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five stars

A Batter of Life and DeathA Batter of Life and Death by Ellie Alexander
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on June 30th 2015
Genres: Cozy Mystery, Mystery
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
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Welcome to Torte-a small-town family bakeshop where the coffee is hot, the muffins are fresh, and the cakes are definitely to die for...It's autumn in Ashland, Oregon-'tis the season for a spiced hot apple cider with a serving (or two) of Torte's famous peach cobbler. It's also the perfect time for Jules Capshaw to promote her family's beloved bake shop by competing in The Pastry Channel's reality show, Take the Cake. The prize is $25,000. But as Jules quickly learns, some people would kill for that kind of dough. Literally.

Then, just as Jules dusts off her Bavarian Chocolate Cake recipe and cinches up her apron, the corpse of a fellow contestant is discovered-death by buttercream. What began as a fun, tasteful televised adventure has morphed into something of a true-crime detective show for Jules and everybody else on set. Who could have killed Chef Marco, and why? Can Jules sift out the killer before someone else gets burned?

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Book Review

Throne of Glass

Throne of GlassThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's on August 7th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 404
Format: ebook
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An alternate cover edition can be found here.

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her ... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead ... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Book Review

The Walking Dead, Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us

The Walking Dead, Vol. 2: Miles Behind UsThe Walking Dead, Vol. 02: Miles Behind Us by Robert Kirkman
Series: The Walking Dead #2
Published by Image Comics on November 24, 2004
Genres: Graphic Novel, Horror
Pages: 136
Format: ebook
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Also by this author: The Walking Dead, Vol. 01: Days Gone Bye, The Walking Dead, Vol. 03: Safety Behind Bars, The Walking Dead, Vol. 04: The Heart's Desire
Illustrator: Charlie Adlard

An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months, society has crumbled: There is no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally begin living. This volume follows our band of survivors on their tragic journey in search of shelter. Characters live and die as they brave a treacherous landscape littered with packs of the walking dead.

Miles Behind Us picks up where Days Gone Bye, volume one in the series, left off, with Rick and his comrades burying Shane after Carl killed him in defense of his father. In this issue, it is decided by the group of zombie apocalypse survivors that Rick shall be their leader, as he is a natural and was a sheriff prior to the zombie invasion, after all.

Book Review

Rebecca

RebeccaRebecca by Daphne du Maurier
on December 17th 2013
Genres: Classic, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 393
Format: Paperback
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Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady's maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives--presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

It’s no wonder Alfred Hitchcock adapted Rebecca for the silver screen.

Book Review

The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye

The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone ByeThe Walking Dead, Vol. 01: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman
Series: The Walking Dead #1
Published by Image Comics on February 19th 2013
Genres: Graphic Novel, Horror
Pages: 144
Format: ebook
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Also by this author: The Walking Dead, Vol. 02: Miles Behind Us, The Walking Dead, Vol. 03: Safety Behind Bars, The Walking Dead, Vol. 04: The Heart's Desire
Illustrator: Tony Moore

How many hours are in a day when you don't spend half of them watching television?

When is the last time any of us REALLY worked to get something we wanted?

How long has it been since any of us really NEEDED something that we WANTED?

The world we knew is gone.

The world of commerce and frivolous necessity has been replaced by a world of survival and responsibility.

An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe causing the dead to rise and feed on the living.

In a matter of months society has crumbled.no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV.

In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living.

Sherriff Rick Grimes wakes up in a hospital after being in a coma for a month, only to discover that the world has changed forever – dramatically.

Book Review

Saga, Vol. 1

Saga, Vol. 1Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
Published by Image Comics on October 23rd 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction
Pages: 160
Format: Paperback
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Also by this author: Paper Girls, Vol. 1

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

Collecting: Saga 1-6

My first foray into the world of the graphic novel, Saga blew my mind – in an excellent way.

Book Review

Ghosts

GhostsGhosts by Raina Telgemeier
Published by Graphix on September 13, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade
Pages: 256
Format: ebook
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THERE'S SOMETHING DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS TOWN...

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn't happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister's sake -- and her own.

