Charmed at First Sight by Sharla Lovelace is a story of not losing who you are in the mist of longing to be loved. It's a fun, fast-paced read that doesn't take itself too seriously.Read More
I actually read this book back in November. I read it again in one day while on vacation. It's summer. My brain is melting from the Texas heat, and I needed something fun to read. Plus, it takes place in Montana. The descriptions of snow and cold air give me just enough chill to forget I like three doors down from the gates of Hades until about November.
And descriptions of snow and cold are as close as I really want to be to it. I'll complain about my Texas heat, but I'll take 112 degrees over freezing any day!
Small towns and gossip go together like flaky crust and sweet pastry cream.
Between the police scanners, the coffee ladies, and the senior center, no secret is safe for long. But Vangie Vale wants nothing more than to stay under the radar...especially the police radar.
So when her new bakery is linked to a murder investigation, nothing will stop the gossip mill from connecting her to the dead body. Can't have that.
In order to clear her good name and keep her face off the front page, this bakery owner becomes extra nosy...with a little side of breaking-and-entering. But when she comes face-to-face with the Sheriff, Vangie can't ignore the fact that one of her macarons was involved in a murder. She has to find the real murderer.
Vangie Vale and the Murdered Macaron is a clean, cozy mystery that has kind of a Murder, She Wrote vibe. I mean that in the best possible way. I really enjoyed Vangie as a character. She is a pastor, but that doesn't make her unrelatable. She still lashes out in anger, makes mistakes, and has a physical attraction to men.
Vangie has a great wit and hilarious inner dialogue that sometimes becomes outer dialogue which gets her into trouble. I feel that on a soul-mate level. I hate it when my filter fails.
R.L. Syme's conversational style of writing feels like you're just snuggled in on a cold day, listening to her tell you how this all happened.
I loved that most of Vangie's snooping isn't without consequence. She finds herself facing off with the sheriff, the church board, and the town gossips.
She also has a cast of secondary characters that draw you into the small town of Saint Agnes. It starts to feel like a place you'd go visit a great aunt who'd sit on her floral print sofa and tell you stories about all the people she knew until you were both giggling.
I would definitely recommend Vangie to my friends who like cozies. It is very clean. There is no foul language, very little violence, and references to sex, but they are extremely mild and not described in detail at all.
What it does have is fun characters and an intriguing puzzle of a plot that keeps you (and Vangie) guessing.
And there is a recipe for Macarons! Which I'm not going to make because, well, baking and I aren't exactly friends, (I don't even own one of those big, stand-up mixer thingies) but I'm sure someone would greatly appreciate!
Side note: Months after I'd read this for the first time, my daughter's high school theatre had A Night in Paris as the theme for their annual banquet. There were macarons. Every time someone mentioned them, I thought of Vangie!
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I have no review for you today and that makes me sad.
Preparing for today, I tried to read three different books.
I walked away from each one of them.
Two of them I might go back for later.
One I declared DNF (Did Not Finish).
That's why I'm sad.
Paul Copeland, a New Jersey county prosecutor, is still grieving the loss of his sister twenty years ago—the night she walked into the woods, never to be seen again. But now, a homicide victim is found with evidence linking him to the disappearance. The victim could be the boy who vanished along with Paul's sister.Read More
Time for my annual post of Five Books I'm Reading This Summer and Five You Should.Read More
Selena Laurence has quickly become an auto-buy author for me. It is all about her characters. She makes them so authentic and complex that you'd swear they were going to step out of the book and have a cup of coffee with you.
I was thrilled when I saw the blurb for Breath of Deceit. An Irish crime family? A genius hacker? I started waving my hand in the air like Hermione, begging for a chance to review it. Me! Me! Pick Me!!!!
The Departed gets a modern upgrade with the injection of cybercrime and four sexy Irish mob brothers fighting to stay alive amidst drug deals and FBI probes.
Cian MacFarlane is the oldest son of Chicago's reigning crime family. Now the defacto boss of the organization after his father's retirement, Cian is feared by his enemies and revered by his brothers. But what if Cian isn't all he seems to be? What if his end game isn't to maintain his father's empire but to topple it? As the MacFarlanes broker a deal with the owner of the world's largest dark web site, Cian brokers a deal with the FBI. But when he meets Lila Rodriguez, a genius hacker working with the dark web, his feelings for her only make life more complex.
Determined to save his brothers, even if it means sacrificing himself, Cian lives moment to moment in a deadly underworld of cybercrime, drug deals, federal agents, and a vengeful parent who won't hesitate to remind his oldest son what it means to be a MacFarlane. Through it all, Cian fights for his brothers to make it out of Chicagoland crime. But will the pieces fall into place before his breath of deceit is discovered?
