Monday, July 30, 2012

People Who Eat the Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil that Swallowed Her Up by Richard Lloyd Parry

Book: People Who Eat the Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil that Swallowed Her Up

Author: Richard Lloyd Parry

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: In the summer of 2000, a pretty 21 year old blond British woman living and working in Japan's "social clubs" disappears. What is behind her disappearance? Why does it take Tony Blair to get involved to "motivate" Japaneese law officials to take the disappearance seriously? Does Japan have a serial killer running its' streets targeting its' sex workers that Japan has chosen to turn a blind eye to?

My rating: 4 Stars

My opinion: This book proves that life is stranger than fiction. Well documented and obviously researched, Mr. Perry gives and indepth description, but as to "the seedier" side of life in Japan's sex industry. Definitely informative...I know I had many a moment where I was reading with my mouth open at the information being given. 

Probably one of the most intense true crime books I have read in almost a decade. This book started immediately and didn't stop shocking until the final page from multiple perspectives INCLUDING THE VICTIM'S FAMILY!

Source: Library

Would I recommend? : Yes

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

Never Tell (Ellie Hatcher Book 4) by Alafair Burke

Book: Never Tell (Ellie Hatcher Book 4)

Author: Alafair Burke

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: 16 year old "rich", wild child Julia Whitmire has everything to live for, so why is she found in a bathtub with her wrist slashed in an apparent suicide? Was she hiding a secret life from her parents or was there something and someone much more sinister in her life?

Ellie Hatcher must get to the bottom of Julia's death which includes interviewing a group of "precocious" teens such as Julia. Are one of them involved in her death or does it have to do with sexual abuse blog that Julia frequently visits?

My rating: 4 stars

My opinion: Each Alafair Burke book I read, I like this author a little bit more. Ms. Burke, as usual, has done a wonderful job at keeping readers guessing as to cause of fate for the young woman. Finally, she is wonderful at weaving twists in her books which seems to be a standard comment in other reviews written for her books. This book was no different.  This was a book that I, literally, had to go back and reread the ending a couple of times because I truly didn't see the end coming. I love it when a book can do that because it is rare.

In my opinion, lovers of authors such as Tess Gerritsen, Louise Penney and, somewhat, Chevy Stevens will enjoy the works of Alafair Burke.

Now, I have to be honest with the reader of this review. I accidentally read this book out of order not realizing that it was part of a series. Although, I would encourage readers to read series in order simply because of extensive character development of the main protagonist and it was evident in this series, I don't feel that I missed too much. That will not stop me from going back and starting the series though!

Source: Library

Would I recommend? : Oh yeah!!

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Part of Series

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Hounding by Sandra de Helen

Book: The Hounding

Author: Sandra de Helen

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: A play on Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 19 year old Goldenhawk Vandeleur hires the crime solving duo of Shirley Combs and Mary Watson to solve her mother, Priscilla Vandeleur's murder. Was it truly a pair of vicious pit bulls who devoured Priscilla as her dreams had been haunting her or something much more sinister?

My rating: 3.5 Stars

My opinion: A comfortable lil' cozy, I felt that The Hounding was a really well written Indie book. Keep in mind that it is a cozy mystery, but it doesn't beat the reader over the head with the traditional definition of the "silly" cozy mystery!  The book offered an excellent storyline, awesome twists and turns and wonderfully developed characters. Being a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I love to read "plays" on his character and Ms. de Helen did a wonderful job!

What made me smile most about this book is the underlying play and obvious research that Ms. de Helen did in comparing The Hounding to Doyle's "The Hound of the Baskervilles". For example, the murder victim, Priscilla Vandeleur, is a direct descendant of Sir Charles Baskerville. She has the same phobias regarding dogs as in "The Hound of the Baskervilles". It was a hoot to read!

Source: Author

Would I recommend? : was a really cute read!

