January 30, 2012
Erren Rhodes has been undercover a long time. So much so that he's lost his taste for the business. But when a dear friend of his is killed, he has one more mission under his belt. When he goes to pick up a clue though, he also gets a new partner in Darby O'Malley. She's a clue in all this, or at least he thinks she knows something, and considering the dirty cops are after her too, he's got to keep her with him to keep her safe. It doesn't help her brother is the main suspect in this murder either. And she's more focused on clearing his name than having a bunch of interest in Erren, even though he'd like her to.
I liked Darby. I thought she was feisty and she somewhat keeps her head in the game for the most part. But she did seem a little too trusting, despite the authors portrayal of her as being skeptical. Erren on the other hand I didn't really like at all. His motivations didn't seem genuine and he was actually kind of a jerk. He flip flopped a bunch as well so it was hard to tell what he was thinking at any given point in time. The bad guys weren't that menacing. Sure they did some bad stuff, but its largely in the background as Darby and Erren run around.
Most of this book was about Darby and Erren's attraction to each other, which is fine because this is a romance, but despite that, I still can't figure out why they were attracted to each other aside from looks. Their personalities clashed and it wasn't in a good way. There was a lot of running around doing things, but the things weren't always particularly exciting and sometimes they seemed to bounce around quite a bit. But I do like that the author tried to make it adventuresome and a little more than the regular romance. Since this is a romance, there is sex in the book, but its actually only one scene, they were too busy dodging bullets for any more than that.
Not the greatest but it was a quick read. I can't say I'll seek out any more romances from this author on purpose.
.38 Caliber Cover-Up
January 28, 2012
Joleen is thirty and still working at the diner, something that her mother never wanted for her. But that's about to change, a rich oil tycoon by the name of Carl has swept her off her feet. A politician as well, he's searching for a wife that will appeal to the working class, and slightly overweight, down home girl Joleen is it. The problem is, he wants her to do an awful lot of changing for the position. When she agrees to spend the summer with him she doesn't know he'll be out of town and his brother will be picking her up and taking her to the family ranch instead. And there's some sparks when she seems his brother Jake that she just can't ignore. But she wants this life with Carl, or at least she thinks she can do the most good in that life. Joleen has to try to decide what she's willing to sacrifice to get what she wants.
The characters are pretty much what makes this whole book not the greatest. Joleen is completely bouncy and all over the place. Not to mention she's constantly describing herself as pudgy, chubby, etc. at only a size twelve while Jake is going all gaga over what he describes as her "hot" body. Either she has a poor self image or a size twelve got a lot larger than what I thought it was by the way she's described here. At least Jake has some sense where that's concerned. Unfortunately that's the only area Jake has sense though. I just couldn't understand the whole attraction/dynamic with Joleen, Carl, and Jake. I didn't see where the appeal was for any of them except for Carl, who's motives were selfish and completely believable.
The book is very fast paced. Too fast paced to make it believable unfortunately. While I like the idea of the two brothers wanting the same woman for different reasons, I don't think it was played off very well here. There was a lot more detail that could have been added to improve the story. Since the characters didn't have chemistry to me, it kind of fell short in the romance department for a romance novel. For a romance novel, there is no sex in this book. So its pretty clean actually. Hardly any bad words either. This is definitely part of the tamer side of the romance genre. Which is just fine, it doesn't have to have sex to be a romance. But if that's what you're looking for, you won't find it here.
Definitely not a good romance in my opinion. I've read several better, even put out by the same publisher.
Two Brothers and a Bride
January 27, 2012
I actually really enjoyed this book. Despite it being the 2nd in the series, I don't feel like I missed too much, although I do plan on going back and reading the first book. I really liked the characters, and the writing in this book.
After losing her fiance to a grisly death, Zora finds herself unwillingly to go on with her life. She doesn't want to get over him, so she publicly ruins herself, causing her mother to send her to a widowed aunt out west. There, she finds a new calling. Zora is what is known as a springsweet, water witch, dowser; several other names would describe her skill. She can find water easily, and it proves to be both a gift and a burden. She also finds someone that makes her heart beat again, and he has a special skill all his own.
I really liked Zora's character. She had some melancholy about her, but she still was pretty rational in thought and knew what she wanted. She was also pretty humble, which is refreshing compared to a lot of young adult novel heroines. Her love interest wasn't too bad either, although I would have liked to see more of him in the book and had more questions answered about him. He manages to dodge questions about himself quite well. I think the real standout character though was Theo, a wanna be courter for Zora. He just seems like a real good guy and I hope he continues to be in the series as it continues.
This novel was extremely well written with a nice tone. I liked the language and voice used by the author for Zora and it seemed fitting to the time. You can tell she did a little research. Since its young adult there isn't anything too objectionable. Pretty mild overall actually, although it does describe a little bit of violence from Zora's past. My one complaint would be that the ending was way too rushed. I got a little confused as a result and combined with the ending it was kind of unsatisfying.
I'll definitely continue on with this series. I find it intriguing and a nice quick read.
January 26, 2012
I've been greatly interested in many of the books on the FLDS, which some would argue is not actually Mormon, but to my belief, they are very similar. This book, while not FLDS, is still the tale of a boy raised in the Mormon belief, and questions it. I liked several aspects of the book, but there were a few things that I would have preferred to see differently.
James Sanbourne was born into a Mormon household, and while he isn't considered a Mormon until he is old enough to make the choice of baptism, it is all he knows. He's grown up with the stories from the bible and the Book of Mormon and they are greatly encouraged while other books, like comic books, are discouraged. An inquisitive child, his belief doesn't really waver, but he has tons of questions about the Mormon faith and some of its trickier laws and beliefs. As he grows up, an abusive mother, and uncaring father make life even more difficult. They move quite frequently and nothing ever seems to be stable in Sanbourne's life. So its no surprise when he starts running away and disobeying the Mormon laws. His community believes he is headed down the right path, and even law officials make it difficult for him to escape his family, but he continues to question his faith. Even if it does mean potential lockup and misery for him.
