Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Review: Seven Up by Janet Evanovich



Stephanie Plum is not your typical bounty hunter. She is all luck and minimal skill, but she always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Or maybe it is the wrong place at the wrong time depending upon how you look at it.

This time around she is after Eddie DeChooch. He is an elderly man with connections to the mob who skipped his court date for smuggling cigarettes. If you watched The Sopranos, I was picturing Junior. He is a feisty old guy with a lot of tricks up his sleeve. It doesn't make sense that he would run from the law for such a minor offense when you compare it with his usual dealings. Stephanie begins to realize there is more to the story when a couple of mobsters start following her around trying to get to Eddie first.

Two of Stephanie's friends, Mooner and Dougie, disappear without a trace and then her Grandma Mazur is nowhere to be found. She realizes she is in way over her head and calls in Ranger for assistance. Ranger is one of the other bounty hunters with Navy Seal level skills. I wouldn't want to cross him if I were a fugitive, but his assistance doesn't come without a price. While Stephanie is technically engaged to Joe Morelli, neither of them is ready to go through with it. Ranger is one of the nagging what ifs that is constantly in the back of Stephanie's mind. She is attracted to him, but he is not the marrying type. 

Overall, this is a light and funny mystery series. Each book is an independent story or case, but the characters and relationships do evolve. I would recommend reading them in order, but it isn't completely necessary. It is a VERY lengthy series with 29 books currently available. I'm not sure if I am in for the long haul or not, but I have enjoyed them so far and will continue plugging along. I am intrigued by the possible love triangle and want to see how that eventually plays out. I do not feel compelled to binge read the series, so I will continue reading one or two a year and hope I don't fall even further behind.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Review: One by One by Ruth Ware


Goodreads Overview:

Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?

When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?


When I first started reading this book and could see where it was leading, it reminded me of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. A group of coworkers from Snoop, a tech company that started a music app, are trapped at a beautiful French chalet after an avalanche hits. One of the party goes missing during the avalanche, but then others start dropping just like the "ten little soldier boys" in Christie's novel. Nobody can be trusted, including the chef and housekeeper, who have done everything within their power to keep things moving forward during this crazy situation.

Topher and Eva are the founders of Snoop. They planned this holiday for their employees to soften the fact that Eva wants to sell out. Topher has bigger plans for the company and wants to hold out until their next update is launched. The two are trying to gain support from the other share holders and need Liz to cast the tie breaking vote. Liz is a former employee that left the company. She could use the money and wants to side with Eva, but she is loyal to Topher and is conflicted. 

When one of the party disappears during the avalanche, everyone assumes it was a tragic accident. When other members of the party start dying of unusual causes, nobody feels safe. Everyone is a suspect and even the original death starts looking less like an accident. With no method of communication to the outside world, they are trapped with a killer until they can either solve the crimes or help arrives. 

The story is told with an alternating point of view between Liz and the housekeeper Erin. Everyone has secrets they want to keep hidden. You could make a case that just about anyone in the party is the murderer, but I just couldn't figure out a motive that justified the extreme measures. The book was filled with suspense and had me sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation. I was absolutely shocked when I found out who was behind everything and why. I never would have guess in a million years, but it all made sense in the end.

I enjoyed Ruth Ware's The Woman In Cabin Ten and believe this book was equally as good if not better.  If you enjoy a good murder mystery, I have yet to go wrong with one of Ware's books. I will definitely check out some of her others.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Review: Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova


Incendiary was the May 2020 Owlcrate selection. Below is a picture from their website showing what was included in the box. I am not really into graphic novels, so I put that book in my little free library to share with others.  I do use straws regularly and like having an additional set of reusable straws. I have some from Tervis Tumbler that I use, but those are fatter and don't fit in some of my cups with smaller openings in the lid. I have also found an additional set of pot holders to be useful. Overall, I was pleased with the gifts included in this month's box. 


Renata is one of the Whispers, which is a group of rebels working to protect the Moria from the crown. Moria have various magical powers, but the King is trying to eliminate all Moria that are not directly within his control. It is believed the King now has a secret weapon that can strip them of their powers, so they must act quickly to destroy the weapon and get as many Moria to safety as possible.

Renata lived in the palace as a child and was once part of the King's prized collection of Moria. She has the rare ability to steal another person's memories. This skill can be beneficial if someone no longer wants to remember something unpleasant, but it can also be very dangerous. Removing too many memories can leave someone in a vegetative state. In addition, any memories Renata steals now plaque her memory.

The Whispers "rescued" her during an attack on the palace and she has been helping their cause ever since. She isn't trusted by most of the other members because they believe her skill is too dangerous. Dez, who is the leader of her group, believes she could be the key to their success and trusts her completely. 

Renata has witnessed the crown Prince leading the raids agains Moroi and burning towns in his wake. She believes he knows where the weapon is and is the real threat to the Moroi. When the Prince takes Dez captive, she knows it is her responsibility alone to free him. Things do not go as planned and Renata soon discovers there is far more going on behind the palace walls than she ever could have imagined. Her friends and enemies are no longer as clearly defined as she once believed.

I really enjoyed this story and can't wait to find out what happens next. It took a while for the plot to really take off, but when it finally did, we were left hanging in the balance. Everything Renata believed to be true was turned upside down. We finally know where everyone stands and then the book comes to an abrupt ending. 

There was a lot of history, world building, and discovery of Renata's past that took place within this book. I think Illusionary, which will be released on May 11th, should take off like a cannon. This is a duology and there is a lot that still needs to take place if Renata is going to save the Moria and the Kingdom. I am glad I did not read this book as soon as it was released. I now only have to wait a couple of months to see how this story will conclude.

This isn't a book I probably would have selected on my own, but it was another excellent pick by Owlcrate.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Review: The Spies that Bind by Ally Carter



I love the concept of audible and find the badges and different reading levels you can achieve to be quite motivating and addicting, but I can't justify the cost. I get all of my audiobooks using the Overdrive and Hoopla apps for free with my library card. Every now and then I will receive a 30 day free trial officer from audible and decide to take them up on it. 

This book doesn't require a credit, so I would definitely recommend listening to his short story if you are a Gallagher Girls fan or are interested in trying out the series. This is a prequel, so you will not spoil anything by listening to this book. In fact, it was nice to learn more about the history of the school and its founder, which I don't recall being revealed in any of the books in the series.  I also enjoyed seeing how Cammie found all of the secret passages that generations of Gallagher girls never discovered. In addition, we get to see Cammie's first impression of the Gallagher Academy and how she met her roommates. These ladies always seemed so smart and confident in the series, but they weren't always that way. They all questioned if they have what it takes to succeed in such a competitive environment.

The transition to a new school impacted more than just the students. Cammie's mom is returning to the Gallagher Academy for the first time since she graduated, but this time around she is the new head mistress. She is expected to lead and develop the next generation of Exceptional Young Women. Not everyone thought she was the best woman suited for the job and even she is questioning her decision. 

I really enjoyed having the opportunity to return to the Gallagher Academy. This is a very short story and will not take much of your time. In fact, I took my dog for a walk around the neighborhood and was able to listen to the entire thing.  I understand audible needs to have original and exclusive content to entice members, but I remember feeling disappointed when Ally first announced this book was an audible exclusive. I'm glad I finally had a chance to listen to it.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Review: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare


Goodreads Overview:

The Shadowhunters of Los Angeles star in the first novel in Cassandra Clare’s newest series, The Dark Artifices, a sequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series. Lady Midnight is a Shadowhunters novel.

It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…

Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?


I've read the first 3 books in the Mortal Instruments series and loved them. I will likely read the rest of that series, but book 3 had a nice conclusion that I was happy with and I didn't feel like taking on the next 3 books in that series yet.

Lady Midnight was an exceptional start to a spinoff series. I absolutely loved Emma and Julian and enjoyed seeing how Mark reacclimated into the Shadowhunter world after his time with the faeries. We have another star-crossed lover situation that reminded me of the Jace and Clary relationship in the Mortal Instruments. Emma and Julian are not related, but they are parabatai and are forbidden to have a romantic relationship by the Clave.  They are both struggling with their feelings for each other and why the Clave has this law in the first place.

Emma has been investigating the murder of her parents for years and comes across her first solid clue at the beginning of this book. There are a series of murders that appear similar to that of her parents and she will do anything to uncover the truth. The truth was not what she was expecting and hit much closer to home than any of the Shadowhunters could have imagined.

We are introduced to Christina and Diego, who are Shadowhunters from Mexico City. Christina came to live with the Blackthorn's for a year and becomes good friends with Emma. "Perfect Diego" is Christina's ex-boyfriend, but we aren't exactly sure why they split up and she decided to leave Mexico City  That was a mystery for the majority of this book. 

Jace and Clary make an appearance in this book, which I was excited to see. We discover what they have been up to since the end of the Mortal Instruments series. We also received updates on several of the other characters including Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Isabella. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this action packed adventure and gave the book 5 stars. I would recommend reading at least the first 3 books in the Mortal Instruments series before starting Lady Midnight. It probably isn't completely necessary, but there are a lot of references to what took place in the Mortal Instruments. In addition, it will provide a solid foundation of the Shadowhunter world without jumping in head first.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Review: The 12 Days of Book-Club-Mas by Once Upon A Book Club



This is the 3rd volume of the Once Upon a Book Club's 12 Days of Book-Club-Mas. Last year it was a single story that was broken up into 12 chapters. Similar to their subscription boxes, there was a section in each chapter that instructed the reader to open the corresponding gift.  

This year each chapter was an independent story by a different author. The author was given a gift that they needed to incorporate into the story for the reader to open. I really enjoy the Once Upon a Book Club concept of bringing a book to life. The issue that I have with this company is that some of the gifts seem cheap and in other cases aren't practical or useful. The cost of the box was $89.99 + $12 shipping within the US. I did enjoy the fact that there was an adult AND a YA version of the box this year. I read mostly YA and will definitely enjoy the books selected for the YA version better than the adult selections.

Below is a link to a nice YouTube Unboxing that I found for the YA edition of this year's advent calendar.

My favorite gifts from this year's box are the 4 books, the winter hat, and the Shhhh I'm Reading pillow case. The rolling bag with small plastic wheels and the camp stool are two of the gifts that I do not see lasting. I am smaller than average and would not even consider trying to sit on that stool. The wheels on the rolling bag also do not seem very sturdy or durable. I understand there is a budget for each gift, but a standard tote bag without the gimmick would have been far more practical. In addition, the steering wheel cover is not something I would ever consider using. My skin cream roller arrived broken and I received a $7 refund for the cost of that item. The blanket as she mentioned is very thin. I received a blanket recently in an Owlcrate box that also had a book quote, but was considerably higher quality.

Overall, I really enjoyed the 12 stories and the concept of opening a bookish gift each day for advent. The YA books that were selected all sound like books I will enjoy, so I was very pleased with that. I just wish some of the other gifts were more useful. A candle, tea, bookish socks, etc. would have been more my speed. It was a fun experience, but after trying it for two years, I probably will not purchase next year's advent calendar. I will be interested in watching the unboxing, however, to see if they improve the quality of their gifts.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Review: Chop Wood Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf


Goodreads Overview:

Guided by “Akira-sensei,” John comes to realize the greatest adversity on his journey will be the challenge of defeating the man in the mirror.

This powerful story of one boy’s journey to achieve his life long goal of becoming a samurai warrior, brings the Train to be CLUTCH curriculum to life in a powerful and memorable way.

Some things you will learn…
—No matter how it feels, you are always building your own house.
—How and why you must surrender to the outcome in order to be at your best.
—Why you never want to have your identity wrapped up in what you do.
—Why your strength lies in faithfulness to the little things.
—How to develop a heart posture of gratitude.
—How to use the biggest challenges as a training ground for greatness.
—Why the process is more important than the goal.
—Why comparison is the thief of all joy.
—How to develop a growth mindset.
—Why talent is more of a curse than a blessing.


This is one of 3 books recommended by my son's golf coach to help him with the mental game. There are a lot of great messages and one line quotes that are very inspirational and motivating. Most people are focused on what they want to accomplish. In my son's case, "I'm going to make the Florida Gulf Coast golf team and get my degree in PGA golf management." It is necessary to set goals, but this book teaches you the importance of the day to day dedication and training that is essential to achieve greatness.

Before you can focus on winning, you must work on the fundamentals EVERY DAY. You can't take the day off simply because you are tired or it is raining and windy. Pushing through adversity is what makes you stronger and will ultimately give you an edge over your competition. You should always focus on the positive and what you learned today vs. your perceived shortcomings. 

My son and I read this book together and discussed each chapter. He appreciated the message and has definitely improved his work ethic. Some of the conversations between John and Akira were lengthy and my son lost interest. Instead of reading this book like a typical novel, I would recommend reading a chapter a day. This would have given him something to think about, digest, and implement into his daily routine before going onto the next chapter. In shorter chunks the stories and conversations may not have felt so long. 

Overall, it was a good story with a great message that everyone could benefit from. I gave it 3 stars simply because a book this short really shouldn't have felt like it was dragging.