March 30, 2009

Review: The Big Dirt Nap by Rosemary Harris

Courtesy of LibraryThing

Paula Holliday’s friend Lucy has invited her for an all-expense-paid trip to the Titans Hotel. Lucy is there to do an investigative story on the hotel and Paula, who owns Dirty Business gardening and landscape company, is there to see the famed corpse flower on display at the hotel.

Shortly after Paula arrives she runs into Nick Vigoriti. A good looking ladies man who refuses to accept the brush off and doggedly tries to pick her up. Next thing you know the police are knocking on Paula’s door because Nick is dead. And worse yet, Lucy is missing. Somehow the two are tied together but when the police refuse to investigate the disappearance Paula starts asking questions that make people nervous.

Judging a book by the cover is supposed to be a no-no but I did and I was not all that excited about reading this book. Boy was I mistaken. This book is hilarious. Paula cracked me up from the opening line to the very end.

I’ll share my favorite scene so you get an idea… With both Paula and Lucy in full Goth make up (don’t ask LOL) they scare the heck out of a convenience store clerk. Paula then terrifies him further when she calls him by name.

“Chill. You name’s on your shirt.” I peeled off a few dollars,
then hurried Lucy out of the store, but not before sticking my
head back in and telling the frightened clerk to have a nice day.

The book is filled with those kinds of witty interactions and I couldn’t get enough. The characters are well described that I could easily picture each and every one. This was the second book in the Dirty Business mystery series and it stands alone as I have not yet read book one, Pushing Up Daisies, which is now on my wish list. I highly recommend this one to all cozy mystery lovers.

March 28, 2009

Review: Peppermint Twisted by Sammi Carter

Former corporate lawyer and recent candy shop owner, Abby Shaw, has her hands full when a spiteful cousin orders way too much peppermint that can’t be returned. Figuring out what to do with 100 gallons of peppermint oil becomes the least of her problems when Felicity Asbury is found dead in the parking lot of Divinity.

The much despised Felicity was recently named the new director of the local arts festival and none of the artists were too happy about it but was one of them mad enough to kill over it? When fingers start pointing and tongues begin wagging in Abby’s direction she breaks her promise to the hunky police detective Jawarski and begins her own investigation into the murder that just might be a fatal mistake.

Of course just as with any other cozy the main character solves the murder and narrowly avoids being the next victim but Peppermint Twisted gives this tried and true formula a sweet story to keep you entertained.

My one gripe is that Abby’s investigating didn’t flow with the rest of the series. In Candy Apple Dead and Chocolate Dipped Death it was more just asking questions that led to her revealing the true murderer. Here she was too aggressive even to the point of harassment and that didn’t sit well with my characterization of Abby.

Other than that I recommend this book and series to all cozy fans and look forward to reading the next installments: Goody Goody Gunshots which is out now and Sucker Punch due out in June.

March 25, 2009

Review: Sail by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

Courtesy of Hachette Audio

Since the death of their father Katherine Dunne’s three children have been drifting further and further apart from her and each other. In a last ditch effort to bring her family closer together Katherine plans a two month long sailing trip aboard their boat, The Family Dunne, along with their uncle Jake Dunne.

Almost immediately things start to go wrong. The boat springs a leak, 16-year Mark is smoking marijuana, 18-year old Carrie is recovering from an eating disorder but throws herself overboard in a suicide attempt and 10-year old Ernie is overweight as a result of his own self-diagnosed “stress eating”. Shortly after Jake saves Carrie, the family is awakened by an approaching storm. Caught in the middle of the storm the family fights for their lives and get through it only to be faced with another catastrophic disaster.

Meanwhile Katherine’s new husband of less than one year, Peter, is betting on the fact that the family never returns and is scheming behind the scenes.

The book opens with instantaneous action and intrigue. Throughout the whole book just when you think the drama is over a new wave (snicker) of trouble rolls in. From the very beginning we learn that Peter is a villain but there’s still a lot more revelations to come and I found the action kept me on the edge of my seat.

My review is based on the unabridged audio and it was narrated by both Dylan Baker and Jennifer Van Dyck. I’ve always thought the male/female approach to an audio book would make the book more interesting and I loved it. I hope to hear more this way soon.

My vote is that this is another Patterson winner. It doesn’t have the same depth as the Cross series but it’s one of the better collaborations from him that I’ve read. I recommend this one for all action and thriller lovers.

