towards the end of the evil Ula and her daughter definitely make you want more. You definitely want to know what is going to happen next and when she's going to meet Arthur, who Merlin is already tutoring.

Rating: 4 flowers

About The Author: My name is Rachael Pruitt and I’m a writer, storyteller, and teacher with a lifelong fascination for Celtic mythology and the Arthurian legend.

My new novel, The Dragon’s Harp, tells the story of the coming of age of the famous Queen Gwenhwyfar (the Welsh spelling for Guinevere) in a dark and frightening time. Merlin is her Uncle and, although she is a tribal Celtic princess who possesses both power and magic, she is in great danger from both the human and supernatural realms.

Dragon’s Harp is just the beginning! I have plans for four more books about Gwenhwyfar and Merlin’s lives. The books are called Era of Dragons: The Lost Tales of Gwenhwyfar.

Giveaway: Rachel is offering one Kindle copy of The Dragon's Harp to US residents only. Leave a comment  with your name and email address. One winner will be chosen at random on April 1, 2012.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: Hot Stuff

Author: Janet Evanovich and Leanne Banks
Title: Hot Stuff
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperback
Publish Date: April 3, 2007
Buy: Amazon
Book Blurb: Dear Reader,

If you like hot men, hot action and hot attraction you're going to love this HOT new series! HOT STUFF introduces Cate Madigan, a Boston native from a large and crazy Irish family. Cate has far too much going on to get involved in extracurricular activities, like men and marriage. She spends all day in school, earning her teaching degree, and all night working as a bartender in Boston's South End. Ex-cop Kellen McBride has decided to make Cate's bar his nightly haunt. He likes Cate's sassy Irish spirit and wild red hair. He also has an ulterior motive for getting close to her. Cate has sworn off all things romantic, but when she comes home to a ransacked apartment, a roommate who has flown the coop, and a sleeping bullmastiff named Beast, Cate has no choice but to ask Kellen for help. Can Kate resist the charming Kellen McBride while keeping herself out of danger? Or will Kellen turn up the heat on Cate and everything in her life?

We know you'll have a blast with HOT STUFF!

Janet & Leanne

Review: Some books are meant to be read for the fun of reading. Hot Stuff by Janet Evanovich and Leanne Banks is one of those books. Janet is stepping away from Stephanie Plum on this one, but she's not stepping away from a fun mystery/suspense story that is full of humor and some zany characters. Zany? What is zany anyway? Zany is Patrick Pugg who is always saying stuff like "Pugg thinks....." Pugg doesn't use the word "I" until, Cate's neighbor Julie offers to rearrange certain parts of his anatomy!

Then there's Kellen...He's a hot ex-cop looking for some stolen property that Cate's roommate, Marty, an awesome drag queen, might know about. He's totally hot, but even though he is..Pugg's strangeness eclipses him, because he's too normal. I do love the girl's nickname for him, Mr. Yummy.

Oh and the best part? Beast, the bull mastiff puppy that Marty bought.

I love that Janet's books always feature an it a dog..or a hamster...Animals make funny books funnier.

This is a fluffy fun good time read.

Rating:  4 flowers

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book Review: Too Many Crooks Spoil The Broth

Author:Tamar Myers
Title:Too Many Crooks Spoil The Broth
Publish Date: August 1, 1995
Buy: Amazon
Book Blurb: In the first book of a wickedly funny new mystery series, Tamar Myers has created a memorable cast of eccentric characters and spiked her plot with a tasty selection of authentic Pennsylvania Dutch recipes. Magdalena Yoder, practical Mennonite proprietor of the determinedly quaint PennDutch Inn, has succeeded in converting a tranquil family farm into a thriving hostelry catering to sophisticated urbanites with a yen for charm and Amish ambience. With rooms in constant demand, Magdalena is usually able to select a compatible group of guests from her permanent waiting list. But a touchy situation develops when an arrogant congressman, his elegant wife, and an eager aide arrive for the start of deer hunting season, and a second contingent of customers turns out to be a curious assortment of animal rights activists. Then one strangely reclusive visitor is found dead, apparently as the result of a fall down Magdalena's quaintly steep staircase. Worried about lawsuits, infuriated by her wayward sister, attracted to one rough-edged reformed hunter, Magdalena does her best to mediate the conflicts between finicky vegetarian diners and a stubborn Amish cook, and to puzzle out the complex personal connections among her divergent group of visitors. With the kitchen a battleground between culinary lifestyles, Magdalena prevails upon her guests to cook the second night's dinner. The result is a farcical communal meal - and another death, this one no more an accident than the first turns out to have been. Everyone at the inn is under suspicion, including a most perplexed proprietor, whose stolid good nature won't stretch much farther.