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone...could be the start of a series

Wooing the Schoolmarm by Dorothy Clark

Book: Wooing the Schoolmarm

Author: Dorothy Clark

Release date (if applicable): July 3, 2012

Synopsis: Set in the early 1800's, Willa Clark, who has been abandoned by both her father and her fiance and has had enough of men to last her a lifetime. In place, she teaches the children of her town, including those of the new Pastor in town, Matthew Calvert. One problem, the children are actually the Pastor's niece and nephew he took in after their parents perish in a freak storm and THE PASTOR IS UNMARRIED...and very interested in the Spinster Clark! Will Willa be able to open her heart to accept the love of Pastor Calvert or will she remain a spinster due to her stubborn, closed hearted-ness?

My rating: 3.5 Stars

My opinion: Alright...I have to admit..the book was cheesy and predictable, but had such an innocence that IT WORKED FOR ME!! There was just something so heartwarming about this book that I couldn't put it down...even though I knew what the ending was going to be and there were no twists in surprises. I absolutely fell in love with the Pastor Calvert and the Spinster Clark!!

Readers who love author Jeanette Oke...will love this book! I honestly thought I was reading a JO book and she is on the list of my favorite religious fiction authors.

Source: Netgalley for Harlequin
Would I recommend? : You bet...for readers of all kinds of genres!

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Only One Life by Sara Blaedel

Author: Sara Blaedel

Release date (if applicable): July 3, 2012

Synopsis: When the body of a young Muslim teen is found in submerged with concrete in the waters of a lake, it must be determined if her killing was an honor killing. Louise Rick comes in to investigate the killing. Was it a true honor killing or do the police have it all wrong? When a second killing occurs, they must re investigate everything they thought correct.

My rating: 4 Stars

My opinion:  I had originally reviewed two works by this author that I was less than thrilled with. I thought the storyline was way too bland and used the romance dance to "prop" up the story. There was something underneath all that writing though that hinted that this was an author who was just getting started and better things would be coming.

She proved me right in Only One Life. This book started off as heartbreaking yet downright creepy from page one. The author was able to weave twists and turns into this book, in which, I thought I had it guessed and was totally thrown off balance.

So why the 4 stars instead of 5? There are still moments where this author resorts to use of the romance dance that feels oddly placed or doesn't add to the storyline. Although, this has decreased dramatically, I still have the feeling that it is done to fill space or done by more of a novice author which Sarah Blaedel clearly isn't.

Source: Netgalley for Open Road

Would I recommend? : Absolutely

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Book 3 of a Series

The Lynching of Louie Sam by Elizabeth Stewart

I apologize for the poor quality picture. Goodreads Jpeg wouldn't attach to this blog for some reason!

Book: The Lynching of Louie Sam

Author: Elizabeth Stewart

Release date (if applicable): July 24, 2012

Synopsis: Louie Sam, a 13 year old tribal member of the Sto:lo tribe (Canada) is accused of murder in a Washington territory town. A mob goes to collect him to bring him to trial. Problem is...he never makes it back to the town. George Gilles, a 15 year old and his friend, Pete, who follow the mob stare in horror as Louie Sam is hung to a cheering crowd. This event could trigger a war between the villagers and the tribe. Did Louie Sam commit the murder or is there something MUCH more sinister going on in that small town?

My rating: 5 Stars and it was well earned!

My opinion: What a dynamic book this was. The story was engrossing and fascinating on many fronts. First, the author sucked me in with the historical perspective of the story. I had never heard of this incredibly sad story of the murder of a 13 year old boy due to mob action and that is where the sadness simply begins. Ms. Stewart slowly, methodically and masterfully unwrapped the storyline to show something much more sinister that was going on in this small town being careful to keep the gut wrenching and spine tingling emotion present.

To boot, Ms. Stewart follows the story with the historical facts behind her book which were as fascinating as her story. Normally, I would skip sections like this but found myself as enthralled with that part of the book as I was the main story.

At 180 some odd pages, this JUVENILE piece of literature showed its' intelligence that quality books targeted towards our youth do not need to have vampires, wolves or popular "mean girls" to be engrossing!

