Back Roads by Tawni O’Dell

Reporting in with Book Number 3 on my Summer Reading Challenge, a book I read a long time ago and don’t remember. But first a confession: the reason why I don’t remember this book is because I never finished it in the first place.

I purchased Back Roads by Tawni O’Dell over ten years ago when I noticed the Oprah’sBack Roads Book Club sticker. When I read it last week I realized I never got past page 30 the first time around. I stopped because the storyline was too dark and tragic for me at the time. I’m glad I finally picked it up again because I thought the book was great.

The main character and narrator of Back Roads is Harley Altmyer, a 19 year old man who is left to raise his three younger sisters after their mother is convicted of murdering their abusive father. Cheery right? That is exactly why I put it down the first time.

Harley’s life is not easy. He’s overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising his sisters with no time or money to be a regular teenager. He’s also saddled down with the tragedy of his family’s past and present. His sisters, Amber, Misty and Jody have issues of their own as well. Harley’s only solace is the MILF next door, Callie Mercer who provides him with the comfort and escape he needs.

It’s clear that life handed Harley a bad hand. He deals with it through a snarky and sarcastic attitude. This is one of the strong elements of this book and why I found it so enjoyable. In spite of his darkness, or perhaps because of it, Harley is a likable character. As the first person narrator of the story, we are subjected to all his thoughts including the very dark ones that make us question Harley’s fate. However we also see that he is a sensitive young man who cares about his sisters and others around him. As the story progresses we learn more about the Altmyer family dynamics as well as the murder of Harley’s father and the result is an even deeper dive into Harley’s character.

I enjoyed this book very much. The premise had me hooked from the beginning and about 100 pages in I became extremely close to all the characters with a genuine interest in what became of them.

I also have another confession to make about this book: I skipped ahead. (I know! I’m sorry Tawni O’Dell!) I partly blame the foreshadowing in the first few pages. They haunted me and I just had to know how it all ended. I’ll admit I learned my lesson on this one because knowing the ended ruined the mood O’Dell worked so hard to create. I promise I will never read ahead again!

If you are looking for a good family drama I recommend Back Roads. I will warn you, the book hits on some pretty sensitive subject matters including abuse and incest. There’s also some pretty hot MILF scenes.

I give this book a Relaxed Mrs. B.

Mrs. B rating relaxed

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Educating Caroline by Patricia Cabot

Choice number two of the Summer Reading Challenge hosted by Little Miss Drama Queen, a book that had been sitting on your shelf for over a year, was one of the more difficult choices for me since it described most of the books on my bookshelf. I narrowed the choice down by choosing a Meg Cabot novel and then narrowed those down by choosing one of Cabot’s old regency romance novels written under her pen name, Patricia Cabot. TheEducating Caroline result was Educating Caroline.

Taking place in 1870 London, Lady Caroline Linford is engaged to Hurst Devenmore Slater, the Marquis of Winchilsea. She’s pretty happy about it until she catches him cheating on her with another aristocrat, Lady Jacquelyn Seldon. Not wanting to disgrace her family by calling off the wedding Caroline decides to instead engage the services of notorious lady’s man Braden Granville to teach her how to entice her betrothed away from the slutty Lady Jacquelyn. It sounds pretty silly doesn’t it? Not to mention scandalous. But Caroline’s own mother plants the seed for the idea when she says that in order to hold on to a man Caroline should use her body…

“…which, if I do say so myself, is the spitting image of the one I had at your age, and which I used to excellent advantage…”

Braden Granville is not only a womanizer with a horrible reputation, he is not even titled (gasp!) and has made his fortune on his new fangled gun company. His appearance is secondary, possessing the self-made confidence and logic we all love in Cabot’s leading men. (In fact, based on his dominant traits I would not be surprised if he is an ancestor if Michael Moscovitz.) Caroline shocks him with her unusual request for lessons but seeing as it is a romance novel, passionate sparks fly throughout.  (Code for: there’s a lot of sex.)

In addition to the love triangle Caroline finds herself in, there is also a mystery involving the Marquis and Caroline’s brother which is quite intriguing.

