Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: The Look of Love

The Look of Love (Wedding Cake Mystery - Book 2) by Mary Jane Clark

Publication Date: January 17, 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Hardcover, 340pp

(Received for an honest review from William Morrow)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Mary Jane Clark on the WEB: website, facebook

Books in the Series: To Have and To Kill (2011), The Look of Love (2012)

CoverArt: Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from The Look of Love (Amazon Look Inside Feature)


Piper Donovan accepts when the owner of Elysium, an exclusive spa and plastic surgery center, offers her an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles to create a dazzling and unique wedding cake. The job also gives Piper the time and distance she needs to sort out her feelings for handsome FBI agent Jack Lombardi.

The ultra-luxurious spa caters to the rich and famous in need of a little "refreshing" - a nip here, a tuck there, a little Botox, a little detox. Nestled in the Hollywood Hills, Elysium seems picture-perfect: the grounds, the staff, even the guests. But no sooner does Piper arrive than a guest is brutally murdered in one of the private bungalows. Someone, it seems, wants to make sure Elysium's beautiful director, Jillian Abernathy, never gets to walk down the aisle. Piper soon discovers that beneath the glamorous surface of this idyllic oasis lies an ugly truth - and a cold-blooded plan for murder.


Mary Jane Clark is certainly not a new-comer in the publishing industry, but she has focused mainly on main stream mystery and thrillers throughout her career. The Look of Love is the second book in Clark's first cozy mystery series. The Wedding Cake series introduces readers to Piper Donovan, cake decorator, actress and amateur sleuth. Readers will enjoy this lighter side to Clark's writing, as well as, her engaging characters.

Clark's trademark short chapters put me in the mind of James Patterson at times with shifting viewpoints and a multi-layered plot. I loved the way Clark easily shifts from the killers point-of-view, to that of possible suspects and the main characters. It sounds like it would hard to follow, but it's anything but and the reader gets a view into the mind of a murderer, creepy but cool. 

Piper, the heroine in The Look of Love and the series, is a spunky young woman who wears plenty of hats. She's an aspiring actress, a wedding cake decorator and she dabbles in solving mysteries and this book is definitely focused on the whodunit. The mystery itself was unique and easily held my interest. I liked the fact that Piper is taking a road trip in this book and taking herself out of her comfort zone. 

Who doesn't want a little pampering now and then? And what better place to get it than a state-of-the-art spa. Even the name of spa equates to luxury and comfort. Elysium is a Greek version of the afterlife. The Hollywood Hills isn't exactly a normal cozy mystery setting and that made it all the more interesting. It was different and the day-to-day workings of the spa was enlightening. Readers will certainly be wishing they could visit this spa due to the wonderful descriptions.

Another thing I found interesting about this one was the fact that Clark didn't just stop with one murder. This twisting plot features several. There are bodies dropping all over the place. I found myself wondering... Who in the world would feel the need to kill that many people to get what they want? And of course Piper is right in the middle of the mayhem, right where she belongs.

This is a great sophomore effort on Clark's part and I liked just about everything about it. Piper is a great heroine, engaging and easy to like. Her curiosity killed the cat attitude is always landing her in hot water. The setting was unique and interesting and Clark's shifting view points were a real selling point. I recommend this one to cozy readers, Clark fans and even those main stream mystery readers that need to give cozies a try!

The Look of Love is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Like Piper Donovan, New York Times bestselling author Mary Jane Clark has a mother who made customized cakes for the neighborhood kids when Mary Jane was growing up. After a career at CBS News and writing twelve media thrillers, the author envisioned the Piper Donovan/Wedding Cake mystery series. The daughter of an FBI agent, Mary Jane is the mother of two grown children and splits her time between New Jersey and Florida. Currently, she is concocting her next novel.

Review and Giveaway: An Appetite for Murder

An Appetite for Murder (Key West Food Critic - Book 1) by Lucy Burdette

Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 310pp
ISBN-13: 978-0451235510
ISBN: 0451235517

(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Lucy Burdette (Roberta Isleib)on the WEB: website, blog, facebook

Excerpt from An Appetite for Murder (Amazon Look Inside Feature)


Hayley Snow's life has always revolved around food - she loves cooking it, eating it, and, most of all, writing about it. When she moves to Key West and applies to be a food critic, Hayley's so close to achieving her dream, she can taste it. Until someone serves her a helping of murder.

