Friday, August 30, 2013

Bones of the Lost

A Temperance Brennan Novel
Kathy Reichs
When Charlotte police discover the body of a teenage girl along a desolate stretch of two-lane highway, Temperance Brennan fears the worst. The girl’s body shows signs of foul play. Inside her purse police find the ID card of a prominent local businessman, John-Henry Story, who died in a horrific flea market fire months earlier. Was the girl an illegal immigrant turning tricks? Was she murdered?

The medical examiner has also asked Tempe to examine a bundle of Peruvian dog mummies confiscated by U.S. Customs. A Desert Storm veteran named Dominick Rockett stands accused of smuggling the objects into the country. Could there be some connection between the trafficking of antiquitiesand the trafficking of humans?

As the case deepens, Tempe must also grapple with personal turmoil. Her daughter Katy, grieving the death of her boyfriend in Afghanistan, impulsively enlists in the Army. Meanwhile, Katy’s father Pete is frustrated by Tempe’s reluctance to finalize their divorce. As pressure mounts from all corners, Tempe soon finds herself at the center of a conspiracy that extends all the way from South America, to Afghanistan, and right to the center of Charlotte. “A genius at building suspense” (Daily News, New York), Kathy Reichs is at her brilliant best in this thrilling novel. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Tempe has a lot going on in this story. She is determined to identify a young girl found dead of what appears to be a hit and run. In the middle of this investigation, she gets asked to go to Afghanistan to oversee the exhumation of two Afghani’s who were killed by an American soldier. She is to use her expertise to determine if the locals were shot in self defense or if the soldier shot them in the back as they were running away. It was a this point in the story I was thinking - how is this going to all tie together? But in the traditional style of Ms. Reich’s writing, all the pieces come together in a very intriguing way.

It has been awhile since I’ve read a Temperance Brennan story and I sure do miss them! Tempe is smart, sometimes sarcastic, hard-working and dedicated to her job. I enjoy getting to see how her mind works as she interacts with her co-workers and significant others. The ending was perfect! Just enough suspense regarding Tempe’s personal life to lead us to the next book. I, for one, am looking forward to see what is in store for her.

Thanks to Scribner, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Publish date: August 27, 2013.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

With All My Love

Patricia Scanlan

A heartwarming novel about a shocking discovery that forever changes the lives of three generations of women.

When Briony McAllister takes a trip to visit her mother, Valerie, she uncovers a letter from her long-lost grandmother, bringing to light a nearly unforgivable act her mother has kept secret for decades. Having always believed that her grandparents didn’t want to see her, she finds that the opposite is true: her grandmother had been seeking her out all along, and it was her own mother who willfully kept them apart.

Devastated that her past has come back to haunt her, Valerie realizes that her daughter’s anger might cause their troubled family history to repeat itself in a new generation. Rich with emotion and featuring magnificent descriptions of Ireland, With All My Love deftly weaves the stories of the past and present to take us into the heart of a family at war. As the truth is revealed, so too are the complex yet enduring bonds between mothers and daughters (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts
To me, the majority of this story is really about Valerie - how she got involved with Briony’s Dad Jeff, difficulties she had with certain family members and the reason why she and Briony disappeared from Jeff’s parents.

This story was well written. The author did a good job of writing about some of the tensions that can exist when an unplanned pregnancy occurs. I equally disliked both Valeria and Jeff’s mother, Tessa. I have to honestly say that close to the end, I could have shot both of them for their self-centered behavior. Their selfishness grew a bit tiring. Whenever these two connected and started their bickering I would think - here we go again! This ended up being a good tale about forgiveness and acceptance.

Thanks to Atria Books, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Publish date: July 30, 2013.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Five Days At Memorial

Life and Death at a Storm-Ravaged Hospital

Sheri Fink

Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink’s landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina – and her suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice

In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs five days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amid chaos.

After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several health professionals faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths.

Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.

In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are in America for the impact of large-scale disasters—and how we can do better. A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

This story is riveting. I picked it up with the intent to read just the first chapter to get a feel for the writing. That was it - I was hooked. The first half of this book is a very detailed, sometimes minute by minute account of what occurred at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans in the days following Hurricane Katrina. The second half is an equally detailed account of the investigation into some of the deaths that occurred at the hospital.

I still remember quite a bit of what we saw on TV about the conditions in New Orleans during the aftermath of Katrina, but nothing can prepare you for reading the details from people who actually lived the horror. I often put the book down to just take a breather from the tension as each day at Memorial got worse. Even when I wasn’t reading this, it was on my mind. Almost everyone I encountered would hear about this book - whether they wanted to or not (I never asked). So many questions came to mind regarding things like the ethics of triage, disaster preparedness, euthanasia, and assisted suicide just to name a few.

This story was extremely well organized. It flowed from beginning to end. While often technical, the information was presented in laymen’s terms and well defined. The first half read like a suspense novel, the second half like a murder mystery.

