Tag Archives: Lisa Scottoline

Here Come the Brides

Bridge Wore Size 12 (nook book)

The Bride Wore Size 12: A Novel by Meg Cabot (William Morrow, $14.99, 400 pages)

Heather Mills is used to having her cake and eating it too, but this time her cake just might be cooked. Her wedding cake, that is.

Prolific author Meg Cabot delivers a new and very funny installment to fans of her Heather Wells series with The Bride Wore Size 12. Heather, a former teen pop singer, works at New York College – a fictitious private school in the city, where she is the assistant dorm director. The setting is ripe with possibilities for mayhem and humor.

The dialogue is snarky and remarkably upbeat considering Heather – who narrates the tale, is swamped by unanticipated drama at the beginning of the school year. Back-to-school events for incoming freshmen and a death in the dorm keep getting in the way of a more important matter – planning for her upcoming wedding to private investigator Cooper Cartwright.

The dorm residents include the son of a wealthy Middle Eastern king, numerous students whose helicopter parents insist on changing the room assignments to place their darlings in the best suites, and a core of resident assistants who help Heather manage the chaos – sometimes with cocktails. The politics of her job are enough to drive the average person bonkers; however, Heather has weathered more stressful situations in her prior career as a performer. Her mom ran off with Heather’s money and her manager to Argentina which necessitated the assistant dorm director job. She relies on her boundless energy and help from Cooper – and some alcohol, to solve the murder and get to the altar on time.

Bridge Wore Size 12 drink recipe

Meg Cabot’s audience clearly overlaps with those of writers Lisa Scottoline and Lisa Lutz. Together these three zany writers have provided many happy reading hours for this reviewer. Keep those book rolling off the presses, ladies!

Highly recommended.

Skating Under the Wire

Skating Under the Wire: A Mystery by Joelle Charbonneau (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 304 pages)

For a complete change of pace, but with a wedding theme as well, pick up the latest book in the roller-skating series by Joelle Charbonneau – Skating Under the Wire. Rink owner Rebecca Robbins is making a go of the business she inherited from her mom. The EstroGenocide women’s roller derby team now has a large and enthusiastic fan base. Rather than return to Chicago and the life she had before her mom’s untimely death, Rebecca has decided to stay in Indian Falls. Her grandfather, Pop, the senior citizen Elvis impersonator lives there, as does a rather handsome large animal veterinarian named Lionel whom Rebecca is dating.

Rebecca’s best friend Danielle is about to be married to the local preacher and Thanksgiving will be here soon. Rebecca is determined to be a super maid of honor for Danielle. The wedding shower for Danielle is held at the local senior center. As the presents are being opened, one of the ladies is missing from the festivities. She is found dead in the TV room! That’s mystery number one.

An intimate Thanksgiving dinner at her apartment above the roller-rink is the other obligation that Rebecca has on her literal plate. Thanksgiving has a strange meaning for the folks in Indian Falls due to a ten-year string of burglaries. You can count on Rebecca to create her own extravaganza as she turns a simple holiday dinner into a mass event all the while following clues and odd happenings to solve her most challenging cases yet.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

You can read a review of Joelle Charbonneau’s earlier book, Skating On the Edge: A Mystery, here:

https://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/four-to-go/

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Stairway to Heaven

No Rest for the Dead: A Novel by Sandra Brown, R. L. Stine, Alexander McCall Smith, J. A. Jance, Diana Gabeldon, Jeffrey Deaver, Lisa Scottoline, John Lescoart, Kathy Reichs, Raymond Khoury, et al. (Touchstone, $15.00, 286 pages)

Twenty-Six Writers.   One Mystery.

“The lineup of writers who have contributed to this mystery is akin to the Murderer’s Row of the 1927 New York Yankees.   There is not a weak spot in the bunch.”   David Baldacci

Can there by synergy when it comes to writing?   If 26 well-known and admired mystery writers collaborate on one story, can it be as good as, or better than, the work  of just one of them?   That’s the question behind the creation of No Rest for the Dead.   Each chapter or segment was written by one of the twenty-six writers or a combination of them.

