Review: Murder Under Cover by Kate Carlisle

Format: Mass Market
Pub Date: May 3, 2011
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Obsidian
FTC: Review copy provided by Jane Rotrosen Agency

I love cozy mysteries, but I am finicky about the whole amateur sleuth aspect of them. Sure, part of the appeal of the genre is watching how ordinary people deal with death and mysteries, but too often they veer into what's known as TSTL (too stupid to live), endangering themselves and everyone around them. Thankfully, this isn't one of those books.

Brooklyn Wainwright is a rare book restorer and binder. When her friend brings home a rare copy of the Kama Sutra to clean, restore and appraise, she's ecstatic. Until people start dying around her. Again. Thankfully, she has her lover, former spy and security expert Derek, to help keep her safe.


I Think Mother Nature is Confused...

A Conversation about Audiobooks with the Hubs

I really wish my husband would write a review for me, but then...he hates writing anything. He hates reading, too. But he's an avid audiobook "reader."

The other day, we were talking about what appeals to him and what he's been listening to. Here is a paraphrased transcript of that conversation.

Me: Do you want me to buy the newest Black Dagger Brotherhood book for you?
Hubs: No. Why bother? That last one [Lover Mine] ruined the series for me.
Me: Why?
Hubs: The ending. She [the author, JR Ward] turned Xhex into a wimp. She's a badass. She wouldn't be out there getting all teary-eyed over a dress. Or her mom.
[breaks out in falsetto with effeminate hand waving]
Look at my dress! It's so pretty!!!
Me: What are your favorite series or authors right now?


Review: Shadow Guard by Diane Whiteside

Format: Trade paperback
Length:  242 pages
Publisher: Brava (Kensington)
Pub Date: April 2011
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

An intriguing premise is ruined by amateurish writing and vague world-building in this paranormal romantic suspense.

I was looking forward to reading this book, despite that awful cover. The blend of magic and police work intrigued me. But what killed this book for me was the writing. More specifically, the over use of similes.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Many Sins of Lord Cameron by Jennifer Ashley

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted over at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy book-loving hands on.

The Many Sins of Lord Cameron ( #3 in series)
August 2, 2011
320 pages
Berkley Sensation (Penguin)

The Blurb:
Lord Cameron Mackenzie is intrigued when he finds the pretty widow, Ainsley Douglas, hiding in the window seat of his bedchamber. Cam remembers Ainsley Douglas all right—six years ago, he’d caught her in this very bedchamber, during a house party in the Mackenzies’ Scottish manor. Enchanted by her ingenuous excuses, he decided to seduce her, but stopped shy when she’d made a rather touching appeal about her “good husband who didn’t deserve to be heartbroken.”

Later, Cameron learned that her visit to his bedchamber was part of some female intrigue against him, the kind his late wife used to practice. Ainsley protested her innocence, but Cameron’s anger made him never want to see her again. Now she’s back, at another houseparty—and Cameron finds the gray-eyed minx in his bedchamber, again. Her excuses are just as ingenuous, but this time Cameron is determined to teach her a lesson.

They have unfinished business, Cameron tells her. He asks her how many of her many buttons she’ll let him unclasp, promising that before the houseparty is over, she’ll be asking him to undo them all.

Ainsley’s dismay is real. She’s on a mission to prevent embarrassment to Queen Victoria, and time is running out. Though the needs he’d stirred long ago during her unhappy marriage rise again, she knows it would be foolish to fall for love-them-and-leave-them Cameron Mackenzie.

But he asks her a question that challenges her beliefs about love and happiness, and she finds herself risking all to be with the black sheep of the Mackenzie family.


Gone Fishin'

It's finally warm enough here to get out and enjoy the sunshine. Today, we went fishing.

With a few breaks for catching lizards and playing in the dirt.


TBR Challenge Review: How to Woo a Reluctant Lady by Sabrina Jeffries

Publisher: Pocket
Format: Mass Market
FTC: Purchased myself

Why it was in the TBR: I bought this when it first came out in February, got about halfway through it, then set it aside. Not because I didn't like it, but because I got distracted by other authors and shiny newer releases.  Since it fit perfectly with this month's theme, I decided to pull it back out again, saving it from languishing on the "get to eventually" TBR currently residing in boxes.

