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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Review: Denise Grover Swank – Thirty One and a Half Regrets

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Denise Grover Swank - Thirty One and a Half RegretsOh my goodness! This book was ridiculously thrilling!

We start the book 5 weeks after Joe left, and Rose is finally starting to feel better. She still misses Joe, but it’s not long all consuming, and she’s getting back to a semblance of normal life. Well, kind of. She’s hardly speaking to her sister Violet, who was the main reason she had to give up on her relationship with Joe. And for some reason, Bruce Wayne has stopped turning up to work to help her with her landscaping jobs, which has Rose very worried since she doesn’t want him to break his parole and end up back in jail.

Mason is being the most patient man, sticking true to his promise to give her as long as she needs to get over Joe, saying he’ll wait as long as she needs.

Apart from that, everything seems to be going comparatively okay for Rose, until two bad things happen in one day to completely flip her life upside down. First, she gets the news that Daniel Crocker has escaped from prison, and since she was the one that put him there, and she knows that he holds a grudge, that puts the fear in her. Then, she has to contend with Joe coming back into town on a campaign stop to give her business a $200,000 small business grant, although she’s pretty sure that it’s all a stunt organised by Joe’s dad.

Although at least it gives her chance for two things. Firstly, she can tell Joe once and for all that their relationship does not and will never have a future. Secondly, she finally realises that she’s ready to move on and think about exploring a relationship with Mason.

Which seems like it will be great, until Rose wakes up one morning to her bed covered in rose petals, leading in a trail to her living room, with the sofa covered in ketchup in a replication of the scene of where Crocker murdered Rose’s mother.

Rose has to get away, and quickly. She’s taken into witness protection, firstly to the Henryetta police safe house, which turns out not to be so safe. She then ends up holed up in her birth mother’s farm house with Mason, who has also now been threatened by Crocker.

But it seems like this safe house may not be too safe either, with Mason convinced that there’s a leak within the Sheriff’s department. But can they find the leak before it’s too late? We end up on a thrilling journey with Rose and Mason as they try desperately to keep away from the clutches of Crocker and his cronies.

I know I said I couldn’t put down the other books in this series, but by George this was in another league. I was gripped from start to finish and I swear the adrenaline was pumping as if I was there with Rose and Mason.

I found the ending quite unexpected, with help coming from the most unusual place. But the decisions that Rose made definitely made me smile, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I can’t believe the next in the series isn’t released until June, I don’t know that I can wait that long!

5/5

Review: Denise Grover Swank – Falling to Pieces

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Denise Grover Swank - Falling to PiecesI was in two minds whether to review this or not, with it only being a novella, not a full novel. But since I’m reviewing the other four books in the series, I might as well go for the full set!

The book really was quite short, and much of the first half was a repeat of the end of the last book, just with a little bit more of the characters emotions in. We switch back and forth between Rose and Joe, so we can see both their sides of the story, but I did think the book was going to be a bit pointless until about halfway through when the plot progressed further than the end of the previous story.

I had thought that since we would see the story from Joe’s perspective, I might feel a bit more empathy towards his struggles in making such a difficult decision. And while I could see that it pained him to do so, I still felt like he was a bit spineless. OK, his father is a very powerful man, but Joe isn’t a puppet, and would his father really destroy his life if he doesn’t do what he wants?

What I did feel was a complete heartbreak for poor Rose. She’s only ever been in love once, and it has all ended so dramatically after just four months, and it has to hurt that the main reason that it’s over is to protect her sister. Her sister who seems to have crossed some sort of line and doesn’t have Rose’s back anymore, constantly niggling away at her self confidence like her brutish mother used to do. But Rose is a good person, so she could never risk her sister being hurt in the way that Joe’s father intends.

I do wonder why this was released as a novella instead of just the start of book four, unless the author hadn’t originally intended to write book four. It seems like it could have just been the opening to the new story. But who knows what book four will bring, only time will tell!

