NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Today's Review -- last one of 2009

No more Picoult novels for me..., December 31, 2009

This was a total disappointment and it's the last Picoult novel I ever plan to read. I slogged through every other book by this author, hoping for a repeat of my favorite, MY SISTER'S KEEPER (incidentally also sat through a totally awful movie masquerading as the same story) or perhaps even as good as Salem Falls. I had predicted the complete plot and story lines of all her other recent books, but I was naively hopeful about this one. Well, my hopes were dashed. The plot: mother of child born with osteogenesis imperfecta sues for "wrongful birth" because she wants money to raise her daughter. Meanwhile, as in Picoult's other books, the family falls apart since the focus is on this daughter with the special needs. I really didn't like reading the story from all points of view and it was annoying as it moved back and forth in time. The only honestly sympathetic characters turned out to be stereotypes -- the wrongfully accused physician who was once the best friend, the zealous lawyer with a tragic secret, and the bumbling but ethically correct husband and father. This was another ridiculous attempt to disguise originality with banality -- the completely unbelievable verdict in the court case (WHO were those jury people anyway??) to the last chapter that basically repeated from previous books what was supposed to be a shocker of an ending. Jodi Picoult's formulaic writing is a recipe for boredom and I won't read another. Skip it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Today's review

Just another 'misery' memoir..., December 20, 2009

I read all the positive reviews of this memoir co-authored by the four Welch children whose father died suddenly when they were very young. Unfortunately, after selecting and muddling through the book, I came away with a very different opinion about it. Mostly -- who cares? Yes, it was sad that the children lost their father. And yes, sad also that he wasn't really rich after all and that the circumstances surrounding his death were questionable. Even sadder was when their mother was diagnosed with cancer. But, ultimately, there was nothing unusual or earth shattering here that made this story or this family any more interesting than any other family that experiences tragedy and inexplicable death.

The truth is, I'm sorry for them, but really this isn't a story that was so unique that it HAD to be told and I wonder why it was published. I had a struggle to get through it, found it redundant and a bit boring, and didn't like that every child in the family had to tell the same event from his/her own point of view. Glad they all turned out "all right", however, there are a lot of children who face this type of tragic event and don't go through the self-destructive, dysfunctional way of dealing with it. I think anyone who typically reads what I call 'misery memoirs' will recognize The Kids Are All Right: A Memoir as the same sad story they've read before -- just with a different title and author.

Sorry, but I would pass on this one because, in many cases, your own family history might provide a more interesting book.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Today's review...

The Perfect Couple by Brenda Novak

3.0 out of 5 stars Short on suspense and heavy on romance, December 5, 2009

This was a fast-paced but predictable thriller with way too much romance for me. I liked the premise: attractive young couple next door as murdering pair of psychos -- but the whole angle involving the "love at first glance" bit between the mother of the kidnapped girl and the private investigator hired to find her was just too distracting and took away from the suspense in the narrative.

Sam is lured away by the next door neighbors and held prisoner while her mother, Zoe, and various other characters try to find her. The action moves along well, but with no surprises. Colin and Tiffany are not the perfect couple -- they are not even perfect psycho killers. They make one mistake after another as they try to outwit the detectives and others assigned to the abduction investigation. Jonathan Stivers, the PI who donates his time to a victims' organization, is called into the case to help the police. He probably would have been better at detecting had he been less interested in Zoe and she in him. The other characters in the story are not well-developed and are stereotypes of the sadistic psychopath and the abused wife. The actual investigation is never fully explained as the police don't make any headway in finding the girl even though she is right next door. I simply felt in a hurry to get to the conclusion of the story knowing how it would all end.

All in all - not a terribly exciting mystery thriller even with the grisly details.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Today's review...

The Wrong Mother
by Sophie Hannah

3.0 out of 5 stars Complex and thought provoking tale of the dark side of motherhood..., December 4, 2009
By Denise "DC" (Missouri, USA) - See all my reviews
This was interesting and compelling but ultimately an overly long novel about families and murder. The introduction and premise were intriguing -- a woman is watching television when she sees news of a case involving a mother and daughter who are dead, perhaps a murder suicide. She starts when she hears the name of the surviving husband and gasps in disbelief -- the name is familiar for it is the man with whom she had an affair on a week-long fling in the previous year. When she sees him on the TV, however, she can't believe it -- it is NOT the man she had been with. Sally Thorning decides to begin her own investigation of the case and it leads her to an examination of her own marriage and motherhood. Who was the man she spent a week with and what is the connection she bears to the dead mother and daughter -- co-incidentally a mother that she resembles. Who killed them and why? Is Sally in danger? The resultant investigation probes into the lives of mothers and their children -- how hard is it to raise a child and balance work and home? Shouldn't every woman love being a mother and be able to put her children first?

