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Amber's Additional Picks

Billionaire Blend Cover Image
ISBN: 9780425255513
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Published: Berkley Books - August 5th, 2014

Things are not going very well for Clare these days….The Village Blend need some repairs - the wiring is starting to go, the espresso machine needs replacing, the floor needs fixing….well the list goes on. Basic, but costly maintenance on the historic site. Plus, there is some insane customer (nicknamed “Quiz Master”) who appears to want to poach Clare’s highly trained staff. Even worse? Mike Quinn (her boyfriend) seems to be distancing himself from New York, his job at the NYPD and Clare. Never ask whether things could get worse, because invariably they will. A car bomb destroys the Blend, she has to fend off two amorous billionaires, solve a murder, create the world’s most expensive coffee, save her daughter’s love life and her own! One thing Clare’s life never is? Dull.

If you look at my reviews over the years, you know I am a fan of the Coffeehouse Mysteries. I enjoy reading each new installment that comes my way, and Billionaire Blend is no exception. What I love most about this series is the characters, it is an ensemble cast. Each person possesses their own strengths and weaknesses which contribute to the overall whole. While each book is told by Clare Cosi (who is fantastic btw), you meet all kinds of new people in each book. Plus each book adds layers to each relationship and history to the main players in each book. So while there is the main mystery that Clare is on top of in each story, these peripheral relationships add an over-arching human mystery (as in what does the future hold for them) to the story. This is what I look forward to reading in every installment, just to find out how they are doing. In Billionaire Blend I enjoyed watching Clare solve the mystery of who wanted to cook a billionaire. Maybe it’s a bit too serendipitous in how the Blend’s financial problems were solved, but hey it’ a cozy - you want there to be a happy ending. And it isn’t the most farfetched solution I have read this year. But the overall mystery was a lot of fun. I would recommend this book to any cozy reader looking for a fun and fast paced read!

Blue Moon Cover Image
ISBN: 9781442441323
Availability: In Our Shop Now!
Published: Aladdin Paperbacks - September 2nd, 2014

So here’s the thing: I am not overly fond of zombie books. Generally I find them mildly boring and/or vaguely gross. This book however has me reconsidering my position on this undead scourge. Molly is still recovering from her encounter with Marek Blackwell, the Dead City’s mayor. While her broken wrist is healing up nicely, Molly is still mentally reeling. The discovery that her mother is a zombie is a lot to process. The more pressing problem at the moment is the fact her Omega team (an Omega team is made up of students from the Metropolitan Institute of Science and Technology, who know zombies exist and are a sort of police force to keep them in line and at peace with the living world) is on suspension due to their unauthorized zombie hunting activities, ie Marek Blackwell. Their reinstatement looks very shaky, and it isn’t until they are invited to the Baker’s Dozen that things start to turn around. What’s the Baker’s Dozen? Well, Molly and her team have to figure it out fast, because Manhattan’s zombies have a plan, Operation Blue Moon. A plan to consolidate their power in both living and dead communities, plus a large dollop of revenge thrown in for spice. It is up to Molly and her team to figure out who, what, when, where, and how to stop this Operation, before it is too late.

This is a seriously fun read. James Ponti does a great job in balancing all the plot lines within this book, each one enhancing and adding to the other --- While never becoming jumbled or garbling the story with irrelevant material. In doing so, the book never drags, and you have to pay serious attention to each page, so you don’t miss any pertinent information. Plus the Molly and the Omega team are really clever in how they uncover the zombies’ plans. Using resources readily available to anyone, it makes their discoveries much more plausible. Plus while they are all a bit above average in their reasoning skills (and smarts) none of them are super geniuses. They have to work together as a team to figure out a solution to the puzzles and plots. Add the fact that each person in the book has their own flaws and talents, this makes for great reading! While this is a zombie book, and does have the obligatory fight scenes and dismembered body parts, here again Ponti does a great job in being graphic (to a point) without being full out disgusting. Even these scenes hold important information needed to further the plot along.

This is a zombie mystery filled with clues, iffy allies and shady motives. I am highly recommending this book to any female (or open minded male reader, as there are a number of great guys in this book) reader age 9+ looking for a good urban fantasy/zombie book. I would suggest you start with the first book in the series, Dead City, as this second book relies heavily on knowledge from it. I would highly recommend this series!

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Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061561559
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Published: HarperCollins - October 14th, 2014

“A passion thwarted will often go astray…”

Clariel wants nothing more than to return to the Great Forest, the one place she feels at home. Her mother, a master goldsmith, has moved her family to the capitol city and refuses to grant her daughter’s wish. Clariel’s mother will not be thwarted by anyone, not even the unhappiness of her daughter. So Clariel is thrust into a life she wants no part of, intrigues she doesn’t understand and magic she never wanted to learn. Then a Free Magic creature is discovered to be working in the city Clariel is forced to make a devil’s bargin for her freedom.

I cannot tell you how much I have looked forward to Garth Nix’s return to his Old Kingdom series! I found out this book was coming out and I have been waiting impatiently for it… And wow, what a return to the Kingdom it was!

“Does the walker choose the path or the path the walker?” Is evil born or made? Would Clariel have turned evil if she’d been left alone in the forest as she wished? Or if she wasn’t born with the royal curse of being a berserker? These are the question we must ask when reading Clariel’s story, since we know she goes on to become Chlorr of the Mask, an evil necromancer whom we meet again in Lirael (the second in the Old Kingdom books). Nix does a wonderful job in showing the sticky process of how we become who we end up being - without ever moralizing, philosophizing or judging his characters in any way shape or form! Nor does he give you one key moment which causes her to choose her path was it nature or nurture? There isn’t a clear answer….

Plus, I cannot say how interesting it is to witness exactly how someone turns away from the Charter (their version of “good” magic). While rooting for Clariel the whole time - hoping she will turn away from the fate that - you know - she ends up choosing. This is a huge credit to Nix’s brilliant writing.

This is a prequel to the first three books in the Old Kingdom series; it is not required to read them before trying this book. However I think you will be hooked after finishing this book! Seriously I absolutely adored, relished, obsessed over this book! I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading fantasy with a bit of mystery who needs something new to read!

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Cloche and Dagger Cover Image
ISBN: 9780425258897
Availability: In Our Shop Now!
Published: Berkley Prime Crime - August 6th, 2013

Ever had a week you wish you could go back and do over? Scarlett Parker sure has! After an embarrassing video of her melting down at an Anniversary party her boyfriend was throwing for his wife (there was a huge cake which Scarlett liberally dispersed over his lying cheating person) went viral. Scarlett got sacked from her job and news reporters are camping out on her doorstep because of said video. Well, Scarlett is looking for an escape.

When her cousin Viv calls and suggests she come to London to lay low for a while, Scarlett leaps at the opportunity. Guilt plays a small role in the decision, as Scarlett has not taken a more active role in the running of Mim’s Whims, a millinery business their grandmother left to them both.

Laying low in London isn’t in the cards for Scarlett. Her cousin Viv vanishes right before Scarlett arrives in London, leaving only Harry, a childhood friend and business manager, to help sort things out and no word as to where Viv went or when she will be back. Viv’s disappearance becomes more sinister when the body of a woman she loathed is found wearing nothing but one of Viv’s hats. Scarlett must now figure out how to help her cousin and their shop before it’s too late!

I was a little skeptical when I read this was a hat shop mystery, but I like Jenn McKinlay’s writing so I gave it a chance. Boy am I glad I did! I loved it, couldn’t put it down, in fact.

This mystery is set in a hat shop, but the focus of the book is on the mystery, not the hats. McKinlay does a great job of deftly weaving the shop and hats into the story, while never overwhelming the story or distracting you from the mystery she is telling.

The characters are well rounded and fun to read. Each have their strengths, weaknesses and back stories which are alluded to, but not wholly revealed., adding an extra layer to the mystery and making me impatient for the next book!

There were a number of times this book made me laugh, and had strangers on the bus looking at me funny. The viral video cake incident is an interesting (and funny) plot device which the author uses to great effect in the story. Ignore the punny title, it is just what publishers do to let you know it is a cozy (and a slight disservice I think, as it makes a good book look slightly ridiculous).

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes reading cozy mysteries and is looking for a new series to start! I believe any fan of Nancy Atherton or Cleo Coyle would enjoy this series.

The Clockwork Scarab Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781452128733
Availability: Special Order - E-mail us directly - We may have a used book!
Published: Chronicle Books (CA) - October 7th, 2014

London 1889, steam power reigns supreme and electricity has been outlawed. The lives of women are severely restricted. Feminine brains, accomplishments and spirit are overlooked by a male dominated society, while manners, fashion and decorum count for much more in the eyes of matrons, mothers and suitors. A good marriage (of which they have little choice) is one of the most defining events a young woman’s future holds. Two extraordinary young women are bound to this unbending Victorian standard of judging women, and they are quite unhappy about it.

