Thursday, August 9, 2018

Review: A Wallflower Christmas

A Wallflower Christmas A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Wallflowers are back together again. It doesn't quite have the magic of the others in the series, but I enjoyed it.

The girls are reunited for the holidays, and Lilian and Daisy's rake of a brother, Rafe Bowman, is visiting from America to meet the lovely Natalie. Rich and beautiful, she is on the hunt for a husband, and while she wants a peer this match might work for her too. Ah, the days of marrying for position and advantage, rather than love. So glad I live in these modern times where I can do and say what I want. But I digress.

What you have here is an unlikeable lead and a prim miss of a love attraction in Hannah. She puts up with way too much, but Rafe finally redeems himself and they all get their HEA, and you know that's my favorite part. This book needed to be about 100 pages more to really pull me in, but I still enjoyed it. 3 stars.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Review: The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild The Call of the Wild by Jack London
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh Buck! You and your friends went through so much.

A little emotional about this book. Jack London threw a lot at me. Buck, stolen and forced to work. Treated cruelly, starved, worked to the bone. I just can't. I wanted to grab a club and hit those men until they couldn't get up.

Along comes a bright, shiny savior. John Thornton is a good man, and he does his best for Buck. Too many spoilers lie ahead, so I will leave you with this advice. Read this when you want to have all the feels, and be ready for anger, sadness, and triumph. A good story with an unexpected ending. 3 stars. Hey, it's a classic for a reason. Read it, but have something ready afterwards that will make you happy, like chocolate and an episode of Parks & Rec.

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Review: The Help

The Help The Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I. Love. This. Book. When I initially read it I rated it 4 stars, but I am rounding up to 5 this time, because it's just that good. I think it is because I listened to it on audio, and it was excellent with multiple narrators. It brought the story to life in a different way, and I loved it.

Skeeter. Aibileen. Minny. Their world in the tumultuous South in the 1960s is about to be turned upside down. Skeeter is fresh out of college, full of ideas and itching to make her way into adulthood. Aibileen and Minny have been working for the white women of Jackson, Mississippi for their entire lives. As times are changing, so are a few attitudes, including Skeeter's. She's about to turn all of their lives upside down. She's an aspiring writer, you see, and she gets a wild idea to write about the lives of the black women who are "the help" in her town. Look out, Jackson. Skeeter's coming for you.

Filled with realities of a time I can't even wrap my brain around, the characters really come to life, the storyline is full of humor and drama (just like real life) and you will find yourself both glad you don't live in Jackson and wishing you could have been a part of this time of change. 4.5 stars that I'm rounding up to 5 because the audio is so amazing. Please read this book.

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Monday, August 6, 2018

Review: Opal Fire

Opal Fire Opal Fire by Barbra Annino
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Really struggled to get through this one. It's about what you would expect from the cover art, though.

Stacy is a reporter, but she doesn't seem to be a very good one. She's also a witch, but she wants to ignore her magic (insert eye roll here). She lives in a small town and is surrounded by annoying people who I would never want to spend a minute with if they were real: a quirky witch family, a cousin named Cinnamon who is a brash bar owner with an awful personality -- this woman threatened to beat everyone up in the book without provocation, an annoying photographer at the paper. Come on, now. Why do you write such unlikeable, unrealistic characters?

The mystery was dumb, the characters were unrealistic, the dialogue stilted, and the love triangle unnecessary. 1.5 stars but rounding up because I do enjoy books with dogs.

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Friday, August 3, 2018

Review: Last of the Breed

Last of the Breed Last of the Breed by Louis L'Amour
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cold War. U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. Spy vs. Spy. Welcome to the 80's, my friends.

Joe Mack is an American Air Force pilot who is shot down behind enemy lines, captured, and taken to a Soviet prison camp. In Siberia, no less. I can't think of a more 80's plot line, so cue the Rocky IV soundtrack. Because he's American, but mostly Native American, he makes a daring escape and we spend the rest of the book running with him across frozen Siberia as he tries to make his way back home. He's tracked, of course. By the best of the best--another "native" tracker who always gets his man but can't be counted on to bring him home alive.

Survival, patriotism, and a glimpse at life in a harsh land. I've read this book 5 times at least and enjoy it every time. 3 stars.

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Can't believe I haven't reviewed this book before. It's one of my favorites in the series. So much happening to Harry and his friends. Umbridge, Dumbledore's Army, the return of He Who Must Not Be Named. And at the center of it all is Harry, who should be putting all of his efforts into becoming the best wizard he can be, but does the silly rebellious teenager thing and doesn't stay focused.

There is loss. There are bad decisions. You will be angry and sad and frustrated by this book. But in the end you realize all of the things that happen had to happen to get us to the final pages of book 7. I had to go through all of the steps of grief while reading. I had to take a series break because I know what happens in the next book and I'm just not emotionally ready for it all.

Jim Dale really brings it all to life on audio. If you haven't listened to this series yet, you are in for a treat. 4 solid stars and an extra hug for Neville.

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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Review: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An enjoyable entry to the series. I might have loved it even more if I hadn't started with book 3.

Ian Mckenzie has "issues". He is, for lack of a better term, autistic. He doesn't like to be touched. He doesn't look people in the eyes. He says the wrong things, speaks out of turn, and generally has a hard time getting along in the world. Misunderstood by everyone but his amazing brothers, he has adapted. Now he is facing an attraction that he hasn't experienced before and doesn't quite know how to proceed.

Luckily for Ian, Beth knows how to handle him. She's experienced true love before, being a young widow. She figures out his quirks, gives him space, and accepts him for who he is. Nice, right? Throw in some drama, false accusations, and a bit of a mystery and you've got yourself a find new series. If you love strong women, unconventional heroes, and historical romance, give this one a look. 3.5 stars.

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Review: The Dark Horse

The Dark Horse The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wrote a long, long, review about this book. Goodreads was over capacity and ate it. I'm not sure I can muster the energy to repeat myself, but here we go.

You know how sometimes a book in a series you love just doesn't hit the mark? That's this one for me. I'm not sure why. It has all of the pieces you would expect in a Longmire mystery. Walt and Henry. Ruby and Vic and Lucian, but in very limited amounts. Some fun undercover moments for Walt. Lots of Dog. And horses. However, I'm left wanting more but can't figure out why. Maybe it was the constant time jumps. Maybe it was Walt trying to be undercover in his hometown. Seriously, Walt? You're pretty well-known. And Henry even more so. But anyway...

Walt is investigating a murder of a man no one is going to miss, and a bunch of horses that everyone will. And a missing horse, and a near-comatose wife who is in the middle of it all. You know Walt. He can't help but be involved now. It's just who he is.

Like I said, the components are all there, and it is actually pretty good, but not as great as some of the others. 3 stars.

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Review: I Hunt Killers

I Hunt Killers I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, that was a wild ride! I went in expecting something totally different, but I loved this book.

Jasper Dent is the son of a VERY prolific serial killer. He is alone in the word (well, except for his crazy grandmother) and trying to convince himself that he can have a normal life. Dude, you stayed in the same small town and expected people to not look at you sideways? All the while your grandma is crawling all over the floor thinking she is under attack and other crazy things. Your life will never be normal, but I'm applauding your spirit. But you do have a great BFF in Howie and a wonderful girlfriend in Connie. You are lucky in a lot of ways. And I'm hoping not nearly as messed up as you seem to think you might be. Fingers crossed!

You get to follow along with Jasper and how he puzzles out a copy-cat killer while trying to work through his messed up emotions. It's really well-written, and I loved it on audio. You should check this one out. I think you'll like it. It gets a bit dark in places, especially for a young adult book, but how else can you write about serial killers? 4 stars.

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Review: Elephants Can Remember

Elephants Can Remember Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's always a treat when I discover a Christie novel I haven't read before. Especially one with Poirot, since he's my favorite. Not sure how I missed this one.

We have a twisted case brought to us from Ariadne Oliver. She has a curious inquiry regarding a long-past case dropped in her lap by a pushy woman, and she can't stop thinking about it so she calls up her old friend Hercule Poirot. Hey, if I was friends with him I would do the same thing. Let him employ those little gray cells and help me sort it all out. And naturally, that is what happens. What else would you expect from Dame Agatha?

Red herrings abound, and I totally thought I had the case cracked 58% in but alas, Agatha fooled me again. You saucy minx, you really are the greatest mystery writer of all time. Subtracting a half star because no actual elephants are featured in the book. (Just kidding, Agatha, you earned all three enjoyable stars).

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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Review: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Off to Botswana to solve some crimes with Mma Ramotswe. I think I'll stick around for a while.

Mma Ramotswe decides she will open a detective agency with her inheritance after her father passes away. It's safe to say it's risky - no one thinks a woman can be a detective. But of course she solves crimes with her common sense, so she makes a go of it. Each case with unique, with a common thread of her life in Botswana tying them all together. And I got the ending I was hoping to get, so I'm excited to start book 2.

Definitely fun for mystery lovers. Nothing too crazy, but a quick, easy start to a new series. 3 stars.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Review: Dark Of The Moon

Dark Of The Moon Dark Of The Moon by John Sandford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was set up on a blind date with Virgil Flowers by my good friend Lucas Davenport. We had a good time. I think we will go out again, but it isn't a love match. Probably just going to be friends.

Virgil is a good cop. He gets under people's skin, he puts the clues together, and in the end he solves the crime, even if he doesn't get his man in the traditional sense. In this one, we are investigating one crime outside of the Twin Cities, and get sucked into another one along the way. Coincidence? Probably not. He's a good cop, like I said, and he can put those clues together like a pro.

I thought I solved the crime a couple of times, but I was wrong in the end. Lots of red herrings in this one to throw you off the scent. Well-plotted, and typical Sandford. 3 stars.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review: The Many Sins of Lord Cameron

The Many Sins of Lord Cameron The Many Sins of Lord Cameron by Jennifer Ashley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, well, well, another new series for me. Very excited to dig into book 1, as I mistakenly started with book 3. I'm not even mad about it. Cameron is nearly too good to be true.