Hayley Snow is a woman of many passions. She's followed her soul mate to funky, foodie Key West, but when their romance loses its sizzle, she's determined to find a new life in this island paradise. She's always been a foodie, so when she applies to be a food critic for Key Zest, the new Key West style magazine, it seems like a perfect pairing. Then Hayley discovers her potential new boos is Kristen Faulkner - the woman who stole her boyfriend.

Hayley can't see how things can get worse now that she's loveless, possibly working for her romantic rival, and living on her friend's boat - until Kristen is murdered and the police pull Hayley in as a suspect. Unfortunately, Hayley's got more motive than Key Lime pie has meringue. To clear her name she'll have to find the real killer fast or the only restaurant she'll be reviewing is the prison cafe.


What a perfect book to read this time of year! Lucy Burdette debuts the first book in her new Key West Food Critic series to fans and new readers. An Appetite for Murder has all the ingredients for a great cozy mystery, that will appeal to foodies and amateur gumshoes alike. The locale and mouthwatering food descriptions give this new series an exotic, carefree atmosphere that will have readers raving!

For most of the continental US it's winter-time. Freezing temps and blowing snow. And the perfect time to read a mystery set in the fun and sun. Key West was a perfect location for the beginning of this new cozy series. Burdette either has first hand knowledge of the everyday goings on in Key West or she's done a whirlwind of research because this book is just oozing local flavor and the amazing food of the islands. Even though murder is afoot, the author is still able to give off the feeling of the laid back, relaxed persona of Key West. Readers will find themselves feeling that ocean breeze on their skin or tasting the nutty flavors of the local cuisine. The descriptions are out of this world.

The lead character in An Appetite for Murder is down-on-her-luck Hayley Snow. A gal who followed her heart to Key West and ends up getting dumped by a cheating boyfriend. But you can't keep a good girl down, as Hayley decides to make the most of it and try hand at her life's passion, food! Unfortunately, the mishaps keep piling up and Hayley finds herself a murder suspect, as well as, a food critic. I really enjoyed Hayley's voice. She comes across as a little scatter-brained at times but she's witty and she's quick. She follows her instincts and gets right down to the point. Burdette has really created a very engaging main character that readers are sure to like and want to know more about.

I liked the behind-the-scenes kind of look into the world of food journalism. Readers get to see the dilemma's that food critics face on a daily basis. What happens if you mention a stop that has a lot of local flavor and your review gets it a lot more attention than it wants? How do you tell a chef that's a friend, you're going to give his restaurant a bad review? If you write a bad review it could damage a restaurants reputation. All of these were questions I never really considered when I thought about food writing. It was a very insightful and fun to read about.

I tried one of the recipes in the back of the book and it was a good one. Hayley Snows Leaning Tower of Eggplant is soooo delicious. If you've never tried eggplant, try it fried, it's amazing! I always try a recipe from each food related cozies and I'll have to say this was one of the best. I know it might sound weird, but it's super tasty.

This is a great first book in a series. The background is established. The characters are introduced and the mystery is still the main focus. It's fast-paced and smooth and the ending was surprise. I didn't have this one figured out and I'm hard to stump. If you love good food, the sights and sounds of islands and a little murder and mayhem this is definitely the book for you!

An Appetite for Murder is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Clinical psychologist Roberta Isleib, aka Lucy Burdette, has had eight previous mysteries published. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. Her story "The Itinerary," written under the Roberta Isleib name, was selected for inclusion in The Rich and the Dead, an MWA anthology edited by Nelson DeMille. She is a past president of Sisters in Crime.


The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of An Appetite for Murder by Lucy Burdette.

~ You must be a GFC follower or an E-mail subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST February 14th.

1. Please leave a comment in appreciation to the author on THIS post.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: All That Bleeds

All That Bleeds (Etherlin - Book 1) by Kimberly Frost

Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Pages: Paperback, 324pp
ISBN-13: 978-0425245804
ISBN: 0425245802

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Sensation)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Kimberly Frost on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from All That Bleeds


Within the elite community of the Etherlin, the descendants of the ancient muses are inspiration made flesh. But beyond the wall protecting their world wait the fallen, those who yearn to possess them...

As the last heiress of the House of North, Alissa has never been one to follow laws blindly. Striking up a secret friendship with a half-vampire enforcer is dangerous, but Merrick is a temptation she can't resist. 

Merrick's desire for Alissa consumes him, though he knows better than to pursue a muse. But when Alissa is kidnapped and brought outside the Etherlin walls, Merrick will do anything to protect the woman who tempts him with her very existence.

