Mouth Full Of Sweet Teeth

17381897 by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If you have a mouth full of sweet teeth, then ALL FUDGED UP might just be a novel you should bump into at some point in your life. With no less than ten fudge recipes, this book could kick start any hypoglycemic heart in 30 seconds flat. Sure, you could overdose and still end up comatose in the backseat of your mom’s station wagon and find yourself with a one-way ticket to the big house, but that’s a chance any sugar lovin’ fiend should take. If you’re going to end up dead someday anyway, you might as well do it in style and enjoy the ride out of town.

Even the dog Marshmallow aka Mal enjoys her prance around the fudge station and will just as surely lick your face as she’ll smile at you or bark her head off. She’s tiny, but she’s ferocious tiny with a big heart and a penchant for fire hydrants and spinning in circles. Despite her youth, she’s trainable as well, if given the proper time and devotion.

While I’ve never been to Mackinac Island, I feel as though I have this small town figured out where roots run as deep as radishes and if you’re not a third-generation native, you might as well have grown up in Seattle, WA or Austin, TX. The kooky-eyed locals added a level of interest to this particular tale that might not have otherwise been there.

The voice proved entertaining and quirky and even a bit starry-eyed at times, but I still found myself turning my head to the side at some of the dialogue and a few of the phrases. While I realize cozies aren’t exactly known for their detective endeavors and crimes-solving expertise, I would have preferred a few more criminal elements, as the climax and ending felt a tad rushed. Instead of meandering along and enjoying the ride to the top, the train sped up and jerked me to the side as we reached the top of the hill.

With a sequel TO FUDGE OR NOT TO FUDGE already planned and slated for 2014, Allie McMurphy has more tales to tell, and if my teeth can face the onslaught, I may just come back to find out what happens next.

I received this ARC for free at Bouchercon.

Dysfunctional Family On Steroids

79699 by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I think it’s safe to say teenage boys think about sex. A LOT. In fact, teenage boys think about sex so much and with such enthusiasm that teenage girls are often overridden around every bend. With teenage boys in mind, I have compiled a list of penis slang. This is by no means all-inclusive, but it should suffice for the task at hand. There’s Johnson and skin-flute and boner and anaconda and anal impaler. Bald-headed yogurt slinger and baloney pony and bratwurst and chubbie and cock and ding-a-ling and ding dong and dingis. John Thomas and joystick and knob and love stick and member and middle leg and Mr. Happy. Schlong and Schwartz and shaft and tallywacker and trouser snake and wang and weenie.

If you add up all the slang terms (there’re 27) and then multiply this number by 15, you probably end up somewhere in the vicinity of how often teenage boys think about getting laid. That’s nearly 17 times an hour. Am I exaggerating? I wish I were. And it doesn’t really matter if your father is half-crazy and your mother decides to start boning her psychology professor, a teenage boy can still dream of a better life. Even if your nanny doesn’t feel the same way about you, you can still enjoy the view and keep the more X-rated thoughts to yourself and have wet dreams in the privacy of your bedroom.

THE UNTHINKABLE THOUGHTS OF JACOB GREEN reminded me of a dysfunctional family on steroids. When I reached the end, I had developed an even greater appreciation for my own upbringing, and it was hard not for me to consider myself lucky. Sure, I could bemoan my own familial problems, or my own teenage drama (rather mild in comparison), or the skirmishes my brother and I experienced on multiple occasions, but none of those thoughts crossed my mind. Instead, amusement crossed my lips, as character after character acted out in the craziest manner, and I found myself hanging on for the ride.

Cheery Lightheartedness

6477877 by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

If I were an eleven-year-old girl, I’d like to think I might resemble Flavia de Luce. Precocious, ubiquitous, and intelligent, she’s filled with energy and life, refers to her sisters as Feely and Daffy, and has an unbounding curiosity about the world around her, even though there’s always the chance she could blow up Bishop’s Lacey with her latest science experiment. Not knowing what trouble she might find herself in next kicked my curiosity into overdrive. Her voice kept me finely tuned into her mesmerizing world, as my eyes widened in surprise and awe.

Filled with a cheery lightheartedness, I couldn’t help but smile at some of her adventures, even if I did wonder slightly how she managed to insert herself so readily into the crime solving arena, without so much as a stray comment from the commanding officers. But it was her sweet escapes and near misses that felt a tad more contrived and too convenient, rather than showcasing the work of an expert planner or master crafter. The story would have been better served with hints or groundwork rather than fanfare eureka moments that provided narrow escapes.

While I realize a plethora exclamation points are a stylistic choice, and I’ll even grant that said exclamation points added to Flavia’s voice and helped enhance her childlike wonder, I couldn’t help my burning desire to pound a few out of the page and cry “Curses!” all the way to Mother England.

THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE proved rather sweet indeed, but it did have the hint of a bitter aftertaste, which prevented me from rating this book higher.

