Sunday, May 31, 2015

Book Review: "Twenty Eight & A Half Wishes" by Denise Grover Swank

I loved reading "Twenty-Eight & A Half Wishes", Denise Grover Swank's first book in her Rose Gardner mystery series. It was such a fun book to devour, and devour it I did. I don't think I put it down until it was finished. The good thing is that it's a really quick read so you can actually immerse yourself in the title for the whole day and finish it in one sitting if you start in the morning. I love being able to do that with books, although it's a rare treat these days.

I used to read a book all the way through when I was in University. On especially stressful weeks, when everything was falling on my shoulders, I'd eek out a complete day and go buy a pulp fast read, go down to the basement of the student union and sit for hours, just reading. It so much let the stress roll off my shoulders and made life good again. I found this book just like that kind of medicine. It's fun, easy, fluffy, interesting and just plain cute with a mystery thrown in for good measure.

"Twenty-Eight & A Half Wishes" is about a woman in her mid-twenties who hasn't experienced anything in life. She's been under her mean and demanding mother's thumb for her whole existence. One day Rose, who is usually compliant, sweet and submissive stands up to her mother's unreasonable demands one afternoon and walks out to get some air. In the park she goes to so she can clear her head, she writes a list on the back of a Walmart receipt, all the things she'd like to do. Rose wants to start experiencing life and shed her naive and sheltered existence. She does not, however, expect to  get back home that evening and find her abusive mother dead on the sofa. That's a little more extreme than Rose wanted, she just thought she'd be a little more vocal and not be such a doormat. But the whole town and the local constabulary think Rose must have "lost it" and beaten her mother to death with the bloody rolling pin found beside the body. Now Rose has to prove her own innocence and battle all the dirty looks from the townspeople. It's gonna be an uphill battle.

This book is a solid four of five stars. As I said, I loved it but I know some will find Rose's naïvety difficult to swallow. Here's the thing, just suspend disbelief and enjoy. I know of people who really do not live life and never try anything because they're cowed by mean relatives so I didn't find this unbelievable at all. If you have trouble believing in Rose's inexperience, just go with it and you'll love this fun, easy read. The best news is that Denise Grover Swank has written six more books in this series! So, now you can plan to read one of these gems a week throughout the summer and I'd suggest reading them as you lounge on a blanket in the sun with an umbrella drink close by. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Review: "Second Helpings At The Serve You Right Cafe" by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs

Ok, let me start by saying that I absolutely LOVED "Second Helpings At The Serve You Right Cafe" by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs. Although it is a mystery, the atmosphere of the book is just so welcoming that it made me wish I lived in their neighborhood. I loved the feeling I got as the writer formed a picture in my mind of what the Serve You Right cafe looked and felt like. Jacobs' writing is so smooth that I found myself wishing I could walk into the cafe and order a comforting hazelnut mocha coffee. 

The novel centers around Serve You Right Cafe and the two main characters, Emet and Eden Rose, who run the joint. Emet is a
reformed ex-con who just wants to live a simple life. When he asks Mercey, a lovely but burdened lady out for dinner his simple life becomes much more complicated. Eden Rose, Emet's boss and owner of the cafe tries to help Emet because she has had her own troubles in the past. She encourages Emet to give his new relationship a chance even though Emet is sure Mercey will not forgive or understand his murky past. What Emet doesn't know is that Mercey has secrets of her own and those secrets might blow all chances for a relationship apart.

As I said above, I loved this short read. "Second Helpings At The Serve You Right Cafe" is ilia Klebenov Jacobs second novel and I certainly hope she writes many more. I love that it's short enough to read in one day but the characters and situations are well fleshed out, leaving no gaps in the wonderful story. This book is easily a five out of five star read and perfect for the upcoming summer. If you have a cozy little cafe somewhere in your town, grab this book and go order yourself a good cuppa and a treat, you deserve a lovely little break and this book certainly won't disappoint.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Review: "Fixed In Blood" by T.E. Woods

This will be my second T.E. Woods mystery that I've reviewed. I loved "The Unforgivable Fix"  so I was looking forward to reading "Fixed In Blood". I certainly was not disappointed. This was a spectacular read, the thrilling mystery held me tight until the very last page.

