Monday, December 21, 2015

Almost Perfect
DIANE DANIELS MANNING



A YA novel about two unlikely friends, their dogs, and the competitions that bring them and their community together. (Kirkus Reviews)

An old woman who has given up hope and a boy who believes the impossible wonder if life would be perfect at the Westminster Dog Show.

Seventy-year old Bess Rutledge has dreamed of winning the Westminster Dog Show all her life. Despite her decades-long career as one of America’s top Standard Poodle breeders, she has decided she’s too old to hold on to her foolish dream. She sells off all the dogs in her once famous kennel except for the aging champion McCreery and his mischievous, handsome son Breaker. Part of her senses they might have been the ones to take her to Westminster, if only she’d dared to try.

Bess meets Benny, a teenager with mild autism who attends a therapeutic special school, and learns he has a dream of his own: to impress his self-absorbed mother. Benny is drawn into the world of dog shows and becomes convinced he has found the perfect way to win his mother’s attention. If he can win Westminster with either McCreery or Breaker, he just knows she will finally be proud of him. Getting Bess to go along with his plan, however, is not going to be so easy. . .

 

My Thoughts

Benny lives with his Dad and step-Mom. He is forever trying to get the attention of his birth Mom, who seems to have a million things to do except spend time with Benny. Benny meets his neighbor Bess, who has spent her life breeding and showing Standard poodles. Bess has decided to call it quits with the whole dog thing because she thinks she has gotten too old. Her son David is unable to convince her that she should continue to breed and show dogs. Benny decides that showing Bess’s dog would be the perfect way to get his Mom’s attention and Bess just can’t resist getting involved.

This book has been on my to-be-read shelf for way too long. It kept catching my eye and I finally decided to give it a go.

I like stories where unlikely characters hook up and become friends. Under normal circumstances, Benny and Bess would probably never had gotten to know each other. But both seem to be trying to find their way in life. Their chance meeting and love of dogs allows then to make a connection. Both Benny and Bess have a fun sense of humor with a small bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure.

I’m sure glad I finally decided to read this charming story. It was a simple, well-paced and positive tale.

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


Friday, December 4, 2015

The Forgotten

Heather Graham

Murdered by a dead man?

A woman named Maria Gomez is murdered in Miami, apparently by her husband—who'd been presumed dead, slain by a crime boss. FBI agent Brett Cody can't believe it; dead or alive, the man had loved his wife. He also can't help feeling guilty, since he was responsible for protecting Miguel and Maria Gomez.

A few miles away, Lara Mayhew has just begun working at a dolphin research facility. She loves her new job—until a dolphin brings her something unexpected from the deep. A human hand. More body parts show up, and when Brett looks into the situation, he discovers that the dismembered corpse is Miguel's.

Soon, rumors of crazed zombies abound in the Miami media, and the Krewe of Hunters, an elite FBI unit of paranormal investigators, is called in. Brett and Lara find themselves working with the Krewe—and working closely together. An elderly crime boss who's losing his memory seems to be key to solving this case, but…there's no motive. Unless Brett and Lara can uncover one in the Miami underworld. And that means they have to protect themselves. And each other.



My Thoughts

How can a woman be murdered by her already dead husband?

Strange things are happening if Florida. Lara works at a research facility for dolphins. One of the dolphins finds a body part and brings it to her. As a result, she meets FBI agent Brett Cody and the two, along with two Krewe members get pulled into a very bizarre murder investigation involving zombies!


While this did involve some Krewe of Hunter members, the main focus is on Lara and Brett. Their initial meeting does not go well. But as they are forced to spend time together, they find that the have more similarities than difference. Somehow or other, dead people are showing up and committing murders. Lara and Brett work with two Krewe agents to piece the puzzle together and figure out what exactly is going on.

After reading several other books involving Krewe members, I will admit that I still find them entertaining. The premise is basically the same - boy meets girl, they don’t necessarily like each other at first, but underneath there is some level of attraction. Eventually the attraction overrides their differences and then sparks fly!

What is different about each book is the local and the investigation. In this book, we learn a bit about Florida and voodoo. Ms. Graham always writes likeable characters. While there is some level of romance going on, it by no means overshadows the story line. These books are fun, fast paced and enjoyable.

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

Esther

Rebecca Kanner

From the award-winning author of Sinners and the Sea comes a breathtaking new look into the timeless tale of Queen Esther.

A glittering Persian king has a vast empire that reaches farther than where the sun meets the horizon. He is bathed in riches and commands a frightening military force. He possesses power beyond any other mortal man and rules his kingdom as a god. Anything he desires, he has. Any woman he wants, he possesses. Thousands of them. Young virgins from all across his many lands.

A Jewish girl is ripped from her hut by the king’s brutish warriors and forced to march across blistering, scorched earth to the capitol city. Trapped for months in the splendid cage of the king’s palace, she must avoid the ire of the king’s concubines and eunuchs all while preparing for her one night with the king. Soon the fated night arrives, and she does everything in her power to captivate the king and become his queen.

But wearing the crown brings with it a new set of dangers. When a ruthless man plies the king’s ear with whispers of genocide, it is up to the young queen to prevent the extermination of the Jews. She must find the strength within to violate the king’s law, risk her life, and save her people.

This is a story of finding hidden depths of courage within one’s self. Of risking it all to stand up for what is right.

This is the story of Queen Esther. (from Netgalley)


My Thoughts

Young Esther is only 14years old when she is kidnapped to become part of a Perian king’s harem. Hiding that she is Jewish is one of the many hardships that she must bear. There are numerous political maneuvers she must make if she is to survive living in the harem and make it to the one night she will spend with the king to convince him she should be his queen. On top of this, she learns early on that the fate of the Jewish people rests on her shoulders. Does young Esther have the strength to carry such burdens?

I have never read a story based on a character from the bible. Lucky me that this was my first. The author made reading about Esther very interesting. Not knowing the outcome, it was almost like a suspense novel. With every turn, someone wants to bring this young girl down. Even after she becomes queen, she is still not safe.

I really wanted to pull out a Bible to do a quick read about Esther. But the author’s writing was so well done that I decided to finish the book before doing any other reading. What a wonderful way to be introduced to a Bible story. Oh that the rest of the Bible could be written in such a way as to make it readable. Ms. Kanner shows us the power of Esther’s faith in believing that she was chosen for a special task, even if it was not one she would have chosen for herself. A powerful story. Ms.Kanner definitely goes on my list of author’s to follow.

