Friday, June 21, 2013

Till Death Do Us Part — Review


Till Death Do Us Part by Tristi Pinkston is the fifth and last book of the Secret Sisters Mystery series.

And that makes me a little sad because I love Ida Mae Babbitt and her group of crime-solving cohorts.

Just to remind you of the books thus far:

In Secret Sisters, we meet Ida Mae, Arlette and Tansy, the Omni 2nd Ward Relief Society presidency. In their zeal to provide service to ward members, they get involved in a murder mystery. With the help of Ida Mae's computer genius nephew, Ren, and Arlette's granddaughter, Eden, (who start a budding romance) they catch the bad guys but then have to face the consequences of their less than legal activities. (Read my review here.)

Dearly Departed takes Ida Mae undercover at a nursing home, where she and her sidekicks search for a killer. There she meets a handful of quirky characters, including George, a potential love interest. We also meet Kevin, who is trying to win Eden's heart away from Ren. (Read my review here.)

In Hang 'Em High, the ladies take off to a dude ranch, to reunite Ida Mae with her estranged son, Keith. Hi-jinks ensue as once again there are dead bodies to find and mysteries to solve, but this time without Ren (who is on his mission). (Read my review here.)

Targets in Ties takes the ladies down to Mexico to pick up Ren at the end of his mission. Instead of visiting the ruins and shopping for baubles, they find themselves prisoners of an antiquities thief. And when they get back to the U.S., George surprises Ida Mae with her biggest adventure yet! (Read my review here.)

All caught up? Good. Let's move on to the blurb:
Will Ida Mae survive her own wedding?

When charming,and mostly bald,widower George Gilmore asked Ida Mae Babbitt to marry him, she was surprised and delighted. But now he has made another proposal,to hold the wedding in two weeks,while all his children are in town. Flustered but sure she can handle it with the help of her friends, Ida Mae agrees.

The plan doesn’t go over so well with George’s family, however, and Ida Mae finds herself the victim of a plot to stop the wedding. At first the incidents seem like harmless pranks, but they escalate until Ida Mae finds herself in real danger, and in real pain. Bells are ringing, but are they wedding bells or death knells?

While not as laugh-out-loud funny as some of the previous books, Till Death Do Us Part is a sweet closure to the series. We finally get to meet Ida Mae's daughter. We also meet George's family. Eden makes a choice between Ren and Kevin. And Ida Mae gets a new church calling.
I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just say that I am going to miss this group, especially Arlette. Her no-nonsense wit always makes me smile. Tansy makes me laugh. And Ida Mae is one tough cookie when she needs to be.

I'm not the only one in my family who likes these books. My mom is a huge fan. For the past six months she's been asking me almost weekly when this last book was going to be available. I sent her the e-book as soon as it was published and she read it in a day. We both love the series and are sort of hoping that in a few years, Tristi will reconsider and give us another book or two in this series.

If you like good, clean, fun cozy mysteries, I highly recommend the entire Secret Sisters series!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Life After Theft —Review

Normally, I don't do negative reviews. I never review a book that I didn't like well enough to finish. And if I do finish it and decide I can't give it 4 or 5 stars, I just don't mention it here.

Unless it's a special case—where I feel I need to give readers a heads up.

First, let me tell you the good stuff about Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike.

Here's the promo info:
Moving to a new high school sucks. Especially a rich-kid private school. With uniforms. But nothing is worse than finding out the first girl you meet is dead. And a klepto.

Kimberlee Schaffer may be drop-dead gorgeous…but she also dropped dead last year. Now she needs Jeff’s help with her unfinished business, and she’s not taking no for an answer.

When she was alive, Kimberlee wasn’t just a mean girl; she was also a complete kleptomaniac. So if Jeff wants to avoid being haunted until graduation, he’ll have to help her return everything she stole. But Jeff soon discovers it’s much easier to steal something than it is to bring it back.

Paying for your mistakes takes on a whole new meaning…

Clever, right?

Pike absolutely does a fabulous job of getting the teen voice just right. It's very well-written. It's contemporary YA with just a teensy paranormal twist. Love it!

But.

Aprilynne Pike is the author of the Wings series, YA fantasy/paranormal. It was very popular. I liked it. I recommended it to lots of readers and to parents looking for book gifts for their tween and teen daughters. I recommended it whole-heartedly with no reservations.

But.

I can't do that for this book. I'm concerned that those same readers/parents will see Pike's name on this book, read the cutesy little blurb on the back, and remember that I said her previous books were great/safe/clean reads, and just assume that it applies to this book as well.

It doesn't.

Life After Theft contains frequent casual swearing. There is an underage drinking party, where Jeff gets totally plastered. His parents find out and pretty much brush it off with no consequences. Jeff and his girlfriend have sex—remember, they're teenagers. Again, his parents don't react much at all when they find out.

For these reasons, I can't recommend this book to anyone and I feel I need to spread a word of caution. If you're an adult who reads YA, maybe these aren't issues for you. If not, go for it. It really was a great story line otherwise. If you're a parent, maybe you don't mind your teens reading this. That's your choice, too.

But for those who DO mind (and I'm one of them), heads-up!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer Book Trek Reading Challenge

I'm doing the Summer Book Trek Reading Challenge! sponsored over at NewLDSFiction.com

Basic rules: Read novels by LDS authors. It's that simple.

You can also earn points by liking and starring and commenting.

More points = more chances to win prizes, which are, of course, BOOKS!!!



Here is the list of books I plan to read in July:

  • Ashes Ashes by Julie Coulter Bellon
  • Just Like Elizabeth Taylor by LuAnn Staheli
  • Motive for Murder by Marlene Sullivan
  • Jump Boys by Alex Banks
  • Janitors #1
  • The Orchard by Krista Lynne Jensen
  • Glimmer of Hope by Sarah M. Eden
  • Step of Faith by Richard Paul Evans
  • The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen
  • Unpleasant Grove by Sheralyn Pratt
  •  by A.L. Sowards
  • Grecian Princess by N. C. Allen
  • Descendant by Nichole Giles
  • Air Keep by J. Scott Savage
  •  
  • and maybe some others...
Who wants to join me?

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Lair of the Serpent—Review & Giveaway

Got an older teen looking for great suspense but you want one that's clean and that you can feel comfortable letting your kid (and yourself) read?

Here's a great one!

Lair of the Serpent by T. Lynn Adams is the third book in a mystery/suspense series about teen-ager Jonathon Bradford.

We first meet Jonathon in Tombs of Terror, when at age 16 he goes to Peru to reconnect with his father and ends up getting lost in the tunnels under ancient ruins. Tombs is the author's debut book and could have been edited a little tighter, but the action and storyline was entertaining and suspenseful. A good read for teens. (3 1/2 stars)

In the second book, The Lost Curse, Jonathon's friend Severino (from Peru) comes to visit him in southern Utah and they, along with Tallie, a Native American girl, are swept up in the mystery of Spanish Gold. Again, the action is intense, there's some violence, but older teens and adults can handle it. (4 stars)

Book three, Lair of the Serpent, is the one I just read. Jonathon joins Severino and his sister Delia (Jonathon's love interest) in Cambodia and gets swept up in a deadly mission.

From the publisher: 
Jonathon can't wait to surprise Delia for her birthday. With a little help from Delia's brother, Severino, he plans to visit her in Cambodia where she's working as a humanitarian volunteer. But he arrives only to find a panicked Severino—and no Delia.

Jonathon and Severino are determined to find Delia before it's too late—but it might not be that easy. Now, with the orphan Chey and their friend, Juan, the boys must fight their way through human trafficking rings, a dense jungle, and a radical group bent on using Delia as a human sacrifice in order to find the NĂ£ga Mani, a sacred and powerful stone. 

I liked this book, but I had one big problem with the premise:

What parent in their right mind lets a teenager go to Cambodia ALONE?!?


SERIOUSLY?!?



 Okay, now that I've got that out of my system, I loved the book. I really like mystery and high suspense but it's getting harder and harder to find good, clean, "safe" reads—especially for teens. In my opinion, this book is on the violent side of things, but it fits the storyline. I'd approve it for older teens and feel comfortable recommending it. Readers will get the thrill of the suspense without all the language and sexuality that is so pervasive these days.

The plot kept me interested. Once I got past the teens alone in a foreign country bit, I bought into the whole adventure and had a hard time putting it down. Jonathon (17 now) and Severino are 100% committed to finding Delia, and it's a good thing because they pay for their efforts big-time. More than once those two boys put their lives on the line and are rewarded with severe beatings. A couple of times I wondered if Jonathon would really be able to do what he did with the injuries he had, but I'm willing to suspend some disbelief here.