Sanbourne is very realistic when he describes himself and his family. He doesn't pull punches when he describes his mother especially. And she seems like a very sad, pitiful woman who possibly has some mental issues. I can't imagine how tough it would have been to grow up in a household like that, especially since his father was distant at best too. He had some siblings, but there's not too much mention of them in this book. Since it is about his life, the main "character" is Sanbourne himself, and he takes a lot of time to describe how he felt growing up and why he did the things he did. It helps to create a honest and realistic experience for the reader. I do have to say, I would have liked to hear about how his siblings reacted to what he did or what their beliefs were growing up in the same household, it would have provided some nice contrast. But no one ever experiences the same things even if circumstances are the same.
The book moved fast, very fast. I actually would have appreciated a lot more detail on some of the different aspects of Mormon life and belief. For example, the magic underwear. We are given glimpses of this practice but not enough to provide a true understanding. It only teased actually. The author's issues with racism in the faith though, was actually well described. That's the level I would have liked to see with the other topics in the subtitle (A Boy's Struggle with Polygamy, Magic Underwear, and Racism). The tone of the novel is actually very young sounding. It made reading about the author's childhood very believable since it seemed to be told in that tone. But to that note, like a young person when excited, it could ramble sometimes. Like a stream of thought that just had to be let out. For those not familiar with Mormonism or actually the Bible in general there is a lot of base description of certain stories from the bible. Depending on your audience, this could be a good or bad thing. In a predominantly Christian country, such as the US, the detail in this area might not be as important as added detail specific to the Mormon faith would be.
Because this book is heavily focused on religion, it has the potential to offend. But I don't think Sanbourne actually intends to offend anyone, its just inevitable when someone talks about religion. So reader, you have been warned, come to this book with an acceptance of another person's experience with their faith. There also is a lot of talk about racism, but it is clear the author is against racism and that it factored a lot in his decision regarding religion.
I liked the book, but I thought it could have been paced better and the description focused on different things than it did. As a self publisher, Sanbourne has done a good job though and I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the Mormon religion.
My Mormon Life
January 25, 2012
Clay has decided to make a move to Virgin River. After a divorce and being away from his son too long, its time to settle down and he finds a job with a Vet there, helping to rehabilitate horses. Because Clay's got a magic touch, there's even some rumors that he's a horse whisperer. And when a flighty stallion comes to the clinic, he's the one that gets to work with it. But there's another horse there too that's caught his interest. Blue, an abandoned horse that had colic, is there recuperating, and the woman who found her is irresistible. Lilly works for her grandfather for the local feed store and she's a flighty kind of person, one that Clay's not going to be able to catch very easy. Despite the fact that they both share a Native background, she doesn't want anything to do with Native men. Too much hurt in the past that she hasn't been able to overcome.
Clay is a pretty stand up guy. Although, and I should warn, this could spoil a few things so watch out! I cannot understand his motive with his ex-wife. For a man so dedicated to his son, marrying a woman who's family hates his son and thus not being able to have him with him, that just doesn't sound like a dedicated dad to me. And really we are told he's dedicated rather than shown. He also, for being such a stand up guy, puts the moves on Lilly rather quickly without even taking time to analyze if she's interested. Just seemed odd with what we were supposed to know of his personality. Lilly was pretty scarred and I think her actions as a result were spot on. But I also thought she changed her feelings way too easily. For someone who's always been flighty, its hard to see her reasoning things out very quick even with the help of a friend. A lot of characters from the first book I read were back in this one too, but I have to confess I barely recognized some of them and was hopelessly lost in the plotlines of the ones I did recognize since it was several books later.
The plot was ok as far as the romance between Clay and Lilly. However, it seemed like right in the middle of the book it sort of just jumped away from them for awhile and the transition was not very smooth. And it doesn't go back to their story for a little bit, which was kind of annoying. I think, that if she needed to add the other happenings of Virgin River to the book, Carr could have interspersed them a little better. I liked the added side plots, I just didn't like how they were thrown in. I do have to say, that because this is a romance novel there is sex, and descriptions of sex, and while its not especially naughty it is detailed. So those who don't like that in your books, you have been warned. The rest of the language was easy to read and actually this book turned out to be a very quick read.
Ok part of the Virgin River series, but a little too choppy for my taste. Hopefully when I go back to read the books in order that improves the story for me.
January 24, 2012
Gwen, after a divorce and leaving New York, ends up with her Uncle's deli in Tennessee. Things aren't going so well though, especially when one of her most famous patrons ends up dead on her floor on karaoke night. Then soon after, someone is after her life as well. Its hard enough running a struggling business but she has to contend with a sleazy lawyer trying to buy her out too. Its not what she envisioned for her life, but if her life is going to be any longer, she's going to have to get this mystery solved fast. And to her surprise, she may have some new love interests as well.
I didn't like Gwen. She was seemingly obsessed about a few things, cigarettes and smoking. And not a lot else was really said about her except in regards to her connection with her Uncle. Who sounds like he would have been a much better character. She just wasn't very personable or even a character I'd say I'd care about. The side characters weren't that enthusing either, with perhaps the exception of the Detective. But he didn't get that much book time. He at least was a believable likable character, even if the rest weren't as enjoyable.
The mystery went from being what I thought would be easy to solve, to having a surprise twist. But there wasn't really any way to figure it out on your own, or at least not any clues that I was good enough to catch. Which kind of takes the fun out of it, I don't want it to be too easy, but I don't want it to be impossible either. Well, at least they threw in some recipes. That went a long way to helping the book along, in addition to some kitchen tips too. But the combination of not so enthusing mystery and unlikable characters really brought this book down.
Not my favorite and I probably won't seek out the other books by this author. There are plenty of other foodie mysteries to keep me busy.
A Brisket, A Casket
January 23, 2012
Melinda, recently widowed, needs a change in her life. So she sells her house, packs up her things, and moves from busy LA to Virgin River to be a nurse assistant there. Little does she know the ad isn't quite what Virgin River really is. The cabin is a dump, the doctor doesn't want her there, and she's sure she made a huge mistake. She gets ready to leave in just a day, but then finds an abandoned baby. Having never been able to have children of her own, she wants to make sure this young one finds a place before she moves on, but as she stays she starts to grow closer and closer to the residents of Virgin River. And handsome Jack, the bartender, is a pretty compelling reason to stay too, if she wasn't still grieving for her lost husband.
Melinda was a strong female character. She still had her weaknesses, but when she wanted something, she went out and got it for herself. And she throws herself headfirst into everything. There are a few areas where you wanted to just scream at her to exercise some caution, but alas, books apparently can not hear us, or at least not me. The doctor she worked with too was a strong willed person and watching them argue together was pretty amusing. Jack, the love interest, was ok. He was pretty much perfect actually and that tends to make me think he was kind of unrealistic. I would have liked to see a few actual flaws instead of the "good flaws" that were assigned to his character. The townspeople too were pretty diverse, and they made a good backdrop for the story.
The idea of moving on after grief is a pretty powerful one, and I think this story captured it well, although I thought the pace was pretty fast. Wanting to change everything in your life is a pretty common theme for those who have suffered and moving to a little town with no cell reception is sure to do that. There were some little side stories to this book too that were interesting, although some of them were left feeling unfinished. Maybe they're in the next books, I'm not sure, but I would have like them to be wrapped up in this book. I do have to warn that this book contains quite a lot of sex scenes, which if you're looking for a romance is just fine. But if you weren't looking for that, this book probably isn't for you. I thought they were well written at least and not over the top like some can be.
I'll definitely continue reading in the series of which this book is the first. I don't think they have to be in any certain order, but I'll soon discover if I'm wrong.
January 22, 2012
Ollie has really gotten herself into it this time. When she and her arch nemesis Peter Sargeant have to work together on a banquet, they quickly dive into trouble when they discover the bodies of two White House employees. Not realizing just how much danger they are in they follow proper procedure, but then strange things start to happen and Ollie starts to believe that her life just may be in danger. With having to worry about that and the numerous dinners and parties going on at the White House, Ollie has her hands full. Especially since she and Sargeant are in this together and snipping at each other the whole way.
Ollie is always the better person, and as such, she is an inspiration. She tries to do right by people even if it isn't the most popular choice. In short, she's the kind of person I would like to be. Not to mention, she's a chef, and I love food. I also like how she can even relate to the people she doesn't like and overcome her initial anger at them. Her love interest Gav, is pretty special too. He is pretty level headed but seems to genuinely care for Ollie. I was pleasantly surprised by Sargeant's character in this one too. While still a jerk at least he had some depth for once and played more than the bad guy.
The plot was pretty exciting. There was a lot of action, but less of the romance this time,which I was actually pretty disappointed about. I had hoped for a little more than that after the last one, but once again its a slow process for Ollie. Unfortunately the mystery was kind of predictable and the bad guys a little smarmy this time. There wasn't as much food either with the exception of the recipes listed in back. In fact, I would say that there was barely time spent in the kitchen this time around. Which was a little sad since I had grown used to Ollie preparing food and working with the other kitchen staff.
It was still a good book. Just not as good as the previous one. I don't know when Hyzy plans on putting out the next book, but I definitely plan on reading it!
Affairs of Steak
January 21, 2012
Juliet is a writer, most known for her work during World War II. By happenstance, she receives a letter from a man living in Guernsey, one of the islands that was occupied during the war. From this she learns of a book club society that secretly operated under the Occupation. She grows to love the different people of the society and aims to write a book about them. So she goes to stay for awhile on the island and meets them in person. She is especially taken with Elizabeth's daughter, who has been raised by the society after Elizabeth was taken away to a war camp and never heard from again. Juliet longs to stay in Guernsey, but just isn't sure where her life is leading her.
Juliet is a good character. She is real and expresses quite a bit of herself. She isn't afraid to admit when she is wrong and she takes delight in just about everything. She's the type of woman who I would hope to be compared with. I do like Dawsey as well, he is a solid guy, although quiet, and he remains a focus throughout the book, especially since he is the one to make first contact with Juliet. By comparison, her boyfriend was absolutely horrendous and controlling. I did not care for him at all. But really the standout character in this novel is Isola. She is so odd and delightful that you can't help but like her.
I do have to say that the way this book was written was not to my taste at all. It is a series of letters and telegrams from Juliet to other people, other people to Juliet, and other people to other people. I just don't like the letter style, I'd rather read regular writing if it can be called such a thing. I just feel that too much is missed when you're looking at what the characters are putting down in a letter and indeed, some of the letters appear to be missing and I found myself wondering what was in them. The letters at least get longer towards the end of the book and I do think that is why I liked the second half better than the first. You got to know the characters better in the second half as well. And the subject matter was interesting. Probably because it was based on a true place and people that could have existed.
I can't say I'd recommend this book to anyone. But if you think it sounds interesting then give it a go. It does have its moments.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
January 19, 2012
The Herla (as deer call themselves) have entered a time of uncertainty. Their ruler, gone mad with power, has started changing the way they naturally live. When one fawn with a special mark is born, the leader fears a prophecy and sets out to kill him. He and a few other deer escape but find danger at every turn. And as the years pass, the dangers get larger and that special fawn Rannoch grows into quite the unusual deer. He doubts he is part of the prophecy though and doesn't realize his full potential. With the deer herd continually escalating downward and becoming more murderous and brutal, he does realize he needs to do something.
Rannoch was a bit weak to me. He runs away from his problems so much and while that's normal for humans, I guess I just don't see deer reacting the same way people would. He also doesn't have a very easy to follow thought pattern and I don't think its the result of being a deer. The other deer are interesting. It was hard for me to picture them as being particularly brutal, even in a fiction novel. I actually liked the few glimpses of humans in this book even though I wasn't supposed to. I just found them interesting compared to the deer. The most standout character would probably be Bracken, an older doe. She was very brave and very loyal and an all around good character.
For the plot, as said before, there were so many similarities to Watership Down that I couldn't take it quite seriously. It is kind of funny that Richard Adams (author of Watership Down) gave this book a good review. I would have thought he would have been angry at the similarities. But to each their own I guess. The pace moves very fast and the years even faster so its sometimes hard to keep track of where and when they are. Especially with Rannoch, he bounces all over the place. I do have to say that the end of the novel was interesting and I liked the resolution. It had a nice finality to it. The book did have some innovative ideas of its own too and because of that I can't rate it too low.