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Place We Knew Well

Susan Carol McCarthy



Late October, 1962. Wes Avery, a one-time Air Force tail-gunner, is living his version of the American Dream as loving husband to Sarah, doting father to seventeen-year-old Charlotte, and owner of a successful Texaco station along central Florida's busiest highway. But after President Kennedy announces that the Soviets have nuclear missiles in Cuba, Army convoys clog the highways and the sky fills with fighter planes. Within days, Wes's carefully constructed life begins to unravel.

Sarah, nervous and watchful, spends more and more time in the family's bomb shelter, slipping away into childhood memories and the dreams she once held for the future. Charlotte is wary but caught up in the excitement of high school—her nomination to homecoming court, the upcoming dance, and the thrill of first love. Wes, remembering his wartime experience, tries to keep his family's days as normal as possible, hoping to restore a sense of calm. But as the panic over the Missile Crisis rises, a long-buried secret threatens to push the Averys over the edge.

With heartbreaking clarity and compassion, Susan Carol McCarthy captures the shock and innocence, anxiety and fear, in those thirteen historic days, and brings vividly to life one ordinary family trying to hold center while the world around them falls apart (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Wes Avery lives near a military base in Florida with his wife Sarah and daughter Charlotte. He knows something is up when he starts to see alot of activity at the base, both in the air and on the ground. The whole town soon finds out, along with the rest of the nation, about the Cuban Missile Crisis. A Place We Knew Well tells the story of how the crisis impacted one family, one town and an entire nation.

I liked the main character Ms. McCarthy created in Wes Avery. He is a simple man who just wants to take care of his family and run his business. He doesn’t really understand why his wife is slowly falling apart and tries to keep things together for their daughter. Even when the crisis is over, the after effects still take a toll on his family.

This was well written and evenly paced. I was drawn to the characters and wanted to know how their story would end. I like how the author chose to close the book. It was a unique way to provide some statistics regarding the impact the stress from the missile crisis had on people. Overall, I like the author’s style and would be interested in reading her other books.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing - Bantam, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante

A Maggie Hope Mystery

Susan Elia MacNeal



In this latest riveting mystery from New York Times bestselling author Susan Elia MacNeal, England's most daring spy, Maggie Hope, travels across the pond to America, where a looming scandal poses a grave threat to the White House and the Allied cause.

December 1941. Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill arrives in Washington, D.C., along with special agent Maggie Hope. Posing as his typist, she is accompanying the prime minister as he meets with President Roosevelt to negotiate the United States' entry into World War II. When one of the First Lady's aides is mysteriously murdered, Maggie is quickly drawn into Mrs. Roosevelt's inner circle—as ER herself is implicated in the crime. Maggie knows she must keep the investigation quiet, so she employs her unparalleled skills at code breaking and espionage to figure out who would target Mrs. Roosevelt, and why. What Maggie uncovers is a shocking conspiracy that could jeopardize American support for the war and leave the fate of the world hanging dangerously in the balance.(from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

In this, book #5 in the Maggie Hope series, we find Maggie coming home to America. She comes as Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s secretary. The PM comes to America to discuss WWII with President Roosevelt. When Mrs. Roosevelt finds herself in a bit of a stickey wicket, Churchill lends Maggie to her for help. Typical Maggie jumps in feet first to find out just who wants to do harm to the first lady’s character.

Sigh..... I adore Maggie Hope. She is such a likeable character. She is smart, bold and loyal. She doesn’t hesitate to take the lead and pity the poor soul who tries to corner into the role of a secretary. She’s a fighter!

Maggie has been on an emotional roller coaster in the previous few books. I am happy to report that this installment finds Maggie in a much better mental state. She hasn’t forgotten her past, but she won’t let it drag her down anymore. Yay Maggie!

I always get excited when I hear a new Maggie Hope book is on it’s way. I know I’m in for a good read and this one did not disappoint. I’m looking forward to seeing where her life goes next.

My thanks to Random House - Bantam, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Man With the Golden Typewriter

Ian Fleming's James Bond Letters

by Fergus Fleming, editor

The witty and engaging letters of the man who created the world’s most famous spy—James Bond.
On August 16, 1952, Ian Fleming wrote to his wife, Ann, “My love, This is only a tiny letter to try out my new typewriter and to see if it will write golden words since it is made of gold.” He had bought the golden typewriter as a present to himself for finishing his first novel, Casino Royale. It marked in glamorous style the arrival of James Bond, agent 007, and the start of a career that saw Fleming become one the world’s most celebrated thriller writers. And he did write golden words. Before his death in 1964 he produced fourteen bestselling Bond books, two works of nonfiction and the famous children’s story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Fleming’s output was matched by an equally energetic flow of letters. He wrote to his wife, publisher, editors, fans, friends, and critics—and to the wife of the man whose name Fleming appropriated for his hero—charting 007’s progress with correspondence that ranged from badgering Jonathan Cape about his quota of free copies­ (a coin was tossed and Fleming lost) to apologizing for having mistaken a certain brand of perfume and for equipping Bond with the wrong kind of gun. His letters also reflect his friendship with such contemporaries as Raymond Chandler, Noel Coward, and W. Somerset Maugham.
This entertaining and engaging compilation traces the arc of Fleming’s literary career and details the back story of James Bond. Set against the backdrop of his Jamaican retreat Goldeneye and a troubled marriage, Fleming’s letters are filled with wit, humor, and occasional self-doubt. They reveal an intimate portrait of a man, an era, and a literary phenomenon (from Netgalley)
 
My Thoughts
This book appealed to me because for as long as I can remember I have been a huge fan of the James Bond movies. Some might think that as a female, I like the them because of the always attractive leading man, Actually, it’s the intricate gadgets and all the action that drew me to the movies.
I enjoyed reading the letters that Ian Fleming wrote. He comes across as very intelligent with a good sense of humor. What I really like about the books, was all the background information about each movie and where Mr. Fleming was in his life at the time each book was written.
I thought the books was both informative and entertaining. Any aficionado of 007 should also find this enjoyable.
My thanks to Bloomsbury USA, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.
 