As enemies from both worlds threaten, Alissa realizes that Merrick is the only one she can trust - even while the pull she feels toward him is the thing she fears most...


Forbidden love. Who could resist a paranormal romance with that kind of theme? Kimberly Frost brings readers the first book in a new series featuring the Muses who lend their energy and powers to inspiring artists, musicians and other creative elements in society. All That Bleeds is quite a departure from Frost's Southern Witch series and has darker more ethereal feel to it. Even the cover is striking and readers will love Frost's amazing world building skills. 

The first book in the Etherlin series was a totally unexpected read for me. I was expecting the tone and atmosphere of the book to mirror Frost's first series, but I was totally blown away with this one. The world building alone is enough to make this an amazing book. Frost draws readers in from the first action packed pages and introduces them to a world where the Muses are competing amongst themselves for the Wreath, a magical element that will allow them to focus their powers. I was taken aback by the back biting and the politics that went on among the Muses and sympathized with Alissa the lead character in dealing with all of it. 

Alissa was a great character. She knew her own mind and she knew what she wanted to do and how to make it happen. I liked her ingenuity and her forthright attitude. I also liked that part of her led her make friends with someone she should have stayed away from. Merrick is a bad, bad boy, but he's darn good at it. She didn't let anyone choose her friends for her and she stood up for what she thought was right. I liked her a lot.

Merrick was the perfect hero. Very confident and sure of himself. Extremely loyal. When he decided to protect Alissa, he would move heaven and hell to do it and I liked that tenacity and kick-ass attitude. Nothing or no-one was going to get the best of him. He may have flouted authority and done things his own way, but he knew what he was about and he wasn't changing for anyone. 

The romance that blossoms between Alissa and Merrick is completely forbidden. He is a vampire enforcer and she is a Muse. Not everyone's ideal match made in heaven. I liked the fact that Frost allows the relationship to grow and change instead of opting to make them soul mates or having some kind of unflinching bond. Their relationship was tender, authentic and very real feeling. That made it so much better in the long run.

I liked the mystery elements surrounding the death of Alissa's mother also. There was a lot of violence and the pace of the book was chalked full of action. There was never a quiet moment in this one and I felt like I was in a whirlwind reading it. The end was satisfying and sets up the next book in the series well. I think this series has a lot of potential and readers of both romance and paranormal romance will enjoy it. Can't wait to see what happens next.

All That Bleeds is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Kimberly Frost is the national bestselling author of the humorous Southern Witch series, which includes Would-Be Witch, Barely Bewitched, and Halfway Hexed. She was the 2010 PEARL award winner for best new paranormal author, and her paranormal romantic suspense "Etherlin" series launched in November 2011 in the multi-author Christmas anthology, Tied With a Bow, followed by the January 2012 release of All That Bleeds (Etherlin Series, Book 1)

Review and Giveaway: If Fried Chicken Could Fly

If Fried Chicken Could Fly (Country Cooking School - Book 1) by Paige Shelton

Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 296pp
ISBN-13: 978-0425245859
ISBN: 0425245853

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Paige Shelton on the WEB: website, blog, facebook


Isabelle "Betts" Winston loves reaching the secrets of mouthwatering country food in her hometown, Broken Rope, Missouri - famous for its past of outlaws, knife battles, and hangings. But now an all-too-current murder threatens the start of tourist season...

At Gram's Country Cooking School, Betts and Gram are helping students prepare the perfect dishes for the Southern Missouri Showdown, the cook-off that draws lots of summer visitors. Then they discover the body of local theater owner Everett Morningale in the school's supply room - and Everett's widow points the finger at Gram...

Betts must clear Gram's name and keep the cook-off preparations on schedule - all while worrying about a mysterious cowboy only she seems to be able to see. And after shots are fired at her, Betts has to dig into Broken Rope's history to find a modern-day killer - before the last wing is served...


Paige Shelton brings readers the first book in a new series, If Fried Chicken Could Fly. That's quite the catchy title for the first Country Cooking School mystery. Readers will fall in love with the "old west" town of Broken Rope, Missouri and all it's quirky inhabitants including a few ghosts thrown in for good measure. Fans of culinary mysteries that are light and funny will enjoy this one, as well as, fans of the supernatural, as Shelton weaves a cozy mystery that will appeal to readers of all types.

