Monday, February 26, 2024



A gorgeous debut, laced through with magic, following four generations of women as they seek to chart their own futures. Evangeline Hussey’s husband is dead―lost at sea―and she has only managed to hold on to his Nantucket inn by employing a curious gift to glimpse and re-form the recent memories of those around her. One night, an idealistic sailor appears on her doorstep asking her to call him Ishmael, and her careful illusion begins to fracture. He soon sails away with Ahab to hunt an infamous white whale, and Evangeline is left to forge a life from the pieces that remain.

Her choices ripple through generations, across continents, and into the depths of the sea, in a narrative that follows Evangeline and her descendants from mid-nineteenth century Nantucket to Boston, Brazil, Florence, and Idaho.


I am one of those people who read Moby Dick without having too. That is right, I picked it up on my own, without a teacher telling me I HAD to read it. I also really enjoyed it. So when I read the description of Tara Karr Roberts Wild and Distant Sea, it caught my attention instantly and I knew I needed to read it.

Wild and Distant Seas takes on a different search then Moby Dick, it is the search for the famous Ishmael of the original story, not the legendary white whale, and the search is conducted by his females decedents. If you have read Moby Dick will might recognize Evangeline Hussey as the Inn Keeper. Wild and Distant Seas begins with her and Ishmael and travels with a bit of magical realism through his and hers female line.

Roberts has written and impressive debut with this one. It is choked full of rich historic detail and beautiful characters that are woven flawlessly throughout the generations. This alone will keep you reading and turning those pages to learn the characters unforgettable stories.

This was a fantastic story, I can not stress that enough, and it was a joy to get lost in . The writing will transport you to the locations and time periods and you will live in them. If you like Historical Fiction, literary fiction, or just take offs of stories you have read in the past, pick up the Wild and Distant Seas. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024



Georgiana Milford may be a wealthy heiress without title, but even she has her limits. It’s vexing enough to be courted by every fortune-hunting noble during the Season—goodness, you’d think she was hiding a gold mine beneath her skirts! But this is not to be condoned. Because during a merry two-week party at a lord’s country home, she’s forced to endure her father’s greatest enemy and the most wretched duke in all of England: the Duke of Despots.

Theo St. Clair has hardly been the Seventh Duke of Desborough long enough to straighten his cravat, yet the ton are already nipping at his bootstraps. Starting with the Milford family who are convinced he’s exactly like his blaggard of a father. Unfortunately, nothing tempts the scoundrel in him more than the prospect of kissing the prim-and-proper-ness right off Georgiana Milford’s lovely lips...

Now they’re trapped together, forced to wear polite smiles while they trade acidic barbs and pretend to ignore the growing tension charging the air between them. But while there is danger in ruin, it’s the devastating secret her family has been hiding that will shatter Georgiana’s world…


I can still remember the first Historical Romance book I read, it was Kathleen Woodiwiss's Shanna. Anyone remember her? Back in the day of the ripped notice covers? Showing my age I am sure! I worked in Washington DC at the time and rode the train, the line ( orange ) that I rode seemed to have readers on it and many times when they finished a book they would leave it on the seat for the next reader to pick up ...that is where I found Shanna. I thought what a great way to pass the time while I set there. I found that I enjoyed a bit of romance mixed in with my thrillers and I began sprinkling it into my reading...when I needed a break from what I was reading or I just needed something different. They were, and still are fun, and entertaining, and for the most part light.

How ( Not ) To Hate A Duke, the newest book by Jennifer Haymore was my recovering from surgery book. I wanted something that would keep me entertained, but also something that would not tax my steroid and pain meds brain. I didn't want to have to think about what was going on, or try to figure out a puzzle, and this book was absolutely perfection for that.

The Milford's and The St. Clairs live on adjoining estates, Daughter Georgina ( Milford ) and the new Duke Desborough have grown up hating each other due to a feud between the family. They are thrown together at a country house get away, where they get a chance to know each other. 

