Thursday, October 30, 2008

Issues or the Stupid Stuff?

I have debated posting anything about the election for weeks. I am not one who shares my opinions on things like this in 'real life' and thus wasn't sure I should here either. But I decided I do want to share a bit of my thoughts.

There are only a few days left until the election. Actually, some folks, like myself, have already voted via early or absentee voting. It was difficult for me to decide who to vote for and I'm not going to tell you who I chose.

I am not a one issue voter. However, I believe many of my friends are voting based on one issue only. I don't understand that.

There are SO MANY other areas where the candidates have vastly different ideas and plans that will affect me or ones I love and I cannot just ignore those issues. There are very real decisions that will be made in the first days of the next presidency that affect people I know directly. There are other questions that will be discussed, direction given by the next president that will affect all of us in the next year and years to come. I cannot ignore those concerns.

It's easy to get caught up in the stupid stuff that the media and the candidates teams bring up. Two that come to mind quickly are middle names and clothing. Hello? Middle names (and all names, really) are given by our parents, not chosen by us. I don't think my middle name of Ann says anything about my lifestyle, choices, values. Nor does my first name of Michele. It's my name, not a statement of my life.

And the clothing of the candidates? Who among us has enough clothes to be on tv multiple times per day, riding a bus, raising our hands and looking fresh? Even the people I know who are very fashionable and have lots of clothes won't have that many, I believe. Did they go overboard on what they bought? Probably, but who cares? Does it affect the choices, values or decision-making of the candidate? It's just not important enough to warrant all this focus.

My daughter is in sixth grade. Her class is studying the election process. Each night she is given a list of issues to read up on for both presidential candidates. She is going directly to the candidate's website's and literature for the information. She has to read their views and plans, then decide for each issue which direction she prefers and why. At the end of this process next week, she will look at all the issues they studied and determine which ones (not just one, multiple) are the most important to her. Then she will decide who she is voting for based on the candidates that most match what is important to her.

I am so thankful to my daughter's teacher for walking the kids through this process. She is learning how to be a responsible voter years before her vote will affect the actual outcome. But I know when she does start voting in a few years she will think through all the issues, deciding on what is important to her.

My question for those of us who are voting and affecting the outcome of this election - are we choosing based on all the issues that affect us or are we choosing based on the stupid stuff?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Author interview: Emily (E.A.) Benedek

Emily Benedek is the author of The Red Sea, a book I just read and reviewed here. I enjoyed the book and wanted to know a bit more about the author. So I asked her!

About the author (from her website):
Emily Benedek is a journalist and author. Her articles and essays have appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Glamour, and on NPR, among others. She is the author of The Wind Won't Know Me: A History of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute (Knopf, 1992); Beyond the Four Corners of the World: A Navajo Woman's Journey (Knopf, 1996); and Through the Unknown, Remembered Gate: A Spiritual Journey (Shocken, 2001).

Benedek spent a year following an FBI special agent working counter terrorism and wrote about an F-15C fighter pilot who flew in Operation Shock and Awe. Red Sea is her first novel.

The interview:
I asked Emily the following questions:
- What was your inspiration for writing The Red Sea?
- The Preface states you started with a book about terrorism and airplanes.
- How did you then transition to including other potential areas such as sea ports?
- Do you think this book gives an accurate portrayal of the different intelligence agencies, their abilities and interactions?
- Will Julian, Marie and others be back in another book?
- What are you currently working on?
- Who are your favorite authors?

She answered:
Hi Michele,

Glad you liked Red Sea!

My inspiration for writing RED SEA was meeting a source for a Newsweek story I'd written soon after 9/11. The man was an expert in airline security, and we met several times in New York after my story had come out. Why did he want to meet me? This was a man who liked developing sources. That was his job and his habit. Also, he had some measure of trust for me because he'd made a request of me during our interview for the Newsweek story, a request I had honored.

He was a fascinating person who told amazing stories. After a few meetings, he asked me if I would consider writing a book about airline security--he was convinced at the time that Washington would not do the right thing by its air passengers. I had already written three non-fiction books and I knew what was involved. I was intrigued. So in our next meeting, I put down a tape recorder and switched it on. For the first time, he was much less open in his conversation, and I immediately snapped off the recorder. I realized right away that the kind of insider information he had would very hard to triple-verify -- what I would have to do for a non-fiction book. So I asked him if he thought it might be easier to tell his story as fiction instead. "Maybe" he said. "Maybe."

We continued to meet and I found out more about him--he had been a commando and then a commander in Israel's most elite special forces unit and an operator for Israel's security service in Europe. He was a very senior operator and a very intelligent person.

I began to create characters in my mind--of a retired Israeli commando with a heavy past, an American female journalist with something to prove, and a maverick (excuse the term) FBI agent. I had spent a year following an FBI agent for a story, so I knew something about how that agency was run. All the threats in the plot, all the operational details are correct and based on as much detailed and intensive reporting as if the book had indeed been non-fiction.

The safety of seaports has been a huge concern of American security officials--and for good reason. Millions of sea containers enter our ports every year, almost none of which get inspected. I decided to put an attempt to attack one of our seaports in the book, and then I had to find experts who could tell me what took place on ships--how they were laid out, what the threats were and how much bribery and criminality was involved in the sea trade.

I felt when I wrote RED SEA that Americans were being very naive about the threat of terrorism. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration, by using the threat for political ends, by launching a senseless war in the name of counter-terror, and by trying to abridge Americans rights, has made it much harder now to talk about terrorism. Because now Americans are frustrated, angered, and confused about it. Unfortunately, the threat remains. I tried to show how a very smart and experienced person thinks about and fights terror. And how two principled, brave people try to learn fast and help out. I also tried to show the weaknesses in the American system, which I'm afraid are accurately drawn.

I am now working on the next book--Marie, Morgan and Julian are back together again, this time trying to interfere with Iran's development of the bomb.

My favorite authors include Leo Tolstoy and John Le Carre.

All Best, Emily

Thanks for a great book and interview, Emily! I look forward to the next one.

