Review of AJ Finn’s “The Woman in the Window”

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This novel is a page-turner!  This was my first A. J. Finn novel and it definitely will not be my last! I enjoyed the writing style and the twists and turns that kept me wanting to read to the end.  If I didn’t value sleep so much, I would have stayed up to try and finish this book in a single night.

The author really described agoraphobia in realistic detail; I feel that I can empathize with people inflicted with this disease now that I have seen it from the main character’s, Anna Fox’s,  perspective.  It is interesting to discover how the main character developed the disease and how debilitating it is. The novel touches on alcoholism and isolation as well. However, the beauty of how AJ Finn depicts these issues are woven in a thrilling mystery plot that engrosses the reader.

Anna Fox , due to her agoraphobia, spends most of her day viewing her neighbor’s activities and happens to see a horrific event.  What unfurls is a series of plot twists that keep the reader guessing. Highly recommend.

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Review of “In The Woods” by Tana French

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This was my first novel written by Tana French that I read.  I finished it last night, and it was a good read. However, I felt that the reviews caused me to have high expectations that were not met.  The end was a great segway into the next novel of the series, but I was hoping to have the ending tie up all the loose ends.  Now that there is a “cliffhanger”, so to speak, I am looking forward to the next novel.

The writing was excellent, and I really felt that Tana French developed her characters , especially the main one of Detective Ryan, extremely well and did not leave out any details. I felt like I was inside Ryan’s head and understood his flaws and intricacies of his personality.  He was not very likeable but this is what made him “human” in my eyes.

What I did not like about the book was the fact that the ending (or the the solution to the mystery) was not as exciting as the clues leading up to it.  The first half of the book was definitely more enthralling than the second half. What made me finish the book was simply to find out “whodunit”, but, needless to say, I was disappointed with the lack of thrills towards the end.

All in all, I do recommend this book, but don’t believe the reviews stating that this is the “one of the best thrillers” this year.

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Review of “Aunt Dimity and The King’s Ransom”

auntdimity

I enjoy the Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton since the books tend to transport me to a cozy place.  This book did not disappoint.  I enjoy the easy repertoire between the main character, Lori, and her husband Bill as well as Lori’s innate ability to make friends wherever she goes regardless of their age and gender.

This novel begins Lori and Bill heading to Rye, a nearby town, for a weekend getaway sans kids.  Bill combined a work errand with the trip, so after dropping Bill off to his business colleague, Lori sets off for her deluxe hotel hoping to meet Bill later on in the afternoon. While on the road, Lori finds herself in the middle of a huge dangerous storm.

Due to the storm, Lori gets diverted to a town and is forced to spend the night at an inn called The King’s Ransom.  While there, she befriends a bishop named Bishop Wyndham and together they try and fathom what mysteries lie behind the strange noises they hear at night as well as the mystery behind the inn’s name.

This is a cute “mystery”, and there is no horror or gore involved. This is also not a thriller or even a romance; I think Atherton’s Aunt Dimity series are the epitome of the cozy mystery.  I enjoyed the setting and the characters.  The novel did get a bit mundane at parts, especially over the constant attempts at deciphering the mystery behind the inn’s name, but all in all, it was an enjoyable and light read.

Review of “Broken Girls” by Simone St. James

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This was an enticing page-turner that kept me wanting to read it to the end.  It did get slow at some parts in the middle of the book, but the mystery about a ghost and a murder made me want to finish it.  You can read it in one night if you were dedicated and had the time, but it took me several nights to finish it.  There is something flawed about the book that I simply cannot put my finger on—-it was a page turner but it didn’t excite me as much as other thrillers that I have read in the past.  I thought that the intertwining of the Holocaust was a nice touch by Simone St. James, but I thought that the ghost story was a bit over-kill.  Maybe it was the unrealistic hauntings that made me not want to grab this book every night before bed; I am not usually a fan of ghost stories unless they are the focus of the book.  This book had a ghost haunting more of “an aside” from the main plot of the book, and it took a while before I realized that the ghost really didn’t have much to do with the main plot.  The love story between Fiona and her police boyfriend was realistic in the sense that it was both flawed and true.  I thought that both of them were made for each other, yet the love story was also a side story.  The main plot was more of a “who-done-it” of the murder of a girl found buried in the grounds of an old school that was being renovated.  What brings Fiona into this mystery is that her sister was also found dead on the same campus many years ago.  All in all, I recommend this book; it is well written and the characters are believable. If you can get past the ghost interlude, this is a book worth reading.

