Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Out With The Old, In With The New

With 2010 coming to an end, a very rapid end, it seems like, it is time to reflect on what I have accomplished and what I hope to accomplish in 2011.

Not sure what happened, but 2010 seemed to fly by. Is this a symptom of aging, I wonder? We are all in such a hurry to grow up and then when we do, the time passes at the speed of sound, leaving us bewildered and at a loss as to where it went.

In 2011, I would like time. Time to enjoy life, time to spend with The Scottish Guy, time to laugh, time to read, time to spend with friends. I don't want to worry about how cluttered the house is. I don't want to worry about the politics and drama at work. I don't want to dwell on the past which causes me to worry about what might happen in the future.

In 2011, I would like to read more, laugh more, be thankful for the blessings in my life and not worry about what I don't have.

Reading more should be an easy goal. I hope so. Santa and The Scottish Guy have given me an excellent tool to make it an easy goal.

Here's to a happy and bright New Year!

REVIEW: The Ghost And The Dead Man's Library by Alice Kimberly

Title: The Ghost and the Dead Man’s Library (Haunted Bookshop, #3)
Author: Alice Kimberly
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: September, 2006
Paperback: 254 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Rating: 8/10

Description: Sleuth, Nevermore…?

Bookshop owner Penelope Thornton McClure has just received an extremely rare collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s complete works. Rumor has it a secret code, trapped within the books’ leather-bound pages, leads to buried treasure. Well, it looks like they got the buried part right, because as Pen sells off the valuable volumes, everyone who buys…dies.

Once these books go missing from their owners’ cold hands, Pen will need resident ghost and hard-boiled PI Jack Shepard to help crack the case. The police are skeptical that the deaths involved foul play --- so it’s up to Pen and Jack to unravel these shocking endings…

My Thoughts: I’m really enjoying this series. In this installment, Penelope and her Aunt Sadie travel to Newport to acquire a collection of published works by Edgar Allan Poe from a man Sadie used to be romantically involved with. One of the things I enjoyed about this book is the story doesn’t drag and meander. It gets right to the meat and potatoes of the story when just mere minutes after leaving Newport with the books, the previous owner dies under mysterious circumstances. Then before I had time to process that, Penelope sells one of the volumes for $8,000 and the new owner is found dead. Penelope gets arrested and charged with theft, Spencer is being bullied at school, and we learn a little more about Jack and one of the cases he was working on. These side plots keep the story from becoming stagnant and hold my interest in the book.

I also like that, through her dreams, Penelope is able to go with Jack to his time and observe and even participate in what he’s doing. This seems to be the only way she can actually see him. In her time, she can only hear him, but carrying Jack’s buffalo nickel on her person, he can travel outside the store with her. I just wish she could see him in the present and that Sadie and Spencer could too. Jack’s vocabulary is very entertaining as well.

“Pops is laying track, baby. He’s taking you for a rube.”

“Make like the proverbial shepherd, sweetheart, and get the flock out.”

“All that yammering is giving me a headache where I don’t have one --- a head, that is…”

“That scam was old when I was in knee pants.”


I’m hoping that Penelope will learn more about Jack; maybe find his descendants or learn the truth about his murder. In the meantime, Jack’s presence in Penelope’s head brings her confidence and, at times, comfort.

Overall, The Ghost and the Dead Man’s Library is a good installment of the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series. It enlightened me to some unknown facts about Edgar Allan Poe and entertained me with Jack’s gruff personality and quips.

Monday, December 20, 2010

REVIEW: The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer

Title: The Cinderella Pact
Author: Sarah Strohmeyer
Publisher: New American Library
Publication Date: June, 2006
Paperback: 352 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 7/10

Description: Fairy godmother hasn't shown up yet? Maybe it's time to take matters into your own hands....

When magazine editor Nola Devlin is turned down for her dream job as an advice columnist because she's overweight, she decides to become thin --- or, at least, pretend to be. Belinda Apple, the alter ego she creates --- thin, British, hip, and did we mention thin? --- is a smashing success who is offered movie proposals, national television appearances and even dates. Of course, no one’s actually met her in person.

Unfortunately, Nola takes Belinda a bit too far, jotting off a column about how easy it is to lose weight --- a column her friends take seriously. Trapped by her own words, Nola is forced to join the “Cinderella Pact” and drop the pounds.

As the weight comes off, however, Nola’s problems begin to mount. Her magazine launches an investigation into Belinda Apple’s true identity, her friends race ahead of her in the weight loss game, and her younger sister chooses Belinda as her maid of honor. Plus, there’s this mysterious hunk who might be Nola’s prince --- or a rat in coachmen’s clothing. Will this “everygirl” from New Jersey finally find a glass slipper that fits? Or do glass slippers shatter on the feet of real women like us?


My Thoughts: Very entertaining story about a plus size girl who decides to grab life by the horns and chase her dreams. Magazine editor Nola Devlin is like most of us; haunted by her weight problem and her habit of comfort eating and no exercise, she is viewed with disgust or indifference by people around her. Her supervisor practically ridicules her when turning her down for an opportunity to write a column so Nola decides to exact a little retribution and invents a fictional columnist who gets the job instead. Nola doesn’t count on Belinda Apple’s global popularity and when questions begin to arise regarding the validity of Belinda’s identity and resume, Nola is faced with an internal investigation that could cost her not only her credibility but her career and freedom.

While this is occurring, Nola finds herself and her friends treated in a discriminatory fashion at a restaurant when they want to sit closer to a window. The friends make a vow to lose the weight and come back to the restaurant thin, gorgeous and all made up (a la Pretty Woman) to let the snide employee know what a horrible mistake he made in treating them so poorly.

Unfortunately, it’s not just her employer, coworkers and restaurant wait staff who treats her badly. Nola’s mother and sister are convinced that Nola is jealous of her sister’s upcoming wedding and upset that Nola’s sister would invite Belinda to be her maiden of honor. Nola’s soon to be brother-in-law seems to take every opportunity to guess Nola’s weight and makes sure everyone within hearing distance knows too.

After a particularly mortifying day wherein Nola’s car catches fire and she busts out the back of her pants, she accepts a ride home from one of her coworkers, Chip. She likes Chip’s easy-going, laid-back manner and is surprised that he seems to like her as well. She discovers that Chip isn’t who she thought he was, literally. The man she thought he was worked in the technical assistance department but is much shorter and speaks with a Scottish brogue. So now Nola finds herself attracted to a man whose identity is a mystery. Nobody could use the services of a Fairy Godmother more than Nola Devlin.

I really enjoyed the story and loved Nola and her friends Deb and Nancy. I, too, found myself with a bit of a crush on the mysterious Chip. I especially liked that he did not appear to give a flying fig about Nola’s weight. He comes across as liking her for who she is and that scores major points with me. There are a lot of supporting characters that add to the story, such as Nigel, the presumed boyfriend of the fictional Belinda. He ends up saving the day for Nola in more ways than one. There are many laugh out loud moments in this story; my favorite is when Nola rips her pants at work.

The only problem I had with this book was the blatant in my face intrusion of Bubbles Yablonsky into this story. Not all readers may pick up on it, but I did. Having Bubbles show up more than once in this story was like having ice cold water dumped on my head. Her appearance has absolutely no relevance to Nola’s story and it actually pulled my attention out of this book. Bubbles has a series of her own. I’ve read them and enjoy them, but I don’t want to see Bubbles getting air time on someone else’s story.

Overall, I found this book very enjoyable and great entertainment. If you can ignore the party crashing of irrelevant characters, give this one a shot. I enjoyed the way Nola resolves all of the dilemmas she faces without losing her charm.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

REVIEW: Thanks For The Memories by Cecelia Ahern

Title: Thanks For The Memories
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: April, 2008
Paperback: 373 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5/10

Description: How can you know someone you’ve never met? Joyce Conway remembers things she shouldn’t. She knows about tiny cobbled streets in Paris, which she has never visited. And every night she dreams about an unknown little girl with blonde hair. Justin Hitchcock is divorced, lonely and restless. He arrives in Dublin to give a lecture on art and meets an attractive doctor, who persuades him to donate blood. It’s the first thing to come straight from his heart in a long time. When Joyce leaves hospital after a terrible accident, with her life and her marriage in pieces, she moves back in with her elderly father. All the while, a strong sense of déjà vu is overwhelming her and she can’t figure out why …

My Thoughts: Not my favorite from this author, here’s a tale about a woman who receives a blood transfusion from a man she has never met and begins to recall his memories and develops skills and abilities she has never known, like speaking Latin and a knowledge of ancient architecture.

