Books, Gardens, Dogs

Adore this series

Totlandia: The Onesies, Book 4 - Josie Brown
So spring has turned to summer and the moms on probation have completed all of the challenges put forth by Bettina, the sadistic leader of the Pacific Heights Moms & Tots Club.  Ally and Jillian have launched a pie shop that is turning around Jillian's life.  Jade has managed to keep her history secret - or so she thinks.  Lorna has accepted that her son has Autism but won't quit the club because she has seen him respond so well to the small interactions there.   And then, all hell breaks loose.  
When Bettina confronts Ally about her fake marriage to Barry,  she kicks her out of the club and when Jade is confronted by the other moms, she admits that she told Ally's secret.  Barry,  a determined lawyer, Ally's neighbor and sperm donor, try to help her get over the loss of membership, he confronts Bettina in a unplanned meeting at an art museum.  He threatens to take down the whole group because of their unfair rules and procedures.  The other side of this coin is what is going on with Jade.  She has pissed off her ex by her betrayal of Ally and now her secret is known to Bettina, but she has no clue. 
Even though all of these women have joined this club to ensure success for their children, they are finding that the club may not be all that wonderful for them.  This one ends with a spectacular cliffhanger that will be driving me up the wall for the next three months.  These books have everything right.  There is fast dialogue, a bit of naughty situations, wonderful descriptions of how the other half lives and fast paced.  These should really be a television series.  Maybe Netflix is listening to me?  


loved it

Seven Deadlies: A Cautionary Tale - Gigi Levangie Grazer



Perry Gonzales is a scholarship student at an elite Beverly Hills private school with her sights set on an elite college.  The story is told in the form of letters to the admissions officer there and with wonderfully dark humor that will appeal to adults as much as it will to teens.  Perry has built a business as a tutor and somewhat babysitter to the kids she attends school with, discovering their "sins" and telling their cautionary tale so that others might learn from their mistakes.  She explores all of the deadliest sins with elements that will make any freshman gasp with immediate comprehension.


Wrath is my particular favorite where the oldest son finds such anger when his mother gives birth to twins that he cannot be trusted to be alone with them, so his mother hires Perry so she can get an hour or two of sleep.  But being angry does have consequences and in this case, they are quite dire.  Lust takes the form of a teen so spoiled that she does everything in her power, from hunger to breathing strikes, to have the Judas Brothers perform just for her.  Pride takes a parent's demand for absolute perfection creates absolute devastation for perfect scholar/athlete.  Greed, of course, has a horrible ending as well as envy, gluttony and sloth proving that karma always comes back.


I fell in love with Perry's voice and her relationship with her mother.  As a single mother, Ylena Marie, works as a nurse to support her daughter and gives no quarter.  Whenever Perry finds she cannot cope or resolve an issue, her mother is there with wisdom and just the right words. The ending really caught me off guard with a big surprise.  I was also excited to see that this book has been optioned by MTV which is wonderful news since my favorite show, Awkward, plays along the same lines with a very cerebral main character.  Well, now that I have officially read every book Gigi has written, it is time for me to look to next year when I better get another one!


couldnt put it down

A Guide for the Perplexed - Dara Horn

I really stayed up late one night reading this and didn't want to leave the author's words, so I read all the way through the afterword as well.


Josephine has a brilliant mind and her imagination helps her create a program that lets users keep track of their memories using social networking, photos and even thoughts. Judith was the center of attention growing up while Josephine was always a bit strange but now that Judith has drifted from job to job, her sister hires her to help out at the new company, Genizah. The story weaves back and forth between the sisters and Solomon Schechter's tale of his life and ultimate discovery of a vast collection of Jewish historical artifacts in Egypt. Also, explain is the life of Maimonides, the author of A Guide for the Perplexed, and one of Schecter's main discoveries. There are several other minor historical characters scattered about as well.

The story really tells about the bond between sisters and brothers mixed with a thrilling contemporary of intrigue. As Josie travels to Egypt to help the new library at Alexandria catalog, she leaves her young daughter, Tali at home with her business-partner husband, Itamar. After helping to organize the library's catalog, she is kidnapped and thought to be murdered by a militant faction. The outcome is anything that you could expect. Told through multiple points of view, there is nothing that can prepare you for the ending. One of my favorite things to do is guess how a plot will turn out and I was completely off guard with this one.