Review: Too Many Crooks Spoil The Broth is the first book in the Pennsylvania Dutch mystery series. Be proud! I'm reading this series in order! Before I review this book, I have to say, if you are knowledgeable  of the Amish or Mennonite culture, you might want to pass on this series, cos Tamar seemed to be getting her religions muddled from time to time.

If you can get passed that, this is a hilarious start to a series. Magdalena is such a squirrelly woman. It is absolutely hard to believe she runs a B & B. She really doesn't come across as a people person, especially as she is more worried about the law suits that might be filed than the two people that end up dead in her B & B!

I've always found that the first books in cozy mystery series spend a lot of time introducing you to the secondary characters, and this book is no exception. We meet Magdalena's lazy sister, Savannah, (who also gets around with men) and Mose and Freni, the Amish couple that take care of the animals and do the cooking. Freni quits or is fired at least 20 times in the book.

These characters really bring the humor to this book. The mystery, is a bit slow, with the first dead body coming at almost the halfway point in the novel. However, I didn't really find the pacing slow. I liked getting to know the characters in Hernia, PA.

The other thing I really liked was the setting of the story. It wasn't in Lancaster County, which is where a large group of Amish and Mennonites make their home. Instead, Hernia, is a town somewhere between Somerset and Breezewood. I love reading about places that I know about, it gives me the warm fuzzies. I can see the Allegheny mountains and the turnpike.

The guests at the B & B were interesting too. A congressman and his wife, who were there to hunt deer and a group of animal rights activists. Just knowing that was enough to make me turn the pages, because you knew there was going to be a lot of conflict, as well as murder. This group ranged from rather nice (Joel) to downright obnoxious (the congressman and Jeannette).

There's definitely more than meets the eye with these people and that's what made this book so much fun to read. I can't wait to get book 2!

Rating: 4 flowers

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Audiobook Review: Doctor Who Blackout

Author:Oli Smith
Title: Blackout
Read By: Stuart Mulligan
Publisher: Audiogo
Publish Date: Sept 8, 2011
Buy: Amazon
Book Blurb: It's November 9th, 1965. New York City is plunged into darkness, a taxi driver has bad dreams, and an invisible spacecraft hovers ominously above the skyline. As an extra-terrestrial disease sweeps the populace, Amy and Rory must sabotage the city's water supply to slow the spread of infection, and a dying Doctor holds another man's life in his hands. With death toll rising, and his companions stalked through the streets by alien businessmen, the Doctor is forced to make a terrible decision. How far must he go to save his friends?

Review: This is the first 11th Doctor audio book that I've listened to, and I have to say I was pretty impressed. With audio books, the story is made by the reader. If the reader isn't any good, the story falls flat. Stuart Mulligan did a great job reading Oli Smith's story to life. He captured the essence of The Doctor and his companions. The only voice that didn't quite feel right to me was Clint.

Clint was the taxi driver who was captured by aliens and is having bad dreams. He sounds like he's from the south and yet in the story he says he's from New Jersey. There aren't any southern accents in Jersey. (Some scary ones maybe, but not southern).

The story was set in NYC in the 60s, which I found rather appealing. I like when the Tardis ends up in places other than the UK.  It would have been nice to know what kind of aliens were poisoning the people of NYC, or rather using them as guinea pigs in a case study for a drug for their particular species.

I always enjoy listening to these, especially when the show isn't on, it helps me get over the Who withdrawal. This was a fun story and very well read. Mulligan  really did 11's voice very well. If you love all things Who, this is definitely worth a listen.