Paige Shelton is quickly becoming a favorite of mine and her latest book mixes two genres that I am particularly fond of, it's a cozy mystery with a paranormal element. I thought Shelton couldn't possibly top the Farmer's Market series, but if this debut in her new series is any indication is will be even better. Gram's Country Cooking School also adds the element of fun to equation and who doesn't love Grandma's cooking? This book has a very homey, down-to-earth feel that I think will resonate with a lot of readers. 

Bett's Winston is a great amateur sleuth character. She finds herself trying to clear her Gram of suspicion of murder when they find a body in the cooking school closet. Bett's is a lot of fun as is this entire book. It is very light and funny and readers will find themselves continually laughing at Bett's and Gram's exploits. Though Bett's is the main character, Gram really added a richness to the story that made it seem authentic and believable.

Broken Rope has tons of interesting characters, most notably, Jerome, a friendly ghost of sorts that helps Bett's solve the case along with her friend Jake who happens to be a part of the local historical society. This mystery is rooted in the past and I loved how Shelton used the supernatural to her advantage her. Jerome was an essential part of the tale and I think readers will embrace the paranormal element and run with it. 

When there are recipes provided in the back I always try to choose one and make it before my review goes up, so I can say... This recipe was delicious, you gotta try it. In this one I chose, the Fake Fried Chicken and I have to say, it may not be good for you... but it tastes amazing! You gotta try it... LOL!

Shelton gives readers a solid mystery with some really great motives and suspects and having a ghost along to help you out doesn't hurt. I liked this first in a series book better than most and I think there is a lot of potential her for a great series. Can't wait to see what Bett's and Gram end up in the middle of next!

If Fried Chicken Could Fly is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Paige Shelton spent lots of years in advertising but now writes novels full time. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and son. When she's up early enough, one of her favorite things is to watch the sun rise over the Wasatch, Mountains. Paige is the author of the national bestselling Farmers' Market Mysteries.


The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of If Fried Chicken Could Fly by Paige Shelton.

~ You must be a GFC follower or E-mail Subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST February 13th.

1. Please leave a comment in appreciation to the author on THIS post.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Winners! New! Challenges Updates! Jan. 22-28

It's time once again for the winners, news, challenge updates from the last week. So far, this is working out well with my new schedule. I apologize for not being around as much as usual, but duty calls. 


This week we have had several giveaways posted and a couple that have ended. I want to thank everyone for their participation and let you know that I'm glad you are being introduces to so many wonderful authors and books! 

Winners will be notified later today and publishers the following week. Prizes will be sent out directly from the publisher and all winners were chosen using random.org. 

Stripped by Tori St. Claire
Publisher: Berkley Heat (Penguin Group USA)

Winner: Yadkny

Sins of the Highlander by Connie Mason and Mia Marlowe
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Winners: Renee & Proserpine


We kicked off our first mini-challenge of the year for the 2012 Cozy Mystery Challenge. Since the first mini-challenge is set for Jan. & Feb. the theme is Love! You must be a participant in the main challenge for be a part of this mini-challenge. All you have to do is find a cozy with the word "love" in the title, read it, review it and post your link. Several people mentioned in the comments that finding a cozy with just the word love was difficult so I am going to allow all forms of the word love: loved, lover, loving, etc etc. I did make a note that the second cozy by Mary Ann Clark has love in the title. So get reading and posting those links to be eligible for the prize. See details on my sidebar!

On a more personal note. It's been a bit of a traumatic week for me. I'm back at work and had a ton of things on my mind. But I made it and all the other stuff is going to be OK... I'm Thankful, grateful and very blessed! Just had to share LOL!


Here are my updates for this week:

Here is a link to my updated Google Map for the 2012 Where Are You Reading Challenge.


I added one book to the 2012 Support Your Local Library Challenge. (2/37  5% Done)

Happy Ever After (Bride Quartet - Book 4) by Nora Roberts

I added one book to the 2012 Immortals Reading Challenge. (4/20  20%) 

A Demon Does It Better (Demon - Book 2) by Linda Wisdom

I added two books to the 2012 Cozy Mystery Challenge. (6/12   50% Done)

Ghoul Interrupted (Ghost Hunter - Book 6) by Victoria Laurie
Affairs of Steak (White House Chef - Book 5) by Julie Hyzy

I added seven books to the 150+ Reading Challenge (27/150   18% Done)

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly
A Demon Does it Better by Linda Wisdom
Hold Me If You Can by Stephanie Rowe
Ghoul Interrupted by Victoria Laurie
Affairs of Steak by Julie Hyzy
Where Wildflowers Bloom by Ann Shorey
Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

