Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Big Sis' July, August and September Reads

Yea, it's been a somewhat busy summer.  It included vacation time, and work time, and lazy time...  and now I'm buckling down to catch you all up on what I read for the past three months.  Here you go...

July
Falling for Her Fiance, Cindy Madsen (BookShout) - I like this kind of story - best friends fake being engaged and eventually realize they're meant for each other.  I especially like it when a freebie is actually a good story!

Under the Dome, Stephen King (Kindle) - Read it for the second time, since the new season's shows were about to start.  Loved it again.  Happy I read it again before the show started, but it sort of really bugs me when the shows/movies change how things happen, who they happen to...  But that doesn't take away from the book, that's for sure.

The Litigators, John Grisham (borrowed from the Clifton Public Library, Kindle) - Not sure if I liked it or not.  I sort of expected more but I think it's simply because it took a while for me to get involved with the characters.  Once I did, it was a John Grisham legal novel:  intriguing, good, complex...  I don't want anyone to think it wasn't good; I guess it just took me a while to see how good it was...  It's about a high profile lawyer who walks away from the stress and strain, meets up with two low profile, sort of shady lawyers and joins their "boutique law firm."  He winds up involved in lots more than he bargained for...

Before We Kiss, Susan Mallery - Sam and Dellina live in Fools Gold.  They have a one night stand and he disappears, leaving in such a hurry...  She finally figured out he saw her guest room the night he stayed over:  the room with a wedding gown in it.  He thought he was looking to get married when in fact she was holding it for a friend...  Misunderstandings get straightened out and of course, it's Fools Gold:  there's a happy ending to this love story.

Until We Touch, Susan Mallery - Larissa's mom tells her Larissa's boss, Jack, that she's sure her daughter has feelings for him.  That changes everything.  They're no longer best buds - he's afraid she's feeling more than he is, more than he will, until he realizes...a

The Promise, Robyn Carr - Peyton Lacoumette is a doctor who left her fabulous job after a fling that went nowhere with her former boss, a star doctor who used her as a babysitter, for the most part, for his kids, with whom she had problems throughout the years they were together...  She meets Scott Grant, small-town GP who needs some office help.  It sounds ideal as a stop-gap job, until she has to babysit HIS kids in an emergency.  She swore she'd never be in that position again...

No Place for a Dame, Connie Brockaway (NetGalley, Kindle) - Avery dreams of becoming a member of the Royal Astronomical Society.  But she's a woman.  And only men can be members.  Giles, Lord Strand, agrees to sponsor Avery, a young "man" he met recently...  She dresses as a man, is introduced into society as a man, and of course, eventually, Avery and Giles fall in love and they have to figure out how to keep the secret...

Safe in His Arms, Renee Rose (NetGalley, Kindle - X) - Heavy duty sex in this book...  Becca and Zac have a one night stand.  He leaves.  She's pregnant.  For 6 years he watches her, with video cameras and living nearby; he's special ops and she's the daughter of a rogue agent.  She knows nothing about it until Zac comes back into her life to protect her and their son Parker...

Sight Unseen, Iris and Roy Johansen (Kindle) - Kendra Michaels is a character from the Eve Duncan series and she's the heroine of this book.  She was blind and her other senses developed to incredible degrees of sensitivity.  A special procedure got her vision back and now she uses all of her senses to solve crimes...  She is faced, in this book, with a terror from her past...

August

Invisible, James Patterson and David Ellis (Kindle) - Sometimes you know you're right, but no one else does.  Emmy quit her FBI job to find proof that her suspicions are correct but despite it all, she can't even convince her own field agent ex-boyfriend.  But then she finds that one thing that no one can ignore, and proves her point.  But not without getting into a lot of danger before the end of the book!

The First/The Returned, The Sparrow/The Returned, The Choice/The Returned, Jason Mott (Kindle) - Three short stories about/from The Returned.  I read The Returned in galley format before it pub'd and I'm absolutely hooked on the TV show based on the book, Resurrection.  The new season just started last night.  I have a list of people I wish could come back from the dead, and I'm sure you do, too.  But is it really as okay as we'd want it to be?  Read the book or watch the TV show to find out!

Natchez Burning, Greg Iles (Kindle) - The first installment in a new trilogy, Natchez Burning brings us the story of the possible murder of Violet Turner, the search to prove that Dr. Tom Cage is NOT her murderer, the history of the Double Eagles, a vicious KKK group whose children are continuing their dirty work...  We see regret, anger, love, secrets...  Great story from a great author - can't wait for the second book!

Stay with Me, Alison Gaylin - Brenna remembers every minute of every day since she became an adult.  Too bad she doesn't remember more of the day her sister Clea left or was taken...  But now Brenna's own daughter is in danger.  And the surprise twist was just that:  a surprise.  I loved this book and will be looking to find other Brenna Spector novels from the author.

Wyoming Bold, Diana Palmer (Clifton Public Library, Kindle) - Book 3 in a series from Ms. Palmer, I'll definitely be looking for the rest...  Merissa is a bit eccentric, has never had a boyfriend, and Dalton is a scarred border agent, left for dead by a gang of smugglers.  No one would ever have thought to put these two together, but guess what:  they fall in love and live happily ever after, but not until quite a bit happens between meet and love...

Sprinkles on Top, Kim Law (Kindle) - Holly has never worn matching clothes - she has what most would call "her own style."  Zach is pretty buttoned up in a three-piece suit.  Guess the town of Sugar Springs knows better than they do that they're meant for each other...

Delicious, Adrienne Lee (Kindle) - Nick and Jane knew each other in their teens:  they were step-brother and step-sister to each other when their parents were married.  Now, years later, after their parents divorced and Jane's mom has married and divorced more than once since, their folks are getting back together.  Well, they are if Nick and Jane can't stop the wedding from taking place...  But while they're working together to keep their parents apart, they find themselves getting closer and closer...

Forgotten Sins, Rebecca Zanetti (Kindle) - The Dean brothers are genetically engineered to be killing machines, but they managed to find their way out.  They are each finding love in strange places, and Shane found Josey.  But two years ago, he left without a trace.  And now he's back, some memories are gone, including his whole marriage...  This is one of the earlier back stories referred to in a few of the other Zanetti books I've read - love them!

September

Redemption, CJ Barry (NetGalley, Kindle) - Reya is a Redeemer.  Thane is a cop.  Reya is on this earth to offer people who are about to die the opportunity to ask forgiveness for their sins.  People are spontaneously combusting all around the city.  The devil is trying to get control of this earth.  Together Reya and Thane try to stop him.  At first it was a little strange, a bit difficult to get into, but after a few chapters, I was hooked and I really wanted to see where this story went.  I'm glad it was free, but I liked it.

No Limits, Lori Foster - LOVED this love story!  Cannon rescued Yvette from being kidnapped and tortured several years ago.  She had a crush on him then but was way too young for him, and besides, she was confusing being grateful with being attracted to him.  Or so he thought.  When her grandfather dies and they are brought together again, the sparks fly, and they both fall for each other.  The story has the extreme fighting scene as a backdrop.  I wouldn't have thought I could deal with that for an entire book, but I did!  And it was a fun read!

Hard Knocks, Lori Foster (Kindle novella) - This story is a sort of prequel to No Limits.  Harper had a one night fling with Savage and then he left for ultimate fighting training and a big bout.  He's been gone a few months, gets injured and disqualified and comes home.  It takes time, but he eventually learns that Harper is serious about him, and they eventually get together.  It's short and sweet, and I definitely didn't like it as much as No Limits but it was okay.

Decide, Steve McClatchy - This was assigned reading for our sales conference.  The author is coming to speak to us.  It's about Pain and Gain.  Tasks that you have to complete because someone will be checking to see if they're done don't contribute to you achieving your personal goals.  You should always make sure to include Gain items on your calendar and defend that time.  I got quite a bit more from his short discussion of time management and calendar planning than I did from his Pain/Gain content but we'll see if perhaps he simply is a better speaker than a writer.  I felt almost as if he repeated himself an awful lot and I found myself skimming to finish rather than retaining every word because it was all Pain/Gain over and over...  I'll take another look at it before Thursday's morning presentation...

HP2 and HP3, JK Rowling (Kindle) - When I don't have something to read, the HP books are my standby.  Love 'em!!!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Middle Sister's August/September Read

Yes, it was just one book, but what a book it was. Fantastic! If you like nonfiction, science, and history, I wholeheartedly recommend The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes. I belong to a special interest group in my discipline's professional organization that focuses on the historical development of that science and the interplay of contemporary mores with the development of individual scientists' careers, backgrounds, and scientific approaches. Mr. Holmes does this for the nascent sciences of astronomy and chemistry, with some geology and biology thrown in for good measure. After all, the early scientists were polymaths, with interests ranging as far as poetry (of which there is also a goodly amount of discussion) and fiction. I am eager to read Frankenstein now after the fascinating discussion in this book. And I learned where and how the term 'scientist' came into use. Five gold stars, an A+, two thumbs up--whatever rating system you use, this book earns all superlatives.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Middle Sister's July Books

July was the month of re-releases, and one oldie but goodie.

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome This was a re-read for me, for my nineteenth century novels reading group. I still find some of the passages quite funny, and for most of it, you can forget you're reading a book that was published in 1889, because the difficulty of raising a tent is still the same, or cooking in camp, today as it was then. It's a quick read and an interesting glimpse into the late nineteenth century. (ebook)

Adam and Evil by Gillian Roberts Re-release of an older Amanda Pepper mystery. Ms. Roberts has written a new introduction and mentions the differences in technology between this book, published in 1999, and today. But really, the tech differences are very slight, and Ms. Roberts books are so well written, and Amanda such a sympathetic main character, that the reader is swept up with the mystery and doesn't even notice the lack of cell phones or Facebook references. The series ended in 2007, and I realized how much I miss Amanda Pepper.  (ebook)

Food, Genes, and Culture by Gary Nabhan I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Nabhan this spring, and have seen him lecture. He's one of those authors that can take a topic that sounds like it might be full of dry data (nutrition) and write about it in an entertaining and relevant style. A great read for anyone interested in the intersection of nutrition, culture, health, and diet. (NetGalley)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Big Sister's June 2014 Reads

It must be summer!  And I must be riding the train and hanging out on the dock on weekends because look at all the books I read this month!  TEN of them!  To say nothing of the various magazines I picked up in between as well...

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green (Kindle) - I caved.  This has been getting so much hype that I just had to read it... And it's very similar to First Love, by James Patterson and Emily Raymond, which I reviewed in March 2014.  Here's that synopsis:  "I'm always surprised I like his non-mystery, almost romance titles...  I cried like a baby at the end of this one.  Axi Moore is a good girl.  Until she asks Robinson to run away with her.  They both went through chemo as young kids and have been besties ever since.  They run away to experience life, but they get more than they bargained for, and so did I.  Never expected this ending at all." In Green's version, our heroine is terminal and attending support group meetings, under protest.  Cancer Kid Support Group has never been a good time, but then Augustus comes in with his friend, and Hazel's life changes.  There's laughs.  There's tears.  And while the stories were different, they reminded me of each other...

Accidental Cowgirl, Maggie McGinnis (NetGalley, Kindle) - Kyla's heart is broken but her besties know that a spa vacation will be just the thing to make her feel better.  But spa services are hard to come by on the dude ranch they go to, but handsome cowboys?  They're there!

Naked Sushi, Jina Bacaar (NetGalley, Kindle) - This one was a waste.  I admit, I skimmed through this one, reading every other page, a paragraph here, a paragraph there.  Glad I didn't pay for this one!

The Cost of Pleasure and Sexotherapy, Alexia Saint-Ange (NetGalley, Kindle) - I didn't know what to expect (Fifty Shades of Gray, anyone?) but by the time I read through to the end of this short story, I was disappointed it wasn't a full-length book.  Yea, it was graphic, but I liked her writing style and I sort of got intrigued by the two short stories:  an employer/employee relationship, and spa services that don't appear on the menu.  Not recommended for people who didn't like 50 Shades of Gray...

I Watch You, Irene Cao (NetGalley, Kindle) - Not one of my favorites either - Elena is working as an art restorer in Italy.  She has a best friend there, actually, a couple of them.  But her friends are forgotten when she meets the new tenant in the building she's restoring, and she becomes obsessed with him, and with sex with him, to the tune of forgetting her friends.  Until the inevitable happens and he dumps her.  I didn't think it was written very well; I never really got to caring about the characters...  Again, glad it was from NetGalley and I didn't shell out any dollars for it...

The Skin Collector, Jeffry Deaver (Kindle) - I paid for this one and as usual, I was NOT disappointed!  I love Deaver's books, especially the Lincoln Rhyme titles, and this one was as gripping and suspenseful as usual.  I almost wish I hadn't read it and saved it for my vacation...  Was it a copycat murder, or is there a different reason that these women are being killed, one after another?

The Broken, Shelley Coriell (NetGalley, Kindle) - This is Amazon's summary:  "He took her life, but left her alive.  Three years ago, reporter Kate Johnson was the first victim-and only survivor-of the Broadcast Butcher. Scarred both physically and psychologically by the brutal serial killer, Kate lives life on the run, knowing that one day, he will find her and finish what he started.  In the pursuit of justice, you sometimes have to step outside the law.  Agent Hayden Reed spends his life chasing monsters. The only way to stay sane is to detach, but the second the Broadcast Butcher case crosses his desk, Hayden knows this is the case that might just cost him his soul. To catch this vicious murderer before he strikes again, Hayden must find Kate and earn her trust. For it's her darkest secrets that hold the key to stopping this madman once and for all . . ." I read it, but strangely enough I couldn't remember much about it...  I had to look up the description online, then I re-downloaded the book.  THAT'S when I remembered reading it, AND liking it!  There were quite a few characters I liked in this book, including Smokie Joe.  I'll most likely read it again, now that I feel bad for having forgotten it!

Switched, Cassie Mae (NetGalley, Kindle) - I liked this one.  Kayla is friends with Reagan.  Kayla has a crush on Talon.  Regan and Talon begin dating.  Now in college, Kayla and Wesley (who just happens to have a crush on Regan) team up to split the hot couple apart and get together with their crushes.  You do know it's not going to work out that way, right?!?  And I never saw the twist coming!

Everything to Lose, Andrew Gross (Kindle) - This was interesting.  If you were divorced, caring for a handicapped child, and your ex has conveniently stopped sending child care, alimony, paying for your son's very expensive school, wouldn't you be tempted to take a bag full of cash you found at the seen of an accident if the driver was killed and there was no one around to see you take it?  You wouldn't?  Well, Hilary was, and Hilary did, and her life spirals out of control.  There were some plot twists in here I didn't expect, and it wasn't the traditional happy ending.  I liked it!

