the bourbon kings, by j.r. ward

the bourbon kingsWow! I read this book in 2 days. I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. This is a new contemporary series by J. R. Ward that I heard is going to become a t.v. series–congrats to The Warden!

Ward describes The Bourbon Kings as a cross between Downton Abbey and Dynasty and that about nails it. Then again, she wrote the book, so she should know.

Lane Baldwine is from old money; old Kentucky bourbon money. Lizzie is the lead horticulturist for the family’s sprawling estate–Easterly. Two years ago, lies tore them apart and Lane fled to New York, not to return–until a family emergency brings him home. Now he’s back, just when Lizzie was almost over him.

There are more lies and secrets anew now that Lane has returned to Easterly. His older brother Edward, has distanced himself from the family after an awful life-altering tragedy. Gin, the only Baldwine daughter, is such a misguided self-preservationist that she sells her soul to the highest bidder. And then there’s William, the patriarch of the family, who is as cruel and ruthless as J.R. Ewing and shows no remorse for any of his actions.

Ward is a master of weaving multiple storylines together and she does so seamlessly in this tale. There’s intrigue and drama up to the very last page. The plot is well-written, though we do see a lot of cliché’s throughout its telling. And while there is some predictability, there is enough originality to keep the reader interested–not to mention all of the loose ends that are yet to be tied up.

Personally, I can’t wait for this story to come to the small screen. In the meantime, the next chapter in this hit series, The Angels’ Share, comes out on July 26.


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mean streak, by sandra brown


I’ve read one other book by Sandra Brown, years ago. And while I can’t remember which book, I do remember liking it and thinking, I should read something else by her. Well, years later, Mean Streak is it.

This book was briefly on the NY Times Best Seller list and I was in desperate need of a read, so it seemed like a good option. Then, I picked it up. I had serious reservations from the start–I thought it was going to be Gone Girl-esque. Yes, I am the only person on the planet who did not like Gone Girl. I can appreciate that it was cleverly written, but at the end of the day, I need to like a character or two. In Gone Girl, I liked NONE of the characters and at page 12 of Mean Streak, I feared it was going to be the same situation. Thankfully, I persevered because I wound up truly enjoying this book.

Dr. Emory Charbonneau and her husband Jeff have a troubled marriage. They’ve just had a serious argument and to top it off, she’s heading out-of-town for the weekend to train for a marathon. After an accident on her run leads to a mysterious man and 4 days that turn into far more than the weekend she bargained for, danger and mystery become a natural part of Emory’s life.

Mean Streak was a quick and enjoyable read. While the title of the book is incredibly misleading, the twists, turns, story-line, and writing make up for it. There were passages I had to read multiple times because, “I didn’t see that coming!”

In addition, to the mystery and suspense, there’s a bit of a love story weaved in. I can honestly say that even though there were several layers to the plot, it wasn’t too much or overwhelming. Brown did a very nice job of intermingling characters and plot-lines so they made for a cohesive and well-rounded story. I think I may have to pick up another Sandra Brown book.

heart rating:

small heart rating

small heart rating

die again, by tess gerritsen

die again coverDie Again is the latest book in the Rizzoli & Isles series by Tess Gerritsen. While I’ve never watched the tv show (which I know has been a success) I am a huge fan of the book series. This latest installment does not disappoint.

The book begins 6 years ago on safari in Botswana. It alternates between Africa and Boston–where Rizzoli & Isles are investigating the murder of a taxidermist. Often times, the flashback technique can be annoying, not so in this case. Gerritsen does a great job of giving you enough of the present day while at the same time making you hunger for more of the Africa back-story.

The twists and turns this book takes keeps you engaged and intrigued until the very end. Jane’s personal drama, which always has a twinge of humor, was ever-present with her family. And we got to see a little more of her FBI husband Gabriel. To top it off, the descriptions of Africa and the beautiful natural landscape had me doing some Google searches thinking…hmmm…maybe.

I read a lot of books–I’m targeting 70 in this year’s GoodReads Book Challenge–and I don’t always remember every detail of books that are series, even the ones I love. Gerritsen make reference to the case where Maura testified against and helped put a police officer in prison, her affair with priest Daniel Brophy (that I remember), and Maura’s mother comes back into the fold. These were all great story lines, it would just be nice if we could get a few more details as a refresher about stories that played out several books ago.