3/5

Review: Denise Grover Swank – Thirty and a Half Excuses

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Denise Grover Swank - Thirty and a Half ExcusesI just can’t put this series down, the author has written a series that is a complete page turner, thrilling and exciting and unpredictable.

We return to Henryetta a few months after the end of the last book, and in the meantime, Rose has been setting up the flower shop/nursery with her sister Violet. They’re running the shop as equal partners, but since Rose was a million dollars by her birth mother, she’s invested the most money in the shop, several hundred thousand dollars in fact.

Not that you would think it with the way that Violet is treating Rose, with little hurtful comments and constantly belittling her in front of her friends. And when we find out that the word around town is that Rose stole Violet’s inheritance and is forcing Violet to work for her. And what is worse is that Violet has heard these rumours and has not bothered to set the record straight. Which is not exactly the sisterly thing to do. But Violet seems to have some kind of secret, and it looks like Rose might need to figure out what it is before she can get back on good terms with her sister.

But this is all a sideshow to the main event. A new church has moved into town, headed by the televangelist Jonah Pruitt. Rose’s boyfriend Joe is just about to go on an undercover mission I’m his job for the state police, but before he goes, he warns Rose that she should be careful of Reverend Pruitt. And it turns out that that’s not the only warning Joe gave before he left, having warned the assistant DA Mason Deveraux to stay away from Rose too. Which doesn’t go down too well with Rose when she finds out, since Mason is one of only a few friends that hasn’t run for the hills when he found out about Rose’s visions.

But maybe Joe was right to try and keep Mason away, it seems like he may want to be more than just friends. And there seems to be some history between Mason and Joe which neither of them wants to talk about.

Rose continues her journey of maturation throughout this book, she’s still becoming more confident about herself, and the friends that she has made have made her much happier. Plus, it looks like she might actually leave well alone when her neighbour dies, supposedly of natural causes. But she hasn’t changed that much, and inevitably ends up more involved than she would ever have wanted!

I’m not going to spoil the end of the book, but I actually found myself quite upset about what happened. It wasn’t entirely unexpected, and I think I can probably tell what will happen next, but maybe I’ll be proved wrong, we’ll see!

My only one complaint about the book is Rose’s constant USD of the phrase ‘crappy doodles’ whenever something bad happens or doesn’t go quite to plan. I know she’s supposed to be an innocent southern belle, but ‘crappy doodles’ just sounds silly to me!

4/5

Review: Denise Grover Swank – Twenty Nine and a Half Reasons

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Twenty Nine and a Half ReasonsI absolutely adored the first book in this series, and now that I’ve finished all the Charlaine Harris books, I think good old Rose Gardner may be my next obsession.

We left the last book with Rose starting a relationship with Joe, and finally getting to know him for real, rather than the undercover persona he’d been portraying. As this book starts, we learn that Rose is blissfully happy when she is with her first love, but he lives miles away in Little Rock, so she only gets to see him on weekends and misses him terribly when he’s gone.

We also learn that Rose’s sister Violet does not approve of Joe, which causes a rift between the usually close sisters. Especially when Violet insists on setting Rose up on a date with a more ‘appropriate’ choice of man. Things come to a head when Violet confronts Joe about why he is so secretive when asked about his family. But can the truth change Violet’s mind, and how will the truth affect Joe’s relationship with Rose? And is Violet now just taking after her mother, whose controlling grasp Rose has just managed to escape?

And we’ve not even touched on the actual plot yet. After all of the drama of the last book, Rose is looking forward to getting back to normal with her job at the DMV and getting to know Joe better, that is until Joe finds a jury duty summons for the same day. Rose’s morning doesn’t get much better after that, one calamity after the other making her very late for her first day, and not in many people’s good books.

You would think that since Rose is on jury duty, the book may have been about the trial, but Rose has a vision that the defendant is innocent and since his attorney doesn’t seem to be bothered about helping him, she decides to take it on herself. Which leads to her getting unceremoniously kicked off the jury and heading for a stint in lockup. But it seems like she might have help from an unexpected source, the prosecution attorney, Mason Deveraux. But why is he so helpful, and does he have a ulterior motive?