Sycamore Row, John Grisham (Kindle) - I liked it all the way through to the end.  It seemed to wrap up a little too neatly for me.  In fact, I wasn't sure, a few days after I finished the book, if I'd actually finished the book, so I read the ending again, and again, eh.  Not the best ending Grisham has ever written.  But his characters are spot on, and his knowledge of the law and lawyers is fantastic.  I liked the twist that part of the story was told in flashbacks, but I just wish it wasn't quite as tied up with a bow.  I'd rather a messier ending.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Middle Sister's June Reads

Well, I may have had a slow May, but I read a lot during June. An interesting mix of mystery, non-fiction, and craft books.

Scones and Bones by Laura Childs I'd fallen way behind in this series, and decided to celebrate early June, the best time of year to sit on the patio in early mornings and drink tea, by catching up (which I did, although I still have the current hardcover to read). I used to enjoy the series, and this, and the subsequent titles, seemed completely wrong to me. Theodosia, who was always a little bit old-fashioned with her etiquette and manner of speech, is now all about exclamation points! And phrases, not complete sentences! Very informal! I am quite able to suspend belief to enjoy a good cosy murder mystery, but Theodosia had just bought herself a new little house at the end of the previous book, and here, she goes to her new neighbor's house, knocks, and when no one answers, just goes in. Who does that?There were also some incidents that really stretched my willingness to believe (e.g., how do we know that the murderer dropped the orange members pass and not just one of the hundreds of other guests at the event?). The character Drayton, who was most definitely an old-fashioned, somewhat fussy man (I always picture the actor Clifton Webb in my head when I read a passage with him) has also mutated into a completely different person. Here, he's obsessed with Hayley's romantic life, when previously I cannot even remember them discussing anything personal with each other. I kept a lot of other notes, but I think I'll end here, and resume reviewing the series with...

Agony of the Leaves by Laura Childs I give Ms. Childs props for starting off the book with a murder most authors would be afraid to have happen--she killed off the nice ex-boyfriend. Gutsy move. And she made Theodosia feel guilty about having dumped Parker at the end of the previous book to go out with Max, her new love interest. Again, I'm finding inconsistencies and bad editing. For example, on page 200, well after the bee incident which Theo immediately recognized as deliberate, she starts wondering again why the bees attacked Aunt Libby. She knows why, she just realized that a few pages ago. This whole passage makes Theo look very stupid rather than building suspense, and makes me realize the series needs a new or better editor. Which cemented in my mind my conclusion...

Sweet Tea Revenge by Laura Childs ... that Laura Childs is having difficulty keeping her characters straight between her three active series. I found this one quite amusing because everyone, except Max, just accepts the reality show television producers' assertions that ghosts are real, that ghost hunting is real science, and even calls their investigation of paranormal activity "legitimate." I may like Max after all. But I have to let Miss Childs know that the Theodosia of the first half of the series did not "skip into the kitchen" or anywhere else (p. 79). She's a Southern lady; she doesn't skip like a schoolgirl. We've gone from no man flirting with Theo to every man instantly falling for her. I can assure Ms. Childs that any ATF agent who told a person of interest he was interrogating that she is "an attractive woman" would face disciplinary measures for unprofessional behavior. And how can Burt Tidwell be wearing an "oversized too tight suit" (p. 119). It's either too big or too small, it can't be both. Editor, please! The Clue of the Thread (see me channel Nancy Drew) has to be one of the lamest clues I've ever read. We are repeatedly hit over the head with how shabby the inn is, how poorly it was maintained, and a thread found in an out-of-the-way window, which could have been there for years, must, of course, have come from the suit of the murderer? Miss Childs, slow down; you're trying to pump out too many books, and you're getting characters confused, and sacrificing a well-crafted story to just get a book on the shelves. I was discussing this series with another reader who also mentioned her book group used to read these, but got so disgusted, they've stopped, so the dedicated fans who will read every entry in the series are being lost by the slipshod nature of the writing and the editing.

Death Comes Silently by Carolyn Hart Recent entry in the Death on Demand series. I'm getting a little tired of the Frank Hardy-esque Max, his life of leisure, and that stupid Maserati. Everyone else in the series has developed a little over the years, but even after his close call of a few books ago, he remains the same. And Laurel, who usually doesn't irritate me, did so very much despite not ever appearing in it, just leaving her sun flowers and their little sayings everywhere. Thank goodness for Henny, who has character, a backbone, and isn't afraid of life. I hope to age a lot like Henny. Annie has become a little stale and goody-goody, but since I love the references to the different mystery books that pepper the books and turn me on to new authors, I'll keep plodding through even the less-than-stellar entries, like this one.

Otherhood by Melanie Notkin Being a single, childless woman of a certain age, I was interested to read a book that said it would help re-define the place of this population in today's world. The author spent over 200 pages complaining, almost non-stop, that she never got married, never had a baby, where is her soul mate, how can she live with unfulfilled expectations, people have no idea of the pain of 'circumstantially infertile," and such unrelenting self pity that I would have thrown the book away (luckily, it was a library book, so I didn't waste good money on this). Yup, I expected to get married and have kids, and nope, it didn't happen, so I've made my own life. Regrets can take over your life and make you very miserable, and Ms. Notkin still seems to wallow in misery despite a successful career and glamorous NYC life. It was only on p. 228 that finally, finally, one of her friends points out that having a wonderful life is possible no matter what has or hasn't happened to you. Although I guess I'm one of the ones she'd accuse of having given up, but cynical me says if she can't find a nice guy in NYC, with her constant dating and going out to chic bars and restaurants, what chance have I got in a small city in the middle of nowhere? The name-dropping (of reality tv people and others I've never heard of; how culturally backward am I?) became really annoying after a while, but then I thought, well, if these are the people you're hanging out with, no wonder you're not finding your Mr. Right. Instead of buying this book, single women, buy yourself a new outfit, a massage, or a really good meal, and toast your own happiness that you have made for yourself. Relying on happiness to come from someone else, as Ms. Notkin has spent her life waiting for, hoping for, and expecting, never works. The cautionary tale Ms. Notkin thinks she wrote about is not the message this reader got.

Vintage Designs by Kim Hargreaves Cute vintage knit sweater patterns, but some are better suited to wispy, skinny models than curvy women. But Ms. hargreaves makes anyone think they can knit a fabulous sweater, never fear, and the the sweaters are gorgeous to look at.

Literary Knits by Nikol Lohr Range of patterns named after literary characters that inspired the designs. Even when Ms. Lohr admits she recollected the book or the character wrong, it's a delightful collection for the knitter who loves old and modern classics. And it inspired me to start a Meme stole, inspired by the Gabriel Garcia Marquez character in One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Big Sis' May 2014 Reads

This was a tech-heavy month - most of the books were NetGalley freebies, read on my Kindle...  Should have probably saved a couple for my trip out west next week...

Private LA, James Patterson and Mark Sullivan - I'm not a fan of Brangelina, but the main characters of this book, Thom and Jennifer Harlow, were quite obviously loosely based on that famous couple.  This high profile Hollywood couple (and their numerous adopted children) disappear in the beginning of the book and while Jack Morgan and his team search for them (all the while discovering all sorts of kinky things about them!), they are also trying to save Los Angeles from No Prisoners, a terrorist group out to kill citizens unless LA pays them big bucks.  Two completely unrelated stories, although the terrorist story had a bit more meat to it and could have stood on its own.

Sweet Nothings, Kim Law (NetGalley, Kindle edition) - LOVED it!  What a fun, light-hearted romance, easy to read, with characters I really liked!  Joanie has started and ended over 30 businesses in the past several years, but her most recent is a cupcake truck.  She meets Nick, brother to .  She wants no strings fun, but Nick falls for her in a big way.  Such a great give and take, a lot of fun to read!