Miss Mina Holmes, the niece of the famous Sherlock Holmes and daughter to Mycroft, struggles to show her uncle that females can “remain separate from their emotions in order to make accurate and important observations and deductions…” . Just as knowledgeable and able as her famous relatives, very few opportunities to prove herself have been presented to her.

Miss Evaline Stoker, the sister of the Bram Stoker (who is currently writing Dracula) also strives to prove herself. A legacy bestowed upon her by the Stoker family blood, she's this generation’s vampire hunter (much to the chagrin of Bram who really wanted the inheritance), “ This is what…my family legacy required of me: bravery, strength, and sacrifice. For the good and safety of all.”. The issue with this destiny? The previous hunters haave all but eradicated the vampire scourge, and the one time Evaline faced a vampire she froze at the sight of blood. She is looking for a way to redeem herself in her own eyes for her past failings.

Then a mysterious note delivered to both, issued by a source whose past lends credibility because of her associations, however dubious, summoning them to an investigate, on behalf of the crown, a series of questionable suicides and a disappearance. Both leap at the chance. But can they overcome their rivalry, since they both have something to prove, before another body is found?

This is a fast paced, solid read with a whole lot going on between the covers: a love triangle for Miss Holmes, an inappropriate suitor for Miss Stoker, a time traveler, a disturbed cult leader, vampires, steampunk, a missing mother, a sister who keeps trying to find you a husband (whether you want one or not), and much more. Now, don’t get me wrong, while it does have a lot going on, it doesn’t lose focus on the mystery central to this book, while also hooking you into wanting read the next installment, so you can get the solution to a few of these peripheral mysteries. While delivering a satisfying conclusion to this first book in the series.

The story is told in alternating chapters from Miss Holmes’ and Miss Stoker’s points of view, so you are never confused about whose POV you are observing events through. Each of the women has a very distinct personality and ideas about how things should be handled, so you never get bored. The beginning is a hair slow, since a whole bunch of information needs to be related to the reader to understand this version of reality. This is over fairly quickly and you are caught in the grip of a high octane mystery.

I would recommend this mystery to any female reader (there are several male characters in it, however I don’t think this is the audience this book is written for) age thirteen and above.

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The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316213097
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Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - August 12th, 2014

It all started with Casper Morales. A lover, a vampire who didn’t kill his victims as he should have. He spread the virus, vampirism, until it threatened to engulf the whole world. That’s when Coldtowns were created, the place where the infected went so they wouldn’t spread the disease further. Where they wouldn’t be tempted to bite another human becoming a full vampire, not just cold, and spread the disease further. It all starts when someone forgets to close a window at the party. That’s how they got in, that’s why all Tana’s friends are dead. Wading thru her friend’s blood Tana finds two survivors, of sorts, Aidan her ex who has been infected by the disease, and a vampire in chains. This is where Tana’s journey begins, where she is forced to make bad decisions in worse situations.

This is an oddly compelling book. Almost noir in style, it tells the story of many characters who all make desperate decisions who have to choose between bad and worse. The shifting perspectives allowed the book to move forward at a quick pace and allowed you understand why the characters did what they did. This book is dense and complicated and occasionally horrifying, not the type of book I normally read. However I could not put it down, nor read anything else until I was done. It shows the decay beneath the slick gloss of reality shows, media and life. I would highly recommend this book to any one (however mainly females as I am not sure how a male reader would feel about it) over the age of 16, who is looking for a vampire story which in no way romanticizes them, but shows them as the apex and capricious predators they are.

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Concealed in Death Cover Image
ISBN: 9780515154146
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Published: Berkley Books - July 29th, 2014

Roarke, well - being Roarke, is starting a new project, gutting a building right down to its bones to transform it into something filled with hope and healing. All these plans are put on hold when he swings a sledge hammer into a wall, and makes a grisly discovery. Summoning his cop to the scene, eventually twelve bodies are discovered within the walls of Roarke’s newest building. It is up to Eve and her team to figure out what connects these twelve girls together, beyond just who murdered them. This was an interesting read, I thoroughly enjoyed this installment in the “In Death” series. This book is interesting in that it seems to be a response to Thankless In Death, style-wise. While Thankless In Death was gritty, almost noir in style, where you spent a lot of time in the killer’s head and racing forward at full tilt to catch a killer before he strikes next…

In Concealed In Death, you are with Eve, Roarke or one of her team the whole time - you are never in the mind of the killer. The victims in the case are long dead and there haven’t been any similar crimes, so the full-tilt pace is different in this story than in most Eve Dallas mysteries. The wild card here is the people around her helping with the mystery: the new forensic anthropologist, Mavis, Peabody and Dr. Mira (plus her husband Dennis who is as adorable as always). Don’t get me wrong, the story never drags, but how it gets from A to B is a bit different. I also enjoyed the fact this is an original mystery for this series. And while it is set just before Christmas, the book is never sappy, and approaches it (again) in a unique way, since there have been several mysteries set around the holidays in this series. Plus you learn more about Eve and Mavis in this book. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a nice, fast paced mystery with a twist!

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The Cruellest Month Cover Image
ISBN: 9781603810524
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Published: Coffeetown Press - October 7th, 2010

I have been staring at the Mrs. Mallory mysteries for the past several months, ever since we received the reprints (they had been out of print for several years). These were books I always meant to take a look at, but never seemed to have enough time in my reading schedule to do so, until now.

Hazel Holt is number one with a bullet.

Mrs. Mallory is quickly becoming one of my absolute favorite mystery series of all time. Her style is similar-ish to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, an amateur investigator who is not always satisfied with the official ruling of the police, who digs into a mystery to see that justice is done. Holt does a great job of laying out the clues for you early on in the book, then making you think she added twist at the end of the book, when the seeds were already planted early on in the story. I love it!

In The Cruelest Month, Mrs. Mallory is off to the Bodleian Library in Oxford (her alma mater) to do some research for a magazine article she is writing. Books, old friends and happy memories surround her - but as it often does - reality intrudes on Mrs. Mallory’s reminiscing in the form of a dead librarian.

Gwen Richmond was disliked by most in the Bodleian for her conniving, manipulating and superior manner. When her body was found beneath a toppled bookcase and its contents, no one mourned her loss, or even appeared to look very closely at the death…..except for Mrs. Mallory’s godson Tony who didn’t think things added up.

Unable to resist the mystery, Shelia (Mrs. Mallory’s first name) begins to investigate. Soon she discovers there were a number of people who have means, motive and opportunity to murder this most unpleasant woman.

If you are looking for a new, very English mystery series to start, I would highly suggest you pick up the Mrs. Mallory series.

Now to warn you there is a cat on the cover of most of her books, but don’t let it fool you. These are not in any way animal mysteries; there is a cat and a couple of dogs whom Shelia occasionally feeds, but they in no way try to help her solve the mystery. (Publishers believe a book will sell 30% better if there is an animal on the cover.)

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Curtsies & Conspiracies Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316190206
Availability: In Our Shop Now!
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - October 7th, 2014

Sophronia fought against her parents sending her away to finishing school, now she cannot imagine being anywhere else. Just as her mother imagined, Sophronia is learning how to dance, pour tea and curtsey as any proper lady should. However the other classes offered at the floating school (did I mention the school is located on a dirigible?) are a bit more exotic…poisons, self-defense, information gathering and reconnaissance. Ultimately, her finishing, should she pass all her exams, will turn out a fine polished young spy into society.

The school is all atwitter when a trip to London is announced by the headmistress. Sophronia suspects the reasons for this sudden excursion are far more complicated than meets the eye, since it doesn’t make sense that the school would uproot itself merely to witness a historical event, no matter the supernatural implications. Adding to the excitement is a debut ball, several kidnapping attempts and a flamboyant vampire. Well things are about to get very interesting!

For those of you who have read the five books in the Parasol Protectorate series, this is a very interesting YA series, as they are a prequel to those books. You get to meet Genevieve Lefoux as a precocious ten year old and Lady Sidheag Maccon and begin to understand how she was able to lead a werewolf pack as a human. I found it great fun to meet these characters again and learn more about their origins.

For those of you who have not read anything in this universe before, never fear! While it is set in the same world and has a few carry-over characters, you do not have to have any knowledge of them in order to understand and love this book. Carriger does a great job in setting the reader up for success, without her writing becoming formulaic.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is charming, witty, humorous, adventurous and filled with intrigue. I found that the notion of women out in society (high or otherwise) would make excellent spies during this period, with a bit of training, since ladies’ intelligence was often overlooked, and the school helped them to take full advantage of this flaw in society. I also enjoyed the fact that while there are many strong male characters, Sophronia never relies on them to save the day. Rather she relied on herself and her training to figure out what is afoot and to thwart other people’s machinations.