On a side note, there is the instance of the usage of one expletive that personally I found offensive particularly in a book targeted towards young adults. I took the time to check this out with a middle school librarian, a children's librarian and a library director. All assured me that due to the context in which the word was used that it was appropriate.

Source: Netgalley for Annick Press

Would I recommend? : Most definitely, I enjoyed it coming from a 40+ year old perspective. It is among one of the best young adult books I have read in a very long time.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Survivor by Gregg Hurwitz

Book: The Survivor

Author: Gregg Hurwitz

Release date (if applicable): 08/21/12

Synopsis: Nate Overbay, who suffers from PTSD from a failed Iraq war mission where he was the only survivor and ALS,  can't even commit suicide without having to stop his plans to break up a bank robbery in progress. To boot, his once loved family, including his 15 year old daughter are less than thrilled with him and have moved on with their lives. Things go downhill from there when the Russian mafia, who were robbing the bank, decide to have him finish their job and threaten the life of his daughter if he doesn't.

My rating: 4 Stars

My opinion: This is my 5th or 6th Gregg Hurwitz book. Although, I find his books to be kind of formulaic, at this time, his writing really works for me. I find his books are like old bathrobes. You know what to expect, but it is still worth shimmying into. The Survivor was no different. Predictable, yes, but well worth the read. I have to be honest in saying that I found this to be a "guy's guy" kind of book.

To sum it up...great writing, engrossing storyline, likable main character

If I had a complaint about the book, I would have wished the Gregg Hurwitz would have made the daughter's character a bit less annoying! There were moments I wanted to crawl through the pages and strangle her!

Source: Netgalley for St. Martin's Press

Would I recommend? : I regularly recommend this author's works and this book is no different.

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand alone

Some Kind of Fairytale by Graham Joyce

Book:  Some Kind of Fairytale

Author: Graham Joyce

Release date (if applicable): July 10, 2012

Synopsis: Tara  Martin disappeared in the woods almost 20 years ago. Her boyfriend, Richie, has been the prime suspect in killing her in the woods. One Christmas morning she suddenly appears on her parents door step with a wild story about where she has been.  Was Tara kidnapped by fairies, has she spun a fairy tale of her own to explain her disappearance 20 years ago or is it even Tara? It is up to Dr. Underwood and her brother, Peter, to get down to the bottom of the story. When physical evidence shows some really unusual findings, it leaves everyone scratching their heads.   

My rating: 4 Stars

My opinion: When I first read this book, I had compared it to Jennifer McMahon's book "Don't Breathe a Word ". Then it took off in a different direction!

A very unusual read from this author was almost poetic in his presentation. I loved this book because it presented as almost a psychological study on many levels. Yet, the author managed to weave the mystery into the storyline which kept readers guessing as to the identity of Tara.

Peter's dysfunctional children give the story a little bit of an extra treat. I found myself chuckling at many of the children's, particularly the son's, antics.

On a side note: I had originally recieved this book as an ebook from the publisher. In my opinion, this book did not convert well to ebook. I ended up waiting for the book to be released to hardback prior to reviewing.

Source: Netgalley for Doubleday

Would I recommend? : Yeah, Boy!!

A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller

Book: A Killing in the Hills

Author: Julia Keller

Release date (if applicable): August, 2012

Synopsis: Bell Elkins, prosecuting attorney, investigates the murder of 3 elderly gentleman in Ackers Gap, West Virginia. Little does she know that her daughter, who isn't as innocent as she portrays and witnessed the crime, knew the killer from a party that she shouldn't have been at? Why were these gentleman targeted? Who is behind the killings? Is there something deeper than is surface level? What are the secrets of Ackers Gap, WV and will the little town survive the shocking conclusion?

My rating: 4 Stars

My opinion: I loved this novel from Julia Keller. It was very clear from her descriptions that she had an excellent grasp of small town living. Living in a town of 400, I loved when authors paint a picture of small town life and she was definitely detailed in her descriptions of Ackers Gap.  Second, the book unraveled like a slowly and methodically, leaving me as the reader begging for more, with a knock down twist at the end that I didn't see coming. Normally I can determine "the bad guy" at the end of the book...not with this one nor why!

