Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: The King's Daughter by Christie Dickason

Book Info: The King's Daughter by Christie Dickason
Author Extras: Website
Publisher: Harper Collins
Source: TLC Book Tours, Publisher for Review
Rating: 4/5

Summary from the Publisher:

The daughter of a king – on sale to the highest bidder. As First Daughter of England, Elizabeth seems to live a life of privilege and luxury. Yet she is imprisoned by duty; a helpless pawn in the political machinations of her father, James I. She trusts only her beloved brother Henry until she is sent a slave-girl, Tallie, who becomes her unlikely advisor. As their friendship grows, the innocent Elizabeth must learn to listen to dangerous truths about her louche father and his volatile court. Can she risk playing their games of secrecy and subterfuge in order to forge her path to love and freedom?


It's been a little while since I've read any historical fiction, but this genre is one of my favorites when I just want to escape into a book.  So many HF books these days focus on the Tudors, and I was initially drawn to this book because it didn't.  I enjoy reading about different historical figures and time periods, instead of focusing on just one era.

Dickason really brought the Jacobean court to life.  The King's Daughter was rich in detail, but it wasn't overpowering.  I could really picture the clothes, the lifestyle, and those are the details that make a book special. 

I really liked Elizabeth, though I found myself feeling sorry for her for much of the book. Especially when it came to her father, she was simply a pawn to be used and manipulated.  King James was particularly unlikable, which made me that much more sympathetic to Elizabeth.  At times though, she did seem a little modern in her thinking.  It wasn't enough to be unbelievable, but just enough to make me pause.

The King's Daughter is a very enjoyable book, and a found myself staying up late to finish the book.  I will be reading more of Dickason's work, especially if she continues telling Elizabeth's story.

About the Author:

 Christie Dickason was born in America but also lived as a child in Thailand, Mexico and Switzerland. Harvard-educated, and a former theatre director and choreographer (with the Royal Shakespeare Company and at Ronnie Scott's among others), she lives in London with her family.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Review: Girl Missing by Tess Gerritsen

Book Info:
Girl Missing by Tess Gerritsen
Author Extras: Website, Facebook, Twitter
Source: Library, Audio
Rating: 2.5/5

Summary from the Publisher:


She's young. She's beautiful. And her corpse, laid out in the office of Boston medical examiner Kat Novak, betrays no secrets -- except for a matchbook clutched in one stiff hand, seven numbers scrawled inside.

When a second victim is discovered, Kat begins to fear that a serial killer is stalking the streets. The police are sceptical. The mayor won't listen. And Kat's chief suspect is one of the town's most prominent citizens.

With the death toll rising, Kat races to expose a deadly predator who is closer than she ever dreamt. And every move she makes could be her very last.


The very first thing you need to know about this book is that it is a re-issue.  It was originally released in 1994 as Peggy Sue Got Murdered.  I listened the audio version, and it included an introduction explaining that Gerritsen sees this novel as her first book that blended romance with crime writing.  The introduction also mentioned that the book was updated for the re-issue.  I'm not quite sure what that means, but maybe the addition of cell phones...

I've been reading Gerritsen's books for years, and this is the first one I've been a little disappointed with.  If I'd realized it was a re-issue, and romantic suspense before I started listening, I probably would have skipped it.  It wasn't terrible, but I really prefer Gerritsen's grittier Rizzoli and Isles series.

My biggest complaint with the book is that some of the character's actions were unbelievable, and this kept distracting me from the story.  For example, at one point Kat, the medical examiner, is talking to a person of interest in the case.  He starts asking some questions about another body in the morgue, and she pulls out the file and tells him all of the findings on that case. 

It's been a few months since I listened to this one, so I don't really have any specific comments on the narrator.  While I didn't find anything about her delivery particularly memorable, I also don't really have any complaints.  If you like romantic suspense, Girl Missing is decent, but if you prefer series books, or more mystery and less romance, try the Rizzoli and Isles series.  2.5 stars, ok+

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Book Info:
Room by Emma Donoghue
Source: Publisher for Review
Rating: 4.5/5

Summary from the Publisher:

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.