I would suggest reading Etiquette & Espionage, the first book in the series before you start on this one, as it will give you a firmer grasp the complexities in this installment in the series. I would recommend this book to any female 14 and above, or very open minded males of the same age (but this I think is mainly aimed at the female audience).

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Dead City Cover Image
ISBN: 9781442441309
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Published: Aladdin Paperbacks - September 3rd, 2013

Dead City is a great introduction to Molly Bigelow, where you learn the important essentials about who she is - how she misses her mom, why her sister is both evil/awesome at the same time and about her goofy dad. You learn how she marches to the beat of her own drummer - hanging out at the morgue (where her mom used to work), learned a martial art instead of ballet, was an avid junior birder and learned the periodic table backwards and forwards. These fun activities have however caused her to be, well, less than popular among her fellow classmates at MIST (Metropolitan Institute of Science)…..

These activities, which make her unpopular are what make her a natural Omega.

What’s an Omega you ask? The Omegas are a small, select team of students, like Molly, who are smart and driven, tasked with policing or peace-keeping (depending on your view) the zombies population of Manhattan.

Yeah it was hard for Molly to wrap her head around as well.

This is a great first book. Ponti gives the reader enough information to know exactly what is going on, while leaving a large number of crumbs/hints about what the reader will find in the next installment of the series,
Blue Moon, giving the characters greater depth in the next book.

I enjoyed the fact that the book started mid-action. It forces the reader to catch up, and think when you go back a bit in Molly’s timeline, to understand how she became an Omega and learned about zombies (which, btw, they don’t like to be called, just in case you need to know). Plus Molly is a wonderful heroine, and her teammates are just as good with both strengths and flaws; while they are all over achievers, none of them are so over the top they are unbelievable.

I would recommend this book to any girl (or open-minded boy as there are several really great male characters) nine and up. While this book is good, the second book in this series,
Blue Moon, is Fantastic! However the events make much more sense and have more depth when you read the first book first!

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Gone Away Cover Image
ISBN: 9781603810494
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Published: Coffeetown Press - October 11th, 2010

This is the first book in the Mrs. Malory series. This first story sees Mrs. Malory asked by an old friend to investigate his fiancé, Lee Montgomery, as she has gone missing. Never one to turn down a friend in need, Mrs. Malory agrees to look into it. What she discovers is a woman who can be charming when it suits her, but underneath it all is greedy, manipulative and vindictive. When Mrs. Malory finds Lee, that’s when the real mystery begins!

I have said it before, but…this is a fantastic mystery series. Smart, very English and relaxing to read. They are in the Agatha Christie style of cozy, in that they don’t have a lot (if any) of violence, foul language or adult scenes. They remind me of a slightly more up-to-date version of the Mrs. Marple series. They are a relaxing read. Hazel Holt does a great job of showing the emotions of the characters in each story, and showing the motivations for each of the main protagonists. This allows you, or at least me, to empathize with the people in the story, and helping to further suck me into the mystery Hazel Holt is spinning around me. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a nice classic style cozy mystery and/or for those who love all things English (don’t be put off by the cat on the cover, Mrs. Malory occasionally feeds her animals, but that is the extent of their involvement in the story!).

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The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches: A Flavia de Luce Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385344067
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Published: Bantam - December 30th, 2014

Flavia and her family receive word that Harriet is returning at last to Buckshaw, plunging Flavia into a whole new, and disconcerting, realm of emotions. These emotions are pushed to one side when, while waiting on the train platform for her mother to arrive, a strange man delivers a cryptic warning to Flavia…..and then is shoved under the steel wheels of the train. These two events propel Flavia into a whole new mystery, one which layes bare many secrets and unspoken histories of the de Luce clan.

To be honest, this is the first Flavia novel I have read. While I enjoyed reading it, as it is well written, compelling and lovely…this is not the book for a novice of the series to jump into reading. It touches base with many characters you need to be familiar with, their history and their relationship with Flavia, to get the full impact of the story. However the main issue is this is a very well written transition book… the laying to rest some of the over arching mysteries in Flavia’s world and while hinting at new mysteries and adventures which are now waiting around the corner for her. Fans of the Flavia series should not miss reading this book. Even without an extensive background in this series (I asked Fran to read it now so I could ask questions without spoiling the book for her. She was kind enough to do so.) This book was still a fantastic read, pulling at your heart long after you put it down.

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Death Overdue Cover Image
ISBN: 9781451684667
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Published: Gallery Books - November 5th, 2013

Karen Nash, librarian extraordinaire (whom we met in Killer Librarian) is spending some time in London with Caldwell Perkins, her…ummm…significant other, trying to decide if she should leave behind her life in the States for one with Caldwell….who wants to sell his B&B and open up a bookshop together. They aren't very far into their trial period when Caldwell’s ex shows up on their doorstep, demanding money for her portion of the B&B. They reach an unfortunate resolution when Sally (the ex) is found dead beneath a bookcase full of books. Now things are in an in a state of confusion, as the police think Caldwell is a murderer. Karen knows he couldn’t have done it, but there are only three other people with means, motive and opportunity….and she can’t think of a reason why they would do the deed.

This was a solid read and I enjoyed it. The author draws on the Christie style of murder mystery - a small group of people, an unusual murder and complicated motives. She stays much more focused in this book, staying with and quickly solving the mystery set down before her sleuth. Kirwin also does a great job of incorporating her theme, of books into the story. Integrating them seamlessly into the flow of the story so it neither overwhelms nor detracts from the mystery you are there to read. You can easily empathize with the characters over their love of the written word. I would recommend this to any cozy reader looking for a nice quick read, which has a great love of books through out the story.

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The Double Wedding Ring Cover Image
ISBN: 9780452298798
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Published: Plume Books - September 24th, 2013

Nell is up to her eyebrows in wedding plans….Not for her and her beau, Jesse (Archers Rest’s top cop), but for her Grandma Eleanor and soon to be Grandpa Oliver. However plans get a bit bumpy when her parents (really her mom) comes back to town for the wedding with all kinds of opinions on how her daughter and mother should live their lives. Things get downright rocky when Jesse’s old partner and old friend from his NYC police days is murdered just yards away from his house. Add a clingy, estranged wife, sniper, grief and ghosts of the past, well, Nell needs a distraction and her quilter’s circle is ready to help her find the murderer, whether Jesse wants her theories or not.

Like all of Clare O’Donohue’s writing I was sucked right into this mystery and really enjoyed reading it. While this book is a themed mystery, one which centers around quilting, do not let it fool you. It is an Agatha Christie-ish style of cozy, meaning it is clever, well plotted and engaging. It is not syrupy sweet or mechanical as some of the themed cozies can be. While quilting is a theme, as Nell and her Grandmother Eleanor run the Someday Quilts shop, it never become distracting one. It is deftly woven into the story, enhancing rather than detracting from the other plots and subplots in the book.

I really enjoyed reading about Nell. Her relationship with her Grandmother Eleanor and her upcoming marriage, the future of the shop and house are interesting dynamics to explore. Or the troubles she finds herself in with Jesse, her mother and friends at one point or another is all very relatable and interesting to read. Ultimately I could see Archers Rest being a real place, with the entertaining social dynamics you find only in small towns.

I would recommend this to any female (or open minded male, however I am not sure that is the demographic aimed at here) looking for a nice, interesting, light read. And if you have someone in your life who loves to sew, I would definitely recommend this series to them! As Clare is a quilter herself, her description of quilts, fabrics, the quilting addiction (which I also share), and such are spot on. And I admit it had me itching to cut a new quilt when I get home!

While in many series you need to start with the first book in order to understand what is going on, in this case it is not necessary. Clare does such a great job in her writing you never feel lost, or spend the first chapter rolling your eyes because it is a rehash of the last book. But if you are a completionist here are the other books in the Someday Quilts Mystery series: A Drunkard’s Path, The Double Cross, The Lover’s Knot, The Devils’s Puzzle. And Two in the Kate Conway Mystery Series, Missing Persons and Life Without Parole, all of which I recommend reading!

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Latitude Zero Cover Image
ISBN: 9780670015580
Availability: In Our Shop Now!
Published: Viking Children's Books - July 3rd, 2014

One stupid mistake. One bad decision is all it takes sometimes to derail a whole future. Well, perhaps that is a bit dramatic, but it is how Tessa feels after her disastrous bandit ride (riding an event you are not registered for). A ride where she inadvertently cause a pile up, similar to a car pile up only with less padding between people and the asphalt. The heart wrenching part for Tessa -- one of her friends, Juan Carlos, a rising star in the cycling world, died due to injuries from the accident.

Or so the media says.

Tessa isn’t so sure. Just minutes before the ride, Tessa saw Juan Carlos’s spare bike on a nearby path and a suspicious man who was more than a little scary who interrogated her about why she was there. Plus Tessa spoke to Juan Carlos just before the race and they made plans to meet after -- he had something important to tell her. Desperate to find any other cause for the accident, Tessa begins to investigate the circumstances around Juan Carlos’s last ride, quickly discovering she may not be quite as culpable in his death as her conscience makes her feel.