Review: Red Sea by E.A. Benedek

I was very excited to read Emily Benedek's novel, Red Sea. Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour. I haven't read this genre of books in awhile and was looking forward to reading it. And a big thank you to author Emily Benedek for sending me the book!

From the beginning of the book, The Red Sea reminded me of Tom Clancey's early novels - lots of characters, a little back story, espionage, intrigue.

From the back of the book: Four airplanes are blown out of the sky…hundreds of civilians are dead, and the world is gripped by fear. As young American reporter Marie Peterssen investigates the attacks, she meets Julian Granot, a mysterious Israeli operative who offers her an enticing lead—one that points them to maverick FBI agent Morgan Ensley and the ravages of war-torn Iraq.

Soon Marie, Julian, and Morgan discover a connection between the crashes and a devastating plot to detonate a nuclear bomb in a New York City port—and time is running out. As Marie races to stop a sophisticated network of terrorists, she stumbles upon a shocking revelation: she may have a deep personal connection to the Islamic mastermind behind the attacks. Now she will stop at nothing to uncover the truth. But it could cost Marie and her team the mission…and their lives.

This was a plot-driven, exciting novel that I enjoyed reading. The situations were realistic, the technology current. It was a very believable novel in that the terrorists as well as the government agencies and people were all very real and I could easily see it unfolding. I especially liked the interaction between the Israeli agencies and the Americans. I am sure there are lots of work done through normal channels as well as through personal interactions in the intelligence community just as it is elsewhere. The characterization of the Israeli organization and people I found enjoyable and felt real to me. Obviously I have no inside knowledge and am sure my views are very American-centered (we Americans are generally much more clueless about other countries than they are about us).

I was a bit disappointed in the characters as I felt there could have been a bit more back story to each of the characters and more about why they reacted the way they did. I don't think this hurt the story but better character development definitely would have enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Red Sea and am hoping that there will be more in the series. This book has got me interested in reading these types of books again.

Thanks again to TLC Book Tours for sponsoring this tour. Look here for an interview with author Emily Benedek!

Rating: 4/5 stars

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday Teasers: Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
- Grab your current read.
- Let the book fall open to a random page.
- Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
- You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
- Please avoid spoilers!

My two 'teaser' sentences are from Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. I am reading it on the Kindle (see this post and this one to find out about how that came about), so instead of pages, I have 'locations' to reference. I am in chapter three at locations 545-554 for these sentences:
"My mother was a full-fledged, honest-to-God, no-holds-barred, Liberation New Service, peace-love-and-tie-dye hippie. This was no small accomplishment, since she grew up in a small village in northern Vermont."

Check out other Tuesday Teasers here.

Tuesday Thingers:

From The Boston Bibliophile - Legacy libraries. With which legacy libraries do you share books? Tell us a little about a couple of them and what you share.

Okay, I had no idea how to even find this so had to go read other folks answers before I could answer myself! On Library Thing, go to your home page. Then click on Statistics. Then Legacy Libraries. You can view mine here.

This is actually quite funny to me. I have matches with only one person - Carl Sandburg. I believe this is because I use my Library Thing library differently than most folks. I use is more as a catalog of what I have read since I started using it, rather than as a catalog of my actual, physical library. I am sure if I put all the books I have read or even owned at one time or another, I would match with other legacy libraries. But since they are all dead (thus the legacy), they can't read the newer books that I am reading. And since I am not much into classical fiction, I probably won't ever read what they read.

Just for completeness - the matches I have with Carl Sandburg are Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I read both of those because of LOLAs and would never have chosen them on my own (but I did enjoy both - go figure!).

As a fun check, I went and looked at the LOLAs library and the matches with the legacy libraries. Some of LOLAs matches: 1 with Alfred Deakin (who is he?) - Pride and Prejudice (I didn't read it); 4 with Carl Sandburg - my 2, P&P and Far from the Maddening Crowd (I didn't read it) by Thomas Hardy; Karen Blixen (?) - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (I did read this one) by Carson McCullers and Le Petit Prince (I read this one too!) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Go check out other folks and whether they have more matches. I'm sure it will be quite interesting.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Book Giveaway Carnival

Tracy of Bookroom Reviews is hosting a Book Giveaway Carnival from Monday, November 3rd through Friday, November 8th. I am one of over 70 bloggers who will be participating with giveaways of gift cards, books and other book related items.

Be sure to check back here and at the carnival site on Monday to see what you can win!

Review: The Darker Side by Cody McFadyen

I received The Darker Side by Cody McFadyen for the Pump Up Your Book Promotion tour. This book was awesome! Definitely one of my top reads for 2008!

About the book:
Everyone has a secret they don’t dare tell anyone.
He’ll kill you for yours.

Cody McFadyen has shocked even the most jaded suspense fans with Shadow Man and The Face of Death. Now comes a thriller that outdoes them all, featuring a psychopath on a perverse crusade of murder. And the one woman who can stop him has a secret that will change her from the hunter to the hunted.…

A lie, a long-ago affair, a dark desire—everyone has secrets they take to the grave. No one knew that better than FBI special agent Smoky Barrett. But what secret was a very private young woman keeping that led to her very public murder? And what kind of killer was so driven and so brazenly daring that he’d take her life on a commercial airliner thirty thousand feet in midair, a killer so accomplished that he’d leave only a small souvenir behind?

These are the questions that bring Smoky and her hand-picked team of experienced manhunters from L.A. to the autumn chill of Washington, D.C., by order of the FBI director himself—and at the special request of a high-powered grieving D.C. mother.

As a mother, Smoky knows the pain of losing a child—it nearly killed her once before. As a cop with her own twisted past, she takes every murder personally, which is both her greatest strength and her only weakness. Brilliant, merciless, righteous, the killer Smoky is hunting this time is on his own personal mission, whose cost in innocent human lives he’s only begun to collect. For in his eyes no one is innocent; everyone harbors a secret sin, including Smoky Barrett.

Soon Smoky will have to face what she’s so carefully hidden even from her own team—and confront a flawless killer who knows her flaws with murderous intimacy.

