Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Where we last left the blog.......

It's been a bit longer than I intended since my last blog post, but that certainly does not mean I have not been reading!! I was preparing for my daughter's college graduation. She graduated on May 6 from Florida State University with a BS in International Affairs and Sociology. Yay!!

Now what did I read since the end of March?

Before I Go - Colleen Oakley 5*

I purchased this book, because the author was coming to talk about her newest book at my local indie bookstore. I really found myself connecting with the characters and enjoying their story and read the book in two days. I cannot believe this was Oakley's debut novel! Don't think that by the synopsis this book is a sad tale of a young woman's lost battle with breast cancer. It is so much more and how the author handled it without anything feeling maudlin shows she really has great writing chops! It was a funny, upbeat, emotional, and real story. Well done. It was wonderful to meet Colleen in person and I purchased her latest, Close Enough to Touch. Review to come in the future.


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The Book of Summer - Michelle Gable 4*

My second book by Ms. Gable and what I loved most about this story is the true Nantucket character that comes through in the personalities in the book. The author deftly moves back and forth between 2 times lines, that of Bess and her mother Cissy in present day and that of Ruby, Bess's grandmother just prior to WWII. It's all surrounding Cliff House, the family home, which is perched to be pitched into the sea if something can't be done to save it. The cover is one of the best of the new books coming for summer, too. It makes me want to start planning a Nantucket get-a-way soon! Thank you to the author for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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The Forever Summer - Jamie Brenner 5*

Wow! What a gem of a story! The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner, my first by her. I am ready to pick up and leave for vacation in P-town. I want to soak up the eclectic, free spirit vibe there. This is a wonderful story of family, friends, community and they are often pieces that fit together in ways that will surprise you. Grab your beach chair and settle in for a perfect beach read. There are secrets, hidden letters and a journal, old love and new love and family drama. At the heart of it all is the charming Beach Rose Inn. Get ready to check in, your room is ready. Thank you to the author, publisher and Great Thoughts Great Readers Group for the ARC in exchange for my review.

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The Good Widow - Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke 4*

I really enjoyed this tautly written thriller, my 2nd book by this author duo. Jacks Morales' marriage is floundering. She receives word that her husband of eight years has been killed an auto accident in Maui. The only thing, he told he was on business in the Midwest! Then Jacks finds out her husband was not alone in the car. A female was killed too. Now she's really wondering what was going on! She meets Nick, the fiancé of the woman killed when he shows up at her door one day. Together they both bond over their mutual grief and confusion over what happened. Nick suggests they head to Maui to bring themselves closure. Things turn decidedly stranger when they reach the tropical paradise. There are plenty of twists to keep even a hard core thriller reader like me guessing. Thank you to the publisher, authors and Great Thoughts Great Readers group for the opportunity to read & review this ARC.

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Crossing the Street - Molly Campbell 5*

Molly Campbell, writes such delightful characters. I love a book where I want to leap into the pages to befriend the characters. I definitely wanted to cross the street with Beck Throckmorton and hang out with her octogenarian neighbor Ella and her great-granddaughter Roberta, known affectionately as Bob. Beck is living alone in a quiet neighborhood, working as a Starbucks barista and writing bodice rippers in the evening, but she feels she may slowly be turning into a weird cat lady. Her life seems like crap and getting crappier by the minute. Beck left her boyfriend, because she thought he didn't appreciate her feminist ideals, then said boyfriend marries Beck's sister D. If that wasn't bad enough, when Beck finally finds a guy who might be good boyfriend material, she thinks Theo is as boring as a saltine cracker. Well, at least his clothes match and his hair's always coiffed. When 8 year old Bob turns up across the street, Beck tries to stay away. She's still got terrible nightmares of her babysitting years, but Bob has led a hard-knock life and Beck finds herself drawn into Bob's life with Ella. This a sweetly funny story about friends and neighbors who are often more like family than our own flesh and blood. Bravo, Molly on this wonderful second book! Thank you to the author for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Dark Corners - Ruth Rendell 3*

I read this book as the book club leader of my local indie bookstore. I have read most of Ms. Rendell's books, include those as Barbara Vine, and while this book was good, it was not as good as some of her older books. Sadly, this is the last of her published books. Luckily I still have many to read. I am a huge fan of Rendell and this book was certainly classically her style, I just felt it was not as good as many of her other books that I have read. RIP, Ruth.

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The To-Hell-And-Back Club - Jill Hannah Anderson 4*

I felt an affinity to the main character Peyton, because I too am an empty nester. This was a wonderful true-to-life story. I found myself laughing and crying throughout. I wish I had my own To Hell and Back Club to rely on! Peyton's marriage has not been great for a long time, but now that the kids are away at college, there's no way to ignore the fact that she and Jerry are just two bodies inhabiting a space. When her three best friends are killed in a car accident, it's the catalyst that gets changes happening in Peyton's life. Thank you to the author for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Unsub - Meg Gardiner 4*

Thank you to Penguin First To Read for the ARC in exchange for my honest review. I read a lot of thrillers and true crime. I especially enjoy books about serial killers. I've long been a fan of Patricia Cornwall, Kathy Reichs, and loved Thomas Harris' Silence of the Lambs. Unsub was a very good read and would be excellent for fans of these authors. I can see the characters of Caitlin and boyfriend Sean making a comeback in a series. The tension built at a steady pace and I found the clues based on Dante's Inferno to be another big draw, possibly for Dan Brown readers. Thank you to Penguin First To Read for the ARC copy. 

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A Ring Of Truth - Michelle Cox 5*

I loved the continuation of the story of Henrietta Von Harmon and Inspector Clive Howard. We were introduced to them in the first book where they worked together on a police case and fell in love. Now in book two, the relationship has expanded, Clive has asked Henrietta to marry him, and we start to learn a bit more about Clive and his life outside of the police and back at his family home Highbury in upscale Winnetka. The author has done an excellent job of keeping the supporting characters from book one, Elsie, Stan, Eugene, and the Hennessys. In my opinion this is the hallmark of any successful series, you need more than one or two characters to keep the story going, the supporting characters just help deepen and enrich the development of the story. It certainly gives the author more to work with and more directions to take. I think this series would be perfect for any fans of Anne Perry (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt or the Monks series) or Charles Todd (Ian Rutledge or Bess Crawford series). I for one cannot wait to see what happens with Clive and Henrietta. The way they play off each other is engaging. I can already see the author has some ideas based on the hints dropped in The Ring of Truth. Thank you to the author for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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The Gypsy Moth Summer - Julia Fierro 3*

This is my first book by Ms. Fierro and I enjoyed the ethereal quality of the writing. There was a dream-like quality to the story and her style is very descriptive. The story takes place on the fictional Avalon Island off the coast of Long Island which is inhabited by a host host of characters.. The island was home to Grudder Aviation, but the island has always been culturally divided into two halves, the tony rich and the workers and families employed by Grudder. Many people are suffering from cancer in 1992 when the book takes place, so there a feeling of unease and the arrival of the gypsy moth just makes things even more uncomfortable. I struggled to feel engaged with the characters and the plot. I just couldn't get into the story of what was happening and connection between the characters. Thank you to Net Galley, publisher, and author for the review copy in exchange for my honest review.

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As Red As Blood - Salla Simukka 5*

I absolutely loved this first book in the Lumikki Andersson trilogy. I eagerly look forward to books 2 & 3. Lumikki is a girl under the radar. She's a high school student with a background that the author slowly reveals like a dripiing faucet over the course of the book. We learn that she was bullied and learned to fight back in her own way. She's smart, tough, quiet, and most of all observant. There are comparisons being made to Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander and I can see the similarities, but where Salander could be cruel, Lumikki is more shrewd and cunning, but in a good way. This story focused on an underworld crime involving the Russian Mafia, prostitutes, and a bag full of money that falls into the wrong hands. I can't wait to see what Lumikki gets involved with next. Lumikki means Snow White in Finnish, thus the titles of the books in the trilogy, As Red as Blood, As White as Snow, and As Black as Ebony. Thank you to the publisher for the review copy in exchange for an honest review via Blogging for Books.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Quicksand






My review of Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito:
 
 
I am glad I was able to get the ARC of this fiction book. It reads like a true story. I really enjoy Scandinavian Noir and this book was part mystery, part legal thriller, and is told from the perspective of one of the main characters. Maya Norberg stands trial for the deaths of several people in her high school class in Sweden. It's one of the worst massacres in Swedish history. Maya is telling the story and we go back and forth between then, before the killings, and now, as we hear about her trial and her time in jail. The big question, is Maya guilty? No spoilers here, but this book translated (the first of this author's to be translated to English) from Swedish was a page turner. Maya's voice resonated with me and felt genuine. All the things that we think in our head, but don't speak aloud are articulated here. The feelings we had when we were 17 or 18 and our relationships with our friends. The characters are drawn from a broad spectrum, Maya's boyfriend Sebastian is the super rich boy with lots of dysfunctionality (having it all doesn't make for a happy life), Amanda, Maya's best friend one of the popular girls, Dennis the refugee from Africa, Labbe, Sebastian's well adjusted best friend and Amanda's eventual boyfriend, Christer the teacher who's trying too hard to be cool, and Samir another refugee from an unnamed Muslim country. All of them are drawn into the vortex that will eventually lead to 5 deaths. Will Maya's legal team lead by Sander be able to convince the judges of her innocence? The media has already portrayed her as a snobbish, uncaring killer, but is she really? Thank you to Penguin Random House & the author for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. 
 
