Thursday, April 30, 2009

Review: Life Sentences by Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman is one of my favorite authors! She has a fun writing style and brings such life to her characters. Her latest book, Life Sentences, is no exception.

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

When Cassandra was a girl, growing up in a racially diverse middle-class neighborhood in Baltimore, her best friends were all black: elegant, privileged Donna; sharp, shrewd Tisha; wild and worldly Fatima. A fifth girl orbited their world—a shy, quiet, unobtrusive child named Calliope Jenkins—who, years later, would be accused of killing her infant son. Yet the boy's body was never found and Calliope's unrelenting silence on the subject forced a judge to jail her for contempt. For seven years, Calliope refused to speak and the court was finally forced to let her go. Cassandra believes this still unsolved real-life mystery, largely unknown outside Baltimore, could be her next bestseller.

But her homecoming and latest journey into the past will not be welcomed by everyone, especially by her former friends, who are unimpressed with Cassandra's success—and are insistent on their own version of their shared history. And by delving too deeply into Calliope's dark secrets, Cassandra may inadvertently unearth a few of her own—forcing her to reexamine the memories she holds most precious, as the stark light of truth illuminates a mother's pain, a father's betrayal . . . and what really transpired on a terrible day that changed not only a family but an entire country.

When I said Ms. Lippman brings life to her characters, I didn't mean that I liked all the characters. This is true for Cassandra. I never really connected with her and she would not be a friend of mine. But the fact that I know this to me means she is very real, vibrant, and annoying. :-) The supporting cast of characters including Cassandra's childhood friends were quite interesting.

This book has alot to do with childhood memories or really, memories in general. How real are they? How close to the truth are our memories? Cassandra confronts a variety of memories that she thinks are true but turn out to maybe not be exactly as she remembers. But does that make them less true to her? Or to the other folks with memories of the same event? It made me think about my memories of childhood - how many things do I remember just because of a picture or because someone else told me about it later?

My favorite Laura Lippman books would be the series she has written about private detective Tess Monaghen. Life Sentences is a stand-alone and is not even my favorite of hers among those. The story dragged a little in parts. And, honestly, probably my dislike of Cassandra doesn't help my rating. However this is an interesting book - a look at people with a little whodunit type of mystery thrown in. I do recommend reading it. You might even learn a few new words. If you don't read this one, definitely go find another Laura Lippman book - you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This photo needs a caption!

I was taking pictures of my nephew yesterday and also some of the other kids that my sister babysits. I took this picture and it just makes me smile. I know there's a very funny caption that belongs with it but I can't come up with it. Or maybe a crop or words on the bricks. Anyone have any thoughts?

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Kathy, over at Bermudaonion's Weblog, she posts every Wednesday about new words she has found through her reading. She's been doing this for awhile now and I've loved learning the new words along with her. I think it's a wonderful idea and keep thinking I am going to participate. However, I haven't found any new words in my books until now. (I think that's more because of the books I've chosen to read rather than my vocabulary knowledge.)

My words come from Life Sentences by Laura Lippman (my review out tomorrow).

1. Pedant "It was one of his favorite words, his all-purpose condemnation. Pedant, pedantic, pedantry, pederast, the last of which he seemed to use interchangeably with pendant, although he clearly knew better." states that pedant means one who pays undue attention to book learning and formal rules.

2. Solipsistic "And they were very solitary enterprises. Solipsistic, even."

Solipsistic means the theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified.

3. Deshabille "Given the retirement community's village-like aspect, with garden apartments built around shared courtyards, he could be glimpsed by his neighbors in deshabille."

Deshabille means the state of being partially or very casually dressed. (I could figure this one out as the narrator at this point was quite embarrassed by his actions... LOL)

4. abstemious "I often have a drink with lunch. Americans can be too abstemious."

Abstemious means sparing or moderate in eating and drinking.

What new words did you learn this week while reading? I'd love to learn more new words along with you.

If you want to see what words other folks found this week, check out the Wondrous Words post today at Bermudaonion's Weblog.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday Teaser: The Tenth Case by Joseph Teller

My two 'teaser' sentences are from page 30 of The Tenth Case by Joseph Keller.

"Samara," said a recorded female voice, followed by a male one, "is calling collect from a correctional facility. If you wish to accept the charges, please press one now."

TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
- 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!

Check out other teasers around the blogs.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Review: Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

After waiting longer than I planned, I finally was able to get my hands on a copy of Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani. I have read all of her books and was excited to read this new one.

Summary: Meet the Roncalli and Angelini families, a vibrant cast of colorful characters who navigate tricky family dynamics with hilarity and brio, from magical Manhattan to the picturesque hills of bella Italia. Very Valentine is the first novel in a trilogy and is sure to be the new favorite of Trigiani's millions of fans around the world.