It's been a while since I've read a book that I've felt was truly original, but Room is unlike anything I have ever read before.  There were a couple of instances where I thought the plot was a little weak, but in order to move the story forward, I think this was necessary.  This didn't impact my overall enjoyment of the book, but was a little distracting to me at the time.

Room is told completely from Jack's point of view.  His five-year-old voice took me a little while to get used to, but once I did, I loved it.  Through Jack's eyes I could easily see how confusing the world could be.  His Ma did a wonderful job of explaining things to him, but some things just need to be seen and experienced to be fully understood. 

I was completely invested in Room while I was reading, but it's one of those books I can't stop thinking about now that it's over.  The story was left open ended, not in an unfinished way, but rather it left me wanting more. Room has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.  4.5 stars, very good+

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review: Leaving Before It's Over by Jean Reynolds Page

Book Info:
Leaving Before It's Over by Jean Reynolds Page
Author Extras: Website
Publisher: Harper Collins, 2010
Source: TLC Book Tours, Publisher
Rating: 4.5/5

Summary From the Publisher:

When Roy Vines married his wife, Rosalind, he traded his family and his inheritance for love—a painful choice that has blessed them with years of joy nestled in rural North Carolina with their beautiful daughters, sixteen-year-old Lola and little Janie Ray.

But their happiness is threatened when Rosalind suddenly falls ill. Desperate to get her the help she needs, Roy does the one thing he swore he'd never do—turn to his heartless and bitter identical twin brother, Mont, for help.


This is the third book I've read by Jean Reynolds Page, and I like each one even more than the last.  This last one has convinced me that, without a doubt, that I need to read the last two books in her backlist.

Page's characters are so very vivid.  Even if they are people I wouldn't normally hang out with, I couldn't help but be drawn to them. Roy is a solid and likeable man.  Lola and Luke are typical kids.  They may make mistakes, but are ultimately good kids, and I couldn't help but wish them the best.  The Vines family, as a whole is stand-offish and cold, but they are still characters that most people can understand. I loved how I could see the situation from many different perspectives and that

I also love the family dynamics in this book. I think a slightly dysfunctional family is something that everyone relates to on some level, and that gives the story a very accessible quality.  If characters and families are too perfect they are hard to swallow, but the Vines family isn't that way at all.  There are those in the family that are easy to dislike, and those who I changed my mind about by the end of the book. In so many books either the plot or the characters stand out, and in Page's books they are both able to hold their own equally.  4.5 stars, very good +
About Jean Reynolds Page

Jean Reynolds Page is the author of The Last Summer of Her Other Life, The Space Between Before and After, A Blessed Event, and Accidental Happiness. She grew up in North Carolina and graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was a dance critic for more than ten years before turning full-time to fiction in 2001. In addition to North Carolina, she has lived in New York, Boston, Dallas, and Seattle. She and her family recently moved to Madison, Wisconsin.

Other TLC Book Tour Stops

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Review: I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

Book Info:
I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman
Author Extras: Website, Facebook
Publisher:  Harper Collins, 2010
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 4/5

Summary from the Publisher:

Eliza Benedict cherishes her peaceful, ordinary suburban life with her successful husband and children, thirteen-year-old Iso and eight-year-old Albie. But her tranquillity is shattered when she receives a letter from the last person she ever expects—or wants—to hear from: Walter Bowman. There was your photo, in a magazine. Of course, you are older now. Still, I'd know you anywhere.

In the summer of 1985, when she was fifteen, Eliza was kidnapped by Walter and held hostage for almost six weeks. He had killed at least one girl and Eliza always suspected he had other victims as well. Now on death row in Virginia for the rape and murder of his final victim, Walter seems to be making a heartfelt act of contrition as his execution nears. Though Eliza wants nothing to do with him, she's never forgotten that Walter was most unpredictable when ignored. Desperate to shelter her children from this undisclosed trauma in her past, she cautiously makes contact with Walter. She's always wondered why Walter let her live, and perhaps now he'll tell her—and share the truth about his other victims.


The first time I picked up a Laura Lippman book I expected a mystery, with creepy serial killers, some blood and guts, and a crazy twist at the end of the book.  And since that wasn't what I got, I came away from the book disappointed.  Going into my second Lippman book I revised my expectations about what type of book I was getting, and this time it worked perfectly for me.