I completely loved this book! Mr. McFadyen created such an intriguing storyline that I was pulled into it from the very beginning. It has great plot twists that the mystery lovers will savor. It was only predictable in that at the end of most mysteries they get their killer. I enjoyed the way the murders were brought into the story and how everything flowed.

Included with a great mystery were characters that were alive - well-developed, interesting, real. Their back story felt very real, understandable, complete and probably a story all their own. (After writing this, I looked and the first two novels did tell the back story - but I did not need them to thoroughly enjoy the characters in this novel...can be read as a stand-alone).

The book was definitely plot-driven as good mysteries are. But the character growth also made it feel like a good 'regular' fiction book as well. The mystery kept me hungry for more throughout the book while the characters had me smiling and teary at different times.

A big thanks to author Cody McFadyen and Pump Up Your Book Promotions for sending me this book to read and review. It was great and will be on my list of top books for 2008. I am adding Shadow Man and The Face of Death to the top of my tbr requested books!

Rating: 5/5 stars

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Salon: Chicago, food, and book tours

Good morning! It's Sunday, it's morning and I'm actually typing my Sunday Salon post. It's sunny outside, football previews are on tv, I'm on the couch under a blanket. And (before writing this post) I'm reading! What a wonderful fall morning!

Let's begin with the rest of the follow up from my Chicago trip this weekend. You can read my post-Oprah show from Friday afternoon. We didn't end up on camera but still had a great time. It was so interesting seeing it all. I thought Oprah didn't look well, but still she was fun and friendly. She said she was allergic to the eye makeup they put on her but I thought it was more than that. But what do I know? LOL

I haven't read much on my Kindle yet. I plan to use it this week when I read Midwives for LOLAs November book. After that, I'll be sure to give a review on it, comparing it to reading books in paper. She never did talk about The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. We heard the director fellow say the book club part was going to be cut due to the cooking taking longer than planned. I still need to finish the book, having about 200 pages left to go.

After the show on Friday, we had lunch at the Grand Lux Cafe - yummy! The best part of the lunch was the Molten Chocolate cake that I had to order when I ordered my main meal - because they baked it while I ate. Yummmm! We then hung out at the hotel for a bit, taking a short nap (didn't sleep much the night before - excited, chatting), saying good-bye to a few of the ladies. We then ate dinner at a tappas-style restaurant, Quartino. Was also very yummy, even for a picky, prefers boring food person like myself.

After dinner we went to see Wicked. What a great show that is! I highly recommend it. The first couple of ensemble songs were difficult for me to understand, but after that the singing and acting was wonderful. I was teary at the end. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Saturday we had breakfast at Tempo - apparently the hottest place in Chicago to have breakfast. Was also very yummy - we had great food all weekend!

I got home around dinner time last night. My family was out watching HSM3 - kids said it was the best, hubby says first one is best. Will have to see for myself. We then watched the Buckeyes play a great game against Penn State. They lost but I am still holding my head high as a Buckeye today. They played well, Penn State was just a bit better. Great game (as opposed to the USC game or the past two national championship games)!

Today is going to be a quiet day for us. I have a review due tomorrow for The Darker Side by Cody McFadyen so I will be reading that today. I've started it after breakfast and it's already pulled me in.

The rest of my book plans for this week include finishing Edgar Sawtelle and reading The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly (HUGE thanks to Miriam Parker at Hachette Books for sending it - she's my newest bff! :-). I have to pick up the 6 library books that I previously requested. I am overloaded with books to read at the moment. What a wonderful feeling but also a bit overwhelming too.

I will be posting my review of The Darker Side tomorrow (need to get back to reading). I also have a book tour stop scheduled on Wednesday for The Red Sea by E.A. Benedek. I liked that book so be sure to stop by and see my thoughts. Along with my review I'll post an interview I had with author Emily Benedek.

I hope you all have a great Sunday! I also hope you are able to get some reading in today!

Friday, October 24, 2008

What fun that was this morning!!!

It was Oprah Live, shown at 9am here in Chicago. We were in the audience with 355 other people, which was more than normal. So we were among about 100 folks who went in through the studio area. Thus we got a unique view of the back stage and the studio, including seeing what we think was the "Tom Cruise" couch up in the storage area.

We went into the main studio about 40 minutes before the show started and we sat in the second section of seats behind the cameras. When the show began, Il Divo sang Amazing Grace along with an orchestral group and a set of bagpipes. Then we got to listen to Jeff Bezo of Amazon and everyone got Oprah's latest favorite gadget - an Amazon Kindle!!!!


We played with the Kindle during one segment of the show and had a little class from Jeff after the show. I am so grateful to The Oprah Show for the Kindle. The Kindles were pre-loaded with The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (ugh! should not have bought it - might have to give the hardcopy away). They also loaded $100 on it for us to try out and buy the first ten or so books. During the show and the class after, I downloaded The Shack and Midwives (LOLAs next book). It'll be so fun to play with the Kindle later tonight.

Then we saw three segments of cooking with Cristina Ferrare, stretching roasted chicken into three meals.

We did not ever talk about the book, though. Which was a bit disappointing as I really tried hard to get a bunch of it read this week.

But it was still a very fun experience! I am very happy to be here with my friends. Four of us are staying tonight and going to see Wicked at 8pm. I am looking forward to that as well.

I'm sure I'll tell you more when I get back tomorrow night or in the Sunday Salon.

In Oprah's Audience today!!!!

I, along with six other LOLAs**, will be in the audience of Oprah's LIVE show today! We were invited because she will be talking some about her latest book club pick, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. I am almost done with it and it's pretty good!

We heard a trailer earlier this week that Oprah will be sharing her favorite gadget with the viewers. Hopefully she loves it so much she'll also be 'sharing' it with me!!! :-)

Look for me - I will be wearing a light purple blouse.

** If you don't know what a LOLA is, click over to see what I wrote at Books on the Brain to read up on us!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fall into Reading 2008 Update

It's been fall for a month now. Can you believe it? The weather is finally turning colder and I think it will stick this time. My kids are not happy about not being allowed to wear shorts but I am happy to snuggle under the blankets. It's the best place to read!

