Monday, February 27, 2017

The Julius House--Aurora Teagarden #4 by Charlaine Harris



Love at first sight turns into newlywed bliss for former librarian Aurora Teagarden-until violence cuts the honeymoon short.

 

Wealthy businessman Martin Bartell gives Roe exactly what she wants for their wedding: Julius House. But both the house and Martin come with murky pasts. And when Roe is attacked by an ax-wielding maniac, she realizes that the secrets inside her four walls—and her brand-new marriage—could destroy her.

 

Series: Aurora Teagarden #4 | Publisher: Berkley | Genre: Cozy Contemporary Mystery| Rating: 3.5 Cups

Challenges Read For: Cruisin' Thru the Cozies

It’s always fun being back in Aurora’s world. And having read this one, it makes me want to re-read the series.  
 
Here’s what’s going on: Aurora has a lot on her plate; she’s finally marrying Martin and she’s moved into her dream house, which happens to be the house where an entire family vanished. Although the state of wedded bliss is short lived when she discovers that Martin is keeping secrets and her house may hold the answers to what happened to the Julius family.
 
I finally managed to read the only book in the Aurora Teagarden series (that’s out) that I’ve missed and, for a cozy, it was sort of meh. The first half of the book revolved around Aurora’s wedding and Martin’s shady past. The last half finally kicked in the investigation, but it sort of seemed as though the investigation was more of a distraction for Roe so she wouldn’t have to focus on what was going on with Martin and his past.
 
This one was very light on the investigation, seriously if you put it in a thimble, you’d have a ton of room left—she asked a few questions, measured some walls, and read a few old newspaper articles. I wished there would have been more action on the investigation and mystery front.
 
I did enjoy learning more about Martin’s shady past. He’s never been my favorite character in the series, but he’s always been an interesting one. Although I do have to question Aurora’s behavior when she learned about Martin’s past; rather than acting like an adult, she would demand the information then sulk and demand him not to talk anymore about it when he finally revealed it.
 
Overall, this one wasn’t my favorite in the series. I would actually like some investigation and mystery with my cozy mystery.



 
 Aurora Teagarden Series

1-Real Murders
2-A Bone to Pick
3-Three Bedrooms, One Corpse
4-The Julius House
5-Dead Over Heels
6-A Fool and His Honey
7-Last Scene Alive
8-Poppy Done to Dead

Friday, February 24, 2017

Outlander Series Reading Challenge Check-In Post #2




Congratulations, Lovelies! We’ve made it to our second Outlander Reading Challenge Check-In! Give yourselves a pat on the back and a dram of whatever strikes your fancy.

 

I want to say ‘thank you’ to those who have joined in! As of today, we’re up to 156 members in the Facebook group. If you haven’t joined the Facebook group, please do so. It’s great place to interact with others joining in. If you keep track of your reading on GoodReads, there’s also a GoodReads group.

 

A few people have had questions about what counts in this challenge, so here’s a quick list.

 

Ø Books must be read in 2017

Ø  Re-reads count

Ø  All formats (print, digital, or audio) count

Ø Any Outlander-related book counts (the big ones, the shorts, the additional material such as the companion books, graphic novel, behind-the-scenes book, and the cookbook)

Ø Yes, the Lord John books count.
 

My progress so far:
 
I’ve not managed as much Outlander reading as I would have liked this month. I did finish Virgins (review to come in the next week or so). I’m slowly reading through Volume One of the Outlander Companion –I’ve read about 60 pages and I’m really enjoying extra information that I’ve picked up from it.





Okay, lovelies, talk to me! What have you read? What are you currently reading? Who is your favorite character? Who is your least favorite?


Giveaway Time!
 

 
One lucky participant will win an e-book copy of  Virgins. To enter, you must leave a comment with your progress update.
 
Winner will be announced in the Facebook group on March 31rd.
 
 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Something to Stitch About: Dimensions Life is Sweet Apron - Stamped Cross Stitch

This one was super easy (I finished it in just a few days), super fun, and super cute. After finally finishing the challenging Wolf Mum and her Pups, I wanted something easy.  This one was a stamped cross-stitch so I really didn’t have to think much about it, I just had to follow the inked outlines (the outlines do wash away after you’ve finished the project).
 
