Aliens Abroad

REVIEW: Aliens Abroad by Gini Koch

Summary


The Distant Voyager is the first manned long-range spacecraft for Earth. And it’s about to leave on its first mission. Kitty and the gang are there for a tour and Jeff’s big speech before the launch.

Unexpectedly (although, par for the course in Kitty’s life), the ship takes off early with Jeff, half of the Presidential Cabinet, Kitty, their kids, and a good portion of their extended family on board. The ship’s AI is uncooperative at best, there are signs of sabotage, and no one on board seems to be able to control their course – or change it.

Whoever is controlling things knows Kitty – the “Warrior Queen” – is a protector. If she can help a person – or a planet – in need, she will. And there are several races in dire need of rescuing. So while she might have been a reluctant participant at first, Kitty is on board for saving the day. Because if Kitty can’t help, the whole galaxy might not survive.

Review


Wow! This was so fun! First of all, this is my favorite book series for adults. So any addition to the series, any book with these characters, is going to be one I am eagerly anticipating. Second, most of the book takes place in previously unknown parts of the galaxy. There are tons of new alien species and planets and galactic politics to explore. Third, there are at least four major events in the book. Reading this felt like binge watching a favorite show or binge reading a favorite book series all in one sitting. I got through the first event and still had hundreds of pages to go! I waited for this book for a long time. The wait was completely worthwhile.

Most of my favorite characters were along for the ride on this trip, so I enjoyed the little tidbits added to their stories. Continuing one of my favorite things from Alien Education, the kids play an important role in this book. In fact, the chapters where their role is really expanded I read twice. There’s a nice balance between the expected interplay and relationships from the series and all the new characters. In fact, to me the book felt weighted toward the new characters and events which gave this a fresh feel. I feel like this book and the next (Aliens Like Us) are going to have the same “interlude” feel that Universal Alien and Alien Separation did earlier in the series. It will advance the characters and the big picture, but it will keep the series from feeling like it is following a pattern.

Kudos to Gini Koch for this fast, fun, and fresh addition to the series. It’s everything I have come to expect from her in the last 6 years since I discovered the series. Many thanks to Netgalley and the folks at DAW (Penguin/Random House) for the opportunity to review an electronic review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My personal copy will be arriving any time now so I can start a re-read right away. Goodreads shows at least 4 more books coming in the series; I have all of them on my wish list and have pre-ordered Aliens Like Us so I don’t miss a moment of the action. If you love science fiction (with a little steamy romance thrown in ), I think you should follow my lead. If this is a new series to you, start with book one, Touched by an Alien, and carve out some serious reading time. This is a series you don’t want to miss.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Dog Dish of Doom

REVIEW: Dog Dish of Doom by E. J. Copperman

Summary


Kay Powell just wants to get her client, Bruno, this role in Annie on Broadway. Bruno has the skills to be an excellent Sandy! Kay is an agent for animals for TV, stage, and movies. And this role could be the beginning of a big career for Bruce. But his owners are a bit of trouble.

Well, Louise is okay – almost to the point of disinterest. But Trent is worse than any stage mom. He thinks Bruno can “do more” and that director Les McMaster is a “hack” and a has been. It’s so bad that Les will only work with Bruno if Kay is the one to bring him to the theater. He doesn’t want Trent or Louise there at all.

Imagine Kay’s surprise to read of Trent’s murder the next day, or to find a detective on her door step. Since Kay understands the theater world, she may be the only one who can figure out what happened to Trent.

Review


This was a terrific mystery. I loved the premise – agent to the stars! Animal stars. And Kay’s relationship with Bruno and her own dogs was lovely. I enjoyed the full cast – the quirky parents, the potential love interest, and the business partner/assistant. I would happily read more books with this ensemble.

The mystery was great. There was a lot going on, even or especially after the murder. Lots of questions about motives and secrets kept me guessing all the way to the end.

This is great for cozy fans and fans of animal stories. Also for readers who enjoy a creative set up and interesting cast of characters, both human and animals.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Scone Cold Killer

REVIEW: Scone Cold Killer by Lena Gregory

Summary


Gia is starting fresh in Florida with a new business – the All-Day Breakfast Café. She set everything up while commuting from New York, so she doesn’t have everything 100% in place. The cook she hired actually has no restaurant experience and can only prep one thing at a time. Gia has no idea what grits are, but her customers are asking for them so she needs to figure that out soon. But those things are easily fixed. What really matters is that she has left her crook of an ex-husband – and all of his legal issues – behind her.

Gia never expected Bradley to follow her. But she knew when she saw the arm hanging out of her dumpster that it was her ex. And Bradley’s presence – even though he is dead – means vandalism and threats will follow. Gia can’t seem to catch a break. She’s either going to have to give up and head back to New York, or she’s going to have to find out what Bradley was up to if she wants to save her business.