Since Breath of Deceit is the start of the Dublin Devils series, the beginning has a little bit of set up and sorting of characters, but then it takes off and you can't look away.
Lila is the epitome of a strong female character that kicks ass with her brains and skills rather than Lara Croft style. She's witty, smart, and doesn't bother waiting around for the male characters to take charge. She can handle it herself.
Cian is the perfect antihero. He's doing what he has to do to protect his family and doesn't really care if that's in line with the law or not. He has his own code and part of that means doing what's necessary to protect those he loves.
This cast is round out with three of Cian's brothers and their tyrant of a father. The family dynamics are heart-wrenchingly realistic.
This book reads like Sons of Anarchy meets Road to Perdition (or maybe Casino.) It's an intriguing plot that delves the reader deep into the underworld of organized crime and even deeper into the mind of a man born to lead who only wants out.
Selena Laurence is an expert at building tension and suspense.
I actually breathed a sigh of relief at one point. Of course, that was short-lived because...well, I can't tell you. But trust me, it's intense.
Without spoilers I will say the ending leaves you satisfied but dying for the next one!
I will be recommending this to several friends and anxiously awaiting the next in the series!
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I love Jody Hedlund’s books because the writing is amazing. She takes these tiny moments in history and turns them into these epic stories. You know that feeling when you're reading, and suddenly the words aren't there anymore, it's just this movie playing in your head? That's what her books are like.
Eleanor Ames has never been what she seems. Average high school student on the outside, but reformed con artist trying to break free of her past on the inside. When Eleanor receives startling news about someone from her previous criminal life, plans for a new operation coinciding with her school’s upcoming field trip quickly consume her.Read More
I am not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination. So I didn't think this book was for me.
Until I picked it up...and read it nonstop in three days, could not stop talking about it, and basically demanded my fourteen year-old read it immediately.Read More
Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?
When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.
But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.
Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?
*Sigh* I was so looking forward to this book. I LOVED The Dry. Definitely consider it one of the best books I read last year. I could not wait to get my hands on this. I set aside an entire day just to read it. So it's possible I had some serious expectations that Force of Nature just couldn't match.
It is a fast-paced read with an intriguing premise. I finished it in one day (about six hours). The point-of-view shifts between Aaron Falk and chapters dedicated to each of the women on the hiking trip. There is still a good puzzle to put together with many red herrings, but the characters never fully materialized and became relatable for me. In the beginning, I had a hard time keeping the women apart.
As the story continued, the plot twists are more perplexing than surprising. And it's really hard to imagine this scenario playing out in real life. They dump these inexperienced campers in the middle of the Australian wilderness (or bush, or whatever the heck they call it) with no way to call for help? What if someone breaks an arm? They're just supposed to make a sling out of an extra t-shirt and grit their teeth through the pain for the next three days? There would definitely be more safe guards in place for these women.
I've done some weird stuff in the name of team building. Walking around an auditorium full of teachers, tying yarn onto other people's string necklaces as I told them how much I appreciated them comes to mind. But even they never sent us out camping without so much as a flare gun.
I kept reading because I wanted it to all come together. I wanted to see the pieces fall into place and get hit with that brilliant twist of a finale. Unfortunately, it was a twist, but not a wholly unpredictable one. The clues were telegraphed to the reader way before the action.
And (without giving away spoilers) the subplot with Aaron just held zero interest for me this time.
So, the book was okay. Not great. Not terrible. Interesting enough to keep me reading on a lazy afternoon. Not something I'll still be talking about weeks from now, but I still enjoyed the writing style and will pick up another book by Jane Harper.
In January I wrote about my personal reading challenge from 2018—to read one book in each series that my mom left behind. You can read about it here.
High Profile by Robert B. Parker was the first one I picked up. That series is on the top shelf of the left side of the bookcase. Seemed like as good a place as any to start. I picked it up knowing nothing about Robert B. Parker or his characters. I also didn't know that it is the sixth book in the series. Guess I should have checked a list or something. I picked High Profile because it Mom had it in paperback and hardback, which means either she really liked it, or she'd bought it, forgot she bought it, and bought it again. That happened quite often.
The murder of a notorious public figure places Paradise, Massachusetts, police chief Jesse Stone in the harsh glare of the media spotlight.
When the body of controversial talk-show host Walton Weeks is discovered hanging from a tree on the outskirts of Paradise, police chief Jesse Stone finds himself at the center of a highly public case, forcing him to deal with small-minded local officials and national media scrutiny. When another dead body-that of a young woman-is discovered just a few days later, the pressure becomes almost unbearable.
