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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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book 35: THE NINTH STEP Review


The Ninth Step by Barbara Taylor Sissel
ASIN: B005KDCOCE (Kindle Edition)
Publication date: August 30, 2011


A novel of timeless love, loss, and family and the steps we must take for forgiveness. 

Livie Saunders is fluent in the language of flowers; she taught the meanings to her fiancĂ©, Cotton O'Dell, but then Cotton vanished without explanation on their wedding day forcing Livie to learn the language of desolation. Heartbroken, she buries her wedding gown beneath a garden pond and she resolves to move on, but there are nights when she slips . . . into a sequined red dress and a pair of stiletto heels, a stranger's bed, a little anonymous oblivion that is not without consequence. Still, she recovers a semblance of ordinary life and imagines herself content. After all, Cotton told her to forget about him. Livie even maintains a friendship with Delia, Cotton's mother, whom he also abandoned without a word of explanation. 

Then, six years later, an unsigned card and a bouquet of irises signal Cotton's presence, but his reunion with Livie isn't as joyous as he had hoped. While she struggles to forgive him, Livie can't hide her own past and how she has changed since Cotton left. 

Meanwhile, Cotton is still haunted by the crime that caused him to flee...a crime for which the legal clock is still ticking. For a moment, it seems they can both forget the past and rebuild their lives together, but then Cotton goes missing again. 

Time telescopes, avenues of escape close, and as lives hang in the balance, choice teeters between mercy and revenge. And a decision that will take only a moment will carry the consequences of a lifetime. THE NINTH STEP is a story of redemption, of being brought to your knees to face a monstrous error and somehow finding the strength to make it right. Even if that effort breaks your heart, endangers your freedom, and ultimately threatens your life.


Livie Saunders suffered heart break when Cotton O'Dell left her at the altar. She has suffered from torment when her self-esteem was so low that she would go out seeking pleasure and admiration from strangers. But Livie is no longer the lost person she once was; she has a good life, good friends, close family, and a good career as a landscaper. Livie may not have found love but she hasn't ruled it out. Just when she thinks she is beginning to move away from the past, it presents itself again with the reappearance of her former fiance, Cotton O'Dell. To make matters even more difficult, a one night stand with a really good man, Joe Bolten, results in a major complication.

Cotton knows that forgiveness will not be easy, but he also knows that he must try to make amends for the wrongs he has committed. Some of these may be easily forgiven and set aside and others may not. Cotton has to make amends for so much in his past, including seeking forgiveness from Livie, his mother, and a family of strangers. Over time, Cotton befriends Wes and Nicole Lattimer. He comes to respect them as well as like them, but will he ever be able to make amends for the part he's played in their lives.

People make mistakes, some small and some large. Some mistakes are forgivable and others may require time to ease the pain before forgiveness can ever be considered. We often seek forgiveness from others before we can ever begin to forgive ourselves. Cotton learns that anything worth having is worth working for, as well as the fact that forgiveness doesn't come easy. Cotton's past behavior had impacted so many lives and he learns to accept responsibility for his actions in his ongoing attempt to make amends. Livie learns that she can't be responsible for other people's happiness and in return finds happiness herself in an unexpected place. 

The Ninth Step is filled with intense drama and emotions. Some of this intensity is derived from the normal male-female give and take in relationships and some from the misunderstandings that arise from the differences between men and women. There's family-oriented drama between Livie's sister Kat and her husband, Tim and their ongoing problems with Kat's out-of-control spending. There's dysfunctional family history components from Kat and Livie's childhood experiences with their mother's numerous boyfriends, as well as with Cotton, his family, and alcoholism - namely his and his mother's alcoholism. Ms. Sissel doesn't sugarcoat the problems presented in The Ninth Step, nor does she provide easy resolution to the problems addressed. However, she does provide a sense of hope that things can turn out okay for everyone involved. I found this to be a very realistic portrayal of life and families. No one is presented as wholly bad or wholly good, but a combination of both. The Ninth Step may not be an easy read for some but it is a fast read that is well worth the time.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. 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."

Book 34: THE GARDEN INTRIGUE Review


The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig
ISBN: 9780525952541
Publication date: February 16, 2012
Publisher: Dutton


Secret agent Augustus Whittlesby has spent a decade undercover in France, posing as an insufferably bad poet. The French surveillance officers can't bear to read his work closely enough to recognize the information drowned in a sea of verbiage.
New York-born Emma Morris Delagardie is a thorn in Augustus's side. An old school friend of Napoleon's stepdaughter, she came to France with her uncle, the American envoy; eloped with a Frenchman; and has been rattling around the salons of Paris ever since. Widowed for four years, she entertains herself by drinking too much champagne, holding a weekly salon, and loudly critiquing Augustus's poetry.
As Napoleon pursues his plans for the invasion of England, Whittlesby hears of a top-secret device to be demonstrated at a house party at Malmaison. The catch? The only way in is with Emma, who has been asked to write a masque for the weekend's entertainment.
Emma is at a crossroads: Should she return to the States or remain in France? She'll do anything to postpone the decision-even if it means teaming up with that silly poet Whittlesby to write a masque for Bonaparte's house party. But each soon learns that surface appearances are misleading. In this complicated masque within a masque, nothing goes quite as scripted- especially Augustus's feelings for Emma.

