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. 

Monday, December 11, 2023

Book Review: 19th Anniversary by James Patterson


Jacque's Review:

This is the tenth book in the Women's Murder Club Series. Detective Lindsay Boxer is a newlywed and is struggling to balance her work and personal life. She always seems to put her job first, but after working on this case involving a missing child, she is beginning to think about starting a family of her own. Dr. Clare Washburn, the medical examiner who is part of their team, is the only character with children. As a highly successful woman with a career and family, I believe Lindsay can look to Clare for inspiration and support. 

Another significant portion of this book focuses on a case Yuki is prosecuting. A prominent cardiologist is accused of murdering her husband, which seems to be a slam dunk case. Lindsay, however, is not convinced the wife is guilty and continues to investigate the case on her own time. She wants her friend to succeed, but she has been wrongly accused in the past and can relate to this woman's situation. She can't let her go to jail and lose her children if she is not guilty. Yuki has a history of bad relationships in this series, but I think she may have found a keeper this time around. Unfortunately, he has some baggage AND he is Lindsay's boss. Lindsay is directly disobeying her boss's orders by working on this case, but she just can't let it go.

Cindy Thomas, the crime reporter, is investigating a series of cases involving assaults on women. Each victim experiences memory loss for a period of time, so it is believed the suspect is drugging them prior to the abduction and assault. There doesn't seem to be a connection between the victims or a similar demographic, but Cindy eventually finds a clue that could solve the case. The smart thing to do would be to contact Lindsay and her partner Rich Conklin (who is also Cindy's boyfriend) for assistance, but she follows the trail on her own. She finds herself in a very dangerous situation and is lucky to have the friends that she does.

Overall, this was another excellent addition to the series. I really enjoy these characters and look forward to seeing what is in store for them in the next installment. With the 24th book coming out next year, I guess I have a lot to look forward to.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Book Review: Snowed In by Catherine Walsh


Megan is dreading going home for the holidays. She’s the village pariah, the she-devil who left local golden boy Isaac at the altar four years ago and ran away to the big city. She could really do without the drama. Particularly as he’s engaged again, and she’s just been dumped for the fourth time this year.

Christian’s fed up of being on his own every Christmas. He doesn’t mind being alone, but he hates his family’s sad eyes and soft tones as they sit around coupled up. Because he’s actually, totally, fine.

So when Megan literally bumps into Christian in a Dublin pub, they come up with a pact to see them through the holiday season. They’re going to be the very best fake dates for each other, ever.

Rules are drawn up, and a contract is signed on a wine-stained napkin. They will sit through each other’s family gatherings and be outrageously in love until freed from their annual obligations. After all, it’s only for a few weeks.

But with everyone home for the holidays, and two big families to deal with alongside old friends, old flames, and old feelings, things are bound to get messy. And when a snowed-in cabin and a little Christmas magic are added to the mix, anything could happen…


Joy to the book world!!! A new holiday romance is hitting the store shelves or on your Kindle, and it's a fake dating of my favorites!

In Snowed In by Catherine Walsh, main character Megan last saw Christian out side the church that she was running out of on her way to becoming a runaway bride. Fast forward five years and they run into each other- literally - at a bar. While talking they realize that they both are having to go home for the holidays, and are dreading it, so they devise a plan to go together as a fake couple.

I could end this quickly by telling you I am a very slow reader and  tore through this in two I loved it! It was so cute and heartwarming, just like a holiday romance should be.

I loved both Megan and Christian as characters, and when I read Megans POV I found myself always smiling, she was just so filled with positivity all the way through the book.

I also had no idea this was in a series of books, infact I didn't find out until after I read it, so no worries if like me, you haven't read Holiday Romance, you don't need to read it...but you certainly will want to.

The thing I REALLY liked about this book, well....besides it being set during the holidays, and the whole fake dating thing, and the snuggly cozy feeling of the entire book, was that Christian had his own POV. It is always refreshing to get the male side of a love story.

I am calling it now...Snowed In is my favorite holiday romance of 2023, so pick it up and lets talk!


Thursday, October 5, 2023

Book Review: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber


Goodreads Overview:

Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café.