I found the culture of Cambodia fascinating. The descriptions of the settings were beautiful and rich. I could absolutely picture myself there amid the sights and sounds and smells of the country. The legend behind the sacred stone was interesting.

The characterization was pretty good. Jonathon and Severino were a little intense and maybe overly macho, but I know a few boys in my neighborhood like that. I wondered a few times at who the bad guys were going to turn out to be, and that's always good. I felt Delia was believable. I didn't quite believe Juan's characterization—he's an adult. He flies from Mexico to Cambodia to help out but HE DOESN'T IMMEDIATELY TELL Jonathon's parents what's going on. (It's that adult/right mind thing again.)

My favorite character, hands down, was the 12 year old Cambodian orphan, Chey. He was funny, clever, and highly underestimated by the other characters in the story. I loved him!

Overall, I give Lair of the Serpent 4 stars, with a caution on the violence. Parents who are concerned may want to pre-read it before recommending it to a teen under 16. I was okay with it because I felt the examples of courage and personal integrity far outweighed the discomfort of the violent events. 

To see more of T. Lynn Adams online, you can visit her website at www.tlynnadams.com/, like her on Facebook at author.T.Lynn.Adams, or follower her on Twitter @TLynnAdams.

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FTC Disclaimer: I was given an ARC copy by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Fearless Auto Care – Review

Normally, I don't review non-fiction. But when I was contacted about Fearless Auto Care by Donna and Warren McCord, I agreed to a review.

Mainly because I am lost when it comes to cars.

How lost am I? Well, let's just say that when someone asks me what kind of car I drive, I say, "Dark red."

Okay, not really. I know it's a Jeep because it says so on the back bumper area.

But still. I don't know cars.

From the publisher:
Women and cars have a lot more in common than you may think. Both deserve TLC. Men love us. But when everything is going well, we can both be taken for granted. The truth is, we both need consistent attention and loving care to stay healthy and live long! In this little book, you will NOT learn how to do your own repairs-you WILL learn how to be in control of your vehicle's care, to know when it is necessary to bring your car in for professional service or repair, and to be confident that you are getting the best return for the dollars you're investing. Knowledge is power-and a money-saver, too!

In this little book, you will NOT learn how to do your own repairs—you WILL learn how to be in control of your vehicle’s care, to know when it is necessary to bring your car in for professional service or repair, and to be confident that you are getting the best return for the dollars you’re investing. Knowledge is power—and a money-saver, too!

Donna and Warren own Dean's Automotive in Mountain View, California. I have no idea how they connected with me as a reviewer, but I'm glad they did! Dean’s Automotive has been in business since 1963. One of the owners, Donna, has especially been aware of how intimidated women feel in regards to servicing their vehicle. She wants to take the fear out of this whole process and has written this book geared towards women on learning how to get their vehicle serviced without the worry that so many times goes along with it.

This little book is short (only 92 pages, counting the blank ones) and easy to read. I've attempted to read other car care books that tell me when I'm supposed to do all that maintenance stuff and I've put them down after the first few pages because I can't figure out what the heck they are talking about.

This one is different. I get it. I understood almost all of it—and it made sense.

And I learned stuff. For example, did you know that there's a CABIN AIR FILTER in your car? I didn't. I'D never even heard of it before. But now, when my darling grandson says, "Grandma, your car smells a little like sickness," I know it's time to get that filter changed!

Also, have you ever had a dealer tell you that you MUST bring your car in for maintenance at their shop or it will void the warranty? I have. Well, guess what? LIE!

I really like that there are places in the book to record the specific needs of YOUR car. And that they tell you how to find a reputable car maintenance shop. I'm always afraid that due to my basic ignorance, and the fact that I'm a woman, that the shop guys will try to put something past me. (They have. And they've succeeded.) But with these tips, I no longer need to feel so vulnerable and naive.

I recommend this little book to women who don't want to know enough to fix their own car, but who need to know enough not to get ripped off! If you're interested, you can get a copy at www.ourlittlebooks.com.

FTC Disclaimer: I was given a PDF of Fearless Auto Care in exchange for an honest review.