Review of the start of Season 3 of ABC’s “American Housewife”

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If you are a parent, this is a great TV show for you to unwind after a long day. I’m not sure about the appeal to the teens/children , but every parent will get the jokes and the laughter at the day-to-day ups and downs of parenting that the show highlights. The main actress is Katy Mixon who plays character, Katie Otto, a hilarious housewife, now turned working mom this season, who “tells it like it is”.  The family is middle class but lives in a high income suburb for the school district, and the son’s (Oliver played by Daniel DiMaggio) best friend showcases the economic differences of the Otto family and most of the kids at the neighborhood school.  Katie is mom to three fun kids, each with  entertaining personalities (especially those of Oliver and Anna Kat) and also plays wife to loveable, patient husband, Greg, played well by Diedrich Bader. Greg also has his own idiosyncracies.  I feel that these unique traits of the family members and how Katie deals with them are what makes the show so real.  An added twist to the show’s storyline is Katie’s daily breakfast with the “girls” played by hilarious Ali Wong (the rich and eccentric Doris) and Carly Hughes (the faithful friend and lesbian Angela).  The side tracks that involve Katie re-hashing her latest problems with Dora and Angela are a hoot to watch.

The latest season , number three that began in September 2018, shows the hard transition of Katie going from stay-at-home mom to a working mom now that her kids are older.  She loves her job as an event coordinator, but also depicts the guilt that almost every mom has about not being home enough for her children.  The support that Greg gives Katie is perfection, almost unrealistic to be honest, and her work-life balance seems a bit uncomplicated compared to most moms in reality.  However, that being said, this is a sitcom, and no one wants to see a struggling working mom on TV when they have played one in reality all day.  American Housewife is entertaining and makes me smile throughout the show which, I believe, is the point of watching TV at the end of a long day.

Review of ABC’s “Single Parents”

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Disappointed.

The one word that keeps going through my head as I replay the premiere episode of Single Parents on ABC.  Despite a great cast of talent consisting of Leighton Meester and Brad Garrett, the jokes and one-liners simply did not take.  I found the story line predictable, and the characters had forced chemistry amongst each other.  I had such high hopes for this series, mainly because of the great cast, but the cast could not save the sinking ship of the first episode.  I’m not looking forward to the second episode since the central plot isn’t going to change.  Don’t recommend.

Review of Hallmark’s “Garage Sale Mysteries: The Pandora’s Box Murders”

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This is a fun series if you haven’t seen an episode yet.  The plot is always intriguing and the characters pull you into the series.  The main character is played by seasoned Hallmark actress, Lori Loughlin, and really gives the role a lot of clout.  She plays vintage and antique store owner Jenn Shannon.  Her store partner and best friend is played by Sarah Strange, and they show a fun rapport.  What gives Jenn’s character believablility is that she is an everyday woman, wife to a sweet engineer played by Steve Bacic, and mom to two “kids”, teenaged son Logan and college graduate Hannah.  Her chemistry with her husband and children is down to earth and “real”.  I enjoy the way the stories are written to involve both Jenn Shannon’s work life as well as her home life in order to showcase a true working mom’s day (although most moms don’t find murders on a regular basis).

This particular episode was interesting in that it focused on puzzle boxes.  Jenn’s antique store and her vintage finds are the topic of a reality show being filmed in her town.  The reality show’s producer wants to focus on the puzzle box that was recently loaned to Jenn to decipher from a prominent town citizen.  The town citizen ends up being the victim of a murder, and Jenn decides to help find clues in order to solve the murder.  She has an almost sisterly relationship with the local police chief , and together, they discover the link between the intriguing puzzle box and the murder.

