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Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich

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When Jimmy Poletti was caught selling a little more than the used cars from his dealership, Stephanie Plum is called to haul him in for missing his court date.  *sigh*  Will Trenton, New Jersey crimes ever be under control?

As Stephanie finds herself protecting the once hospital security guard Randy Brigg’s by placing him in her own home, along with ten yippy Chihuahuas (DO NOT ASK), while she tries to figure out who is dropping bodies all over town.

Of course, hot looking cop Joe Morelli is happy to share his apartment and his bed with Stephanie during this time that her own place is occupied.  With Joe busy trying to get a handle on this crime wave Stephanie once again finds herself partnering with Ranger, super hot undercover security for Rangeman, and now also targeted by this mysterious group of thugs that are promising to take out those close to Stephanie – if not Stephanie herself.  Never fear – Ranger is never far from Stephanie’s side.

As if that wasn’t enough, Stephanie’s grandma Mazur is on her continuing quest to attend every wake she can (who can resist a gathering of good food and friends?) while trying to check off items on her bucket list including getting a peek at Ranger and getting even with Morelli’s grandma for past transgressions.

 

 

Many many years ago I read this series as they came available year after year.  I think I read the first twelve before I became a little tired of the continuous crazy antics of Stephanie and her side kick Lulu, as well as the constant “who is going to win Stephanie’s heart, Ranger or Morelli” (*cough cough… Ranger*).

I picked up Top Secret Twenty-One because the offer was made to review this one on audio, and (1) I had not listened to any of these books on audio and (2) I was curious as to where this long running series that still attracts several in my book club, has gone.

The verdict:  The Stephanie Plum books are much like a soap opera.  You can step away for years, and then, turn back to them one day and start with what is currently being offered and pick up right away on the story line as though you hardly missed a day.  Stephanie is still pursued by two very attractive men and those of us that know the series can argue until the cows come home as to who we want to win her heart for good.  But honestly.. will that day ever come?  Grandma Mazur still enjoys a good wake and insists of going to each and every one looking forward to seeing her friends made up in the caskets so she can comment on how they look as well as comment or complain about the spread after the funeral.  Stephanie still has cars blowing up all around her, Lulu is still a plus sized gal who dresses inappropriately and is looking for any excuse to stop to stop and pick up a doughnut.

All in all, it was a fun visit back to Trenton New Jersey and seeing that everyone is just as they were.  While I did enjoy the listen (great on audio!  I am just saying!) I think a visit is enough for me and I will not be staying in Trenton.  While the books are fun… I can not commit to the continuing saga of nothing ever coming to a close.  Kudos to those who can. :)

 

 

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

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Sophie Honeywell was once the girlfriend of Thomas Gordon, yet on that very day that Thomas had planned an elaborate proposal – Sophie broke up with him, feeling that he was not the one for her.

Years later as Sophie is approaching 40 years old, she is still annoyingly single, and Thomas she heard, has been happily married for years as well as a father.  When Thomas calls Sophie out of the blue one day and asks to meet up. Sophie is shocked but curious as to what he will have to say.  Nothing could have prepared for this conversation.

When Thomas meets up with Sophie he explains that his aunt Connie who was one of the few people who lived on Scribbly Gum Island had passed away.  Sophie recalls having met Connie a couple of times during her and Tom’s courtship.  When Tom tells Sophie that Connie has left her beautiful home to her, Sophie is shocked; but a letter accompanying this revelation confirms Connie’s wishes all to clearly.

Entering back into Tom’s family as the “ex who dumped him” is not easy.  And Scribbly Gum Island came with much baggage…. including the famous Munro Baby mystery, that happened right inside the home that Sophie had just inherited.  With a cast of interesting and quirky characters, Sophie’s life is about to change completely.

 

 

 

I chose this audio because I can not get enough of the incredibly engaging writing of Liane Moriarty.  This is one of her older titles, written in 2010.

At first listen, I almost gave up on the audio narrated by Heather Wilds (good narration, she had many vices to keep up on!).  The Last Anniversary did not jump-start right into the action as her newer titles do.  About 30 minutes in, I was glad I hung in there as I could start to sense the emerging Moriarty that this author will come to be.