Words We Write For Ourselves

“Why is it that the words that we write for ourselves are always so much better than the words we write for others?” – William Forrester

I’ve often pondered this question, since I wrote in school because it was required (and hated nearly every minute of it), and written for myself for approximately thirteen years (and loved nearly every minute of it). Maybe it’s because I leave a piece of myself behind like a blood sample on nearly every page; maybe it’s because I find it much easier to express myself through writing than talking, and that my brain seems more conducive to typing than it does to actually carrying on a conversation; maybe it’s because the delete key solves many a problem that I face in the universe; maybe it’s because I had more stories contained within me than I ever thought possible; or maybe it’s because I sometimes feel as though I save up or store words for the right moments, and many of those moments make their way to the page.

Whatever the reason, though, writing for myself excites me, because I don’t have to worry about rules, or the audience for my completed manuscript, or if my grade will be an accurate representation of my talent, or lack thereof. First and foremost, I need to make myself happy, writing the kind of story I would like to read, and let the rest of it work itself out through fisticuffs, or the passage of time. When someone connects with one of my stories, or another piece of writing I may have done, I feel like they’ve somehow connected with me. And while it used to bother me more if someone didn’t get or understand what I had done, now it tends to bother me a little less. Putting myself out there, laying it all on the line every time I sit down to dine (or in this analogy write) and continuing to do so…well, there’s something heroic about that. And heroes get remembered.

Creepily Good Read

14922984 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

INTO THE DARKEST CORNER reminded me of a slow burn, of holding my marshmallow an inch or two above the campfire, the flames licking and dancing but never quite touching that puffy goodness. But minus the gooey center and the warm, fuzzy feeling that a sugar rush gives you. Instead, this novel has a bitter aftertaste that leaves you wanting to down shots of Jose Cuervo to take away the burn. To be honest, it kind of creeped me out, like a whisper just behind my left ear with nary a hint of a mouth or an individual to explain the voice I heard.

I understood Cathy’s character, but I couldn’t really identify with her. Rather than seeking out help or even fully recognizing her emotional disorder, she chooses to bury it and attempt to move on with her life, but she seems to fail somewhat miserably in her effort. I wrote those two sentences about a quarter of the way through the novel and before I completely understood her character. Needless to say, I’m willing to admit how wrong I was. She’s a freaking trooper, and four years later she’s lucky to be walking the Earth, all trust issues, anxiety, and OCD aside.

She may have to check a lock six times but it’s what helps her push through, to make it from one moment to the next, even if those moments turn into hours, and she has to repeat the process three or four times to help her feel truly safe. Catherine Bailey may have been a twenty-four year old carefree, fun-loving individual, but Cathy Bailey is one tough, yet emotionally damaged woman, and she’s not going down without a fight.

I had a hard time understanding that woman. You know, the one that stays in a relationship even when it starts going horribly wrong, and the boyfriend/husband/lover suddenly turns into a wife beating, knife yielding maniac who carves up his beloved like she’s some kind of Christmas ham. After reading this novel, I understand the dynamics of that particular relationship a bit better. And it kind of freaks me out.

Opposites Do Attract

18134787King And Maxwell by David Baldacci
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Mimicking the highs and lows of this novel, my rating had some higher points along with some lower ones (which you wouldn’t know based on my final overall rating). But trust me, my friends, they were there. But that’s the joy of reading: expect the unexpected. KING AND MAXWELL started off well enough, with desert scenery and a finger placed on the kill switch and high powered weapons pointed at foreheads, tripped over its own two feet a bit in the middle with some Swiss cheese dialogue and gouda lines, and then had a rather disappointing ending, at least in my opinion.

Let’s start with the good. Sean King and Michelle Maxwell prove rather emphatically that opposites do attract, that partners can banter as well as brother and sister, tease each other relentlessly in the pursuit of some comic relief, and that even while being chased by alphabet soup agencies, good humor never dies. The premise could have been straight out of Hollywood: There’s even a Jaws reference that I wouldn’t have gotten without the explanation. The action-packed plotline proved mostly enjoyable (I don’t read thrillers for the stunning, poignant prose and literary awards). I value entertainment, and I definitely felt the back of my knees on the edge of my seat.

Measuring this against earlier David Baldacci novels, though, I couldn’t help coming away a bit disappointed. There were lines of dialogue that could have been pilfered from an Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie, and the premise, while entertaining, probably was a tad outlandish, and was all wrapped up a bit too neatly for an edge-of-your-seat roller coaster ride.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Took Me For A Ride

15702848The Taken by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

It wasn’t love at first sight. No, it was more like casual curiosity in a sea of strangers where one stood out a little more than all the rest, wearing a tailored suit and an upturned do whereas the other women wore red dresses and spiked heels. But I was intrigued enough to continue the flirtatious glances, and she was inviting enough to offer up those baby blues and batted eyelashes and slight smiles when I least expected them, and before either of us realized it, the glances led to a conversation and the conversation led to dancing, and ultimately to a night neither of us would ever forget.

And it would be easy to classify Grif and Kit in a similar fashion, as their relationship started off rockier than a wooden rollercoaster in the middle of a windstorm. But there was a spark, a flare, and a need inside of them that had more pull than an undertow. Grif’s hard-boiled voice carried this story to new heights, while Kit proved every bit as tough as her pencil skirts and sharp tongue, and her milky skin was as pure as a fresh snowfall.