I love historical fiction, especially when it is related to current events and Horn does an amazing job with bringing these tales together. The underlying themes of redemption and how blood is thicker than water are played out as each set of characters try to do the right thing for their families. One interesting note is the role Asthma plays in each set of characters and their stories. Maimodes, a physician in ancient Egypt, tries to help a ruler treat his condition and sends his brother to his death seeking herbs that will help control it. Schecter suffers from the condition as well and Josie also suffers from it.

The details and patterns that link each of these characters is amazing. I haven't read anything this thought provoking in a long time. I really didn't want this book to end and found myself looking a lot of things about the historical characters since I found myself fascinated by them. This would make a perfect choice for a book club since there are so many different ideas that can spark discussions about technology, current world events and family. I really enjoyed this one and I am going back to find more by this author.



Always On My Mind - Jill Shalvis


Leah Sullivan grew up in Lucky Harbor with a domineering father and a mother who allowed him to bully her, so as soon as she could, she left and never looked back. Drifting aroung and never finishing school, she does succeed as a pastry chef so when her aunt has to have surgery, she comes back home to help out in her bakery.  She has competed onSweet Wars, a televised reality baking show, which will have you rooting for her much like the people who live in Lucky Harbor to win.  Her best guy friend growing up, Jack Harper has remained an ally with Leah but there has never been anything more than sworn friendship, even though the sparks are present.  And considering, he is now head of the fire department, you know this is going to lead to a blaze of hotness.  (I know, for some reason these books bring out the puns in me.)

Oh, and Jack's mother is fighting breast cancer, so when Joe brings Dee into the bakery to tempt her to eat, Leah blurts out that they are now seeing each other which makes Dee overwhelmingly happy.  Jack figures something that makes his mother snap out of her depression is a wonderful thing and decides that he doesn't really want to lie to his mother so he gives it his all.  Even the little details like Leah's friends and their snarky comments all ring true.  Those girls have cornered the market on hot firefighter cliches!  I love reading about how Leah, with the help of Jack just makes everything come together.  It also wouldn't be a true "Jill" book without a bit of mystery and conflict.  In this case, it is a strange building fires around the small community.

The situation that Leah creates with one little white lie is so believable that everything just falls together so naturally in this story.  Every time I pick up one of Shalvis's books, I keep wondering if this will be the one that lets me down and every time I adore that one more than the last.  I instantly get sucked into the characters and the winning dialogue with just enough detail that isn't overwhelming or sticky sweet.  (ok, sorry, more puns).   So dig in, grab a glass of wine, or in my case water, and read this charming story. 