I loved the characters in How ( Not ) To Hate A Duke, Georgina was sweet but she was also a strong woman. I loved the way that Haymore made her progressive, not a weak whiny lady of the time. Theo was of course a swoon worthy Duke, he was moody and had a quiet demeanor  that could come off as aloof or even at times, sad. Haymore knew how to make the sparks fly between the two, you often felt the tension between them, but you could also feel the thaw as it unfolded.

The story was well written and entertaining. It was easy to read and quick paced. It also had everything I needed and want in a Historical Romance ...enemies to lovers, probably one of my favorite romance tropes. The men in waistcoats, tight britches, and tall riding boots, women in fanciful gowns, parlor games...oh could they get steamy, and of course family secrets and drama.

Was How ( Not ) To Hate A Duke predictable? Yep, most, if not all romance books are. I think it is why I love them, they give me some sense of comfort, 90 percent of them give me a happy ending and the rest will rip the soul and heart out of my chest. Even at that, I love them.

So for my romance readers out there..pick up How ( Not ) To Hate A Duke, it is a fun, heartfelt, lightly steamy read, and if you are not a romance reader, it would make a great palette cleanser between your regular reads if needed. I can't wait to go on a search for more Jennifer Haymore books!

Friday, February 2, 2024

Book Review: One Big Happy Family By Jamie Day


The Precipice is a legendary, family-owned hotel on the rocky coast of Maine. With the recent passing of their father, the Bishop sisters--Iris, Vicki, and Faith--have come for the weekend to claim it. But with a hurricane looming and each of the Bishop sisters harboring dangerous secrets, there's murder in the air-- and not everyone who checks into the Precipice will be checking out.  

Each sister wants what is rightfully hers, and in the mix is the Precipe's nineteen-year-old chambermaid Charley Kelley: smart, resilient, older than her years, and in desperate straits.

The arrival of the Bishop sisters could spell disaster for Charley. Will they close the hotel? Fire her? Discover her habit of pilfering from guests? Or even worse, learn that she's using a guest room to hide a woman on the run. 


Charley is a maid at a historic Maine hotel named Precipe, one that has been in the same family for years. She lives on the grounds in a small almost closet like room to save money and pay for her grandmothers nursing care. When the owner, George dies, his three daughters and their families defend upon the hotel for the reading of the will, during a hurricane no less.  Charley is worried about her job, will they fire her if they find out her secret, worse yet will they find the local girl that Charley has hiding in the hotel rent free, and also will she be able to pay for her grandmothers care if she loses her job, should the sisters decide to shut down the hotel.

This book started out very strong for me. I enjoy a good lock room mystery/suspence, especially if you throw in some morally gray characters, and this book had plenty of those. The setting was great, an old hotel on the rocky shores of Maine. It was moody, mysterious, and with the hurricane baring down on them, it felt dangerous.

However, I really liked none of the characters in the story. The sisters especially, were just vile and unlikable, even main character Charley had several things I found I really unliked about her, especially her obsession with peoples looks that seems to occupy most pages in the book. Bree, the girl that Charley was hiding in the hotel , to quote Taylor Swift “ I knew you were trouble when you walked in“

The book was divided into four parts, and the parts each had short chapters, which is always a plus in my book, mostly because I have a hard time closing a book in the middle of a chapter. I will say, I thought the book went on longer than it needed and I got bored with it near the half way mark. There were a lot of family in the book, with a lot of backstories, much I felt was not always necessary to the story.

There was a few good twists in the book, but I felt the ending was predictable  and ended rather quickly.

One Big Happy Family had all the trappings  of a great mystery, but to me it missed the mark, however if you are a fan of a lock room mysteries, don’t overlook this one, it might just be the summer read you are wanting.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Book Review: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner


Goodreads Overview:

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England's finest novelists. Now it's home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen's legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen's home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

Jacque's Review:

I selected this book because it was a 2020 Goodreads choice nominee for best historical fiction and best debut novel, but primarily because I needed a book that started with J for last year's A-Z reading challenge. I read a couple of Jane Austen's books when I was in high school, but I can't say that I am a huge fan. Not because I didn't enjoy her books, I just haven't read any recently and don't remember much of the content. 