So, why 4 stars? I honestly felt that, particularly as a journalist/professional writer, the author could have written the story a bit tighter than it was. It seemed like there were alot of moments of somewhat "babbling" that didn't add to the storyline.

Source: Netgalley for St. Martin's Press

Would I recommend? : Definitely!

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone (although, it does seem like it could be start of a series)

A Lovely, Indecent Departure: A Novel by Steven Lee Gilbert

Book: A Lovely Indecent Departure: A Novel

Author: Steven Lee Gilbert

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: After being given custody of his 5 year old son, Oliver, Evan Meade must track him down when his ex-wife and Oliver's mother abducts him and disappears. She is being hidden in Italy by family. Can Evan find his son? Is all that appears on the surface true or is it what appears under the surface the true reality? Does Evan have ulterior motives for locating his son?

My rating: 4.5 Stars

My opinion: What gripping emotion this book held and that everything on the surface isn't quite what it appears. This author utilized words and his storyline masterfully to keep me, as a reader, engaged.

I loved that the book wasn't written in such a way that the abductor (Anna Meade) wasn't an "awful" person and that Evan Meade or his new wife weren't quite the stellar individuals that one would see in most books, which comes off as black/white.

Now, on a side note, I must say that I took the storyline a bit different and felt that the antagonist/protagonist roles a bit differently than a number of other reviewers. In the beginning, I truly felt that it was Evan as the protagonist and Anna as the antagonist (she did kidnap her son after all). What was truly rockin' about this book, is that the author was able to turn that around (in my head) and elicit sympathy for Anna, who then became the protagonist with Evan as the antagonist. What was masterful is that, in my humble opinion, he was able to do this with the slightest of moves and underneath the surface. Although in the book's description, it describes Evan as mean-spirited, as one reads the book, it came across to me as "eh, it is just your typical  he said, she said divorce situation". However, as one continues to read it suddenly becomes apparent that that is probably not the case.

The quality in this book is a perfect example of Indie authors being able to hold their own in regards to larger publishing house authors and that those readers who dismiss Indie authors are truly missing out.  The thing to boot, is that this is a debut author. Imagine what is to come from this author!!

So, why not a full five stars. I felt that there was SOME redundancy or "information" thrown into the book, particularly related to the private investigator and sheriff. I thought scenes could have been either tighter writer or omitted all together.

Source: Author

Would I recommend? : Yes

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Place in the Country by Elizabeth Adler

Book: A Place in the Country

Author: Elizabeth Adler

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Caroline Evans, a newly singled mother due to her divorce from her philandering husband, struggles with resentments by her daughter, Issy, who blames her mother for the divorce, and from just trying to make ends meet. Her hearts desire is to open a new restaurant she can call her own. Will she and her daughter come to terms, especially with decisions that Issy makes? Will Caroline ever be able to open her heart and find new love? Will she have a restaurant of her own?

My rating: 2 Stars. See the reasoning for my generous review below.

My opinion: I have to be really honest in saying this is the same old safe storylines recycled over and over again, not only in women's lit, but also by the big house publishers, and why I tend to seek out indie authors frequently.  A nice safe cookie cutter read which wraps up with a pretty red ribbon. It drives me crazy. I must state that I have a hard time with it coming from St. Martin's Press because this isn't a publisher where I normally see this (maybe I miss those books) and why I sought out to review this book where I have passed on other publishers who fall into the Women's Lit genre. For the most part, the books I get from this publisher are rockin' 4 and 5 star reads.  In fact, I tend to zero in on this publisher's offerings.

The storyline husband cheats on doting wife. She leaves and struggles, including resentful children. Then, a dashing man comes into the picture. Throw in a shocking couple of melodramatic moments and *BAM* you have A Place in the Country. Based on the book's description, I expected there to be more but it simply fell flat for me.

So, why 2 stars instead of one. In general, the writing on this book was excellent. I did enjoy the characters to some point...just not the storyline!

Source: St. Martin's Press (Netgalley)

Would I recommend? : For the audience (and there is an audience) who enjoys this type of book, yes...otherwise, no

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hell or High Water by Joy Castro

Book: Hell or High Water

Author: Joy Castro

Release date (if applicable): July 17, 2012

Synopsis: Hispanic news reporter, Nola Cesapades, is investigating sex offenders in New Orleans when a pretty co-ed working as an au pair is kidnapped from a restaurant. What does this kidnapping have to do with Nola's story and where does her past come into play with the whole situation?

My rating: 2 Stars and I was pretty generous

My opinion: I felt like I was reading one of those 1970's tv crime dramas. You know the ones that are overly acted and filled with cliches! This book was so melodramatic in its' presentation there were times that I was laughing at serious scenes in the book. The book, to boot, really didn't follow any format and it felt as though it skipped around that it was pretty discombobulated in how it read. I must admit that if I wasn't reviewing it for Netgalley, it would have gone into the couldn't finish pile. There was a moment in the book that I felt it became pretty predictable and easy to predict the ending.

Source: Netgalley for St. Martin's Press

Would I recommend? : No

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot by Guy Magar

Book: Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot

Author: Guy Magar

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Guy's memoir about his career in film and television in such shows as The A Team and his work with Hollywood notables such as James Cameron and Matt LeBlanc. Can't forget about his almost 30 year love affair with his wife.

My rating: 4 Stars

My opinion: OK, I have to be honest in this review. I am not a fan of Hollywood. I have over 200 movies on my Netflix queue. There are days I wonder why I keep my membership.  Plus, I have only 6% left on my DVR because I never watch tv. When this author approached me to review this book, I almost turned him down. I am very happy I didn't though.

Yes, there is alot of interesting anecdotes regarding the author's work as a film director in Hollywood.  The author has a sarcastic sense of humor, particularly focused on some of the stars he has worked with, but also about life in general,  which I loved so that really sucked me into the book.

However, I think there was alot of other information that I pulled out for other life lessons though, which I focused on in the book. The author gave excellent advice for early careerists about selling oneself and not expecting opportunities to be given out. As someone who is very career minded, I was drawn to those stories.

I also loved the stories related to the meeting and simple life stories with his wife. In a book that was pretty funny, those went a bit deeper and heartwarming because one could feel the love ooze from the words of the author.

There is a Goodreads reviewer who I think nailed Guy as a great storyteller that one can't wait to hear with bated breath as to what entertaining story he has to say next.

Source: Author

Would I recommend? : Yes

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

Bookended by Beauty Queens by Victoria Marshal

Book: Bookended by Beauty Queens

Author: Victoria Marshal

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Angie Palmer has always lived under the shadow of her two beautiful sisters. When her grandmother's apartment suffers from a fire, Angie's sisters nominate the very introverted Angie to take grandma in. With Grandma comes friend Val, a transvestite and drag queen with desires to become Ms. Gay Beauty Pageant, who has been disowned by his religious family members. Despite Angie's introverted ways, Val works her way into Angie's heart and the two develop a deep bond. Tragedy strikes and Angie must find a way to speak up for Val while she can't speak for herself.

My rating: 2 Stars and I was being pretty generous.

My opinion: This book started off incredibly strong. There were a couple of laugh out loud scenes that really started the book off strong. Unfortunately, about 75 pages in, it became "drama central" with one melodramatic scene after another which seemed to be more of a prop up versus quality writing. Finally, the author came off with that typical religious judgemental ism..some of it to a real extreme that not only was it unbelievable, but it really came off with someone as an agenda. Therefore, it became a real turn off. It is one thing to to have the conflict in religious beliefs vs. gay rights

The thing that really bothered me about this book, though, is that although this author wrote that Val, as a transvestite, with the opening scene where Val and Angie meet that Val was walking around the apartment in "her" bra and slip, the author consistently referred to Val as "he". Even that Angie referred to Val as being a "him". The author even went on to write that Val stated that she always considered herself to be female. It drove me nuts. In my mind, I had to change it to "her/she" throughout the book. I contacted the author through email to ask why this was. Was there something that I was missing in reading the book and there was no follow-up to my email. Therefore, I can only assume that it was intentional.