Raina Telgemeier has masterfully created a moving and insightful story about the power of family and friendship, and how it gives us the courage to do what we never thought possible.

I read Raina Telgemeier’s Ghosts in ALMOST a single day – it’s fast moving, the illustrations are precious and fun, the story is heartwarming, and there is just a tiny hint of romance. Centering around Cat and her little sister, Maya, the tale encompasses a variety of themes, among them cystic fibrosis and Latin American culture.

Book Review

Yes Please

Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler
Published by Dey St. on October 28th 2014
Genres: Humor, Memoir, Nonfiction
Pages: 329
Format: Hardcover
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In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.

“Good for you, not for me” is a tidbit of advice Poehler gives throughout her delightfully funny memoir. This advice strikes a chord with me, as it helps me to realize that not everything is good for everyone.

I was sucked into Yes Please immediately and finished reading it in a single day.

Poehler’s book is a collection of memorable essays regarding her experiences. Poehler goes into detail about personal anecdotes from her SNL and Upright Citizens Brigade days, as well as a number of other hilarious tales collected throughout her lifetime.

I laughed out loud more than once while reading Yes Please.

Poehler’s comic flair comes across incredibly in her writing and her memoir is entertaining from start to finish. Poehler keeps her story light, even when discussing her darker times.

I really enjoyed reading about her comic comrades, including Tina Fey and Seth Meyers. I also loved her tales about a handful of SNL hosts. Poehler also includes a chapter regarding her adoration for her Parks and Recreation cast-mates.

Judging from not only her acting but also her writing, Poehler is incredibly witty and talented.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves Poehler or needs a hearty laugh.

Love, Maggie

Book Review

The Fill-In Boyfriend

The Fill-In BoyfriendThe Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
Published by HarperTeen on May 5th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 343
Format: ebook
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When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.
The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.
Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

I am totally not a girl who runs to see romantic comedies – I avoid them at all costs – let alone someone who reads romance-based novels. I felt as though I was being haunted by Kasie West and her books. Seemingly everywhere I looked in the bookish blogging world were rave reviews of West’s writing.

The Fill-In Boyfriend beckoned me to crack open its cover for a long time before I gave in to my intense urge to read it, despite my prejudices regarding romance. Now, I’m also not that into reading about romance of any sort in any book of any genre, which helps illustrate my reluctance to read West’s work, which I’ve seen referred to as ‘fluffy’.

The Fill-In Boyfriend is full of fluff and I loved every minute of it! The book’s synopsis and title make it obvious enough that a girl basically uses a guy to pose as her boyfriend. What I didn’t expect was the roller coaster ride of emotions that I experienced while reading this book.

Gia, the protagonist, meets a stranger after being unceremoniously dumped right before her senior prom and, you guessed it, the stranger becomes her prom date and is introduced to her clique of gal pals as her questionable boyfriend.

Gia weaves a tight web of lies to cover up the facade of having a real boyfriend, even keeping the truth from her dearest friend, Claire. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the book is Gia’s newfound friendship with someone whom she normally would have overlooked, being the perfect popular student council president that she is.

The reader is taken on a journey of evolution for not only Gia, but for supporting characters as well. Cracks in Gia’s home life become evident; Gia’s friends slowly grow suspicious of her shenanigans; Gia’s ultimate frenemy is out to ruin her, but no one believes her, which clouds Gia’s judgment and intuition.

A caterpillar at the beginning of the book, Gia transforms into an illustrious, independent butterfly toward the end, gaining serious introspection along the way. I loved reading about Gia’s personal growth and the changes she inspires in both herself and those closest to her.

As I was taken on Gia’s road trip of lies, I was constantly swerving and weaving through emotions ranging from anger, to joy, to sadness, to empathy, to anger again, and finally to a terrific resolution.

The Fill-In Boyfriend has definitely changed my viewpoint regarding romantic, fun novels and I very much look forward to reading the rest of West’s work. Kasie West has made me an auto-buyer of her books with this single story.

