Review: Divorced, Desperate and Dating, by Christie Craig

Divorced, Desperate, and Dating
Divorced, Desperate, and Dating
Christie Craig
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Just as people with healthcare jobs probably like to read about characters who work in their profession, I like to read novels and watch movies with writers as main characters. It makes sense then, that when I read about Christie Craig’s fun, flirty novel Divorced, Desperate and Dating over on, where it was being offered for FREE, I had to have it. After all the protagonist of this novel, Sue Finley, is a mystery writer.

Despite the fact that I don’t read traditional romance novels all that often, I found myself completely engaged by this book. Maybe it was the element of mystery, or maybe it was the fact that the author made a point of having her characters bring up birth control, or maybe it’s just that Ms. Craig is that talented, but I found the story – Sue is being stalked by someone using incidents from her as-yet-unpublished book, and developing feelings for a cop who happens to also be a friend of a friend, as well.

While I haven’t read any of Craig’s other work, this one feels like a sequel, and, once I have a slightly smaller to-be-read stack, I’ll most likely snag the others.

Until then? If you want fun, escapist reading that is still smart and sexy, I recommend this book.

Goes well with strawberries dipped in chocolate.

Second Attempt: Touchstone, by Laurie R. King

Laurie R. King
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I’m struggling with the reading of Touchstone, by Laurie R. King, and I’m not certain why, because I love her writing. I mean, the woman can make asset based lenders seem like interesting fodders for novels, and her contemporary detective series set in San Francisco is as much a favorite of mine as her wonderful Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series.

But this is my second attempt at reading Touchstone and while the premise is right up my alley, I just can’t get into the book. If this were an author whose work was unfamiliar to me, I’d discard the novel, but since it’s someone whose writing I always enjoy, I feel like the fault is mine, like I’m missing something important that is preventing me from getting lost in the story.

In any case, here’s the Publishers Weekly description of the novel (via

Set shortly before Britain’s disastrous General Strike of 1926, this stand-alone thriller from bestseller King (Keeping Watch) offers impeccable scholarship and the author’s usual intelligent prose, but a surfeit of period detail and some weighty themes—the gulf between rich and poor, the insidious nature of both terrorism and the efforts to curb it—overpower the thin plot and stock characters. When Harris Stuyvesant, an investigator for the U.S. Justice Department, arrives in London to look for the mastermind behind a series of terrorist bombings on American soil, he tells Aldous Carstairs, a sinister government official, that his prime suspect is Labour Party leader Richard Bunsen. Carstairs suggests Stuyvesant should talk to Bennett Grey, whose brush with death during WWI has heightened his sense of perception to the point that he’s a kind of human lie detector (he’s the touchstone of the title), and to Lady Laura Hurleigh, Bunsen’s lover and a passionate advocate of his brand of socialism. The threat of violence at a secret summit meeting held at the Hurleigh family’s country house about preventing the strike provides some mild suspense.

Booking Through Thursday: Current


On Thursday, September 23rd, Booking through Thursday asked:

What are you reading right now? What made you choose it? Are you enjoying it? Would you recommend it? (And, by all means, discuss everything, if you’re reading more than one thing!)

I have a stack of books I have to review that is growing exponentially this week, but I’m reading three of them at once. I’m almost done with When Life Throws You Lemons, Make Cranberry Juice, by Shari Bookstaff, midway through The Wedding Gift, by Kathleen McKenna (I’m really enjoying it, but I’m savoring it because I love the tone she uses.), and I’m about three chapters into Key Lime Pie, by Josi Kilpack (and with a title like that it should have come with an actual key lime pie.)

I have more to review after that, but once I get a break, I’m planning to rediscover Dick Francis, because even though his mysteries involve violence, I’m in the mood for slightly befuddled Englishmen who smell of leather and horse tack and drink tea and stout between races, and fumble their love affairs, and, oh yes, solve crime. I tend to read a lot more mysteries in autumn. It might be the weather, or it might just be that’s what’s available.

And speaking of mysteries, I have Sara Paretsky’s latest V.I. Warshawski novel on the Kindle, and I’m trying hard to resist the urge to start THAT because I have to, Have To, HAVE TO, finish the review stack, first.

Review: Roast Mortem, by Cleo Coyle

Roast Mortem
Roast Mortem
Cleo Coyle
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I cannot begin to tell you what the best colon cleansing pill might be because as a woman who was literally weaned on espresso, I’ve never needed one. Speaking of espresso, I’ve just finished reading Cleo Coyle’s latest coffee house mystery, Roast Mortem, which was also the first Kindle book I actually paid for.

As with all of Coyle’s coffee house novels, Roast Mortem is the perfect blend of coffeehouse coziness, romance, and mystery. This far into the series, we’ve met all the main characters – Claire Cosi, manager of the Village Blend, her ex-husband and business partner Matt Allegro, and his incredibly wealthy mother, the various baristas and their friends, and of course NYPD detective Mike Quinn, whose relationship with Claire has a new sense of stability, even (dare I hope?) permanence.