The story takes place in a small town in England where Austen lived and wrote her famous novels. A few locals plus an American actress, who is a huge Jane Austen fan, decide to establish a society and museum to help preserve her home and legacy. I really enjoyed seeing how they bonded over their shared love of Austen's novels. This diverse group of characters were able to help each other through some challenging times. This never would have happened if they hadn't stumbled across each other due to their shared love of Jane Austen. It really shows the importance of connecting with others in some way versus trying to deal with life's struggles on your own. Each was coping ineffectively with their struggles but was able to come out on top thanks to the help of these new friendships. 

There were a number of quotes and references to her works, which I couldn't fully appreciate since it has been so long since I have read her novels. That, however, did not diminish my appreciation of this story. If anything, it encouraged me to read some of her books in the future. I'm sure Jane Austen fans will love this story, but you certainly do not have to be a fan to appreciate the message. There are references to the famous author's life and works, but it is more about survival and overcoming adversity.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Book Review: Mercury by Amy Jo Burns


A roofing family’s bonds of loyalty are tested when they uncover a long-hidden secret at the heart of their blue-collar town―from Amy Jo Burns, author of the critically acclaimed novel Shiner

It’s 1990 and seventeen-year-old Marley West is blazing into the river valley town of Mercury, Pennsylvania. A perpetual loner, she seeks a place at someone’s table and a family of her own. The first thing she sees when she arrives in town is three men standing on a rooftop. Their silhouettes blot out the sun.

The Joseph brothers become Marley’s whole world before she can blink. Soon, she is young wife to one, The One Who Got Away to another, and adopted mother to them all. As their own mother fades away and their roofing business crumbles under the weight of their unwieldy father’s inflated ego, Marley steps in to shepherd these unruly men. Years later, an eerie discovery in the church attic causes old wounds to resurface and suddenly the family’s survival hangs in the balance. With Marley as their light, the Joseph brothers must decide whether they can save the family they’ve always known―or whether together they can build something stronger in its place.

I saw so many people reviewing Amy Jo Burn's Mercury before it came out, so my first instinct was to avoid it. I tend to be disappointed by very hyped books on bookstagram, but when I saw it being offered on Netgalley, and read the synopsis, I found it hard to pass up. Probably one of my favorite genre's, if you can call it that, is a family saga. I love reading about the struggles, and mostly how they seems to always over come them. I find it uplifting, so I will have to admit, I was wrong about Mercury, it was a pleasure to spend my time with the Joseph family.
Main character Marley is married to the oldest Joseph boy, who helps run thee family roofing business. The story basically follows the ups and downs of their life together and with the rest of the family.
Mercury is certainly a character driven story, but I like that about the book, the characters in a story is always important to me. All the characters are relatable and you will find yourself quickly becoming absorbed into their lives and story as a whole. Burns did a wonderful job breathing life into each character she wrote. The writing is clear, Burns does not get wordy or try to over describe a situation. 
This is a book about a family, a beautiful and sometimes messy family. A family that loves deeply, and that you will also come to love, because of the realness of the story and the characters. I found myself caring about them, and caring about what happened to them, and to me that makes for a very successful book.
Pick this one up, you won't regret it. Mercury is out now.


Thursday, January 11, 2024

Book Review: The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins


When Ruby McTavish Callahan Woodward Miller Kenmore dies, she’s not only North Carolina’s richest woman, she’s also its most notorious. The victim of a famous kidnapping as a child and a widow four times over, Ruby ruled the tiny town of Tavistock from Ashby House, her family’s estate high in the Blue Ridge mountains. In the aftermath of her death, that estate—along with a nine-figure fortune and the complicated legacy of being a McTavish—pass to her adopted son, Camden.

But to everyone’s surprise, Cam wants little to do with the house or the money—and even less to do with the surviving McTavishes. Instead, he rejects his inheritance, settling into a normal life as an English teacher in Colorado and marrying Jules, a woman just as eager to escape her own messy past.

Ten years later, Camden is a McTavish in name only, but a summons in the wake of his uncle’s death brings him and Jules back into the family fold at Ashby House. Its views are just as stunning as ever, its rooms just as elegant, but coming home reminds Cam why he was so quick to leave in the first place.

Jules, however, has other ideas, and the more she learns about Cam’s estranged family—and the twisted secrets they keep—the more determined she is for her husband to claim everything Ruby once intended for him to have.

But Ruby’s plans were always more complicated than they appeared. As Ashby House tightens its grip on Jules and Camden, questions about the infamous heiress come to light. Was there any truth to the persistent rumors following her disappearance as a girl? What really happened to those four husbands, who all died under mysterious circumstances? And why did she adopt Cam in the first place? Soon, Jules and Cam realize that an inheritance can entail far more than what’s written in a will—and that the bonds of family stretch far beyond the grave.


I have read most of Rachel Hawkins newest books and by far my favorite is her newest one The Heiress. It is her typical mystery/thriller, but why try something different when you do so well with what you are doing. Her imagination seems fit for thrilling story telling.

North Carolina's notorious rich woman Ruby McTavish Callahan Woodward Miller Kenmore dies, her adopted son Camden inherits her fortune and house, but Camden wants neither. Instead he leaves North Carolina, moves to Colorado, gets married and becomes a teacher.

Fast forward ten years and Camden is back at the McTavish mansion, Ashby House with wife Jules in tow, because his uncle dies. The family drama begins to play out as Jules learns more and more about the McTavish family and the secrets they have hidden for years. They certainly have a few.

The story is easy to read and moves fast. It is highly entertaining, especially if like me, you love a good monied family gone bad type story. The family provides plenty of entertainment with their secrets and back stabbing. There are plenty of morally gray characters in this family.

The Heiress is a great story. The writing is clever, the atmosphere is intense and the ending twists and turns multiple times keeping you turning those pages.

If you haven't already, pick up the Heiress by Rachel Hawkins.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Book Review: Mr Lullaby by J.H. Markert


The small town of Harrod’s Reach has seen its fair share of the macabre, especially inside the decrepit old train tunnel around which the town was built. After a young boy, Sully Dupree, is injured in the abandoned tunnel and left in a coma, the townspeople are determined to wall it up. Deputy sheriff Beth Gardner is reluctant to buy into the superstitions until she finds two corpses at the tunnel’s entrance, each left with strange calling cards inscribed with old lullabies. Soon after, Sully Dupree briefly awakens from his coma.

Before falling back into his slumber, Sully manages to give his older brother a message. Sully's mind, since the accident, has been imprisoned on the other side of the tunnel in Lalaland, a grotesque and unfamiliar world inhabited by evil mythical creatures of sleep. Sully is trapped there with hundreds of other coma patients, all desperately fighting to keep the evils of the dream world from escaping into the waking world.

Elsewhere, a man troubled by his painful youth has for years been hearing a voice in his head he calls Mr. Lullaby, and he has finally started to act on what that voice is telling him—to kill any coma patient he can find, quickly.

Something is waking up in the tunnel—something is trying to get through. And Mr. Lullaby is coming.

I did not read J.H. Markert's last book ,The Nightmare Man, so I was pleasantly surprised with his latest Mr Lullaby. I have been a bit disappointed in horror recently, it doesn't seem creepy, most strange and weird, or maybe it is the books I have been picking up, but Mr Lullaby was a good small town hour story.

Violence seems to linger in the small town Harrod's Reach. It resides in dark empty tunnels and a place called La La Land that seems coexist in the minds of people in comas.

The story is  creepy, spooky, and strange, but not the crazy insane strange I have been encountering recently. Think early Stephen King strange.

The story started out as a slow burn, building the world you were entering, but it was interesting enough to keep you turning the pages. The writing flowed with the story, but the book was a bit character heavy, which, because I listened to it on audio sometimes got a bit confusing to me. I feel if I could have flipped back between pages, this would have been less of a problem for me. I did have to concentrate on who was who several times.

