Author: chewietellsall

Book Review: Love Literary Style by Karin Gillespie

I feel that I should preface this review by saying that I don’t read a lot of romance novels. I do, however, occasionally read and enjoy the genre, and I was intrigued by this book’s setting in the literary world. I am so glad that I decided to read it!

Yes, there is definitely a love story as a case of mistaken identity leads to an aspiring literary writer falling in love with a self-published romantic comedy writer. The relationship between the two is handled with humor, but also with a depth of character and plot development that is often missing in love stories.

In addition to the mistaken-identity romance storyline, the reader will enjoy learning a bit about the business of writing and publishing from both main characters’ perspectives. You’ll follow Aaron in his quest to follow the traditional route to publication via an agent and major publishing house, as well as Laurie’s self-published, social-media-heavy career made possible largely by her own determination.

A high point of the story for me was Laurie’s relationship with Aaron’s father, which provided additional emotional depth for both characters. Pet lovers will be pleased by some dog-related antics, and saddened by some not-so-happy moments. The surprise character reveal at the end was delightful, as I did NOT see it coming, and it fit perfectly with the storyline. (I won’t say more to avoid spoilers.)

Although a romance is the key element of this book, the story offers so much more than that. Ms. Gillespie has a lot to say about learning who you really are, accepting that once you’ve figured it out, and truly devoting yourself to going after what you want in life.

Five out of five hunks of my favorite yummy cheddar!love.lit.style

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St. Francis Thrift Shop, 6 Southwood Park Drive Hilton Head Island, SC

The St. Francis Thrift Shop on Hilton Head is definitely worth a visit. It is one of the larger shops, with one full room for clothing and household items, and a separate area for furniture and other larger pieces.

The prices are generally good, with an approximate $3.00 starting price for clothing separates (ie shirts, shorts). Of note is the .50 t-shirt rack, where you can find a nice variety of event-specific, advertising-type shirts. I pickup up a nice pink one from the Hilton Head Rugby Club.

Everything is well organized and sorted by type of item.  There are also typically several specials, which are posted near the entrance and throughout the store. On the day I visited, items with a certain color tag were all $1.00, and another color tag was 50% off. There is a designer section in the back that is worth checking out; it has its own half-price section, and there are plenty of reasonably priced brands in that area.

My biggest complaint about the shop is that the sale prices can be somewhat *flexible”. Just because the signage clearly states something is on sale (ie blue tags are 50% off) does NOT necessarily mean that all items with blue tags are 50% off. I tried to purchase a blue tag item and was told that this specific item was excluded from the sale. I asked for an explanation, as it was clearly stated in multiple places throughout the store that blue tags were reduced, and was not given a satisfactory answer. (The explanation that “the cost of this item is already low enough” did not work for me. If ALL blue tags aren’t 50% off, then the signs should say so. If a volunteer put the wrong tag or price on an item, the store should still honor it.)

The cashier who assisted me was not particularly friendly, and did not seem at all familiar with the store’s pricing and specials. While not overtly rude, she didn’t smile or seem happy to be there. (I will mention that the gentleman doing the bagging was very personable. I enjoyed chatting with him, and it was because of his friendliness that my overall rating isn’t lower.)

This cashier also had no clue about the specials. She didn’t seem to believe me when I told her that the two t-shirts I had found on the .50 rack (these were not priced individually) were actually .50. I had to point the rack out to her so that she could read the sign for herself. Then she didn’t know that one tag color meant that the item was on sale for $1.00; I had to direct her to the nearest sign (which was ON the checkout counter) before she would honor the price. There was also the above-referenced “THIS blue tag is excluded from the 50% off sale, although we have no real explanation as to why” issue I mentioned above.

I should also note that, last summer, I had a similar problem. There was a sign by the belt rack saying that cloth belts were on sale for .50. I spent quite a bit of time looking through them all, and selected several cloth belts. The cashier tried to charge me $2.00 each for them, as that is the standard price for belts. I explained about the sale sign; she said that is must have been posted by mistake and didn’t want to honor the price. I argued enough that the posted price was eventually honored, but don’t enjoy feeling like I have try to convince a store to honor posted prices.