But it’s another Quinn, Michael Quinn, a NYFD chief, who is one of the stars of this novel. We first met him a couple of books ago, when he fished Ms. Cosi out of some frigid water, and his animosity-laden relationship with Detective Quinn, is first cousin, came to light, but in this book, which involves a serious of explosive-started fires at various coffee houses, we learn more about him, and we also – finally – find out why the cousins don’t get along.

Of course Claire is in jeopardy more than once, and ends up leading the NYPD to the murderer (and the NYFD to the arsonist), and of course there are all sorts of coffeehouse recipes scattered through the book (and listed at the end for those of us who love to cook at home), but even though these novels are fairly formulaic, they’re also so well written that the predictability doesn’t matter, and the stories remain compelling because Coyle is so good at setting scene and creating characters.

While the coffee house mysteries can be read as stand-alone novels, they’re much richer if you read the series in order, so you can watch relationships develop from book to book. Either way, however, I recommend Roast Mortem to anyone who loves a good mystery, and a great cup of coffee.

Goes well with a doppio espresso and any kind of chocolate baked good.

Buzz: Author Interview with M.J. Rose

Author M. J. Rose

M.J. Rose | Click to embiggen

A couple of weeks ago, I posted my review of M. J. Rose’s latest novel, The Hypnotist. I was also privileged enough to do an emailed interview with her, which was posted over at All Things Girl. It’s posted in the blog, as part of our ongoing Author Insight series. We mainly do women authors, but we also have a Men on Monday series, which includes male authors.

If I’ve reviewed your work, and you’d like to be part of our interview series over at ATG, please let me know. (Actually, let me know, even if I haven’t reviewed your work. If interviews aren’t your thing, we also welcome guest posts.

Also? Go read The Hypnotist if you haven’t already, because it’s really good.

Review: Cybill Disobedience, by Cybill Shepherd

Cybill Disobedience
Cybill Disobedience
Cybill Shepherd
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I have to confess: I really only read Cybill Shepherd’s autobiography, Cybill Disobedience, because I saw it listed as a free digital download on, and while I do have standards, I’ll read anything from the backs of cereal boxes to eye wrinkle cream reviews if I’m doing it to test out a new toy. Or at least, the fact that it was a free download was why I began reading Shepherd’s book. She’s so honest and engaging, and funny, however, that very soon I was reading it for its own sake.

The thing about celebrity memoirs is that they’re more interesting if you have a decent working knowledge of the author’s body of work. In the case of Ms. Shepherd, I knew her from Moonlighting and the later sitcom that bore her name – Cybill, and liked both. I also remember her Loreal commercials (for hair color, not for eye wrinkle cream), and sometime in the last year she was in a Hallmark movie (or maybe it was a Lifetime movie?) about a divorced empty-nester who resumes her college education, which movie I quite liked. I knew nothing about her career in film from the decades before Moonlighting, nor had I any clue of her politics or her relationship history.

After reading the book, I was left awed by how very cool Cybill Shepherd is, politically and personally. She’s the kind of person I’d love to have as an ‘affectionate’ auntie, or stand next to in a protest march, and her book was entertaining, interesting, as candid as possible without jeopardizing the semblance of privacy her family needs, and really sort of compelling.

Goes well with sweet tea and barbecue.

Teaser Tuesday: The Wedding Gift

On Teaser Tuesdays readers are asked to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between 7 and 12 lines.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given.

Between the books on the Kindle I got for my birthday, and the physical books stacked on the headboard of my bed, my to-be-read list is so big that I’m beginning to think weight loss products might be useful for it.

In any case, my teaser this week comes from The Wedding Gift by Kathleen McKenna, page 55:

The Piggly was about the only place in Dalton where you could talk to anyone right in town without a fear of being disturbed. See, Sandy Jacobs, who is our friend Britney’s dad, he ran the Piggly Wiggly store in town, and he had got into a terrible fight a year previously with Lurton Smits, the local garbage man. And because of that heated disagreement, now Lurton would not pick up garbage from the dumpsters from behind the store. And Mr. Jacobs, he didn’t get around to doing it more than once a month, so the place stunk like the bowels of hell. And, in addition, the rats started coming around, so while it was real disgusting back there, it was also real private, and privacy was not something that came easy in Dalton.

The Ever-Expanding To-Be-Read Stack

Every real book addict has a TBR stack – the pile of books that are yet to be read, but that seems to grow bigger daily, even when you read nonstop. Mine is so bloated at the moment, that I’m considering slipping weight loss supplement reviews inside the covers of some of the thicker tomes as a sort of subtle hint…but only considering it. Knowing me, I’d find them later, and just assume it was more to read.

From time to time, I post the titles that are waiting to be read. Here are the next few books I’ll be reading.

