Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tangled Thursday - Jar Full of Tangles

Tangled Thursday is an occasional post on this blog. Heather at Books and Quilts is hosting these challenges in which we share our latest Zentangle inspired creations.

This week Elaine asked us to create a "jar full of tangles".   There are many different ways to that I could have approached this, but here's how I interpreted it:

Tangles:  Hollibaugh, Mr. E, Tipple, Poser, Bales, Knight's Bridge 

Please excuse the blueish paper (I was trying to use up a piece of scrap card stock), my wonky jar (I should have used a real jar for reference), and my inept shading.   I somewhat managed the in front/behind thing with the spheres, but I wouldn't work that in with making them round-ish.  Oh, well.  Something to work on. 

Next week, it's my turn to pick the Zentangle challenge. Have we done a "winter" theme yet? Since this crappy winter weather doesn't seem to know when to go away (we're getting another brutally cold blast of it this week and next), I think we should take this opportunity to do a winter theme. I'm hoping it's going to warm up soon and this will be our last chance!!! *she says with a hopeful sarcastic grin* I hope someone will let me know if we've already had a similar challenge. I do have something else in mind if that's the case.

Be sure to check out the other "jar" creations on Books and Quilts.   If you'd like to join us, please do so by linking your post to the Mr. Linky on Heather's post.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Secrets of the Wolves by Dorothy Hearst

In Secrets of the Wolves, Kaala and her pack mates have to find a way to live in harmony with the humans in the valley. Her worthiness to her pack as well as the lives of both the wolves and the humans are at stake. However, not everyone sees it that way and she encounters many obstacles and distractions on her journey.  "Told from the wolf's point-of-view and set 14,000 years ago in a time when the cultures of wolves and humans were not so different", the book takes the reader on a unique journey.

Since I had liked the first book in The Wolf Chronicles so much I was really looking forward to the second installment. Unfortunately, it somehow got lost in the shuffle and I'm just getting to it now. Better late than never, though, right?

Like I said, I read and enjoyed the first book in the series, Promise of the Wolves (my review). While I liked this one, too, I didn't love it. I'm not sure why. Over the last 6 years (since I read that first book), I've read lots of books and my reading tasted have definitely changed, but I don't think that would account for it. At least, not all of it.

To me, parts of this story felt contrived, especially the "dream" sequences and Kaala's special gift. I know this is fantasy, but that was just a bit too out there for me. There were also a few awkward sentences/passages with the same words used repeatedly. Perhaps some additional editing was needed.

As far as the story goes, not that much happened. The wolves seemed to be running endlessly through the woods, as wolves are apt to do. But at times there was very little forward movement in the story. They run here, run there, and run back again. There was talk about what was going to happen...repeatedly..., but it took a long time to get there. I was particularly looking forward to one event that was mentioned early on, but never materialized. If it's not going to happen until the next book, why bring up so early in this book? It left me a little frustrated.

Having said all of that, there were still parts that I found appealing. I especially liked it when Kaala or one of the other wolves learned or discovered something new about the humans. I also loved all of the information on the wolves, their packs, their behaviours, as well as all of the information on the ravens and humans of the time. As with the previous book, I was mesmerized by the relationship between the ravens and the wolves. All very cool information.

If you are interested in this series, there's lot of important background information on Kaala in the first book. It makes the most sense to start there and then read this one. This book ends with a cliff-hanger presumably to be continued in the next book.

Recommended. While I did have some problems with this book, I'll probably read the last book in the trilogy to find out what happens with Kaala and the other wolves.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

For more information about the author and her other book, please visit Dorothy Hearst's website. There's also a short section featuring frequently asked questions (FAQ) on wolves that's pretty interesting. It probably not the best source of information on wolves, but it is a place to start for those interested.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy. Sorry it took me so long to get to the book.