Sugar Springs, Kim Law (Kindle edition) - I loved reading Sweet Nothings so I went and bought this first story in the Sugar Springs series.  Lee Ann is raising her sister's twin daughters.  Everyone knows she's their aunt, although their mom died when they were just born...  Their father shows ups  - we knew he would! - and it turns out that what Lee Ann had been thinking about her ex - AND about his one night stand with her sister (horrors!) - isn't what really happened.  Can they find a happy ending?  It's a romance, people, of course they will, but it's fun going along for the ride!

The Art of Arranging Flowers, Lynne Branard (NetGalley, Kindle edition) - I wasn't so sure about this ARC.  It was slow to grab my interest, but I admit, by the time I was halfway through the book, I was hooked.  Yes, it's too bad it took that long, but it really was a good story.  There were a couple of plot twists that really didn't need to be in the book for it to be a good, complete story, but they weren't the worst thing in the world, either...  Ruby Jewell has been a florist for twenty years.  She's been alone for a long time, too, since her sister died.  They were thisclose, you see, and not a day goes by that she doesn't miss her.  The town seems to think she needs fixing up, though, but this isn't your typical Harlequin romance.  This is fiction, with love being the background theme...  You'll love her dog, Clementine, too!

Searching for Perfect, Jennifer Probst (NetGalley, Kindle edition) - Apparently this is book 2 in the Marriage to a Billionaire series, and part of the Searching for... spinoff. I read The Marriage Merger previously and called it fluff, but at least it's readable fluff!  This story involves the transformation of a NASA scientist into someone who can go on a speed date...  The person responsible for the transformation?  Why, the owner of the local matchmaking service, of course.  And who'd have thunk they'd wind up together?

Unlucky 13, James Patterson - One of the Women's Murder Club books, serial killer Mackie Morales is back.  Even though it's the main story, it seemed not to be... and there was a surprise this time around that I didn't expect.

The Collector, Nora Roberts - What a job!  House-sitting expensive apartments, houses, pieds–à–terre...  Of course, when you're spying on the next apartment house through a pair of binoculars, a la Rear Window, should you really be surprised to witness a murder?  And then get caught up in it as a witness?  Of course not!  I haven't been so overexcited about Ms. Roberts' books recently, but this one was pretty good...  I'm glad I read it.

The Millionaire Affair, Jessica Lemmon (NetGalley, Kindle edition) - Landon hires Kimber to be his temporary nanny.  They knew each other years ago - well, she had a crush on him but he barely knew she existed...  He notices now, and he suggests, since they're attracted to each other, that they have an affair, no strings attached, have fun, enjoy each other to the fullest...  Yea, good idea...  I'm sure their hearts will never get involved...

Delectable, Adrianne Lee (NetGalley, Kindle edition) - Callee is on her way out of town.  She has to stop and see her soon-to-be-ex mother-in-law, who she adores.  Good thing her soon-to-be ex is out of town, fishing again...  Or is he?


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Middle Sister's May Read

Yup, another month where I finished just one book. But it was a classic: The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie. This was the second Miss Marple, and there were dramatic differences between the first two books in the series, separated by eight years. Miss Marple is almost a secondary character in Murder in the Vicarage, but by Body in the Library, there are numerous allusions to her skill as a detective. She's also much more likeable as a character. 

And Dame Agatha has evolved as a writer, no doubt influenced by the politics of the 1930s. There's a subtext of classism that is not explored, but is very explicit.

I've read all of these before, but one of my online book groups is reading all the Miss Marple books in order. It's casting a fresh light on these old favorites.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Middle Sister's April Books

Plus the holdover from March.

The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain I first read this about 25 years ago, when I was traveling abroad, so I suggested it for my 19th century novels book group. Since it was my idea, I felt I had to finish it, even though it dragged and dragged. I don't remember it dragging when I first read it, and I don't remember how racist and mean some of Twain's comments were, but his biting descriptions of some of his travelers were vintage Twain. As I told my book group, it's not a bad thing to find out that there an author you thought you knew was more nuanced or had a different side to them. But it took 2 months to read! (Kindle)

Read and Buried by Erika Chase Great cover, murder associated with a mystery book group--sounds great. Well, maybe not as great as I'd hoped. Small peeves, like phrases being offered as sentences. I know we talk like that in real life, but writing should be grammatically correct. The main character calls every woman who has children 'mama.' The mamas at the school holiday presentation, her mama, any mama--okay, it takes place in the south, I get it. I hadn't read the first int he series, so I was a bit befuddled by every character's worry over another character dressing outlandishly, differently from how she normally did, but I don't remember ever being told how she used to dress, and every outfit seemed reasonable (not the costume, but that's a different story). Providing the backstory in a brief sentence or phrase for people starting in the middle of a series is always a useful thing. I did approve of how the Internet surfing undertaken by two characters to find out more about the murder victim was a bust; it seemed very realistic. The problems with Lizzie's romance were handled well, although the epolice seemed somewhat incompetent to handle the investigation. Most unbelievable statement: Stephanie, a waitress, is getting 6 months maternity leave. My professional office job gives us 1 week (we have less than 50 employees). I'd wait tables for a benefits package like that! (paperback)

Monument to the Dead by Sheila Connolly I felt like a slug after rad and Buried, since Lizzie drinks a protein shake and runs just about every day, so when Nell alludes to herself as being more mature than her coworkers, I was please. Until I realized that instead of trying to get into the mind of a 25-year-old, I was trying to get into the mind of a 35-year-old. This, of course, made me feel more than mature; try ancient and crone-like. One of my objections to the storyline is that Nell spends a lot of time berating her FBI boyfriend that the probable killer (the murders are disguised so that it's unclear they actually were murders for quite a bot of the book) is going to get away with the murders, but there isn't even enough evidence to convince the FBI or the police any actually were murders. Something her boyfriend repeatedly tells her is frustrating him as he tries to find evidence that murders were committed. Is she not listening? I found her tone sometimes accusatory ("Why do you know this?" when James describes his relative's home to her; I could still describe my aunt's home to you and she died in 1979.), and her interaction with James sometimes weird. The two are at dinner, and she's repeating and summaring what he just told her, and he responds with "You make very good point." What points? She didn't say anything, she repeated what you said, knucklehead! While the revelation of the murderer was handled well (realistically, someone got hurt), but I found Nell's sudden conversion to never having liked the murderer frustrating. All she said about him earlier was that he wasn't very social, but very good at his job. And now that she knows he's a murderer, she's thinking "I should have gone with my gut--there was always something odd about him." I might give the Ashton Corners Book Group series by Chase another try, but I'm not so sure I'll give Connelly's Museum Mystery series another try (and I have read her apple orchard series, which I liked better than this). (paperback)

The Last Adventure of Dr. Yngve Hogalum by D. L. Mackenzie I felt like I was getting stale in my reading a few months ago. I read an article in the New York Times about a steam punk cruose and my curiousity was piqued. I've never been interested in goth steampunk, or paranormal steampunk, but historical steampunk? That's another story. So I selected this short story, which had positive reviews on LibraryThing and GoodReads, to get my feet wet. And I enjoyed it. (Read on my smartphone as I try to determine if that is possible, even in a pinch)

Hilda Hopkins, Murder, She Knit by Vivienne Fagan  Cute, tongue-in-cheek short story that every knitter and crocheter will enjoy. It's very easy to guess every step and there are no cliffhangers, but it's a funny skewering of the genre and parody of Arsenic and Old Lace, with a poke at obsessive knitters. (Another read on the smartphone)

Big Sis' Reads April 2014

A vast improvement:  only one week late!!!