In this luscious, contemporary family saga, the Angelini Shoe Company, makers of exquisite wedding shoes since 1903, is one of the last family-owned businesses in Greenwich Village. The company is on the verge of financial collapse. It falls to thirty-three-year-old Valentine Roncalli, the talented and determined apprentice to her grandmother, the master artisan Teodora Angelini, to bring the family's old-world craftsmanship into the twenty-first century and save the company from ruin.

While juggling a budding romance with dashing chef Roman Falconi, her duty to her family, and a design challenge presented by a prestigious department store, Valentine returns to Italy with her grandmother to learn new techniques and seek one-of-a-kind materials for building a pair of glorious shoes to beat their rivals. There, in Tuscany, Naples, and on the Isle of Capri, a family secret is revealed as Valentine discovers her artistic voice and much more, turning her life and the family business upside down in ways she never expected.

Ms. Trigiani has a unique way of creating real characters that I can just feel when I read them. They are so identifiable and faulted and fun. I love LOVE the grandma and was tickled to get to know her and her choices. I wanted to hug and/or smack around Valentine throughout the book, depending on what was going on. Even the smaller character profiles are so fun - I laughed multiple times at Valentine's mom and her comments.

The book walks us through the process of hand-making shoes and all that entails. It also includes detailed descriptions of the places the story takes place. As you all know, I am not a fan of detailed descriptions. LOL So I did skip paragraphs here and there. But those of you who feel compelled to learn while you read - you will love these descriptions. What I did read was quite interesting and if I was a different person, would have enjoyed learning about how to make shoes. :-)

Overall, Big Stone Gap is still my favorite Adriana Trigiani book. But Very Valentine was quite enjoyable. It's the first of a new trilogy and I am looking forward to reading the next one!

Rating: 4/5 stars

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring sprouts!

I have been enjoying taking pictures of the perennials that are popping up at the new house. I thought I'd share some of what I've got. I don't know what everything is yet but it's still fun to watch. Now I probably need to start weeding!

Review: Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke

Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke is the latest in a fun, light mystery series. I have enjoyed all of this series - makes me smile and enjoy figuring out the 'whodunit' along with sleuth and cookie maven Hannah.

Summary: Between baking up a storm for The Cookie Jar and unravelling the mystery of her cat Moishe's recent strange behaviour, Hannah Swensen has a lot on her plate. But she'll always make time for her business partner, Lisa, who's in the midst of preparing for a big family reunion. Everyone is delighted when Lisa's long-lost uncle makes a surprise appearance. No one has heard from Gus in twenty-five years. Uncle Gus is immediately the hit of the reunion. He's almost as popular as Hannah's scrumptious carrot cake, which is also Gus' favourite dessert. But the next morning, as the whole family gathers for the group photo, one person is missing. Hannah offers to track down Uncle Gus, but her search leads to a shocking find. Over by the bar at the pavilion, she spots two slices of her infamous carrot cake, frosting-side down on the floor - and Gus' corpse with an ice pick jutting out of his chest!Now Hannah's got to sift through a long list of suspects to find a killer - even if it could mean a recipe for her own demise...

This book, like the others in the series, is not hard-core mystery. It's not real deep but it does have a number of facets. The characters are fun, developed over the course of the series and not so much in each book. I look forward to reading this series just as much as some of the other 'bigger name' mystery series. And the bonus is that she includes cookie and other baking recipes that are mentioned in the book. My family has enjoyed quite a few of these recipes over the years.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Review: Chop Shop by Tim Downs

One of the exciting things about moving is that the new library has different books than the old one. My old library did not have a copy of Chop Shop by Tim Downs, but the new one does. And that made me happy! Chop Shop is the second book in the 'Bug Man' series which started with Shoo Fly Pie [my review].

Summary: An autopsy room is where secrets are revealed...or buried.

Young Dr. Riley McKay has worked hard toward her career in pathology-and now she has secured a fellowship at the renowned Allegheny County Coroner's Office in Pittsburgh. But her promising future is threatened when suspicious activities incriminate her supervising pathologist, Dr. Nathan Lassiter. Bungled autopsies, concealed evidence, and unexplained wounds accumulate at an alarming rate. When Riley is ignored by her seniors and threatened by Dr. Lassiter, she turns in desperation to Dr. Nick Polchak, the Bug Man, to help her uncover the truth.

From a handful of tiny maggots, Nick and Riley begin to unearth the facts, and together they discover that these blunders are not accidents but part of a larger evil that threatens their very lives.

My mental picture of Dr. Nick Polchak is quite fun - large, teddy bear type man with the thickest glasses and oddest looking eyes ever. And yet people are drawn to him. I definitely would like to meet him. Okay, maybe I wouldn't want to see all his bug friends, but he would be very interesting to talk with.

