Search This Blog

2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge (Hosted by Yours Truly)

2024 Challenge Sign-Up Post

January Reviews Link-Up

February Reviews Link-Up

March Reviews Link-Up

April Reviews Link-Up

May Reviews Link-Up

June Reviews Link-Up

July Reviews Link-Up

August Reviews Link-Up

September Reviews Link-Up

October Reviews Link-Up

November Reviews Link-Up

December Reviews Link-Up

My Progress:

11 / 30 books. 37% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
- Alaska
- Arizona (1)
- Arkansas
- California (3)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut
- Delaware
- Florida
- Georgia (1)
- Hawaii
- Idaho (2)
- Illinois (1)
- Indiana
- Iowa
- Kansas
- Kentucky (1)
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine (1)
- Maryland
- Massachusetts (2)
- Michigan
- Minnesota
- Mississippi
- Missouri
- Montana
- Nebraska
- Nevada
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York (2)
- North Carolina (3)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (1)
- Oklahoma (1)
- Oregon (2)
- Pennsylvania
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Tennessee (1)
- Texas (2)
- Utah
- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (1)
- Washington (2)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin
- Wyoming
- Washington, D.C.* (1)

- Australia (1)
- Canada (1)
- England (8)
- France (1)
- Indonesia (1)
- Ireland (2)
- Italy (1)
- Scotland (2)
- The Netherlands (1)

My Progress:

23 / 51 states. 45% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

16 / 50 books. 32% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

21 / 50 books. 42% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

43 / 50 books. 86% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

38 / 52 books. 73% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

25 / 40 books. 63% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

9 / 25 books. 36% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

6 / 26.2 miles (second lap). 23% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

21 / 100 books. 21% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

58 / 104 books. 56% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

59 / 165 books. 36% done!
Monday, August 31, 2015

Atmospheric Old San Francisco Mystery Leaves Me Satisfied. But Begging for More

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Celia Davies knows what it's like to feel lost and alone.  Seven years ago, she left a prosperous life in England to come to America with her handsome Irish husband.  With Patrick now missing at sea, 29-year-old Celia is "not quite a wife, not quite a widow."  Thanks to a small inheritance left to her by a beloved uncle, she's able to fill her days with worthwhile, though controversial work.  Celia, a nurse who served in the Crimea, operates a free clinic for indigent women out of her dead uncle's home.  With the help of her orphaned, half-Chinese niece and their outspoken Scottish housekeeper, she serves San Francisco's most helpless residents:  the poor, the hated "Celestials," and women of ill repute.  As prejudice against the city's Chinese immigrants comes to a violent boiling point, Celia's choice of patients makes her a target for criticism from some of the city's most influential residents. 

When the body of a young Chinese prostitute is found floating near the docks, Celia is shocked to discover that she knew the dead girl.  As Celia helped Li Sha create a better life for herself, the two became friends.  Now, the pregnant young woman has been murdered.  Outraged, Celia vows to bring Li Sha's killer to justice.

Detective Nicholas Greaves has seen his share of corpses.  This one, however, tears at his heart and conscience, for he failed to save his younger sister from a similar fate.  Determined to figure out what happened to the girl, he begins to investigate everyone who knew Li Sha.  Clues lead him not just to the bars and brothels of the Barbary Coast, but also to the highest echelons of San Francisco society.  They also bring him in contact with the captivating Mrs. Davies, whose brother-in-law has been brought in for questioning.  Forming an unwitting investigate team, Nick and Celia follow the sinister trail of a vicious killer, hoping to unmask the murderer before they become the next victims. 

No Comfort for the Lost, the first book in Nancy Herriman's Old San Francisco mystery series, introduces us to a vibrant historical setting filled with equally colorful characters.  Both Celia and Nick are brave, admirable souls trying to do some right in a city filled to the brim with wrong.  Rooting for the smart, capable pair is a no-brainer.  What the novel's plot lacks in originality, it makes up for in slow, steady construction, which creates an even-paced story that remains compelling from its first page to its last.  While No Comfort for the Lost comes to a satisfying conclusion (and no, I didn't guess the killer's identity—at least not accurately!), it leaves plenty of intriguing questions to be explored in subsequent novels.  I thoroughly enjoyed this engrossing, atmospheric series debut and am not entirely sure I can wait for the next installment (No Pity for the Dead comes out in August 2016)!  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for mild language, violence, and frequent (though not graphic) references to prostitution, adultery, and the excessive use of alcohol and opium