While I did enjoy Educating Caroline, I did have a hard time getting into it mostly because I’m getting a little bored with the regency romance genre. That said, the novel is still quite delightful especially given Cabot’s humor which is the basis for this story. She even throws in a few references to the always pregnant Lady Rawlings who hardcore and keen eyed Meg Cabot fans know is in fact Pegeen MacDougal who married Lord Edward Rawlings in her first published book, Where Roses Grow Wild.

If you are looking for an old school regency romance with humor and a fun storyline I highly recommend Educating Caroline. I give it a Classic Mrs. B.

Mrs. B rating classic

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Watermelon and Ague

I love watermelon. The other day I picked up a beautiful one at Grocery Outlet for onlyLittle House on the Prairie $1.99. As I was slicing it up I was reminded, as I often am, of my favorite chapter from Little House on the Prairie, “Fever and Ague.”

Those of you who have read the book as many times as I have must recognize the connection. As the family recovers from a bad bout of Malaria, which they survived thanks to the medical savvy of Dr. Tan, Pa goes over to the neighbor’s house and comes back with a giant watermelon. He slices it open with a butcher knife but Ma refuses to let Laura or Mary have a bite because she believes the rumors that the fever they just suffered was caused by watermelons.

Back then they didn’t know that Malaria was carried by mosquitoes. According to previous chapters in the book the mosquitoes

were pretty bad on the prairie that summer so it’s not surprising that the Ingalls came down with Malaria. Even though they didn’t make the mosquito connection I always thought Ma was pretty naïve to believe the watermelon myth.

I mean seriously Ma! Pa says right there that he hadn’t had a watermelon “since Hector was a pup” thereby proving that there had been no watermelon in house before or at the time of the illness. If watermelon really was the culprit wouldn’t they have to eat it before they caught the fever? Ma was either still hallucinating or something else was going on – some nuance I still don’t get.

Not only that but how horrible is Pa in this scene? The entire family had been existing on nothing but wild game and cornbread for months, Ma refuses to let Laura and Mary even taste the watermelon and yet Pa eats it in front of them. Can you imagine watching someone eat a sweet juicy watermelon on a hot summer day and not getting to participate? Especially if you were a little girl who had just suffered a traumatic illness? Pa and Ma are just mean in this scene, mean I tell you!

As I recall, this is the only time in all of the Little House books that Laura Ingalls Wilder ever mentions watermelon. I hope she finally got a piece in her adulthood. I also hope she got a good deal.

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Priceless by Christina Dodd

When it comes to romance novels, Christina Dodd is a household name. I’ve enjoyed herPriceless Facebook feed and blog for years. I also see her books everywhere and finally got around to reading one last month. I decided to start with one of her earlier novels, Priceless which was published in 1992.

The heroine is feisty little Bronwyn Edana, daughter of a respected but penniless nobleman and the seventh of eight sisters. In addition to being the ugly duckling (apparently petite, curly haired blonds were not desired in 18th century England) she also has the misfortune of being rather intelligent and outspoken. Despite all this her parents manage to have her betrothed to the hot hunky hero, Adam Kean, the Lord Rawson of Boudasea Manor.

Adam is arrogant, walks with a limp and has a questionable reputation. Unfortunately these are qualities Bronwyn must accept as this is as good a husband she can expect. Luckily for her family, Lord Rawson is also rich and accepts a marriage contract with Bronwyn sight unseen. He is sadly disappointed when they first meet as Bronwyn is awkwardly dressed in a dark haired wig and ridiculous clothing in an attempt to mimic the look of her sisters.

It isn’t long before the two strong personalities of Adam and Bronwyn clash and passionate sparks begin to fly. They develop a fervent and very physical relationship plagued by a misunderstanding that eventually sends Bronwyn to the solace of a London salon where she attempts to hide from Adam and her family and vows to never marry.

I had a vague understanding of salons from Renaissance history class but this book was the first time I was exposed to the concept in more depth. When Bronwyn first enters the salon of Madame Rachelle I just assumed it was a high class brothel. The salon in Priceless is nothing of the sort with no hanky panky going on – aside from the romantic antics of Dodd’s characters that is. Rather, Madame Rachelle describes her own salon as follows:

“…a place where men and women of the intellectual, social, and artistic elites can converse freely.”