It feels like I haven't made much of a dent in my initial list. And have added a ton more (bolded). I think this just shows that I cannot plan my reading!

Hell Bent by William G. Tapply [review}
Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelley Hall
The Beach House by Jane Green
Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland
Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein [review]
The Good Thief by Hannah Tintl
Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz [review]
The Condition by Jennifer Haigh
Firefly Lane by Kristen Hannah
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
The Killer's Life by Bill Floyd
Left to Die by Lisa Jackson
Redemption by Karen Kingsbury
The Space Between Before and After by Jean Reynolds Page [review] [author interview]
Midwives by Christopher Bohjalian
Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos [review]
Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs [review]
One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling [review]
Why the Wind Blows by Matthys Levy [review]
The Red Sea by E.A. Benedek [review to be posted on 10/29]
In Dublin's Fair City by Rhys Bowen [review to be posted on Friday]
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski [review to be posted when I'm done!]

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday Teasers: Edgar Sawtelle

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
- Grab your current read.
- Let the book fall open to a random page.
- Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
- You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
- Please avoid spoilers!

My two 'teaser' sentences are from page 214 in The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski:
"Then Edgar led Claude behind the barn, quarter lit at best by the occluded yard light and the gooseneck lamp over the kennel doors. Epi heard them coming and backed up defensively until she stood in front of an unused old dog house near the silo."

Check out other teasers!

I just gotta have it!

I am catching up on the blog reading and came to this from another Michele with only one L at The Readers Respite. She regularly shares unique bookmarks she comes across. When I saw this one, I LOVED it! Think I need to go buy one! It's on Etsy.

Actually I did go buy it!!!!

Tuesday Thingers: Series

From The Boston Bibliophile - Series. Do you collect any series? Do you read series books? Fantasy? Mystery? Science fiction? Religious? Other genre? Do you use the series feature in LT to help you find new books or figure out what you might be missing from a series?

I LOVE series! Probably mystery series are my favorites but I just love series in general. I love already knowing the characters in the book and learning more about them. Each book brings a new situation for the main characters to react to and that gives me more insight into their personality. And makes them more my 'friend'.

In the BB times (Before Blogging), I would find a series and scour the library shelves each time to find the next one or two in the series, requesting what I couldn't find. Occasionally I would read a book, return it, and then forget to find/request the next one. Then at some point later (usually when I was low on books to request) I would remember the series, get frustrated with myself for forgetting, and then get all excited about it again.

Now in the times, I do much more forgetting and lots less remembering! Doh! But I have so many other books to read based on reviews I read. So I'm having to start organizing! I have started lists of the series I've been reading, what I've read, what is still to read.

Since mystery is my core reading love, I have to be sure to get good mysteries in regularly or else I get tired of reading. The next in a mystery series is an easy way to ground myself again. If that makes sense.

Okay, that was much more than what was asked! As for LT and the series option - again, I didn't know there was such a thing! I will definitely be using it from now on. I think it will really help me to know whether the book I am reading and loving is a series or not. And will help me keep track of what I've read and need to read.

Thanks to Marie for the great question this week and making me learn something new about LT. Check out the other ways folks use the series information by clicking over here.

Monday, October 20, 2008


The book club I have been in for years is LOLAs - Ladies on Literary Adventures! I wrote a guest post on LOLAs for Lisa at Books on the Brain. Lisa has a regular feature "In Praise of Book Clubs" and I knew that LOLAs needed to be a part of it. So go over to Books on the Brain and read my lovely, very interesting words! And if you don't, I will know!!! So go on, get, go read! And be sure to leave a comment for Lisa and me!

Author interview: Jean Page Reynolds

I read The Space Between Before and After and thoroughly enjoyed it. My review is posted and I highly recommend you read the book. Luckily for me (and you) I was able to interview via email author Jean Page Reynolds. I am excited to share her comments with you.

About the author - Jean Page Reynolds (the official bio from her website - check out her website for her version):
Jean Reynolds Page is the author of A Blessed Event, Accidental Happiness, and The Space Between Before and After. She grew up in North Carolina and graduated with a degree in journalism from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She worked as an arts publicist in New York City and for over a decade and reviewed dance performances for numerous publications before turning full time to fiction in 2001. In addition to North Carolina and New York, she has lived in Boston and Dallas. She moved with her husband and three children to the Seattle area in 2002.

The interview:
Dear Michele,
I was a dance writer for fifteen years and I have to say, I’m still more used to being on the question end of things than the answer. But here goes…

Michele: What was your inspiration for writing this book?
Jeannie: I actually wrote much of Hollyanne’s story (up to the crash on the night of the moon landing) years ago. I was always looking for an adult character who could do justice to little Hollyanne. I tried several times with plots/characters that didn’t work. Each time, I would put her away again with the idea that I would try again later. As I reached a certain point in life, it seemed as if everyone I talked with had challenges involving aging parents or their kids – and often it was both at the same time. My husband and I were no exception. This stage of life that fell “in between” the generations became a theme I wanted to tackle, and so I went back to little Hollyanne and everything seem to happen in the right way as the story evolved.

M: How did you choose for Holli and Connor to be the narrators of the story? Did you start with just Holli or someone else?
J: I began with just Holli and Hollyanne. I knew that I needed both perspectives to fully tell the story. But then, in order for the narrative to move forward, I needed for the reader to know things that Holli had not discovered. Conner was the best person to enlist for this. I have to say I was nervous about writing from the point of view of a twenty-year-old male character. I went to my son (now twenty-two, but at the time twenty – and with none of Conner’s problems!!) and ask him to read for dialogue and internal thought credibility. He offered advice and was very helpful in working with me to get it right.

M: Why did you decide to relate the tragedies in Holli’s life to tragedies in the space program? Have you always been interested in the space program?
J: As I mentioned, the early section of Hollyanne’s story was written years ago. I built that story around the night of the moon landing because the memory of staying up late and watching the event on television had always been one of my most vivid. When Challenger exploded, I had just found out that I was pregnant with my oldest. It was such an emotional day. Later, with Columbia’s tragedy, our family had just left Texas and moved to Seattle. I talked with friends from my old neighborhood near Dallas who said they thought that a bookcase had come crashing down upstairs or that a car had been driven through the garage door. Again, the emotions that I associated with all of these events seemed like something that would be useful in a fictional narrative. So I made the stories of the space program a thread that ran throughout the book.