I read the first book in this series, but not the second. How to Woo a Reluctant Lady (HTWARL) is the 3rd in the "Hellions of Halstead Hall" series. [I'm not sure why, but long pretentious series titles irritate me. Especially multi-syllabic ones with cutesy alliteration. Which is weird, because I usually love alliteration. Anyhoo...] Thankfully, HTWARL is fine as a stand-alone book.

What makes this book is the hero, Giles. He's very intelligent, very arrogant, but also sexy and determined. I loved the trial details and the focus given to his profession. He's a very yummy barrister who *gasp* works for a living. I found that refreshing. I also liked that our heroine, Minerva, grows to understand and respect what he does.

The story is fantastic until about midway through, when it loses steam for some reason. I'm sure that's probably why I ended up putting it aside. It's not bad, but it definitely loses something. Especially when Giles decides to lie to Minerva within a week or so of promising honesty. If he can't keep a promise for a week, how is he supposed to keep his vows for a lifetime?

Overall, though, I enjoyed the book. Especially Giles. Yes, I've said that already, but he is memorable. And that's a rarity these days among the throngs of arrogant historical heroes.Those who dislike Regency or early Victorian spies should avoid, though, as there is a bit of that type of activity in the story.

My Grade: B-

Waiting on Wednesday: When Tony Met Adam

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted over at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy book-loving hands on.

I'm a big fan of Suze Brockmann's Troubleshooters series. And if you've read any of the last few books, you'll be familiar with Adam Wyndham. While I'm not quite sure how Suze will make Adam less of a prick and more sympathetic, I can't wait to read this short story anyway.

When Tony Met Adam
Pub Date: June 6, 2011
Publisher: Random House
Format: Ebook

The Blurb:
Tony Vlachic, a ruggedly handsome Navy SEAL, has kept his sexuality a secret for years under the threat of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That is, until he meets Adam Wyndham, a charismatic yet troubled film star. Tony knows that by approaching Adam in front of his teammates he’s jeopardizing his military career. And Adam, nursing a broken heart, has no interest in a relationship. Still, neither man can deny their instant attraction.

Tony didn’t become a SEAL by accepting rejection, and his pursuit of Adam leads to one unforgettable night. But the next morning, Tony is ordered to ship out to Afghanistan, and he’s forced to leave Adam with too much left unsaid. As Tony enters a dangerous war zone, Adam, back in Los Angeles, struggles with the demons of his past, while dealing with the very real possibility that Tony could be killed in action. Half a world apart, both men must face their feelings for each other—and decide if what they’ve found is worth risking everything in the name of love.


Review: Devious by Lisa Jackson

Pub Date: April 2011
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Kensington
Length: 439 pages
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

AAR has a blog post about authors repeating themselves that's feeling very timely right about now. Because as much as I love Lisa Jackson's Bentz and Montoya books, the newest installment, Devious, should be titled Déjà Vu.

In other words, it's another book about two detectives in New Orleans investigating priests, nuns, and a scandal or three involving the Catholic Church.

The surprising thing for me is even with the 'haven't I read this before?' vibe, I enjoyed the book immensely. But there are a few problems...


Lemon Curd Bars with coconut and pecans

This recipe, from the 2010 Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookie magazine, was the surprise star of my cookie trays. My husband, who is not all that fond of lemon desserts, had to admit he was WRONG about these being "gross." Something he declared after finding out that not only were these lemon, they had coconut and nuts as well. I ended up having to hide them from him to save enough for the trays!

The coconut makes these chewy. I haven't tried making these with almonds, but they're delicious with pecans. I use Trader Joe's lemon curd. Because I'm lazy. You could probably make your own if you're an overachiever ambitious.

Lemon Curd Bars
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 10-12 oz jar lemon curd
2/3 cup flaked coconut (I used sweetened)
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds or coarsely chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Line a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Grease foil, set pan aside.

2. Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in flour and baking powder until combined. (Mixture will be crumbly). Remove 2/3 cup of crumb mixture; set aside. Press remaining crumb mixture evenly onto the bottom of prepared baking pan.