I couldn’t stop turning page after page to find out what was going to happen next, and what did happen was pretty surprising. I think we see Rose come into her own in this book, she’s finally starting to figure out her own personality and stick up for herself in ways she never would have though possible. It’s nice to see, and I can only look forward to how she progresses throughout the rest of the series.

4/5

Review: Charlaine Harris – A Secret Rage

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Charlaine Harris - A Secret RageWell this was rather different to what I expected. I’ve read a lot of Charlaine Harris books, I think Goodreads said 32 at last count(!), but this was different from the other murder-mystery novels of hers that I’d read.

For a start, the main character Nickie is beautiful, a supermodel from New York in fact. But when her agent tells her that she’s past it, she decides that she will move back to her home-town,. move in with her old childhood friend and finish college before deciding what to do next.

So it’s a bit surprising that although Nickie has never experienced any violence or anything in New York, she hears that a student was raped on the college campus shortly before she arrived. And when a lecturer at the college is raped too, it looks like it wasn’t a one-off occurrence.

[SPOILER ALERT]

This is where things started to deviate from what I was used to from Harris. Usually, the main character decides to investigate the crimes herself because she has a personal connection to the victims, but Nickie isn’t too overly concerned with the crimes until she is raped too, when someone breaks into her bedroom at night. She’s understandably left traumatised, but together with Barbara, the lecturer who was also a victim, they decide to try and narrow down the list of possible culprits, convinced that the culprit knew them personal, they use a process of elimination to get the list down from a few hundred people, eventually dwindling down to just six.

But when Nickie becomes convinced that the culprit is her housemate’s father, not to mention the father of her new love, how can she possibly be sure before anyone else gets hurt?

But as with all Harris books, the ending was given a little twist, and things were not quite as straightforward as you thought they were. The only thing that niggled me was the reason that the culprit gave for committing the crimes, it just seemed very petty to me and not really in line with everything that had happened.

Regardless, I found myself turning page after page until I was finished, unable to put the book down until I found the identity of the guilty man. I think the fact that the main character was affected by the crimes made more of a connection with the book, you could feel her pain and anguish coming through the pages at you, leaving you as determined as she was to figure out what was going on, and desperate to figure it out before anyone else could feel the pain that she had.

Unfortunately, I think I’ve now read all of Harris’ books. I’ll be waiting eagerly for her next novel to be released!

4/5

Review: Charlaine Harris – Sweet and Deadly

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Charlaine Harris - A Secret RageIf you’ve been following my blog for a while, it probably won’t be much of a surprise to learn than I absolutely adore Charlaine Harris. I thought I’d read all her books until I was at Waterstones and spotted this double bill, which I think was her debut! The first book (Sweet and Deadly) was released in 1981!

I have to say, this really comes across in the book. Not that it makes it any less enjoyable to read, but there are certain parts where you think ‘Why doesn’t she just do xxx’, then you realise that xxx doesn’t exist yet! For a start, Catherine works for the local newspaper, but still uses a typewriter. Then there are the references to ‘the black part of town’, and the way that Harris refers to non-white people in her book may have been how it was back in the southern states of america in the 80s, but it all feels a little bit off in 2014.

As you can probably imagine if you’ve read any of Harris’ other books, the main character is a young girl without parents, short, plain looking and unlucky in love. But as usual, she comes into her own throughout the course of the book, deciding to give herself a makeover and finding a guy who seemingly loves her for who she is.

If only she hadn’t just found the reads body of her father’s old nurse. And if only she didn’t think that the death of the nurse and the deaths of her parents were somehow related. And if only she didn’t think she could do a better job of investigating that the police.