Final verdict: A nice shop, with plenty of good deals to be found. Just be prepared to argue your case if the cashier doesn’t want to honor the store’s posted sale pricing!

 

Book Review: Edited Out by E.J. Copperman

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Edited Out” by E.J. Copperman provides a unique twist on the cozy mystery genre. The protagonist, Rachel Goldman, is a mystery author. The over-arching premise of the series is that a man claiming to be Duffy Madison, her main character, appears in her life. In addition to solving the current mystery in which she finds herself involved, Rachel must try to figure out who the man claiming to be a fictional character actually is, all while trying to finish writing her current book.

What makes this book so enjoyable is first person narrator Rachel. She tells the story, but also speaks directly to the reader, and she is hilarious! For example: “Women were not put on this planet to be buffers between men. It’s a side service we sometimes offer while we plot our takeover of the world. Go ahead. Assume I’m kidding.”

In addition to Duffy and Rachel, the minor characters are also well-drawn and full of potential. I look forward to the next installment in this series; I’m eager to see what mystery our main characters are confronted with next, to gather more clues to Duffy’s true identity, and to hopefully learn more about the backstories and personalities of Ben (police investigator) and Rachel’s father.

The story itself is well-paced and cleverly plotted. It is a bit reminiscent of old-school detective stories, as Duffy and Rachel interview witnesses, gradually gathering more and more information (and misinformation) about the case. I enjoyed this aspect of the book; in many cozies, the heroine spends most of the book going about her life, occasionally coming across some clues. In “Edited Out”, Rachel is actively (if reluctantly) trying to solve the mystery.

Another aspect of “Edited Out” that I found interesting was the information that Rachel shares about being a writer. During the course of the book, she talks about deadlines, editors, agents, writer’s block, and her writing process. This is never overwhelming, and the reader doesn’t feel like the book has suddenly transitioned from a mystery to “How To Be a Writer”. However, what Rachel shares about her career comes across as insightful and relevant.

Side note: Other reviewers have said that this book can be read as a stand-alone. I can’t honestly address this, as I had already read book 1, “Written Off“. That being said, I think that a reader could pick up “Edited Out” and figure out what was going on fairly quickly. However, I’d recommend starting with the first book, both for continuity of storyline and for the more detailed character development provided.

I highly recommend this book to fans of cozy mysteries. I also think that fans of traditional mysteries would enjoy this story, as it provides a significant amount of focus on trying to solve the crime. Anyone looking for something unique would also find “Edited Out” a worthwhile choice.

Book Review: Mission Impawsible by Krista Davis

mission-impawsibleThere are so many cozy mystery series being published today that I have chosen a select few to follow. The “Paws & Claws” series by Krista Davis is one of my absolute favorites, and I highly recommend it to all fans of the genre. Although each title can be read as a standalone, I suggest beginning with Book 1, “Murder, She Barked”, if you are new to the series.

“Mission Impawsible” is the fourth installment in this delightful series set in fictitious Wagtail, Virginia, at an inn that caters to pet owners and their furry friends. This time around, main character Holly has to solve a murder in the midst of a pet-based matchmaking event hosted by the Sugar Maple Inn. Because of this event, the town is full of suspects, potential love interests, and adorable animals, making Holly’s search for the killer even more challenging. I happily give this book five out of five thick, savory slices of Bergenost!

What makes this book (and series) so special, you may ask? In  my opinion, the single most important element of any mystery is the development of the crime-related plot. It needs to make sense, be intricate enough to not have an obvious solution, but also provide enough clues that the reader can figure it out about the same time as the heroine. “Mission Impawsible” does this extremely well. There are plenty of potential suspects with plausible motivations, plenty of clues (and red herrings) to unravel, and the reveal at the end is logical based on everything that has happened before. I was able to correctly guess the identity of the killer, but not early enough in the book to make the rest of it boring.