What happens next are several random sightings and near-miss chance encounters as they are being drawn to each other without knowing why or who the other one really is. The story dragged quite a bit for me but I was compelled to hang in there just so I could find out what would happen when Joyce and Justin finally discover who the other one is.

Some interesting characters adding to the story are Joyce’s father, who continuously calls her by her mother’s name; Justin’s brother, Al and his wife, Doris, who are visiting from Chicago and Justin’s daughter who unwittingly plays a pivotal role in bringing Justin and Joyce together.

Not a bad story, overall, but for this author, I recommend P.S. I LOVE YOU, ROSIE DUNNE or IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

REVIEW: Dying To Call You by Elaine Viets

Title: Dying To Call You (Dead-End Job Mystery #3)
Author: Elaine Viets
Publisher: Signet
Publication Date: October, 2004
Paperback: 270 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Rating: 1/10

Description: Helen Hawthorne has just found her new calling...as a telemarketer. And it's not long before she's disrupting dinners all over the country with her pesky calls. But during a phone survey to the home of Henry Asporth, she's the one who gets an earful when she overhears an argument, followed by a scream --- and then dead air. Was someone being strangled? Or was it just a loud movie? Helen searches the office computer database to learn more about Asporth and the much younger woman he allegedly lived with...before she disappeared. And soon Helen's in over her head, chasing clues and trying to avoid a close call...with a killer.

My Thoughts: Not sure if it's my overall apathy of telemarketers in general that annoyed me in this installment of the Dead-End Job Mystery series, or if I'm losing interest in the series overall but I found the plot hard to focus on. Helen was over the top with too many "too stupid to live" moments. Not even the appearance of Helen's "invisible pot-head" neighbor, Phil, impressed me. He just strikes me as yet another of the many men that have crossed Helen's path that she's better off avoiding. Maybe he will redeem himself later on. But I really don't care at this point.

The problem for me in this series is that Helen is becoming more stupid. I get that she's on the run. I understand why she has to avoid banks and has to work for cash under the table and why she has to sock her money away inside her furniture, teddy bear and suitcase. What pisses me off is that her carelessness costs her a large chunk of this money. On top of that, what she has to endure in order to even acquire the money in the first place to have it gone in the blink of an eye makes me want to chew glass and spit nails.

More stupidity on her part ensues. Questioning people who later end up dead and having your fingerprints all over the place does not make for an intelligent person. She wiped the fingerprints from the doorknob, but she walked inside the apartment leaving DNA evidence all over the place. Oh, and for a finale, let’s go to the killer’s house and search the place for evidence! I don’t mind the forensic inaccuracies but when the lead character jumps from being a mover and shaker drawing in six figures to stupid, careless and foolish, it bothers the hell out of me.

Overall, though this book is definitely the worst of the series, there’s hope that it can’t get any worse. It can only go up from here, right? Then again, Helen’s next dead-end job is in a bridal dress shop. Stupidity, carelessness and foolishness will not mix well with Bridezilla on PMS. As long as Helen’s stupidity isn’t a long term affliction, I can hang around and find out how she does in the next job.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

REVIEW: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Title: Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy #1)
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: August, 2007
Paperback: 332 pages
Genre: Young Adult / Paranormal Romance
Rating: 8/10

Description: ONLY A TRUE BEST FRIEND CAN PROTECT YOU FROM YOUR IMMORTAL ENEMIES...

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with an unbreakable bond to the earth's magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest and most dangerous vampires --- the ones who never die.

The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa's best friend, makes her a Dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making her one of them.

After two years of illicit freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir's Academy, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. Rose will continue her Dhampir education. Lissa will go back to being Queen of the elite Moroi social scene. And both girls will resume breaking Academy hearts.

Fear made Lissa and Rose run away from St. Vladimir's --- inside the Academy's iron gates, their world is even more fraught with danger. Here, the cutthroat ranks of the Moroi perform unspeakable rituals, and their secretive nature and love of the night creates an enigmatic world full of social complexities. Rose and Lissa must navigate through this dangerous world, confront the temptation of forbidden romance, and never once let their guard down, lest the Strigoi make Lissa one of them forever...

My Thoughts: New author for me and though I was intrigued with the plot premise, the beginning of this series had me feeling lost in the middle. I was expecting more detail and history of the characters, an introduction and getting to you phase, if you will. Instead I am dropped into the story feeling like I tuned in after it had started and had missed much of the beginning. Usually, this alone will be enough of a reason for me to stop reading and throw the book against the wall, but I decided to ride it out and see where it takes me. I’m glad I did. Thankfully, the feeling of being lost doesn’t last long as the author does an exceptional job of bringing the reader up to speed, filling in the gaps while keeping the story interesting and not getting bogged down in a lot of monotonous detail and “blah blah blah.”

Very quickly, I was able to see how close Rose and Lissa are. More than friends and closer than sisters, they share a very strong bond and though the reader doesn’t understand the importance of the bond at first or the ramifications of this bond, it is very easy to see how closely connected they are. Once I understood that, the rest of the story quickly fell into place and I got busy meeting the supporting characters and enjoying Rose’s feisty personality, sharp wit and sometimes biting language.

I really like the premise of a vampire academy. A school for vampires; kind of like Hogwarts for blood suckers; really, how cool is that? Upon further pondering, I feel quite sure this is the first for this theme. Within the halls of the academy, we learn that an entire society of vampires exist, the mortal ones who also possess magical abilities, the Moroi and the evil immortal ones, the Strigoi. Rose is a half human half vampire, a Dhampir. Her duty is to guard and protect the Moroi, of which Lissa is one. Once Rose is fully trained, she will also be expected to lay down her life, if necessary, to ensure Lissa is protected from the Strigoi.

Overall, not a bad beginning to a series that holds a lot of promise. Still a little fuzzy on the details regarding why the Strigoi are hell bent on killing off the Moroi, but I’m hopeful that will be cleared up as I progress through the series. I’m looking forward to seeing how the budding relationships between Lissa and Christian and Rose and Dimitri play out.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

New Additions To The TBR Pile In November

The beautiful thing about audiobooks is that though I add them to my to be read list, they don't take up any room now that I've entered the 21st century and listen digitally instead of on CD or cassette. Just imagine the room I could free up around here if Santa brings me a Kindle or a Nook for Christmas... :o)

Thanks For The Memories by Cecelia Ahern

Description: How can you know someone you’ve never met? Joyce Conway remembers things she shouldn’t. She knows about tiny cobbled streets in Paris, which she has never visited. And every night she dreams about an unknown little girl with blonde hair. Justin Hitchcock is divorced, lonely and restless. He arrives in Dublin to give a lecture on art and meets an attractive doctor, who persuades him to donate blood. It’s the first thing to come straight from his heart in a long time. When Joyce leaves hospital after a terrible accident, with her life and her marriage in pieces, she moves back in with her elderly father. All the while, a strong sense of déjà vu is overwhelming her and she can’t figure out why …

Charley's Web by Joy Fielding

Description: New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Joy Fielding tells the story of an ambitious journalist whose foray into the mind of a killer puts her own family in jeopardy.
Charley Webb is a beautiful single mother who writes a successful and controversial column for the Palm Beach Post. She's spent years building an emotional wall against scathing critics, snooty neighbors, and her disapproving family. But when she receives a letter from Jill Rohmer, a young woman serving time on death row for the murders of three small children, her boundaries slowly begin to fade. Jill wants Charley to write her biography so that she can share the many hidden truths about the case that failed to surface during her trial. Seeing this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Charley begins her jour-ney into the mind of this deeply troubled woman.