I added two books to the 2012 Paranormal Romance (4/20   20% Done)

A Demon Does It Better (Demon - Book 2) by Linda Wisdom
Hold Me If You Can (Soulfire - Book 3) by Stephanie Rowe

I added one book to the 2012 E-Book Challenge (2/25   8% Done)

Happy Ever After (Bride Quartet - Book 4) by Nora Roberts

Review: Where Wildflowers Bloom

Where Wildflowers Bloom (Sisters at Heart - Book 1) by Ann Shorey

Publication Date: January 1, 2012
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Genre: Christian Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 328pp
ISBN-13: 978-0800720742
ISBN: 0800720741

(Received for an honest review from Revell)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, ChristianBook, IndieBound

Ann Shorey on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from Where Wildflowers Bloom


How far will she go to follow her dreams?

The Civil War stole a father and brother from Faith Lindberg - as well as Royal Baxter, a man she wanted to marry. With only her grandfather left, she dreams of leaving Noble Springs, Missouri, and traveling west to Oregon to start a new life, away from the memories that haunt her. But first she must convince her grandfather to sell the family's mercantile and leave a town their family has called home for generations.

When Royal Baxter suddenly returns, Faith allows herself to hope that she and Royal will finally wed. But does he truly love her? Or will another man claim her heart?


Ann Shorey brings readers the first book in a new Christian Fiction series. Where Wildflowers Bloom is the beginning of the Sisters at Heart series which takes place shortly after the end of the Civil War. Shorey's heart felt writing and attention to detail make this book a must read for Christian fiction and inspirational romance readers. Shorey's ability to write character driven, nurturing stories is unparalleled in the genre. She is easily one of my favorite Christian fiction writers.

Ann Shorey is definitely not a new face in Christian fiction, but her books always seem fresh and endearing. Readers will love Shorey's ability to bring her settings and characters to life. In her latest book, Where the Wildflowers Bloom, Shorey introduces readers to the the town of Noble Springs, Missouri and to Faith and Nate Lindberg, two characters that will touch the heart. It is Faith's dream to leave behind all of the bad memories created by the war and to travel with her grandfather, Nate to Oregon to start over. But fate and God have set a different course for her life than she ever would have imagined.

Faith is such a great character. She has seen so much devastation and loss that it's amazing she is still standing. She lost two members of her family before the war and now the war has taken her father, her brother, and the man she planned to marry. That's almost too much to ask one person to survive. I think it was Shorey's plan to show how a person with faith in God, could go through something like this and still look forward to a better future. I was really glad that Shorey left Faith at least one person in her life, her grandfather Nate. The thing that stands out so much about Faith is her gentle and loving spirit. She always came across as very genuine and honest.

I liked the relationship that developed between Rosemary and Faith. Shorey is very good at showing the bonds that people have with each other. In this book the bond between Rosemary and Faith starts with adversity. The women of Noble Springs don't seem to understand Rosemary. She saw the horrors of the war up close and personal as a nurse and the other women seem taken aback by that. I loved the fact that Shorey allows the reader to see the kind of friendships and love that can develop between women. It was a joy to read. As was Faith's relationship with Curt.

Faith planned to marry Royal Baxter before the war. She believed him dead and this only added to her dream of moving on. But when Royal suddenly reappears she is torn between him and the friendship she has developed with another returning solider, Curt Saxon. Curt is a fantastic character. He is going through some really difficult things. He is disfigured from the war and he has PTSD. Flashbacks threaten to ruin his return home, as he begins to fear himself, but with help he begins to turn around. His friendship with Faith is a great catalyst for his recovery. It was amazing to read about their relationship and how it grew. Shorey does a fantastic job of showing the depth and love they share.

Nate Lindberg, Faith's grandfather is an amazing secondary character and probably my favorite of the book. I loved the way he interacted with all of the people of Noble Springs. His mercantile was a focal point of the story, and really reminded me of the great feelings I used to get watching shows like The Waltons and especially Little House on the Prairie. It was just a very wholesome setting and Nate's presence gave it an authentic and believable feel. It's an atmosphere that is unmistakably pure. I really enjoyed all that Nate added to this book.

As you can see the characters are what this book is all about. Shorey uses the characters to drive the story and there are certainly a lot of directions it could have went. The idea's of love and hope and second chances, permeate the story and keep it grounded, while all of these amazing people come to life and leap off the page. Shorey doesn't overwhelm the reader with Bible thumping, she simply plants the seeds and let's the story take the reader where it will. It's quite a journey.

