CeeCee’s Dog Days of Summer Reading Roundup

Published August 11, 2014 by Chick-Lit Cafe

10351599_530856277043177_2547800760911905463_nSometimes I feel as though I’m the only Texan who loves the dog days of summer. When I hear the locusts playing their summer symphony in the pecan trees and gaze up at the big, cloudless Texas sky, I wax nostalgic about my happiest childhood memories at summer camp.  Oh how I miss those long hot days filled with ice cream socials, campfire ghost stories and cheesy sing-along songs. So when the barometer reaches an all-time high, I always go for books that invoke that carefree summertime feeling.

Although my assistant, CeeCee Honeycutt Sinn, isn’t a fan of hot weather, she loves good stories about island adventures and steamy romance. If you’re looking for a fun, light read to stash in your beach bag, she highly recommends checking out these titles.

15812854Killer Honeymoon by G.A. McKevett

This is my first foray into the Savannah Reid mystery series and it won’t be my last. Although I solved the mystery long before the fearless Southern sleuth closed in on the killer, I was thoroughly entertained by the colorful cast of characters and witty dialogue. The tranquil West Coast setting took me back to Catalina Island, where I would eat my weight in ice cream underneath a thatched roof to the ever-present sound of Jimmy Buffet’s greatest hits. Ah memories…but I digress. This book is a fantastic beach read that will get you in the perfect summertime state of mind. The constant bickering between the two honeymooning protagonists was mildly annoying at first, but eventually I started laughing along at their zippy little quips. Fans of Janet Evanovich and Laura Levine are sure to enjoy this series.

16101148 Five Summers by Una Lamarche

Let me begin by stating that this book is going on my Best Books of 2014 list. My happiest childhood memories took place at Camp Marston, a sleepaway camp nestled in the mountains of Julian, California. This book rekindled so many memories of the deep friendships that were forged over burnt marshmallows and capture-the-flag games. In this book, the four girls were lucky enough to stay in touch throughout the years and help each other through the trials and tribulations of young adulthood. Each girl is holding back a deep, dark secret and it all comes to a head when they reunite at their beloved Camp Nedoba. I really liked how the author used the third-person narrative to weave each of the girls’ past and present summer camp experiences in every chapter. I loved getting to know all the characters and reminiscing about my carefree summers at camp, where I only had to worry about hiding contraband candy from the counselors and getting caught on a night raid to boys hill!

17568234The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeño Society Jubilee by Carolyn Brown

How could I resist a Steel Magnolia-esque story set in an idyllic small Texas town? Like a big ol’ slice of pecan pie, this book is oozing with saccharin sweet Southern charm. But anyone who isn’t privy to the complexities of Texas women should know that phrases like “bless her heart” or “aint that nice” have a double meaning.  It’s a jungle out there below the Mason-Dixon line—especially at the Cadillac Diner, home to the hottest jalapenos in Texas! The three women who run the diner are constantly sparring with the indomitable queen of the elite jalapeno club, Violet Prescott. She will stop at nothing to take home the blue ribbon—even if it means shutting down the town’s beloved diner. This woman is about as evil as a Pixar villain. In fact, her nefarious antics are so over-the-top, it’s hard to really take this book seriously. There’s a lot of characters thrown into the mix, and it’s hard to really get a good grasp on the reasons behind their bizarre behavior, but the multiple subplots kept me reading up until the rather anticlimactic standoff at the jalapeno jubilee. Yes, I do think the characters needed to be fleshed out more. And yes, the story seemed a little disjointed. But all in all, it was a fun, fast read for a day by the pool. Please be advised that if you’re looking for a tear-jerking story about love, loss and friendship, you’re not going to find it here. But if you want to read something on par with Sweet Home Alabama or Hart of Dixie, this book will not disappoint.

A Q&A With “The Dog Park” Author Laura Caldwell

Published July 27, 2014 by Chick-Lit Cafe

Laura Caldwell headshot compressed (2)Dog lovers and hopeless romantics alike are sure to enjoy Laura Caldwell’s new novel, The Dog Park.  After taking a look at the synopsis, I can’t wait to read more about the loveable Goldendoodle, who forever changed the lives of his owners after one heroic act caught on tape.

Will Baxter’s overnight celebrity status catapult his owners into two separate directions? Or will his broken family overcome their irreconcilable differences and find their happily ever after?   You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Without further ado, I bring you an interview with the author.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hug my dog now!

What inspired you to write The Dog Park?

