Monday, December 21, 2020

Book Review: Pretty Things by Janelle Brown

Pretty Things by Janelle Brown book cover and review
I was pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns that Pretty Things contained.

Nina and Lachlan aren't especially nice people. They swindle the ultra-rich out of their treasures. Nina feels forced to continue her high-stakes swindles since her mother's cancer has reappeared and her only hope is some experimental treatment and they have no insurance.

As the reader is taken back to Nina's childhood, and finds out about her dysfunctional mother, we find out about a relationship she had with Benny, in Lake Tahoe when she was a teen. Benny comes from a well-known rich family and when his father finds them in a compromising situation, he kicks her and her mother out of town.

There is more to the situation, but I don't want to give away too much. Lachlan and Nina decide to swindle Bennie's sister, Vanessa, who is a famous Instagram influencer now living at the family's old estate in Lake Tahoe. Things don't go as planned and the wheels come off. I don't want to say too much more.

The writing is interesting as we get the perspective of all three main characters and learn about their histories.

I love the characters, but with that said there is a lot of character development and setup before anything really happens.  But that's probably why I love them. And I had to know what happens. And I never could have guessed all that happens. Which is also a good thing.

After "the marriage" (I don't want to be too specific) things really got interesting, secrets were revealed, the pace picked up, and I had a hard time putting Pretty Things down. And when I did, I was thinking about it.

Pretty Things was a win for me. If you like a twisty book about con games that go all different directions, and if you can be a little patient, you will certainly enjoy this one.

Published by Random House, April 21, 2020
eBook purchased
496 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, November 23, 2020

Book Review: The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham book cover and review

I can never go wrong with a John Grisham book, so of course, I enjoyed The Rooster Bar.

There are three law students who are one semester from graduating. They have dismal job prospects, huge piles of debt, and very little chance of passing the bar. They have discovered that the school they attend is a sleazy for-profit law school that advertises falsely to get students to sign up and then rakes in the money while most of the students flounder.

They decide to quit school and pretend to be lawyers while hanging around traffic court and picking up clients. Maybe hand around hospitals and fish for accident victims. They figure they know enough about the law and can pick up the techniques by watching other lawyers. And they aren't wrong. But they have difficulty flying under the radar when they pick up cases that aren't basic courtroom appearances.

Also, one of them has parents and a brother who are illegal and are being deported back to Somalia. This may seem insignificant, but in the end, it is not.

There is more to the story, and as usual, I enjoyed the twists and turns. The Rooster Bar doesn't spend too much time in the courtroom, which sometimes I don't like as much, but in this case, I didn't mind. Grisham uses short chapters and simple sentence structure that can be annoying but also allows for very fast reading. Just what I needed.

If you enjoy Grisham's books, there is no reason you should pass up The Rooster Bar.

Published by Doubleday, 2017
Copy borrowed from family
368 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

DNF Thoughts: Moonflower Murders, by Anthony Horowitz

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz
I have been in a reading funk, so I'm sure that was part of the reason I did not finish Moonflower Murders. These are just a few thoughts for you. 

I stopped after reading 42%, which is farther than I usually go if I'm going to DNF. Part of the reason is that I thought I had read Magpie Murders, and thought that I ought to like this one too. But I was confusing it with The Word is Murder, so there you go. 

Anyway, I don't read every day anymore, and I was finally getting into the grove, and improving my pace when the novel within the novel began. And I lost it. Totally new characters--every time I picked up the book, I couldn't get oriented. So I gave up. I have plenty of books I want to read, so I decided I should pick something I had a better chance of liking. I'm really trying to get my reading mojo back, so I can' afford to get slogged down in a book I'm not enjoying.

I think this is probably a great mystery if you can spend some time with it, but it wasn't for me at this time.

Published by Harper, November 10, 2020
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
255/608 pages

Rating: DNF

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Monday, October 19, 2020

Book Review: Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman book cover and review
I love the movie version of Practical Magic and have always wanted to read the book. I'm so glad I finally did.

I don't usually do this, but I'm just going to include the blurb, in case you don't know the premise: For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape. One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic...

The book has very much the same tone as the movie, and it was easy to picture Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as I read the story. The aunts were my favorite in the movie though, and I was a bit disappointed that, although they were introduced at the beginning of the book, they didn't appear again until the very end. In the movie, they were around most of the time.

It is a light-hearted feel-good story with a happy ending. Not your typical Halloween chiller/thriller, but I would still recommend Practical Magic as perfect for this time of year.

Published by Putnam, 1995
eBook purchased
244 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Book Review: My Way to You, by Catherine Bybee

My Way to You, by Catherine Bybee book cover and review
I saw My Way to You as a Kindle Daily Deal, and for some reason, it jumped out at me and I bought.  Both the ebook and audiobook. I really enjoyed reading and listening to it. First time I've tried the combination formats.

Parker, in her mid-20s, has for two years been taking care of her younger sister and brother as well as their house and substantial property after the sudden death of her parents. Now, to add to the stress, a California wildfire threatens their home.

The home survives, but the surrounding canyon is devastated. And the rains are coming, which can cause debris and mud to devastate both Parker's and her neighbor's properties.

Colin works for the public works department, and his job is to create dams and structures to control the runoff from the rain. It is a huge project and requires a huge disruption to Parker's life and threatens her security. It doesn't help that Parker is a control freak and needs to know everything and be in charge of everything.

Colin is a "too good to be true" guy. And I got a bit tired of the "poor Parker" interludes, but otherwise this was an interesting, dramatic, and heartwarming story that kept my attention. I rooted for the relationship's development and was happy with the way it played out. 