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of No Comfort for the Lost from the generous folks at Penguin Random House.  Thank you!
Friday, August 28, 2015

Let Me Die in His Footsteps a Tantalizing, Southern Gothic Mystery

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Myth and superstition swirl through the Kentucky hills, adding a sinister bewitchment to the daily lives of those who live there.  Especially folks like Annie Holleran, who've been blessed/cursed with the "know-how," which "floats just above the lavender bushes, trickles from the moss hanging in the oaks, drifts like a fallen leaf down the Lone Fork River, just waiting for someone ... to scoop it or snatch it or pluck it from the air" (2).  Like her mother before her, Annie "feels things that aren't hers to feel" (13-14), a spooky skill that makes even the silliest of mountain rituals seem heavy with meaning.  Naturally, then, Annie's a little apprehensive about what she's about to do.  When girls in Hayden County reach their ascension day (exactly halfway between their 15th and 16th birthdays), it's time to gather at the nearest well.  According to legend, when they gaze into its depths, at precisely midnight—the face of their future husband will be revealed.  It's ridiculous, of course, and yet, Annie can't resist this bit of foolish fortune-seeking.

The nearest well to Annie's home lies in a place she's forbidden to go.  Hollerans do not cross the lavender fields, don't dare to step onto Baine property.  Not since Juna Crowley, Annie's mother, came of age 16 years ago and used her particular mountain magic to ensnare the best of the Baine boys.  Ignoring every warning, Annie heads for the well.  What she discovers there is not the identity of her intended, but a dead body.  The corpse of a Baine.  

Annie's grisly discovery stirs up an old mystery that cuts to the heart of the Holleran/Baine feud.  As the lavender harvest nears and the past comes calling, she knows trouble isn't far behind.  Terrified that Juna will return to cause even more damage, Annie waits with dread.  Somehow, she must save her family and her community from the witch who cursed them all, but how can Annie do that when she carries her own horrifying secret fear—that she is just like her mother, the infamous Juna Crowley.

Atmospheric and haunting, Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy is a tantalizing Southern Gothic mystery.  With a vivid, evocative setting; authentic, interesting characters; and plenty of complex, compelling family drama, if offers a tense, suspenseful story.  Overall, its a sad story, almost overwhelmingly depressing.  That, plus the sometimes confusing back-and-forth-in-time narration, made the novel difficult to read at times.  In the end, I found Let Me Die in His Footsteps intriguing, but not as enjoyable as other books I've read in this genre.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of American Ghost by Janis Owens)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Let Me Die in His Footsteps from the generous folks at Dutton (an imprint of Penguin).  Thank you!
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sophomore Spellman Novel Inspires Repeat Public LOL-ing

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

A plot summary that captures the essence of a novel in a few succinct, but hilarious paragraphs is a thing of beauty.  Whoever writes the cover copy for the Spellman mysteries by Lisa Lutz nails it every time.  As a tribute to his/her genius (and a nod to my laziness), I give you the perfection that is his/her description of Curse of the Spellmans:

In this sidesplittingly funny follow-up to the New York Times bestselling The Spellman Files, San Francisco’s own highly functioning yet supremely dysfunctional family of private investigators are back on the case in another mystery full of suspicion, surveillance, humor, and surprise from award-winning author Lisa Lutz. Curse of the Spellmans was nominated for both the Edgar Award and the Macavity Award, and the Izzy Spellman Mysteries have earned comparisons to everything from Carl Hiaasen and Janet Evanovich to Veronica Mars and Bridget Jones.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               When Izzy Spellman, PI, is arrested for the fourth time in three months, she writes it off as a job hazard. She’s been (obsessively) keeping surveillance on a suspicious next door neighbor (suspect’s name: John Brown), convinced he’s up to no good—even if her parents (the management at Spellman Investigations) are not.                                                                                                                                                     When the (displeased) management refuses to bail Izzy out, it is Morty, Izzy’s octogenarian lawyer, who comes to her rescue. But before he can build a defense, he has to know the facts. Over weak coffee and diner sandwiches, Izzy unveils the whole truth and nothing but the truth—as only she, a thirty-year-old licensed professional, can.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             When not compiling Suspicious Behavior Reports on all her family members, staking out her neighbor, or trying to keep her sister, Rae, from stalking her “best friend,” Inspector Henry Stone, Izzy has been busy attempting to apprehend the copycat vandal whose attacks on Mrs. Chandler’s holiday lawn tableaux perfectly and eerily match a series of crimes from 1991–92, when Izzy and her best friend, Petra, happened to be at their most rebellious and delinquent. As Curse of the Spellmans unfolds, it’s clear that Morty may be on retainer, but Izzy is still very much on the, cases—her own and that of every other Spellman family member.
As you may remember, The Spellman Files, the first book in Lutz's zany series about a family of private eyes working in San Francisco, made me laugh out loud.  More than once.  In public.  It's that hilarious.  Curse of the Spellmans, the second book in the series, inspired a repeat performance.  There's just something about Isabelle, our lovable anti-hero, that I find wholly appealing.  Not only is she hapless and hilarious, but she's so real.  Her madcap adventures make for fun, addicting reading.  Every time.  After the first Spellman novel, Curse of the Spellmans does feel a little formulaic and predictable.  Still, the novel kept me royally entertained.  I'm not usually a big fan of screwball comedy, but I make an exception for the Spellmans.  I don't care how goofy these mysteries get, I adore them.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Spellman series [The Spellman Files; Revenge of the Spellmans; The Spellmans Strike Again; Trail of the Spellmans; and The Last Word])


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language and depictions of underage drinking and illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Despite Lovely Prose, Hawthorne Historical a Long, Dull Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Crippling headaches, brought on by her painting, keep Sophia Peabody out of society.  Although she remains isolated because of her health, her artwork and lively journals attract attention from the outside world.  Most especially from a shy, reclusive writer named Nathaniel Hawthorne.  The couple fall quickly in love.  Although Sophia pines for marriage, Nathaniel hesitates because of financial concerns.  Finally, the two wed, joining their lives and artistic temperaments.  It's a coupling beset by the usual challenges, not the least of which is trying to balance their creative lives with the requirements of home and family.  Through the trials, their love endures, sustaining them both ...

It's difficult to describe The House of Hawthorne, a fictional imagining of a real-life marriage .  Indeed, the story, written by Erika Robuck, runs very thin on plot, even thinner on action.  While the book's quiet prose is quite lovely, poetic in many places, the narrative drags, making for a long, often dull read.  The fact that I found Sophia whiny and annoying didn't help matters.  The House of Hawthorne has many beautiful passages, as well as some intriguing thoughts on how art and love mingle—or don't—but, overall, the book put me to sleep.  I finished it, but it felt more like a feat of endurance than enjoyment.   

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for sexual innuendo and content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The House of Hawthorne from the generous folks at Penguin.  Thank you!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Newest Tempe Brennan Mystery Gives Me Everything I Want—and Expect—From This Always Appealing Series

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Tempe Brennan thrillers.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Keeping cool under pressure comes with the territory for forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan.  No matter what kind of crazy she's dealing with in her personal life (with a daughter fighting in Afghanistan; a bi-polar mother ridden with cancer; and a marriage proposal from her on-again/off-again boyfriend Andrew Ryan, crazy might be an understatement), her professional focus never wavers.  So, when Hazel "Lucky" Strike, an eccentric websleuth, comes to Tempe with a chilling recording that may be a clue in the disappearance of a teenage girl, she listens.  While Tempe doesn't approve of amateur investigators nosing into police business, she also can't quite dismiss what Lucky's saying.  Especially when the other woman's instincts appear to be right on track.  Is Lucky correct in her theory that the bones of 18-year-old Cora Teague are sitting, unidentified, in Tempe's lab?

With the help of Zeb Ramsey, a local deputy, Tempe heads into the Blue Ridge Mountains to investigate Cora's disappearance three years ago.  Her inquiries turn up more questions than answers.  Especially from the teenager's parents, religious zealots who never bothered to report their daughter as missing.  When Tempe makes more macabre finds in the mountains, she becomes even more determined to find out what happened to Cora.  The closer she comes to the truth, the more dangerous her quest becomes.  Even with her own life on the line, Tempe persists in her dogged pursuit, but can she keep herself alive long enough to determine Cora's fate?  If she does, she's still got a confusing proposal to deal with.  How will she answer Andrew Ryan, when he's got both her heart and her head in a very complicated tangle?  