Two victims in less than a week should provide a host of clues, but all Jesse runs into are dead ends. But what may be the most disturbing aspect of these murders is the fact that no one seems to care-not a single one of Weeks's ex-wives, not the family of the girl. And when the medical examiner reveals a heartbreaking link between the two departed souls, the mystery only deepens.
Despite Weeks's reputation and the girl's tender age, Jesse is hard-pressed to find legitimate suspects. Though the crimes are perhaps the most gruesome Jesse has ever witnessed, it is the malevolence behind them that makes them all the more frightening. Forced to delve into a world of stormy relationships, Jesse soon comes to realize that knowing whom he can trust is indeed a matter of life and death.
This is a series I will definitely keep! It is a good, old-fashion detective story. Remember Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer?
It's like that.
The descriptions are sparse and the characters' inner thoughts are even less. Almost everything is dialogue and action. I loved it!
I wouldn't recommend this series to everyone. I could name several friends right now who would hate it, because they thrive on knowing the character's innermost emotions. This wouldn't satisfy them.
Also, my romantic suspense-loving friends, this wouldn't be for you. There is a romantic subplot. It's not going to end how you want it to. For me, it was more distracting than endearing.
My only other issue was that it is the sixth in a series. Several characters popped in and out that I had no clue who they were or what they represented. I'm sure if I'd started with book one, I would have enjoyed it that much more.
Guess I should go see if Mom even had book one.
Maisey Yates has become a comfort read for me. I am huge fan of the Donnelly family arc of her Copper Ridge series and was excited to see at the end of Christmas Time Cowboy that a new series was coming featuring the residents of nearby Gold Valley.
Smooth-Talking Cowboy is the first the new series.
Welcome to Gold Valley, Oregon, where a rough-and-tumble rancher and the girl next door are about to learn that opposites attract
Olivia Logan has a plan: win back her ex by making him see what he’s missing. But first she needs to find a man who’s willing to play along. With his laid-back cowboy charm and knack for getting under her skin, Luke Hollister is an unlikely hero—but he wants her help convincing her father to sell him land, which means he needs her as much as she needs him.
Luke likes his life—and his women—uncomplicated. So why does good girl Olivia heat his blood like no one else? She’s always been off-limits, but the more time they spend as Gold Valley’s hottest new “couple,” the more real it’s starting to feel. Luke was supposed to help her win back another man…not keep her in his arms. But now that he has her there, he’s not sure he’ll ever let go.
This book is everything I've come to expect from Maisey Yates. Cowboys with hard bodies, soft hearts, and a witty sense of humor. Smart women who don't rely on a man to rescue them but sure appreciate being swept off their feet. Great banter and searing hot love scenes.
I appreciated the nods to the Copper Ridge characters and was even more excited about the new characters that I know will be sharing their stories soon!
I love how there are so many hints for what's to come, but they don't slow down the story at all.
Overall, loved this. Absolutely recommend it to anyone who like comtemporary romance!
Can't wait for the next one!
For my 2018 reading challenge, I'm tackling authors that were Mom's favorites. You can read about it here. Sophie Kinsella was on her list. So I was thrilled to get approved through Netgalley for Surprise Me.
After ten years together, Sylvie and Dan have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, and beautiful twin girls, and they communicate so seamlessly they finish each other’s sentences. They have a happy marriage and believe they know everything there is to know about each other. Until it’s casually mentioned to them that they could be together for another sixty-eight years . . . and panic sets in.
They decide to bring surprises into their marriage to keep it fresh and fun. But in their pursuit of Project Surprise Me—from unexpected gifts to restaurant dates to sexy photo shoots—mishaps arise, with disastrous and comical results. Gradually, surprises turn to shocking truths. And when a scandal from the past is uncovered, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other at all.
With a colorful cast of eccentric characters, razor-sharp observations, and her signature wit and charm, Sophie Kinsella presents a humorous yet moving portrait of a marriage—its intricacies, comforts, and complications. Surprise Me reveals that hidden layers in a close relationship are often yet to be discovered.
Even though her Shopaholic Series has repeatedly been recommended to me, I've never read Sophie Kinsella.
I did enjoy the writing style. It reads very similar to Bridget Jones Diary (the actual book, not the movie) which I loved. This book has several laugh out loud moments, but I will admit I had a hard time relating to the characters.
They have the perfect marriage, perfect children, and a great life. It's like the part in Sleepless in Seattle when Meg Ryan is with Bill Pullman. Everything is so in sync that it is just bland.
