Tuesday, November 30, 2021

ARC Review: A Murder Yule Regret by Winnie Archer

Title: A Murder Yule Regret
Series: A Bread Shop Mystery #7
Author: Winnie Archer
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Cozy Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Kensington Publishing; November 30, 2021

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Freelance photographer and Yeast of Eden bakery assistant Ivy Culpepper has just scored the job of a lifetime shooting the Dickensian dress-up X-mas party thrown by It Girl film actress Eliza Fox...until an unwanted guest appears. 
A holiday costume party in the sleepy coastal town of Santa Sofia could be just the boost Ivy needs for her fledgling photography business. At the party, Ivy enters a Victorian fantasy come to life, all courtesy of the fabulous Ms. Fox. Ivy gets to play shutterbug while hanging with Scrooge, Marley, the Cratchits, and more classic Dickens characters. But what begins as the best of times turns out to be the very worst for one of the party guests--a tabloid journalist with more enemies than Ebenezer himself. When the man's body is found sprawled across the jagged rocks below the house, the fingers begin pointing at Eliza. Meanwhile, Ivy gets roped into helping prove the starlet's innocence. Her festive photos are now official evidence--and the Ghosts of Christmas Present could mean the party for Eliza is over, once and for all.


I’ve been into cozy mysteries lately, and this year’s selection has been really great. One of my latest forays into it is Winnie Archer’s A Murder Yule Regret. Based on the title, I knew this was going to be a holiday themed whodunit, and I have to say that the story delivered on all fronts.

I really had a lot of fun with this story. While the setting was still small town-ish, it was set in California, so the winter scenery was far more moderate. No snow or anything like that—mostly gorgeous views of the ocean—but the descriptions of the decorations and baked goods (because this story has a strong baking theme with the bread shop), certainly allowed for a festive atmosphere.

The mystery was also another highlight. The way it started was handled really great actually. The story had such an even pace, and it just flowed smoothly from one scene to the next. The mystery surrounding Eliza, her past, and the connection to the victim made for a page turner of a story.

The characters were also very charming. The whole cast was great. But I especially loved Ivy’s baking, sleuthing, and her adorable pug, Agatha. Her day-to-day life was as interesting as the mystery portion of the story, and I enjoyed all the scenes she shared with her boyfriend, friends, and family. Eliza Fox, the actress, was also an endearing character. There was something so earnest about her, and I liked how much she was in the story.

Overall, A Murder Yule Regret is another great cozy mystery, and it’s right on time for the holiday season.

About the author...
Melissa Bourbon Ramirez is the national bestselling author of seventeen mystery books, including the Lola Cruz Mysteries, A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series, and the Bread Shop Mysteries, written as Winnie Archer. She is a former middle school English teacher who gave up the classroom in order to live in her imagination full time. Melissa, a California native who has lived in Texas and Colorado, now calls the southeast home. She hikes, practices yoga, cooks, and is slowly but surely discovering all the great restaurants in the Carolinas. Since four of her five amazing kids are living their lives, scattered throughout the country, her dogs, Bean, the pug, Dobby, the chug, and Jasper, a cattle dog/lab keep her company while she writes. Melissa lives in North Carolina with her educator husband, Carlos, and their youngest son. She is beyond fortunate to be living the life of her dreams.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Kensington Books) via NetGalley for this review, thank you!

Monday, November 29, 2021

Short Stories I Read in September-October


It’s November 29th. So it’s time to talk about the short stories, miscellaneous posts, and podcast episodes I read or listened to in September and October.

Judge Dee and the Poisoner of Montmartre by Lavie Tidhar (Tor.com; September 15, 2021)

I did not get to the latest Judge Dee story in time for Halloween. However, I was more than excited to finally get to it in October. As always, the vampire elements were done very well. This time, the story takes Judge Dee and Jonathan to Paris for their latest case. It was a slight shift in tone, since there were brief indulgences in plays and other parts of night life—which sometimes involved other vampire characters. The setting was also far less remote than some of the other locations in the previous two stories, and I enjoyed all the descriptions of the city. I was thoroughly engaged in the mystery. It was kind of chaotic, but it had a satisfying resolution.