M: How does The Space Between Before and After compare to your other two books, A Blessed Event and Accidental Happiness?
J: While all three books are very different in my mind, I know there are common themes that run through them. Dysfunctional families, motherhood, secrets and redemption… I also hope that they convey a resilience that I believe exists in most of us. Getting knocked down by circumstance is something that everyone goes through at one time or another. I’m always amazed at the way we, as human beings, get back up and find hope again. So all of the books, while they don’t tie up into neat bows in the final chapters, end with characters who have reached a point of seeing hope for the future. THE SPACE BETWEEN BEFORE AND AFTER has the distinction of a main character that friends and family tell me is more like me than any other I have created. For what it’s worth, maybe I’m inching closer to myself in fiction with each book. I suppose it’s cheaper than therapy.

M: Who are your favorite authors?
J: Oh, how much space do you have? I tend to have favorite books rather than favorite authors. My recent favorite is THE HISTORY OF LOVE by Nicole Krauss. She has these amazing alternating viewpoints -- one is from an old man who escaped the Holocaust, and the other a young girl named Alma -- both living in New York (Brooklyn, I think). Krauss weaves the stories of these two characters together in a lovely balance and with voices have perfect pitch. The author is young and I couldn’t believe she had such old soul perspective. I also love HANNAH’S DREAM a new book by my friend and fellow HarperCollins author Diane Hammond. It’s about an aging zookeeper and the elephant (Hannah) he is trying to save. If I had to pick a favorite author of all time, it would be Elizabeth Spencer. She studied under Eudora Welty and began publishing in the late 1940s. Her novella, THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA was adapted first as a movie and more recently as a Broadway musical. She has the most authentic Southern voice I’ve ever encountered in fiction. She tackles race, class and region with such compelling characters that, when I’m reading, I lose track of which world is real, my own or the book. My favorites of hers are THE VOICE AT THE BACK DOOR and FIRE IN THE MORNING. My biggest regret with these books is that I can never read them again for the first time.

M: What are you currently working on?
J: I just sent the first draft of my next book to my editor. The title we’re working with now is THE LAST SUMMER OF HER OTHER LIFE, but that could change between now and publication. At the moment, they have it scheduled for Summer ’09, but I don’t have a specific month yet. It is the story of Jules Fuller, a thirty-eight-year-old woman who has been caring for her sick mother in her North Carolina hometown. While on this extended visit, she is falsely accused of having inappropriate contact with a local teenager. The story revolves around her efforts that begin with trying to clear her own name and end with her trying to save the boy from whatever has driven him to make the accusation in the first place. Having just sent the draft to New York, I’m at that blissful state of enjoying a few free moments to myself before the editing begins. I should face that closet that’s gotten out of control, but I think I’ll read a few books and maybe rent a movie or two instead.

The Sunday Salon: A Day Late AGAIN!!

IMG_3885I'm thinking this should be alternately the Sunday Salon and the Monday Salon. But Monday Salon does not flow as well, does it?

What a week it was! I went from having a quiet week last week to a crazy one! The first few days were good and 'normal' with school basketball tryouts for my girl, school, work, etc. I was able to finish The Red Sea by E.A. Benedek (very good!) for her tour stop at the end of the month. I read the next (for me) in the Molly Murphy series, In Dublin's Fair City by Rhys Bowen. I posted my review for Why the Wind Blows. And then the craziness started!

The kids had fall break this weekend, so no school on Thursday or Friday. So we decided the kids and I should go to Ohio this weekend rather than hubby coming home.(We've got to sell this house!). We packed, got the house ready for Sunday's open house, and left after lunch on Thursday, heading to my sister's.

IMG_3814bwOn the way there, my friend Julie calls and says that another friend and book club member got tickets to Oprah's show next Friday (10/24). What??!!! She is supposed to talk about her latest book club book - The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - and is inviting book clubs to join her. So, lots of phone calls over the next day or so trying to figure all this out. Who's going, what do we have to do, etc. Long story short, we are heading to Chicago on Thursday night, going to hang with Oprah on Friday morning, see Wicked Friday night and head home on Saturday. With a bit of shopping and sight-seeing thrown in for good measure. I am very excited!!!

Needless to say, this changed my reading choices for the week. I went out on Friday and bought the book. IMG_3889cI've gotten through about 200 pages so far (of 562!!!) and it's pretty good. Will be interesting to see where it goes. Who's read it? What did you think? If I get to submit a question for the author (dreaming here but you never know), what should it be?

We did have a fun time at my sister's, seeing my two nephews (the little guys in the pictures), going to COSI and playing (my goofy kids are the other two pics). We also drove the kids around the suburb we are looking at moving to, but they were WAY bored with that. The highlight of that part of the weekend was stopping at the local library. My boy is obsessed with listening to Focus on the Family's Adventures in Odyssey on cds. And while we were at the library, he found out there were cartoon movies of Odyssey! So, we have to move NOW to be able to rent those from the library. LOL My girl also enjoyed the library, exploring the reference section and the past copies of newspapers, national geographic, etc.

IMG_3886aI'm also trying to come up with a system for tracking the books I am requesting and receiving. I have received a ton of books the past two weeks and some of them I am not quite sure who sent them. Or if there is a specific 'thing' I am supposed to be doing with them. Some of the books have a name on the packing slip that I know. But others not. Anyone else have trouble with that? How do you handle it? I am thinking I'll just start writing down when and where I request a book. Then if it shows up, then I'll have a starting place to figure out when I need to read and for what. Thoughts?

I'll keep you updated on my progress on the book and our trip throughout the week. Unfortunately we are not allowed to take cameras or cell phones to the studio - not sure how I can go without taking a picture of at least the studio, though! I am still working on that.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Oprah's Book Club - I am going!!!