This is a great mystery/thriller YA novel. Centered around the cycling world, (of which you don’t have to know anything about in order to enjoy this book, btw), this is a fun, fast paced read.

Split between Massachusetts and Ecuador, Renn does a wonderful job in showing the similarities and difference between these two countries. While that backdrop is there, and done wonderfully done, it never detracts from the thrilling story at hand. Black mail, kidnapping and villains pursuing her on two continents are all things Tessa must contend with and beat to discover the truth about the accident. With the added spice of losing her job, credibility and trust from those around her due to one single mistake, the bandit ride.

This book would make a great summer vacation read for any kid; it is fun, face paced and the methods used to solve the mystery are all within the realm of possibility. What makes this an even more entertaining read is that it is much easier to speculate how you would do things should you find yourself in a similar-ish situation! I would recommend this book to any female reader (or open minded male, as there is a bit of romantic dynamics at play in this story) ages twelve and up (I could go as low as ten if you have a mature reader). I cannot say how much I enjoyed reading this mystery.

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The Litter of the Law Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345530493
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Published: Bantam - August 26th, 2014

It is almost Halloween in Crozet, Virginia. While farmers are harvesting crops, talking about seeds and soil, other residents are preparing for the Crozet Library’s Halloween hayride fundraiser. Everyone in the county is enjoying the fall colors and the autumn chill in the air. Fair, Harry and their trio of furry companions are no different. While out on a meandering drive, they come across a toppled scarecrow and stop to fix him up (well Harry really stopped to break up a fight between Tucker and Pewter and happened to see the scarecrow). Unfortunately the scarecrow wasn’t stuffed with straw, but a dead body….

This was a quick and solid read. While I have read Rita Mae Brown for years, my critiques of her last handful of books was her political messages weren’t written well into her mysteries, they didn’t further the book and were distracting. Plus she had scaled back on the number of Crozet residents she used in her mysteries. When you have such a large and colorful cast to select from using only three or four people, well, it makes it easier to pick out your bad guys! This book does a much, much better job in weaving history and politics into the story, in fact they play a central role. I even learned a few interesting bits of American history while reading this book (this was something I really enjoyed about Litter Of The Law). These themes while present in the book were never distracting or popped me out of the story. Plus I got to catch up with most of my favorite Crozet residents, which was really nice! While I am not sure this book is quite as strong as the beginning of the series, it is the best Mrs. Murphy mystery she has penned in the last few years. I believe fans of her books will enjoy this installment in the series. I know I did. If you haven’t read Rita Mae Brown, I would suggest starting at the beginning, Wish You Were Here and work your way through her back list; you will not be disappointed. While the animals play a central role in solving these mysteries, the books are not overly cozy and will NOT give you a toothache because they are so sweet (the animals talk among themselves, not to their humans just to clarify). One odd note: for the fans of Sneaky Brown Pie, the beginning of the book felt almost like someone else had written it, or strongly influenced it. However after you have read the first few pages, well, the action wraps you up, and I know that I didn’t notice it anymore!

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The Lover's Knot: A Someday Quilts Mystery Cover Image
ISBN: 9780452289796
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Published: Plume Books - October 2008

Nell Fitzgerald is over the moon when she receives an early wedding present, a lover’s knot quilt, handmade by her grandmother (and her quilting circle). Unfortunately she falls swiftly back to earth when her fiancée announces he wants to call off their wedding. Emotionally bruised, Nell looks to escape her life for a few days; she decides on Archer’s Rest the small town where her grandmother lives.

A few days turns into a few weeks, when her grandmother, Eleanor, slips and falls on the stairs in Someday Quilts (the quilting store her grandmother has owned/managed for more than thirty years). Nell isn’t sure how accidental the accident really is…..Then when the local handyman/flirt is found murdered in the quilt shop, she is sure there is more to this small town and quilt shop than meets the eye.

I really enjoyed reading this mystery. The book has just the right blend of a quilting theme and mystery story.

One of the things I love about Clare’s books is the fact Nell is an amateur detective and the flaws which come with this role. She invariably finds more information than what is pertinent to her investigation, thus more mysteries to solve than initial one she starts with. She finds herself following red herrings and down blinds alleys relatively often. However this extraneous information never distracted me from the mystery at hand - in fact it adds layers to the town and the people who call Archer’s Rest home.

Another great thing about the book is the theme never overwhelms the story. Yes, the mystery is set in a quilt shop and has characters who love fabric and creating quilts, but that is not all the book is about. It is about the relationships of seemingly very different people who bridge the gap with an art that they love. A group of women who work on quilts and just as easily work on solving a mystery together. The shop is just another character in the story, one who is happy to be a background player in the story and never steals the spotlight. Plus, while this is a cozy, it is not sweet--more like an Agatha Christie or a Hazel Holt, should they have written a theme type mystery.

I have had the series sitting on my bookshelf since Clare came and signed at our shop over a year ago (she was in to sign Life Without Parole, a different but excellent mystery series). And I am kicking myself for not reading them sooner, because I really love the nice and easy writing style and complicated mysteries of the Someday Quilts Mystery series. I would recommend this for a female (or open minded male) looking for a new mystery series to start (especially for those who love making things or appreciate crafting in general).

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Mrs. Jeffries Learns the Trade: A Victorian Mystery Cover Image
ISBN: 9780425203460
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Published: Berkley Books - April 2005

This book is the first three Mrs. Jeffries mysteries all in one Volume - The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries, Mrs. Jeffries Dusts For Clues and The Ghost and Mrs. Jeffries. In The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries, we meet Inspector Witherspoon, an affable and slightly bumbling detective, who has been moved from his (in his mind) lovely records room out into the field solving all kinds of crime. This move is due to an inexplicable aptitude for solving murders….. Unbeknownst to Witherspoon, he has a crack team helping lead him to the solutions. Mrs. Jeffries is the widow of a career policeman and she picked up a thing or two along the way. Now she is the housekeeper for Inspector Witherspoon and is the leader of the household band of sleuths. While the Inspector isn’t so sure about his promotion, the rest of his help is thrilled at the prospect.

The mystery placed before the Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries in this book centers around discovering who poisoned a wealthy doctor in his own surgery. With a plethora of suspects and a mean spirited victim, this will require the whole team to solve! Mrs. Jeffries is light Victorian era mystery, a strict whodunit, which moves from clue to clue with ease. I enjoyed reading this cozy mystery, and watching Mrs. Jeffries lead the Inspector to the right conclusions or the correct questions to ask. It has the social class distinction you find in many BBC melodramas, like “Upstairs Downstairs” or “Downton Abbey”. Especially when Witherspoon must interact with the high society of the town or Mrs. Jeffries well meaning manipulation of employer by employee, is fun to watch. I also enjoyed the different ways she and the household staff gathers information, from a bar crawl, to talking to every merchant in sight or staking out a house in order to catch their man. It is great fun watching their adventures and how they become more adept at solving the crimes presented to them. The one issue I see in this great cozy series is the author uses different dialects/accents for different characters. Which yes, does add a certain level of authenticity and fun to the books….however it is used a lot and can become distracting the book as a whole, especially if you do not enjoy reading that particular style. This book is a great value, as you get three books in one, and would make a great gift for the reader who enjoys cozies and historicals, as I do!

Mulled Murder Cover Image
ISBN: 9780425262924
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Published: Berkley Books - November 4th, 2014

The Pennyfoot is ramping up for Christmas again, made even more special by Pansy (a maid) & Sam’s (the former stable manager) wedding on Christmas Eve. Cecily Sinclair Baxter is breathing a sigh of relief, as the Christmas Curse seems to have been skipped Pennyfoot Country Club (not Hotel) this year. The body her friends found was on the beach, no where near the Hot…Country Club. Right? This was an entertaining and light historical mystery. While it is set during Christmas, the mystery never took a backseat to the holiday season. Instead the holiday adds another layer to the story, a mad hectic rush to get everything ship-shape and solved before the holiday arrives. What was even better, the book never became overly sweet as some mysteries can when set around a holiday theme. The author strikes just the right balance, to engage the reader without turning them off. I enjoyed the fact it reminded me of all the holidays I have worked in retail, people with impossible demands, nit-picky complaints and rudeness not found during other times during the year, all the while showing how hard it is sometimes to smile and help your customer or coworker out with their problems. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a nice holiday read to get them in the mood for eggnog or wrapping presents.

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My Life as a White Trash Zombie Cover Image
ISBN: 9780756406752
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Published: Daw Books - July 5th, 2011

Angel Crawford has always felt like a piece of white trash and has lived up to this label rather successfully.

