Friday, October 19, 2012

CBR4 #57 You're Next by Gregg Hurwitz

Mike Wingate, abandoned by his father at four and raised in foster care, is finally living the life he always dreamed of—he’s happily married with a precocious 8-year-old daughter, and his construction company is about to finish a “green” housing development that will secure a solid future for them all. But then something from his own past, a past he doesn’t even remember, comes back to visit terror upon him and his family. Shady characters begin threatening Mike and, when he reports them, the police seem more interested in Mike’s murky past than in protecting him. Now, with Mike, his wife Annabel and daughter Kat suddenly under attack from all sides, Mike turns to Shep, a dangerous man—and Mike’s only true friend— from his childhood days in foster care. Together they will do whatever it takes to protect Mike’s family against the hidden men behind the terrifying warning, “You’re Next.”
This book reminded me of a cross between Ocean's Eleven and the Bourne movies.  It was hard to stop reading this book and I found myself reading chapter after chapter instead of eating my lunch.

The reveal of why Mike was being targeted was a little disappointing to me, but I did appreciate how Hurwitz pulled happenings from Mike's past into his current day.  The body count is high in this book, but the reader will be hooked from the beginning.  Hurwitz takes an interesting look at how local businesses, law enforcement and politics are intertwined at all different levels. 

CBR4 #56 The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick

Aged only thirteen, Emma, daughter of the Duke of Normandy, is married in a strategic alliance to King Aethelred of England. Inept and arrogant, Aethelred is loathed by his young wife, whom he punishes for his many failings as a ruler. Their first son, Edward, is born through an act of violence that is little more than rape. England is invaded by the Viking King Swein Forkbeard and his son Cnut. After a bitter struggle, Aethelred loses his kingdom and his wife. Emma, now dowager queen, holds London against the invader Cnut. When he demands she surrender or suffer the consequences, Emma stakes everything on a dangerous gamble, but troubles and tragedy still await the indomitable queen as she struggles for power and for survival... 
I won this book as part of a book package from the Word Wenches 

This book was the first historical fiction book I have read in a while. This book interested me because it covered a period of English history I wasn't familiar with. I liked Emma and was impressed with her strength and courage to manipulate and maneuver when needed.

I did get tired of the book halfway through because each chapter just brought the same people constantly switching sides and loyalties. I appreciated Hollick's author note which explained what was fiction versus history.

I feel my patience with longer historical fiction books is waning. I had a similar tired feeling when reading Queen By Right. 

CBR4 #55 An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer

In Olen Steinhauer’s bestseller The Tourist, reluctant CIA agent Milo Weaver uncovered a conspiracy linking the Chinese government to the highest reaches of the American intelligence community, including his own Department of Tourism---the most clandestine department in the Company. The shocking blowback arrived in the Hammett Award--winning The Nearest Exit when the Department of Tourism was almost completely wiped out as the result of an even more insidious plot. Following on the heels of these two spectacular novels comes An American Spy, Olen Steinhauer’s most stunning thriller yet. With only a handful of “tourists”—CIA-trained assassins—left, Weaver would like to move on and use this as an opportunity to regain a normal life, a life focused on his family. His former boss in the CIA, Alan Drummond, can’t let it go. When Alan uses one of Milo’s compromised aliases to travel to London and then disappears, calling all kinds of attention to his actions, Milo can’t help but go in search of him. Worse still, it's beginning to look as if Tourism's enemies are gearing up for a final, fatal blow.
At first I didn't know where this book was going, but as I progressed I was impressed with how Steinhauer pulled together the different characters.  The focus on China in an espionage thriller was a breath of fresh air. I hadn't read the first two books, but felt that this book could stand on its own. Steinhauer provides an interesting perspective on how intelligence agents can really never "retire." 

CBR4 #54 Tricked by Alex Robinson

Alex's new graphic novel follows the lives of six people - a reclusive rock legend, a heartbroken waitress, a counterfeiter, an obsessive crank, a lost daughter, and a backstabbing lover - whose lives are unconnected until an act of violence affects them all in different ways.
October Bookclub Selection

First graphic novel I have read since Maus in college, so I am unsure how to "review" the book - text versus pictures.  The plot line was similar to A Visit From The Goon Squad as there were music industry undertones with the characters intertwining here and there.

An interesting feature of the book was that the chapters counted down to the climax of the plot.  I was glad to see the book didn't end at the climax, but gave the reader a sense of how the characters ended up.  My one grievance is that the dialogue was hard to read sometimes.

CBR4 #53 Night Watch by Linda Fairstein

Forty-eight hours after Alexandra Cooper arrives in France to visit her boyfriend and famed restaurateur, Luc Rouget, her vacation in paradise is cut short when a young woman from the village is found murdered. The only evidence discovered on the body is one of Luc’s matchboxes promoting his new restaurant in New York. But before the investigation begins, Alex is summoned back to New York to handle a high profile case. Mohammed Gil-Darsin, the distinguished and wealthy Head of the World Economic Bureau, has been arrested and accused of attacking a maid in his hotel.  As the world watches in fascination to see how the scandal will unfold, Alex finds her attention torn between preparing the alleged victim to testify and a murder case with ties too close to home. A second body is found with Luc’s matchbox—this time in Brooklyn—and Alex begins to fear that the two cases may not be as unrelated as she thought, and that uncovering the sordid secrets of the city’s most wealthy and powerful could cost her and her loved ones everything they hold dear.

While I officially completed my goal for Cannonball Read IV, I still had 18 books to read to meet my personal goal of 70 books. This book also became this first book I completed while in the hospital.  I picked up this book at the library because I was looking for a good mystery and I knew Fairstein wouldn't let me down.

One of the subplots actually was "ripped from the headlines" which I don't remember Fairstein doing in her previous books I've read.  The other subplot tangled her long time character Alexandra between her lover and her job. I enjoyed the plot twists and how Fairstein featured the restaurant business within the mystery. 

Without giving too much away, I was disappointed that the "ripped from the headlines" subplot was never really solved or fleshed out more. The mystery behind the other subplot seemed forced to me as well. I am curious to see where Fairstein takes these characters next!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Read-A-Thon Hourly Updates

Since I will be reading and cheering intermittently today, I will just keep updating this post with my progress each hour.

Hour 13 - 15
This update is my last.  I am fading and need to get some sleep. The last 3 hours I've engrossed in my book and watching a little postseason baseball.  I had a good time today and although my reading progress wasn't the most I've read during a read-a-thon, I enjoyed reading how others were doing and seeing all the different mini-challenges. Until next time....

Hour 10 - 12
I have been reading for the past two hours with short breaks and a 30 minute nap. I must admit that I am liking this Tana French book a tad better than Broken Harbour

Hour 8 & 9 - 3:00/4:00
Read about 40 pages in my book and did more cheering of TeamSweetarts.  Looked over #readathon Tweets and maybe dozed for a few minutes :)

Hour 6 & 7 - 1:00/2:00
Spent a little time cheering, but then had lunch and caught up on the college football scores.  My husband and I also took a 30 minute wheelchair ride outside. 

Hour 5 - 12:00
Participated in Reflections of a Bookaholic's mini-challenge which started this hour.  Turns out I won a prize for my cheering - so I spent some time picking out my prize.  The rest of the hour was taken up by my daily sonogram.  I got another 3-4 pages read :( but I am enjoying the mini-challenges and the cheering.

Hour 4 - 11:00
Participated in A Literary Oddessy's mini-challenge which started this hour.  I had an interesting conversation with my husband on the question she asked.  Cheered on some readers in Team Sweetarts - great progress so far.  Now back to some reading....

Hour 3 - 10:00
Spent most of this hour in daily testing, but I will cheer on some fellow readers before getting back to reading.

Hour 2 - 9:00
Finished breakfast and read over the first mini-challenge and some comments left on my blog.  Read my first book In The Woods for about 20 minutes before my daily testing began.

Hour 1 - 8:00
Got started a little late, but wrote introductory post and did a little cheerleading while eating breakfast.

Read-A-Thon Begins

Today is the fall Dewey's Read-Thon and I am participating from a different location than normal. My husband and I are expecting twins in the next month and I am in the hospital for daily in-patient monitoring.  I will be reading and cheering as much as I can during the day around my testing fun.

Also I have a late start this morning because I stayed up late watching postseason baseball.  But I am up now and breakfast is ordered and should be here shortly.  I have a small stack of books, but I am really just looking forward to reading how everyone else is doing.

On the TBR Pile today:
         Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
          In The Woods by Tana French
          On Beauty by Zadie Smith
          The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Here are my answers to the introductory questions:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
             Fairfax, VA - suburb of Washington DC
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
             It's a toss up between Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and In The Woods by Tana French
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
             I only have limited snacks in the hospital.... so all of them :)
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
             I am a librarian for a radio network and a soon to be new mother.
             I am 9 books away from my reading goal this year. 
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
              This read-a-thon is my 4th or 5th time.  Today I am planning to spend more time cheering than reading, depending on how I feel and my schedule.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

CBR4 #52 The Innocent by David Baldacci

America has enemies--ruthless people that the police, the FBI, even the military can't stop. That's when the U.S. government calls on Will Robie, a stone cold hitman who never questions orders and always nails his target. VBut Will Robie may have just made the first--and last--mistake of his career . . . It begins with a hit gone wrong. Robie is dispatched to eliminate a target unusually close to home in Washington, D.C. But something about this mission doesn't seem right to Robie, and he does the unthinkable. He refuses to kill. Now, Robie becomes a target himself and must escape from his own people. Fleeing the scene, Robie crosses paths with a wayward teenage girl, a fourteen-year-old runaway from a foster home. But she isn't an ordinary runaway-her parents were murdered, and her own life is in danger. Against all of his professional habits, Robie rescues her and finds he can't walk away. He needs to help her. Even worse, the more Robie learns about the girl, the more he's convinced she is at the center of a vast cover-up, one that may explain her parents' deaths and stretch to unimaginable levels of power.  Now, Robie may have to step out of the shadows in order to save this girl's life . . . and perhaps his own.
I always enjoying reading books that feature a city that I am familiar with and this book features DC locales nicely,  Baldacci wrote this book as a stand alone and not part of one of his long running series. The characters were built out well and the plot twists weren't too obvious.  I definitely was on the edge of my seat throughout this book. I could see this book as a movie or even modified for a 24 episode.

CBR4 #51 Down The Darkest Road by Tami Hoag

Four years after Lauren Lawton’s sixteen-year-old daughter disappeared, the world gave up the girl for dead. Lauren’s husband took his own life. Her younger daughter is looking only for what’s left of her childhood. But Lauren never surrendered. She knows who took her child, and there’s not a shred of evidence against him. Looking for a fresh start, Lauren and her younger daughter Leah move to idyllic Oak Knoll. So has Lauren’s suspect. And it feels that history is about to repeat itself.  Leah is turning sixteen, and Oak Knoll has a cunning predator on the hunt. But as sheriff’s detective Tony Mendez and his team sift through the circumstances of an increasingly disturbing case, a stunning question changes everything they thought they knew…

Tami Hoag was one of the first mystery writers I even read.  Needing a good mystery, I picked up this book at the library.  Definitely, Tami puts the reader on the edge of their seat right away, but also throws in some romance on the side as well. Small town life is portrayed well in this book.

I didn't realize when I picked up the book for the first time that it was the third in a series.  Some of the connections were lost to me but I was still able to follow the overall plot.  

CBR4 #50 High On The Hog by Jessica Harris

Acclaimed cookbook author Jessica B. Harris weaves an utterly engaging history of African American cuisine, taking the reader on a harrowing journey from Africa across the Atlantic to America, and tracking the trials that the people and the food have undergone along the way. From chitlins and ham hocks to fried chicken and vegan soul, Harris celebrates the delicious and restorative foods of the African American experience and details how each came to form an important part of African American culture, history, and identity. Although the story of African cuisine in America begins with slavery, High on the Hog ultimately chronicles a thrilling history of triumph and survival. The work of a masterful storyteller and an acclaimed scholar, Jessica B. Harris's High on the Hog fills an important gap in our culinary history.

September Book Club

Harris explores African American history and specifically the influence of food within that history and culture. I enjoyed Harris' writing style and how she chose to split up the chapters.  I learned more about Philadelphia than I had learned growing up around there.  I appreciated how the last chapter focused on the modern day influences. My book club ended up making some of the recipes included at the back of the book.  

CBR4 #49 Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson realized that the most mortifying moments of our lives—the ones we’d like to pretend never happened—are in fact the ones that define us. In the #1 New York Times bestseller, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson takes readers on a hilarious journey recalling her bizarre upbringing in rural Texas, her devastatingly awkward high school years, and her relationship with her long-suffering husband, Victor. Chapters include: “Stanley the Magical, Talking Squirrel”; “A Series of Angry Post-It Notes to My Husband”; “My Vagina Is Fine. Thanks for Asking”; “And Then I Snuck a Dead Cuban Alligator on an Airplane.” Pictures with captions (no one would believe these things without proof) accompany the text.

Jenny Lawson was at the Gaithersburg Book Festival this summer, but I didn't get to hear her speak.  I had seen some Twitter buzz for her book as well so I was curious.  Let me state upfront that I had not read her blog The Bloggess at all before reading this memoir.

I was kind blown away by the text being more a string of thoughts somehow linked together.  The curse words kinda distracted me by the end of the book.  I don't mind curse words, but the frequency was a little higher in this memoir than my comfort level.  I now understand Lawson's need to include pictures to help prove she wasn't making up these stories - as they were very random and unbelieveable.

Overall this book was not my cup of tea, but if you are a fan of Lawson's blog this memoir would be a good read for you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

CBR4 #48 The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

Beecher White, a young archivist, spends his days working with the most important documents of the U.S. government. He has always been the keeper of other people's stories, never a part of the story himself...Until now. When Clementine Kaye, Beecher's first childhood crush, shows up at the National Archives asking for his help tracking down her long-lost father, Beecher tries to impress her by showing her the secret vault where the President of the United States privately reviews classified documents. After they accidentally happen upon a priceless artifact - a 200 hundred-year-old dictionary that once belonged to George Washington, hidden underneath a desk chair, Beecher and Clementine find themselves suddenly entangled in a web of deception, conspiracy, and murder. Soon a man is dead, and Beecher is on the run as he races to learn the truth behind this mysterious national treasure. His search will lead him to discover a coded and ingenious puzzle that conceals a disturbing secret from the founding of our nation. It is a secret, Beecher soon discovers, that some believe is worth killing for.
I picked up this book from the library, because I needed a good mystery and knew that Meltzer would not let me down. Plus the main character is an archivist, so how could I resist reading this book!  

Just like Steve Berry, Meltzer throws his readers and his main characters right into the action. Secret societies and alternative motives are found throughout this book.  Again, I enjoyed the local   DC locales being featured. You really can't go wrong with a book by Brad Meltzer!

CBR4 # 47 The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry

Four presidents of the United States have been assassinated—in 1865, 1881, 1901, and 1963—each murder seemingly unrelated. But what if those presidents were all killed for the shocking same reason: a clause contained in the United States Constitution? This is the question faced by former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone. When President Danny Daniels is nearly killed in the heart of Manhattan, Malone risks his life to foil the murder—only to find himself at odds with the Commonwealth, a secret society of pirates first assembled during the American Revolution. Racing across the nation and taking to the high seas, Malone and Cassiopeia Vitt must break a secret cipher originally possessed by Thomas Jefferson, unravel a mystery concocted by Andrew Jackson, and unearth a document forged by the Founding Fathers themselves—one powerful enough to make the Commonwealth unstoppable. 
I got to hear Steve Berry talk earlier this year in Dallas and I have read some of his stand alone books in recent months as well.  This was the first Cotton Malone book I had read in a while.  Berry throws the reader and the main character right into the action from the first couple of chapters.

I enjoyed the local DC setting for part of the book.  Some of the plot twists seemed a little obvious and a little stretched and I felt the ending was a overdone. There was a lot of backstabbing and switching of "sides" as the book progresses. I can see how Dan Brown is still an influence on Berry's writing.

CBR4 # 46 The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? It’s the early 1980s. In American colleges, the wised-up kids are inhaling Derrida and listening to Talking Heads. But Madeleine Hanna, dutiful English major, is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels. As Madeleine studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes---the charismatic and intense Leonard Bankhead, and her old friend the mystically inclined Mitchell Grammaticus. As all three of them face life in the real world they will have to reevaluate everything they have learned.
This book is a great portrait of college life in the 80's- undergrads not sure what to do next and unexpected relationships.  I was disappointed with the lack of strong women characters within this book. I found Leonard annoying and Marshall complex and most interesting of all the characters. Madeline just seemed to be wasting her potential. 

Eugenides really dives into psychology, religion and biology to backfill the characters and plots.  When I first started reading the book, I had a hard time getting past the psychology heavy description. 

Again another book that got lots of buzz, but I had a hard time seeing the appeal and I haven't read any of his other books. 

CBR4 #45 Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Marriage can be a real killer.    One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.    On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?   As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet? With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

I was curious about this book after seeing the Twitter buzz from fellow book bloggers.  Unfortunately, I chose to read this book after finishing a Tana French book. Both books focused on families that looked like they had the perfect marriage but underneath there was turmoil.

Even though the main premis of the book sounded fascinating, I found the two main characters annoying. I appreciated this alternating points of view from the two main characters even when the same plot twist was told from each of their perspectives.

Flynn definitely delivers clever plot twists throughout this book, but at times it was hard to "trust/believe" the characters' actions based on past actions. I might have enjoyed this book more if I had read it at a different time or if I had read previous books by Flynn.