Twenties Girl

Twenties Girl

by Sophie Kinsella

Twenties Girl

Lara Lington has always had an overactive imagination, but suddenly that imagination seems to be in overdrive.  Normal professional twenty-something young women don’t get visited by ghosts.  Or do they?

When the spirit of Lara’s great-aunt Sadie – a feisty, demanding girl with firm ideas about fashion, love, and the right way to dance – mysteriously appears, she has one request: Lara must find a missing necklace that had been in Sadie’s possession for more than seventy-five years, because Sadie cannot rest without it.

Lara and Sadie make a hilarious sparring duo, and at first it seems as though they have nothing in common.  But as the mission to find Sadie’s necklace leads to intrigue and a new romance for Lara, these very different “twenties” girls learn some surprising truths from and about each other.  Written with all the irrepressible charm and humor that have made Sophie Kinsella’s books beloved by millions, Twenties Girl is also a deeply moving testament to the transcendent bonds of friendship and family.

I tend to read novels that follow particular themes during certain months of the year.  October is usually reserved for supernatural and Halloween mysteries and I picked up Twenties Girl last October solely due to the ghostly mystery it promised.  October was not the right month for this book and it would have been a much more enjoyable read in the middle of summer on the beach.  So I thought now would be the perfect time to share my review!

I did not enjoy Twenties Girl for the first two-thirds of the novel.  This is the first Sophie Kinsella novel and I enjoy her writing style but both main characters, Lara and Sadie, were self-centered, obnoxious, whiny individuals that left me yelling at my cd player on multiple occasions.  Lara and Sadie are two selfish and stubborn women who must to respect each other which leaves readers struggling alongside them through pages of petty bickering.  I usually enjoy a flawed character but it was tough embracing Lara and Sadie.  I almost returned the book because I was so sick of Sadie’s demands and Lara constantly adding drama to her own life.

And then the last third of the book happened.  I was so glad I stuck it out because I completely forgot about the whining and bickering as Kinsella drew me along on the frantic search for the missing necklace.  The girls come together to right the wrongs of Sadie’s past and they finally start connecting with one another.  Sadie shows Lara the glamour of the 1920s and Lara gives Sadie a loving friendship.  Readers finally start learning the mystery behind Sadie’s demanding nature and the two women embrace and overcome their flaws to achieve success.  I even enjoyed Lara’s awkwardness in her budding relationship with Ed.

There is one scene that has stuck with me through the months and of course I cannot talk about it because of spoilers!  I find myself envisioning the details of the shock and joy experienced by both women and I delight in mentally reliving that moment over and over again.  That scene is why I truly enjoyed the book and I wish I could thank Kinsella for that one moment!

So who else has read Twenties Girl?

Lindsay

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Don’t Look Down

Don’t Look Down

by Jennifer Crusie

and Bob Mayer

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SHE is a director of dog food commercials who’s just been recruited to finish a four-day movie shoot. But as soon as Lucy Armstrong arrives on set, she discovers that the staff is in chaos, the make-up artist is suicidal, and the stunt director just happens to be her ex-husband. That, and the temperamental lead actor has just acquired as an advisor a Green Beret who has the aggravating habit of always being right.

HE thought that hiring on as a military consultant for a movie star was a to-die-for deal: easy work, easy money, easier starlets. But his first day on the job, Captain J.T. Wilder ends up babysitting a bumbling comedian, dodging low-flying helicopters, and trying to find out who’s taking “shooting a movie” much too literally.

Lucy Armstrong has been called in to finish a disaster of a film shoot and has her work cut out for her. Her little sister is taking drugs, her niece has no supervision, she’s working with a skeleton crew, and is having to wrangle her horny action stars. Her assistant despises her and the stunt coordinator, Lucy’s ex-husband, is hiding something big. And then hunky Army Ranger, JT Wilder, waltzes on to set, making it tough to concentrate on the chaos around them. It’s a wild story full of alligators, helicopters, dangerous stunts, and, of course, Wonder Woman.

