Book Review: Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover Swank

Title: Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes (Rose Gardner Mystery, Book 1)
Author: Denise Grover Swank
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date: 19 March 2012

Twitter: @DeniseMSwank 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV on a Friday afternoon is bad even before she sees a vision of herself dead. She’s had plenty of visions, usually boring ones like someone’s toilet’s overflowed, but she’s never seen one of herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered on her sofa instead, two things are certain: There isn’t enough hydrogen peroxide in the state of Arkansas to get that stain out, and Rose is the prime suspect.

Rose realizes she’s wasted twenty-four years of living and makes a list on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt: twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before her vision comes true. She’s well on her way with the help of her next door neighbor Joe, who has no trouble teaching Rose the rules of drinking, but won’t help with number fifteen– do more with a man. Joe’s new to town, but it doesn’t take a vision for Rose to realize he’s got plenty secrets of his own.

Somebody thinks Rose has something they want and they’ll do anything to get it. Her house is broken into, someone else she knows is murdered, and suddenly, dying a virgin in the Fenton County jail isn’t her biggest worry after all.


I had seen Twenty Eight and a Half Wisheson the Amazon UK free bestseller list, however the cover did not really appeal to me so, I have to admit, I had not read the blurb. It was only when my friend recommended the book to me that I decided to give it a go. My friend briefly explained the premise to the story and I had to agree that it sounded interesting.
The first sign of a good book is a gripping first sentence/paragraph. This book starts out simply with the line “It all started when I saw myself dead”. Brilliant! I instantly wanted to read more.
Rose Gardner is an interesting and very likeable character. She is an innocent, down-trodden girl living an unadventurous life split between working at the DMV and caring for her ungrateful and unaffectionate mother. She is very much lacking in any life experience and is continuing to miss out on so much of what life has to offer. One sentence in chapter one really resonated with me “I sighed, a deep and heavy sigh. If only sighs could carry all my troubles away. But after a big exhale, they were still there, as large as ever.”  Rose realises that she has wasted 24 years of her life, running around after her demanding mother. She makes a list on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt, listing the things she wants to do/achieve before she dies. I found myself mentally applauding her as she sits down to make her list. I really wanted to see her make changes and take control of her own life, to experience everything she is missing out on. Rose finds that just by making the decision to take the first step towards breaking ties with her mother fills her full of hope for her future “Like a can of ice cold Coke just poured in a glass, giddiness bubbled up and filled my heart with fizzy joy”.
Rose meets her next door neighbour, Joe McAllister, at a time when her world is thrown into turmoil. He is kind, good looking, great company but he is mysterious and he is definitely holding something back from Rose. Can she trust him? If he one of the good guys?
The burgeoning friendship between Rose and Joe is great to read. They are both thoroughly likeable characters with some great chemistry flowing between them. Their relationship sets of on a rollercoaster of ups and downs. If only they get chance to see where their relationship is heading…
The main plot to the book is a murder mystery. Can Rose and Jo figure out who the killer is before Rose gets locked up for a crime she did not commit? The story is pacey and suspenseful. I did not guess the real killer or the motive for the crime, which is a huge plus point for me. I had to keep reading in order to find out ‘whodunnit’!
A sub-plot sees Rose asks Joe to help her cross of everything on her ‘to do’ list, before she potentially does not have the chance to do them anymore. Some of those items are fairly easy – getting cable TV, riding in a convertible and drinking a beer… Others are a bit more risqué – getting boyfriend, kissing a man… It is this sub-plot where we see an added element of humour which is a nice relief to the more serious main plotline.
Twenty Eight and a Half Wishesis light-hearted, feel-good read. It is a mix of mystery, suspense, action, romance and humour all rolled into one gripping story. There are some moments where you have to suspend belief and just accept what you’re being told, however I thought it was an entertaining read overall. I would guess that the target audience is teenage girls/young adults, however I think the book would prove enjoyable to adults also. I’m looking forward to picking up the second book in the series soon.

About the Author

Denise Grover Swank is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author. She writes urban fantasies without vampires and werewolves, romantic comedy mysteries set in the south, and sexy new adult contemporary romances. Denise has six children, three dogs, and an overactive imagination. She can be found dancing in her kitchen with her children, reading or writing her next book. You will rarely find her cleaning.
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