Saturday, October 31, 2015



Pretending To Dance

Diane Chamberlain

Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She lives in San Diego with a husband she adores, and they are trying to adopt a baby because they can't have a child on their own. But the process of adoption brings to light many questions about Molly's past and her family-the family she left behind in North Carolina twenty years before. The mother she says is dead but who is very much alive. The father she adored and whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison's Ridge. Her own birth mother whose mysterious presence in her family raised so many issues that came to a head. The summer of twenty years ago changed everything for Molly and as the past eaves together with the present story, Molly discovers that she learned to lie in the very family that taught her about pretending. If she learns the truth about her beloved father's death, can she find peace in the present to claim the life she really wants? (from Netgalley)



My Thoughts

Molly and her husband Aidan are trying to adopt. There is something in Molly’s past that is preventing her from being able to fully live in the present. Pretending to Dance is the story of what happened to Molly that one fateful summer and why it has impacted her life in such a significant way.
It is not often that I feel compelled to immediately sit down to write a review. But with this story, I have no choice, although first I had to quit crying.
Told in alternating chapters of Molly’s current life and one summer when she was fourteen, eventually the past and present collide. I’m not certain why, but I connected with Molly from the very beginning. I liked her as an adult, but fell in love with her as a fourteen year old. What happened when Molly was fourteen was gut wrenching for me. It is only when she is an adult and discovers the real truth that she is able to put the past behind her and move on.
This wasn’t so much of a roller coaster story, but a slow steady build up to an awesome ending. My goodness, how is it even possible this is my first read by this very talented author? As they say, better late than never. Off I go to pick another book by Ms. Chamberlain. I have a feeling she is going to be one of my go to authors when I want a guaranteed good read.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, via Netgalley for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review. Lucky me.......

Sunday, October 11, 2015


The Night Sister


Jennifer McMahon



Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper's kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel's past, something that ruined their friendship forever.
Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dreaof becoming Hitchcock's next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.(from Netgalley)

My Thoughts
Margot and Piper are sisters. Growing up, they hung out with Amy until one day they made a gruesome discovery that caused the friendship to fall apart. Margot marries a local boy, but Piper ends up moving away. Out of the blue, she gets a phone call that Amy has committed a horrific crime. She returns home to be with Margot and to try and find out what really happened with Amy. What truths will she uncover and who exactly is the night sister?
Hot dog - this was good and creepy. I liked undercurrent of something lurking around the corner - something just not right and off kilter, but you can’t get enough of a glimpse to be able to figure it out. I think Ms. McMahon has a great way of building suspense. Letting the reader in on little pieces of the puzzle that leave you wanting more. A great read from beginning to end. Having read a few of this author’s other books, this was no surprise.
Thank you to Doubleday Books, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Pretty Baby


Mary Kubica

A chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies in this stunning new psychological thriller from national bestselling author Mary Kubica.

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can't get the girl out of her head…

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family's objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow's past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she's willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated. (from Netgalley).

My Thoughts


Heidi sees a very young girl with a baby on the train platform. It appears that she is homeless, so out of the blue, Heidi invites the girl, Willow, to stay in her home with her baby. Heidi’s husband and daughter are flabbergasted. Who is this young girl and why would Heidi open their home to a stranger?
This story is told in three voices: Heidi’s, her husband Chris’, and Willow’s. Willow’s story starts in the past, how she came to have a baby and ended up being homeless. Chris and Heidi’s part of the story has to do with the present. Chris is trying to figure out what the heck is going on with his wife and who this young girl really is. But the most important piece of the story has to do with Heidi. On the surface she appears to want to help Willow and her baby. But when all is said and done, we get to find out what her real motive is.
This was pretty exciting! Willow’s story is sad and Heidi turns out to be bonkers. The story started out fast paced and never slowed down. There were some interesting twists and turns. This is the first book I’ve read from this author and I sure liked her style. She is definitely an author I will read again.
My thanks to Harlequin/Mira, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this for an unbiased review

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Friction

Sandra Brown

Crawford Hunt wants his daughter back. Following the death of his wife four years ago, Crawford, a Texas Ranger, fell into a downward spiral that left him relegated to deskwork and with his five-year-old daughter Georgia in the custody of her grandparents. But Crawford has cleaned up his act, met all the court imposed requirements, and now the fate of his family lies with Judge Holly Spencer.

Holly, ambitious and confident, temporarily occupies the bench of her recently deceased mentor. With an election upcoming, she must prove herself worthy of making her judgeship permanent. Every decision is high-stakes. Despite Crawford's obvious love for his child and his commitment to being an ideal parent, Holly is wary of his checkered past. Her opinion of him is radically changed when a masked gunman barges into the courtroom during the custody hearing. Crawford reacts instinctually, saving Holly from a bullet.

But his heroism soon takes on the taint of recklessness. The cloud over him grows even darker after he uncovers a horrifying truth about the courtroom gunman and realizes that the unknown person behind the shooting remains at large . . .and a threat.

Catching the real culprit becomes a personal fight for Crawford. But pursuing the killer in his customary diehard fashion will jeopardize his chances of gaining custody of his daughter, and further compromise Judge Holly Spencer, who needs protection not only from an assassin, but from Crawford himself and the forbidden attraction between them.

FRICTION will keep you on the edge of your seat with breathtaking plot twists and the unforgettable characters that make Sandra Brown one of the world's best-loved authors. It is an extraordinary novel about the powerful ties that bind us to the ones we love and the secrets we keep to protect them. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Crawford Hayes has done everything the court ordered in preparation for getting back custody of his daughter. On the day he is to hear the judge’s ruling on the matter, a lone gunman breaks into the courtroom. One man is killed and Crawford saves Judge Holly Spencer from being another victim. But was the killer really after Holly?

You just can’t go wrong reading a Sandra Brown novel. Always a page turner filled with mystery, interesting characters and just enough romance. Her stories may be a bit predictable, but I still find myself looking forward to reading them. This was a good book to get lost in.

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

Friday, September 25, 2015

Circling the Sun

Paula McLain

Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller The Paris Wife, takes readers into the glamorous and decadent circle of British expats living in Kenya in the 1920s. Circling the Sun tells the story of the beautiful young horse trainer, adventurer, and aviator Beryl Markham, from her childhood in British East Africa to her relationship with hunter Denys Finch Hatton and rivalry with Out of Africa author Karen Blixen—a notorious love triangle that changed the course of Beryl's life. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

The first thing that drew my attention to this book was the setting - lush and untamed Africa during the 1920‘s. I fell in love with this time and place after watching the movie Out of Africa.

