Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Space by Emily Sue Harvey

Book Overview:

Dan and Deede Stowe have worked for years, planning and saving for their idyllic retirement years. Just when they finally are about to realize their dream, their adult, recovering drug-addict daughter, Faith, moves back in with them and everything changes. Their “miracle child”, complete with druggie baggage, upsets the tranquil balance of the Stowe’s existence. Amid chaotic challenges, all three battle to find peace with each other, a harmony that doggedly eludes them. For the sake of family solidarity, each is forced to sacrifice elemental components of self, until desperation turns them one against the other. Will love be enough to turn the tide? Is it strong enough to warm again hearts grown cold?

My Thoughts:

I do think this book was a good depiction of what living with an addict can do to a family. The writing seemed somewhat disjointed. I was often confused as to where the story was in outlining Faith’s long road to recovery. It did occur to me that a family in this circumstance probably feels confused and disjointed, so from that perspective, maybe the book was right on.

I recently asked someone why is tough love such a hard concept to apply? Why do we sometimes allow repeated bad behavior? The response to this question was – because we usually think this will be THE TIME that if I help, that person will make a turn around. This will be THE TIME it will work. One more TIME, and then I’ll stop.

Such was the case for Dan and Deede Stowe. Good, bad or otherwise – they never gave up on Faith. Unconditional love versus tough love – which would you choose?

Thanks you to Netgalley and The Story Plant Publishing for allowing me to read the ARC.

 My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Monday, September 19, 2011

The AccidentThe Accident by Linwood Barclay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Overview:

It’s the new normal at the Garber household in Connecticut: Glen, a contractor, has seen his business shaken by the housing crisis, and now his wife, Sheila, is taking a business course at night to increase her chances of landing a good-paying job.

Waiting for Sheila’s return, with their eight-year-old daughter sleeping soundly, Glen soon finds his worst fears confirmed: Sheila and two others have been killed in a car accident. Adding to the tragedy, the police claim Sheila was responsible.

Glen knows it’s impossible; he knew his wife and she would never do such a thing. When he investigates, Glen begins to uncover layers of lawlessness beneath the placid surface of their suburb, secret after dangerous secret behind the closed doors.

Propelled into a vortex of corruption and illegal activity, pursued by mysterious killers, and confronted by threats from neighbors he thought he knew, Glen must take his own desperate measures and go to terrifying new places in himself to avenge his wife and protect his child.

My Thoughts:

Woo – hoo! What a fun story this turned out to be. A real page turner from the very beginning. Poor Glen, one thing on top of another happens to him after his wife dies. How quickly his life changed when he least expected it, only to find out that nothing was what it seemed when Sheila was still alive. And just when everything seems solved, there is a twist at the very end.

At one point as I was reading this book I thought ok – really, could all this really happen to one man in one small town? It made me think of when we are watching a movie and my husband says –no way that could ever happen. You know what I say – it’s a dang movie – anything can happen in a movie!

That’s how I felt about The Accident. Does it matter if it’s all possible? It’s a book of fiction – chill out and enjoy the ride! Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for allowing me to read this ARC.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How to Eat a Cupcake: A NovelHow to Eat a Cupcake: A Novel by Meg Donohue

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Overview:

Funny, free-spirited Annie Quintana and sophisticated, ambitious Julia St. Clair could not be more different. Yet, as the daughter of the St. Clair’s housekeeper, Annie grew up side-by-side with Julia in the St. Clair’s San Francisco mansion and the girls were as close as sisters until a life-altering betrayal destroyed their friendship.

A decade later, Annie has become a talented, if underpaid, pastry chef who bakes to fill the void left in her heart by her mother’s death. Julia, a successful businesswoman, is tormented by a painful secret that could jeopardize her engagement to the man she loves. After a chance reunion prompts the unlikely duo to open a cupcakery, the women struggle to repair their friendship as the shop becomes the target of an increasingly hostile series of incidents. Despite the threats of the present and shadows of the past, Annie and Julia – emboldened and soothed by intoxicatingly delicious cupcakes – learn the power of forgiveness, find love where they least expect it, and discover the importance of family, in all its complex forms.

My Thoughts:

Right up front, I want to say how much I enjoyed this book.

I think this falls into the category of chick lit. This is not a genre I pursue, as I don’t always get the point of reading this kind of story. But honestly, the past several books I’ve read have been stab ‘em, burn ‘em, slash ‘em murder mysteries, that this book was a very welcomed break.

