Wednesday, September 26, 2012

CBR4 #44 Broken Harbour by Tana French

Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy, the brash cop from Tana French’s bestselling Faithful Place, plays by the book and plays hard. That’s what’s made him the Murder squad’s top detective—and that’s what puts the biggest case of the year into his hands. On one of the half-built, half-abandoned "luxury" developments that litter Ireland, Patrick Spain and his two young children are dead. His wife, Jenny, is in intensive care. At first, Scorcher and his rookie partner, Richie, think it’s going to be an easy solve. But too many small things can’t be explained. The half dozen baby monitors, their cameras pointing at holes smashed in the Spains’ walls. The files erased from the Spains’ computer. The story Jenny told her sister about a shadowy intruder who was slipping past all the locks. And Broken Harbor holds memories for Scorcher. Seeing the case on the news sends his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family one summer at Broken Harbor, back when they were children. With her signature blend of police procedural and psychological thriller, French’s new novel goes full throttle with a heinous crime, creating her most complicated detective character and her best book yet.
ARC from giveaway shelf at work

I've been interested in reading something by Tana French for a while.   Reading the description I thought the premise sounded interesting, but I felt Scorcher's family plot line was a distraction.  Perhaps it would have been more interesting if I had read her earlier books.

It was interesting how the "suspect" was arrested half way through the boom versus near the end.  It made me wonder what was left to solve and the book was less like an Law & Order episode. Even so I was disappointed by the ending of the book. I am curious to read other books by French.

CBR4 #43 Bond Girl by Erin Duffy

While other little girls were fantasizing about becoming doctors or lawyers, Alex Garrett dreamed of conquering the high-powered world of Wall Street. Now she's grown and determined to make it big in bond sales at Cromwell Pierce, one of the Street's most esteemed brokerage firms. Though she's prepared to fight her way into an elitist boys' club, she starts out small, relegated to a kiddie-size folding chair with her new moniker, "Girlie," inscribed in Wite-Out across the back. Always keeping her eyes on the prize (and ignoring her friends' pleas for her to quit), Alex quickly learns how to roll with the punches, rising from lowly analyst to slightly-less-lowly associate in no time. Suddenly she's being addressed by her real name, and the boys' club has transformed into forty older brothers . . . and one possible boyfriend. But then the apocalypse hits, and Alex is faced with the most difficult choice of her life: to stick with Cromwell Pierce as it teeters on the brink of disaster . . . or to kick off her Jimmy Choos and go running for higher ground.
I read this book based on a review written by another book blogger.  Unfortunate, I was disappointed by this book.  It reminded me of The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada. Perhaps I was expecting a different outcome, but the book felt very formulaic.  On the positive, the book was an interesting look at Wall Street before the latest financial crisis. The romantic plot lines were boring and lacking creativity.

If you like The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada, but are looking for a different take on a similar industry this book is not for you. 

CBR4 #42 A Good American by Alex George

An uplifting novel about the families we create and the places we call home.It is 1904. When Frederick and Jette must flee her disapproving mother, where better to go than America, the land of the new? Originally set to board a boat to New York, at the last minute, they take one destined for New Orleans instead ("What's the difference? They're both new"), and later find themselves, more by chance than by design, in the small town of Beatrice, Missouri. Not speaking a word of English, they embark on their new life together. Beatrice is populated with unforgettable characters: a jazz trumpeter from the Big Easy who cooks a mean gumbo, a teenage boy trapped in the body of a giant, a pretty schoolteacher who helps the young men in town learn about a lot more than just music, a minister who believes he has witnessed the Second Coming of Christ, and a malevolent, bicycle-riding dwarf. A Good American is narrated by Frederick and Jette's grandson, James, who, in telling his ancestors' story, comes to realize he doesn't know his own story at all. From bare-knuckle prizefighting and Prohibition to sweet barbershop harmonies, the Kennedy assassination, and beyond, James's family is caught up in the sweep of history. Each new generation discovers afresh what it means to be an American. And, in the process, Frederick and Jette's progeny sometimes discover more about themselves than they had bargained for.
This book was heartwarming and George is a good storyteller which draws the reader into the story. Music is key to the plot and becomes a courting method for multiple characters. I appreciated the way George intertwined the historical events and culture of the time into the fictional plot. Having the book being told from the grandson's perspective really did give a different take on the story.  Overall there was an ongoing search for what home is and means to each of the characters.