Beryl Clutterbuck was only eight when her family moved to Africa. It did not take long for her mother to head back to England with Beryl’s brother. This left Beryl to be raised by often absent father and some of the local tribes people. She grew up foot loose and fancy free, which was atypical for young girls with an English background. This upbringing left her wanting a free and independent life. She became the first female licensed horse trainer in Kenya, which was an unheard of accomplishment.

Head strong and smart, she was unlucky in love. Two failed marriages and an affair with Denys Finch Hatton, who was also romantically involved with Karen Blixen, the author of Out of Africa.

Ms McLain weaves all of this together into a very entertaining story. I grew attached to Beryl from the very beginning - cheered for her success and was sadden by her losses. The author paints such a descriptive picture of Africa, the people living there and the time period. This book had me from page one!

My thanks to Random House - Ballantine Books, via Netgally, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry

Fredrik Backman

From the author of the internationally bestselling A Man Called Ove, a charming, warmhearted novel about a young girl whose grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters, sending her on a journey that brings to life the world of her grandmother’s fairy tales.

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy, standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman’s internationally bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death and an ode to one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.

My Thoughts

“Having a grandmother is like having an army. This is a grandchild’s ultimate privelage: knowing that someone is on your side, always, whatever the details. Even when you are wrong. Especially then, in fact.”
And so it is between Elsa and her Granny. Elsa grew up having her grandmother tell her fairy tales about the kingdom in the Land-of-Almost-Awake. When Granny dies, Elsa feels as though she has lost her best friend. Little did she know that her Granny had plans for her to deliver letters to different people in their apartment building and who those people would really turn out to be. Was the Land-of-Almost-Awake really just a fairy tale?

Oh how Mr. Backman has a way with making a reader fall in love with his characters. Elsa has such a brave heart and she is determined to follow through with her Granny’s wishes to deliver each letter. Along the way, she meets some amazing people and learns many lessons about love, community and family.

This story was magical. Not just because of the premise, but because of it’s message. What a delight!

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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Broken Promise (Promise Falls #1)

Linwood Barclay



After his wife’s death and the collapse of his newspaper, David Harwood has no choice but to uproot his nine-year-old son and move back into his childhood home in Promise Falls, New York. David believes his life is in free fall, and he can’t find a way to stop his descent.

Then he comes across a family secret of epic proportions. A year after a devastating miscarriage, David’s cousin Marla has continued to struggle. But when David’s mother asks him to check on her, he’s horrified to discover that she’s been secretly raising a child who is not her own—a baby she claims was a gift from an “angel” left on her porch.

When the baby’s real mother is found murdered, David can’t help wanting to piece together what happened—even if it means proving his own cousin’s guilt. But as he uncovers each piece of evidence, David realizes that Marla’s mysterious child is just the tip of the iceberg.

Other strange things are happening. Animals are found ritually slaughtered. An ominous abandoned Ferris wheel seems to stand as a warning that something dark has infected Promise Falls. And someone has decided that the entire town must pay for the sins of its past…in blood(from Netgalley).

My Thoughts

David is forced to move back to his hometown with his son Ethan. Until he can get a job, they are living with his parents. A simple act of kindness towards his cousin Marla gets David involved in situations he could have never predicted. In trying to help Marla out, David uncovers many secrets and they don’t just involve his family.

This was a fast paced, easy read. There is a lot going in this story, but the author handled the different plot lines quite well. David is a likeable character, so it was easy to get caught up in his story. For me, the best past is this is book one of a series. The author left us with some unanswered questions that have me looking forward to whatever comes next.

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Mask

Taylor Stevens

Vanessa Michael Munroe, chameleon and information hunter, has a reputation for getting things done: dangerous and not quite legal things that have taken her undercover into some of the world's deadliest places. Still healing from a Somali hijacking gone wrong and a brutal attack that left her near death, Munroe joins her lover, Miles Bradford, in Japan where he's working as a security consultant protecting high-value technology from industrial espionage. In the domesticity of their routine she finds long sought-after peace—until Bradford is arrested for murder, and the same interests who targeted him come after her, too.
Searching for answers and fighting to stay alive, Munroe will soon discover how far she'll go to save Bradford from spending the next twenty years in locked-up isolation; how many laws she'll break when the truth seems worse than his lies; and who to trust and who she must kill. Because she's a strategist and hunter with a predator's instincts, and the man she loves has just stabbed her in the back.
With break-neck pacing, incendiary prose, and an unforgettable cast of characters, The Mask features Vanessa Michael Munroe: a brilliant, lethal heroine who will stop at nothing to find the truth, no matter what it may cost.

My Thoughts

Vanessa Michael Munroe needs some down time after her last adventure. She goes to Japan to spend time with her boyfriend Miles Bradford, who is working as a security consultant. Suddenly, he is charged with murder. It’s Vanessa’s job to work the puzzle that will hopefully set him free.

What I like about this series and this particular character, is that Vanessa has to use both her brain and her brawn to get into and/or out of certain situations. She is one smart cookie and these story really require the reader to pay attention as we follow along while Vanessa works to solve the problem. And from a physical standpoint - you do NOT want to mess with her.

Honestly, this story had my heart pounding from excitement (hmm - can this be consider cardio work out? Sorry - I digress). This is one of a very few series that is on my must read list. Sometimes by book number 5 or 6, I start to tire of a series. But not this one. I always look forward to seeing what situation Vanessa gets into next, and how she will use her wits and physical prowess to to deal with it.

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Little Paris Bookshop

Nina George

There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that's how I sell books.”

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country's rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people's lives. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Jean Perdu has taken an old barge and turned it into a book store called Literary Apothecary. People come in thinking they know what book they want to buy, but Perdu knows otherwise. He has an uncanny ability to access what book the buyer NEEDS. His ability to help others fix themselves by selling them the right book has endeared him to many. On a personal level, he has been unable to get over a lost love that happened 20 plus years ago. Finally decides to head out on a journey in the hopes that he will resolve his own heartache.