Her path takes a twisted turn, however, when the anonymous letters she's recently received from an angry reader evolve into threats, targeting her son and daughter. As Charley races against time to save her family, she begins to understand the value of her seemingly intru-sive neighbors, friends, and relatives. As she discovers, this network of flawed but loving people might just be her only hope of getting out alive.

Filled with complex characters and a plot rich with intrigue, Charley's Web is Joy Fielding at her heart-skipping, mesmerizing best.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Top 20 TBR

If you're obsessive compulsive about your to be read pile as I am, then, like me, you play with your books on a regular basis, organizing and reorganizing and determining which books will be read next. After one such OCD episode, I've got these books sitting in the top 20 of the to be read next pile.

Your Big Break by Johanna Edwards

Description: Dani Myers has become an expert at romantic breakups ever since she was hired to "facilitate" them for clients of Your Big Break, Inc. In other words, she dumps people for money. But company rule #5 (do not get personally involved) is getting harder to obey. One of her dumpees is turning out to be the kind of guy she might just want to pick up on the rebound. and a new client has just walked in, begging for Dani's help breaking up with The Big Jackass, who's been leading her on all this time-and now turns out to be married.

It would be a routine job except for one problem: the so-called Big Jackass is married to none other than Dani's mother.



You Had Me At Halo by Amanda Ashby

Description: Holly Evans has just seen her own body laid to rest. Now she would like to move onto the afterlife. But apparently she has some mortal baggage to unload first, starting with the matter of how she died. Her heavenly shrink isn't buying that she didn't kill herself- and says she must return to earth to straighten things out. The thing is, she needs to borrow the body of computer geek Vince Murphy to do it. Oh, and although Vince was supposed to have vacated the premises, he apparently never got the memo.

Now, Holly has forty-eight hours to resolve her issues while sharing arms, legs, and...other things...with a guy she barely noticed while she was alive. But the real surprise is what life has to offer when you have only two days to live it.


Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

Description: Seven Stones of Power. No one knows when they were created or by whom, each said to represent one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

For centuries, treasure hunters have been eager to possess the stones, undeterred by their corrupting nature. The list is long -- Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, to name a few. Now the Stones have found their way to Salem, Massachusetts, and so has Gerwulf Grimoire, adding himself to this rogues' gallery of power seekers. He's an uncommonly dangerous man, with a hunger for the forbidden, and a set of abilities that are way beyond ordinary. Abilities that he feels entitle him to possess anything he might desire.

That would include Elizabeth Tucker, the woman he needs to find the Stones. She's freshly transplanted from New York City to Boston's North Shore. With a new job as pastry chef at Dazzle's bakery and an old house inherited from her Aunt Ophelia, her life is pretty much on track …until it's suddenly derailed by a guy named Diesel, a rude monkey, and a ninja cat.

Lizzy can handle the monkey and the cat. She's not sure about Diesel. He's offering up his own set of unusual talents, promising to protect her from Grimoire. The kind of protection that Lizzy suspects might involve guarding her body day and night.

The Seven Deadly Sins are pride, greed, lust, envy wrath, sloth and gluttony. That pretty much covers everything that is wicked. Diesel thinks it also pretty much covers everything that's fun. And Lizzy thinks Diesel and the Seven Deadly Sins cover everything her mother warned her about.


What's A Ghoul To Do by Victoria Laurie

Description: M.J., her partner Gilley, and their client, the wealthy, de-lish Dr. Steven Sable, are at his family's lodge, where his grandfather allegedly jumped to his death from the roof-although Sable says it was foul play. But the patriarch's isn't the only ghost around. The place is lousy with souls, all with something to get off their ghoulish chests. Now M.J. will have to to quell the clamor-and listen for a voice with the answers...





Through Thick And Thin by Alison Pace

Description: Stephanie is an overwhelmed stay-at-home mom with a six-month-old. Her sister, Meredith, on the other hand, is hitting the two-year mark without a boyfriend-or even a decent date-but has a successful career as a food critic. Sometimes it seems the only thing these sisters share is their mutual desire to lose weight, so they decide to do it together. But will the strong desire for sisterhood outweigh their equally strong desire for comfort foods?




The Zygote Chronicles by Suzanne Finnamore

Description: This is the time of real butter," writes Suzanne Finnamore in The Zygote Chronicles, her fictional journal of pregnancy. In fresh, fed-up language, Finnamore (Otherwise Engaged) captures the universal truths of pregnancy that can seem almost insultingly personal when they happen to you. Finnamore sings the joys of whole cream dairy products, but the blues make themselves heard as well. The narrator, an advertising executive, frets about her credibility at work. "I'm a little worried that I won't have any authority left when I get big and have Pamela Anderson breasts. I may have to compensate in some way. I may have to start carrying a hammer." Women have always been funny about pregnancy, and Finnamore gets all that black humor down on paper. It should be noted, however, that the narrator's grousing can wear a bit thin, given her station in life (she laments giving up her Miata for an SUV). Even so, The Zygote Chronicles should take its place alongside Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions as essential reading for the intelligent breeder. --Claire Dederer


The Postcard Killers by James Patterson

Description: NYPD detective Jack Kanon is on a tour of Europe's most gorgeous cities. But the sights aren't what draw him--he sees each museum, each cathedral, and each restaurant through a killer's eyes.

Kanon's daughter, Kimmy, and her boyfriend were murdered while on vacation in Rome. Since then, young couples in Paris, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, and Stockholm have become victims of the same sadistic killers. Now Kanon teams up with the Swedish reporter, Gabby Larsen. Every killing is preceded by a postcard to the local newspaper--and Kanon and Larsen think they know where the next victims will be. With relentless logic and unstoppable action, The Postcard Killers may be James Patterson's most vivid and compelling thriller yet.


The Ghost And The Dead Man's Library by Alice Kimberly

Description: Bookshop owner Penelope Thornton-McClure has just received a rare collection of Poe's complete works. Rumor has it a secret code, trapped within the pages, leads to buried treasure. But it seems everyone who buys...dies. Now Pen will need resident ghost P.I. Jack Shepard to help crack the case.






Smart Vs. Pretty by Valerie Frankel

Description: Out-of-work urban professional Francesca Greenfield has always known that she was the "smart" sister. Amanda was the soft and lovely one who, from the beginning, had always garnered most of the attention -- and all the dates. Now they've been thrown together in a last-ditch effort to save the family coffeehouse business before it goes permanently down the drain.

In the chaotic misdt of mad promotional schemes and piranhalike next-door competitors, the sisters Greenfield are going to have to put aside their hard-faught sibling rivalry -- and quick! -- for the family good.


No Mercy by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Description: Live fast, fight hard and, if you have to die, then take as many of your enemies with you as you can. That is the Amazon credo and it was one Samia lived and died by. Now in contemporary New Orleans, the immortal Amazon warrior is about to learn that there’s a worse evil coming to slaughter mankind than she’s ever faced before.






Marked by P.C. Cast

Description: The House of Night series is set in a world very much like our own, except in 16-year-old Zoey Redbird's world, vampyres have always existed. In this first book in the series, Zoey enters the House of Night, a school where, after having undergone the Change, she will train to become an adult vampire--that is, if she makes it through the Change. Not all of those who are chosen do. It’s tough to begin a new life, away from her parents and friends, and on top of that, Zoey finds she is no average fledgling. She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess, Nyx. But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers. When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school's most elite club, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny--with a little help from her new vampyre friends.


Love The One You're With by Emily Giffin

Description: The New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and Baby Proof delivers another captivating novel about women and the choices that define them. This is the story for anyone who has ever wondered: How can I truly love the one I'm with when I can't forget the one who got away?
Ellen and Andy's first year of marriage doesn't just seem perfect, it is perfect. There is no question how deep their devotion is, and how naturally they bring out the best in each other. But one fateful afternoon, Ellen runs into Leo for the first time in eight years. Leo, the one who brought out the worst in her. Leo, the one who left her heartbroken with no explanation. Leo, the one she could never quite forget. When his reappearance ignites long-dormant emotions, Ellen begins to question whether the life she's living is the one she's meant to live.
Love the One You're With is a powerful story about one woman at the crossroads of true love and real life.


Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Description: At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough and savvy, his quick sarcasm is the stuff of legends. . .until the night when his best friends try to kill him. Saved by a mysterious warrior who has more fighting skills than Chuck Norris, Nick is sucked into the realm of the Dark-Hunters: immortal vampire slayers who risk everything to save humanity.

Nick quickly learns that the human world is only a veil for a much larger and more dangerous one: a world where the captain of the football team is a werewolf and the girl he has a crush on goes out at night to stake the undead.

But before he can even learn the rules of this new world, his fellow students are turning into flesh eating zombies. And he’s next on the menu.

As if starting high school isn't hard enough. . .now Nick has to hide his new friends from his mom, his chainsaw from the principal, and keep the zombies and the demon Simi from eating his brains, all without getting grounded or suspended. How in the world is he supposed to do that?


Heart Of The Matter by Emily Giffin

Description: Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her own mother's warnings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life.

Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie--a boy who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance--and even to some degree, friendships--believing that it is always safer not to expect too much.

Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.

In alternating, pitch-perfect points of view, Emily Giffin creates a moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most.


Dying To Call You by Elaine Viets

Description: Readers of Murder Between the Covers and Shop Till You Drop know that Helen Hawthorne -- the feisty, resolute divorcee of Elaine Viet s previous two Dead-End Job mysteries -- has been through a lot of changes. Faced with paying court-mandated alimony to her cheating stay-at-home spouse, she chose to flee the jurisdiction, abandoning her six-figure salary in favor of a series of cash-only jobs that keep her off company books and off the radar of court officials and her ex-husband. On the lam in sunny, sizzling South Florida, Helen takes a job with a telemarketing firm, where she inadvertendly overhears a murder being committed on one of her cold calls. Soon Helen is running, not just from her unfair divorce settlement but for her very life!


Deeper Than The Dead by Tami Hoag

Description: Tami Hoag is in a class by herself, beloved by readers and critic s alike, with more than 22 million copies of her books in print. With Hoag’s first novel for Dutton, she proves anew why the Chicago Tribune called her “one of the most intense suspense writers around.”

California, 1984. Four children, running in the woods behind their school, stumble upon a partially buried female body, eyes and mouth glued shut. Close behind the children is their teacher, Anne Navarre, shocked by this discovery and heartbroken as she witnesses the end of their innocence. What she doesn’t yet realize is that this will mark the end of innocence for an entire community, as the ties that bind families and friends are tested by secrets uncovered in the wake of a serial killer’s escalating activity.

Detective Tony Mendez, fresh from a law enforcement course at FBI headquarters, is charged with interpreting those now revealed secrets. He’s using a new technique—profiling—to develop a theory of the case, a strategy that pushes him ever deeper into the lives of the three children, and closer to the young teacher whose interest in recent events becomes as intense as his own.

As new victims are found and the media scrutiny of the investigation bears down on them, both Mendez and Navarre are unsure if those who suffer most are the victims themselves—or the family and friends of the killer, blissfully unaware that someone very close to them is a brutal, calculating psychopath.


Death Perception by Victoria Laurie

Description: Abby Cooper's betting the house on her inner eye...
It took a while for Abby Cooper's FBI agent boyfriend, Dutch Rivers, to accept her psychic gifts as the real deal. But these days he knows better than to question Abby's visions. So when his favorite cousin Chase is kidnapped in Vegas, they both catch the next flight to Sin City. Abby's inner eye insists that Chase is still alive, but nothing else about the case adds up—especially Dutch's reluctance to involve his own Bureau.

On top of everything, Dutch is battling a mysterious illness, and Abby keeps having disturbing dreams that predict his death. Dutch wants Abby to promise that if the investigation goes south, she'll head home to safety. But when the chips are down, Abby won't fold without a fight...


Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer

Description: In this funny and big-hearted story by the author of The Secret Lives of Fortunate Wives, three best friends make a pact to transform themselves into the glamorous women they've always wanted to be.

Nola Devlin has a secret identity. By day she is an overweight, frumpy, and overlooked editor at Sass! (the "celebrity magazine with an edge!"), but by night she slips behind her keyboard and into her alter-ego: Belinda Apple. Belinda is thin, gorgeous, British and the author of a trendy advice column- she is, in effect, the latest Carrie Bradshaw. Not even Nola's two best friends or her self-absorbed sister (who worships Belinda as the "sister she never had") know her secret.
When "Belinda" jots off a column about how easy it is to lose weight, Nola is shocked when her best friends take her own lies to heart and urge her to follow Belinda's weight loss program. Since Nola can't reveal herself as the real Belinda Apple, she bites the bullet and joins her friends in making the "Cinderella Pact"- a last ditch attempt to lose weight (again!) and transform their lives for good.

But as the pounds come off, things don't turn out the way the three friends expect. Their journey of self-discovery leads to the return of an old love and the unmasking of new problems. Meanwhile, Nola finds herself torn between two different men as she stomps out fires caused by her deception as Belinda Apple and falls in love with the man who just might be her prince - or the rat in coachman's clothing.


Baby Proof by Emily Giffin

Description: irst comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes....a baby carriage? Isnt that what all women want? Not so for Claudia Parr. And just as she gives up on finding a man who feels the same way, she meets warm, wonderful Ben. Things seem too good to be true when they fall in love and agree to buck tradition with a satisfying, child-free marriage. Then the unexpected occurs: one of them has a change of heart. One of them wants children after all.

This is the witty, heartfelt story about what happens to the perfect couple when they suddenly want different things. Its about feeling that your life is set and then realizing that nothing is as you thought it was- and that there is no possible compromise. Its about deciding what is most important in life, and taking chances to get it. But most of all, its about the things we will do- and wont do- for love.


A Tale Of Two Sisters by Anna Maxted

Description: The bestselling author of Getting Over It and Running in Heels, a writer who "excels at creating winning characters and placing them in artfully crafted muddles" (Florida Sun-Sentinel) has created an unforgettable story of siblings in the best of times and the worst of times in London.

Lizbet and Cassie are sisters and, though they've always wanted different things, best friends as well. But that's about to change.
Cassie is skinny, clever, charismatic and successful - every not-so-perfect girl's worst nightmare. The one defect in her quality-controlled life may be her marriage.

Lizbet is plumper, plainer, dreamier. She's desperate to make her name as a journalist, but is stuck writing embarrassing articles on sex for a men's magazine. Her one achievement is her relationship with Tim, who thinks she's amusing and smart even when she asks ditzy questions.

Confronted by challenges that they never asked for, enticed by new loves, and forced apart by mistakes not their own, will Cassie and Lizbet ever figure out how to get back to the simple goodness of their sisterhood, even as their lives take them on a collision course of heartache and new beginnings?

Mystery And Suspense Reading Challenge 2011

Never too early to start a New Year's resolution, especially when it comes to one's reading goals for the coming year, eh?

I've been following a fantastic blog called Book Chick City and through this blog I have learned about a reading challenge for the mystery and suspense genre. I'm going to give it a go and see how I do. Care to join me? Click on the button link to get all the details and Happy Reading!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

REVIEW: Charley's Web by Joy Fielding

Title: Charley’s Web
Author: Joy Fielding
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: January, 2008
Hardcover: 437 pages
Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
Rating: 8/10

Description: New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Joy Fielding tells the story of an ambitious journalist whose foray into the mind of a killer puts her own family in jeopardy.

Charley Webb is a beautiful single mother who writes a successful and controversial column for the Palm Beach Post. She's spent years building an emotional wall against scathing critics, snooty neighbors, and her disapproving family. But when she receives a letter from Jill Rohmer, a young woman serving time on death row for the murders of three small children, her boundaries slowly begin to fade. Jill wants Charley to write her biography so that she can share the many hidden truths about the case that failed to surface during her trial. Seeing this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Charley begins her journey into the mind of this deeply troubled woman.

Her path takes a twisted turn, however, when the anonymous letters she's recently received from an angry reader evolve into threats, targeting her son and daughter. As Charley races against time to save her family, she begins to understand the value of her seemingly intrusive neighbors, friends, and relatives. As she discovers, this network of flawed but loving people might just be her only hope of getting out alive.