If you are a Christian fiction fan, you've probably heard of Ann Shorey. But if by some off chance you've never seen her writing this is your chance to start at the beginning of a new series, with this remarkable writer. I think it's my favorite of this kind of novel that I've read in a long time. It will definitely pull at your heartstrings and make you think about your own dreams and how they will play out in your life. Our plans are not always His plans... This one really put a smile on my face. Don't miss it!

Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller, from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

I'm giving this one a resounding 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Ann Shorey has been a full-time writer for over twenty years. She made her fiction debut with the At Home in Beldon Grove series in January of 2009.

When she's not writing, she teaches classes on historical research, story arc, and other fiction fundamentals at regional conferences. Ann and her husband life in southern Oregon.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Ghoul Interrupted

Ghoul Interrupted (Ghost Hunter Mystery - Book 6) by Victoria Laurie

Publication Date: December 27, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Paranormal
Pages: Paperback, 344pp
ISBN-13: 978-0451235503
ISBN: 0451235509

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Victoria Laurie on the WEB: website, facebook, twitter

Books in the Series: What's a Ghoul To Do? (2007), Demons are a Ghoul's Best Friend (2008), Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun (2009), Ghouls Gone Wild (2010), Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls (2010), Ghoul Interrupted (2011)

CoverArt: Click the picture for a larger, clearer image of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from Ghoul Interrupted


M.J. Holliday has the unusual ability to talk to the dead. But when it comes to a demon spirit, she may be wasting her breath...


M.J. and her crew are forced to interrupt the frantic schedule of their reality-television show. Ghoul Getters, and hotfoot it to New Mexico, where a dreadful demon is waging tribal warfare. Sam Whitefeather - M.J.'s spirit guide and late grandfather to her fellow ghost buster and boyfriend, Heath - urgently needs her help to stop this evil spirit from wiping out the descendants of his tribe.

To defeat the demon, M.J. is told she must kill whoever released it - a thought that horrifies her. But with all these lives at risk - including her boyfriend's and her own - it may be kill or be killed. Still, it doesn't take a psychic to predict M.J.'s going to have a devil of a time making New Mexico a demon-free zone. 


Victoria Laurie's paranormal cozy mystery series, the Ghost Hunter Mysteries are always a fan favorite. The latest book in the series, Ghoul Interrupted continues to surprise and entertain Laurie's fans, while drawing in tons of new readers. Laurie's mix of the supernatural and the mysterious is always a fun read that keeps readers on their toes, trying to figure out M.J's next move. Ghoul Interrupted takes her and her merry band of followers on a road trip to New Mexico exposing fans to a new locale and a new supernatural force.

Occasionally I come across a few mystery series' that I have mixed feelings about. In the past the Ghost Hunter mystery series has fallen in that category. But with the latest addition, my feelings are somewhat more settled. I admit that this by no means a flaw in the authors writing or anything like that. I am a huge fan of the paranormal and of cozy mysteries and mixing the two together is usually a winning combination in my book. But with this series some of the books felt a little too cliche or perhaps a better way to put it, is too over-the-top or cartoonish to suit my tastes. That's not to say that it wouldn't appeal to other readers, I'm sure it does. But Ghoul Interrupted is certainly nothing like that and I hope that the author continues in this new more realistic fashion. If so, this series will become one of my favorites. This is a fantastic book, for both paranormal and cozy fans!

I have a bit of a Native American background, as my father's grandmother was a full-blood Cherokee. She married a transplanted Scot. You can imagine the combination. That being said, I loved the Native American mythos that Laurie takes on in this book. I've always been kind of partial to Heath and taking a deeper look into his family and background was extremely interesting. Native American legends and tales are intriguing and make some awesome fodder for story building. I thought Laurie did an amazing job of bringing out these elements in Ghoul Interrupted. The Whitefeather's were amazing!

When I'm reviewing cozy mysteries, I tend to try to figure out if the plot is plausible. Is there some possible way this could have happened in real life. But when you review a paranormal cozy you have to throw that completely out the window. The story itself isn't meant to be plausible. It's meant to put reading in touch with things that are supernatural, things that don't occur in the normal scope of life. The paranormal aspects of this book were very well written from M.J.'s intrepid spirit guide, Sam, who once happened to be Heath's grandfather to the malevolent demon that plagues the Whitefeather's in this book. Laurie did a remarkable job of bringing these characters to life and readers will certainly appreciate the fact that this is kind of book is a total escape.