Secret of the Wolves by Dorothy Hearst, Simon & Schuster ©2011. ISBN 9781416570004(Hardcover), 371p.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Descent by Alma Katsu

The Descent is the third and final installment of The Taker trilogy. In this episode, through a series of nightmares Lanore learns that Jonathan. the love of her life, is being held captive by the Queen of the Underworld. If she's going to save him, she's going to need Adair's help. The problem is that she's been on the run from him for hundreds of years. Their last encounter was 4 years ago and even though he's really dangerous, she has to find him. As it turns out, Adair has retreated to an mysterious island and when Lanore finds him she learns that his help comes at a cost. (Would Adair have it any other way?)

I don't read much fantasy, but for some reason this series has been captivating. I've enjoyed it immensely. I just couldn't wait to find out what happened to Lanore, Jonathan and Adair in this "epic story of love and loss, magic and destiny".

This book was an extremely fitting end to the trilogy. However, it was my least favourite of the three. Like the previous books, the story jumps back and forth between the present and the past, giving the reader even more insight into the characters' pasts. While I enjoyed the story, I wasn't particularly enamored by the nightmare sequences that Lanore had about Jonathan. In general, I'm not a fan of dreams as a way to get information across in a story.

I liked the characters in this book, but Adair seemed really different. I guess he was supposed to a "changed man" after spending years repenting in seclusion for his past sins. He seemed to have been tamed to the point where he was almost unrecognizable and didn't really seem to be doing much on the island except moping and waiting. I really liked the dangerous, passionate character in the previous books. I wanted him to unleash his famous fury. Oh, well.

I found a couple of quotes that I liked from the book. They are:
Sometimes a weed turns into a beautiful flower or a helpful herb but you'll never know if you pull it too soon. (page 227)
Only a fool would underestimate the power of lust. Kingdoms have been won and lost, men and beasts have battled to the death over it. (page 227)

I read and really enjoyed the first two books in the series. Here are the links to my reviews on The Taker and The Reckoning

Recommended. If this series is new to you, start at the beginning. I don't think it makes much sense to read this one before the first two.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Alma Katsu's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy.

The Descent by Alma Katsu, Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster) ©2014. ISBN 9781451651829(Advance Uncorrected Proof), 331p.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

In The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, the de Luce family is gathered together at railway station for Harriet's homecoming. That's when a tall stranger approaches Flavia with a message for her father. She hasn't a clue what it means, but it all gets more mysterious when that man is hit by a train shortly after talking to her. In her usual style, Flavia follows a series of clues and uncovers secrets that have been long buried in her family's history.

I loved this book. It was so nice to go back to Buckshaw, the de Luce family manor, and catch up with Flavia and her family. At long last, we find out what happened to Harriet, Flavia's mother, who disappeared when Flavia was just a baby. The story was more amazing that I could have imagined.

Flavia was precocious as ever, but perhaps a little subdued, like she wasn't quite herself. She is getting older now, as she reminds us that she's almost 12, so that might be it. She always appeared older than her age suggested, but in this book that was magnified. It seemed to me that she did less sleuthing in this one and at one point I thought she gave up a little too easily when met with an obstacle. Her relationship with Gladys, her bike, had me giggling as per usual. If you are not familiar with Gladys, she doesn't have any lines, but she a character nevertheless, at least in Flavia's mind.

Flavia always has a wonderful way of saying things, especially for someone her age. Sometimes she's laugh-out-loud funny; other times, profoundly insightful. There are lots of gems in each of the books. Because the whole mood of the book seemed a little more sombre and I'm sort of in that frame of mind, I choose to highlight two dealing with grief and death:
The problem with bereavement...was learning when to put on and when to take off the various masks that one was required to wear...(page 70).
Death is a bore. It is even harder on the survivors than on the deceased, who at least don't have to worry about when to sit and when to stand, or when to permit a pale smile and when to glance tragically away (page 70).

I could have easily picked another half dozen without much effort, but I'm going to leave it there.

The ending was terrific, yet shocking. With new characters and a hint at a new setting for Flavia, the next book is sure to be exciting. I can't wait.