One of the ladies from my LOLAs book club sent in a request last month for tickets for the book club show. We got them!!! We just got confirmed yesterday for tickets! Now, the planning - where to stay, how long to stay, what to wear! We can't take cameras with us to the studio - so how the heck am I going to get pictures???

I am on vacation these past days but had to get on my sister's computer to tell you guys. Now I've got to start reading the book - The Story of Edgar Sawtelle! I bought it yesterday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I have my first coffee table book!

I got a HUGE package in the mail today. It was my latest snag from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. The book is The Oxford Project. It's HUGE!!! A big thanks to publisher Welcome Books. I was amazed that I got a photography book but I am already in love!

In 1984, photographer Peter Feldstein photographed all 676 members of his hometown of Oxford, Iowa. Twenty years later he photographed as many of those 676 that he could find. It is amazing to see the changes in the people over that time. Mr. Feldstein then asked writer Stephen Bloom to take down the stories of these people. Mr. Bloom wrote their stories in the first person, so it sounds like these folks are talking to me.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the package is that the front cover is a hologram! It's one of the people of the town from 1984 mixed with the current picture. It was very fun to just sit there for a minute switching him back and forth! LOL

I am only about 20 pages into the book so I am not going to give a complete review now. But I wanted to share my fun. But I am already struck that this is not a photography book. This is a book about people. How time changes everyone. How fun it is getting to know people.

Again, a big thanks to LibraryThing and Welcome Books!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Early Reviewer Program

From The Boston Bibliophile - Early Reviewers- do you participate? How many books (approximately) have you received through the program? Have you liked them generally? What's your favorite ER book? Do you participate in the discussion group on LT?

I LOVE the Early Reviewer Program. How cool is it to be sent a brand-spanking-new book, usually before it's out for sale! And all you have to do is agree to read it (duh!) and put at least 25 words in for a review. Easy as pie!

I am not quite sure when I found the ER program on LT. I have been a member of LT since the beginning of 2007 but I don't think I found the ER program until early this year. For the first year all I did was catalog my books. I didn't even realize there were groups there to participate in! Clueless!!! As soon as I 'found' the program, I signed up.

I am almost afraid to answer the question on how many books have I received. I think I have received a book for all months but one since I joined. cringe I have received:
Takeover by Lisa Black [review here]
Home Girl by Judith Matloff [review here]
No One You Know by Michelle Richmond [review here]
Lookin' Back, Texas by Leanna Ellis [review here]
Drinking Problems at the Fountain of Youth by Beth Teitell [Amy's review here]
Hell Bent by William G. Tapply [review here]
Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland [still to read]
The Oxford Project by Stephen G. Bloom and Peter Feldstein [picked first of October and still to receive]

Based on my star ratings of each of the books, my favorite would be Takeover, followed closely by Home Girl (a non-fiction even!) and Hell Bent.

I don't really participate in the ER discussion group, but I do read it about once a week. I have put my two cents in a few times but not much. I have enough (some might say too much) computer time with the other social groups I am in along with the blogging/reading.

Are you participating in Library Things Early Reviewer program? If not, why not? Check out who else participates here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I need your blog help!

As you can see, I currently use Blogger for my blog. I like it so far so am not changing that at this point. However I can't figure out something that seems like it should be easy to do (man, that was a bad sentence....but I leave it!).

What I'd like to do is be able to share my favorite blogs without having to copy and paste all the URLs into a list. Basically I'd like to use my Google Reader, which is a partner of Blogger, to develop a 'rolling' blog list. Or even to create the bloglist for me the first time. Ideally I'd have a folder in my reader that the blog list pulls from. That way it's only the ones I really enjoy rather than everything I try out. (I add willy nilly and then delete as I decide I don't relate, feel a connection, like the same things, etc.)

So, can I do it? How? Is it more trouble than it's worth? I want to share my favorites but am essentially lazy. LOL Thanks in advance for your help!

Giveaway at Booking Mama - The Space Between Before and After

Julie P. at Booking Mama has joined forces with Harper Collins to give away up to ten, yes 10!, copies of The Space Between Before and After by Jean Page Reynolds. I just reviewed the book here and you need to read it! So hop on over to see Julie by clicking here and get your name into the running. You won't regret it! And since I've already read it, I am not putting in for a copy so you have one less person to compete against!

Review: Why the Wind Blows by Matthys Levy

A few months ago, Lisa Roe, Online Publicist, sent me a very informative little book, Why the Wind Blows by Matthys Levy. With my fear avoidance of non-fiction books, even though I wanted to read this and learn more about our environmental issues, I kept putting it off. Once I finally made myself get over it, I found it delightful - very informative, interesting and easy to read.

The full title of the book is Why the Wind Blows: A History of Weather and Global Warming. The majority of the technical explanations were easy to understand, with helpful graphics throughout. The book is full of true stories of how things came about, happen, etc. The stories helped me to understand the science without feeling like I was reading a textbook (which I would not have gotten through).

If you are interested in learning more about the environment so you can understand more of what's happening today, I recommend reading this book. It won't take you long to read and it will be a good resource for your family.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Sunday Salon

It was a quiet week this week. Not much reading was done because I was working on my 2008 scrapbook pages. I started digital scrapbooking two years ago and am in LOVE with it. I completed about 20 pages this week for 2008. I am up to the middle of June. Hopefully will get through July (June and July are big vacation months so lots of pages) before I take a break from this little surge of fun.

Back to books. I finished two books this week: A Perfect Day and Why the Wind Blows. I did post my review for The Space Between Before and After - I definitely recommend it! I am currently working on E.A. Benedek's Red Sea. I am hosting her tour later this month. Definitely enjoying the book so far - reminds me a bit of the early Tom Clancey books. The kids and I are also still working on the audio of Anne of Green Gables. We don't go far in town so it's taking awhile to get it done.

Next week I will be posting an interview with Jean Page Reynolds, author of The Space Between Before and After. I will also post my review of Why the Wind Blows. I am not sure what book I will pick up next. The Good Thief by Hannah Tintl is due at the library later this week. Or I received a bunch of books in the past week (I need to do a mailbox post on them) so I have lots of choices.