Here's the gist of the book. The Fixer is on the hunt again. Psychologist Lydia Corriger is helping a young woman try to make a better life. The young woman comes to her office complaining that she's sick of working dead end jobs and fulfilling her parents' low expectations of her. She wanted to be different so Dr. Corriger began an intensive bit of behavior changing therapy. When Dr. Corriger got a late night call from her distraught patient, saying she was being forced to work off a debt by using her body, the doctor tries to intervene. She's shocked to find that Detective Mort Grant, her former friend, is also on the hunt for same people. What Dr. Corriger doesn't know yet is that two women are dead and all of these cases are connected. Is Dr. Corriger's patient the next slated to die?

Mort and Lydia (Dr. Corriger) decide to pool their resources because Mort knows Lydia's secret. She used to be The Fixer, an assassin who helped people with no other recourse. Mort is leery to trust Lydia again, he is unsure if she has really left "The Fixer" behind. Lydia's past is what shattered their friendship before and Mort isn't eager to reestablish any kind of relationship, even if it's professional.

This book was certainly a knock it out of the park, five out of five kind of thriller. I have one caveat. READ THE PREVIOUS BOOKS FIRST. Without the incredible history and background between Mort and Lydia, the reader would lose the meat of this book. As Denise, another reviewer said... "it would have been better had I been able to read those intervening stories first". She's right, go read "The Fixer", "Red Hot Fix" and "The Unforgivable Fix" first, you won't regret it. T.E. Woods has written a truly spectacular series here with heroes and villains that knock your socks off. Believe me, you'll thank me later. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Review: "The Fixer" By Joseph Finder

This is my second Joseph Finder novel, the first book I read from him was "Suspicion". Since I liked Suspicion, I thought I'd certainly like "The Fixer". I'd say this newest book from Finder isn't as good as the last but it certainly didn't disappoint.

"The Fixer" starts by introducing the reader to Rick Hoffman, a former investigative reporter who sold out to write puff pieces for a ritzy magazine. Unfortunately, he has just lost his kooshy job, gorgeous apartment and beautiful fiancé. With no real choices, he moves back into his father's old house. His lawyer father had a stoke eighteen years ago and is now in a nursing home, leaving his home to become dilapidated and uncared for. Rick takes advantage of the fact it's a free place to live and he thinks if he renovates the old house he may be able to sell it and get back on his feet.

With the help of his next door neighbor Jeff, Rick rips apart an upstairs closet to see just what damage might be behind the home's walls. What Rick finds isn't the squirrels he expects but a huge pile of money. Now Rick has to figure out where the money came from and who owns it. In the process he will discover that he didn't know his father at all and as Rick digs deeper into the mystery of who his father was and where the money came from, his life will hang in the balance. The question Rick has to ask himself is whether the truth is worth the price.

I found, in the end I really liked the book but it took time for me to get over my initial dislike of the main character, Rick. In the beginning he's portrayed as an incredibly superficial and annoyingly self centered man. But the author also says Rick was unusually bright and it was thought he'd become the next great investigative reporter. But Rick lives an unexamined life; he has ended up where he never wanted to be all because his love of what having money and fame does for him. Even losing his position in society along with his posh job and fiancé doesn't deter Rick from coveting the money in his father's house. The main character puts himself in grave danger as he tries desperately to hide the money.

The problem that I had with the first part of the book is that Rick seems to leave his brain in his pocket and ignore the obvious dangers around him. It is only as the reader gets to the second part of the book does Rick start to use the brains God gave him. This is the turning point in the book that made the mystery enjoyable. But because of the disconnect with the main character from the first half to the second half of the book, I have to only give "The Fixer" three out of five stars. If you're a fan of Joseph Finder you'll still enjoy this book, I just wouldn't start with this one if you're a first time reader of him, he did better with "Suspicion". Don't get me wrong, by the end of the book I thought the mystery had become a four star, it is brought down by the first half.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Little This & That

B&W ways to add water Moleskine page
So I've been aimlessly playing in my sketchbook. I should have taken the time to explore crosshatching a week ago as I'm taking SBS's "Stretching" course, their fourth installment of Sketchbook Skool. I guess this time I'm not feeling as inspired as several of the teachers are into imagination and drawing faces. Really not my thing. I wish I felt more enthusiastic. But week four was good.