Thread Count by Cynthia Gómez (Strange Horizons; Issue: Fund Drive 2021)

The second short story I read in October was Thread Count by Cynthia Gómez. I like this one a whole lot. It was a mystery with circumstances that leaned toward the possibility of something speculative (fantastical) in nature. At its core though was a timely topic. It was also well-written, and I liked the way the author approached the story. I will definitely keep an eye out for future work by Cynthia Gómez.

Bespoke Nightmares by Carolina Valentine (Strange Horizons; Issue: 18 October 2021)

Some of my favorite types of stories are ones that involve dreams or nightmares in some capacity. Carolina Valentine’s Bespoke Nightmares fit that bill perfectly with a shop that literally makes and sells nightmares. And rarely ever does its keeper make dreams. That wasn’t without reason or consequences, with dreams being difficult to make. The line—be careful what you wish for—duly applies here. All-in-all, Bespoke Nightmares was a great story.

From around the web…
  • Our Opinions Are Correct episode #91: Three Simple Tests That Reveal A.I. Consciousness
  • Understanding Horses: Getting to Know You (Judith Tarr; Tor.com, September 20, 2021)
  • I Write Fantasy Because of Patricia McKillip’s The Riddlemaster of Hed (Julie E. Czerneda; Tor.com, September 24, 2021)

Friday, November 26, 2021

ARC Review: A Swift and Savage Tide by Chloe Neill

Title: A Swift and Savage Tide
Series: Captain Kit Brightling #2
Author: Chloe Neill
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley; November 30, 2021

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository     Target

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Chloe Neill's bold, seafaring heroine Captain Kit Brightling sets sail for high seas and high sorcery in this swashbuckling fantasy series.

Captain Kit Brightling is Aligned to the magic of the sea, which makes her an invaluable asset to the Saxon Isles and its monarch, Queen Charlotte. The Isles and its allies will need every advantage they can get: Gerard Rousseau, the former Gallic emperor and scourge of the Continent, has escaped his island prison to renew his quest for control of the Continent. Gerard has no qualms about using dangerous magic to support his ambitions, so Kit and the crew of her ship, the Diana, are the natural choice to find him—and help stop him. Sparks fly when Kit's path unexpectedly crosses with that of the dashing and handsome Rian Grant, Viscount Queenscliffe, who's working undercover on the Continent in his own efforts to stop Gerard. But he's not the only person Kit is surprised to see. An old enemy has arisen, and the power he'll wield on Gerard's behalf is beautiful and terrible. Sparks will fly and sails will flutter as Kit and crew are cast onto the seas of adventure to fight for queen and country.

It’s been just over a year since The Bright and Breaking Sea was released, and since then I have been eagerly awaiting the sequel. That book could be best described as having tottered on the brink of something. All the clues were there. Whereas its sequel, A Swift and Savage Tide, was an excellent story that saw the continuation (and result) of those very same clues and outstanding mysteries introduced in the first book. It was more than fitting as a sequel for a series that began with a lot of promise.

It was great to dive back into the world with Kit, her crew, and Grant. One of the main reasons for that was the dynamics between the characters being as great as it was. And I particularly enjoyed the way Neill chose to advance those relationships. Kit and her crew were tightknit, which was a highlight of the story. They were skilled at what they did, and their strong suits ultimately aided them in the difficult circumstances that surrounded the Diana’s latest missions.

And while the story had its fun and lighthearted moments, those were few. A Swift and Savage Tide had a serious tone to it, as the echoes of a greater conflict finally reached a boiling point where there was no way back. It was a fight on the land and the sea, between skill and magic. The stakes were sky high, and it made for an incredibly thrilling story.

The ending did pay off—and it was satisfying in some ways—but there was open-endedness to it. Everything was very-VERY far from over. There are so many possibilities that could be in store, and I will be over here waiting for the next book to (hopefully) be announced sometime soon.
 

About the author.....
Chloe Neill is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Captain Kit Brightling, Heirs of Chicagoland, Chicagoland Vampires, Devil’s Isle, and Dark Elite novels. She was born and raised in the South, but now makes her home in the Midwest, where she lives with her gamer husband and their bosses/dogs, Baxter and Scout. Chloe is a voracious reader and obsessive Maker of Things; the crafting rotation currently involves baking and quilting. She believes she is exceedingly witty; her husband has been known to disagree.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Berkley) via Netgalley for this review, thank you!