I did really like the book though, I love the style of Harris’ writing and the laid back style of crime fiction, not quite as hard hitting or fast paced as some more modern crime fiction. The book did seem quite short, although I read it on Kindle since it was much cheaper, so I don’t know how many pages it actually was. To me, the ending felt slightly rushed , all of a sudden, Catherine knows exactly who the killer is, and we have to wait while she runs to confront the killer until all is revealed.

But as this was Harris’ debut novel, I think we can understand why it may not be quite as fluid as her later novels, but it was still very much an exciting read.

Review: Jana DeLeon – Louisiana Longshot

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20140129-204559.jpgFortune Redding is for all intents and purposes an international super-spy, jetting off on missions all around the world. But when her cover is blown on a mission in the middle east, and it looks like the leak was from within her own office, she has to get way off the radar before she gets herself killed.

Luckily for her, her boss has a relative who has just passed away, with a niece about Fortune’s age. The niece was supposed to be spending the summer in the dead lady’s house, but is now whisked away for a holiday in Europe while Fortune takes her place. I mean, what could happen in a sleepy town like Sinful, Louisiana, right? And so Fortune Redding becomes Sandy Sue Morrow.

But you can probably tell that Sinful is not as quiet as ‘Sandy’ had hoped. When on her first day she manages to get the back up of the local Sheriff’s Deputy, and then have her newly inherited dog dig up a human bone from the bayou running through the backyard, having only just had time for a coffee, she realises that she’s going to find it hard staying out of trouble.

My favourite part of this book was that it wasn’t full of the usual characters, and didn’t follow the usual plot lines that you would expect. I mean, we get the tension between Sandy and the deputy throughout the book, but it doesn’t turn out how you would expect. And Sandy’s new friends are not the usual young ladies that you’d get in other books, in fact, they turn out to be two crazy old ladies, who may or may not know more than they are letting on, but they certainly appear to run the small town version of the mafia, aka the ‘Sinful Ladies’.

So who does the bone belong to, and why do Ida and Gertie seem so anxious to protect their friend Marie? And can Fortune stay under the radar when she seems to be attracting trouble like bees on honey?

I really loved this book, another good southern mystery with a kick-ass female lead. The only annoying thing is that this is another kindle book that I downloaded for free that turns out to be the first in a series, making me want to spend all my money on the rest. I’ll be restrained for now, but I can’t guarantee that it will last for long!

5/5

Review: Denise Grover Swank – Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes

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Denise Grover Swank - Twenty Eight and a Half WishesAfter the intense focus required by my last book, I needed something a little easier on the mind. Scrolling through my list of kindle books, I saw this, something which looked like a cross between the typical chick-lit and a murder mystery.

Starting the book, we are introduced to Rose, a young woman living a very sheltered life under the thumb of her overbearing and downright mean mother. She’s used to taking orders from her momma, doing what her momma wants, when her momma wants it, right down to the time she gets out of bed in the morning. And let’s not forget that she’s 24!

But Rose is not your ordinary girl, she has visions, and when she has those visions, she can’t help blurting out what she just saw. Usually, the visions are things like someone’s toilet overflowing, or their dog escaping, but one day while at work at the DMV, she has a vision of herself dead on her couch. Not wanting to end life without having experienced anything (like never wearing high heels, never eating chinese food or never being kissed), she makes a list of 28 things she wants to do before she dies. And that signifies a pretty big change for Rose, finally realising that she needs to have control over her own life, rather than letting her momma run it for her.

Little does she know that her momma isn’t going to be running anything; she gets home to find her dead on the couch, head bashed in with a rolling pin. And to make matters worse, Rose is suspect number one, having had a very loud and very emphatic argument with her mother earlier that day.

But being freed from the yoke around her neck brings about some changes in Rose, although not all the changes are helping to prove her innocence, some might say redecorating the living room the day after your mother was murdered might be a bit soon, and as for having a complete hair and clothing makeover before the funeral has even taken place, well some might see that as slightly uncaring and callous.

