Easter is this Sunday? What?

Somehow Easter has snuck up on me again. I realized late last week that Easter Sunday was also April Fool's Day, which I can't remember happening before. Even though I knew Spring Break was coming, even though I knew we had community Easter egg hunts, the darn day snuck up on me. I'm blaming the weather, which seems to have found winter just in time for spring. Miracle March is a giant PITA.

Adding to my lack of preparedness was my uncertainty of what to do for the kids. They're too old for the Easter bunny, but do they still get baskets? Do I still hide eggs? No one warned me we'd have to redo all of our holiday traditions as the kids got older.

One thing we won't be changing is Easter dinner. Which is actually usually "Linner" in this house. We eat in the early afternoon to make sure we have enough room for dessert.  We nearly always bake a ham, which is glazed with a combination of Major Grey's chutney and apricot preserves. Sometimes we do pineapples, cloves and cherries, sometimes we don't.

One thing we absolutely do is make Posh Potato Casserole. It's full of high cholesterol badness, but we've been making it for years and years. It's a recipe from my 9th grade English teacher, who I recently ran into at a Rotary Music Competition. It was a little surreal introducing MY 9th grader to her.

What's on your Easter dinner table? And what are your traditions for your older tweens and teens?

Review: Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston

Format: trade, ebook
Pub Date: March 27, 2018
Publisher: Kensington
Length: 432 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: Digital galley via the publisher

Honey badgers are one of my favorite characters in Shelly Laurenston's shifter series. This new series is about hybrid honey badgers, which means they're even more over the top than the regular honey badgers.

I admittedly struggled through the first 25% of the book. It was disjointed, with a lot of chaos and confusion. If I hadn't read Laurenston before, I might have given up. The story really doesn't start coming together until about 30% through, which is probably typical for new series, but seemed weird given that this wasn't a new world, but a new spinoff in an old one.

The thing that makes Laurenston books different from the vast majority of paranormal romances out there is how the women are portrayed. There are no passive women waiting for their "fated" mates. Every single one is a warrior, and most are actually considered more dangerous than the men. That is the case with this book.

What I also love about Laurenston heroines is that just because they are badass, it doesn't mean they eschew things that are considered "girly" or feminine. Charlie bakes when upset or stressed (something I loved, because I am totally a stress baker). New here, but greatly appreciated, is the matter of the fact way that medication for mental health is dealt with. It's just a fact. Like taking a vitamin. It was simply discussed like any other health condition, which I liked and which made me realize how little we see of that in fiction.

I think this book needed an outside eye, someone who maybe hasn't read all of her books twenty times, because there is a ton of back story and world building that is just assumed here. There are also some incredibly brief cameos that won't make any sense unless you've read her other books. Don't start with this book if you're new to Laurenston!

More disappointing was the lack of heat between Charlie and Berg. It may have been me, but there was zero sexual tension here. It may also have been that most of the book is about the sisters and their antics, so the romance takes second (or even third) place in the narrative. At any rate, it felt like the author was far more interested in the caper aspects and sisterhood aspects than the romance. I really liked Berg, liked Charlie, and liked their slow slide into a relationship, but I wanted more desire.

My Grade: B-

The Blurb:

It’s not every day that a beautiful naked woman falls out of the sky and lands face-first on grizzly shifter Berg Dunn’s hotel balcony. Definitely they don’t usually hop up and demand his best gun. Berg gives the lady a grizzly-sized t-shirt and his cell phone, too, just on style points. And then she’s gone, taking his XXXL heart with her. By the time he figures out she’s a honey badger shifter, it’s too late.

Honey badgers are survivors. Brutal, vicious, ill-tempered survivors. Or maybe Charlie Taylor-MacKilligan is just pissed that her useless father is trying to get them all killed again, and won’t even tell her how. Protecting her little sisters has always been her job, and she’s not about to let some pesky giant grizzly protection specialist with a network of every shifter in Manhattan get in her way. Wait. He’s trying to help? Why would he want to do that? He’s cute enough that she just might let him tag along—that is, if he can keep up . . .