The material for the apron is a nice, sturdy cotton that holds up well. My only complaint with the apron itself, is that instead of the neck strap tying, it’s just a sewn on loop and I always have to end up tying a knot on it because it’s way too big.
 
The pattern itself was so easy to follow and the stitches on the key actually matched the amount of stitches on the project, so I didn’t have to worry about figuring out how to add or take away stitches.
 

For the most part, I liked the color scheme. The yellows and the cream used in the icing of the first cupcake seemed too similar, so it doesn’t really show that there are three different colors in it. I ended up switching out the colors of the lettering and the type of stitching used. Rather than the blue and brown the pattern called for, I used blue and red. I also decided to fill in the letters rather than just outlining them.
 

Overall, I’m really satisfied with how the apron turned out. It’s a nice bit of whimsy and everyone loves a cupcake!


Challenge Met: Something to Stitch About


Something to Stitch About is a personal goal I set to motivate me to atually do the stitching projects I buy. To learn more about this challenge or to see my goals and progress, check out this post.

 
Are you crafty?
What’s your craft of choice?
 

Friday, February 17, 2017

In the Shadow of Lakecrest by Elizabeth Blackwell



The year is 1928. Kate Moore is looking for a way out of the poverty and violence of her childhood. When a chance encounter on a transatlantic ocean liner brings her face-to-face with the handsome heir to a Chicago fortune, she thinks she may have found her escape—as long as she can keep her past concealed.


After exchanging wedding vows, Kate quickly discovers that something isn’t quite right with her husband—or her new family. As Mrs. Matthew Lemont, she must contend with her husband’s disturbing past, his domineering mother, and his overly close sister. Isolated at Lakecrest, the sprawling, secluded Lemont estate, she searches desperately for clues to Matthew’s terrors, which she suspects stem from the mysterious disappearance of his aunt years before. As Kate stumbles deeper into a maze of family secrets, she begins to question everyone’s sanity—especially her own. But just how far will she go to break free of this family’s twisted past?

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing| Source: Publisher| Rating: 3.5 Cups
Last night, I dreamed Lakecrest was on fire. I watched, indifferent, as flames devoured the brocade curtains and wood paneling, ashes coating my tongue and face. The windows shattered in a violent blast of heat, and turrets and walls and paintings crumbled around me. Lakecrest was dying and I was content to see it burn.
 
After reading the opening of the prologue, I knew I was in for a treat and I wasn’t wrong. The majority of the book had me riveted as the story of the ‘strange Lemont family’ unraveled yet the last two chapters let me down.
 
Here’s what’s going on. Kate Moore had one ambition in life: marry into money. Things seem to be going swimmingly when she catches the eye of rich and handsome Matthew Lemont. Marrying him was the easy part, but living in Lakecrest, his mysterious childhood home, is much harder then she imagined, especially when she learns of his aunt’s mysterious disappearance and the skeleton’s hiding in the Lemont’s closets.  Will Kate be able to survive Lakecrest and the Lemonts?
 
At times, I found it very hard to like Kate. She’s very selfish and sort of manipulative. Lies just seem to spout from her lips and I’m never quite sure if she actually means anything she says or if she’s just saying things to further her quest to secure herself a financially sound future. As the book progressed, she sort of grew on me, although I still found myself questioning some of her actions.
 
I found myself feeling sorry for Matthew. He has PTSD, or ‘shell-shock’ as they called it then, from being a medic during the war but he’s also dealing with things he witnessed as a child, plus, I’m sure, the odd ‘treatment’ he received from his mother compounded to the problems he’s dealing with. The mysterious disappearance of his Aunt Cecily also plays with his mind. He’s a tortured, troubled man but he irritated me because he has no backbone; he’s content to simply sit back and allow his mother to take over every aspect of his life. I was waiting for him to put his foot down and tell his mother enough is enough but, sadly, it never happened.
 
Hannah, Matthew’s mother, is a control freak. I could not stand her. She’s definitely the puppet master of the Lemont family and Lakecrest. Everyone does her bidding and it’s going to be her way or no way. Marjorie, Matthew’s twin sister, is even more messed up than Matthew is. She’s definitely a wild-child who needs to grow up.
 