It is of course a place where Bronwyn can shine and is also ordered to shed her wig forever. When Adam finds her there he is, of course, won over by her beauty and vows to get her back at any price. The rest of the book tells the story of their romance, peppered with a dangerous criminal element and a twist at the end.

I have to admit it. I was not thrilled by this book and had a hard time getting through it. The elements for interest were certainly there but for some reason they did not grab me. I claim some responsibility as these type of regency romances are usually hit or miss for me.

The other part that threw me was the structure of the story. It was all over the place. The first half took place at Lord Rawson’s estate and focused on both Adam and Bronwyn’s family dynamics. The second half took place in the salon in London and focused on the shady criminal conspiracy that entangles Adam, Bronwyn and a whole new batch of characters. It was almost like two books smashed together.

Priceless is from very early in Dodd’s writing career, her second or third book I think, so I’m not ready to write her work off entirely. I look forward to exploring more. I was glad to see this one end though. I’m going to have to give Priceless a Cautious Mrs. B.

Mrs. B rating cautious

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Manhattan in Miniature by Margaret Grace

I’ve already talked about when I first discovered the miniature mystery books written by Camille Minichino, under the pen name of Margaret Grace. Last year I actually had the
opportunity to meet Camille at a miniature show in San Jose. I liked her immediately and not just because she’s a real published author. One look at Camille’s website will show you all she’s accomplished in life. I want to be just like her when I grow up.

A few months ago Camille offered me a copy of her latest miniature mystery novel, Manhattan in Miniature*. Normally I don’t like to read ahead in a series but I couldn’t resist so I took Camille up on the offer. I’m glad I did.  Even though it sounded like a lot has gone on in Gerry’s life (spoiler alert: she’s engaged!) I was able to pick right up and enjoy a fun mystery set in The Big Apple at Christmas time.

The book starts, as they all do, with a witty play on miniatures. Gerry is refrigerator shopping and can’t decide which one she wants. In the end she decides to “buy them all” causing a newbie to think “wait…what?” We regulars get the little joke of course. Sure enough in the next paragraphs it is revealed that Gerry is at SuperKrafts stocking up on supplies for her hobby of building miniature room boxes.

Right there at SuperKrafts the premise of the book is set. We meet the store manager, Bebe (well I did at least, based on the banter between the characters Bebe has been introduced in previous books that I haven’t read yet) who invites Gerry to attend a big craft show in New York City. SuperKrafts will pay for the trip and guess what? Even Maddie (Gerry’s granddaughter) can go! Cozy excitement for the plotline has been set and the fact that its weeks before Christmas makes it even better.

But wait, you’re asking, what about the murder? I’ll admit that the thought of Gerry and Maddie solving a murder mystery in New York City scared me a little. Luckily the murder storyline was more annoying than dangerous. Gerry calls her friend Cynthia with the good news of her visit and learns that Cynthia’s 90 year old Aunt Elsie has died in her Manhattan apartment. Cynthia is convinced her aunt was murdered and she wants Gerry to solve the crime.

By the way, when I say the murder storyline in this book was annoying I mean that in a good way. I think Camille wanted the reader to be annoyed by Cynthia’s character and let me tell you, she nailed it! I consider a book to be very well written if it can invoke emotion in the reader. One page into the scene where we meet Cynthia “in person” and I was ready to slug her.

As per usual there is plenty for Maddie to do as well. She provides her super sleuth computer skills to help her grandmother and also helps the hotel security department with their own little mystery. Maddie also acts as the conduit for the one bit of tension and suspense we do get at the end of the story.

In addition to the criminally fun storylines, the book also makes for a good New York City travel guide. Gerry and Henry’s engagement is also noted throughout the book, although Henry spends a lot time out of the picture having scheduled a trip to Hawaii while Gerry is in New York. Now that I’ve broken my rule of reading ahead in the series I’m anxious to get back on schedule and see exactly how this engagement and find out first hand how great a guy he is.