THE TAKEN took me for a ride I won’t soon forget, and I’m more than a little intrigued to discover what happens next for Grif and Kit. In a sea of books that sometimes strive to be more alike than they are different, I’m always delighted when I find a fresh voice, a fresh twist, or a combination of factors that individually aren’t any different than what I’ve already discovered so far, but when combined create a brand new element.

This novel offered me a glimpse behind a curtain, and I want to peel back the rest of the red velvet and discover what other joys wait for me on the other side.

Wrapped In A Secondhand Bow

18108778 by ,
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

I applaud authors that take chances, and in this case we have three authors that have decided to color outside the lines. Rosalind Noonan and sisters Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush took collaboration to a whole new level by dividing SINISTER into parts and then each author seized a particular section(s) and made it her own. While author collaboration is not a new concept in the writing universe, this particular brand of teamwork has not been seen by these eyes, or if I did see it, I lived in a world of blissful ignorance (which can be a perfectly acceptable playground if you’re so inclined).

But that’s where my applause ends, and the criticism begins. If you’re going to trip and fall and possibly end up doing a face plant on an icy patch of sidewalk, you should at least do it in style. While these three ladies have earned style points on collaboration originality and character voice consistency, the style points ended as this romantic suspense novel took hold. The dialogue felt forced and sometimes trite; the romance was packaged a little too well and wrapped in a secondhand bow; the suspense needed an anticipation injection along with a tad more unease; and there were scenes where the moments felt erratic and jerky, because of the choice of viewpoint character.

While Ira, Hunter, and Sam certainly had personality, Renee, Ricki, Sabrina, and Delilah proved more fleshed out than their male counterparts. And I had trouble identifying with and getting behind any particular character, and not just because I’ve never been to Wyoming and have very limited experience with barns and horses and farms.

So, yeah, I’d been excited to see this one come, but in the end, I was rather glad to see this one go.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Dark, Compelling Read

6348514The Cold Room by J.T. Ellison
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

J.T. Ellison knows how to spin a tale with Taylor Jackson, a tough-as-nails main character who never seems to lack for passion. She finds it in both her professional and personal life. The Cold Room gripped me from the first page, and it didn’t let me go until I had reached the end. The chilling nature of the tale kept me in rapt attention, and while the plot may have seemed a bit farfetched to some, I found it to be both heavily researched and a compelling read.

I found myself intrigued by the descriptions of Nashville, and I attribute this to the outstanding writing abilities of the author. She turned a local tale into an international one, when Taylor and her fiancé, FBI agent John Baldwin, crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Italy. Florence never sounded so good.

It takes a special writer to delve into some dark places of the human psyche, when many individuals might shy away from such an experience. To her credit, she didn’t just skirt across the surface, she jumped all the way in, and her novel is a stronger, better book because of her willingness to peek beneath the surface.

Endings can prove a bit of a challenge, but Ellison pulls it off with ease. She sets herself and the reader up perfectly for The Immortals. While this is my first foray into Taylor’s world, it certainly won’t be my last.

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Liquored Up And Pissed Off

18802779The Last Clinic by Gary Gusick
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.” – Dave Barry

While reading this debut novel, I couldn’t seem to get that particular thought out of my head, as it cycled on rinse and repeat. And I couldn’t help this one either: Men seem to have no problem telling women what to do with their bodies. Now I’m not saying what is right or wrong about the above quote, or whether abortion is a sin or not, and whether or not women should have the right to choose. But I do think when you only see one side of the issue, and you can’t even stare at the opposing party on the other side of the fence without getting into a spitting or shouting match, then you might want to take a good, hard look at yourself and ask yourself what you really stand for, and why you’re even standing there in the first place. Empathy isn’t just some word that you look up in the dictionary, and you completely discard it in your daily life. We’ve had plenty of leaders who’ve lacked empathy in our modern world: Hitler and Stalin certainly come to mind.

So yeah I was pretty liquored up and pissed off while reading THE LAST CLINIC, and I was even more liquored up and pissed off when I finished it, and I’m still liquored up and pissed off as I write this review. Because really the bottom line is it takes two people to start an argument, and it takes two people to continue one. Religion ends up getting a bad reputation when folks use it as an excuse to further their own extremism causes. Religion can actually do some good when used properly, creating a set of values and structure, and giving a man or woman hope, and a belief in something greater and more powerful than themselves. But when it isn’t used properly, you might as well be holding a gun in your hand instead of a Bible, because it’ll lead you to some pretty fucked up shit, and you’ll be screaming the name of Allah, or God, or Jesus Christ, or Buddha, or whomever from the other side of a metal cell or padded walls.

Aside from the religious aspects, and there were plenty for me to stand up and take notice, Detective Darla Cavannah is a woman I have no problem getting behind. She’s smart and beautiful with a body built for trouble, and the story added elements of mystery, instead of moving in a linear fashion straight to the finish line. But it’s hard for me to get past the fact that there were multiple individuals I’d like to whack upside the head with a Bible or a wooden cross.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.