The best thing about this Sunday is that I think I will be able to get alot of reading in. The girl comes home from church camp mid-afternoon, the man heads back to Ohio after that and I am spending most of the afternoon and evening watching football and reading. My kind of day! What would be even better would be to have hubby make some chili. Course it's supposed to be 80 degrees so maybe the chili will have to wait.

One final note for today. I played with Wordle using the posts from this past week. Here is the picture. Wordle is fun!!

How are you spending your Sunday? What are you reading this week?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Review: One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling

I received One Perfect Day by Lauraine Snelling from Miriam Parker at Hachette Book Group USA. A BIG thanks to Miriam and Hachette for sending me this book! I love getting books!!

One Perfect Day tells the story of two mothers - one mother who loses a family member in an accident, donating the organs; and one mother who has a family member that receives one of the donated organs. The back of the book: Nora Peterson is determined to make this Christmas perfect. Next year her twin teenagers will be off at college, and their lives will never be quite the same. With her husband delayed on a business trip abroad, Nora's nerves are already frazzled when she gets the news of a car accident that will not only change the Petersons' lives forever, but also those of another family whom they've never met.

As a nurse, Jenna Montgomery has always struggled with balancing her personal and professional life. Her daughter, Heather, has suffered from a heart defect for most of her life. Now that Heather is twenty years old and still on the organ transplant waiting list, Jenna must find a way to accept that this is likely their last Christmas together. Then the miracle that Jenna has desperately prayed for becomes a reality in an instant, and Heather's health is restored.

While Nora struggles with depression and grief, Jenna discovers that miracles aren't always easy to receive.

This is an interesting topic to explore in a novel. Even though I have not lost a close family member recently and as tragically, I found Nora's response in her grief to be very real. She is questioning herself, is angry with God, can't get out of bed. She is desperate and can't see past her grief. I can see myself responding in similar fashion. And with Jenna, her worries, actions and fears also felt very right on. I cannot fathom going through what either of these women go through in this book, but it all felt like this is exactly how it would happen and how they would react.

But...I didn't really connect with either of these women. I don't know if it's due to the fact that I've not experienced their tragedies or how the book was written. I am not great at dissecting the why's (that's why I am an engineer and despised english and literature in school) but just know that I didn't feel connected or bonded with either of these ladies. And that disappointed me because I wanted to connect with them.

Author Lauraine Snelling has written over fifty other books, both fiction and non-fiction. I think I will try another one of hers because the potential was definitely there and I don't want to judge all her books on this one being just okay.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Review: The Space Between Before and After by Jean Page Reynolds

Back in June, Julie P. of Booking Mama wrote a review on a book I knew I had to read. The Space Between Before and After by Jean Page Reynolds lived up to Julie's review.

From the author's website: Forty-two and divorced, Holli Templeton has just begun to realize the pleasures of owning her life for the first time. But the experience is short-lived. Her son Conner has unexpectedly fled college in Rhode Island and moved to Texas with his troubled girlfriend, Kilian. This alone is difficult to handle, but as Holli begins to understand the depth of the girl’s problems, concern turns to crisis.

Conner’s situation is worsening, and as if that's not enough, Holli notices signs of serious decline in the beloved Texas grandmother who raised her. She has no choice but to leave the comfort zone of life in New York and return to her hometown in Texas to care for the people she loves.

In the tight space between these two generations, Holli initially feels lost. The journey back stirs so many unresolved hurts from her childhood. But something else happens in this uneasy homecoming. Comfort arrives in the ethereal presence of the mother long lost to her, and Holli is surprised to find that as she struggles to help her son and grandmother, the wounds of her own past begin to heal.

The space between before and after – easily the most challenging place she has ever known – begins to reveal an unanticipated hope for what the future might hold.

The story is told by alternating between the present (Holli and Connor) and the past (Hollyanne). Hollyanne becomes Holli as she grows up. We get to see how what happened to Hollyanne as a child defines the woman she is today. In dealing with so many family issues at once - as these things seem to happen in life - Holli is forced to recall and heal what happened in her past in order to deal with the present. We also get to hear from Connor, what he is dealing with currently and the mistakes he's made in his life already.

I fell in love with Grandma Raine and easily connected with Holli and her ex-husband, Harrison. My mothering instincts came out as I read about Connor and Kilian and their struggles. The supporting characters were real and interesting and I can easily imagine myself running into any of them at the store.

The book was very easy to read and kept me interested from the start. I will admit to a bit of crying through the middle and the end. But not too much and, anyway, crying is not a bad thing.

Look for an interview with author Jean Page Reynolds coming soon!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Recently Added Feature

From The Boston Bibliophile - LibraryThing's Recently Added feature: do you look at it? Do you use it for ideas? Is there something listed there now that looks interesting to you? What have you added to your LT library recently?

In order to figure out my answer to this question, I had to go to my home page on LT and figure out what Marie is asking about. On my home page, there are two sections of 'Recently Added'. The first is what I've recently added. Lately I've been adding books to my library of books the blog reviews sound intriguing. I add the book with a 'tbr' tag and also put the link of the review in the comments section. So I do use this section to find books that I've added recently when looking for a book to request from the library or to look for at the book store.

The second section of recently added is one where it shows what others have added. I am guessing this is the area that Marie was talking about in the question. I have never really used that feature for anything, usually not even reading it. Everyone on LT has such different tastes in books and use their libraries in such different ways, so just because a book was added to some one's library does not mean it will be something I will enjoy. That feels like I'd have to look at every book the librarian's buy at my local library or all the books at the bookstore. Just not going to happen. So, for me, this feature doesn't do much except take up space on my LT home page.

What will be interesting is checking out other's answers on the recently answered as maybe I don't know all that the feature can do for me. Entirely possible I missed something! :-)

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Sunday Salon: A day late!

This isn't a good start to contributing to the Sunday Salon - week 2 and I am a day late! But, I have a good excuse! We were at the Wisconsin Dells with hubby's new company. We stayed in a waterpark hotel and the kids and I spent the majority of the time in the water. It was a very nice park and hotel, wonderful dinner with the company and great to meet a bunch of folks that he will work with in the coming years. And some of the spouses and kids too! We got back about 8pm last night after 7 plus hours of driving. So there's a nap in today's future! Anyway...on to books!

