July 29, 2010

Review of "And One Last Thing" by Molly Harper

Summary: If Singletree’s only florist didn’t deliver her posies half-drunk, I might still be married to that floor-licking, scum-sucking, receptionist-nailing hack-accountant, Mike Terwilliger."

Lacey Terwilliger’s shock and humiliation over her husband’s philandering prompt her to add some bonus material to Mike’s company newsletter: stunning Technicolor descriptions of the special brand of "administrative support" his receptionist gives him. The detailed mass e-mail to Mike’s family, friends, and clients blows up in her face, and before one can say "instant urban legend," Lacey has become the pariah of her small Kentucky town, a media punch line, and the defendant in Mike’s defamation lawsuit.

Her seemingly perfect life up in flames, Lacey retreats to her family’s lakeside cabin, only to encounter an aggravating neighbor named Monroe. A hunky crime novelist with a low tolerance for drama, Monroe is not thrilled about a newly divorced woman moving in next door. But with time, beer, and a screen door to the nose, a cautious friendship develops into something infinitely more satisfying.

Lacey has to make a decision about her long-term living arrangements, though. Should she take a job writing caustic divorce newsletters for paying clients, or move on with her own life, pursuing more literary aspirations? Can she find happiness with a man who tells her what he thinks and not what she wants to hear? And will she ever be able to resist saying one . . . last . . . thing?  (from the book's back cover)

What can I say about this book other than I thought it was fan(insert word of choice)ing-tastic? I loved every minute of it and although I was rushing for the conclusion, I was sad to see it end.

The general premise was excellent - - haven’t we all fantasized about a special kind of payback for those who have done us wrong? Lacey’s decision to share her husband Mike’s shortcomings via the Internet was inspired and laugh out loud funny.

And this was why I was so fond of Lacey, I think. She was a strong, determined woman (but with some obvious weaknesses) who, at the end of the day, could be you or me. She was hurt, she was angry, she acted rashly (but again, it was humorous) and while she dreamt of physically hurting her husband, or at the very least, burning his possessions, she didn’t actually follow through with it. I felt sympathy for her and I hurt for this character, even knowing that she was better off without her cad of a husband.

I also thoroughly took pleasure in the characters of Emmett, Lacey’s antique shop owner brother who is fond of cutting her hair while she sleeps, as well as providing her with slasher flicks to cheer her up, and Maya, an entrepreneur who wants to go into business with Lacey, writing biting and sarcastic divorce newsletters and greeting cards for every occasion, aptly titled “Season’s Gratings”. In fact, I got such a kick out of Maya, she would be a fun and apt character to center a book around. Just in case author Molly Harper is reading this . . .

While I eventually liked the character of Monroe, it did take me a bit to warm up to him and I was happy to see that he wasn’t the stereotypical “sexy man next door” written just to provide Lacey with an outlet and a reason to get back on her feet. Monroe’s family was a hoot and their scenes were too brief in their hilarity.

This was my first book by Molly Harper, although I had heard of her Nice Girls Don’t series. I loved her writing style evidenced in And One Last Thing. Light, breezy and yet emotion packed, reading Lacey’s narrative was akin to having a heart to heart with a girlfriend. I sped through this book and it left me wanting more. Revisiting Lacey, should Ms. Harper ever want to write a sequel of sorts, would be a delight.

I am thrilled I was able to read and review this book. I will absolutely, positively be looking for Ms. Harper’s books in the future to put in my reading rotation if And One Last Thing is an example of her writing style and wonderfully detailed characters. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to any and all. Be prepared to stay up late to follow Lacey and ready yourself for some serious belly laughs.

And One Last Thing is newly available for purchase at major booksellers, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

For further information on author Molly Harper, please visit her website here.

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.


July 28, 2010

Review of "Farm Fatale" by Wendy Holden

Synopsis: Rosie and Mark, a couple living in chic urban squalor, pine for the rustic bliss of country life. Newly minted, Samantha and Guy want the same thing-on a somewhat grander scale. The four converge on the quaint village of Eight Mile Bottom. With its eccentric residents, including a reclusive rock star, a nosy postman, a foxy farmer, and one ghost with a knife in its back, the two couples are soon swept up in various romantic entanglements, mix-ups, slipups, and unlikely seductions in their search for ever-greener pastures.

