Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

"Books have furnished, burnished, and enabled my life." Julia Keller

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Book 104: THE ART OF FORGETTING

Julia Ferrar and Marissa Rogers have been friends since their high school days in Michigan. Marissa is an editor for a health magazine and Julia is a publicist for a ballet company in New York. Their friendship survives quite a bit over the years, including an onerous boyfriend breakup in college at the behest of Julia. Now Julia is suffering from traumatic brain injury and isn't the pivotal point in Marissa's life. Julia returns to Michigan to recover and Marissa must find the nerve to move on in New York. Although you can't go back in time, Julia's return to Michigan brings an old love back into Marissa's life. Will she be able to withstand Julia's current machinations? Can they both move forward without reliving mistakes from their past? 


Marissa is, in many ways, the every-woman. She has moments when she is lacking in self-confidence and is sure that those last 10 pounds will allow her to feel more comfortable in her own body. She loves her current boyfriend but constantly wonders about the one that got away. It isn't until Marissa begins to work as a mentor/coach in an after-school running program that she learns that self-confidence and self-esteem must come from within. I enjoyed reading about the self-discovery and self-awareness that evolves in both Marissa and Julia. I have to say that I didn't really like Julia as a person or a friend. I thought she was too manipulative and insistent on getting her way no matter what. It's as if she expects Marissa's life to revolve around her needs, and this is before the brain injury occurred. However, without Julia there is no impetus for Marissa to challenge herself and move forward. This is not just a "feel good" read but an honest and insightful look at friendship. The Art of Forgetting is scheduled for release on June 9th.




DISCLOSURE:  I received this book free from the publisher through the early reviewers program at netGalley.com. I was not paid, required nor otherwise obligated to provide a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Book 103: BEG FOR MERCY

Megan and Sean Flynn are sister and brother that have survived losing their parents as children. Now they must survive Sean's death penalty conviction for rape and murder. Megan knows that her brother is innocent but even Sean's best friends have their doubts and attest to this in court. It doesn't help that Megan's boyfriend, Cole Williams, a detective on the Seattle Police Department, is the arresting officer. Sean finally gives up on the entire appeal process and is determined to stoically face the death penalty. Megan refuses to give up and knows that there is more to this murder than meets the eye. Just when it seems like things couldn't get any worse, Megan's juvenile advocate client comes across a dead body and Cole re-enters Megan's life. Sparks fly between the two old lovers but is it love or hate? Will she uncover the truth in time to save Sean’s life? The clock is literally counting down...


Intrigue abounds in this romantic thriller by Jami Alden. Most of the thrills are centered around Megan's amateur investigation into her brother's conviction. Her investigation stumbles upon an underground prostitution ring with loose ties to a serial murderer and this provides most of the suspense. Megan's actions are credible because most of us are willing to do whatever it takes to legally protect and fight for family. The romantic aspect of this thriller is only truly apparent in the beginning of the story with the burgeoning romance between Cole and Megan. Regrettably their romance dies a sudden and horrible death when he arrests her brother. The mystery and suspense aspects were somewhat predictable towards the end, but this did not detract from the overall storyline or my reading pleasure.


As a romantic thriller, this was a little light on the romance but the thrills were abundant. Ms. Alden has provided a well-written and quick read that I expect will be perfect for weekend or summer beach reading. Beg For Mercy is scheduled to be released on June 1st.





DISCLOSURE:  I received this book free from the publisher through the early reviewers program at netGalley.com. I was not paid, required nor otherwise obligated to provide a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book 102: CLOSER THAN BLOOD

After numerous interruptions and several days of reading in 5-10 minute fits and spurts, I finally was able to read and finish Closer than Blood by Gregg Olsen. This is another fantastic mystery-thriller that leaves the reader trying to guess whodunit (or in this case who helped) until the final pages.


The reader is re-united with Detective Kendall Stark and her partner. They aren't working a current case at the beginning of this story but are simply involved in the periphery. Why? Kendall feels that an evil and devious high school classmate, Tori, is more involved than just being the innocent bystander in her husband's death. Tori's twin sister, Lainie is the proverbial good sister and she also feels that there is more to this story than meets the eye. Is this another instance of Tori getting away with murder...literally and figuratively speaking?