The book includes police reports of the crime in question (by Kathy Reichs) and journal entries by the cop who would not let go of an old death penalty case (by Andrew F. Gulli).   The tragedy was that a wife who was the mother of two young children was executed for the murder of her husband, and the policeman had serious doubts he ignored at the time of the initial investigation.

While there are no obvious disconnects among the chapters, there are perspective shifts and slight changes in attitude as each writer adds his or her voice to the mix.   The tone may go from cunning to bullying or from scene description to dialogue.   For example, Faye Kellerman’s penchant for details marks her contribution and Lisa Scottoline’s snappy, terse dialogue is present in hers.

The typical plot elements include super locations in San Francisco that are accurately described and a sinister observer who is designated by an alternate font/typeface.   He/she is puzzling but not quite menacing.   Moreover, there are shifts from characters that are clearly cerebral to ones who are driven by emotions and actions.

Readers of Joseph’s Reviews may have noted that this reviewer is quite fond of the mystery genre.   Several of the authors who contributed to this book have provided a bedtime lights out that stretched into the early hours of the morning because their stories truly kept this reader engaged up to the final page.   Now, together, they provide a bit of magic!

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “…except for funds allocated to author payments, all of our profits from (this book) are going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.”   Lamia J. Gulli

No Rest for the Dead was released as a trade paperback book on July 3, 2012.

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The Race Is On

A Bad Day’s Work: A Lilly Hawkins Mystery by Nora McFarland (Touchstone; $14.99; 268 pages)

After reading Nora McFarland’s second Lilly Hawkins mystery, Hot, Shot, and Bothered, I was curious about the characters and their alliances.   Rather than rehashing the background for the series here, I suggest you check out the review posted previously on this site.

In this debut book, Lilly has a sense of urgency associated with getting the breaking story while assuring her place on the news team.   She is caught up in her own drama and dives furiously into an assignment in foggy Bakersfield, CA.   Making the most of being a TV news camera person, a shooter, is uppermost in Lilly’s mind.   As you might imagine, there’s a whole other scenario playing out behind the main story – a decent fellow is gunned down while driving a truck full of cargo.   Moreover, the cargo has vanished but no one is sure what it was!   There are private security guards, sheriff’s deputies and a wealthy businessman who create a murky view of the facts in the story.   To make matters even more confusing, Lilly’s co-workers are not exactly who she thinks they are.

The action takes place over the span of one day.   Author McFarland packs the day with a remarkable volume of action that includes car chases, hiding from the authorities and a gang attack.   While action plays a key role in the story, it is the development of Lilly’s relationships with her co-workers that brings the story to life.   She must decide who is on her side and who is blocking her career path.   Several past mishaps with camera equipment and a black tape of the crime scene investigation are leading the newsroom management to wonder about Lilly’s abilities and commitment to her profession.   Lilly’s past includes the loss of her father and estrangement from her mother.   These traumas contribute to the plot.   Needless to say, there’s no boredom in this book!

McFarland’s style is consistent over the two mysteries.   Let’s hope she adds to the Lilly Hawkins series with the same attention to heart and action present in the first two books.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “Packed full of adrenaline and attitude, A Bad Day’s Work is a roller-coaster ride…   Don’t miss it!”   Lisa Scottoline

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My Special Angel

One Summer: A Novel by David Baldacci (Grand Central Publishing, $25.99, 352 pages; Hachette Audio Unabridged version on 7 CDs, $24.99)

Take a break from your own life and get to know the Armstrong family of Ohio.   They are the central figures in David Baldacci’s poignant novel, One Summer.   This reviewer was captivated by the depth of character development, both male and female, that Baldacci brought to his tale of loss and redemption.   The added bonus was listening to the audio version narrated by two highly-skilled readers, Don McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy.   Together they provide a wide range of voices for the characters.   This blend brought the story to life in a way that would be hard to match with a print version of the book.