If you are looking for a fun, cozy mystery with the excitement of New York City go out and get yourself a copy of Miniature in Manhattan. I give it a Classic Mrs. B.

Mrs. B rating classic

*Disclosure:  This review is my own honest opinion.

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Testing! Testing! 1…2…3

Putting up a test post after not having access to my WordPress dashboard for a week now due to a brutal hacker attack thwarted by my hosting company.  Made some pretty high tech changes to help prevent this in the future….all by myself!  (ie: no help from Jerry) 

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Summer Reading Challenge


Ever since I finished my Princess Diaries binge read I’ve been feeling a little lost and disorganized in my reading choices. I keep asking myself “what next?” Getting no good answers, I end up grabbing something off my bookshelf that I give little or no attention to.

Last week I came across a summer reading challenge proposed by Diana at Little Miss Drama Queen. I’ve never participated in a reading challenge but in light of my need to focus my reading I decided this would be a good one to try. Diana has a list of 10 types of books to read by September 13, 2015. It’s a pretty lofty goal for me but I’m willing to give it a shot.

Here are the books I’ve chosen:

1. A book recommended by a friend – Mindfulness In Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana

My friend Sue is always recommending books to me and they are usually good picks. She is currently reading Mindfulness In Plain English so I thought I’d give it a shot as well.

2. A book that has been sitting on your shelf for over a year – Educating Caroline by Meg Cabot

You didn’t think I’d get by without listing a Meg Cabot book did you? Educating Caroline is one of her old regency romances that I still haven’t read.

3. A book you read a long time ago and don’t remember – Back Roads by Tawni O’Dell

I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to find something for this category since I tend to have a good memory of the books I read. I was going to cheat and pick a book I really liked and wanted to read again. However, when I looked at my bookshelf I found Back Roads and realized it would fit the bill perfectly. I have a vague recollection reading this book and do remember the snarky tone of the narrator. But for the life of me, I can’t remember what the heck the book is about. The synopsis seems interesting so I’m looking forward to the (re)-read.

4. A book from your to be read list – Shrinkage by Bryan Bishop

I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since I heard about it on the Adam Carolla podcast.

5. A book you never heard of – Hello I Love You by Katie M. Stout

So much to choose from for this category! In order to avoid getting overwhelmed I decided to be quick and choose the first book that grabbed my attention. The premise of this one did the trick: a super rich girl runs away to boarding school and falls in love with a Korean rock star. MJ at Howdy YAL, where I first saw the book, gave it a “meh” review, as did others as I found out, but I’m going to go for it anyway.

6. A classic – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’m embarrassed to admit how many classics I have not read. This is one of them.

7. A book you started but never finished – Work as a Spiritual Practice by Lewis Richmond

I enjoyed this book when I first started it years ago and have been wanting to finish it for a long time.

8. A new release – Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

I’ve been following Matt on Twitter for quite a while and have been wanting to read his memoir which came out earlier this year.

9. A book outside of your typical genre – A Good Marriage by Stephen King

Thrillers are typically not my thing, too stressful, but I’ve been wanting to try Stephen King for years so here goes!

10. A chunkster (400+ pages) – The Rebels by John Jakes

This is the next volume in the Kent Family Chronicles which has been on my list for a while. It’s 467 pages so qualifies as a short chunkster. Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone but I’m going to read the e-book version to save my wrists.

As you can see from the date on the banner I am already late with this challenge, eeeek! Time to get reading.

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Royal Wedding Giveaway–The Big Winner!


And the winner of my extra copy of Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot is….Peggy!

It was a tough choice as you can see by the overwhelming response I received in the comments section.

Peggy is not a Meg Cabot fan…yet. I think Royal Wedding is a good place for new readers to start. While it is technically volume 11 of the Princess Diaries series, the story itself is completely new and requires no previous knowledge from the earlier books.

Happy reading Peggy! I look forward to getting your thoughts on the book.

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Royal Wedding GIVEAWAY!

Royal Wedding

It’s here! Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot released yesterday!