Don’t Look Down had the potential to be a REALLY GOOD story, but it just didn’t quite make it. I mean who would say know to a movie shoot being used to cover up an art heist?! The book was written by two authors, and, and their writing style just didn’t mesh. This left the plot feeling sloppy and resulted in knee-jerk characters, or characters lacking depth behind their reactions. I really liked and at the same really didn’t. I’ll use the two main characters to explain why.

Lucy is a stubborn, smart, and strong female lead. YES, my favorite type! She is determined to take control of the shoot and fix whatever is bothering her little sister. And then she becomes a micromanaging boss who is constantly fighting with her ex. NO! It eventually felt like Lucy thought every character, besides JT and Pepper, were complete idiots. She obviously adores her family and is capable of a relationship with JT (though that was a tad Insta-love), but I just felt something was missing. I was hoping to see her grow a little more, though I will say that she does back off on the Mom act with Daisy. I liked her but I felt she could have been so much more.

I am the first to admit that I’m a sucker for a strong, military man, so I was happy when JT arrived on set. Unfortunately, JT spent the first half of the book being a condescending jerk. He was kind and patient with Brice and was sweet to Pepper and Lucy, but pretty much everyone else was an idiot in his opinion. He does get better as the book progresses because he eventually opens up to Lucy, but I was sick of how he treated the CIA agent and Nash. Sure, they both deserved it, but JT’s arrogance blinded him to the truth and almost got them all killed.

I like flawed characters but it a bit overwhelming for this read. Pepper was really the only fully developed character, and she was 5 years old. She still managed to maintain a solid personality while displaying a vast range of emotions. All the characters were unique and interesting even though some of them, like Brice and Althea, where pretty cliche and stereotypical. I still found them engaging. I even liked the idea of using a movie shoot to cover up an art heist. Don’t Look Down has a good plot, fun characters, and a snarky voice; it just needed one good edit to smooth out the rough edges, beef up the characters, and meld the two authors’ writing.

I still recommend Don’t Look Down; it is the perfect beach read for spring break! Let me know what books you’re reading this month! Have you read Don’t Look Down?

Lindsay

Fire and Ice

Fire and Ice

by Julie Garwood

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Fresh from her incredible smash-hit historical romance Shadow Music, New York Times bestselling author Julie Garwood returns to contemporary romantic suspense with this wonderfully sexy, exhilarating blockbuster. Filled with sizzling passion and breathless adventure, Fire and Ice features a feisty heroine whom Garwood’s devoted readers already know and love from her hugely popular novel Murder List.

Sophie Rose, a tough and determined newspaper reporter, is the daughter of Bobby Rose, a suave, charming, and handsome gentleman who also happens to be a notorious big-time thief sought by every law-enforcement agency in the country. When the major Chicago daily where she works insists she write an exposé about her roguish father, Sophie refuses, quits her job, and goes to work at a small newspaper. Far from her one-time high-powered crime beat, she now covers local personalities such as the quirky winner of several area 5K runs whose trademark is goofy red socks.

Those red socks with Sophie’s business card neatly tucked inside are practically all that’s found after runner William Harrington is killed near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, seemingly the victim of a brutal death by polar bear. The Alaska cops want to know why Harrington carried Sophie’s card. With an unerring nose for a good story, she heads north. What Sophie doesn’t realize is that on her journey from Chicago to Prudhoe Bay, danger follows in her wake. After one attempt on her life, she’s been assigned brash but sexy Jack MacAlister as a bodyguard by the cautious FBI. Amid great peril and deadly intrigue in the unforgiving Alaskan terrain, she and Jack form an uneasy alliance sparked with sensual attraction. But they will soon be fighting more than their growing passion for each other. Powerful forces will stop at nothing to prevent the exposure of the sinister conspiracy Sophie and Jack are about to uncover.