Helping Rose with the changes in her life is her neighbour Joe. He seems like an angel, helping her to fix the locks on her door, and keeping an eye on her to make sure she is safe, but is he really all he seems? And when a bartender that Rose met also turns up dead, what will happen when the police show up at her house with an anonymous tip-off that she has the murder weapon hidden in her shed?

There really were so many twists and turns to this plot that I really had no idea what was going to happen next, I just couldn’t stop reading to find out what happened to poor lovely Rose. And I loved how we found out more of Rose’s back-story at the same time as Rose, giving us a glimpse into why Rose’s life has been so miserable.

The plot and the style of writing reminded me a lot of Charlaine Harris (one of my favourite authors). I don’t know if it was because Rose was a nice southern girl, or if it was the murder mystery element to it, but it felt very comfortable to read. I also liked that Rose wasn’t a limp-lettuce kind of girl expecting a man to take care of her, she was fully well capable of taking care of herself, and actually pretty kick-ass as it happens!

Finding out that there are three and a half more books in this series makes this girl very happy indeed!

5/5

Review: Charlaine Harris – Poppy Done to Death

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dead-over-heels-charlaine-harrisFinally the last book in this 8 book series. I’ve got mixed feelings over it ending, because although I’ve really enjoyed the series and I quite like the main character, I can tell that it’s not Harris’ best writing, and I’d much rather read the Sookie Stackhouse books (again).

This book starts off with Roe’s step-sister-in-law being murdered in her own house. Roe and her other step sister are going over to confront her for not turning up to a meeting of the ‘Uppity Women’ (don’t ask). When they get to her house, they find her on the floor, brutally stabbed. Over the course of the book, we learn that Poppy (and likewise her husband) were not exactly committed in their relationship, carrying on other relationships with many people in the town. Which of course gives us plenty of suspects for her murder, jealous women, and men who think the cat might be let out of the bag.

The plot was brilliant, a very well written murder mystery. Every time I convinced myself that someone was guilty, I turned out to be completely wrong. In the end, the guilty woman (or man) was not someone that I had ever suspected, but completely obvious now that I know.

There were a few things that I didn’t like about this book, mainly the fact that Roe discovers that she is pregnant. Harris made a big point through the last 3 books to bring up the fact that Roe can’t have children every few chapters, so the fact that Roe is pregnant seems to be an attempt to end the series on a ‘happy ever after’ note. Although it was pretty nice, it just seemed quite odd, a little like it was tacked on as an afterthought.

But apart from the few niggles that I had with the book, it was a very good end to a series that for me was a bit up and down. Not the best series I’ve ever read but one that kept me wanting to read until I’d finished.

3-5

Review: Charlaine Harris – Last Scene Alive

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dead-over-heels-charlaine-harrisThis book starts off a few months after the end of the last one, with Aurora still grieving the massive loss at the end of the last book. She decides that she has had enough of living her life under a cloud of misery and that she needs to start getting back to normality. How convenient, then, that her old flame Robin gets in contact with her and wants to meet up.

At first, she thinks it’s because his new movie (which incidentally is based on the murders that she uncovered in the earlier books) is filming in her town, but it turns out that he really did just want to see her. I guess you can probably tell what happens over the course of the book, with Aurora falling for Robin all over again, and getting over Martin by getting under someone else…

Unusually, it’s not actually Aurora that discovers the dead body in this book, but she still ends up front and center. Seriously, if I was involved in this many murders, I’d consider moving to a remote island to live by myself. The victim this time is the lead actor in the movie, who happens to be playing the character of Aurora and was recently dating Aurora’s old flame Robin. Aurora also has to cope with a weird new employee at the library , discovering a terrible secret at the end of the book and leading to yet another murder.

But of course, even though she’s not the police, or even a private detective, she still manages to be the one who identifies the murderer, like a normal member of the public would be able to consistently solve crimes faster than the police. But I suppose you have to accept some far-fetchedness when you’re reading a murder mystery series, kind of like Midsomer Murders.

3-5