People are not always the way the seem, and Augustus Whittlesby and Emma Delagardie are perfect examples of this fact. Augustus has spent ten years in France as a agent for Britain. He's been undercover all that time posing as a poet, a very bad poet at that. The last years have been spent writing and reciting his ode to Jane Wooliston entitled "The Perils of the Pulchritudinous Princess with the Azure Toes." To most of French society, Augustus is considered harmless and this is fortunate as it provides him the opportunities to obtain the information needed to thwart France. Regrettably, Augustus has spent so much of his time pretending to be in love with Jane Wooliston, that he now believes himself to actually be in love with her. That is until he begins to spend time with another woman, Emma Delagardie.

Emma is an outcast to her family because of her elopement with her husband. She then behaved liked a spoiled brat and left her husband to participate in French society. Fortunately she grew up, reunited with her husband and actually came to know him, respect him as well as love him before his untimely death. She is friends with Bonaparte's wife and stepdaughter and spends a lot of time entertaining. In her efforts to please, she has been volunteered to put on a small play for the Emperor Napoleon, his family and courtiers. Emma, in turns, volunteers Augustus to assist in writing the play.

The close proximity provides an opportunity for both Emma and Augustus to realize that neither is as bad as they seem. It also provides a great opportunity for Augustus to observe and report on what is happening with the Emperor from closer quarters. Can Emma and Augustus see beyond the public masks/personas they both wear? There's also more revealed about the modern romance between Eloise and Colin. 

The Garden Intrigue is the ninth volume in the "Pink Carnation series" from Ms. Willig. As with previous volumes, the international intrigue is a main part of the story line but the romance is also front-and-center. Although the "pink carnation" isn't an authentic historical figure, the historical aspects included of the ongoing intrigues between France and Britain are entertaining. The ongoing romantic story of Eloise and Colin provides a great launching point for each of the historical romances. The question that seems to loom after reading each book in this series is what will happen once Eloise completes her educational research and returns to the States? Fortunately, Ms. Willig hasn't provided an answer to that question just yet, and hopefully more can be expected in the future. If you're intrigued and want to read an excerpt from The Garden Intrigue, please visit the author's website: http://www.laurenwillig.com/books/garden.html.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. 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."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop Winner

First I want to thank everyone that stopped by and entered the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop. Second, I'd like to once again say thanks to Judith at Leeswammes' Blog for hosting another great blog hop. 

The winner of the copy of The Color Purple by Alice Walker is: Shirley B. Congratulations Shirley and I hope you'll enjoy reading this book.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bookish Meanderings, Take 2

It seems as if I've had just as many posts lately explaining why there are no reviews than I've posted reviews. I apologize once again, but the past six days have been hectic. First, my 78-year-old father was admitted to the hospital through the emergency room last Friday. He has only recently started dialysis for kidney failure and simply had not been improving. He has been dropping weight like crazy and sleeping almost 20 hours a day. Needless to say there was a problem. Fortunately, the doctor's realized that his medications hadn't been changed since the start of dialysis and a simple removal of two medications has brought about a more alert, less sleepy and slightly hungrier man. We're hopeful that he'll be discharged later this week if all continues to go well.

Second, my computer died a rather spectacular death yesterday. I was in bed on Sunday and Monday with severe migraines and a sinus infection and hadn't actually been online or even on the computer since late Saturday evening. After running a few errands yesterday morning (early start at 5:00 AM), stopping by the hospital to visit my Dad, going on a few more errands, and going back to the hospital to visit my Dad, I didn't arrive home until 8:30 PM. I attempted to turn on my computer and the screen went black. I waited a few minutes and attempted to turn the computer on one more time and nothing. It wouldn't start and nothing ever appeared on the screen. Now I knew this was bad, but I didn't realize how bad until I realized I hadn't made a backup in over 18 months since the CD/DVD drive had died (the laptop was over 6 years and had been used for 12-16 hours a day for most of that time). Long story short, I know too late, the laptop won't boot. I'm hopeful that the computer guys will be able to transfer the data from my old laptop to a new external hard-drive. In the meanwhile, I'm attempting to reconstruct all of my bookmarks, templates, etc. on a new laptop. Moral to this story is back-up your files! If you don't have a CD/DVD drive or burner, then please use an online service or invest in an external hard drive so you don't end up in the same situation.