The author has given us a very likeable character in Jean Perdu. He is dedicated to helping others through books. His sad heart makes it impossible to find new love and one can’t help but cheer for him as he travels in search of closure. He brings along two book store cats and a quirky author who is also in search of a new life. They meet some fun/odd/unique people along the way.

I will admit that any book that has the word “library”, “book store” or “book shop” always catches my eye. As someone who loves to read, I make the assumption that books with these words in the title will be worth reading. This assumption does not always prove true, but it sure did with this book. My first reaction was to call this book cute. But it really is more than that. It is about friendship, trust, a bit of heartache and ultimately, the power of love.

Nicely done Ms. George!

My thanks to Crown Publishing, via Netgally, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review. It was very entertaining and made me smile.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Father, Son, Stone

Allan H. Goodman

Father, Son, Stone blends history and mystery to reveal the secret of the most controversial religious site in Jerusalem - known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

In the year 2035, a grandfather and his grandson enter the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. The grandfather, speaking Arabic, tells his grandson why Jews no longer pray at the Western Wall.

The grandfather's story begins in 1967 during the Six-Day War, with three Israeli paratroopers fighting in the battle for Jerusalem. The tale continues fifty years later, in 2017, after a catastrophic event near the Temple Mount brings together the same three men - now the Prime Minister of Israel, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, and a Mossad agent. As the crisis unfolds, the three seek to discover the reason behind mysterious events that occurred on the Temple Mount during the Six-Day War. The truth, when finally revealed, changes Jerusalem, and the people who live there, forever(from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

This piece of historical fiction has to do with the Jewish capture of the Temple Mount and it’s immediate return to the Waqf.

I know nothing about the Jewish or Muslim faith. From a historical perspective, I found this book to be very educational. I liked the fictional piece the author added to give the story a personal feel. What I came away with after reading this book is that we are all the same - we love, we struggle, we mourn the loss of loved ones and we are proud of our heritage.

I wasn’t sure where this book was going to take me when I first started reading. I’m glad I decided to finish it, as it was well written and informative.

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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

I Saw A Man

Owen Sheers

An utterly stunning novel of love, loss, the insidious nature of secrets, and the enduring power of words. I Saw a Man fulfills the promise of Owen Sheers's acclaimed novel, Resistance.

When journalist Caroline Marshall fails to return from assignment in Pakistan, her grief-stricken husband, Michael, leaves their cottage in Wales and returns to London where he quickly develops a friendship with his neighbors, Josh and Samantha Nelson, and their two young daughters. Michael's friendship with the Nelsons marks the beginning of a long healing process, until a terrible accident adds yet more grief, and the burden of a shattering secret, to Michael's life. How will Michael bear this weight as he navigates his persistent doubts on the path to attempted redemption? The answer, revealed with nerve-wracking suspense, is eloquent, resonant, and completely unforgettable. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Caroline Marshall is a foreign correspondent. She gives up traveling when she marries Michael. When a once in a lifetime chance surfaces to interview rebels in Pakistan, she cannot resist the opportunity. She is one of several people killed by an unmanned drone strike. To overcome his grief, Michael moves and end up the neighbor to Josh and Samantha, who have two young daughters. Just as he starts to feel better about the loss of Caroline, he is involved in an incident that results in a tragic loss of life. Now, he must overcome this obstacle as well.

Boy, this premise sure was enticing. I thought it was interesting that the author incorporated the story of the pilot who was operating the unmanned drone that killed Caroline into the plot. I would have liked this part of the story and the relationship he had with Michael developed a bit more. Mr. Sheers did do a great job of writing about Michael’s journey toward healing. It was not an easy road.

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



Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Library at Mount Char

Scott Hawkins



A missing God.
A library with the secrets to the universe.
A woman too busy to notice her heart slipping away.

Carolyn's not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas sweater over the gold bicycle shorts. After all, she was a normal American herself once. That was a long time ago, of course. Before her parents died. Before she and the others were taken in by the man they called Father.

In the years since then, Carolyn hasn't had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father's ancient customs. They've studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. And sometimes, they've wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing—perhaps even dead—and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded. And with it, control over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own. But Carolyn has accounted for this. And Carolyn has a plan. The only trouble is that in the war to make a new God, she's forgotten to protect the things that make her human.

Populated by an unforgettable cast of characters and propelled by a plot that will shock you again and again, The Library at Mount Char is at once horrifying and hilarious, mind-blowingly alien and heartbreakingly human, sweepingly visionary and nail-bitingly thrilling—and signals the arrival of a major new voice in fantasy.

My Thoughts

Carolyn is one of several young kids suddenly orphaned and adopted by a man they call Father. Over many years, he teaches each kid a skill. For example - talking to animals or bringing someone back from the dead. Father is a strict disciplinarian and often uses cruel methods to get his point across. One day, Father disappears. Chaos ensues. What exactly happened to Father?

I had requested this book several months ago and when time came to read it, I had forgotten what the synopsis said about the story. Within the first couple of chapters I was thinking - boy, this is one weird book. Guys wearing tutus, a girl in bike shorts and a Christmas sweater, a boy being roasted alive in a bull shape BBQ grill, only to be brought back to life. When I rechecked the synopsis and saw this was sci-fi, I thought - uh oh. Sci-fi and I don’t always get along.

But there was something just intriguing enough to keep me reading. Once I got to the part on exactly what Carolyn had pulled off I was pretty impressed. Actually, when it all fell into place, I decided the plot was pretty smart and it changed my whole opinion about the book. There were several characters that I liked and the author added some nice humor.

The epilogue leaves me with the impression that there could be a sequel. I’ll be at the head of the line to read it should we be so lucky to get one (or maybe two?).

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

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Truth According to Us

Annie Barrows



From the co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society comes a wise, witty, and exuberant novel, perfect for fans of Lee Smith, that illuminates the power of loyalty and forgiveness, memory and truth, and the courage it takes to do what's right.

Annie Barrows once again evokes the charm and eccentricity of a small town filled with extraordinary characters. Her new novel, The Truth According to Us, brings to life an inquisitive young girl, her beloved aunt, and the alluring visitor who changes the course of their destiny forever.

In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck's father, a United States senator, cuts off her allowance and demands that she find employment on the Federal Writers' Project, a New Deal jobs program. Within days, Layla finds herself far from her accustomed social whirl, assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, and destined, in her opinion, to go completely mad with boredom. But once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is drawn into their complex world and soon discovers that the truth of the town is entangled in the thorny past of the Romeyn dynasty.