The concept of this book is quite easily believable. I won't give it away, but on top of being very intriguing, the book also made me think.

This mystery series is quite 'clean' for the genre. No swearing, sex, etc. Obviously, there is killing. :-) I definitely recommend that folks who enjoy mysteries read these books. I am looking forward to picking up the next in the series - First the Dead.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Tuesday Teaser: The Camel Club by David Baldacci

My two 'teaser' sentences are from page 27 of The Camel Club by David Baldacci.

Stone took comfort that the thickening fog made them practically invisible from shore. Federal authorities didn't tolerate trespassers very well.

TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
- 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!

Check out other teasers around the blogs.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Review: Professors' Wives' Club by Joanne Rendell

Last year, I added Professors' Wives' Club by Joanne Rendell to my list of book club ideas. This addition was based on a recommendation from Julie at Booking Mama. My LOLAs book club added it to this year's schedule. And even though I am no longer local to the LOLAs (boohoo), I am trying to read what they read.

I am glad I did!

Summary: A debut novel about the intertwining lives of college faculty wives.

Nestled among Manhattan University’s faculty housing, there is a garden where four women will meet—each with a scandalous secret that could upset their lives, destroy their families, and rock the prestigious university to its very core.

With its maple trees, iron gate, and fence laced with honeysuckle, Manhattan U’s garden offers faculty wives Mary, Sofia, Ashleigh, and Hannah much needed refuge from their problems. But as Mary’s husband, the power-hungry dean, plans to demolish their beloved garden, these four women will discover a surprising secret about a lost Edgar Allan Poe manuscript—and realize they must find the courage to stand up for their passions, dreams, and desires.

I enjoyed these ladies! They were quite interesting, had real issues within their marriages and their lives, and I could easily see them as being people that I know. I especially could relate to the beginning when they meet - they've all used this small garden for quite some time but always keeping to themselves until one day... How many things do I do that I never actually talk to anyone while I am doing them? (Not so much now in the new place as I am desparate to meet new folks! LOL) But really. How many times have I gone to the grocery or the park with my kids, taken a book and just read, not talking to those around me. Or even soccer practice, for that matter. Anyway, I digress from the review...

This book is one where you want to know more of what happens 'after'. I could see them all growing throughout the book and wonder how that will affect their future selves. I definitely recommend reading The Professors Wives Club. I need to find out what the LOLAs thought of it!

Rating: 4.5/5

Review: Sweet Waters: An Otter Bay Novel by Julie Carobini

My latest book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program, Sweet Waters by Julie Carobini was okay.

Summary: There’s nothing left for Tara Sweet in landlocked Dexton, Missouri. Her fiancĂ© called off their wedding, her sister is moving to Manhattan, and now her mother is marrying a much younger man with plans for a yearlong honeymoon in Europe. Tara believes a move back to her childhood home of Otter Bay, California, will help restore the fun and fearlessness she’s already missing in her twenties. Playing back memories of idyllic times spent there with her father along the majestic coast, a fairytale seems just around the corner.

Better make that a soap opera. After Tara finds a job in Otter Bay, makes friends at The Red Abalone Grill, and perhaps even a new flame in firefighter Josh, she begins to uncover shocking secrets about why her family left this heaven on earth all those years ago. And though she will have to question everything she has ever known, the faith that Tara must depend upon will be sweeter than ever before.

I am not much of a romance reader, but I do love a good story about women overcoming and women friendships. (And plenty of my mystery and other favorite books have romance in them.) This book had elements of both but didn't really make me 'feel' the connections. I enjoyed the characters and felt they were quite interesting and real. But the story just didn't compel me, if that makes sense.

The story has some Christian elements in it which do fit well with the story. The book is labeled in different spots as romance, christian fiction, and women's fiction. I think all those fit. The book will be available in August of this year.

If there are other opinions out there about this book, especially folks that enjoyed it more than I did, I'd love to link to them to give other perspectives. Let me know.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Review: 14 by J.T. Ellison

Last summer I read lots of books recommended by J.Kaye and was not disappointed in any of them. One of my favorites was a book from first-time novelist J.T. Ellison - All the Pretty Girls (my review). The second in the series, 14, came out earlier this year and I loved it!

Summary: Ten victims, each with pale skin and long dark hair. All have been slashed across the throat, the same red lipstick smeared across their lips.

In the mid-1980s the Snow White Killer terrorized the streets of Nashville, Tennessee. Then suddenly the murders stopped. A letter from the killer to the police stated that his work was done.

Now four more bodies are found, marked with his fatal signature. The residents of Nashville fear a madman has returned, decades later, to finish his sick fairy tale. Homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson believes the killings are the work of a copycat killer who's even more terrifying. For this monster is meticulously honing his craft as he mimics famous serial murders…proving that the past is not to be forgotten.

