Let’s Take a Cruise Part I: Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Ahoy matey! Lately my fur-babies and I have been cruising through a bunch of mysteries set on the high seas. Here is the first in a series of reviews about our latest swashbuckling adventures!

Synapsis: Ambitious travel magazine writer with anxiety issues gets trapped on a luxury cruise ship with a motley crew of unsavory journalists and elitist snobs. One of whom may have thrown a mysterious woman overboard and just might strike again!

What worked: The suspense! Right from the getgo, readers get a little teaser of Lo Blacklock’s ill-fated maiden voyage as the author opens the chapters with emails and news articles about her inexplicable disappearance. This plot device worked like a charm, forcing me to forgo my daily activities to find out what really happened to our hot mess of a protagonist. With every chapter, the sense of impending doom amplified as Lo searched the ship’s intricate maze of rooms for clues. The way the author juxtaposed the ship’s opulence with a vertigo-inducing sense of dread is nothing short of ingenious. The house-of-mirrors effect had me reaching for some Dramamine  throughout Lo’s waking nightmare on the high seas.

What didn’t work: It was incredibly hard connecting—heck even liking—the main character. This seems like a growing trend in books like “Girl on a Train” and “Gone Girl,” in which the unreliable narrators are riddled with character flaws and sour dispositions. In short, Lo is a total Debbie Downer. Yes, the ship oozed capitalist greed, but couldn’t she indulge in just a little fun at her employer’s expense? Nope, not so much. If she had it her way, she’d hole herself up in her room with a bottle of booze. If it wasn’t for the loud splash of a body going overboard, she would have done just that. Good thing the cliffhanger chapters and ingenious foreshadowing kept me going. Otherwise this book would’ve been dead in the water.

Best Books of 2017 Reading Extravaganza!


Good morning, 2018! Time to scour my reading list and shine the spotlight on books that rocked my 2017. This past year has been all about Victorian mysteries, gothic ghost stories, mystical cozies and even a dash of Texas noir!

So here you have it, the best of the best books (in no particular order) that I’ve read in 2017! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get cracking on my new pile of literary adventures that arrived under the Christmas tree. Apparently I’ve been a very good girl. 😉


Best YA Dystopian Thriller

All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry

I bought this book on a whim at the Texas Book Festival and had no idea it was a dystopian thriller. Had I have known this was a survival story set in a post-global warming ravaged world, I probably would’ve chucked it back on the shelf. Yet despite my distaste for post-apocalyptic books, I was mesmerized by the lyrical prose, the star-crossed love story, the brutal desert landscape. This new author clearly has a knack for world-building and character development. My heart poured out to Sarah Jac, who lost just about everything—and then some—in a series of traumatic events. In order to survive, she and James (her scheming soul mate) must resort to lies, betrayal and theft. Once you start peeling back the many layers to these onions, it’s not going to be pretty.  Part coming-of-age, part romance, part survival story, this is one heck of a journey I won’t ever forget! Needless to say, this new author is one to watch!


Best YA Gothic Thriller

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather (a real-life decedent of Cotton Mather!)

If you’re looking for a good ol’ fashioned YA ghost story, this is it.  I was in the mood for a Lois Duncan-esque teen thriller and this book delivered! Similar to Duncan’s “Gallows Hill,” the story follows a hapless teenage girl with an otherworldly connection to the fallen witches of Salem. A descendant of Cotton Mather, the tables are turned and she’s the odd-girl-out at a school filled with superstitious mean girls. A love triangle ensues as she develops a love-hate relationship with a 300-year-old ghost and the boy next door. I know, I know, love triangles are so cliched. But yet, I still enjoy the bad boy vs. good boy dramarama. Is that so wrong? Either way, this is a super fun and campy teen thriller set amidst the spooky backdrop of the bewitched Salem woods. Hocus Pocus fans, eat your hearts out!


Best Indie Author Discovery

With This Curse by Amanda DeWees

Every once in a while I’ll give an unknown indie author a whirl. They have one chapter to win me over, and I’m a tough customer! If the pages are blemished with grammatical flaws or stilted dialogue, I’m done. Thankfully, Miss DeWees didn’t let me down. She’s a masterful wordsmith and –my god—how did she develop such an impressive vocabulary? I’m a little ashamed to say that I had to look up some of those words in my trusty Nook dictionary. I expected to find some anachronisms in this Victorian-era mystery, but alas, it was historically correct. Mechanics aside, I enjoyed the spooky atmosphere of the cursed manor and watching the romance unfold between Clare and her golden goose of a husband, Atticus. There’s multiple mysteries to solve—and when they all come to a head she finally gets to see Atticus for who he truly is. All in all, this author has a flare for drama and atmosphere. The only major flaw is Clara. Sadly, I did not like the main character at all. She was always mad at her subservient husband, who plucked her off of skid row and catered to her every whim. Her imperious demeanor was incongruous with her humble roots, which is something I hope the author will work on in the next book. That said, this series has a lot of potential. Bring on the next installment!


Best New Cozy Series

A Dark and Stormy Murder by Julia Buckley

This fun little cozy is proof that sometimes you can judge a book by its cover! This was a Barnes & Noble impulse buy that shaped out to be the most perfect book for Halloween. How could I go wrong with a murder mystery set amid the spooky backdrop of an cliff-side haunted mansion with hidden rooms? The main character—a fledgling writer—gets to live out two of my fantasies: co-writing a book with a best-selling author while living out a Nancy Drew mystery in a haunted mansion. Be still, my heart! Throw in two eligible bachelors, four-legged sidekicks and a slew of suspicious townsfolk, and you’ve got all the ingredients for the most perfect cozy mystery evers! Another new series to add to my list! Read the full review here!


Best Gone Girl-esque Thriller

Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

I just finished reading Miss Ware’s other title, “In a Dark, Dark Wood,” and it was almost a tossup over which book would make the list. But alas, this cruise ship murder mystery is hands-down the most suspenseful book I’ve read this year. In the vein of Gone Girl, we’ve got a VERY flawed and complex narrator on our hands. There are a multitude of variables that draw question marks about her credibility. This is one of those books that requires hours of binge-reading because the suspense is through the roof! Trust me on this, the final chapters are insane! What I love most about this author is her ability to distort objects of beauty into omens of impending doom. She can turn an opulent room into a sinister funhouse of mirrors, creating a sense of dread and claustrophobia. I really felt like I was on that luxurious—yet off-kilter—cruise ship amid shady rich folk with hidden agendas. Come to think of it, I think I’ll just stick to planes, trains and automobiles from now on. Read the full review here!


Best Texas Noir Thriller

The Dime by Kathleen Kent

I met this author at a BookPeople event starring my favorite hard-boiled Texas crime writer, Joe Lansdale. He raved about this new series, so I decided to give it a whirl. As I expected, Mister Lansdale didn’t steer me wrong. This book is far and away the best Texas thriller I’ve read in a while. Sorry, Hap and Leonard. The lead character—a six-foot-tall red-headed lesbian—is the quintessential Strong Texas Woman with a tough exterior and a soft heart. I enjoyed the drug-cartel thrillride, but what I love most about this book is the cast of characters and the witty dialogue. Just when I made my mind up about someone (like Betty’s womanizing partner, Seth) something cracks within their cliched exterior and you get to see that not everything is black and white. Read my full review here!

 

Let’s Take a Cruise Part II: All by Myself, Alone by Mary Higgins Clark

Ahoy mates! Captain CeeCee grants you permission to step on board and check out our latest maritime conquest. This is the second book in our three-part series of mystery cruise thrillers.

Synapsis: A filthy rich old lady with a boatload of priceless jewels gets the axe on a luxurious cruise ship and everyone’s a suspect.

What worked: This book is what I call, “Cheetos for the brain.” So if your brain tunes out while listening to this on audio (like mine did several times), you won’t miss a thing. Seriously, that’s the only generous thing I can say about this mess.

What didn’t work: Oh pretty much everything. What happened, Mary Higgins Clark? You used to write the most alluring Lifetime Movie-esque tales of obsession, deceit and murder. I used to love your trademark cliffhanger chapter endings and you’re multifaceted characters with twisted backstories. It’s hard to even believe you are the mastermind behind this embarrassing piece of drivel.

Probably the worst aspect of the book is the revolving cast of characters.  The third-person narrative bounces around from one undeveloped character to the next, all of whom are annoying and uninteresting. Without a main character, who am I supposed to root for? I suppose the anchor characters are the lottery-winning middle-aged couple, Alvirah and Willy, but really they’re just background noise. Sure, Alvirah saves the day in the end, but at that point I wouldn’t have cared if they all walked the plank.

And then there’s the dialogue. Oh dear. I’m having a hard time believing that a seasoned mystery writer could string together such clunky, intermediate-reader level nonsense. Seriously, I’ve read better dialogue in The Babysitter’s Club.

Yeesh…this is turning out to be quite the roast. I hate to be such a buzzkill, but if I can prevent my fellow mystery lovers from wasting their time and money on this hunk of garbage, I’m doing a good public service! If you want to read a good mystery cruise thriller, check out Woman in Cabin 10.

Books I’ve Read

Books I’ve Read in 2017

December

All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry
Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett
The Christmas Train by David Baldacci
The Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans
Twelve Slays of Christmas by Jacqueline Frost
The Silent Night by Tasha Alexander
Upon a Ghostly Yule by Amanda DeWees
Death, Taxes and Mistletoe Mayhem by Diane Kelly
Gather Round the Sound by misc. authors|
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
With This Curse by Amanda DeWees

November

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
House of Furies by Madeleine Roux
Midnight on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Fatal Feast by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

October

Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James
Site Unseen by Dana Cameron
How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

September

Fangoria’s Dreadtime (multiple authors)
The 5-Second Rule by Mel Robbins
It by Stephen King

August

Murder She Wrote: Rum and Razors by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain
Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower
A Dark and Stormy Murder by Julia Buckley
Midnight Jewel: The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead
Black Beauty: An Audible Original Drama by Anna Sewell, R.D. Carstairs-adaptation
Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

July

Perennials: A Novel by Mandy Berman
Murder Most Howl by Krista Davis
Somebody I used to Know by David Bell
Peaches and Scream by Susan Furlong
Summer in the South by Cathy Holton
Ghost of a Chance by E.J. Copperman

June

A Familiar Tail: Witch’s Cat Mystery Series by Delia James
A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane

May

Pouncing on Murder by Laurie Cass
Yes, Please by Amy Pohler
Arrowood by Laura McHugh
Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach

April

The Diviners by Libba Bray
Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Title Wave by Lorna Barrett
All by Myself, Alone by Mary Higgins Clark
Before He Finds Her by Michael Kardos

March

Woman in Cabin Ten by Ruth Ware
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

February

A Gilded Grave by Shelley Freydont
Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandell
The Dime by Kathleen Kent
Arf by Spencer Quinn
Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything by Nancy Martin

January

Death by Chocolate Lab by Bethany Blake
A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Mainscalco & James Patterson
The Restorer by Amanda Stevens
The Long Lankin by Lindsay Barraclough

Books I’ve Read in 2016

December

Mrs. Jeffries and the Merry Gentlemen by Emily Brightwell
The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt
Rest Ye Murdered Gentleman by Vicki Delany
Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke
Certain Dark Things by M.J. Pack
Mistletoe and Murder by Carola Dunn
Santa 365 by Spencer Quinn

November

And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich
Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella

October

Beewitched by Hannah Reed
Severed by Dax Varley
The Secret of Sleepy Hollow by Andi Marquette
Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
Sleepy Hollow: General of the Dead by Richard Gleaves

September

The Ghost and Mrs. Fletcher by Donald Bain and J.B. Fletcher
Cicada Summer by Andrea Beaty
The Diet Trap Solution by Judith Beck and Debra Beck Busis
Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
Beewitched by Hannah Reed
Murder at the Mansion by Janet Finsilver

August

Catch Rider by Jennifer Lyne
The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb
Silent Harmony by Michele Scott
The Walls around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

July

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Tumbling by Caela Carter

June

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay
Heaven to Betsy by Pamela Fagan Hutchins
The Grand Hotel by Scott Kenemore
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

May
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie
The All-Girl’s Filling Station Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

April
Mary: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan
Sister Dear by Laura McNeil
Murder She Wrote: Death of  Blueblood by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

March

The Hand that Feeds You by A.J. Rich
Thirteen Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt
Malice at the Palace by Rhys Bowen
Black Eye Susans by Julia Heaberlin
The Bargaining by Carly Ann West

February

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Bad Country by CB McKenzie
Diet Cults by Matt Fitzgerald
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

January

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Seth Grahamey-Smith
If Walls Could Talk by Juiliet Blackwell
Claws for Alarm by TC LoTempio
Scents and Sensibility by Spencer Quinn

Books I’ve Read in 2015

December

A Christmas Bride by Jo Ann Ferguson
Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed
Woof by Spencer Quinn
Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson
Away in a Manger by Rhys Bowen
Heartland Super Special: A Holiday Memory by Lauren Brooke
Star of the East by Tasha Alexander
A Christmas Hope by Anne Perry

November

Covenant of the Vampire by Jeanne Kalogridis
The Legend of Sleepy Harlow by Kylie Logan
Star of the East by Tasha Alexander
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Grave Apparel by Ellen Byerrum

October

Stirring the Plot by Daryl Wood Gerber
Sleepy Hollow: Bridge of Bones by Richard Gleaves
The Haunting of Maddie Claire by Simone St. James
I am Haunted by Zach Bagans

September

Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper
Nightmares Can be Murder by Mary Kennedy
Woman in Black by Susan Hill
The Silence of the Ghosts by Jonathan Aycliffe
Naomi’s Room by Jonathan Aycliffe
Rise Headless and Rise by Richard Gleaves

August

Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron
Bone to be Wild by Carolyn Haines
Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer
Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale by Lynda Rutledge

July

Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill
If You’ve Got it, Haunt it by Rose Pressey
Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Ghostly Paws by Leighann Dobbs

June

Caught Dead Handed by Carol J Perry
Walk Me Home by Catharine Ryan Hyde
Neighing with Fire by Kathryn O’Sullivan
Dead White and Blue by Carolyn Hart

May

Real Murders: Aurora Teagarden Mystery No. 1 by Charlaine Harris
I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me by Jerold J. Kreisman
Trucker Ghost Stories by Annie Wilder
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Sound and the Furry: Chet and Bernie Mystery No. 6 by Spencer Quinn

April

Outlander by Diana Galbadon
Dog Crazy by Meg Donahue
This Voice in My Heart by Gilbert Tuhabonye and Gary Brozek
Masked Ball at Broxley Manor by Rhys Bowen

March

The Source by J.D. Horn
A Nip of Murder by Carol Miller
Frostbite by Richelle Meade
Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn Dingman

February

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahan
The Line by J.D. Horn

January

Murder, She Wrote: A Question of Murder by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain
My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland
Geared for the Grave by Duffy Brown
Night Chill by Jeff Gunhus
Cat Deck the Halls by Shirley R. Murphy
Adventures in Dating by Sarah Rishforth

Books I’ve Read in 2014

December

Murder of a Stacked Librarian by Diane Swanson
Christmas Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley
Christmas is Murder by CS Challinor
All is Calm by Colleen Coble
The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn
Herald of Death by Kate Kingsbury

November

Pie Girls by Lauren Clark
To Hell and Gone in Texas by Russ Hall
The Vanishing by Wendy Webb
Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill
Eat and Run by Scott Jurek
Night of the Living Deed by E.J. Cooperman

October

Dr. Sleep by Stephen King
Ten by Gretchen McNeil
Freeing Yourself from Anxiety by Tamar Chansky
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
The Black Heart Crypt: A Haunted Mystery by Chris Garbenstein
Meow if it’s Murder by TC LoTempio
All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn

September

Driving with the Top Down by Beth Harbison
The Selkie Spell by Sophie Moss
It’s Hard Not to Hate You by Valerie Frankel
Honey, Do You Need a Ride? By Jennifer Graham
The Unquiet by Jeanine Garsee

August

Perennial by Ryan Potter
Asylum by Madeline Reoux
The Cat Sitter’s Nine Lives by Blaize and John Clement
Dressed to Steal by Carolyn Keene
Hostile Makeover by Ellen Byerrum

July

Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy
Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagan
A Bad Day for Scandal by Sophie Littlefield
Dead until Dark  by Charlaine Harris

June

Killer Honeymoon by G.A. McKevett
Five Summers by Una Lamarche
Booty Bones by Carolyn Haines
It Takes an Egg Timer by Joanne Tombrakos
Lay Death at Her Door by Elizabeth Buhmann

May

Mischief in Mudbug by Jana Deleon
Murder on the Hoof by Kathryn O’sullivan
That Old Black Magic by Mary Jane Clark
I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I’ve Ever Had by Tony Danza

April

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Lending a Paw by Laurie Cass
The Nerd’s Guide to Being Confident by Mark Manson
Paper Towns by John Green

