readclever's reviews
345 reviews

Fed Up, by Susan Conant, Jessica Conant-Park

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2.0

This was my second attempt at reading the Gourmet Girl series. I picked the book out off the library shelves because the reality show premise really worked for me. Unfortunately, it feels like Chloe is never going to grow into a deeper character than her introduction in Steamed. I wanted to like the plot but I gave up about one-third into the book. So I pushed to the last 30-40 pages to see what happened. About what I suspected and without a lot of convincing evidence on why. I wish the book had focused more on creating better villains. Too cookie cutter.
Cereal Killer, by G.A. McKevett

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4.0

Savannah Reid's personality is really easy to follow and understand in the book. It's not just her inner personality, like her opinions, but how people interact with her. Like younger sister Marietta (note: the Reid family seem to all be named after cities in Georgia) and former police detective partner Dirk.

It's nice to see a protag in her 40s with positive body image and the ability to appreciate models younger than her. There's a solid sense of self and it's uncompromising when facing an uncomfortable initiation into the world of modeling.

The plot may have been a little thin at parts but it definitely has a pretty good ending. Reminded me a lot of Diagnosis Murder when the team would meet up at the BBQ restaurant. I would have liked more interaction between the wailing Marietta and 'Van', honestly. Mari seemed a bit underdeveloped in this book even though some of her back story was included. That's the only real critic I have on the book for the most part. It didn't quite match the rest of the book's mood.
To Save a Sinner, by Adele Clee

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4.0

I had high hopes for the book. I really enjoyed Helena's intelligence and that Lucas appreciated her clever independence. She's a woman who clearly knows herself and doesn't flee from it. Something younger sister Amelia seems to somewhat admire--very begrudgingly so, however. The mystery/suspense was solid, especially when finding out more on the villains. I was pretty impressed with the overall story and the fact Helena didn't back down from Lucas nor did she let him simmer in the brooding personality many men in Regency books suffer from.

Then I hit the last 20 pages or so and I grew tired of the sudden overwrought reactions. Had those been reworked into more of the clearly defined characteristics, I would have given the book 5 stars instead of 4.
Killer Gourmet, by G.A. McKevett

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5.0

As with most of Savannah Reid books, there's a lot of heart and soul. Not just in the mystery, but in the connection. When a Gordon Ramsay wannabe gets kaputed, it's up to Van's crew to solve the latest crime. But honestly, that plot felt secondary to the character growth. Watching her come to conclusions, hard ones about herself, and how to keep her family bound afterwards was amazing. The mystery plot, the ending, broke my heart into a thousand pieces as a woman. Definitely a solid 4.5 reading, honestly. I only deducted a few points for the lack of resolutions on some characters. But other than that, a really good read.
The Fever of 1721: The Epidemic That Revolutionized Medicine and American Politics, by Stephen Coss

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5.0

If you're unaware of Boston's history and legacy of helping to seed the American Revolution, the book is great. A lot of background on the players, ranging from Cotton Mathers to the Franklins to Elisha Cook's pursuit of an independent colony. All of this political intrigue across a small pox epidemic that would change how the world viewed the illness. While Dr. Boylston performs inoculations, legally and illegally, the press and government wage war in a messy triangle that's nearly impossible to untangle at certain parts.

Coss offers not just many, many primary source information but the connections in a small town of only 13,000. He spends a lot of time making sure readers understand every level of interplay without preaching. For a first book, this is a pretty high standard to beat on his next. What is more interesting is that fact his research offers so much history that schools never teach, like the smallpox epidemics outside the Native American community, and how it could shut or revive a contested government in the blink of an eye.

The most surprising information, for me, was two-fold: learning Mathers' legacy and need for acceptance long after the Salem Witch Trials and how James Franklin's defiance set the stage for press freedom and anti-inoculation rhetoric at the same time. Even as a more middle of the road businessman, Franklin used the paper to not only lampoon authority, including Mathers, but also to create a more sensationalistic view of the news. Meanwhile Mathers battled and lost to demons of old while also winning some prestige, even while not taking it.

In December 1724, a meeting with Ben Franklin offered a smart piece of advice: "Stoop as you go through it [life/world], and you will miss many thumps" (281). The message was clear and offered a lot of profound observation at the end of Mathers' life. The egotistical and vain minister had learned a few lessons in this latest battle for legacy.

Dense and full of ends, the book overs a lot of information I found fascinating as non-American history buff. Definitely worth a read on how American's flagrant ignorance of government ploys helped to create the road to vaccinations and a more critical press.
Absalom's Daughters, by Suzanne Feldman

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5.0

Feldman's story reads like Zora Neale Hurston's prose: a journey of life, of finding a place to call home, while struggling against society's dictates. There's certain parts that clearly play a homage to Their Eyes Were Watching God as the two young women look for the future. With a heartbreaking 15 pages at the end, the truth of the 1950s remains stark and clear.

Sisters can't always stay with you, can't always join your journey, but it's important to make the attempt. At least in Judith's poor, white perspective, where worrying about safety is never a problem. Cassie's cautious observations show the view through the eyes of a poor black young woman. The road to misery, of putting the past behind them.

I wasn't expecting to enjoy the book as much as I did. Once I really started reading, got into the story, it was hard to put down. The adventures meshed with the 'show don't tell' motto every writer learns in school. Truths become solid when least expecting it, even with the clear build up. Ghosts chase, but not necessarily the ones you expect.

Recommended for readers who like the not-so-perfect reality of a non-Dallas life.
Poisoned Tarts, by G.A. McKevett

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3.0

The meat of the story is great. This is a lot more like a murder mystery, the kind McKevett has been layering with the characterizations. So why the 3 outta 5 stars? The story felt rushed in some ways and incomplete. For example, the use of CSI director Eileen is the same flat note that she always gets. There's no growth in the books, no matter the order of reading. The same goes for coroner Dr. Jennifer Liu. These are strong women, the foundation of the series, and yet totally underutitlized in this story.

Following the missing report of a teen who hangs out with a Paris Hilton kind of crowd, Savannah and Dirk start to look for clues. In the end, though, it feels more like a romance than their usual connection. Even the murder part of the mystery gets a little muddled. If the original story on the kidnapping had been the only mystery, the book would have been much stronger.

As it turned out, the story suffered with too many clues and repeated thoughts. Pity. I would have loved to see them really looking for Daisy without all the distraction and solidifying their friendship and partnership. Discussing their past, really discussing it. It'd be nice to see them beyond her P.I., when she was new on the force and scrappy. How that worked against Dirk's general gruffness. This was the perfect case.