I enjoyed the intrigue and mayhem that is unveiled throughout this story. There are times when Kendall's investigation into the past and present seems to go off half-cocked but, trust me, it makes sense in the end. The theme that ties all of the little stories together seems to be what secrets are we all hiding and what lengths are we willing to go in order to protect those secrets. The characters might seem trite at first, good twin vs. evil twin, but Lainie, as the good twin, is not the perfect child or adult. She has her fair share of faults and weaknesses. However, Tori goes a long way in epitomizing the evil twin. She is so much more than a femme fatale, although she fits that role quite well. As the story unfolds, Tori becomes not only hated but reviled by the reader as well as the characters in the story. This feeling of camraderie with the characters is one of the things that makes Mr. Olsen's writings so unique, in my opinion. I've read all of his fiction works and enjoyed them all and Closer Than Blood was no exception. A well-written and well executed mystery that brings thrills and chills.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Libraries and Kindle

For many who use an ereader, a sticking point in choosing an Amazon Kindle over a Barnes & Noble Nook or Sony Reader was the ability to borrow library books. Well that has become a moot argument. The Amazon Kindle will now support borrowing ebooks from public libraries. Now if Amazon will only provide Kindle access to epub and PDF formats it truly will become the perfect ereader (IMHO).


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book 101 - Review: NEXT MOVE YOU'RE DEAD


Next Move You're Dead is a mystery novel centering around Detective John Cooper as he investigates several seemingly unrelated crimes. He is working on the murder of numerous prostitutes around town. But a routine traffic stop results in the arrest of a prominent city councilman for these crimes. Why? His car has the body of the latest victim in the trunk. Later a well-known lawyer comes home to find his wife dead, apparently by suicide. Why? She has presumably found evidence that her husband is having an affair and rather than deal with it she is killing herself and their unborn child to torment her husband. The question arises just what do these crimes have in common and why is John being contacted anonymously to participate in this "game."


When I first started reading this story, I thought I had it pegged as a mystery. However, the further I got into the story I realized that this was perhaps more of a mystery and a psychological thriller. I began to question whether John was truly being contacted by an anonymous task master or if he's simply having a breakdown? Ms. Barton definitely keeps the reader wondering what's going to happen next. One moment you're cheering for John to succeed with his investigation and the next you're hoping he gets the medical help he obviously needs. Ms. Barton has given us a well-crafted story with believable characters but... I wish I could put my finger on it, but there was just something about this story that just didn't do it for me. Don't get me wrong, I found it intriguing and interesting while reading but as soon as I finished reading the story was completely forgotten. 






Disclaimer: I received this book free from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Readathon

If you're looking for an activity to do on Saturday, April 23rd then head on over to LibraryThing.com and sign up for the 24 hour Readathing's readathon. If you're a truly ambitious reader, there's also the "Do Nothing but Read" day. Invite friends and family and make it a special challenge day or hour. Happy Reading!

Book 100: Review PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS


When I first read that this book involved the story of an angel, Gabriel or Gabe Horn, and demon, Lucifer or Lou Cypher, in Las Vegas, I thought "no way." Then I began reading and thought "okay this might work." Keith Darrell has provided a tongue-in-cheek, humorous read about this angel-demon duo in Paved with Good Intentions. They are both sent to earth to fulfill a mission and fail. Rather than dealing with the possible repercussions of their failure by returning to Heaven and Hell, they decide to stay on earth and head to Vegas.


I laughed while reading about the exploits of this dynamic duo. Their sexcapades result in Cory Evian and Violet Adams, a few others, being expelled from their dormitory, Eden Hall. Yes, that's Adams and Evian being expelled from Eden. This is the action that causes Gabe and Lou's decision to stay on earth and relocate to Vegas. While in Vegas their exploits continue, but this time Gabe and Lou are playing at being private investigators. They meet shamans, dreamwalkers, vampires and trampires, witches - Morgana le Fay and Samantha Twitch, and warlocks - Perry Hotter, Merlin and Mordred. 


I can appreciate any novel that makes me laugh and this made me laugh. Even better, Mr. Darrell evoked the desire to want to learn more about the characters and cheer them on during their exploits. The story slowed a few times with all of the action and subplots going on but it usually picked up again after a few pages. I may not be sure of how to classify this in terms of genre but I can definitely say I liked it. 



Disclaimer: I received this book free from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Say it ain't so...

An investigation by "60 Minutes" is about to debunk (or attempt to debunk) Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into School. To read more about this story click here

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book 99 - Review: TURBOCHARGED


TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust by Dian Griesel, Ph.D. and Tom Griesel



I don't think that this book qualifies as a diet book per se. The authors present their philosophy or method toward weight loss or more specifically "fat" loss. They do present dietary guidelines, but insist that they don't focus on caloric restrictions and exercise regimes. Their approach incorporates eight steps to achieving weight/fat loss and boosting the metabolism or "turbocharging" the body.