I’d been writing mysteries and thrillers for a while, including six books featuring my series character, Izzy McNeil. I had one book left in my contract and started plotting the seventh. At the time, I had just gotten my puppy, Shafer, and was head over heels. My publisher’s pointed out that my social media posts and photos had gone from books and mysteries to dogs and dogs and dogs.  And they had an idea—why not write novel involving a dog?  A great beach book, something fast-moving and a little sexy. And maybe, just maybe, a happy ending. I was in.

Why did you decide to make a dog the focal point of your novel?

We wanted The Dog Park to be entertaining and fun, but my publisher really wanted a book with strong characters and strong relationships. 18812462Shortly into the book, I realized that Baxter, the dog who I’d seen as more of a sub character (albeit one who drives much of the action), was definitely much more. Just like a lot of our pets, Baxter is a creature with his own personality. His own preferences and tastes and quirks.

Of all the characters (canines included!) in the book, which one would you like to spend an afternoon with and why?

Billy McGowan! He’s a musician whose band became famous shortly after high school, and who managed eventually to turn himself into a man of integrity and intellect.

What message do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Overlaying all of the book is the profound, and yet often profoundly different, relationship that each different person has with their dog. There’s also the fact that social media has changed everything. It’s thrilling, but a little jarring and scary, to think that a person can be unknown at breakfast and trending on the news that night.

I read that you have your own Goldendoodle! What’s unique about this particular breed?

Friendly, fun, loves to chase balls, highly intelligent.

Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

If you really love writing, it’s great to be published, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. I truly thought I was never going to be published, but I kept writing because I loved it. It was a hobby I had on my own, where I could chart my own progress, and explore creativity and storytelling. I think passion shines through (or rather, reads through).

More about the author: Laura Caldwell, a former trial lawyer, is currently a professor and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. She is the author of eleven novels and one non-fiction book. She is a nation-wide speaker and the founder of Life After Innocence, which helps innocent people begin their lives again after being wrongfully imprisoned. Laura has been published in thirteen languages and over twenty countries. To learn more, please visit http://www.lauracaldwell.com.

 

Five Friday Favorites

Published July 25, 2014 by Chick-Lit Cafe

988424_566188093488613_1058872697_n Five Friday Favorites is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Book Badger that spotlights five favorite bookish things. Everyone is invited to join in on the fun!

I fudged the rules just a tad (sorry, Book Badger!), by featuring five favorite literary passages instead of the theme du jouer, which is secondary characters. These five books are full of poignant quotes, and I’m excited to share some of my dog-eared pages with you all! As you can see, I am a big-time fan of Ann Brashares and Beth Hoffman!

savingceeceehoneycutt“Life is full of change, honey. That’s how we learn and grow. When we’re born, the Good Lord gives each of us a Life Book.

Chapter by chapter, we live and learn.'”-“
— Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt)

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman“Never tie your happiness to the tail of someone else’s kite.”
― Beth Hoffman (Looking for Me)

9461872“She existed in her friends; there she was. All the parts of herself she’d forgotten. She knew herself best when she was with them.”
— Ann Brashares (Sisterhood Everlasting—Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants #5)

452306“You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love one another. We’re nice to one another. Do you know how rare that is?”
— Ann Brashares (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, #1)

32234“In a perverse way, I was glad for the stitches, glad it would show, that there would be scars. What was the point in just being hurt on the inside? It should bloody well show.”

—Janet Fitch (White Oleander)

Audiobook Pick of the Month: Booty Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery

Published July 12, 2014 by Chick-Lit Cafe

18404222From the Publisher:  Sarah Booth Delaney’s fiancé, Graf Milieu, has become depressed while recovering from a severe leg injury, but Sarah Booth knows just how to help him heal. She’s arranged a romantic getaway for the two of them at a lovely beach cottage on Dauphin Island off the Gulf Coast. On the first day of their island adventure, they take a historical tour led by Angela Trotter, a young woman well-versed in local lore, including rumors of pirate treasure hidden somewhere on the island. In fact, Angela confides to Sarah Booth and Graf that her father, a sailor and treasure hunter, was murdered just when he thought he was closing in on the treasure. Angela’s convinced that the wrong man was imprisoned for her father’s murder, and she manages to persuade Sarah Booth to take the case. And Sarah Booth soon realizes that there’s much more going on than meets the eye. With untold amounts of treasure offering plenty of motive for murder and a fiancé falling deeper into depression, Sarah Booth’s peaceful island vacation is quickly spinning out of control.