M.J. is once again a force to be reckoned with. She finds clues first and asks questions later, which sometimes gets her in trouble. I love the fact that Laurie creates a close knit group of secondary characters to be a part of M.J.'s team. Heath of course does double duty as lover and part of the gang and Gilly is so offbeat. He adds tons of humor and idiosyncratic behavior to the book and keeps things off kilter and sort of chaotic. I liked that in this one. It seemed well placed and not to overdone. Laurie kind of settles it down a little in this book and I liked the change of pace and different kind of tone she presents here. Very enjoyable read!

If you love mysteries and you love ghosties... this book just might be what the doctor ordered. It has a lot of humor and a lot of interesting background. The Native American mythos was fantastic and the characters were less overdone and more realistic. This one is perhaps a turning point in the series and readers will appreciate the new direction. Extremely well written and extremely satisfying. 

Ghoul Interrupted is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Real-life professional psychic Victoria Laurie drew from her career as a gifted intuitive to create the characters of Abigail Cooper and M.J. Holliday. She lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with two spoiled dachshunds, Lilly and Toby, and one opinionated parrot named Doc.


The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Ghoul Interrupted by Victoria Laurie.

~ You must be a GFC follower or E-mail Subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST February 9th.

1. Please leave a comment in appreciation to the author on THIS post.
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Review and Giveaway: Affairs of Steak

Affairs of Steak (White House Chef Mystery - Book 5) by Julie Hyzy

Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 293pp)

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Julie Hyzy on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Books in the series: State of the Onion (2008), Hail to the Chef (2008), Eggsecutive Orders (2010), Buffalo West Wing (2011) Affairs of Steak (2012)

CoverArt: Click the picture for a larger, clearer image of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from Affairs of Steak


White House executive chef Olivia Paras just wants to create first-class cuisine for the First Family. Unfortunately, dangerous politics keep spoiling her recipes...

Assigned to work with her arch nemesis, Peter Everett Sargeant, the White House sensitivity director, Ollie must find a venue for an event to honor the secretary of state. Instead they find one of the First Lady's assistants and the chief of staff, both murdered - and Ollie and Peter may be witnessed the killer making his getaway.

News reports suggest that the assistant and the chief of staff were having an affair, but no one on the staff believes the rumor. Now, with their jobs - and their lives - in jeopardy, Ollie and Peter must depend on each other to learn who killed their colleagues and why - before they become the next victims of a merciless assassin with a secret agenda...


Cozy author Julie Hyzy is no stranger to the publishing business with two cozy mystery series' under her belt, the Manner of Murder Mystery series and the White House Chef series. Hyzy's latest book, Affairs of Steak is the fifth book in the White House Chef series featuring chef Olivia Paras and a wacky set of characters that populate the White House kitchens. Hyzy's trademark wit and humor are on full display in this one. Fans will be smiling all the way to the end.

This is a cozy series that I hesitated with a bit. When I started reading cozies, this series was already well established and I wasn't sure the setting - the White House - was one I would enjoy. Thankfully, I decided to to give this one a try a couple of books back and found the latest addition to the series to be one of my favorites. 

Affairs of Steak is somewhat different than the previous books in the series in that it is set, for the most part, outside the White House. It gives an entirely different vibe to the novel and may take some readers out of their comfort zone with the series, but I thought it was refreshing to change things up a little bit. Hyzy shows that she can effectively write the same characters from a different perspective.

I liked the fact that readers get a more intimate look at Ollie's personal life i this book. I want a neighbor just like Mrs. Wentworth! She was an exceptional secondary characters adding a lot of humor and flavor to the book. I also enjoyed the addition of the 'temporary' head usher. He created a lot of chaos that helped move the book along and gave it some necessary tension. Not that a double murder didn't create enough tension, this was just a tension of a different sort.

I liked the pairing of Ollie and Peter together to solve this mystery. These two are not exactly friends and when they are thrown together to find a venue of a very important birthday party, it seemed like a match not made in heaven. But once the bodies start dropping, these two characters really come together and make a pretty formidable team. I loved the banter that Hyzy created between them and the overall atmosphere they give off around each other. It's kind of charged, and readers will be wondering what exactly is going on with these two. Nemesis or not?