I have problems with this approach for numerous reasons. First the authors presume that everyone that is obese or overweight is eating as much as 3500 calories each day. I know many overweight people that consume less than 1800 calories each day (possibly eating the wrong things but definitely not more than 2000 calories) and they aren't losing the weight. Second they state that anyone can do their program even those that are bedridden. Since one of their eight steps includes daily mini-activity sessions (i.e., exercise) that are based on lunges, body weight squats, standing heel raises, etc., I don't see how people that are either paraplegics or bedridden could possibly commit to this system. In addition, the authors state that this approach isn't based on calories and one need not count calories but then later state that you'll need to consume 300-800 calories on "expressway days." I don't know what you call it, but this is definitely caloric restriction.


This book is written in a way to attract and keep the reader’s attention. It is definitely written in a way that is easy to understand. I don't necessarily disagree with many of the premises that the authors put forth in this book, I just challenge the premise that it can and will work for everyone. I don't feel that any one diet will work for everyone (if there were only one then there would be no more need for books, gyms, etc.) but if this does, then great! For those people that can commit to the food restrictions (no grains or breakfast allowed), daily mini-activity sessions, and temporary caloric restriction days, then this may be the program for you. For the rest of us, this may not be the answer.







Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Book 98: ARC Review of ORIGINAL SIN by Beth McMullen

ARC Title:     Original Sin: A Sally Sin Adventure
Author:         Beth McMullen
Publisher:     Hyperion
ISBN:           978-1-4013-2421-6
Release Date: July 2011


Lucy Hamilton is not your typical housewife and stay-at-home mom. She is fluent in over 15 languages and lethal if physically attacked. Lucy is a former covert agent, known as Sally Sin, with United States Agency for Weapons of Mass Destruction or USAWMD. She spent years traveling the world doing whatever it took to ensure global safety. Now she spends her days taking care of her three year old son, Theo. Her husband, Will Hamilton, thinks that she was a government analyst prior to her retirement. Her entire life, prior to her marriage, is fiction. Just when Lucy thinks she is becoming paranoid about someone following her, she finds out that her nemesis, Ian Blackford, is alive and has returned to the US. Then the fun begins.


There are so many twists and turns in this story, it is sometimes difficult to keep track of everything that is going on. We flashback to Lucy's childhood, her early days with USAWMD, her final days with USAWMD, the early part of her marriage and before you know you're back to the present. Ms. McMullen does a relatively good job of tying together the main and sub plot lines. The characters are somewhat believable although plausibility seems stretched at times. Lucy is confident and then diffident, self-assured then doubtful and fearful. Her husband is a relatively minor character and we never really get to know him. Theo, their son, has more presence in the story and a better personality than his father. Perhaps this is because a mother is willing to do pretty much anything to protect her children. And Lucy definitely fits into this category. She sits in a coffee shop across the street from Theo's preschool just to ensure no one goes in that shouldn't be there.


I became bogged down at times and my reading slowed because of the numerous sub-plot lines. Even though this is not a book that I would have chosen to read, and I doubt if I'd even re-read it, it is a well-written and decent read. I give Original Sin 2.5/5 simply because it didn't really keep my attention and was too involving with all of the action taking place.








DISCLOSURE: I received this book free through the Early Reviewers Program at LibraryThing.com. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Reading Interruptus

I've fallen behind in my reading and postings. I have no excuse or reason other than life's constant interruptions. In my case this is dealing with elderly parents, assorted family drama sagas, power outages (wind blows - power goes off, rain falls - power goes off, snow falls - power goes off) and other assorted issues including preparing for an upcoming move. 


The next few weeks are going to be interesting as I try to keep up with my reading/reviewing/blogging and assorted family commitments, as well as packing and then the actual move. Almost forgot, I'm also attending the Book Bloggers and Publishers Online Conference until 4/17. If you're an author or fellow book blogger it's not too late to register. The conference starts today at 12:00 PM EST. 


On the upside, I spent a leisurely Saturday on 4/9/2011 with family in Lewisburg, WV (Voted America's Coolest Small Town) at the WV Chocolate Festival. Mark your calendar for April 14, 2012 if you plan to be in the area for a "Chocolate Tasting Extravaganza." This year's event provided 36 tastings and the choices were amazing. I'm still obsessing over the chocolate pasta (yes...pasta!) with hazelnut ganache. 




