Book Review: The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeño Society Jubilee by Carolyn Brown

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From Goodreads:
Everything is calm in Cadillac, Texas until Aunt Agnes declares war on Violet Prescott, the president of the Blue-Ribbon Jalapeno Society, just in time for the annual jubilee. But after the festivities—and the hostilities—are over, it’s four friends who are left standing, proving once again that friendship is forever.

This book drew me in right away with its whimsical cover and southern flair title. The Texas locale was just right for these sassy ladies.

The story centers around Marty and her sister Cathy who are both part of The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeño Society along with a hilarious cast of characters. At first the book was a little overwhelming. We enter the story during a Society meeting and I really had to pay attention to who’s who and what the relationships are, which was more like work than fun. But, once I got the gist of how the characters relate, the story was enjoyable. What really stands out in this novel is not the main characters but the minor ones who add spice and laughter to the story. Aunt Agnes is priceless!

This book is chock full of scrapbooking, good southern food and a huge helping of southern sass. Of course, all is not well in this little Texas town where everybody knows your name and friendship and family ties run deep. Cat fights abound, there’s some spicy sex with exes and all shenanigans are done with the politeness only well-bred southern families can conjure.

A fun book that really takes friendships to heart.

This book was provided for review by Netgalley.

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Book Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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From Goodreads:
Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Peter Pan and especially with Wendy, who is my namesake, so I was excited that this was a book club pick.

This was a wonderfully enchanting story of Tiger Lily, who lives among a tribe on the island of Neverland. Somewhat of an outcast to her own people, she is soon discovered by The Lost Boys and finds herself falling in love with the infamous Peter Pan.

The story is told from Tinker Bell’s perspective. She’s a silent observer who tags along on Tiger Lily’s small adventures, generally unnoticed. Tiger Lily is a girl of few words herself. She’s had a cruel childhood and is a loner, often ridiculed and mistreated by other children and adults in her tribe. Her fascination with a shipwreck survivor lead to a punishment of marriage to the tribes oaf. To get away from her fate she often visits the woods where she comes across Peter Pan. The book portrays Peter as a handsome, whimsical teenage boy who is doing his best to provide for the other boys in his charge.

This book was well written, keeping true to a what little is known about this fascinating character. It was heartbreaking to see her reluctantly give her heart away only to have it broken by circumstances out of her control. Peter, tired and beaten down from constantly being hunted by Hook, finds some comfort in Tiger Lily’s friendship and kisses. When Wendy comes along, Peter has a choice to make and although it means leaving Tiger Lily, she is never truly gone from him and he lingers with her.

I loved the ending of this book. A wonderful glimpse into the future, it had me longing for more of the story!

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Book Review: Rise of Chaos by Griffin Smith

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More 3.5 stars, this season starts out in what appears to be a typical story line for a zombie novel but quickly turns into a unique story of survival.

If I could sum this season up in one word it would be “exciting”. It’s action packed from beginning to end and has all the elements that make a zombie story so much fun. The protagonists are going from one disaster to the next with barely any down time which made this book a breeze to get through.

The unique storyline, pitting world powers against each other, made for an entertaining and well thought out novel. The introduction of “super” zombies was a great addition.

What would have made this story even better for me would have been more character development. I didn’t have any feelings one way or the other for any of the group characters. Their interactions seemed forced and they often said things that seemed off base, especially the main female character. She wasn’t relatable at all. However, the military interaction and dialog was dead on. I actually liked those parts a lot more than I thought I would.

If you’re a zombie fan, this is one worth adding to your TBR list.

I want to thank Griffin Smith for providing me a copy of this book for review – I’m looking forward to what you have in store next!

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Book Review: The Specimen by Martha Lea

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From Goodreads:
The year is 1866. Edward Scales is a businessman, a butterfly collector, a respectable man. He is the man Gwen Carrick fell in love with seven years before. Now he is dead and Gwen is on trial for his murder.

From country house drawing rooms to the rainforests of Brazil, The Specimen explores the price one independent young woman might pay for wanting an unorthodox life.

Set in a Victorian world battling between the forces of spiritualism and Darwinism, polite society and the call of clandestine love, Gwen and Edward’s tale is a gripping melodrama, a romance and a murder mystery that will compel readers to its final thrilling page.