If you read this blog with any frequency, you're well aware of my obsession with the Tempe Brennan series by Kathy Reichs.  The author, who is herself a forensic anthropologist, writes with authority about bone analysis, doing so in a way that is both intriguing and accessible to the average person.  While the science is undeniably fascinating, it's not what makes these books stand out.  They shine because of Tempe herself.  Not only is our heroine smart and devoted, but she's also warm, funny, and self-deprecating.  Which isn't to say she's perfect.  She's realistically flawed, which only makes her more appealing.  While I would read this series just to hang with Tempe, I also love that it's full of pulse-pounding action, can't-look-away suspense, entertaining characters, and plenty of interpersonal drama.  

As with any series, some of the Tempe mysteries are better than others.  Speaking in Bones, the newest, hovers right up there with my other favorites.  The novel presents an intriguing mystery, some compelling new story people, and surprising plot twists, not to mention developments between Tempe and Ryan.  What more can a Tempe fan ask for?  Not much, really.  Speaking in Bones satisfies in every way.  My only disappointment comes from having to wait a whole year to see what Tempe does next.  Boo hoo!

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Tempe Brennan series [Deja Dead; Death du Jour; Deadly Decisions; Fatal Voyage; Grave Secrets; Bare Bones; Monday Mourning; Cross Bones; Break no Bones; Bones to Ashes; Devil Bones; 206 Bones; Spider Bones; Flash and Bones; Bones Are Forever; Bones in Her Pocket (novella); Bones of the Lost; Swamp Bones (novella); Bones On Ice (novella); Bones Never Lie)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder invectives), sexual innuendo and violence/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Speaking in Bones from the generous folks at Bantam (an imprint of Random House) via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Small Town Setting the Only Appealing Piece of Canadian Mystery

With a population of less than 10,000 people, Trafalgar, B.C. is not exactly a hub of criminal activity.  Yes, the town's divided over the issue of whether or not to build a community peace garden honoring the area's Vietnam War draft dodgers.  The conflict has caused tension in the bucolic community, sure, but it's not like someone would kill over it.  Or would they?  When Reg Montgomery—an overbearing developer who's bent on building a large resort on the community garden land—is murdered, it looks like tempers over the polarizing issue have finally blown up. 

Because she knows Trafalgar, 26-year-old Moonlight "Molly" Smith is assigned to the case.  A constable who's only been with the police department for six months, she's ecstatic about this fortuitous opportunity to prove herself.  John Winters, a seasoned detective sergeant from Vancouver, is not exactly thrilled with his new partner.  Molly's green, overeager, and not exactly objective, considering her mother is the peace garden's most ardent supporter.  

As the duo investigates Montgomery's murder, they must dig deep into the town's secrets, which produces some shocking—and nasty—surprises.  The more they nose around, the more dangerous the situation becomes.  Can Smith and Montgomery find the killer before one, or both of them, become the next victim(s)?  

Mystery series set in small towns are my very favorite kind.  I always love to see what these quaint little communities are hiding, the secrets they keep hidden behind their peaceful facades.  Naturally, then, I found the setting of In the Shadow of the Glacier by Vicki Delany, appealing.  Unfortunately, that's about all I liked about this book.  Not only are the characters flat and clichéd, but they're just not likable.  Most of the men are, quite simply, jerks.  The novel's plot offers nothing new, which makes it both predictable and dull.  Add a whole lot of typos/errors, bland prose, sloppy story construction, stiff dialogue and, yeah, you can see where I'm going with this.  I only paid a couple bucks to get In the Shadow of the Glacier on my Kindle, but man, what a waste of 200 pennies.  

(Readalikes:  The setting reminds me of Louise Penny's Armand Gamache series—definitely read that one instead of this one.)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of In the Shadow of the Glacier with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Wayward, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, Pines.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Ethan Burke, a former Secret Service agent from Seattle, now knows the truth about Wayward Pines, Idaho.  He knows what's hiding behind its quaint facade.  He knows what lurks beyond the razor-topped electrified fence that circles the village.  He knows the 461 people living in the town may be the only humans left on the planet and that those people, himself included, are being watched every second of every day.  He's seen what happens to residents who rebel, or complain, or simply can't conform.  David Pilcher, the megalomaniac in charge of Wayward Pines, will do anything—anything—to preserve the dream he's fulfilling with his post-apocalyptic version of Mayberry.

Few are brave enough to break the rules.  Even Ethan, now the town sheriff, worries about the repercussions of standing up to Pilcher.  Still, he can't stand the lie he's being forced to live.  Torn between protecting the people he cares for and fighting for the freedom they all deserve, Ethan will have to make some life-or-death decisions.  The fates of 461 people hanging in the balance.   

Wayward, the second thriller in Blake Crouch's exciting Wayward Pines trilogy, is not quite as mind-blowing as the series opener.  Still, the novel draws the reader in just as quickly as its predecessor and keeps the suspense going until the very last sentence of its very last page.  The story moves quickly, with lots of thrills and chills, making it pretty much impossible to put Wayward down.  Literally.  Although I didn't find it as jaw-dropping as Pines, I still devoured it in one sitting.  After which I promptly started The Last Town.  Did I mention this series is *slightly* addicting?  Don't say I didn't warn you ... 

(Readalikes:  Pines and The Last Town by Blake Crouch)


If this were a movie (and the trilogy has been turned into a mini-series on Fox), it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Thursday, August 13, 2015

A YA Western? Why Not? It's Good!

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Life in 1849 St. Joseph, Missouri, is tolerable for Samantha Young and her father—even if both of them dream of being somewhere else.  Samantha, a 15-year-old violinist, longs to return to New York City with its vibrant, sophisticated culture.  Her father, a Chinese immigrant, wants to see the Pacific Ocean and make his fortune in California.  When the family's dry goods store burns to the ground, killing Mr. Young, it becomes apparent that neither one of them will be getting what they desire.  

Penniless, Samantha has little choice but to take their landlord up on his offer of lodging at a hotel he owns.  When he makes it obvious just what he expects in return, she reacts in self-defense, killing the odious man.  With the help of a slave housekeeper named Annamae, Samantha flees.  Disguised as boys, the two girls join other travelers headed west on The Oregon Trail.  Desperate to get as far away from St. Joe as possible, the pair brave danger of every kind as they become unwitting pioneers.  
When "Sammy" and "Andy" meet up with a trio of young, would-be gold prospectors, they worry their precious secrets will be discovered.  Will the boys find out their new companions are really girls in disguise?  Can Samantha and Annamae keep their real identities under wraps until they reach safety in California?  Does a safe place even exist for two fugitives on the run from some very powerful enemies?  

While historical fiction for teens isn't hard to come by, YA westerns are practically unheard of.  Maybe that's what makes Under a Painted Sky, a debut novel by Stacey Lee, stand out.  Or, maybe it's because of the diverse characters she creates—not only are they sympathetic, but they're also complex and intriguing.  Or, it could be Lee's vivid, engaging prose.  Or the novel's perfect balance between adventure, suspense, romance, and humor.  Or, the warmth the story exudes, despite its treatment of tough subjects.  Take your pick.  All of these elements come together in charming, compelling harmony in Under the Painted Sky.  At its heart, it's a story about friendship, but it's also so very, very much more ... I loved it.  

(Readalikes:  Um, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence (including an attempted rape scene)/gore, and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Under a Painted Sky from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Pines: Tense, Twisty Series Opener Impossible to Put Down

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When two Secret Service agents go missing while on assignment in Idaho, 37-year-old Ethan Burke is sent to investigate his colleagues' disappearance.  Wayward Pines, an idyllic little town that could give Mayberry a run for its money, seems an unlikely place for anything untoward to happen.  And yet, Ethan's in town only a few minutes when he's involved in an accident that puts him in the hospital.  He wakes up with no wallet, no luggage, no phone.  No matter how disoriented he may be, Ethan knows who he is and why he is in Wayward Pines, but none of the overly-friendly townspeople believe him.  With no way to leave, no way to contact the outside world, he decides to focus on finding the missing agents.  The more Ethan investigates, however, the more concerned he becomes.  As he tries to make sense of his bizarre situation, he must ask some disturbing questions:  What is really going on in Wayward Pines?  Is the quaint mountain village hiding something sinister behind its bucolic facade?  Or did the accident leave Ethan more incapacitated than he thinks?  Is the Secret Service agent, in fact, going clean out of his mind?  Whatever the explanation, Ethan knows one thing for sure: something is very, very wrong in Wayward Pines.

The less I say about the plot of Pines, the first novel in a chilling trilogy by Blake Crouch, the better.  Giving you only the skimpiest of summaries will keep the book mysterious and suspenseful—two elements that make it a taut, compelling read.  Brilliantly crafted, Pines is a creepy little tale that offers surprises around every corner.  I don't want to say too much for fear of giving away any of its secrets, so let me just say that I loved this book.  It's tense, it's twisty, it's a thriller so addicting you won't be able to stop reading until you've finished not just Pines, but also the entire series.  Then, and only then, will you finally be able to breathe again.  Maybe.  

(Readalikes:  Wayward and The Last Town by Blake Crouch; also reminded me a little of the t.v. show LOST)


If this were a movie (the books have been made into a mini-series on Fox), it would be rated:

for strong language and violence/gore

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Not Enough Conflict Makes Celebrity, On-Set Romance Novel Surprisingly Blah

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

One of the hottest young actresses in Hollywood, Emma Taylor is used to life in the limelight.  And that's before the 18-year-old is cast in a lead role on Coyote Hills, a new t.v. drama.  The series also stars bad boy Brett Crawford, who's been Emma's crush for years.  As if the thought of working with him isn't making her nervous enough, she also has to deal with snooty Kimmi Weston and Jake "The Bod" Elliott, a famous model who's so down-to-earth he's making Emma rethink her feelings for Brett.  Although Emma's made a vow not to date another co-star (been there, done that), Brett's proving very hard to resist.  Then there's Jake, whose humble kindness makes him even more attractive.  
Try as she might, Emma can't seem to help falling for Jake.  The more she does, the guiltier she feels, as she promised her childhood BFF that she'd set her up with The Bod.  With the paparazzi recording her every move, Emma has to decide what—and who—she wants before the media spins its own story about her.  At risk of hurting everyone she loves, Emma needs to straighten out her confusing life—and fast.

There's lots to love about Not in the Script, a debut novel by Amy Finnegan.  The story's light and fun, with an interesting, behind-the-scenes peek at life on a t.v. set (Finnegan mined her brother's experiences working on-set for Fox to make the tale authentic).  Minus a little violence and innuendo, it's a clean book that maintains a bright, upbeat tone.  As a lover of teen books as well as a mother who worries about the content my 13-year-old daughter finds in popular YA offerings, I consider all these elements plusses.  

Why, then, didn't I love Not in the Script?  Let's start with Emma.  I appreciate good girl heroines, but it annoys me when these fictional lasses have perfect little lives where nothing ever goes seriously wrong.  Without conflict—real, tough, life-changing conflict—Emma doesn't have a story.  Sure, she hits little bumps here and there, but overall, everything sails along smoothly for her.  Because of this, I had trouble empathizing with Emma.  I just didn't care that much.  Since the other characters felt really cliché, I felt the same way about them.  This ambivalence about the story people and their situations made Not in the Script seem like a really, really, really long book.  Overall, I found the novel boring and, because it was really just a romance that worked from the start, kind of pointless.  If I hadn't been reading Not in the Script for The Whitney Awards, I probably wouldn't have finished it.

To be fair, I seem to be in the minority on this one.  Not in the Script gets mostly excellent reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.   

(Readalikes:  Not in the Script is part of Bloomsbury's If Only line; although the books are all standalones, presumably they're similar?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for sexual innuendo and violence 

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Winner, Winner, (Back to School) Chicken Dinner!

My giveaway for a hardcover copy of The Night Sister, a new thriller/chiller by Jennifer McMahon, ended a couple of days ago and I'm pleased to announce the winner.  Congratulations to Margie Shaw!  She says she's never won anything, so I'm glad chose her for the prize :)  I've already heard from Margie, so the book will be on its way to her soon.

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway.  Thanks, especially, go to the generous folks at Doubleday who provided the book and will be paying for shipping costs.

I enjoyed The Night Sister a lot (read my review here) and I think you will, too.  Those of you who entered to win, but didn't, be sure to get yourself a copy of the book from your library or favorite bookstore.

Happy reading!  
Monday, August 10, 2015

Bedtime is the Best Time ... for a Story

In case you somehow missed the most important holiday of the year, Happy (belated) National Book Lover's Day!  This special day is celebrated annually on August 9th.  Although I scoured the Internet looking for some sort of history behind the holiday, I found nada.  So much for the whys and wherefores of National Book Lover's Day.  Oh well.  I've never needed an officially-sanctioned reason to read, have you?

The folks over at Casper—a sleep startup that has created one perfect mattress—believe that bedtime is the best time.  They also realize how much better it is to rely on stories to help ease you into sleep rather than doing something lame and ineffective like counting sheep.  They've even got a hotline that reads bedtime stories to the listener!  To share the bedtime story love (and because they just know how to party), the folks at Casper are celebrating National Book Lover's Day all week long.  Fun!  They asked me to participate by writing up a little somethin' about bedtime stories I love to read.  How could I resist?

It's been a *little* while since I've had a bedtime story read to me by my mother, but not very long (last night) since I read one.  I know the point of spinning tales before bed is to help children drift off to sleep.  There are many wonderful picture books that do just that with their soft rhythms, whimsical illustrations, and affirming morals.  I love gentle stories like Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd; The Napping House by Audrey and Don WoodI'll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw), but the books I never tire of reading to my kids are more of the "wild rumpus" variety.  My favorites offer upbeat tempos, exciting adventures, and lines that make listeners squeal with delighted laughter.  Although these kinds of stories tend to perk kids up rather than slow them down, they remain the best kind, in my humble, bedtime story-loving opinion.

Because my oldest child is 16 and my youngest only 6, I can tell you which nighttime tales have endured in our household.  The following five have been enjoyed by all four of my children as well as their book-obsessed mother:

1.  The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss—These zany books have stood the test of time, not just at my house, but throughout the world.

2.  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault—There was a time when I knew this one by heart.  I'd recite it when my toddlers were restless in the car as well as at their bedtime.  It's a fun book that teaches the alphabet while making kids smile with its lively cadence.

3.  We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury and Michael Rosen—Not only is this one a joy to read, but it captures kids' imaginations with its dream-like illustrations and dramatic adventure story.

4.  Click Clack Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin—This book is hilarious.  'Nuf said.

5.  Anything written or illustrated by Eric Carle—My kids have all loved listening to Carle classics like The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (by Bill Martin, Jr.); and The Mixed-Up Chameleon.  More recently, my youngest's favorites are: 10 Little Rubber Ducks; Dream Snow; and The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse.

Reading to your children is essential, not just for their intellectual development, but also for their emotional well-being.  Is there a time when young kids feel more loved than when they're cocooned in their beds, receiving the direct attention of a busy parent, who has paused for a moment to read a favorite story?  I don't think so.  No matter how ridiculous you feel tripping over your tongue reading a nonsensical Dr. Seuss story, creating silly voices to amuse your pint-sized audience, or half-snoozing through yet another recitation of The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room, do it anyway.  These precious moments won't last forever; cherish them while you can.

So, what are your favorite bedtime stories?  Which books did your parents/grandparents read to you?  Which do you enjoy with your own children/grandchildren? 

Also, be sure to check out more great recommendations on the Casper mattress Twitter page!    

(Book images from Barnes & Noble; bedtime story painting by Gary Daly)
Friday, August 07, 2015

Light, Warm-Hearted Holiday Novel Engaging, Enjoyable

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Things can't get much suckier for Chloe.  She's stuck working her cashiering job at GoodFoods Market on Christmas Eve, all day long.  Not only will she be dealing with cranky customers for hours on end, but—thanks to getting caught in a snowstorm—she'll be doing it while looking like a drowned rat.  On the upside, she'll be working with her very hot crush, Tyson Scott; on the downside, drowned rat.  

As the day goes on, things go progressively wrong for Chloe, until something truly awful happens:  the charity box, into which GoodFoods customers have been putting cash donations all month, is almost empty.  An estimated $10,000 is missing. Since no one is fessing up to the crime, the store manager makes the "Younglings"—Chloe, Tyson, and four other teenage cashiers/baggers—stay after closing for questioning.  With every extra minute Chloe has to spend in the break room, she grows increasingly frustrated.  Not only does she want to get home and enjoy the holiday with her family, but she's worried about her plummeting blood sugar.  On top of everything else that's happened, a diabetic coma is definitely not what she needs right now.  It's pretty clear to Chloe that the only way out of the mess they're all in is to find out who stole the charity money.

Chloe doesn't know any of her fellow suspects very well, but she has certain suspicions about each of them.  The more she gets to know them, however, the more she realizes how wrong she's been to stereotype them.  As the Younglings work together to solve the mystery of the stolen money, Chloe makes some startling discoveries and some surprising friendships.  Is it possible that a day she thought would be the worst of her life might turn out to be the very best? 