March 22, 2009

Review: Secrets Unveiled by Sheshena Pledger

The Harris family is one of America’s most ruthless crime families. It’s a family of stone cold killers with secrets. The Miller family is seemingly an average family with no secrets but when Nick Miller’s father is killed Nick learns that his family has secrets too.

The story is told from the point of view of both the protagonist and antagonist. At first it was very disconcerting and it would take me a few pages to realize who was talking but once I got more into the book it was easier based on who the characters were talking to. One other thing that bothered me was the grammar. In a few instances words weren’t used correctly such as meat instead of meet and when I ran across them it was very distracting. I guess that’s just one of the downfalls of a self published book.

The writing was real gritty and street but it played well with the story. The characters are a bit unlikable but this also works for the storyline. This was not my typical read but found it an interesting step out of my favorite genres.

March 21, 2009

Review: Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells

Half vampire, half mage Sabina Kane is an assassin working for the Dominae vampire council. Her latest job is to infiltrate the renegade group of vampires led by Clovis Trakiya who is recruiting vampires and other paranormal beings to ultimately overthrow the Dominae.

Raised by her grandmother, a powerful leader in the Dominae council, Sabina has always been required to suppress the mage side of her abilities. In the midst of infiltrating Clovis’ group she’s approached by a mage who has some interesting information for her. Unsure of who to trust she tentatively listens to what he has to say and learns quite a few things that rock her to the core and changes her life forever.

I’d been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this book ever since I first read about it a couple of months ago. Initially the first few chapters had my head spinning with the different names, beings and groups but once I got the hang of who and what everyone was the rest of the story fell into place.

I love that it was a darker type of fantasy tale but still had a lot of humor and plenty of sarcasm from the characters. Sabina is a kick-ass heroine who’s been lied to for most of her life. You kind of feel sorry for her in a way but can’t help admiring her for the way she soldiers on. Throw in a demon who’s addicted to infomercial shopping and you have the makings of an excellent read.

This is the first book in a new series about Sabina but this story arc is tied up nicely in the end. The only downside of reading this is that I’m going to have to wait so long for the next book. Highly recommended for all urban fantasy and paranormal lovers.

March 17, 2009

Review: The Blonde on the Train by Eleanor Lerman

Author's Website

Book Website

Product Description:
This stunning collection of short stories is a testament to the talent of Eleanor Lerman. From Greenwich Village in the '60s or rooftops in Manhattan to an airport in the Midwest, these everyday adventures explore the disenchantment of this world accompanied by love and hope and humor. Joan Larkin comments: "Equally attentive to the odd details of human behavior and the deep longings at their source, Lerman's stories make me want to go on reading, and leave me somehow hopeful." The Blonde on the Train evokes memories and emotions while creating new imaginings, and inspires readers to create their own adventures. Open this book you’ll be hooked!

My Review:
From the description above I really had no idea what to expect from the book other than a collection of short stories. What I found was a pretty good set of stories that are all standalone but mostly revolve around a common theme. From loving stories of friendship to a strange brush with a psychic the stories offer a peek into the lives of several different people.

One thing that happened is that after each story I had to pause and really think deeply on what I just read. The stories got better as the book progressed and I felt that each one was more meaningful than the next. My two favorite stories were the title story, The Blonde on the Train and Woodstock Again. They each shared a story of friendship but in hugely different ways. I recommend this for anyone who loves short stories with meaning.

Be sure to stop by the book website when you’re done with the book. The excerpts tab offers an extra little tidbit about each story that I really enjoyed.

March 15, 2009

Review: Skeeter and the Mystery of the Lost Mosquito Treasure DVD

Courtesy of Thomas Nelson

In the process of bringing his friend Hermie some delicious raspberries, Skeeter crashed into a tree with a mysterious symbol. He doesn't realize the significance of the symboland continues on. Once he gets to the garden he learns that Sir Sinclair M. Skeeto is scheduled to visit and share his tales of great adventure with everyone.

Sinclair is Skeeter's brother and Skeeter is none to happy that he's visiting. Sinclair has always made Skeeter feel ashamed about his crooked nose. Once Sinclair arrives the real truth behind his visit is revealed. Sinclair is looking for a treasure and the only clue he has is a mysterious symbol. Skeeter remembers seeing it but doesn't remember where and they begin the search.