Even with the heavy POVs and characters, it was a worthy soft horror story, it creeped me out at times, which is what I look for in a horror book naturally. I look forward to going back and trying The Nightmare Man and anything in the future that Markert puts out.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Book Review: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin


Goodreads Overview:

Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It's quiet and peaceful. You can't get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere's museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe's psychiatric practice.

Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver's license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she's dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn't want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?

Jacque's Review:

I bought this book back in 2012 when Gabrielle Zevin came to my library to speak. I really enjoyed listening to her talk about this book, but I didn't actually read it until after I read her more recent book Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. I think what took me so long is the fact that it is about death. I thought it would be like one of those Nicholas Sparks tearjerker books, but it absolutely was not. 

I found the book to be very original, creative, and inspiring. Liz is the victim of a hit and run and ends up in Elsewhere, which is a sort of heaven, but operates like a regular city. People have jobs, but not necessarily the job they had on earth. Someone who was a surgeon on Earth could be a fisherman in Elsewhere. It is more about what you want to do vs. what you have to do to make ends meet. The other major difference is that people age backwards while in Elsewhere until they reach zero and return to Earth to start a new life again. 

Elizabeth goes to live with her grandmother, who she never met, but has aged back to 34 and is now younger than her mother. She has a difficult time adjusting to her new situation and acts out. She spends a considerable amount of time at the "observation deck" which is like those viewing stations you can use at various attractions. If you put a coin in the machine, you get a limited amount of time using the binoculars. In this case, the binoculars give you a view of life on Earth. She can see what her friends and family are doing now that she is gone and how they are coping. She even tries to make contact with them, which is strictly forbidden. 

She discovers that she has the unique ability to communicate with dogs, so she gets a job working to place dogs who arrive in Elsewhere with new owners. Her friend Owen has a dog named Jen, but he doesn't speak canine, so she helps him out with the dog. She also adopts a dog named Sadie her first day on the job. Some of the conversations with the dogs are laugh out loud funny.

Once she settles into life in Elsewhere, she tells her Grandma Betty "Happiness is a choice. There is no difference in quality between a life lived forward and a live lived backward." That is what I took away from this book as the overall message. You can choose to hold a grudge or fixate on the negative aspects of your life, or you can look at all of the positives and make the most of each and every day that you have. 

I have only read the two books mentioned by Garielle Zevin and would highly recommend both of them. The topics may not sound like something you are interested in, but they are not at all what they seem. They are more about life, friendship, and making your way in an imperfect world. There are great messages and take aways in both of these books.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Book Review: Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed


Goodreads Overview:

Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. When it comes to speaking to strangers (or, let’s face it, speaking at all to almost anyone), Jamie’s a choke artist. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.

Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her.

Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer—and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural romance of the century is another thing entirely.

Jacque's Review:

Jamie Goldberg and Maya Rehman were friends when they were very small. Their parents had them in the same play group, but they drifted apart once they were older. Jamie is very smart and passionate about politics, but he is happy remaining behind the scenes. He has had a series of unfortunate events over the years that have affected his confidence and ambition to become a politician himself someday. 

Maya is struggling now that her best friend is leaving for college and her parents have decided to separate. Her mom talks her into helping out with the campaign, but she doesn't really want to be there. Jamie and Maya begin canvasing, but are merely going through the motions to meet their daily quota. When they discover a bill that is being proposed to prevent the wearing of head/face coverings, that clearly is intended to discriminate against Muslims, they decide to take action. 

They become a media sensation thanks to the help of Jamie's grandma's Instagram account. His grandmother is helping with the social media for the campaign and posts some content with Jamie and Maya that goes viral. Everyone assumes they are a couple, but Maya insists she can't date due to her religious and parents' beliefs. They become close friends over the course of the campaign and begin to consider the option of dating when something happens that could jeopardize even their friendship.

This was a very thought provoking and entertaining book. It explores the effects of religious discrimination, and the impact political activism can have towards achieving equality. Jamie and Maya begin the story thinking they are nothing more than two lowly constituents who aren't even old enough to vote, but the impact they have on the campaign and their community is enormous. I would highly recommend this book to high school teachers looking for "choice reading" to recommend to their students.  