A sweeping drama with a Victorian backdrop, The Specimen is a book worth examining.

The Specimen has so many interesting characters. Gwen and Effie, two sister who are the complete opposite of one another become the bane of each others existence. Mr. Scales, the womanizing doctor, betrays his wife with various affairs that help to weave a web of deceit. All three are tangled together into a drama that ultimately leads to murder.

The chapters alternate between the present year, 1866, which finds Gwen on trial for the murder of Mr. Scales, and the past, the years leading up to the murder itself.

Gwen and Effie have inherited their father’s estate in Cornwall. Being polar opposites, their relationship is anything but smooth. Gwen seizes the opportunity for escape when she falls in love with Edward Scales and is invited along to Brazil as an assistant helping Edward collect and catalog specimens.

Gwen soon finds that the man she fell in love with during those fleeting moments of lust repulses her in the light of day. She endures the journey, through all sorts of conditions, only to find that she has been betrayed beyond anything she could ever have imagined.

There are many twists and turns in this murder mystery. The author allows the reader to come to some their own conclusions and doesn’t feel the need to bog us down with details but allows our imagination to fill in some of the plot. I really liked this style of writing. Some pieces of the puzzle were given out of order, which at first made me feel like I must have missed something. But, smartly, the answer becomes known later in the story.

Martha Lea has created such a wonderful Victorian setting for this book, making a unique reading experience. The changes in locale made the story interesting and reflected what was transpiring among the characters. I was surprised to find a little humor and had to laugh at some of the quips made by some of the minor characters.

If you enjoy unconventional murder mystery that makes you think outside the box like The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax or Mistress of the Art of Death, you’ll enjoy this book.

This book was provided for review by Netgally.

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Book Review: Gone Missing by Linda Castillo

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From Goodreads:
Rumspringa is the time when Amish teens are allowed to experience life without the rules. It’s an exciting time of personal discovery and growth before committing to the church. But when a young teen disappears without a trace, the carefree fun comes to an abrupt and sinister end, and fear spreads through the community like a contagion.

A missing child is a nightmare to all parents, and never more so than in the Amish community, where family ties run deep. When the search for the presumed runaway turns up a dead body, the case quickly becomes a murder investigation. And chief of Police Kate Burkholder knows that in order to solve this case she will have to call upon everything she has to give not only as a cop, but as a woman whose own Amish roots run deep.

Kate and state agent, John Tomasetti, delve into the lives of the missing teen and discover links to cold cases that may go back years. But will Kate piece together all the parts of this sinister puzzle in time to save the missing teen and the Amish community from a devastating fate? Or will she find herself locked in a fight to the death with a merciless killer?

This is another great installment to Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series. As with the other books in the series, this was really hard to put down.

Kate is an ex-amish Ohio police chief who’s had to solve quite a few Amish related murder mysteries since taking her post in the small community of Painter’s Mill. Make no mistake, these aren’t the sentimental Amish books reserved for the Christian lit genre. The murder’s are brutal, the mysteries and character’s more complex and the action doesn’t stop.

Kate is one of my all time favorite book characters. She’s strong, smart and doesn’t try to be something she’s not. Once she’s on the case, there’s no stopping her (sleeping, eating, living be damned) until she solved the mystery and the killer has been found. Her relationship with John Tomasetti is a big draw to this series as well. Both flawed with wounds from the past still fresh, they find solace in each other to get though past and present situations.

In this book, Amish teens are going missing creating a widespread puzzle to solve. As always, Kate has to face her own fears to save others and it makes for a nonstop action packed story. There’s no lull, no rest for Kate and John and no rest for the reader because you won’t be able to put it down. This one offer’s a surprise ending too! Icing on the cake!

You don’t have to read these in order either. Each makes a great stand alone story. I actually read #2 first than #1 before returning to #3.

If you’re a murder mystery and suspense fan and like authors such as Tami Hoag, I urge you to give this one a try. You won’t regret it!

On a side note, I tried to watch the made for TV movie modeled after book 1, but quickly lost interest. It just didn’t do the book justice.