Rating: 4 flowers

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Review: The Constant Princess

Author:Philippa Gregory
Title: The Constant Princess
Publisher: Touchstone
Publish Date: Aug 28, 2006
Buy: Amazon
Book Blurb: 
"I am Catalina, Princess of Spain, daughter of the two greatest monarchs the world has ever known...and I will be Queen of England."
Thus, bestselling author Philippa Gregory introduces one of her most unforgettable heroines: Katherine of Aragon. Known to history as the Queen who was pushed off her throne by Anne Boleyn, here is a Katherine the world has forgotten: the enchanting princess that all England loved. First married to Henry VIII's older brother, Arthur, Katherine's passion turns their arranged marriage into a love match; but when Arthur dies, the merciless English court and her ambitious parents -- the crusading King and Queen of Spain -- have to find a new role for the widow. Ultimately, it is Katherine herself who takes control of her own life by telling the most audacious lie in English history, leading her to the very pinnacle of power in England.
Set in the rich beauty of Moorish Spain and the glamour of the Tudor court, The Constant Princess presents a woman whose constancy helps her endure betrayal, poverty, and despair, until the inevitable moment when she steps into the role she has prepared for all her life: Henry VIII's Queen, Regent, and commander of the English army in their greatest victory against Scotland.

Review: I love the Tudor period in English history. I'm slowly working my way through Gregory's books about the wives of Henry VIII. The Constant Princess is about Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Having read several of Gregory's books, I think I'm catching on to a pattern. She likes history, but she obviously doesn't like the historical people she's writing about. In this book, it is very hard to like Catherine, she comes across as really arrogant, and the lie she tells so that she can rightfully become Queen of England.

I know this is historical fiction but she did play fast and loose with history when it came to Arthur's death by the "sweating sickness." I've read many places that Catherine had the same disease. This isn't even touched on in this book. Instead Gregory gives us a flowery romantic deathbed request from Prince Arthur. I found this a little hard to take.

I also found her treatment of Henry to be a little nasty...ok a lot nasty. Most accounts show they had a good marriage, even if Henry wasn't faithful. (That is until those Boleyns entered the picture)

Gregory's writing seemed a bit erratic, as well. She skipped over years of Catherine's life, and ended the book rather abruptly. I'm not sure if that was because Catherine was part of "The Other Boleyn Girl" or because she just didn't want to go on with her story.

There was so much of Queen Catherine's life that was left out. Heck, she didn't even write about the birth of Princess Mary.

I have to say, I was a little disappointed in this book, mostly because of her portrayal of Catherine and her tampering with history. If you can get past that, it is a good read, but sadly it bugged me to much.

Rating: 3 flowers

A Chick Ponders Bookish Things

I hate drama. I posted a review about a Jen Lancaster book on Goodreads back in 2010 and I got a comment on it today. I almost never get comments on my Goodreads reviews, so that probably should have been a sign.

But I had stated in my review that I thought Jen was funny but I couldn't trust a woman that read Ann Coulter. I made no disparaging remarks about the political party involved, but I got a nasty comment about being a liberal as a result.

I was really put off by that comment and I deleted it, but boy it spoiled my day. Have any of you had someone make a comment on your blog or goodreads page that really depressed you?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: The Secrets Of An Accidental Duchess

Author: Jennifer Haymore
Title: Secrets Of An Accidental Duchess
Publisher: Forever
Publish Date: Feb 1, 2012
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley
Book Blurb: With her pale hair and slim figure, Olivia Donovan looks as fragile as fine china, and has been treated as such by her sisters ever since a childhood bout with malaria. But beneath her delicate facade, Olivia guards a bold, independent spirit and the kind of passionate desires proper young ladies must never confess... 

It was a reckless wager, and one Max couldn't resist: seduce the alluring Olivia or forfeit part of his fortune. Yet the wild, soon-to-be Duke never imagined he'd fall in love with this innocent beauty. Nor could he have guessed that a dangerously unpredictable rival would set out to destroy them both. Now, Max must beat a Madman at his own twisted game-or forever lose the only woman to have ever won his heart.

Review: Where to start with this book. I really enjoyed it. It was a pleasure to read even though it fell into many of the pitt falls of historical romance.