At the Romeyn house, twelve-year-old Willa is desperate to learn everything in her quest to acquire her favorite virtues of ferocity and devotion—a search that leads her into a thicket of mysteries, including the questionable business that occupies her charismatic father and the reason her adored aunt Jottie remains unmarried. Layla's arrival strikes a match to the family veneer, bringing to light buried secrets that will tell a new tale about the Romeyns. As Willa peels back the layers of her family's past, and Layla delves deeper into town legend, everyone involved is transformed—and their personal histories completely rewritten.(from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Layla Beck is sent to Macedonia, WV as part of the Federal Writers’ Project. She boards with the Romeyn family. Under their roof lives Felix, his sister Jottie and his two daughters Willa and Bird. His other two sisters, Mae and Minerva (both married) are part time residents. We also spend time with another brother Emmett and a childhood friend, Sol. As Layla researches the town’s history, she uncovers several secrets. Not just about Macedonia, but also about the Romeyns.

I absolutely love when a story involves the point of view of a youngster. Usually, young people are honest and frequently funny as they try to navigate around the adults in their lives. Willa exemplifies this behavior. When we first meet her, she has a burning desire to know everything. But by the end of the story, she has discovered that sometimes knowing everything is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I was sad when I came to the end of this truly lovely tale. Not because it was a sad story - far from it. But because it was over. I loved spending time with the characters. Ms. Barrows sure has a way pulling the reader into their lives and making us feel like we are living it with them. Part love story, part mystery, told with humor and grace, this is on my list of best reads for 2015. A true gem!

I am grateful to Random House Publishing, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Sound of Glass

Karen White

It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country.

My Thought’s

Merritt is a widow who lost her firefighter husband Cal in tragic accident. Loralee is the stepmom she barely knows. Owen is her half brother that Merritt initially wants nothing to do with. Gibbes is the brother-in-law that Merritt did not know existed. These four people come together in Beaufort, SC after Merritt inherits a house from Cal’s grandmother.

To say that Merritt is uptight would be paying her a compliment. But she does come by her standoffishness legitimately. A sad upbringing and an even sadder marriage has left her weary of close relationships. Loralee does not have one mean bone in her body. She is all Southern charm and graciousness. While I think this was her true personality, she has a hidden reason for wanting Merritt to like her and Owen. And then there is Owen. Being a kid is not easy, but being a nerdy kid is even worse. He just wants people to like him for who he is. Finally, Gibbes. A kind-hearted and honest individual who has his own wounds to heal.

How the author wove these four characters in and out of this story is magical. This is such a heartwarming story of sharing and trust building. I remember how I felt after reading an earlier book by Ms. White and this one was no different. She always leaves me with a smile on my face and a true belief in the power of love.

My thanks to Penguin Group Berkeley, NAL, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Gracekeepers

Kirsty Logan


As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland ("landlockers") and those who float on the sea ("damplings"), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives--offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age(from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Callanish and North are two young girls living completely different lives. Callanish on land and North on the sea. Each has a preconceived notion of th other’s living style and originally could not fathom any commonality. And then one day, by happenstance, theirs paths cross and they make a connection. What will this chance meeting mean for these two?

Because of how each girl earns her sustenance and the environment they each live in, this story had a magical feeling. Callanish is all by herself on an island. North is part of a traveling circus with some very unique performers. They are loners due to their circumstances, but don’t really want to be alone.

This was one of those books that I would put down, not sure that it was for me. But then something about it would call to me and I would pick it back up. This happened a few times, but once I got into the heart of the story, I was hooked. I liked how the author wove the two girls stories together. I’m very glad I decided to stick with this story.

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

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Third Wife

Lisa Jewell



In the early hours of a summer morning, a young woman steps into the path of an oncoming bus. A tragic accident? Or suicide?

At the center of this puzzle is Adrian Wolfe, a successful architect and grief-stricken widower, who, a year after his third wife’s death, begins to investigate the cause. As Adrian looks back on their brief but seemingly happy marriage, disturbing secrets begin to surface. The divorces from his two previous wives had been amicable, or so it seemed; his children, all five of them, were resilient as ever, or so he thought. But something, or someone, must have pushed Maya over the edge…

With psychological nuance that gets into the heart of its characters, The Third Wife is a gripping story about a man seeking the truth behind his seemingly perfect marriage and the broken pieces left behind (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Adrian has been married three times. First he marries Susan and has two children. Then, he leaves her to marry Caroline that resulted in three children. Next, he leaves Caroline for Maya and they have no children. This big extended family hangs out together, goes on vacation together, babysits each others children. Much of the coordinating of everyone’s activities falls to Maya and why not. She has no children and even though she works, she should still have time to take care of everyone else - right? From the outside, this looks like an amazingly blended family. But as we know, looks can be deceiving. One night, after some heavy drinking, Maya steps in front of a bus and is killed. What secrets was Maya holding on to that led to this fateful night?

I like the way Lisa Jewell develops her characters. Adrian is oblivious to how his behavior has impacted his family. He thinks if he’s happy, everyone else must be happy. I wanted to slap him.And poor Maya, I felt so sorry for her as her seemingly happy little life slowly falls apart. I enjoyed the suspense as Adrian pieces together the mystery that was his third wife. This was well paced and smartly written. No surprise from this very talented author.

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



 

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Ice Twins

S.K. Tremayne



One of Sarah's daughters died. But can she be sure which one?

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcroft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.
But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity--that she, in fact, is Lydia--their world comes crashing down once again.
As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, they are forced to confront what really happened on that fateful day. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Sarah and Angus are married and have identical twin daughters, Lydia and Kirstie. Lydia dies in a tragic accident. Or does she?

Early on in this story, Sarah is talking to Kirstie. Out of the blue, Kirstie says “Mummy, why do you keep calling me Kirstie? I’m Lydia.” And from that moment on, the reader is in for one heck of a roller coaster ride.

This book is the perfect example of why I love to read. To get sucked into a story early on and not want to let it go. There are so many twists and turns - who’s telling the truth and who’s not, is the little girl Lydia or Kirstie. What happened on the night she died? Is the island they moved to haunted or is what Sarah experiences just the aftermath of the traumatic loss of a daughter?