I have read and LOVED all of the books in the series so far. For my thoughts on each them, go to my Reviews by Author page and scroll down to Bradley, Alan.

While a few of the others in the series can be read out of order, I don't necessarily think that's true about this one. Some background information on family dynamics would definitely be helpful. If this series is new to you, start at the beginning. They are fairly quick reads and you won't regret it.

Highly recommended. It was announced some time ago that 4 additional books have been added to this series. YAY! I hope to read as many as Bradley can write. Also, there's also a series of TV movies planned. Another YAY!

For more information about this book, please visit RandomHouse's website.

For more information about the author and his other books in this series, please visit the Flavia de Luce website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at RandomHouse for this review copy.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley, Delacorte Press (Random House), ©2014. ISBN 9780385344050(Advance Uncorrected Proof), 314p.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Abomination by Jonathan Holt

In The Abomination, a woman dressed in the sacred robes of a Catholic priest is found dead on the streets of Venice. She quickly becomes known as the Abomination. This is Captain Kat Tapo's first murder case in Venice and she's about to embark on a complicated, but exciting journey. This is the first book in the Carnivia Trilogy, a thrilling series in which a police captain and a female US military officer team up to "unravel a dark conspiracy linking the CIA and the Catholic Church". The parties involved include the US Military, the Italian mafia, the Catholic Church, a corrupt police force, and much more.

I enjoyed this first book in the trilogy. The story was extremely interesting and educational, but got a little too complicated with all of the opposing forces at work. Some of the time, I couldn't figure out what was going on.

The story also delves into the wars that broke up the former Yugoslavia. While the conspiracy theories kept me interested and on my toes, I think I needed some background information on the war in order to understand the implications and intricacies of what was going on. I got bits and pieces, but not the whole thing. I hadn't followed what was going on when the war was taking place because news stories about the war generally make my eyes glaze over.

Having said that, there was a lot I loved about this book. I loved all of the information about Venice and the US government in Italy. I had no idea that there were still so many US servicemen and servicewomen on bases in that country. The information about the Catholic Church and its priests were equally fascinating.

This was the first book I've read set in Venice. What a wonderful city! I loved all of the information on the Acqua alta, which is "high water" in Italian. I'm definitely going to read more about this subject.

Some of the story takes place in Carnivia, an online version of Venice where users could meet in secret and leave messages for each other. It was apparently accurate right down to the number of bricks and stones in the city. I adored the idea, but I wanted this "online world" to figure more prominently in the story than it did. What can I say, I'm a geek.

Recommended. Even though I didn't love this book, I'll probably read the next book in the series.

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

The Abomination by Jonathan Holt, Harper (HarperCollins), ©2013. ISBN 9780062264336 (Uncorrected Proof), 437p.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tell Me by Lisa Jackson

In Tell Me, Blondell, who was convicted twenty years ago of murdering her own daughter, Amity, and shooting two others, is about to be released. The prosecution surmised that Blondell wanted to be with her lover rather than her children. Now, the killing has started again. Was Blondell wrongly convicted? What really happened the night that Amity was killed? That's what reporter, Nikki Gillette, is determined to find out.

I enjoyed this book. It was an interesting mystery with plenty of suspense. I wish I had read the previous books in the series, though. They probably would have given me some background information on the major characters. I didn't think that Jackson did a particularly good job of introducing them in this book.

Speaking of the main characters, I liked both Nikki Gillette and Detective Pierce Reed. Their relationship felt a little odd to me, though. Perhaps I really should have read the previous books to find out more about it. I was confused by some of Nikki's behaviour, particularly when she wanted Reed to share what he knew about the case, but she didn't see it necessary to reciprocate when she found out something he wasn't likely to know.

