Monthly Wrap Up

January 2015 Wrap-Up

Well … January was an ok reading month for me. I managed to read 4 books. Unfortunately, none of them really had that WOW factor. Three of the four books were from my shelves. The one review book was my last commitment that I had outstanding. I had said earlier that I wasn’t going to accept review books. And I’m really not planning on taking any more on right now. I have signed up for some book spotlights through tour companies for books that I would normally accept for review consideration, but I’m still holding firm on my no-review-book decision for now.

Anyway, on to the books:

Books read: 4 (YTD: 4)

Vixen 03Dust and ShadowCity of Liar and ThievesBaltimore Blues

  1. Vixen 03 by Clive Cussler – REVIEW
  2. Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson by Lyndsay Faye – REVIEW
  3. City of Liars and Thieves by Eve Karlin – REVIEW
  4. Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman – REVIEW

Pages Read: 1,240 (YTD: 1,240 )

Books Received: 14 (See list here)

  • Purchased New: 2
  • Purchased Used, Online: 6
  • Paperbackswap: 6

Memes Posted: 6

Events Participated In: None

Recipes Shared: 1

3/5, AUTHOR, Author Debut, Book Review, Fiction, L, RATING, Read in 2015, SERIES, Tess Monaghan

2015.4 REVIEW – Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman

Baltimore Blues
by Laura Lippman

Copyright: 1997
Pages: 290
Rating: 3.5/5
Read: Jan. 21 – Jan. 25, 2015
Challenge: No challenge
Yearly count: 4
Format: Print
Source: Personal Copy
Series: Tess Monaghan #1

Baltimore BluesBlurb:  In a city where someone is murdered almost every day, attorney Michael Abramowitz’s death should be just another statistic. But the slain lawyer’s notoriety – and his taste for illicit midday trysts – makes the case front page news in every local paper except the Star, which crashed and burned before Abramowitz did. A former Star reporter who knows every inch of this town – from historic Fort McHenry to the crumbling projects of Cherry Hill – now-unemployed journalist Tess Monaghan also knows the guy the cops like for the killing: cuckolded fiancé Darryl “Rock” Paxton. The time is ripe for a career move, so when rowing buddy Rock wants to hire her to do some unorthodox snooping to help clear his name, Tess agrees. But there are lethal secrets hiding in the Charm City shadows. And Tess’s own name could end up on that ever-expanding list of Baltimore dead.

Review: I picked this one up off my shelf on a whim. It’s not like I needed another series to begin … but for some reason it caught my eye at the time.

I found this one to be an interesting read. I liked Tess’s character. She’s got humor, but at the same time, she’s pretty serious too. I think it will be interesting to watch her grow as a character in subsequent books.

This is a relatively short and quick novel, clocking in at only 290 pages. But I found myself struggling to read much more than a chapter or so at a time. It had nothing really to do with the book I don’t think, because it was an enjoyable enough read, it just didn’t seem to wrap me up completely like some books do.

So while I enjoyed it and will be looking forward to reading on in this series, it’s not necessarily a book that I will remember in a few days. I think I might ultimately end up preferring Ms. Lippman’s standalone novels to this series.

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E-Book, Fiction, K, RATING, Read in 2015, Review Book, TLC Book Tours

2015.3 REVIEW – City of Liars and Thieves by Eve Karlin

City of Liar and Thieves
by Eve Karlin

Copyright: 2014
Pages: 266
Rating: 3/5
Read: Jan. 14 – Jan. 20, 2015
Challenge: No challenge
Yearly count: 3
Format: E-Book
Source: TLC Book Tours
Series: N/A

City of Liar and ThievesBlurb: A crime that rocked a city. A case that stunned a nation. Based on the United States’ first recorded murder trial, Eve Karlin’s spellbinding debut novel re-creates early nineteenth-century New York City, where a love affair ends in a brutal murder and a conspiracy involving Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr erupts in shattering violence.

It is high time to tell the truth. Time for justice. . . . How she was murdered and why she haunts me. It is not only Elma’s story, it’s mine.

On the bustling docks of the Hudson River, Catherine Ring waits with her husband and children for the ship carrying her cousin, Elma Sands. Their Greenwich Street boardinghouse becomes a haven for Elma, who has at last escaped the stifling confines of her small hometown and the shameful circumstances of her birth. But in the summer of 1799, Manhattan remains a teeming cesspool of stagnant swamps and polluted rivers. The city is desperate for clean water as fires wreak devastation and the death toll from yellow fever surges.

Political tensions are rising, too. It’s an election year, and Alexander Hamilton is hungry for power. So is his rival, Aaron Burr, who has announced the formation of the Manhattan Water Company. But their private struggle becomes very public when the body of Elma Sands is found at the bottom of a city well built by Burr’s company.

Resolved to see justice done, Catherine becomes both witness and avenger. She soon finds, however, that the shocking truth behind this trial has nothing to do with guilt or innocence.

Review: I received a copy of this book for free in conjunction with a TLC Book tour, all opinions expressed below are my own.

When I was first pitched this book I was immediately intrigued. I love a good historical fiction novel based on a true crime story from the past. It takes two of my favorite things – true crime/mysteries and history – and blends them together in a way that I love to read about! So I was really excited to read this book!

Overall, it wasn’t necessarily a bad book. But I felt like the blurb might have been a little bit misleading. I expected more Hamilton/Burr than I got out of this book. I also wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer amount of political references.

But I will say this, I loved the scene that was portrayed by Ms. Karlin. She really brought nineteenth-century New York City to life for me. And definitely made me appreciate the modern conveniences we have and take for granted!

So while this story was a little more politically involved than I had been prepared for, I still enjoyed it quite a lot. I learned about a murder trial I had never heard about before. I felt like I was walking the streets of New York City in 1799. And it was just an overall entertaining read.


About the Author: Eve Karlin was born and raised in New York City. She is a graduate of Colgate University, where she studied literature and creative writing with Frederick Busch. Karlin worked in publishing for more than a decade in marketing, at Random House, Newsweek, and, later, as a foreign book scout with clients in the United Kingdom, Italy, Holland, Brazil, and Japan. She has had several short stories published in The East Hampton Star and has been a contributing writer for She lives in East Hampton, New York, with her husband and their sixteen-year-old triplets. City of Liars and Thieves is her first book.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

GIVEAWAY! There is also a giveaway available in conjunction with this tour. The winner will receive a $25.00 gift card to the e-book retailer of their choice and one copy of City of Liars and ThievesPLEASE CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE GIVEAWAY PAGE. 

As always, I hope you take the time to visit the other stops on the tour:

Tuesday, January 6th: Mystery Playground
Wednesday, January 7th: Bibliophilia, Please
Friday, January 9th: Fiction Zeal
Monday, January 12th: Omnimystery News – author guest post
Tuesday, January 13th: Dwell in Possibility
Tuesday, January 13th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, January 14th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, January 16th: Reading Reality
Monday, January 19th: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, January 20th: Sarah’s Book Shelves
Wednesday, January 21st: A Fantastical Librarian
Thursday, January 22nd: Chew & Digest Books
Monday, January 26th: History from a Woman’s Perspective
Tuesday, January 27th: Tales of a Book Addict
Wednesday, January 28th: Staircase Wit
Thursday, January 29th: 100 Pages a Day… Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Friday, January 30th: Books in the Burbs
TBD: Back Porchervations

First chapter, Meme

First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday Intros #26


Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts this meme.

Baltimore Blues

Today I’m featuring a book that I’m reading. 

On the last night of August, Tess Monaghan went to the drugstore and bought a composition book – one with a black-and-white marble cover. She had done this every fall since she was six and saw no reason to change, despite the differences wrought by twenty-three years. Never mind that she had a computer with a memory capable of keeping anything she might want to record. Never mind that she had to go to Rite Aid because Weinstein’s Drugs had long ago been run into the ground by her grandfather. Never mind that she was no longer a student, no longer had a job, and summer’s end held little relevance for her. Tess believed in routines and rituals. So she bought a composition book for $1.69, took it home, and opened it to the first page, where she wrote:

Goals for Autumn:

1. Bench press 120 pounds
2. Run a 7-minute mile.
3. Read Don Quixote.
4. Find a job, etc.

Personally, this caught my attention immediately … what do you think?!

