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.

Monday, March 30, 2015

What Stands in a Storm

Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South's Tornado Alley

Kim Cross

Immersive reporting and dramatic storytelling set you right in the middle of the horrific superstorm of April 2011, a weather event that killed 348 people.

April 27, 2011, marked the climax of a superstorm that saw a record 358 tornadoes rip through twenty-one states in three days, seven hours, and eighteen minutes. It was the deadliest day of the biggest tornado outbreak in recorded history, which saw 348 people killed, entire neighborhoods erased, and $11 billion in damage. The biggest of the tornadoes left scars across the land so wide they could be seen from space. But from the terrible destruction emerged everyday heroes, neighbors and strangers who rescued each other from hell on earth.

With powerful emotion and gripping detail, Cross weaves together the heart-wrenching stories of several characters—including three college students, a celebrity weatherman, and a team of hard-hit rescuers—to create a nail-biting chronicle in the Tornado Alley of America. No, it’s not Oklahoma or Kansas; it’s Alabama, where there are more tornado fatalities than anywhere in the US, where the trees and hills obscure the storms until they’re bearing down upon you. For some, it’s a story of survival, and for others it’s the story of their last hours.

Cross’s immersive reporting and dramatic storytelling sets you right in the middle of the very worst hit areas of Alabama, where thousands of ordinary people witnessed the sky falling around them. Yet from the disaster comes a redemptive message that’s just as real: In times of trouble, the things that tear our world apart also reveal what holds us together. (from Netgalley)


My Thoughts
Having lived in the Midwest most of my life, I am no stranger to tornado warnings. Thankfully, I have never experienced a tornado and hope I never will. Recently, it occurred to me that I have become a bit too lackadaisical with regards to heeding the tornado warnings. Not long ago, I was actually getting mad at the weather person for interrupting my TV show (Sponge Bob).

This book is a prime example of why we should all take tornado warnings seriously. People who did everything they were supposed to still lost their lives. How stupid of me to think something as simple as going to the basement is too much trouble. Not anymore.

This is an intense - educational - heartbreaking yet uplifting story. We learn about how tornados are formed and a brief history of the national weather service. We get to ride along with storm chasers. And we spend time with individuals as they ride out the tornado - some who survived and some who did not,

The author did an outstanding job of making this a very interesting story. I learned alot and I have a new respect for tornados and tornado warnings.

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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Stranger

Harlan Coben

The Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar, or a parking lot, or at the grocery store. His identity is unknown. His motives are unclear. His information is undeniable. Then he whispers a few words in your ear and disappears, leaving you picking up the pieces of your shattered world.

Adam Price has a lot to lose: a comfortable marriage to a beautiful woman, two wonderful sons, and all the trappings of the American Dream: a big house, a good job, a seemingly perfect life.

Then he runs into the Stranger. When he learns a devastating secret about his wife, Corinne, he confronts her, and the mirage of perfection disappears as if it never existed at all. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corinne’s deception, and realizes that if he doesn’t make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives—it will end them. (from Netgalley)
 


My Thoughts
Adam Price is approached by a stranger who tells him a secret - a secret that could ruin Adam’s marriage. Who is this stranger and how did he learn the secret?

I look forward to new Harlan Coben novels like a kid waiting for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. I just know I’m going to get something good and The Stranger was just what I was hopinh for.

Mr. Coben has a knack for taking normal. everyday people and putting them in very tricky situations where they have no option but to rely on their own wits and intelligence. This book went right down to the last page with the suspense. As always with this author, a very enjoyable read.

Thank you to Penguin Group - Dutton, via Netgalley - for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.



 

 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

AsapScience

Answers to the World’s Weirdest Questions, Most Persistent Rumors, and Unexplained Phenomena
 
Mitchell Moffit, Greg Brown
 

From the creators of the wildly popular and seriously scientific YouTube channel, AsapSCIENCE, comes entertaining, irreverent, and totally accessible answers to the questions you never got to ask in science class.

Why do we get hung over? What would happen if you stopped sleeping? Is binge-watching TV actually bad for you? Why should I take a power nap? In their first-ever book, Mitchell Moffit and Greg Brown, the geniuses behind YouTube channel AsapSCIENCE, explain the true science of how things work in their trademark hilarious and fascinating fashion.

