Book Review: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

I love a good mystery. I really love an Agatha Christie mystery, especially when it’s a Hercule Poirot mystery. “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas” checked all the boxes for me:

  • Agatha Christie mystery featuring her one and only Belgian detective
  • Murder in a big old house
  • Locked room murder
  • Holiday murder — always more fun when it’s the holidays

z Hercule P's Christmas

The Plot

Ridiculously wealthy Simeon Lee has invited all his children, even those estranged, home for the holidays. Every family member has a secret and old Simeon has several secrets of his own as well. On Christmas Eve Simeon Lee is brutally murdered in his own bedroom and a fortune in uncut diamonds goes missing. Everyone has a motive.

Enter the infamous Hercule Poirot to solve not only the mystery of who murdered the elder Mr. Lee, but to unearth the location of the missing diamonds and unmask the suspects for who they really are. A case like this could only be solved by the meticulous Belgian detective and his “little grey cells.”

“The character of the victim always has something to do with his or her murder.”

This has to be one of my favorite Poirot quotes from this Christie novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas” by Agatha Christie and recommend it to any lover of classic mysteries and/or the work of Agatha Christie.

Want to know more about Poirot? Discover his origins here at www.AgathaChristie.com.

Book Review: Bay of Sighs by Nora Roberts

I’ve been reading Nora Roberts for more than 20 years and she never fails to entertain and delight me as a reader. Bay of Sighs is book 2 of her Guardians Trilogy — and a Nora Roberts trilogy that mixes supernatural, fantasy, romance, and mystery is my favorite kind of trilogy!

z Bay of Sighs

In a trilogy set up like The Guardians, Roberts gives us three couples. In book 1, Stars of Fortune, we were introduced to Sasha and Bran, Annika and Sawyer, and Riley and Doyle. While book 1 focused on the relationship that developed between Sasha and Bran, book 2 brings us the romance of Annika and Sawyer.

If you haven’t read book 1 yet, then mini-SPOILER ALERT. Each of the six guardians, tasked with locating and protecting three magical stars created long ago by three goddesses, are unique and not all are entirely human. These chosen six must find the stars and keep the dark goddess Nerezza from claiming the stars and killing/capturing any of their group.

Bay of Sighs features the search for the second star and the blossoming romance between Annika the mermaid and Sawyer the traveler. Yes, Annika is a mermaid (which you knew if you read book 1). I adore the character of Annika. She’s so sweetly innocent and yet quite sage. Sawyer is a darling and one of the most honorable male characters I’ve ever read. For me, they are the perfect couple.

Nora Roberts does a masterful job interweaving romantic interludes, heart-stopping action sequences, fun and witty dialogue (LOVE the multiple pop culture references — Hulk Smash), and a magical story that entrances the imagination. There are a few disturbing scenes including one with torture but Roberts writes with power and strength that swiftly move the action and the plot forward.

Bay of Sighs: Book 2 of The Guardians Trilogy was fantastic and I highly recommend to any fan of Nora Roberts or any reader who enjoys romance/fantasy/action all in one book.

BUT, reading Book 1: Stars of Fortune is a must.

Look for Book 3 of The Guardians Trilogy: Island of Glass to hit bookstore shelves in December 2016.

I also had to share just how gorgeous the inside flap of the book is. Check it out.

To see other great books by Nora Roberts, please visit her website here.

Book Review: Bloodline by Claudia Gray

I have officially added Bloodline by Claudia Gray to my collection of Star Wars books. Being a huge Expanded Universe fan (Expanded Universe is now known as Legends), I admit to having a few reservations about this book — I bought it anyway and I have no regrets.

z Bloodline

Claudia Gray’s book Bloodline is a prequel story to the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens and is set about six years before we meet Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB-8. It’s Leia’s story and Gray did a great job with Leia Organa — princess, senator, wife, mother, and granddaughter of Darth Vader.

Bloodline follows Leia while she’s serving in the New Republic Senate. There’s conflict between the Populists and the Centrists as well as a greater threat to the star systems lurking just around the corner. Han is off doing his thing, Leia is trying to save the New Republic (no surprise there) and Gray even teases readers with a hint of the great Luke Skywalker who’s busy training the Solo’s son in the Jedi arts.

Bloodline gives readers a classic Star Wars adventure with heroes to cheer for, bad guys to boo, politicians with an agenda, starship pilots not afraid to take chances, and a nicely balanced combination of familiar faces mixed with new, exciting characters. Bloodline has intrigue, some great dialogue, a solid story that helps set up some of the events in the movie The Force Awakens, and quite a bit of action. It’s great to see Leia getting her hands dirty and kicking ass. There’s also a poignant moment as Leia comes to a startling realization about her father, Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker — you’ll have to wait for it, as it comes almost at the end, but it’s good.

I like author Claudia Gray’s style for moments like this:

Someday was the sun disappearing behind a cloud, a morning lost to darkness long before night should have come.”

And

“They lifted their glasses and clinked them together, and the darkness in their pasts seemed farther away than it had before.”

And my favorite:

“The sun is setting on the New Republic. It’s time for the Resistance to rise.”

I recommend Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray to any fan of the Star Wars books and/or movies. You can check out more Star Wars books here. My personal favorite is the X-Wing series.

Find out more about author Claudia Gray here.

Book Series I Love to Reread

I’ve always been a reader who regularly rereads favorite books. At least once a year I pull out my copy of “Death on the Nile” by Agatha Christie and my equally tattered copy of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” These well-worn and beloved books have yellowing pages, cracked spines, and are as wrinkled as a shar-pei puppy. Don’t care. I love these books — although I may have to concede and treat myself to new copies.

Death on the Nile battered

Reaching for a favorite book to reread is comforting. A chance to escape the doldrums of daily life and venture into a different world to visit old friends. Isn’t that what our favorite literary characters are? Old friends? I think so.

I’m right there on the Karnak with Hercule Poirot sailing down the Nile. Of course after reading the book dozens of times, I know who the victim will be and who the murderer is, but it doesn’t stop me from rereading “Death on the Nile.” I pick it up time and time again, because of Poirot and the other characters as well as the setting and Christie’s distinctive voice.

Beyond rereading individual books, I have several series I also enjoy reading over and over. It takes a bit more time to reread a series, but I still find it immersive and as enjoyable as the first time I read the books. My top favorite book series I love to reread are:

  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (have read the series a total of 13 times)
  • The Gone Series by Michael Grant (have read series 7 times)
  • The Starcrossed Series by Josephine Angelini (have read series 5 times)
  • Sign of Seven Trilogy by Nora Roberts (have read series 6 times)

The latter two actually are trilogies but I still consider them a series. I’ve also reread the Star Wars X-Wing series three or four times — it’s my favorite set of books in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

So why all this rereading when there are so many amazing new books out there to discover? In one word: characters. It’s the characters for me. Each of these series has characters I love to love and that I love to hate. From their witty dialogue to the way they deeply feel, how they lead, and their flaws that make them believable, the characters in these books series leap from the pages and stay with me long after the last page has been read.

Someday, I hope I can create characters that resonate with readers the way the ones in my favorite book series resonate for me.

What’s your favorite book or book series to reread? I’d love to know so go ahead and share it in the comment section below. Maybe you’ll help me find my next book series to read, love, and reread.

Book Review: Starstruck by Brenda Hiatt

Starstruck by Brenda Hiatt is a YA fantasy/sci-fi/romance and the first book in a series. I picked this book up as free Kindle read because the blurb caught my attention. Author Hiatt gives readers a slightly nerdy astronomy lover named Marsha — called M by her best friends. She’s not overly popular (actually she has a school nemesis by the name of Trina) and her home life is less than conventional. M has never known her parents, she was adopted, and then her adopted parents died so she’s being raised by an aunt and uncle in tiny Jewel, Indiana.

z Starstruck

Things are boringly ho-hum for M until the day the new guy shows up a school. He’s good looking, the new quarterback, and M finds herself drawn to him despite the fact it seems at first that he has eyes for Trina. Surprise! New guy Rigel actually is interested in M and they discover they share a strange “spark”.

Starstruck asks the question, what if aliens from another planet were living in our town and even part of some of the most important industries in the nation — like NASA? What happens if a princess from another planet was hidden on Earth and she alone may be the difference between a peaceful immigration or a violent invasion?

There were several things I liked about Starstruck, including its basic premise and characters like M’s friends and Rigel’s parents. However, there were also a few things I didn’t like. I found myself cringing a bit every time I read the name of the planet from which the aliens came. I don’t know why, but this bugged me — purely one reader’s opinion. I was able to get past it to overall be entertained by the book. I also found some of the repetitiveness of the dialogue and text tiring. I got it: Rigel was hot and they hold hands a lot.

Overall, I liked the book enough to give it 4 stars on GoodReads, but for me, it was really about a 3.5 star read. Will I read Starcrossed, the next book in the series? Possibly. My TBR list is large, but I think I’ll add it for a future read. Go ahead, give Starstruck by Brenda Hiatt a read because it is entertaining and I did like how M evolved. I’m curious to see what she does in the next book.

You can find about more about author Brenda Hiatt and her books via her website.

Book Review: Sea of Temptation by Suzie Jay

Some days I really enjoy a fun, lighthearted romance — today the little gem was the novella “Sea of Temptation: Summer Loving” by Suzie Jay. I love being able to escape the humdrum of daily life and sail out for a sensational romantic encounter on the high seas.

Sea of Temptation

“Sea of Temptation” has readers boarding the Stella Maris, a cruise ship that’s the perfect setting for a romance, where we meet Reid Lancaster. At first glance, Reid appears to be something of a ladies’ man, but there’s actually something deeper lurking beneath the tan, muscles, and gorgeous green eyes. However, Scarlett Barrett, the ship’s slightly uptight doctor is less than thrilled to encounter Reid. Reid and Scarlett have history and things really didn’t end well. Will they be able to work out the issues from their past? Can Scarlett forgive Reid and can he forgive himself?

Author Suzie Jay has written a charming story with characters that are both likeable and real. In addition to Reid and Scarlett, we get to spend time with Reid’s little sister Pip, who’s  feisty and fun as well as Scarlett’s friend Jane — I really liked both supporting characters and they’re integral to helping Reid and Scarlett find their way.