Review: The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty

Format: Hardcover
Pub Date: March 13, 2018
Publisher: Minotaur (St. Martin's)
Length: 353 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

After two recent mysteries fell a little flat for me, it was a bit refreshing to see some solid characterization and emotion again. I'm primarily a romance reader, although I've always read mysteries and urban fantasy, too.  I tend to gravitate towards the books that show rather than tell. Those that grip you by your emotions. This book is one of the good ones.

This is Daugherty's first adult book, having previously written YA under a different name. You couldn't tell if you hadn't read the author's bio. She does an excellent job with the grit and gore of two messy crime scenes without playing up the shock factor. I appreciated that. Enough detail to get the point, without wallowing in the carnage.

Harper McClain is a a local crime reporter in Savannah. She listens to the scanner and spends her nights chasing down crime scenes and hoping for a page one story. What most of her friends and colleagues don't know is that her mother was murdered over a decade ago, and she was the one to find the body. The emotional scars and inevitable fallout of the murder both fuel her passion for covering crime, and make her leery of forming close attachments. Until a similar murder happens on her beat.


Review: Undone by You by Kate Meader (Chicago Rebels Book 3)

Format: Ebook
Pub Date: March 5, 2018
Publisher: Pocket
Length: 147 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: Purchased myself

February was flu-city here in the mountains. My youngest was out of school for 2 weeks along with about 30% of the students and staff.  And while I managed to care for my entire flu-stricken family, I had largely avoided getting sick. Until just after Valentine's Day.

The only good thing about being sick is that sitting on the couch covered in a blanket is not only allowed, but encouraged. I glommed my way through so many books, but my favorites were the two hockey romances by Kate Meader that I practically inhaled.

I was also unreasonably cranky to discover that I had "caught up" with her publication schedule after book 2, and had to wait a couple of weeks for this book. It was absolutely everything I wanted, and MORE.


Review: Fade to Black by David Rosenfelt

Format: Hardcover
Pub Date: March 2018
Publisher: Minotaur Books (St. Martin's)
Length: 309 pages
POV: Alternating 3rd/Past and 1st/Present
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Another new-to-me author this week. I've never read David Rosenfelt before. Never even heard of him, but the concept of an amnesia stricken protagonist was too good to pass up. Even more shocking for those who know me, it's mostly written in 1st person, present tense, and I didn't toss it out a window.

That's not to say the tense combo didn't irritate me. It REALLY did. It felt like the author was trying for an old school noir feel by having the narrative unfold this way, but it never quite succeeded.

I'm a character reader, so I have a difficult time with stories where the characters aren't fully fleshed out. That was the case with this book. The first/present choice meant that we really don't get any insight into the other characters because we spend so much time inside our protagonist, Doug Brock's, head. We get to see his thought processes, but not what makes the other characters tick. And we definitely don't get to see how they feel.

The amnesia angle was more boring than I expected. Likely because Brock is just...irritated by the gaps in his memory. We rarely get an emotional reaction other than frustration from him. No deep emotion at all over something I would imagine is incredibly traumatic.  I found it incredibly weird that the main character was so one-note.

Unlike some of the mysteries I've read recently, I absolutely DID get stumped by this one. The question here is not whodunnit, but what they are doing, and I was kept guessing until the very end. That hasn't happened in a VERY long time, so kudos for that.

My issues with this are largely the tense/POV combo and the fact that I'm a character-centric reader. If you're not as sensitive to present tense, and you aren't as focused on characterization, this one might work for you better than it did for me.

My Grade: C+

The Blurb:
After getting shot in the line of duty, New Jersey state police officer Doug Brock has been busy rebuilding his life. He’s reunited with his fiancĂ© and started to get some of his memories back. He hopes he can continue to recover with the help of an amnesia support group and that the damage from his past isn’t permanent. 
It isn’t until fellow group member Sean Conner approaches him after a meeting that Doug realizes the trouble is just beginning. Sean has discovered in his attic what can only be called a scrapbook of a murder victim, but he has no recollection of the girl’s identity or why he might have gathered this information. Doug agrees to help and convinces his captain to open what had been a cold case. When he discovers that he had a personal connection to this case, suddenly he’s questioning everything he thought he knew about the case, about Sean, and about his own past.