OK, back to reading and books...I'm currently reading an ARC of Original Sin by Beth McMullen, courtesy of LibraryThing.com. I hope to have this review posted soon. Until then, happy reading!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 102 - Book 97: THE FINAL SUMMIT

The Final Summit by Andy Andrews
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release date: April 12, 2011


Meet David Ponder, a 74 year old real-estate developer. David has had his ups and downs, financially and otherwise, but through it all he overcomes. After suffering an injury that leaves him comatose, David is allowed to travel through time, meeting various influential people and is presented with the "Seven Decisions for Success." He then uses these principles or "decisions" as the guiding focus for his life and tries to teach them to others. This is one of the reasons he has been chosen to lead all Travelers in an upcoming summit to decide humanity's fate. The quest begins to find the answer to the question: "What does humanity need to do individually and collectively, to restore itself to the pathway toward successful civilization?"


At its heart this story is meant to be inspirational and motivational. It goes beyond the 'why are we here?' question to become a much more fundamental 'why do we deserve to be here?' David is allowed to interact with the previous Travelers and let me tell you this is quite the lofty group. He has previously met President Truman, King Solomon, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain (Civil War Hero), Christopher Columbus, Anne Frank, President Lincoln and the archangel Gabriel. These seven presented him with the Seven Decisions. At the summit he gets to meet and interact with Winston Churchill, Joan of Arc, King David, and George Washington Carver. He is surrounded by a host of great historical figures such as: George Washington, Geoffrey Chaucer, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Albert Einstien, Thomas Edison, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, Michelangelo and John Adams. David is allowed to use the wisdom of five of these great minds to try and discern the answer to THE question before all hope is lost.


There were points when the discussions between David and his appointed Travelers becomes bogged down by too much philosophy. Back-stories are also provided for some of the more obscure personalities, such as Col. Chamberlain and Eric Erickson (World War II hero). Although necessary to a certain extent, the amount of detail given somewhat detracts from the overall story focus. This is definitely a well-written and thought-provoking story. You feel that you know where the story is taking you and then you are taken off course. Although the dialogue between David and the historical personalities is highly fictionalized, it is believable. A good read for anyone interested in inspirational fiction.










Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not paid, required nor otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Great Week on the Horizon

This week is definitely starting on an upswing. I'm enjoying the ARC of my current read (title to be posted later) and I'm looking forward to attending the Book Bloggers and Publisher's Online Conference later this week. My hope is that I'll become a better blogger as a result of the information gained. Do you blog? Are you an indie author? If so, then you may want to join us: Book Bloggers and Publisher's Online Conference

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Day 100 - Book 96: DAVI (TALES OF SURUALE) review


When I was first asked to read and review a fantasy novella about humans and dwarves I was a little hesitant, namely because I wasn't sure I would like it. Imagine my surprise when I read Davi - Tales of Suruale and found that I liked it (kind of...sort of liked it). Yes this is a fantasy novella and yes it includes humans, dwarves (or dwarfs), elves (mentioned only), gargoyles and nocturnes (one presumes this refers to vampires because we don't really meet any), but it isn't in your face with these aspects. The dwarves aren't magical or mystical creatures, they are simply presented as being dwarves - similar to humans but different. 


The main character is Davi, a human blacksmith that specializes in weaponry. He has lived all of his live as an outsider on the outskirts of a human village. He is forced to accept an impossible task - re-open trade with the dwarves - by the elders of his village. Needless to say the villager leaders are astounded when he returns successful in his quest. Trade is reopened but not they way they wanted or expected. Throughout this tale Davi learns of acceptance and inclusion when he is accepted by the dwarves. He is even adopted by a dwarf blacksmith and befriended by numerous others. Later Davi is sent on what appears to be an impossible task by the dwarf king, and again he is successful. 


In many ways this is appears to be a book about racism, prejudice and bigotry. It is also about learning to accept who and what we are no matter what and being comfortable with where we are. This isn't a great book or a bad book. What is it? It's a quick and decent read for those interested in the fantasy genre - light on the fantasy.