I thought this plot was ingenious. I have know idea how someone can come up with a story like this, but I’m sure glad S.K. Tremayne did. Hands down my most favorite book of 2015, and believe me, I’ve read some good ones this year.

Many thanks to Grand Central Publishing, via Netgalley, for allowing me to reaf this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Forgotten Room

Lincoln Child

Jeremy Logan (The Third Gate, Deep Storm) is an "enigmalogist"—an investigator who specializes in analyzing phenomena that have no obvious explanation. In this newest novel Logan finds himself on the storied coastline of Newport, Rhode Island, where he has been retained by Lux, one of the oldest and most respected think tanks in America. Just days earlier, a series of frightening events took place in the sprawling seaside mansion that houses the organization. One of its most distinguished doctors began acting erratically—violently attacking an assistant in the mansion's opulent library and, moments later, killing himself in a truly shocking fashion. Terrified by the incident and the bizarre evidence left behind, the group hires Logan to investigate—discreetly—what drove this erudite man to madness.
His work leads him to an unexpected find. In a long-dormant wing of the estate, Logan uncovers an ingeniously hidden secret room, concealed and apparently untouched for decades. The room is a time capsule, filled with eerie and obscure scientific equipment that points to a top secret project long thought destroyed, known only as "Project S." Ultimately, the truth of what Project S was . . . and what has happened in that room . . . will put Logan in the path of a completely unexpected danger. (from Netgalley)



My Thoughts

Jeremy Logan has an ability to solve strange phenomena - an enigmalogist. He is also an empath. These two characteristics put him the middle of an interesting puzzle. While trying to solve the death of a scientist at a prestigious research facility, he discovers a hidden room. The are no doors or windows, but it is very clear the room has been recently used. Does this forgotten room hold the key to the mysterious death and odd occurrences that have been taking place?

This was a well paced mystery. Mr. Child has created a very likeable character in Jeremy Logan. Logan solves this puzzle by observing what most people would miss and using all his sense to pick up on clues. Slowly but surely, the pieces of the puzzle fall together and this results in a page turning ending.

The Forgotten Room is book #4 in the Jeremy Logan series, but I thought it read well as a stand alone. I look forward to keeping up with Jeremy Logan to see what will be his next adventure.

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

Monday, June 1, 2015

Jack of Spades

Joyce Carol Oates

Andrew J. Rush has achieved the kind of critical and commercial success most authors only dream about: his twenty-eight mystery novels have sold millions of copies in nearly thirty countries, and he has a top agent and publisher in New York. He also has a loving wife, three grown children, and is a well-regarded philanthropist in his small New Jersey town. But Rush is hiding a dark secret. Under the pseudonym “Jack of Spades,” he writes another string of novels—dark potboilers that are violent, lurid, even masochistic. These are novels that the refined, upstanding Andrew Rush wouldn’t be seen reading, let alone writing. Until one day, his daughter comes across a Jack of Spades novel that he has carelessly left out and begins to ask questions. Meanwhile, Rush receives a court summons in the mail explaining that a local woman has accused him of plagiarizing her own self-published fiction. Rush’s reputation, career, and family life all come under threat—and unbidden, in the back of his mind, the Jack of Spades starts thinking ever more evil thoughts. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Andrew Rush is a successful author. No one, not even his family, knows that he also writes books under the name Jack of Spades. Andrew takes great pleasure writing as Jack of Spades because the stories are dark and twisted. He likes that this part of his life is hidden. But when there is a chance that his secret will be revealed, Andrew’s hold on reality slowly starts to unravel.

When we first meet Andrew J. Rush, he is a bit of a pompous jerk. His biggest fan is himself. He can’t imagine his life might fall apart and when it starts to do exactly that, his alter ego - Jack of Spades - starts to take over his thoughts and actions.

Ms. Oates did a great job creating an unstable character with Andrew J. Rush. I found it interesting that she incorporated author Stephen King into the story, as the level of creepiness in Jack of Spades made me think of King’s writing. Rush was one of those characters that made me happy he got what he had coming at the end.

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

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Fall

John Lescroart

Late one night, a teenage African American foster child named Tanya Morgan plummets to her death from the overpass above San Francisco’s Stockton tunnel. But did she fall…or was she pushed?

Rushing to produce a convictable suspect in the glare of the media spotlight, homicide inspectors focus their attention on a na├»ve young man named Greg Treadway. Greg is a middle school teacher and he volunteers as a Special Advocate for foster children. At first, the only thing connecting him to Tanya’s death is the fact that they shared a meal earlier that night. But soon enough, elements of that story seem to fall apart…and Hardy’s daughter, Rebecca, finds herself drawn into the young man’s defense.

By the time Greg’s murder trial gets underway, Dismas and Rebecca have unearthed several other theories about the crime: a missing stepfather who’d sexually assaulted her; a roommate who ran a call girl service; a psychologically unstable birth mother; and a mysterious homeless man who may have had dealings with Tanya. Or Greg Treadway himself, who is perhaps not all that he first appeared. But how will they get these theories in front of a jury? And if they can, what price will they have to pay?

With signature suspense and intricate plotting, The Fall puts Dismas Hardy and his only daughter in the middle of one of John Lescroart’s most complex and thrilling cases yet.

My Thoughts

Dismas Hardy and his daughter Rebecca are both lawyers. This is Rebecca’s first big murder trial, and with her father’s help, the work to defend a young man accused of murder.

Hot dog! This was good. Some courtroom thrillers go a little too heavy on the legalese, but not this one. I like the way the author incorporated the legal process into this story. Dismas has an opportunity to share his wisdom with his daughter, while still allowing her to take lead on the case.

I’m going to share this little tidbit. The court case was settled with about 10% of the book left to read. I remember thinking - what could be left to tell? Hold on to your hats - because the ending will blow you away.

I have not read all the books in this series (my bad). But, the ones I have read do well as a standalone. I like Dismas Hardy and the Beck. I’. looking forward to seeing what’s up next in the series.

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



 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Kingdom of Darkness

Andy McDermott

For fans of James Rollins and Matthew Reilly comes the new gripping, globe-spanning adventure in Andy McDermott’s thrilling series featuring American archaeologist Nina Wilde and ex–SAS bodyguard Eddie Chase.