I thought that Hyzy also changed a little bit of the way she describes Ollie's food in this one as well. Usually, she goes into great detail in her descriptions, not leaving much to the imagination, but in Affairs of Steak she holds off a bit. I think maybe she needs to find a happy balance. The detailed descriptions were maybe a bit much, but the summaries of the food in this one, not quite enough. That's my only criticism for this otherwise fantastic cozy.

If you love politics, the First Family, good food and most importantly a great mystery, this book is for you! The double murder was cleverly plotted and there were suspects a plenty. The motives were believable and readers will not only get a look into the White House, but also into Ollie's life outside of her place of business. This was a great addition to the series and fans will appreciate the social dynamics Hyzy is so good at portraying in her characters. This one's a keeper!

Affairs of Steak is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Anthony and Barry award-winning author Julie Hyzy writes both the White House Chef Mysteries and the Manor House Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. As a native Chicagoan, she thoroughly enjoys researching her books, especially when traveling to exciting new places is involved.


The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Affairs of Steak by Julie Hyzy.

~ You must be a GFC follower or an E-mail subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST February 9th.

1. Please leave a comment in appreciation for the author on THIS post.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: Hold Me If You Can

Hold Me If You Can (Soulfire - Book 3) by Stephanie Rowe

Publication Date: January 1, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Pages: Paperback, 359pp
ISBN-13: 978-1402241970
ISBN: 1402241976

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Casablanca)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Stephanie Rowe on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Books in the Series: Kiss At Your Own Risk (2011), Touch If You Dare (2011), Hold Me If You Can (2012)

CoverArt: Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image of the covers in this series. 

Excerpt from Hold Me If You Can



Nigel Aquarian has escaped with his life, and with his inner demons. He needs beautiful Natalie Fleming, the woman he's admired from afar for years, to soothe his turmoil... if only she wasn't consumed with her own problems...


Ever since her brush with death, all Natalie wants is to run her famous chocolate shop and he left alone. But the only way she can kick-start her powers is by giving free rein to her sensual side, which Nigel is more than happy to help her explore...

With Nigel making quite a convincing case for losing control. Natalie is finding the temptation darn near irresistible...


Stephanie Rowe's third installment in the Soulfire series, Hold Me If You Can is just as intense and heart-pounding as the first two books in this amazing paranormal romance series. Rowe brings readers a series with completely unique and interesting characters. Her use of wit and humor is will have readers smiling, while biting their nails at the suspenseful parts of the book. Rowe meshes adventure and fun in this surprisingly satisfying novel.

The Soulfire series has a special place in my heart. Kiss at Your Own Risk, the first book in the series, was one of the very first paranormal romance titles that I got for review. One of the things that still hits the spot for me with this series is it's uniqueness. It is so different from the average paranormal title you pick up. There are no vampires, no werewolves or anything like that. Rowe's paranormal characters are almost like superheroes except sometimes their powers can be on the dangerous side, which gives this series a kick that some readers won't be expecting. 

Rowe's characters tend to have some issues which is great for me as a reader. Her heroes can be brooding and a bit dark like Jarvis from, the second book in the series, Touch Me If You Dare. But they can also be lighter and more in touch with their feminine sides. Kind of like Nigel the hero in book three. Nigel is an artist, a painter and drawer. He is at peace with the fact that he can tame the harsher, rougher side of himself with art. But when that's taken away from him he has to find another way to calm the beast. I love the fact that Rowe's characters are so complex and so different from what you normally see in paranormal romance. Not to mention they are so bad-ass, they are amazing to read about. 

Readers met Natalie in the last book in the series, but Hold Me If You Can is completely centered on her and Nigel and their quest for their own happy ending. I admit I got a little tired of the on again off again attitudes these two had at times. I even wondered a couple of times if Rowe was going to turn it on it's end and keep these two apart. But happily it all turned out in the end and the journey was such a roller-coaster ride I could hardly put it down. Rowe's imagination is just unbelievable. I find myself often wondering how she came up with this story line? She must dream in color... LOL! How ever she does it, readers love it. 

Can't wait to read number four and I encourage all my paranormal romance fans to read this series, it's a must read. Each book can stand on it's own and give readers an amazing read, but when they are read together the effect is like fireworks. I love this series and this author and I think you'd be crazy to  miss this one!

Hold Me If You Can is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!


Four-time RITA Award nominee and Golden Heart Award winner Stephanie Rowe is a nationally bestselling author and has more than 25 contracted titles with major publishers such as HarperCollins, Dorchester and Harlequin. Stephanie has charmed reviewers with her unique blend of humor and otherworldly magic. She lives outside Boston, Massachusetts.