The somewhat pedantic story never quite rises to the level of suspense that is anticipated and is told from several shifting viewpoints that slow down the pace and bog down the narrative. The brief glimpse the reader has into the personal lives of the police are but teasers as this aspect of the novel is not given much depth. Thus the investigators remain cardboard characters whom we don't get to know. The story ends in such a manner as to indicate that there will be a sequel perhaps involving these same detectives.

All in all the climax and denouement are not exactly predictable, the "who" in the whodunit seems to come out of nowhere, and the last few pages race toward the conclusion in an unsatisfying manner. It was all a bit of a let down at the end.

I'll give it 3.5 stars and probably will look into a follow up by this author.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Today's review...

The Sugarless Plum by Zippora Karz

4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and fascinating autobiography of a prima ballerina, November 25, 2009

This memoir of her career as a ballerina with the New York City Ballet is an insightful and moving look inside the life of Zippora Karz. Her association with this famed company began at age 18 in the corps de ballet and continued for the next sixteen years as she was noticed and groomed for principal and solo roles by the incredible choreographers of the NYCB. Her insider's description of the life of a dancer rising to the peak of her profession was fascinating and the details of the inner workings of the huge ballet company were really interesting.

Although Zippora was amazingly talented and was dancing her dream, her life was anything but easy. Her technique, passion, intensity, and perfectionism -- all part of the work ethic that a truly disciplined ballerina needs to have -- got her noticed and cast in many of the company's ballets at that time. The incredible class, rehearsal and performance schedule began to take its toll, however, and when Zippora first started experiencing symptoms of thirst, excessive urination, extreme hunger, sores that wouldn't heal, exhaustion and muscle fatigue -- she thought that's all it was -- overwork. Despite her denial that anything medically was wrong, Zippora did finally obtain blood work that provided her with a diagnosis of diabetes -- but, because she was 21 years old at the time, the doctor mistakenly assumed it was Type II rather than Type I DM and Zippora did not initially receive the correct treatment regimen. She went through years of illness but danced on despite her failing health and her dangerous blood sugar fluctuations. She tried all types of special diets, insulin injection (guesswork), homeopathic treatmets, and many other remedies until finally meeting the physician who would help her learn to control her diabetes and balance her exercise, diet, and insulin needs. After getting her blood sugar within normal limits, Zippora was able to continue her work with the NYCB and retired after having performed many incredible roles with the company. Her triumph over diabetes was made even more complete when she took on the roles of educator, advocate, and speaker for those affected with the incurable disease.

I liked this book particularly for the glimpse it gave into the heart and soul of a prima ballerina. The life sounds romantic and fantastic, but behind the scenes we see that the passion to dance must be translated into many hours of hard, grueling work in order to present the beauty of ballet that is seen on stage. To be a dancer on that level requires determination, self control, and discipline -- not to mention incredible physical strength and endurance.

I'd recommend this book to any aspiring dancer just for the descriptions of the life of a ballerina, but also to any young person who is diagnosed with diabetes. The book is a testament to Zippora Karz's ability to use her life experiences as a way to inspire and encourage others to dream big and to achieve physical and emotional balance -- with or without the threat of serious illness.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Today's review

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain

5.0 out of 5 stars Secrets, lies and courage..., November 24, 2009

What a great read! I really enjoyed this mystery about a woman who risks everything to finally do the right thing.

The story takes the reader back to 1977 and unfolds over a span of 20 years, but starts when Corinne sees her mother, Eve, on television confessing to intimate knowledge about a long ago kidnapping and disappearance of a pregnant woman named Genevieve Russell. Construction crews have unearthed Genevieve's remains and have arrested and charged a man with her murder.

CeeCee Wilkes is 16-years-old when she is seduced by an handsome older man, Tim Gleason, and is manipulated into helping him and his brother with the crime. Left to guard the prisoner at a remote cabin in the woods, events transpire that force CeeCee on the run with the newborn infant in tow. Unable to bring herself to leave the little girl with her father, CeeCee makes a decision to raise the child as her own. Years pass. CeeCee, now known as Eve, has created a pleasant, comfortable life for herself and thinks she has moved far beyond those days in the forest -- so far that she has almost forgotten that they ever happened.