If you are a fan of the Rizzoli & Isles series, this book is a must read. It’s classic Gerritsen with the characters–although Maura is somewhat annoyingly broody, but Jane balances her out. And the story is different and interesting. Truth-be-told, I did learn more about taxidermy than I need to.

to read or not to read recommendation:
to read

tara’s tips: One of the blogs I follow and encourage others to also, is Baked Bree. Bree Hester has started a weekly newsletter devoted to the things she discovers and falls for. One was a book challenge by another blogger, the Modern Mrs. Darcy. I am signing on for it. For all the avid readers out there, I recommend it!

Book Review: Dust

dustIt is no secret that I love a good book series (a friend of mine pointed this out while we were lounging in Tampa a few weeks ago visiting another friend). One of my all-time favorites is Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series. The characters are so well written; I love how they have evolved over the years, along with the story lines. We’ve seen one character, Lucy, Kay’s niece, literally grow up throughout the books–it’s been awesome. Actually, Lucy is pretty awesome, but that’s another story entirely. Back to the topic at hand…

Dust, is the 21st book in the Kay Scarpetta series. One of the kudos I have to give Cornwell with this book was how she eased up on the ‘technical speak’ throughout. It was as if she heard my plea for this very thing! In the past, some of the books in the series have been so rife with acronyms and descriptions of spectrometers and various other instruments that I have either zoned out or skipped over parts all together–there I said it. And while I’m confessing, I’m going to put it out there that I have been in love with Benton Wesley, Kay’s husband, (and yes, a fictional character), forever now. As usual, I digress…

True to form, there is a murder–several actually–and a colorful and intriguing dust is left on the bodies. There’s corruption at the FBI, cue lots of Benton!  A job change for Marino. And somewhat new to the fray, there was sarcastic humor, which made the interaction between characters that much more fun.

One drawback, and this has become the case in the last few books, Kay has come across as somewhat whiny and self-absorbed. For the most part, it was confined to the early part of the book and was tempered by the fact that it did help us glean further insight into her relationship with Marino via a never-before-scene from their Virginia days. Additionally, she spent a great deal of time explaining Benton’s actions, thought process, and feelings to us–which at times was interesting, but also somewhat took away from his mystique. (But don’t get me wrong–I’m still in love with him.)

All in all, I liked the book. It seemed short and the reveal of the killer, while intricate, was a bit of an after-thought. There was so much detail to follow on the FBI cover-up that you felt detached from the actual killings that were taking place–and hence, the premise of the book. Personally, I’d like to see the next book be a bit longer with more of the personal character interactions, continued humor, and a primary story arc. Then again, Dust has me thinking that Cornwell is setting the stage for more mysteries in the Scarpetta series–and I can’t wait!

Blog Note: As is the case with all things, they evolve–and my blog is no different. Stay tuned for expanded reviews, a rating system, a new look in 2014, and more! 

Book Review: The Bone Bed

I have read every single book in Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series. The Bone Bed is book #20, yes #20. Other than James Patterson’s Alex Cross series and of course, The Black Dagger Brotherhood (which is only up to book 12), I’ve never been so devoted. Although, to be fair–I tried very hard to stay engaged with the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, but at book 17–which I couldn’t finish–I gave up. The characters in her books never evolve; the story lines are identical, sadly–they just stopped being fun. But, I digress…

The Kay Scarpetta series is, without a doubt, my favorite series of all time. I’ve been in love with the fictional Benton Wesley since ummm…forever, and Lucy is just cool. So, I’m giddy with anticipation with each new release. (And I’d like to point out that I was a total geek and very excited when my favorite tv show–Criminal Minds (and it’s not my favorite just because of Shemar Moore, though seriously, if that were the only reason, who would blame me???)–had Patricia Cornwell in an episode last season promoting her latest Scarpetta book, Red Mist.) Which brings me to now…

The Bone Bed. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. The first thing that comes to mind is the level of detail regarding the technicalities of forensic pathology she went into. Yes, Scarpetta is a forensic pathologist (among other speciliaties…lawyer…) but the acronyms, chemicals, devices…I don’t know what they are, and quite frankly, I don’t care. I get that the character is really smart and we need to have a thorough understanding of what’s being done to understand the killer, but…enough is enough. (And mind you, I’m also a fan of the Rizzoli and Isles series–NOT the tv show, the actual books.)

As usual, I loved Benton in this book. Marino was essentially absent and Lucy was sort of around. The ending was somewhat abrupt, but I have to say Cornwell was clever in how she tied everything together and I never once suspected who the killer was. My personal opinion: spend more time with the characters we’ve grown to love, having them interact and fleshing out where they are in their lives, and less time on describing the latest and greatest in forensic gadgets and government acronyms.

If you’re a fan of this series, definitely read the book. It’s not disappointing–but you probably won’t love it. If you’ve never read the Scarpetta series, this should not be the first one you read–start at the beginning; definitely worth it.