Lippman tells a captivating story, but her characters are really what stand out for me.  She is able to perfectly capture a sullen teenager in Iso, a distant sister in Vonnie, and a conflicted mother in Eliza.  And while I may not have always agreed with Eliza's decisions, I always understood why she did things.  Understandably the story focused on Eliza and Walter, but I did wish some minor characters (like Eliza's husband, Peter) had played a slightly larger role.

The psychological thriller side of I'd Know You Anywhere had me hooked right from the beginning, and I think it would be a good choice for book clubs.  I can imagine discussions around the central ethical issue of the death penalty as well as the character's motivations and actions. 4 stars, very good

About Laura Lippman:

Laura Lippman grew up in Baltimore and returned to her hometown in 1989 to work as a journalist. After writing seven books while still a full-time reporter, she left the Baltimore Sun to focus on fiction. The author of two New York Times bestsellers, What the Dead Know and Another Thing to Fall, she has won numerous awards for her work, including the Edgar, Quill, Anthony, Nero Wolfe, Agatha, Gumshoe, Barry, and Macavity.

I’d Know You Anywhere is Laura Lippman’s 18th book.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory and *Giveaway*

Book Info:
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Simon and Shuster; (August 3, 2010)
ISBN: 9781416563723
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher for review
Rating: 3.5/5

Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the true ruler of England and that she has a great destiny before her. Her ambitions are disappointed when her sainted cousin Henry VI fails to recognize her as a kindred spirit, and she is even more dismayed when he sinks into madness. Her mother mocks her plans, revealing that Margaret will always be burdened with the reputation of her father, one of the most famously incompetent English commanders in France. But worst of all for Margaret is when she discovers that her mother is sending her to a loveless marriage in remote Wales.

Married to a man twice her age, quickly widowed, and a mother at only fourteen, Margaret is determined to turn her lonely life into a triumph. She sets her heart on putting her son on the throne of England regardless of the cost to herself, to England, and even to the little boy.

The Red Queen is the second book in The Cousins' War trilogy and while it covers roughly the same events as The White Queen, it is told from a very different perspective.  Margaret Beaufort claims to be a religious women and believes that it is God's will that her son rule England.  However, I found her words and her actions to be at odds with each other.  I didn't mind her scheming ways, in fact I expect that from people clawing their way to power, but it didn't lend any credibility to her assertion that she is following God's will.  She is vain, pompous and self-righteous.  In other words, terribly unlikable.

While I was not a fan of Margaret Beaufort, that didn't mean that the whole book was a bust.  I have only read a few of Philippa Gregory's books, but I've always enjoyed them  The pacing is, as usual, wonderful.  I never feel like I am being buried in information, but instead am able to follow the often confusing events easily.  I'm not an expert on the events of the time period though, so I can't say if they are accurate or not.

If you are new to historical fiction, or just new to the time period, I would recommend Gregory's books.  She has quite a knack for bringing history alive.  I didn't like The Red Queen quite as much as The White Queen, but that was primarily because Margaret was so infuriating.  I am still anxiously awaiting the final book in the trilogy.  3.5 stars


Thanks to the publisher I have 1 copy of The Red Queen to share with you.  This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents.  Entries will be taken through August 30th at midnight, with the winner announced on August 31st.  Please fill out the form below to enter.  While I'd still love your comments on the review, you must complete the form to be entered in the giveaway.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

Book Info:
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (July 6, 2010)
ISBN-13: 9780312595678
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Source: Publisher for Review
Rating: 3.5/5

On the day she was abducted, Annie O’Sullivan, a thirty-two year old Realtor, had three goals—sell a house, forget about a recent argument with her mother, and be on time for dinner with her ever- patient boyfriend. The open house is slow, but when her last visitor of the day pulls up in a van as she's about to leave, Annie thinks it just might be her lucky day after all.

Interwoven with the story of the year Annie spent captive of a sadistic psychopath in a remote mountain cabin, which unfolds through sessions with her psychiatrist, is a second narrative recounting events following her escape—her struggle to piece her shattered spirit back together and the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor.

Still Missing first caught my attention when Trish featured it in a Peeing My Pants in Book Anticipation post.  I started seeing it mentioned more and more, and I broke down and read a little about the book, which I don't usually do.  And then I was hooked too.  The format of the book, the story of Annie's abduction as she tells it to her therapist, was perfect right from the start.  Obviously, she got away, but the slow unfolding of the story, right from Annie herself, was fresh and original.

While I loved the way the story was set up, I didn't really love Annie.  Yes, she had been through a terrible ordeal, but I found her unlikable.  I tried to connect with her, but she'd constructed such a wall around herself, that all I really felt was pity.  As the story went on, I felt more sympathy toward her, but I couldn't get over my initial feelings toward her. 

The one downfall of the book for me was the ending.  It wasn't terrible, but I found it a little flat.  I was completely caught up in the story until the last quarter or so of the book.  Then, it seemed as if Stevens just didn't know how to end the book, and it lost momentum. While I didn't connect with Annie, Still Missing was a solid debut, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a gripping mystery. 3.5 stars

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Coming Soon: Product Review for CSN Stores

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to do a product review for CSN Stores.  They have everything from dining room furniture, to home decor, to kids stuff, to bookcases!  CSN Stores includes over 200 online stores, and you are sure to find exactly what you are looking for there.

I've been scouring their website, and now have to decide if it will be a bookcase for me....

or something for Claire!

Be on the lookout for my review post to see what I decided on!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Review: Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian

Book Info:
Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books (February 2, 2010) 
ISBN-13: 9780307394972
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Library
Rating: 2.5/5

"There," says Alice Hayward to Reverend Stephen Drew, just after her baptism, and just before going home to the husband who will kill her that evening and then shoot himself. Drew, tortured by the cryptic finality of that short utterance, feels his faith in God slipping away and is saved from despair only by a meeting with Heather Laurent, the author of wildly successful, inspirational books about . . . angels.

I read Bohjalian's Midwives years ago, after Oprah's recommendation.  I really enjoyed the book and always meant to read another of his books, but just never did.  When I was searching for books to load on to my eReader for Claire's surgery this one jumped out at me.  Maybe I needed something a little faster paced, maybe nothing would have worked well for me then, but I could have easily set this one aside without finishing it.

Usually I really like books told from different perspectives, but I didn't like how this one was handled.  Each part of the book was told by a different character.  However, the events didn't really overlap.  So, instead of seeing the same events through four different perspectives, each character told a slightly different part of the story.  This felt disjointed to me and I didn't really ever feel like I got to know any of the characters well.

The other part of the story that didn't work for me was the foreshadowing.  I don't have a problem with an author building up to future events, but the way it was done here was very heavy handed.  There were lots of references like "if only I'd said something then, things could have been different."  I felt like the author thought we wouldn't get the references if they weren't explicitly pointed out.  The ending was predictable too, but by that point, I didn't really care either way.

Secrets of Eden felt like it was capitalizing on the formula of Midwives, and I hope his other books show a bit more diversity. 2.5 stars.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Book Info:
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (September 1, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9780439023498
Genre: Young Adult
Source: My Shelves
Rating: 5/5

Fresh from their improbable victory in the annual Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta get to enjoy the spoils only briefly before they must partake in a Capitol-sponsored victory tour. But trouble is brewing— -- President Snow tells Katniss directly he won't stand for being outsmarted, and she overhears rumbles of uprisings in Panem's districts. Before long it's time for the next round of games, and because it's the 75th anniversary of the competition, something out of the ordinary is in order...

When everybody initially starting raving about The Hunger Games I stayed away because I didn't think it sounded like my kind of book.  Finally, after almost a year, my curiosity got the best of me and I had to see what everyone was talking about.  Once I started reading I was hooked and I couldn't figure out why I waited so long to read it.  Catching Fire was much the same way.  I knew I wanted to read it.  I bought it as soon as it came out, and it's been sitting around my house for almost a year.  Once again, I didn't know why I put of reading it for so long.

As soon as started reading I was hooked.  The characters, the setting, everything about the book worked so well.  Collins included just enough details from The Hunger Games that it jogged my memory, but not enough to feel repetitive if you'd just finished the first book. Katniss is a great character.  She's strong and brave, someone you want to be like, but not so perfect that you can't relate to her.  Peeta is still as sweet as ever, but I'd hoped to see a bit more of Gale.  I didn't know where the storyline was going since I'd stayed away from reviews, and I was pleasantly surprised. 