 
 


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Suspense!!
Quite possibly my favorite genre.
Peter Swanson, I am waiting for your next book. I know you just published your third, Her Every Fear in January 2017, but write fast. PLEASE?! 




I kept watching all the news, reviews, and buzz about Peter Swanson's books. For some reason I only got wind of him when he released The Kind Worth Killing in February 2015, but he burst on the scene and the reviews were phenomenal. His books, when I read the description were just the kind of thriller or suspense books that appeal to me. I just had a full book reading schedule!

I did a Peter Swanson marathon when I was away for three weeks in February. It needed to be done and I decided to do it right. I started at the beginning with The Girl With a Clock For a Heart. What a title! It was very unique story. A situation where the girl, Liana, may not be who she says she is. She and George meet and become an item in college. George really falls for her, but he's not completely gullible, because when she shows up in his life again twenty years later, he's ready to deal with her. She left him with a giant mess twenty years before. The writing style is a little raw, but then it's his first published novel. I LOVE the Boston setting. I lived there for twelve years, so I felt myself there on the streets and in the neighborhoods. 

Then came The Kind Worth Killing. Again, how can a thriller book lover not be hooked by that title?! The story starts out on a plane, business class flight, London to Boston. So, were back in that city, so perfect for a suspenseful tale. Here we have Ted Severson who while sitting in business class, begins chatting with the attractive and intriguing, Lily Kintner. Ted's married, but what happens on the a trans-Atlantic plane, stays on the plane, right? Even if you say, semi-seriously that you want to kill your wife? Well, Lily says she'll help and as we read on, we find out this may not be Lily's first time killing someone!

Then I read Swanson's latest, Her Every Fear. London makes an appearance again at the beginning. The neurotic Kate Priddy decides to do an apartment swap with a distant cousin, Corbin Dell from Boston. Kate's family is surprised that she's taken the big step to live for several months in Boston, she's always been a bit anxious, especially after what happened with her first serious boyfriend. Kate on the other hand thinks it's just what she needs, a change of scenery and the opportunity to pursue the art classes she's been wanting to take. This story has a sort Hitchcock, Rear Window element (always a favorite movie of mine) and there's this air of creepiness that seeps in through the paragraphs. I really found myself worried about Kate and wishing she's look over her shoulder or be a bit more careful. We again have an old friend that cycles back in and that friend may not be a novice when it comes to killing.

I guess if Peter Swanson's months of release are an indication, we won't see anything until at least January 2018. I'll be in my room crying and waiting.

http://www.peter-swanson.com/





Sunday, March 12, 2017

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My second book by Ms. Di Maio, and it was better than her first, in my opinion. She expertly weaves two stories and two time periods. The 1940's story of Della Lee in prison for the murder of her sister, Eula Lee and the present day story of journalist Mick Anders and Dr. Paloma Vega who are brought together in the little border town of Puerto Pesar, (Port of Regret) where Della and Eula were brought up and where tragedy seemed to guide their lives. While this book might be considered romance, I really love the lighthearted way in which the author treats romance. It takes a back seat to the story of the the heartbreak of Della's life and the connections that Mick uncovers between Paloma, her grandmother, and Della Lee who is released from prison to return to Puerto Pesar after 70 years in prison. The story shows how the two stories mirror each other and you will find yourself wanting to know more about these connections across the decades. Thank you Camille for the lovely shout out in your acknowledgments. It was so unexpected and a thrill as a fairly new blogger. Thank you Ann-Marie Nieves of Got Red PR for the ARC hard copy of this book for my shelf. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Isn't this the most beautiful cover?

Behind Her Eyes, by Sarah Pinsborough, was a bit of a disappointment for me, but here's my review:

I was thinking this was going to be 2017's Behind Closed Doors and while there was much I liked about this thriller, the paranormal twist with the dreams just lost me. Louise is a single mum in London and her life seems to be going nowhere. She meets a guy in a bar, they hit it off, share a kiss and she thinks that's the end of that. When she arrives to work at the psychiatrist's office she finds out the guy she kissed in the bar? That's her new boss! Things get more odd when Adele, the wife of David (the doctor Louise works for) befriends Louise. Louise begins to carry on a sort of double life. This tale is twisty and psychotic that just when you think you've figured things out, you'll be knocked sideways with yet another revelation. As I said, I liked the story, but could do without the supernatural dream stuff. Thank you to Flatiron Books for the Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Lay Death at Her Door, by Elizabeth Buhmann, was another mixed bag for me. Here's my review:

Kate Cranbrook is a liar. She tells us that almost at the beginning of her sordid tale. This was another rather twisted psych thriller that I wanted to like, but a few things just seemed too far fetched to me. Kate was attacked and raped back in college and her boyfriend was murdered. She sent her attacker to jail, but it turns out Kate sent an innocent man to prison, AND she knew that he was innocent! Now, many years later, the man is getting out of jail when DNA evidence comes to light. Kate is put on the spot, having to come up with a tale that maybe she couldn't see her attacker. There's much more to Kate's story and that of her father, Pop, and it may or may not be tied to their early life in Kenya. It just seemed than we can imagine and that's where things started to unravel for me. I don't mind disliking the main character, but things need to be plausible.  

The Girl In the Ice by Robert Bryndza, my review:

I am huge fan of British mysteries and police procedurals. I am always drawn to a messed up, wounded protagonist (think Harry Hole in Nesbo's series), sort of the under dog type and Det. Erika Foster falls into that category. She's just come back to the force after months on medical and psych leave due a botched investigation where her husband and several other cops ended up dead, and it might be in part to her screw up. The author has gotten a great cast of characters on board for the  subsequent books in this series. A young girl is found dead under the ice of a pond at city garden. Her father is a member of parliament, but as Erika's investigation continues it seems there may be connections for human trafficking and the Russian mob. Of course Erika doesn't want to make a wrong move or accusation and so she must work even harder to find out what the connection is before another girl turns up dead. I cannot wait to read #2.  

We Were the Lucky Ones, by Georgia Hunter, my review:

Amazingly this work of historical fiction is based on the author's own family. I read a lot of WWII and Holocaust based stories and this will definitely be in my top 15. I was completely tied up in the lives of the Kurc family. The story begins around the Seder table in Poland 1939 with war on the horizon. We follow three generations of this Jewish family that are torn apart and end up on different sides of the globe. One couple ends up in Siberia at a work camp, another couple works in the Polish Underground, a daughter passes herself off as Aryan with fake papers later hiding her parents (they manage to escape the ghetto) at the farm of a Polish couple who are Christian, one son makes it to Palestine working as a doctor, and another son makes his way all the way from warn torn France to Brazil via ship. They all manage to survive and come together in the end. An important and poignant tale of the darkness of human spirit and the triumph of survival.

The Orphan's Tale
 

I was very happy to get to read my first Pam Jenoff book. Why had I never read anything by her before? I honestly don't know. She has written at least fourteen books, mainly historical fiction, and many focused on Eastern Europe and WWII. A genre that I enjoy and read a lot of. In any case I was christened as a Pam fan with The Orphan's Tale.

The story follows Noa, a young Dutch girl whose father kicks her out of the house after she becomes pregnant with a Nazi soldier's baby. She ends up in a home for unwed mothers and her baby is taken away. Noa then escapes and begins work cleaning the bathroom at a train station, eking out a living. The author conveys such a sense of the absolute bleakness that was prevalent in the time and place of the book.

One day while cleaning, Noa hears a faint cry from one of the box cars. She slides open the door to find the car filled with what she realizes are Jewish infants. They have been separated from their parents, most are dying and some already dead. Thinking of the baby that was wrenched from her after birth, she grabs an infant that is still alive and escapes into the snowy, wooded, night.

She finds refuge with a German circus that is made up of many misfits and people hiding in plain view from the Nazis. To earn her keep, Noa starts to train as an understudy for Astrid, a famous aerialist. In the beginning Astrid seems to dislike Noa and her baby, but as the two train together, they form a bond, and Noa begins to understand all that Astrid has lost. The two become like sisters with their shared losses and grief.

The author poignantly tells the story of Noa, the baby she names Theo, Astrid, the Jewish circus performer who was married to a Nazi soldier, and Herr Neuhoff the German circus manager who risks his livelihood to protect his performers and make sure the show goes on.

It's evident that Ms. Jenoff has done copious research and I learned from her website, that she worked for the foreign service and was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland. There she worked on matters such as the preservation of Auschwitz and securing restitution of Jewish property. She is now an attorney and teaches law at Rutgers. I understand that the story was based on several similar stories she came across in her years of research on the Holocaust. It is a unique and powerful story.

Thank you TLC Book Tours and author Pam Jenoff for the opportunity to read and review this for my blog. 

http://tlcbooktours.com/ 

http://pamjenoff.com/ 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/899272610122986/ 

Purchase Links:

http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Orphans-Tale/Pam-Jenoff/9780778319818?id=6806214300029 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HB9Q7CW/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-orphans-tale-pam-jenoff/1123457576?ean=9780778319818