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

ARC Review: Claret and Present Danger by Sarah Fox

Title: Claret and Present Danger
Series: Literary Pub Mystery #4
Author: Sarag Fox
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Cozy Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Kensignton; November 30, 2021 

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
When a Renaissance Faire visits the small town of Shady Creek, Vermont, amateur sleuth and proprietor of bookish theme pub The Inkwell, Sadie Coleman, finds deadly happenings stick around like red wine stains on white tunics in the fourth Literary Pub Mystery by USA Today bestselling author Sarah Fox.

The Trueheart Renaissance Faire and Circus has rolled into town, attracting locals who can’t wait to spend a few summer days lost in a whimsical world of all-knowing fortune tellers and daring acrobats. Well-read pub owner Sadie Coleman is swept up in the magic herself when she serves drinks to the faire’s resident wizard, the shamelessly brazen illusionist Ozzie Stone, and scores two tickets to his opening performance. Sadie has no complaints about indulging in a free show with her new beau, craft brewery owner Grayson Blake. But while Ozzie is an instant crowd pleaser, the real surprise comes when he collapses in the middle of his set. It’s not part of the act—Ozzie is dead, seemingly poisoned by someone who wasn’t clowning around about writing the roguish showman’s final chapter. The terrifying situation intensifies when the police eye one of Sadie’s employees, last seen caught in a suspicious fist fight at the fairground. With so much at stake, Sadie must strain through a suspect list longer than her cocktail menu to find the real knave of a killer. But when another performer is murdered, it becomes clear that bringing the mixed-up murderer to justice will be about as dangerous as walking the high wire after happy hour…

I’ve seen the Literary Pub Mystery books around and was excited to read Claret and Present Danger, the fourth installment in the series. I was drawn in by the summary and intrigued by the renaissance faire and circus that was going to be at the center of the latest mystery in Shady Creek, Vermont.

Overall, I liked the story. The issues I had with it were few and mainly personal, otherwise it was a good book. Some of my favorite aspects turned out to be the faire—with the characters in costume and reciting lines. It provided a handful of moments of much needed fun (no matter how temporary) in a story that was otherwise pretty somber in content.

I also liked the characters and some of the other key locations in the story, such as the literary themed pub the main character, Sadie Coleman, owned and operated in the small scenic town. I really liked the pub’s aesthetic, and I got all the little literary references sprinkled throughout the menu. Speaking of Sadie Coleman, I liked her well enough. She was loyal and willing to help out an employee of her pub when he landed in hot water, and I liked the way her relationship with her boyfriend gradually developed. I also liked the secondary cast as well, and their presence helped drive home that the immediate community Sadie lived in was pretty close-knit.

As for the mystery, it was fine. Ozzie Stone seemed to be good at his job as well as being generally liked, but there were a lot of secrets to uncover. His were only the beginning of the tangled web that would ultimately be brought to light in Claret and Present Danger.

About the author....
Sarah Fox, writer of cozy mysteries, was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she developed a love for mysteries at a young age. When not writing novels or working as a legal writer she is often reading her way through a stack of books or spending time outdoors with her English Springer Spaniel. Sarah is the author of the Literary Pub Mysteries, the Pancake House Mysteries, and the Music Lover's Mysteries.


Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Kensington) via NetGalley for this review, thank you!

Monday, November 22, 2021

Music Monday (181): Tinashe, Sounds of Blackness, Mariah Carey, Khalid & Kirk Franklin, Frank Sinatra, and Billie Holiday

Rules:

  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: Lately, I've been listening to Tinashe's holiday album called Comfort & Joy. My pick for today is her cover of Last Christmas. The original is a classic, but I like this version too. 

 

Adri: I found some older songs that I like. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! by Frank Sinatra and I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm by Billie Holiday.



Andrea: So the Christmas Season is upon us, which means it's time for Christmas music. With that said, I'm starting the season listening to  Soul Holidays by Sounds of Blacknes and Fall In Love At Christmas by Mariah Carey, Khalid, and Kirk Franklin. I didn't think that I would share a Mariah Carey song this year, but then...she released new Christmas music, and I love it!




Have an amazing week, and stay safe this holiday season!


What are you listening to this week?



Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Title: Piranesi 
Series: n/a
Author: Susanna Clarke
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Bloomsbury; September 15, 2020

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository     Target

Synopsis from Goodreads...
Piranesi's house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house. There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.