Filled with complex characters and a plot rich with intrigue, Charley's Web is Joy Fielding at her heart-skipping, mesmerizing best.

My Thoughts: Not my favorite Joy Fielding story, but was definitely time well spent. Initially, I had a difficult time liking Charley. She comes across as very unapproachable and harsh. But after spending time with her, I was able to see beneath the hard exterior that surrounds her. At first glance, you see a woman who is career driven, raising two children by two different men on her own, is estranged from her family, disliked by her neighbors and disrespected by her boss and coworkers. What ultimately emerges is a woman who is struggling to raise her children with little assistance from their respective fathers, trying to make a success of her career even though she receives substantial hate mail daily and has begun receiving personal threats to her life and the lives of her children, reconnecting with the mother who left the family when Charley was eight, trying to build better relationships with her sisters and brother, and reaching out to her father who views her contact with her mother as a betrayal and wants nothing to do with her.

In the midst of all this chaos, Charley receives a letter from death row inmate, Jill Rohmer, begging to meet her and offering her the opportunity to write a tell all novel that will reveal never before known facts about the brutal murders she was convicted of. Jill swears her boyfriend “Jack” participated and if Charley agrees to write her biography, she will reveal Jack’s true identity.

It doesn’t take long for Jill’s true nature to reveal itself and I found her to be quite a despicable character and thought it disturbing to watch Charley being reeled in like a fish on a hook. There are plenty of characters that top the list of who Jack is. Jill’s brother, Ethan, who molested Jill when she was a child and seems to fit the bill perfectly. Then there’s Charley’s own brother, Bram, who struggles with an alcohol and drug addiction and who, it turns out, knows Jill and has dated her sister, Pammy. Then there’s Alex Prescott, Jill’s lawyer, a man who Charley is attracted to and who, as Jill’s lawyer, knows Jill better than anyone.

Everything comes to an explosive head when Charley discovers the truth about Jack’s identity and is in a race against the clock to stop the cold blooded killer from butchering two more children…Charley’s children.

I discovered Joy Fielding’s books when someone recommended THE FIRST TIME. I absolutely loved that book and realized what a treasure this author is. Her books speak to me on a personal level packed with characters you can care about and really relate to. Most of her books are much darker than THE FIRST TIME, but I was hooked and have acquired and read most of her backlist. With CHARLEY’S WEB, Ms. Fielding delivers the intriguing and interesting characters I have come to expect with her stories and a plot that keeps me guessing.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

REVIEW: You Drive Me Crazy by Carole Matthews

Title: You Drive Me Crazy
Author: Carole Matthews
Publisher: Headline Review
Publication Date: February, 2006
Paperback: 438 pages
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: 8/10

Description: Falling in love can be a bumpy ride...

The last place Anna Terry expects to fall in love is in the waiting room of her divorce lawyer's office. But that's where she meets Nick Diamond and Cupid's arrow strikes...

Anna's had more than her fair share of heartache. Her first marriage ended before her pregnancy was over, and her second husband has disappeared, leaving her with two children and not a penny to her name. Nick's luck hasn't been any better: his wife has run off with the local butcher and his second-hand car dealership is in chaos.

When Anna gets a job as Nick's secretary, what starts as a mild flirtation soon accelerates into overdrive --- but that's before their ex-partners show up and they're all in for a bumpy ride.

My Thoughts: I know it sounds crazy but meeting the love of your life in the waiting room of your divorce attorney’s office is probably the last place on earth anyone would expect to find their soul mate. Anna is experienced in the divorce game and with two children and now a second divorce looming, she is facing her fear of the unknown. As a way to pass the time, she strikes up a conversation with a man in the waiting room of her divorce attorney’s office. She paints herself as a childless young woman divorcing her mega rich husband rather than reveal the truth about herself: she’s desperate, broke, has no marketable skills and needs a job desperately.

Anna gets a job as Nick’s secretary (though he makes the tea better than she does) and it seems as their relationship has a lot of potential for something meaningful when their respective exes reappear.

I loved Anna and Nick’s vulnerability. Even though both have been exceedingly unlucky in love, neither one is bitter or hateful. They are both looking for a happily ever after and haven’t shut themselves off to it happening. The author does an excellent job of showing the reader both Anna and Nick’s point of view of what each is going through.

I especially loved seeing that Anna’s role as a mother isn’t something she can hide that it’s a part of her soul. She unwittingly exposes this side of herself in a hilarious meat cutting scene that made me laugh so hard I had tears rolling down my cheeks.

I liked the supporting characters, Anna’s children, Poppy and Connor, her best friend, Sophie, Nick’s best mate, Sam. Nick’s parents were very entertaining as well. For obvious reasons, I did not care for the ex-spouses at all and was frustrated when their reappearance complicated Nick and Anna’s relationship, though I had to respect Nick and Anna for wanting to do the right thing.
Overall, this was a very entertaining story that I highly recommend if you are looking for a feel good story with characters who aren’t perfect in looks or who are mega rich, but are human with all of the defects that brings.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

REVIEW: Something Blue by Emily Giffin

Title: Something Blue
Author: Emily Giffin
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: March, 2006
Paperback: 338 pages
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: 1/10

Description: Darcy Rhone thought she had it all figured out: the more beautiful the girl, the more charmed her life. Never mind substance. Never mind playing by the rules. Never mind karma. But Darcy's neat, perfect world turns upside down when her best friend, Rachel, the plain-Jane good girl, steals her fiancé, while Darcy finds herself completely alone for the first time in her life with a baby on the way.

Darcy tries to recover, fleeing to her childhood friend living in London and resorting to her tried-and-true methods for getting what she wants. But as she attempts to recreate her glamorous life on a new continent, Darcy finds that her rules no longer apply.

It is only then that Darcy can begin her journey toward self-awareness, forgiveness, and motherhood. Something Blue is a novel about one woman’s surprising discoveries about the true meaning of friendship, love, and happily-ever-after. It's a novel for anyone who has ever, even secretly, wondered if the last thing you want is really the one thing you need.

My Thoughts: I got through half of this book and like everyone else can't stand Darcy. After Cruella DeVil, Darcy Rhone ranks #2 in characters I cannot tolerate. I had to stop reading it because I don't want to see her get a happily ever after and especially not with Ethan.

Good job to the author for creating a character that is so despicable that the reader gets lock-jaw from clenching her teeth so hard while reading.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

REVIEW: Promises In Death by J.D. Robb

Title: Promises In Death (In Death, #28)
Author: J.D. Robb
Publisher: Putnam
Publication Date: March, 2009
Hardcover: 342 pages
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 10/10

Description: Amarylis Coltraine may have recently transferred to the New York City police force from Atlanta, but she’s been a cop long enough to know how to defend herself against an assailant. When she’s taken down just steps away from her apartment, killed with her own weapon, for Eve the victim isn’t just “one of us.”

Dallas’s friend Chief Medical Examiner Morris and Coltraine had started a serious relationship, and from all accounts the two were headed for a happy future together. But someone has put an end to all that. After breaking the news to Morris, Eve starts questioning everyone from Coltraine’s squad, informants, and neighbors, while Eve’s husband, Roarke, digs into computer data on Coltraine’s life back in Atlanta. To their shock, they discover a connection between this case and their own painful, shadowy pasts.

The truth will need to be uncovered one layer at a time, starting with the box that arrives at Cop Central addressed to Eve containing Coltraine’s guns, badge, and a note from her killer: “You can have them back. Maybe someday soon, I’ll be sending yours to somebody else.”

But Eve Dallas doesn’t take too kindly to personal threats, and she is going to break this case, whatever it takes. And that’s a promise.

My Thoughts: The biggest problem with a series that has 28 books and growing is finding new adjectives to accurately describe how much I love this series without sounding boring and repetitive.

Once again, I am treated to a first class ticket into the lives of Eve Dallas and Roark while she investigates the murder of a fellow officer, who happens to be in an intimate relationship with Eve’s friend, Morris, the Chief Medical Examiner. It doesn’t take long for Dallas to uncover a connection in the dead cop’s past to her and Roark’s not so distant past. I love how Eve meticulously discovers each clue and peels the layers back to reveal more. Her instincts are amazing and I am impressed how diligent she is in her approach to finding the truth, no matter how painful.