The book made me realize how hard reporters work to get a story. On one hand I gained a new respect for the leg work that they have to do to get a story. Without them, we wouldn't know what was going on in the world. In this story, Nikki had lots of running around to do and she needed to be quick on her feet. She wasn't always welcomed where she went. On the other hand, though, it felt like Nikki was being too pushy at times, especially with those who already said they didn't want to talk. It felt like she was invading their privacy. There are just some things the public doesn't have the right to know.

I had two other problems with the book. First, the sex scenes felt gratuitous and didn't really add anything to the story. Second, while the "interview" chapters were fascinating, they felt disconnected from the rest of the story.

Recommended. Even though I had a couple of problems with the book, I still enjoyed it and will definitely read another book by Jackson.

For more information about this book, please visit the Kensington Books website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Lisa Jackson's website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

Tell Me by Lisa Jackson, Kensington Books, ©2013. ISBN 9780758256566(Trade Paperback), 328p.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Seventh Victim by Mary Burton

In The Seventh Victim, the Seattle Strangler killed 6 women 7 years ago. One other woman, Lara, survived the attack and moved back to Austin, where she trying to get on with her life. That is, until the police show up with devastating news. The Strangler is back and he's in Austin.

I really enjoyed this psychological mystery. I liked that it was written from different points-of-view and ended up being quite the page turner. I also liked that each chapter was preceded with the date and time. It's such a small thing, but it really helped me with the timeline.

The book is billed as romantic suspense. Had I known that from the start, I may not have picked it up at all. That's really not my thing. Luckily, the romantic part was kept to a minimum. In fact, the sexual tension that did exist between a couple of the characters wasn't needed at all, in my opinion, and mostly felt gratuitous.

The characters were really good. I especially liked Texas Ranger James Beck and Lara, the seventh victim. However, I didn't think she was all that bright in wandering around on her own at night with a serial killer around, especially since he got to her once already. However, I loved that Lara was a photographer because of my own interest in photography. Her obsession with photographing crime scenes, though, was morbid, but to each his own.

The ending contains a nice twist, but was a bit predictable. Perhaps I've been watching too many Criminals Minds type shows on TV.

Recommended. This is the first book I read by this author, but it probably won't be the last. I'd most likely read another book of hers providing I can find one that is more suspenseful and less romantic. ;)

For more information about this book, please visit the Kensington Books website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Mary Burton's website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

The Seventh Victim by Mary Burton, Kensington Books, ©2013. ISBN 9781420125054(Advance Uncorrected Proof), 362p.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lucky Stiff by Annelise Ryan

In Lucky Stiff, Mattie Winston, nurse turned deputy coroner, is at the scene of fire where a body has been found. It turns out the victim was a paraplegic who had just won the lottery. Together with Detective Steve Hurley, Maggie is convinced that the guy was killed for his winnings. After awhile, though, they aren't so sure. With lots of suspects to investigate, Mattie must use her forensic skills to find the killer before he strikes again.

I enjoyed this book. However, it didn't start out that way. In fact, I almost put the book down on page 2, when I came across the phrase "pocket rocket" to describe a part of the male anatomy. Uggg... Really? After putting the book down for a few minutes, I figured I'd give it a chance despite that unfortunate choice of wording. I'm really glad I did because the book as a whole was well written and I ended up really enjoying it.

The book is part of a series (#4), but it doesn't really read like one. There are hints of a past between Mattie and Hurley, but not so much that I felt like I was missing something.

Besides it being well written, there was lots I liked about the book. It was informative about police work and the work of the Medical Examiner. I found it all interesting. Ryan introduces all of the characters quite well. This was especially important to me because I hadn't read the previous books in the series. I also liked that the ending wasn't all sunshine and roses. It's probably a setup for the next book in the series, but I still liked it. Not every story/event/life has a happy ending, right?

My one small complaint was that perhaps there was a little too much lusting going on between Mattie and Hurley. However, that sexual tension actually added something to the story. I'm amazed that I'm even saying that; I don't say it often!! Now that I think about it, there was one other thing that I didn't like. Mattie seemed much too smart to believe that she could win really big at the casino.