This book is a good portrait of creating a family and adjusting to other cultures as an immigrant.  The last part of the book surfaces an interesting plot twist but overall causes an awkward ending. I appreciated how George explored how each generation discovered what it means to be an American.

CBR4 #41 The Sixth Man by David Baldacci

Edgar Roy-an alleged serial killer held in a secure, fortress-like Federal Supermax facility-is awaiting trial. He faces almost certain conviction. Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are called in by Roy's attorney, Sean's old friend and mentor Ted Bergin, to help work the case. But their investigation is derailed before it begins-en route to their first meeting with Bergin, Sean and Michelle find him murdered. It is now up to them to ask the questions no one seems to want answered: Is Roy a killer? Who murdered Bergin? With help from some surprising allies, they continue to pursue the case. But the more they dig into Roy's past, the more they encounter obstacles, half-truths, dead-ends, false friends, and escalating threats from every direction. Their persistence puts them on a collision course with the highest levels of the government and the darkest corners of power. In a terrifying confrontation that will push Sean and Michelle to their limits, the duo may be permanently parted.
I hadn't read a David Baldacci book for a while and I was in an airport bookstore needing something for the flight home. I personally like the Sean and Michelle series better than the Camel Club series and was excited to see this book featured them.

As expected Baldacci doesn't disappoint with the plot twists and the mystery. The reader is definitely kept on the edge of your seat.  It was touching to see Michelle and Sean realize that they have feelings for each other as they narrowly escape death a few times in this book.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

CBR4 #39 My Lucky Life In & Out Of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke

Dick Van Dyke, indisputably one of the greats of the golden age of television, is admired and beloved by audiences the world over for his beaming smile, his physical dexterity, his impeccable comic timing, his ridiculous stunts, and his unforgettable screen roles. His trailblazing television program, The Dick Van Dyke Show (produced by Carl Reiner, who has written the foreword to this memoir), was one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1960s and introduced another major television star, Mary Tyler Moore. But Dick Van Dyke was also an enormously engaging movie star whose films, including Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, have been discovered by a new generation of fans and are as beloved today as they were when they first appeared. Who doesn’t know the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious? A colorful, loving, richly detailed look at the decades of a multilayered life, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, will enthrall every generation of reader, from baby-boomers who recall when Rob Petrie became a household name, to all those still enchanted by Bert’s “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” This is a lively, heartwarming memoir of a performer who still thinks of himself as a “simple song-and-dance man,” but who is, in every sense of the word, a classic entertainer.
 This book was the third entertainment industry memoir I read over a few months.  I've been a fan of Dick Van Dyke, but I didn't know that he got his start in radio.  I was also surprised to learn that Dick decided early on in his career that he would only do films that his kids could see.  It is impressive that Dick continued to reinvent himself through the different characters and opportunities he got over the years.  Dick's life was perfect as he cheated on his wife and was an alcoholic.  Even so this book provides a good insider look into Hollywood and how one actor found his place there. 

CBR4 #38 The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy

In 1945, Elsie Schmidt was a naïve teenager, as eager for her first sip of champagne as she was for her first kiss. But in the waning days of the Nazi empire, with food scarce and fears of sedition mounting, even the private yearnings of teenage girls were subject to suspicion and suppression. Elsie’s courtship by Josef Hub, a rising star in the Army of the Third Reich, has insulated her and her family from the terror and desperation overtaking her country. So when an escaped Jewish boy arrives on Elsie’s doorstep in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, Elsie understands that opening the door puts all she loves in danger. Sixty years later, in El Paso, Texas, Reba Adams is trying to file a feel-good Christmas piece for the local magazine. Reba is a rolling stone, perpetually on the run from memories of a turbulent childhood, but she’s been in El Paso long enough to get a full-time job and a full-time fiancé, Riki Chavez. Riki, an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, finds comfort in strict rules and regulations, whereas Reba knows that in every good story, lines will be blurred.Reba's latest assignment has brought her to the shop of an elderly baker across town. The interview should take a few hours at most, but the owner of Elsie's German Bakery is no easy subject. Elsie keeps turning the tables on Reba, and Reba finds herself returning to the bakery again and again, anxious to find the heart of the story. For Elsie, Reba's questions have been a stinging reminder of darker times: her life in Germany during that last bleak year of WWII. And as Elsie, Reba, and Riki's lives become more intertwined, all are forced to confront the uncomfortable truths of the past and seek out the courage to forgive.
I heard Sarah McCoy at the Gaithersburg Book Festival this summer and thought this book had an interesting premise.  After reading the book though, I found it hard to relate to the main character - Rita.  I did enjoy Elisa's story better. The ending of the book came together a little too neatly.  At some points while reading the book, I felt the concept was a little stretched.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

