21 February 2017

Elementary, She Read (A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery, Book 1)

VICKI DELANEY

Synopsis from Goodreads: Gemma Doyle, a transplanted Englishwoman, has returned to the quaint town of West London on Cape Cod to manage her Great Uncle Arthur's Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. The shop--located at 222 Baker Street--specializes in the Holmes canon and pastiche, and is also the home of Moriarty the cat. When Gemma finds a rare and potentially valuable magazine containing the first Sherlock Homes story hidden in the bookshop, she and her friend Jayne (who runs the adjoining Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room) set off to find the owner, only to stumble upon a dead body.

The highly perceptive Gemma is the police’s first suspect, so she puts her consummate powers of deduction to work to clear her name, investigating a handsome rare books expert, the dead woman's suspiciously unmoved son, and a whole family of greedy characters desperate to cash in on their inheritance. But when Gemma and Jayne accidentally place themselves at a second murder scene, it's a race to uncover the truth before the detectives lock them up for good. 

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Crooked Lane Books. Expected publication date 3/14/17.

How acquired: Received for review from the publisher through Cozy Mystery Review Crew.

My thoughts:  This book sounded so good that I was really excited to get it and looking forward to reading it. And it was good, but not quite up to my (admittedly high) expectations. The first person narrator, Gemma Doyle, runs a book store/gift shop devoted to Sherlock Holmes and items related to Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Sherlock canon. Not because she is a particularly devoted Sherlock fan, but because her uncle, who IS a particularly devoted Sherlock fan, started the bookstore and she joined him in the business later. But Gemma is a bit like Sherlock. She has acute powers of observation, and there are many conversations wherein she shows off, er, demonstrates said powers of observation by pointing out things the other party to the conversation did not notice or missed. She often comes off as a bit...lofty. Her friends seem to just accept it and aren't put off or insulted by her. But I found her a little irritating at times. She tells us, more than once, that she's offered or attempted to help out the local police investigate crimes in the past only to have her offers rebuffed.

It's been many many many years since I've read any of the Sherlock books, and my only recent experience with him is through the Benedict Cumberbatch TV show (which I do love). So I don't remember if Sherlock himself, the book Sherlock, came across the same way. But since those stories were narrated by Watson, I think that probably helped temper it. Maybe if Gemma's best friend, Jayne, were the narrator here...I just didn't find Gemma to be a very sympathetic character and so I had a little trouble liking her.


That being said, I did like Jayne, and I liked Ryan Ashburton, the local police detective who also happened to be Gemma's ex. And the mystery was good. I was completely in the dark about who the culprit was in the end and it came as a complete surprise. 

15 February 2017

Five Ways 'Til Sunday (Delta Heat 1)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Sometimes a man’s just gotta call for backup…
Delta Heat, Book 1

Marti Kowalski is all wrong for Officer Jackson Teague—he just won’t listen to reason. She didn’t finish high school, runs a bar. Has a tattoo and a blue streak in her hair. Yet he still wants to marry her? She can’t say she’s not tempted, but she’s got a bucket list to complete before she ties the knot.

Not just any bucket—more like a fifty-five-gallon drum of sexual wishes so explicit, there’s no way one man, even Jackson, can fulfill them all.

When Marti turns him down again, Jackson insists on knowing why. That’s when she shows him her list. He takes it, thinks about it—and calls on the only men he can trust: four buddies from his academy graduating class.

Between the five of them, he’s sure they can come up with a plan to check off every item on her list in one wild, wicked weekend. That is, if she has the nerve to follow through—and if he can bear to share her.
Product Warnings
Contains five men on a mission to break down the resistance of one determined woman, using everything in their arsenal from BDSM accoutrements to roleplay of non-consensual situation
.

Stats for my copy: ebook, Samhain Publishing, 2011.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  Hot from the first page! I read this novella in one sitting. Twice. Well, I read it in January 2012, and then again a few days ago. I particularly liked the characters. They aren't just random people, they're a couple who obviously love each other. The blurb pretty much tells you the whole plot. While Jackson gets his buddies to help him fulfill Marti's fantasies, he's not just gung ho completely comfortable doing so. But he thinks if he gets Marti through her bucket list, then she'll have no more excuses not to marry him. So for him, the ends justify the means. And that hastily scribbled bucket list was just an excuse. As much as Marti loves Jackson, she's scared of marriage, and she feels she will not be the right wife for Jackson. So she's shocked when she finds herself checking off each fantasy, along with some extra surprises that Jackson and his buddies plan along the way. *sigh* Where is MY Jackson? 