DISCLOSURE: I received this book free from one of the authors. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Day 100 - Book 95: TO LOVE A WITCH

To Love a Witch is a new "Novel Nibble" or a novella by Debora Geary. I've read some of her other writings and enjoyed them and this was no different. Although I feel that the witch, vampire, were-animal characters are being done to death, this provided a nice little twist. Jake is a male earth witch and basically a witch social worker out to find young witches in trouble and provide assistance. He receives an alert and heads to a local juvie detention center and meets Romy. He initially thinks that she is a juvenile witch in trouble but quickly learns that she is an adult. Romy may have trouble controlling her fire abilities, but definitely doesn't need social worker assistance at her age. Romy and Jake introduce us to some great characters (you'll love Carla and Jolie), and have some interesting interpersonal encounters. A great and quick romantic read.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Giveaway Offer

This is a great opportunity being offered by a follow blogger to win a new book, Caleb's Crossing, by a great author, Geraldine Brooks: http://thegirlfromtheghetto.wordpress.com 


Don't miss out, enter by April 22nd.


Day 98 - Book 94: MAKE MINE A HEEL


I was recently asked to read and review Make Mine A Heel by Suenammi Richards. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this romance especially since it appeared to center around professional wrestling. I admit, I'm not much of a sports fan (OK I'm not a sports fan at all) and that I know absolutely nothing about professional wrestling but I began reading with an admitted bias. My bias was similar to that of the main character, Banner (Bay) Hemweigh, a sports writer. She felt, as did I, that professional wrestling was not a sport and did not deserve her time and attention when she is asked to write about this "sport." She does, however, agree to spend a week interviewing a professional wrestler. She agrees because if she does conclude that it isn't worthy of her time she'll get exclusive NFL coverage at her station. 


Enter Keith Daniels, a professional wrestler known as Dominique "Dangerous" Dutton or 3D in the wrestling world. He is the current champ and a man that others instinctively seem to trust and respect despite his bad-boy or "heel" stage persona. What Bay and I discover (yes I know this is fiction), is that there is a great deal of athleticism involved in professional wrestling along with the high drama and hijinks. These men are well-conditioned athletes and put their bodies through more than most people can understand for the sake of entertaining their fans.


Bay is more than a sports writer and wants more from her life even though she doesn't feel that she deserves it. She is also coming to grips with her Latina heritage and getting to know her estranged Latin relatives. Keith is also much more than his stage persona and a professional wrestler. In many ways he is somewhat of a renaissance man in that he studies history (shy just a few credits from a Bachelor's degree), is educated in arts and music, and appreciative of different cultures and traditions. He is also shy and reserved as himself and doesn't feel that he deserves a loving relationship. He and Bay have a tumultous relationship even though they both know that they are right for one another.


This isn't a garden variety romance novel featuring sports or wrestling. Ms. Richards has provided the reader with plenty of colorful characters that are dealing with sad, if not tragic, circumstances (racism, child abandonment, ethnic prejudice, drug abuse, etc.). Will Bay and Keith get together? Will Bay accurately portray professional wrestling in her writing assignment? Although there were instances when I didn't quite grasp the intent behind the exchanges between Bay and Keith, it is quite easy to feel their developing respect and love for who the other person is on the inside. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I hope you'll enjoy it as well if you're into the romance genre.






Disclosure: I received this book free from the author. I was not required, paid or in anyway obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day 97 - Book 93: EMBRACE THE GRIM REAPER

Casey is a woman on the run. She's not running from the law or from an abusive relationship, but from her past. We learn that Casey's husband and son were killed in a car accident. She subsequently learns that their car had known mechanical problems and the manufacturer wants Casey to remain silent. Not really a problem since she doesn't want to discuss her husband and son with anyone, except possibly her travelling companion, Death or the Grim Reaper.


Casey hitches rides, first from motorcyclists and then from a trucker, and she ends up in Clymer, Ohio - hometown to HomeMaker, an appliance manufacturer. Clymer is truly small-town USA and is suffering from the recent death, supposedly a suicide, of one of its own. The town is also dealing with the idea that almost all of the people in town will soon be unemployed when HomeMaker closes its doors and relocates to Mexico.


Casey is soon embroiled in the personal woes of this small town and tries to help out. She helps her new friend Eric, with this soup kitchen and then with the town's production of Twelfth Night. She tries to be there for Eric as he deals with the death of his friend Ellen, but this is a town on the edge. The play's director assumes she is there to watch over him and ensure he repays his gambling debts. The town's sheriff assumes she must be there for some other nefarious reasons.