If you’ve never read the Princess Diaries books (the movie was completely different) by Meg Cabot Royal Wedding is a great place to start. It’s the story of a modern day princess who has a variety of sometimes funny, sometimes tender, family drama issues to work through as she prepares for her big royal wedding to her hot hunky fiancé, Michael Moscovitz. If you are a long time fan of the series you’re going to love catching up with Princess Mia and her royally funny family and friends!

Meg-A Readers 2015 Banner!

To celebrate the release of the book and in honor of the Meg-A-Readers blog hop hosted by Mandy at the Romance Bookie and Diana at Little Miss Drama Queen I’m doing something unprecedented in the history of the Lady Jessop. I have an extra copy of the book which I am giving away! If you would like a chance to win it, leave a comment below and to make it fun tell us the name of your favorite book character. Comments close on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. I’ll pick the name of the winner from a hat, a highly scientific process and announce the results on Thursday, June 11, 2015.

Good luck and my all your royal wishes come true!

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Ten Things I Loved about Royal Wedding

Meg-A Readers 2015 Banner!As a Meg Cabot fan I have the privilege of participating in the 4th annual Meg-A Readers Blog Hop hosted by Mandy at the Romance Bookie and Diana at Little Miss Drama Queen. As an official “Meg-A Reader” can I tell you how thrilled I was to get an advanced reader copy of Royal Wedding? I know ARCs are common place for “real” book bloggers but not me! So when I actually got one from Meg Cabot’s publisher I let out a SQUEEEEE so loud I think the neighbors heard. I then had to put my Princess Diaries binge read into race gear so I could get my “Meg Cabotyness” on and enjoy Royal Wedding in full sequence.

Now that all the reading is done (sniff!) I wanted to share with you Royal Weddingthe ten things I loved about the book:

1. Limos – No Meg Cabot novel is complete without them and Royal Wedding is no different. Mia actually gets driven around in a Hybrid Electric Livery Vehicle now that she’s an environmentally conscious adult but Grandmère still uses a traditional limo and in this book we get details about what it’s like inside.

2. Food – I love the descriptions of food in fiction novels, especially the delicious meals the royals eat in the Princess Diaries novels. In Royal Wedding we get a delicious list of all the food Marie Rose, chef for the Consulate General of Genovia, leaves in Mia’s fridge. Yum!

3. Romantic Island Vacation – If you’ve read the synopsis of the book you already know that Michael proposes to Mia during a romantic Caribbean getaway. Just wait until you hear about this place! I’ve already gone back and read that section of the book twice in an effort to take a little fantasy vacation myself.

4. Olivia Grace – This is the name of Mia’s long lost half sister who gets introduced in this book. I loved her and you will too. In fact, if you want to get to know her better you can read the middle grade novel with Olivia Grace’s version of the story in From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess. It is of course not the whole story, but is delightful just the same.

5. Rocky – We actually don’t get to see much of him in Royal Wedding but we hear a lot about him. He’s not a baby anymore. He’s an adolescent boy and he’s obsessed with farts. I have a feeling that we may see more of Rocky in the Middle School Princess series. I hope so anyway!

6. Storyline hinted at in the previous books is finally resolved – I’m not going to tell you what storyline I’m talking about but if you think about it enough you’ll know which one I mean. It was just what I wanted to have happen.

7. Lilly – I was never really a fan of Lilly, even after she and Mia patched things up in book 10, Princess Mia. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find that she finally shows Mia a little respect and compassion in Royal Wedding. It also made up for my disappointment about Tina Hakim Baba whose storyline and lackluster personality at age 25 made me go “m’eh.”

8. Genovian drinking song – Yes there is such a thing. The lyrics are basically “Forgive me Mother for I am drunk again!” I won’t tell you who sings it though.

9. Grandmerè – She’s back and she’s better than ever!

10. And speaking of Grandmerè, she is, of course, the inspiration for my favorite quote: “In Grandmerè’s day, people didn’t take antidepressants or go see therapists when they were distressed about something. They had some sense slapped into them, or they had a drink ‘like a normal person.’” (I am clearly living my life as if it were in Grandmerè’s day.)

What were your favorite things from Royal Wedding?

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