Better Off Read by Nora Page

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When her best hope of saving her storm-damaged library is found murdered, senior librarian Cleo Watkins hits the road in her bookmobile in search of justice. Septuagenarian librarian Cleo Watkins won’t be shushed when an upstart young mayor threatens to permanently shelve her tiny town’s storm-damaged library. She takes to her bookmobile, Words on Wheels, to collect allies and rally library support throughout Catalpa Springs, Georgia. However, Cleo soon rolls into trouble. A major benefactor known for his eccentric DIY projects requests all available books on getting away with murder. He’s no Georgia peach, and Cleo wonders if she should worry about his plans. She knows she should when she discovers him bludgeoned and evidence points to her best friend, Mary-Rose Garland. 

Review

Better Off Read is the first book in the Bookmobile Mystery series. The main character, Cleo Watkins is a librarian who also runs a bookmobile, words on wheels, in the city of Catalpa Springs, Georgia. Cleo is desperately trying to fix the damaged library and prevent the young mayor, Jeb Day, from closing it down. Cleo soon comes across the body of an old patron, Buford Krandall, and evidence seems to point to her friend Mary-Rose, so Cleo decides to solve the murder on her own and clear the name of her best friend.

Ok, so this book was the classic example of judging a book by its cover. I mean, isn’t this cover super cute? I loved everything about it–a cute cat, a cute dog, a bookmobile, all the elements for a great cozy mystery. Unfortunately, this book was quite disappointing to me. The premise is great, a librarian fighting to keep the city’s public library alive, a murder needing to be solved, a small town setting, Southern cooking, you name it. The problem with the story is that although the premise was great, the characters were very unrealistic and poorly developed. Cleo, the main character, is supposed to be this seventy-year-old lady who really seemed more like someone in their forties or fifties. It is not to say that a person in their seventies can’t be as active and energetic as Cleo, but it just didn’t feel that way when you were reading the book.

The story as a whole did not hold my interest and I found myself putting this book down way too many times. I really wanted to love this book, but it just didn’t do it for me. Since this is book one in the series, I believe there is still hope for the other books to come.

I would like to thank Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

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Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old. It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan.

Review

Stella loves math, she works as an econometrician (someone who uses statistics and calculus to help formulate recommendations to customers after they make a purchase online) has Asperger’s, is thirty years old, hates french kissing, and hates sex. It doesn’t help that her family is pressuring her to settle down and start having kids. So, in the most rational way she decides that in order for her to find the right person and settle down she needs to be good at sex and kissing. And just like that, she decides to hire a professional.

The Kiss Quotient is a delightful story that reads very much like a male version of “Pretty Woman”. What is really appealing about this book is the fact that the author, Helen Huong, also suffers from Asperger’s and has a real insight into the mind of people, especially adult women, who suffer from this syndrome. The result is that Stella is a character that never seems fake or impossible. Huong gives us a glimpse of what goes on in the mind of someone who suffers from Asperger’s, and by doing that she creates a character that jumps out of the page–someone you can relate to even if you don’t have the same condition.

This is really a delightful book and a pleasant read packed with lots of romance, humor and great sex. This is a sizzling romance that won’t disappoint fans of the genre.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House First To Read in exchange for my honest review.


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Our House by Louise Candlish

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When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other.

Review

Imagine you come back from a vacation, and you find that someone has moved into your house, except that your house was not for sale. This is how Our House by Louise Candlish starts. We are introduced to Fionna Lawson, aka Fi and her horror when she enters her house to find another family moving in and all of her furniture gone. Her children are nowhere to be found, and neither is her husband, Bram.

The magic of this book was Candlish’s ability to take you on this ride with Fi as her life spirals out of control and the reader feels every bit of desperation that Fi feels. Is she insane? Is she dreaming? Is this some prank someone is pulling on her? The premise of the book is genius and you can’t help but keep on reading.

What I enjoyed about this book was how the story was told from Fi’s perspective via a recording of the podcast The Victim, tweets that people posted based on Fi’s recorded story, and Bram’s word document explaining what had happened. I think this was an interesting, although not the first author to do it, way to tell a story.

Unfortunately, I felt that the story dragged on and on towards the end. Although the ending was surprising, when it finally came it was not strong enough to pull the story through.

I would like to thank Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Stacking The Shelves

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Stacking The Shelves is hosted at Tynga’s Reviews and is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

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This week started off really well for me. I received a very nice gift from a friend–an 1894’s edition of the Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. I love old books. I love books period–especially physical books. Truth be told, books take up a lot of space and it’s not always feasible to have several printed books.

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When I moved from suburban Florida to downtown Chicago, I had to downsize and sell/donate most of my books. It nearly broke my heart and there’s not a day that I don’t miss my books. Over the years I have managed to re-stock some of my books and acquire some more for my ultimate goal of building a library at my house.

ARCs for Review

A Summer Scandal by Kat French (NetGalley)

Better Off Read by Nora Page (NetGalley)

Bleeding Darkness by Brenda Chapman (NetGalley)

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris (NetGalley)

Love, Lies, and Wedding cake (NetGalley)

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (First to Read)

 

Purchased

The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Library Loan

Once Upon a Prince by Rachael Hauck

Triptych by Karin Slaughter

 

How about you? Don’t be shy and let me know what you’ve added to your shelves. Happy reading! 🙂

Dead Pretty by David Mark

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One girl missing. One girl dead. A stunning new novel from one of Britain’s most original crime writers, Dead Pretty finds Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy and Detective Superintendent Trish Pharaoh grappling with vigilantes, unsolved murders, and a killer far too close to home.

Review

This book was initially a little confusing to me. It took me some time to get used to David Mark’s writing, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is book five of Detective Sargeant Aector McAvoy and not having read any of the previous books in the series might have contributed to my initial confusion. Once I got into the book, I just couldn’t put it down.

I love a good crime story, and this is a great one. The story is a bit disturbing with some pretty descriptive scenes, but overall this is a gritty and riveting story that would’ve probably received 5-stars had I read the other books. I highly recommend this one. David Mark got me hooked, and his other books just made it to my TBR list.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House First To Read in exchange for my honest review.


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The Burning by S.O. Esposito

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Alice Leininger seems to have the perfect life. She’s happily married, has two beautiful children, a close-knit group of friends, and a cause she cares deeply about. But beneath the surface, her world of safety and comfort is unraveling. The periods of lost time she’s kept secret—even from her husband—are happening more frequently. She certainly doesn’t remember leaving her Sarasota home at three-thirty in the morning to burn someone alive. Now she sits in a Florida state mental institution, awaiting judgment on whether she’s fit to stand trial on charges of murder and arson. While a psychologist works to help Alice face her past, her future depends on the answer to one question: How far did she go for justice?

Review

I really liked what Esposito has done with this novel. This is her first take at writing a psychological thriller, and she did not disappoint. Alice Leininger seems to have the perfect life. She is married to a loving husband, has two adorable kids, and volunteers with her friends at Project Freedom–a project determined to help women leave a life of prostitution and sex-trafficking behind to rejoin society.

The narrative is fairly fast-paced and suspenseful. Alice is a great and likable character. It’s not so easy to figure out if she is a victim or a villain, and Esposito keeps you guessing until the end. I liked how she handled such sensitive topic, and I enjoyed the almost feminist flavor of this book.

I would like to thank the author for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


About The Author

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S.O. Esposito began her writing career as a cozy mystery author under her full name, Shannon Esposito. She has four books in the PET PSYCHIC SERIES (misterio press) & two books in the PAWS & POSE SERIES (Severn House). But to keep her muse happy, she’s ventured into darker territory with her suspense debut THE BURNING.

Website

Secrets, Lies, & Crawfish Pies

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Romaine Wilder, a big city medical examiner with a small-town past, has been downsized and evicted. With few other options, she’s forced to return to her hometown of Robel in East Texas, leaving behind the man she’s dating and the life she’s worked hard to build. Suzanne Babet Derbinay, Romaine’s Auntie Zanne and proprietor of the Ball Funeral Home, has long since traded her French Creole upbringing for Big Texas attitude… But her plans are derailed when the Ball Funeral Home, bursting at the seams with dead bodies, has a squatter stiff.

Review 

Romaine Wilder is a medical examiner living in Chicago who seems to have the perfect life until she is evicted and has to move back to her hometown in Texas. Romaine moves in with her Auntie Zanne “Babet” who owns and runs a funeral home. Death is no stranger to this medical examiner who comes from a line of morticians, but when a body is found at her family’s funeral home, Romaine, cousin Sheriff Pogue, and Auntie Zanne join forces to try to solve the mystery in time for the Tri-County Annual Crawfish Boil and Music Festival.

This is book one of the Romaine Wilder Mystery series. Although Romaine is the main character, I have to say that Auntie Zanne is the star of this story. She is absolutely hilarious. This book has several out loud laughing moments, and I honestly enjoyed reading about French Creole traditions and Southern life.