Its an ok book. Not one I'd probably recommend outright but I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading it either.
January 17, 2012
A new President is in the white house, and for the White House staff that means they have to adjust and make him and his family feel welcome. Not to mention this President has young children, which is a new experience for them. Its the first day there when some famous chicken wings are dropped off at the kitchen, intended for the President's kids. Because she doesn't know where they came from, Executive Chef Ollie won't serve them, much to the consternation of the first lady and quite possibly puts her job on the line as a result. But when she finds out the wings were poisoned as part of a terrorist plot, Ollie knows she did the right thing. The only problem? She's not allowed to tell the first lady and when another chef is brought in, Ollie knows its only a matter of time until she's replaced.
I love Ollie in this one. She does the whole true to yourself thing and it really works for her and makes me like her as a character more. I also enjoy that she is devoid of the not so great boyfriend Tom in this one, and her new love interest is much better in my opinion. Tom was kind of a jerk and I was always secretly rooting that they would break up. Her side chefs are pretty great in this one too. Bucky continues to be an evolving character and I genuinely liked him in this one. The new chef by contrast is the new jerk in the kitchen and people will just love to hate him. The bad guys are also more menacing this time around too.
The mystery was hard to solve, but not completely impossible this time around. And there was a nice mix of mystery with food too. Food definitely took more of a share and I was glad to see that as I love the descriptions Hyzy uses for the food and some of the ideas for cooking. The recipes at the end didn't hurt either. And in this one I liked the elements of romance too. I like Ollie having a personal life and she doesn't really in the first few books, so it makes her into more of a real person. I do have to say that the ending felt quite abrupt and I wasn't a big fan of that. It seemed like there should have been at least one more chapter to round things out a little more.
I definitely can't wait to read the next book now and will have to go get it soon. A pretty nice foodie mystery in this installment.
Buffalo West Wing
January 16, 2012
When a dinner guest winds up dead, Ollie and her staff is on suspension. Which drives her nuts. She wants to clear her name, what with reporters and other people slamming her and accusing her of murder, but without being able to be at her job, there's no way to do that. So she does what Ollie does best; she digs for clues wherever she can. And this time, her boyfriend's job is on the line if she does try to search for clues. So she's torn. Clear herself and hurt her boyfriend, or leave things be and possibly lose her job. And with the Easter Egg roll at the White House coming up, she has to get back into her kitchen.
Ollie is always a little bit unbelievable. She seems more interested in mystery than food. But she is still nice to read about and that makes up for it. I did like that we were introduced to her family in this one. It helped explain her background a little and made her seem more realistic. And her grandma was quite a character! I'm still not fond of her boyfriend, he just doesn't seem very nice or supportive of Ollie. Too serious I suppose. The bad guys weren't that chilling in this one either. They had a lot of lead in, but most of this book was about Ollie's personal life more than anything. I do have to say that Bucky was a stand out character in this one. I didn't like him in previous books but I definitely did for this one.
The mystery was hard to solve in this one. And that was because there weren't really any clues for the reader. So in that way it kind of took the fun out of it because I think there would be very few people who would actually guess who the murderer was. And there was less food in this one too. It wasn't described very much and while that could be because Ollie was out of the kitchen for a good portion of the book, I just don't think that excuses it. This is a foodie mystery after all. But they did include some recipes at the end based off of.....you guessed it.....eggs.
An ok cozy mystery, still entertaining to read despite its flaws. I can't wait to move on to the next one by Hyzy.
January 15, 2012
In the small village of Ballybucklebo, two doctors are at odds with their love lives. While they are both general practitioners and have their days filled with patients and other sorts of things that go on in a small town, one is confused about how he feels and the other is suffering from a broken heart. O'Reilly, after losing his wife long ago is unnerved at the thought of being attached again, but he is highly attracted to Kitty and cares for her dearly. He just isn't sure he can make the next step. Barry, has ust been dumped and he suffers from a broken heart, believing that he can never love again and doesn't want to risk putting himself out there anymore. In addition to the heartache, a local man is cheating some of his employees in the horse races and O'Reilly wants to put a stop to that as well.
O'Reilly didn't do much as a character for me. He was a good foil and strong backup for Barry, but on his own he was kind of strange. While I understand his feelings they just weren't expressed in a way that made me connect with him. Barry was annoying sometimes and while I understand his heartache having experienced it recently myself, it brought up several painful memories of my own and made the book a tough read. The side characters were all interesting but it was hard to keep track of them at times as there were quite a few. The housekeeper, Kinky, in particular gave me a good laugh every time I read about her.
There wasn't really a plot per say in this book. It was just a moment in time in the Irish countryside with a town full of quaint people. It basically just tracks their lives and feelings. As such, it was kind of boring to me and moved quite slowly. Even the little side plot about the horse races wasn't enough to make it truly interesting. I would have definitely liked to see more in-depth interaction between the characters instead of little snippets here and there. I did appreciate that they included some recipes at the end, although they didn't look like anything I would ever make myself.
An ok book, and I have a few others by Taylor lying around waiting to be read so I will read more by him. I guess I just wish I would have realized the order of them.
An Irish Country Courtship
January 14, 2012
On a rafting/camping/etc trip in the desert, Ted Kerasote comes across a half grown pup that is wild, but accustomed to humans. As he seems to have no owner, Ted takes him with him and grows to love this dog he names Merle. After the trip, Merle comes home with Ted to Wyoming where he becomes a "free range" dog, doing everything on his own and making his own decisions despite Ted being his master. But this does not present a problem for Ted who believes that this is the way dogs should live. He offers several scientific and behavioral studies in the book to back up his decisions in regards to Merle.
When Ted is talking about Merle its great. You can tell he genuinely loves this dog. Even though Merle sounds a little too good to be true, he does seem like a good dog and quite exceptional. Ted himself takes a backseat to the dog and while he delves into his relationships a bit, he doesn't describe himself as much as he does Merle. Likewise with the people in the town where he lives, their dogs get more explanation and detail than they do. And even those dogs don't get near as much explanation as Merle, which is to be expected.