Eve is determined to find the killer and bring them to justice. She makes a promise to herself, the victim and to Morris and Eve always keeps her promises.

As if the crime plot in the story weren’t enough, I also was highly entertained with the subplot of Louise’s bridal shower that Eve has been forcing from her mind for quite a while. Unfortunately, she can’t hide from it and not thinking about it doesn’t make it go away. While Roark and the guys take Charles to Vegas for his bachelor party, Eve is left at home with the women to do girly things. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her panicked state when she realizes what this will entail and found myself laughing out loud several times at Eve’s attempts to hide in the house and when that doesn’t work, to try to convince Roark to let her come with him to Vegas.

This series has it all and it packs one hell of a punch. Featuring mystery, suspense, intense action, romance and comedy, I wish all of my reading was this entertaining.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

REVIEW: A Charmed Death by Madelyn Alt

Title: A Charmed Death (A Bewitching Mystery, #2)
Author: Madelyn Alt
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: December, 2006
Paperback: 289 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Rating: 7/10

Description: Some enchanted evil...

Maggie O'Neill was just a small town girl, stuck in a dead-end job --- until she started working at Enchantments, Stony Mill's finest mystical antique shop.

Now Maggie is Indiana's newest witch. Learning to cope with her newfound powers is tough enough, but add to that keeping the stock at Enchantments organized and remembering to tape reruns of her favorite show, Magnum, P.I., and Maggie's got a full plate.

But when she witnesses an altercation between a local teenage princess and another customer in Enchantments --- and later the girl turns up dead --- she feels compelled to investigate. Though the police are at a loss, Maggie has some tricks up her sleeve, or to be more specific, some spells, charms, and mystical intuitions. And with the help of her boss (and favorite witch) Felicity Dow, Maggie is spellbound and determined to get to the bottom of this murder.

My Thoughts: Though I am enjoying this series, the ending of this story seemed sloppy to me. I didn’t get the feeling that Maggie solved the crime as much as falling over the obvious conclusion. The uncertainty of Maggie’s relationship with Deputy Fielding and her attraction to Marcus make Maggie come across as very wishy-washy and confused me even more. I’m led to believe that Marcus and Felicity are a couple (according to Maggie), but I’m given the impression that Felicity’s feelings toward Marcus are not of the romantic variety. So, this leaves me with more questions than answers. I’m hoping these issues are resolved in future books.

I enjoy watching Maggie’s curiosity and interest in learning the Craft and am looking forward to seeing how she develops her knowledge. My favorite character remains Felicity Dow. She is the kind of woman people are drawn to instinctively, like a moth to a flame. She demonstrates a sincere compassion for the people around her.

Overall the story, though not intense, was a decent story that I hope will develop into more in time.

Monday, November 01, 2010

New Additions To The TBR Pile In October

October can be a scary month. Monsters, Ghoulies, things that go bump in the night and my ever expanding "to be read" pile...

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich
Description: Trenton, New Jersey, bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has inherited a “lucky” bottle from her Uncle Pip. Problem is, Uncle Pip didn’t specify if the bottle brought good luck or bad luck. . . .

BAD LUCK:

Vinnie, of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds, has run up a gambling debt of $786,000 with mobster Bobby Sunflower and is being held until the cash can be produced. Nobody else will pay to get Vinnie back, leaving it up to Stephanie, office manager Connie, and file clerk Lula to raise the money if they want to save their jobs.

GOOD LUCK:

Being in the business of tracking down people, Stephanie, Lula, and Connie have an advantage in finding Vinnie. If they can rescue him, it will buy them some time to raise the cash.

BAD LUCK:

Finding a safe place to hide Vinnie turns out to be harder than raising $786,000. Vinnie’s messing up Mooner’s vibe, running up pay-per-view porn charges in Ranger’s apartment, and making Stephanie question genetics.

GOOD LUCK:

Between a bonds office yard sale that has the entire Burg turning out, Mooner’s Hobbit-Con charity event, and Uncle Pip’s lucky bottle, they just might raise enough money to save the business, and Vinnie, from ruin.

BAD LUCK:

Saving Vincent Plum Bail Bonds means Stephanie can keep being a bounty hunter. In Trenton, this involves hunting down a man wanted for polygamy, a turnpike toilet paper bandit, and a drug dealer with a pet alligator named Mr. Jingles.

GOOD LUCK:

The job of bounty hunter comes with perks in the guise of Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli, and the dark and dangerous security expert, Ranger. With any luck at all, Uncle Pip’s lucky bottle will have Stephanie getting lucky---the only question is . . . with whom?

Sizzling Sixteen . . . so hot, the pages might spontaneously combust!


Promises In Death by J.D. Robb
Description: Amarylis Coltraine may have recently transferred to the New York City police force from Atlanta, but she’s been a cop long enough to know how to defend herself against an assailant. When she’s taken down just steps away from her apartment, killed with her own weapon, for Eve the victim isn’t just “one of us.”

Dallas’s friend Chief Medical Examiner Morris and Coltraine had started a serious relationship, and from all accounts the two were headed for a happy future together. But someone has put an end to all that. After breaking the news to Morris, Eve starts questioning everyone from Coltraine’s squad, informants, and neighbors, while Eve’s husband, Roarke, digs into computer data on Coltraine’s life back in Atlanta. To their shock, they discover a connection between this case and their own painful, shadowy pasts.

The truth will need to be uncovered one layer at a time, starting with the box that arrives at Cop Central addressed to Eve containing Coltraine’s guns, badge, and a note from her killer: “You can have them back. Maybe someday soon, I’ll be sending yours to somebody else.”

But Eve Dallas doesn’t take too kindly to personal threats, and she is going to break this case, whatever it takes. And that’s a promise.


Murderers Prefer Blondes by Amanda Matetsky
Description: The year is 1954, and Paige Turner is a feisty young widow with Brenda Starr bravado and a fixation with following in Agatha Christie's footsteps. Trouble is, she works like a dog at Daring Detective magazine and her lousy pun of a name has made her the butt of all office jokes. All she wants is to pen a memorable mystery, but first she needs a good story. Enter the corpse of twenty-four-year-old beauty Babs Comstock who'd had high hopes for the big screen --- until she was found with a Hopalong Cassidy jump rope wrapped around her neck. Now, Paige has to find a murderer and tell the tale that could make her writing career --- or cut short her life....



In Stereo Where Available by Becky Anderson
Description: Phoebe Kassner didn't set out to become a 29-year-old virgin, but she is, and, having just been dumped by her boyfriend, she doesn't see that situation changing anytime soon. Meanwhile, her twin sister Madison—aspiring actress, small-time model, and queen of the short attention span—has just been eliminated on the first round of Singing Sensation.

Things aren't looking so great for either of them, but when Phoebe, victim of a fake phone number written on a cocktail napkin, receives a surprise voice mail from a guy named Jerry, she takes pity on him and calls, setting in motion a serendipitous love story neither of them saw coming. And suddenly Madison has a romance of her own, as one of 12 women competing for two men on a ruthless, over-the-top reality show. As Phoebe falls in love with the jilted high school English teacher who never intended to call her in the first place, Madison's falling in love, too, clawing and fighting her way through a tide of adorable blondes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

REVIEW: The Pink Ghetto by Liz Ireland

Title: The Pink Ghetto
Author: Liz Ireland
Publisher: Strapless
Publication Date: May, 2006
Paperback: 345 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Chick Lit
Rating: 10/10

Description: Rebecca Abbot's life has just gone from vintage feather boas to boring office casual. Thanks to Sylvie Arnaud's heart attack, she's out of a job. But it's Sylvie's French, vaguely famous name on Rebecca's creatively embellished resume that lands her an associate editor position at romance heavyweight Candlelight Books. Editing is a far cry from scouting out exotic groceries, which is pretty much all Rebecca did for Sylvie, but Candlelight is offering an actual salary to go with her position's actual workload, and the rent is way overdue on the railroad flat she shares with her friend Wendy and her mooching ex, wanna-be writer Fleishman.