CBR4 #36,37 & 40 3 Mysteries by Brad Parks

I heard Brad Parks speak at the Gaithersburg Book Festival this summer and decided to read his first two books as well as his latest. If you ever get a chance to hear Brad speak you should go!

Faces Of The Gone

Investigative reporter Carter Ross finds himself with gruesome front-page news: four bodies in a vacant lot, each with a single bullet hole in the back of the head. In a haste to calm residents, local police leak a story to Carter’s colleagues at the Newark Eagle-Examiner, calling the murders revenge for a bar stickup. But while Carter may not come from the streets, he knows a few things about Newark’s ghettos. And he knows the story the police are pushing doesn’t make sense. He enlists the aide of Tina Thompson, the paper’s smoking hot city editor, to run interference for him at the office; Tommy Hernandez, the paper’s gay Cuban intern, to help him with legwork on the street; and Tynesha Dales, a local stripper, to take him to Newark’s underside. Soon, Carter learns the four victims have one connection after all, and knowing this will put him in the path of one very ambitious killer.
Good mystery set within the newspaper world. Carter Ross is a lovable main character. Parks capture the different personalities of his characters well. 

Eyes Of The Innocent

Carter Ross, investigative reporter for the Newark Eagle-Examiner, is reporting on the latest tragedy to befall Newark, New Jersey, a fast-moving house fire that kills two boys. With the help of the paper’s newest intern, a bubbly blonde known as “Sweet Thang,” Carter finds the victims’ mother, Akilah Harris, who spins a tale of woe about a mortgage rate reset that forced her to work two jobs and leave her boys home alone. Carter turns the story into a front page feature, but soon discovers Akilah isn’t what she seems. When Newark councilman Windy Byers is reported missing, Carter must plunge into the murky world of urban house flipping and Jersey-style political corruption, aided by his usual mix of humor and street smarts.
Again Parks finds the right balance of humor with reality with his characters. Good mystery with real world topics mixed in.

Girl Next Door

Reading his own newspaper’s obituaries, veteran reporter Carter Ross comes across that of a woman named Nancy Marino, who was the victim of a hit-and-run while she was on the job delivering copies of that very paper, the Eagle-Examiner. Struck by the opportunity to write a heroic piece about an everyday woman killed too young, he heads to her wake to gather tributes and anecdotes. It’s the last place Ross expects to find controversy—which is exactly what happens when one of Nancy’s sisters convinces him that the accident might not have been accidental at all. It turns out that the kind and generous Nancy may have made a few enemies, starting with her boss at the diner where she was a part-time waitress, and even including the publisher of the Eagle-Examiner. Carter’s investigation of this seemingly simple story soon has him in big trouble with his full-time editor and sometime girlfriend, Tina Thompson, not to mention the rest of his bosses at the paper, but he can’t let it go—the story is just too good, and it keeps getting better. But will his nose for trouble finally take him too ?
Good mystery again, but I felt the plot and setup of the mystery's climax was very similar to his other two books.  