History’s most sought after treasure is now mankind’s worst fear.

In Los Angeles, a desperate man seeks out renowned archaeologist Nina Wilde and her husband, ex–SAS soldier Eddie Chase—only to be gunned down in front of them. The assassin is soon identified as a ninety-year-old Nazi war criminal—with the body of a healthy forty-year-old.

Following the victim’s final warnings, Nina and Eddie travel to Cairo to inspect the newly discovered tomb of Alexander the Great. But the real find is hidden in one of its treasures—a mechanical guide leading to one of antiquity’s most tantalizing myths: a spring of water said to give eternal life to those who drink it.

Nina, Eddie, and a team of Mossad agents realize that the myth is real, and that a group of former SS men who have tasted this water are now hunting for its source. But before she and her alliance can act, Nina is kidnapped and spirited away to a secret Nazi enclave in Argentina, igniting a fierce, fateful, globe-spanning struggle in which her life hangs in the balance. All the while a terrifying possibility emerges—that the world’s darkest evil could live on forever (from Netgalley)
 


My Thoughts
 
In this episode of the Nina Chase and Eddie Wilde series, we find these two trying to beat the Nazis (yes - the Nazis) from finding Alexander the Great’s Spring of Immortality.

I absolutely adore Nina and Eddie! Eddie has that delightfully dry British wit and Nina brings the brains to the team. Because Nina is an archaeologist, these stories teach me something about history. The two of them together always seem to get caught up in some dark escapade that involves action, action, action!

I find these stories to be fast paced and entertaining. I’m always looking forward to the next book just to see what I will learn and what craziness Nina and Eddie will be involved in next.

My thanks to Random House - Bantam Dell, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Inside the O’Briens

Lisa Genova

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Praised for writing that “explores the resilience of the human spirit” (The San Francisco Chronicle), Lisa Genova has once again delivered a novel as powerful and unforgettable as the human insights at its core. (from Netgalley)


My Thoughts

Joe O’Brien is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. There is a fifty-fifty chance his four children will also be diagnosed with the disease. Their story is told in the alternating voice of Joe and his youngest daughter Katie.

What a journey! Lisa Genova has created such likeable characters. Joe is like any Dad who loves and protects his family. His diagnosis is not only heartbreaking for him, but knowing that his children might also have the disease adds to his struggles. Youngest daughter Katie is just starting to come into her own and has to decide whether or not to do the genetic testing to see if she has the disease.

I quickly got lost in this story. I couldn’t wait to read how Joe and Katie dealt with this life changing situation. Both of them used a mix of love, faith and hope. I thought this was inspiring. My first book to read by Ms. Genova, but it won’t be my last.

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



 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Matheny Manifesto

A Young Manager's Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life


Mike Matheny, Jerry B. Jenkins


Mike Matheny was just forty-one, without professional managerial experience and looking for a next step after a successful career as a Major League catcher, when he succeeded the legendary Tony La Russa as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012. While Matheny has enjoyed immediate success, leading the Cards to the postseason three times in his first three years, people have noticed something else about his life, something not measured in day-to-day results. Instead, it's based on a frankly worded letter he wrote to the parents of a Little League team he coached, a cry for change that became an Internet sensation and eventually a “manifesto.”

The tough-love philosophy Matheny expressed in the letter contained his throwback beliefs that authority should be respected, discipline and hard work rewarded, spiritual faith cultivated, family made a priority, and humility considered a virtue. In The Matheny Manifesto, he builds on his original letter by first diagnosing the problem at the heart of youth sports−hint: it starts with parents and coaches−and then by offering a hopeful path forward. Along the way, he uses stories from his small-town childhood as well as his career as a player, coach, and manager to explore eight keys to success: leadership, confidence, teamwork, faith, class, character, toughness, and humility.

From “The Coach Is Always Right, Even When He's Wrong” to “Let Your Catcher Call the Game,” Matheny's old-school advice might not always be popular or politically correct, but it works. His entertaining and deeply inspirational book will not only resonate with parents, coaches, and athletes, it will also be a powerful reminder, from one of the most successful new managers in the game, of what sports can teach us all about winning on the field and in life (from Netgalley)



My Thoughts

Disclosure: I was born and raised a STL Cardinal baseball fan. I live my life and will die as a STL Cardinal baseball fan. Some might argue that this would bias me to give a favorable review of a book written by the current manager of the STL Cardinals baseball team. Duly noted.

I liked Mike Matheny when he was the catcher for the Cardinals. I was sad when he left the team. I, like many others, was a bit surprised when he was hired to be manager since he had no prior experience as a manager at the major league level. I think this book is evidence of why he does so well in this position. The message that he outlines in the book for coaching young baseball players seems to be the way he handles adult players. There are many interesting examples of successes and failures, along with the thought process behind his decision making.

You don’t have to be a baseball fan or even a lover of sports to be able to learn something from this book. It was very well written and has lessons that can be used in everyday life.

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

At The Water’s Edge

Sara Gruen

In this new novel from the author of Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen again demonstrates her talent for creating spellbinding period pieces. At the Water's Edge is a gripping and poignant love story about a privileged young woman's personal awakening as she experiences the devastations of World War II in a Scottish Highlands village.

Madeline Hyde, a young socialite from Philadelphia, reluctantly follows her husband and their best friend to the tiny village of Drumnadrochit in search of a mythical monster—at the same time that a very real monster, Hitler, wages war against the Allied Forces. What Maddie discovers—about the larger world and about herself—through the unlikely friendships she develops with the villagers, pens her eyes not only to the dark forces that exist around her but to the beauty and surprising possibilities (from Netgalley)


My Thoughts
 

Madeline is married to Ellis Hyde. They live with his parents, who feel Ellis married below his status. When his parents cut off financial support, Ellis comes up with the idea to go in search of the infamous Loch Nest monster. Maddie tags along, as does their best friend Hank. This is the story of how the adventure changes Maddie’s life.

At the beginning, I did not like Maddie, Ellis or Hank. They were uppity, snooty, can’t lift a finger to tie their own shoelaces kind of people. But as the story progressed, I was able to warm up to Maddie and was cheering for her at the end. She makes a total turn around with her attitude towards the working class people she encounters in Scotland. I even shed a tear for her, but I’m not going to tell you why ;)

Another fine tale from a very talented author.

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