3. Bake crust in oven for 5-8 minutes or until top is golden (that's about 10-11 minutes for me up here in the mountains). Remove from oven. Spread lemon curd over hot crust to within 1/2 inch of edge. (Try to avoid having lemon curd touch the edges of the pan, because it can scorch). In a medium bowl, stir together reserved crumb mixture, coconut and nuts. Sprinkle coconut mixture over lemon curd.

4. Bake for 18-20 minutes or  until edges are golden and topping is lightly browned. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Using edges of foil, lift uncut bars out of pan. Cut into 32 bars.

Store in a single layer in covered, airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.


Waiting on Wednesday: Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted over at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy, book-loving hands on.

Of all of the over-hyped books last year, the Iron Duke was one that truly did live up to its buzz. It was so refreshingly different from anything else I'd ever read. The next book in the series, Heart of Steel, comes out November 1st.

Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook
Pub Date: November 1, 2011
Format: Trade Paperback; ebook
Length: 384 pages
**This cover may not be the final version.**

The Blurb:

Return to the gritty, alluring world of steampunk with the New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Duke.
Growing up in the dangerous world of the Iron Seas, the mercenary captain of the airship Lady Corsair, Yasmeen, has learned to keep her heart hard as steel. Ruthless and cunning, her only loyalty is to her ship and her crew-until one man comes along and changes everything...Treasurehunter Archimedes Fox isn't interested in the Lady Corsair-just the captain and the valuable da Vinci sketch she stole from him. When it attracts a dangerous amount of attention, Yasmeen and Archimedes journey to Horde-occupied Morocco- and straight into enemy hands.

Also looking forward to:

The Naked King by Sally MacKenzie
Pub Date: June 7, 2011
Publisher: Zebra (Kensington)
Length: 353 pages
Formats: Mass Market, ebook

I am a Sally MacKenzie junkie. I know her books can be rather predictable, but I love them anyway. They always manage to tug on my heartstrings. Even when they are being a bit silly and funny. There's just something about the dialogue, the characters, and MacKenzie's sense of the absurd that make these so fun.

I've heard this is the last book in her Naked series, though, which has me a bit bummed.

The Blurb:
           Indiscretion Is Just The Beginning. . .
One night of slight overindulgence—oh, all right, he was drunk—and Stephen Parker-Roth finds he must betroth himself to prevent yet another scandal. But his "intended" is lovely, a redheaded beauty under her horrendous, unfashionable bonnet, and before long, he's congratulating himself on compromising such an excellent candidate—and anticipating what other naughtiness they'll get caught at before the wedding. . .

Lady Anne Marston has long since given up any thought of marriage. That is the price she pays for the mistakes of her past. But one little conversation with a handsome rogue should never have led to a sham engagement. Even if it did end in a rather shocking kiss...in broad daylight. . .on the front step of London's premier gossip. Now, trapped between a secret and a lie, Anne must somehow disentangle herself from this charming, maddening man before the truth comes out—or her heart gives in. . .


Review: Bless the Bride by Rhys Bowen

Pub Date: March 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Length: 272 pages
FTC: Review copy provided by Jane Rotrosen Agency

I have been in a history mood lately, so I dug out this copy of Bless the Bride . I had stalled on it a few months earlier, but sometimes finishing a book is more about mood and less about the book. I think this was one of those cases.

Set at the turn of the 20th century in New York City, Bless the Bride is the 10th installment in the continuing adventures of Molly Murphy, Irish immigrant and female amateur detective.

Overall, this felt like a novella and not a novel. At 272 pages, it is quite short. Which means that something had to give. And for me, that was the relationships. We get very little time between Daniel and Molly. In fact, we get far more time with Molly's neighbors than we do between the affianced pair.


Recipe: Toucan Sam

This is one of those uber girly cocktails for people that want something sweet that really doesn't taste like alcohol (like me). It's also a great candidate for one of those cute little umbrellas. Warning, though, it is SWEET. You can tart it up by cutting out the grenadine or upping pineapple juice or the Curacao. It's also quite potent.