CBR4 #35 If You Ask Me by Betty White

It-girl Betty White delivers a hilarious, slyly profound take on love, life, celebrity, and everything in between. Drawing from a lifetime of lessons learned, seven-time Emmy winner Betty White's wit and wisdom take center stage as she tackles topics like friendship, romantic love, aging, television, fans, love for animals, and the brave new world of celebrity. If You Ask Me mixes her thoughtful observations with humorous stories from a seven- decade career in Hollywood. Longtime fans and new fans alike will relish Betty's candid take on everything from her rumored crush on Robert Redford (true) to her beauty regimen ("I have no idea what color my hair is and I never intend to find out") to the Facebook campaign that helped persuade her to host Saturday Night Live despite her having declined the hosting job three times already. Featuring all-new material, with a focus on the past fifteen years of her life, If You Ask Me is funny, sweet, and to the point-just like Betty White.
I've been a huge fan of Betty White for many years. I used to think she was a long lost relative of mine and she was my favorite Golden Girl. I also loved her appearances on Match Game and Password.

This memoir is quirky, humorous and lovely just like Betty herself. I enjoyed the pictures of her intertwined with the different stories. The chapters are very conversational.  So much so that you can easily read this memoir in one sitting. 

CBR4 #34 Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Case one: A little girl goes missing in the night. 
Case two: A beautiful young office worker falls victim to a maniac's apparently random attack. 
Case three: A new mother finds herself trapped in a hell of her own making - with a very needy baby and a very demanding husband - until a fit of rage creates a grisly, bloody escape.
Thirty years after the first incident, as private investigator Jackson Brodie begins investigating all three cases, startling connections and discoveries emerge . . .

I read this book on a recommendation. I thought the premise of the book - interweaving the 3 cases together was an unique concept.  Unfortunately, I didn't really like the main character.  The book was organized in a weird chronological order and as a reader you never knew what the next chapter would bring.  Atkinson does capture well how survivors cope with a death of a loved one. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

CBR4 #33 Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Lucy Jorik is the daughter of a former president of the United States.
Meg Koranda is the offspring of legends.
One of them is about to marry Mr. Irresistible—Ted Beaudine—the favorite son of Wynette, Texas. The other is not happy about it and is determined to save her friend from a mess of heartache. But even though Meg knows that breaking up her best friend's wedding is the right thing to do, no one else seems to agree. Faster than Lucy can say "I don't," Meg becomes the most hated woman in town—a town she's stuck in with a dead car, an empty wallet, and a very angry bridegroom. Broke, stranded, and without her famous parents at her back, Meg is sure she can survive on her own wits. What's the worst that can happen? Lose her heart to the one and only Mr. Irresistible? Not likely. Not likely at all.

This book is sixth in a series, but still self contained.  Meg is a likable character even for a spoiled rich kid who speaks her mind and didn't finish college. This book is an interesting look at small town life with a few big celebrities to its name. I could see this book turned into a romantic comedy easily as the plot has a similar setup. Definitely an easy read and kept me hooked throughout the book.

CBR4 #32 Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying. What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set ofCleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow. Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams. And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

ARC from Harper Collins

This book is an old Hollywood drama mixed with a touching love story that blossomed in a little Italian village. I enjoyed the way the book went back and forth between present day and flashbacks.  Walter mixes up the different prose formats nicely - book chapter, movie script and play script. Small town life abroad and in the US is represented well. There is a theme of overall sadness and missed opportunities to the whole book. I appreciate how technology didn't play a big part in the modern day part of the story. The characters made connections using old-fashioned leg work. Very touching and moving read! 

CBR4 #31 Aftertaste by Meredith Mileti

Mira Rinaldi lives life at a rolling boil. Co-owner of Grappa, a chic New York City trattoria, she has an enviable apartment, a brand-new baby, and a frenzied schedule befitting her success. Everything changes the night she catches her husband, Jake, "wielding his whisk" with Grappa's new waitress. Mira's fiery response earns her a court-ordered stint in anger management and the beginning of legal and personal predicaments as she battles to save her restaurant and pick up the pieces of her life. Mira falls back on family and friends in Pittsburgh as she struggles to find a recipe for happiness. But the heat is really on when some surprising developments in New York present her with a high stakes opportunity to win back what she thought she had lost forever. For Mira, cooking isn't just about delicious flavours and textures, but about the pleasure found in filling others' needs. And the time has come to decide where her own fulfilment lies - even if the answers are unexpected.Keenly observed and deeply satisfying, Aftertaste is a novel about rebuilding and rediscovery, about food passionately prepared and unapologetically savored, and about the singular contentment that comes with living--and loving--with gusto.

I loved the concept of "courses" to arrange the book's plot. I also loved how food and recipes played a part throughout the book.  Mira was a little crazy and very career driven even to a point where she forgot about her baby.  She did frustrate me because she was always willing to drop everything to go back to her old life.  I was glad to see that by the end of the book she was able to move on and start something new with no regrets.  This book is a good portrait on second chances and blended families.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

CBR4 #30 The Cottage At Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri

Married to the youngest attorney general in Massachusetts state history, Nora Cunningham is a picture-perfect political wife and a doting mother. But her carefully constructed life falls to pieces when she, along with the rest of the world, learns of the infidelity of her husband, Malcolm. Humiliated and hounded by the press, Nora packs up her daughters—Annie, seven; and Ella, twelve—and takes refuge on Burke's Island, a craggy spit of land off the coast of Maine. Settled by Irish immigrants, the island is a place where superstition and magic are carried on the ocean winds, and wishes and dreams wash ashore with the changing tides. Nora spent her first five years on the island but has not been back to the remote community for decades—not since that long ago summer when her mother disappeared at sea. One night while sitting alone on Glass Beach below the cottage where she spent her childhood, Nora succumbs to grief, her tears flowing into the ocean. Days later she finds an enigmatic fisherman named Owen Kavanagh shipwrecked on the rocks nearby. Is he, as her aunt's friend Polly suggests, a selkie—a mythical being of island legend—summoned by her heartbreak, or simply someone who, like Nora, is trying to find his way in the wake of his own personal struggles? Just as she begins to regain her balance, her daughters embark on a reckless odyssey of their own—a journey that will force Nora to find the courage to chart her own course and finally face the truth about her marriage, her mother, and her long-buried past.

ARC found on giveaway shelf at work

The premise of this book seems very ripped from the present day headlines. I could relate to Nora and the girls both taking some time to adapt from a very scheduled life to a more relaxed and carefree life at the beach. I've read a few books this year where the daughter returned to her hometown after someone from her family had mysteriously passed away.

Overall this book is one part romance, one part mystery and one part beach read.  Barbieri writes her story with an eye towards the characters and the reader feels like they are at the beach with Nora and the girls.

CBR4 #29 Bossypants by Tina Fey

Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true.
At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.
I've been a big fan of Tina Fey, from her Saturday Night Live days. I was excited to see that she wrote a memoir.  One of my friends listened to the audiobook version of this book and enjoyed it as well.  

Most of book is written tongue in cheek, so if you are looking for a serious memoir this book is not for you.  I hadn't realized that she grew up in the Philadelphia area.  I enjoyed the photos of herself and her family.  Tina is a great role model for breaking the stereotypes and boundaries within the entertainment industry.  This book is a light hearted and funny read. 

CBR4 #28 Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten—a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house's current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim's first wife—the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.
I found a copy of this book in a used bookstore and thought it might be a nice addition to my TBR pile.  I didn't know what to expect, but knew this book was a classic.  Personally, I didn't get into the book until Rebecca's body surfaced.  Prior to that I was annoyed with the new Mrs. Maxim character and wished that Maxim gave her more attention.

If you haven't read this classic mystery you should keeping in mind the time period this book was written in versus modern mysteries. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

CBR4 #27 The Univited Guests by Sadie Jones

One late spring evening in 1912, in the kitchens at Sterne, preparations begin for an elegant supper party in honor of Emerald Torrington's twentieth birthday. But only a few miles away, a dreadful accident propels a crowd of mysterious and not altogether savory survivors to seek shelter at the ramshackle manor—and the household is thrown into confusion and mischief.
The cook toils over mock turtle soup and a chocolate cake covered with green sugar roses, which the hungry band of visitors is not invited to taste. But nothing, it seems, will go according to plan. As the passengers wearily search for rest, the house undergoes a strange transformation. One of their number (who is most definitely not a gentleman) makes it his business to join the birthday revels.
Evening turns to stormy night, and a most unpleasant parlor game threatens to blow respectability to smithereens: Smudge Torrington, the wayward youngest daughter of the house, decides that this is the perfect moment for her Great Undertaking.
The Uninvited Guests is the bewitching new novel from the critically acclaimed Sadie Jones. The prizewinning author triumphs in this frightening yet delicious drama of dark surprises—where social codes are uprooted and desire daringly trumps propriety—and all is alight with Edwardian wit and opulence.