I liked Annie right from the beginning – hard working, down to earth everyday kinda girl. Julia – it took me awhile to like her – seemed a rather snooty rich girl to me. By the end, this had changed and as the overview mentions, we get to see the power of forgiveness and the importance of family. I found that I wanted to pick this book up to see where the story was headed.

I thought this was a great debut. I will not hesitate to read future books by Ms. Donohue. Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins Publishers for allowing me to read the ARC.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Call Me Princess: A NovelCall Me Princess: A Novel by Sara Blaedel

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Overview:

A young woman in Copenhagen, Susanne Hansson, becomes the victim of an unusually brutal rape attack in her own home. Detective inspector Louise Rick is summoned to talk to the victim, where she quickly determines that Susanne met the rapist via a dating website.

The police suspect that the rapist may have been caught on video in the subway, so Louise and a colleague go through the tapes. They’re lucky enough to find him, but unfortunately the image is blurry and shows him only in profile. In the meantime Louise becomes more and more immersed in the online dating world. In her search she comes across the web site “nightwatch.dk,” which allows her to upload images that show people out in the night-time scene and who they’re with. She finds a picture of the man, who is now calling himself “Prinzz.” She contacts him using the name "Princess," and they agree to meet.

With a climax as suspenseful as it is shocking, Sara Blaedel's American debut confirms her as one of the brightest stars in the new wave of Scandinavian crime novelists that has riveted the attention of readers around the world.

My thoughts:

I really did not care for this book. I was easily 2/3 of the way thru the story before it even got anywhere near exciting – and to say exciting would be a stretch. I just felt like the author was trying to add length to the book instead of substance.

I also felt the main character, Louise Rick, was very inconsistent. First she comes across as strong and independent. Then she seems weak and needy. Has sympathy for the victims, then doesn’t. Has sympathy for the rapist, then doesn’t. Why would she even have sympathy for the rapist?

The overview says the climax was as suspenseful as it is shocking, but I found the ending to be somewhat unbelievable – and I don’t mean – WOW – that was unbelievable! I mean – WOW – that was ridiculous.

Thank you to NetGalley and Open Road Publishing for allowing me to read this ARC.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Mad Bomber of New York: The Extraordinary True Story of the Manhunt That Paralyzed a CityThe Mad Bomber of New York: The Extraordinary True Story of the Manhunt That Paralyzed a City by Michael M. Greenburg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Between 1940 and 1957, 33 bombs--strategically placed in Grand Central, Penn Station, Radio City Music Hall, Macy's and other populous areas of New York--paralyzed the city, sending shockwaves of fear through an unsuspecting public.

George Metesky, the “Mad Bomber,” unleashed a reign of terror that reverberated through America's social, legal, and political landscape, ultimately spurring the birth of modern criminal profiling when a crime psychiatrist was called in to assist in the manhunt. Compelling historical true crime, The Mad Bomber of New York is the gripping tale of two individuals engaged in a deadly game of hide-and-seek, with the city of New York caught in the crosshairs.

My thoughts:

This was an excellent read. I like when an author can take a true story and write it with suspense. While we know very early in the book who the Mad Bomber is, you have to read the book to find out how it all develops. What caused him to do the bombings? How was he able to get away with it for so long? And ultimately, how was Metesky caught?

The hunt for the Mad Bomber brought about one of the first instances of trying to profile a criminal offender – as described in the book – “a process of attributing probable physical, personality and character traits to an offender based upon an analysis of crime scene evidence and behaviors”. It’s interesting toread close the profiler came to many of Metesky’s characteristics.

Once the Mad Bomber , was caught, he was initially remanded to a psych facility without actually standing trial. Laws at the time allowed this, but Metesky eventually fought the validity, and his case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court who sided with him.

I won’t tell you how it ends – you need to read this outstanding book to find that out!

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Winter GardenWinter Garden by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard: the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time - and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya's life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago.

My thoughts:

This book hooked me from the very beginning. I hate to read a good books fast, because then I am sad when they are finished, but I had to read it to see how it would all tie together. Fantastic! I will definately be checking out more books from this author.

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In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's BerlinIn the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Isaac's Storm, The Devil in the White City, and Thunderstruck have all proven Erik Larson's ability to adroitly craft multilayered nonfiction. In his new In The Garden of Beasts, he demonstrates that gift again as he unfolds the often startling story of William E. Dodd, the first American ambassador to Nazi Germany, and his family. History professor Dodd was an unlikely choice to represent the United States in Hitler's Berlin; indeed, he was FDR's fifth choice for the post. His on-the-job education in the barbarities of the "New Germany" sometimes contrasted with that of his romantic, impressionable, party-loving daughter Martha. Larson places these very personal stories within the context of the ever-worsening events.