So they set about spicing things up by planning "surprises" that aren't really surprises because they know each other too well...or they don't. It's an odd mix. Some of the situations were pretty funny, but a few times I found myself rolling my eyes and thinking, "Just TALK to each other already!"
The book takes a very predictable shift about half way through. That's when I lost interest and started rolling my eyes way more.
Without spoiling anything, it frustrates me when a grown woman is treated like a tenderhearted child, even in the name of protecting her fragile feelings.
Overall, it wasn't a bad read. I would recommend this book to several friends who I know would enjoy the antics. I did appreciate the writing style and I can see why the author is so highly recommended. I have several of the Shopaholic series on my shelf. I found many reviews from long-standing fans who claimed this was not her best work, so I'll probably give her another shot before deciding if those books stay or go.
Vanquish Your Writing Doubts & Obstacles
Writing is a vulnerable occupation; it is both personal and intimate. The act of writing, cycles of revision, and the confusing publishing industry can shatter a writer's confidence, leaving you feeling like an imposter, overcome with rejection. Survival--and success--requires commitment, honesty, courage, resilience, sacrifice, and miles and miles of heart.
You have everything you need as a writer--it lies within, in the form of consistency and self-confidence. With Write Smart, Write Happy, best-selling author Cheryl St. John will help you unlock your skills, guiding you to overcome every hesitation, obstacle, form of writer's block, and procrastination habit you have. Within these pages, you'll learn to:
- Organize your writing life by using a planner, scheduling your yearly goals, and acknowledging career plans.
- Sharpen your saw by recharging your creativity, developing positive motivation, and creating healthy writing habits.
- Affirm your beliefs by overcoming self-doubt, learning to use affirmations, and altering your thinking.
- Conquer remaining fears by releasing tendencies towards perfectionism and establishing strategies for habitual success.
Written with a no-nonsense attitude, St. John's "advice from the trenches" will help you take an introspective look at your own writing habits and life. Through examples and inspiration from writers who struggled with--and overcame--rejection and reservations, discover the path towards writing smarter and happier today.
As an aspiring author, I was thrilled to be approved for Write Smart, Write Happy: How to Become a More Productive, Resilient and Successful Writer . Just look at how much promise is in that title!
The book wasn't at all what I was expecting. It was so much better.
This isn't a grammar guide or a how-to-get-published formula. It isn't a book for new writers who haven't been in the game for a while. Newbie Writer Dawn would have either been completely overwhelmed or would have completely dismissed most of this information.
This is the perfect book for Present Day Writer Dawn, who has been studying the craft, submitting, and working toward publication for a while. Someone who has seen behind the curtain and knows The Wizard is actually a tiny man with bad hair.
Even more so, it is the perfect book for a multi-published veteran author.
Back when I was starting my family, there was a series of books called "The Girlfriends' Guides." by Vicki Iovine. The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy and The Girlfriends' Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood were straight-forward, no nonsense, frank descriptions of pregnancy and the aftermath that skipped the glowing parts and went directly to what you really needed to be prepared for.
Write Smart, Write Happy reads like a Girlfriends' Guide to Being an Author. Cheryl St. John sums this up in a simple statement. "I've been called painfully honest in the past because my thinking is why not tell it like it is so others don't think they're the only ones with these feelings?"
The first part of the book is a deep study in goal setting and deciding how bad you do you want it?
Every chapter has examples from other authors and practical activities for exploring and reflecting on how you process the information. These real-life applicable strategies continue through discussions of struggling with rejection, negativity, jealousy, confidence, time management, priorities, burn-out, and several other topics that authors will recognize from each step of their journey.
What resonated the most with me is there is no magic pill and whatever works for you is right as long as it is truly working for you.
I prefer to have craft books in print so I can make notes, add stickies, and underline passages that speak to me. I can't wait to get my print copy of this, so I can transfer the over fifty notes I made in the Kindle file.
I will absolutely be recommending this book to several of my author friends.
The only thing that kept it from being a five-star read for me was the second part, which I still found informative and helpful, became slightly repetitive.
First, let's talk about how great a title that is! Friends and Other Liars. Doesn't just sum up middle school/high school in four simple words?
Here is what it is about:
To all my old friends:
So here you all are. Nice to see you can show up for a person once he's dead.
When Ruby St. James returns to her hometown, it is to the grave of her old friend Danny, a member of a group that was, ten years ago, Ruby's whole world. The crew made a pact back then: stay together, stay loyal, and stay honest. But that was before all of the lies.
Because even friends keep secrets. They just don't stay secret for long.
Now Danny has left behind a letter for each of them, issuing one final ultimatum: share your darkest betrayal to the group, or risk it coming out in a trap he has created. When past mistakes resurface, the lines of friendship blurb, and four old friends are left trying to understand what it means to lie to the ones you love best.
