Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons (Fox and O'Hare #0.5)Pros and Cons by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

FBI Special Agent Kate O'Hare has been hunting down the elusive con artist Nick Fox for three years. She's almost 87% sure she's located his latest scheme, and she is determined to catch him this time. Kate believes Nick is pretending to be Merrill Stubing, wedding planner for the King of Hostile Takeovers and his sexy fiancee. Question is, will she get permission to raid the wedding before Nick's crew makes off with the valuables? Or will Nick glide past her team yet again?

Turns out I'd already read this novella, but listening to it was just as fun and took less than an hour--perfect for commuting. Mostly it's a quick chase story that plays in the mind like an action movie (only with fewer bullets and no car crashes).

For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary. No sex or violence. Don't remember any swearing, although there might have been a stray "damn" somewhere or something similar. As suspense/action stories go, this one is light and humorous.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016


AustenlandAustenland by Shannon Hale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jane Hayes hasn't had much success in the boyfriend department--she's been dumped a dozen times over the years, sometimes quite painfully. She takes refuge in her favorite movie, Pride and Prejudice. (The real one, a.k.a. the BBC version starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.) Fantasy men like Mr. Darcy don't let you down like real men. Even so, she's reluctant to claim the inheritance left to her by her Aunt Carolyn: an all-expenses paid 3-week trip to Austenland in the UK where she'll live as Jane Austen and her characters did.

Jane eventually decides to make the most of her vacation, using it to immerse herself in her fantasy, thereby putting it to rest forever. Despite having sworn off men forever, Jane finds herself teasing the irritating Mr. Nobley, one of the male actors, and snogging Martin, a handsome gardener, and realizes she not only isn't ready to give up men, she likes the new freer Jane, who isn't so obsessed with finding The One. However, in a world where everyone's playing a role, how do you know what's real and what's not?

I saw and loved the movie a couple of years ago, not realizing it was based on a novel. I did enjoy reading the book, although I think I actually like the movie a little bit better, despite how closely the movie follows the novel. (I usually prefer the books!) It is a good beach read type of book--light and often humorous.

My younger self could really relate to Jane, although my current self wishes someone would smack her upside the head and remind her that there isn't anything wrong with being single, especially when the alternative is accepting a bad relationship like a needy ninny. In most respects, Jane is successful, and I wish she could SEE that and be more self-confident (ironically a trait that would almost certainly attract a better mate for her). My favorite part of the book was actually witnessing Jane rediscover her joy as a painter. I wish more authors would write stories about people who are happy, confident, and single. It can be done! The best romance authors often tell stories about characters who enjoy their lives and then happen to meet and fall in love with someone.

For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary. There is virtually no swearing and only kissing/making out (no sex). No violence, other than a small tussle in the airport.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Dirt on Ninth Grave

The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson, #9)The Dirt on Ninth Grave by Darynda Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Charley Davidson has retrograde amnesia in the 9th installment of this fun, fast-paced series. She's working as a waitress in a diner in Sleepy Hollow, NY, using the name Janey Doerr ('cause Jane Doe is so cliche). Her inability to remember her name or anything about her past causes occasional panic attacks, but she does have some new friends to cheer her up and a stalker cop to shoo away, so there's that. Also, there's the fact that she sees dead people, an angel seems to be trying to kill her, and the mundane wintry world co-exists with one of fiery hot winds and desolation which no one else seems able to see. Good thing she's got coffee! Lots and lots of coffee. She'll need it if she's ever going to figure out what is up with her new BFF Cookie calling her "Charley" in moments of stress, the drop-dead gorgeous Reyes who never sits in her section and isn't really human, and the white-eyed old dead woman Janey sees in all photos of her coworker Erin's baby.

I absolutely flew through reading this book--found every excuse to sneak a few minutes to read, even staying up wayyyy too late one night. Even though Janey/Charley doesn't recognize all her friends and family from the previous eight books, readers of the series will enjoy watching her meet and fall in love with them all over again. Especially Reyes--I particularly enjoyed her confusion over her obsession with this man who seemed to hate her and yet was always there, watching out for her. I appreciated the astonishment and resentment Reyes felt toward this woman whom he'd loved for "a thousand and one" years--how could she have forgotten HIM? Likewise, Janey/Charley's heartbreak when she learns that Reyes still loves the wife who left him, and the torment of being unable to walk away like she believes she should do.

This may be my favorite book of the whole series. So far. Can't wait for the next one!!