Louder Than Love

Louder Than Love - Jessica Topper MY THOUGHTSABSOLUTELY LOVED ITKatrina has moved back to her childhood home after her husband dies in a horrible train accident right when their daughter is about to turn one. Moving from New York City to a small town an hour away has given some comfort to Katrina, surrounded by her high school friends and memories. Trained as a librarian, she devotes part of her time volunteering at the local library and puts together a special appearance by her daughter's favorite musician (hers too!) that wrote the theme song for a PBS kids show. The musician, Adrian Graves puts on an amazing show for the children and the attraction between Katrina and Adrian is intense. Of course, nothing goes according to plan and when they do kiss, Adrian ends up in the hospital due to an unfortunate allergic reaction to the shellfish Katrina has consumed. I know I shouldn't have been laughing but the whole scene was just priceless. Katrina doesn't hear from the guy again, thinking that kiss has ruined her chances. That is until her adorable daughter, Abbey (named after the album, of course), spots him near Central Park on their way to the zoo. Just when I find out all kinds of background on Katrina and her life, I am really wondering about this guy. What is his story? In a perfectly paced manner, I get my answers. This is a smart and concise romance with a few twists and a bit of a mystery that had me on a bit of a rollercoaster wondering if these two could possibly work things out between them with all of their baggage. I am being a bit vague on Adrian's background, but as a rock star that has within drawn from public life, he has quite a few chips on his shoulder. You need to read this right now. So far, this is one of my favorites of the year. I really hope that Topper explores a bit more into the hidden lives of the famous and near famous soon, even if they are only rock stars on the page. I am also super picky about how those stars are portrayed and Adrian rings completely true.
It's Just a Dog - Russ Ryan MY THOUGHTSABSOLUTELY LOVED ITCharlie Keefe has made a good living keeping his Jack Russell terrier in the best of kibble. So when Pete crosses the Rainbow Bridge and Charlie isn't there, he sinks into depression and find he can no longer paint without his muse. Even though Pete wasn't quite the most friendly and personable dog, the two shared a connection but Charlie didn't realize how deep that connection was until Pete was gone. As Charlie walks by the dog park, he meets Janelle, head of the local rescue group, who promptly signs him up as a foster parent to an adorable spaniel named Brownie. Brownie is the complete opposite of Pete, charming and adorable instead of a grumbley curmudgeon.Instead of making me cry like any book where a dog dies, I was actually laughing when Pete reappears as a ghost and the pair start arguing like an old married couple. Pete tells Charlie that Brownie is just a rebound dog and that he will always be first in his heart, there is major disagreement with Pete storming off and Charlie regretting his words once again. Charlie realizing that he has been given a chance to properly say good bye starts to paint again. The pictures of Pete alternating between heaven and hell aren't exactly a hit with his audience.This story is for anyone who has loved and lost a dog. It will give you those warm fuzzies that you feel when poked by a cold nose and hit with a wagging tail. Fans of Enzo, Chet, and Jimmy (you know who you are) are going to love adding Pete to your family. This is also the first time that there is a happy ending to losing a beloved pet. It is a quick read and perfect dialogue, one I can't recommend highly enough for dog lovers.
Running with Monsters: A Memoir - Bob Forrest, Michael Albo MY THOUGHTSABSOLUTELY LOVED ITBob Forrest has had a somewhat successful career as a musician and working in the music business until his drug habits catch up to him. He spent massive amounts of money on his addiction, ruined relationships and barely made it out alive. As the creative genius behind Thelonious Monster, he has seen his fellow musicians, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers succeed, while he was just barely surviving because of his addictions. In his path to become clean, he found a career as a drug counselor, getting fellow musicians off drugs and partnered with Dr. Drew Pinsky on Celebrity Rehab.I really enjoyed this memoir since it was so different from most of these music related stories that tend to follow a pattern. Usually they follow the same series of events: struggling to get noticed, fame and fortune, seduced by drugs, burnout and then getting clean/finding God. This one didn't quite follow those ideas. Forrest admits he was addicted even before fame set in, that he would do anything for drugs and that his prior attempts failed because he couldn't get past the "God" element in the 12 Steps program that most sober programs use.There is a wonderful balance between the music industry gossip and what it actually takes to become clean and sober. His story also rings very true. There is not a lot of embellishing to glamorize the drug use by celebrities, he lays the facts out while making it very interesting. So come for the wonderful insider stories about a lot of famous musicians but stay for the fascinating story that is Bob Forrest's life. This is a very well done memoir.