ARC from Harper Collins

This book to me is Downton Abbey with a paranormal twist.  The reader doesn't suspect the paranormal twist, until the author reveals a bombshell about one of the guests.  There is a sweet romance between the adult children of the two families.  Jones takes a curious look at society at that time and how sensitive everyone was.  The last couple of chapters detailing the moving of the pony just seemed really random to me.

The ending was wrapped up a little too neatly for me and I wished there was more background about the step parent. I found the Smudge character reminded me of Flavia from I am Half Sick Of Shadows. I also found it interesting that the main characters believed everything the uninvited guests said and didn't question them.  It raises the question, do folks that live remotely tend to be more helpful even if it is inconvenient?

CBR4 #24 - #26 Read-A-Thon Books

Back in April (yes - that is how far behind I am in reviews) I participated in a read-a-Thon and ended up reading the following books.  Since my goal was to read as much as I could, these reviews will be shorter than normal.

Harry Lipkin Private Eye - by Barry Fantoni

ARC from Doubleday

I loved the quirkiness of Harry, especially the internal dialogue he has with himself.  This book is a good portrait of octogenarian life in Southern Florida.  Harry felt like a Columbo type old school sleuth with connections all around town. I loved the chapter titles as they read more like news headlines.  This book is a great read with a loveable character that will feel like your own grandfather.

Next To Love - by Ellen Feldman

Secret Read From Random House

Set during WWII, this book follows 3 wives of army recruits as they deal with the up and downs of being separated.  As the book progresses, the reader gets to see how these families deal and adapt to post war life. This book is a good portrait of small town life. I thought the love story between Babe and Claude is sweet.  I found it interesting to see how some wives moved on while other's felt they needed to remain a widow.  I preferred the writing style of the first part of the book, which told the story through all characters.  The rest of the book switched styles and each character moved through the years one by one.  I felt that the second style was harder on the reader because plot points would be given away before you reach that character's story.

Before Ever After - by Samantha Sotto

The blurb on the book flap really lead me to assume this book would go in a different direction than it did.  There is a touching love story at the core of this book, but I had a hard time getting past the immortality aspect. I did enjoy the historical look at places across Europe. I didn't like how the breaks within the chapters identified each place and period. At times these headings were more annoying than helpful.  Sotto has a descriptive voice but I felt her overall premise kinda fell flat.

Friday, September 14, 2012

CBR4 # 23 The Keep by Jennifer Egan

Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank, reunite twenty years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe. In an environment of extreme paranoia, cut off from the outside world, the men reenact the signal event of their youth, with even more catastrophic results. And as the full horror of their predicament unfolds, a prisoner, in jail for an unnamed crime, recounts an unforgettable story that seamlessly brings the crimes of the past and present into piercing relation.

I didn't mean to read two graphic novels back to back.  I picked up this book because I wanted to read  some backlist books of Jennifer Egan after reading A Visit From The Goon Squad.

I was confused at first why we kept going between two narrators and finally realized it was a story within a story.  I felt the last quarter of the book didn't fit with the rest of the book.  The dialogue style was hard to adapt to and felt very play like, 

When Danny visited the town outside of the castle, I was reminded of the movie The Truman Show where he finds out everything is scripted. I had a hard time believing some of the action in the plot -such as Danny falling in love with the baroness and surviving the fall from the tower.

Overall I had a hard time relating to any of the characters and really just finished the book to see what happened. 