Mailbox Monday, Meme

Mailbox Monday, January 19, 2015

Mailbox Mondays

Two books this week, both from Paperbackswap (when will I learn to stay off that site?!):

Ender's GameIn order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

CyclopsWhen Dirk Pitt intercepts a rogue blimp on a deadly course, authorities find four dead men aboard. None of them ,however, is the wealthy American financier who set out aboard the antique airship on an ocean treasure hunt in the Bermuda Triangle. He and his crew have disappeared, and the dead men are discovered to be Soviet cosmonauts. Meanwhile, the President of the United States is informed that a covert group of U.S. industrialists successfully placed a secret colony on the moon nearly three decades previously. Now, a Soviet mission is poised to land on the moon, and what they find there may lead to nuclear war. Threatened in space, the Russians are about to strike a savage blow in Cuba. From the cold ocean depths to a Cuban torture chamber to the CIA headquarters at Langley, Pitt is racing to defuse an international conspiracy that threatens to shatter the earth.


4/5, AUTHOR, Author Debut, Book Review, F, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2015

2015.2 REVIEW – Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye

Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson
by Lynsday Faye

Copyright: 2009
Pages: 322
Rating: 4/5
Read: Jan. 11 – Jan. 14, 2015
Challenge: No challenge
Yearly count: 2
Format: Print
Source: Personal Copy
Series: N/A

Dust and ShadowBlurb: From the gritty streets of nineteenth century London, the loyal and courageous Dr. Watson offers a tale unearthed after generations of lore: the harrowing story of Sherlock Holmes’s attempt to hunt down Jack the Ripper.

As England’s greatest specialist in criminal detection, Sherlock Holmes is unwavering in his quest to capture the killer responsible for terrifying London’s East End. He hires an “unfortunate” known as Mary Ann Monk, the friend of a fellow streetwalker who was one of the Ripper’s earliest victims; and he relies heavily on the steadfast and devoted Dr. John H. Watson. When Holmes himself is wounded in Whitechapel during an attempt to catch the savage monster, the popular press launches an investigation of his own, questioning the great detective’s role in the very crimes he is so fervently struggling to prevent. Stripped of his credibility, Holmes is left with no choice but to break every rule in the desperate race to find the madman known as “the Knife” before it is too late.

A masterly re-creation of history’s most diabolical villain, Lyndsay Faye’s debut brings unparalleled authenticity to the atmosphere of Whitechapel and London in the fledgling days of tabloid journalism and recalls the ideals evinced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most beloved and world-renowned characters. Jack the Ripper’s identity, still hotly debated around the world more than a century after his crimes were committed, remains a mystery ripe for speculation. Dust and Shadow explores the terrifying prospect of tracking a serial killer without the advantage of modern forensics, and the result is a lightning-paced novel brimming with historical detail that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Review: I have signed up for a few challenges on some Goodreads groups this year, and one of the requirements in one of the challenges was to read an author debut. This is the book that I chose. It’s also been sitting on my shelf since 2009, when I received it from Paperbackswap….

Personally, I was hooked by “Jack the Ripper” and “Sherlock Holmes.” I mean, hello? Do I even have to explain any further than that?! To be completely honest, I’m not all that familiar with the Jack the Ripper case, except for the very bare bones (i.e. London, Whitechapel, 1880s, extremely vicious murders – literally, that’s the extent of my knowledge). I also never really read very many Sherlock Holmes stories. But that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of this very interesting historical fiction blend.

Overall, the book flows quite well. I felt like I was right there in London with Sherlock and Watson. Ms. Faye sets the scene effortlessly. She keeps it interesting without going too far to the side of gore that revolves around Jack the Ripper. I felt that she really had a great grasp of Sherlock’s “voice” too.

I enjoyed this one, a lot. I would definitely recommend it. It’s a fun book that has me wanting to know more about the Jack the Ripper case!

First chapter, Meme

First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday Intros #25


Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts this meme.

Dust and Shadow

Today I’m featuring a book that I’m currently reading. 

At first it seemed the Ripper affair had scarred my friend Sherlock Holmes as badly as it had the city of London itself. I would encounter him at the end of his nightlong vigils, lying upon the sofa with his violin at his feet and his hypodermic syringe fallen from long, listless fingers, neither anodyne having banished the specter of the man we had pursued for over two months. I fought as best I could for his health, but as a fellow sufferer I could do but little to dispel his horror at what had occurred, his petrifying fear that somehow, in some inhuman feat of genius, he could have done more than he did.

Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper … yes, please! So far I’m really enjoying this book! It’s so atmospheric, I feel like I’m right there in Whitechapel with them!

Mailbox Monday, Meme

Mailbox Monday, January 12, 2015

Mailbox Mondays

Two books this week, both from Paperbackswap:

DragonJapan, 1945: Two U.S. bombers take off with atomic bombs. Only one gets through.

The Pacific, 1993: A Japanese cargo ship bound for the United States is instantly, thunderously vaporized, taking with it a Norwegian vessel. Japanese fanatics have developed a chilling plan to devastate and destroy the Western powers. From the ocean depths to the discovery of cache of lost Nazi loot, Dirk Pitt is untangling a savage conspiracy and igniting a daring counterattack. While Washington bureaucrats scramble, a brutal industrialist commands his blackmail scheme from a secret island control center. And Dirk Pitt, the dauntless hero of Sahara and Inca Gold, is taking on death-dealing robots and a human-hunting descendant of samurai warriors. Pitt alone controls the West’s secret ace in the hole: a tidal wave of destruction waiting to be triggered on the ocean floor!

Those Wild, Wild Kennedy BoysThere have been many words used to describe the Kennedy boys … handsome, aggressive, charismatic, charming, volatile, red-blooded, and sexy. This book investigates the latter descriptions, an in-depth probe into the more sensual aspects of the Kennedy mystique.

Here are Jack and Bob and Ted and all the girls you’ve ever heard whispered or gossiped about, a few you never heard of, and, too, those gals who somehow fell onto the front pages … Judy and Marilyn and Lee and Angie and Kim and Rita and Page and Jayne and Janet and Mary and Candy and Mariella and Rhonda and Amanda and Joan and Maria and more girls than anyone would have thought possible…


RECIPE: Baked Penne

Baked Penne

  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 1 jar of Spaghetti Sauce
  • ½ carton Ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TB Italian Seasoning
  • Mozzarella cheese (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook the pasta al dente (1 min less than it says on the box)
  2. Mix together the cheeses, egg, and Italian seasoning.
  3. Spoon a thin layer of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan.
  4. Layer pasta, spaghetti sauce, then the cheese mix. Repeat. (so in the pan you have a little sauce, then pasta, sauce, cheese, pasta, sauce, cheese)
  5. Top with some shredded mozzarella cheese. (optional)
  6. Bake for about 15-20 mins, until nice & bubbly and golden brown on top.

Recipe Source: Hi! It’s Jilly


Personal Review: Speed and toddler friendly. Those are the two requirements I have now when searching for new recipes. This one fulfills both of those needs.

It’s very flavorful and easy to throw together.

Definitely something that makes a great weeknight meal, pair it with a veggie and salad and you’ve got a great full meal that your whole family will enjoy.

3.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Dirk Pitt, Fiction, P, RATING, Read in 2015, SERIES

2015.1 REVIEW – Vixen 03 by Clive Cussler

Vixen 03
by Clive Cussler

Copyright: 1978
Pages: 362
Rating: 3.5/5
Read: Jan. 1 – Jan. 4, 2015
Challenge: No challenge
Yearly count: 1
Format: Print
Source: Personal Copy
Series: Dirk Pitt #5

Vixen 03Blurb: 1954. “Vixen 03” is down. The plane, bound for the Pacific carrying thirty-six Doomsday bombs — canisters armed with quick-death germs of unbelievable potency — vanishes. Vixen has in fact crashed into an ice-covered lake in Colorado. 1988. Dirk Pitt, who heroically raised the “Titanic,” discovers the wreckage of “Vixen 03.” But two deadly canisters are missing. They’re in the hands of a terrorist group. Their lethal mission: to sail a battleship seventy-five miles up the Potomac and blast Washington, D.C., to kingdom come. Only Dirk can stop them.

Review: I have already declared 2015 the year that I will be reading what I want, when I want. The pressure is off. No review copies will be coming in (unless they look really good …… I have no self-control, after all). So when I went “shopping” on my shelves for the first book to start off 2015 with, this was the one that stuck out to me.

And I found it to be a really fun read. It really caught my attention from the beginning with Vixen 03 going missing and then Dirk finding it in Colorado. To be honest, I felt like the middle portion of the book was the weakest. I personally could have done without the African political storyline. It just made the book drag on in my opinion. When the story centered back on Dirk and the bombs, it picked back up again.

I would recommend it, but I have a feeling that it probably isn’t the best installment in the Dirk Pitt series. But I am definitely looking forward to catching up a bit more in this series this year …. there’s only a gazillion more books to go 🙂