Initially I was told that I could have my old laptop back late today for an appropriate burial but that has been revised until 02/27/12. I'm extremely grateful for online programs such as Spotify and Google Music so at least I have access to all of the classical and jazz music that I had on my old laptop. Of course, all of my ebooks, pictures, documents, and original music files,  etc. are in limbo until the data is successfully transferred. Thankfully, I had already transferred a number of ARC books to my ereader. Reviews are coming soon for the following: The Ninth Step by Barbara Taylor Sissel, Striking Back by Mark Nykanen, The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig, and The Healing by Jonathan Odell. I'm also currently reading Jane Vows Vengeance by Michael Thomas Ford and Return to Grace by Karen Harper (both are scheduled for release on 02/28). Upcoming reads include: Like Sweet Potato Pie by Jennifer Rogers Spinola, The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin, and How to Eat a Cupcake by Margery Scott.


FREEBIE ALERT: The Brevity of Roses by Linda Cassidy Lewis is currently available for free on Amazon.com as a Kindle ebook. I posted a review for this book back in September of 2011. Grab this one while you can!


Thanks for reading with me and for your patience. I hope to have new reviews posted within the next few days. 




Don't forget to check back tomorrow to see who has won a copy of The Color Purple by Alice Walker in the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop





The Literary Giveaway Blog Hop, sponsored by Leeswammes' Blog, will run from Saturday, February 18, 2012 through Wednesday, February 22, 2012. (Many thanks to Judith at Leeswammes' Blog for organizing another great blog hop!)

In recognition of Black History Month here in the US, I'm giving away one paperback copy of The Color Purple by Alice Walker through the Book Depository

This giveaway is open to all international residents (please ensure that Book Depository ships to your country BEFORE entering). The winner will be chosen from all qualified entries using Random.org and announced on Thursday, February 23, 2012 by 9:00 AM ET. 



ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:

  1. To be considered for this giveaway, you must complete the official giveaway entry form (PLEASE NOTE: comments are not accepted as a valid  entry).
  2. All requested information must be provided on the official giveaway entry form.
  3. Only one entry per person and/or email address. Duplicate entries will result in immediate disqualification.
  4. Following is appreciated but not mandatory.


Best wishes to all and happy reading!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Book 33: ACCIDENTS OF PROVIDENCE Review


Accidents of Providence by Stacia M. Brown
ISBN: 9780547490809
Publication date: February 14, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Rachel Lockyer is under investigation for murder. It is 1649. King Charles has been beheaded for treason. Amid civil war, Cromwell's army is running the country. The Levellers, a small faction of political agitators, are calling for rights to the people. And a new law targeting unwed mothers and “lewd women” presumes anyone who conceals the death of her illegitimate child is guilty of murder.

Rachel Lockyer, unmarried glove maker, and William Walwyn, Leveller hero, are locked in a secret affair. But while William is imprisoned in the Tower, a child is found buried in the woods and Rachel is arrested.So comes an investigation, public trial, and a cast of extraordinary characters made up of ordinary Londoners: gouty investigator Thomas Bartwain, fiery Elizabeth Lilburne and her revolution-chasing husband, Huguenot glover Mary Du Gard, a lawyer for the prosecution hell-bent on making an example of Rachel, and others. Spinning within are Rachel and William, their remarkable love story, and the miracles that come to even the commonest lives. 

The mid-seventeenth century was not an easy time for women. Women had no legal status other than property of their husbands or fathers. To make matters worse, the government had passed a law that accused any unwed mother of murder if her child died during or shortly after childbirth and no witnesses were available at the birth. Rachel is in her mid-thirties and has suffered the hanging death of her younger brother. Her mother is a staunch Catholic and offers no respite to Rachel during her pregnancy. Rachel does her best to conceal her pregnancy, even going so far as to claim her swollen abdomen is a result of a digestive ailment. The father of her child is her lover, William Walwyn, a married man with fourteen children. Unfortunately for Rachel, she delivers her child in privacy and then conceals the infant's death. Her boss, Mary Du Gard, witnesses Rachel's burial of the child, digs the child up and becomes the cause of Rachel's arrest. The ensuing investigation is clearly one-sided in that the government doesn't allow Rachel to have legal counsel and does little to ascertain the circumstances of the death.

The tragedy of the infant's death is compounded by Rachel's imprisonment and subsequent trial, as well as her continued separation from William. Accidents of Providence provides a stirring portrayal of a prohibited romance. Ms. Brown has provided characters that are completely realistic in their thoughts and actions. Although women weren't given much status in the eyes of the government and society, most of the women are portrayed as strong and intelligent counterpoints to the men. Accidents of Providence may not provide a happy ending, but it definitely provides a heartwarming romance that transcends all societal limitations.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. 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."



Thursday, February 16, 2012

Book 32: DEFENDING JACOB Review


Defending Jacob by William Landay
ISBN: 9780385344227
Publication date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Press


Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student. Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive. 

Everyone has secrets, but some secrets can be devastating. Andy has kept a secret from his wife and colleagues for more than thirty years, but he knows he has to come clean once his son is considered a suspect in another student's murder.

Parents are often willing to do anything to protect their children, even if it means protecting them from the law. Andy Barber doesn't intend to circumvent the law, as he has spent the majority of his adult life upholding the law as an assistant district attorney. But Andy knows that his family background may play a larger role than anyone expects. Andy's father and grandfather were career criminals and both were accused and convicted of murder. Andy had told Laurie that his father was dead; now that she knows the truth about his heritage she is shocked that he misled her all these years. The shock of Andy's lineage coupled with Jacob's arrest and the impending trial might be too much. As the family prepares for the trial, Andy does several things that may be construed as obstruction of justice but he simply views his actions as protecting his child. Even after the family begins counseling and Laurie discloses problems with Jacob's behavior as a child, Andy remains in denial about their son. Is it possible that Jacob has behavioral problems bordering on sociopathy like his grandfather and great-grandfather? 

Defending Jacob is a tense legal, suspense thriller filled with drama centering on one parent's inability to accept the possible truth about their child. Laurie knows that Jacob isn't like the other kids and she fears that she may have done something to cause his behavioral problems. Laurie is willing to do whatever is necessary to get Jacob the help he needs from a psychological perspective. Andy is willing to do whatever is necessary to get Jacob the legal help he needs to be acquitted. Both parents are "defending" their son in the only way they can, yet neither can fully accept nor understand the other parents’ point of view. Mr. Landay has provided a story that doesn't disappoint from beginning to end.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes 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."



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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book 31: TWICE Review


Twice by Lisa Unger
ISBN: 9780307953179
Publication date: February 7, 2012 (first published in 2004) 
Publisher: Random House

Acclaimed artist Julian Ross has just been found standing over her husband’s bloody corpse in their New York City apartment. Julian claims that she slept peacefully beside him while he was violently stabbed in their bed. But police are skeptical, especially since Julian’s first husband was killed and mutilated in exactly the same way. Julian turns to the tough-as-nails crime writer Lydia Strong, who plunges into the case with her signature grit and the help of her partner, P.I. Jeffrey Mark.       
Meanwhile, Lydia learns that Jed McIntyre, the serial killer who murdered her mother, is on the loose in New York. McIntyre is out for Lydia’s blood, and his presence forces her to confront the evils of her past while solving her toughest murder case yet. 

Lydia is being cautious now that she knows Jed McIntyre is in New York. Jeffrey Mark, her fiancé and business partner isn't taking any chances, especially since they just learned she's pregnant, and has hired a bodyguard, Dax Chicago, to shadow her at all times. Lydia is slowly getting used to idea of impending motherhood, and has doubts about her abilities to be a good mother. She has a serial killer after her, a wedding to consider, a baby on the way and now a high-profile murder case to investigate . . . what more could a woman want?

Lydia and Jeffrey are hired by Julian's mother, Eleanor, to prove Julian's innocence in her husband's murder. With her second husband murdered in bed beside her, Julian suffers an emotional breakdown and is hospitalized. Detective Halford McKirdy knows that second murder done in the exact same manner with only Julian as a "witness" or "innocent bystander" is a bit much to swallow. Julian was found not guilty in the murder case of her first husband, and now the stakes have been raised.

As Lydia and Jeffrey launch their investigation, they find that there are numerous loose strings to the information provided by Eleanor. She conveniently forgets to inform them that her husband was killed in a manner very similar to both of Julian's husbands. She also neglected to tell them that Julian has a twin brother that escaped from an upstate mental facility and is presumed dead or that she also had a twin brother. Lydia gravitates toward Julian's artwork to help uncover clues in their investigation. Meanwhile Dax and Jeffrey head underground in a search for Jed McKinley.

Twice, the third in the Lydia Strong series, provides great suspense and thrills as Lydia and Jeffrey basically search for two serial killers. The search takes them to a small town upstate and a shadow city underground. The investigations aren't neat and bloodless, but as the body count grows their determination also grows. The tension and suspense gradually build until the very end. This is one page turner you don't want to miss if you like a bit of psychological suspense thrown in with your thrills and chills.
   
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. 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."



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book 30: WHAT HAPPENED TO HANNAH Review


What Happened to Hannah by Mary Kay McComas
ISBN: 978-0-06-208478-1
Publication date: February 7, 2012
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

As a teenager, Hannah Benson's one chance to save herself was to run away. As the years have passed, she's never looked back, not even to find out what happened to the mother and sister she left behind. Now, twenty years later, the past comes calling when her hometown sheriff, Grady Steadman -- Hannah's sweetheart in high school -- delivers some life-changing news: her mother and sister are dead, leaving her guardian of her fifteen-year-old niece.
Returning home to bitter memories and devastating secrets, Hannah must find a way to make this new challenge work without ruining lives -- or destroying her own sanity. And when her painful memories of this small town become mingled with the new, happier moments she's creating with her niece -- and the rekindled feelings she has for Grady -- Hannah is faced with the most difficult challenge yet.

Hannah has spent the past twenty years trying to forget her past, specifically the emotional, verbal and physical abuse from her father. The only good she left behind was her sister, Ruth, and her boyfriend, Grady. It wasn't easy, but Hannah has made something of herself with the help of her surrogate father, Joe Levitz. Joe was her father, mentor and friend and it was with his help that she became an insurance agent and agency owner. Now the time has come for Hannah to face her past and return home to the memories left behind and a niece she's never known.

Grady Steadman, indeed, the entire town, knew that Karl Benson and his family were different. The adults suspected abuse, but nothing was ever done. As a result, Hannah often went to school with bruises from "falls" and even broken bones. Most of the town had assumed that Karl had killed Hannah as she disappeared on the night of the worst beating yet, but since a body had never been found again nothing was done. But Karl is dead, Ruth is dead, even Hannah's mother is dead and there's no family member left to take care of fifteen-year-old Anna but her aunt. 

Hannah's return is anything but triumphant and she can't wait to leave Clearfield once again. She doesn't know the first thing about being a parent, even a surrogate parent and isn't sure her niece will even like her. Fortunately Hannah, and her niece Anna, learn to like, respect then love one another. Misunderstanding and mistakes are made but they both have much to learn about each other.

What Happened to Hannah discusses some weighty issues, such as child abuse, spousal abuse, and even the possibility of child molestation. Ms. McComas doesn't gloss over these issues and treats them with the dignity and respect they deserve. Although Hannah and Grady have feelings for one another, Grady knows that Hannah is still hiding something. Until she can trust him fully, he isn't willing to turn custody of Anna over to her. I found all of the characters, especially Hannah, Anna, and Grady's daughter Lucy to be likeable, if not lovable, and all too realistic. Grady and Joe provide the much needed male counterparts to these strong females. They aren't overly protective or domineering and seemed to provide the masculine perspective and counterpoint of view. What Happened to Hannah has romance, drama, as well as teenage and adult angst tempered with humor and sensitivity. This may not be an easy read for some because of the issues discussed, but it is definitely worth reading. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes 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."




Monday, February 13, 2012

Book 29: THREE WEEKS IN DECEMBER Review



Three Weeks in December by Audrey Schulman
ISBN: 978-1-60945-064-9
Publication date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: Europa Editions

In 1899 Jeremy, a young engineer, leaves a small town in Maine to oversee the construction of a railroad across British East Africa. In charge of hundreds of Indian laborers, he becomes the reluctant hunter of two lions that are killing his men in nightly attacks on their camp. Plagued by fear, wracked with malaria, and alienated by a secret he can tell no one, he takes increasing solace in the company of an African man who scouts for him. 
In 2000 Max, an American ethnobotonist, travels to Rwanda in search of an obscure vine that could become a lifesaving pharmaceutical. Stationed in the mountains, she shadows a family of gorillas—the last of their group to survive the merciless assault of local poachers. Max bears a striking gift for communicating with the apes. But soon the precarious freedom of both is threatened as a violent rebel group from the nearby Congo draws close. 


Three Weeks in December is a story of strangers, primarily from an American perspective, in a strange land, south-eastern Africa. The story is told in the alternating perspectives of Jeremy in the late 19th century and Max in the late 20th century in present day Rwanda. Both Jeremy and Max are outsiders in the true sense of the word and both are launched on a course of self-discovery. 

Jeremy is apparently the only American working for the British in the construction of a railroad and he knows little of the customs, languages or habits of the indigenous population or the hired workers. Jeremy was also considered an outsider in his family back in Maine because of his sexual orientation (to be a single, relatively healthy man with no apparent inclination toward women was highly suspect). As a result Jeremy felt it best to leave his family and home. He intends to become a white settler in British East African after he completes his engineering tasks. However, this task is imperiled by two rogue lions that have boldly attacked men in the work camp. As the boss in the camp, Jeremy must hunt these lions and protect his workers. Over the course of several weeks, Jeremy launches his nightly vigils in an effort to kill the lions. His only companion is his African guide, Otombe. As Jeremy and Otombe sit and await the lions, Jeremy finds himself drawn to Otombe, an attraction he knows he can never act upon.

Max Tombay is a postdoctoral ethnobotanist. She knows that jobs will be difficult to come by, especially with her Asperger's Syndrome. But a great opportunity is literally handed to her when she is asked by a pharmaceutical company to travel to Rwanda and locate a vine that could become a lifesaving drug. Max knows that her Asperger's and single-minded focus is as asset in this area so she accepts. Max's mother isn't very happy with her daughter traveling to a war-torn region, but she can't stop her. In short order Max travels to Rwanda with an ample supply of grey clothes, oatmeal and tofu. Just as Jeremy had difficulty assimilating to British East Africa, so does Max, but she is determined to make it work. She learns through trial and error and grudgingly gets along with the other researchers in the mountain-based research station. What Max finds amazing is that she gets along and understands the apes much better than she does her fellow researchers. Unfortunately all is not what it seems in Rwanda and Max and her fellow researchers must deal with the high possibility of an attack by rogue rebels.

All of the action presented in both Max and Jeremy's stories cover the same three weeks in December, albeit separated by 100 years. It isn't clear how their stories are linked until the very end. Ms. Schulman has provided two stories that could have stood alone but together seem to mirror one another in the difficulties both Max and Jeremy are facing. The historical information provided is quite detailed enough to provide a realistic starting point for both stories. The graphic details of the African landscape are such that it is almost possible to close your eyes and visualize the scene. The description of the apes is also quite realistic and they become additional characters in Max's story. I found myself rooting for Max and Jeremy, as well as the apes, in their struggles to survive. Three Weeks in December is an emotional read that provides for a little suspense and adventure. This is a beautifully written story that drew me in from the very beginning and held my attention to the very end. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes 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."






Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book 28: KODACHROME Review



Kodachrome by Jason Jahns
ISBN: 978-0984749102
Publisher: North Star Books


What Do You See?
Kodachrome is a novel about a global revolution that cuts across cultural, economic, and geographic divides; a conflict between the forces of rampant greed and demands for fairness and dignity.
The two main characters are extraordinary yet solitary – reluctant warriors who never meet. Miranda Carter is a cloistered graduate student dispatched to meet her estranged Mormon grandmother and examine a bizarre medical prognosis. Zhuli Cai is an unassuming young Chinese army officer willing to give everything to save the members of his unit. He holds a heavy secret.
Miranda and Zhuli are thrown headlong into technological and supernatural intrigue and deceit. They reckon with true impossibilities and face their own worst fears in a world of double-crosses, prophets, spies, presidential candidates, and Chinese revolutionaries.
On its way to a truly surprise ending, Kodachrome will beguile you with thriller-like tempo, the foresight of science fiction, deep social truths normally found only in historical novels, and a plot that you have never seen before – anywhere.

Miranda thought that she was without any family, alone in the world, until she is informed that her maternal grandmother is alive. Unfortunately there are ulterior motives as her superiors want to send her to Utah to not only meet her grandmother but have her examine her, ostensibly for medical research purposes. 

While Miranda goes off to Utah to discover her Mormon roots and meet her grandmother, there are strange happenings going on in China. Initially we are lead to believe that Zhuli is in the Chinese army as he works hard to protect his unit and provide a better environment for all. It isn't until the reader is part of the way into the story that you realize that Zhuli is playing a computer simulation game. 

It is hard to imagine that a computer simulation game and an elderly Mormon woman in Utah have much in common. It is even harder to imagine that Zhuli, Miranda and her grandmother may hold the keys to a new world order. To say that there are twists in this story is a massive understatement. I initially had a very difficult time reading Kodachrome as it wasn't clear how a Chinese gamer, an American researcher and Mormon history could have anything in common. The author does a credible job on combining the various plots and subplots into one cohesive story and just when you think you understand what's going on there's another twist. Kodachrome, for me, was part thriller and part fantasy. Both Zhuli and Miranda's adventures could be classified as thriller but Miranda's storyline was the more appealing of the two for me. Zhuli's story was a little more fantastical and seemed to provide most of the plot twists. Even with all of the plot twists and more fantastical elements Kodachrome works and was an enjoyable read. I was a little disappointed with the ending and sincerely hope that there's more for these characters in the future.

To read more about Kodachrome please visit: www.kodachromethebook.com


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes 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, February 8, 2012

Reading Update...

I know, I know...I'm very behind in both my reading and blog posts for the year due to a series of family and health emergencies. Since it seems to be virtually impossible for me to post reviews on everything that I've read, I'll simply try to provide a brief explanation on what I've read and enjoyed (or not) so far.


Murder Under Cover by Kate Carlisle


This is the fourth entry in the Bibliophile Mystery series featuring Brooklyn Wainwright. The intrigue begins when Brooklyn's friend Robin hands over a copy of the Kama Sutra to be restored and then Robin's new male love interest is found murdered in Robin's bed. Brooklyn quickly comes to the rescue of her friend and the book while trying to uncover (sorry...bad pun not intended) the murderer and the story behind the mysterious book. This is another great read by Ms. Carlisle. 




If I Should Die by Allison Brennan

This is the third installment in the Lucy Kincaid series. Lucy and Seth are on a working vacation in the Adirondack mountains. Friends are planning on opening a resort but their property is being sabotaged. The more Lucy and Seth uncover about the sabotage, the more they realize that this quaint small town has more going on than it seems...especially when they discover a dead body in a mine shaft that disappears before outside law enforcement can launch an investigation given the fact that the locals don't seem all that interested. If I Should Die is a fast-paced, mystery that kept me reading and intrigued until the very end. 


Eli the Good by Silas House

This is classified as a young adult historical fiction read, but I found it to be another great read by Silas House. The action takes place over the course of three months in the summer of 1976. Eli Book is an innocent ten year old boy that seems to be caught up in more drama than he knows how to deal with. His father is a Vietnam vet suffering from flashbacks and post-traumatic stress disorder, especially at night. Eli's sister is a teenager determined to make her own way, even though most of her behavior constantly antagonizes her mother. Eli's aunt, her father's sister, has moved in and vehemently and publicly protested against the war and that causes a lot of tension in the household. Then there's Eli's best friend, Edie. Edie is dealing with her own drama as her parents are separating. If you haven't read any Silas House books, start with this one...trust me, you won't be disappointed. 


Nightfall by Norah Wilson


This is the second book in Ms. Wilson's Vampire Romance series. Aidan Afflack is a vampire friend of Dr. Delano Bowen (prominently featured in The Merzetti Effect) and has been sent to Maine on an errand on behalf of Dr. Bowen. Samantha "Sam" Shea is a nature photographer and just happens to be in Maine at the same time as Aidan. Sam provides a paranormal twist to the story in that she seems to intuitively know where rogue vampires will be. Aidan is intrigued by this intuition as well as attracted to Sam. To say that sparks fly in this paranormal romance is a massive understatement. Fortunately, Sam and Aidan team up and help to end the hunting of some rogue vamps. Ms. Wilson provides another steamy and action-filled romance with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor. If you enjoyed The Merzetti Effect then you'll definitely enjoy Nightfall


Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay

This is Ms. McKinlay's first book in the Library Lover's Mystery series and she started it with a bag. Lindsey Norris is the new director of the library in Briar Creek and just starting to know the community. Beth Stanley, is the Children's Librarian and Lindsey's best friend. Lindsey encourages Beth to submit her manuscript to a visiting New York editor. Beth's boyfriend is anything but supportive and when he turns up dead and the editor accuses Beth of plagiarizing his work, Lindsey is determined to uncover the truth. I initially borrowed this from my public library because the title and cover art grabbed my attention. I can honestly say I wasn't disappointed. Books Can Be Deceiving may be classified as a cozy mystery but I found it to be a great and fast read filled with interesting characters, gripping intrigue and books. What more can a book lover want?


Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Ms. Mafi has provided an excellent debut novel that incorporates fantasy, paranormal and a bit of science fiction in a YA dystopian romance. Whew! I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this but was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The premise is that in the not-too-distant future, society has fallen and "The Reestablishment" governs with fear and paramilitary force. Juliette is only 17 years old and has been imprisoned for 260+ days because she accidentally killed someone. Her touch is lethal (think Rogue from X-Men). Now "The Reestablishment" wishes to use her abilities to instill even more fear into the society. In many ways, Shatter Me is a coming-of-age story with several twists. Juliette realizes that she isn't worthless and finds someone that doesn't think she is a deviant. I'm looking forward to the second installment in this series, scheduled for release in Fall of 2012. 




I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley


Flavia de Luce has done it again...or rather Alan Bradley has done it again by providing another captivating mystery featuring the great sleuthing of Flavia de Luce. It is winter in England and the de Luce family is preparing for the holidays by hosting a film company. The filming is one way to stave off the creditors and allow the family to stay in the ancestral home awhile longer. Needless to say intrigue and murder occurs during the filming but with the precocious eleven-year Flavia on the scene all will be revealed. This is another series that I simply love reading. Flavia isn't a typical eleven-year old and not very mature in some respects but it is her lack of maturity mixed with youthful inquisitiveness and scientific research that make her such a wonderful character.


The Night Circus by Erin Morgernstern

This was another book that I wasn't sure would live up to the hype but I was mistaken. The Night Circus was just as magical and wonderful as I had been led to believe. This is simply one book that has to be read because I find it is impossible to accurately describe without giving away everything. 




I'll be posting reviews soon for these recently completed books: Kodachrome by Jason Jahns, Three Weeks in December by Audrey Schulman, What Happened to Hannah by Mary Kay McComas, and Twice by Lisa Unger. 

Upcoming reads include: The Ninth Step by Barbara Taylor Sissel, Striking Back by Mark Nykanen, Defending Jacob by William Landay, Accidents of Providence by Stacia Brown, The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig, The Healing by Jonathan Odell, Jane Vows Vengeance by Micheal Thomas Ford, and Return to Grace by Karen Harper.

Book 23: WHEN TWO HEARTS MEET Review


When Two Hearts Meet by Janelle Mowery
ISBN: 978-0-7369-2810-6
Publication date: October 1, 2011
Publisher: Harvest House


Rachel Garrett finds that attaining her dream of becoming a nurse is fraught with peril. A deputy sheriff with a wall around his heart doesn't help matters, but when she learns why Luke Mason has barricaded his heart, her desire to heal confronts an even greater challenge. Her need of his protection from an unknown assailant might be the force that sends his wall crashing down around them.

Luke became a deputy in order to find the men who killed his father. He turns his back on God, only to run into the fiery Miss Garrett, who is a constant reminder of his lost faith. As Luke hunts for Rachel's attacker, he finds she has snared his heart. Faced with the fear of losing another loved one, he must decide whether he can learn to rely on God to save her?or run from the love both offer.

Rachel Garrett knows that relocating to Colorado in the late 1800s is going to be difficult. She doesn't know anyone there and the territory is quite a change of pace from her life back in Missouri. She knows that you can't really run away from problems, but she needed a change of scenery after being blamed for the death of a patient. She's barely had a chance to catch her breath from the ride into Rockdale and meet her new boss, Dr. Barnes, when she's enlisted to help in several home emergencies, including a home delivery and a sprained ankle. But disaster strikes on her third home visit when she finds a pregnant woman bleeding and near death. Regrettably the woman, after suffering her fourth miscarriage, dies shortly after Rachel arrives at the house. Rachel feels bad about the woman's death but knows that there was nothing she could do to stop it. 

As Rachel settles into Rockland, she focuses on her job, finds a new church family, and begins to learn her new neighbors. As she begins to feel comfortable with her new life and work, she also helps Dr. and Mrs. Barnes with their two small children, as well as start a small Sunday School program for the kids at the church. Through all of her ups and downs in life Rachel turns to her faith to sustain her and prays that it will be all she needs in order to survive.

Luke Mason is a good deputy sheriff but he no longer attends church or believes in God. His mother is the church pianist and prays that Luke will return to the faith of his youth. As Luke tries to maintain law and order in his town, he witnesses the strength of Rachel's faith and finds it attractive, especially when it appears that her life may be endangered. Just when it seems like he knows who the culprit is, tragedy strikes. Can Luke survive losing someone else that he's grown attached to or will he be able to save Rachel from harm?

When Two Hearts Meet is a nice inspirational, historical romance that happens to be a quick read. The characters are well developed and the action somewhat expected for a Western romance but realistic. The intrigue is primarily what kept my attention throughout as it appeared that Rachel might have numerous enemies and as soon as one was cornered, another would appear. Both Rachel and Luke gain lessons of faith, hope and love as their friendship slowly turns to romance. There aren't any steamy scenes and the romance isn't front-and-center, but Ms. Mowery has done an excellent job of providing a hopeful, happy-ever-after, inspirational romance. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher through FaithfulReader.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."


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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

BOOK 14: IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER Review


In The Bleak Midwinter (A Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mystery #1) by Julia Spencer-Fleming
ISBN: 978-1-250-00651-6
Publication date: January 2012 (original publication date March 2002)
Publisher: Minotaur Books


It's a cold, snowy December in the upstate New York town of Millers Kill, and newly ordained Clare Fergusson is on thin ice as the first female priest of its small Episcopal church. Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne dismisses her as a naive do-gooder and her blunt manner, honed by ten years as an army pilot, receives a chilly reception. When a baby is abandoned and a young mother brutally murdered, Clare has to pick her way through the secrets and silence that shadow the town like the ever-present Adirondack mountains. As the days dwindle down and the attraction between the avowed priest and the married chief grows, Clare will need all her faith, tenacity, and courage to stand fast against a killer's icy heart.

Clare Fergusson is, in many respects, a babe in the woods as she strives to deal with her first placement as a priest in upstate New York. She doesn't know much about northern winters and is trying to learn about her new community. Shortly after her arrival in Millers Kill, she discovers an abandoned newborn on the church steps. The mother has left a note indicating she wants the child placed with a well-known town couple and lawyers, Geoff and Karen Burns. What Rev. Fergusson presumes will be a clear-cut case of turning the infant over to the Burns becomes a lesson in red-tape. If there's one thing Clare understands it is red-tape and procedures from her years in the Army.

Russ Van Alstyne doesn't intend to come across as hard or mean, but he has rules and regulations to follow. The State of New York also has procedures to adhere to when a child has been abandoned. This situation causes a lot of tension between Van Alstyne and Rev. Fergusson, especially since Russ doesn't really subscribe to any religious beliefs or practices. Even though there's tension from the child abandonment case and later the discovery of the infant's murdered mother, Clare and Russ strike up an unusual friendship.

As the story evolves the friendship between Clare and Russ constantly teeters on the brink of something more. Clare is well aware of the fact that Russ is married and as a result she is the one that pulls back and pushes Russ away, figuratively and literally. As the investigation into the murder continues, Clare unwittingly uncovers a major clue. Will she be able to inform Russ before the murderer tries to silence her permanently?

Ms. Spencer-Fleming has provided a mystery and suspense novel that has undertones of romance that is converted to friendship and inspires due to Clare's faith. Religion isn't the primary theme of In The Bleak Midwinter but does feature prominently yet it isn't intrusive and simply becomes a part of Clare and her routines. Clare and Russ are characters that are well-developed and wholly realistic. It is quite easy to imagine the winter chills, ice and snow described by the author. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and I look forward to reading more from this new-to-me series to see what adventures await Clare and Russ as this series is re-released.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers. 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."