Love, Maggie

Book Review

Elementary, She Read

Elementary, She ReadElementary, She Read by Vicki Delany
Published by Crooked Lane Books on March 14th 2017
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
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Gemma Doyle, a transplanted Englishwoman, has returned to the quaint town of West London on Cape Cod to manage her Great Uncle Arthur's Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. The shop--located at 222 Baker Street--specializes in the Holmes canon and pastiche, and is also the home of Moriarty the cat. When Gemma finds a rare and potentially valuable magazine containing the first Sherlock Homes story hidden in the bookshop, she and her friend Jayne (who runs the adjoining Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room) set off to find the owner, only to stumble upon a dead body.
The highly perceptive Gemma is the police’s first suspect, so she puts her consummate powers of deduction to work to clear her name, investigating a handsome rare books expert, the dead woman's suspiciously unmoved son, and a whole family of greedy characters desperate to cash in on their inheritance. But when Gemma and Jayne accidentally place themselves at a second murder scene, it's a race to uncover the truth before the detectives lock them up for good.
Fans of Sherlock Holmes will delight in the sleuthing duo of Gemma and Jayne in Elementary, She Read, the clever and captivating series debut by nationally bestselling author Vicki Delany.

Vicki Delany’s Elementary, She Read is quite possibly the coziest mystery I’ve ever read. Cozy mysteries aren’t my go-to genre; however, Delany’s tale has helped open up a whole new world of books for me. I’m highly anticipating the follow-up to this, the first in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series!

I mean, seriously, what’s not to love about a protagonist who owns a cozy bookstore focused on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as books and items related to Sherlock Holmes in general? I had so much fun reading Delany’s story that I completed in less than two days.

The characters are so lovable, yet flawed, and very well-developed. I adore the main character, Gemma Doyle, who lives in the sleepy Cape Cod tourist town of West London. Gemma is lovably snarky, absentminded, smart, witty, and superbly observant, making her the perfect amateur detective.

Gemma’s best friend and owner of the tea shop adjoining the Sherlock Holmes Bookstore and Emporium, Jayne, is an excellent foil for Gemma. Put together, organized, and gorgeous, Jayne fits the role of Gemma’s best friend perfectly.

I really like that Delany’s book focuses on the mystery at hand and character development more than romance. While there are a few dates scattered throughout the story, as well as some teasers regarding Gemma’s romantic past, I love that the mystery doesn’t get bogged down by the minutiae of attraction between the sexes.

Furthermore, I enjoyed the easy, playful dialogue between the characters and the flow of Delany’s writing style. The mystery at the center of the book is intriguing and I didn’t come close to guessing which character is the culprit.

I have never delved into Sir Doyle’s work or into the world of Sherlock Holmes, but after reading Elementary, She Read, I am incredibly looking forward to doing so.

Love, Maggie

Book Review

Paper Girls, Vol. 1

Paper Girls, Vol. 1Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matthew Wilson
Series: Paper Girls #1
Published by Image Comics on April 5th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Graphic Novel
Pages: 144
Format: Paperback
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Also by this author: Saga, Vol. 1

In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.
Collects Paper Girls #1-5.

I absolutely adore Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga series and decided to give Paper Girls a chance. While I expected the book to begin slowly for some reason, punches of action occur almost instantly. The story centers around, you guessed it – paper girls – coming of age in the late ’80s.

My favorite of the girl gang is MacKenzie Coyle, a rebel with a cause, made even more mysterious by being a cigarette smoker, even though she’s a teen. MacKenzie and company become pals with Erin, a younger girl new to the paper route circuit.

The best part of this story is that it is nothing like I anticipated – it exceeded all of my lowly expectations. A mystery begins to unfurl almost immediately, with the girls racing against time to seemingly save the world.

The paper girls definitely experience a great deal of trauma in this tale as a result of sudden changes in the world the morning after Halloween. The girls are met with danger as well as potential allies in this set-in-the-past-but-futuristic-at-the-same-time graphic novel.

The muted colors of the illustrations didn’t blow me away, but as I made my way through Paper Girls, I realized the color scheme fits with the time period in which the story is set.

Needless to say, I quickly fell in love with each character, even the ones who only stick around for a short time, as well as with the story – it has an excellent concept that is brilliantly executed. I can’t wait to get my eyes on volume two!

Love, Maggie