Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review - Murder Takes the Cake by Gayle Trent

Murder Takes the Cake: A Daphne Martin Cake Mystery (Daphne Reynolds Cake Mysteries)

TITLE:    Murder Takes the Cake
AUTHOR:    Gayle Trent
INFO:    Paperback, Fiction, 252 pages
PUBLISHED:   Gallery, 2011
SOURCE:   Received from Publisher for Review

  Cozy murder mystery. When the meanest gossip in Brea Ridge dies mysteriously, suspicions turn to cake decorator Daphne Martin. But all Daphne did was deliver a spice cake with cream cheese frosting--and find Yodel's body. Now Daphne's got to help solve the murder and clear her good name. Problem is, her Virginia hometown is brimming with people who had good reason to kill Yodel, and Daphne's whole family is among them.

MY TAKE:    This is a quick read that would be perfect for a day at the beach or when in the mood for something light and quirky.  I have recently found that cozy mysteries is a genre that I am enjoying quite a bit.  This one was no exception.

I liked the character of Daphne and a few of her rather eccentric neighbors and friends. Daphne comes across as someone who I would enjoy having as a friend.  Her family had some major issues and I felt sorry for Daphne at times.  The story progressed nicely and kept you wondering who the murderer was until pretty close to the end.  I enjoyed the hint of romance between Daphne and her old high-school beau, Ben.  It holds promise for future books in this series as well as the building of relationships with neighbors Myra and China.

While this was a fun read, there was one issue that I had with the way it was written.  The author gets very in-depth regarding decorating cakes.  I found myself skimming many parts of the book because I really don't care what size tips to use to make certain flowers and designs.  There were some great tips regarding freezing cakes for future use and also a fabulous section at the end with recipes. I learned a couple of handy tricks, but I just felt that the pain-staking decorating details detracted from the mystery itself.

I recommend this to anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries and a quick afternoon read.  I am also looking forward to the next story in the series "Killer Sweet Tooth" due out later this year. 

Out of 5 JEWELS, I give it:

WHERE TO BUY IT:    Amazon and The Book Depository

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~~~~~ Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.  I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links.  I may receive books in  order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one.  Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.

Review - What Would Mr. Darcy Do? by Abigail Reynolds

A Pride & Prejudice Variation

TITLE:    What Would Mr. Darcy Do?
AUTHOR:    Abigail Reynolds
INFO:    Paperback, Fiction, 230 pages
PUBLISHED:   Sourcebooks Landmark, 2011
SOURCE:   Received ARC from Publisher for review

This sexy installment in the Pride and Prejudice Variations series explores one of the roads not taken in Jane Austen’s original. Before Darcy leaves the Lambton Inn after learning the scandalous news about Lydia and Wickham, he and Elizabeth declare their true feelings. Determined to give Darcy up rather than drag his name through the mud, Elizabeth will have to choose between what is right, and what she wants more than anything...

MY TAKE:   This was a fun look at how the story might have gone if Darcy and Lizzie had not skirted around their attraction in the beginning.  We get a chance to see how the different outside influences could have affected alternate outcomes.  Wickham and Miss Bingley could have really messed it up for the lovebirds!

The author did an excellent job of building the tension between Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam.  Their chaste kisses and steamy glances made the reader really want to help them find their stolen moments together.  The "behind the scenes" action and support of Georgiana as well as the Gardiners added to the romance and fun.

This book is a quick, easy read that I found to be quite enjoyable.  I recommend it to any Austen, romance and Abigail Reynolds fans ~ of any age.
Out of 5 JEWELS, I give it:

WHERE TO BUY IT:    Amazon, The Book Depository

To Conquer Mr. Darcy Mr. Darcy's Obsession (Pride & Prejudice Continues) By Force of Instinct: A Pride & Prejudice Variation
 From Lambton to Longbourn: A Pride & Prejudice Variation Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World (Pride & Prejudice Continues) Without Reserve: A Pride & Prejudice VariationImpulse & Initiative: What if Mr. Darcy had set out to win Elizabeth's heart? (Pride & Prejudice Variation)
 The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice: A modern love story with a Jane Austen twist Pemberley by the Sea: A modern love story, Pride and Prejudice style What Would Mr. Darcy Do? (Pride & Prejudice Continues)

About the Author:  Abigail Reynolds is a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast and a physician. In addition to writing, she has a part-time private practice and enjoys spending time with her family. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian, theater, and marine biology before deciding to attend medical school. She began writing From Lambton to Longbourn in 2001 to spend more time with her favorite characters from Pride & Prejudice. Encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking ‘What if…?’, which led to four other Pemberley Variations and her modern novel, Pemberley by the Sea. She is currently at work on another Pemberley Variation and a sequel to Pemberley by the Sea. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two teenage children, and a menagerie of pets.