Why I liked it:   As always, Carolyn Haines delivers a puzzling mystery filled with complex characters, four-legged sidekicks, ghostly shenanigans and intriguing subplots.  The mystery in this installment is twofold: Who killed the treasure hunter? And what in tarnations  is wrong with Graf?  With a big storm a’brewin and a slew of dark secrets about to bubble up from under the surface, our sassy Southern sleuth is in for a wild ride!

What really shines in this book is the foreshadowing, which is a key ingredient in a quality whodunit. As Sarah Booth navigates the rocky waters of her relationship with Graf, I couldn’t think of a more perfect setting than a beach town under the threat of a monster hurricane.  At the risk of revealing any spoilers, I’ll leave it at that. But I will say that you’ll have a very strong opinion about him after she weathers the storm.

What irked me: Normally I love Jitty’s antics, but in this book she seemed to be tormenting Sarah Booth with her cryptic warnings. She’s known for popping up at random moments in outlandish outfits only to offer a few pieces of advice and puzzling riddles . This time, she’s appearing as iconic celebrities in mourning, hinting that death and despair is just around the corner.  So while Graf is inexplicably withdrawing from Sarah Booth, Jitty is constantly torturing her with bad omens. Of course, they finally stopped dangling their carrots at the end of the book. But it just didn’t seem right for them to keep her in the dark for so long. There were many points in the story when I wanted to shake Graf and Jitty and scream, “Out with it already, you fools!”

The narrator: Kate Forbes is the perfect narrator for the Sarah Booth Delaney mysteries. She does a fantastic job performing each of the characters’ voices in a believable way, which can be rather tricky when you’re dealing with a broad range of personalities. Her pensive, somber tone was the perfect match for Sarah Booth and Jittie, who were both in the midst of exposing some serious life—and afterlife—revelations.

Summed up in three words: Suspenseful, foreboding, intriguing.

 

Lay Death at Her Door by Elizabeth Buhmann

Published June 28, 2014 by Chick-Lit Cafe

17991758Do you ever get sucked into one of those indie movies with meandering plots and questionable characters? You know the kind I’m talking about, right? Sometimes I’m just too tired to change the channel, or I become strangely enchanted by the bizarreness of it all. What makes or breaks these movies is a plot twist that brings it all together. And that, my friends, pretty much sums up what happened with this book.

Looking at the back cover, I assumed it would be a cat-and-mouse type thriller about a woman running from a fiendish stalker while getting romanced by the hunky town sheriff. Turns out, this book was quite a departure from the formulaic romance/thrillers that line my bookshelf. Was that necessarily a good thing? Eh, I suppose. It’s good to break out of our comfort zones every now and then, right? At least that’s what my dad says when he tries to push one of his hard-boiled detective thrillers on me.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? The first few chapters are pretty darn slow. After 50 pages of “My dad is controlling me…my house is a prison…I’m repressing the past…,” I was growing a little tired of the ongoing monologue. But once the story started to develop, I was sucked into Kate Cranbrook’s dark web of secrets. The only problem with Kate is that she has the personality of a sea slug. In fact, she’s everything I despise in a human being.  She’s totally in love with herself and uses people without giving anything in return. But yet, I was oddly intrigued by the motives behind her bizarre actions. That right there is what kept me reading tearing through the pages until the very end.

What really happened when she and her father fled from Africa? Why won’t she run away from her controlling father and get a place of her own? Did she really put an innocent man in jail? I didn’t have questions to those answers until the very end—and trust me—it’s worth the wait. I’ll stop right here before I give anything away.  But I will say that the ending will certainly give people lots to talk about. I certainly have some choice words about some of the characters, but I’ll keep them to myself to save you from any spoilers.

Although I loathed the main character and found the first few chapters to be in dire need of editing, I have to tip my hat to the author for crafting a tale that breaks the boundaries of genre fiction. It’s not a classic mystery, nor is it a typical thriller. So if you’re looking for a break from the monotony, give this book a try. I’m quite certain you’ll have a strong opinion of Kate and her creeptastic father after polishing off the last chapter.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Murder on the Hoof: A Mystery by Kathryn O’Sullivan

Published June 17, 2014 by Chick-Lit Cafe

18404182It’s summertime and you know what that means. Lots and lots of easy breezy beach reads filled with murder, mayhem, furry four-legged sidekicks and sizzling romance! This is the time of year when people travel the world and experience idyllic touristy towns for themselves. But to be honest with you, I’d much rather spend my summer doing absolutely nothing but reading on my back porch with my fur babies and a pitcher of sangria. No need to suffer the indignities of air travel, or shell out hundreds of dollars on overpriced hotels. For the mere price of a paperback, I can choose my own destination without ever having to wrestle with my luggage. Oh how I love reading!