When Ted's writing about Merle and their exploits together his writing is terrific. You can really feel the connection he has with Merle. But then he starts getting preachy about dog training and how Merle's life is the best compared to most dogs and adds in all the scientific and other stuff. If I had wanted to read about dog training and such I would have chose a book on that and as such, this book just had too much of that in it. I relished the parts where he told the story and dreaded the other parts. Although the last chapter was rather difficult for any animal lover. But it wasn't near as bad as the reviews I had read on it would account for. And that's all I'm saying on that subject as to not spoil it for anyone else. I did enjoy the parts where he and Merle are out and about doing athletic stuff as really enjoys spending time with Merle and doesn't let it keep him from doing what he normally would do if he didn't have a dog.
An ok book. Would have been great if he had chose a topic and stuck with it instead of trying to combine two different types of books. Not sure if I'll read anything else by him or not.
January 11, 2012
Ollie, now executive chef at the White House, is preparing for the holidays and the rush and madness that accompanies it. She has several events to take care of and she and her staff are in overtime trying to get everything done. So when a bomb threat adds even more training and problems to the table, its hard for her to keep up. Especially when trouble just seems to fall into her lap. Trying to solve the mystery on her own and keep her friends and staff safe, Ollie may have bitten off a little more than she can chew this time though.
I like Ollie. I find her character to be a bit unbelievable at times but she's charming. She's not overly prideful and truly enjoys food which is good when the mystery centers around a White House chef. Her kitchen staff is always pretty unique as well and they have quirks all their own. Bucky, the cantankerous chef, especially is amusing to me. Cyan, another chef, didn't get very much time in this book though and I was a little disappointed in that. There are actually a lot of characters in this one because of the First Lady, the President, their friends, other staff, etc. and it can get confusing once in awhile. But that probably mirrors reality as I'm sure there is a lot going on at the White House. The bad guys, well they were somewhat easy to guess but were sneaky enough in their own way.
Because the mystery was somewhat easy to solve I was a little disappointed. Hyzy tries to throw you off but really, its easy to pinpoint at least some of whats going on very early in the book. There were some food descriptions this time, but not as much as in the first book and I found myself missing that. I just love when they talk about food, but at least they threw in some recipes at the end. There's even a few I may attempt because they sound so good. Its a quick read and as a cozy mystery it rates ok. Since it involves the holidays winter is a good time of year to read it and all that was really missing was a warm fire in the fireplace.
I definitely look forward to the next one in the series. Maybe it'll even be as good as the first.
Hail to the Chef
January 10, 2012
In the 1930's in Kansas, a group of women get together for a quilting and literature club every week. They call themselves the Persian Pickles (named after a paisley print) and in the depression its a good way to add some fun to their life. But then, the body of one of their member's husband is found. The newest member of the club, Rita, who's really not much of a sewer wants to be a newsreporter and so sets about trying to solve the mystery of who murdered the man. Queenie, the narrator, tags along with her for the ride.
Queenie was kind of a naive narrator. She was married and younger than I am now, but she still seemed as if she should be in her early teens with some of her actions and mannerisms. She was nice enough, just not a very strong character. The other women in the club all had distinct personalities but I couldn't really connect with any of them and they all seemed to have only one or two traits that made them different and that's what the author focused on, instead of making the character a whole person. Even Queenie's husband, who should have been enjoyable, I couldn't connect to. I do think that there were so many characters that it muddled everything and the book might have benefited from cutting a few out.
While its supposed to be about friendship, there is an element of mystery to this book. You want to know who killed the guy and actually wait for Rita to find out who did it. The rest of the story flits in and out and doesn't really follow a particular rhyme or reason. For being about a quilting club there's not a ton of quilting or quilt meetings in this book which did disappoint me a little bit. And for being a light read there is some violence and other strong themes within. Because of the 1930's setting there are also some expressions used to denote race that aren't as kind as well and allusions to illegal abortion. I did enjoy the predominant theme of loyalty and goodness in this book and the "character" behind some of the characters actions.
I just didn't get engrossed in this book and merely thought it ok. I was looking for something a little warmer and this book was just lukewarm and kind of stale to me.
The Persian Pickle Club
January 09, 2012
Oh my goodness. I haven't read a book this bad in awhile. I rarely give one star reviews and this book inspired me to do it. The book had a good idea, but the follow through was absolutely terrible. I really didn't enjoy it at all if you couldn't tell that already. I should warn that this review will probably contain spoilers, because in an effort to tell you what is wrong with this book, I will have to provide some detail.
Melora lives in a tribe of People. There aren't many of them left and when the Leatherwings come, they destroy what Melora has left leaving her the only human left alive that she knows of. She wanders with her herd of horses until they are forced into a gully by a Centaur group who need fast horses for a race. She takes in with these Centaurs, and a little race of cat people who serve them and is brought to a wondrous city with her horses. Here she starts to receive an education and talks with all the elegant centaur people who have dedicated their lives to being noble and artistic. But she has to find a purpose for her own life, and the centaur leader isn't willing to let her do what she desires.
So let's talk about the characters in this novel. Melora could be a good character. She has all the right stuff for it. But we are told rather than show how wonderful she is. And she's a little too perfect at times with no recognizable flaws, or at least not any that matter. She just doesn't seem believable and her emotions are incredibly skewed and don't make sense compared to the trauma she goes through. And after being brutally set upon and losing some of her horses because of the Centaurs, does she feel anger. Why no, she's ready to take up with them even though they have killed some of her horses! Completely unrealistic. The rest of the Centaurs are pitiful creatures who are wimps. There's such a thing as being soft and artistic but it doesn't mean you have to be boring and weak as well. Its a wonder that they survive being what they are. And then there's the cat people. For some reason or other they decide to enslave themselves for generations in gratitude for a rescue the centaurs did when their homeland was destroyed. Ok, they're cat people. Cats are too persnickety and proud to ever become unpaid servants for generations. Not a good choice of animal for her people. About the only character I was really impressed with was a lowlander Centaur who was a "peacekeeper". He at least had some grit.