During the search Skeeter learns the truth. All the time Skeeter felt ashamed of his crooked nose he thought their father loved Sinclair more. On the other hand Sinclair can't fly and because of that he thought their father always loved Skeeter more.

Once they find the tree with the symbol they work together to unlock the hiding place and find a surprise from their father worth more than all the treasure in the world.

This was a great family DVD. The moral of the story is to love yourself no matter how you look and this is taught subtly with entertainment instead of a lesson. The graphics were incredible and as good as any big screen movie. I was happy to share this movie with my nieces aged one and two who sat through the entire movie which is rare. I recommend this for all families with small children.

Bonus Features

  • Trivia Quiz
  • The Sounds of Hermie
  • Super Skeeter Sing Along
  • DVD-Rom
  • The Word of Promise Next Generation Preview
  • Trailers

    March 14, 2009

    Review: Dork Diaries: Tales From A Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell

    Eighth grader Nikki Maxwell candidly shares with us the journaling of her no-so-fabulous days at her new private school Westchester Day School. Nikki's father, being the new exterminator, earned her a scholarship to a school where she doesn't fit in with the rich and snobby CCP (Cute, Cool & Popular) clique led by the snarky Mackenzie.

    Nikki knows that in order to dazzle the new crowd into accepting her she needs a new iPhone but her `rents stubbornly refuse to buy her one. Her Mom even goes so far as to tell her that if she really wants one she'll have to save up and buy it with her own money. Ugh!

    Just when everything seems to be doomed the school announces a school-wide art competition where the first prize is $500!! Nikki knows she's totally got this since she's an artist with plenty art camp experience. Nikki runs to the school office to sign up and who does she run into??? None other than Mackenzie. No way is she brave enough to compete against the queen bee of WDS. Can she turn one disaster after another into triumph?

    Dork Diaries is simply fabulous! I've been in Nikki's shoes a time or two as I changed schools 8 different times while growing up so I can totally sympathize with being new girl on the block. At least my Dad didn't drive me to school with a giant roach on top of his van.

    The entire book is Nikki's diary filled with hilarious stories and amazing drawings (also illustrated by Rachel Renee Russell). It's the perfect read for young girls who agonize over not being part of the in-crowd like I used to. Nikki goes from the zero to a hero and then finally settles nicely into her niche as a typical teen. I recommend this read for all YA lovers.

    March 13, 2009

    Review: Elijah's Coin by Steve O'Brien

    Courtesy of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

    Elijah's Coin Website

    College freshman Tom Wagner was just on the verge of taking the wrong path in life when in stepped Elijah King. In the middle of the night Elijah convinced Tom to talk with him but more importantly to listen. After two consecutive nights of midnight meetings Elijah gives Tom a small bronze coin with G2G on one side and EK on the other. Mystified by this Tom agrees to meet Elijah one more time but that third night Elijah doesn’t show.

    Tom searches out the three men that Elijah talked to him about but no one can answer his questions. They are each just as cryptic as Elijah was and they all have a message for him. Eventually Tom understands the meaning of their message and goes about applying it to his life to make a change for the better.

    In due course, Tom becomes the one who a person in need turns to when they need to learn the very same lessons Elijah taught him and many others. But one day a surprising figure from his past comes back to haunt him and he needs to figure out what his next step will be.

    Tom’s first line, “One hour from now I am going to change my life forever.” is definitely true and the story pulls you right in. Elijah is intriguing right the moment we meet him and until Tom figures out what is really going on I was all over the place with my theories.

    There is a more depth to this book than a great story. It truly has a valuable message and in the end I felt that the book was actually able to teach me an important lesson also. This book is perfect for young adult readers and I feel there is a good possibility it will touch their lives in a deeper way too. As an added bonus the book comes with two of Elijah’s Coins. One for you and one for someone you can share the message with.

    March 12, 2009

    Review: The Girl She Used To Be by David Cristofano

    Courtesy of Hachette Book Group

    Author's Website

    After 20 years in the Witness Protection Program, the girl that used to be Melody Grace McCartney has once again been forced to drop everything, change her name and relocate. But the funny thing is that this move is Melanie’s choice. Bored with her current identity, she fakes receiving a call from someone in the Bovaro family. At six, she and her parents witnessed a murder by Tony Bovaro and later her parents were tracked down and murdered by someone in Tony’s family.