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Book Review: The Excalibur Curse by Kiersten White


Goodreads Overview:

The gripping conclusion to the acclaimed Arthurian fantasy trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White finds Guinevere questioning everything—friends and enemies, good and evil, and, most of all, herself.

While journeying north toward the Dark Queen, Guinevere falls into the hands of her enemies. Behind her are Lancelot, trapped on the other side of the magical barrier they created to protect Camelot, and Arthur, who has been led away from his kingdom, chasing after false promises. But the greatest danger isn’t what lies ahead of Guinevere—it’s what’s been buried inside her.

Vowing to unravel the truth of her past with or without Merlin’s help, Guinevere joins forces with the sorceress Morgana and her son, Mordred—and faces the confusing, forbidden feelings she still harbors for him. When Guinevere makes an agonizing discovery about who she is and how she came to be, she finds herself with an impossible choice: fix a terrible crime, or help prevent war.

Guinevere is determined to set things right, whatever the cost. To defeat a rising evil. To remake a kingdom. To undo the mistakes of the past...even if it means destroying herself.

Guinevere has been a changeling, a witch, a queen—but what does it mean to be just a girl?

Jacque's Review:

I started reading this series because I received the first book in an Owlcrate book box. I enjoyed the first book, The Guinevere Deception, and gave it 4-stars. The second book did not advance the plot much, but I was still interested enough after the shocking ending to continue the series. This book was a bit of a letdown for me, so I gave it a generous 3-stars. It did not contain a level of action, adventure, or even a love story that held my attention or propelled the story forward. The focus was primarily on Guinevere trying to figure out who she was before she arrived in Camelot. I kept reading with the hope that there would be some epic conclusion, but I ultimately finished it to check the box that I completed the series. 

The issue could have been that I do not know much about Arthurian legend and didn't fully appreciate the retelling, but this book was not my cup of tea. There was so much potential with a female Lancelot, Guinevere's magic, King Arthur and Mordred competing for Guinevere's affection, and finding Merlin to turn this into a captivating story. As it is, I can't really recommend this series. It was a major time commitment to reach a conclusion that was average at best.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Book Review: Playing for Pizza by John Grisham


Goodreads Overview:

Rick Dockery was the third-string quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. In the AFC Championship game against Denver, to the surprise and dismay of virtually everyone, Rick actually got into the game. With a 17-point lead and just minutes to go, Rick provided what was arguably the worst single performance in the history of the NFL. Overnight, he became a national laughingstock and, of course, was immediately cut by the Browns and shunned by all other teams.

But all Rick knows is football, and he insists that his agent, Arnie, find a team that needs him. Against enormous odds Arnie finally locates just such a team and informs Rick that, miraculously, he can in fact now be a starting quarterback–for the mighty Panthers of Parma, Italy.

Yes, Italians do play American football, to one degree or another, and the Parma Panthers desperately want a former NFL player–any former NFL player–at their helm. So Rick reluctantly agrees to play for the Panthers–at least until a better offer comes along–and heads off to Italy. He knows nothing about Parma, has never been to Europe, and doesn’t speak or understand a word of Italian. To say that Italy holds a few surprises for Rick Dockery would be something of an understatement.

Jacque's Review:

I am a fan of Grisham's legal thrillers and have slowly but surely been catching up on his books. I read every one of his books when they were first released starting with A Time to Kill through The Runaway Jury. After my college graduation, I didn't have much time for reading and now I am playing catch up. 

Playing for Pizza is very different from Grisham's other books. It is not a legal thriller, but a story about an NFL quarterback who isn't quite ready to choose an alternate career path. His NFL career is essentially over after he single handedly threw the game away and landed himself in the hospital with his third concussion. Nobody will hire him, so his agent suggests he play in Italy for a while to let things die down in America. He is offered a free place to stay, the use of a car, and $20,000 a year to become the starting quarterback for the Parma Panthers. The team consists of players who work day jobs to pay the bills, but have a passion and love for the game. They want nothing more than to win their equivalent to the super bowl and believe Rick Dockery is just the player to help them achieve their goal. 