My thoughts:

Ambassador Dodd was out of his element from the very beginning of his post in Berlin. He was no one's first choice for the job and remained always on the outside as an ambassador since he was not a career diplomat like most of the American corps, the majority of whom were wealthy and came from Ivy League backgrounds and schools. I think his attempts to notify the powers that be in Washington of the developing doom in Germany fell on deaf ears because he was such an outsider. How sad.

The most interesting character in the book was Martha, Dodd’s 24 year old daughter. Shallow and spoiled, she was enamored with the Berlin nightlife. She slept her way through Nazis, Russians, Germans - and some famous US literary figures only to become a Communist. It wasn’t until the end of her father’s tenure that she started to see the horror of what was taking place around her.

I thought this was a fascinating book. Filled with details, it was obvious the author did a tremendous amount of fact gathering. No skimming allowed with this book, it is best read in small pieces to fully absorb all the facts.

Bravo Mr. Larson!

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Passage (The Passage, #1)The Passage by Justin Cronin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear — of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

My thoughts:

I did not want to read this book - it just sound too "out there". I kept hearing things about zombies and vampires. But then my book buddies on goodreads started commenting on it - spooky and creepy. Hmmmm - I like spooky and creepy. So what the heck - I decided to go for it.

All I can say is SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!!!! It sucked me right in. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about when I would get to pick it up again. Right down to the final page. I am so looking forward to the 2nd and 3rd books in this trilogy.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Snow Angels (Inspector Kari Vaara, #1)Snow Angels by James Thompson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A beautiful Somalian refugee-turned-actress is found murdered on a reindeer farm, gruesomely mutilated, a racial slur carved into her chest. Inspector Kari Vaara, head of the rural police force, is under great pressure not only to solve this crime himself, without the help of the big-city cops from Helsinki, but also to keep the potentially explosive case out of the news. Sufia Elmi had become a tabloid fixture, and her death—not to mention the awful way she met it—is sure to send shock waves across this insular, secretly racist country. Was this murder a hate crime, a sex crime—or both?

I want to say two things about Snow Angesls:

1. Wow!!!

2. Yippee!!!

Wow- because this was such a fast paced, totally engrossing, no holds bar murder mystery. Of course the whole time I am trying to figure out who did who in, since the story involved more than one murder. I was VERY surprised by the ending - totally caught off guard by the identity of one of the murderers. I love when an author can do this - great job to Mr. Thompson.

Yippee - because this is just #1 of a series and I can definately see reading more - in fact #2 Lucifer's Tears is already waiting on my kindle.

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Light from a Distant Star: A NovelLight from a Distant Star: A Novel by Mary McGarry Morris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Light from a Distant Star is a gripping coming-of-age story with a brutal murder at its heart and a heroine as unforgettable as Harper Lee’s "Scout."

It is early summer and Nellie Peck is on the cusp of adolescence – gangly, awkward, full of questions, but keenly observant and wiser than many of the adults in her life. The person she most admires is her father, Benjamin, a man of great integrity. Three strangers enter Nellie’s protected life. Brooding Max Devaney is an ex-con who works in her surly grandfather’s junkyard. Reckless Bucky Saltonstall has just arrived from New York City to live with his elderly grandparents. And pretty Dolly Bedelia is a young stripper who rents the family’s small, rear apartment and becomes the titillating focus of Nellie’s eavesdropping.

When violence erupts in the lovely Peck house, the prime suspect seems obvious. Nellie knows who the real murderer is, but is soon silenced by fear and the threat of scandal. The truth, as she sees it, is shocking and unthinkable, and with everyone’s eyes riveted on her in the courtroom, Nellie finds herself seized with doubt.
No one will listen. No one believes her, and a man’s life hangs in the balance.

My thoughts on the book:

The main character, Nellie, is a thirteen year old with a pretty wry sense of humor as she observes what goes on around her. I feel like this is Nellie’s first exposure to the adult adage “do as I say, not as I do” and it is very difficult for her. The whole time I was reading the latter part of the book, I kept thinking – what is Nellie going to do about this? She wants so bad to tell the truth – do what’s right – as she has been raised, but she also doesn’t want to disappoint the adults in her life.

I also felt that this was Nellie’s first encounter with the concept that her parents, especially her Dad, make mistakes. I still remember when this happened to me, thinking – holy smokes - seriously? Now what do we do? To a certain age, I think all kids think there parent no it all, have all the right answers and ALWAYS do the right thing. Alas, life is just not that easy.