Farm Fatale combines a tried and true formula (city dwellers move to the country) with brash humor to make a perfectly splendid summer read. What is it about city slickers wanting to move to the country? Yearning for the more simple life? Rosie and Mark and Samantha and Guy find it simply isn’t so simple.

I liked central character Rosie and empathized not only with her desire to escape her hectic city life but the elation and the frustration of being a new homeowner.

Less likeable, and intentionally so, was character Samantha, who made for interesting reading but was so entitled and frustrating, you wanted to jump through the pages of the book to throttle her!

The supporting characters of Farm Fatale were a motley mix of appealing and remarkable characters, from Rosie and Mark’s inquisitive postman to their noisy and numerous neighbors, the Muzzles to long marrieds and garden lovers Mr. and Mrs. Womersley to Mrs. Womersley’s farmer nephew Jack , to the shy and media fearful local celebrity to barkeep Alan, owner of the Barley Mow, where hen races are all the rage.

I will admit that some of the Brit speak and slang gave me pause, having to read sentences twice in order to fully digest their meaning but I loved getting a peek at British country life.

While I had a pleasurable literary ride while reading Farm Fatale, I did enjoy the first two-thirds of the book better than the last third. The book did not end as I expected it to and a surprise ending can always be welcome but I honestly felt disappointed with the conclusion.

All in all, even with a less than perfect ending in my eyes, I would still recommend Farm Fatale to any reader looking for a fantastic little book to slide into a beach bag or for a city dweller looking for an escape to the country. Just be prepared for the craziness that comes with simpler living!

Farm Fatale may be purchased at major booksellers now, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble

For more information about author Wendy Holden, please visit her website here.

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.

July 22, 2010

Product Review: Back to Basics Cocoa Latte Machine

Thanks to Jason at the CSN Stores I had the opportunity to receive and review this fantastic little appliance.  As a longtime hot cocoa drinker and lover, I couldn't wait to fire this little gem up.  And trust me when I tell you the Back to Basics Cocoa Latte Machine is indeed a little gem.

Sleek, smooth and shiny, the Cocoa Latte Machine isn't going to dazzle you with a lot of buttons or functions but it will win your affection with its efficiency and excellent product.  Even for the most electronics/appliance challenged individual, the Cocoa Latte Machine is a breeze to operate and clean.  Simply pour your ingrediants into the cannister, lock the lid on and turn the machine on.  That's it.  The machine will not only mix the ingrediants thoroughly but will heat up your beverage to a perfect 180 degrees.  As if that is not enough for those of us who are generally too impatient to stand over a stove (and thereby end up with a burnt pot or pan), the machine will shut off once the optimum temperature is reached and will restart if the temperature should drop.  The cannister can be lifted off the base and drinks poured directly from it, or you may use the dispensing tap located on the front of the machine.  There is also a "froth" feature for those thicker drinks, providing a nice frothy top. 

The Cocoa Latte Machine also came with 30+ recipes included in the product handbook.  Having tried several of the recipes, I can assure that each one was rich and satisfying. 

The only possible negative of the Cocoa Latte Machine is that it isn't a Bosch so don't expect the machine to do its wonderful work in silence.  It does sound somewhat like a muted blender but I didn't find the noise at all distracting. 

I would not hesitate to recommend this product to anyone who enjoys hot beverages, whether they be cocoa, coffee or tea, virgin or alcoholic.  It takes only minutes to make the drinks and only minutes to clean and store.  It's an attractive appliance in appearance and in price.

Visit CSN Stores to order your own Back to Basics Cocoa Latte Machine, or to browse through their more than 200 stores. 

This product provided by CSN Stores in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the product affect the outcome of my review.

July 21, 2010

Missing in Action (But Still Reading!)