And now we go into the novel itself. First of all, its supposed to be a dystopian future of our world. But nothing is ever explained as to how there are Centaurs or why civilization collapsed. And how do we know its the future? Why there are books and such classics like Shakespeare, Dickens, and wait for it.........the author also includes with these ancient tomes Stephanie Meyer as proof that its our world. And I hurt when seeing Meyers included with these other authors. There is the problem with facts as well. Somehow, Melora has a herd of 2 horses and in just three short years has increased this herd to 15 horses (not including other ones that come in as well) descended from the original two. She makes sure to point out that they are bloodline related and I just can't really fathom how that number is possible even knowing as little about horses as I do. Then there's the gem of saying hippos aren't dangerous to humans and a hippo eating or killing a centaur. Killing I could see, but the book implies that the centaur was eaten by the hippo.
The writing itself is very juvenile and almost reads as fanfiction. The dialogue is stilted and doesn't feel like real people talking. There aren't believable motivations as said before. And she mixes tenses all over the place. The plot, while it could have been very exciting with the history behind what had happened in the world, Melora losing her family, and everything else, instead centers on a race with only hints of better conflict to come as this seems to be setting up for a series. But I have to say, those hints didn't do a thing to inspire me to read the next book in the series. I won't pick it up at all. The pace is way too fast and jumps all over the place with sections of the book that could use detail not really having any, and sections that didn't need expanded on, having way too much detail. For instance, I really don't care what color a cloak shimmers when that writing could have been put to better use describing Melora's family and culture.
Not a book I could ever recommend. It needs a lot of work and really should just be redone by the author as the idea has potential but the finished product as it stands is not enjoyable. I feel bad bashing a book like this, but there were just so many problems that couldn't be overlooked.
Daughter of the Centaurs
Abuse always grows worse. The abuser that hits may one day kill. The abuser that starts with only criticizing may evolve into screaming obscenities and insults. Or maybe neither, maybe it will just be a steady erosion of bringing down the partner's self esteem. This book explores that notion and how non-physical abuse is just as serious and as damaging as physical abuse. It starts with clarifying just what non-physical abuse is and the different signs and symptoms of it. Then it goes into the signs of it or how it happens. Why it can happen. Part three covers how others react to non-physical abuse. Often it is invalidated and a common misconception is that if they aren't beating you, its not abuse. Or that the woman could just leave if she were being abused (which is one of the hardest things and near impossible to do as a result of non-physical abuse). The last part covers on whether or not abuse can be stopped. Almost every book I've read states that it is very unlikely that an abuser will ever change or even recognize what they are doing is abuse. But there is a small percentage that will, but it is very very minuscule. More often, making abuse stop lies in the victims end to remove themselves in all ways possible, and this book offers some helpful hints for doing so. It really focuses on acknowledging the abuse, because believing you've been abused is very hard for victims.
I appreciate the tone of this book and its hard stance on NOT blaming the victim. Sure it can be easy to say that someone was asking for it, or they should just get out of a hurtful situation, but until you've been there, you can't know how hard it actually is. And non-physical abuse is very clever. It erodes your self esteem and makes you feel as if what is happening is normal and that you deserve the abuse. You may not even realize you're abused until someone tells you (this is what happened to me). You may know something is wrong, but you don't realize its as serious as you think as "all couples fight". The difference is in the way people fight. Some of it is not natural. This book helps identify if you are possibly with an abuser. It gives 9 guidelines and even answering yes to one of these means you could be in an abusive relationship.
Some of the other books I've read focus more on trying to "fix" an abusive relationship. Which is not helpful at all. This book doesn't do that. This is more an educational and informational book with no other purpose than to educate. I'd say that of everything I've read, this book, and Lundy Bancroft's Why Does He Do That have been the best on the subject. They offer ways of coping and validation for what a victim has experienced. It doesn't expect the victim to "fix" the abuser and give false hope or expectations. And while this book doesn't sugar coat things, its not rough to read either. It won't make you feel bad if you haven't removed yourself from an abusive situation. My only complaint is that it really only focuses on "full blown" abusive situations. It doesn't really offer as much help for those people who left while the abuse was still "light" (if abuse can ever be called such a thing) or who left just as the abuse was beginning. It can make it hard to relate to at times.
This book will be staying in my library. Its a valuable resource and a good book to turn to for validation.
No Visible Wounds
January 08, 2012
Melinda and Robert Blanchard, after selling their business at far below what they should have, decided they want to live on the island of Anguilla. Not as well known to the tourists, but still with a thriving tourist economy, they decide they will open a restaurant on the beach and make their living that way. The only problem is that things are very very expensive in Anguilla and bringing things in from the outside even more expensive. And running a restaurant is tough enough when you can get everything easily. The easy peaceful life they were looking for quickly evolves into something a little more fast paced and difficult.
I found Melinda a somewhat ok narrator. She focuses on the hardships more than the pleasures of island living and even insults her husband by calling him an optimist like its a bad thing. I guess I just didn't like the negativity. Her husband seems like he'd be the more enjoyable narrator but he doesn't really write this book despite his name being on the cover. She does describe the island people fairly, but I would have liked to hear a lot more about them.
Most of this book, as opposed to being about the island and the people, was more about the running of a restaurant. And while I enjoy books about food immensely, that wasn't what I expected going into this novel. Although I was happy that she included several recipes for different foods. But the food they did cook wasn't really island food per say. It was more fancy stuff as they opened a fancy restaurant. I guess thats what happens when you're in a tourist area though. To be honest, the food places they visited sounded more appealing to me than their restaurant.
An ok travel book with food elements thrown in. Not my favorite of the travel books I've read but not the worst either.
A Trip to the Beach
January 07, 2012
Even though he was making good money in a high powered job at Microsoft, John Wood decided that he needed to do more with his life. Having traveled in Nepal and loving its scenery and people, he was crushed to see the appalling state of its schools. Which led him to quit his job and start a program to build schools and libraries in Nepal and give children the gift of reading. Although he starts out small, what grows to be known as Room to Read really expands and is still doing a lot of good even today. They continue to expand and help in several countries and help thousands of children receive a better education each year.
John's story is pretty inspriational. He seems to do a lot of good and I particularly like his stance on education for girls. He just is one of those genuinely good people that I sometimes think there are too few of in the world. He is very fair to the people he describes in his book too. Even if they do have flaws he is accepting of it rather than saying nasty things about them or looking down on them for it.