Annelise Ryan is the pseudonym of Beth Amos.

Highly Recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit the Kensington Books website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Beth Amos's website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

Lucky Stiff by Annelise Ryan, Kensington Books, ©2013. ISBN 9780758275761(Mass Market), 366p.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

In This is Where I Leave You, Judd Foxman's father dies and his mother and siblings gather together. It's been a decade since they've spent time together as a group for any length of time. It should get interesting. If that's not bad enough, Judd has recently discovered that his wife was having an affair with his boss and now she's pregnant. Anyway, his father's dying request was for his family to spend the seven days after his death together, sitting Shiva. As they do, their differences rapidly become apparent, but so do their bonds as a family.

I wasn't familiar with Tropper's work, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book. A death, an affair, and an unexpected pregnancy all sound pretty depressing. I certainly wasn't expecting anything to smile or laugh about. So, this book sat on my shelf until I was ready to deal with stuff like that. However, now that I've read it, I wish I had picked it up earlier. It wasn't all that sad. In fact, there were tons of laugh-out-loud moments. Great stuff! Of course, there were also lots of touching and tender moments, too. By the end, I loved it. Really loved it!!

I learned a lot about sitting Shiva and the Judaism, as did the family. Apparently, the father wasn't all that religious, so his final request was quite shocking to everyone. Yet, they did their best to honor it. The whole thing was extremely enlightening. I can't say if it was accurate, but Tropper did a great job of making it entertaining.

There were many great lines in this book. Here are my favourites:
You never know when it will be the last time you'll see your father, or kiss your wife, or play with your little brother, but there's always a last time. If you could remember every last time, you'd never stop grieving. (page 156)
It's a sad moment when you come to understand how truly replaceable you are. (page 215)
The old expression goes, a good speech is like a woman's skirt: short enough to hold your attention, long enough to cover the subject. (page 234)
At some point, being angry is just another habit, like smoking, and you keep poisoning yourself without thinking about it. (page 333-4)
Apparently, this book is being made into a movie, which is scheduled to open in September, 2014. I don't go to a lot of movies, but I'll be seeing this one for sure.

Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit Penguin's name website.

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit Jonathan Tropper's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin for this review copy.

The is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, Dutton (Penguin), ©2009. ISBN 9780525951278 (Advance Uncorrected Proof), 339p.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey

In The Widows of Braxton County, Kate marries Joe Krause and moves to the family farm in Iowa. It's not like she pictured or hoped it would be. For one thing, she didn't know that Joe's mother, Trudy, would be living with them. It didn't help that Trudy didn't like Kate at all. Eventually, she learns of a long kept secret in the Krause family about a death long ago that still has the town gossiping.

I really enjoyed this book, but I didn't love it. I really liked the story format. It jumps back and forth between the past (1890) and the present (2012). I thought this was a perfect way to present these two part to the story that were in many ways quite similar. The author was able to reveal little bits and pieces in each, which made it all the more suspenseful.

The problems I had were mainly with Kate. She said she wanted her own life and get away from her grandmother. However, she also said she couldn't wait for her husband to take care of her. That didn't sound right to me, not when it was supposed to be 2012. Also, I wanted to give Kate a shake at her reaction after suffering mental and physical abuse at the hands of Joe. She said it was all her fault for approaching him at the wrong time. *big sigh* Again, that sounds like someone who's terribly naïve or someone who's from a previous time period where women had fewer options.

On the plus side, I really liked Will from the hardware store, and the neighbour, Rose. Both of them were good strong characters. I also liked Hannah, the first widow, from 1890.

The suspense about long kept secret was really good. However, I want there to be more to it. I felt a bit underwhelmed by it all. It wasn't that I didn't like the ending it was just that I wanted something more. It did, however, keep me interested and rapidly turning pages until the very end.

Jess McConkey is also known as Shirley Damsgaard.

This edition of the book contains a P.S. section, which features an article about the author, the story behind the book, a reading group guide, and information on her other books. It's well worth the read.