Working for Candlelight is nothing like the plots of their syrupy novels, though. In fact, it's a lot like being stuck in an estrogen-heavy Fellini film. Between protecting her back from rival editor Cassie's repeated stabs, attempting a relationship with a sexy literary agent, wondering about Fleishman's new secret "project," and discovering her first truly talented author, Rebecca's learning that the business of romance is hardly a nine-to-five thing - and that editing out all her mistakes will never lead her to "happily ever after..."

My Thoughts: The Pink Ghetto was a fast and fun read. Rebecca is working and living in New York City with two college friends when she unexpectedly finds herself out of a job. In a near panic, she revamps her resume and submits it to numerous prospective employers. Rebecca is offered a position at Candlelight Books in an associate editor’s position but doesn’t have the first idea how to edit romance novels. With some uncertainty and a lot of luck, Rebecca finds her niche in the publishing world in spite of her ex and hostile co-worker.

I really liked Rebecca. She brings a realistic lack of confidence in herself as someone who grew up on the outside looking in and had to reinvent herself. In spite of that, she takes on a career she has no experience in and gives it 100% to make it her own. I kept expecting Rebecca to fall flat on her face and watch her career, self-respect and integrity go up in flames, but she manages to keep her head afloat, finds a wonderful man and learns some valuable lessons along the way.

I’m so happy I found this book and chose to read it now. I enjoyed the inside look into book publishing and some of the quirky characters Rebecca interacts with were interesting. I found myself unable to put the book down, capturing every free moment to read.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

REVIEW: Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich

Title: Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16)
Author: Janet Evanovich
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: June, 2010
Hardcover: 309 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance / General Fiction
Rating: 10/10

Description: Trenton, New Jersey, bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has inherited a “lucky” bottle from her Uncle Pip. Problem is, Uncle Pip didn’t specify if the bottle brought good luck or bad luck....

BAD LUCK:
Vinnie, of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds, has run up a gambling debt of $786,000 with mobster Bobby Sunflower and is being held until the cash can be produced. Nobody else will pay to get Vinnie back, leaving it up to Stephanie, office manager Connie, and file clerk Lula to raise the money if they want to save their jobs.

GOOD LUCK:
Being in the business of tracking down people, Stephanie, Lula, and Connie have an advantage in finding Vinnie. If they can rescue him, it will buy them some time to raise the cash.

BAD LUCK:
Finding a safe place to hide Vinnie turns out to be harder than raising $786,000. Vinnie’s messing up local stoner Walter “Moon Man” Dunphy's vibe, running up pay-per-view porn charges in security expert Ranger’s apartment, and making Stephanie question genetics.

GOOD LUCK:
Between a bonds office yard sale that has the entire Burg turning out, Mooner’s Hobbit-Con charity event, and Uncle Pip’s mysterious bottle, they just might raise enough money to save Vinnie and the business from ruin.

BAD LUCK:
Saving Vincent Plum Bail Bonds means Stephanie can keep being a bounty hunter. In Trenton, this involves hunting down a man wanted for polygamy, a Turnpike toilet paper bandit, and a drug dealer with a pet alligator named Mr. Jingles.

GOOD LUCK:
The job of bounty hunter comes with perks in the guise of Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli, and the dark and dangerous, Ranger. With any luck at all, Uncle Pip’s lucky bottle will have Stephanie getting lucky---the only question is . . . with whom?

Sizzling Sixteen . . . so hot, the pages might spontaneously combust!

My Thoughts: Once again, fans of Stephanie Plum are treated to another wacky adventure with Stephanie and her posse. This time, Stephanie, Lula and Connie are faced with the possibility of losing the bail bonds office when Vinnie is kidnapped by local mobsters looking to collect on a massive gambling debt.

As the deadline to deliver the money approaches, more secrets about Vinnie and his shady dealings are brought to light when it’s revealed that Vinnie has embezzled money from the company that funds the bonds. If Vinnie doesn’t come home, nobody can write the bonds that nobody can fail to appear on and that would mean the end of Stephanie’s illustrious career as Trenton’s most wacky bounty hunter.

Along the way, Stephanie receives help from Mooner and his Hobbits, Morelli and of course, Ranger and his unlimited supply of replacement vehicles.

Stephanie continues to struggle with her feelings towards Ranger and her on-again off-again relationship with Morelli. Unfortunately, didn’t get to see a lot of Grandma Mazur this go around so am hoping the next book will bring more of Grandma’s wacky behavior and commentary. Connie was a surprise in this book with a more active role and her hidden talents of making stink bombs was very entertaining.

All in all, this was an excellent installment of adventure, excitement, wacky hilarity and some intense sexual tension (thank you, Ranger!) starring my favorite bounty hunter and her entourage.

Monday, October 18, 2010

REVIEW: Dead In The Family by Charlaine Harris

Title: Dead In The Family (Sookie Stackhouse, #10)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: May, 2010
Hardcover: 311 pages
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 5/10

Description: Sookie Stackhouse has finally settled into a relationship with the Viking vampire Eric, and her errant brother Jason seems to have his life in order, too. But all the other people in Sookie’s life – Eric himself, her former lover Bill, her friend and boss Sam – are having family problems.

Eric’s maker shows up with Eric’s ‘brother’ in tow, the ailing Bill can only be healed by a blood sibling, and Sam’s brother’s marriage is about to take place... or will it? The furor raised by the coming out of the two-natured has yet to settle; some people are just not ready to sit down to dinner with a man who turns into a dog.

Sookie herself is still recovering from her last ordeal. She’s definitely improving, physically and mentally, but she’s always going to have some dark moments now. The werewolves tell her that there have been strange and ominous passers-by in the Stackhouse woods; now Sookie is about to come face-to-face with one of her more distant relatives...

My Thoughts: On the heels of the last story, we see Sookie coming to terms with the losses she endured at the hands of the Fae. She seems to be settled into her relationship with Eric, accepting a new roommate and trying to help Bill heal from the injuries he sustained.

With ten installments to this series, I’m sensing a definite drag. There doesn’t seem to be much forward movement with the characters. I’m hoping it isn’t the series overall but maybe just this book didn’t work for me. Sookie’s intense hatred toward Eric’s maker seemed to have no place in this story either and the introduction of Eric’s “brother” was disturbing for me.

What I did enjoy was Sookie’s determination to help Bill heal. Researching his maker’s history, she is able to find another vampire sired by Bill’s maker. Unfortunately, this subplot seemed to be forgotten as I was left hanging wondering what happened afterward. Perhaps, I will know in the next book.

Overall, this was my least favorite of the series but hoping the next story will recapture my devotion to the series.

Friday, October 15, 2010

REVIEW: Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett

Title: Murder Is Binding (A Booktown Mystery, #1)
Author: Lorna Barrett
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: April, 2008
Paperback: 281 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Rating: 7/10

Description: Stoneham, New Hampshire, was a dying town until community leaders invited booksellers to open up shop. Now, its streets are lined with bookstores --- and paved with murder…

When she moved to Stoneham, city slicker Tricia Miles met nothing but friendly faces. And when she opened her mystery bookstore, she met friendly competition. But when she finds Doris Gleason dead in her own cookbook store, killed by a carving knife, the atmosphere seems more cutthroat than cordial. Someone wanted to get their hands on the rare cookbook that Doris had recently purchased-and the locals think that someone is Tricia. To clear her name, Tricia will have to take a page out of one of her own mysteries-and hunt down someone who isn't killing by the book.

My Thoughts: A mystery set in and around a bookstore is intriguing, but when there’s a whole town dedicated to a slew of bookstores, how can any true bibliophile pass that up? Where this story lacks in intensity and real mystery, it makes up for in the whimsy of the village of Stoneham. While reading, I found myself not really caring so much who the murderer was as much as I was intrigued by the town and the bookshops. I kept hoping that our heroine would frequent more of them in an attempt to give the reader a broader picture of what this “booktown” entailed.

