Tag Archives: book

Carpool Diem- by Nancy Star

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I picked this one up at the thrift store when I traveled to visit my son and his family. I like to check out thrift and Goodwill stores when I go places to pick up books for my Little Free Library. A lot of times, I don’t read the ones I buy but this one drew me on with the promise of being fun.

And it definitely was a fun read. The protagonist is a perfectionist who loses her job basically through sabotage but, as a reader, you get a feeling of relief that she’s getting off the treadmill that was her life working out of town all week and spending weekends at home. Her family life clearly suffered due to her lifestyle/work absences.

The reader gets to see great character arcs of several of the members of her family.

The daughter is a soccer player and most of the book revolves around her quest to play for an elite travel team. The best parts of the story are where the obsessive coach of the elite team sends crazy, ridiculous memos to the girls and their families every day. He’s loony tunes and never met an exclamation mark he didn’t like.

I spent a lot of the story laughing at his memos and hoping he’d get his comeuppance.

I’m a huge soccer nut so this book was right up my alley. The character growth was well done on the characters who had a chance to change. Not so much on the coach guy, but that was sort of expected. Lol

This book was published in 2008 but it could have come out last week as it was so up to date—other than the reference to the Larry King show.

This was a quick read—less than a day—but full of good, entertaining writing as well as a great message about life’s priorities.

Death by Pumpkin Spice by Alex Erickson

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This book is part of a series of stories with the protagonist being the owner of a coffee shop who can’t help but get involved in murders that happen in her town. She’s attracted to the detective she works with on the cases but she also has a date with a local doctor and has a former live in lover who is a stalker. In other words, she attracts drama. And she isn’t very likable.

Even though she owns a coffee shop and the title of the book makes one think there will be some kind of pumpkin spice drink—latte, coffee or even chai—nope. Not any in sight for the entire book.

A woman is killed at a Halloween party and busted pumpkins are all around her but no spices. Nope. None.

The protagonist is smart and clever in the way she can solve crimes but she is one of those types who don’t listen. Even when she is told to stay out of the crime scene, she goes willy-nilly in the room and starts touching stuff.

The first couple of times she didn’t listen were cute but then it got old. I get that the amateur sleuth needs to have access to try to solve the case in these kinds of books, but it really became annoying to this reader. I’m sure there were other ways to get around that issue but her just blatantly ignoring warning after warning became tedious. She went rogue way too many times to count.

All that being said, the mystery itself was good. It was clever to have the story take place at a Halloween party with a terrible storm so everyone was stranded there and also in costume. It heightened the danger and intrigue to make the killer not be able to escape. The other partygoers didn’t seem too concerned to be locked in a mansion with many rooms for a murderer to hide in, though.

I thought the ending was appropriate and I enjoyed the mystery of the murder.

Even though this is a series, I was able to follow the story and figure out who was who without much effort.

For a quick, easy, seasonal read with not much depth, this was a fun one. Just don’t expect any pumpkin spice.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain- By George Saunders- a Review

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This was a great book with a lot of interesting analysis of Russian short stories and their writers. The author is a professor at Syracuse University and now I want to take one of his classes. While I didn’t agree with everything he said, as in whether a couple of the stories were actually wonderful. :), he had great points to make about the seven stories he chose to analyze. I had never read some of them and fully enjoyed them even though two of them were a bit odd.

This is a great book for writers as his analyses of the tales gives the writers among us a lot of insight into the stories as well as how to extrapolate from them ways to improve our own work.  It is a dense read and takes a lot of concentration but well worth it as it seems to me to be a mini course in Russian short stories and how brilliant these writers were.  To say nothing of what a great teacher Mr. Saunders is. He’s witty and intelligent and the reading of this book was a joy. Even if you aren’t a writer, there is a lot to take away from this book and it’s well worth a read.

Unholy Night- Seth Grahame-Smith- a Review

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A mash up of the book of Luke in the Bible and a thriller. It’s gruesome in parts, funny in parts, moving in parts, and maybe partially sacrilegious. Maybe.

What an interesting idea this author had to make the three wise men into common criminals who find themselves in a situation where they are protecting a newborn baby and his parents from King Herod and his soldiers. Pontius Pilate as a young centurion makes an appearance in this tale. We also come across John the Baptist as a child.

As the story progresses, we learn more about the main protagonist, Balthazar and how he became embroiled in a life of crime. He became a legendary thief called the Ghost of Antioch. A price on his head, part of the adventure is the chase as Herod sends his men after not only all of the male children under two years of age in Judea, but sends them out to find the Antioch Ghost as he wants to kill him as well. He feels the Antioch Ghost has made a fool of him and Herod wants his revenge against the man.

Lots of violence in the story which can get a bit over the top—some gore, rape, and child murdering takes place so beware of that—but it was a lawless time for many in that era. Or maybe not lawless, but dangerous and life was easily lost with the Romans in charge of the world. Man’s inhumanity to man is pretty obvious in this story. The common man and woman really didn’t have any rights—especially the women. They were forced to do things against their wills in this strongly patriarchal society. The author touches on that in the scenes related to the harem of Herod.

If this sounds depressing, I don’t mean for it to. I liked the story and the hero’s journey was satisfying as it progressed to the ending. Balthasar had a lot of issues—some rooted way back in his past, but the reader gets to enjoy watching him grow as a person and learn that violence doesn’t have to be the answer—unless the whole Roman Army is trying to kill you…

This author has a unique voice and is very clever and creative.  This book was compelling and well written. As a lover of thrillers, I was entertained by this one. Lots of excitement, but also tender moments as well as a bit of humor mixed in. A good read if you can get past the violence and the sometimes disrespect for Mary, Joseph and the baby.  

The Double Agent- William Christie- a Review

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WWII Iran, 1943

The story opens with the hero in dire straits in Iran. He’s in a cell being held at the British embassy and he’s doomed if he doesn’t take action to protect himself.

The hero, Alexsi, warned the British about a plot to kill Churchill ordered by Stalin. As his ‘reward” for doing so, the British intend to send him right back into the fray as a spy for them. A sure fire way for Alexsi to be killed himself.

A clever man who has had a rough existence, he finds a way to survive. But fate has a way of chasing this man and it isn’t long until he’s back in peril. In fact, this whole book is basically him going from one perilous situation to another. Such is the life of a spy in WWII.

Excitement abounds, the story teems with edge of the seat scenarios, and the violence is sometimes stunning and off the charts.

I enjoyed this book for the storyline as well as the hero. He’s smart, industrious, witty and very likeable. Almost like a violent McGyver. He finds his way into scrapes and back out using the resources to hand.

Clearly, the writer of this story has a great way with words and figuring out a way to get his protagonist out of scrapes. I liked the sheer audacity of some of the hero’s actions.

This appears to be book two of a series and it seems there will be a book three since the war isn’t over in the timeline of the story (and even though the ending was satisfying, it is clear this character has more to do). I was pleased to find I didn’t need to have read book one to jump right into book two. There was no confusion about who this man was and why he was in the situation he was in. That being said, I’m planning to go back and read the first one since I’m intrigued by the character. And I eagerly await the next installment.

I would warn readers that the book is quite violent so if you’re squeamish, be wary. Otherwise, be ready for an interesting ride-along with Alexsi.

I received this book from Net Galley in exchange for an unbiased review.  It comes out November 15, 2022.

The Forever House- Linda Acaster – A Review

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This book was interesting but a little confusing.  The main character seemed to leap to many conclusions without much in the way of evidence before she did. AS I read, I actually said out loud a few times, “This woman is whackadoodle.”

I enjoyed the story for the most part, but there were things left hanging at the end that I wanted explained. As a reader, I want all the questions answered especially if it seems there is not going to be a sequel.

The premise of the story was intriguing and the fact that the main character was so strong in her opinions and actions made the tale pleasurable. The beginning was slow. The character spent a lot of time removing wallpaper and drywall and inspecting the room she was renovating. I got a little annoyed at how long that took and the amount of detail conveyed. Some readers may enjoy that kind of slow build, but personally, I am all about getting to the action. 

Once we got to the action, things moved quicker and I enjoyed the pace of the story from about chapter four or five on. The way the protagonist made leaps of logic was interesting and when she went to the police after visiting one particular man made me scratch my head as to how she came to the conclusion that led her there. It was precipitate at the least and a bit crazy at the most. I confess, I was kind of stunned—which may be what the author intended. LOL

I’d have liked the writer to give us closure on the sister-in-law and what was going on there. We got good closure on the main story, but I was disappointed at the plot points left hanging.

This one has me torn.  They were a lot of good points in the story but there were also a number of things that bothered me.  I am going to have to give it 3.5 stars.

New Release- Iris Blobel- New Zealand Romance

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My friend, Iris, has a new release this week: AMAZON LINK

The discovery of her mother’s diaries unravels a secret which sends Lani on a journey to New Zealand …

She lost her mother in an accident. Now, Lani Dekker is determined to meet the man who, according to her mother’s diaries, is her father. He’s not what she expected, a bit on the extravagant side, but she soon warms up to him, thanks no less to Dylan, her father’s neighbour. Despite her attraction to Dylan, she can’t figure out whether he’s a friend or foe.

Dylan Harper is merely going through the daily motions after his wife died in a ski crash. That is, until his life is turned upside down by the arrival of his neighbour’s daughter. Their attraction is instant, even more so when they wake up in the same bed after an earthquake. However, it’s her accusation that his interest in her involves her father’s money rather than their mutual magnetism that derails their newfound bond.

Will finding the truth about her parents be a chance for Lani and Dylan to overcome their differences?

The Cage by Bonnie Kistler, a Review

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I bought this book after seeing the author on Jeopardy a couple of weeks ago.

The book was good, but it was one of those books where I didn’t really care for the protagonist. She was just thoroughly unlikeable throughout the book. We’re supposed to feel sorry for her for being trapped in a situation beyond her control and for having lost her job in the economic downturn in 2008. But she just grated on my nerves. She was a total snob and wouldn’t even consider a lower level legal job when she lost the Wall Street job, even to the point of choosing to live in the slums as a better option than taking a job she deemed beneath her. It was pretty weird. She also, to be such a snob, had a victim mentality and was a liar. To the point of lying on her resume which offends me greatly.

So, I asked myself, why are you keeping on reading? I don’t have an answer to that. But read on, I did. Lol.

The villain was very one dimensional and clearly a sociopath. He irritated me too. I wanted to smack him for his pure evilness with no redeeming qualities at all- such a vicious man.

A very big hint was dropped at a point in the story and I kept waiting for someone to mention it and check on that aspect of the protagonist’s story, but it never was mentioned again until the last two pages of the book.

The protagonist was a lawyer (as is the author) but she violated the number one rule you learn as a lawyer. If you’re detained by the police, you never, ever give a statement even if you are innocent as traps lay everywhere in an interrogation room. You invoke your right to counsel, discuss your knowledge of the matter with your lawyer, and make an informed decision with the benefit of counsel on what to share. This character rattled on to the police—not just once, but over and over—and was basically hoisted on her own petard. Her lies caused her way more distress than she ever needed to face. But I guess without that stupid move there would be no book, right?

All that being said, it was a pretty good story, just not really anyone to root for in the tale, except maybe the women who were ultimately saved.

The Bloomsbury Girls- Natalie Jenner- a review

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A one-hundred-year old bookstore.

Post WWII era.

Three very different women with something in common.

One a wife and mother, one a career girl and one a recent graduate of Cambridge University. They all work at the bookstore and share common issues even though that’s not readily apparent at the beginning of the story.

The author takes us on three distinct yet interwoven journeys with these women. Real literary figures appear in the tale and interact with the fictional characters which gives the setting, as well as the prose, a realism that was well done.

The social issues at play here are the end of WWII return of the men from fighting and how that affected the workforce that had been relying on women while the men were gone, the societal expectations of wives and mothers, privilege in society and how that affects behavior, and racism. The author gave us a compelling story for each of the women while weaving in these issues in a finely crafted way.

The path each of the three protagonists took and where they ended up was obvious pretty early on to this reader, but the journey of each was fulfilling and interesting.

Overall, I liked the story and the way the author interwove the various narratives. The setting was perfect as it moved the plot along at a nice pace and contributed to the issues facing the main characters. The bookstore was a little microcosm of society contained in four walls. The time period chosen for the story emphasized the issues as well. Sadly, some of the themes covered in the book are still problematic to this day. Some things seem slow to change in society and this book shows that in many ways.

An enjoyable, thought provoking read that was entertaining as well. Not at all preachy, but the author has a lot to say.

Hot Water by Christopher Fowler- a Review

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This book by the author of the wonderful Bryant and May series is a standalone book set in the area near Nice, France,

The story was intriguing and multi-layered as Fowler’s books always are. He definitely keeps the reader entertained and on tenterhooks. Various threads come together in an intriguing way by the end of the book.

Steve is a 42 year old British man who has a desire to have a sexual relationship with an 18 year old—which, of course, is gross anyway—but it set the stage for the events of the story. Steve arranges to rent a holiday home near Nice for a business trip for his wine business. He invites the girl, Summer, to join him. The leasing agent tells him he has to rent it for two weeks, so he invites the girl for the first week and his wife and son for the second week. He is supposed to arrive a few days before his family so he can sleep with the girl.

Hannah, a 23 year old young woman, is the cleaner for the house that Steve rents. Hannah is not supposed to interact with the guests, but when she meets Summer, she breaks the rule and becomes involved in the girl’s life. Steve’ arrival is delayed and the plans change wherein he’s going to arrive a mere few hours before his family—time enough for a quickie, but then Summer has to go.

The day Steve’s family is supposed to arrive, Hannah can’t get in touch with Summer. She believes the girl left with a gay friend to stay with him now that Steve’s family is arriving. When Hannah arrives to clean, she finds items left by Summer strewn around the place.

As the week goes on, other things appear—like Summer’s phone and passport. The people in the house, Steve, his wife and son as well as Steve’s employee, Giles and his wife, are all hiding things. Everyone in the villa has issues and secrets.

Hannah becomes more and more suspicious about what really happened to her friend. A local child goes missing as well, causing Hannah to investigate that in addition to what happened to Summer. Did her friend leave voluntarily? Did she leave before anyone else arrived? Did she argue with Steve? Is she gone off with friends? Or is her body buried somewhere on the property? And how does the missing child and the gardener fit into the picture? What about the other guests, the villagers and even her boss?

This is a great, convoluted story that really appealed to this reader.  Lots to unpack and a ton of pieces to put together to get to the truth of the events that occurred in the vacation villa. I recommend this one as a fun beach read—even if you’re not in the Cote d’Azur!