The Water-Method Man

JOHN IRVING

Synopsis from Goodreads: His wife wants out. His mistress wants a baby. The underground filmmaker he works for wants to make a movie of his life: a documentary of failure. Bogus Trumper is a wayward knight-errant in the battle of the sexes, with only his weapon to blame. His complaint is more serious than Portnoy's-- Portnoy never had to drink all that water.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Pocket Books, 1972.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  This is the second John Irving book I've read. I started collecting everything I came across by him after reading THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, which I loved. Either it's just been a long time since I read Cider House, or this book is just really different. Not to say I didn't enjoy it, because I did. The narrative is somewhat disjointed and bounces back and forth between first person and third person POV, and between the past and the present, so at times it was a little confusing. I didn't love it as much as Cider House, but I did like it enough to want to read more from Mr. Irving.  

26 January 2017

A HAUNTING OBSESSION (Harlequin Presents No. 1893)

MIRANDA LEE

Synopsis from Goodreads: Why did Jordan Vine-Hall make Bonnie Merrick lose her cool? Jordan exuded the sort of arrogance that Bonnie detested, but surely that should have stopped her from being drawn to him so strongly!

After being widowed, Bonnie had taken control of her life and was fast becoming a successful real-estate agent. But when she showed Jordan around the old McClelland house--which was rumored to be haunted-- something else took over....

Suddenly Bonnie and Jordan became obsessed by a passion they just couldn't resist!

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin Enterprised Limited, 1995.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  So the hero here is definitely a throwback to the days of politically incorrect heroes. Jordan is a successful barrister, looking for a weekender, meaning a house on the shore for weekends. Bonnie is an estate agent. Their first exchange, over the telephone when Jordan calls Bonnie's office and expresses his preference to deal with a man, obviously does not go well, with both of them simmering after they hang up.

Bonnie has a LOT of hangups about men, thanks to her brief marriage to a police officer who physically and emotionally abused her. She is determined not to fall in love, not to let a handsome sexy man turn her head. She works hard, she's one of the top sellers at the agency, and she's proud of providing for herself. Neither of my exes physically abused me (ok, well, my first ex did a little, in fact he choked me one time and I literally thought he was going to kill me, but you don't really need to know about that), but my second ex was an alcoholic and living with an alcoholic, even one who doesn't get all mean or hit you, can still be an abusive way to live. I totally related to Bonnie.

But to get back on track. Of course when Bonnie and Jordan meet in person they are both wildly attracted to each other. I've already told you Bonnie's attitude, so you know she fights it. Well, before meeting Bonnie, one of her co-workers, who has his own bad attitude because he keeps asking Bonnie out and she keeps turning him down, tells Jordan that she is a slut who is sleeping with the boss and sleeps with her clients. So naturally when Jordan meets Bonnie he already feels contempt for her. So while the sparks are flying, some zingers also fly.

Jordan is actually downright nasty to Bonnie at times. At one point he even lifts his hand to her, though he stops short of actually striking her.
'Don't bother to apologise,' she cut in, her voice chillingly calm now. 'I expected no less.'
Clearly he was stunned, both by her words and her demeanour.
'I don't make a habit of hitting women!' he protested.
'Only whores,' she pointed out drily.
'Not even whores!”

All this should make a person not want to read a book where he is the hero. But we know he's tortured inside with wanting her, and we know he was purposly lied to and misled about her. And of course we know in the end it'll all come out and there will be an HEA.

There's also a house that is said to be haunted, and while Bonnie never sees a ghost she does feel a presence, that sometimes seems to take her over and influence her actions. But the ghost stuff is very understated and not a large part of the story.


I really enjoyed this book, misogyny and all. In fact, I'm on the fence about whether I loved it enough that I want to now hunt down everything else Miranda Lee has written. But I checked my TPR pile and I do have four more of her books, so for now I'll content myself with looking forward to reading them.

23 January 2017

SIZE 12 AND READY TO ROCK (Heather Wells Mysteries, Book 4)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Summer break . . . and the livin' ain't easy!

Just because the students at New York College have flown the coop doesn't mean assistant residence hall director Heather Wells can relax. Fischer Hall is busier than ever, filled with squealing thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls attending the first ever Tania Trace Teen Rock Camp, hosted by pop sensation Tania Trace herself—who just happens to be newly married to Heather's ex-boyfriend, heartthrob Jordan Cartwright. But the real headache begins when the producer of a reality TV show starring Tania winds up dead . . . and it's clear that the star was the intended victim.

Grant Cartwright, head of Cartwright Records, wants to keep his daughter-in-law (and his highest-earning performer) alive. So he hires his oldest son, black sheep of the family and private investigator Cooper Cartwright—who just happens to be Heather's new fiancÉ. Heather should leave the detecting to Cooper. But with a dorm full of hysterical mini-divas-in-training, she can't help but get involved. And after Tania shares a really shocking secret with her, this reality suddenly becomes more dangerously real than anyone ever anticipated.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, William Morrow, 2012.

How acquired: Via BookCrossing.