Side note: The first line of that blurb reminds me of a lyric from The Band Perry's song If I Die Young. "Funny when you're dead how people start listening."
Anyway, back to the review.
This book reads like the 80s movie The Big Chill meets Clue (the movie, not the board game, which I hear they are remaking by the way! And Ryan Reynolds is going to be in it. Wow, I am easily distractible today.)
People who were friends a decade ago have gathered again in the wake of a friend's suicide and are confronted with the ultimatum of revealing their darkest secrets themselves or having them revealed for them. It is a story of teenage decisions leading to adult judgement and how well do you really know those closest to you?
Overall, I enjoyed the story. It is told a little heavy-handed for my taste. I kept waiting for the threat of their secrets to really up the suspense, but it stayed at a low burn the whole book.
The story is told through a dual timeline (with flashbacks within flashbacks) and multiple POVs (point-of-view). The characters voices weren't quite different enough to make the multiple POVs work for me.
Also, complete personal preference, I don't care for the trend of the character "breaking the fourth wall." Multiple times a character addresses the reader directly. That takes me out of the story. Don't talk to me. Just go about your twisted little journey and let me watch.
The story is intriguing with some decent twists. As in The Big Chill, there is plenty of blame and unresolved conflicts thrown around. But the characters kept me at arms' length. I couldn't fully empathize or sympathize with them, and that made the story drag some for me.
That being said, I would recommend this book to friends who like a good, angsty story, and I would be willing to check out more from this author.
So many memories. So little time. In an astounding thriller ripped from tomorrow’s headlines, cutting-edge technology and a pulse-pounding manhunt lead to a conspiracy of money, power, and sex.
Cole remembers what it’s like to be murdered. That’s how he does his job. The operation takes eight hours with a dead body on the table next to his; when it’s over, he’s flooded with images, thoughts, recollections, some hazy, some crystal clear. They all come straight from the victim’s brain—right up until his or her final chilling moments.
Cole’s career in homicide has wreaked havoc on his personal life. As usual, his new case—a young runaway battered to death with a hammer—consumes all his waking moments . . . and then some. Haunted by the Jane Doe’s hopes, desires, and fears, Cole mentally retraces her every move, from Kansas to New York City, to track down a killer.
But Cole has a terrible suspicion that someone is using the same memory-transfer science for a very different purpose. In fact, he’s already being watched. Because Cole’s the only one standing in the way of a ruthless corporation that’s harvesting people for their most intimate memories—and eliminating anyone who stands in the way.
The premise for The Memory Detective is so intriguing! The idea that memories could be transferred to someone else after death is fascinating. The theory in the book is that not only are murder victim's memories transferred, but also just everyday people's memories are given to family members. Imagine that for minute. Think of all the family secrets that would be revealed!
I really had high hopes for this book. The plot moved at a good pace that kept me interested, but it almost felt as if this would work better as a movie. The frequent point-of-view changes became distracting to me as a reader. It would be easier to process on screen.
As someone who enjoys the puzzle aspect of a well-written mystery, I was disappointed The Memory Detective didn't offer much of an opportunity to solve the crime on my own. Most of the details are telegraphed to the reader in advance of the characters discovering the clues.
The characters are likable and sympathetic. The main character has almost a Sherlock quality about him (which I love! By the way, if you ever want to talk Sherlock. I'm totally down for that!)
He doesn't mean to be as abrupt as he is, his brain is just working overtime. I liked that the issue of how having all a world of other people's memories in his head would impact his own memories and relationships.
I would recommend this book with some caveats that I will discuss next. Also, the ending hints at a series. I liked this book enough to give the next one a chance as well.
My hesitations with recommending this come from more of a writer critique than a reader review. Aspects that bothered me might never be noticed by a reader who hasn't spent time studying the craft of writing.
First, the POV (Point-of-view) changes. I understand some of them are necessary for the nature of the story. Cole has to go into the memories of the victims. Those worked well for me. But there are several scenes were the POV changed multiple times in mid-scene (what is sometimes referred to as "head-hopping"). I found that extremely distracting and hope it is something that is addressed during the final editing.
Second, author intrusion. I don't want to feel like I am being told a story. I want to LIVE that story. So, when the author's voice pops in with "if he had only known what was to come" or "he had no idea how bad things were about to be", it yanks me out of what I was enjoying. Of course things are going to worse! I don't need to be slapped in the face with ominous foreshadowing. *Note: These are not actual quotes from the book, but there were similar statements.*
I still enjoyed the story and would give another book by the same author a try. I just hope these would be less of an issue.