This series won't be put on the back burner anymore.  Mockingjay is ordered and as soon as it gets to me, I'd better be left alone until I finish it! 5 stars

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Review: The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Book Info:
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (March 9, 2010)
ISBN-13: 9780385736848
Genre: YA
Source: Library, Audio
Rating: 4/5

Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She's content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry's mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry's generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother's past in order to save herself and the one she loves.

The Dead-Tossed Waves is the second book in a trilogy, following The Forest of Hands and Teeth (review).  These types of books are a bit of a departure for me.  I don't usually read books that involve dead things like zombies, and I listened to the first book based on Beth's rave review.  I enjoyed The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but liked the audio production more than I liked the story itself.  Still, I was interested enough to listen to the second book, and I enjoyed The Dead-Tossed Waves much more.
I think the difference between Forest and Waves, for me, was how prominent the Unconsecrated were in the story.  In Forest, they were front and center all the time, and since the walking dead don't appeal much to me I didn't enjoy the story as much.  In Waves, the Unconsecrated are still a very important part of the story, but the setting and other characters allowed them to blend into the background a bit and I found myself much more interested in the story.  I also felt  more of a connection to Gabry's character than to Mary's.  I'm not sure exactly why this was, but it was one more reason Waves worked better for me.
A different narrator read The Dead-Tossed Waves, and I don't think it was quite as good as the first book in the trilogy, but it was close.  While I didn't expect to be pulled into this series like I have been, I am now very excited for the last book in the trilogy.  I will be listening to it as soon as it becomes available.  4 stars

Friday, June 4, 2010

Review: Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster

Book Info:
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: NAL Trade; (May 1, 2007)
ISBN-13: 9780451221254
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: My Shelves

Jen Lancaster hates to burst your happy little bubble, but life in the big city isn't all it's cracked up to be. Contrary to what you see on TV and in the movies, most urbanites aren't party-hopping in slinky dresses and strappy stilettos. But lucky for us, Lancaster knows how to make the life of the lower crust mercilessly funny and infinitely entertaining.

Picking a book right before your baby has open heart surgery is a tough thing.  I didn't want anything too serious, or with too complex a plot.  I also wanted something I could set aside and not lose my place in the story, and really wanted something to lighten my mood.  Jen Lancaster was the perfect choice.

Lancaster has the same sarcastic, biting sense of humor that she did in Bitter is the New Black, and she often had me laughing out loud.  She is not at all politically correct, and while she favors a word I hate, I am a little more forgiving considering it was likely she would use it, and I read the book anyways.  I love that Lancaster is able to laugh at herself, and I she made me wonder why I waited so long to read another one of her books.  4 stars

Monday, May 10, 2010

Unfinished: Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez

Book Info:
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (December 18, 2007) 
ISBN-13: 9780812976731
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: My Shelves
Rating: 0/5

Soon after the fall of the Taliban, in 2001, Deborah Rodriguez went to Afghanistan as part of a group offering humanitarian aid to this war-torn nation. Surrounded by men and women whose skills–as doctors, nurses, and therapists–seemed eminently more practical than her own, Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother of two from Michigan, despaired of being of any real use. Yet she soon found she had a gift for befriending Afghans, and once her profession became known she was eagerly sought out by Westerners desperate for a good haircut and by Afghan women, who have a long and proud tradition of running their own beauty salons. Thus an idea was born.

With the help of corporate and international sponsors, the Kabul Beauty School welcomed its first class in 2003. Well meaning but sometimes brazen, Rodriguez stumbled through language barriers, overstepped cultural customs, and constantly juggled the challenges of a postwar nation even as she learned how to empower her students to become their families’ breadwinners by learning the fundamentals of coloring techniques, haircutting, and makeup.

Sometimes an unfinished book is the victim of circumstances, and that was the case with this one.  I was about halfway through Kabul Beauty School when Claire was born.  The book up to that point was good, but it wasn't one I was telling every one about. I thought that Rodriguez had a wonderful program that empowered Afghan women, but I had a hard time matching her enthusiasm for hair color and makeup.