  • The Wedding Gift, by Kathleen McKenna
  • Once Wicked, Always Dead, by T. Marie Benchley
  • Key Lime Pie, by Josi S. Kilpatrick
  • Apathy for the Devil: a 70s memoir, by Nick Kent
  • Becoming Jimi Hendrix: the Untold Story of a Musical Genius, by Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber
  • Kiss My Tiara: How to Rule the World as a Smartmouth Goddess, by Susan Jane Gilbert

There are actually other books on the TBR stack, but these are all the books I’ve agreed to review, so are moved to the top of the list by default. Well, the last one isn’t a review book – it’s actually a birthday gift, but I want to get to it sooner rather than later.

It’s a good thing I work from home, and have the ability to take a book to every room.

Review: Fixing Freddie, by Paula Munier

Fixing Freddie
Fixing Freddie
by Paula Munier
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When I was offered the opportunity to review Paula Munier’s wonderful book, Fixing Freddie: a true story about a boy, a mom, and a very, very bad beagle, I was excited. I’ve been in a non-fiction mood lately, and I love dog stories, so this seemed like the perfect match for my tastes.

Like someone already skinny who is taking clinicallix to lose weight, I was not disappointed. Munier’s first person account of her marriage, divorce, cross-country move, and first foray into home ownership and puppy parenthood is told with a blend of candor and humor that felt as if she was sitting in my living room telling me about her life. I could see her son playing video games, smell the roasted chicken that the dogs (Freddie had an older friend named Shakespeare), and see Freddie’s cute face. In fact, I was so caught up in the book that I brought it into the bath with me, despite my personal policy against reading hardcovers in the tub. It was that gripping.

Maybe it’s because I have three dogs of my own, at ages 10, 3 and 1.75, two of which I’ve had since they were eight weeks old (the oldest and the youngest) that I could sympathize when Freddie escaped from the yard, got caught on a frozen lake (my dogs have all done the former; my oldest dog has fallen into the swimming pool several times), or eaten something he shouldn’t (Miss Cleo and my chihuahua, Zorro, now at the Rainbow Bridge have eaten things as diverse as an entire t-shirt, the backs of my suede shoes while I was wearing them, the string from a roast, half a London broil, a stick of butter, and, once, all the topping from a pizza, though they left the crust and closed the box when they’d finished), or maybe it’s just that in Freddie we see the lost puppy in all of us – the part of our human selves that wants someone to direct us where to go, feed and bathe us regularly, and let us curl up in a warm bed, in exchange for mere affection and coming when called.

Or maybe it’s just that any woman who’s ever dated (or married) a man can understand Munier’s frustration with that species.

Or maybe it’s because Munier’s story is universal, and boils down to the search for a safe haven and a cozy home.

Fixing Freddie may be essentially a “dog story,” but it’s also a memoir about life and love and growing up, and letting go.

Even if you’re a cat person – even if you don’t even have a pet rock – you will enjoy this book, and come away from it with a new perspective.

Goes well with: roasted chicken, and a begging dog.

Booking Through Thursday: Day and Night


On Thursday, September 16th, Booking through Thursday asked:

“I couldn’t sleep a wink, so I just read and read, day and night … it was there I began to divide books into day books and night books,” she went on. “Really, there are books meant for daytime reading and books that can be read only at night.” — Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, p. 103.

Do you divide your books into day and night reads? How do you decide?

For me, any spare moment is a good time to read, so no, I don’t divide my books into daytime vs. nighttime reading, but I do tend to have some titles I’m willing to travel with, and some I don’t.

Maybe it’s my version of my grandmother’s admonishment to always wear clean underwear, in case you’re ever in an accident, but there are some books I won’t read outside the safe confines of my house, and other’s I’ll proudly carry with me. For example, Harry Potter books generally stay home, and not only because they’re bulky, as do the occasional Silhouette romance novel I’ll admit to reading, but novels like Sarah’s Key, a recent favorite, I’ll carry with me everywhere.

Now that I’m a proud Kindle owner, carrying books is easier, because I have just one thin piece of technology to port around, although I have to wonder if the people who write car insurance quotes are keeping up with our addiction to such techy toys when they generate pricing. I know that some police forces, the one in Cincinnati, OH, are leaving security warnings on cars around town, reminding people to take their computers, cell phones, eBook readers and GPS devices with them (or at least hide them in the trunk), when they leave home, but it’s got to be a nightmare when break-ins do occur and there are those gadgets to catalog.

Speaking of books on the road – and car insurance nightmares – my stepfather was prone to visiting library discard sales and taking home pretty much anything he deemed interesting. At some point my mother issued an edict – he wasn’t allowed to take anything else home – so he kept stashing books in the trunk of his car, to the point where the weight of them made the car sluggish and non-responsive – an accident waiting to happen. Of course, this would be the car that was stolen by a couple of kids who just wanted to take a joy ride…it was eventually found with a jammed ignition and a note from the kids, “This car sucks.”

Insurance paid for all the repairs.
The books were still in the trunk.