I’ve always wanted to try reading a book by Susanna Clarke, and I settled on Piranesi. When I first heard about it, I was intrigued by its premise. And when I finally got my hands on a copy—it came out in paperback this year—I was more than excited to finally dive into it.

This book is hands down one of the best I’ve read this year. It could be a quiet tale at times, chronicling the character’s life as he lived in a place called the House. For such a short length though, it was a sprawling and intricate tale that meticulously captured and described the isolation of the situation and the setting, as well as the dependency that came about as the result of it.

For this post I’m going to call the character Piranesi, as he is often referred to in the story. “Piranesi lives in the House,” so says the back of the book. What this place is, it’s not apparent for a good chunk of the story. Yet, the mystery of its existence kept me more than entertained. And the answer to what it was, where it came from, and why it was there was quite a twist. The House was revealed to be a vast and magical place, with a whole ocean inside of it that had its own tide patterns. It was also empty except for Piranesi, birds, statues, and the mysterious Other. The story mainly deals with how the mystery of the House is unraveled, as well as what Piranesi’s role is.

I’ve stated a bunch of times on Our Thoughts Precisely that I enjoy a good house story that explores the place as well as the people who inhabit it or visit it. And the setting of the book takes place in a house that seemingly had no end. Since Piranesi is the narrator, we only get the events of the story and the descriptions of the House from his perspective. The story had its own uniqueness to it with the way Piranesi formed his own kind of language to cope with and explain the world he resided in. This was showed through Piranesi’s linguistic habits such as his a penchant for capitalized words, and his claims that other phrases and names had no correlation to what he knew.

Overall, Piranesi was fantastic.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Music Monday (180): Aurora, Parmalee, Blanco Brown, Kane Brown & H.E.R, Orlando Vaughan

  Rules:

  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: I like this song by Aurora. It's called Giving In To The Love.


Adri: My pick for today is Better Than Never (Main Mix) by Orlando Vaughan. I can't help but to bop my head or try to sing along when it plays while listening to my playlist.


Andrea: Hi all! This week I'm listening to Just The Way by Parmalee and Blanco Brown and Blessed & Free by Kane Brown and H.E.R.



Until next time, have an amazing week & stay safe.

 
What are you listening to this week?


Friday, November 12, 2021

The Friday 56 (209) & Book Beginnings: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE


Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.


Synopsis from Goodreads...
Piranesi's house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house. There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.


Beginning: "When the Moon rose in the Third Northern Hall I went to the Ninth Vestibule to witness the joining of the three Tides.

56: "At first, I only saw a scattering of here or there, but by the time I drew close to the Vestibule I was walking over an uneven and treacherous Floor of Jagged Stones."


Comments: I finally read Piranesi, and I loved the story. It's one of the best books I've read so far this year. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

I Listened to Mercurial World by Magdalena Bay

Magdalena Bay’s Mercurial World was one of the three albums I was waiting for in October. I first listened to their music during the summer—I even did a post about going through their backlist songs HERE—and since then I have been waiting for their album. And it didn’t disappoint.

Mercurial World is one of my favorite albums of the year, and it surprised me in all the right ways. And that’s saying something because my hopes were so high for it. Mercurial World has the feel and sound of Magdalena Bay’s music that I’ve come to expect—that distinctive style that blends synth, electronic, and pop—which I loved. The transition between the songs was near seamless, and the overall listening experience was great with how easily the album flowed from one song to the next. It felt like it was over too soon, but it was longer than Mini Mix vol.1 and vol. 2. I’ve already replayed Mercurial World several times since its release.

Each song felt very individual, but as I mentioned above, there was a distinct sound that made it part of the whole picture. The singles Chaeri, You Lose!, and Secrets (Your Fire) are already recognizable—I even picked Chaeri for a Music Monday post a while ago HERE. Some of my other favorite songs, in no particular order, include: Dreamcatching, Mercurial World, Prophecy, Follow the Leader, Domino, and The Beginning.

All-in-all, Mercurial World was an incredibly strong debut album.


Monday, November 8, 2021

Music Monday (179): Magdalena Bay, Simi, Tiwa Savage

 Rules:

  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: Later this week, I'm going to be talking about Mercurial World. Before that, I wanted to mention another one of my favorite songs from the album. This one is called Dreamcatching.