This is a wonderfully intimate portrayal of family relationships and the love a mother has for her daughter. I really liked the characters in this book -- flaws and all. (Also found it interesting that Eve had rheumatoid arthritis -- as does the author).

This is only the second novel I've read by Diana Chamberlain, and I can say that she has definitely become an author whose books I need to go back and find and read. Next up for me is Breaking the Silence.

I loved this story about secrets, lies, and courage. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Today's review

I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass
3.5 stars for this moving novel about the connection between sisters..., November 18, 2009

This is a convoluted but well-written novel about the nature of a relationship between sisters and the capriciousness of life.
Two sisters -- as dissimilar as "chocolate and seaweed" -- grow up and go their separate ways into adulthood. One sister works in the promotion and critique of art and the other is a free-spirited biologist who roves the world to work protecting animals. The story spans the 25-year history of their lives both when together and when apart. We have a glimpse of how the sisters relate in person and how they communicate when the other is away and busy with her own life. Louisa and Clem try to stay connected without necessarily being close, honest without being brutal, involved without being present. But each woman is always evaluating and judging herself compared to her sister. Each has expectations of what the other should or should not be doing or how she should "be" and there are many disappointments.
Each chapter is told from the point of view of a sister and the book jumps around in time from chapter to chapter. I often had to read several paragraphs before I was sure which sister was speaking -- honestly, I find that annoying. I like my novels to proceed in an orderly fashion with a single narrator.
I did enjoy this somewhat depressing novel, and without giving any spoilers, it was an in-depth exploration of how life can catch a person by surprise. There are no guarantees or insurance against the fickleness of fate. The ups and downs in the lives of Louisa and Clem are rich with poignancy and the thread of connectedness that keeps the sisters bound. Recommended.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Today's review

The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner

4/5 stars What happened to Sandra Jones?, November 10, 2009

This is an entertaining, fast paced mystery thriller that delves into possibilities surrounding the middle-of-the-night disappearance of a young, pretty wife and mother. Sandra Jones, a teacher, vanishes while her husband, Jason, is at work leaving her purse and cell phone on the counter and her precious daughter, Ree asleep in her room. When the police arrive for the investigation, husband Jason is the initial suspect. But, wait -- a "neighbor" a few houses down is a registered sex offender! The list of possible persons of interest continues to evolve as an internet savvy 8th grade male student and his computer whiz uncle also appear suspicious. I won't rehash the rest of the plot as other reviewers have done an excellent job of that, but I enjoyed the changing points of view and the revelations of the back story that attempts to explain this interesting marriage and the childhoods of Sandra and Jason. Details are dealt out meagerly at first and then the loose ends come together for an interesting conclusion. Some unanswered questions remain, but I can live with that! This is a book that can be read in a day or two and it provides some information about computer hard drives, cell phone records, and the life of a sexual offender. I liked that the detective, DD, did not have a "romance" in the story and that the case stayed focused on the married couple and their lives. Recommended as a multilayered thriller that might keep you up past your bedtime.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Today's review

4.0 out of 5 stars One to read and savor..., November 7, 2009

This novel was an excellent multi-layered story. I loved how the point of view changed with each chapter so that the reader got to hear from each character in the novel. Although this is a sequel to Before The Storm, you do not need to have read it to appreciate this book.

Maggie has spent a year in prison for her intent to set a fire in order to allow her boyfriend to advance in the fire department. Her half brother, Keith was severely burned in the fire and was the one who tossed a lit cigarette into the fuel that caused the conflagration. Another half brother, Andy, was initially thought to be the culprit, but he was since absolved of any responsibility. These siblings, related through their mothers and their fathers, have a complicated relationship.

The story begins with Maggie's release. She returns home to find that the townspeople can't forgive her for the fire and the subsequent deaths. She has to do community service as part of her release, but everywhere she goes, she's scorned and dismissed. Keith, in severe pain from his burns, has taken to beer and Percocet for survival. Andy, with his fetal alcohol syndrome, is finding life difficult juggling a girlfriend and dealing with his sister. At the start of the story, Keith's mother disappears and he is left on his own to deal with both Maggie's release and his own well being. Enter a stranger who quickly endears herself to the fearful Maggie and to the lonely Keith. Who is Jen and why is she not being totally honest with these siblings?

The plot is revealed by chapter as Sara, Keith's mother, explains her life and dilemma. When she disappears, Keith has no choice but to accept financial help from Maggie's mother and uncle -- but he hates them! Their convoluted relationship baffles and distresses him -- but all the while he wonders why and where his mother has gone. Maggie, Keith and Andy all share the details of how they come to grips with the aftermath of the fire and their lives.

This is a wonderful novel and one to be savored. You don't need to have read the previous book to "get" this story but I can imagine that it would only add to the total enjoyment. The characters are well developed and the reader is drawn easily and completely into their lives.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Today's review...

2.0 out of 5 stars This book took forever to read..., November 1, 2009

I found this book tedious and long. I just wanted to get to the end. There weren't any surprises. I think the premise was ludicrous and that no matter how well you had studied someone, you would have been caught out right away trying to pass yourself off in a housemate situation. I really didn't care who killed the girl Lexie by the end. It was anticlimactic. I didn't care much about Cassie Maddox either and got tired of hearing about Operation Vestal and Rob and what went wrong, etc. I don't think I will read any more of these novels, just don't care. Skip it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Today's review

3.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying but not thrilling..., October 12, 2009

Another satisfying outing from John Sandford. The series has gone on for quite a long time, lost its edge as part of the psycho thriller chiller genre, but still an enjoyable read. John Sandford has quite the character in Lucas Davenport, but I do miss some of the old associates or past partners in crime, namely the nun. Anyway, this one is interesting but I feel that perhaps the whole series might be winding down and need to be retired.

In this book, Lucas is faced with tracking down a sophisticated robbery ring who stop at nothing, even murder, to get what they want. In addition, he's dealing with a side story about a guy who is possibly setting himself up to assassinate someone at the Republican convention in Minnesota - maybe even John McCain himself.

I like the setting -- it's always fun to read a book set in a city that one is familiar with. I'm comfortable with the cast and crew -- some of whom I miss but others who have been around a long time. Weather still there as faithful wife -- not sure how she has enough energy to operate day after day and they don't seem to have much marriage going on -- but it seems to work. A glitch and an annoyance in this book was that of the ward, Letty. They are supposed to be adopting her -- she's 14. Frankly the fact that she is allowed to be running around Minneapolis and St. Paul unsupervised as she does is completely unbelievable from a parent's standpoint. Letty is involved in yet another side plot with a paraplegic pimp and his hooker. I did find that somewhat disconcerting and took it into consideration when rating the book.

All in all, it's a decent read and fans of Lucas and John Sandford won't miss the latest in this "prey" series. I do wish he'd get back to writing edgy thrillers though.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Today's review

3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, predictable mystery, October 5, 2009

This was an OK mystery story but was predictable with no real surprises. I believe it was the first of a new series. I am not a big fan of suspense thrillers where the investigative reporter protagonist solves the crime before the police do. I usually find that the novel is a bit of a cliché and a tad unbelievable -- and it was so in this case as well. The story -- Jack Gannon, veteran newspaper reporter and past Pulitzer nominee, is on the trail of a psycho serial ritual killer whose motivations appear to be that of punishing sinners and those he deems "guilty" -- all women, and usually current or ex-prostitutes, drug users, etc. The sadistic, mentally deranged killer kidnaps these women, holds them prisoner, and then kills them. Who will he take next? Where is he taking them? Why is he doing it? The narrative is a bit convoluted as we move back and forth in time and the character development is quite shallowly done. The story moves fast, really not that much to it. I didn't care that much about our intrepid hero -- who always "sticks with it" nor the victims -- too one-dimensional. All in all, it's a mindless read and would probably be enjoyed by those who like the suspense serial killer genre.
(for amazon vine program)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Today's review

5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and compassionate family story..., October 2, 2009

I loved this book on many levels. The complex and finely drawn characters were easy to love even though each was flawed and affected by trials, tribulations, unfulfilled hopes, and unattainable dreams. This is a family story, and all members of the McKotch family have a story to tell -- their own version of the ties that bind and, ultimately, how that binding can't ever be completely undone no matter what happens.

The parents, Frank and Paulette, and their children: Billy, Gwen and Scott, have not ever come to understand themselves or each other. They are trapped in self destructive patterns that prevent them from seeing themselves clearly. Their choices and behavior reveal how those delusions prevent them from forming long lasting relationships. The family, whose ties were already fraying, comes completely undone after Gwen is diagnosed with Turner's Syndrome during the summer of 1976. The resulting fallout from that discovery, and the affect that her 'condition' has on the family members, is painful for each. The lack of communication, the manipulations, and the betrayals force the family to a final confrontation that brings a satisfying conclusion to this poignant novel.

This is definitely one that would be perfect for book clubs as it begs discussion and will provide many hours of thoughtful consideration long after the last page is turned. Enjoy!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Swimsuit by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

3.0 out of 5 stars Murder as entertainment..., September 25, 2009
By Denise "DC" (Missouri, USA) - See all my reviews
I am kind of laughing while reading these reviews. Hey folks, lighten up. This book isn't that bad -- it was gory, yes, and full of lots of unnecessary violent killing -- but isn't that why you like this genre and why you picked up this Patterson novel? It's exactly the book you've come to associate with him and his team of co-authors. Fast-paced, short chapters, interesting premise with a twist, blood and guts murdering, and a nicely wrapped up ending?! You got what you wanted in this one.

This novel was about Ben Hawkins, an ex cop turned author and reporter, who meets up with a serial killer and ends up as his partner when the killer wants a true crime book written about his life and times. Henri is a snuff film killer who makes movies of the murders he commits and sells them to a group he refers to as the "Peepers". The tale is definitely suspenseful with the reader only wondering who is going to be killed next and assuming the worst. Everybody!

The reader never gets to know the supporting characters (the murdered ones) very well so there isn't a lot of agonizing over the serial deaths, but there is suspense and action -- and as said -- lots of gore as the descriptions of the killings are detailed.
This book was a quick read, definitely in the psycho thriller killer genre. Don't give it a lot of thought except to maybe wonder how many people like Henri are out there in the big bad world.

Get it from the library or borrow it from a friend -- I still think it will sell well!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Intervention by Robin Cook

2.0 out of 5 stars 3 for idea; 2 for execution; 1 for ending; , September 22, 2009

First things first -- this is NOT a medical thriller. This is a combination of anti-alternative medicine rant and a diatribe against Christian zealotry -- or, even worse, a conspiracy story of mediocre proportion.

There are two things going on in this novel: the original plot line of Jack investigating an untimely death caused by chiropractic cervical manipulation (producing VAD) and his subsequent out of control behavior when confronting the issue and trying to educate a sanguine group of consumers who spoke of alternative medicine in glowing terms despite his trying to tell them that it was not science and that it was dangerous. The other plot was about a couple, one an archeologist and old friend of Jack's named Shawn, and the other a DNA scientist, who buy a codex while at a conference in Egpyt and steal an ossuary that purportedly contains the bones of Mary, Mother of God from St. Peter's Tomb in Rome. If this wasn't enough, we learn that Jack and Laurie have a newborn afflicted with severe neuroblastoma.

The entire story was running parallel for a short time and then Jack dropped his obsession with the investigation of alternative medicine and attached himself to the couple who was examining the bones and the codex in labs provided by Jack's superiors in the medical pathology/examiner's building in New York. Once back in the USA, the couple gets far enough along in their work to make an amazing discovery.Unfortunately, a third friend of theirs -- conveniently the Archbishop of New York and a Cardinal named James, is upset about Shawn and his wife possibly revealing that Mary wasn't assumed into heaven after all and thus demonstrating that papal ex cathedra decree is infallible after all! In a panic, James hires a zealot to try to talk Shawn and his wife, Sana, into keeping their discovery a secret and not publishing the story.

For awhile I was really liking this book. Wondering why there were so many negative reviews. Well, the last 25 pages showed me why.
Oh my gosh, what a horrible ending and what a cheap way to end a book. I was very disappointed.

Don't buy this one. I don't know why Robin Cook doesn't write straight forward medical thrillers anymore. It saddens me since it is my favorite genre.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Darker Side by Cody McFadyen

4.0 out of 5 stars Very satisfying mystery thriller..., September 20, 2009
By Denise "DC" (Missouri, USA) - See all my reviews
Smoky Barrett is not your typical FBI agent. Unlike the typical man-hunting heroines in other thrillers of this nature, Smoky is emotionally and physically scarred and was mutilated by knife wounds inflicted by a killer who murdered her husband and daughter. In this third outing (after Shadow Man and The Face of Death, she's called into a case by Rosario Reid, the wife of a potential presidential candidate, after her son is found dead on an airplane -- killed at some point during the flight. The case is complicated because the son was actually a transsexual who called himself Lisa and who was living as a woman. This unusual murder proves to be just the tip of the iceberg with a serial killer who calls himself "the Preacher" admitting to the deaths of many other women. More murders are committed in the name of God and the killer insists that he kills because of the sins of the victim --sins that had been kept secret and never confessed. There is a religious component to the story.

Smoky and her team -- Callie, Alan, and James -- examine all possible leads and sources to track down the killer. The story is part police procedural and part psychological study. I like the interplay between the characters who all seem to have flaws that make them more endearing.

Although you don't have to have read the other two in the series in order to appreciate this book, I find it more satisfying to have seen the changes that the characters have undergone through the novels to this point. Definitely they are more than stereotypes and are not just one dimensional "good guys" hunting down the criminals.

Enjoy this one and be on the lookout for #4 in this great series, Abandoned: A Thriller (Smoky Barrett), due out this October, 2009.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Stitches: A Memoir by David Small

5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this!, September 17, 2009

OK, I confess, this was only the second or third graphic book that I've read. And the first and only memoir. It really was amazing how David Small used the art to convey the helplessness, anger, angst, and pain felt by a young boy who really didn't understand the life he was living or the condition he had. At age 14, a large "cyst" and a vocal cord were removed that left him basically mute and sent him on a dangerous trajectory in his young adult years. His parents were borderline fruitcakes and I'll let you discover why so as not to spoil it for you.
Thank heavens he had his artistic talents to give him some way to communicate.
I love David! This was a lovely story and I am so happy that the author was able to tell it. Very fast read.

I have this in my library at the high school and the teenagers LOVE it. High interest and drags in even the most reluctant reader.

Today's review

Queen Takes King: A Novel (Hardcover)
by Gigi Levangie Grazer

Predictable and mindless..., September 17, 2009

Nothing new here. The title pretty much explains the entire plot of the book. I was hoping for a new twist to the old "War of the Roses" story, but there's not a character or a subplot that is refreshing or originial. You've already read this book under another title.

The Power couple, Jacks and Cynthia are stereotypes and caricatures of the rich and famous who think that money and looks can buy anything and that youth lasts forever. Their answer when the divorce battle begins -- get what they want through fair or foul means -- efforts at one-upmanship that actually seem petty, rather than clever, in this case. The relationships between all of the characters seems shallow and undeveloped. It's the age old story of the beaten down wife who makes good after she finally escapes her egotistical and needy husband. The fact that the couple is extremely rich, talented and connected only increases the scale of the war - not the purity of it. There's no moral here as all of them play fast and loose with the truth and their feelings. They act up and act out in ways more suited to teenagers than middle-aged adults. The ending comes abruptly and is as unrealistic as the rest of the novel.

I tried to find some humor in the book at least, or at least a bit of sentimentality, but alas, both were lacking in a rather mundane and trite book that leaves the reader wondering why the story needed to be told...again. This book is one that might be enjoyed in a mindless sort of way, but only if you don't ask yourself too many questions about it!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Today's review

The Hour I First Believed
By Wally Lamb

5.0 out of 5 stars
Not "why" or "if" we believe, but "how"...

Although quite long with many subplots, this story of a middle-aged man's search for something to believe in has deeply touched me. The book is divided into several sections, each dealing with different aspects of the lives and choices made by the many characters in the novel from friends to relatives to persons who lived during the time and era being described. The saga spans the periods of years from the 1800s to present day and includes sociological, cultural, and historical perspectives.

In the first part of the story-- and the one that causes the significant conflict for the main character in the book-- the somewhat unsympathetic and unlikable narrator Caelum Quirk is an English teacher off tending to a dying aunt and his wife a part-time nurse at Columbine High School in Colorado at the time that the massacre of students takes place there in April, 1999. (Though the facts of the rampage are presented in the context of fiction, this is an incredibly moving section of the book.) His wife Maureen (Mo) cannot recover from surviving that terrible day and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. Unable to function, she withdraws and finds solace in illegally obtained prescription drugs. Without going further to convey more plot details, suffice to say that the marriage falters and Caelum is forced to deal with many issues, not the least of which is confounded when historical documents and old letters belonging to his aunt reveal a family history contrary to what he thought he knew.

Part mystery, part expose, the story of Caelum's quest to find out the truth of himself and his family will urge the reader forward until the very last page is turned. This is a novel that draws one in and never lets go; the search for hope and faith, the profound wish that life has meaning and that there is a purpose for it all -- the good or the evil.

Other reviewers have remarked that the plethora of extraneous and/or historical information, the author's lengthy descriptions of certain aspects of the Civil War, and the dissertation written by one of the characters that he included might be off-putting, but I found the detail and description interesting. This is a saga that spans several generations and involves keeping straight many characters and their relationships to each other. There are many details to keep in mind and thus, I just couldn't put it down so as not to get too confused.

Highly recommended. This is one to remember long after the last page is turned.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I am reading The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb.
Review coming soon...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hey there!

I've been reading a lot of YA and posting it on my Celtic Librarian site! Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Today's review...

Prime Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan #1 in series
4.0 out of 5 stars Have fun investigating this one..., September 1, 2009

What more can you ask for when you're wanting a fun suspense story with minimal gore and no blood and guts? In
PRIME TIME, you get a 46-year-old intensely competitive investigative TV news reporter, an interesting crime, and a little romance. This is the initial offering in what is so far a four book series featuring Charlotte McNally and her producer Franklin. Working for Channel 3 News, they uncover what appears to be some type of white collar crime. Unfortunately, the whistle blower who sent Charlie the initial email dies or is murdered before he can reveal the details of the crime or name the perpetrators. Racing against a November sweeps rating deadline, Charlotte and Franklin team up to uncover a cunning get-rich scheme that surpasses that of many recently indicted criminals we've heard about in the news.

Enjoy this fast-paced mystery, the clever internal dialog that Charlie has with herself, the humor with her pithy quotes about J-school, and the pleasantly original plot. Then order the next books in the series as they are published, Face Time (Charlotte Mcnally Mysteries), Air Time (Charlotte McNally Mysteries), and Drive Time (slated for a 2010 release).

The novels won't give you chills or nightmares, but I think you'll enjoy the character of Charlotte McNally and her escapades. I usually go for the more hard core chiller thrillers, but this one was a very nice diversion.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Today's review

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a new twist on werewolf lore, August 30, 2009

I confess, I read the reviews on this book before I started reading it so I was perhaps expecting it to be a bit "more" of everything because of the high ratings it was given. My analysis after finishing: the story was a predictable and contrived, somewhat interesting but finally merely banal. I thought it was a little better than OK and I would recommend it to any teen girl who likes reading werewolf stories or sweet, paranormal romance. The tale involves a girl named Grace who falls in love with a werewolf named Sam. They can't be together while he is animal, but for a time they share human love during the waning days of summer and throughout some of autumn in Minnesota. Supposedly it is cold weather and climate changes that make the wolves turn from animal to human and vice versa.

That said, my main problem with the plot is that so many questions are left unanswered and left dangling at the end of the book. We are also given a trite explanation for Grace's continued human existence despite the fact that she was bitten by a wolf. The characters -- mostly wolves -- are stereotypical good guys and bad guys. Not much depth of character development there. Except of course for Sam who is the lovesick wolf, the "best" of the pack.

Now I must say that the part that bugged me most about the book, however, was the complete absence of adults in the lives of almost all of the teens in this novel. I realize that there are parents who are self absorbed, but I think the author of this tale got a little carried away and made them completely worthy of a visit by the local child protective services. Not only were they physically not present in their homes much, but they didn't interact with their children nor were they consulted when events transpired that might have necessitated a legal guardian being available. It just didn't ring true but then again, this wasn't probably meant to be realistic fiction -- more like fantasy!

Although not my cup of tea, I think the intended audience -- teen-aged girls -- will probably like this book a lot. The chasteness of the relationship between Grace and Sam, the longing and angst over their too short period of togetherness, will appeal to those who like that tension and who hope for a happy ending with true love conquering all.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Today's review


Karin Slaughter has redeemed herself and is back on my TO READ list...
OK - I'll go ahead and admit I said it. Along with a million other fans, I said I would NEVER read another Slaughter novel (especially not the Grant County series) after what I still consider the horrible ending of Beyond Reach: A Novel of Suspense (Grant County) back in 2007. And I meant it. I wrote the author, bashed the book on and even sent a nasty note to her publisher. Meanwhile, I cheated- but only because I once had loved her books so much, by reading about Agent Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Det. Faith Mitchell in Triptych and Fractured. I grew to love those characters with all their foibles and flaws so imagine my surprise when I opened Undone to find them meeting the character of Sara Linton, now at Grady Memorial's ER in Atlanta! "Wow," I said to myself. "This should really be interesting." And it was! I really enjoyed this book -- it was very fast paced from start to finish with a believable ending that was satisfying this time. I won't rehash the plot but will summarize by saying that the serial killer in this story is obsessed with anorexic, independent, and bitchy single women. The women are kidnapped and held for days in basements or caves and tortured. The fact that they aren't very likeable does hinder the investigation a bit. Who is snatching these women and why? I will say that in order to fully appreciate all the nuances and depth in this suspense thriller, you really should go back and read all the Grant County books in order and also the two titles featuring Will and Faith. Lucky you! Previously an author whose books I immediately bought on release day, I had abandoned Karin Slaughter, but I'm putting her back on my "must read" list again now that she has redeemed herself and written this one. Highly recommended.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Today's review...

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid, fast-paced legal thriller

A very good book! I've read both of Hoffman's previous novels and this third one is another excellent legal thriller that intrigues the reader with an interesting perspective and a unique twist.

The young prosecuting attorney, Julia Vacanti, is a bit flawed and vulnerable with demons of her own to contend with as she prepares for the "trial of the century" and her first big case. She is second chair to an ambitious lawyer who is bound for government office and who needs to win a guilty verdict against David Marquette -- a physician who was found alive, but injured, in his own home though the rest of his family -- wife, two daughters and a son, were murdered. Reminiscent and similar in some ways to recent true crimes, the novel examines the mental disorder of schizophrenia and the defense plea of insanity. The research done by the author is obviously thorough and meticulous and is explained very well through testimony given by the psychiatrists sent to examine Dr. Marquette.

Was this successful Miami surgeon, reportedly a devoted family man, truly suffering from a devastating mental illness, or was he a cunning psychopath? Did he suffer paranoid delusions and did voices instruct him to kill his family or did he study psychiatric texts so that he could accurately mimic someone who was schizophrenic? The defense files a plea of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity and the case is finally brought to trial.

In addition to the main plot of the book involving the trial of Dr. Marquette, Julia discovers something about her own family, a secret is unearthed, and she is drawn into confronting long-buried memories from her past.

This is a solid legal thriller that will keep you reading long past your bedtime. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Today's review...

The Reader
by Bernhard Schlink and Carol Brown Janeway

The editorial reviews about this book do a great disservice to the novel. (Sometimes I wonder if the reviewers actually read the book.
I don't consider this in any way a YA novel -- the themes are way too adult and the introspection and examination of conscience of the adult writer aren't reflective of that young adult point of view.)

That said, this is a fantastic novel. I was glued to the pages, examining my own reactions to what was happening and trying to summon the outrage one should feel when a 15 year old boy is having a sexual affair with a 30 something woman. He should be viewed as a victim. I couldn't summon that assessment.

This is a beautiful and haunting story of a 15 year old boy named Michael, whom she called "Kid", who has an intense love affair with a 30 something woman named Hanna -- a streetcar conductor. He knows nothing of her past, and their relationship is mostly physical. She disappears suddenly once day and Michael next sees her when he's a law student in 1965 Germany as the war trials of the Nazi criminals are getting underway.

He is both stunned and repulsed when seeing his former paramour as an SS guard criminal. He can't reconcile his love of her to what she had done during the war. Michael is in a state of suspended ambiguity. Should he feel guilty for having loved her -- a reviled and heinous war criminal with the worst of reputations? A quote at the end of Chapter one in Part 2 sums up how Michael faces the truth of his lover and how he responds to it: "I adopted a posture of arrogant superiority...this juxtaposition of callousness and extreme sensitivity seemed suspicious even to me."

The book is divided into 3 parts and deals mostly with Micheal's feelings about his relationship with Hanna, his reaction to her trial, and the final chapter as he comes to terms with all that has happened.
This is a novel that is not to be missed. One that can be discussed at length in book groups everywhere or just between friends. I can't get it out of my mind.

The reason for the title becomes clear midway through the novel.

Highly recommended.