Casey and Eric try to determine the true nature of Ellen's death -- murder or suicide. This question becomes even more worrisome when they learn that Ellen had predicted that the town wouldn't be suffering from the plant closing and that everything would work out. Of course there are lots of little twists and turns throughout the story. There are also numerous discoveries made by Casey and Eric, some personal and others relating to their investigation into the circumstances surrounding Ellen's death. Regrettably Death doesn't have much to say in assisting in this investigation, but you often wonder if he is the reason Casey decides to stay in this small town.


Ms. Clemens has written a great mystery with truly interesting characters. I was introduced to Ms. Clemens the author when I was asked to read and review an ARC of  Flowers for Her Grave earlier this month. I was so captivated by the characters in the third book of the Grim Reaper mystery series that I promptly went online and purchased the first in the series, Embrace the Grim Reaper. I can't wait for the second book, The Grim Reaper's Dance, to be made available in ebook format so that I can read that as well. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 96 - Early Reader Review: STOLEN HEARTS

Meet David Randall, a private investigator. He's at the end of his second marriage -- his wife has thrown him out. He's also ready to quit working for his small-time, dead-end agency and head out on his own. David has suffered tragedy in the death of his daughter in a car accident a few years earlier and is still grieving and suffering from guilt (he thinks he could have saved her). All this and he's only 30 years of age.


David is sleeping in his car down the street from his second wife's house when he is awakened by sirens. A few streets over he finds police and an ambulance and what appear to be cryptic notes on paper strewn across the murder victim's yard. Since he doesn't know the victim, he leaves the crime scene and heads out. Along the way he meets up with his friend Camden and goes home with him. Camden operates a boarding-house and is apparently psychic, but is probably the sanest person in the house. Other residents include: Kary, a 24 year old student and the estranged daughter of tele-evangelists; Rufus, a soft-hearted big brute of a man and construction worker; and Fred, an elderly eccentric (Southern-speak for little bit crazy but lovable). Along the way we also meet Ellin, Camden's lady friend, and producer at the Psychic Service Network and Lily, a neighbor that swears she was abducted by aliens.


After quitting his job and picking up his last paycheck, Cam obtains his first client, Melanie Gentry. Melanie is interested in learning whether her deceased great-Grandmother, Laura Gentry, wrote any folk music attributed to John B. Ashford. This is when things get interesting because it is at this point that Camden begins channeling the spirit of John Ashford and he isn't exactly the nicest of guys. The rumor mill had it that Ashford may have been the cause of Laura's "accidental" drowning.


There's quite a bit of murder, mystery and mayhem that ensues. David is now head-over-heals in love with the beautiful Kary and likens himself to the deceased John Ashford and his relationship with the late Laura Gentry. Interspersed throughout all of this intrigue and pseudo-romance (at least in David's mind), there's plenty of drama: Ellin wants Camden to appear on one of the Psychic Service network's shows and he refuses, she then tries to use the spirit of John Ashford as a tie in to a PBS documentary on folk music that is currently being filmed. Camden is having an identity crisis, related more to the fact that he was abandoned as a child and raised in foster homes. He doesn't know who he is or where he's from, and the spirit of John Ashford is using this to obtain advantage in over-riding and suppresing Camden's personality. David also seems to be encountering the ghost of his daughter at odd moments throughout his investigation.


This is a mystery but it doesn't really follow the traditional mystery path. The incorporation of psychics, alien abductions, child abandonment issues, grief over losing a child, folk music history and ghostly encounters and possession make for a unique reading experience. Look for Stolen Hearts by Jane Tesh to be released in October.




Disclaimer: This book was received for free from the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, through netGalley. I was not paid, required, nor otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 95 - Book 91: THE FIRST

SPOILER ALERT!


This novella centers around Reena Jamil, a 22-year old Muslim, Pakistani immigrant and a senior majoring in Accounting at George Mason University. During her last semesters/quarters she meets an American young man, Brian Parker, and experiences her first crush or love. Brian is majoring in management but has no idea what he wants to do with his life beyond graduation, whereas Reena has her life planned: graduate, study for CPA exam, pass exam, get accounting job, and eventually get married. Reena's parents, however, expect something different...marriage to a good Muslim, Pakistani man and kids. Reena's best friend, Sofia, is also a Muslim, Pakistani immigrant and tries to guide her in the ways of American dating and expectations. Obviously she isn't the best guide because she is cyberstalking an old friend from Pakistan, Reza Shaikh.


Reena and Brian breakup after only a few months of dating. The cause of the breakup is Reena's unwillingness to compromise her religious beliefs by having sex with Brian. Brian feels that Reena is simply playing with him and his emotions as she never expected the relationship to develop further than it had prior to the breakup. Since this is Reena's first boyfriend and first breakup she is devastated. Obviously not too devastated because she quickly rebounds and finds herself engaged to Brian's Pakistani roommate, Raheel Malik. At the same time that Reena and Raheel are getting engaged, Sofia is surprised by a visit from Reza and they also become engaged.


Fast-forward a few years and Reena and Raheel are having marital difficulties. She has quit her job and has been diagnosed with infertility issues. This is problematic because in certain cultures a woman's worth is based upon her ability to procreate. The final blow to the marriage is when Reena randomly encounters Brian after many years and invites him to dinner. Raheel explodes as he presumes she has been with an ex-boyfriend and that is a slap to his ego. Is Raheel experiencing true jealousy or simply suffering from false-pride based on cultural and familial values? Mirroring these problems, Sofia finds herself pregnant and Reza is astounded that she would make such a decision (stopping her birth control pills and attempting to get pregnant) without discussing it with him first. Reza has had difficulty finding "gainful" employment in the US and is suffering because his wife is making more money than he is...big slight in some cultures.


Fast forward another few years and Reena is living in North Carolina and working part-time in a bookstore. She encounters a pregnant teenager that has been kicked out of her home. And guess what? Reena takes her in and winds up adopting the infant. Adoption was something her ex-husband Raheel would never consider because he desired a child of his flesh and blood.


There are some major cultural, religious and age-related issues that are superficially addressed in this story, most likely due to the short nature of the story. Ms. Ahmed has an interesting premise and possibly great characters, but the characters seem underdeveloped and they all appear to have maturity issues. Again, this deficiency may also be related to the brevity of the story. The First may not be considered great literature and has a few problem areas but it is still a decent read, at least in my opinion.


DISCLOSURE: This book was received free from the author/publisher for review purposes. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, April 4, 2011

Day 94 - Book 90: A MODERN WITCH

I recently discovered the author Debora Geary by winning a copy of her novella MatchMakers 2.0 on LibraryThing.com. I was immediately hooked on her down-to-earth, humorous writing style. I then learned of her new book, A Modern Witch, and immediately added this to my TBR list. Over the past few weeks I've been inundated (in a very good way) with ARC books to read and review and decided to take a little break and read something from my personal TBR list, A Modern Witch.


There is nothing like Harry Potter, Bewitched or even new-age like to the witches in this story. Lauren is a very successful realtor in Chicago and doesn't even know that she is witch until she is pulled into an online witch chat while grocery shopping. This online site is the brain-child of a brother and sister computer programming team, Nell and Jamie. Nell is mother of five and her youngest son, Aervyn, is perhaps the most powerful and skilled witch seen in recent times, and he's only four. Jamie is a witch-trainer and computer nerd/geek. His improptu job is to leave California for Chicago to discern if Lauren is truly a witch or if their new programming has a glitch. Of course Lauren is a witch but she has difficulty accepting this news and even more difficulty accepting that she is a mind-witch with channeling skills. After having her barrier blocking skills blown by a precognitive incident (not hers but Jamie's), she is forced to travel to California for what she terms "witch boot camp." It is here that the fun truly begins. 


Along for this topsy-turvy joyride into witch training is Lauren's best friend, Nat. Nat, although descended from great wealth and Boston bluebloods, feels more at ease operating her yoga studio in Chicago. However, she also feels kinship with Lauren and refuses to allow her to travel without her moral support. Both Nat and Lauren learn to deal with issues they've never experienced when brought into a large, loving witch family. Nat falls in love with Jamie and must deal with issues concerning her love of Chicago, her business and Jamie's love for his family and life in California. Lauren must cope with accepting that what she has always felt was just great intuition is actually her mid-witching abilities. The only person that is truly open and accepting of everything that happens is Aervyn. It is truly magical to read about his spellcasting during large circle. This four year old communes with the planet and attempts to heal or "burp" the San Andreas fault line in order to prevent a major quake. He even states that the planet told him not completely heal the fault and thanks him for his work. He doesn't even realize the enormity of what he has done, although all of the others in the circle do and are stunned.


At its heart this seems to be a story about acceptance. It's about accepting changes in our personal life paths. It's about accepting that there are people with a myriad of different abilities and life-choices. Ms. Geary presents a well-crafted tale that was quite easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Day 93 - Early Reader Review: FLOWERS FOR HER GRAVE

I read, I smiled, I laughed, and I truly enjoyed this book. Although this is part of the Grim Reaper series by Judy Clemens, it is the first book in this series that I've read. It is also the first book from a series that I've read that didn't leave me feeling as if I had to read the previous books in order to understand what was happening (although I do feel that I will be reading them just becuse I enjoyed this one so much). It took a little bit of getting used to someone, namely Casey Maldonado, having "death" or a grim reaper as a companion, but L'Ankou is part of what makes this mystery so light-hearted and fun.


Casey is still dealing with the grief of losing her son and husband in a car accident, not to mention severe albeit superficial injuries from a recent fight. She is trained in hapkido, a form of martial arts, as well as being an athletic trainer. We meet her and L'Ankou as they are travelling on a boxcar running away from Kansas. It appears that she previously was running away from Ohio, the scene of her husband and son's death, and from being a murder suspect. Her travels take her to Raceda, Florida where she starts work at an apartment/condo complex as a fitness instructor/athletic trainer. Needless to say that trouble is not far behind. Casey, now known as Daisy, discovers a badly injured woman who subsequently dies. Of course she must investigate and quickly jumps to all the wrong conclusions. What is interesting is the often comedic and quirky changes that L'Ankou makes. When he is around a police officer, he dresses as one with a name tag to fit. He also dresses in a kimono upon learning that Casey/Daisy has been invited to a Japanese restaurant. Most people don't see Casey's companion but a few, those that don't fear death, are capable of seeing him. This makes for interesting exchanges as Casey apparently must speak aloud to respond to L'Ankou and others can't see him and presume she is speaking to them or that she's just crazy.


I think quirky is the correct word to use in describing this book. Ms. Clemens has created characters that are realistic and all-too humans with their faults. L'Ankou, although not human, seems to have just as much to offer as his human companion and it this relationship that makes this book work. Casey needs L'Ankou as much as he seems to need her. She needs the connection to her deceased husband and son and L'Ankou needs to live vicariously through someone that can see him, interact with him and accept him for what he is...death. 


Look for this title to be released in early August. 















A complimentary advanced reader copy of this book was made available to me through netGalley's advanced reader program and by the publisher,  Poisoned Pen Press. I thank them both for this opportunity. I was not paid, required nor obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Day 92 - Book 88: A SMALL HOTEL

This is the story of Michael and Kelly Hays. It tells us of how they met, married, lived and fell apart. 


Michael is a lawyer and an emotionally distant man. He has been raised to believe that simply by "being there" he has expressed his emotions. This is learned behavior from his emotionally distant father. His father also teaches him that saying "I love you" is nothing more than words.


Kelly is a woman who deeply feels and needs to hear the words from her husband but never pushes him to say those three little words. Over the course of their 25 year marriage she begins to despair as she realizes that she needs those words to affirm who she is. This is perhaps due to her father's emotional distance and mental problems experienced during her own childhood.


We are allowed to see the experiences that have impacted on both Michael and Kelly through numerous flashbacks. One minute Kelly is sitting in a hotel room alone and the next she is at the beginning of her relationship with Michael, and then it is 10 years later or perhaps only a few months in the past. Kelly has left Pensacola FL on her way to a small hotel in New Orleans LA to remember and end it all. This hotel is where Kelly and Michael initially consummated their relationship and returned numerous times over the course of their marriage. Both she and Michael consider room 303 to be their room, and it is here she will end her life without Michael much as it began with him 20+ years earlier.


Meanwhile Michael is suffering from his own personal demons as he reflects on his childhood and marriage. He is only a few miles away in Mississippi, attending a costume ball with his new love interest Laurie. Laurie is 29 years old, only a few years older than Michael's daughter, and she has romanticized Michael's need for quiet. Regrettably she doesn't truly understand him or his inability to say much outside of the courtroom.


The irony is that both Michael and Kelly are more alike than they may know. Even though Kelly confesses to an affair, she never says that she wants her marriage to end. And Michael pushes through the divorce without ever saying that he wants the marriage to continue. To his mind, if Kelly wants to stay she should say so without coercion. Kelly feels that Michael should be able to say those three little words without coercion. 


Mr. Butler has deftly woven a tale of longing that ultimately reveals that men and women are more alike then perhaps they realize. It is sometimes sad without being depressingly so and always realistic. Look for A Small Hotel to be released in July of this year. I'm definitely adding this to my to-be-purchased and read-again lists.







I thank both the publisher Grove Press and netGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.