This was the first book I have read by this author. I was impressed by her style and ability to weave a tale. I would not hesitate to recommend this book or to read more from this author.

Thank you to NetGalley and Crown Publishers for allowing me to read this ARC. I am honored

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AtonementAtonement by Ian McEwan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On a summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives and her precocious imagination bring about a crime that will change all their lives, a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."

I kept thinking this as I read this book and thought about what can happen when someone lies. We were raised that it is better to always tell the truth no matter the consequence. The main charater in this book, Briony, just couldn't resist spinning a story, not realizing the impact it would have on the people directly affected by her lie. A very good story and eloquently written.

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The Keeper of Lost Causes (Serie Q, #1)The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Keeper of Lost Causes, features the deeply flawed chief detective Carl MØrck, who used to be a good homicide detective-one of Copenhagen's best. Then a bullet almost took his life. Two of his colleagues weren't so lucky, and Carl, who didn't draw his weapon, blames himself.

So a promotion is the last thing Carl expects.

But it all becomes clear when he sees his new office in the basement. Carl's been selected to run Department Q, a new special investigations division that turns out to be a department of one. With a stack of Copenhagen's coldest cases to keep him company, Carl's been put out to pasture. So he's as surprised as anyone when a case actually captures his interest. A missing politician vanished without a trace five years earlier. The world assumes she's dead. His colleagues snicker about the time he's wasting. But Carl may have the last laugh, and redeem himself in the process.

Because she isn't dead . . . yet.

I thought this was a good book. I wouldn't necessarily call it a fast paced thriller, but it was intriguing enough to keep me coming back. I especially enjoyed the irreverant attitude of Carl, along with the interaction with his assistant Assad. I would definately be interested in reading more books by this author.

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26662666 by Roberto Bolaño

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Three academics on the trail of a reclusive German author; a New York reporter on his first Mexican assignment; a widowed philosopher; a police detective in love with an elusive older woman--these are among the searchers drawn to the border city of Santa Teresa, where over the course of a decade hundreds of women have disappeared

900+ pages of the weirdest mish mosh of I don't know what. I actually read it all thinking there had to be some point - but there wasn't. Last time I'll ever do that!

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The Double BindThe Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Chris Bohjalian's astonishing novel, nothing is what it at first seems. Not the bucolic Vermont back roads college sophomore Laurel Estabrook likes to bike. Not the savage assault she suffers toward the end of one of her rides. And certainly not Bobbie Crocker, the elderly man with a history of mental illness whom Laurel comes to know through her work at a Burlington homeless shelter in the years subsequent to the attack.

This was the first Chris Bohjalian book I read and still remains my favorite. I like how this author takes a simple story, adds simple twists and turns - and then at the very end - throws me completely for a loop. I love when a book does this!

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A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes scholars should be more careful: Youthful researcher Diana Bishop briefly consults an medieval alchemical manuscript; then, after jotting down a few notes, sends it back to its prison in the stacks. Unfortunately for Diana, her quick dabbling has unleashed a long suppressed curse—and now only she can break the spell. Carefully researched, this debut novel will appeal to fans of historical novel infused with strong paranormal elements.

This is book one of a trilogy and I just fell in love with the story line and characters. Did I think I would like a book about witches and vampires? Not really. While the part about witches and vampires is a factor, this is really just a love story. Book two comes out in 2012 and I am looking forward to seeing how the story will progress.

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The Night Strangers: A NovelThe Night Strangers: A Novel by Chris Bohjalian

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What I like most about Chris Bohjalian's writing is that no two of his books are the same. I found The Night Strangers to be so totally different from his other books that at first, I was somewhat surprised.

The story grabbed me right from the beginning. I did not want to put it down - I just had to find out how it was all going to wrap up. I kept thinking I knew how it would end (or how I thought it should end)- but nooooo, even the ending was a total surprise.

I never hesitate to read a story by this author and this book is prime example why. Well written, entertaining and fast paced - excellent!

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SpaceSpace by James A. Michener

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the book that introduced me to the writing style of James Michener and still stands as one off my all time favorite reads. I can only think it is because I was a child during the 60's when America was developing it's space program. I have always been enamored by the stars in the night sky and the idea that there are "others" out there besides us. This book fell right into my love of all things Space related!

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Don't Look Back (Konrad Sejer # 2)Don't Look Back by Karin Fossum

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I liked this book so much, I decided to look up excellent in Norwegian in honor of the author. Uitstekend - Ms Fossum! I really liked the writing style, the occassional touch of humor, even in a murder mytery - and that I had to read all the way to the end to find out who the murderer was. I will definately be reading more of this author - lucky me.

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