You can probably tell from the description of Top Ten Clues You're Clueless by Liz Czukas that it's a fun, warm-hearted novel.  Just because it's a light read, though, doesn't mean it doesn't have an important message.  As Chloe gets to know a group of kids who are diverse in ethnicity, culture, and experience, she realizes the dangers of making broad assumptions about people.  Through seeking help with her diabetes, she also learns to trust others with her own secrets.  It's the relationships between the characters that stand out in this novel, especially since the charity money thief is fairly obvious from the get-go.  Being a Type 1 diabetic myself, I did find some inconsistencies with how Chloe deals with her condition (like, if she's together enough to have a glucometer in her locker, why doesn't she have some glucose tabs stashed in there, too?).  Petty issues aside, I enjoyed this engaging holiday novel, which brought back fond memories of working at the BYU Creamery as a college student.  Just like Chloe and her co-workers have games they play to pass the time, we had a whole lot of fun with Guess the Major ...

(Readalikes:  Um, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (two F-bombs, plus milder invectives) and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Top Ten Clues You're Clueless from the generous folks at HarperCollins via those at Edelweiss.  Thank you!

Kiss Kill Vanish A Rare and Worthwhile Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Valentina Cruz's pampered life as the daughter of a wealthy Colombian art dealer ends the minute she witnesses something she was never supposed to see—a murder ordered by her father and executed by her boyfriend.  Sickened to her core, the 17-year-old flees Florida, ending up in Montreal.  There, "Jane" lives in a rented closet, earning enough to live on by posing for a pretentious young painter and busking with her mandolin.  Valentina's bare bones existence in Canada is a far cry from the glittering world she left behind, but it's a much more honest life than she's ever known before.  

When a face from her past shows up in Montreal, Valentina doesn't know what to do.  Should she return to Florida and face her father?  Or keep running, knowing his henchman will never stop looking for her?  After a shocking death rocks her world, Valentina must make some fast, life-altering decisions.  With no one to turn to, she has to put her trust in the most unlikely of allies.  Will the risk pay off?  Can she save herself and those she loves?  Or, is she walking right into a trap that will leave her as anyone else who dares to cross her father?

Kiss Kill Vanish, the newest novel from YA author Jessica Martinez, is an exciting, fast-paced thriller.  Valentina's hard-scrabble battle to create an honest existence for herself makes her not just sympathetic, but also admirable.  It's easy to root for her, even if she sometimes seems ridiculously naive.  While I found the plot of Kiss Kill Vanish to be a *little* far-fetched, it definitely kept me engrossed.  Martinez's vivid, engaging prose makes up for what the novel lacks in believability.  Solid YA thrillers are difficult to come by, so, while this one has its flaws, it remains a rare and worthwhile read.

(Readalikes:  Um, I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, depiction of illegal drug use, and sexual innuendo/references to sex

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Kiss Kill Vanish from the generous folks at HarperCollins via those at Edelweiss.  Thank you!
Thursday, August 06, 2015

What Alice Forgot Another Humorous, Heartfelt Gem From Moriarty

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Alice Love tumbles off her exercise bike during her weekly spin class, she knocks her noggin so hard she's thrown back a decade.  She wakes up from the accident convinced she's a frazzled, frumpy 29-year-old, who's happily married to the man of her dreams and pregnant with their first child.  Imagine her surprise when she discovers the truth—she's actually 39, a fit and formidable mom of three, and in the middle of a nasty divorce.  With no memory of anything that's happened over the last ten years, Alice is completely flummoxed.  How can her life have gone so completely awry in such a short period of time?  What happened to her marriage?  Her relationship with her sister?  And, most disconcerting of all, who is the stranger Alice sees when she looks in the mirror? 

As Alice struggles to make sense of her "new" life by piecing together vague recollections of the past decade, she makes some startling discoveries about herself.  Not all of them pleasant.  Alice isn't sure she likes who she's become, but she can't turn back the clock.  Or can she?  Is it too late to salvage the life she once loved?  Will she get a second chance to make things work between her and Nick?  Or will mistakes Alice doesn't even remember making launch her into a future she's too terrified to contemplate?

Although Big Little Lies remains my favorite of Liane Moriarty's novels, I've thoroughly enjoyed all of them.  What Alice Forgot is no exception.  Filled with the Australian author's trademark warmth and humor, it's a thought-provoking novel that asks some very intriguing questions.  Moriarty's deft exploration of familial relationships keeps the reader engrossed, while forcing them to examine their own priorities and choices.  Both funny and poignant, What Alice Forgot is a heartfelt novel about forgiving, forgetting, and fighting for what's most important.  I loved it.

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of Moriarty's other novels, including Big Little Lies and The Husband's Secret)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Blog Widget by LinkWithin


Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson


The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

Followin' with Bloglovin'


Followin' with Feedly

follow us in feedly

Grab my Button!

Blog Design by:

Blog Archive