For my first summer getaway, I traveled to North Carolina’s Corolla Island, where wild horses roam free and eccentric townsfolk run amok. There are also plenty of hunky firefighters who put their lives on the line to save their beloved beach town from going up in smoke. Seeing as how this is a sleepy little tourist town, you’d think that firefighters would have a pretty cushy job. Well think again! Dead bodies have a way of popping up in the most unexpected places. As for the suspects, it’s pretty much fair game. Even the old bitties seem to be stashing some skeletons in their closets. Oh yes, Corolla has a seedy underbelly filled with murder, blackmail, lies and deceit. It’s like Cabot Cove, only there’s a lot more eye candy for the ladies!

The mystery begins when Fire Chief Colleen McCabe stumbles upon a dead body after a rather elaborate training exercise on the beach. As part of the mock fire emergency, the community’s acting troupe posed as bloodied victims. Even the town mortician pitched in by painting their bodies with fake gore. It all seemed to be running smoothly until one of the “victims” stopped moving…and breathing altogether.SpanishMustangsOfCorolla

As Colleen investigates the crime, she discovers that the 60-something murder victim had some dark secrets of her own, and quite a few of the townies had some pretty valid reasons for wanting her dead. Considering that practically the entire town was at the murder scene, Colleen has her work cut out for her.  With some help from the town sheriff (and potential boyfriend!) Bill Dorman and her trusty four-legged sidekicks, she pieces together clues and narrows down the slew of suspects.

The plot thickens when a hotshot movie starlet starts following Colleen all around town to research her next movie role. Not only is she interfering with the investigation, she’s also Bill’s ex fiancé! If that’s not bad enough, another member of the acting troupe turns up dead—and it’s only a matter of time until the killer strikes again.

I’ll stop right here before I reveal any spoilers, but I will say that the killer was way far down on my suspect list. This is a fun jigsaw-puzzle of a mystery that will keep you guessing until the climactic town theater production. What really makes this mystery series special is the protagonist. I love that she’s defying gender roles by heading up a fire department. She’s strong, fearless, and respected by all her employees. Yet she’s also dealing with insecurities and boy troubles that resonate with women readers. I should also mention that her sleuthing sidekick, Myrtle Crepe, is a real kick in the pants. Her antics are amusing, yet she doesn’t go over the top with the trash talking and zany shenanigans…that can get old really fast.  I’m excited to see what lies in store for their next adventure. And I’m really looking forward to seeing how Bill and Colleen’s romance develops. It looks as though a dark horse named Pinky might be waiting in the wings—and I can’t wait to see how this fledgling love triangle collides!

If you’re new to this mystery series, you’re in for a real treat. Check out my review of the first installment, Foal Play.

FRIDAY FINDS: Summertime Fun Edition!

Published May 30, 2014 by Chick-Lit Cafe

friday_findsIt’s Friday, y’all! Time to switch into weekend mode and daydream about all those glossy books stacked up on your nightstand. Here are a few of my latest impulse buys!

Fat Is the New 30: The Sweet Potato Queens’ Guide to Coping with (the crappy parts of) Life

13342320This book had me at Fat is the New 30! Southern women are crazy, neurotic, catty and downright hilarious! This is exactly what I need to navigate my way through life as a 30-something who will forever be battling the dreaded bulge.

Killer Honeymoon: Savannah Reid, Book 18

15812854I needed a fluffy book to listen to while running along the coast in San Diego last week. It’s the perfect combination of murder, mayhem and island adventure shenanigans!

The Virtue of Selfishness

51qfkdyaEBL__SL300_There’s a lot of fluff on my reading list this summer, so I might as well balance it out with a little brain food. I come from a long line of incredibly repugnant, selfish people. So if this crippling personality disorder can be somewhat virtuous, I’d love to know all about it.

Porch Lights

13338545I accidentally read all my books while vacationing in California and desperately needed something to read on the plane. This book has been on my to-be-read list for a long time, and it just so happened to be on clearance so how could I go wrong? Stay tuned for the review!

Friday Finds is a weekly meme hosted by Should be Reading that spotlights books of various formats that have been added to the to-be-read list. What books are you dying to read this weekend? Post a comment and tell me all about it!

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