3/4 oz Blue Curacao
3/4 oz Spiced Rum
3/4 oz Coconut Rum
3/4 oz Triple Sec
3 oz Pineapple Juice
splash of Grenadine

Combine everything but the grenadine in a cocktail shaker filled 1/2 full with ice. Cover and shake until blended. Pour into a hurricane glass over ice. Pour a splash of grenadine into the glass (it will sink to the bottom).

Variation: For a slightly sweeter, less pineapply flavor, substitute Peach Schnapps for the Triple Sec.

*If you double the recipe, it will use an entire little can of pineapple juice.


Shhh....I'm reading (Mid-glom update)

I've been reading shifter books all week. It's true, I've been taking a break from most paranormal books, but Shelly Laurenston's books just sucked me in.

These are steamy, hilarious reads. I like that the women are all very strong and independent. I like that the men have to convince the women about love and relationships. I like that I usually end up snorting out loud while reading.

Really, they're that funny.

The only thing I've noticed, and it's largely the result of reading them back to back, is that Laurenston likes to use "tricky" a bit too much.

Overall, though, these are perfect pick-me-up reads. Not without substance, but mostly without emotionally draining angst.


Hump Day Classic Movie: Legend (1985)

[Photo:© Universal Studios]

Ah for the good ole days. When Tom Cruise still couldn't act, but I didn't dislike him quite so much. The 1980s were fantasy movie heaven. Between the barbarian movies (Conan, Beastmaster etc.) and the magic/fantasy movies (Dragonslayer, Labyrinth), the decade overdid the genre so heavily that it nearly disappeared from the theaters until Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings made fantasy OK again.

Legend isn't the greatest movie. In fact, it can be quite, quite bad. (It does have Tom Cruise in it, right?) But the highlight for me is the wicked way they use Tim Curry's presence. OMG does his voice fit so well with his role as the Prince of Darkness. There's none of his campy, tongue-in-cheek style here. Just menace.

Waiting on Wednesday: A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted over at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy, book-loving hands on.

A Night to Surrender
August 30, 2011

Tessa Dare's writing never fails to wow me. I'm a little nervous, though, because this book is with Avon. Don't get me wrong; I like Avon. But not only did she lose her trademark cover style with this book, Avon has a pretty strict "feel" they seem to insist on. I'm hoping the new publishing house lets Tessa be Tessa. Because her writing and lengthy, tension filled scenes are unique.

*crossing fingers*

The (micro) Blurb: This is the Avon Debut of the immensely talented Tessa Dare! This is the first book in her new regency "Spindle Cove" series, set in a seaside resort town for ladies of good breeding and delicate constitution. 

For more information, Tessa has a page on her new series with Avon here.

Also coming out soon:

Guarding a Notorious Lady by Olivia Parker
May 31, 2011
384 pages

I really enjoyed the Bride Hunt Ball and its sequel To Wed a Wicked Earl. Her books always have the literary equivalent of a mischievous twinkle and are just plain fun.

Exquisite trouble . . .
A woman of pristine breeding, Lady Rosalind Devine is also an unrepentant meddler and snoop— which is why her brother refuses to leave her to her own devices while on his wedding trip. But Rosalind will not make things easy for any unseen, unwanted “nursemaid”—and vows to use her considerable wiles to expose her mystery guardian.
Nicholas Kincaid, the Marquess of Winterbourne, agreed to secretly guard his friend’s spoiled, stubborn sister, though her infuriating penchant for mischief is causing him to question his decision. Though bound by the rules of society—and friendship— Rosalind’s spirit and sensuality have sparked a fierce desire in Nicholas to play a very different role in her life, one that entails passion, ecstasy . . . and unavoidable scandal.


Winner! Gone With a Handsomer Man by Michael Lee West

And the winner of Gone With a Handsomer Man is ...

Linda K.

Congratulations Linda! An email is winging its way to you right now!


Welcome Spring

Spring has finally arrived up here in the mountains. In fact, the weather has been so screwy that my flowers are confused. Instead of having a distinct order of appearance (crocus, narcissus, tulip) they've all come up at once.

My favorite, though, are these star tulip looking things. I'm not sure if they actually ARE a tulip, but they're so pretty.