CBR #22 The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

It starts with a letter, lost for half a century and unexpectedly delivered to Edie’s mother on a Sunday afternoon. The letter leads Edie to Milderhurst Castle, where the eccentric Blythe spinsters live and where, she discovers, her mother was billeted during World War II. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives caring for their younger sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiancé jilted her in 1941. Inside the decaying castle, Edie searches for her mother’s past but soon learns there are other secrets hidden in its walls. The truth of what happened in “the distant hours” has been waiting a long time for someone to find it. In this enthralling romantic thriller, Morton pays homage to the classics of gothic fiction, spinning a rich and intricate web of mystery, suspense, and lost love.

I am not a big gothic novel reader, but I do love a good mystery.  Morton's book came recommended so I was curious.  I loved the natural curiosity that Eddie had and she showed some emotional growth throughout the book as well. I enjoyed how the book alternated between the historical and present day story.  The descriptive prose allows the reader to feel like they are observing the castle along with Eddie. There was a good sense of push and pull with the different mysteries. I was definitely on the edge of my seat multiples times. I have Morton's The Forgotten Garden on my TBR pile as well. 

CBR #21 Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein

Pink and pretty or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as a source—the source—of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages.
But, realistically, how many times can you say no when your daughter begs for a pint-size wedding gown or the latest Hannah Montana CD? And how dangerous is pink and pretty anyway—especially given girls' successes in the classroom and on the playing field? Being a princess is just make-believe, after all; eventually they grow out of it. Or do they? Does playing Cinderella shield girls from early sexualization—or prime them for it? Could today's little princess become tomorrow's sexting teen? And what if she does? Would that make her in charge of her sexuality—or an unwitting captive to it?
Those questions hit home with Peggy Orenstein, so she went sleuthing. She visited Disneyland and the international toy fair, trolled American Girl Place and Pottery Barn Kids, and met beauty pageant parents with preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. She dissected the science, created an online avatar, and parsed the original fairy tales. The stakes turn out to be higher than she—or we—ever imagined: nothing less than the health, development, and futures of our girls. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable—yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters' lives.
Cinderella Ate My Daughter is a must-read for anyone who cares about girls, and for parents helping their daughters navigate the rocky road to adulthood.

May Book Club selection

I enjoyed this book and liked Orenstein's style - part opinion, part research.  The topic is something that all of us females can relate to.  I read this book before I knew I would be having twin girls, but I don't think my opinion would change if I read the book now that I will have daughters of my own.

A few of the chapters I felt Orenstein was just ranting about pop stars and female images.  My expectation for the book was that some advice based on experience would be given and be less anetedotal than it was.  I found myself trying to remember my own memories of my childhood and if the marketing messages had influenced me or not.  I had a bright pink room in my later teen years, but blue has always been my color of choice.

I would be curious to read more on body image and how it has changed over time. I would have liked to seen more time spent on the social media impact for girls within school.  Facebook didn't exist until a few years after I was out of college.

This book is just the tip of the iceberg and one perspective. In a way I feel that parenting articles are like diet articles - there is always some ew way to do this and not that but in the end a smart and balanced approach works the best.

I hope to read more from Orenstein in the future as I appreciate her journalistic style to writing. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

BBAW - Pimp A Book

Today's topic for BBAW is to pimp up a book or author that needs more attention.

My choice is author Taylor Stevens who has written two books The Informationist and The Innocent. 

I first heard about Taylor at a book buzz session at a library conference.  Her book was described as  featuring a female Jason Bourne character. Plus she was a first time author which I like to support.  I picked up an ARC of The Informationist and promptly started to read it on my flight back home.

I was definitely not disappointed. Taylor's writing pulled me in and I "fell in love" with her main character Vanessa Michael Munroe.  The action was kept me at the edge of my seat, while at the same time I got to learn more about the characters backgrounds as well.

Earlier this year, Taylor released her second book The Innocent.  Again I was lost in Vanessa Michael Munroe's world. What was more amazing is that Taylor drew on her background to create this story line.

It looks like there is another book in the series due in 2013.  I can't wait to see what happens next to Vanessa Michael Munroe.

Just a few snippets of reviews :

“Impressive. . . . The gripping plot runs on adrenaline as much as does Vanessa, who unleashes her violent tendencies when the powerless are threatened. . . . Vanessa makes for an intriguing heroine—at once tough, fearless, vulnerable, and compassionate.” —Publishers Weekly
“Part Lisbeth Salander, part Jason Bourne, Munroe comes out swinging hard again. . . . A gritty, suspenseful novel.” —Library Journal

"Fans of thrillers who haven't yet discovered Stevens are in for a treat...Those who have eagerly awaited this sequel will be delighted to find the same intelligent writing, masterful pacing, and tense and fluid action scenes that feel ready-made for the cinema, and an intensely emotional core that lends Stevens' novel a depth not often found in the genre." —Associated Press

BBAW - Book Blogging World

I am a little behind in posting for the past two days so I thought I would just combine posts from day two and three.

I do have an interview partner and I hope to post her answers to my questions later this week.

Here is a brief look at my reading habits/style:

  1. What's on your nightstand right now?  I just finished David Baldacci's The Innocent and I'm planning to start Linda Fairstein's Night Watch next.
  2. What was your favorite book when you were a child? Why? I remember I read a lot of Nancy Drew and Babysitter's Club books.  I've always been drawn to mystery books and the Babysitter's Club reminded me of some of my childhood experiences.
  3. Who are your top five authors and why? David Baldacci - because he always finds a way to keep me on the edge of my seat; Philippa Gregory - because she brings English history to life for me; Nicolle Wallace - because she writes strong woman characters in and around the White House; Taylor Stevens - because she mixes deep characters with amazing action and mystery; Lisa Scottoline - because her characters make me laugh
  4. Is there a book you faked reading? Do tell! There have been a few book club books that I skimmed very lightly because I had a hard time getting into the subject matter.  I usually don't count those books towards my overall book count.
  5. Is there a book you're an evangelist for? Tell me about it. Two books that I've recommended over the past couple of years were The Help by Kathryn Stockett and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. If you haven't read either of them, I highly recommend that you do! 
  6. Any books you've bought for the cover? Which? Why? I am a sucker for a book cover and that's usually what catches my eye first. Sometimes it can be a detriment because the publishers change up the cover for the paperback sometimes.  I've bought a book in the airport thinking I hadn't read it, only to realize about 1/4 of the way through the book that I had read it and only the cover was different.
  7. What book do you most want to read again for the first time? Why? I would say The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern because I feel that there was so much detail that a reader could catch on a second read. 
Day three's topic was what does book blogging mean to you?

When I first started blogging, it was more a "requirement" for the reading challenge I signed up for.  I really didn't know how to structure a review and wasn't comfortable capturing my opinions.  Participating in read-a-thons and other book blogging memes has given me a chance to "find my voice" and try different styles of posts.  Capturing my thoughts about a book does make me stop and think about how the book made me feel instead of just moving on to the next book.  

I've also found that the book blogging community is very welcoming and enjoyed reading other blogs  to find more books for my TBR pile.  While book blogging is a hobby for me, I applaud those that are actively posting and sharing with others on a daily basis.  

I am amazed at the responses I've gotten from a few authors regarding my reviews.  Book blogging (and Twitter) has given me another way to connect with authors.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

BBAW 2012 - Appreciation

Today's post is all about sharing the book blogs I like to read daily. I must admit that my daily book blog reading has dropped over the past couple of months. But here are a few of my favorites from my blogroll on the right.

Swapna Krishna @
Fellow DC metro blogger who reviews various types of books and always brings an interesting perspective.

Meghan @
Fellow historical fiction lover located across the pond. I always find great recommendations among her reviews.

Jen @
Mostly focused on mystery/thriller books, I visit Jen's site to find the latest book that will keep me on the edge of my seat.

Cannonball Read IV @
Group blog where all the reviews are posted from participants in Cannonball Read round 4.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Completed Cannonball Read Round Four

Today I officially finished book 52 for Cannonball Read Round Four.  Yes, I am behind on posting reviews, but you can see the official listing of books I read here.

I set a personal goal of 70 books this year so I'm still on good pace for making that goal.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week starts tomorrow.  I'm planning to participate and spend some time catching up on my review backlog.

I also have a library themed blog post mulling around in my head that I hope to post in the next week or so as well.

Personally life has been crazy - my husband and I are expecting twins and some complications have arose that makes it very possible that we will meet these girls sooner than we thought.