    As she’s whisked away towards another life she finds herself attracted to the US Marshall assigned to her. But late one night Melody is awakened to a knife being held to her throat by Jonathan Bovaro. With an unexpected twist Jonathan is not there to kill her but to make her understand that not all of his family are the monsters everyone believes them to be. Torn between the two men, Melody doesn’t know who she can trust with her life and has some serious decisions to make.

    I loved the beginning of this book. When I first realized that Melody was intentionally putting herself on the run it had me intrigued. I wondered about her mental health and continued to do so even more throughout the book. I actually found it a little hard to like Melody but by the end of the book I was rooting for her.

    The story has a couple of twists thrown in and isn’t at all predictable which made me enjoy it even more. I can’t pinpoint a specific genre for this other than general fiction and I recommend it for anyone who loves story with a twist.

    March 11, 2009

    Review: The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson

    Daniel X is a fifteen year old alien hunter. But he himself is an alien with the power to manipulate objects and influence minds. At three years old his parents where murdered in front of him by the powerful alien, The Prayer, who was in search of a secret list Daniel’s father was protecting.

    The list contains the names of all the aliens on earth and now Daniel is hunting them down as his parents did before him. Though Daniel would like nothing more than to hunt down and annihilate The Prayer, he’s currently tracking down #6 on the list, Seth. From Earth to space Daniel will do whatever it takes to rid the universe of one mean alien.

    Though much different from Patterson’s usual writing I enjoyed this one. It was definitely a young adult read and I kept that in mind while forming my opinion. I liked the way the story was just a build up for the series yet it still satisfied enough to make it worth the read. Although super intelligent with astonishing powers he’s still a typical teen and I enjoyed his adventure. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series and recommend this to anyone who loves young adult books, specifically science fiction.

    March 10, 2009

    Review: Amazing Grace by Danielle Steel

    Product Description

    On a warm May night in San Francisco, the Ritz-Carlton ballroom shimmers with crystal and silver as a glittering, celebrity-studded crowd gathers for a charity dinner dance. The evening is perfect–until, just minutes before midnight, the room begins to sway. Glass shatters. And as the lights go out, people begin to scream….

    In the earthquake’s aftermath, the lives of four strangers will converge.… Sarah Sloane, the beautiful wife of a financial whiz, watches her perfect world fall to pieces…. Grammy-winning singer Melanie Free, the event’s headliner, comes to a turning point in her life and career…. Photographer Everett Carson, a former war correspondent whose personal demons have demoted him to covering society parties, finds new purpose amid the carnage…and Sister Maggie Kent, a nun who normally works in jeans and high-tops with the homeless, searches through the rubble–and knows instantly that there is much work to be done….

    As the city staggers back to life, a chain reaction of extraordinary events will touch each of the survivors.… For Sarah, it begins with the discovery of a crime and a betrayal, then a strength she never knew she had. For Melanie, volunteering at a refugee camp will open new worlds of possibility. And Everett will be shaken by the unlikely relationship he forges with Maggie, who helps him rebuild his shattered life–and upends her own in the process. But as a year passes, and the anniversary of the earthquake approaches, more surprises are in store–as each discovers the unexpected gifts in a tragedy’s wake…and the amazing grace of new beginnings.

    Throughout these enthralling pages, Danielle Steel creates a stunning array of contrasts–from the dazzle of a society benefit to the chaos of a makeshift hospital, from the pampered lives of rock stars to the quiet heroism of emergency volunteers. It is her most powerful and life-affirming novel to date.

    My Review

    Why, oh why did I do this to myself?!? In my early twenties I read all the Danielle Steel books I could get my hands on. After a while I started noticing that almost every story was the same premise. Girl meets boy, girl loses boy then girl gets boy back and it's happily ever after.

    Once I figured that out I stopped reading her books and I haven't read one in more than 10 years but I read the above description of Amazing Grace and found that the usual premise didn't apply so I thought I might give it a try. Plus, it was a free download from the library so what could it hurt? It hurt my precious reading time! LOL 9+ hours of time lost to an awful book.

    The story was so repetitive that I kept having to check if I was playing a CD that I already had listened to. The only thing that kept me from scraping it completely was that I kept hoping for an "amazing" end that never came. The only reason I'm not giving it a one-star rating is the story based on Melanie Free. It was the only realistic part of the whole book and I at least enjoyed that part of it. Overall not recommended (not even as a free library download).