I like that John uses a lot of details and statistics in his book. Like he says, he wants to back up what the organization does and prove that they are putting donations to good use. And judging by the figures found on the website, they are doing very well in that regard. I also like how he incorporates what he learned working for Microsoft into how he runs his charity. Now, at times this book can feel a bit like a sales pitch, but that's to be expected. I fully this book is intended to help bring donations to the organization. And there's nothing wrong with that. But some of the repetitive details can get a little bland at times and I would have loved to see more description on the actual schools and people in them rather than the fund-raising methods.
A great book to read if you like reading about how charitable organizations get going and the good people can do in the world. John Wood has done a tremendous job with his vision.
Leaving Microsoft to Change the World
January 06, 2012
After discovering her brother's betrayal and deciding to stay at the Institute with the Nephilim, Tessa finds herself trying to help them as they search for the evil Mortmain who is determined to bring them down. Its so hard to tell who is good and bad though and its not only Tessa who is having that problem. Even the head of the institute, Charlotte has to watch her back as others seek to remove her from office and leave the institute vulnerable during these troubled times. Tessa has more than just that to worry about though. She has been falling for Jem, despite her attraction to Will, and she is confused by her feelings for the two. Her heart is pulling her in two directions and with all the danger lurking about from Mortmain and his automotons she can't focus on it too hard or she may end up in his clutches.
I was a bit put out by Tessa in this novel. I'm a huge fan of Jem's and I found her treatment of him abhorrent. I just don't really see her attraction to the brooding Will, even if he does have a plausible story for his behavior. And speaking of Will, the difference in his character just rang untrue to me. He does have a reason for the switch but its not nearly compelling for how much it is different. Jem is as sweet as ever and I think that I have been reading this series mostly for him I admire him so (although I read because its a good book too). I thought the side characters were a little less as well this time around. They weren't as developed as they were in the first book. And some of the new characters were hardly given any time at all except for some superficial aspects of their personalities.
This book moved much slower than the last one. There was a lot more dialogue and the action scenes were less. I'm not really complaining per say, it was just a noticeable difference. This book was a little more risque too. Not anything near so wild that it dropped out of its realm as a young adult novel, but there was a bit of passion. Since it was mostly dialogue the bad guys weren't nearly as exciting to read about in this book. But I think as the second in the trilogy it does a good job of providing background and providing a middle to what is sure to be an exciting end.
I don't know what I'll do until the third book comes out. Perhaps go visit her other series which is somewhat related. I'm normally not so giddy over a series but I definitely want to know what happens this one.
Tessa travels to London after her aunt dies to be reunited with her brother Nate. But when she arrives, two strange women called the dark sisters kidnap her and tell her they're keeping her brother hostage. They explain to her that she has a unique talent of changing into people and that they will force her to learn how to use it so she can be married to the Magister, a powerful being who runs an exclusive group of people interested in the supernatural,demon,etc. world in London. Tessa is rescued though by a strange boy named Will. He takes her back to the institute where he and other beings known as Nephilim fight the demons that plague London. Because she seems tied in to a very insidious plot, Tessa is able to stay with them and quickly meets and grows fond of some of the other Nephilim. But Will is the one that makes her heart beat a little faster when she sees him.
Tessa is kind of a weird character but I like her. She's entirely too naive and maybe I just missed it but I'm not sure how old she is. My guess would be sixteen or so but she acts much younger sometimes. Will is very broody and moody and everything most girls are attracted too which automatically makes him the worst possible love interest for Tessa, but alas, hearts are foolish sometimes. He does have some pretty terrific battle scenes. I absolutely loved Jem and his kindness, the opposite of broody and moody he of course is the one I had the major crush on. The other characters were interesting too and they all had something to add to the story. Even the bad guys were fairly menacing in this one.
As I said before it started off slow but that didn't last long. Once I got to know the characters I was riveted. I like the idea of the clockwork and slight steampunk elements that were thrown in, but I would call this book largely fantasy. It had all sorts of magic, supernatural beings, and a quest to save the world from evil. But it was told in a very unique way. At least its nothing like anything I've ever read before. There are slight hints of romance, but since this is technically a young adult novel there was nothing too risque in it.
I did love this book and I probably rank it the best I've read this year so far. Which granted its not too far into the year, but still the best. I can't wait to read the second one.
January 04, 2012
Postman bases this book on the fact that television, and entertaining media in general, is going to be the "death" of American civilization. He argues that unlike the oratory presentations of the past and written word, new media that goes everywhere quickly is taking over the human mind and making our thinking corrupted. In history, before television, radio, the telegraph and other quick means of communication, hour long arguments and debates were normal. And they weren't dumbed down for the audience but rather prized for their complexity. Then there was the written word, in which so much can be expressed and is generally taken to be more valid than the oral word such as in agreements or contracts.
A very interesting notion that Postman shows is when he discusses Orwell and Huxley and their very different visions of the future through their dystopian books. He believes that while Orwell had a decent idea that maybe the world will be taken over by force one day, it seems more possible that Huxley's vision of the world being taken over through pleasure is much more likely. Humans like instant gratification and if entertained enough will forget why they do something or may not even realize when freedoms are taken away. Or care if they do notice. He argues that television is just a method of giving this instant gratification.
Like I said, this book was very dated but it still held some relevant truths. For instance, he barely touches on computers as they weren't a main media when this book was written. And I wonder if computers the way they are today would change his mind or just further enforce what he believes. Because with a computer there are both fast conversations yet also through the use of blogs and message boards longer discussions can be found that are much like books. And computers also offer books online giving them a revival of sorts. I do think that he is a bit of an alarmist. Anything in moderation is ok, its when we let it take over our whole lives that it becomes a trouble.
An interesting book and definitely worth a read. I love books so I am a big believer in the written word. But I also find a good use in the tv as background noise while doing other tasks so alas, I will maybe find myself succumbed to the mindlessness entertainment it provides.
Amusing Ourselves to Death
Bleachers explores the hometown of Messina, a college town where one coach "ruled" for a long time. That would be Eddie Rake, who was known for winning championships and being hard on players. Neely Crenshaw, a quarterback who played for a few years has arrived back in town for the first time in years when the news of the Coach's impending death reaches him. He isn't the only one, many players flock back to reminisce and wait for his death. They all have their own stories and memories of the coach too.
