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Notting Hill in the Snow–chance encounter

Notting Hill in the Snow

by Jules Wake

Notting Hill in the SnowLooking for a romance on the clean side? Enjoy Britishisms? Does a story in which the main characters put the well-being of a sweet, people-pleasing seven year old ahead of their own happiness appeal to you? How about a Christmas in Notting Hill with snow and hot chocolate? If you find these enticing, then Jules Wakes’ Notting Hill in the Snow is a perfect read for you.

Viola, who plays the viola for the London Metropolitan Opera Company, is such a likable character, always trying to help others. Unfortunately, she had a mixed childhood with parents who just weren’t very supportive. When she is asked to help with a local school’s nativity play, she meets little Gracie who has a loving, successful, and quite handsome dad. Viola empathizes with Gracie whose mother is removed both physically and emotionally.

Viola has lots of balancing acts to maintain as she tries to keep her family happy, contain her growing desire for Gracie’s dad, put on a stellar Christmas show, and complete her obligations to herself and the opera company as a professional musician.

This is the kind of book that you don’t want to end because you are enjoying it so much. At the same time, you long for that final, feel-good closure—if, in fact, it comes for Gracie, her dad, and Viola.

I find most Christmas romances I read to be good, but not excellent—usually too sweet. Notting Hill in the Snow is a step above, however. I admit I am partial to stories that include children; but, for that reason, as well as the theatre and music backdrop, and interesting characters, this book is a Christmas romance I enjoyed and highly recommend.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to HarperCollins (One More Chapter) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance

Publication:   October 11, 2019—One More Chapter (HarperCollins Publishers)

Memorable Lines:

“Good. Morning. Miss Smith,” intoned the class in a deadened robotic rhythm that threatened to suck all of the life out of me. Honestly, it was like facing a crowd of Dementors.

Lifting her chin, she regarded me with, from a seven-year-old, terrifying lofty superiority. “You can never see Frozen too many times.”

Kensington Park Road was almost bereft of traffic, the few cars driving at a snail’s pace in the heavy slush and the gorgeous stylish shops were for once sluggish and quiet, some still closed, as if the snow had spread its calming influence and decreed that today was worth taking things slow and easy.

Elaine held all the cards and I was clueless as to what the game was.

The Case of Syrah, Syrah–good story concept, difficult execution

The Case of Syrah, Syrah

by Nancy J. Parra

A Case of Syrah, SyrahA Case of Syrah, Syrah starts off as an interesting cozy mystery in a great setting and proceeds with building excitement. Unfortunately, by the time the book reaches its conclusion, the reader is ready to commit a crime against the main character. There are two major issues. First, the usually enticing twists and turns of a mystery evolve into a ride on a hamster wheel, churning round and round on the same territory. Second, the main character Taylor, in her efforts to prove her innocence, refuses to follow instructions from her own lawyer and from the sheriff to stop talking to people and to stay out of the investigation. She keeps exposing herself and others to danger, and her friends and aunt encourage her compulsions. By the end, I was ready to arrest her for obstruction.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Wine Country Mystery Series

Publication:  December 12, 2017 —Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

It was a fun and carefree moment with the wind whipping through my hair. The night smelled of vineyards and warm earth. Stars twinkled in the dark sky.

Taylor says of her investigative efforts—without altering her actions:

I couldn’t help myself.

It seemed the more I investigated, the more I incriminated myself.

Accessories to Die For–Santa Fe settings

Accessories to Die For

by Paula Paul

Accessories to Die ForPaula Paul has written a cozy mystery set in Santa Fe and tribal lands near there. As a New Mexican resident for many years, I find her use of this setting well done and effective in Accessories to Die For. She incorporates the drug problems that are all too prevalent there and the Native American culture that binds Catholicism with ancient religious beliefs. Paul showcases the tourist impact and the artisan craftsmanship.

If the author did all of that so well, why am I not excited about this book? I think it is the characters; they are just not very likable. Irene has given up her law career to be with her aging and still self-centered mother Adelle. There is a potential love interest with P.J. an attorney. Both lawyers make bad choices and do stupid (illegal) things along with jewelry artist Juanita who is looking for her druggie son Danny. There is a murder, several assaults, and a major theft. When it is all sorted out, the person who is able to lay out the facts and relationships is realistically the least likely to be able to do so.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Alibi) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Irene’s Closet Series

Publication:  December 5, 2017—Random House (Alibi)

Memorable Lines:

Danny Calabaza gave the flute its voice as he sat on a low hill that was sparsely carpeted with the brown and white grass of his tribal land. He had crafted the instrument himself from a piece of cedar wood in the manner of his grandfathers—hollowed from a branch, not split and glued together as some men did now.

The sweet scent of piñon fires wafted around her. It was a seductive scent, promising chile stew and fry bread cooked over the fires as well as warm loaves of bread pulled from the piñon-stoked hornos.

P. J. cleared his throat—something he never did in front of a prosecuting attorney. When a lawyer cleared his throat in a courtroom, it made him appear nervous. But there was something about this woman that threw him off balance. No, he wouldn’t go there. He would just look her in the eye and speak.

The Boyfriend Swap–great beach, plane, or cozy afternoon

The Boyfriend Swap

by Meredith Schorr

The Boyfriend SwapI like to vary my reading occasionally by throwing in a Chick Lit book. Meredith Schorr’s The Boyfriend Swap was a good change of pace at the the right time. The first half established characters, varying the viewpoint in clearly marked divisions between elementary school music teacher Robyn and hard driven lawyer Sidney. It is quite funny as they both have family situations coming up at Christmas where they don’t want their families to meet their respective boyfriends for various reasons.

When the boyfriend swap occurs, the book still has humorous moments, but things don’t always turn out as expected so there are some anxious times as well. Is swapping boyfriends a good idea in anyone’s mind? Will it all work out in the end for Robyn, Sidney, and their boyfriends? Come along for a fun read, but don’t model your romantic life on theirs!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Publication:   November 7, 2017—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

How were children supposed to nurture their creative sides if schools focused entirely on academics?

Giving him a quick once-over as he absently pulled his finders through his longish hair, I was taken aback by his blatant beauty. The gods of looks certainly didn’t hold back the day Perry was born. Too bad they were so stingy with his humility.

Usually, the scent of garlic from my mom’s roasted chicken made my mouth water, but the guilt-and-anxiety cocktail I was drinking rid me of an appetite.

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