What are those you ask?

1. There is a dastardly villain. Seriously, you can't get more dastardly and bastardly than Fenwick. This guy was evil. I'm sure if she wrote about his childhood, he kicked puppies and drowned kittens. That's how evil this guy is.

2. Kidnappings...there's 3 in this book. I'm pretty sure that's a new record.

3. The heroine thinks she's somehow unworthy of love.

I probably shouldn't have liked this book as much as I did. But it was another guilty pleasure read. I felt good reading it. I enjoyed Olivia and Max and the other Donovan sisters. These characters were really well developed. They made me want to find the other books in the series.

I wish Fenwick was as well developed. I mean was was he such a bastard and why the rivalry between him and Max. There wasn't much of an explanation. Not that not knowing is going to keep me up at night.

If you are looking for an amusing book to pass an afternoon with, this one should work for you, especially if you like regency era historicals.

Rating: 4 flowers

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Review: The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake

Author: Aimee Bender
Title: The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake
Publisher: Doubleday
Publish Date: April 19, 2011
Buy: Amazon
Book Blurb: On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein bites into her mother's homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the slice. To her horror, she finds that her cheerful mother tastes of despair. Soon, she’s privy to the secret knowledge that most families keep hidden: her father’s detachment, her mother’s transgression, her brother’s increasing retreat from the world. But there are some family secrets that even her cursed taste buds can’t discern.

Review: I have never read a book before that left me so totally and absolutely confused. When my friend, Jennifer, told me about this book last year, I immediately put it on my tbr list. I found it at the library a few weeks back and checked it out.

The plot was fabulous. A girl that discovers on her 9th birthday that she can taste the emotions of the people making the food she eats. The problem is that though that strange "talent" of hers is part of the plot there is more going on that doesn't involve it.

That stuff is pretty strange too.

I'm not sure where to begin either, except to say this book hurt my brain. Aimee's writing style and me did not get along. The main reason for that was her lack of quotation marks in the dialogue. That made me insane!

Then there was all the other craziness. The father couldn't go into a hospital, EVER! The mother was having an affair. Joseph, their son...was..erm..and this is where I get confused alot...I think he was becoming a piece of furniture.

I really just didn't get this book. Maybe I don't have the intellectual capacity to understand what the author was trying to illustrate, but I don't know. I'm totally muddled.

I am glad that I didn't buy this book, because if I spent $16.00 on this only to feel this way about the story, I'd be beating myself up.

Rating: 2 flowers

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book Review: I've Got Your Number

Author:Sophie Kinsella
Title: I've Got Your Number
Publisher: The Dial Press
Publish Date: February 14, 2012
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley
Book Blurb: Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her “happily ever after” begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!

Well, perfect except that the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn’t agree. He wants his phone back and doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his personal life.

What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other’s lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents . . . she soon realizes that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life.

Review: This is the most fun, funny awesome, make you smile and laugh and cry book you'll read this year. I've always wanted to read Sophie Kinsella. I have many of her books on my TBR pile, but I snagged this one from Net Galley and I started reading it.

I couldn't stop reading it.

It was absolutely hysterical. Poppy Wyatt is just fab. She's having a bad time of it. She loses the family heirloom engagement ring and then her phone. After that things get crazy and really funny. Enter Sam Roxton, the guy who's PA ditched her phone in the trash. That phone found its way into Poppy's hands and it becomes her phone for the next few days, making her Sam's kinda sorta PA.

The stuff that happens after that? Well, I'd tell you, but it would spoil the story.

Oh and then there's Magnus, her soon to be husband and his parents Wanda and Anthony. Quite a family. The whole family isn't what it seems. Wanda and Anthony aren't as pretentious...and Mag isn't the best hubby material. But you'll understand when you read the book. AND YOU WILL READ THE BOOK!!!

The ending is kind of a surprise, but not. You know one guy is going to lose out..and well..I liked how Sophie ended it. Not a lot a drama, just a few giggles.

The only gripe I had with the book were the footnotes that she added because Poppy liked footnotes.

File this under guilty pleasures. This was a totally fun read!

Rating: 5 flowers

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