Angel lives with her alcoholic father in a small town in Louisiana. Over the years, her father has decorated their front yard with empty beer cans and whiskey bottles. Her mother killed herself in prison. Angel herself has a record and is currently out on probation, due to a deal which was too good to be true. She dropped out of high school when she was only sixteen, due to an unfortunate incident with a frog. She’s been fired from a string of minimum wage jobs. Add a pill habit to all of this…. Angel’s life is on a collision course with disaster.

Fate, never one to turn down a temptation, provides a disaster of epic proportions. The disaster? An overdose of painkillers. A horrible car crash that Angel remembers being in, although she doesn’t have a scratch on her. And a mysterious note which gives her a choice - take a new job arranged for her and work for a month at the county morgue or go to jail.

And yet, this won’t be the weirdest event of Angel’s life, not by a long shot.

For several months now I have been reading reviews of this series, and yet I still hesitated, as I am not a big fan (generally) of the zombie genre. Last week I finally broke down and started reading My Life As A White Trash Zombie.

This book is actually a very fast paced mystery that I enjoyed reading. Well to be honest, it did take a minute to get used to all the talk about brains….. After that it was great. There are two primary mysteries to this book, the first you know the answer to; while you know Angel is a Zombie (hey it is the title, I am not spoiling anything, I promise) Angel takes a while to realize her new undead state and what it entails. Second there is a serial killer stalking through the Louisiana swamp, and due to her new job Angel is in the thick of things.

I also enjoyed reading the evolution of Angel as a character. Beyond becoming a zombie, her life and outlook do change. Instead of letting fate take the reins of her life, she slowly wrestles for control. And it is fun to read.

I would recommend this book to anyone (it may have slightly more appeal to the female audience, as Angel is the main character of this story) looking for a fun mystery, that just happens to have a zombie as the protagonist. This is NOT a kids’ book.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series, Even White Trash Zombies Get The Blues, White Trash Zombie Apocalypse, and How The White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back (due out in 2014 according to the author's website).

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Northanger Abbey Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802123800
Availability: In Our Shop Now!
Published: Grove Press - April 14th, 2015

Cat Morland is ready for an adventure. She’s read so many novels about heroes and heroines performing daring feats and surviving great hardships, Cat’s worried she will never have her chance to face the same sort of challenges. But a lucky star shines on her, to her delight the Allens invite her to accompany them to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Cat is beside herself with excitement: books, theater and fun, who could ask for more?

It is here that she meets Bella Thorpe and Henry Tilney and where her adventures begin.

I must confess, Northanger Abbey was one of the few Jane Austen novels I hadn’t managed to read previously. However when Fran mentioned she’d received an advanced reader of a new novel by Val McDermid based on this classic it gave me the final push, more like gentle nudge, to read it so I read them back to back. I have to say McDermid did a fantastic job in updating this classic. I have not read any of the Jane Austen pastiches which holds a candle to McDermid‘s version.

One key to this book’s success is McDermid, while updating the language style of the original kept many of the words and turns of phrase from the original. This helped to create a solid foundation for the book and created an authentic feel in the new version. McDermid also kept the short chapter structure of the original as well, which helps amplify the tension in both versions.

Another great thing was that she took very few liberties with the original text -- there are no zombies, ghosts or Cat wearing hot pants and worshiping the Kardashians. Thank goodness! There is only one major departure to speak of from the Austen original, which is instead of going to Bath Cat goes to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which revolves around the arts and completely works for the story. Plus the fact that McDermid is Scottish and is describing (what I am assuming) a city she’s been to many times, helps to lend extra authenticity to her descriptions of the city.

A very minor detail which I will pick at is the novels McDermid used in her version. There are the eight novels mentioned in Austen’s version, where Catherine pulls her romantic notions from; The Mystery of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe is by far the most well known. The other seven (often called the Northanger Horrid Novels) became so obscure that experts thought them to be fictional, until they were rediscovered and reprinted in the 1960‘s. However in the new version of Northanger Abbey only one of novels used is a real book (I looked and couldn’t find the novels McDermid referenced). While I understand why this might have been done, to keep the book from becoming dated or legal issues. I think there is some really great YA fiction out there that using real titles would not have been amiss. But all in all, this such a small detail of the story it really doesn’t effect the quality in the least. I just love YA fiction, as you well know, and would have loved to see the choices McDermid would have made to round out Cat‘s reading list.

The reworked Northanger Abbey is part of The Austen Project which takes modern bestselling authors and asks them to rework one of Austen’s classic novels. Last year Joanna Trollope penned her version of Sense and Sensibility (which I must go out and read now…) and Curtis Sittenfeld is reworking Pride and Prejudice which will be out this fall; leaving Emma and Persuasion (couldn’t find info on their authors) for publication, I am assuming, next year. I will be interested in taking a crack at these other titles and see how their authors confront their versions.

I cannot stress how lovely I think Val McDermid’s version of this classic is! I would recommend this book to anyone who has an open mind about reading pastiches. Or to any teen who is looking to cut her teeth into a classic but is a bit to intimidated to try the original text. This book is a great stepping stone to allow a shy reader to gain confidence before taking the next step and reading the book Austen penned herself.

Update: This is not a Pastiche - it is a read alike. 

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The Peculiar Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062195197
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Greenwillow Books - August 27th, 2013

Bartholomew Kettle lives in a very different Victorian era England from the one we know. His England contains clockwork men, animals and gadgets all powered by steam and filled with grease. When the city of Bath disappeared one day under a cloud of millions of feathers, the inhabitants were never seen again and only ruins remained. It is what crept out of the ruins which changed everything: faeries or Sidhe as they are sometimes called, had come to England. They went to war. Angry they could not return to their homes, the faeries were accused of crimes and persecuted….They lost. So they created New Bath, full of smoke, slums and decay. This is where Bartholomew lives, reviled by humans and the faeries alike due to his changeling heritage (his father was Sidhe, his mother was human). He and his sister Hettie stay hidden from prying eyes to stay safe, as children like them don’t often live very long. This is more true that even he knows. There is a silent menace stalking changeling children - nine bodies devoid of blood, bone and muscle have been found - all with the same strange red writing covering their entire bodies. Mr. Jelliby is a man happy to drift through his life, filling it with days at his club, spoiling his wife and sleeping until noon. Even his seat in Parliament was a job he just fell into by chance. He was happy to continue his life in just this manner, however luck and fate decided to conspire against his indolence. He discovers, by a twist of fate, who exactly is abducting and killing these changeling children. Despite his indolence, Mr. Jelliby is a good man and decides to help save the people who are caught up in this evil and begins his own private inquiry. When Bartholomew witnesses his almost-friend being bought by a strange woman in plum and is seen himself….this sets these two very dissimilar people on a collision course and endangers everyone Bartholomew loves in the process. Read the review of The Whatnot - to find out more!

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A Roux of Revenge Cover Image
ISBN: 9780425252420
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Published: Berkley Books - April 1st, 2014

There is something delicious about reading books set in a completely different season than the one you are presently in. Especially when written in your favorite time of year (Autumn) and you read it during your least favorite (Summer)! I have been watching this series for a while now and I kept meaning to get to one of Archer’s books, but never quite managed to find the time, but when A Roux Of Revenge was released, I decided to make time. I am glad I did.

The thing is while I love reading lighter mysteries I am hesitant about culinary mysteries; I have been burned more than once by them. I have read many overly sweet ones who focus more on the food than the mystery itself. I also worried this book would be a bit too soupy - as it is billed as “A Soup Lover’s Mystery”. Fortunately this was not the case, the book is set in a restaurant specializing in soups, which are mentioned but never steal center stage from the main plot lines of the book. Similar to the way Cleo Coyle sets her mysteries in a coffee house, the coffee is in and around the scenes but not the focus. There is soup in and about many scenes in Archer’s book, people gotta eat you know, but it never is the sole focus.

In this installment, we find Lucky Jamieson entangled in several mysteries, the first of which is who was the man killed in the van? And is there any connection to the armored car robbery several years back? And who is the man stalking her waitress at the Spoonful? And last but not least what on earth is going on with Elias (her boyfriend) and his new partner at the clinic? Sounds like a lot of questions but Archer manages to answer them all in a timely and relevant manner!

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a nice pleasant read! I really enjoyed it and will be going back to read the first two books in the series; A Spoonful of Murder and A Broth Of Betrayal!

On a complete side note there is a small reference to Poirot on page 191 which tickled me to read!

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Sea of Shadows Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062071255
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Published: HarperCollins - March 3rd, 2015

Moria and Ashyn are sixteen year old identical twins who’ve finally assumed the full responsibilities of being the Keeper and Seeker of Edgewood. Meaning they must keep the spirits happy and put their mortal coils to rest in the mysterious Forest of the Dead - where criminals are exiled for their crimes (capital punishment having been outlawed). This is Ashyn’s first year venturing into The Forest to lay souls to rest….and something goes very wrong.


This book is a fast-paced adventure/mystery which was fun to devour in one sitting! The author has done a great job in creating a new world, creatures, roles and an interesting back story I would love to know more about., keeping the book fresh and appealing, since it is never mired down in trying to explain why this book is different than all the rest (think of the plethora of vampire, werewolf and ghost novels out there). The other feature I loved about this book is the fact it is simply well written - Armstrong does a great job in writing, which allow the reader to gloss over any possible (and minor) issues with the plot (there really is only one minor issue I have with the plot - why she decided to split the twins up in their flight from Edgewood), but again the writing is so good I can overlook this and still thoroughly enjoy the book.

I would recommend this book for any female, or open minded male, ages fourteen and up (as there is a fair amount of violence).

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Shadows Cover Image
ISBN: 9780147512208
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Published: Speak - September 25th, 2014

Maggie’s world’s been tilted unexpectedly; her mother has remarried (after a suitable amount of time after her father’s death) the marriage itself isn’t the issue, the step-dad in question is. Val carries an inordinate number of shadows around with him, ones which cannot be explained away by weird lighting and sometimes look like multi-legged alien creatures. This is a huge issue, because the shadows may mean he is a magic user, which is forbidden in Newworld. But the even bigger issue is why Maggie can see the shadows in the first place? No one else can. In Maggie’s grandmother’s generation, the gene which was responsible for making magic users was sliced out of all who carried it. Science, not magic, is now used to control and restrain the cobies, or the gaps in reality, which threaten their world. When Maggie meets the gorgeous Casmir, another immigrant from the Oldworld, who has heard of Val and has a guess about his shadows…..well things get out of hand quickly.

I am a fan of Robin McKinley’s writing and have been for years. I never have to worry about her letting me down with a story, and this book is no exception. I loved every minute of reading it. I even learned how to use the shop’s KOBO eReader in order to read the digital advanced reader copy of the book, which is saying something! I enjoyed how Robin slowly doles out information in the story, letting you slowly learn about the world and become invested in the characters she has created. Here she does a great job of weaving, of all things, origami, grief, animals (as pets, no talking roles for them here), magic, the supernatural and high school all into one story without any one theme/plot device distracting you from the story, all the while keeping the Newworld recognizably similar to our own, to further help connect with her audience. Another aspect I enjoyed is Maggie; she is funny, clever and strong. While things may be rough in her life and she has a wicked step-father, she never whines about it. She avoids him, thinks to herself, “Val will not ruin this….” all the while fretting how she is hurting her mother. Maggie never becomes a whiny kid who mopes around rather than trying to figure out the best solution, in a bad situation, making the book a joy to read, but Robin walks a fine line here, since Maggie never sounds so upbeat that she becomes dopy, which is the other side of this coin.

I cannot say enough good things about this book! I would recommend it for female readers (or open minded males, since there are several strong guys in the story) 12+. If you have not read any of Robin McKinley’s other books I would highly suggest you try Sunshine, The Blue Sword and Hero And The Crown immediately! I hope Robin will write a sequel to this book! While there is a great resolution to the story and you don‘t feel like you‘ve been gypped, there are so many question left open, I REALLY hope there is a sequel……Please?

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Sky Raiders Cover Image
ISBN: 9781442497016
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Aladdin Paperbacks - January 6th, 2015

It is Halloween and Cole Randolph and his friends have heard nothing but great things about the new haunted house in town. Deciding this sounds like more fun than trick-or-treating, a group of kids from Cole’s school head out to be scared out of their costumes.

The haunted house hides a much more sinister secret, a trap - one which Cole and his friends unwittingly walk into. While Cole is able to remove himself from it, his friends are not so lucky. Cole, unwilling to abandon his friends to an unknown fate, willingly follows them and their captors….to the Outskirts.

The Outskirts is an in-between place where, if you have the power, you can shape the world around you into a thing of dreams or nightmares, depending on your nature. The Outskirts are made up of five kingdoms, each very different but ruled by a single high king. An evil king, whose only love is power….
Cole, who is quickly discovered by his friends captors, is sold into slavery to the sky raiders. His quest to rescue his friends begins when he meets a unusual girl named Mira.

The biggest wrinkle in Cole’s rescue efforts?  It is free to enter the Outskirts, but near impossible to leave. And even if you do, almost everyone will end up back in the five kingdoms, forgotten by everyone who loves you….

This is a fantastic start to this new series. It is action-packed and very dense (in a good way). Filled with well rounded characters, a well thought out magic system and dynamic over arching story lines, I cannot say enough good things about this book!

Now, do not read anything into the characters being sold into slavery. In this case, Mull is using it as a plot device to scatter the friends across the five kingdoms, making Cole’s self appointed task more difficult. Mull does a great job of not philosophizing on the subject or creating some sort of moral lesson, which would harm the story.  Instead, this can be used as a talking point with your kids…such as how children have been sold into slavery through the centuries and even today in many parts of the world they still are not safe. But Mull does not do any of this for you. It is simply the reality of the situation the kids find themselves in, nothing more.

I enjoyed the fact there is actual crime in the book - a theft of sorts, faked deaths, people in hiding and others on the run. There are a lot of layers to this story, as it quickly turns from a simple plan to rescue his friends to rescuing a kingdom with some new friends. Mull is great at providing hints of what may come, details to speculate (read “obsess“) over and wonder about long after you have finished the book.

I would recommend this book to any boy (or open minded girl as Mira plays a very significant role in the book and is wonderful to read) 8+. I think the action-packed adventure and Cole’s determination will appeal to most anyone.

This is set up to be a five book series and I seriously cannot wait! (Book two is out October 2014)

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The Song of the Quarkbeast Cover Image
ISBN: 9780544336629
Availability: In Our Shop Now!
Published: Harcourt Brace and Company - September 2nd, 2014

Life has changed very little after the Big Magic episode in the Dragonlands, in the adventures recounted to us in The Last Dragonslayer. Jennifer Strange is still the acting manager of Kazam Mystical Arts Management, the largest employment for wizards. She is still struggling with making ends meet, finding work for all the wizards, and with the loss of her much loved quarkbeast. However things have changed in the realm of magic. After a brief depletion of wizardrical power, the levels have started to rise….slowly. This is good news, people are slowly starting to turn to magic again. This slow up-tick in magic has not gone unnoticed however. King Snodd has taken a keen interest, and is not above using his title to influence how magic is used….so he can turn a profit. Appointing Kazam’s rival, Blix (the owner of iMagic, the second largest management agency) as Official Court Sorcerer, King Snodd (and some well chosen minions) are out to try and control all of magic. The only thing standing in their way is Jennifer, who will do her level best to follow The Great Zambini’s vision, of magic belonging to all. This was a great follow up to The Last Dragonslayer, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I love the fact Jennifer Strange relies on herself to figure out solutions to the problems presented to her. While she may ask for assistance or input on her plans, she never passively accepts what the world dishes out to her. Even if on occasion the remedy is even crazier than the problem is! I also enjoyed the fact that the villain in the next book is introduced in this one, creating excitement for the next installment in this series. And while this may be included in The Song of the Quarkbeast, it doesn’t distract from the story. In fact it adds another layer of interest to it. I cannot say enough good things about this book. It is an exciting and fun romp thru the Ununited Kingdoms, filled with magic, mad capped hijinx and unexpected courage and good sense. If you have never read this series, you do need to start with the first book. If you have never read Jasper Fforde’s writing, this would be a great series to start with!

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Soulless Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780316056632
Availability: Special Order - E-mail us directly - We may have a used book!
Published: Orbit - September 30th, 2009

Alexia Tarabotti has been on the shelf since she was fifteen. Her mother decided her Italian heritage and unconventional looks (dark hair, dark eyes and the predilection of tanning) was too much to overcome, that no gentleman would seriously pursue Alexia. So she made the early decision to concentrate her attention and money on securing good marriages for her two younger daughters. What her mother didn’t know was this suited Alexia just fine.

Alexia enjoys the freedom spinsterhood allows her; to read whatever she likes, consort with flamboyant friends and concentrate on finding the best foods Victorian London can provide. Plus, well it would be a scandal if it came out to society that Alexia was born without a soul. Soullessness can be an advantage when dealing with some of the residents of London, Werewolves, Vampires and Ghosts, since just her touch negates their power. This comes in handy when a very rude vampire has the audacity of attacking Alexia at party, thereby tossing Alexia into Lord Maccon’s path again, (how many times does she have to say the Hedgehog was not her fault?) and into the mystery of why all the lone wolves and rogue vampires are disappearing from all around England….

If you are looking for historical accuracy of Victorian London, with insights into the life and times of the people living in this period, this is NOT the book for you. If you are looking for a funny, witty, romantic, melodramatic action-packed supernatural romp, then I highly recommend this book to you! I enjoyed every second of this book, the ridiculousness of pairing proper Victorian manners when being attacked by an unknown Vampire is hilarious. Alexia and the rest of the characters are over the top in their personalities and are just fun to read. And the mystery at the core of this book is well thought out as well, setting up future villains and problems in the books to come. I cannot wait to read the rest of this series!