Week four was France Bellville Van Stone's week of classes and I loved her work. She even has a new book out that I bought, it's called SKETCH! So, I was supposed to be practicing crosshatching but all I only got as far as the outlines then chickened out. LOL. I thought the placement on the page looked so cute I didn't want to screw it up. *sigh*. I have to learn to be less afraid. That brings me to my next bit of news.

My good friend and all round lovely person, Tracey Fletcher King, is going to be giving an online class over on Thrive. Thrive is an online artistic community that is now offering classes! They asked Tracey if she'd like to teach a class and so starting this June 1st, Tracey will be teaching an online art course called Delicious Paint. I'm so darn excited because I've wanted Tracey to start teaching so I could soak up all the stuff she knows. My birthday present from my family is a place in the course so I get my wish.

Above is little video I've pilfered from Trace's site, hope she doesn't mind. It's about how to paint a carrot. If you'd like to see part 2, just click here and go to her blog post. If you want to sign up for her course (and who wouldn't!) go here. On the other hand, if you want more information because you don't just take my golden word on everything, hehehe, go to Tracey's blog. There you can watch and read all about the course. It's gonna be a blast, I sure hope to see you in class. There's only fifty places in total and twenty are already gone so hurry, you only  have a few weeks to make a decision on whether you're gonna take advantage of a fantastic offer, to learn from the best. Oh, and if you don't know Tracey's work, here's a link to her Pinterest Page so you can peruse her beautiful and inspiring art to your heart's desire. I warn you though, it's gonna make you want to take her course!!


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Book Review: "Truth Or Die" by Jack Lynch

"Truth or Die" by Jack Lynch started out slowly which, for me, isn't a good sign. I have to say though, by the middle and and end of the book I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the mystery and characters. "Truth of Die" starts out by introducing the reader to the main characters and letting us get to know them a little. This is where I found the book lagged, although it only lasted about 10% of the book. 

I also have to admit that at first I didn't like our hero, Peter Bragg as much as I wanted to. I found myself put off by his acceptance of the outrageous flirtation from a former female friend. It really didn't help that the woman flirting with him knew that Bragg was on vacation with his girlfriend. The whole situation came off a very unseemly but by the middle and end of the book I realized that it was a necessary evil within that female character (who ended up becoming Bragg's client).

Here's the gist of the mystery. Jo Sommers is accused of murdering her Psychiatrist husband right after she bumps into our hero, private investigator Peter Bragg, while he and his girlfriend are down in Carmel California enjoying the summer music festival. Bragg is dragged into investigating the murder for Jo Sommers because it looks like she's become the police's main suspect without sufficient proof. Mrs. Sommers is an overtly sexual flirt and this becomes a problem for Bragg. Just getting Jo to concentrate and help him uncover the reasons for her husband's murder is like pulling teeth. Jo is an unhappy woman in an unhappy marriage and she doesn't see how her behavior makes her culpable in the mayhem of this murder. As Bragg unravels the blackmail scheme behind the initial murder, others turn up dead and Bragg better hurry or he'll lose more than just his client to a murdering blackmailer.
As I said above, I didn't think I'd like this mystery because of the way it  started. I was pleasantly surprised in the end. I'd have to say that by the last chapter, the novel had just eked out a four out of five stars for me. I bumped it up from three to four because of the tight writing and excellent creative skills given to our hero, Bragg. I would certainly go back and read the other books by Jack Lynch, this was the sixth Bragg book so there are a bunch before this one to go sink my teeth into. Lynch writes a meaty mystery and I'm glad there are more to feast on.


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