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Book Review: Undead and Unreturnable by MaryJanice Davidson

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From Goodreads:
MaryJanice Davidson gives vampire queen Betsy Taylor a Christmas to remember in this fourth funny outing in her bestselling Undead series. This time, Betsy’s holiday cup runneth over. For starters, Betsy’s mother has finally erected Betsy’s tombstone in the local cemetery. A psycho nut job serial killer is targeting tall, thin blondes in the Twin Cities: women who look like Betsy. Her vampire mate, Eric Sinclair, is balking at wedding planning and at the modern notion of communication, while her hateful stepmother has just had a baby. Of course, it’s time for the irrepressible Betsy to launch an advice column for vampires trying to cope and to team up with a freshly killed ghost to track down her murderer. But why does her sister, Laura, keep taking out that sword? As usual, Betsy floats triumphantly in a sea of chaos, helped and hindered by the usual madcap cast of vampires and humans.

I read the first book of this series, Undead and Unwed, back in 2009 and have been reading my way through the series off and on. Starting off fun and unique, the series is a cross between Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series and Molly Harper’s Naked Werewolf series, with a vampire twist. I really enjoyed reading 1-3 but this one just didn’t live up to my expectations.

The story does not advance at all with this installment. It’s more of a review of the first 3 books and should have been more appropriately numbered 3.5. There’s no plot whatsoever and no growth to the characters at all and, although Betsy is still the humorous self-absorbed character I know and love from the previous installments, her plight was considerably too blah to make this one worth reading.

I’m not sure why some authors feel they need to constantly reintroduce their characters in every series installment. By book 4 I feel like I have invested enough in this series not to be dumbed down by repetition. If great authors of intricate stories like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series don’t see a reason to repeat everything that has happened in past installments, certainly a light series like this doesn’t have to.

Unfortunately, I think I’ve already read the best this series has to offer and don’t intend to continue.

I encourage reading books 1-3 though. This really started out as a fun series with a unique take on vampires, a steamy love interest and some mystery solving on the side.

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Short Stories/Short Reviews:The 7th Month by Lisa Gardner and The B-Team by John Scalzi

Both of these short titles were offered free for members by Audible.com. I love when they offer these freebies. It’s a great way to try a new author or a genre you don’t normally read without having to commit $$ or a large chunk of time.

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The 7th Month by Lisa Gardner

From Goodreads:
In her seventh month of pregnancy, D.D. should be taking it easy. Instead, she accepts a small consulting role on the set of a serial killer film shooting in Boston. D.D. figures she’ll be useful to someone for at least one night, serving as a police expert and making a little extra money in the bargain.

It seems like a simple task—until the previous film consultant, a former Boston cop, is found beaten to death. Suddenly D.D.’s date with Hollywood gets serious. Extremely pregnant, on the trail of a killer, and surrounded by a hundred and four murder suspects in the middle of a graveyard, D.D. must quickly unravel a tangled web of lies. As another cast member is attacked, D.D. realizes that like it or not, her priorities have changed—and her last desperate hope is that she can catch a killer before she and her unborn baby face mortal danger.

This was my first Lisa Gardner story and I really loved D.D. She’s funny, independent and says what she thinks. This is number 5.5 in this series but I had no problem keeping up with this mini murder mystery. I love that the author could get enough of D.D.’s past across to make the story make sense without having to go into elaborate details that would have dragged the story down. It did what it was supposed to do; get you to read the series. It’s inspired me to add this series to my TBR list.

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The B-Team by John Scalzi

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From Goodreads:
The opening episode of The Human Division, John Scalzi’s new thirteen-episode novel in the world of his bestselling Old Man’s War. Beginning on January 15, 2013, a new episode of The Human Division will appear in e-book form every Tuesday. Colonial Union Ambassador Ode Abumwe and her team are used to life on the lower end of the diplomatic ladder. But when a high-profile diplomat goes missing, Abumwe and her team are last minute replacements on a mission critical to the Colonial Unions future. As the team works to pull off their task, CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson discovers theres more to the story of the missing diplomats than anyone expected…a secret that could spell war for humanity.

I was a little apprehensive about this title since it’s outside my normal reading comfort zone. It’s sci-fi in its truest sense. There are lots of characters to keep up with and lots of action going on. It was very well written and the attention to detail that went into creating this outer space mission is amazing. Highly entertaining with a mix of Star Wars like characters, Space Odyssey like missions and unique and exciting story line.

