Books, Yarn, Ink and Other Pursuits

Dec 28, 2011

Review: Shadow Heir by Richelle Mead (Plus Dark Swan Giveaway Winner!)

The Book:

Eugenie Markham will do everything she can to protect her unborn children, but knows that it is getting harder and harder to avert the forces striving to make sure the Storm King's prophecy goes unfulfilled. As she struggles to make sure that both the mortal realm and the Otherworld lands stay safe, she faces the ultimate challenge when a blight strikes her Thorn Land and many more in the Otherworld. Eugenie realizes that only she will have the courage to find the way to protect all those she loves, whatever the cost.

The Yarn:

It was so hard to believe this is the last of the Dark Swan series. Eugenie has faced a long road becoming Queen of the Thorn and Rowan Lands, yet stay connected to her shamanic heritage in the mortal realm. As she works to protect the children that many are trying to destroy, another force brings a horrible blight upon her lands. In usual Eugenie headstrong fashion, she heads off to the place where the trouble originates, not knowing that this will be only one stop along a trail of trouble.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series since the beginning. Many difficult topics are faced during these books, especially revolving around the prophecy of the Storm King's first grandson. Eugenie is headstrong as always but still vulnerable, having to fight against many who would either kill or use her not-yet-born child. Her relationships with both Dorian and Kiyo are addressed on different levels, as Eugenie must make decisions that not only affect her and her children, but those who live on both sides of the Gate between the two worlds.

Eugenie has had to face a lot of tough challenges through the series (no spoilers this time!), and faced disagreement with those she loved because of them. I will say there was disagreement in this reader with some of the choices she has made, however there has not been one that I did not respect, even if I did not agree. I believe that this actually made this fantasy more "real", as you can see definite parallels with choices that Eugenie makes with those faced by others during life. To me, that makes a believable protagonist in a story. When I start thinking "Would I have done what she did?", then I know that I not only empathize with the character, but I have been pulled wholeheartedly into the story. I can see that some of the sequences may not please every reader, and I felt a lot of "But what is going to happen now?" at the end of Shadow Heir.

Mead did not skimp on the emotional turmoil of her protagonist, but it is these feelings that connected me to Eugenie through all of the books. Mead has successfully built an intricate world with the Otherlands, and I will definitely miss it.

The Ink:

Title: Shadow Heir (Dark Swan, #4)
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Zebra
Date: December 27, 2011
Read: ARC Provided by Publisher


Congratulations go out to SKYLA11377. Skyla11377, you have won the first three books of the Dark Swan series (Storm Born, Thorn Queen, Iron Crowned)! I will send you an email shortly to verify your information, then send that on to the publisher to mail your books out. Thanks again to Kensington Books for supporting this giveaway.

Happy Reading!
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Dec 14, 2011

Review (and Giveaway Winner!): Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep

The Book:

After battling Reapers of Chaos, mythological creatures and all-around evil classmates, Gwen Frost just wants to survive the rest of her semester at Mythos Academy. Learning how to use weapons seems like a good start, even if that means being taught by her unrequited crush, Logan. Maybe Daphne's suggestion of attending the Winter Carnival will turn things around and let her move forward? However, there is more than snow, boys and fun awaiting Gwen and her friends at the ski resort; Gwen will have to face the past once again and fight for her life.

The Yarn:

Kiss of Frost opens not long after Touch of Frost. Gwen works on improving her fighting skills after her fight with the Reaper Jasmine. Against the Spartans, Amazons and others at Mythos Academy, she seems at a serious disadvantage. However, her Gypsy gift of psychometry once again shows Gwen is not as limited in power and skill as she may seem, and Gwen discovers more about her role as Nike's Champion, maybe more than she bargained for! Even with this power and goddess-given mantle, Gwen is still dealing with her own sadness from her mom's death and Logan's rebuff of her feelings. While you definitely know you are dealing with teens, powers and battles aside, the emotions of the characters stay true to age and you can see true growth in them without belief-suspending leaps.

I have really enjoyed Jennifer Estep's adult Elemental Assassin series, and Mythos Academy brings a lot of the same elements: a strong female lead; family interactions and issues; developing powers - all leading to a delightful book that makes me anxiously await the next in the series. Gwen is finding answers to some of the questions that were asked in Touch of Frost, good and bad, that will definitely push the storyline forward. There were some definite moments that were revealed far too early, but Estep countered those with some surprises towards the end. I believe some of the best parts of these books are the secondary characters: Daphne and Carson are back in the thick of things, and the introductions of Oliver and Kenzie, along with Morgan hints at some intricate relationships for Gwen and the future.

Estep gives the "teen outcast" storyline a fresh twist with the Mythos Academy series. I will be waiting for the next book, Dark Frost, when it appears on shelves in June 2012.

The Ink:

Title: Kiss of Frost (Mythos Academy, #2)
Author: Jennifer Estep
Publisher: Kensington
Date: November 2011
Read: Purchased Nookbook


Congratulations goes out to JenniferK for winning a copy of Kiss of Frost!  Jennifer, I will be sending you an email to confirm details. Many thanks to Kensington Books for supplying the book to the winner.

And stay tuned, as I will be announcing another giveaway next week!

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Dec 7, 2011

Review: Highland Bride by Hannah Howell

The Book:

Gillyanne Murray holds her own lands, and decides it is time to visit them before she begins courting. Unfortunately upon her arrival Gillyanne finds not one, not two, but three lairds (with adjoining property) waiting to lay claim to it - and her. To prevent a battle, she chooses Sir Conor MacEnroy, a knight as handsome and bold of action as he is quiet of words. Gillyanne is not one to flee from a challenge, however, and as she fights to find a place in her husband's keep, she hopes to also find one in Conor's heart.

The Yarn:

How can you not enjoy a romance in the Scottish Highlands? Hannah Howell brings us another of The Murrays with Highland Bride. While the typical plot of first-comes-marriage, then-comes-love is in play, Gillyanne is a strong, spirited young woman who is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, facing off against the suitors. She is also willing to give in to protect what is hers, as she marries Conor to stop the battle that would destroy the peace the land so needed to keep. She needs all of that strength to try to keep up with a husband who really does not know how to woo the wife he needs to keep.

Humorous and poignant, Howell delivers a sweet Highland romance that will please her readers.

The Ink:

Title: Highland Bride (The Murrays, #6)
Author: Hannah Howell
Publisher: Zebra Books/Kensington
Date: August 2011 (First Printing: October 2002)
Read: Mass Market Provided by Publisher
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Nov 16, 2011

"Mistress" Mini Reviews

A mistress is a fine thing - especially in the times of Regency England. Scandal and passion and love all meld together. Here is a look at two delightful titles.

A whirlwind courtship can be every romantic couple's dream, but when reality sets in, Baron Edward Christie knew his marriage to Caroline Parker was a mistake. Beautiful and scandalous, not even her banishment to the notorious Jane Street diminished her. Caroline and Edward meet for one night each year, on their anniversary, to give into the painful, glorious passion they have for each other. Yet both know that it is only a matter of time before they must admit it is time for divorce. So why is it so hard to finish what should never have been started?

Romances where the couple is already married are such a treat, even when the story is about falling in love all over again. Edward and Caroline clash with their opposing ways: she is brash and forthright, he is composed and stiff. Neither feels they have to change for the other, nor are they willing to admit the other may be right. A twisting tale of rediscovering love and assumed betrayal, Robinson brings two engaging characters to life with strong wit and dialogue.

Title: Mistress by Marriage (Courtesan Court, #3)
Author: Maggie Robinson
Publisher: Kensington
Date: September 2011
Read: Trade paperback supplied by publisher

Lady Veronica Smithson has been a widow for the last three years, and a very happy one at that. She knows that she would love to feel the touch of a man once more, but also realizes her independent nature abhors the thought of getting married again, even to the handsome explorer Sir Sebastian Hadley-Attwater. Sebastian needs to prove himself worthy of his inheritance, and a wife would do just that if Veronica was not so stubborn. Veronica has no qualms about becoming his mistress, now if only Sebastian didn't have other plans...

This book engaged me from the start. Veronica knows exactly what she wants (or so she thinks), and Sebastian is bowled over that a woman would not be desiring to tie herself to a man such as him. While obviously ego starts the walk down the path to love, both Sebastian and Veronica are willing to play the game the other sets up. The hilarity increases when Sebastian's family shows up for the holidays. If you enjoy the Christmas romances, definitely take a look at this one.

Title: His Mistress By Christmas (Sinful Family Secrets, #1)
Author: Victoria Alexander
Publisher: Kensington
Date: October 2011
Read: ARC provided by publisher

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Oct 5, 2011

Review: It's Always Been You by Victoria Dahl

The Book:

Aidan York has spent the last ten years running away from the past. The love of his life was lost to him, first by an argument then by her death. While his life has been filled with business deals and women, nothing will stop the emptiness in his heart occupied by his Kate. But when he steps into that coffee shop only to be faced with Kate - as alive as can be - will Aidan's heart heal, or will Kate's secrets destroy whatever is left?

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Sep 30, 2011

Review: One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire

Note: References to plot from previous books.

The Book:

October Daye is settling in to her new role as a countess in Faerie, she is dating again, and all seems relatively calm. So of course it is time for things to go wrong.

The children of the regent of Saltmist have been kidnapped and the Queen of the Mists stands accused. In three days the Fae of land and sea will go to war, unless Toby can find the missing boys. While there are those who will stand in the way of Toby, there are others who will always stand with her.

But in a time of war, not everyone survives.

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Sep 28, 2011

Review:Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep

The Book:

Welcome to Mythos Academy, where teenagers are being prepared for the world not only with a first-class education, but with the skills for battle and magic. When a student is murdered and a magical relic stolen, Gwen Frost is determined to find out who is behind the deeds. Especially since she was supposed to be the victim.

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Sep 21, 2011

Review: Pay Me In Flesh by K. Bennett

The Book: 

Mallory Caine just wants to live her life quietly, at least as quiet as a lawyer in L.A. can. Being hit on by lascivious judges, pursued by an ex-boyfriend and having a killer roaming the streets is not helping in that department.

But then, neither is being a zombie.

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Sep 7, 2011

Review: Firestorm by Radclyffe

Note: An abridged review is also available at The Lesbrary.

The Book:

Things can get hot when you are a smokejumper. Mallory James leads a crew of men and women who risk their lives to face out-of-control forest fires and rescue climbs. When rookie Jac Russo, a woman with a reputation larger than the Montana mountains, joins the training unannounced, the two women are immediately up in arms around each other. Yet Mallory soon discovers that while she may be known as "Ice" to her crew, her desire for Jac can make anything burn.

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Aug 10, 2011

Review: Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

The Book:

In her late twenties, Christine suffered an accident that caused amnesia of a sort that wipes away her daily life. Over two decades later Christine awakens not knowing where she is. Each morning she has to be reminded of her home, her husband, Ben, her past, her present. While working with her doctor, Christine discovers that she has started a journal about her daily discoveries. What she cannot remember is why the first page has the words "Don't Trust Ben"? How can Christine discover the truth if she cannot remember it the next day?

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Aug 3, 2011

Review: The Deadliest Bite by Jennifer Rardin

The Book:

All Jaz and Vayl wanted to do was take a few days off before getting back to unlocking the secret of the Rocenz. With Brude in her head (a constant pain in so many ways) Jaz has only a short time left before she loses her soul, unless she can carve his name into the gates of Hell. An assassination attempt on Vayl at their doorstep was the least they expected - as was the person behind it. Gathering the group together for a trip to Romania, and Vayl's roots, the team takes the fight to the source: Hell itself.

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Jul 27, 2011

Review: Jukebox by Gina Noelle Daggett

Note: This review was originally published on The Lesbrary in June.

The Book:

Harper Alessi is the little rich girl being raised by her grandparents in Arizona; Grace Dunlop is the precocious English-born debutante. Fast friends from age eleven, Grace and Harper grow even closer as they get older. What's love got to do with it? Everything.

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Jul 20, 2011

Review: The Devil in Disguise by Stefanie Sloane

The Book:

Lady Lucinda Grey is an intelligent woman, and readily acknowledges that makes finding a match this season...well, difficult. Lord William Randall is definitely not the man to court her, for his reputation as a rake is known to be well-deserved. Yet she is tempted, not knowing that she is the target of a kidnapping plot or that William is in fact a covert spy for the elite Young Corinthians. William is brilliant at his work, and at seduction, but what will he do when he is seduced by the brilliant Lucinda?

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Jul 15, 2011

Review:The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking by Kate Payne

The Book:

Everyone wants a comfortable clean home, but with limited time and budgets, it seems there is really no way to do it. Or, maybe you are off to a good start but looking for a little more inspiration? In The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking, take a tour through some great ideas to create the home you want in a fun and frugal way.

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Jul 13, 2011

Review: From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce

The Book:

Eating locally has become more and more popular, and farmer's markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) are becoming a staple for many families. What do you do with all of that produce? This book will help guide you through recipes and tips for all sorts of summer vegetables.

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Jul 6, 2011

Review: Deadline by Mira Grant

Note: Some references to plot from the previous book, Feed.

The Book:

It is a world that has cured cancer, but created zombies. A world where the truth comes out over the internet and bloggers bring the news. Running the news blog group The End of Times wasn't part of Shawn Mason's life plan, nor was having a CDC doctor show up on his doorstep to talk about research into curing the virus being buried. Facing the zombies may be easier than what he has to do next, but if it helps Shawn discover who actually killed his sister, he is willing to do it. No matter what the cost.

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Jun 29, 2011

Back to Back Review: Julie Hyzy

The Books:

In Buffalo West Wing, Head White House Chef Olivia Paras is doing her best to prepare for the new First Family. She knows things may change, but when some mysterious take-out meant for the children takes out several White House staff and a new chef is hired, Ollie realizes she may not have much time left to save her job or the lives of the First Family.

In Grace Under Pressure, Grace Wheaton is the assistant curator at the famed Marshfield Manor. When her supervisor Abe is murdered, Grace steps in to assume Abe's job. Between a reclusive millionaire boss, blackmail letters, and an uninvited stalker prowling around the grounds, Grace knows that Bennett Marshfield must be protected. Along the way some family secrets, a bad Ponzi scheme, and an act of revenge will bring Grace face to face with a killer.

The Yarn:

I really enjoy Julie Hyzy's storytelling. I have read the White House Chef Mysteries since the first book and found them to be a lot of fun without being trite. Olivia "Ollie" Paras has worked her way up to being the White House Chef and gotten involved in a few mysteries along the way. She also started and ended a relationship with a Secret Service agent, but hopefully she will not be alone for too long, judging by the way this book was setting things up. Buffalo West Wing gave the extra twist of bringing a new First Family into the storyline, which has shaken up the entire White House, especially with a not-so-auspicious start with mysterious fast food and a new chef brought in by the First Lady. I will definitely be interested in seeing where the story goes for Ollie and the new family.

I found out a couple months ago that Hyzy started another series after she wrote on her blog about it last month. A definite change from Ollie, Grace is a curator who has moved back to her hometown and is working at the famed manor she loved when she was growing up. When her supervisor, who was basically the backbone to running the manor, is murdered, Grace not only tries to step into his shoes, but manages to step on some toes in the process. With roommates who are trying to ply their wine to a national magazine and a family mystery of her own, Grace never comes off as snooping too much. She is definitely a "hometown girl" and loves the manor both for its history and from her heart. I am really excited to pick up the sequel and see what Grace does next.

The Ink:

Titles: Buffalo West Wing (White House Chef Mysteries, #4)
          Grace Under Pressure (Manor House Mystery, #1)
Author: Julie Hyzy
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Dates:  Buffalo West Wing: January 2011
           Grace Under Pressure: June 2010
Read: Buffalo West Wing: Library Mass Market
          Grace Under Pressure: Mass Market (Provided by author)
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Jun 22, 2011

Review: Gardenbed of State by Dorothy St. James

The Book:

Casey Calhoun  is the newest assistant to the White House gardening staff. Willing to not only walk the extra mile to tend to the famed President's Park, but try to get new theories implemented about organic gardening. Getting attacked and waking up in a flowerbed is not part of her normal routine. When Casey discovers a body nearby, she can't help but get involved. With a special cultivation program to vet to the First Lady and the Secret Service and her own colleagues interfering with her work, can Casey keep everything on track without getting her hands too dirty?

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Jun 15, 2011

Review: Teach Yourself Visually: Circular Knitting by Melissa Morgan-Oakes

Don't forget about my giveaway for an autographed copy of this book!

The Book:

For some knitters, straight needles and back-and-forth rows are the way to go. Many can be intimidated when faced with two needles on a cord, but you don't have to be! Circular knitting (knitting in the round) has many benefits, such as seamless projects and no turning. If you haven't given circular knitting a chance, or feel you need to actually see what it takes to do it, Teach Yourself Visually: Circular Knitting will walk you through the process.
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Jun 14, 2011

Blog Tour: Melissa Morgan-Oakes Interview! (And Giveaway)

It is my pleasure to host my first-ever interview with author Melissa Morgan-Oakes as she ventures into her first-ever blog tour for her latest book, Teach Yourself Visually: Circular Knitting. Melissa is a knitting instructor (I took her sock knitting class at WEBS over a year ago. I still need to Kitchener the toe. On the first sock.) and pattern designer. You can find her at Melissa Knits. My review for the book will be up tomorrow.

The obvious first question: when did you first pick up those knitting needles?

I usually get "when did you learn to knit" which is actually a very different question. Knitting needles were a part of my life since my birth. Every adult female in my family knit. Aunts, great aunts, grandmothers, great-grandmothers all had their yarn and needles nearby. By my mother's generation the fervor had waned a bit, but still at holiday gatherings my mother and her sister pulled out their knitting right along side "The Aunts" Kay, Blanche, Irene and Agnes. When I expressed an interest in knitting a whole group of women jumped on board to teach me, all with such diverse styles in their knitting and their teaching that my interest quickly turned into anxiety. I didn't touch needles again until around 2000. The exact date is lost to memory. All of those elder relatives had died, and I could finally sit down with a book and not fear the inevitable adult over my shoulder telling me I was doing it "wrong". From there it was a rapid ascent to where I am today. Without anyone to say no or to tell me a thing was difficult, I just forged ahead. "Just figure it out as you go" was my motto. I moved quickly through a series of obsessive knitting projects that left me with a huge wealth of practical knowledge. I have added more formal study since, but really the information I culled from my self-taught experiences has been the biggest asset to me as a knitter, a teacher and a designer.

Do you do other fiber work?

Yes! Not as much in the last few years as I did before 2-at-a-Time Socks came out, though. It's been a very busy few years since then! I spin, crochet, needle felt and sew... in the past I have embroidered, cross-stitched, quilted and so on. I find piecework to be very relaxing and fulfilling. I hope to spend more time in the next year or so indulging in some of those other crafts.

Teach Yourself Visually Circular Knitting is your third book, after 2-At-a-Time Socks and Toe-Up 2-At-a-Time Socks. Is circular knitting your favorite way to knit?

Circular knitting is by far and away my favorite way to knit. I am big on efficiency and I consider circular knitting to be much more efficient than back and forth knitting. Working a sweater, for the sake of argument let's say a bottom-up raglan pullover, in the round saves so much time. Knit the body to the underarm, knit the sleeves to the underarm, then work everyone on to one needle and keep knitting to the neck. Poof, done! No turning the work at the end of each row - imagine how much time that saves alone. Then there is the finishing aspect - a garment body and sleeves worked in the round have no seams; more time saved! Working patterns, such as cables of color work, is made so much easier if the right side of the work is always facing you. You can track the progress of the pattern as you go. Errors, should they occur, are quickly spotted and remedied. I could go on for hours on this!

Is there anything that you have not knit before that you still aspire to do?

In my office right this minute is a Bohus kit that is begging for my attention; two, actually. There is a sweater kit and a mitten kit that I bought for myself to celebrate 2-at-a-Time Socks. Beyond that which never seems to find it's way on to my needles, I have stacks of plastic bins of yarn, and almost all of that yarn has a specific purpose. Someday I hope to knit it all. Right now though I think my biggest goal is to finish the sweater that I started for my husband in 2005. Somehow it just never seems to get done!

Who are some of the people that have inspired your knitting?

My GW, Grandma Winnie, would probably be my biggest inspiration. She was my father's mother and had the most profound impact on many areas of my life. She and my Auntie Gert would knit at the table after dinner and dishes were done and put away, watching whatever Uncle Joe had on the television from their kitchen haven. The memories of being in that house, watching them always at work at something, had a deep and lasting effect on me. The black coffee and Lorna Doone shortbreads helped, too.

While you are certainly well-known for your knitting prowess, I also know about your commitment to your farm. How has that grown over the years?

In 1999 we got 6 baby chicks from our local Farmer's CoOp. Today we have a very small and (still very new) farm of about 200 birds, selling meat and eggs to customers in the area. What started as a family experiment in simplicity and sustainability has turned into something a little bigger, and something that I hope continues to grow. Farming is, for us, not remotely lucrative. I am not sure it is for any small farmer. For me rearing birds and selling eggs has been more about education, both of myself and of others. We just about break even when all is said and done, and any profit I managed to eke out is turned right back into the farm for new equipment and more birds. It is much more about the ethical and moral side of things, but without, I hope, being preachy. And I can get pretty preachy! I am not a vegetarian nor do I intend to become one. What I strive to be, and often - being human - fail at miserably, is a conscious consumer of ALL things, and that includes meat. Knowing how my food lived, whether it's a carrot of a chicken, is very important to me. I am very grateful for the opportunity to share the how and why of that with interested people, and the farm helps me to do that.

It seems you are not the only family member that blogs? :) Can you tell us about Yoshi?

Yes, I am not the only member of my family who maintains a blog, although the only other member who does blog is a four-legged, fur-bearing bundle of adorable. Yoshi is my Shiba Inu puppy. His blog came about as a way for me to record and share his experiences with his breeder and my family and friends. Some weeks he gets more hits than I do! I hope - and so does Yoshi - that readers of his blog (called 100 Days of Yoshi, which is found at come away entertained and maybe a little better educated about responsible dog ownership, and about the potential for the relationship between dogs and their human caretakers. I do nothing without putting in a lot of research before hand. I knew we wanted another dog - we have a 9 year old Bernese Mountain Dog already. I had researched dog breeds and decided on a poodle or poodle cross. Then my friend Kathy (Elkins of Webs) sent me images of Shiba Inu puppies, and I thought back to my Akita, Kioshi, and everything changed. It turns out Kathy knew more than I did about what I really needed. After speaking at great length with Charleen Maxim of Cape Cod Shibas and making a visit to meet adults dogs and puppies, it became pretty obvious that what I really wanted was a Shiba! We went back to the cape a month later and brought home this boy. He is smarter than any dog I've ever had. He's about as tractable as a flagpole wedged in concrete, retaining the full use of his own mind at all times - and he's not afraid to use it against me! Yoshi has long-range plans to be a therapy dog working with the elderly and children, and he hopes to do some work in obedience and agility some day as well. He will continue to blog as he grows and experiences with world around him, I hope, although I guess that will be up to him!

Thank you so much, Melissa! You can catch Melissa's next blog tour stop at OMG! Heart tomorrow.

Now, onto the giveaway! Melissa has graciously provided one lucky reader an autographed copy of her latest, Teach Yourself Visually: Circular Knitting. All you have to do is complete the form at the end of the post. Entries will close at 9 PM on Friday, June 17th and the winner announced on Monday, June 20th. Good luck!

  • Form must be filled out completely.
  • Comments will not be accepted as entries to the giveaway.
  • You must be 13+ to win.
  • Winning comment will be chosen through
  • This giveaway is open to US and Canada only.

This giveaway is now CLOSED! Winner will be announced on Monday!
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Jun 10, 2011

Review: Turn For Home by Lara Zielinsky

Note: This review was first posted May 26 at The Lesbrary.

The Book:

Cassidy and Brenna have declared their love for each other, now if only the rest of the world would get on board. While Brenna struggles with her two teen sons and their disgruntlement, Cassidy deals with the aftermath of her family's holiday. Trying to figure out how they will fit their lives together is hard enough, but when tragedy strikes, can their bond be enough to withstand the spotlight on these two stars?

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Jun 8, 2011

Review: A Tiger in the Kitchen by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

The Book:

At the age of 18, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan left her birthplace of Singapore to attend school. After a decade plus living in New York City, Tan realizes that she has lost touch with so much more than her past. Wanting to learn the dishes that she grew up with, Tan spends a year traveling back to Singapore to learn the recipes made throughout her youth. In the midst of learning these dishes, Tan discovers her connection with home.

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Jun 1, 2011

Review: How to Woo a Reluctant Lady by Sabrina Jeffries

The Book:

Lady Minerva Sharpe knew she did not want to follow her grandmother’s edict to marry or forfeit the family inheritance. What better way for Minerva to change her mind than by a pretend engagement to a rogue? Giles Masters may have fueled her imagination for the spy in her Gothic novels with a memorable kiss, but she certainly has no inclination to actually marry him. When more news on the mystery behind her parents’ deaths comes to light, Giles and Minerva begin to investigate, and find themselves discovering their desire for each other. But when Giles’ secret life as an actual spy comes to light, will Minerva be willing to believe in her love again?

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May 19, 2011

Review: Turning Point by Lara Zielinsky

Note: This was originally posted on April 28 at The Lesbrary, a lesbian book blog where I am now a monthly reviewer! Many thanks to Danika at The Lesbrary for letting me join the team.

The Book:

Hollywood has its stars: as one begins to fall, another is there to shine. Cassidy Hyland has gotten the cold shoulder from her co-star on the hit sci-fi show Time Trails, Brenna Lanigan, for long enough. Hoping that her son's birthday party will find a way to spark a connection between them, Cassidy has no idea that she will find herself longing for much more than a friendship with Brenna. From the warmth of an surprise hug to the heat on a sunlit mountain top, learning about each other brings Brenna and Cassidy closer to a truth - and a love - they never expected to find.

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May 18, 2011

Review: The Neon Graveyard by Vicki Pettersson

Note: Some spoilers for previous books in the series.

The Book:

Joanna Archer has lost her sister, her powers, her troop. Determined to end the reign of the Tupla in Las Vegas, she battles to not only end its hold on the city, but to find a way back into Midheaven and save her lover, Hunter. Hunted by both the Shadow and the Light, Joanna's only hope is a bunch of rouge agents, her mortal skills and her destined role as Kairos. All she has to lose is her soul, her life, her love - and her unborn baby.

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May 11, 2011

Review: Sheepish by Catherine Friend

The Book:

Catherine Friend has gotten tired after fifteen years of sheep farming. Her writing muse has disappeared; her relationship with her partner is steady but quiet. The numbers of sheep farms has declined, while the sale of wool doesn't seem to have much of a market. Yet when all seems to point towards throwing in the towel, this is when Friend takes a good look at what she is in the middle of, and discovers what sheep are really worth.

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May 4, 2011

Review: The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals

The Book:

What if you could find all your sources for milk, meat, eggs, cheese and honey right in your own backyard? You don't need acre after acre of land to provide for your household. From honey bees to ducks to sheep to  cattle, The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals demonstrates that you can have a hand in your own food security.

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Apr 27, 2011

Review: Burn Down The Sky

The Book:

Earth is sun-scorched and the world is riddled by a plague known as the Wiccan virus. A group known as the Hands of God hires roving bands of marauders to hunt down girls on the cusp of womanhood for their own needs.  The horrors the young girls deal with are something no parent wants to face.  When Jessie's camp is attacked and her youngest daughter is taken, this mother will stop at nothing to get her child back.

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Apr 20, 2011

Review: Twilight's Dawn by Anne Bishop

Warning: Some spoilers for this book and previous ones in the series.

The Book:

Head back to the Realms of the Black Jewels and become immersed once again in the world of the Blood.  Four novellas take moments of time through the lives of Janelle, Daemon, Lucivar, Surreal and Saetan as they continue to live their extraordinary, ordinary lives.

The Yarn:

For anyone who has read Anne Bishop's Black Jewels series, these four stories are amazingly heart-wrenching. Each book takes a period of time among the previous books, and while the cast of characters remains the same, what happens is enough to shake the Realms.

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Apr 13, 2011

Spirit Dances by C.E. Murphy

The Book:

Joanne Walker is surviving. After almost being killed by a cannabalistic serial killer to dealing with a domestic homicide, she faces the challenge of attending a Native-American dance concert with her boss, Captain Michael Morrison. It's a transformative experience - and one that causes Joanne to turn into a coyote. Add to this a mystic killer, disappearing homeless and a possible supernatural creature that shouldn't exist, Joanne must go to the edge of mastering her shamanic abilities before someone else dies.

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Apr 6, 2011

Review: The Knitting Diaries by Debbie Macomber, Susan Mallery, Christina Skye

The Book:

Three authors come together to bring stories of love and knitting: Debbie Macomber tells the tale of a girl and her mom and their special list of twenty wishes, but what about Ellen's desire for The Twenty-First Wish?  Coming Unraveled by Susan Mallery has one young woman's dreams of Broadway dashed and her return home is marred by a mistrustful friend of her grandmother.  In Return to Summer Island, Christina Skye shows how one woman that while a horrible accident may have taken away one piece of her, she can draw another path for herself, in life and in love.

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Mar 30, 2011

Review: The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball

The Book:

Kristin Kimball was single, living and working the fast track in New York City. Then she meets Mark during an interview about farming and everything changes. Kristin finds herself leaving the life she knew behind and follows Mark upstate to start a CSA farm. With no experience, Kristin begins a journey over the next year creating a place to raise crops, animals, and a marriage.

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Mar 23, 2011

Review: Art of the Chicken Coop by Chris Gleason

The Book:

Chickens need a coop, and what better way to show your love than building one?  In The Art of the Chicken Coop, seven unique coops are presented with detailed building instructions, along with an additional gallery for more inspiration for your ideal coop.  With additional information from other chicken owners, the lessons to creating a place for your chickens starts here.

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Mar 16, 2011

Review: Shine by Lauren Myracle

The Book:

Everyone knew why Patrick ended up in a coma, but no one really wanted to talk about it.  Cat knew Patrick was gay, but the horrific hate crime was lost in tiny, tight-knit Black Creek, North Carolina.  Cat knows that someone is to blame, and she is willing to face her own demons to discover the one that is residing inside her town.

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Mar 10, 2011

Review: The Cruel Ever After by Ellen Hart

The Book:

Near broke, Chester Garrity returns to the one place he swore he would never go: Minneapolis.  Chester is planning on making his fortune back by selling a priceless artifact that was recently stolen from the Bagdhad Museum.  Unfortunately the sale falls through when Chester wakes up the next morning with no recollection of what happened the night before, and his mark dead beside him.  Chester runs from the area, but returns to try to clean up the mess he made.  However he comes back to a tidy home and no body.  Who would help him, and what will it cost him?

Chester decides to turn to the one person from his past that he helped start on her way to making her own mark in town.  Restaurateur - and ex-wife - Jane Lawless.

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Mar 8, 2011

Review: Tales of an Urban Werewolf series by Karen MacInerney

The Books:

Sophie Garou has a great job as an auditor for a prestigous accounting firm, a wonderful boyfriend, and a whole lot of clothes in her closet.  The only downside is the fact that she goes through a bunch of razors and a lot of wolfsbane tea each month.  Sophie is a werewolf, and after over twenty years of being on her own in Austin, she is discovered by the local pack and finds that family ties can bind in a big way.

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Mar 3, 2011

Review: Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces by Gayla Trail

The Book:

Not everyone has the space for sprawling garden beds.  Not everyone has the funds to invest in designer planters and elaborate arrangements.  Grow Great Grub is a gardening book for those with limited spaces and budgets, who want to focus on growing food in an organic way.  Gayla Trail brings an easy but comprehensive look at microfarming, no yard required.

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Mar 1, 2011

Review: My Empire of Dirt by Manny Howard

The Book:

Manny Howard was looking for work in 2007.  When New York magazine approached him to write a story about the rising urban agricultural movement and try growing food in his backyard to subsist on for 30 days.  But why stop there?  Howard decided to make his Brooklyn backyard into a farm.  For the next seven months, Howard toiled, struggled and fought for and against The Farm, his lack of knowledge and his family's dismay to prove himself worthy of the challenge.  No matter what happened.

The Yarn:

The idea of locavorism and urban agriculture is one I support wholeheartedly.  Howard's basic idea of creating a sustainable farm in his yard was a great big picture with ideas for gardening and meat animals.   However the big picture seemed to be his best way of thinking.  The actual ideas behind raising rabbits and chickens are erratic, his search for live tilapia is hilarious in its own right.  Howard dives into each project with a lot of energy but little thought.  It hurts a bit to think of the amount of money that went into preparing his dead clay yard for growing, the lumber and parts for housing chickens and rabbits and feeding them, the description of the growing pile of trash, accidental (and not so accidental) deaths of animals.

Amidst the day to day struggle of creating this farm Howard talks about his family: wife Lisa and children Heath and Bevan Jake.  Background of how they ended up married and in the house is there, along with the struggle of keeping some - very little, in fact - normalcy for his family.  The tension and trouble the farm creates for his marriage is outlined in great detail in the book.

I struggled with a lack of empathy for Howard.  His descriptions of making decisions with very little planning, and obvious lack of conversation with Lisa, definitely rub me the wrong way.  As Howard talks about his first attempt at seedstarting and watching them fail (for too little and too far away lights), this is one I have gone through myself, but instead of looking to researching why, he jumps into a hydroponics store and tries to buy the most he can with the least amount of information.  This carries through the book, and while is definitely a thought and action style some may see themselves in, my own need for planning made me want to throw books about gardening and livestock at him.

However, some of that is recovered in the last few chapters, once Howard finishes his 30 days and reflects on what he has done.  Howard's marriage survived dead animals, his daughter's surgery, a lot of alcohol, and a tornado. He is still keeping chickens, and the rabbits (for the most part) escaped being part of the food chain.  He found authenticity on "The Farm", even if it wasn't always the best pieces of himself.

My Empire of Dirt is a strong, if not always sympathetic, story of one man's work on an urban agricultural project.  You can read Manny Howard's story in New York online.

The Ink:

Title:  My Empire of Dirt: How One Man Turned His Big-City Backyard Into a Farm
Author:  Manny Howard
Publisher:  Scribner
Date:  March 2010
Read:  Library Hardcover
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Feb 24, 2011

Review: Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

The Book:

Zoe Ardelay's life in her small village is turned upside down. Right after her father's death, Zoe is informed that she is to become the king's fifth wife.  Ruled by the element of water, coru, Zoe follows the ambassador to the city, only to walk away from the edict and go to the edge of the great river to hide and rediscover herself.  What Zoe finds is that not only does she carry the power of water with her, but she is coru Prime, a power unto herself.  Faced with the challenge of rediscovering her family's place in the palace, and the challenge of the secrets that had laid buried within the palace walls, Zoe must decide for herself how much power she has, and for whom she will use it?

The Yarn:

Sharon Shinn sets forth into a new world where the elements rule.  Each child is given three blessings upon their birth, traits that comes from five elements (earth/skin, air/breath, fire/mind, water/blood, wood/bone).   Zoe's blessings include beauty, love, and power, a trait that is shown more and more life as the story goes on.    More blessings can be drawn at temples for guidance, and Zoe finds more reminders and clues to her life and choices at various times in the book through this.  I loved the use of the elements and the blessings as stones, charms and such as those are things that I relate to in my own life.

Zoe grew up fast.  Her mother died many years ago, and she and her father lived far away from the palace that sent her father away in disgrace.  Both her internal and external conversations - with herself and others - show that she has not been a child for a long time.  However, as many of those who had to grow up quickly, Zoe proves herself prone to selfish feelings and rages, especially when faced with facts about the father she relied on for so long, and truths that she has to accept.  Another facet of that acceptance are the friends and family she picks up along the way.  From the river banks to the palace to her grandmother's house to the palace, Zoe learns the value of the people that surround her, along with the value of the secrets kept by them.

From beginning to end Darien Serlast, the king's advisor, proves an enigma, a friend, and possibly a foe.  More unyielding and blunt (being hunti - with power in wood/bone) compared to Zoe's more restless and mercurial coru, she isn't sure what to make of him much of the time.  The reveals that come through book prove surprising, although sometimes not, at least in terms of the obvious attraction between the two.  Shinn gives a lyrical voice to the ups and downs between Zoe and Darien, their draw towards and fight against each other, and the ebb and flow of the water that Zoe controls both in benefit for and against those around her.

Troubled Waters is a beautiful story of a young woman trying to shape her own life among those who are used to being in control.  Like the water that is the base of her power, Zoe's story flows from a slow roll through the beginning of the book to a storm-fed river racing to the end.  Anyone who has read Shinn's other books, especially the Twelve Houses series, will recognize the strength of her characters and their journeys as ones that bring resolution in a meaningful way.

The Ink:

Title:  Troubled Waters
Author:  Sharon Shinn
Publisher:  Ace Books
Date: October 2010
Read:  Library Hardcover
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Feb 22, 2011

Review: Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

Note:  Some possible plot spoilers from previous books in this review.

The Book:

Rachel Morgan has been accused of practicing black magic and shunned as a witch.  She has three days to make it to San Francisco, where the annual witches conference is meeting, to plead her case and have her shunning overturned or be forced to the ever-after forever.  Blacklisted from flying, Rachel must team up with Trent Kalamack to make it to the West Coast in time.  However Trent is on a quest of his own, and trust is little afforded between these two.  With witches, elves and demons on the hunt, Rachel, Trent and her team are in a race against death, and that is even before the sentence is carried out.

The Yarn:

I have read all of Kim Harrison's Hollows series from the beginning.  Pale Demon is the ninth book of the series. Rachel Morgan has developed a lot since her days being a runner for the Inderland Bureau Services, but her past is coming to catch her.  This is mostly due to the elf that is traveling with her, Trent.  Having known her since childhood, and having fathers that did some unknown experiments on Rachel to ensure her survival, Trent now needs Rachel as part of his quest, plus she needs to still lift the familiar curse that she placed on him.  With an uneasy truce and 3,000 miles to travel, Trent and Rachel, along with Ivy and Jenks, cross the country on their own quests for validation.

Rachel has been working through a lot of relationship issues these past books, and it was good to see this one start to lay the final path stones down for some of them.  Kisten, Ivy, Pierce, Trent and even Al are all spindled through Rachel's heart and mind at one point or another through the book, and Rachel's issues with love and connection finally start to slip into place as she comes to terms with her powers in both black magic and as a possible demon.

Harrison draws a vivid landscape for her readers: whether traveling across the United States or through the ever after, and the action doesn't stop for a moment in Pale Demon.  I had a lot of trouble putting it down because I had to see what was going to happen next, and every time I thought Rachel could go no further, she did.  There are enough twists leading to final pages to keep the reader guessing exactly what the results are going to be. Rachel both wins and loses in this story and her world is laid wide open for the next book.

With plenty of action and suspense, strong characters and exciting storyline, I consider Pale Demon one of the strongest books in the Hollows series so far.  Harrison brings back the Rachel Morgan of old, and I am looking forward to seeing what she does next!

The Ink:

Title:  Pale Demon (The Hollows, #9)
Author:  Kim Harrison
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Date: February 2011
Read: NetGalley ebook
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Feb 17, 2011

Review: Grilled Cheese, Please! by Laura Werlin

The Book:

Cheese between two slices of bread is immortalized in most people's childhood.  In Laura Werlin's new book, Grilled Cheese, Please!, grilled cheese is all grown up.  With 50 new recipes to share, you will find "...everything from basic grilled cheese to exotic, from nostalgic to modern, from ethnic to all-American, from savory to sweet." (pg. 11)

The Yarn:

I was quite happy to find this book in my NetGalley searches.  As the mom of two growing kids grilled cheese is a staple, but having the same-old white-bread-and-American is getting a bit stale for us.  Finding new ways to try this sandwich is a welcome addition to my household.

The chapters include breakdowns by filling types (cheese only, with meat, with vegetables), recipes influenced by other countries and other sandwich shops that Werlin has visited. Some of the recipes can be a bit exotic for children's tastes; the "Anything Goes" section includes sandwiches with cherries, gaucamole, crab meat and hazelnut butter.  However the chapter on U.S. regional grilled cheeses is sure to please everyone with a familiar style of sandwich.  There are also a few side dish and condiment recipes included to enhance the grilled cheese, but not upstage it.

Another good thing about this book is the opening chapter, with tips on how to make the best grilled cheese.  Some are obvious, like putting any butter or oil on the bread, not the pan, and a thinner bread crisps better while cooking.  Other tips such as grating the cheese or covering the sandwich while cooking to ensure the cheese melts may help that next sandwich you make.  Werlin lists several different types of cheeses, including several American artisan types, and explains which ones melt better than others.  She also gives some alternate choices for substituting types of breads, for those days you cannot find that pain de mie.

Being released in time for National Grilled Cheese Month in April, Werlin has presented a nice range of grilled cheese recipes that will please any palette.

Hopefully even my kids.

The Ink:

Title:  Grilled Cheese, Please! 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes
Author:  Laura Werlin
Date:  March 2011
Publisher:  Andrews McMeel
Format:  NetGalley eBook
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Feb 15, 2011

Review: Double Take: One Fabulous Recipe, Two Finished Dishes, Feeding Vegetarians and Omnivores Together by A.J. Rathbun and Jeremy Holt

The Book:

It can be difficult to get people to agree on a meal, but when you put vegetarians and omnivores together, it is near impossible at times to please everyone.  Double Take attempts to bridge the gap and bring common meals for both in one recipe.  With just a couple substitutions, dishes can be prepared for both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.  From appetizers to soups to entrees, A.J. Rathbun and Jeremy Holt bring both of these lifestyles to the table.

The Yarn:

As an omnivore dating a vegetarian, I was looking for common recipes that could be adapted for both of us and still satisfy my kids.  The premise is good:  one recipe that is started in one pot, but when the meat is introduced, it is split off and finished separately to keep some portions vegetarian.  There are clear instructions for the recipes, and each has notes to make it all vegetarian or for just omnivores.  At the beginning is a good description of kitchen tools and 'Meat Alternatives 101', plus handy tips from both authors throughout the book.

However, the cookbook really seems to be mostly recipes that are meat-based, then adapted for vegetarians using meat substitutes.  Most of the vegetarians I know rarely use meat alternatives on a regular basis, so it seemed a rather narrow view of what could be adapted for both kinds of diners.  It had an overtone of  "the only way to please omnivores is to make sure there is MEAT".  I don't have to have bacon in my quiche, nor do I see it necessary to split a recipe of French Onion soup up just to make half with beef broth and half with vegetable stock. I think this book is more focused on entertaining guests than being an actual family meal cookbook, although the 'Comfort Entrees' chapter contains recipes for macaroni and cheese, fish sticks (using tofu or cod), and biscuits and gravy.  I also found the lack of photographs or any dessert recipes a bit sad, but I guess there is no need for separation of chocolate chip cookies for vegetarians and omnivores (unless they are BACON chocolate chip cookies....).

All in all, Double Take is a nice beginner's cookbook for ideas on common meals for both the vegetarians and meat-eaters who sit around your table.

The Ink:

Title:  Double Take: One Fabulous Recipe, Two Finished Dishes, Feeding Vegetarians and Omnivores Together
Author: A. J. Rathbun and Jeremy Holt
Publisher:  Harvard Common Press
Date:  January 2010
Read:  Library Paperback
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Feb 10, 2011

Review: Roast Mortem by Cleo Coyle

The Book:

Clare Cosi was hoping to reclaim a roaster that used to belong to her coffee shop, Village Blend, but instead ends up in an explosive meeting - literally.  When the local fire station assists in saving her friends, Clare goes out of her way to help support them with showing them how to use their new espresso machine.  Things start to get hot when other coffee shops get torched in the city and firefighters from the station begin to die.  Add to that family trouble leading to a troubling accusation for her detective boyfriend, Mike Quinn, and Clare is determined to tie the events together before everything goes up in flames.

The Yarn:

Roast Mortem is the ninth novel in the solid Coffeehouse Mysteries series by Cleo Coyle.  Clare is a smart heroine and she believes that the explosion at her friend's coffeehouse wasn't an accident. Working with two seemingly different sets of crimes, Clare is able to solve them and bring them together in a not-completely-unbelievable manner.  She has a no-nonsense focus that keeps her basically in control of her situations, her staff and those that she works with outside of the coffeehouse.  Her relationships with her ex-husband and ex-mother-in-law as partners in the business add another layer of fun secondary characters.

I found the focus of this book on Mike Quinn and learning a bit more about his background refreshing after his peripheral character status in the previous books. Having finally reaching a point in Clare's life where her ex-husband has settled into his own relationship more, this started as a good story to strengthen Clare and Mike's relationship. I did find it a little disconcerting to have Mike's cousin Michael thrown in and pursuing Claire.  While circumstances revealed in the book seem to make this believable on some levels, to me it gives the impression that Clare always has to be in some emotional crisis about her relationships.

The one thing that really bothered me about this book had nothing to do with the story.  It was the typos.  Missed edits always jump off the page for me, and I found three within pages of each other.  I think I was a copy editor in a past life.    

Roast Mortem is another fun entry in Coyle's series.  Fans of Diane Mott Davidson will enjoy this book, and as with many cozy mysteries, includes tasty recipes of some of the dishes included in the story along with an explanation about coffee roasting.

The Ink:

Title:  Roast Mortem (A Coffeehouse Mystery)
Author:  Cleo Coyle
Publisher: Berkley
Date: August 2010
Read:  Library Hardcover
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Feb 8, 2011

Review: Berried to the Hilt: A Gray Whale Inn Mystery by Karen MacInerney

The Book:

Off the coast of Maine, Cranberry Island is buzzing with excitement over the find of a sunken ship.  Rumors of its identity take over - could it be legendary sea captain Jonah Selfridge's missing Myra Barton?  Or possibly even Black Marguerite, the pirate ship which disappeared in the 17th century?

The excitement swells as marine archaeologists and treasure hunters come to the island.  Better even for Natalie Barnes and her business, Gray Whale Inn, until a body shows up near the wreckage.  Finding herself again in the middle of a murder, Natalie races to find the killer - and the treasure - in time before she finds herself lost at sea.

The Yarn:

Berried to the Hilt is the fourth book of the Gray Whale Inn Mystery series by Karen MacInerney.  Natalie once again finds herself in the middle of a murder, but with a local friend on the line, she is willing to investigate even after her near drowning from her last experience.  The story focuses on the murder and hunt for the sunken ship, however the fun secondary storyline of Natalie getting ready to judge the annual cranberry bake-off, and starting to think of her upcoming wedding to artist and deputy John Quinton, lightens the load.

Cranberry Island is full of great characters: from Natalie's best friend, Charlene, who is also the postmistress/general store owner and hub of gossip, to Adam, college-kid-turned-lobsterman who is also in love with Natalie's niece, Gwen.  Other island regulars carry from book to book and bring a quirky small marine community to life.  MacInerney doesn't stint on the details.  From boat rides across choppy ocean water to the numerous baked goods flowing through the kitchen doors of the Inn, I felt transported to this isolated island town.

Natalie works hard to help her friend be proven innocent, although her tactics can leave something to be desired.  She is a definite snoop, although a caring one, and some may find that a difficult trait to deal with in a main character.  The suspense builds right up to the end, and makes Berried to the Hilt another strong entry into the cozy mystery genre.

A component of any good cozy, the recipes do not disappoint either!  Based on the meals that Natalie serves through the book, and the winner of the Cranberry Bake-Off, they are a great addition to anyone's recipe box.  I also like that the publisher doesn't take the normal stance of blazing "RECIPES INCLUDED" on the cover, and just leaves them as a nice addition to the book.

The Ink:

Title:  Berried to the Hilt (#4, The Gray Whale Inn Mysteries)
Author:  Karen MacInerney
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Date: November 2010
Read:  Library Trade Paperback
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Feb 3, 2011

Review: Trio of Sorcery

The Book:

Mercedes Lackey brings three strong heroines in a trio of novellas spanning the decades.  Arcanum 101 has Diana Tregarde, witch and Guardian, heading into her freshman year at Harvard with a kidnapping, a psychic and a courseload looming.  In Drums, Osage shaman and private investigator Jennifer Talldeer faces off against an old and angry ghost looking for his lost love.  The final story, Ghost in the Machine, brings in  "techno-mage" Ellen McBride and finds that the power of online gaming isn't always just computer chips and code; it can be magic as well.

The Yarn:

When I was in college and working at the local Waldenbooks, I came across the first Diana Tregarde book, Burning Water.  After devouring the next two (Children of the Night and Jinx High) I was sad to learn there would be no more stories about her.   When I saw this book sitting on the shelf at the local bookstore, 20 years later, I was thrilled to have her back.

This story goes even further back: back to the early 1970s, when Diana was a teen, heading off to college and newer into her Guardian powers.  Called on by contacts in the local police department to sniff out a fraudulent psychic. Diana soon discovers this psychic is no fraud, and must use her power to bring a kidnapper to justice.  Lackey brings a little more of Diana's back story in, her parents' death, her grandmother and her first Guardian battle.  Lackey also brings the time period into focus with vivid scene descriptions.  Diana was always older than her years, being a witch and a Guardian (one who is tasked with helping and protecting others) brings a maturity that is balanced by the other college students living upstairs from her, especially as they become involved in her investigation.

During that time (early 1990s) I also picked up a copy of Sacred Ground.  Jennifer Talldeer was another strong heroine, battling evil spirits and bad businessman as an apprentice shaman and private investigator.  Lackey brings her back right where she stopped: reforming her relationship with her boyfriend David, sparring with her grandfather, and bringing her strength as an investigator and a shaman together to help a young man discover why his girlfriend was dropping out of sight.  While he was fearing a difference in their Native American backgrounds, no one was expecting a ghost to be in the middle of this investigation.  Jennifer Talldeer's relationship with her powers as a shaman and spiritual warrior were balanced by her intelligence and prowess as an investigator.

Ellen McBride is a brand new heroine.  While I do not partake in MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games), I have played *cough* several online games and know that the amounts of personal energy that go into them can be tremendous.  Between the players and the programmers' belief in their creation, they bring a Wendigo to life in their game, one that threatens to break out of the machine and enter the real world.  Ellen comes in with her coding abilities - and her magical ones - to help take the creature down.  The interactions between Ellen and the other programmers is quick and smart, and this story is hopefully  (please, pretty please?) the start of a new series from Lackey.

Mercedes Lackey is a skilled author, pulling from many different traditions and beliefs to create the various worlds in her books.  Time and technology actually followed through all three stories: from the lack of it in Diana's college days in the 70's, to Jenni and David lamenting about needing cell phones that were not the size of bricks, to Ellen's elaborate workstation set-up that would make a programmer weep.  Her magical familiar/robot dog was a treat too, especially for those who loved K-9 from Doctor Who.

While the stories here are self-contained, I would definitely recommend reading the previous Diana Tregarde and Jennifer Talldeer books.  Trio of Sorcery is a wonderful collection for anyone who enjoys urban fantasy with smart female leads.

The Ink:

Title: Trio of Sorcery
Author:  Mercedes Lackey
Publisher: Tor Books
Date:  November 2010
Read:  Library Hardcover
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