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~~~~~ Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.  I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links.  I may receive books in  order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one.  Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Some Thoughts - I Do Have Them Once in a While!

I have been in a blogging funk for a while now and I haven't really been able to put my finger on the reason(s).  It's not just this book blog that has been neglected, my personal blog Mooncat Farms Meanderings has also been suffering from my inattention.  I think that blog's neglect has been more due to the craptastic weather we had been having more than anything else.  Maybe I'll snap out of it now that we have some sunshine!


As for this blog, I've been reading books, I just haven't been writing my reviews in a timely manner.  I think I've been feeling a little soured on the whole book blogging/reviewing scene due in part to the drama that is at an all time high right now.  While I have been very fortunate to not be directly involved in all of this, it still makes me feel defensive as well as a bit sad that bloggers are being attacked by the very people whose work they are supporting.
THIS ARTICLE by the fabulous Kristi at The Story Siren gave me a lot of food for thought and helped me pinpoint some of my discontent and weariness(?).  I'm not going to rehash the entire article, but it is basically Kristi talking to "Author X" about the dynamics between authors and book bloggers.  There are good points made on both sides, especially Kristi's.  I find though, that I am in serious disagreement with several comments from the anonymous author (anonymous because she said she didn't want this to seem like a promotion..hmmm).  Much of what she stated stuck with me and I think it'll eat at me until I just lay it all out there and have my own say - even if no one reads it :)  So get ready or hide, because here it goes...

Why do book reviews?   First and foremost, I AM A READER and a BUYER OF BOOKS.  I started this blog because I love books.  I own HUNDREDS.  While I have people in my life that also like to read, I am the only one who has a serious LOVE of or addiction to the written word.  I have no one here immediately in the physical world to discuss books with and share newly discovered gems...ahem, JEWELS.. with.  When I stumbled into the book blogging world, I was HOME!  Here are people that will introduce me to fantastic new reads as well as listen to my opinion on what I've read.

I don't make any money on this blog.  Yes, I have affiliate links on the posts and sidebars.  But, I have never received a dime from any of these links.  That's not why I have this blog.  I have this blog because I love books and I love discussing them.  I'd love to have a job where I was surrounded by books day in and day out, but I don't.  I'd love it if I could be paid to do what I love.  I don't.  This blog is a hobby, but one that I take seriously.  I didn't get into blogging so I could get my foot into the publishing industry as Author X states, although it would be sweet.  I JUST LOVE BOOKS.

ARCS.. I do get advance reading copies from publishers and authors.  I am not going to apologize for it.  Especially since I almost always end up buying a finished copy if I enjoyed the book.  I buy books as gifts for friends and family on a regular basis.  Many of these are finished copies of books I was introduced to as an ARC.  Once I am finished with an ARC, I usually pass it on to another BLOGGER who will read it, review it and probably also purchase a finished copy for themselves and others? 

The issue with giveaways, hops and memes.  I have fun holding giveaways.  I usually have some kind of question related to the book being offered and it is interesting to see what the readers come up with.  (My current giveaway of India Black is a great example of this.)  Some of the giveaways are sponsored by the publisher while others come directly out of my pocket - as in I pay for them, books AND shipping.
I also enjoy entering giveaways.  It's a fun way to try to get my hands on a new book or one that is making the rounds of the blogs and sounds interesting.  It is a rush to get an email stating that I've won a fantabulous new book.  ~ It's almost as much fun to send out those winning emails.

Blog hops are a fun way for me to "meet" many new-to-me bloggers in a short period of time.  Many of my favorite blogs were found during one of the various hops I've participated in.  I also enjoy the increased traffic when others come visit me during a hop I'm playing along with as I meet some more lovely bloggers and readers in that way.

I don't do many memes myself but I have found them to be a source of material for my wish and TBR lists.  The one I do participate in on a fairly regular basis is "In My MailBox".  Not because I'm bragging about what I've received, but because I use it as a "weekly wrap-up" post.  It also helps me keep track of the books that have come in either through blog tours, giveaways or that I BUY.  I enjoy reading the other bloggers' IMM posts as I always find new books that I want and either immediately buy them or add them to my list. 

*My thought on all three of these above (giveaways, hops & memes) is that if you don't like them - IGNORE them. No one is forcing you to acknowledge or participate in them. Just don't bash bloggers that do find enjoyment in them.

Bloggers don't affect the market much.  I admit that I was offended by that statement.  I buy a TON of books every year.  Way more now that I am blogging - due directly to the fact that I READ other blogs.  The same blogs that are recommending and reviewing these books that I am now buying.  I don't have a bookstore near me anymore, the closest is about 35 miles from here.  Even when I do make it into a store, I usually have to ask a salesperson for a specific book.  Author X's statement that the store displays are what really sell the book has not been my experience, because you usually can't find them. 

So guess what, I make my purchases online - almost always right after reading a review on a BLOG. Then, I will post about that book as well as tell people in my life about that book. I buy and gift books. The word gets spread and sales of that book are made. I am just one blogger. If you multiply this by the thousands of book blogs out there....... then yes, bloggers do affect the market - we buy, we read and we recommend books.

As for author websites, I honestly don't usually visit them until AFTER I've read their book or AFTER I've read a review from another blogger.  I may visit while I'm writing my review of their book or as a requirement for a giveaway from another blogger. 

Negative reviews.. I have posted a few negative reviews, it's not fun.  I try to be very careful about the books I choose to buy or those I accept for review.  I don't want to post negative reviews, it's not pleasant for me or the author.  Above all, I want to be honest and fair with my reactions to the book I've read.  I try to say exactly why it didn't fit me or what part I didn't care for.  I have been very fortunate to have dealt with some wonderful writers who were extremely gracious when I mentioned that I had an issue with their book.  I've been able to have some very interesting and educational (to me) dialogue with them regarding those reviews.  As for myself, I read books that receive negative reviews; especially if the reviewer is clear on what their own issue is with the book.  It may not be something that affects my enjoyment of the story.

I don't agree with Author X when she says that negative reviews are easier to write.  I find them harder because I want to be articulate in exactly what it is that didn't work for me.  Specific negatives are much more useful and more difficult to define for me than that gushing "oh I loved it" in a glowing review.

I am not writing my reviews to win a popularity contest.  I have disliked books that others have completely gone nuts over.  I've also enjoyed books that others intensely hated.  It's all about our own personal feelings and reactions to the book.  I won't tailor my review to fit with someone else's perspective or expectations of a book.  I also try to not read other reviews when I am about to write mine.  I don't like to let other opinions directly influence what I have to say.  So if I do mention something that another blogger has said in their review, it is not intentional.  In this big old world could it be possible that two people actually have a similar thought on a book? 

Self-published authors.. I have reviewed many books that are self-published and enjoyed them immensely.  There have been several that are permanently on my keeper shelf.  To be fair, there are also a couple that I couldn't finish, either due to storyline or editing issues.  But I have found a few from the big publishing houses that have had similar problems.  So I do enjoy reading new and upcoming authors, I just try to make sure their style and story matches what I usually enjoy.  I read books for my own pleasure first and foremost, no matter who publishes it.  Everything after that is icing.

Regrets..  I am not concerned about looking back in five years or so and regretting what I've written.  I am an adult and since I do try to choose my words carefully, it shouldn't be an issue.  I got the feeling that Author X seems to think that MOST book bloggers are teens who want to "be a part of the scene".  I think this is unfair to those of us who are adults as well as those teenage bloggers who do an outstanding and mature job with their blogs.  Some of these young adults leave the older readers in the dust and they don't get pulled into this drama.  My hat's off to you!

So if you've stayed with this major unloading, I appreciate it very much!  Thank you.  While I wasn't wanting to jump into the fire and still hope to avoid the turmoil and backlash, I do feel better just getting this out there. I'm off to read a book and... 

Remember, like a book review -

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~~~~~ Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.  I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links.  I may receive books in  order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one.  Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review - Tyler by C.H. Admirand

TITLE:    Tyler (The Secret Life of Cowboys)
AUTHOR:    C.H. Admirand
INFO:    Paperback, Fiction, 337 pages
PUBLISHED:   Sourcebooks, 2011
SOURCE:   Received from Publisher for review

  Faced with a mountain of bills, rancher Tyler Garahan takes a night job with a lot of trepidation. But being a male performer at a strip club does come with at least one beautiful compensation-and feisty red-haired bookkeeper Emily Langley seems to understand Tyler even better than he understands himself...

MY TAKE:    I have come to a realization that I shouldn't read books that are about things that I have a deep personal knowledge of.  Even though it's fiction where the writer has complete artistic license, I get distracted when the subject matter is way off mark from what I know.  Real-life working cowboys are one of those subjects.  For those of you that don't already know, I grew up on a cattle and horse ranch.  Around dozens and dozens of true life, high-def working cowboys in all of their dust, manure and glory. I am still surrounded by many of these same guys to this day. This fact and my own realities of ranch life made it really hard for me to get into a book like this.  I find myself trying to picture even one of these guys I know in these situations and I fail miserably. 

In this story, Tyler is a cowboy, who along with his brothers owns a ranch that they are in danger of losing.  He decides to take a job as a male stripper in order to make ends meet.  The opening scene of the book is Tyler applying for a job and being sexually assaulted by several women.  (There is really no other description for it, sorry.)  While that sounds sexy and I'm sure really appealing to most men, I guarantee that any of the cowboys that I grew up with and around would have run screaming for the hills, even if it meant no paycheck. 

The romance aspect between Tyler and Emily was enjoyable, quite steamy.  In fact, I liked her character quite a bit.  She was funny and warm while the rest of the women, including Tyler's ex, came across as piranhas and other not so nice creatures.  Even with Emily being sweet and Tyler being sexy, I just couldn't really dig up enough feeling to care about all of these characters and their story.

I do want to say that I like the author's writing style.  Her words flow and she isn't overly-descriptive when it isn't warranted. You move quickly through the pages without being bogged down by extraneous information.  I think if the cowboy portrayal didn't annoy me, I would have really enjoyed the story.  Maybe if it had been a pilot as the main character?  (Even though I worked at an airline for a few years, several of the pilots I knew would have loved being pawed at and mauled by overly-amorous women :) 

I do think fans of western romance and romance in general, should give the book a try. Like I said above, the romance part is good, the cowboy and ranch part just wasn't a fit for me personally.  I AM looking forward to reading some of the author's medieval stories with swords and men in kilts!!  These sound good:

 The Saxon Bride      The Lord of Merewood Keep 

Find out more about the author at:

Out of 5 JEWELS, I give it:
It was OK

WHERE TO BUY IT:    Amazon and The Book Depository

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~~~~~ Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.  I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links.  I may receive books in  order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one.  Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Review - An Affair Without End by Candace Camp

TITLE:    An Affair Without End
AUTHOR:    Candace Camp
INFO:    Paperback, Fiction, 385 pages
PUBLISHED:   Pocket Star Books, 2011
SOURCE:   Received from Publisher for Review

  If a sophisticated beauty proposes a clandestine affair, could even the most proper gentleman resist? New York Times bestselling author Candace Camp concludes her scintillating Willowmere series with a seductive tale of an alluring lady who dares to break the rules. . . .

When Oliver, Earl of Stewkesbury, asks the dashing Lady Vivian Carlyle to ensure that his American cousins meet the cream of London society, he doesn’t anticipate the danger she will pose to his own self-control. Thrown into intimate contact with the lovely lady, Oliver finds he cannot stop thinking of Vivian—of her wit, of her smile . . . of her lips. And when Vivian, who has sworn never to subject herself to the bonds of matrimony, boldly suggests that she and Oliver become lovers instead, her scandalous proposal is temptation indeed! But with an alarming series of jewel thefts rocking London, the ever-outrageous Vivian insists on trying to discover the perpetrator despite Oliver’s admonitions. And when a bold lady steps into danger, it is a gentleman’s duty to protect her at all costs. What neither Oliver nor Vivian can anticipate, however, is that the ultimate cost may be both their hearts. . . .

MY TAKE:    As per my usual of late, I am reading this series out of order.  Not intentionally, things just happen.  Of course this in no way diminishes my enjoyment of this book.  It does a great job as a stand alone story as well as the third installment in the Willomere series by the incomparable Candace Camp.

The characters of Oliver and Vivian are a delight to become acquainted with.  Their story is a lot of fun.  Vivian is a refreshing change to some of the "prim and proper" heroines that populate many historical romances.  She is bold, witty and charming.  Of course Oliver is a proper gentleman who has his world rocked by her alarming proposal that they enter into a secret romance instead of the staid world of marriage.  They make quite the pair as they are pulled into a world of theft and intrigue together.

I will also be reading the other two books A Lady Never Tells and A Gentleman Always Remembers soon.

A Lady Never Tells A Gentleman Always Remembers (Willowmere) An Affair Without End (Willowmere)
Out of 5 JEWELS, I give it:

WHERE TO BUY IT:    Amazon and The Book Depository

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~~~~~ Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.  I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links.  I may receive books in  order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one.  Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.