My thoughts:  It's been awhile since I read the first three books in this series (almost four years), but I was sucked right in as if it had been yesterday. In fact, this one could probably be read and enjoyed on it's own, without having read the first three books.

Meg Cabot is a master at the snarky humor. And the first person narration just zips along, as if Heather is sitting beside you telling you her story. In fact, Cabot's breezy writing is so masterful that it didn't even hit me until literally the last page that the writing is in first person PRESENT TENSE. Seriously! My least favorite tense, and I didn't even notice for 360 pages!

Heather is such a fun heroine, and Cooper, God, I love Cooper! And I was so happy that he got more page time here than in the previous book. And I'm sad that there's only one more book after this one.  

17 January 2017

OLD DOGS ARE THE BEST DOGS

BY GENE WEINGARTEN; PHOTOGRAPHS BY MICHAEL S. WILLIAMSON

Synopsis from Goodreads: Featuring sixty black-and-white photographs of old dogs shot by Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Michael S. Williamson and narrated by washington Post staffer and columnist Gene Weingarten, this is a perfect collection for dog lovers that celebrates man's best friend.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Simon & Schuster, 2008.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  Beautiful book. Filled with portraits of dogs, all 10 years old or older, with a brief little story or anecdote about each dog. 

MAX. HE WAS MY SOUL MATE.
Reading through this book made me happy and sad at the same time. My Max was 14 when he died on April 18, 2016, and I still miss him like crazy. I'll never get a puppy. I want the older dogs that nobody else wants. 

16 January 2017

TEACHER MAN


Synopsis from Goodreads: Nearly a decade ago Frank McCourt became an unlikely star when, at the age of sixty-six, he burst onto the literary scene with Angela's Ashes, the Pulitzer Prize -- winning memoir of his childhood in Limerick, Ireland. Then came 'Tis, his glorious account of his early years in New York. Now, here at last, is McCourt's long-awaited book about how his thirty-year teaching career shaped his second act as a writer. Teacher Man is also an urgent tribute to teachers everywhere. In bold and spirited prose featuring his irreverent wit and heartbreaking honesty, McCourt records the trials, triumphs and surprises he faces in public high schools around New York City. His methods anything but conventional, McCourt creates a lasting impact on his students through imaginative assignments (he instructs one class to write "An Excuse Note from Adam or Eve to God"), singalongs (featuring recipe ingredients as lyrics), and field trips (imagine taking twenty-nine rowdy girls to a movie in Times Square!). McCourt struggles to find his way in the classroom and spends his evenings drinking with writers and dreaming of one day putting his own story to paper. Teacher Man shows McCourt developing his unparalleled ability to tell a great story as, five days a week, five periods per day, he works to gain the attention and respect of unruly, hormonally charged or indifferent adolescents. McCourt's rocky marriage, his failed attempt to get a Ph.D. at Trinity College, Dublin, and his repeated firings due to his propensity to talk back to his superiors ironically lead him to New York's most prestigious school, Stuyvesant High School, where he finally finds a place and a voice. "Doggedness," he says, is "not as glamorous as ambition or talent or intellect or charm, but still the one thing that got me through the days and nights." For McCourt, storytelling itself is the source of salvation, and in Teacher Man the journey to redemption -- and literary fame -- is an exhilarating adventure.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Scribner, 2005.

How acquired: Via Book Mooch.

My thoughts:  I read ANGELA'S ASHES in 2007, after which I wrote in my journal entry on BookCrossing:
Very depressing. At first I had trouble too because I just couldn't fathom how the author could remember in such detail things that happened when he was 3 and 4 years of age. But then I began reading with the mindset that it I was reading fiction with a first-person narrator and was able to concentrate on the story. Then when the author was "ten going on eleven" I began to get really sucked in and was captivated until the end.

Then I read 'TIS in 2010:
I really enjoy McCourt's writing, as if he's sitting next to you weaving a tale for you. I liked this book even more than Angela's Ashes. Solid story of a young Irish immigrant intent on getting an education and becoming a teacher, despite all the odds against him - including very little family/friend moral support as he's constantly told he should stick to physical labor jobs that pay better.

TEACHER MAN then languished in my TBR pile until a couple of days ago, when I finally picked it up to read. I don't know why I waited so long, but I really enjoyed it. Teaching has got to be one of the hardest jobs around, and I admire anyone brave enough to make a career of it. Mr. McCourt writes very honestly about his feelings of inadequacy, constantly wondering how to get a handle on the job and expecting to be fired for being a fraud. His methods were unusual, but he was able to connect with kids and get their attention.


The writing flows, sometimes almost in a stream of consciousness style, as Mr. McCourt relates incidents, anecdotes and thoughts and feelings. I read this book in two days, something I've not done with a book in a long time. Partly because I had some time what with our office being closed due to an ice storm, but mostly because the writing and the narration just pulled me in and I became unaware of time passing. The end came all too soon.