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Book Review: Kiss River by Diane Chamberlain

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From Goodreads:
In the anticipated sequel to KEEPER OF THE LIGHT, award-winning author Diane Chamberlain takes fans back to the sea-swept place called KISS RIVER. Ten years ago, a hurricane caused the upper half of the Kiss River lighthouse to crumble into the sea. Deemed beyond repair, the remaining 100-foot brick shell of the lighthouse and its spiral staircase have been cordoned off and left for nature to finish the demolition job. Sister and brother Lacey and Clay O’Neill live in the keeper’s house next to the Kiss River lighthouse. When stranger Gina Higgins arrives in the area, she joins them in their bid to restore the decrepit beacon. But all three are hiding secrets from their past, and Gina’s arrival puts in motion a chain of events sure to change their lives forever.

This title is the second in Diane Chamberlain’s Kiss River trilogy. I had not read the previous title, Keeper of the Light, but when I saw Kiss River at the used bookstore, being a big fan of Diane Chamberlain, I decided to pick it up.

I had no trouble diving right in and, although this is part of a trilogy, it made a great stand alone story. Ms. Chamberlain’s books always get me hooked. She creates great drama with a hint of mystery and her characters are always down to earth and realistic. They’re characters you can invest in. Kiss River has a great cast of characters.

The main drama of the story comes from Gina Higgins, a teacher on summer break, who has headed east for the sole purpose of getting an up-close look at the Kiss River lighthouse. She soon befriends a brother and sister duo, Lacey and Clay, who live and are currently restoring the keeper’s house. Gina hides her true purpose under the pretense of being a lighthouse fanatic who is intent on preserving the Kiss River lighthouse beacon. What Lacey and Clay don’t know are that Gina has more than one motive and the lighthouse mean more to Gina than they could ever have imagined.

The best parts of this book lies with a more subtle drama brought to light through diary entries made by the daughter of the lighthouse Keeper during WWII. I loved these parts of the book! The two stories, past and present, come together in a surprising way.

Parts mystery, drama, romance and historical fiction, this book offers something for everyone.

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Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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From Goodreads:
And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his year yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can’t stay on the sidelines forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

Being a teenager myself in the early 90’s, the movie based off this book caught my attention and, since I try to read the book before I see the movie, I picked this one up. It’s really short and written in the form of letters which makes it a breeze to read. I was able to finish it in just a few hours.

The book takes the form of letters written by Charlie to his “dear friend” and follows his freshman year of high school and what a year it was. I loved the 90’s references to television, movies and lots of music. What teenager in 91′ wasn’t in the process of making a mix tape in the hopes of pouring out our soul to anyone who would listen? I think the references are what made this book worth reading.

What kept this at 3 stars is that Charlie’s POV left me slightly confused. He’s 15, a freshman in high school and a bit of a misfit, which makes him a typical teen of this era. The problem is his voice isn’t consistent. I felt like I was reading the narrative of an 8-year-old who is living the experiences of a 20-year-old. He cry’s A LOT! And not just in private. It makes him seem much more immature than the actions he participates in.

What’s good about Charlie? He’s extremely perceptible to the emotions of the people around him. He’s sensitive, respectful and kind. He has thought’s that are beyond his years yet is so awkward. He tries so hard to please everybody and has to learn to live for himself and not others. Charlie is endearing but wholly frustrating.

Charlie’s friends are diverse and wonderfully unique. A hodgepodge of raging hormones and teen angst, they give Charlie and the story purpose and direction.

In my opinion, the author puts Charlie in way to many unlikely situations. The situations themselves aren’t unlikely, but the sheer number of them are. Here’s a rundown: smoking, drugs, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, virginity, sexuality, abortion, mental breakdown, etc. How many 15 year olds experience all of these themselves or by association in one years time? In 4 years of high school, maybe, but just 1? Could happen, yes, but unlikely.

I think this would make a much better movie and I look forward to watching it soon.

If you enjoy atypical coming of age stories or dated references, this is a good fast read. Be prepared to be pummeled with life experiences, some of which are not “perks”.

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