March

Her Royal Spyness (Book 1) by Rhys Bowen
The Collection by Bentley Little
Murder and Moonshine by Carol Miller
Self-Compassion by Kristen Neff

February

Vampire Academy (Book 1) by Richelle Mead
Dog on It by Spencer Quinn
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

January

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Following Atticus by Tom Ryan
A Fist Full of Collars by Spencer Quinn
Ghoul Interrupted by Victoria Lourie
Orphan Train by Kristina Baker Kline
Neon Rain by James Lee Burke

Books I’ve Read in 2013

December

The Clue is in the Pudding by Kate Kingsbury
Ghost Huntress: The Tidings by Marley Gibson
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
A Dog Named Christmas by Greg Kincaid
I’m Dreaming of an Undead Christmas by Molly Harper
The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen
Call Me Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber

November

A Christmas Hope by Anne Perry
The Secret of Cypriere Bayou by Jana Deleon
The Devil’s Footprints by Amanda Stevens
Whodunit: Murder in Mystery Manor by Anthony Zuiker

October

Mayhem at the Orient Express by Kylie Logan
Broken by A.E. Rought
Dark Kiss by Michelle Rowen
Mid Summer Night’s Scream by R.L. Stine
Dead of Night by Charlaine Harris and Amanda Stevens
Dance on His Grave by Sylvia Dickey Smith

September

Haunting Violet by Alxyandra Harvey
The Cat Sitter’s Cradle by Blaize & John Clement
Phantom Evil by Heather Graham
On Writing by Stephen King

August

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
Veiled Revenge by Ellen Byerrum
Forever Charmed by Rose Pressey

July

Red Rain by R.L. Stine
White Oleander by Janet Fitch
Latte Trouble by Cleo Coyle
Black Hills by Nora Roberts
Texas Cooking by Lisa Wingate

June

Nearly Departed in Deadwood by Ann Charles
A Cast Off Coven by Juliet Blackwell
Haunted on Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase
Killer Maize by Paige Shelton

May

The Crypt Thief by Mark Pryor
Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs
Edge of Dark Water by Joe Lansdale
Murder on the Half Shelf by Lorna Barrett
Foal Play by Kathryn O’Sullivan
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Supernaturals by David Lynn Goleman

April

The Thirteenth Sacrifice by Debbie Viguie
Cocktail Hour by Tara McTiernan
Opal Fire by Barbara Amino

March

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson
Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Daniel X by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn
An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James

February

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Naturally Charlie by S.L. Scott
Pretty when She Dies by Rhiannon Frater
Angels Fall by Nora Roberts
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

January

The Ghost and the Dead Man’s Library by Alice Kimberly
Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr
Awake at Dawn by C.C. Hunter
The Secret Circle by L.J. Smith
Amber House by Kelly Moore

Books I’ve Read in 2012

December
I Kill Me by Tracey H. Tucker
Silent Night by Deanna Raybourn
Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle
A Countess by Christmas by Annie Burrows
So Pretty it Hurts by Kate White
From What I Remember by Valerie Thomas and Stacy Kramer
Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

November 

Wicked Witch Murder (Lucy Stone Mystery #16)  by Leslie Meier
Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls by Victoria Laurie
Born at Midnight (Shadow Falls #1) by C.C. Hunter
Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendra Blake
Ghost Story by Peter Straub

October
Taking Chances (Heartland #4) by Lauren Brooke
Walk of the Spirits by Richie Tankersley Cusick
Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
The Watcher in the Woods by Florence Engel Randall
Chasing Ghosts – Texas Style by Barry and Chad Klinge

September
Barefoot Girls by Tara McTiernan
The Swamp Whisperer by Sylvia Dickey Smith
The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
It Begins (The Unseen #1) by Richie Tankersley Cusick

August
The Five by Robert McCammon
The Espressologist by Kristina Springer
Misfortune Cookie by Michele Gorman
Delerium by Lauren Oliver

July
Hostile Makeover by Ellen Byerrum
Falling Home by Karen White
Death Perception (Psychic Eye Mysteries #6) by Victoria Laurie
Love at First Bark by Julie Klam
Breaking Free (Heartland #3) by Lauren Brooke

June
The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong
Making Piece, by Beth M. Howard
True Love Way by Nancy Scrofano
Monarch Beach by Anita Hughes
Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
Sisterhood Everlasting by Anne Brashares
After the Storm (Heartland #2) by Lauren Brooke