A Little Too Far

A Little Too Far - Lisa Desrochers LOVED ITLexie's life seems over when she catches her boyfriend-almost-fiancee sleeping around right when she is about to leave for college. She falls right into her step brother's arms and since the two have been extremely close, it just seems natural. Full of angst about the relationship she heads off to Rome for a year of study abroad. As an art history major, she is in the midst of all that she loves. Raised a Catholic, her guilt of this relationship eats at her, so she goes to confession thinking that the priest only speaks Italian. Well, she got that wrong and wandered into the only English parish in Rome. The Father sends her off to help with a mission with a young-almost-priest, named Alessandro, and he inspires really impure thoughts. As she gets settled in Rome and helping Alessandro inspire and teach youth art, the pair become extremely close. Now torn between her step brother, Trent and Alessandro, poor Lexie is more confused than ever. The story is brimming with conflict in this girl's brain. Between her love for Trent and her feelings for Alessandro, she really need to make a decision. Oh wow, this is one mixed up girl! Lexie acts like a teen when she should really have grown up by now. I am glad that she gets her act together by the end of the book and even though I can't imagine anyone having relationships this complicated, Desrochers manages to make the whole thing believable. I am so grateful that Lexie wasn't an "oversharer" on social media. She was at least mature enough to realize that could cause major problems for everyone concerned. I really enjoyed this story and look forward to the next series installment. This is recommended for mature teens since there is alcohol, sexual situations and language.
Rogue - Gina Damico MY THOUGHTSABSOLUTELY LOVED IT*** spoilers if you haven't read the first two in the series ***And why haven't you read these awesome books yet?Lex is quickly learning that she has skills above and beyond the ability to Damn and none of them are supernatural. With Driggs being somewhere between ghost and dead-dead, she can still see him and hold him once in awhile. As the Grimsphere is starting to collapse and might signal the end of the afterlife, Lex and her uncle Mort must contain the damage and prevent the downfall. Armed with the Wrong Book and which is attached to the Grim Creator, Grotton, the Juniors must follow the clues to save everything for the afterlife. Can they do it in time? Of course, the Junior have many tricks up their sleeves, including fast thinking and Uncle Mort's theories. They head to Necropolis, to seal the last opening to the Grimsphere where Norwood, has already somewhat taken over. This is such a thrilling conclusion that left me feeling a bit bittersweet. I was so sad that Driggs was no longer corporeal but could be when he touched Lex. I am going to miss the dry sense of humor and swift comebacks of Lex and Uncle Mort. These characters aren't perfect, they make a lot of mistakes and some die. The romance between Driggs and Lex is just swoon-worthy. These two are meant for each other even if they can't always be together. A little more about Driggs' history is also explained and it is pretty sad. Do yourself a favor and go grab all three books to read before summer ends. You won't be disappointed. Sigh, I have to get over the end of this series. I am going to miss Lex so much.
Dead Is Just a Dream - Marlene Perez MY THOUGHTSLOVED ITJessica is starting to get the hang of being a virago and things have been quiet in the town of Nightshade. Her relationship with Dom, the lead singer in Side Effects May Vary is going well, that is until his ex shows up at the invitation of his mother. With nothing to do one night, Jessica and her friends head off to a local art exhibit where the painting look like your worst dreams. After the show, they hang out at the beach where they see a strange ghostly horse and coincidentally, Jessica and two of her sisters are signed up for horse riding lessons at a new farm.At the farm, Jessica sees a ghostly girl named Sanja, who confesses she is a Mara, a person who can cause nightmares and also the horse they saw at the beach. Soon after a murder is reported quickly followed by her brother's girlfriend going into a coma. When another murder occurs, Jessica starts putting clues together that point to the murderer. Daisy makes a wonderful appearance, helping Jessica solve the crimes with her psychic abilities. This is a wonderful installment to the Dead Is series and I love how Jessica is learning to trust herself and her abilities more. She is growing from an insecure freshman to a more secure person. I love recommending this series since even the most reluctant reader can easily pick up on the characters and plot. Parents: this one is super safe, just some kissing and bit of alluded to violence.

Two of a Kind

Two of a Kind - Yona Zeldis McDonough
Double Digit - Annabel Monaghan have left out a lot of stuff in the above review since it is so far out from the release date.Just note that this book is made of AWESOME. I am not going to spoil it for you. I know Digit and John break up at the beginning of the book and don't let that make you cry or freak out. Remember John is a lot older than Digit and wise beyond his years. The fact that he sees Digit needs to be on her own says a lot about him as a person. Also remember that Digit is super impulsive and doesn't always think things through or the consequences that may happen when she acts first and thinks later. FAVORITE PART OF THE BOOK:Digit solves a computer puzzle (and her life) using a game she used to play with her as a kid based on the book, GO DOG GO! That is the first book I read as a child!


Coda - Emma Trevayne MY THOUGHTSLOVED ITAnthem lives in a post-apocalyptic New York, where music is used as a drug and the citizens are addicted to the sounds much like soma in Brave New World. It keeps the population malleable and in line while keeping the rich in power and the poor as worker drones. The world building happens quite quickly as you as dragged into a world that is both familiar and alien at the same time. Anthem works as a human generator, using his life as a means to power the city and government and in turn he can support his family. During his shifts, he reads old classic books which in turn inspire him. Most people don't live past thirty and are kept in almost starvation like conditions. I kept thinking that this could easily be happening today.Anthem and his friends have started an illegal musical group, using instruments that they have fashioned themselves. Only state authorized groups can actually earn a living with their music and that music in turn is made into drugs that cease pain, relieve depression but not quite cure any illness. With his mother dead and his father dying, he tries to make a home for his twin brother and sister, keeping them from ever listening to the music that will also cause their early death. With the help of Haven, not quite his girlfriend yet, he knows that she is above him in station and has more money than he can ever imagine.As Anthem gathers his group, he also realizes that the manufactured music is killing people especially when his mentor, Johnny, is used as a warning and dies from an overdose right in front of him. That incident forces Anthem to become a lightening rod for change and as he is taken down by the government, he uses his talent to spark a revolution. Now, I was left with a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of this one. Could these kids really spark a change in their condition? There is a lot more to this story.