I contacted a Goodreads friend who reads and is involved in alot of GLBT literature and she confirmed what my concerns were with the book. Therefore, I can't write as to why the author chose this manner of writing...was it sloppiness or ignorance regarding the portrayal of transvestites in society and literature?

Source: Author

Would I recommend? : No

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Woman at the Light: A Novel by Joanna Brady

Book: The Woman at the Light: A Novel

Author: Joanna Brady

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Emily Lowry lives off Key West on a "lighthouse" island where she has acted as the lighthouse keeper since her husband disappeared. Enter a "runaway" slave who fits into the family perfectly and helps the family maintain their existence on the island. As to be expected, Andrew becomes a forbidden yet passionate love partner for Emily. Only in pre-Civil War, slavery accepting South...there are those against Emily and Andrew at every turn to her face and behind the scenes.

My rating: 5 Stars

My opinion: Oh my goodness, there are so many adjectives to describe this book...beautiful, engrossing, seductive, mysterious, haunting, educational...I could go on and on. This is a book finished 5 days out that I can recall word for word certain sections of the book because they were either so beautiful, gut wrenching or had me on my seat!

To the reader of this review, I am already at almost 400 books for 2012, so normally I read a book and move on. It is impossible with this book. The characters were so deeply written that one could not help but become attached to them and to feel everything they felt. To boot, it was a mystery when I didn't even know that it was going to be a mystery! I think I walked out of that part with being reminded of the old saying that things aren't always as they appear.

At the heart of it though was an incredibly well written book that sucked me in immediately and didn't let me go until the final page. I stayed up late to read this life story of an incredibly strong early 1800's woman who wasn't afraid to love who she wanted to love and call what was wrong...wrong!

This is definitely a book I could see being made into a movie, but then again, I would be concerned with Hollywood destroying such a beautiful piece of literature!

Source:Publisher through Netgalley

Would I recommend? : Just recommended it for Book of the Month for my Goodreads group, Sisterhood of the Traveling Book

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

Monday, July 9, 2012

Funnel Vision by Chris Kridler

Book: Funnel Vision

Author: Chris Kridler

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Judy, a storm photographer, and Jack, a womanizing storm chaser, may get off chasing massive tornadoes, but each has their own agenda in doing so. When sparks fly for each other, can each put those agendas aside and let their own storms bring them together.

My rating: 4 Stars

My opinion: OK, let me say that I am not a romance all! However, this book is what I love about indie authors. This book was unique in that it was inside the heads of storm chasers (something I put up their with sky diving-fascinating, but why would I put myself in the path of a storm). So, I found the supporting scenes fascinating and it really kept my interest going in the book. I must admit that the romance I could have taken or left, but the author wrote it in such a fashion, that it didn't beat the reader over the head.

Another bonus is that the book is incredibly well written, started right out of the gate and had generally likable characters. As I mentioned previously, I loved the scenes where the author described the storms. It was evident that she herself is a storm chaser.  

In my opinion, I would like to have seen more storm chasin' stuff. I thought it was a tad heavy, not horribly heavy, but a tad heavy, on the romance. I think if the author could pull that off, this would be a series that even guys or romance grimacers such as myself would fall for.

Source: Author

Would I recommend? : Yes

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: To be part of a series

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

Book: On the Island

Author: Tracey Garvis Graves

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: During an airplane ride to a dream job tutoring  16 year old cancer survivor, T.J. Callahan, in the Maldives, teacher Anna Emerson and TJ are forced into survival mode when the pilot of the small plane suffers a fatal heart attack and the end up on a remote island. Will they survive and make it off this desolate island? Will they maintain their teacher/student relationship or will the isolation lead to new passions, possibly forbidden passions?

My rating: 4 stars

My opinion: Who says Twitter marketing doesn't work??? I came across this book originally by a tweet. I threw it into my Amazon cart to be purchased the next day and went in to find it gone!! Lo and behold, three days later I saw it pop up on Netgalley with Penguin being the publisher!

I can see why it received the tweets it did. The author wrote this book in a very tasteful manner. When I read some of the "background" to the book, I thought I was going to have a harder time with it, but no way, the book is well and classy written with topics which could be taboo, not being that way AT ALL!!  I must say that for not being a chicklit or women lit liker, I did enjoy this book.

So why not 5 stars you ask?? There are moments of the book that come off too much like "drama central" mainly at the end of the book. It seemed like the author was so careful about not having that happen in the beginning of the book that I was shocked when it popped up towards the end. It was almost as she was quickly trying to end the book. This also led to the book being wrapped up too much with a pretty red ribbon bow, which drives me nuts about chick/womens lit.

Source: Netgalley for publisher

Would I recommend? : Yes

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand alone

The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes

Book: The World of Downton Abbey

Author: Jessica Fellowes

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Fellowes' takes a "behind the scenes" look at not only what it takes to make the PBS hit series "Downton Abbey" but the history which influences the storyline.

My rating: Notin' but 5 Stars!!

My opinion: Like the series, talent must be at the core of the Fellowes name because this book was way beyond my expectations. It was so obvious that this book was well researched and much was put into its' production.

Like her father, Jessica Fellowes gives an in depth understanding as to the who, what, why and where of Downton Abbey. She studies not only the production of the show, but the history, complete with authentic posters and such from the early 1900's.

She also takes a deep look at the functioning of the aristocratic homes from the same period of time. Included in this was some backgrounds on some of the "top" butlers who served in some of the greatest homes during that era. Most heartbreaking was looking at the schedule of those that filled the "Daisy" roles. Personally, not being a fan of the concept of aristocracy, it was tough reading about the daily schedules and education of these individuals and recognizing that no longer will I be able to simply watch the scenes of Daisy and know that someone, in reality, who filled that position would be done with an accurate portrayal.

Finally, one of my favorite parts, was interviews or blurbs by the actors/actresses to give fanatics, such as myself, a deeper understanding into their roles and how history has fed into those portrayals. 

Source: Library

Would I recommend? : Most definitely for Downton Abbey enthusiasts. I think it will help the withdrawal symptoms currently occurring!

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Five Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger

Book: The Five Elements of Effective Thinking

Author: Edward B. Burger

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: The author gives interesting advice for improving thinking skills. Among these include strive to understand things deeply; succeeding through failure; ask yourself questions; identify new ideas through the understanding of old ideas and, finally, using these 4 concepts to change your own thinking and transform yourself.

My rating: 4 Stars

My opinion: Although I found this book interesting, I did feel like it has been written multiple times before. I was taught these concepts in graduate school for my classes on leadership, so it truly was nothing new to me. However, it might be for the general public.

In reality, these books are a dime a dozen. I do think that they author, with his math background, brought in an interesting approach, but it is still the same concepts.

Source: Netgalley

Would I recommend? :  Yes

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand alone

The Proposal by Mary Balogh

Book: The Proposal

Author: Mary Balogh

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Widow Lady Gwendolyn Muir lost her husband in a freakish accident has no desire to marry again. War hero, Lord Hugo Trentham never wants to marry and is content working his land. Duty is calling though and it is saying that he must marry. When the two accidentally collide, sparks fly and a plan is schemed up. Unfortunately, Lord Hugo is falling hard for the Lady Gwen. Will she reciprocate?  

My rating: 3 Stars

My opinion: To me, this was your typical romance. Mary Balogh is always a pretty safe read with me. Something that I can read quickly, doesn't require much thought, but I walk out at least somewhat enjoying. The Proposal fit that bill perfectly.

Everything about this book was "safe" and cookie cutter. It fit the standard lines of a romance down to the "T".

Source: Library

Would I recommend? : Yes

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: To be part of a series

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Vanished in the Dunes by Allan Retzky

Book: Vanished in the Dunes

Author: Allan Retzky

Release date (if applicable): July 3, 2012

Synopsis: Amos Posner just doesn't have alot of luck in his life. He is fired from his job, his commuter marriage is a wreck and he is pretty much alone in life. Could his luck be changing when a seductive, physician resident asks him to show her around the island and possibly more? Not when he returns to his home after leaving her there while he ran an errand and she is dead. From there it just goes downhill for poor Amos!

My rating: 3 Stars

My opinion: I loved the premise of this book. Actually this book reminded me of the adages "Don't ask what more can go wrong" and "Sometimes you are your own worst enemy". This easily could have been a 4 star read for me.

So why isn't it then. The author chose a 3rd person narrative for the book which really threw the storyline off. Unfortunately, because it was written that way, I had multiple times where I would read and I would literally zone out. It took me forever to get this book read as a result of this.

Also, the book came off as though it had alot of repetativeness of the word "HE" which became pretty annoying after a bit.

Source: Netgalley for Publisher

Would I recommend? : It is really iffy! I think it would take alot.

Stand Alone or Part of a Series:

The Line Between Here and Gone (Forensic Instincts #2) by Andrea Kane

Book: The Line Between Here and Gone

Author: Andrea Kane

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Amanda Gleason's boyfriend, Paul, and father to her critically ill son, Justi,n was murdered before he had a chance to get to know or save his son. Was he truly murdered though?? Forensic Instincts is on the case when one of Amanda's friends captures a photo of Paul in Washington DC. If this is the case, what would make Paul up and disappear and go to the extremes of faking his own death.

My rating: 2 Stars

My opinion: Hands down, this is my least favorite Andrea Kane book. I found the writing, storyline and characters in this book to be weak and not up to her standard of writing. The book almost had the feeling to me as though it was "pushed out" quickly. Ms. Kane used sex scenes in the book which I thought were oddly placed. It almost came off as "propping" up the book.

I also thought a chunk of the book was predictable and wrapped up too sweetly. I mean this with a level of sarcasm.

I definitely thought the first book in the series,  The Girl Who Disappeared Twice, more than this one. I am hoping that this is simply a fluke in the series.

Source: Netgalley for Publisher

Would I recommend? : No, although Andrea Kane fans may want to read it because it is second in the series.

Stand Alone or Part of a Series:  Part of Series

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Book Lover by MaryAnn McFadden

Book: The Book Lover

Author: MaryAnn McFadden

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Lucy Barrett's, an indie author, unsure of her footing in life due to several catastrophies in her life, meets with a shocking betrayal from her husband. Lucy, to deal with the blow, hits the road to promote her book. She meets up with bookstore owner, Ruth, who has secrets of her own. Can these two women help each other to heal or will their secrets drive them further apart and kill any chance for Lucy to get her book to the public?

My rating: 4.5 Stars

My opinion: Ms. McFadden's book is prime example of why I LOVE INDIE AUTHORS! This book was engrossing and I fell in love with the characters immediately! It was so well written that this is an author who can easily get off the porch and play with the big house publishing dogs(authors) and even outrun a chunk of them. Any critic who doesn't think Indie authors can't compete with a big house publisher needs to read this book! One of the stories greatest lines focuses on Lucy's book being turned down by a big house publisher with a note stating that a book needs to capture the reader from page one. Well, Ms. captured me from page one! Your book was delightful, well written and delightful!

Dorothea Benton Frank, in her review of the book states "Mary McFadden take you into the hearts and souls of two ordinary women,..., who find the courage to pursue their dreams, and the men they love. The Book Lover is unforgettable!". She is correct. I read alot of books...most I forget almost immediately, but I fell so in love with the characters in this book that I continue to think about them, with a smile on my face,  after finishing the book.

OK, I do have to admit, a Goodread's reviewer had called it predictable and "cheesy" and I agree to a point, but this is a cheese I would gladly eat!

Source: Publicist

Would I recommend? : Definitely

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone