Category Archives: Book Reviews

Some Book Suggestions

Here it is, another cold, snowy day, and I’m bundled up inside, wondering how much snow I’m going to have to shovel later. In the meantime, I’m spending day one of a three-day weekend catching up on some reading. I’ve got a gargantuan stack of to-be-read books on my nightstand, and a couple hundred or so ebooks in my queue on-line. If you know me at all, I love reading almost as much as I love writing, and part of what I love, is sharing and discussing awesome books I’ve read, or am reading.

So today, I’m going to show you a few of my recently read books that I would definitely recommend. If you’re looking for something to read after the last thing you’ve finished, or you’re interested in trying something new, these are my suggestions for today.

1.) Shades of Magic series, by V. E. Schwab

20180217_104918The first book in the series (pictured) is A Darker Shade of Magic. A good friend recommended this author to me, and I picked up the book, not sure what to expect. What I got was a refreshingly original fantasy story, with enigmatic characters and an exciting, danger-filled plot. There’s magic, alternate worlds, evil, good, love, and so much more. I devoured this first and second books immediately, and had to wait in agony for months for the third book. Loved them all. If you’re looking for something new in fantasy, give this one a try.



2.) The Invisible Library, book and series, by Genevieve Cogman

20180217_104948The premise is that there is an immense, inter-dimensional library out there, filled with scholarly librarians who make it their life’s work to travel to all the worlds, bringing back unique copies of books from every place. Not just a different year’s print of say, Jane Eyre, but lost novels of Charles Dickens, steampunk versions of Jane Austen, and so many more. The main character, Irene, a librarian with a particular fondness for the Sherlock Holmes books, is given an apprentice with his own secrets, and they’re thrust into a dangerous and politically charged search for yet another rare book. I’ve loved every book in the series (so far there are four) and who doesn’t love the idea of a library so huge that it takes literal days to get from one end to the other?

3.) The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker

20180217_105010Bought this one and didn’t know quite what to expect, then burned through it so fast, I was sad when it ended. It is about a golem and a jinni, otherwordly creatures brought to life in the real world with such ease and care that I can almost believe one would walk past me on the street. The book takes place in 1899 New York and the historical details are well-written without being too wordy, the characters are believable and full of life. This book isn’t quite fantasy, isn’t quite history, and definitely not quite romantic, but it can make you believe in things you never would have thought possible.


4.) A Study in Scarlet Women, book 1 of The Lady Sherlock series, by Sherry Thomas

20180217_105437The writer has changed Sherlock Holmes into Charlotte Holmes, and the idiosyncrasies that you may have loved about the original detective are here, but because she’s a woman, her situation is quite different. And still, she solves murders by pretending to work for her brother, Sherlock, a fabrication that allows her to do what she loves. There are familiar characters and if you’re looking for a fun, new twist on the old classics, I’d recommend this one.




5.) Historical Mysteries, various:

I don’t know why but I’ve been hooked on historical mysteries lately. There are a few series I’ve been reading, and several others I could go on and on about, but if you’re interested in anything of the sort, here are some I’d recommend (on top of the Lady Sherlock series I’ve already mentioned.)

Death at Bishop’s Keep, the Kathryn Ardleigh series, by Robin Paige, a husband and wife writing duo using a pen name. Kathryn Ardleigh is an American woman visiting her eccentric, elderly aunts in late-Victorian England only to be embroiled in a double-murder investigation. There are 12 books in the series and they were published starting back in the nineties, but I’ve enjoyed every one of them.

The Anatomist’s Wife, the Lady Darby mysteries, by Anna Lee Huber, about a widow who drew pictures and diagrams for her late husband, an anatomist, which, in the time period of the series, was not a respectable career. Because of her strange knowledge, she’s asked to assist in a murder investigation and helps, in spite of wanting to have nothing to do with it. I’ve enjoyed the five books in the series so far, and look forward to the next.

A Curious Beginning, the Veronica Speedwell mysteries, by Deanna Raybourn. I’ve read other historical mysteries by Ms. Raybourn but this is her most recent, and the main characters are unique, to say the least. Loved the fresh twists and characters as much as the mysteries themselves.

And Only to Deceive, the Lady Emily Murder Mysteries, by Tasha Alexander. This series is about a widow who begins in the first book by solving her own late husband’s murder. I’ve been reading this series since the start and have enjoyed each book very much. The author spends a decent amount of time researching the time period and places that the characters visit, from Greece, to Venice, to St. Petersburg.

So there you have it, today’s book recommendations. If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear your opinions. If you haven’t, go out and give one or more a try. On a miserable snowy day like today, I know I’m going to enjoy my next new book.

As always, take care and happy reading.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Double Book Review

It’s not often that I read two similar books in the same week. Recently, I read The Love Detective, by Alexandra Potter and Wedding Night, by Sophie Kinsella. Both authors are British, and write almost exclusively in the ‘chick lit’ category.

A side note: I absolutely hate that classification of novels. Chick lit implies that only women will read it or enjoy it, or even that only the girliest of girls will like it. I read almost everything, from science fiction to romance to the classics. Among those novels, are many books by both these authors. These novels I’ve listed are both their most recent releases.

Wedding Night (WN) is about two sisters, Fliss and Lottie. Lottie flees a botched proposal, thinking she never really knew her boyfriend. She goes straight into the arms of a former lover and they rush into a whirlwind marriage and honeymoon in Greece. Fliss is still recovering from a terrible divorce and dealing with all the custody and property battles that come with that. She’s terribly protective of her younger sister and takes it upon herself to save Lottie from what Fliss views as the biggest mistake of her life.

In The Love Detective (TLD), Ruby, a writer with writer’s block, flies to India to meet up with her wilder, younger sister, Amy, who has been traveling the world. There, she has a wonderful time, relaxing, enjoying the food, the beach and the environment. Then Amy announces that she’s eloping with Shine, the yoga guru from the resort. Ruby, who had been on her way out of India, turns right around and tries to save her sister from what she thinks is the biggest mistake of her life.

I told you they were similar! You’d almost think these two authors conspired to write similar books at a similar time but I doubt that’s the case. I’d been anticipating both these books and was so excited to pick them up at the nearby Chapters a couple weeks ago. I tore through TLD in two days, I think, in between work and sleep. 🙂 Then I started on WN, and read it in a few more days. Both books featured loving but flaky or serious sisters. They featured adventures in exotic lands and hints of romance on all sides. That is where the similarity ends.

WN started out with a funny idea and what is probably a common thought for a lot of people. What if you hooked up with that long lost love again? Would you still have that same hot chemistry as you did in your younger days? Unfortunately, this story seemed to stall at the quickie wedding. From then on, Fliss’ attempts to keep her sister from consummating the marriage weren’t funny. They were cringe-worthy and, as someone who has spent hours laughing over Kinsella’s other novels, I had a hard time even finishing this novel. I kept reading hoping that the awkwardness and unfunny moments would come to some sort of conclusion.

The characters started out with a lot of potential. Both sisters are strong career women, dealing with all the quirks life has thrown at them.Lottie deals with life’s curve balls by making what Fliss calls her ‘unfortunate choices.’ I think Fliss needed to acknowledge her own unfortunate choices. Instead, she thinks she’s in the right every time she messes with her sister on her honeymoon. Along the way, she meets an acerbic, mysterious sort of man who may or may not be her romantic interest but either way, I found I didn’t really care. I grew tired of the antics of both sisters, serious and slightly hypocritical Fliss, and flighty and foolish Lottie. In the end, the novel wrapped up to a satisfying ending, somewhat redeeming each character. Overall though, it wasn’t my favorite of Sophie Kinsella’s novels.

TLD, on the other hand, was sweet, laugh-out-loud funny, with no awkward moments to make me cringe. Ruby was an endearing, fun character from the beginning and maybe the fact that she was a writer struggling to write that made me feel I could relate to her more. Her journey started as a normal premise. Getting away from it all to an exotic place with a beloved sister.

She started to let go and relax but how much of India did she experience in the resort in Goa? Not much, as she realizes when Amy confesses to her elopement. Ruby starts off across the country, alone, not knowing the language, very few of the customs and dangers, and somehow figures things out along the way. It doesn’t hurt that she meets Jack, a know-it-all American who keeps his reasons for traveling through India to himself.

Ruby loses her passport, suitcase and all her money and Jack becomes her knight in shining armor, after a hilarious, embarrassing rant about all the things wrong in Ruby’s life. His interest in her starts as pity, I imagine, but grows into something more. Along the way, Ruby gets closer to ‘rescuing’ her sister and ends up learning more about herself. She truly starts to experience the Indian culture and cuisine and surprises even herself with her capacity to adapt.

By the time I got to the end, I hadn’t realized how caught up I’d been in the story. Potter’s stories always feature a hint of magic, a feeling of something wondrous sweeping the characters along without seeming too unreal. Overall, this was a great, fun read with lovable characters and a romantic setting that makes me want to rescue a sister from herself. If I had one. 😉

Like I said at the start, it’s not often that I read two such similar stories at the same time.  I didn’t set out to, it just turned out that the two books I was anticipating happened to be these two. I thought it was a good opportunity to write a new review, something I haven’t done in a while, since the end of my on-line book club.

While disappointed in Kinsella’s novel, I won’t stop reading her books. I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time, including the Shopaholic novels. However, the one that I always return to, is called Can You Keep A Secret? Also, one of her more recent ones, I’ve Got Your Number was witty, clever and filled with a lot of laugh-out-loud moments.

Alexandra Potter isn’t as well known here as Kinsella, and her books are harder to find but I’ve enjoyed every single one of hers that I’ve read. They’re all stand-alone novels with a hint of romance and fantasy in each one. It would be hard to pick a favorite, and I fell in love with TLD immediately after reading it. However, I’d also recommend Be Careful What You Wish For and Who’s That Girl?

I hope whatever you’re reading today or this week is enjoyable. I’ve been reading more lately, perhaps procrastinating on working on my own novels. 🙂

Until next time, take care and happy reading.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Truly Original

I don’t know if this has ever come up before, but I’m a fan of the HBO show, Game of Thrones. I’m well aware that it’s based upon a series of books by George R. R. Martin and I’ve just recently started reading the first books in the series. A few people I know have already read the books and are being very good about not spoiling things for me. (Although certain people do like to threaten me with spoilers when I’m being a smartass… 😉 )

After certain shocking events in this most recent season of the show, I came to love the show even more and it spurred me into reading the books – if only so I could find out what happens next instead of waiting for the show! I love being surprised by books and shows and movies. It happens so rarely now. And I don’t mean being surprised by the grandiose shots or action sequences or the wording of a scene in a book. I mean, being genuinely surprised by a plot twist that I absolutely did not see coming.

So many movies today aren’t even original. They’re remakes or adaptations of something else. TV shows are the same. Formulaic reruns of the same thing that’s been done a dozen times before. And books. Well, books and the stories in them can only be told so many different ways. As a romance writer, I know that very well. Still, the books are enjoyable, and so are the movies and the shows, because the journey through those same old storylines are what’s different.

But every once in a while, something comes along that shocks and thrills and surprises the pants off you! Game of Thrones (or as the series of books is called, A Song of Ice and Fire) is a perfect example of that.

So how so I get through reading so many different books of the same thing? Or watching the movies and shows? Hell, how do I get through writing something that most would consider the same story with different names and places inserted? I like to think I put a different, unique spin on each story, but let’s face it. It’s still boy-meets-girl, girl-or-boy-almost-loses-the-other, boy-and-girl-make-up-and-live-happily-ever-after. Lately though, I’ve been branching out and trying different things. I’ve started a new story in another new genre for me, and I have the feeling that it could go any number of ways in the end. I know where it’s going to go, but as readers, I’m hoping you’ll have any number of suspicions about it and that in the end you might be – pleasantly – surprised!

It is difficult trying to make the same story sound fresh every time it’s written. That’s one of the things I’ve been enjoying about Game of Thrones. So far, Martin has thrown every expectation out the window. I love it! I love not knowing who’s going to make it in the end (no matter how attached I am to certain imps and bastards), or which villains might survive by their cunning and trickery, in spite of me wanting to see their heads on a spike. 🙂 Yes, I’m cutthroat. It’s wonderful reading something so unique and not knowing how it may end. I’m only on the first book, and we’ve just finished the third season of the show, and from all accounts about the series, the author is still working on it. It may never end, from some perspectives.

There are very few other series or books I’ve read that follow the same surprising patterns. I enjoy Christopher Moore’s books but even he follows the same general formula – his own unique formula, granted – but it’s different from anything else out there, that’s for sure. One other series that comes to mind is the Fallen Angels by J.R. Ward. They’re an interesting mix of romance and the supernatural and I never know how each book is going to end, never mind how she’s going to wrap up the entire series.

As a writer, I do my best to write interesting and fresh stories. Sometimes that means rehashing something for my “Ice” series and late, it means writing something way outside the box for me. I hope you’ll continue to read what I write and let me know if you read something or see something that makes you say, “Holy crap! I did NOT see that coming!”

Take care and happy reading.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Writing

Book Club Recap – “Snobbery With Violence”


This past Sunday was the most recent gathering of Book Club. The selected book was “Snobbery with Violence” by M.C. Beaton. It was a book I’d picked up at the grocery store on sale and I thought it looked interesting. I quite enjoyed the book and if any of you have read it, I hope you liked it as well!

The book is an Edwardian era novel following the exploits of one Rose Summer. The book starts with the end of her engagement to a man who her father had suspected of being a bad choice. He hired Captain Harry Cathcart to investigate the fiance and the scandal that follows the broken engagement, diminishes Rose’s already slim prospects for a good marriage. As a last resort, she attends a house party in the country where murder interrupts the serenity of the place. Rose, instead of focusing on finding a husband, is more interested in solving the murder, much to the other guests dismay. Into the mix comes Harry Cathcart and the tension between the two is most entertaining.

Here are some thoughts shared last week.

“It was fun to follow the twists and turns to find out whodunnit.”

I agree, though I once again found myself a bit behind the story when it came to finding out the killer. I don’t know what it is, but I just don’t pick up on the clues enough during the story to figure it out ahead of the protagonist. It’s not just the historical mysteries. Contemporary mysteries leave me stumped. I tend to not read as much mystery as the rest. This book though, didn’t solely focus on the murder and who the killer was so it was interesting enough to keep me going. 🙂

“Rose was definitely quite the little spitfire for that group.”

The group at the house party is definitely the kind of group that likes to stick to the proper way of doing things. Then Rose comes along, less concerned with snagging a husband and more concerned with solving a murder. What kind of ‘proper’ lady does that? It was entertaining reading their reactions to her topics of conversations.

“[Rose] knew she was going against the grain and kinda just went blindly. Even though she was one of the most educated and intellectual woman she just was not exposed to 1900’s common sense’.”

On the other hand, Rose did tend to jump into a situation with no idea of the consequences. She wanted so badly to prove herself to the group, and show that she didn’t need a man, that she put herself into some dangerous positions. Also, she might have kept in mind that she was dealing with a cold-blooded murderer! If they’d already offed one person who got in their way, who’s to say they wouldn’t have done the same to the some busy-body who comes along asking questions?

In all, it was an interesting book and I’m looking forward to reading more in the series.

For the next book club gathering, I’m looking at hosting it late in September, after the busy summer season. As always, if anyone has any story or book suggestions, send me a message and let me know. It is tough picking something that I think everyone will read, or enjoy. In any case, I hope everyone is having a nice weekend. It’s the Canada Day long weekend here and it’s the hottest it’s been all year!

Take care and happy reading.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Club, Book Reviews

Book Club Recap – “Shattered”

This past week, my book club gathered to discuss “Shattered”, by Karen Robards. It’s a contemporary romance, filled with murder and intrigue. Lisa Grant is a lawyer returned to her childhood home to care for her ailing mother when she stumbles across a decades old mystery that may involve her family. Along the way, she’s helped – distracted? – by her boss, and former acquaintance, Scott Buchanan.

I’d mentioned before that I’ve read a few of Karen Robards’ contemporary romances – she also writes historical romance. This one was new for me though, and apparently new to those who were able to make it to this month’s gathering. I believe it was enjoyed for the most part, and I was not alone in being the only one who doesn’t generally read the romantic suspense/crime drama genre. 🙂

Here are a few thoughts and observations from our discussion this past Sunday. I’ll try to keep it spoiler free for those of you who may not have read the story yet, and still intend to.

I liked the flow of the story…and it always amazes me when authors can create all these loose ends and then tie them all together…the clues that are left all along the journey.”

This comment was made after I’d remarked that I’m a bit slow when it comes to figuring out the whodunnits in a story such as this. I may write it, but if a mystery isn’t spelled out for me by the end, I’d likely never figure it out. And I wasn’t alone in that!

I am so dim too follow clues with thriller/suspense books and films too. I drive my poor hubby crazy asking what is happening in the film.”

As mentioned above, this wasn’t the usually selected genre for the readers involved this go ’round. However, this story was easy enough to get into, even if it’s not something one is used to reading.

