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she was watching me, i was watching her

she was watching me, i was watching her (Photo credit: karolajnat)

It’s June and the summer TV is terrible.  I’d rather read a cereal box than watch most of that people trapped in a house/traipsing through the wilderness/pretending to be superheroes competition nonsense.  I’ve already read so many books that I realized I’d better split my monthly round-up into parts or we’d be here ’til August.  And hey, bonus, not only are these books better than TV, they were all actually pretty good reads.

Have Your Cake and Spinach, Too:  Dessert Flavored Green Smoothies for Health and Weight Loss by Lisa Arends (99 cent kindle edition)  I was both hopeful and skeptical about this one.  How good could a green smoothie really taste?  Pretty damn good, it turns out.

Heads up:  Read all the introductory information, don’t just skip to the recipes willy-nilly.  (Guess how I figured that out?)  Lisa does an excellent job of explaining the ingredients and process.  She explains how to layer the ingredients so your blender doesn’t jam up on the frozen fruit.  That’s especially helpful for those of us with a regular blender (as opposed to a high-powered Vitamix).  She also goes into detail on amounts of liquid and greens, so take my word and read the intro.

Smoothies are pretty forgiving and easy to personalize, but since I’m a newbie, I took Lisa’s advice and used baby spinach as the greens.  Spinach is mild and the taste virtually disappears into the smoothie.  Lisa also explains how to make the smoothies vegan and gluten free, which is a nice bonus for those who need that information.

I’ve tried about 10 of the recipes so far and they were all yummy.  But it’s really disconcerting to see the green color while tasting the sweetness.  Makes my brain skip a beat.  This is a perfect book for summer with the coming hot days and bounty of fresh fruits.  Highly recommend.

Blood on the Bayou by Stacey Jay (Amazon)  #2 in a series (Dead on the Delta was the first).  I liked #1 so much, I overpaid to get #2.  It was only available as a $20 trade paperback on Amazon.  Further adventures in Louisiana with blood-sucking fairies, invisible people who could be good or could be evil, and a government that apparently doesn’t have our best interests at heart.  Ms. Jay is going to be able to write this series for a decade given the number of twists and turns she created.  And I’m beginning to think we’d better not get too attached to the cat…

I wasn’t wild about the various romantic contortions, break-ups, and make-ups.  The men in this book are screwed up.  The heroine is also screwed up, but she at least seems self-aware and knows she’s a mess.  Other than that, I really enjoyed the creepy fairies and pixies.  Recommend.

Jackrabbit Junction Jitters by Ann Charles (kindle freebie)  #2 in a series.  Back to Jackrabbit Junction, AZ for a wedding and more mystery.  Additional characters add more humor, but the goofy “rocky” romance angle was off-putting.  The darkness of the crimes and motive took me by surprise because of the overall lightness of the novel.  The bad guy(s) are clearly bad even before you know why.  Another fun read.

Knock ‘Em Dead (#2 in the Finley Anderson Tanner series) by Rhonda Pollero (paperbackswap.com)  Mystery with a large dose of romance.  It takes the whole book full of breadcrumbs (croutons, really) to find out what’s up with her pilot/perfect boyfriend.  I knew he was skeevy!  There’s definitely a pattern with these books:  there’s always a love triangle; Finley totals her leased luxury car; and she gets suspended or fired from her job.  Even so, it’s more fun than I thought it would be.

This mystery is pretty grisly, a stabbing plus genital mutilation.  (The word “penis” is thrown around a lot.  You’ve been warned.)  The villain and motive turn out to be kinda ho-hum considering the ugh factor of the murder.  It was a fast, engrossing read.

Fat Chance (#3 in the Finley Anderson Tanner series) by Rhonda Pollero (paperbackswap.com)  I know, ok?   Finley’s a fashionista Stephanie Plum, but I really like her.  Her mom’s a nightmare and this book delves a bit into her childhood.  There’s (another) romantic triangle, (another) leased luxury car is totaled, and the villain/plot twist is obvious mid-way through.  Still thought it was lots of fun and look forward to the next installment…totalled car, crazy love triangles, and all.