The story opens as Jack Armstrong, all around good guy and former military man, awaits his slow death from a rare and always-fatal disease while Christmas approaches.   Jack’s lovely wife Lizzie and three children are struggling to cope with the inevitable loss they face.   Each has their own way of doing so and 15-year-old daughter Michelle (Mickie) has alienated herself from everyone by rebelling against the entire matter with anger.   Deep down inside Lizzie knows she will have to go on without Jack very soon; however, she fantasizes about the entire family revisiting her childhood home in South Carolina during the following summer.  

Baldacci takes this premise and injects his own deeply felt take on loss by setting up a twist whereby Lizzie dies in a car crash and Jack miraculously survives.   Rather than playing on the sympathy of the characters he has created, Baldacci brings out the good and the weaknesses of everyone involved.   This is a tale that demands spirited action and dashing drama.   Baldacci delivers all this and more.   It is perfectly fine with this reviewer that the gritty reality of life coexists with a fairytale quality series of plot twists.  

There’s no mystery here, love conquers all.   Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

An audiobook review copy was provided by the publisher.   “In One Summer, (Baldacci) writes as beautifully and insightfully about the pathways of the human heart as he does about the corridors of power.   …(a) hugely emotional and unforgettable novel.”   Lisa Scottoline, author of Save Me.

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Streets of Bakersfield

Hot, Shot, and Bothered: A Lilly Hawkins Mystery by Nora McFarland (Touchstone, $14.99, 304 pages)

Get ready for a new type of spunky girl mystery!   This second appearance of Lilly Hawkins, a TV news shooter for the local Bakersfield, California TV station, proves to be a summer stunner.   Lilly is a very honest person, sort of.   That’s to say she’s honest with herself about who she is now and who she was in the past.   She’s not so honest about her intentions when it comes to her boss at the station or the local police and sheriff.   A drowning death that she’s sent to video tape seems fishy to Lilly.   It is one of the two concurrent mysteries that sustain the reader’s interest.   Layered over the drowning is a breathtaking wildfire that may just consume the evidence at the location of the drowning.   Who set the fire and why was Jessica Egan murdered?

McFarland sets the scene with plenty of realistic action.   She has been behind the camera in Lilly’s shoes as a shooter for the news media.   To McFarland’s credit, the details are helpful and she has resisted the urge to bury the reader in techno speak.   One element that was lacking would have proven helpful for this reviewer.   A simple graphic/map showing the general vicinity where the action takes place could have provided a sense of the movement in the story.   Author Lisa Black’s thriller Trail of Blood that is set in Cleveland, Ohio contains one and it was an integral part of enjoying the book.

The characters in Hot, Shot, and Bothered are brought into the tale in a general locale, not exactly in Bakersfield, California, but nearby.   As they are matched up with each other, for example the grocer and the lady mayor, the stakes are raised.   McFarland is very adept at revealing her characters’ motivations at her own pace.   She makes Lilly work under super pressure to cover the growing fire and satisfy her nagging doubts about the drowning.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Hot, Shot, and Bothered was released on August 2, 2011.   “Funny, smart and honest.   Packed full of adrenaline and attitude.   Don’t miss it!”   Lisa Scottoline

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Stairway to Heaven (Sedaka)

No Rest for the Dead: A Novel by Sandra Brown, R. L. Stine, Alexander McCall Smith, J.A. Jance, Diana Gabeldon, Jeffrey Deaver, Lisa Scottoline, John Lescoart, Kathy Reichs, et al.   (Touchstone, $24.99, 256 pages)

Twenty-Six Writers.   One Mystery.

“The lineup of writers who have contributed to this mystery is akin to the Murderer’s Row of the 1927 New York Yankees.   There is not a weak spot in the bunch.”   David Baldacci

Can there be synergy when it comes to writing?   If 26 well-known and admired mystery writers collaborate on one story, can it be as good as, or better than, the work  of just one of them?   That’s the question behind the creation of No Rest for the Dead.   Each chapter or segment was written by one of the twenty-six writers or a combination of them.  