A Seal's Kiss, Tawny Weber (NetGalley, Kindle) - Navy Seal Aidan Masters has always liked his mentor's daughter, free spirit Sage Taylor.  When her father takes ill, she invents, unknown to Aidan, their fake engagement, which puts the spring back into her dad's step.  Aidan comes home on leave, unexpectedly, if I remember correctly, and they have to then act as if the engagement is real.  I liked this one; it was a cute story, but I sort of feel as if they made her a dumb blonde without blonde hair.  I prefer stronger female characters, but it was still a good read.

Risk Taker, Lindsay McKenna (NetGalley, Kindle) - Army helicopter pilot Sarah Benson is one of seventy-five women on a base of one thousand men, always fighting for respect and always being devalued by the men.  Petty Officer Ethan Quinn is a US Navy Seal, stationed on the army base with his platoon.  He rescues Sarah one night, after another man attacks her.  Ethan has a hidden soft side; he writes poetry.  This book shows their relationship develop; he loves her almost immediately, but until the end of the book, she doesn't acknowledge any feeling for him.  I didn't like this story and won't read Degree of Risk, even though I've gotten hooked on other NetGalley romances that have prequels and sequels...  I'm not a fan.

The First Phone Call from Heaven, Mitch Albom - What if you could get a phone call from someone who's passed?  What I wouldn't give to hear my dad's voice again...  It happens, to more than one person, in a small town in Michigan.  Is it a real miracle?  Or is it a hoax?  As much as I loved this book, I want to read Mitch Albom's books not because they're always good, but because one is NEVER like the other!  They're always great, but they're always so different than those that came before...

Hot and Bothered, Kate Meader (NetGalley, Kindle) - Jules was always a party girl; it took the focus off her dyslexia.  Then her partying caught up with her and she got pregnant, and that's when she found out her "boyfriend" was married.  So she escapes, running "home" to the US to her brother.  She finds Taddeo DeLuca, related somehow to her sister-in-law (I sort of never got that straight!), and he becomes her best friend.  They're both attracted to each other but no one acts on the attraction.  Almost three years later, the father is back in the picture, wanting to get to know his son, and this sparks enough drama in the family that Jules and Tad start seeing each other as more than just friends...

Seaview Inn, Sherryl Woods - I think I already reviewed Home to Seaview Key, and this is the prequel to that love story.  This book explains how Hannah met Luke again, after all those years, after his childhood romance with Abby, how health issues almost come between them, but how love triumphs over all.

The Burning, Jane Casey (NetGalley, Kindle)- Meh.  Maeve Kerrigan is a detective constable in London and she is on the case of The Burning Man, a killer who beats women to death before setting their bodies on fire.  She is called to investigate a 5th woman's death, but this one looks different.  No one seems to believe this, but Maeve is determined to find the killer, whether it's the Burning Man or another sicko.  The story itself was okay, but the author didn't do that great a job with the romantic subplot.

Inn at Last Chance, Hope Ramsay (NetGalley, Kindle) - Jenny Carpenter is pie-baking champion in Last Chance, and she goes against every recommendation and buys the old inn, intending to turn it into a charming B&B.  Who returns but Gabriel Raintree, famous author, former owner of the inn, and who does he bring with him?  A ghost.  A very active, poltergeist-y ghost... 

Blind Faith, Rebecca Zanetti (NetGalley, Kindle) - This is #2 - I can't wait to read numbers 3 and 4!  Nate Dean is one of four brothers who were genetically engineered by the government.  He had a brief, blazing affair with Audrey, daughter of the doctor who implanted the explosives in his spine, and in his brother's spines, too.  He finds out Audrey got pregnant and goes after her to find his baby.  There's bad news, but with Aud's help, he's one step closer to saving himself and his brothers.  And there's some other good news at the end of the book!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Big Sis' Reads March 2014

I'm doing better - only two months behind...

The Stranger You Know, Andrea Kane - This is another Forensic Instincts title.  Casey looks incredibly similar to the women recently found murdered in the area.  She's lucky because she has her whole team to keep her safe.  This was a good one - surprise ending I didn't see coming!  I've liked pretty much every Andrea Kane title I've read and I started reading her almost 30 years ago, when I had lunch with her!  She came to meet a colleague when I worked at SDC and since I was the resident romance reader, and Andrea started with more romance titles than thriller/mystery titles, I was invited to go along.  We had lunch at the French Hill Inn, which is no longer there, but was a fabulous restaurant!

How to Talk to Customers, Diane Berenbaum and Tom Larkin - This is a title we published and I picked up after a few days of sales training in February.  (Yea, call me a kiss-up!)  I have promised to give a review to my bosses - it's pretty much common sense, in my humble opinion, and can be summed up as follows:  you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Cross My Heart, James Patterson - OMG!  An Alex Cross cliffhanger!  I just can't wait for the next one!!!  His family is KIDNAPPED!  And that's not even a spoiler 'cause that's how this book ends!!!

First Love, James Patterson and Emily Raymond - I'm always surprised I like his non-mystery, almost romance titles...  I cried like a baby at the end of this one.  Axi Moore is a good girl.  Until she asks Robinson to run away with her.  They both went through chemo as young kids and have been besties ever since.  They run away to experience life, but they get more than they bargained for, and so did I.  Never expected this ending at all.

Innocence, Dean Koontz - I love this author.  I'm not a huge fan of his early horror books, but I AM a huge fan of the last 15 years' worth or so...  Addison Goodheart lives beneath the city streets, alone.  No one can see him or they'll be horrified and will try to kill him; even his own mother tried several times to kill him when he was a child.  He meets Gwyneth No-Last-Name who can never be touched.  A real pair, they are, and yes, they really are.  Marionette puppets who come to life.  A man who stole from Gwyneth's father, and raped her when she was young, wants to kill both her and Addison.  The entire book takes place in the night, the only time when Addison can leave the subterranean world he calls home.  Awesome.  So very visual.  Dean, I love it!

Sweet Revenge, Rebecca Zanetti (NetGalley, Kindle) - Matt Dean is the oldest of four brothers who were genetically engineered by the government.  He's on the run, looking to find the one doctor who can defuse the explosive that's inserted in his body, next to his spine.  He meets Laney Jacobs, who's on the run herself.  There's an explosion, all right, but it's love, not a bomb.

Missing You, Harlan Coben (Kindle) - Kat Donovan is shocked when she sees her ex-fiance, the only man she ever loved, on a dating website.  She's even more shocked when it turns out he's involved in something that can keep them apart, even though she was hoping for a second chance.  This didn't end the way I expected either - and that's a good thing.  Too easy an ending is sometimes just, well, too easy an ending...

Blossom Street Brides, Debbie Macomber (NetGalley, Kindle) - Lauren has been waiting years for Todd to propose.  She finally decides she's not going to wait any longer.  It's funny how fate works, because that's exactly when she meets her true love.  Bethanne and Max are married and happily in love, but her ex wants her back and Max is feeling rather insecure.  Their long distance relationship is strained but it's a Debbie Macomber book so we know it will all work out in the end (not a spoiler!).  And Lydia, who owns the local yarn store, is dealing with her adopted daughter's problems and a mysterious knitter...