May
Overseas by Beatriz Williams
Rough Country by John Sanford
Zombies Don’t Cry by Rusty Fischer
A Glimpse of Evil (Psychic Eye Mystery No. 8) by Victoria Laurie
Under Suspicion (Underworld Detection Agency Mystery No. 3) by Hannah Jayne
Dancing Naked in Dixie by Lauren Clark

April
Doom with a View by Victoria Laurie
Dare to Die (Death on Demand Mystery) by Carolyn Hart
Horns by Joe Hill
Heartland: Coming Home  (book 1) by Lauren Brooke
Trouble in Mudbug by Jana DeLeon
The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
Dark Lover (Blackdagger Brotherhood Series book 1) by J.R. Ward
Downward Dog, Upward Fog by Meryl Davids Landau

March

Destined to Fail by Samantha March
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Soulless by Gail Carriger
Recession Proof by Kimberly S. Lin
Death on Heels by Ellen Byerumm

February
Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement
Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs by Blaize Clement
Trashy Chic by Cathy Lubenski
Hereafter by Tara Hudson

January
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Stay Tuned by Lauren Clark
The Guys’ Guy’s Guide to Love by Robert Manni
How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner
Love on the Lifts by Rachel Hawthorne
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Darkside by Beth Fantaskey

Books I’ve Read in 2011

January
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
The Girl who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
Made in the USA by Billie Letts
Bones of the Rain by Russ Hall

February
Wake by Lisa McMann
A House to Die for by Victoria Doudra
Sex, Murder and a Double Latte by Kyra Davis
A Werewolf in Manhattan by Vickie Lewis Thompson

March
A War of Her Own by Sylvia Dickey Smith
Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann
Ham Bones by Carolyn Haines
The Pulpwood Queens Tiara-Wearing Book-Sharing  Guide to Life by Kathy L. Patrick

April
Succubus Blues, by Richelle Mead
The Christmas Cookie Club by Ann Pearlman
Just Take My Heart, by Mary Higgins Clark
The Bodies Left Behind by Jeffery Deaver

May
Wishbones by Carolyn Haines
A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield
First Grave on the Right, by Darynda Jones
Play Dead by Harlan Coben

June
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
Glass Houses (Morganville Vampires, Book 1) by Rachel Caine
The Dead Girls’ Dance (Morganville Vampires, Book 2) by Rachel Caine
Backyard Saints by Joshylin Jackson

July
Deeper than the dead by Tami Hoag
Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay
Hexes and Hemlines by Juliet Blackwell
Die for Me by Amy Plum
Passion, Betrayal and Killer Highlights by Kyra Davis

August
Vows, Vendettas and a Little Black Dress by Kyra Davis
Killer Hair: A crime of Fashion by Ellen Byerrum
Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Under Attack by Hannah Jayne

September 
Another Bad Dog Book by Joni B. Cole
Deadly Harvest by Heather Graham
Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye #1
Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
Pretty Woman by Fern Michaels
How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper

October
The Hollow by Jessica Verday
I am Legend by Richard Matheson
Fever Moon by Carolyn Haines
The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

November
Graveminder by Melissa Marr
Chihuahua of the Baskervilles by Esri Allbritten
The Pig and Me by Liindsay Frucci
Paranormal State by Ryan Buell

 December
My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent
Decked with Folly by Kate Kingsbury
Mistletoe and Mayhem by Kate Kingsbury
Christmas at Timberwoods by Fern Michaels
The Mischeif of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig

Giveaway, Review and Q&A: Death on Heels by Ellen Byerrum

In her eighth novel featuring the fearless Washington D.C. fashion columnist, Lacey Smithsonian, Ellen Byerrum successfully pulls off another rollicking mystery filled with an eclectic mix of colorful characters and more red herrings than you can shake a stick at!

As the novel opens, Lacey reluctantly returns to her dreary hometown of Sagebrush, Colorado to investigate the murders of three young women – all left for dead on the side of the road without their blinged-out cowgirl boots.

All fingers point to her ex-boyfriend, Cole Tucker, a sexy-as-hell cowboy rancher who still carries a torch for his old girlfriend. Despite the incriminating evidence, which seemed to be carefully placed on his land, she’s certain of her old beau’s innocence. Of course, her current boyfriend and private investigator, Vic Donovan, isn’t all too keen on her rushing to the aid of a suspected killer…who might also be her one true love.

Just as she feared, her heart  melts the second she sees the rugged cowboy in his brown jailbird jumpsuit. And things go from bad to worse when he breaks free of his cuffs, slings her over his shoulder and flees the courthouse in a blaze of glory.

On the run from the law, Cole whisks Lacey away into the rugged plains of Northern Colorado. Traveling deep into God’s country in “borrowed” cars and on horseback, the two ex-lovers shack up in a creepy abandoned cabin and stumble upon an essential fashion clue: a black cowboy bootheel wrapped in silver filigree.

As Lacey pieces together the clues, she encounters a slew of shady characters with ample motives for railroading her old flame. They’re all chomping at the bit for a piece of his land, aptly named  “The Tuckered Out Ranch,” which sits atop a goldmine of mineral resources.

With Vic and a posse of trigger-happy local yokels in hot pursuit, Lacey fears for Cole’s safety and struggles with her unresolved feelings. Could the man she left behind be the one? I’ve always been on team Vic, but this cowboy is H-O-T (think young Scott Glenn in Urban Cowboy), and the romantic tension intensifies every time they lock eyes. Boy is she in for a bumpy ride – and I’m not just talking about riding horseback along the badlands of rural Colorado.

If you’re new to the Crimes of Fashion mystery series, you’re in for a treat! The author  imbues her writing with an addictive sense of wit, and Lacey’s adventures are laugh-out-loud funny. Not only does Ellen deliver a wonderfully quirky yet completely believable cast of characters including Lacey’s spunky little sister, Cherise, who threatens to steal the whole show, but the book’s exceptionally entertaining plot strikes the perfect balance between high-stakes danger and smoldering romance. Oh and I should also mention the delightful “fashion bites” are an added bonus for fashionably-challenged wannabe cowgirls like myself! Here are a couple of my faves:

“So ladies, if the boot fits, wear it. Wear your boots with pants, shorts, skirts, and dresses. Wear them with a swagger and a glint in your eyes. Wear them with a purpose. Wear them with an attitude. Wear them walking toward your destiny. But never wear them with indifference.”

“When you don a Western look, you’re wearing an American classic, a little piece of the frontier, of the Wild West, and the wild imagination as well. Not a Halloween costume.

Now without any further ado, I’m proud to present a Q&A with the fabulous Ellen Byerrum!

Welcome Ellen! Why does Lacey love wearing vintage fashions? And what does this unique style say about her character?

Vintage clothing is attractive to Lacey for several reasons. Vintage gives her the opportunity to wear a suit or a dress that is unusual, if not one of a kind. The clothes from the late 1930s and 1940s, which Lacey prefers, were built for a woman’s figure, not a boyish one. The clothing that survives from 60 and 70 years ago tends to be the better clothes, the pieces that people saved, treasured and kept in good condition. Their “Sunday best,” if you will. The styles were flattering, and because of government regulations that restricted fabric, designers were a lot more creative in the details.  And finally, Lacey likes to think that some of the spirit of the original owner remains in those dresses and suits and coats, the spirit of strong women who kept the country running through World War II.

Will Lacey infuse some country flare into her vintage ensembles while she’s hunting down clues in her hometown of Sagebrush, Colorado?

More likely she takes her big city flair to the country and tries to blend her styles. But you’ll have to see for yourself.

How has Lacey evolved since the first installment of the Crimes of Fashions mystery series?

In the first book, Killer Hair, Lacey was reluctant to get involved in murder investigations, but as time goes by—eight books, but less than a year in book time—she’s more sure of herself and finding creative ways to use her fashion beat to write what she wants to write. Since the first book, Lacey has fallen in love, studied private investigation, and come to appreciate her mother and sister in ways she hadn’t before.

I have to admit, I watched the Lifetime movies before reading your novels. I was quite surprised by how different the books were from the movies. In your opinion, how did they get it right – and where did they miss the mark?

My first reaction when I saw the movies was that I could tell every line that wasn’t mine! Nevertheless, it was a great thrill to have movies based on my books, though not quite a complete retelling. I thought that some of the characters were great. Maggie Lawson made a charming Lacey, Victor Webster was a terrific Vic Donovan, and together they created great chemistry. Stella was nothing like the character in the book, but the actress was endearing, and I loved Brooke as well. One of the best surprises was the actress playing Felicity Pickles. Though she was a blonde and not a brunette like the character in the books, she was wonderful in a very small role. And the killer was really good. In addition, I have to say it was a kick doing a walk-on in the movie in front of the White House! People who know me can spot my big moment on camera.