The reader is given enough clues early on in the story to figure out the identity of the killer with minimal effort. In addition to the primary murder mystery, there are some additional storylines that I found to be interesting and will enjoy seeing how they play out further along in the series.

Though I enjoyed most of the characters, I did not care for Tricia’s sister, Angelica or the Sheriff. As we will be seeing more of these characters in future books, there’s always a chance they will have some redeeming qualities and my opinion of them will change. One can only hope, right?

Monday, October 04, 2010

REVIEW: When You Wish by Kristin Harmel

Title: When You Wish
Author: Kristin Harmel
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Publication Date: February, 2008
Hardcover: 288 pages
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 9/10

Description: Star Beck is super-duper megastar famous. She rocks–literally–every night in concert for thousands of cheering fans. But the pop star life–tour buses, fauxmances, size 0 minis–is getting a little old. Star can’t help wondering what it would be like to be a regular girl–without paparazzi trailing her every move, and without people being nice just because, well, she’s Star Beck. And when she discovers that her mom has been lying to her for years about something very important, Star decides to find out what the world beyond her stage is like after all.

In the blink of an emerald green eye, Star finds herself . . . buying a car. Eating cheeseburgers. Swapping her stilettos for flip-flops. Getting a job that doesn’t require dancing, winking, or mall appearances. And falling for the cutest, realest boy she’s ever met. But how will she know if he feels the same way? Because for once in her life, someone is going to have to like her for who she really is.

My Thoughts: Kristin Harmel is a new to me author though I have acquired several of her titles that are languishing on my TBR pile. Though I don’t normally find myself drawn to the young adult genre, this book appealed to me on several levels. First, the idea of a teen superstar who is likeable when all we ever hear about is the scandal and drama of the teen celebrities inundating the media nowadays is a refreshing and welcome change. Secondly, I liked that the story was clean. I don’t think the young adult genre should cross over into mainstream adult fiction and there have been a few books I have taken on recently that were marketed as young adult but were excessively graphic and explicit and not for a young adult reader. Last, but not least, When You Wish is a feel good story about a young girl on a journey to take back her life who finds love along the way.

I enjoyed going along for the ride when Star Beck decides to find out what the world is like outside of her reality. When she discovers that her mother has been lying to her for the past six years, she alters her appearance and takes off for Florida to find the father she hasn’t seen in thirteen years. When her funds run drastically low, she resorts to getting a job in a restaurant using a false name. She is drawn to a boy in the restaurant and ultimately gets to know him better and he helps her improve her waitressing skills.

I was quite surprised at the direction the story took when Star finally locates her father, but I felt it made Star a stronger and more realistic character. The author does an exceptional job of giving the reader a front-row seat to Star’s life. Several times throughout the book, I found myself wondering how the truth would be revealed and what the consequences would be for concealing her true identity. In the end, this book turned out to be a very fast and enjoyable read that made me smile.

Friday, October 01, 2010

New Additions To The TBR Pile In September

Still adding books to the TBR that have way too many already, but the good news is I only added two books this month, which is much less than I usually do, so there's progress... :o)

Title: Dead In The Family
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: May, 2010
Hardcover: 311 pages
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Description: Sookie Stackhouse has finally settled into a relationship with the Viking vampire Eric, and her errant brother Jason seems to have his life in order, too. But all the other people in Sookie’s life – Eric himself, her former lover Bill, her friend and boss Sam – are having family problems. Eric’s maker shows up with Eric’s ‘brother’ in tow, the ailing Bill can only be healed by a blood sibling, and Sam’s brother’s marriage is about to take place... or will it? The furor raised by the coming out of the two-natured has yet to settle; some people are just not ready to sit down to dinner with a man who turns into a dog. And Sookie herself is still recovering from her last ordeal. She’s definitely improving, physically and mentally, but she’s always going to have some dark moments now. The werewolves tell her that there have been strange and ominous passers-by in the Stackhouse woods; now Sookie is about to come face-to-face with one of her more distant relatives...

Title: The Ghost And The Haunted Mansion
Author: Alice Kimberly
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: January, 2009
Paperback: 281 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery

Description: Rhode Island bookshop owner Penelope McClure never believed in ghosts -- until she met the spirit of Jack Shepard, a big city private investigator who was gunned down in her store over sixty years ago. Now Penelope not only believes in her hard-boiled ghost, she asks for his help in solving a murder.

A loyal customer of Penelope's bookshop has been found dead on posh Larchmont Avenue. The elderly woman left a will that was recently (and suspiciously) revised to name her mailman, Seymour Tarnish, the sole heir to her estate. Many eyes in the little town turn to the hapless mailman as the murderer, including the town's police chief, but Seymour doesn't care. He's too busy settling into his posh new digs. Unfortunately, Seymour's new mansion also appears to be haunted and when the mansion's ghosts begin plaguing him, he hires a team of parapsychologists to exorcise every last spirit from the entire town. Now Penelope must not only solve a murder, and prove her friend Seymour innocent, she must act fast to save her beloved ghost; because if these "spirit zappers" actually do their job, then the ghost of Jack Shepard finally will be history. And that scares Pen a lot more than rattling chains and cold spots.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

REVIEW: Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

Title: Something Borrowed
Author: Emily Giffin
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: June, 2004
Hardcover: 322 pages
Genre: Chick-Lit
Rating: 8/10

Description: Meet Rachel White, a young attorney living and working in Manhattan. Rachel has always been the consummate good girl until her thirtieth birthday, when her best friend, Darcy, throws her a party. That night, after too many drinks, Rachel ends up in bed with Darcy’s fiancé. Although she wakes up determined to put the one night fling behind her, Rachel is horrified to discover that she has genuine feelings for the one guy she should run from. In her wildest dreams (or worst nightmare?) this is the last thing on earth Rachel could ever have imagined happening.

As the September wedding date nears, Rachel knows she has to make a choice. In doing so, she discovers that the lines between right and wrong can be blurry, endings aren’t always neat and sometimes you have to risk all to win true happiness.

My Thoughts: The plot device I hate above all others when I read is infidelity. I put off reading this book for a very long time because of that. When I began reading the book, I was prepared to hate Rachel on sight and judge her as selfish and slutty. What kind of woman would sleep with her best friend’s fiancé? Especially when that woman is also the maiden of honor in the wedding? So, filled with my self-righteous anger and indignation, I began reading this book. And did a complete 180.

Kudos to Ms. Giffin for taking a very difficult situation for anyone to be in and making the perpetrators sympathetic. The story is told completely from Rachel’s point of view. I found myself sympathizing with Rachel; the situation she finds her self in, struggling with trying to make the right decisions, and not wanting to hurt Darcy, though Darcy comes off as a very spoiled and manipulative brat.

Rachel and Dex are very likeable characters. They have known each other since law school and Rachel is the one who introduced Dex to Darcy. They don’t plan on sleeping together and afterward try to make the best of an awkward situation. They don’t plan on falling in love and with the wedding looming over their heads, I was in constant suspense as to what Dex was going to do. Rachel’s anxiety over the situation was very believable and well written. I was on the edge of my seat hoping that Dex wouldn’t turn out to be someone just looking to score before taking the leap. Rachel is someone who has lived in Darcy’s shadow since they were children and I had to admire her strength of spirit in wanting to hold on with both hands the unexpected love she has found with Dex.

With each trip down memory lane, my loyalty and sympathy for Rachel increased as we are shown how spoiled and calculating Darcy has been. Various supporting characters from their past and present also enriched the story for me.

I especially enjoyed the final showdown, for lack of a better term. It was well written and filled with nail biting tension and major surprises. I’m still not liking the infidelity plot device, but I can understand that, as in all things in life, it’s not all black or white. I’m looking forward to the follow-up, Something Blue, to see if Darcy has any redeeming qualities at all.

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I am not a professional reviewer, but I love to read and share my opinions on my reading with others who are interested. I work full time but my ideal perfect day would be to curl up with a good book. The majority of the books I review here are from my private collection and my reviews are provided purely for entertainment purposes. I receive no compensation whatsoever for sharing my thoughts and review on any book. If you would like me to review your book, please email me at sharalsbooks@yahoo.com Happy Reading! :o)