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Little Sis' April Read

While on a business trip to a large suburb of Chicago I read a debut thriller in which the main characters were Chicago natives.  It's called The Good Girl by Mary Kubica.  Published by Mira, it's touted to be in the tradition of Gillian Flynn and Tana French.  It's written in present tense throughout, alternating perspectives, but not as...errr...nasty as a Gillian Flynn; if you prefer a more conservative read, this is for you.  The story centers around the abduction of the daughter of a prominent judge; and how her disappearance affects her very different parents.  Don't want to give the story away, it goes on sale this August--but I felt the feelings of the parents were not presented with consistency.  Outside of that, it was good enough that I had to stay up and finish it.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Big Sis' Books: September 2013 - February 2014

(Edited: Can't figure out the spacing on this post; since I was cutting and pasting from Amazon I think it made everything a bit wonky. Sorry!) This will be probably the longest post you'll ever see from me.  I've been a bit incommunicado lately, at least with regard to the books I've been reading, but not because I wasn't reading.  I was.  I just wasn't updating it here.  So I'm going to just list them all, in the order I've read them, without specifying months, but with my usual short and sometimes sweet commentary!

Let Me Go, Chelsea Cain - The next in the series, Archie Sheridan faces his worst nightmare, Gretchen Lowell, again.  This time we go to a masquerade ball on a private island - the perfect way for Gretchen to be there but not seen - someone is killed (naturally!), Susan Ward is in danger - it's the usual pretty gross, pretty scary suspense thriller.  I don't know if Ms. Cain has written any non-Archie-and-Gretchen books.  I should make a note of that...

The Last Kiss Goodbye, Karen Robards - Charlie sees dead people.  Nope, not a punchline to a joke, and not a reference to a Bruce Willis movie where I got the character name wrong...  She really does.  But she takes it one step farther with one particular dead person, Michael Garland, and starts to fall for him.  Yea, you read that right.  And they have a very passionate relationship.  And he helps her solve a mystery and put away The Gingerbread Man, a sadistic predator who just happens to cross her path.  Again.

The Final Cut, Catherine Coulter and JT Ellison - Although Special Agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock are part of the story, they're there to help Scotland Yard's Nicholas Drummond find out who killed his colleague here in the States.  And find out they do.

Christmas at Cardwell Ranch, BJ Daniels (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - Here's Amazon's synopsis, since I really didn't like this book too much at all:  "It had been years since Tanner "Tag" Cardwell's boots touched Montana soil. This Christmas he was determined to change that. Until a run-in with local Lily McCabe revealed dark secrets from his past and deep trouble for his future. Cowboys came and went in these parts. But Tag Cardwell caught Lily off guard in more ways than one when the two became entwined in a murder mystery. What was it about Tag? The dreamy eyes… The rugged physique… The protection she felt in his strong arms… But before they could lose themselves in each other they had to trace a killer. Or risk finding a crime scene under the Christmas tree."

Fearless, Tawny Weber (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - Again, good thing I didn't have to pay for this one.  From Amazon:  "There's just one thing missing from Gia Renyard's life: sexual adventure. And the one man she'd like to have it with is her hot coworker Luke Monroe. If only company rules didn't prohibit her from asking him out… So Gia comes up with a plan: make herself over into a fantasy seductress, follow Luke to a convention in Sin City and have her way with him for one erotic weekend. The man will never even know who did him.  Everything is going according to plan—until Gia discovers that Luke is perfect for her outside the bedroom, too. And suddenly she's no longer content to let what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas….
  Everything You Need to Know, HelenKay Dimon (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - I didn't pay for this one either (someone is looking out for me!).  From Amazon:  "Dating in D.C. is like navigating an apocalyptic wasteland populated by men in expensive suits with zero mating potential. Need to Know provides all the information a savvy single woman like you needs to avoid dating disasters.  By night, Jordan McAdam is the proprietor of a popular website that rates D.C.'s hottest bachelors—everything from how quick they are to email you back, to their skills in the sack. She's been burned once too often to accept any man at face value. By day, her job as an office temp puts her in the perfect position to do a little fact-checking on her rich and powerful subjects. When her latest assignment brings her face-to-face with the sexy but mysterious Forest Redder, Jordan decides to do a little "hands-on" research of her own. To Jordan, he seems like the perfect man—but she knows there is no such thing. Moreover, there's a big problem: Forest knows Jordan's the woman behind the scandalous site—and Jordan knows he knows. Will he expose her secret—or find his own posted on Need to Know?"   Silencing Eve, Iris Johansen - Eve is dead.  We know she is.  After all, we went to her funeral.  But Ms. Johansen has a GREAT plot twist for us, as usual.  Even Eve's top-brass colleagues aren't sure if her death is a hoax or not, but leave it to Catherine Ling to dig deep enough to find out...   Deadline, Sandra Brown - I haven't read a Sandra Brown novel in a while, and I liked this one so the wait was worth it:  Dawson Scott gets a call from a source within the FBI. A new development has come to light in a story that began 40 years ago. It could be the BIG story of Dawson's career one in which he has a vested interest.  Soon, he's covering the disappearance and presumed murder of former Marine Jeremy Wesson, the biological son of the pair of terrorists who remain on the FBI's Most Wanted list. When Jeremy's wife Amelia's nanny turns up dead, the case takes a stunning new turn, with Dawson himself becoming a suspect. Haunted by his own demons, Dawson takes up the chase for the notorious outlaws. . .and the secret, startling truth about himself.   Cake, Lauren Dane (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - The unfortunate thing about this book is that I liked the premise, but not the final draft:  Wren Davis wants Gregori Ivanov, rock star of the Seattle art scene. With his tattoos, piercings and sensual sneer, Gregori is the ultimate bad boy. She's gotten to know the man behind the image, and she knows he's basically a womanizer but after she experiences just how great sex with him is, well, she wants forever.  I wish the author was a better writer but you get what you pay for, right?  I got it for free, but it's a digital original that sells on Amazon for $3.99, when it's not on sale for $3.03.   Accidentally in Love with... a God?, Mimi Jean Pamfiloff (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - Nothing to say but yuk.  If I'd actually read the description, I wouldn't have even downloaded it for free.  Not my cup of tea.  I read it, and there was actually one or two decent scenes in the story, but that's about it.   MacNamara's Woman, Alicia Scott (now Lisa Gardner) - LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Lisa Gardner's suspense thrillers with a hint of romance.  I found out, though, that she had written some formula romances earlier in her career under the name Alicia Scott and Signet was re-releasing them.  So I will read them...  Ten years ago, Tamara learned that she had no one to rely upon except herself. Now her existence was threatened but this time C. J. MacNamara was there if she needed help.

Expecting a Bolton Baby, Sarah M. Anderson (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - Bobby met Stella. Bobby and Stella had wild and crazy sex.  Stella left.  Now Stella is back, and pregnant with Bobby's baby.  She left to protect Bobby, but is back and will hopefully protect him again.

Heating Up the Holidays 3-Story Bundle (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - contains 
Play with Me Lisa Renee Jones - Kali is a reporter undercover, looking for the truth about casino boss Damion, who of course, she falls for, only to find out he's kind and generous, to say nothing about sexy...
Snowfall, Mary Ann Rivers - Jenny is slowly losing her vision.  Sure, she's doing therapy but it seems inevitable that she will eventually go blind.  She meets "C" online and they begin a relationship.  Will they ever meet?  Could she ever meet him?  In the meantime, Evan, her OT, is there, in person, and what a person!  Which should she choose?
After Midnight, Serena Bell - Have you ever kissed THE one on New Years Eve?  The ONE who you just met?  Well, Nora and Miles are just waiting for midnight, but midnight never comes for them.  Then they meet, a year later.  Oh, the possibilities...

Yours to Keep, Serena Bell (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - Ana is from the Dominican Republic.  Her family is here.  But if ICE ever finds out her work visa has expired...  She starts tutoring Ethan's son, and they all become very close.  Close enough to fake a marriage to keep her here in the US?