I loved this fun cozy mystery, and I look forward to reading more books in this series. This book is scheduled to be published June 12th, 2018.

I would like to thank Henery Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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The Circle Game by Tanya Nichols

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Bernadette “Bernie” Sheridan, has the Carlos Luna case in the bag. She’s smart, confident, and fueled by personal tragedy. She knows all too well what’s at stake for the five-year-old, Mexican-American boy, who lost his parents to a negligent driver. After all, her own mother and father—her adopted parents—died tragically when she was only thirteen, and she’s been struggling with the emotional loss ever since. Now, nearing forty and jaded as ever, she’s adamant about saving Carlos from a fate similar to her own, even if only by winning him a healthy monetary settlement. 

Review

Bernie is a successful, yet idealistic attorney who takes on the Carlos Luna case. Carlos is a little five-year-old boy whose parents were killed by a reckless driver. This case is very close to Bernie’s heart since she also lost her adoptive parents when she was just thirteen years old, and because of the struggles she went through as a child, Bernie is determined to win Carlos a fair settlement for his loss.

Bernie’s only family is her beloved grandmother Noni. And although Bernie has always longed to know more about her biological parents, grandma Noni has never encouraged Bernie to seek out her biological mother. Now, thirty-seven years later Bernie’s biological mother Julie threatens to re-enter her life and everything she thought she knew about herself is about to change.

The narrative is told from two viewpoints. One is Bernie’s account of the present day and the other is Julie’s account of decades ago. The Circle Game is a beautiful novel with well-developed characters and a heartwarming plot about the power of forgiveness.

I would like to thank Alternative Book Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


A Brush With Death by Ali Carter

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In the village of Spire, murder is afoot. Wealthy landowner Alexander, Earl of Greengrass is caught with his trousers down in the village graveyard before meeting a gruesome end. Luckily Susie Mahl happens to be on hand. With her artist’s eye for detail and her curious nature, she is soon on the scent of the murderer…

Review

Susie Mahl is an artist who specializes in pet portraits. While staying with friends, the Earl and Countess of Greengrass at their beautiful house in the village of Spire, the Earl is found dead and Susie with her witty and inquisitive nature quickly starts her own investigation into the murder.

I really enjoyed this light-hearted cozy mystery. Susie Mahl is a great detective. She is funny and witty and I loved how Carter combined a little bit of a country house murder as well as giving us some insight into the life of an artist. This is a great read for fans of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple with a dash of Downton Abbey.

This is Ali Carter’s first novel and the first book in the new series about pet portraitist and super-sleuth Susie Mahl.

I would like to thank the author and Edelweiss for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 


About The Author

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Ali Carter was born in Scotland in 1983. She read art history at St Andrew’s, followed by an eclectic career before settling in for the long run as a fine artist. She specializes in oil paintings from life with an emphasis on color. Writing, walking and cooking all accompany her painting. Ali lives in East Sussex with her husband Sam. Ali’s first novel, A Brush with Death comes out 7th June 2018.

Website


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The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

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When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder…
Brett’s the fan favorite. Tattooed and only twenty-seven, the meteoric success of her spin studio—and her recent engagement to her girlfriend—has made her the object of jealousy and vitriol from her castmates.
Kelly, Brett’s older sister, and business partner is the most recent recruit, dismissed as a hanger-on by a veteran cast. The golden child growing up, she defers to Brett now—a role which requires her to protect their shocking secret.
Stephanie, the first black cast member and the oldest, is a successful bestselling author of erotic novels. There have long been whispers about her hot, non-working actor-husband and his wandering eye, but this season the focus is on the rift that has opened between her and Brett, former best friends—and resentment soon breeds contempt.

Review

I’m probably one of the few people who did not rave about Jessica Knoll’s debut novel The Luckiest Girl Alive (you can read my review from 2015 here). I decided to give Knoll another try and I’m glad I did.

Knoll doesn’t seem to write warm and fuzzy characters, but her style of writing is pretty unique and gritty. The Favorite Sister starts off a little confusing. With the introduction of several different characters in the very beginning of the book, I found myself having to take notes to keep up with the story. Once you get over the initial introduction, you are led through a series of bickering and backstabbing catty drama that is actually very entertaining. I’m not particularly fond of reality TV, but Knoll did a superb job capturing that world. This is a suspenseful story full of twists. I can’t say I particularly loved the characters, but that is exactly the point. Kudos to Knoll’s novel for being authentic and creative and for keeping you immersed in this twisted drama. I highly recommend it!

I would like to thank Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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