Nightwalker by Allyson James (Amazon)  Urban fantasy, #4 in the Janet Begay series.  I loved the first three books and I actually thought it was just a trilogy because everything was wrapped up at the end of the third book.  This series is set primarily in Arizona, but roams throughout the desert Southwest and centers on a magical Navajo woman.  Native American mythology provides most of the magic, but there are vampires, shifters, and dragons…oh my!  There’s a heavy dose of romance and explicit sex, so don’t leave it laying around for curious kids to pick up accidentally.

I like the characters and mythology in this book, but it lacked depth.  There seemed to be a lot of repetitive action that didn’t end up amounting to much.  Don’t try to read the series out of order, especially since the first three books were better.

Dark Roots and Cowboy Boots by Luann McClane (99 cents at Goodwill, baby)  Light, breezy contemporary romance that I picked up solely because the title made me laugh.

No Place Like Home (A Camilla Randall Mystery) by Anne R. Allen (kindle freebie)  Despite a heavy-handed, self-righteous introduction by the author, this was a remarkably good book.  The characters are varied, several are redeemed through their experiences; the bad guys get their comeuppance; and the seemingly worthless are heroic.  Parts of the mystery are shop-worn, but I found the characters’ charm overcame that.

Set in San Luis Obispo wine country, with a well layered haves versus have-nots theme.  The lead character (Camilla) came from a lot of money, but has next to nothing now.  She works in a small independent bookstore that’s on the verge of bankruptcy because of e-reader devices, so there’s a dig or two about that, which is pretty funny considering that I got this book as a kindle freebie.  There are a number of very convenient plot twists, but overall this was a gem of a freebie.

Carrots (A Shelby Nichols Adventure) by Colleen Helme (kindle freebie)  Suburban mom runs to the grocery store and ends up with telepathic powers (who hasn’t had that happen?  And always when you’re running late.)  Very soon, Shelby is enmeshed with an organized crime mob while worrying about a new young female employee at her husband’s law firm.  Light and silly, but entertaining.

Remix by Lexi Revellian (kindle freebie)  British contemporary fiction about an old murder and a resurrected rock star.  Doesn’t fit in one particular category.  There’s a mystery and some romance, but the story is ultimately about redemption and change.  Really enjoyed the story and characters, but the climax is over-the-top for such restrained Brit Lit.

Death Will Get You Sober (#1 in Bruce Kohler series) by Elizabeth Zelvin (kindle freebie)  A gritty novel that opens in a low-end detox facility on the Bowery of NYC and follows Bruce through his latest attempt at sobriety.  This is a down and dirty view of alcoholism and recovery.  It’s extremely well written with dead-on accuracy and lots of recovery language.  AA meetings figure prominently in the action.  In the midst of this, there are a whole bunch of murders.  Bruce and his friends end up playing amateur detectives and solving the crimes.  My only complaint is that the climax with the villain and motive were completely out of left field.  Otherwise, it was a great mystery with realistic characters and relationships.  Loved it.

Favorite lines:

“My sponsor was right.  If the stakes are high enough, anyone can learn to pray.”

“A codependent was someone who would literally rather die than make a scene.”

This book gets my highest praise:  I’d pay full price for it.  (But you can also borrow it for free from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.)

Death Will Help You Leave Him (#2 in Bruce Kohler series) by Elizabeth Zelvin (borrowed from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library)  I was prepared to buy this because I loved #1 so much, but it was available free so I snatched it up.  It wasn’t as good as the first book.  In this installment, we were walking or catching a bus or subway all over Manhattan without ever really moving forward.  The lead characters spent most of their time sleuthing or at AA/Al-Anon meetings.  What happened to their jobs?  How are they paying their NYC rent?

There was what could’ve been a great subplot about Bruce’s codependent relationship with his ex-wife, but instead, it was cartoonish and brutally ended.  (I might have a particular sensitivity about this.)  The author didn’t seem to like or understand codependents as well as she does recovering alcoholics and addicts.

Favorite line:  “‘No’ is a complete sentence.”

The murderer was the only character I figured could’ve done the deed, although I had no idea of motive.  The answer was unsatisfying and the subsequent attempted murder was completely daft.

I enjoyed the book, but maybe should’ve waited longer to read it.  Perhaps my expectations were too high after the first installment.

I’ve got stacks and stacks of books and bytes left to get me through the summer.  I love that!  What are you looking forward to in the next few months?