The mystery aspect was interesting. Fifteen years ago, Cecily Lemont walked into the Labyrinth she had built on the grounds of Lakecrest and simply disappeared.  No one knows what happened to her and no one in the family is talking about it. Although Kate discovers that there was a bit more to Cecily than what the Lemonts want to people to know. She was the leader of this odd little cult of sorts and rumors of orgies and human sacrifices have been flying around since before Cecily disappeared. 
 
As Kate uncovers more about Cecily and her strange behavior, she starts learning more about just how strange the family she married into really is and starts questioning Hannah’s motives. She stumbles upon an interesting scene that makes her wonder about incest in the Lemont family.
 
There is a gothic tone to this book and some parts of it are atmospheric. Yet I was slightly disappointed by the fact the author never followed through with any of the gothic elements. Why was Kate constantly hearing water dripping? Yes, it was a brilliant way to add that gothic touch, but, seriously, why was the dripping following her around?
 
While I enjoyed the majority of the book, the last few chapters let me down and I was left scratching my head saying, ‘really? That’s it? That was how you’re going to play it?’. The explanation didn’t meet the facts presented or add up for the way Kate was being treated. Seriously, what was the point in drugging Kate’s milk if that’s how you were going to play it out?
 
Then there was the ending. It was another head-scratcher for me. After everything Kate was put through why would a simple argument, that nowhere matched the scope of arguments or even events that happened before this, provoke Kate to do what she did? Especially given that they had been living in accord for several years. It just didn’t mesh with me. If Kate was going to do it, I just felt like it would have happened years before.
 
Overall, as a whole, I enjoyed this one. I wish a few things had been developed a bit more and the ending could have been different, yet it still piqued and held my interest.

 
Are you a fan of gothic mysteries?
 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Documentary Review: Secrets of the Six Wives



Historian Lucy Worsley time travels back to the Tudor Court to witness some of the most dramatic moments in the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives. Combining drama based on eyewitness accounts, historical sources and Lucy’s own contemporary historical comment, Lucy moves seamlessly from the present to the past. In a world run by men where the king had ultimate power, each queen (as well as their ladies in waiting) found their own unique methods of exerting influence. For the first time, it is these women’s stories that Lucy wants to uncover, witness and explore, as well as offering her own take on Henry himself.

Divorced

Worsley examines the happy marriage of Henry VIII to first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Despite her skill and devotion as his queen, she fails to give Henry the son he needs and he falls for Anne Boleyn.

Beheaded, Died

Henry breaks with the Roman Church to marry Anne, but as Worsley notes, he grows tired of her and falls for Jane Seymour. Anne’s fate is sealed; she is executed and Henry immediately marries Jane, who dies soon after she gives birth to a son.

Divorced, Beheaded, Survived

Worsley presents the last three wives: Anne of Cleves, called “ugly”; young Catherine Howard, whose tragic childhood was abusive; and finally, the far from saintly nurse, Catherine Parr

Release Date: March 14, 2017| Genre: Documentary | Source: PBS


‘Divorced, Beheaded, Died; Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.’ Chances are, you’ve heard that old rhyme pertaining to the fate of the six wives of Henry VIII. Now historian Lucy Worsley and PBS have teamed up to bring you the stories behind the rhyme in a three-hour documentary.
 
This documentary is broken down into three sixty-minute episodes. Episode 1, Divorced, explores Katherine of Aragon’s marriage to Henry VIII as well as Henry falling for Anne Boleyn. Episode 2, Beheaded, Died, covers the break from the Catholic Church, Anne’s fall and execution, Jane Seymour’s rise and her death. Episode 3, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived, brings Henry’s last three wives to life. Anne of Cleves, whom Henry cast aside for being ‘ugly. Catherine Howard, the Queen who slept around, and, finally, Catherine Parr, the wife who just barely survived Henry’s ax.
 
Hands down, this has been one of my favorite documentaries. Not only does Worsley explore the present day locations as she’s telling the stories, she humanizes these six women. She brings forth historical information that, in a sense, explains the reasons for their odd actions and behaviors. And she’s careful not to make them out to be the villains.
 