KILLER HAIR was pretty faithful to the book and I thought the climax was well done, well directed, and suspenseful. HOSTILE MAKEOVER followed the set up of the book and then. . . deviated. All I can say is that there is a point to HM about how beautiful people can harbor monsters inside, but the film didn’t get that point. At all. Let’s just say I was surprised at the big finish in the second movie.

As far as what they missed?  I heard from a lot of readers who were outraged that Aunt Mimi’s trunk was not in the movies. I agree, it was a puzzling omission. After all, Lacey often finds her inspirations in the trunk and runs to it whenever she’s stressed or baffled. She has found many of her outfits in the trunk, with its bottomless treasure trove of patterns and materials. About the vintage clothing in the film: While Maggie Lawson’s costumes were some sort of vintage, including dresses looked like they dated from the 1970s and 1980s, there were only a couple of pieces from Lacey’s favorite period, the 1940s. The Lifetime movies were filmed in Canada with many Canadian actors, which is probably why Stella did not have a New Jersey accent. Another key character in HOSTILE MAKEOVER was from West Virginia, but there was no southern accent. It would have been nice to hear the various accents, which provide back story in a character.

(NOTE: The Lifetime Movie Network films were first aired in summer 2009. They’re available from iTunes. There are links on my Web site on the Buy My Books page.)

Lacey’s two best friends, Stella and Brooke, are by far my most favorite chick lit gal pals. They’re smart, they’re sassy, and they always have Lacey’s back.  Why is it important to support the leading lady with a strong cast of friends?

I’m so glad you like them. I enjoy Brooke and Stella too, especially because they both provide counterpoints to Lacey, in their personalities and their style. They have a lot of heart and loyalty. In practical terms, they have strong stories, love interests, and back stories, which gives me a lot more to play with in terms of plot and subplot.

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give aspiring authors?

1). Keep writing! Stop listening to all the negative voices you might hear, including your own, that can stop you in your tracks. Ignore all questions like, What makes you think you could be a writer? 2) Finish your project! Whether it’s a short story or a book, you have to move beyond polishing those first three pages or chapters. You’ll never be published if you don’t finish.  3) Listen to constructive criticism. You don’t have to do everything your critics say, but many times others have the distance to see how you could make your work better. 4) Rewrite. First drafts are never perfect, no matter how brilliant they might seem to us.

Do you plan out your novels with outlines and detailed synopses, or do you take a more freestyle approach to writing?

Outlines are required by my publisher, so I have to turn one in as part of the contract. A synopsis can be useful in figuring out where the story goes, but for me there is a danger that it can drain the energy from my writing, because writing the synopsis can make me feel like I’ve already been there and done that. I always have an idea of where I’m going, but it’s the surprises that occur while writing, whether it is a turn of phrase or a new character that pops up, that keeps me going.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the ninth book in the series, titled VEILED REVENGE. It should be out in February 2013. That is, if everything goes according to plan. And I’m working on a psychological thriller, THE DOLLHOUSE IN THE CRAWL SPACE, which I really hope to finish this year. So wish me good luck! And thank you so much for inviting me here today.

About the author:

Ellen Byerrum writes the popular Crime of Fashion mysteries, set in bustling Washington, D.C., The City That Fashion Forgot. Featuring style sleuth Lacey Smithsonian, who solves crimes with fashion clues, the eighth book, Death on Heels, takes Lacey out of her comfort zone and into the Wild West where she confronts her past and an old boyfriend who is accused of murder.While researching fashion, Byerrum has collected her own assortment of 1940s vintage dresses and suits, and the occasional accessory, but laments her lack of closet space. She has been a D.C. news reporter in Washington, a playwright, and holds a Virginia P.I. registration. Although she currently resides in Denver, fashion reporter Lacey Smithsonian will continue to be based in Washington, D.C.

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GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Death on Heels. To enter, post a comment under this review/Q&A and answer this question:  Which of your fashion staples (footwear, accessories and jewelry included) gives you confidence? The winner’s name will be selected at random.

 The deadline to enter is Friday, March 30. U.S. addresses only.