Christmas on Main Street - (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - contains
Christmas in Shelter Bay, JoAnn Ross - Kelli and Cole were friends. Now the entire town seems to be conspiring to make sure they become more than just friends.
A Seaside Christmas, Susan Donovan - There really is such a thing as a mermaid, especially on Bayberry Island. Nathaniel falls (literally) at Annie's feet - well, in front of her home/shop - and the mermaids rescue him and the rest, as they say, is history.
Mistletoe on Main Street, LuAnn McLane - Not my favorite story in the book, but our hero's name is Clint, so...
The Christmas Gift, Alexis Morgan - Christmas, pastries, and a nice stranger.  Okay.  Done.

Hard to Handle, Jessica Lemmon (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - Sadie and Aiden happened.  Aiden broke her heart.  She now never lets a man close enough to break it again.  Now he realizes what he lost threw away, so he's back to change her mind.

A Cold Creek Christmas Surprise, Raeanne Thayne (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - I keep telling my husband that cleaning the house is dangerous, but he just doesn't want to believe me!  Sarah winds up cleaning Ridge's house, post party, even though it wasn't her job, and she falls down his stairs, and eventually meets the handsome single dad.  And it's Christmas, for cryin' out loud, so you know we're going to have a happy ending...
Cross My Heart, James Patterson - There are a lot of people upset with Mr. Patterson for writing a cliffhanger ending - Alex Cross' family has been kidnapped, he's facing one of the most ingenious criminal minds...  Why be mad?  Who shot JR?  This has been done, folks, more than once.  It's not a gimmick, it works!  I read book after book after book by Iris Johansen where Eve was looking for her daughter who disappeared, and died, and appeared to her mother so all Eve wanted to do was find her daughter's body...  and the series didn't end when they found Bonnie.  Leave James alone - I can't wait for the second book!

A Basic Renovation, Sandra Anonelli (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - You get what you pay for, and I got this for free.  I guess the idea could have been cute:  Lesley comes home, decides to stay and renovate a house, meets up with hardware store owner Dominic, who just happens to be her ex-brother-in-law.  He thinks her marriage to his brother failed because - well, I won't go there - but he soon finds himself attracted to his ex-SIL.  It took way too long, by a writer I didn't think was very good - to get to the ending.  I'm SUCH a romance fan, and I spent thousands of dollars on Harlequins, and Candlelight Ecstacy series titles, and Loveswept Contemporaries...  They were just better written.  I feel as though it's too easy to self-publish, or there's so little quality that the publishers are just printing any old thing...  Sorry, Sandra, but me no like...

Hostage, Kay Hooper - Now these books I like.  Some mystery/thriller, a little bit of the supernatural (not so much as to be unbelievable, but just enough), some interpersonal attraction but no gratuitous sex.  This is part of a series, and all I can complain about is that I lost track of one of the character's names at the start - he's named ABC, but called XYZ by the voices in his head - but once I went back and figured it out, it was fine.

Wilderness, Dean Koontz (Kindle single) - Amazon calls this short story "darkly intriguing."  I'll say!  Addison is born, lives with his mom in a house in the woods, but she can't look at his face, and if she can't stand the sight of him, he has to stay in the woods and not go home. He's never seen another person, until the day the other person saw him and started chasing Addison through the woods, angry at what he saw.  Intrigued?  Yes, siree, Bob!  Can't wait to read Innocence.


White Fire, Preston & Child (Kindle) - It's a Pendergast book, so it didn't really matter to me what the storyline was...  I was surprised to find it took me a bit longer to get into the story - it felt a bit disjointed at the start - but soon I was totally intrigued.  Corrie goes to Colorago and finds herself the target of a killer - eventually.  And the outcome?  I didn't see it coming.  I thought I did, and to a degree, I was right, but for the most part I was surprise.  As I always am.

Before We Fall, Courtney Cole (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - Nope.  Done with this author.  Here's Amazon's description, since I don't want to waste any more time on this story:  One dark moment was all it took to turn twenty-four-year-old Dominic Kinkaide's world black. On the night of his high school graduation, a single incident changed him forever, and he became a hardened man-famous in the eyes of the world, but tortured inside. Now all he cares about is losing himself in the roles that he plays.  At twenty-three years old, Jacey Vincent doesn't realize how much her father's indifference has affected her. She is proof that sometimes it isn't one specific moment that wrecks a person, but an absence of moments. She tries to find acceptance in the arms of men to fill the void-a plan that has worked just fine for her, until she meets Dominic.  When jaded Dominic and strong-willed Jacey are thrown together, the combination of his secrets and her issues turns their attraction into the perfect storm. It could change their lives for good-if it doesn't tear them both apart . . . (By the way, this description makes it sound better than I thought it was.)

A Christmas to Remember (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - contains
Dream a Little Dream, Jill Shalvis - Melissa + Ian = friends with benefits, but of course, what story would there be if one of them didn't want more?  The fun part?  It's IAN that wants more!
Every Year, Kristen Ashley - I'm sure there's another story floating around out there, or coming soon, but two brothers, one's married, the other's not, and this story is about the couple.  You just KNOW there's another one on its way.
Silent Night, Hope Ramsay - Single mother Maryanne comes to Last Chance, and gets hers, in the arms of a sexy doctor.
Have Yourself a Messy Little Christmas, Molly Cannon - I'd hoped Christmas + organizing would = a good read, but this wasn't my favorite.  She's an organizer, and his Christmas present from his mother.  Nah, don't bother.
A Family for Christmas, Marilyn Pappano - Ilena figures she's going to be alone, after all, she's a young widow.  But there's something someone else out there for her.

Along Came Trouble, Erin Kern (Net Galley, Kindle edition) - This one was okay, but I'm not sure if it's because it's good, or because I was reading it that first week at the gym, when ANYthing would be a distraction from the bike and the treadmill!  Elisa and Brody fall for each other, but they fight it.  She caves sooner than he does, but she still winds up leaving and he has to go chasing her to Mongolia!  Yea, that part was a stretch, but it was still okay.  I liked the problems he faced with his ex-wife and his son; being a stepmom, those types of stories appeal to me and feel like real life.

Home to Seaview Key, Sherryl Woods - For some reason I always think of Sherryl Woods as a young author, and I guess she was, when she wrote her first of over 100 books!  I've been reading her for easily 30 years or so...  In the preface, the author admits she hadn't planned to write more about Seaview Key but her readers begged for it, so here's the story of Abby and Seth.  Abby and Hannah and Luke were friends all those many years ago.  Abby and Luke dated, neither really aware that Hannah liked Luke.  In one of the books I have not read, Hannah and Luke got together, later in life.  Now Abby's back, Hannah's worried even though Luke is madly in love with her, and Abby?  Well, she's sure not there for Luke, but his young friend Seth? Mm-hmm, he could be a distraction!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Middle Sister's February Books

February flew by in a blink, but I still managed to read some books while continuing to plow through my book club's Mark Twain selection for this month (which I will clearly not finish by the end of the month). Here's what provided some distraction from Twain:

At Home by Bill Bryson Very entertaining discourse on the different parts of the house as we know it, where they came from, how they came to be, with a few splashes of famous names like Thomas Edison and the scoundrel Samuel Pepys for good measure. I've been to the Pepys Library and hod no idea he was such a scoundrel. Naturally, the historic homes were of particular interest to me, and I was glad to hear mention of Skara Brae. Mr. Bryson is so adept at weaving what at first glance appear to be disparate threads together into a dazzling, informative, yet fun whole. This was an audiobook I listened to while gardening, and let me just say right here that I'm blaming Bill Bryson for my sore back two weekends ago. He made pulling weeds so enjoyable that I kept doing it, hour after hour after hour...