The book includes police reports of the crime in question (by Kathy Reichs) and journal entries by the cop who would not go of an old death penalty case (by Andrew F. Gulli).   The tragedy was that a wife who was the mother of two young children was executed for the murder of her husband, and the cop had serious doubts he ignored at the time of the investigation.

While there are no obvious disconnects among the chapters, there are perspective shifts and slight changes in attitude as each writer adds his or her voice to the mix.   The tone may go from cunning to bullying or from scene description to dialogue.   For example, Faye Kellerman’s penchant for details marks her contribution and Lisa Scottoline’s snappy, terse dialogue is present in hers.

The typical plot elements include super locations in San Francisco that are accurately described and a sinister observer who is designated by an alternate font/typeface.   He/she is puzzling but  not quite menacing.   Moreover, there are shifts from characters that are clearly cerebral to ones who are driven by emotions and actions.

Readers of Joseph’s Reviews may have noted that this reviewer is quite fond of the mystery genre.   Several of the authors who contributed to this book have provided a bedtime lights out that stretched into the early hours of the morning because their stories truly kept this reviewer engaged up to the final page.   Now, together, they provide a bit of magic!

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “…except for funds allocated to author payments, all of our profits from No Rest for the Dead are going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.”   Lamia J. Gulli   

 

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People Are Strange

Nothing Happens Until It Happens to You by T. M. Shine (Crown; $23.00; 294 pages)

“It’s time more readers found out about T. M. Shine…  (He’s) one of the funniest writers I know.”   Dave Barry

If you like Dave Barry or David Sedaris, you will undoubtedly like T. M. Shine.   If you love Lisa Scottoline (“Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog”; “My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space”), you will very likely love T. M. Shine.   Like Barry and Sedaris, Shine is often clever; but more often he’s simply hilarious like Scottoline.   For example, at one point in Nothing Happens, he wonders why drugs have so many listed negative effects.   He asks why there are “never any good side effects like ‘long term use of this medicine could add six inches to your broad jump or lead to…  improved cornering skills while driving at high speeds.’   Stuff like that.”

This is a semi-autobiographical novel about being suddenly unemployed, and then being unemployed for a long period of time.   Shine was, in real life,  laid off from his steady writing gig.   He decided to write a memoir about his experiences but his publisher wanted a novel instead, so this is a true-to-life story.   (If you want to enjoy yourself, Google Shine to find his sadly funny and sometimes quasi-ranting pink slip website.)

The male protagonist Jeffrey Reiner is let go from his job writing for a South Florida weekly.   He initially rushes to find a new job before his severance pay and unemployment benefits run out.   Then he begins to feel guilty for appreciating his free time before finding out that he has a third less time than he thought to get back into the working world (his high maintenance family is burning through his money stash at warp speed).   He eventually wonders if he’ll be out of work so long that he’ll lose all desire to ever work again.   But this is not the least of his problems…

Reiner’s married to a woman whom he knows he’s lucky to be married to, but once he loses his job the glue that holds their relationship together starts to weaken.   Reiner’s wife has in the past found him to be “steady,” something he no longer is; in fact, he’s dazed and confused.   Ironically, as Reiner becomes less comfortable being around his wife (and vice-versa), he develops a strong relationship with his formerly troublesome children and his physically troubled dog.

Reiner winds up tackling some strange jobs assigned to him by a hustler who is not exactly a well-respected man in the community.   He also develops an interesting relationship with the young woman who lives next door, making Reiner’s wife wonder if this is his attempt to be like old Bill Murray in Lost In Translation.   Oh, and he needs to ensure that everyone in his household uses less energy, something that’s nearly impossible – his teenage kids live like nocturnal raccoons.

Anything more said about the storyline would just subtract rather than add to the reader’s enjoyment.   Let’s just say that the tale ends with our protagonist learning about what’s really important in life, and it may not be a corner office.   This one’s fun!

Well recommended.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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