Once Claire arrived my reading time dwindled to nothing and I never picked this one back up.  About two months later it was requested on Paperback Swap and I mailed it out without finishing it.  If you've read this one, did I miss out on a wonderful ending, or was reading half the book sufficient?  0 stars

Monday, April 26, 2010

Review: A Gift from Brittany by Marjorie Price

Book Info:
A Gift from Brittany by Marjorie Price
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Gotham; (March 3, 2009)
ISBN: 1592404340
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir
Source: For Review, Blog Tour
Rating: 4/5

While in her late twenties, Marjorie Price leaves the comfort of her Chicago suburb to strike out on her own in Paris and hone her artistic talents. Dazzled by everything French, she falls in love with a volatile French painter and they purchase an old farmhouse in the Breton countryside. When Marjorie's seemingly idyllic marriage begins to unravel, she forms a friendship with an elderly peasant woman, Jeanne, who is illiterate, has three cows to her name, and has never left the village. Their differences are staggering yet they forge a friendship that transforms one another's life.

Memoirs are one of my favorite genres, but it's been a while since I've read one that I loved.  It seems like most of the memoirs out are about what a terrible childhood the author had, and how that affected the rest of their life.  A Gift from Brittany is about as far from this kind of memoir as you can get, and it reminded me of why I fell in love with memoirs in the first place.

Price's writing is beautiful and descriptive.  I could easily picture the French countryside, her paintings, and the house she so lovingly restored.  I enjoyed the contrast between her busy life in Paris, and the tranquility of the countryside.  The villagers may have moved at a slow pace, but their lives were full of friends, family and hard work. 

I really felt a connection to Marjorie.  When her relationship with Yves was on rocky ground, I wanted to step in and make things better for her.  Through out the rough times, Marjorie was able to lean on her friend, Jeanne.  Even though Marjorie and Jeanne were so different, their friendship was a testament to the bonds that women form with each other. 4 stars

About the Author:

Marjorie Price was born in Chicago, Illinois. After receiving a B.A. in Speech and Drama (1951) from Stanford University, she returned to Chicago and studied painting and design at the Chicago Art Institute. In 1953 she made her first trip to Europe. She remained there for six months, attending art classes at the Grande Chaumiére in Paris. On her return to the United States, she settled in San Francisco and studied painting at the San Francisco Art League. From 1953 to 1960, she worked in television, continued to paint, and indulged her love of theater by acting in regional theater. In 1960, she again left America for France, living first in Paris and then on a farm in Brittany which she restored and where she created an art center called the “Centre d’Art de la Salle” where painters, sculptors and ceramists came from various parts of France to exhibit their work. In 1970, she moved to Rome, Italy with her daughter Danielle. In 1978, after eighteen years in Europe, she returned to the United States and settled in New York. Her work is represented in numerous private and public collections in the United States and Europe. Marjorie Price lives and works as a painter and author in New York City.

If you check out her website you can also see some of her paintings, which are beautiful.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review: Kisser by Stuart Woods

Book Info:
Kisser by Stuart Woods
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Putnam Adult (January 19, 2010)
ISBN-13: 9780399156113
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Source: My Shelves
Rating: 2.5/5

Stone Barrington is back in New York, and after a rather harrowing sojourn in Key West, he's looking to stay closer to home and work on some simple divorce and custody cases for Woodman & Weld. But when he crosses paths with a fetching Broadway actress-and sometime lip model- Stone gets a little more deeply involved with business than he'd expected. When his new lady love turns out to be a lady with a shady past, Stone and downtown cop Dino Bacchetti realize that her beauty may have an unusually high price. . . .

I've been reading this series for years.  And like James Patterson, in my opinion, it has gone down hill in terms of quality.  On the other hand, it's a very fast read and I know the characters well.  When I'm in a reading slump, like now (due to lack of sleep and a short attention span), a quick book will help me get out of my slump.

Kisser is pretty much just like all of the Stone Barrington series lately.  Stone gets a case involving a beautiful woman, they end up in bed, he solves the case and something happens at the end of the story to lead you into the next book.  Overall, pretty unimpressive, but I didn't read it to be impressed.  I read it because I knew exactly what I was getting. 

If you've read the series before and are attached to the characters, grab a copy from the library.  If this is a new series to you, start at the beginning, as I remember them being much better.  2.5 stars

Friday, March 5, 2010

Review: Life Sentences by Laura Lippman

Book Info:
Life Sentences by Laura Lippman
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (March 10, 2009)
ISBN: 0061128899
Genre: Mystery/Thriller, Contemporary Fiction
Source: TLC Tours
Rating: 3/5 stars

Author Cassandra Fallows has achieved remarkable success by baring her life on the page. Her two widely popular memoirs continue to sell briskly, acclaimed for their brutal, unexpurgated candor about friends, family, lovers— -- and herself. But now, after a singularly unsuccessful stab at fiction, Cassandra believes she may have found the story that will enable her triumphant return to nonfiction.

Laura Lippman is an author that I have been meaning to read for quite some time. I've got a few books from her Tess Monaghan series and have heard great things about What the Dead Know. When the opportunity came up to review Life Sentences I jumped at the chance.

I had a hard time keeping the characters straight in the beginning, but I blame this more on being a sleep deprived new mom than on Lippman's writing. My favorite aspect of the book was the the focus on how different people will perceive the same situation.

Callie was a bit of an enigma. She was the character everyone was trying to understand, and yet even by the end of the book she was still a mystery to me. Her actions were explained, but I was expecting something else, something bigger.

I think was expecting a bit more mystery in the book. Lippman seemed to be going for some suspense, without actually turning the book into a 'whodunit' type book. There was a big buildup near the end of the book, but I didn't find that the ending supported all the hype.

I didn't fall in love with Life Sentences, but will still be checking out Lippman's other books, especially What The Dead Know. 3 stars

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Review: Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander

Book Info:
Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (September 1, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9780312383701
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery
Source: For Review from LibraryThing

Looking forward to the joys of connubial bliss, newlyweds Lady Emily and Colin Hargreaves set out toward Turkey for an exotic honeymoon. But on their first night in the city, a harem girl is found murdered -- strangled in the courtyard of the Sultan’s lavish Topkapi Palace. Sir Richard St. Clare, an Englishman who works at the embassy in Constantinople, is present and recognizes the girl as his own daughter who was kidnapped twenty years earlier.

Tears of Pearl is the fourth book in the Lady Emily series. Usually I don't start series in the middle, but this one came for review from LT, and while it looked interesting I didn't feel compelled to read all the books. Tears of Pearl is a historical mystery with a cozy feel. I prefer my mysteries a little more hard core, so I'm glad I didn't start the series at the beginning.

Lady Emily is an amateur sleuth. She is independent and determined, but beyond that, I can't actually say much about her. Maybe if I'd read the series from the beginning I'd know more about her, but even starting the series in the middle I still expect to know a little more about the main character once I've finished a book.

The biggest failing for me in the this book though was that it didn't have the feeling I was looking for. When I read historical fiction I want to be transported to a time and place that I cannot visit, and I never got that feeling with Tears of Pearl. There wasn't anything specific that made this book feel modern, but I had to keep reminding myself that it was set in the 1800's. Maybe it was the fact that the women in the harem were so outspoken that threw off the feeling of the book.

I think this series might be a little better suited to readers who enjoy cozies and historical fiction. It was a decent book, but this is one series I won't be continuing with. 3 stars

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Claire update

Thank you all so much for your well wishes and congratulations on Claire. She is a wonderful baby, very happy and truly a joy to be around.

Claire ended up spending 12 days in the NICU and has already undergone one surgery on the outside of her heart. She did wonderfully and was home just 3 days after this surgery. Her next heart surgery will probably be in 1-2 months.

I have loved being at home with Claire and am not looking forward having to go back to work in a few weeks. Thankfully, I am only returning to work 3 days a week, so I will still be able to spend lots of time with my girl.

Thank you all for sticking with me and my blog though all of my down time. I finally have a little time for reading and hope reviews will be posted regularly soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Book Info:
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (February 2, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0312364120
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: For Review
Rating: 4/5

Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, these two estranged women will find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters.

On his deathbed, their father extracts one last promise from the women in his life. It begins with a story that is unlike anything the sisters have heard before -- a captivating, mysterious love story that spans sixty-five years and moves from frozen, war torn Leningrad to modern-day Alaska. The vividly imagined tale brings these three women together in a way that none could have expected. Meredith and Nina will finally learn the secret of their mother's past and uncover a truth so terrible it will shake the foundation of their family and change who they think they are.

While I loved Kristin Hannah's Firefly Lane (review), True Colors (review) fell a little short for me. Winter Garden was much more to my liking, even though I found it a little slow at first. I didn't find myself warming to the characters until I was about halfway through the book and well into the fairy tale. By then I was hooked though, and couldn't put the book down.

The two sisters in the story were an interesting study in contrasts. While they both grew up in the same environment, they dealt with their mother's ambivalence toward them in very different ways. I think it is very interesting how people deal with the same situations so very differently.

Winter Garden deals with a time in history that I find fascinating and I think that is one of the reasons I was so drawn into the story. Hannah's vivid writing really brought the story to life, and while elements of the fairy tale story may be familiar, she still made it feel fresh. 4 stars

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's a Girl!

Claire Audrey arrived by C-Section at 10:24 am on Weds Jan 13. She weighed 5 lbs 4 oz and was 17 3/4 inches long. She was about 3 weeks early and is still in the NICU. She is doing very, very well. She is currently in an ioslette as she has jaundice. In addition to the heart defect that we knew about, there is a second condition that the Drs are watching. There is a vessel in the heart that usually closes within a couple of days of birth. Claire's vessel is still open, so they started her on meds last night to hopefully close this without surgery. They will do another echo on her heart on Friday and hopefully the meds will have worked their magic. If not, there is a possibility that she may have to have surgery to close this.

As you know, there was a suspicion before birth that Claire might have Down syndrome. This was confirmed by a genetic screening. What this extra chromosome means to us is that there is more of her to love! She is already an absolute joy and we can't wait to get her home.

I will be moving any parenting/Down syndrome content to my personal blog. There may be some books that deal with Ds reviewed here, but my focus on this blog won't change much. I haven't had any time to read lately but hopefully will be back in the groove soon.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Unfinished: The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

by Diane Ackerman
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 2008)
ISBN-13: 9780393333060
Genre: Non-fiction
Source: My Shelves
Rating: 0/5

When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw—and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants—otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes.

When I read (or listen to) a book about WWII or the Holocaust the one thing I expect in the book is emotion. How can you tell a story about such a devastating time and not have the emotions come through loud and clear? I didn't think it was possible until I started reading The Zookeeper's Wife.

I made it about 100 pages into the book and the story was terribly dry. I know that a story needs to be set up and explained, but those 100 pages were pretty much background info. I was a third of the way through the book and these still wasn't any mention of helping to smuggle Jews out of the country.

Since I left this one unfinished, that means my WWII Challenge was left one book short of completion. If any of you have read this one, does it get better? 0 stars

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Bottom Line, #6

The Bottom Line is a feature to designed to give quick and dirty reviews of books I've read, but I either don't have the time or the inspiration to write full reviews on them.

Book Info:
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (October 13, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9781416989417
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Friend's copy
Rating: 3.5/5

I've been reading a lot more YA lately and Hush, Hush was another hit with me. This one included a bad boy character that I couldn't help but be attracted to, a heroine that did some amazingly stupid things sometimes, and an ending that was apparently changed from the ARC to the final copy. Hush, Hush was entertaining, but didn't contain anything too deep.

Book Info:
Lost Girls by George D. Shuman
Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Pocket Star (June 30, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9781416553045
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Source: My Shelves
Rating: 3.5/5

Lost Girls is the third book featuring blind psychic Sherry Moore. Moore can 'see' the last 18 seconds of a victims thoughts before the die. The first book in the series hooked me, the second was ok at best, but I enjoyed this installment. Lost Girls also included a storyline on human trafficking and I found it very interesting.

Book Info:
Wicked Prey by John Sandford
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Putnam Adult (May 12, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9780399155673
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Source: My Shelves
Rating: 3.5/5

I think this series is my favorite one, and I follow a lot of them. It's one series that still holds my attention, had believable plots, and Sandford isn't turning out 3 books a year. This one wasn't my favorite as the Republican Convention was the backdrop and I don't really enjoy politics, but it was still another solid installment.