I picked up this book purely because of the author description “Gail Carriger writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriated Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life for Europe and inadvertently acquired an education. She now resides in the Colonies with a harem of American lovers and tea imported from London.” If you find this as humorous and intriguing as I did, like urban fantasy without sparkling vampires, and enjoy a bit of steampunk thrown in for flavor, I think you will really like this book. (Not a Kids Book)

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Steelheart Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385743570
Availability: In Our Shop Now!
Published: Ember - September 23rd, 2014

David was eight (ish) when Calamity came, a burst in the sky which gave extraordinary powers to ordinary people. These were the powers we had only ever dreamed of in comic books, where super heroes and villains vied for power. And more often than not, the heroes won the day. Only the heroes never came. Instead, the government signed the Capitulation Act, basically saying no epic would ever be prosecuted for any crime they committed. And slowly over the next ten years the world was carved into small fiefdoms ruled by the smartest (or cleverest) epic, for as long as they could defend their territory. One of the strongest epics in the world is Steelheart; an epic who rules Newcago through fear and intimidation (to be fair, there is no benevolent epic ruler). Steelheart is an epic whose skin is impervious, has the strength of ten men, turn things to steel and wield energy…in other word is invincible. The government gave up and no one ever fights back. Except the Reckoners. The Reckoners are a shadowy group which hunts down epics and assassinates them. Because all epics have a flaw, an Achilles heel so to speak. The problem, they are often simple, very esoteric and difficult to unravel. It has been ten years since the fateful day in the bank, when David’s father was murdered by Steelheart. For ten years David has been studying, planning, assessing the best way to assassinate Steelheart and his minions. David knows something that all the others who have faced him have not…he has seen Steelheart bleed, and plans to make him do so again. This is an absolutely FANTASTIC book. I cannot say enough good things about it. It is a smart action-filled story which never drags or moralizes the situations the characters find themselves in. This is the first book in what will probably become a trilogy, and it starts off with a bang. I enjoyed following the mystery, what made Steelheart bleed? What is his weakness and how can it be exploited to maximum effect? Who exactly are the Reckoners and can they be trusted? It is a well-thought-out and plotted book; the author does a great job in resolving the mysteries in the first book while hinting and what may/will come in subsequent books. I cannot give exact details, as I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone, but trust me when I say this is a great book. I would recommend it for any male reader 13+ (or open minded girl as there are several strong females, but it is told exclusively from David’s pov) looking for a different kind of hero/super power book. You cannot go wrong.

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Stitching Snow Cover Image
ISBN: 9781423185079
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Disney Press - October 14th, 2014

Seven loyal drones who work in the mines and a hard earned reputation as the best cage fighter in the Station has afforded Essie solitude. For seven years she has worked hard, and has slowly etched out her own small patch on Thanda.

But like all good things….

One night while walking home Essie watches a shuttle streaking from the sky and crash in the flats. An illegal visitor… Essie decides to help get him on his way, lessening the chance government officials will notice him and come sniffing around the Station.

Essie wasn’t just looking for solitude on Thanda; she was hiding, and now someone has found her.

I could not put this book down. Funnily enough it is one of the most original books I have read so far this year. I say funnily, because it is based (very loosely) on the fairy tale “Snow White”. Lewis has re-imagined all the characters, politics and setting, creating a whole new concept for the story while keeping the essentials of the original fairy tale. Interestingly, knowing this book is based on “Snow White”, I could pick out the familiar elements of the story. However if you didn’t know this fact, it would read like a great suspense/action adventure novel which could stand on its own.

This book captured my attention from the start and would not let me go. I would recommend this book for any girl (or open minded boy as there is a strong male lead in it as well) twelve or older. I cannot stress how much I enjoyed reading this book!

Seriously Snow White in outer space with robots sounds like the punch line to a joke, I know, but it really works!

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Sunshine Cover Image
ISBN: 9780515138818
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Published: Jove Books - December 2004

There are three types of Others in the world: Weres, Demons and the Darkest Others, Vampires. Weres are only dangerous around the full moon, if they can’t afford the anti-change drugs available on the black market (being a were-chicken, raccoon or skunk, well, many people find all sorts of ways to come up with the money for these drugs. Surprisingly enough actual werewolves are rare). Being a demon is a catch-all term, meaning whatever law enforcement want it to mean, mostly you are not human enough for them (although I think the fallen angels would be offended if stuck with this label). Vampires? Well, they are the only ones who are unable to conceal what they are, and the only ones who are universally outlawed. This is why the Voodoo wars started; vampires were tired of being persecuted and fought back. Ultimately they lost the war, but at a great cost to humans. One of the remnants of the war are bad spots, places which feel wrong, evil, places you just never venture to. One sits directly behind the mansion where Sunshine is being held, an unwilling meal for a vampire who is in worse shape than she is.

This is one of my all time favorite books, and one of the best vampire stories I have read. I enjoy the fact that the characters have backstories which are alluded to, however not always fully explained., thereby allowing you to guess, assume or just flat wonder if they really are good guys or bad guys. You are dropped into the story in the middle of the events and you take off from there, learning quickly what is going on through the dribs and drabs of information slowly doled out thru the book. It is a great method for telling a story. I enjoy the fact, again, the vampires are portrayed as being evil, other, alien, predators. Even Constantine, a sort of ally, isn’t an angel nor does he pretend to be. I love the fact that Sunshine isn’t a victim. Sarcastic, bitchy, stubborn and interesting, yes, but a victim no. I cannot say enough good things about this book. It has been out for ten years, and I have read many other books with vampires in them during this time, and I still think that Robin McKinley nailed it. Her reluctant heroine, iffy ally and evil nemesis are still a compelling read after all this time. If you haven’t read it, you should.

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Thankless in Death Cover Image
ISBN: 9780515154139
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley Books - March 4th, 2014

This book is all about family. Lieutenant Eve Dallas is preparing to be invaded by Roarke’s numerous relations for the Thanksgiving holiday. A holiday that promises to be filled with food and laughter - and as always slightly befuddling our fearless Lieutenant. While Eve’s family is filled (now) with smiles, another family across town, the Reinholds, is filled with disappointment and pain, culminating in the Reinholds’ twenty-six year old son, Jerry, killing both of his parents. Jerry now believes he has found his true calling in life: he is a killer. After he has worked down his list of people who have slighted over the years, he plans on becoming a hit man. Lieutenant Eve Dallas has other ideas about what he will be doing for the rest of his life.

This is a different sort of mystery for J.D. Robb, as you know right from the beginning who did it and why he did it. The problem Eve struggles with is finding Jerry before he takes another life. While it is a different type of mystery, it is one of the best Eve Dallas mysteries, and that is saying something since she has around 46 books in the series. A further departure in style from the rest of the Eve canon, is this book is hard-boiled, almost noir in style. The violence is not masked or glossed over; the juvenile and sick thrill felt by Jerry when he tortures and kills is plain; and the pain and desperation felt by his victims is palpable. It was for me occasionally tough to read, even though it was well written. Another gratifying piece to this book is the substantial character growth exhibited by Eve throughout. Without giving anything away, it starts to close the door on some of her long-running troubles while opening the door for some new story arcs. I would recommend you purchase this when it comes out in September, it is too good to wait a year for it to come out in paperback.

Fran Recommends: However, let me say that Amber completely caught the unusual aspects and twists in the new J. D. Robb, Thankless in Death, and she’s absolutely right; this one is different and you’ll want it right away.

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Tower of the Five Orders Cover Image
By Deron R. Hicks, Mark Edward Geyer (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780544336308
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Published: Harcourt Brace and Company - October 14th, 2014

Last year Colophon Letterford followed a series of clues left by her distant relative Miles Letterford, which led to the discovery of Shakespeare’s lost manuscripts (to be fair her brother Case and her cousin Julian helped as well). This treasure hunt was a last ditch effort by Colophon to help her father save both his job and the family owned company, Letterford & Sons. It was a resounding success.

Rather than selling the manuscripts to the highest bidder, Colophon’s father is reprinting them so everyone can have access to them, further bolstering the company’s already sterling reputation in literary and non-literary circles.

But no matter how high you fly, you have to come back down to earth. The media turns against him & the company when a lone academic calls the manuscripts’ authenticity into question. As we know in the media today, it only takes one voice to turn the cameras against you, and then the jackals begin to circle. In this case, that voice is Treemont Letterford, a cousin to Colophon and one of the heirs to the throne who can snatch the company away from her father and who tried unsuccessfully last year to take over the company, forcing Colophon into the treasure hunt. 

Unfortunately this time he succeeds and Colophon is forced into another audacious plan in order to save her family.