Gia has a couple suspects to check out right off the bat. And new questions are popping up all the time. She isn’t used to trusting others, but Gia is not sure she can sort this thing out on her own. Could her new community help her solve this mystery and salvage her fresh start?

Review


I really enjoyed this mystery. This is a great start to a new series. The characters are fun. There’s depth to Gia and her best friend Savannah. The cast of characters was big enough to keep things interesting but not so big that you need a cheat sheet to keep track. The potential love interest is terrific. There’s nice chemistry between them. I enjoyed the time I spent with the characters, and I would love to read more books in this series.

We had only the smallest introduction to the setting, both the town and the restaurant. That leaves some fun directions for future stories as the series grows.

The mystery was good. Everyone tied to Bradley’s crimes thinks Gia knew about his schemes, so there are a lot of questions to explore there. Then the murder adds another layer to the mystery. The details of the mystery build at a nice pace through at least 2/3 of the book, so there isn’t an excessive amount of deliberation over suspects. It all comes together perfectly. I didn’t feel rushed or that the wrap up took forever. A terrific first mystery.

Thanks to Netgalley and Lyrical Underground/Kensington for an electronic review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Searching for Billy Shakespeare

REVIEW: Searching for Billy Shakespeare by Crista McHugh

Summary


Kate is a graduate student, studying Shakespeare and writing the dissertation for her PhD. When she catches her fiancé with another woman, her world is turned completely upside down.

Her friends come to her rescue, and she finds an amazing, rent-controlled apartment with “Princess Barbie,” Ari. In exchange for some cooking and cleaning, Kate gets a great apartment and a rent she can swing while she nurses the wounds of her broken relationship and finish her degree.

Kate was not counting on Ari’s brother, Gabe, to be part of her new life. At first, his middle of the night phone calls for his absent sister are an annoyance. But over time, Kate looks forward to talking to Gabe. His voice is sexy, and he truly seems to listen to her. He takes her work on Shakespeare seriously. As an actor, Gabe can use Kate’s help preparing an audition monologue. Gabe quickly becomes a bigger part of Kate’s life than she ever imagined.

Review


This was so fun! It’s a quick, romantic story of Kate’s evolution with a backdrop of Shakespearean references. Readers don’t have to know the references to enjoy the story.

Kate’s transformation is my favorite part of the story. She’s so unsure of herself at the start of the book that she’s in a long term relationship she doesn’t even enjoy. While she is devastated by her fiancé’s unfaithfulness, it is exactly what she needs to course-correct her own life. Throughout the book, people try to change Kate, usually for her own good. But Kate has to find her own way, her own style, and her own voice if she is going to feel confident in her own life.

We don’t get a lot from the other characters in this except Gabe. The rest generally serve to move Kate and Gabe forward. And I was satisfied with that. I really enjoyed this and would read other things from this author (some language, trigger warning for suicide).

Thanks to Netgalley and Season Publishing for an electronic review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Another One Bites the Crust

REVIEW: Another One Bites the Crust by Ellie Alexander

Summary


Book 7 in the Bakeshop Mystery series. Jules, her mom and the Professor are back from their cruise. The renovations at Torte are in full swing. And the new season of The Shakespeare Festival is kicking off with Antony and Cleopatra. Unfortunately, the star has become a problem. His ego is out of control. He even refuses to use his real name and insists on being called “Antony.” Lance, the artistic director, is convinced “Antony” is causing trouble for him with the Board of Directors, too. It’s made Lance a man on the edge.

When Lance stumbles across Antony’s dead body, the evidence says Antony finally pushed Lance over that edge to murder. Juliet knows Lance would never do that. He might be a drama king, but he would never kill someone. The Professor recuses himself from working the case because of his friendship with Lance. The detective who gets the case is by-the-book and has no feel for the town or people of Ashland. Juliet is going to have to start sleuthing again if Lance is going to have a chance to enjoy the new season at the theater.

Review


Jules and the gang at Torte are some of my favorite characters in fiction. It’s so easy to fall back into a rhythm with them every time I read a new book in the series. The dynamics between the characters are fun, and the renovations at Torte have the potential to set up some great stories in the future.

The mystery in this one didn’t click for me. Lance felt like the most logical suspect all the way through the book. I never got a good sense of other suspects with strong motives. The solution was almost as big a surprise to Jules as it was to me.

The characters are so delightful (well, Lance started to get on my nerves) that it offset my disappointment with the mystery. There are some fun tidbits and possible hints of things to come in future books. The very end was especially fun. I’m looking forward to seeing how those pieces play out in the next book. Till Death Do Us Tart releases in August of 2018; the cover is gorgeous!

Thanks to the author, Ellie Alexander, for the Advanced Reader Copy of this book to review. I won it on a social media contest she hosted.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Every Dog Has His Day

REVIEW: Every Dog Has His Day by Jenn McKinlay

Summary


Zachary Caine was content with his bachelor life. He had Rufus, the dog he was fostering for a friend, his “Maine crew” to hang out with, and his work.

But a yowl changed all that. The adorable daughters of his neighbor knocked on his door, begging for help. Their kitten was stranded on Zach’s roof. Of course Zach had to help them!

The last time Zach had talked to the girls’ mother, Jessie, he’d called her “sweetheart,” and she had told him off in no uncertain terms. This interaction was at least civil. And Zach got a kick out of the girls. The kitten on his roof opened up a more neighborly relationship between Zach and Jessie. And that comes in handy when a blizzard hits and they lose power. They pool their resources to wait out the storm together. And while they wait, things begin to thaw between them even more.

Review


In many ways, this series is very different from the Jenn McKinlay cozy mysteries I have enjoyed for years. There’s more language, inuendo, and other mature content in this romance series than you find in the mysteries. But no matter the series, McKinlay writes fantastic characters!

I have loved this whole “Maine crew” from the beginning. I’ve enjoyed the individual stories about the various couples. But I also love how the group operates – the way they show up for one another, the way they care for each other, and their protectiveness for anyone in their circle. As well as those who join the circle along the way.

The little group of Zach, Jessie, and her girls are magic. Zach treats the girls as individuals of value even before he starts to fall for their mother. They are never a means to something else or a hinderance in his mind. He is intentional with them, he responds to their different personalities, and they respond to his love and respect. The loneliness Zach and Jessie have experienced makes them a good fit with potential to “get” one another in ways others can’t. And with the exception of a couple of (reasonable) conflicts and misunderstandings, I loved how honest they were with one another. This is not a plot based on lies and secrets or anything like that where you find yourself thinking, “Just tell them already!” Things are out in the open and mature between them.

This is a great romance series, and I highly recommend it for adults who enjoy the genre! Book 2 is probably my favorite of the three in the series, but this is a close second! Thanks to Netgalley and Berkley for an electronic review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Escape Claws

REVIEW: Escape Claws by Linda Reilly

Summary


Lara returns to Whisker Jog, New Hampshire to check on her aunt, Fran. Lara hasn’t seen her in 16 years. A childhood friend tells her Fran is having some health issues. She’s also trying to take care of eleven cats. Lara feels responsible for checking up on Fran.

There’s tension between the women from the start. Lara feels guilty for being out of touch for so long. Fran is hurt that Lara never responded to her letters. Only, Lara never received them.

Before they can dig very far into the events of the past, the local land developer is found dead on Fran’s property. He was notorious around town for being a bully. And everyone in town had heard about the argument Fran had with him over property lines and his development plans. Now, Fran and Lara are prime suspects in his murder.

Lara is feeling torn between her responsibilities back in Boston and her desire to help Fran in New Hampshire. Maybe, if she can pin down who really killed the developer, she can clear Fran and get back to her old life.

Review


This was really good! The mystery was great. The rotten land developer is a fairly common set up for cozy mysteries, but there were some other twists in this case that kept the story fresh. There were plenty of suspects to choose from, and the overall solution kept me guessing regarding the motive and the big picture.

The characters were delightful in this book. The tension between Lara and Fran gave a nice layer to this story that is not typical in cozies. I hope future books will dig more into the lost years between them. Lara’s childhood friend and the potential love interests for both Lara and for Fran rounded out the core group well. I’m eager to see what happens next for these folks.

The cat angle was fun. They each had some personality, which was great. The mysterious Blue added yet another interesting layer to the story. I will definitely read more books in this series in the future.

Thanks to Netgalley and Kensington/Lyrical Underground for the opportunity to read an early electronic review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Trouble with Murder

REVIEW: The Trouble with Murder by Kathy Krevat

Summary


Colbie and her son, Elliott, have moved in with her dad temporarily after her dad got sick. Their relationship became strained when she got pregnant at 18 and he kicked her out. Maybe now they can start repairing their relationship.

The new living arrangement is working pretty well. Elliott found a local theater group to join. Colbie is able to build her Meowio Batali Gourmet Cat Food business through local farmer’s markets. She even joined the Sunnyside Power Moms, a group of women with at-home businesses. Colbie is starting to find her rhythm.

The first wrinkle in the system is the nasty review Colbie’s business receives. Reviews like that could ruin her line before it even has a chance to take off. And she can’t pinpoint who the unhappy customer is – or if he is even really a customer. Then the head of the Power Moms is found dead. And Colbie is the prime suspect. With a police detective obsessed with finding her guilty, and a creepy guy threatening her family, Colbie is going to have to do her own sleuthing and find the real killer before she loses everything.

Review


This was such a fun mystery! The gourmet pet food home business is an angle I’ve read in another series. But the two distinguish themselves by the animals involved. Trouble, the cat in this book, is a great character. The whole cast in this book was terrific! Looking forward to reading another book in this series.

I was able to puzzle out the mystery, but there were still some nice surprises. It was fun watching Colbie work through each suspect on her quest for the truth. I hope future books include more of the lead police detective (the reasonable one), and the “puzzle guy.” They were probably my favorite characters after Trouble the cat.

Thanks to Netgalley and Kensington/Lyrical Press for the opportunity to read an early electronic copy of this book for review purposes in exchange for my honest opinion. This book was a delight to read!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Murder for the Books

REVIEW: A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert

Summary


Amy is the head librarian at the Blue Ridge Library. She lives with her Aunt Lydia, having left her job as an academic librarian when she caught her boyfriend cheating on her.

In general, the small town librarian life gives Amy no more excitement than a patron asking her opinion on what poison to use in the mystery she is writing. But that’s before she meets Richard -and before she finds the dead body.

Richard is her new neighbor. He’s inherited a house with a history that he wants to research. And the library is the best place for that. In the 1920s, the owner of the house died, and his wife was accused of his murder.

But when Richard and Amy head to the archives to pull some old documents, they find a lot more than newspapers. The body of an elderly patron is there. Suddenly there are two mysteries – the 1925 one, and now this one, too.

Review


This mystery was excellent! In the end, there are actually THREE mysteries, each in a different period of time, that converge together. I found that really satisfying, although I did have to take notes for awhile to keep track of all the people and pieces. So many mysteries in one book! I was able to figure out one and a half of them, and I liked that. I deduced some of the story but not all of it, which  kept me guessing. What a great reading experience this was!

This is the first book in the  new Blue Ridge Library Mystery series. The characters – as well as the great plotting – will bring me back for more. Amy is terrific – smart, determined, and likable. She and Richard have terrific chemistry. I love that he is not in law enforcement, something you find a lot in cozy mysteries (he is a choreographer and a dancer). He also supports Amy in her research and sleuthing.

I’m already looking forward to the next book. There are some intriguing hints in this one about possible future plots – a new job for Amy’s best friend, and a mysterious and secretive character who may be up to no good. I highly recommend this to mystery fans. Put this  on your watch list, too. If you are like me, you won’t want to miss any books in the series. Book 2, Shelved Under Murder is currently scheduled to release in July of 2018.

Thanks to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the opportunity to read an electronic review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It was a joy to read!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Twelve Slays of Christmas

REVIEWS: 2017 Christmas Books

I had something else scheduled for review today, but it didn’t work out, so I am going to plug in a few short reviews of some of the 2017 Christmas books I have been able to read this season. I hope you will find something here you like!

How the Finch Stole Christmas – The Christmas production of A Christmas Carol is headed off the rails thanks to a diva-level actor with a drinking problem. A dead body is not exactly what Meg and friends need on top of the production stress! This is book 22 in the Meg Langslow series, one of my favorite cozy series. I love that no matter how many books there are in the series, the stories and the characters stay strong and enjoyable. The mystery in this one was great. And Meg is one of my favorite protagonists of all time. Rating: ♥♥♥♥

 

Merry and Bright – The latest from Debbie Macomber focuses on a young woman whose family sets her up for an online dating service. Her best match turns out to the be last person she wanted it to be.  I really enjoyed this one! The plot is pretty simple and You’ve Got Mail-esque, but the characters are fantastic and really made this a fun holiday read.  This would make a darling Hallmark Christmas movie. Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

 

 

Holly and Ivy – A lonely widow meets a young girl with a great gift in this holiday story. For me, this story suffered from an unsympathetic character right from the beginning. I almost gave up on finishing this one. I pressed through the unpleasant character and things finally started to turn around about half-way through. The ending was great and made me glad I kept with it. Rating: ♥♥♥

 

 

Twelve Slays of Christmas – The first book in a Christmas Tree farm mystery series. A young woman heads home to Mistletoe, Maine after her Christmas Eve wedding is cancelled. Maybe some time at home, celebrating the holiday with family on the farm will be just what she needs. She certainly does NOT need a dead body or for her family and friends to be suspected murderers. This was a delight from start to finish! The setting was perfect – I loved the holiday activities the family does around the farm for Christmas. The characters were a lot of fun – the “voice” was great and there was humor and romance as well as a solid mystery. This is a series I will be following faithfully! Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

 

Sugar Pine Trail – A librarian finds herself taking care of two young boys at Christmas time. And her handsome neighbor pitches in. This is the 7th book in the Haven Point series, but I’m not sure the books are necessarily interconnected, except for the setting. This was so fantastic, though, I have added the rest of the series to my library wish list so I can check out all the rest of the books. The characters in this were spectacular. I loved the foster care angle, and the author did a great job of portraying that pretty realistically. The love story was terrific. Great romance to put you in the holiday spirit. Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