The Last Anniversary has some interesting characters that I enjoyed.  As we enter the story, Connie has passed away however you do get a chance to know what type of person she was.  Her sister Rose (now in her 90’s!) is still quite active, Veronica is a hot mess – at once angry that Sophie was given the house of her aunt and apparently struggling with identity as well, Enigma – the baby of the mystery who is now a grandma…. and more.

There is enough here of Moriarty that fans of writing will enjoy this.  I did enjoy this one and as always, look forward to more from her.

 

 

 

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 12 hours and 47 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • Audible.com Release Date: July 22, 2014

 

 

 

The Girls Of August by Anne Rivers Siddons

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Maddy, Barbara, and Rachel are three of the four girls of August who used to gather one week a summer at a glorious beach house.  The week would consist of much wine drinking, much giggling, and lots of catching up with one another and what was happening in each of their lives.  This tradition had been going on since the girls were in their twenties, almost twenty years!  Melinda was the fourth girls of August, and upon her tragic and untimely death, the other three had not felt up to carrying on the tradition.

That is…

until now.

Baby, the new (and third) wife to Teddy who had been married to Melinda, invites the girls to once again come together and bring back the girls of August.  Baby desperately wants to fit in with the three friends, and after some thinking, Maddy, Barbara, and Rachel decide that maybe after the four years that have passed, it is time to gather once more for a time of coming together.

Yet things between the friends have changed as well.  Each carries a secret they do not easily let go, and with this new addition to the group, the young twenty something blond perfect bodied Baby… opening up and sharing the way they once did is going to take time… when their week-long gathering turns into two weeks… that may just be enough time to deal with what is true in each of their lives.

 

 

There is soooooo much to love about this book.  First and obvious for me… I love the concept of a yearly gathering at a beautiful beach house with your closest girl friends.  Laying on the beach, napping in the sun, cocktails, laughing until you cry,  and dancing to a camp fire all appeal to me.  And as far as that goes, the book holds up to what I had hoped to find within it.

Unfortunately there are some odd scenarios that felt like a skip in a record.  A few things in the book did not seem to flow with the story and while I listened to this one on audio I literally said out loud “huh?” more than once.

Basically – So much potential and then not quite reaching it.  I really did enjoy most of this story that I listened to on audio.  It still contains elements I enjoy including women’s friendships, and anything to do with the beach and sun. :)  Kate Reading’s narration was perfection and really added to my enjoyment of a book that unfortunately falls short.

People who enjoy light summer reads and stories of women’s friendships should find this one a good way to spend a day in the sun.

 

Purchase this book from:  Retailers websites

 

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Unabridged edition (July 8, 2014)
  • Language: English

 

Cherry Cola Book Club by Ashton Lee

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Cherico, Mississippi library director Maura Beth Mayhew faces the challenges of libraries just like everyone else.  As she is in such a small town, the ever-present dangers of having the library closed so budgeted money can go elsewhere is all too real.  With Councilman Durden Sparks breathing down her neck with an agenda for the upcoming budget to re purpose the funds the library normally receives, Maura knows she has to up her game.

With a few friends she starts a group that reviews classics and calls it the Cherry Cola Book Club ( cute story behind the name).  The group ties in food with the discussion and looks to go deeper than your average book club.  Surprisingly, Durden Sparks accepts Maura’s invitation to join the group, even though Maura is quite aware that Durden is their to undermine her and keep a close eye on what the library is up too.

Will Maura’s efforts to let her community know the value of a library be enough?  Or is it too little too late?

 

 

 

You had me at book club.  ~  Sheila

I discovered this little gem while browsing audible.com for an audio to go on my phone while I was working outside.  Initially as the story started, I had a strong feeling my review was going to include the words “predictable” but sweet.

I have to admit though, I was surprised at the depth behind this story.  Maybe it was because of my involvement in our local library and City Library Board, but Maura’s fears of budget cuts and the community not being aware of the value of the library were all to real fears for our own town and perhaps that made me appreciate this one even more.  I actually found some of her ideas to present the value of the library to the community to be good ideas and my own mind started turning these ideas to how they could fit in our own community.

All in all, I really appreciated this audio.  I enjoyed the fun diverse characters and I have to say the discussion on To Kill A Mockingbird made me want to insist that my own book club review this classic so we can have such a discussion.

Those who appreciate Libraries I feel will like this book.  I also feel book clubs could have a lot of fun with this one as there is a lot of food mentioned with recipes in the back of the book (they were read out loud on the audio).  I really want to make that Cherry Cola drink with lime they mention… and the tomatoes and okra sound interesting too….

Fun note…

as I was looking up the audio book picture for this post, I seen the cover for the book version.  It is funny but as I would probably not consider listening to a “cozy read”, I would not have given this book a second glance due to the cover.  I LOVE the audio book cover.

Book Cover

Book Cover

 

I am going to link this post to Weekend Cooking as the back of the book (and in the audio!) listed all of the recipes for the southern YUMMY foods they mentioned throughout.  I will listen to the last chapter again to pick up on some of these recipes.  I LOVE when books talk about food and then give us the recipes to make what they discussed!

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Shadows In The Vineyard by Maximillian Potter

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In January 2010, Aubert de Villaine, the famed proprietor of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, the tiny, storied vineyard that produces the most expensive, exquisite wines in the world, received an anonymous note threatening the destruction of his priceless vines by poison-a crime that in the world of high-end wine is akin to murder-unless he paid a one million euro ransom. Villaine believed it to be a sick joke, but that proved a fatal miscalculation and the crime shocked this fabled region of France. The sinister story that Vanity Fair journalist Maximillian Potter uncovered would lead to a sting operation by some of France’s top detectives, the primary suspect’s suicide, and a dramatic investigation. This botanical crime threatened to destroy the fiercely traditional culture surrounding the world’s greatest wine.

 

 

Why did I want to read (listen) to this book?  Wine fascinates me.  It has been talked about since biblical times and has taken on the prestige drink of celebrations, congratulations, acceptable item to bring to a dinner party, an accompaniment to dinner, with friends, or yes… while reading a book.  While I myself am not a big wine drinker (I like sweeter wines, I refer to them as “baby wines”), I am still fascinated by the process and the beauty of wine in a glass.

Shadows in the vineyard is an engaging true story.  It was interesting to learn about this event in our not too distant history and the impact it had on this community.  The story line is well paced and kept me fascinated in what was happening.  If you have interest in true events this book may be just the one for you.

Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green – (Second time around just as AWESOME!)

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Prelude:  When I drive to our cabin that is 3 1/2 hours away I love to listen to audio.  This past weekend with my now graduated from College son, we listened to Will Grayson Will Grayson.  When I tell my son we will listen to audio he eye rolls but appeases me.  I… do not want to be appeased.  I… want him to love audio too.  And this is how it happened…  ~Sheila

 

Will Grayson is 16 years old and has a best friend named Tiny Cooper.  Tiny… is anything but. Tiny is humongous and his heart is just as big as he is.  Tiny is gay – Will is not.  Will takes a lot of crap for having a larger than life best friend who is gay but Will just puts his head down and plods on as each class brings him closer to the end of the school day where he can go home and get away from the drama that is high school.

When Will meets Jane, a girl he may or may not like… things become interesting.  Jane is part of the Gay/Straight Alliance in their school and Will is not sure which one of those heading she falls under  but she seems to like him.  Perhaps… life just became a little more interesting.

Will Grayson is 16 and has fallen for a guy he met on-line named Isaac.  Isaac.  What a great name…  but this is not the Will Grayson who is best friends with Tiny Cooper.  No… this is another Will Grayson, or soon to become known as OWG (other Will Grayson)…

and things are about to get interesting.

 

 

Alright alright – it is honestly really hard to describe this book and why I love it so much.  It has the untethered bound of John Green’s wit.  It has the incredible narration of David Levithan that makes me laugh out loud as the guy is simply brilliant as he makes his way through this book with fantastic voices and occasionally breaking out into song.  Yes song.  Tiny is writing a musical… but that – is another part of the story.

I adored this audio when I listened to it in 2012 immediately following listening to Fault In Our Stars for the first time.  Same author – John Green, in case you did not catch that.  I was basking in Green.  Literally and I wanted to share his incredible writing and audio with the world.  Listening to it again two years later I fell in love with this story again.

So the verdict with my son?  I gave him full veto rights to tell me to stop the audio and I would with no arguing or sideways glares as we drove.  Instead – he enjoyed it too and so much in fact when we arrived back home on Monday he downloaded Audible to his phone so he could finish listening to it on his way home to the cities.

I promised him I would not gloat… but…

mission achieved :)

If you have not treated yourself to the amazing narration of David Levithan I highly encourage you to give him a try.  If you have not listened to a John Green audiobook woo!  You are missing a great level to his writing.  I highly recommend Will Grayson Will Grayson on book or audio.  Some day I want to read this one…  I bet it is FABULOUS!

Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber

1caaLauren Elliott dreams of being a bride but Todd, her boyfriend of many years avoids the subject like it is the plague.  When Lauren’s younger sister who is already married announces she is pregnant Lauren feels even more strongly that it is time to make moves towards what makes her happy, and that may very well mean moving on without Todd.

BethAnne Scranton is the happiest she has ever been in her life with her second husband Max.  He is everything a husband is supposed to be (caring, loving, passionate, a friend and companion) and everything her first husband was not.  The only thing not perfect is the fact that Max’s business is so far away he maintains a separate household and that seems to make BethAnne’s ex think there is room to wiggle back into her life.

Lydia Goetz owns the local yarn store called ‘A Good Yarn’.  She worries about her store and how to think of unique ways to bring in business… it seems however someone is secretly helping her with that.  Baskets of yarn and needles are showing up around the town with a message to knit a scarf and bring it into A Good Yarn where it will be donated to someone in need.  The yarn is all coming from Lydia’s shop… but who?  And why?  Although Lydia is not complaining as her business door is opening more and more to new customers.

How will these women’s lives intertwine?  Who’s relationships will survive the bumps? 

 

 

A long time ago I had dabbled in the Debbie Macomber series, Cedar Cove.  I loved how each book was a street address and you learned about the people who lived at that address and their association with the others in the town.  Then the next book would be a different address and from that person’s perspective in the same town.  Really, it is a brilliant series.  As my reading expanded, Debbie Macomber and Cedar Cove were put aside for other books, and I never did find my way back to Cedar Cove, or for that matter, to Debbie Macomber.

Until now.

On a whim…. this book, Blossom Street Brides sounded kind of light and fun, and just the right audio length to hold my attention during the beautiful summer drives.  And… I was right.

Blossom Street Brides is a sweet read centered around three women and their relationships with spouses, boyfriends, and children.  While romance reading has never been a “go to” genre for me, Macomber never lays it on thiick so I am able to enjoy her smooth style of an engaging storyline.  There are a couple of happenings in the book that made the independent woman in me think “oh come on!”, but over all putting reality aside, I found enjoyment in the read.

Going into this book, I did not realize it was part of a series until I finished it, but I never felt I was missing any previous information.  I listened to this one on audio with Cassandra Campbell as the narrator and I enjoyed it.

Fans of Macomber will enjoy this fun look into the three women’s lives.

 

  • Listening Length: 10 hours and 59 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • Audible.com Release Date: March 25, 2014

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline, Sheila DeChantal, Book JOurney

Molly Ayer knows the Foster Care System all too well.  She has been a part of it for most of her life bouncing from one home to another.  Now at seventeen years old she is required to do community service for a petty theft crime.  She is required to go through an elderly woman’s attic and clean up, toss out, and organize the cluttered dusty boxes.  An undertaking that on sight appears impossible, especially since the widowed old woman Vivian, does not seem to keen on parting with her things.

As Molly explores the attic and what is inside the boxes, she discovers that Vivian too was part of a much earlier foster system called the Orphan Train. The Train would take children from stop to stop where families could come to the train and choose children to go home with them… that system unfortunately, worked about as well as some of it does still today. As Molly and Vivian spend their days together in the attic they learn of each others experiences with the foster care system, some good..and some bad.  Some times it was your wits and your desire to survive that pulled you through.

Both women find out that they have a lot more in common than one would ever guess by looking at them.

 

 

Orphan Train was our book club selection for August.  We chose this book because we won the books for our group from Harper Collins – woo hoo!!!!!!!!  AND the author Christina Baker Kline will be speaking in our town on August 12th, as it happens, our regular Tuesday that we hold our book club on.

Orphan Train turned out to be a delight.  As I had loaned my copy of the book out to a friend, I did not have one in my possession so I decided to try it on audio.  I had heard it was an excellent listen and that turned out to be true.  Narrator Suzanne Toren was perfect for this book.

I went into this book with little knowledge of what it was about other than the Orphan Train (*spoiler alert… it’s the title! ;)  )  I had not read any reviews of the book so even the format of going from Molly’s story to Vivian’s was a surprise and a pleasant one at that.

I enjoyed the storyline and the knowledge I picked up along the way regarding the Orphan Train.  It is a subject I hope to learn more about and I am hopeful that next week Christina Baker Kline will talk more about her research.

Historical Fiction fans will enjoy this read.

I will talk more about the Bookies Book Club thoughts on the book as well as the Author Event next week.

 

 

 

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 8 hours and 21 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • Audible.com Release Date: April 2, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth

The One Safe Place, Tania Unsworth, Sheila DeChantal, Book Journey

Twelve year old Devin is ill prepared for what to do when his Grandpa suddenly passes away.  They lived on a farm, one of the precious few left in the dystopian type world of despair, drought, and destruction.  When Devin leaves the farm to go and find help in the direction that his Grandpa had always told him to go in the case of needing help, he instead finds wild kids of his own age without the skills or the care that he was nurtured in.

When Devin and a new friend Kit, hear about the Gabriel H. Penn Home for Childhood, a place that is said to be filled with others their age, lots of food and great accommodations, they hurry on to find this place that sounds too good to be true.   As the old adage says…. if something sounds too good to be true…

it probably is.

 

 

I was impressed with this Middle Grade (MG) style audio book.  The One Safe Place gives a modern and possibly creepier feel to the old Hansel and Gretel story… and as I write this I think this is more like a dystopian version of that story – obviously with a modern twist that helps it hold its own.

I enjoyed this audio of a strange world of survival at any cost.  I also like that instead of the usual YA (16-20) characters that are often found in this type of read, they targeted it to a younger group who I think will really enjoy the feel of the book aimed at the MG readers.  Nicely played Tania Unsworth.

Mark Turetsky was the narrator for this book and I think that may be my only unfortunate take away is that the narration felt as though someone was reading to me.  I personally like to fall inside an audio book, forgetting about the narration and immersing in the world the author has created.  The fact that I found myself thinking of the narration while listening to this book shows that did not happen.  Narration was pleasant, do not get me wrong, and I know that it is certainly a skill that I do not have, but that is my take away.

Middle Grade listeners and readers will enjoy this perfect level of age appropriate creepy.

 

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty, Sheila DeChantal, Book JOurney

Talk about your hot messes.

When the Pirriwee Public Schools Annual Trivia Night ends, no one who was there will ever be the same.  People are hurt.  Some have broken bones… and one parent is dead.

Second marriage Madelaine Mackenzie is 40 years old.  She has the clothes, the style, and the attitude.  By all appearances she can hold her own but deep down inside she hurts when her teenage daughter prefers her remarried fathers company to Mackenzie’s.

Celeste is by anyone’s description; beautiful.  She is the type of woman that most of us would not want to stand too close to for fear of being compared and found wanting. She has two adorable twin boys and what seems to be the perfect marriage to Perry… but behind closed doors it is becoming more and more apparent that things are not as perfect as one would think.

Jane is the fairly new in town single mom to the sweet boy Ziggy.  She is working hard to fit in with the other women, but holds tight to keeping the secret of Ziggy’s father a closed conversation.

As the police start their investigation of the happenings at the Trivia Night that Madelaine, Celeste and Jane all attended, they find out a lot more than they had initially anticipated. What started out looking like an accident… may have been cold blooded murder.

 

 

SQQQQUUUEEEEE!  Let’s just get that out of the way now.  This book is totally SSSQQQUUUEEEE worthy!  I LOVED it.  I have listened to all of Liane Moriarty’s books on audio and get a thrill every time. Narrator Caroline Lee (who also narrated The Husband’s Secret) is PERFECT for this style of book.  Her distinct voices between the characters and her amazing animated ways made this a true delight to listen to and I did not want to stop!

Fantastic story line, wonderful three dimensional characters and all mixed in with an important topic made this listen a huge WIN.  Do not miss out on this one – in book or audio it is sure to be fantastic!  I wish Author Liane Moriarty could write faster, I am already jonesing for her next book. :)

 

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