Neely Crenshaw, the main narrator is not very likable at all. In fact, I thought he was selfish and completely unrelatable. I didn't care about his sad little life and his regrets at all, which made this book even harder to read. The other players were a little better, but really, it was just a bunch of guys swapping football stories that probably only they would care about. The Coach too was a hard character to like, but at least he was supposed to be that way.
Ok, so I don't like football, but as said before I like heartwarming underdog stories. This one just didn't do it for me. The pace was very slow, the characters unlikable, and the stories they told really didn't hold any interest. And in a way it was kind of morbid the way they were waiting for someone to die. As my first experience with Grisham I have to say that it kind of makes me hesitate to read anything else by him, which is a shame because he has written a lot of books that sounded interesting. About the only thing I did like this book was that it was short, and I guess I can see why football fans would like it, so I rated it higher than one star as a result.
Not my type of read at all. I won't be touching Grisham for awhile as a result.
January 02, 2012
When Faith rides into the small Texas town of Bramble she hopes to just find her long lost twin sister. What she doesn't expect is to run into handsome Slate, a cowboy coach who is well known about town. And she also doesn't expect to be taken for her twin sister Hope but things roll into one another and soon enough the entire town is convinced she's Hope and that she and Slate are meant to be together. Not that that's a problem of course, she's pretty attracted to Slate, but her goal is not to stay there, she just wants to find her sister and regain whatever sort of family she can since she lost her adoptive parents. Slate isn't sure what to think of Faith either. He's very attracted to her but he's not really the settling type. But there's something about Faith that makes him think he could change his mind.
Faith is a pretty good character. Much more likable than her sister Hope in my eyes anyway. She has just enough innocence to be believable but some fire too. Slate even is a decent character. He's strong, handsome, and has a few flaws to make him realistic. The problem I have is pairing the two together. Besides physical attraction I just couldn't figure out the draw between the two. The hot and cold elements of their relationship were confounding and I was never quite sure why different actions triggered different attractions between them. The townspeople were pretty dense too. It seemed pretty unbelievable that they would confuse Faith for Hope for the amount of time that they did.
As a romance goes it was ok. The bedroom scenes were pretty steamy and there were quite a few of them. I liked the idea of the plot and of the two twin sisters who didn't know about each other. It did seem plausible to me that Faith would seek her sister out, but the rest of the antics of the town and just the general goings on didn't ring authentic to me at all. There were just so many things that people did or believed that I figured either they were a town of idiots or reality really was suspended for the plot. I guess I just wish there were more plausible motivations for people's actions in the book. I also thought that the pace moved very very fast. Slowing it up might have given more room for better plot devices.
I'll still read the sequel probably. Just because of the cover on that one too. And they are a quick light read for those who like cowboy romances.
Going Cowboy Crazy
Mattie has come to town to seek vengeance on her father's murderer. She hires a drunk Marshall known as Rooster Cogburn to catch the criminal and insists on setting out with him on the journey. They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf who also wants to catch this criminal for other reasons. But the woods are a rough place and the criminal in with a bad crowd. Mattie may just be in the way but she's determined to see the venture through.
Mattie is a very strong character. She knows what she wants and she's willing to do anything to get her way. She is also very astute in her business dealings. She makes a nice pair with Cogburn who is mostly gruff and at times humorous in his drinking. But as the book is about, he has grit. LaBoeuf I actually don't care for as much and I really don't think he adds a whole lot to the book. The bad guys are kind of tame in this book as well.
I like the notion of Mattie avenging her father and having an adventure. Its not your typical western with the damsel in distress. Its also not as gruff as a lot of westerns so its an easy read in that aspect as well. Its definitely a quick read as you get so caught up in the story that it just flys right on by. My only complaint would be that there is not a whole ton of detail, and that could account for some of the quickness in the book.
But as Westerns go, this is a great one. I highly recommend both the book and the movie.
Upheaval seems to be nothing new for the world A Game of Thrones takes place in. There are always intrigues and other things to keep people on their toes. Among them, the family Stark has been charged with upholding honor and in their frozen north it seems honor may be all they have compared to the wealth of the southern cities. But when Lord Stark is called to be the hand of the King, he is thrust into politics and danger lurks at every corner. And whether he likes it or not, his children are involved in one way or another as well. In a different part of the land, Deny, a young princess has just been made bridge to the lord of a fierce and wild tribe. Descended from Kings and outcasted, she knows in her blood that she is the last of the dragons. She wants to regain her homeland, but with a crazed brother and new rules to learn with her new tribe, she wonders if she will be able to be strong enough to rule.
So while the Starks are the main characters of this novel, Deny is my favorite. She is a very intriguing character. Young, but with a good head on her shoulders and strong when she needs to be. But she can also be brutal which makes her interesting. The Starks are ok, especially Jon, the son sent to guard the dangerous wall to the North. He has a lot of compassion despite the way he is treated so often. The other Stark kids I didn't find as fascinating, and honestly, a good portion of them were just annoying and sniveling. Their father wasn't very likable either as he seemed like an idiot with some of his decisions. The bad guys are ok, and can be very menacing at times.
This book is very brutal. There is rape, incest, war, abuse, and a myriad of other harsh topics. Its not for the light hearted. Some of it even made me cringe a bit. But the writing, when its flowing smoothly is good. My main complaint about this book is the amount it bounces around. Each chapter seems to be from a different point of view and I would have preferred to just have a couple point of views that maybe covered a couple chapters at a time instead. It would have made the book easier to follow. And in the beginning its definitely hard to follow with all the characters introduced and things going on. By the end of the book I was all caught up on who was who, but it lessened my enjoyment that it took so long to have that happen. The book wasn't extremely original either. While there were some elements that were I recognized bits and pieces from all over. And maybe Martin did have some of those elements first but he couldn't have had them all. Still entertaining reading and I like the fantasy genre so I can't bash it too hard, but I'm not going to proclaim it wonderful either.
A solid 3.5 stars from me. I'll definitely read the rest of the series and take a look at the tv show, but there are other fantasies I'd put ahead of it.
A Game of Thrones