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

Jacque's Review:

This book was selected by the Marysville Public Library for their Books on Tap book club. This is a fun little group that meets once a month at a local brewery.

Anna Kate's mother fled Wicklow, the town where she grew up, shortly after her boyfriend died in a car accident. She was pregnant at the time and did not want the father's family trying to take the baby from her after they accused her for his death. Anna Kate's mother always claimed it was a terrible accident, but she doesn't know what to believe. 

When her grandmother passes away, Anna Kate must return to settle her estate. As part of her will, she must stay in Wicklow and run the Blackbird Cafe for a period of time if she wants to inherit any of the money. She has every intention of selling the property once the summer is up to pay for college and medical school, which was always her mother's dream for her. She tries not to establish ties in Wicklow, but that becomes next to impossible. The more she learns about her mother's family history, including the legend of the blackbirds and the cafe's famous pie, the more connected she feels to the town. She eventually meets her father's much younger sister and starts to learn more about his side of the family and his death.

This was a Hallmark type of story with a feel-good message. I never would have selected it on my own to read, but I really enjoyed the characters and the story. Anna Kate brings life to this town and is able to help so many people who have been struggling. In return, the town provides a family and a sense of belonging that she never had growing up. 

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Book Review: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry


Goodreads Overview:

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

Jacque's Review:

I absolutely love Emily Henry, which you have probably already figured out from my other reviews. This is yet another fantastic read with unique characters and unexpected twits. Poppy and Alex appear to be complete opposites when they first meet in college. We quickly discover they are from the same small hometown. Poppy wants nothing more than to get away from that town and the people who treated her so poorly in high school. Alex ends up teaching at the school and is content being close to his family. She moves to New York City and has the perfect job working as a writer for a travel magazine, but she has lost interest in the glamorous adventures now that she doesn't have Alex as her travel companion.

Ever since college, when they were on a shoestring budget, they always managed to plan and take the most amazing trips together. Now that they are both working, the one thing they have to look forward to each year is their week together traveling the world. Unfortunately, they had a falling out a couple of years ago and Poppy has lost her interest in travelling. I'm not sure if it was a falling out so much as a misunderstanding. They left things in a precarious state and neither of them wanted to make the first move to get their relationship/friendship back on track. 

Poppy decides to reach out and Alex agrees to go on another vacation, which happens to include the location of his brother's wedding. He might as well kill two birds with one stone. If things do not work out as planned, they will have others to rely on for damage control. The vacation starts out on the wrong foot with an apartment lacking proper air conditioning in the sweltering heat. Poppy does her best to make the situation enjoyable, but the relationship that could withstand just about anything two years ago is teetering on the brink of disaster. She is constantly afraid that one wrong move will tip the scales to the point of no return. 

The book has several flashbacks to other trips they took together and people they met along the way. Seeing how things used to be between them and the obvious connection they had, it is hard to see how they got to their current state. As they begin to reconnect and catch up on everything they missed in each other's lives over the past two years, the ice starts to thaw between them. They are still cautious and taking things slowly, but they begin to see what has been clear to others for years. 

If you haven't read Emily Henry's other books, I would highly recommend all of them. Beach Read, Book Lovers, and People We Meet on Vacation have all been fantastic. I still have Happy Place on my TBR list, but I'm sure I will make time for it sometime soon. 

Thursday, August 31, 2023

BLOG TOUR: Study Break, edited by Aashna Avachat

Book Summary

College...the best time, the worst time, and something in between. 

What do you do when orientation isn't going according to your (sister's) detailed plans? Where do you go when you're searching for community in faith? How do you figure out what it means that you're suddenly attracted to your RA? What happens when your partner for your last film project is also your crush and graduation is quickly approaching? 

Told over the course of one academic year, this collection of stories set on the same fictional campus features students from different cultures, genders, and interests learning more about who they are and who they want to be. From new careers to community to (almost) missed connections — and more — these interconnected tales explore the ways university life can be stressful and confusing and exciting and fulfilling. 

Gen Z contributors include Jake Maia Arlow, Arushi Avachat, Boon Carmen, Ananya Devarajan, Camryn Garrett, Christina Li, Racquel Marie, Oyin, Laila Sabreen, Michael Waters, and Joelle Wellington.