Applying the fun, illustrated format of their addictive videos to topics ranging from brain freeze to hiccups to the science of the snooze button, AsapSCIENCE takes the underpinnings of biology, chemistry, physics, and other hard sciences and applies them to everyday life through quirky and relatable examples that will appeal to both science nerds and those who didn’t ace chemistry. This is the science that people actually want to learn, shared in a friendly, engaging style. And in the spirit of science, no subject is taboo. Amid the humor is great information and cocktail conversation fodder, all thoughtfully presented. Whether you’re a total newbie or the next Albert Einstein, this guide is sure to educate and entertain...ASAP.(from Netgalley)

My Thoughts
 

I so admire anyone who can make science fun and these two authors have done exactly that. Never dry, filled with delightfully silly drawings and answers to some of life’s truly important questions such as “Can Sneezing Pop Your Eyeballs Out”(I never thought of this one) or “Are Silent Farts More Deadly”(I’ve often wondered about the SBD phenomenon). The chapter titles made me laugh, but then the authors go on to outline in very down-to earth terms the scientific explanation behind the answers.

Bravo to Mr. Brown and Mr. Moffit. This is a perfect example of how using humor makes learning so much more enjoyable.

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



Sunday, March 15, 2015

Nightbird

Alice Hoffman

An enchanting novel from bestselling author Alice Hoffman: a charmed New England village, a family secret, and a friendship destined to defeat a witch.

"Some things could only be found in Sidwell it seemed: pink apples, black owls, and my brother, James."

Twelve-year-old Twig's town in the Berkshires is said to hide a winged beast, the Monster of Sidwell, and the rumors draw as many tourists as the town's famed pink apple orchards. Twig lives in the orchard with her mysterious brother James and her reclusive mother, a baker of irresistible apple pies. Because of a family secret, an ancient curse,Twig has had to isolate herself from other kids. Then a family with two girls, Julia and Agate, moves into the cottage next door. They are descendants of the witch who put the spell on Twig's family. But Julia turns out to be Twig's first true friend, and her ally in trying to undo the curse and smooth the path to true love for Agate and James (from Netgalley)


My Thoughts
Twig lives in Sidwell with her Mom and brother. Their family has a secret - a curse placed on the family many years ago that only effects the men. They’ve spent all their lives hiding this secret. What will happen when the truth finally comes out?

There are many different reasons that I look forward to reading a book. Perhaps it is next in line for a series I am enjoying. Maybe that much anticipated third book of a trilogy. Or another new story from a favorite author.

But what to think when one of my favorite author of adult stories decides to change things up and write a book geared toward middle grade readers? Will the foray into a new genre be successful?

Coming from Alice Hoffman, the only answer can be a resounding Yes! I found Nightbird to be truly magical. The reader can’t help but fall in love with Twig. She is like an young girl who just wants to fit in, but can’t due to the family secret. She is loyal to a fault and will do anything to help her brother James.

This was just a delightful read. Very uplifting, a bit of a mystery, with focus on family, friendship and the power of believing that doing the right thing will win out in the end. A great story for young and old alike.

Many thanks to Random House Children’s, via Netgalley for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Touch of Stardust

Kate Alcott

When Julie Crawford leaves Fort Wayne, Indiana for Hollywood, she never imagines she'll cross paths with Carole Lombard, the dazzling actress from Julie's provincial Midwestern hometown. Although the young woman has dreams of becoming a screenwriter, the only job Julie's able to find is one in the studio publicity office of the notoriously demanding producer David O. Selznick—who is busy burning through directors, writers and money as he begins filming Gone with the Wind.
Although tensions run high on the set, Julie finds she can step onto the back lot, take in the smell of smoky gunpowder and the soft rustle of hoop skirts, and feel the magical world ofGone with the Wind come to life. Julie's access to real-life magic comes when Carole Lombard hires her as an assistant and invites her into the glamorous world Carole shares with Clark Gable—who is about to move into movie history as the dashing Rhett Butler.
Carole Lombard, happily profane and uninhibited, makes no secret of her relationship with Gable, which poses something of a problem for the studio as Gable is technically still married—and the last thing the film needs is more negative publicity. Julie is there to fend off the overly curious reporters, hoping to prevent details about the affair from slipping out. But she can barely keep up with her blonde employer, let alone control what comes out of Carole's mouth, and--as their friendship grows - soon finds she doesn't want to. Carole, both wise and funny, becomes Julie's model for breaking free of the past.
In the ever-widening scope of this story, Julie is given a front-row seat to not one but two of the greatest love affairs of all time: the undeniable on-screen chemistry between Scarlett and Rhett, and off screen, the deepening love between Carole and Clark. Yet beneath the shiny fa├žade, things in Hollywood are never quite what they seem, and Julie must learn to balance career aspirations and her own budding romance with outsized personalities and the overheated drama on set. Vivid, romantic, and filled with Old Hollywood details, A Touch of Stardust will entrance, surprise, and delight. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts
Julie leaves the midwest for Hollywood. She doesn’t want to be an actress like all the other young women. She wants to be a screenwriter, a profession very few women have been successful at during Julie’s lifetime. She lucks out and gets a job as Carole Lombard’s assistant. Carole’s significant other just so happens to be Clark Gable. Carole is on the set during the filming of Gone With the Wind. For this reason, Julie also gets to be on the set. Julie’s story unfolds during the creation of this epic film.

I thought this was a very smart story line. We get a love story as we follow Julie along as she strives to make her dreams come true. We get a bit of a history lesson regarding Carole Lombard and Clark Gable’s relationship. And most interesting of all, the little tidbits related to the making of Gone With the Wind.

It took me a while to connect with the main character Julie. But I eventually warmed to her story. Ms. Alcott has created a character who is smart and ambitious. Writing this tale with Gone With the Wind as the backdrop made the book all that more interesting. Nicely done!



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

Friday, March 6, 2015

Mary Russell

A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes

Laurie R. King

Laurie R. King’s New York Times bestselling novels of suspense featuring Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, are critically acclaimed and beloved by readers for the author’s adept interplay of history and adventure. Now the intrepid duo is finally trying to take a little time for themselves—only to be swept up in a baffling case that will lead them from the idyllic panoramas of Japan to the depths of Oxford’s most revered institution.

After a lengthy case that had the couple traipsing all over India, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are on their way to California to deal with some family business that Russell has been neglecting for far too long. Along the way, they plan to break up the long voyage with a sojourn in southern Japan. The cruising steamer Thomas Carlyle is leaving Bombay, bound for Kobe. Though they’re not the vacationing types, Russell is looking forward to a change of focus—not to mention a chance to travel to a location Holmes has not visited before. The idea of the pair being on equal footing is enticing to a woman who often must race to catch up with her older, highly skilled husband.

Aboard the ship, intrigue stirs almost immediately. Holmes recognizes the famous clubman the Earl of Darley, whom he suspects of being an occasional blackmailer: not an unlikely career choice for a man richer in social connections than in pounds sterling. And then there’s the lithe, surprisingly fluent young Japanese woman who befriends Russell and quotes haiku. She agrees to tutor the couple in Japanese language and customs, but Russell can’t shake the feeling that Haruki Sato is not who she claims to be.

Once in Japan, Russell’s suspicions are confirmed in a most surprising way. From the glorious city of Tokyo to the cavernous library at Oxford, Russell and Holmes race to solve a mystery involving international extortion, espionage, and the shocking secrets that, if revealed, could spark revolution—and topple an empire. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes on an adventure that takes them from Japan to the England. Someone wants them to help the Emperor of Japan, and to do so, they must first learn about Japan’s history and culture.

This is book #13 in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, but is my first introduction to this pair. I had no problem enjoying the story even though I’m a latecomer to the series. The little snippets regarding Mary’s past and her relationship to Sherlock has only peaked my interest to want to go back and read the earlier books.

Mary is strong willed and independent. She has a sharp, observant eye and quickly picks up on human behavior that most people would miss. I liked her relationship with the much older Sherlock. They seem like a well suited pair who play off each other strengths and weaknesses.

The author did a good job incorporating a bit of a history and travel lesson in with some fun action and suspense. The information about Japan was informative and made for an interesting backdrop to the main plot. This was both an entertaining and educational read and I’m glad to become a new fan of the series.

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



Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Marriage Game

A Novel of Queen Elizabeth 1

Alison Weir

In this compelling novel of Tudor drama and suspense, acclaimed author Alison Weir brings to life one of England’s most scandalous royal love affairs: the romance between the “Virgin Queen” Elizabeth I and her courtier Lord Robert Dudley.

Only twenty-five and newly crowned, Elizabeth vows to rule the country as both queen and king. But her counselors continually press her to form an advantageous marriage and produce an heir. Though none of the suitors have yet worked their way to her throne, the dashing—though married—Lord Robert lays claim to Elizabeth’s heart. Their flagrant flirting, their unescorted outings, and the appointment of Lord Robert to Master of Horse inspire whispers through the court, and even rumors that Elizabeth has secretly given birth to Lord Robert’s child.

Events take a dark turn when Robert’s wife is found dead. Universal shock is followed by accusations of murder. Despite the scandal, Elizabeth and Robert manage to navigate the choppy political, economic, and religious waters around them. But the greatest obstacle to marriage between the Queen and her true love may come not from outside forces, but from within.(from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

I am not able to speak to the historical accuracy of this novel, as the only exposure I have had to anything close to this time period is from the TV show The Tudors. It is that show that brought about my interest in British history, especially anything related to the Tudors.

From a fictional aspect, I found The Marriage Game to be very entertaining. I love the intrigue of the royal court - back stabbing, politics, power struggles. This story had it all! I thought Ms. Weir had a wonderful ability to weave a story that held my interest. All in all, this was a very enjoyable read.

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