This was an enjoyable read, but I am a sucker for all things Shakespearian!

The author, Deron R. Hicks, does a great job in balancing learning and the story. Never did it feel like the characters were giving a lecture about history or literary figures. One of this book’s plot lines centers around the authorship controversy of the Shakespearian cannon. The argument explored here is whether Christopher Marlowe was the true author of the plays, using Shakespeare as a beard to cover up the fact he didn’t actually die in a barroom brawl. Hicks does a great job in giving crumbs to follow, using existing facts and theories to further the plot., as well as giving enough information, should the reader want to, to follow up on this fascinating controversy on their own.

Hicks is also masterful at creating a palatable tension within Tower Of The Five Orders. By switching perspective frequently he creates a staccato rhythm which furthers the plot and has you reading at a flat-out pace so you can find out what happens next. This method of creating tension is riveting, and never hard to follow or distracting. Again it helps to further the mystery along.

I would recommend this book for girls or boys 9 and up who are looking for a fun and interesting read. I would recommend you read the first book in the series before starting this one, Secrets Of Shakespeare’s Grave, otherwise this book won’t make quite as much sense as it could!

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Treachery in Bordeaux Cover Image
ISBN: 9781939474025
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Le French Book (NY) - May 29th, 2014

Where to begin with this review….The uncertainty does not stem from poor quality, just the opposite in fact. This is an excellent book, one which if you like wine, science or France, I think you will enjoy.

The thing is that the book appears at first glance to be your generic themed cozy….It is anything but! Camouflaged under the name The Winemaker Detective Series is a far more interesting and complicated detective novel. Within the cozy tradition, it would be placed at the Hazel Holt end of the scale - in other words there is nothing cutesy or cloying. Benjamin Cooker is a man passionate about his calling - he writes about wine, makes it, helps suss out problems other winemakers encounter and is just a general expert in his field. And, as with any man who has a passion, it creeps into all aspects of his life and this is where we find Benjamin Cooker at the beginning of the book, a man about to turn fifty who hires himself an assistant to do the heavy lifting (i.e. very long hours and literally to lift heavy things) so he can accomplish everything he needs to.

In this first book we are introduced to Benjamin, his wife, his assistant and various friends all of whom I am sure we will see repeatedly through the 22 book series. In this first installment, Benjamin and Virgile must figure out if the contamination of some wine in a friend’s cellars was due to mismanagement or sabotage.

Sounds pretty straightforward right? Well…..that is where my uncertainty in this review comes in. This first book really is an introduction to our principal characters, wine and France. It is simply wonderful and like a wine, subtle and complex (sorry couldn’t resist the reference). The authors take their time in getting to the heart of the mystery; the crumbs were there for the audience to put it together, but the authors didn’t spell out what was happening until about halfway through the book - when the book shifts from being about the people to the mystery. It is like driving on Highway 101 - it takes you a bit longer to get where you are going but the scenery is far more interesting than if you simply took the interstate. I stuck with it because Benjamin, his apprentice, the wine and his interests are a fascinating read. What was not obvious until the end of the book is what you thought was completely irrelevant details camouflaged the motive for the crime.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a new British cozy style of mystery to read. While wine is the main focus of the mystery you don’t need to know a bunch about it to read this book, nor is the theme over done; it is worked seamlessly into the mystery. Four books have been translated so far in this series and I am looking forward to reading them all!

BTW there is a very popular TV series in France based on these books!

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The Whatnot Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062195227
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Published: Greenwillow Books - September 23rd, 2014

The Whatnot is a continuation of the story introduced to us in The Peculiar. In this book we follow Hettie, Bartholomew’s sister who was kidnapped and taken to the Old Country, where the Sidhe lived before coming to England. Time moves swifter in England than in the old country and it has been several years since Hettie was kidnapped. Despite this, Bartholomew and Mr. Jelliby have not given up their search to find Hettie and bring her home. Because while changling children don’t live long as they are hated by both humans and faeries alike, humans will simply hang them for witchcraft, but the Sidhe will do far worse things before they die…. We also meet Pikey Thomas, a twelve year old boy doing his best just to get by. Being faery-touched doesn’t help things. Pikey lost his eye when a faery stole his pupil, leaving white and a grey spot to remind him of that awful night. However fate is not done throwing the Sidhe into Pikey’s path. One night Pikey, in an act of kindness, helps a fairy whose wing was dislocated. This act was also very brave, as faeries are now banned in London. As thanks, the faery gives Pikey a jewel…..and this small act changes the course of Pikey’s future, putting him on a collision corse with Bartholomew, Mr. Jelliby and war.

This is a great set of books. Bachmann continues the tradition of the original Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson stories, where the faeries are not the gossamer winged, wish-granting, kind beings which inhabit Disney films. They are sly, often cruel and do not live by the morals we taught as children. They have their own agenda and have their own ways of making things happens, which are often at the detriment of the humans in the story. I also really enjoyed the way Bachmann told his stories. Taking two very dissimilar characters and pacing them on a collision course with fate. They are very grim and dark., filled with evocative words and images. They do a fantastic job of placing you smack dab in the middle of the story, pulling at your emotions, demanding a response. I also loved the circular nature of the plots, where information you learn in the beginning of the story, which feels like it may be gibberish or irrelevant, become vital by the end of the book. You need to pay attention through the whole of both books, to make sure you don’t overlook or dismiss a vital piece of information. This creates a great tension and quick flow in both of these books. The two books do a great job of portraying how very hard life was for the poor and children in Victorian era London. In The Peculiar, it is demonstrated by how difficult it is for Bartholomew and Hettie’s mother to feed her children and to find constant work. In The Whatnot, Pikey’s struggle of being on his own and fending for himself - finding shelter, clothes and food were all a daily problems. Bachmann does a great job of showing readers this struggle, without over-emphasizing it or reciting dry historical facts. He does a great job of incorporating these historical facts into a fantasy story, adding another layer to his plot. You do need to read these two books in order. The Whatnot will not make as much sense or be as compelling without the knowledge gleaned from The Peculiar. I would recommend these two books to a male reader (or open minded female reader as The Whatnot is told half from Hettie’s perspective) between the ages of 8-13. I do have one caveat to this -- if you have a sensitive reader, who is easily unnerved or prone to nightmares due to having a fantastic imagination, I would wait to give them this series until they are at the older end of this age range, as the images and word choices by Bachmann are very evocative and great, I think could cause problems for sensitive young readers.

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Written in Red Cover Image
ISBN: 9780451417909
Availability: In Our Shop Now!
Published: Roc - March 4th, 2014

There is something you must understand about Meg Corbyn’s world: humans live at the pleasure of The Others. Elementals, werewolves, vampires, all the things we fear in our world are very real in hers and they do not trust us. We are their prey, clever prey, but prey nonetheless. Courtyards were established in larger cities, where The Others could keep an eye on their clever food, where Others who could stand (mostly) interactions with humans could live. In these courtyards human laws do not apply, they have their own laws.

Human Liaison is essentially a mail room position, an important one as even the Others need to get their mail. A human is needed to fill it, since delivery people (or people in general) get nervous around the Others and will stop delivering by contract if a human is not there for a certain amount of time. The job has been vacant for too long and Simon Wolfgard is loathed to hire Asia Crane, the only applicant for the job, as he trusts her even less than he does most humans. It is a stroke of luck when Meg Corbyn asks for the job, but Simon isn’t sure he trusts her motives either.

I’d seen this title when it came out in hardback but with my reading for the shop, it got shuffled back in my brain and I temporarily forgot about it. When I saw it again as a mass-market release (yes even us book sellers will wait for the paperback sometimes) I picked it up…..that was back in March. Again, the reading I was doing for my Christie blog makes it difficult to get other books read, so it sat on my bookshelf waiting patiently for me to pick it up.

Man I should not have waited…

Written In Red completely captivated my attention - laundry was ignored, chores weren’t done and meals forgotten until I finished the book. Bishop’s style of writing is one I have enjoyed before and highly recommend - Daughter of Blood, Heir to the Shadows & Queen of Darkness - but previously she wrote pure fantasy which is great but not within the shop’s purview. Written In Red changed that, adding an urban fantasy element to her repertoire and obviously a mystery element to them, allowing me to finally recommend her book for the shop! And boy, do I recommend this title.

Bishop does a wonderful job of introducing a new set of characters, world and conspiracies which never falters and is always interesting. She creates a palpable sense of tension which had me reading past my bedtime because I could not put the book down. I highly recommend this book to female urban fantasy readers (or open minded males - but let it be known that the book is very female focused, not the Twilight stupid romance effect, but just female centric) looking for an engrossing read!

Seriously the more I like the book the more disjointed the review, because I want to bore you all with all the minutia from the book but have to restrain myself from doing so--as I want you to read the book so I can talk about it with you! So pick it up, read it and let’s talk!