Rosemary and Crime by Gail Oust This was an ARC from NetGalley that I really, really wanted to like. The protagonist is a woman about my age, starting over after a divorce, with a teenaged daughter and a spoiled ex-husband, who opens a spice shop in a small town in Georgia. Yup, see, that was the problem--that part of the premise. Had her shop been set in a fancy strip mall, or a restored tourist attraction--then I might have bought it. But the downtown of a small town? Not buying it. The downtown of big cities and small towns alike have been deserted for decades, and are not the place to set a specialty store of this kind unless, unless, the owner was part of a larger redevelopment project. That could have introduced a whole slew of people, but nope, our shop is downtown with the bank and  used car lot. While the mystery and murder itself wasn't bad, the premise, plus Piper's inconsistent attitude towards her former mother-in-law were glaring problems. Another gripe--I'm not sure the author is a chef or a spice expert. Those that she mentions and the recipes she discusses are all generic and standard (chili, lamb) and didn't convey that Piper or her shop would offer me the reader anything I couldn't find in a cooking magazine. I did find Piper's relationship with her daughter to be realistic and understandable, and very well portrayed. But really, Piper should have let her ex-husband find his gorgeous home trashed by drunken teenagers and cleaned it up himself--Piper cleaning it all up before telling him about the drunken prom escapade meant any lesson learned by Dad was going to go in one ear and out the other, which makes me ponder her character. Probably not recommended except to diehard genre fans.

Miss Marple's Final Cases by Agatha Christie Another book group read. While I've read all of Christie's novels, I haven't read her short stories, so this CD of stories narrated by Joan Hickson (the perfect Miss Marple), Anna Massey, and Isla Blair was fun to listen to. All except the creepy The Dressmaker's Doll. Creepy dolls are as creepy as creepy clowns and I don't like them. Perhaps Dame Agatha was trying her hand at a different genre with this short story--there was no mystery, no murder, just a creepy doll. Still, it's Dame Agatha...

The Marseille Caper by Peter Mayle I have enjoyed Mr. Mayle's nonfiction but had steered clear of his fiction up till now. I should have kept steering away. I wasn't terribly impressed. Beautiful people, all wealthy, all gorgeous, and rivals over a local development in the south of France sounds like perfect light summer reading, but it left me wanting much, much more. I hate perfectly gorgeous people in perfectly wonderful relationships--they never seem real. Elena in particular was very flat and one dimensional; she's a high-powered executive in an international insurance firm yet she acts like a high school tween when she meets Mimi or Fifi or whatever the journalist's girlfriend's name was. Francis Raboul is a self-made multi-billionaire, yet he didn't write a prospectus for the presentation to the development committee until Sam suggested it just days before the presentation? How did he make those billions? The descriptions of local French food were the best part of the book, and that's pretty pathetic in what was supposed to be a funny, fast-paced romp through the south of France, with menacing thugs, attempts to disrupt large real estate developments, and kidnapping. Just re-read a Year in Provence instead of this; it's much, much better.

Two out of four--not bad, I guess.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014

Middle Sister's January Books

Well, January has been almost all book club books, all the time. I'm working on my second book club book this month (The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain--I've read it before, but it was my suggestion to the group, so I'd better read it,right?), with a third on order from the library. All in all, a very enjoyable month of reading. (And I'm still trying to slog my way through Lorna Doone, November/December's book club selection.)

The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie I thought I'd read all the Agatha Christie novels that existed, but perhaps I've only read all the Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple books. This title didn't ring a bell at all, and I enjoyed it immensely. I was completely bamboozled by the ending, and that rarely happens these days.Tthat's why Dame Agatha is still so popular. The social aspects of her early twentieth-century world may be vastly different than today (it was published in 1929, 85 years ago), but the characters and their human foibles are timeless. Suffice it to say, this book club's selection for next month is a Christie I now suspect I haven't read, and I can't wait. Highly recommended (library copy)

By Its Cover by Donna Leon Italy, rare books, rare book libraries, palazzos, contessas, impersonations, a mysterious murder--what's not to love? Usually I do not like police procedurals, but I like Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti series. That may be in part due to their setting (Venice), their main character (Guido Brunetti, an honest policeman in a corrupt department within a corrupt and lazy system that sometimes seems to not want to catch the bad guy), the relationships (Guido's marriage, his coworkers--all are so finely portrayed with just a few succinct sentences), but mainly it's the mysteries and the writing themselves. Guido investigates more esoteric mysteries, like this one about stolen rare books, and more urban  and gritty murders for more familiar reasons, so the series stays lively without falling into the traps series often do. Her writing is top notch--crisp, clear, yet evocative. I will admit here to a slight fictional crush on Guido, too.  Highly recommended (NetGalley)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Middle Sister's December 2013 Books

I spent a lot of time trying to read Lorna Doone for my 19th century novels book group. It's not that it's a bad book, it's just that first third (according to my fellow readers) is very slow. Unfortunately, that coincided with grading final papers, writing and grading final exams, work, and the holidays. But I did squeeze in a few other books.

The Invisible Code by Christopher Fowler The latest Peculiar Crimes Unit novel has Bryant and May becoming enmeshed in international politics as well as murder, immigration, and class snobbery. There is nothing to say except that I love this series. They are so erudite, so interesting, so hard to put down. If you haven't met Arthur Bryant and John May yet, please do. I confess to a slight fictional crush on John May and wish Arthur Bryant were my curmudgeonly uncle. Wholeheartedly recommended (NetGalley Kindle ARC)

Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber I really like Seattle, so I'm always happy to read mysteries set there. A vegetarian yoga instructor seemed a different take on the cozy genre amateur detective. After the murder of a homeless man Kate had befriended, she takes in his special needs dog while searching  for the murderer and trying to find the dog a home.  The premise was appealing to this dog lover.  I did find Kate's references to her "fluffy hips" very annoying. When, oh when, will writers stop trying to harp on women's self image as a way to supposedly connect with their readers? Anyone who does yoga as often as Kate, and she's constantly practicing yoga or teaching it, and is a vegetarian is probably not that 'fluffy' at all and is very limber and healthy. And cellulite is not fluffy. Weber does a good job at contrasting the positive training methods used by most dog trainers these days with the horrible negative, punishment-based systems that some old-time adherents still insist on using. The passages with the negative trainer and the dog's original owner were so realistic they were truly upsetting to me. The murderer? Too easy to figure out. The romance? Too boring, sadly. The angst over her father's death? Too trite. But I really liked her friend Rene, and if Rene has a more prominent place in other novels, I might give this series another try. (NetGalley Kindle ARC)

A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie A classic to cleanse the palate. Another book group I belong to is all Agatha Christie, and in December we started reading A Murder Is Announced. There is also the option to knit or crochet a Miss Marple-inspired pattern while we read and discuss. We're still reading (a set number of chapters per week), but come on, who can really stop at Chapter 9 just because that's the last chapter for that week? I spent New Year's Eve re-watching the television version with Joan Hickson, and comparing the differences between the novel and the filmed version. Set in a small English village just after WW2, a newspaper advertisement announces that a murder will happen that night at the home of Leatitia Blacklock, so naturally all the neighbors pop round for sherry and fun. But when a murder really occurs, Miss Marple cannily figures out the whodunnit amidst a number of people pretending to be someone they're not. Wholeheartedly recommended (paperback)

And here's my Miss Marple Scarf (pattern by SusanneS-vV):