I finished The Space Between Before and After by Jean Reynolds Page last night after we got home. I enjoyed this character-driven novel much more than I expected. I will be reviewing it later this week. The only other book I finished this week was Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein. It was a fairly slow reading week as I went out a few times in the evenings - with book club and other first of the month meetings.

Oh, we did listen to Frindle by Andrew Clements during the trip to Wisconsin. All of us enjoyed that book! I will ask the kids to help me review it later this week. We started listening to a Focus on the Family dramatization of Anne of Green Gables on the way home. Once we finish that I'm hopeful that my kids will get into reading that series.

What to read next? Sometimes this is such a hard question to answer. Do I want a light, quick read? If so I'll read In Dublins Fair City, my next choice in the Molly Murphy series by Rhys Bowen. Do I want to get an non-fiction books off my to-do list? Then I can either choose Why the Wind Blows by Matthys Levy or Legerdemain by James P. Heaphey. (This is what I should do - just do it and get it over with - I'm sure I'll like them both but something about the non-fiction part scares me! LOL) Or there are so many others to choose - new mystery series to begin, womens friendship books and many others in my tbr pile! Aaagh the choices!

What are you reading this week? Did you read anything last week that I should add to my tbr list?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Review: Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

I just finished Curse of the Spellmans, the second book written by Lisa Lutz. Her first book, The Spellman Files, I read and reviewed earlier this year. This is such a unique take on the mystery series that I was very excited to read this second offering and I was not disappointed.

A summary from Amazon: The "parental unit" started a private investigation business when Dad retired from police work. His wife assists him and their two daughters, Isabel, (Izzy) a 30-year-old with a habit of being arrested, and Rae, a 15-year-old Cheetos-loving teen, would like to think that they help out in the family business. Especially where Izzy is concerned, this is a stretch. Brother David is a successful attorney who has nothing to do with the family enterprise. He has troubles of his own.
Izzy has been living in the apartment of a friend while he is away. When he returns unexpectedly, it quickly becomes clear that being roommates with an old, cigar-smoking, poker-playing, big drinker isn't going to work. Izzy moves home temporarily and then the fun begins. She decides that their new next door neighbor, John Brown, whose landscape gardening business she judges to be a cover, is somehow making women disappear. She gets herself invited to dinner, discovers a locked room, believes his name is phony, follows him everywhere, has a restraining order against her, and still she can't let it go.

Meanwhile, Rae has befriended a great guy, a cop named Henry Stone, who is almost too good to be true. The reader starts pulling for him and Izzy to get together right away, even though he doesn't deserve the aggravation. Lutz keeps the ball rolling faster and faster with David's problems, her parents' frequent vacations, which they refer to as "disappearances," and the fact that everyone in the family has secrets from one another. If there is any curse at work here, it is that all the family members are terminally nosy. What they discover about each other and the other players keeps you turning pages and hoping that Lutz is hard at work on the next installment of this zany family's misadventures. --Valerie Ryan

When Izzy isn't dealing with her sister harassing Henry Stone, or explaining why arrests #2 and #3 aren't 'real arrests', or writing 'suspicious person' reports on her other family members, she is investigating her next door neighbor, John Brown. She is just sure that he is up to something because who has such a common name?

I love these books! Izzy is such a lovable and completely flawed young lady who I, in equal parts, want to 'mother' and straight out at the same time I want to just go along with her on her adventures and enjoy! She makes me laugh at her antics and explanations.

The entire Spellman clan are quite the 'characters'. Each is a little (okay, more than a little) odd and that manifests itself in clever situations and conversations. Henry Stone as the straight man is quite lovable and quirky in his own way.

I highly recommend this fun mystery series. The more I think about these books, I am reminded of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum. But as the book jacket for Curse of the Spellmans states, I am also reminded of Harriet the Spy. For a light, fun mystery, this is a great pick.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Friday, October 3, 2008

Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein

I have been a fan of Linda Fairstein and her Alexandra Cooper series for a long time. I don't know when I started reading her books, but I've read all of them and thoroughly enjoy each one. I think this is one of the best mystery series out there - great characters and relationships, interesting and unique situations, along with great mysteries that are both realistic and interesting.

The latest in the series is Killer Heat. From Publishers Weekly: At the start of bestseller Fairstein's nail-biting 10th legal thriller to feature alter ego Alex Cooper (after 2006's Bad Blood), the Manhattan ADA takes a hit from a cigar at the urging of her longtime police ally, Mike Chapman—to cover the stench of a badly decomposed female body at a crime scene in an abandoned building near the Staten Island ferry. The victim later proves to be the first of a number of women in uniform targeted by the murderer, who may have military ties in his past. The trail leads to a notorious bar catering to underage drinkers, before a chance observation by a civilian shifts the inquiry dramatically. Meanwhile, Cooper is preparing to try Floyd Warren, a rapist whose first trial three decades earlier ended in a hung jury. Fairstein, whose professional résumé includes groundbreaking work in the field of sex crimes prosecution, manages to both entertain and educate, as Cooper struggles with the evidentiary challenges of the Warren rape case and with tracking a vicious serial killer.

This was a good addition to the series, but not the best. The mystery kept me intrigued but not glued to the book as it has in the past. And this one is definitely a 'series book' as you don't get any back story on the characters, nor are the relationships explored very much.

Any good mystery has at it's core a great plot and this book does that very well. However, the great mysteries, whether in a series or not, has good character and relationship development. In my opinion the previous Alex Cooper novels do both plot and character well, while Hell Bent left me wanting a bit more.

I am rating this as four stars because it's an interesting plot that keeps you wanting to know more, but it's not five stars like I've rated the last few in the series due to the lack of further character development.

If you've not read any of Linda Fairstein's novels and are a mystery series fan, I do highly recommend them! Start with Final Jeopardy. I promise you will enjoy the series. If you are already a fan of this series, I do recommend reading it. It's a good addition to the series, just not a great one.

Rating: 4/5 stars