Cameron Mackenzie. Scottish rogue. Rich widower. Single dad. A natural horse trainer. And handsome in his kilt, to boot. He's a "love 'em and leave 'em with a fancy necklace" type of guy. Until he meets Ainsley Douglas. Widow with a past. Companion to the Queen. Picker of locks and all-around snoop. But with a precious heart of gold, just like Lord Cameron. You just know they are headed towards a happily ever after.

Yes, there will be bumps in the road. Otherwise the book would be 5 pages long. Yes, some of the bumps are very obvious, but there were enough pleasant surprises to keep me going. Plus, I'm a bit of a sap, as you know, so their banter and kisses warmed my marshmallow heart.

Looking forward to reading all of the Mackenzies and McBrides books. But I'll start at the beginning for the next one. 3.5 stars.

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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Review: The Last Time I Was Me

The Last Time I Was Me The Last Time I Was Me by Cathy Lamb
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Total fail for me. I absolutely hated the main character, the dialogue, and the writing style.

This book could have been 10 pages long if you removed all of the stupid dialogue and details. We go to the grocery store, and the author makes it a point to give us 5-10 full names of people we literally will never cross paths with again. And the names are all unique, and vaguely ethnic, so we can see the diversity of this random small town in Oregon.

Quirky characters? Sure. We have a weird woman who is obsessed with germs. Some migrant workers who are seriously stereotyped in the worst way. A main character who obsesses over shoes, and speaks her mind in a way that no one would want to be friends with her. Throw in the world's worst anger management counselor and a Gary Stu of a governor who inexplicably tolerates the MC's crap and you have a hot mess of a book.

I can't think of anything nice to say right now, so I'll leave it at: 1 star. Do not recommend to anyone.

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Saturday, July 7, 2018

Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We return to Hogwarts with lots of changes for Harry this year. First, the Tri-Wizard tournament. Very exciting. We get a glimpse of other wizarding schools. Tragedy strikes, and we end with a very satisfying set up for book 5.

We kick this installment off with the fun of the Quidditch World Cup. Harry attends with the Weasleys and has lots of fun until dark things happen, setting us up for what is to come. Harry is selected as a champion for the Tri-Wizard tournament. But, gasp! He didn't enter his name because he's not 17. As Fleur says, he's just a little boy! Danger abounds. And in the end, we are in a very dark place to take us into the next book.

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Review: Break In

Break In Break In by Dick Francis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another winner by Dick Francis. He never lets me down.

This one introduces us to Kit Fielding, champion steeplechase jockey. He's a fantastic everyman, like Francis writes so well. A good man who loves horses, justice, and his friends and family. He's brave (not to a fault like my boy Sid Halley, but still brave) and doesn't hesitate to do what needs to be done for his sister. While I am a bit lukewarm on Danielle, I love the Princess and understand why Kit is so taken with her. She's fantastic.

Read this one before you read book 2, naturally, or you won't care as much about what is happening in Kit's life. I wish Francis had written more about Kit, but sadly we only get 2 books. A good mystery and good racing. 3.5 stars.

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Review: Hello Stranger

Hello Stranger Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Garrett and Ransom's story was very satisfying. They definitely belong together.

Two unconventional people, who, on the surface, may seem a mismatch. However, they fit together like puzzle pieces. She's smart, strong, and independent. He's also smart, strong, and independent. Together, they resonate. It's good stuff. He's strong enough to appreciate her brains and independence. He's not intimidated by her career, in fact, he encourages her to be even more of who she is. She, on the other hand, doesn't bat an eye at his job and all that entails. She is probably the only person strong enough to handle him, and vice versa. A match made in heaven.

This story was everything I had hoped it would be. Really can't wait to read West's story next! 4 stars.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Review: Just Like Heaven

Just Like Heaven Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another rousing Smythe-Smith musical. Settle in for a night of entertainment. I loved Honoria’s story. Glad she gets her HEA. Plus, it’s always a pleasure to visit the Bridgertons again.

Honoria and Marcus have known each other their entire lives. She’s suddenly transformed from pesky little sister of his best friend to pretty, self-assured young lady, and now everything is different between them. Or is it? Too close to the situation, everyone can see where it’s headed but them. You, dear readers, will see it soonest of all, because we only read historical romance for the sweet happily ever afters.

Julia Quinn writes friends to lovers better than most. She’s an absolute favorite of mine. 4 stars

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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Review: Riding to the Moon

Riding to the Moon Riding to the Moon by Barbara Cartland
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A new low by Dame Barbara. What a stinker of a plot.

We have the lovely Indira, fresh from India and the death of her father. She's perfect in every way, naturally. Cartland's stuttering heroines are written the same way. Throw in men who can't help but fall in love with her, hidden identities, ruthless villains, and a dash of Eastern mysticism, and you've got yourself a party, folks. But one that you don't really want to attend but a friend makes you go, and you stand in the corner counting the minutes until you can leave. Plus the food is terrible.