Flo's Mini Review

Full disclosure: I am still reading this. But I'm enjoying it! The great thing about anthologies is that at the end of a busy day, you can read one story and feel like you've really made a dent in the book. My favorite story so far has been the one by Aashna, actually -- it's so cute and right up my alley! Cute, awkward boy falling first, a set time frame, all the stuff I love in my romance stories. But one cool thing about this anthology is that it runs the range of protagonists and topics. I love the diversity of characters and story lines. It's definitely giving me all the nostalgia for my college days, which really were such a formative and fun time for me. All the stories I've read so far have ended with possibility and hope and anticipation, and I just love that. What a good overall feeling to capture. It's the one constant in these different stories and I'm here for it. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the stories.

Just for fun: comment with a favorite college memory. Or, if you haven't been to college, comment with a favorite college movie.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Book Review: To the Nines by Janet Evanovich


Goodreads Overview:

Stephanie Plum may not be the best bounty hunter in beautiful downtown Trenton, but she's pretty darn good at turning bad situations her way . . . and she always gets her man. In To the Nines, her cousin Vinnie (who's also her boss) has posted bail on Samuel Singh, an illegal immigrant. When the elusive Mr. Singh goes missing, Stephanie is on the case. But what she uncovers is far more sinister than anyone imagines and leads to a group of killers who give new meaning to the word hunter.

In a race against time that takes her from the Jersey Turnpike to the Vegas Strip, Stephanie Plum is on the chase of her life. The unforgettable characters, nonstop action, high-stakes suspense, and sheer entertainment of To the Nines define Janet Evanovich as unique among today's writers.

Jacque's Review:

This is the nineth book in the Stephanie Plum series and is probably one of my favorites so far. They are all action packed as Stephanie tries to solve the crimes, but she is almost all luck and no skill. She can't even manage to keep her professional security detail from being injured and hauled off. Ranger and Morelli do everything they can to try to keep her safe, but she always manages to find herself in sticky situations. In this installment, she is now the target of some game and is receiving the same bouquets of flowers as one of her victims. 

I personally wouldn't like my chances with Lula and Connie as my backup, but this crazy bunch always seems land on their feet. Connie is the office manager in the bond office and Lula is an overweight African American woman who still dresses like the "hooker" she used to be. She now works as a filing clerk at the bond agency and is usually Stephanie's sidekick. Add in the hilarious dialogue with her parents, sister, and grandmother and you can't help but laugh out loud. 

For the better part of this book, Stephanie had a feeling she knew who was behind the murders. I was a little quicker on the uptake than she was this time around. I knew one of the characters was a little off and would have gone with that instinct instead of going with the more obvious suspect, but then we wouldn't have had all the danger and drama that seems to follow Stephanie like a shadow. 

Nothing much was new in the Stephanie, Ranger, Morelli love triangle, so I will have to keep reading to see how that eventually plays out.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Book Review: The Block Party by Jamie Day

This summer, meet your neighbors.

The residents of the exclusive cul-de-sac on Alton Road are entangled in a web of secrets and scandal utterly unknown to the outside world, and even to each other.

On the night of the annual Summer block party, there has been a murder.

But, who did it and why takes readers back one year earlier, as rivalries and betrayals unfold—discovering that the real danger lies within their own block and nothing—and no one—is ever as it seems.


Murder, secrets, betrayals...oh, and plenty of DRAMA, Block Party by Jamie Day has all this and more!

The story begins at the annual neighborhood Memorial Day block party and before it ends, someone dies.

Alton Road may be the best Cul-de-Sac in town but the residents are all a hot mess. They cheat on, and with each other, some are addicts, and one might just be a murderer. All this makes this novel such a good read, I mean, who doesn't love to watch the perfect stumble and fall? I am certainly not going to turn it down!

I listened to Block Party on audio and enjoyed it, the narration was clear and added plenty to the story. When I could not listen I also had a copy of the book, which I will say the story is well written and executed. It has plenty of drama and twists that propel the reader along quickly to the end.