Apparently, this story is somewhat autobiographical from Bybee. There are two more books in the Creek Canyon series, and I enjoyed My Way to You enough to seek them out. (The third book doesn't come out until November.)

Published by Montlake, March 10, 2020
eBook and audiobook purchased
367 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Book Review: One By One, by Ruth Ware

One by One, by Ruth Ware book cover and review
I've really enjoyed some of Ruth Ware's previous books, and even though One By One took a while to get going, it did not disappoint.

I've never read And Then There Were None, but my impression is that One By One is the same type of story. There are ten characters alone in a ski chalet. Two of the people are the employees who are there to cook and clean and generally take care of the guests. The other eight are part of a group from a high tech software company. Well, seven of them are current employees. One is a former employee who doesn't seem to quite fit in. A former personal assistant, she doesn't exactly run in the same circles as the employees.

Turns out they are on a retreat, but also voting on whether to accept a buyout deal. The employees are evenly divided, and it turns out the ex personal assistant is the deciding vote.

Then there's an avalanche that strands them all -- and people start dying.

The first 30% of the book is introduction of characters and setting, and even after all that, I still got some of the characters confused. But it didn't really matter. The narrators were all well defined and interesting.

I didn't really figure out what was going on (or who the "bad guy" was), and that was great. There were a few possibilities, and one of my suspects was indeed the culprit. The story kept me on my toes, until a pretty spectacular climax.

If you enjoy the "stranded people being killed off" trope, One By One is worth your time.

Published by Gallery/Scout Press, September 8, 2020
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
384  pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, August 10, 2020

Book Review: Beach Read, by Emily Henry @EmilyHenryWrite

Beach Read, by Emily Henry book cover and review
Another feel-good romance to keep up my reading mojo. Beach Read was delightful.

January writes best selling romance novels, but when her father dies and she discovers her parents' relationship wasn't at all the perfect romance she thought, she loses all her urge to write. But she's got a deadline, so she goes to her father's house on the coast of Lake Michigan to try to get some writing done.

Her neighbor gives her the most unfriendly, downright nasty, welcome, so she decides to just ignore him. Soon she discovers he is none other than Gus Everett, her college nemesis, who now is also a best-selling author.

These two are totally opposite, and well, you know the saying--opposites attract. And they do. The romance is a slow burn, and you can't wait for them to finally get together, but there are so many obstacles in their way. Lots of baggage on both sides. It starts when they decide they will trade genres--January will write literary fiction and Gus will write romance and the first one to sell their book will win. Some fun and dramatic situations ensue.

The sex is hot, but not too graphic, and the emotional baggage is kind of mature stuff. Older teens who are romance fans will enjoy Beach Read.

The "happily ever after" is expected, and it doesn't disappoint. The characters are well rounded, and there are a couple of side characters that add dimension. I fell hard for Beach Read. If you are in the mood for a feel-good romance that has enough substance to keep it from being to sappy, I would highly recommend it. I may need to keep up this romance trend...

Published by Berkley May 19, 2020
eARC obtained from NetGalley
384 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, August 3, 2020

Book Review: The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs

I think a warmhearted romantic story is just what I needed. I really enjoyed The Lost and Found Bookshop.

Natalie has a great job working her way up the ladder and making lots of money. Just as she had planned. Her world gets turned upside down when her mother is killed in a tragic accident, and Natalie ends up back in San Francisco, taking care of her grandfather who has early-stage dementia. She's also trying to figure out what to do with her mother's bookstore that is deeply in debt.

The Lost and Found Bookstore keeps your interest with several different aspects of the story. There turns out to be two potential love interests. As Natalie explores the bookstore, she finds hidden treasures. As she deals with her grief over losing her mother, the relationship between Natalie and her grandfather is explored. And of course, there are books!

The Lost and Found Bookstore just made me feel warm all over. I started out reading very slowly, for days on end, making little progress. (This seems to be my reading pattern lately.) But after about the halfway point, I finished it very quickly.

If you are interested in a warm fuzzy story about heartache, loss, and a happily-ever-after ending, you should check out The Lost and Found Bookstore.

Published by William Morrow, July 7, 2020
eARC obtained from NetGalley
368 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, July 6, 2020

Book Review: The Dilemma, by B. A. Paris

The Dilemma by B. A. Paris book cover and review
The Dilemma is the third novel by Paris that I have read, and while it is different than the previous books, it still sucked me in.

I'm going to be pretty vague about this story because I think it is required. Livia has been preparing for her 40th birthday party for most of her adult life. She was robbed of the fairytale wedding she desired, so this party will make up for it.

The only problem is that her daughter, Marnie, will not be able to travel home for the party. But Livia knows something about Marnie that will devastate her husband, so she's secretly glad Marnie isn't coming home.

Meanwhile, her husband, Adam, has pulled strings and made it possible for Marnie to attend. He's so excited about surprising Livia. But as the party approaches, he knows something that he should tell Livia, but he doesn't want to ruin the party, and besides, he isn't sure about his information.

So they both know something horrible about their daughter. Is it the same thing? Should they tell each other? When? So that is The Dilemma.

There isn't a huge amount of tension, like Paris' other books, but the reader can just see this huge trainwreck coming. And you want to see how it's going to come about and who the casualties will be.

I thought it was weird that this woman was so obsessed with having this huge party for herself. I guess I just don't have that attention-seeking personality. Because Livia was really something when it came to this party.

I cared about these characters and wished there was some way to make it all go away. Nicely told from multiple perspectives, The Dilemma will keep you turning pages.

Published by St. Martin's, June 30, 2020
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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