There’s an old adage that says if you present a set of facts to a roomful of historians, each will form their own opinion and rarely two will be the same. And it’s quite true, even peers of Henry VIII had a different accounts of the same event depending on what faction or religion they were supporting. Even though Worsley relies on historical facts and accounts, she forms her own opinion of these six women.
 
While I agreed with most of what she presents in this documentary, there were a few things I was in disagreement about, such as the way Henry VIII was portrayed as this man whose single thought and all of his actions were based upon his need to have a male heir. Yet I think that’s what a good documentary does, it elicits people to form their own opinions of the facts that’s been laid out.
 
Although I thoroughly enjoyed this, I do have a few complaints about The Secrets of the Six Wives. My first complaint is a rather small one; it has to do with how fast they aged Henry VIII at the start of the last episode.
 
When Henry wed Anne of Cleves in 1540, the King was 49 years old. He was starting
to age and, due to the jousting accident he suffered in 1536 that left him with a leg ulcer, he was becoming portly. However, he wasn’t nearly as aged as they portrayed him. The portrait to the right, painted by Han Holbein, bears the inscription, Anno Etatis Sve XLIX, which means, In the year of his age, 49. The portrait was painted in 1540, the same year in which he wed Anne of Cleves; in fact, the clothing that he wears in the painting was the same clothing he wore to his wedding to Anne. Yes, the king was aging. Yes, he was expanding but not to the point that they portrayed him in the documentary.
 
My second complaint has to do with the framing of the episodes. I would have like to have seen six episodes, one devoted to each wife. Or even five episodes, Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves probably could have shared an episode given that, other than Jane mending the rift between Henry and his daughters and giving him the all-important male heir, not much happened with Jane before she died of childbed fever. The same with Anne of Cleves, they married, he claimed her body displeased him, they divorced, and she ended up becoming the richest woman in England.
 
I really think that Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr were cheated by not having their own episodes. So much of their histories were left out and it’s such a shame because they were very intriguing women.
 
My third complaint has to do with the way Catherine Howard was portrayed. I’ve always respected Worsley’s findings, she’s such a brilliant historian but with Catherine Howard, it seems that she’s fallen into the trap of judging Catherine and her situation/actions by today’s standards.
 
She paints Catherine as an abused child because, while under the care of her father’s stepmother, she entered into a sexual relationship with her music teacher at the age of 13. Today, that would be considered abuse, but in Tudor times, 14 was the standard age most women married. She makes Catherine out to be a victim who had no control of her actions and sort of glosses over the fact that Catherine continued to have affairs after her marriage to the king. I don’t feel as though Worsley presented the viewer with all of the pertinent facts pertaining to Catherine.  
 
Overall, I enjoyed The Secrets of the Six Wives. There were a few things that could have been handled differently, but I still found it interesting. And this documentary will enjoyed by those who are Tudor history buffs as well as those just discovering them.



 
Are you intrigued by the Tudor’s?
Have a favorite wife?
Are you a fan of documentaries?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Mini Blog Ahead #1 of 2017 Progress Post (March 1-15)



The signs ups for the first Mini Blog Ahead of 2017 is up! I’m so excited about this one. It’s hosted by Anna @ herding cats and burning soup and it’s such a brilliant challenge that all bloggers should join. Seriously, you should sign up!

 

The challenge starts March 1st and since it’s a mini, the goal to add 15 additional scheduled posts in 15 days.

The challenge starts March 1st and since it’s a mini, the goal is to add 15 additional scheduled posts in 15 days.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason



More than a year ago, mild-mannered Jason Getty killed a man he wished he’d never met. Then he planted the problem a little too close to home. But just as he’s learning to live with the undeniable reality of what he’s done, police unearth two bodies on his property—neither of which is the one Jason buried.

Jason races to stay ahead of the consequences of his crime and while chaos reigns on his lawn, his sanity unravels, snagged on the agendas of a colorful cast of strangers. A jilted woman searches for her lost fiancé, a fringe-dweller runs from a past that’s quickly gaining on him, and a couple of earnest local detectives piece it together with the help of a volunteer police dog — all of them in the wake and shadow of a dead man who had it coming. As the action unfolds, each discovers that knowing more than one side of the story doesn't necessarily rule out a deadly margin of error.

Publisher: Gallery Books | Genre: Suspense | Source: Publisher| Rating: 1 Cup

Challenges Read For: Blogger Shame

Okay, so I struggled with this one. I started it way back in October, was hooked on the first 9 chapters, then the book became annoying and I put it down. I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to pick it back up again but I was curious to see how it played out.
 
Here’s what’s going on: Jason Getty murdered a man, buried his body in his backyard, then hired a landscape crew to clean up said backyard. When the landscape crew makes a gruesome discovery, Jason thinks he’s been caught until they reveal they’ve found two bodies neither of which Jason buried. With detectives and crime scene investigators swarming the place Jason knows he must take action and move the body. Although when Leah Tamblin sneaks onto Jason’s property searching for answers about what happened to her fiancé, she never expected to find a decomposing corpse and Jason never expected to be caught unearthing it but what’s more troubling is the man who murdered the first two bodies has returned.
 
“There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.” Seriously, with an opening line like that and the fact this book was labeled as ‘Hitchcockian menace’ and ‘high-class mystery that blends with black humor’ I was expecting something great. Sadly, the book fell short.
 
I didn’t care for Jason, and oddly enough, it wasn’t because he was a murderer. He was spineless and overly paranoid. He allowed things to happen to him then whined for pages about how he was being treated and I just couldn’t feel sorry for him. There was no character growth and it became annoying. I felt sorry for Leah. She was only there to get answers about the disappearance/murder of her fiancé and ended up being involved in Jason’s nightmare. Although by the time the last page was read, I couldn’t really feel sorry for her either since she just sort of went along with everything.
 
Heading hopping doesn’t bother me; when it’s used correctly, it can reveal much needed information and enhance the book. However the head hopping in this one was out of control. It wouldn’t have bothered me if it had only been Jason, Leah, the murderer, and the detectives but it included Tessa, the police dog and Maggie, the wife of one of the detectives. Did we really need to know what the dog was thinking? And the information Maggie added to the book wasn’t even tied in with anything and bogged down an already unsteady plot.
 
There was a slight plot twist but I spotted it so early on it wasn’t surprising when it was revealed.
 
Overall, this was lacked all things that it promised. I didn’t see the dark humor or the thriller qualities. I would call this one an odd character study with light elements of suspense.  And oddly enough, Tessa, the police dog ended up being my favorite character of the book.

 
 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Cruisin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge Progress Post



I’ve been getting back into cozy mysteries and was looking for some recommendations when I stumbled upon Cruisin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge hosted by Socrates' Book Reviews and knew I had to join.


It looks like it’s going to be such a fun challenge and will help me branch out into different cozy mystery sub-genres.


Here’s the levels:

Ø Level one (Snoop) - Read one book in each of these cozy sub-genres (total of 10 books) 

o   One from culinary (anything dealing with food:  restaurants, baked goods, etc.)
o   One from animal related (cats, dogs, birds, etc.)
o   One from craft related (any kind of hobbies - knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, etc.)
o   One from paranormal (witches, vampires, etc.)
o   One from British cozy mysteries (example:  Belinda Lawrence series)
o   One career-based cozy mystery (housekeeping, wedding planner, etc.)
o   One holiday based (set during any holiday - Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentines, etc.)
o   One travel mystery (character could be on a cruise, touring another area, etc.)
o   One historical mystery (any mystery not set in the present)
o   One is your choice!  (freebie!) 

Ø Level two (Investigator) - Read all the books in level one plus an additional 10 cozy books of your choice (total of 20)
Ø Level three (Super Sleuth) - Read two books from each sub-genre in level one plus an additional 10 cozy books of your choice (total of 30 books)
Ø Level four (Sleuth Extraordinaire) - Read two books from each sub-genre in level one plus an additional 20 cozy books of your choice (total of 40 books) 

Timeframe: January 1, 2017 - December 31, 2017 

Rules:

-         Any format Counts

-         If you can't find or don't want to read a certain sub-genre, you can switch it out for another one of your choice. However, this can only be done one time.

I’m playing it safe and aiming for Level One: Snoop. If  I manage those in a timely fashion, I may try to go for Level Two.
 
1-Culinary
2- Animal Related
3-Craft-Related
4-Paranormal
5-British
6-Career-based
7-Holiday Based
8-Travel
9-Historical
10-Freebie