It wasn’t my genre but I like how it led you in and was very winding.”

It does start off slow, not jumping right into a twisty, complex murder plot right away. It sort of crept up on you and before you know it, you’re right in the thick of it.

While it was technically a good story, with an engaging plot, there was some difficulty in relating to the main characters at first. It seemed a bit forced or contrived at first, that Lisa returned home and all but had to beg for a job from Scott, who apparently held a grudge against her from their youth. Scott’s anger and bitterness over the past was also tough to understand. Sure, we’ve all been hurt by someone in the past but to continue nursing such a grudge seems extreme.

“I didn’t get [Scott’s] character. I think she was trying to do alpha male crossed with chip in shoulder. Instead he came across as a dink.”

Definitely. As mentioned above, it was hard to get behind the character at first. On the other hand, it did set the two leads up for some nice romantic – lusty? – tension in the near future. And that is half the fun, isn’t it? It’s a romance first, mystery second, after all.

“All her male characters were quite flawed actually. It was a good read though, the story was very strong.”

Also true. You find out more about each character as you get further into the story and it makes it that much more enjoyable, to realize how human each individual is. Makes them more relatable in the end. In Scott’s case, his father is another of those flawed males and once you read about that history, it makes you understand a bit more of his motivation now.

“As to Scott and the sexual frustration thing… His dad did a number on him and his mom not being around did as well. Kids of alcoholics are like military kids in that they grow up very fast and loose their innocence almost before they can walk.”

Very good insight on Scott’s character there.

“Don’t mind flawed male characters, he was sexy after all.”

And now we get to the heart of it. 😉 He was sexy, once you got past the first few chapters. All that pent-up and latent frustration needs an outlet at one point or another and reading some of the ensuing interactions between Lisa and Scott was very entertaining. Particularly one scene in an elevator. Oh yes. Something about those enclosed spaces, huh?

“Confined spaces make sexual tension sizzzzzle!”

“I like being pushed against a wall…LOL…very hot….leads to some really steamy kisses.”

Interesting input. 😉 I promised to consider enclosed spaces when writing my next Ice romance.

Of course, like any good book club, discussion of the actual book morphed into discussions of other books and authors we might have an interest in. One reader mentioned Elizabeth Lowell as a preferred writer of the romantic suspense genre. I seconded that, though I’d only read a couple of hers. I’m not a crime/mystery reader after all. 🙂 For romance and action, there was Christine Feehan and her Carpathian series, or Stephanie Laurens and her Cynster series. I’ve not read any of those two writers but when looking for something new, I’ll definitely be considering them.

From there, the discussion changed to preferred writers of the supernatural, and numerous young adult authors – one of the book cub readers has a ten year-old voracious reader who enjoys vampires, and werewolves and magic, oh my! 🙂 (Off topic, there were a lot of good writers and series in those genres mentioned, but as they have little to do with today’s topic, I’ve left them off today’s post. However, if you’re looking for something new in the supernatural romance genre, or interested in any number of young adult or age appropriate options, please send me a message through the ‘Contact Tamara’ tab at the top. I can send you the list. Some really good ones, let me tell you. ;))

In conclusion, while not ground-breaking or earth-shattering, was a very enjoyable read. It had some interesting characters that were human and believable, and a mystery that was wrapped up nicely in the end, with a fun twist on the ending that made me smile. Also, who doesn’t love all that sexual tension? There was some nice closure to that, believe me. 😉 And I’m not just talking about the elevator scene, though that was some heart-pounding fun before the real, er… climax. 😉

I haven’t sorted out when the next book club gathering will be, or what the next book selection will be. I’ll keep everyone informed here, and via email. If you’re interested in joining, there’s always room for more. Please send me a message via the ‘Book Club’ tab at the top of my page here, and I can add you to the email distribution list.

In other news, I’ve been making some progress on my next TAITS novel for release, though I’m stumped a bit on creating a cover page. I’m also hoping to release another old favorite on Kindle and Smashwords in the near future, once I’ve revised it to something closer to my original Lit offering. 🙂 And I’ve been spending quite a bit of time on brand new works. Some to be released on Lit, and others for publication only. I have no timelines to share at the moment but, as always, I will keep you informed.

Thank you again to those who were able to make it last week to book club. I had a great time, naturally. To everyone else, I hope you’ve been having a lovely weekend.

Take care and happy reading.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Club, Book Reviews