 

Review of the Halloween Baking Championship opening episode , 2018 season

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This is the new season of the Food Network’s Halloween Baking Championship; it premiered this month of September 2018.  The judges are the same as last year–Carla Hall, Zac Young and Lorraine Pascale.

I enjoy the new faces of the bakers, and they seem to be very talented.  The show does a great job centering each of the bakes around Halloween themes and even putting amazing Halloween decor in the background.  During the pre-bake, the judges are in their everyday clothes, but they change into Halloween costumes that vary week by week for the second round.  Some of the bakes the contestants come up are a bit “gruesome” like the orange goo flowing out of a cockroach chocolate shell, but they are consistent with the show’s Halloween theme.

As exciting as it is to find out who wins and loses every week is finding out what type of costumes the judges will wear.  The makeup artistry and costume department behind the Food Network is amazing.

I enjoy Carla Hall’s judging since she is honest and doesn’t seem to want to conform to the other judges’ opinions.  Lorraine is honest as well but is a tad hyper-critical, especially of the “look” of the baked goods instead of the taste.  Zac Young doesn’t seem to keep up with the knowledge base of Carla and Lorraine and instead appears to be more of a “funny guy” , producing puns and funny anecdotes that really should be more of the host’s job.

If you are a fan of Halloween and enjoy baking competitions, give this show a try.  I think you’ll enjoy it. It doesn’t hold a candle to the Spring baking championship or the Holiday baking championship but is a nice way to fill up the interlude that is October in the baking world.

 

 

Review of “When Life Gives You Lululemons”

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I enjoyed this book!  Emily, a character from Weisberger’s previous novel, The Devil Wears Prada, is the main character in this novel and is simply a “hoot”!  She descends upon the snobby, suburban housewives of Greenwich, CT like the stylish dragon that she is and helps to fix a pesky DUI issue and custody battle of Carolina, a former, loveable supermodel wife.  The main reason Emily is on the east coast, and especially in a suburb (gasp!), is for her to visit her best friend, Miriam, a former power-lawyer now turned housewife.

This is a witty novel that is written in such a way that I felt I was living in Greenwich, Connecticut vicariously through Miriam and Emily.  The relationships seemed truly real for middle aged women, whether housewives or corporate women. I do feel that there was a tad too much emphasis on infidelity , and that there were a bit too many stereotypical observations of the typical Greenwich mom.  It would have been more refreshing if one of the housewife mom had a fun and intelligent personality rather than being one of many waspy-wealthy snobs.

All in all, it’s a fun read, but don’t look for any soul-searching thoughts!

Review of “Now That You Mention It” by Kristan Higgins

nowthatyoumentionit

So, the big question is, do I recommend this book?  Hmmmm…I’m not really sure.  I love this author, and really enjoyed her prior books.  They were light, fluffy and put a smile on my face and in my heart.

This book was a deviant from her usual writing style.  It did address deep issues such as home invasion, family dynamic issues, romance, and high school angst.  Despite the main character, Nora, being a physician, she didn’t seem to come across quite as independent a character as I had hoped. I also never connected with her in a way that I have with other Kristan Higgans’ characters.  Nora , who is in a romantic relationship with an egotistical, self absorbed guy named Bobby (another reason that gave me pause in connecting with Nora), is attacked in her home.  That traumatic event causes a dent in her relationship with Bobby.  Yet another traumatic event, a hit by a truck when leaving the hospital one night, leads her back to her hometown in Maine where she spends the remainder of the book healing her relationships with her mother and niece and forming new ones.  There is a new romance between Nora and a high school classmate, Sullivan,  (brother of a boy who was Nora’s high school crush and fellow competitor for a college scholarship), but the history between Nora and her new beau’s brother makes the relationship weird.

All in all, this was one of the first Kristan Higgins’ novels that I didn’t relate to and didn’t feel like reading it again for the second time.  There were two animal injuries (one of Nora’s mother’s beloved pet bird and the other of a car-deer episode) that didn’t have any relevance to the book and seemed distasteful.  The episodes, although minor in the novel, seemed out of place in a book where the main character absolutely adores her pet dog.  Also, the relationship between Sullivan and Nora seemed forced.

Don’t recommend.