Reading Snapshot March 1

February was the month the flu ate. First, my kids caught it, then my husband. Then, of course, I caught it. 3 and a half weeks of flu in the house was enough to drive me completely batty. Last week, as I was finally feeling slightly better and the kids were back at school, I went on a Kate Meader hockey book glom. I'm primarily a print reader, but boy was I happy to have instant delivery of those books, since I was stuck on the couch.

Currently Reading:

Another March release. Another new-to-me author. I really like the cover on this one. It's somehow both noir and colorful. 

Up Next:

This comes out on Tuesday. As I said, I've been glomming Kate Meader hockey books...I was a little put out to run out of books and hit the pre-order on this one last week from my sick bed. 


While coughing myself awake the last few weeks, I decided to re-listen to the Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews in my midnight audiobook forays. I just finished White Hot and am on Wildfire. I still think the covers are so horrible (awkward poses, missing shirts, and not at all reflective of the actual content of the books. No offense to the cover artists. This is a marketing fail. Anyhoo...Andrews managed to snag Renee Raudman to narrate this series (the same narrator as their Kate Daniels series) and it. is. fabulous. White Hot has a ninja ferret heist, so if you haven't read the series because of the horrible covers, give them a shot!

What I'm excited about:
Suzanne Enoch announced on her Facebook page that she's finished a new Sam Jellicoe book. For those of us who have followed Enoch for awhile, this is BIG news. They're contemporary caper novels with romantic elements. I love them and am super happy there are more stories on the way.

Review: The Third Victim by Phillip Margolin

Format: hardcover
Pub Date: March 2018
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Length: 319 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: ARC provided by the publisher free of charge

I've been avoiding ARC reviews for about a year now,  after the reading slump of doom. The cure for me turned out to be going back to reading mostly print, and switching it up with more mysteries and urban fantasy. So...I decided to accept a few advance readers copies of mysteries. Although I'm a mystery reader,  I've never read Phillip Margolin before, and I'm not usually a legal thriller reader. My cuppa runs more to historical mystery and the funnier caper style stories.

The Third Victim reads more like a drama than a mystery. We get little vignettes from a handful of characters, but the main mystery surrounds the defense of an accused serial killer and his lead defense attorney. The drama is that the attorney is experiencing early onset dementia and in denial about it. Her recent hire, Robin, isn't familiar enough with her to be 100% sure her boss is having issues, but grows increasingly worried as the case moves on. The huge ethical issues about whether the defense is compromised are complicated by the worry that their client is really guilty.

I'm a character reader, so I was a bit disappointed we didn't get more time with Robin and some of the supporting characters. And what we got of Regina as she struggles with denial about the early onset dementia symptoms is oddly detached. I wanted more emotion. More guilt. More...something.

As for the mystery itself, I had it figured out halfway through. Since I haven't read Margolin before, I'm not sure if we were supposed to be stumped. The foreshadowing is extremely heavy handed, so maybe whodunnit isn't supposed to be a plot twist. I hope that's the case, because it definitely isn't surprising in the least.

Even with all of that, I kept reading because it was a unique take on a legal thriller about issues that are profoundly important. It was also a little alarming, because I had never considered how vulnerable people are to counsel who are experiencing some kind of cognitive issue, or how dependent we are on them self-reporting any conflicts.

My Grade: B-

The Blurb:
A woman stumbles onto a dark road in rural Oregon—tortured, battered, and bound. She tells a horrific story about being kidnapped, then tortured, until she finally managed to escape. She was the lucky one—two other women, with similar burns and bruises, were found dead.
The surviving victim identifies the house where she was held captive and the owner, Alex Mason—a prominent local attorney—is arrested. Although he loudly insists upon his innocence, his wife’s statements about his sexual sadism and the physical evidence found at the scene, his summer home, is damning.

Regina Barrister is a legendary criminal defense attorney, known as “The Sorceress” for her courtroom victories. But she’s got a secret, one that threatens her skill, her reputation, and, most of all, her clients. And she’s agreed to take on the seemingly impossible task of defending Alex Mason.
Robin Lockwood, a young lawyer and former MMA fighter, has just left a clerkship at the Oregon Supreme Court to work for Regina Barrister. The Alex Mason trial is her first big one, a likely death penalty case, and she’s second chair to Regina. Increasingly, she’s worried her boss’s behavior and the details in the case against their client don’t quite add up.