My apologies for being missing in action around the book blogosphere lately.  We are in the final (painful) stretches before the movers show up to pack up our lives and send us on our way.  I am still reading - - and thank goodness for that, because I do believe it's one of the few things keeping me relatively sane right now - - but haven't had as much time to post my reviews and updates.  They are coming though! 

Stay tuned for my review of the lovely Cocoa Latte machine I received from CSN Stores, as well as Wendy Holden's Farm Fatale, Carl Gottlieb's The Jaws Log, Molly Harper's And One Last Thing and my first audiobook review - - Tess Gerritsen's The Mephisto Club!

In the meantime, enjoy the kitten versus the watermelon.

July 11, 2010

Review of "Cottage by the Sea" by Ciji Ware

Synopsis:  A sweeping, romantic tale of modern day Britain colliding with the bawdy, eighteenth century world of a bold English heiress whose love story has echoed down through time. To Blythe Barton Stowe, a cunning cottage on the wild coast of Cornwall in the land of her forebears sounded like the perfect escape from the pain and humiliation of events in far off Hollywood that had ended her marriage, her career, and all but destroyed her self-esteem. But soon she seems to be reliving a centuries-old tragedy that once beset her namesake ancestress. Her landlord, the handsome owner of the shabby manor house on the hill, appears equally entwined in her destiny as they unearth one shocking family secret after another. Before long, Blythe concludes that her intriguing neighbor is more than just an impecunious British gentleman bent on saving his ancestral home, and she seriously begins to question whether the unbridled attraction she feels for the honorable Lucas Teague is strong enough to transcend time and place… (from author's website)

A Cottage by the Sea was my first book by Ciji Ware and I am so grateful I had the chance to read this incredible book.  It had everything that normally interests me - - a Hollywood background, an English setting, a bit of history and touches of the supernatural.  So good was this book, it kept me up until after 3 a.m. to find out what was going to happen. 

I was entranced from the first page, between author Ciji Ware's enchanting writing and a heroine that I not only really liked but could relate to.  I found Blythe to be a spunky character without being pushy or overbearing and while she was also soft, she wasn't a pushover.  Her emotions and the impact on her self esteem were raw and cut through every page - - I could feel Blythe's despair in the pit of my stomach, so gripping and understandable was her pain. 

Lucas Teague was a satisfying and masculine hero, from the first moment he appears as Blythe's new landlord in Cornwall to his mucking through his estate in his Wellies and dented Land Rover to his customary tea taking at 4 p.m. daily.  One of my favorite aspects of Lucas was his vulnerability, showing that underneath that stiff British upper lip, he did have his flaws.  In fact, several times during the course of the book, I felt strong parallels to Mr. Darcy's interactions with Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, where both parties are so strong willed and determined they can't see what is so obvious to the bystander (like this reader).

I found the historical aspects of the novel to be thoroughly enjoyable.  They made up only perhaps an eighth of the book overall but they were so rich in detail and so engrossing to have put the whipped cream on top of this slice of literary pie.  In fact, the flashback scenes of the original Blythe, Kit, Ennis and Garrett could have made a stunning story all on its own.

The cherry on top of this confection would have to be the incredible locale.  I have never been to Cornwall (or to Britain, in fact) but Ms. Ware's beautifully descriptive writing gave me the most gorgeous mental images of this lovely coastal area of England.  As Blythe described walking from Painter's Cottage to Barton Hall, I could shut my eyes and see the wooded walk, hear the waves behind me and prepare to see the rhodedendrons as tall as trees as Barton Hall came into view.  This book only served to whet my appetite to see this amazing country.

Cottage by the Sea is one of the best books I have read this year, hands down, and one of my favorite historical fiction pieces overall.  This book has romance, it has drama, it has history and it has the supernatural.  There is something for every reader to enjoy and savor.  I could not recommend this book highly enough and feel that any reader taking a pass on this delightful novel would be missing out on an incredible and worthy experience.

Cottage by the Sea is available for purchase now at major booksellers including Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

For more information on Cottage by the Sea and author Ciji Ware, please visit Ms. Ware's website.

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.