Wicked Beat (The Sinners on Tour)

Wicked Beat - Olivia Cunning MY THOUGHTSLOVED ITEric, finally we get to Eric, the drummer in The Sinners and this story is the one that seems filled with the most pain, not physical but lots of mental pain in both main characters. Rebekah's brother, long-time sound man, David, has been injured in a tour bus accident and can no longer do sound, so he recruits his little sister who has just completed school and seems to have a gift for finding the right mix. She is such a sweet person and does everything she can to please her extreme Christian mother but going on the road with a rock band has earned her contempt and disdain. Ok, that was putting it mildly, since her mother pretty much says Reb will burn in hell. She also has a deep, dark secret with her health since she is a recent cancer survivor and must face the fact that she can no longer have children which is pretty much a deal breaker with most guys. Drummers are at the top of my list when it comes to musicians since they have the smallest egos. They also have the most hang ups and Eric has issues in spades. Mostly, he is quick on the trigger and can't seem to keep a girlfriend because of this. It could also be that he doesn't try, well, at least until he meets Reb. These two have an instant connection but both hold back because of their issues. It isn't until Reb takes the initiative and forced Eric to face his fears. Sigh, even though this book wasn't at the top of my chart in the series, it is still a wonderful edition and completes it. I will be sad to let these guys go. Overall, I wish the middle of the story had been moved to the beginning since I didn't connect with Reb until then. Everything clicked at that point and I got my HEA at the end.

The Fairest of Them All

The Fairest of Them All: A Novel - Carolyn Turgeon MY THOUGHTSABSOLUTELY LOVED ITRapunzel lives in her forest tower with her adoptive mother, Mathena, where women come for cures of broken hearts, female issues, and other needs. Mathena has rescued her from an abusive home and taught her the ways of nature and magic. Once it was accepted that witches and magic were possible but times change and now the craft is unspoken. With her stunning looks and beautiful voice, travelers stop and wonder, write songs about Rapunzel. She dreams of a man to love her and when that man becomes taken with her, she revels in the wonder of it all. The man turns out to be a prince, promised to another and even though they are in love, it cannot be. Over time, the local women tell of the wedding and then a birth and Rapunzel wonders what might have been. Of course, this wouldn't be a fairy tale without the main character getting her prince, but it turns out that being a witch has its benefits. A small twist is that she turns out to be pregnant, but soon looses the child. The Queen dies, helped along by Mathena, and Rapunzel becomes the new queen and stepmother to Snow White. The story weaves together both tales seamlessly and naturally. The interplay of both good and evil in Rapunzel makes it even more believable. I adored Godmother and this story was a bit more direct in that you aren't guessing the true identity of each character. There is a lot of female empowerment laced through out about how women must take charge of their own lives. It also delves into the fact that a lot of decisions are gray areas and can lead to unwanted consequences in that one small choice can lead to horrible consequences.
Can't Help Falling in Love  - Bella Andre MY THOUGHTSABSOLUTELY LOVED ITMegan and her daughter, Summer, are rescued from their burning apartment in San Francisco by firefighter, Gabe Sullivan. The girls make it out, but Gabe is hit on the head by a beam. Megan finds him in the hospital and thanks him and while she is now a widow, she doesn't plan on ever falling in love again. Neither does Gabe, but both of them can't help but feel a spark between them, something that could ignite into a real fire between the two. (Can't help falling for puns! - permission to groan granted!)I can't believe that this series just keeps getting better. Summer, really shines in this book and almost takes over with her rapid insights and precociousness. Several times, I thought that she said exactly what needed to be said to get Megan to move closer to Gabe, as well as forcing Gabe's hand a few times. There are some steamy scenes as well, which are so well done and really add to the story rather than just gratuitous filler. Now, I can't wait until I Only Have Eyes For You, which will shine a light on Sophie, a librarian! YAY!

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