Andrea: This week I am listening to Woman by Simi and Somebody's Son by Tiwa Savage featuring Brandy. Tiwa Savage and Simi are both Nigerian singers/songwriters. Both artists are new to me, and I've really enjoyed what I've heard of  their music.



Have an amazing week and stay safe!


What are you listening to?


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

ARC Review: Hollywood Heroine by Sarah Kuhn

Title: Hollywood Heroine 
Series: Heroine Complex #5
Author: Sarah Kuhn
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Urban Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: DAW; October 26, 2021

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository     Target

Synopsis from Goodreads...

The fifth book in the smart, snarky, and action-packed Heroine series continues the adventures of Asian-American superheroines Evie Tanaka, Aveda Jupiter, and Bea Tanaka in a demon-infested San Francisco.

Over the years, the adventures of superheroines Aveda Jupiter and Evie Tanaka have become the stuff of legend--and now they'll be immortalized in their very own TV show! The pair head to LA for filming, but Aveda struggles to get truly excited. Instead, she's preoccupied wondering about the fate of the world and her role in it. You know, the usual. Now that Otherworld activity has been detected outside the Bay Area, Aveda can't help but wonder if the demon threat will ever be eradicated. When the drama on set takes a turn for the supernatural, Evie and Aveda must balance their celebrity commitments with donning their superhero capes again to investigate. And when the evil they battle reveals a larger, more nefarious plot, it's time for the indomitable Aveda Jupiter to rise to the occasion and become the leader she was meant to be on a more global scale--and hopefully keep some semblance of a personal life while doing so.


Note: there are potential spoilers for the first four books. You have been warned…

I’m always excited to see that there’s a new release for the Heroine Complex series, because I’m always up for another adventure with Evie, Aveda, and the others. I had very high hopes for this one. The thing with long-running series is they can get even better and better, or they could do the opposite. And I have to say that Hollywood Heroine was another great installment in the series.

This book again took the cast out of San Francisco, and this time, they landed in L.A. for the filming of a show that was purportedly based on their superhero exploits. What followed was a fast paced adventure as Evie and Aveda tried to figure out if their suspicions were because of the change of pace or if they had any supernatural meaning. The conflict with the demons remains an ever evolving situation, especially since their appearances have begun to spread outside of San Francisco. It’s still one of my favorite takes on superpowers.

Besides the fantastical elements, this story was very much about the identity of the two main leads. It’s been one of the reoccurring themes of the series since the beginning, but I feel like Kuhn really decided to home-in on it and do a deeper dive into Aveda’s time when she was just beginning to build her reputation. It was a part of the story that Evie wasn’t there for, and I really appreciated a resolution on that end, particularly between Aveda and Mercedes. The cast was just as lovable as always though, and, despite this being the fifth book, there was still room for growth and change amongst the dynamics of the team.

The mix of personal conflicts and the ensuing problem also at the heart of the mystery surrounding the events of Hollywood Heroine, made for a fun and action-packed adventure. All that to say: it really was great to have another story from Aveda’s point of view.
 

About the author...
Sarah Kuhn is the author of Heroine Complex—the first in a series starring Asian American superheroines—for DAW Books. She also wrote The Ruby Equation for the comics anthology Fresh Romance and the romantic comedy novella One Con Glory, which earned praise from io9 and USA Today and is in development as a feature film. Her articles and essays on such topics as geek girl culture, comic book continuity, and Sailor Moon cosplay have appeared in Uncanny Magazine, Apex Magazine, AngryAsianMan.com, IGN.com, Back Stage, The Hollywood Reporter, StarTrek.com, Creative Screenwriting, and the Hugo-nominated anthology Chicks Dig Comics. In 2011, she was selected as a finalist for the CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) New Writers Award.


Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (DAW) via NetGalley for this review, thank you!

Monday, November 1, 2021

Music Monday (178): Magdalena Bay, BRELAND, Blanco Brown

Rules:

  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: I've been listening to Magdalena Bay's new album, Mercurial World. Later this month, I'm going to have a whole post dedicated to it. For now, I want to mention one of my favorite songs. It's called The Beginning.


Andrea: Hi all. This week I'm listening to My Truck and Cross Country by BRELAND. I'm also listening to Never Gonna Tame You, a new song, by Blanco Brown. I've shared Brown's song The Git Up in the past. It was a fun song. However, his new song has a different vibe that I absolutely love. 




 Have an amazing week and stay safe!


What are you listening to this week?



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