I listened to the audio version of the book and found it to be entertaining, but not up to the standard of his other books. I usually rate Grisham's books in the 4–5-star range, but this was a 3-star book for me. I enjoyed the story, but there wasn't anything exceptional about it. I wasn't sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next like I am with most of his books. I am happy that I read it, but I will choose a legal thriller for my next Grisham book.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Book Review: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena


Goodreads Overview:

We can't choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell's Inn, they're all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in - or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There's a killer among them - and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can't escape. Trapped.

Jacque's Review:

This was a highly entertaining murder mystery along the lines of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. The story takes place at a family run Inn located in a very remote part of the Catskill Mountains. A father and son operate the Inn, which sounds like a very elegant and relaxing place for a weekend getaway, until a storm cuts off all power and the guests become stranded. 

I found it difficult to fathom that a place like this did not have a generator or a snowmobile in case of emergencies, but they did not. Everyone was making the best of things and expected the power to be restored in a reasonable amount of time, but it was not. They did not have cell service and the land lines were out, so they were completely isolated until plows could make it up the mountain.

One of the guests is found dead in the morning from an apparent accident, but one of the other guests isn't so sure. He insists on leaving the body where it is until help arrives. When a second person is found dead, everyone starts to panic. They begin pointing fingers at each other and actions become even more irrational. They establish a buddy system, not only for their own safety, but to provide an alibi in case someone else turns up dead.

The body count continued to increase, and I still had no idea who the killer was or what the motivation could be. In retrospect, I can think of clues for all of the murders except the first and last. What kicked off this entire chain of events wasn't something the reader could have known until everything was spelled out at the end, which I didn't care for. I believe a good murder mystery should provide all of the clues during the story to allow the reader to solve the crime on their own, if they are astute enough to pick up on all of the small details.

Overall, it was an entertaining story with an interesting group of characters. If you enjoy Ruth Ware's murder mysteries and are looking for something with a similar vibe, this is a good option. 

Friday, December 22, 2023

Book Review: The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson


Goodreads Overview:

On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London's Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin's obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins--some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin's, Alfred Russel Wallace, who'd risked everything to gather them--and escaped into the darkness.

Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist. He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man's relentless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man's destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature.

Jacque's Review:

This was the July selection for the Books on Tap book club hosted by my library at a local brewery. This book was a 2018 Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Best Nonfiction, and I can see why. I knew nothing about this robbery that took place at a British Museum. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of rare bird skins were taken without the museum staff immediately noticing. I am not a fly fisherman, so I don't fully appreciate the appeal of using extremely rare and expensive feathers to catch fish. I'm sure in most cases the people making and selling these flies are just putting them on a shelf to display and are not actually using them, but was fascinating to learn about this art and the black-market sale of bird feathers.

We learn the history of how all of the birds were originally collected and cataloged at the museum and why it was deemed to be such an important collection. The heist takes place, and the reader learns about what happened during the investigation and trial. The author, Kirk Wallace Johnson, is determined to find the remaining birds that were not returned to the museum or clearly destroyed by making flies. He completes his own investigation and eventually lands an interview with the thief himself. I have no idea why Edwin Rist would agree to an interview. He clearly had nothing to gain at that point, but he did, and the reader can get a better understanding of his personality.

It is incomprehensible to me that someone as smart and talented as Edwin could have committed such a crime. He was so consumed with the fly-tying world that he would do anything to acquire the feathers needed to make some of the most famous flies. In addition, he wanted money for a new flute. His family did not have the money to buy it for him and he deemed it necessary if he was going to compete with the finest musicians in the world at the Royal Academy of Music. The fact that he basically walked off scot-free is even more astonishing. 

I am not much of a non-fiction reader, but I really enjoyed this story. It was very entertaining and educational without coming off like a history book. Even someone with no prior knowledge of the heist or fly-tying will enjoy this book. 

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Book Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard


Goodreads Overview:

his is a world divided by blood - red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare's potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance - Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart...

Jacque's Review:

This book has been on my TBR list for a LONG time. It was the 2015 Goodreads winner for Best Debut Author and was nominated for Best YA Fantasy and Science Fiction. I finished a few series I had been reading and decided to read this because Victoria was one of the upcoming authors participating in my library's digital author talk program. She actually spoke at the beginning of this month, so I was happy I had some understanding of her work as she discussed world building and other aspects of her writing. 

I loved the concept of the Silvers having special powers, but it was sad to think of how it affected the Reds. They didn't have a chance of gaining any power or wealth in a world where they simply could not compete. Mare was doing everything she could to keep herself and those she loved alive, but nothing seemed to be enough. The discovery that she had a power more dangerous than the fire wielded by the royal family allowed her to escalate in the ranks rather quickly. She went from a thief to a servant to the fiancé of Prince Maven in the blink of an eye.

Maven was not at all what he seemed to be. I was shocked at the turn of events at the end of this book, but I felt like Mare and Cal had more chemistry. I am hopeful that their relationship will evolve throughout the series, but they are in a lot of danger. Cal and Mare are extremely powerful, but I'm not sure they can compete against the collective power of the Silvers. The Scarlet Guard is growing, but their resources are limited. I can't wait to see how they attempt to overthrow this corrupt government and end the war that has been going on for ages and taking the lives of so many Reds.

This was an exceptional start to the series and an impressive debut novel. I look forward to reading the rest of this series and seeing what is in store for Mare, Cal, and Maven.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Book Review: Sweet Temptation by Wendy Higgins


Goodreads Overview:

Bad boy Kaidan Rowe has never wanted for anything—money, popularity, musical talent…hot girls—but seducing them is part of his duty as a Nephilim, slave to the demon Dukes. As the son of the Duke of Lust, Kaidan has learned his father’s ways, becoming a master of passion, a manipulator of chemistry. Disobeying his father would mean certain death. Thankfully for Kaidan, he’s good at his job. And he enjoys it.

Until he meets Anna Whitt—smart, feisty, and inexplicably good—the one girl seemingly immune to his charms. The daughter of a guardian angel and a fallen one, she makes him wish for more than he could ever deserve.

Determined to save all the Neph from their dark lives, Anna joins forces with Kaidan to overcome the Dukes’ oppressive ways. In the light of her affections, Kaidan must undergo his toughest test of all, a battle of the heart.

Jacque's Review:

The original series is told from Anna's perspective, which is drastically different from Kaidan's. She is very innocent and naive having grown up without any knowledge of who or what her parents are. She does not understand the danger she is in as a Nephilim who hasn't been working. As the daughter of the Duke of Substance Abuse, she is expected to corrupt society on behalf of her father. Kaidan, on the other hand, has grown up in this world and has been his dad's right-hand man his entire life. He knows the danger he is in if he doesn't continue to work and do what his father asks. 

This one book retells the entire trilogy from Kaidan's POV. It is much harsher than the original series with increased adult language and content. I would probably classify it as New Adult vs. Young Adult in terms of the target audience. The original three books I would have been comfortable recommending to younger readers.

Readers can see the struggles Kaidan went through once he started to fall in love with Anna. He knew what he was doing for his father was wrong, but his life depended upon it. In addition, Anna's life depended upon him corrupting her. He ultimately decided the best way to protect her was to distance himself from her. She didn't understand his motivation for moving clear across the country to get away from her, but this book allows us to see the struggles that led him to that decision. It was the only way he felt he could keep them both alive. It wasn't what he wanted, but it was what he thought was necessary.

Overall, this companion novel is an excellent addition to the series. I loved Kaidan's character in the original three books and never could have imagined the struggles he went through. He always seemed so confident and hardened after a life as a Nephilim. He never believed he had a chance of being happy and freeing himself from the control of the Dukes. Anna allowed him to hope for a better life. The ending did provide more detail on the lives of the characters after the end of the original trilogy, which was nice. I would highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys YA romance.