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways are very strong, as is language doorway (humor). This book had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. There is some sexual content, but far less than earlier books. There isn't really much violence in this one, as compared with all the supernatural fight scenes of previous installments. What there is isn't terribly graphic. There is a fair amount of profanity, as usual, but it fits the characters.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Caper

The Caper (Fox and O'Hare, #0.6)The Caper by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Super-duper short story. The entertaining tale of one of FBI Special Agent Kate O'Hare's many attempts to capture con artist extraordinaire Nick Fox--one that failed by just a whisker. This one is set in old town Seattle, and is particularly fun for anyone who's taken their Underground tour. Easily readable in just a few minutes. Available online only:

For readers' advisors: story doorway. Very fast-paced, quick read for fans of the Kate O'Hare/Nick Fox series. No sex or violence, and the only swearing is "Holy crap!"

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Quiltmaker's Journey

The Quiltmaker's JourneyThe Quiltmaker's Journey by Jeff Brumbeau
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The follow-up story to The Quiltmaker's Gift, this picture book tells how the quiltmaker transformed from an unhappy, sheltered rich girl to a generous woman who lives alone on a mountain sewing beautiful quilts for the poor.

The illustrations are gorgeous and captivate my toddler, making it one of her favorites to read over and over. The story is lovely overall, although I find myself making snarky mental comments about the plot holes (for example: if everyone in the town was rich, did that include the myriad servants, and if so, why didn't they quit?). There is a lot of text, which makes it better for older children, so most of the time I use the pictures to tell an abridged version of the story at bedtime.

Themes: generosity, poverty, animal helpers, use your life

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Sleight of Paw

Sleight of Paw (A Magical Cats Mystery, #2)Sleight of Paw by Sofie Kelly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's winter, and Mayville Heights' winter festival is in full swing, giving library director Kathleen Paulson a perfect opportunity to best detective Marcus Gordon at hockey, to his great surprise. For beloved retired principal Agatha Shepard, winter is not so kind, however, and Kathleen is incensed when Marcus seems to believe her friend Ruby may have killed the elderly woman. Kathleen and her two magical cats start their own investigation, heedless of the danger.

This leisurely paced cozy mystery was thoroughly enjoyable right up until the climax of the story, when Kathleen's truly idiotic actions had me growling in frustration and dropping my rating from 4 to 3 stars. Seriously, why does she have such trouble trusting Marcus? She admits he's a good man and a good police officer, following the evidence wherever it leads, in search of the truth, not just an arrest. So what is her deal? Work WITH him, for crying out loud!

Also, I'm baffled by Kathleen's paranoia about having anyone see her talking to her cats or taking them places. People do that All. The. Time. Unless they actually see a cat walk through a solid door or disappear and reappear, it shouldn't be an issue. Get over it, and stop taking up time in the story worrying about what people might think!

I suspected the killer from the very beginning, but I wasn't totally sure until the end, so that was good.

For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary. Would be a "clean read" except for a few instances of mild swearing such as "crap on toast," so I think I'll go ahead and tag it as such. No sex or graphic violence.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

The Girl from Summer Hill

The Girl from Summer Hill (Summer Hill, #1)The Girl from Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What would you do if you staggered downstairs for your early morning cup of tea and discovered a gorgeous man stripping to use the outdoor shower on your porch? Casey blinks and pulls up a stool, believing she's still asleep and having a fabulous dream. The fantasy sours rapidly when he notices her and flies into a rage. Having the stranger break through her screen door and accuse her of spying on him, of using her cell phone to take photos or video, first terrifies, then confuses, and finally infuriates her until she roars at him to leave.

As first impressions go, they are not off to a good start. The situation deteriorates when Casey discovers her intruder is both a famous movie star and her landlord, so she takes food to the Big House to make amends and keep Tate from evicting her but overhears him sharing his unfavorable opinion of her with his best friend (and her new champion), action movie hero Jack Worth. She doesn't stick around to hear the end of their conversation, leaving Tate with quite the uphill battle to redeem himself in her eyes as the two meet and clash again and again.

This is a delightful retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I love how P&P frames the modern story, using chapter headings to loosely telegraph what will happen but not constricting the characters to slavishly follow the original plot. It's a completely contemporary novel that uses the structure of Austen's tale to inform not just the casting of the internal play but also the broader story arc.

For reader's advisors: story and character doorways are both strong. There are a few sex scenes but they are not terribly explicit. Some swearing. No violence. Fans of Jude Deveraux will recognize allusions to her earlier works and characters (Montgomery & Taggert families), but it's not necessary to have read them to enjoy this volume.

I received an eGalley ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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