Told in two POVs, Alex and her daughter Lettie, who is in her last year of High School. I appreciated the author's choice of giving the book only two narrators, as there were plenty of characters she could have added, but I also seem to have a hard time keeping them separated when there are too many, so perfect editing on her part. I did not find any of the characters practically likable, but that just made the reading all the better.

The story also has two timelines, the present and a year ago when the party and murder actually happened, the events of the night unfold as you read. I also found it interesting that the author included a Facebook Community in the storyline, where you will get the thoughts and opinions of the residents as they discuss and argue about the who and what of the murder and each other.

All in all the Block Party was entertaining, it wasn't a literary marvel but it was a juicy little book that will give you Desperate Housewife vibes. If that is your type of thing, then The Block Party is a must read for you.


Thursday, June 22, 2023

Book Review: California Golden by Melanie Benjamin


Southern California, 1960s: endless sunny days surfing in Malibu, followed by glittering neon nights at Whisky A-Go-Go. In an era when women are expected to be housewives, Carol Donelly is breaking the mold as a legendary female surfer struggling to compete in a male-dominated sport—and her daughters, Mindy and Ginger, bear the weight of her unconventional lifestyle.

The Donnelly sisters grow up enduring their mother’s absence—physically, when she’s at the beach, and emotionally, the rare times she’s at home. To escape questions about Carol’s whereabouts—and chase their mom’s elusive affection—they cut school to spend their days in the surf. From her first time on a board, Mindy shows a natural talent, but Ginger, two years younger, feels out of place in the water.

As they grow up and their lives diverge, Mindy and Ginger’s relationship ebbs and flows. Mindy finds herself swept up in celebrity, complete with beachside love affairs, parties at the Playboy Club, and USO tours to Vietnam. Meanwhile, Ginger—desperate for a community of her own—is tugged into the vibrant counterculture of drugs and cults. Through it all, their sense of duty to each other survives, as the girls are forever connected by the emotional damage they carry from their unorthodox childhood.

A gripping, emotional story set at a time when mothers were expected to be Donna Reed, not Gidget, California Golden is an unforgettable novel about three women living in a society that was shifting as tempestuously as the breaking waves.


This book is the best hazy summer read with its sunny location in Malibu California, and the late 60s-70s early surf culture.

It is a story of women in the early days of the sport seen through the eyes of two sisters whose mother is at the forefront of women in a mostly male-dominated sport. A mother who is distant both in being around and emotionally when she is.

As you read, you follow the sisters and their relationship with each other. It is a real relationship, with ups and downs in their differences in personality and their abilities on the surfboard.

It is an emotional read, with tragedy and courage. Well written and well-paced. It is a book you will find hard to put down.

This story is unwashed in the history of the 60s and 70s, from the obvious surf culture history to the Vietnam War to the early days of the Whiskey A Go-Go.

I loved everything about it, and def recommend picking up California Golden and spending the day soaking up the sun while reading.

** This book releases on August 8th. Thank you Net Galley and Random House for the advance copy **

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Book Review: Spare by Prince Harry


Goodreads Overview:

It was one of the most searing images of the twentieth century: two young boys, two princes, walking behind their mother’s coffin as the world watched in sorrow—and horror. As Princess Diana was laid to rest, billions wondered what Prince William and Prince Harry must be thinking and feeling—and how their lives would play out from that point on.

For Harry, this is that story at last.

Before losing his mother, twelve-year-old Prince Harry was known as the carefree one, the happy-go-lucky Spare to the more serious Heir. Grief changed everything. He struggled at school, struggled with anger, with loneliness—and, because he blamed the press for his mother’s death, he struggled to accept life in the spotlight.

At twenty-one, he joined the British Army. The discipline gave him structure, and two combat tours made him a hero at home. But he soon felt more lost than ever, suffering from post-traumatic stress and prone to crippling panic attacks. Above all, he couldn’t find true love.

Then he met Meghan. The world was swept away by the couple’s cinematic romance and rejoiced in their fairy-tale wedding. But from the beginning, Harry and Meghan were preyed upon by the press, subjected to waves of abuse, racism, and lies. Watching his wife suffer, their safety and mental health at risk, Harry saw no other way to prevent the tragedy of history repeating itself but to flee his mother country. Over the centuries, leaving the Royal Family was an act few had dared. The last to try, in fact, had been his mother. . . .

For the first time, Prince Harry tells his own story, chronicling his journey with raw, unflinching honesty. A landmark publication, Spare is full of insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief.

Jacque's Review:

I have been a fan of the Royal Family for as long as I can remember and have read several books about Princess Diana, the Queen, etc. I really enjoyed listening to this book on audio with Prince Harry as the narrator. He did a fantastic job as a storyteller, but as is the case with every autobiography, we are only hearing one side of the story. 

I really felt for him and what he had to go through after his mother died, dealing with the stalking by the media, and the fear for his family's safety. I don't blame him in the least for wanting to be able to live a "normal" life. (He isn't exactly living like a commoner out in LA with the lucrative deals he and Meghan have made selling their story, but it is far more normal than life as a working royal.) 

I found it interesting to read about his tours of duty and the charitable causes he has supported over the years. Being able to use his influence for causes he believes in, similar to what his mother worked so hard for, is very noble. His time in Africa seemed like some of the best times in his life as he was recounting the stories. He could be himself and help others with very little contact with photographers. 

He did air a lot of dirty laundry related to his relationship with his brother, Prince William, and his father. The way Harry views some of their more recent interactions, and I'm sure what ultimately caused him to sell out the family, is really sad. I'm sure his mother would be devastated to see how their relationship unraveled, but like I said...we are only hearing half of the story. I was hopeful that Harry would eventually rejoin the family once all of the media drama died down, but after the Oprah interview, the podcasts, Netflix series, and now this book, I'm afraid he has probably burned that bridge. 

The fact that Meghan and their children did not attend the coronation of King Charles is a pretty clear indication that things are still on shaky ground. Can you think of a better way to celebrate your birthday than to attend the coronation of your grandfather? Instead, they used Archie's birthday as an excuse for the family not to attend. It is sad that the children do not have a real relationship with Harry's side of the family or an opportunity to learn their family history firsthand. 

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Book Review: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg


Goodreads Overview:

Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a now-classic novel about two women: Evelyn, who’s in the sad slump of middle age, and gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode, who’s telling her life story. Her tale includes two more women—the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth—who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, offering good coffee, southern barbecue, and all kinds of love and laughter—even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present will never be quite the same again.

Jacque's Review:

This was the May selection for the Books on Tap book club hosted by the Marysville Public Library. I never watched the movie and didn't really put two and two together that this was the book the movie was based upon until after I started reading it. I did end up watching the movie shortly after finishing the book. As is usually the case, the book is definitely better, but the movie was enjoyable.

The story primarily takes place in a small town in Alabama in the 1920's. Ninny Threadgoode is currently in a nursing home and recounts stories from her youth to Evelyn, who is a middle-aged women experiencing a bit of a mid-life crisis. She is not happy with her life and has turned to food for comfort, which only makes her feel worse about herself as she continues to put on weight. The two women connect and form a sweet friendship. Each week Evelyn comes to visit, and Ninny continues her story about what life was like in Whistle Stop during her youth. Ninny can see that Evelyn is likely going through menopause and offers some great advice and motivation to help Evelyn through this difficult time. 

The Whistle Stop Cafe is a restaurant opened by Ninny's sister-in-law Idgie and her friend Ruth. We never know what sort of relationship the two of them have, but it is implied that they were more than friends. Idgie was a wild spirit growing up and often retreated to a river community away from her family after the loss of her brother. Ruth is the one person who is able to bring her back to Whistle Stop to finally settle down, or as much as one can tame Idgie. The two are completely different, but they bring out the best in each other. They run the cafe and raise Ruth's son together.

Segregation, the KKK, and the depression are all elements that are woven into this story. Idgie never turned anyone away from the restaurant regardless of the color of their skin or their ability to pay for a meal. She knew what was right and stood up for her beliefs. She was a very admirable character and was willing to put her own neck on the line to protect the ones she loved. While Ninny is the one telling the stories about the past, the book is more about Ruth, Idgie, and the Threadgoode family than it is about her personally. 

I really enjoyed this story and was glad I finally got around to reading and watching this movie. It likely isn't something that I ever would have selected on my own, but I would recommend it if you enjoy historical fiction.