Characters are another key aspect of any cozy mystery, and the protagonist of this series, Holly Miller, is ideal. She is likable and funny without being over the top, and is portrayed as intelligent and competent in her job. I especially like the fact that she comes across as a real person, with believable relationship issues and a genuine thankfulness that she lives in a place in which her meals are provided. I tend to be a bit annoyed by those “perfect” characters who are able to whip up a dinner spread for six unexpected guests with only the three random items they find in the fridge. I really appreciate that Holly isn’t the perfect chef and hostess, but the kind of real, everyday woman I can identify with. The other characters (both human and animal) are also well-drawn and entertaining, adding just the right amount of fun and quirkiness to the mix.

Many cozies include recipes at the end of the book; this one is no exception. What makes this section above average is the fact that recipes from the story for both people AND animals are featured. As a bonus, they tend to be reasonable enough (in terms of ingredients and cooking expertise required) that the average person could prepare them successfully.

You can learn more about Krista and her books on her website. To really get to know her, follow her on Facebook. You’ll enjoy author chats, giveaways, and more. If you’re really lucky, your pet might be chosen as an official Wagtail Ambassador and receive a swanky bandanna like the one Musket is sporting!

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Book Review: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

“Bone Gap” by Laura Ruby is lots of things…a realistic tale of two brothers, a touching first-love story, a glimpse into an oddly warped magical world, and an interesting look into the problems associated with a very rare and unusual disability. Mostly, however, it’s a wonderfully readable story.

The basics: Finn O’Sullivan has a hard enough time navigating high school, his disability (face blindness, which IS a real thing), his relationship with his older brother, and his feelings for the girl he’s starting to fall for. Add to this the mysterious disappearance of his brother’s girlfriend and the fact that some odd and not logically explainable things start happening to him, and you have the basis for “Bone Gap”‘s plot.

What I liked the most: The major characters are well-drawn and realistic. Finn, his brother Sean, and his love interest Petey are all unique and defined individuals, and all ring true. Likewise, the relationships between Finn and others are believable. Other characters, both quirky and standard, round out the cast. The book also delightfully captures small-town life, and the unique aspects found therein.  

What I’d like to see more of: The story’s villain was intriguing, and just evil enough to make the reader truly despise him. I would have enjoyed reading a bit more of his back-story to find out what made him this way and give him a bit more depth. 

Overall: I enjoyed this story very much. Magical realism is a fairly new genre for me, and this book provides a perfect example of this style of writing. Highly recommended!

Book Quote of the Day

“What I believe is that when it comes to big things in life, there are no accidents. Everything happens for a reason. You’re here for a reason–and it’s not to fail and die.”

–Emma Bloom to Jacob Portman, “Hollow City” by Ransom Riggs (Of course, this quote is situational in the story, but I think it applies to life in general.)

Book Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

“I Was Here” by Gayle Forman, the story of a young woman coping with the aftermath of her best friend’s suicide, sounds like it would be the most depressing book of the year. However, despite being based on a terrible tragedy, I did not find it hard to read. It was sad, of course, but was truly more about recovering from tragedy than focused on the tragedy itself.

Cody is asked to sort through her friend’s belongings after her suicide; in the process, she learns many things she didn’t know about Meg, and a decent bit about herself. The author has obviously done a great deal of research about her subject, and shares some horrifying truths about “Suicide Assistance” groups, as well as some useful information about depression. It’s important to note that the novel never comes across as “preachy” or overly focused on providing factual information. It reads like a well-paced, intriguing story.

My recommendation: Give this book a try as a good story about unraveling the mystery of a vibrant young woman’s life. Also read it to learn more about depression and suicide. Even if you’re blessed enough that these issues have not touched your life, it is always good to be informed. You might someday find yourself in a position to help someone else.