This will be my last winter romance thriller for a while. Nothing wrong with the story; I’m just tired of certain genre traits. And because of this I’m starting off with a negative point. I don’t like to do it but this one point was holding me back from sharing this review.

Fire and Ice is a well developed novel with an intriguing complex plot, but I probably wouldn’t have finished it if I wasn’t listening to the audio book. It’s because of how the main character, Sophie Rose, was handled. I really like Sophie despite not sharing her love for designer items. I like her spunk and her stubbornness. Garwood spends the entire novel insisting Sophie Rose can take care of herself. Sophie has a sharp tongue and is a gifted writer. She trusts few people so she falls in love slowly while remaining a firecracker in the bed. Sophie demands to have her own gun when being attacked in the Alaskan wilderness. She even punches a guy who slaps her. Sophie is an awesome woman, and yet; she still constantly comes off as a damsel in distress. Time after time she is rescued by Jack. I would have liked Sophie to fight back. I just wish she had tried to pull the trigger or threw a couple more punches. Nope, she still had to be saved by the rugged man which is a prominent romance staple. This is why I’m taking a step back from the genre.

Now that my mini rant is over….I feel I should point out that I’m just being picky so on to the positive points. Fire and Ice includes a number of interesting storylines that will please mystery readers. First: there is the mystery of what happened to William Harrington. This takes our two leads, and readers, from the Chicago to the wilderness of Alaska in search of answers. Second: the Alpha Project…and that is all I will say about that one. You need to read it for the rest of that intriguing mystery. Third: the fate of Kelly’s Root Beer! This keeps the story grounded and provides a humorous background for all the drama and violence. All three mysteries are well developed and written in a way that leaves you yearning for answers.

I definitely recommend Fire and Ice for readers looking for a complex romantic mystery. Sophie and Jack were both fun characters to watch fall head over heels with each other. And the supporting characters are all well developed, allowing readers to feel like they are tagging along with Sophie on her adventures.

Has anyone else read Fire and Ice? Any Julie Garwood fans out there?

Lindsay

Hot Stuff

Hot Stuff

by Janet Evanovich

& Leanne Banks

Hot Stuff (Cate Madigan #1)

Dear Reader,

If you like hot men, hot action and hot attraction you’re going to love this HOT new series! HOT STUFF introduces Cate Madigan, a Boston native from a large and crazy Irish family. Cate has far too much going on to get involved in extracurricular activities, like men and marriage. She spends all day in school, earning her teaching degree, and all night working as a bartender in Boston’s South End. Ex-cop Kellen McBride has decided to make Cate’s bar his nightly haunt. He likes Cate’s sassy Irish spirit and wild red hair. He also has an ulterior motive for getting close to her. Cate has sworn off all things romantic, but when she comes home to a ransacked apartment, a roommate who has flown the coop, and a sleeping bullmastiff named Beast, Cate has no choice but to ask Kellen for help. Can Kate resist the charming Kellen McBride while keeping herself out of danger? Or will Kellen turn up the heat on Cate and everything in her life?

We know you’ll have a blast with HOT STUFF !

May the month of mystery continues, though I’m sure most of you may consider my absence the last weeks to be the real mystery.  That one is simple to solve.  I’ve been sick and   am still trying to adjust to my crazy night schedule!  The good thing is that I am finally getting some reading done so the last few days of May will be jammed full of book reviews.

I’m jumping back on the reviewing wagon with another Janet Evanovich story.  Evanovich partners with Leanne Banks to bring us Hot Stuff.  This is a fun stand alone mystery novel that follows Cate Madigan as she is thrown head first in to a jewel heist mystery involving her drag queen roommate, loveable guard puppy, and hunky ex-cop Kellen McBride. The story is fast paced, fun, and makes for the perfect book to take to the beach!

Hot Stuff is one of my favorite summer reads. I usually listen to the audio book every year and I picked it up again last week after a string of lackluster audio reads. The quirky characters are what keep me coming back time after time. I like Cate and her spunky determination to make it on her own and not fall for Kellen. I have no problem swooning over the ex-cop thanks to his blunt nature and earnest feelings for Cate. 

I enjoy the cast of supporting characters! Julie’s stories crack me up and it’s funny watching calm and efficient Sharon brought down by the mystery man in 2B. Their friendship with Cate is just sweet and loving. Marty is just well…who couldn’t love a six foot tall Judy Garland?! I can even deal with the annoying stalkerish Pug. The mystery is very light but I read Hot Stuff for the laughs and Evanovich and Banks definitely deliver! The sweatpant bedroom scene kills me every time!

Now I do have to include a disclaimer: I’ve noticed that many readers really dislike Hot Stuff for all the reasons I just stated liking. I can understand where they are coming from. The characters can be too quirky for some and they do read very two-diminsional at times. They could all be a little better developed. And Hot Stuff it’s not much of a thinker. You will quickly figure out the mystery so it’s not for those want a plot that will keep them up at night wondering whodunnit.  Nor is it the quality of Evanovich’s Plum novels, which will likely disappoint diehard Plum fans. 

Some times you just need a story that makes you laugh and Hot Stuff will having you giggling. That’s why I enjoy it! So grab a copy and head to the beach!

Lindsay

First Grave on the Right

First Grave on the Right

by Darynda Jones

First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson, #1)

This whole grim reaper thing should have come with a manual.
Or a diagram of some kind.
A flow chart would have been nice.

Charley Davidson is a part-time private investigator and full-time grim reaper. Meaning, she sees dead people. Really. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (like murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely. But what does he want with Charley? And why can’t she seem to resist him? And what does she have to lose by giving in?

With scorching-hot tension and high-octane humor, First Grave on the Right is your signpost to paranormal suspense of the highest order.

 

I have spent 2015 fighting a persistent winter cold.  Its annoying, and I was pouting last week when a sicky resurgence kept me from doing my weekly workouts.  I needed something that would make me laugh.  My sweet friend, Jen, recommended Darynda Jones’ Charley Davidson series.  The description sounded fun, so I grabbed the first book from the local library.  I spent Saturday reading First Grave on the Right.

Charlotte ‘Charley’ Davidson is a grim reaper.  She is also a part-time private investigator specializing in solving the murders of dead clients.  First Grave on the Right finds Charley investigating the murder of three lawyers and unveiling the identity of the sexy, mysterious man who visits in her dreams. Her sharp tongue, ever present good humor, and ability to withstand a beating result in a fun and fast paced story.

First Grave on the Right is a really good debut novel that Jones has now developed in to a series of at least seven.  I instantly enjoyed reading Charley.  Her ‘devil be damned’ attitude and constant wit kept me giggling.  The same goes with her best friend and secretary, Cookie.  I mean, who couldn’t like a woman who has such a deep love of coffee?  And I can not get enough of Reyes!  His protective, alpha male tendencies left me swooning (see I do like some romance themes 🙂 )  I couldn’t put the book down and I spent Saturday soaking up sun in my bathing suit and laughing away my cold.  My favorite scene is when Charley tries to convince the third lawyer that his is dead.  His steadfast denial results in some hilarious dialogue.

The plot was very twisted and detailed, but I wish it had tied together better.  I chock this up to First Grave on the Right being a debut novel and Jones inexperience.  In the same vein, many of Charley’s reactions and witty comments were lost on me because the relationship between characters, namely Charley and Garret, lacked the necessary background descriptions.  I still have no idea why she considered Garret an asshole when he spent the whole book desperately trying to communicate with her.  I would have liked more backstory.  It is still a well written story despite these details!

First Grave on the Right was a great read and I will be picking up book two, Second Grave on the Left, from the library this afternoon.  Anyone else a Darynda Jones fan?  What books do you read when you need a laugh?

Lindsay