This was a very detailed, interesting plot that had me guessing throughout. Even when the killer is revealed to the reader but not yet to the lieutenant, there's so much drama and intrigue it kept me glued to the book. Quite fascinating, really.

My one, small, beef with the book was the predictability of the kidnapping near the end and the resolution of that - kind of unrealistic. Not enough of an issue to affect my enjoyment.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Review: The Associate by John Grisham

I have been a John Grisham fan from the beginning. I have read all of his books and thoroughly enjoyed each one. I do have my favorites as you can imagine. His latest book, The Associate, will not make my list of favorites as it wasn't quite up to his normal standards, but it was still an enjoyable book.

Summary: Kyle McAvoy grew up in his father’s small-town law office in York, Pennsylvania. He excelled in college, was elected editor-in-chief of The Yale Law Journal, and his future has limitless potential.

But Kyle has a secret, a dark one, an episode from college that he has tried to forget. The secret, though, falls into the hands of the wrong people, and Kyle is forced to take a job he doesn’t want—even though it’s a job most law students can only dream about.

Three months after leaving Yale, Kyle becomes an associate at the largest law firm in the world, where, in addition to practicing law, he is expected to lie, steal, and take part in a scheme that could send him to prison, if not get him killed.

With an unforgettable cast of characters and villains—from Baxter Tate, a drug-addled trust fund kid and possible rapist, to Dale, a pretty but seemingly quiet former math teacher who shares Kyle’s “cubicle” at the law firm, to two of the most powerful and fiercely competitive defense contractors in the country—and featuring all the twists and turns that have made John Grisham the most popular storyteller in the world, The Associate is vintage Grisham.

It was a page turner. It had great potential with interesting characters. However it felt more like a new writer who didn't quite know how to flesh it all out wrote the book. The ending was a bit anti-climatic. But, I still enjoyed the book. It was good but not great as expected.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Review: Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein

The latest in the Alexandra Cooper series, Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein, is a good one. I definitely enjoyed the characters as much as the mystery story. Last fall I read the previous novel in the series, Killer Heat (my review), and I enjoyed this latest book more.

Summary: When Assistant District Attorney Alex Cooper is summoned to Tina Barr’s apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, she finds a neighbor convinced that the young woman was assaulted. But the terrified victim, a conservator of rare books and maps, refuses to cooperate with investigators. Then another woman is found murdered in that same apartment with an extremely valuable book, believed to have been stolen. As Alex pursues the murderer, she is drawn into the strange and privileged world of the Hunt family, major benefactors of the New York Public Library and passionate rare book collectors.

Eventually Alex connects their internal family rivalries to a priceless edition of Alice in Wonderland, which also contains the world’s oldest map. Would one of the well-bred Hunts be willing to kill for the treasures? The search for the answer takes Alex and her team on a breathtaking chase from Manhattan’s grandest apartments to the secret tunnels and chambers of the New York Public Library, and finally to a nineteenth-century underground vault. There, in the pitch-black darkness, Alex comes face-to-face with the killer who values money more than life.

I still recommend starting at the beginning of this series because it's such a good series. The characters are rich, the stories intense and interesting, and Ms. Fairstein keeps you guessing throughout. Start with Final Jeopardy. You want to know why you didn't read her books before.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Review: Blown Coverage by Jason Elam

Blown Coverage by Jason Elam came to me via the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. The book contains some of my favorite things: NFL football, mystery, intrigue and ties them together with Christian fiction elements.

Summary: Linebacker Riley Covington returns to another season of mini-camp for the Colorado Mustangs just as a wave of terrorist attacks begin to occur across the country. Sleeper cells are being awakened--likely by the leader of the Cause, who has recently escaped from captivity and is coordinating attacks not only on America but also on Riley and his loved ones. As Jim Hicks, Scott Ross, and the rest of the Counterterrorism Division follow leads in Europe, Riley goes on the offensive to draw out his attackers. But can the Cause be stopped before they're able to reach their ultimate goal?

I enjoyed this story. It was a good plot, interesting characters and some intensity. Not the best in any of those categories, however it's a good, solid book. This is the second in the series but I didn't feel like I was missing information. I am interested in going back and reading the first one. Sounds like it was a good story.

One thing I did not like about this book was it's treatment of Muslims. All but one Muslim in this book was a terrorist, mostly as a sleeper in the US. I realize these folks are needed for the story-line, but it leaves the reader (or at least me) with the impression the author thinks all Muslims in the US are sleepers. Which I know not to be the case and hope the author didn't mean to imply.

I recommend this book to folks who like a good mystery, intrigue story. It's not a preachy Christian book, but does talk about Christians and Muslims.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars