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...