What I liked most about Ms. Fink’s writing is that she simply presents the information. She does not pass judgement on what took place at Memorial. At the end, she does document the final thoughts of many of the key players. The bottom line question is - what really happened at Memorial? Where some patients euthanized? Or where they given medication to keep them comfortable, and in their weakened state, succumbed to their illnesses. I think each read will have their own opinion. I know I have mine.

This is undeniably one of the best books I have read this year.

Thank you to Crown Publishing, via Netgalley for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Publish date: September 10, 2013.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Astor Place Vintage

Stephanie Lehmann

Amanda Rosenbloom, proprietor of Astor Place Vintage, thinks she’son just another call to appraise and possibly purchase clothing from a wealthy, elderly woman. But after discovering a journal sewn into a fur muff, Amanda gets much more than she anticipated. The pages of the journal reveal the life of Olive Westcott, a young woman who had moved to Manhattan in 1907. Olive was set on pursuing a career as a department store buyer in an era when Victorian ideas, limiting a woman’s sphere to marriage and motherhood, were only beginning to give way to modern ways of thinking. As Amanda reads the journal, her life begins to unravel until she can no longer ignore this voice from the past. Despite being separated by one hundred years, Amanda finds she’s connected to Olive in ways neither could ever have imagined. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

This story is told in two voices - present day Amanda and early 1900‘s Olive. I fell in love with Olive immediately. Born into a reasonably well to do life, but in a time when women made few of their own decisions, her life takes a dramatic change. Instead of taking the easy way out, she continues to fight for her dreams to be an independent, career focused female. Amanda, on the other hand, did not sit well with me. I felt she did sometimes take the easy way out and did not warm up to her until almost the very end ot the story.

I love when an author writes in such a way that I end having very strong feelings for their characters. I found myself thinking of things I would say to both Olive and Amanda as I read about their journey. I thought Ms. Lehmann did a great job bringing both women to life. She slowly wove the story in and out to a very interesting conclusion. Her writing is detailed and entertaining.

Many thanks to Touchstone, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Publish date: June 11, 2013.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Blood of the Lamb

Sam Cabot

The Historian meets The Da Vinci Code in this exhilarating supernatural thriller set in Rome, where rival groups are searching for a document that holds a secret that could shatter the Catholic Church.
This document, dear friend, will shatter the Church…..

Reading these words in a letter in a dusty archive, Thomas Kelly is skeptical. The papers to which they refer have vanished, but Father Kelly, a Jesuit priest, doubts anything could ever have had that power—until the Vatican suddenly calls him to Rome to begin a desperate search for that very document.

Meanwhile, standing before a council of her people, Livia Pietro receives instructions: she must find a Jesuit priest recently arrived in Rome, and join his search for a document that contains a secret so shocking it has the power to destroy not only the Catholic Church, but Livia’s people as well.As cryptic messages from the past throw Thomas and Livia into a treacherous world of art, religion, and conspiracy, they are pursued by those who would cross any line to obtain the document for themselves. Thomas and Livia must race to stop the chaos and destruction that the revelation of these secrets would create. Livia, though, has a secret of her own: She and her people are vampires.

In a sprawling tapestry that combines the religious intrigue of Dan Brown with the otherworldly terror of Stephenie Meyer, Blood of the Lamb is an unforgettable journey into an unthinkable past (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

I remember when The Da Vinci Code first came out. Some of my more religious friends would not read it because they were told it was sacreligious and too controversial. I remember thinking - really? It’s just a story.

Well - for those of you out there that thought the Da Vinci code crossed some sort of line - wait until you read Blood of the Lamb!

I actually liked this story. While Thomas Kelly and Livia Pietro share the same cause and must work together to achieve it, they each start out thinking they have nothing in common because of their different backgrounds. The longer they are together, the more they come to understand that they share similarities - a love of history, a commitment to community and a responsibility to friends.

This was fast paced and entertaining. I thought it was well written. The end provided quite a different spin on the story of Mary Magdalene and Jesus. All in all - a pretty creative premise!

Thanks to PENGUIN GROUP Blue Rider Press, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Publish date: August 6, 2013.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ordinary Grace

William Kent Krueger

All the dying that summer began with the death of a child . . .

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family, which includes his Methodist minister father, his passionate, artistic mother, Juilliard-bound older sister, and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother—he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.

Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God (from Netgalley).

My Thoughts

The first word that came to mind when I finished this was - Beautiful. Beautiful in the story that is tells, in the way it was written and in the message that it sends.

I loved that this was told through the eyes of thirteen-year old Frank. He is a fairly typical young teenagers - inquisitive about life, bold, sometimes mischievious and frequently funny. He really wants to understand what is going on and is relentless in finding out. Most importantly, he loves his family.

This story is not without tragedy and heartache. But in the end, there are such profound moments of redemption and healing that it makes the sadness bearable.

As I said in the beginning - Beautiful.

My thanks to Atria, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Publish date: October 19, 2012.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Winter In Full Bloom

Anita Higman

Lily Winter's wings are folded so tightly around her daughter that when empty nest arrives, she feels she can no longer fly. But Lily's lonely, widowed life changes in a heartbeat when she goes to visit a woman who is almost a stranger to her-a woman who also happens to be her mother. During their fiery reunion, her mother reveals a dark family secret that she'd been hiding for decades-Lily has an identical twin sister who was put up for adoption when they were just babies.

Without looking back, Lily-with her fear of flying-boards a jumbo jet and embarks on a quest to find her sister which leads half way around the world to Melbourne, Australia. Befriended by imprudent Ausie, he might prove to be the key to finding her sister. But her journey becomes a circle that leads her back home to attempt a family reunion and to find the one dream she no longer imagined possible-the chance to fall in love again (from Netgalley).


My Thoughts

I like when a book surprises me, and this is one that did. I did not realized when I picked this up that is was a Christian based story. This has a very nice message about faith. Lily’s life is not without struggles and I like how she used her beliefs to help her get through them.

This is definitely a heart-warming, feel good tale. The author does not overwhelm us with the religious aspect of it, but nicely interweaves that part throughout the story. Sometimes, I just want an uplifting, positive book to read and this one certainly fit the bill.

I’d like to thank Moody Publishers, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Publish date: July 19, 2013.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Wicked Girls

Alex Marwood

Eleven year-old Jade and Bel met for the first time one summer day, a day that began innocently enough, but that ended in calamity: six-year old Chloe is found dead and Jade and Bel are charged with her murder. This story follows the lives of these two girls, who will never be able to fully erase the events of that day and whose destinies are forever intertwined because of it.

Both women have tried to forget the horrific circumstances of their childhoods—Chloe’s death and the juvenile detention, isolation, and series of hard-knocks that followed it. Twenty-five years later, Jade and Bel have become Kirsty Lindsay and Amber Gordon, their true identities kept secret from their friends, families, and loved ones. Kirsty works as a journalist with two children and a loving husband. Bel, recently promoted at the amusement park in the seaside town of Whitmouth where she works, owns a house and lives with her long-term boyfriend. Neither has set eyes on the other since that fateful summer day.

But when a series of deadly attacks on women shakes the town of Whitmouth, Kirsty is sent there on assignment to cover the investigation. Amber and Kirsty, both entrenched in the growing turmoil, are forced to confront each other once again and to face the past that they have struggled so hard to hide.

As the Whitmouth murders escalate, Amber and Kirsty’s lives are threatened in ways neither could have foreseen, endangering the sense of normalcy that they have desperately struggled to maintain since changing their identities. As circumstances draw Amber and Kirsty closer and closer together, the two women are forced to make an incomprehensible decision that will cement their fates together forever.(from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

We first meet Kirsty (formerly Jade) and Amber (formerly Bel) when they are adults. We find out early that something “wicked” happened when they were young girls. The details of what happened unfold slowly and we don’t get the specifics until close to the end. As adults, the women were ordered to never, ever see each other, so when their worlds collide, all hell breaks loose.

This was very good. I thought the author did a great job of building suspense until I was reading faster and faster to see how it would all end. I also thought it was interesting how she incorporated into the story how the media can take a topic and spin it to get the most sensationalism. How often do we see this happen in real life? Too often as far as I’m concerned.

Does this end happily for everyone? Hmmmmm, I think you should read this to find out.

Many thanks to PENGUIN GROUP, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Publish date: July 30, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Yoga Sparks

108 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute or Less

Carol Krucoff

Given the popularity of yoga in this day and age, you probably know about the benefits it can have on both the mind and body. An increase in positive mood, a decrease in stress, better sleep, and fewer aches and pains are just a few. Maybe you’ve been busy, and have been meaning to try it—or maybe you have tried it but still find it difficult to fit into your schedule.

The most common excuse people give for not exercising is that they have no time. Between work, family, school, and social obligations, many of us are overbooked and scrambling to get things done in our daily lives. But what if there were quick, easy yoga exercises that could be integrated into your daily routine?

Yoga Sparks offers 108 quick, practical, and accessible yoga exercises that you can practice anytime, anywhere—no matter how busy or stressful your schedule. In this book, you will learn how yoga in “bite-size” pieces can become a healthy habit that can relieve emotional stress, increase your physical strength and flexibility, and help you to lead a happier, healthier life.

Whether practicing relaxed breathing while in traffic, sitting with proper alignment while working at your computer, or even balancing on one leg while waiting in line, the step-by-step, breath-by-breath practices in this book will help you bring the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of yoga practice into your daily life (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

I always tell people that yoga is more than funny looking poses that twist you into a pretzel. This book is a good example of all the different aspects that make up a yoga practice: various breathing exercises, simple postures, meditation.

I liked how this was presented in simple, short chapters. The chapters are organized by different setting: at work, at home, etc. I think the author has written a very useful, easily understood book. She did a good job explaining the benefits of each practice along with simple instructions on proper form and technique. I can see me using this book on a regular basis.

Thank you to New Harbinger Publications, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Publish date: August 1, 2013