I recommend “Sea of Temptation: Summer Loving” by Suzie Jay to anyone who enjoys a sweet, romantic read. It’s a novella, just seven chapters making it ideal for a lazy summer day read poolside or while at the beach. And I guarantee the opening line will make you smile!

Want to know more about author Suzie Jay? Check out her author website here.

I received “Sea of Temptation: Summer Loving” as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Recovery Road by Danielle Donaldson

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I enjoyed a luxurious morning indulging in my favorite dark roast coffee, slices of raspberry-lemon bread (if you ask nice I’ll share the easy recipe), and the book “Recovery Road” from author Danielle Donaldson. It truly was the perfect morning!

“Recovery Road” by Danielle Donaldson is her debut novel, set to release on May 31. I received my copy as an ARC and I’m thrilled to share my review of this new book today.

Recovery Road

Donaldson introduces us to Catalina Montgomery and her young family, but in an instant, every changes as tragedy strikes. Catalina survives a devastating explosion only to be left a widow and single parent to her little girl. “Recovery Road” explores the aftermath of a life-altering event with grace and elegance while keeping it real. Donaldson makes it easy to connect with Catalina. I immediately was pulled into her story and didn’t want to stop until we completed the journey.

Catalina struggles to recover emotionally and physically after her world explodes. As she wrestles with grief and depression, her closest friends decide she needs a bit more help than traditional therapy. Enter Evan Bowers, her late husband’s best friend, who also is dealing with loss, grief, and battling his own demons. Together, they begin to rebuild. However, Evan has had deep feelings for Catalina since they were kids — but she’s his best friend’s girl and she’s always been off limits.

“Recover Road” provides readers with a roller coaster ride of emotions and you won’t be disappointed by the ending. I loved the journey of Catalina and Evan. I also really enjoyed the supporting characters; their friends and family, even the ones that were less than likable because let’s face it, not everyone in this world is nice.

I recommend the contemporary romance “Recover Road” by Danielle Donaldson. Add it to your to-be-read list and then to your bookshelves when it officially releases on May 31.

Want to know a bit more about author Danielle Donaldson? Check out her author’s website here.

It’s Friday! Whatcha Reading?

It’s Friday! We made it! So I have only one question for you —

What are you reading this weekend?

IMG_0879
Whatcha reading?

Celebrate #FridayReads by posting in the comments below your reads for the weekend. And if you’ve ever been curious about the origin of #FridayReads, check it out here.

I will be curled up reading Michael Grant’s “Front Lines“.

May the Fourth Be With You: Let’s Talk Star Wars Books

About three weeks after 9/11 a friend offered a book recommendation. Not a specific book, but rather a collection of books written by multiple authors telling tales about a galaxy far, far away.

That’s right — my friend suggested I read a Star Wars book. I’ve been a fan of the movies since I was a kid and to this day I still swoon when Luke Skywalker enters Leia’s cell and says, “I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you.”

I hadn’t read much science fiction, my favorite types of books had always been mysteries and YA paranormal. However, I was looking for some new reads and the world felt like a really scary place the first few weeks after 9/11. As a young mom at the time, it was overwhelming. I needed an escape. Little did I know that it would be Star Wars novels that would provide that escape and then welcome me into a universe that continued to amaze and delight me page after page.

Thus began my love (and slight obsession) with Star Wars novels and the stories from the Expanded Universe. Below is just part of my Star Wars book collection.

No, I’m not going to discuss/debate the new canon and yes, I read and I did like “Aftermath” by Chuck Wendig. And yes, I’ll continue to read the new books as they’re released. End of discussion. Moving on.

I’m writing this post today because: (1) it’s May 4 and you know what that means: May the 4th Be With You day and (2) I want to encourage other readers to pick up a book from the amazing universe that is Star Wars fiction and read these really cool, fun stories.

There are so many, if you don’t like one or the style of the author, pick another. Are you a fan of tech type/space battle/action stories — check out the X-Wing Series. It’s seriously awesome and my personal favorite is book 2, “Wedge’s Gamble” by Michael A. Stackpole.

Other favorites include “I, Jedi” also by Michael A. Stackpole. This was the book that made me a serious Corran Horn fan.  You can check him out here via Wookieepedia. I do recommend “Survivor’s Quest” by Timothy Zahn and both series: The Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi. I’m not a huge fan of the Dark Nest trilogy but I have friends that loved those books.

I’ve delved into many of the books that take place prior to A New Hope — I’m not really into stories of the Clone Wars and the Old Galactic Republic books. I did read and own all the New Jedi Order books with the war against the Yuuzhan Vong. That series is really long, but overall I found it interesting and downright heartbreaking at times. Two very devastating deaths during that series, one which caused me to fling the book across the room. Scared the hell out of the cat.

That is why I love these books. They’ve made me feel. They made me laugh. They took me to a galaxy far, far away when the world at my door was very dark and uncertain. They were a great escape and I will be forever grateful to the writers and to a friend who said, “Hey, I really think you should check out a Star Wars book.”

May the Fourth Be With You!