The real high point was the sexist steeplechase, and that isn't saying much. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I have no real excuse for doing this to myself, except I enjoy complaining about the plots afterwards. 1 star.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Review: One Foot in the Grave

One Foot in the Grave One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, well, well. Welcome back to the Cat and Bones nonstop banter show. Book 2 is just as good as book 1.

Holy time jump, Batman. We fast forward FOUR years from the end of Halfway to the Grave. I guess you've got nothing but time when you are a vampire, or half-blood vampire, or whatever. Cat is running her crazy assassin task force and Bones has been completely off her radar. Until a big bad drops the bomb that he's still around and boom, back into her life.

Lots of sparks fly between Cat and Bones, they bicker, they make up, and they kick all kinds of paranormal ass. It's about what you would expect if you read the first book, and it will springboard you right to the next one. 3.5 stars and I'm rounding up to 4 because I liked it enough to possibly read this series more than once.

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Review: Love Finds the Way

Love Finds the Way Love Finds the Way by Barbara Cartland
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Shockingly, this book wasn't terrible. I mean, it wasn't great, either, but it wasn't terrible.

We have a bit of a "meet-cute" when Gina (quite the modern name) needs a ride and John is headed that way. He's the newly inherited Duke of the rundown castle in her village (hamlet? county?) and she is supposed to be going to get a teaching job, even though she is a secret heiress. You can see where I'm going with this, as Babs was phoning this plot in while she laid on her fainting couch eating bon bons.

Misunderstandings abound, ridiculous things happen, and they all lived happily ever after. Especially Evelyn, who I was happiest for of all of them. Way to keep getting it, girl.

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Review: Ruby

Ruby Ruby by Juliet James
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I keep telling myself if I hadn't read these books completely out of order, I would like them better. But I'm totally wrong. The characters might have made a bit more sense, yes, but the stories would still be stinkers.

We go to the first story in the "Come-By-Chance" mail order bride series, where we get to know most of the players in the series. Ruby and Lettie are the main focus, as they both answered ads for mail order brides and got on a train to Montana. Let me tell you something, Lettie lost that lottery because Slim Jim is a real piece of work. That will come up in future books, though, so not going to spoil you.
Ruby decides on a very nice fella and they live happily ever after. But he has 2 single brothers so you know they are headed towards the altar in future installments.

No one is memorable, the dialogue is painful, and for some insane reason I keep reading these books. Going to give this one 2 stars because I read it quickly and it's over now.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Review: Fish & Chips

Fish & Chips Fish & Chips by Abigail Roux
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Damn, that was hot. Ty and Zane have the best of everything. Best jobs. Best partnership. Best relationship. I love everything about this series.

This time our favorite special agents are undercover as, get this, a gay couple. Gasp! However will they get into character? They reluctantly take the case, because it's their job. Plus, free cruise vacation. Because their last vacation went so well. It goes about like you would expect. Bad guys everywhere. Things about their covers don't necessarily work out. But in the end, Ty and Zane always get their man.

This is one of my favorite series for so many reasons, but mostly because I love the boys. 4 stars.

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Review: Wicked and the Wallflower

Wicked and the Wallflower Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I adored Felicity and Devon. But especially Felicity. I enjoy stories about quirky, unconventional women who aren't seen as attractive, but always seem to end up with a passionate, devoted man. I definitely have a type, and this is it.

Felicity Faircloth, shunned by the ton for something that happened in a book series I have yet to read, outrageously blurts out that she has landed the new Duke, who she has yet to meet. The mean girls group jump on her like a wild pack of dogs, but luckily she runs into Devil, who can help her land him. And he does, but you just know they are going to end up falling in love with each other because sparks were flying from scene 1. And every scene afterwards.

Pretty standard historical fare but the characters are so interesting that I gave this one the 4 star treatment. Great start to a new series for me. Hope the others don't let me down!

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Review: Love Became Theirs

Love Became Theirs Love Became Theirs by Barbara Cartland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you follow my reviews at all, you know how much I like to destroy my extensive Barbara Cartland collection. However, color me pleasantly surprised by this one.

Rona is a rich girl and her daddy wants to marry her off to a titled man who can get him into the best clubs. Rona, however, wants to marry for love. Who doesn’t, girl? She has a chance encounter with a harlequin at the costume ball and decides, after a short conversation and a brief kiss, to run away and take a governess position under an assumed name. As you do, back in the day. Will she find her happily ever after? You know she will. Babs doesn’t write them any other way.

Rife with the insta-love that you know will be there, we also get some intrigue, and a mostly smart, self-assured heroine that is a rarity in Dame Barbara’s works. We get a dashing harlequin and a very nice Earl who doesn’t get what he deserves, but I’m hoping he makes an appearance in one of her 700 other books. I really liked him.

Far better than most of her other novels. Maybe this one had a ghost writer. 3 stars.

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Review: Greenwich Killing Time

Greenwich Killing Time Greenwich Killing Time by Kinky Friedman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hop in my time machine, kids, because we are headed back to the 80’s!

Greenwich Village, New York. Early 80’s. No cell phones. No internet. Not as progressive or health-conscious. Smoking, drinking, discrimination. And a misplaced cowboy detective and his band of irregulars.

Funny, irreverent, and extremely dated, you can tell this is Kinky’s first book once you have read any of the others. He’s ridiculous. But what do you expect from a guy who ran for governor of Texas with the slogan, “Kinky for governor. Why the hell not?” He didn’t win but I still have the T-shirt. 3 stars.

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Review: Bonecrack

Bonecrack Bonecrack by Dick Francis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another great one by Dick Francis. This time, our Everyman Hero Neil Griffon is abducted and bullied into putting an amateur jockey up on the favorite mount for the big race. Just covering for his father after a serious car accident, he has no experience running a stable and is quickly in over his head.

Classic Francis at his best, we have the intricacies of a strained father / son relationship, empowered, strong women well ahead of their time, and a great Everyman main character in Neil. Yes, we have horses, and racing, and insights into the everyday operations of a racing stable. But we also have a smart mystery that will leave you guessing until the end.

I just love his books. 3.5 stars.

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Review: The Aeronaut's Windlass

The Aeronaut's Windlass The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jim, I want to apologize in advance for this review. Still best friends?

I can't put my finger on why I didn't fall in love with this book. I liked most of the characters. I liked the plot. I didn't mind the steampunk setting. But I tried the book, and I tried the audio, and it still took me forever to get to the end.

High points: Grimm. Rowl. Folly. I adore Benedict, and I want him to fall madly in love with Bridget and run around kicking all kinds of ass in the universe. I didn't mind Gwen, although the consensus among my book-reading friends is they don't like her. I think she's fine, and she and Grimm should join forces forever and ever. No real low points, but again, the book just wasn't a smooth, fast read. I didn't tear through the pages like I do with your other books, Jim, and I can't tell you why.

Still, I enjoyed the ride, but dang, this book was a commitment. 3 stars.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Review: Killman Creek

Killman Creek Killman Creek by Rachel Caine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gwen and family just can't catch a break, but we knew it was bad from the end of book 1.

Mel has escaped from jail and is stalking Gwen. His dear Gina makes a series of bad decisions, asks near strangers (seriously, you barely know these two, Gina/Gwen) to keep her kids safe, and runs off with Sam to...find Mel? Uncover Absalom? Use herself as bait? Not sure about her decision quality in this entire book. And as the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree, her kids both make some questionable decisions as well. Connor, this side-eye is especially for you, but Lanny doesn't get a pass either.

Lots of bad things happen, as you might expect. Gwen and Sam both put themselves in danger. Connor and Lanny put themselves in danger. And Sam is lucky to have such a loyal friend in the FBI to help them, because they need it.

The ending is fairly satisfying and I think she should have ended the story here, with no need for the final scene. It will have to be an absolutely unbelievable explanation for this story to continue, because this one stretched my belief to the very limit.

Still enjoyable, though. 3 stars but I don't think I'll be back for book 3.

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Review: Strawberries and Strangers: A Cozy Murder Mystery

Strawberries and Strangers: A Cozy Murder Mystery Strawberries and Strangers: A Cozy Murder Mystery by Leena Clover
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

My goodness, but this book was a chore to get through. The dialogue, the characters. I kept hoping a hurricane would sweep the whole town off the map, but alas, no weather incidents this time.

Jenny is going through a rough divorce and is staying with her aunt. She is crushing on the Sheriff, but not really, and they fight. All. The. Time. So you just know it is going to be true love always. I'm guessing around book 3. Anyway, a dead man is found on the beach and her hippie artist aunt Star is taken in for the crime. Of course she didn't do it. Of course Jenny investigates it and sticks her nose where it doesn't belong. Haven't you ever read a cozy?

And a lot of nonsense happens, the crime is solved in an unbelievable way, and I knew who was guilty but I didn't know why. Because there were no clues to lead us to a motive. And that is why this book gets 1.5 stars. I won't be taking a return trip to Pelican Cove.

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Review: Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What a fun book! I've never seen the movie but everyone always told me I would love this story so I gave it a try. Not at all what I was expecting.

Wizard Howl has a floating castle that moves around the land. He has a bad reputation for eating young ladies' hearts. Sophie is the eldest daughter, and a series of unfortunate events changes her life. Not going to spoil it for you, because I think you should go into this book blind and just let the story unfold. It's better this way, I promise.

And at the end, nothing it what it seems, yet it will all be completely satisfying. Very glad I read this one. 3 stars.

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Review: Dark Lover

Dark Lover Dark Lover by J.R. Ward
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So glad I finally started this series. I liked it a lot. Very pleasantly surprised.

We start with Beth, mere mortal, or is she? She's the daughter of a vampire, and she needs to know this before she goes through the weird vampire puberty change. She's never met her father, and has no clue of her lineage. He's been watching from afar, making sure she is safe. Enter Wrath, King of the vampires. He's been asked to protect Beth and help usher her through the change. He's reluctant, but eventually comes around. And that's where our story begins to gain lots of steam. I'm not just talking about momentum and action, folks. Steam of all kinds. Wink wink.

I like the character evolution in this book. I think it sets up future books in the series to explore everyone's backstories, and continue moving forward. I'm especially interested in seeing how Butch's life changes in the next books. He and Fritz were my two favorites, so I'm glad to see they are sticking around.

Vampires, action, and true love always. What's not to like? 3.5 stars.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Review: Magic Bites

Magic Bites Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me a while to get through this one. Not because I hated it, or the writing was bad. I just wasn't in the mood for this type of book right now. But I did enjoy it, and will read the next one.

Kate. Oh, Kate, you prickly pear. You are hard on the outside, but soft and possibly magical on the inside. Curran, you alpha alpha male. You are all the things I love in a hero. Strong on the outside, but I can tell you are a fierce protector and a bit of a softy, too. Don't worry, your secret is safe with me.

The world building was a bit vague. I have so many questions still, but I guess they will be answered in future books. I think the story could have been another 50 pages to flesh things out, but I'm good with the story, characters, and where we left things. But Kate is a mysterious being and I'm looking forward to finding out more about this weird version of Atlanta. Maybe my boy Harry Dresden can visit and we will really shake things up.

3 stars. Pretty decent start to things.

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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On my first few times reading this, it was my least favorite of the series. I'm not sure why, because I loved everything about it this time. So much to appreciate here. Professor Lupin, the search for Sirius Black, Buckbeak, the Marauder's Map. It's a great ride.

Harry, Ron, and Hermoine are all back at Hogwarts for year three. Other than a few additional classes (several, in Hermoine's case), things are as usual. The Chamber of Secrets is closed, Malfoy is still a jerk, and Wood is still obsessed with Quidditch. What's new, you might ask? Well, Hogsmeade, for one, and Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban, for another. And dementors are guarding Hogwarts and making Harry miserable.

That's all I'm giving you for a sneak peek, friends. If you haven't read the series, you shouldn't start with this one. If you have, you already know what is going on. And if you've only seen the movies, you need to stop reading this review and pick up the books, because you are missing out on so much. 3 enjoyable stars. Almost 4 because I love Professor Lupin so very much.

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Friday, June 8, 2018

Review: Devil in Spring

Devil in Spring Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book! This has been my favorite of the three so far.

Pandora and Gabriel are perfectly matched, and I love how she was able to tie in my love of the Wallflowers as well. I adored Evie and Sebastian's story, and it was perfect to read about one of their children. Made my marshmallow heart sing inside.

I love how Pandora was accepted as herself from the beginning, not just from Gabriel but also from his family. After years of her feeling like a weirdo, she finally has found her spot. A smart, independent business-minded woman who isn't willing to compromise (well, maybe a little) and knows what she wants. And Rhys is such an enabler! He is part of the reason she has blossomed like she did. I still adore him.

And I appreciate how Kleypas writes unconventional female characters. They are all different in their own way, but unique and you want to see them succeed. She has quickly become my favorite historical romance writer.

Great story! 4 stars for me. Can't wait to read the next one.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Review: 10 LB Penalty

10 LB Penalty 10 LB Penalty by Dick Francis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another winner by my boy, Dick Francis. He never lets me down.

In this one, we have a wonderful everyman in Benedict Juliard. Responsible, not flashy, but definitely a great combo of smart, shrewd, and forthright. What Francis does best, in my opinion. We meet young Benedict at the tender age of 17, ready for his gap year to ride races and hopefully never return to school. Unfortunately, his rather absentee father has other plans, and Benedict is thrust in the gritty world of politics. People indeed do want to vote for the elder Juliard, and there are people who are just as intent on stopping him from climbing the political ladder.

Unlike most of his books, this one actually spans 5 years, and the story takes some interesting twists and turns. Not to worry, though, because our everyman stays lawful good until the end, and we get a rushed, but satisfying ending. 3.5 stars.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Review: The Good Daughter

The Good Daughter The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My goodness, I ended up loving this book. It was my first Karin Slaughter but it definitely won't be my last.

Are you ready for tragedy? Because it's coming in spades. A family wrecked by a home invasion of sorts, ripped to shreds with the fallout and and just trying to put their lives back together. A time jump, and we slowly pick up the pieces of the past and try to understand what got them to these places. An interesting current crime to help them all finally understand what happened 28 years ago.

I loved it. I loved the way the story unfolded, the family dynamics, and how we finally got to the conclusion. If you like crime thrillers, you should read this one. 4 stars.

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Monday, May 28, 2018

Review: Marrying Winterborne

Marrying Winterborne Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lady Helen and Rhys Winterborne. Not a match that is apparent to everyone, but I like it. They are like puzzle pieces. Different shapes, but they fit together.

Rhys is a complicated man, but Helen is soft on the outside, with steel in the inside. She's made of strong stuff, folks, and I love her. And I love Rhys, insecurities and rough edges and all. They have some serious ups and downs in this book, but you always know they are destined to be together, and they would never work as well with a different partner.

We get a small dose of Kathleen, Devon, and the rest of the gang in this one, but the true focus is on Helen and Rhys, and this makes me happy. A really great pairing. 3.5 stars (so close to 4, but I think I'm in a mood).

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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Review: Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book stirred up a lot of emotions. I had distinct thoughts about all three characters. Oddly, I didn't like any of them but really enjoyed the book.

We are in WWII. Each woman shares her journey in alternating chapters. I like that. Caroline is a former Broadway actress determined to save all of the French orphans. Herta is a Nazi doctor, with all that entails. Kasia is a Polish teenager mildly tied up in the Resistance. We get to see things from their perspectives, and oh boy, are those perspectives different. As they should be, in different parts of the world, different backgrounds, and different motivations.

Like I said, it's an emotional ride. The thing that struck me is I felt all three characters were selfish in their own way. I don't think that was the author's intention, but that is how I felt about them. And the weak tie-in to the lilacs, as well as the misleading cover, made me think I would be getting a different type of story and ending, so I felt let down.

Still recommend to historical fiction lovers. 3 stars.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Review: Cold-Hearted Rake

Cold-Hearted Rake Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good start to another winning series by Lisa Kleypas. We have Devon Ravenel, who has inherited a legacy, and a debt, that he never expected or wanted. He also has inherited relatives in the form of three distant cousins, as well as the widow of the former Earl, Kathleen. She's been there, quietly taking care of the girls, and trying to deal with her feelings about all of this. Devon arrives on the scene and it is instant hate/sparks/bickering that you know is going to turn to TLA. That's why we read these books, right?

At first, I couldn't figure out why Devon was supposed to be charming. He was a jerk, and Kathleen was rather cold. But as the plot wound on and people were running around in the rain on horses, I was sold. Then we have two interesting subplots, one with Devon's brother and his path to maturity and responsibility, and Lady Helen and Winterborne, which is completely spoiled by the title of book 2. I confess, the ending was one of those that made me set aside my other planned reads to find out what happened next, so well played, Lisa. Well played.

Very enjoyable start to the series. I'll read them all. 3.5 stars.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Review: The Draining Lake

The Draining Lake The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indriðason
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Inspector Erlender solves them all. Mostly. A lot of red herrings in this one but really enjoyable. The mystery was solid, and the jumps back to the past took a little time to keep all of the characters straight, but ended up making the mystery richer. We also get more glimpses into his partners' lives and I liked that, too.

Erlender's personal life continues to take turns as well. Eva Lind can't seem to get her life together, no surprise there, but we understand her better. We finally get to meet his son and I hope he sticks around too. And the woman from the last book is still around, and in typical Erlender fashion he is taking things so slowly they are almost going in reverse. He's a complicated man, folks. But he's smart and doggedly will finish any case.

This one is about spies, the cold war, East Germany, and the implications when you trust the wrong person.Oh, and a lake that is losing water and no one knows why, but that part is just the vehicle to get the ball rolling. It's another good one from Indridason. 3 stars.

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Review: A Charming Secret

A Charming Secret A Charming Secret by Tonya Kappes
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

So I wrote this whole rant about how much I can't stand June and pretty much the entire town of Whispering Falls, KY, but Goodreads glitched and the review disappeared. Now I can't be bothered.

Basically, June sucks. She makes bad decisions, gets herself into danger, and is in general a huge dummy. The plots are all the same. Someone gets hurt or killed, June is the only suspect, and the whole town immediately turns against her. She strikes out on her own, puts herself in danger, and then the crime is solved and all is forgiven. Throw in terrible dialogue and unrealistic, unlikeable characters and you have yourself this series.

I can't remember what else I said, but basically I'm the only person who thinks these books stink. Seriously, a high 4 star average? WTF? Some of the greatest books ever written have a high 3 star average, therefore showing us you cannot trust the stars people apply to books here. These books are terrible, June should move away from Whispering Falls, and no one should live happily ever after. The end. 1 star.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: Never Mind

Never Mind Never Mind by Edward St. Aubyn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this because I love Benedict Cumberbatch and I wanted to watch Patrick Melrose. I might need to pass, though. This book was dark and disturbing. I hated David. I hated Eleanor. No wonder Patrick is so messed up.

The writing was great. But I just hated the characters, the situations, and the decisions. I don't enjoy reading about cruel people. I don't enjoy reading about abuse of any kind: emotional, physical, sexual. No thanks, not for me. Life has enough darkness in it without reading about more.

I may still watch the series, but not sure I will read the next book. 2 stars only because the writing was great.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Review: The Cat Who Could Read Backwards

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Here is where it all began, folks. Jim Qwilleran, clawing his way back from hitting rock bottom, returns to the gritty world of reporting by getting a place on the art beat. He knows nothing about art, but he doesn't let that stop him. He lucks into a sweet apartment for $50 a month (hey, it was 1966) and befriends the pompous, overbearing art critic, George Bonifield Mountclemens III, who eviscerates all of the local artists with his scathing opinions. Everyone hates him but Qwill, who is suckered into becoming an errand boy and cat sitter to the world's smartest cat, Kao K'o-Kung. And I'm sure you know where this is going because this series is all about Qwill and his kitties. No spoilers, though. Just read it.

The ending sets us up for the whole series, where Qwill will be stroking his mustache and putting his mack down on the ladies for years to come, while Koko and Yum Yum yowl disapprovingly in the background. 3 stars.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Review: I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame

I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame by Brené Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brené Brown helps make sense of things that are floating around in my head and heart. Let's be honest: culturally, women have challenges in how they view themselves, their careers, and life in general. Sometimes we feel shame when we absolutely should not. She encourages all of us to change our perspective and our lives by changing our inner dialogue.

If you haven't read anything by her, I encourage you to do so. Her books are messages of empowerment. She encourages people to take control of their lives, take responsibility, and to not be a victim. I love it. My first exposure to Brené was The Gifts of Imperfection. Being a very imperfect being, it really resonated with me. She hands you some real talk, like that best friend who always tells you the truth. You might be a little butt-hurt afterwards, but you appreciate the honesty and you know it's true deep inside.

I always take away a change of perspective after finishing one of her books. 4 stars.

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Review: Emily

Emily Emily by Juliet James
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I just can't with these books, yet I continue to read them because they were free and they fit challenges I am in.

We are back in Come-By-Chance, which is the dumbest name for a town ever. But first we are in Chicago, and Emily just happens to come across a man being strangled to death in an alley, and skips town. She's an orphan, naturally, so it's logical that she would just hop a train to anywhere and meet another woman, also named Emily. There is some nonsense conversation on the train and rich, spoiled Emily, who was headed to Montana to impulsively be a mail order bride after one letter decides to go home and let poor orphan Emily take her place. Yes, this is the actual plot and I am not messing with you right now.

Anyway, more nonsense happens when she arrives, they never really resolve the switched identity plot point, because why would they? And they all lived happily ever after, which is my favorite kind of "ever after" but with these books, who cares?

These books are nonsense, but I will probably read another one because I will literally read anything for a challenge, they are short, and they were free. 1.5 stars. I hope Come-By-Chance gets wiped out in a tornado.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Review: The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home by Dan Ariely
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Humans are so interesting. Why we make the decisions we do, why we react in ways both predictable and unpredictable, I find it all fascinating. Dan Ariely is a social scientist who had made a living trying to figure us out.

Lots of good takeaways here, from why people think (usually erroneously) that their ideas are best - I'm definitely guilty of this - to seeking revenge (me also) - to adapting to our situations, both good and bad. As I listened to the audio, I kept thinking I need to pull up the ePub and highlight some of these passages for my team at work. So much of it makes sense and can help you in any job where you deal with people, which is almost all of them. By the way, if you have a job where you never have to interact with another human, please call me so I can do the same job.

You should first read Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, then read this. You will learn something about how humans make decisions, both yourself and those around you. Very good read. 4 stars.

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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Review: O is for Outlaw

O is for Outlaw O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kinsey, girl, one of the things I love about you is that you never change. You are still hanging out with Henry, running 3 miles a day, and taking risky chances. You say the wrong things and have no finesse. You are my fictional BFF.

This time we get a deep look at Kinsey's first marriage to Mickey Magruder. She was young, he was older, they were both cops, and it really sounded like a unhealthy relationship from start to finish. Not that Kinsey has a strong track record in that area, although I did like Dietz. But I digress. Anyway, Mickey has been shot. He's in a coma, and while he can't point the finger at anyone in that state, the cops come knocking on Kinsey's door because a gun registered to her was found at the scene. And that's all it takes to get Kinsey to stick her nose into the past, no matter how tightly she had it all packed away.

Lots of good insights into Kinsey's life before she became a PI, and the story kept a good balance between the past and the present. I always enjoy my adventures with her. 3 stars.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Review: Into the Water

Into the Water Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Paula Hawkins, I gave you a second chance after The Girl on the Train. But I think we are going to have to part ways here. Seriously, it's not you, it's your characters. They suck. Not a likable one in the whole bunch.

You see, I'm a HEA girl, in real life, and in my books. I want to be around likable people who I don't hate. Sadly, you write really terrible people in your books. There was not a single one who I didn't want to slap. And I hated Sean most of all. I couldn't muster up the slightest bit of empathy for these folks--I wanted all of them to go into the water and never come back.

So many people seem to love your books, and this means you will be able to continue to put food on the table. You just aren't the author for me. If I want to be around people I don't like, I will go to work. 1.5 stars, but rounding up to 2 because I'm sure I'm in the minority.

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Review: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Utterly fascinating look at what happens to our bodies after we die. As someone who is 100% behind green burials and organ donation, it opened my eyes to other options as well.

Some of you might find the subject matter gross, off-putting, or otherwise distasteful, but death is a part of life, and I really enjoyed all of the topics she covered. Mary Roach really knows how to dive into a subject and make it accessible. And as someone who really dreads flying, I especially enjoyed the plane crash section (no, really, I did). I found it somewhat comforting.

If you find yourself squeamish, maybe don't read it while you eat, ok? Especially the section on cannibalism, or body decomposition. But if that puts you off, you probably wouldn't read this book anyway. 3.5 stars.

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