This is the first book I've read from McConkey. I do, however, have a few of her mysteries on my to-be-read shelf. I had no idea McConkey and Damsgaard were the same person.


For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Jess McConkey's website or Shirley Damsgaard's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey, William Morrow (HarperCollins), ©2013. ISBN 9780062188267(Trade paperback), 358p.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Buried in Buttercream by G.A. McKevett

In Buried in Buttercream, P.I Savannah Reid is all set to marry Dirk Coulter. When Madeline Aberson, the wedding planner, turns up dead, though, the wedding is put on hold so that Savannah and Dirk can solve the mystery.

I thought this book was just okay. Luckily, it was a quick and all in all pretty fun to read. I was really in the mood for something that wouldn't take much effort on my part; this one fit the bill. However, there were many times I wished that I had read the previous book or books in the series. I definitely needed some back story to know what was going on, especially when it came to previous events. It serves me right trying to jump into a series, at #17, no less. Oh, well. I mostly enjoyed it nevertheless.

The whole southern "thing" was cute at first, but got a little annoying after awhile. Maybe I was just getting annoyed that I felt left out. Also, because I hadn't read any of the books, I had a hard time caring about the characters' predicament, especially Savannah's previous brush with death and postponing the wedding again.

One thing I couldn't believe was that Savannah had her whole family visiting (and living with her) for the wedding. Yet, when the wedding was postponed, they didn't go home. If that wasn't bad enough, they were so lazy and ungrateful. She should have sent them packing. I know I would have.

Recommended for cozy lovers. However, I think those who have read the previous books will enjoy this one more.

G.A. McKevett is a pseudonym of Sonja Massie.

For more information about this book, please visit the Kensington Books website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Sonja Massie's website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

Buried in Buttercream by G.A. McKevett, Kensington Books, ©2012. ISBN 9780758238139(Mass Market), 298p.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb

In A Half Forgotten Song, 14-year old Dimity "Mitzy" Hatcher has been raised by her wild and aloof mother. She's lonely and is desperate to belong. When Charles Aubrey, a famous artist and his family visit the area for the summer, Mitzy befriends his daughters. As Aubrey becomes interested in drawing Mitzy, she becomes obsessed with him. Many years later, Zach descends upon the village in search of information about the artist and a particular drawing that has caught his interest. As he searches for answers, he uncovers long buried secrets of those long ago summers.

I adored this book! Webb is definitely one of my favourite authors and I think this is my favourite book of hers to date. The descriptions of the works of art as well as the setting of the story were fantastic. I loved it all.

Like Webb's other books, this one alternates between the past and the present. In the past, Mitzy is a young girl; in the present Dimity is an old, reclusive woman. I really felt sorry for Mitzy as a child, but it's her life in her later years that had me in tears a number of times. This alone kept me glued to the pages. I had to know what happened to this woman in her life that left her so isolated and alone as she got older. The story was more incredible than I ever could have imagined. It definitely took a teenage crush and an obsession to a whole new level.

The story is very relatable, at least for women. I think most teenage girls have at least one intense crush in their adolescence. Thankfully, very few of them (us) take it to this level.

The ending and its implications were haunting. It still gives me shivers to think about it.

This edition of the book includes a PS section, which features notes about the author, a Q&A, the story behind the book, a Reading Group Guide, suggested further reading, and other books by Webb. I love these additions to books and always find them worth a read.

I've also read two other books by Webb: The Legacy and The Unseen. I loved them both.

Highly recommended. I can't say enough good things about this book. I'm definitely looking forward to her next book, The Misbegotten.

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

A Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb, HarperCollins, ©2013. ISBN 9780062234520(Uncorrected Proof), 469p.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Original 1982 by Lori Carson

In The Original 1982, Lisa, a 24-year old waitress and wannabe singer, makes a life-altering decision. Years later she wonders what her life would have been like if she had chosen differently. Her journey takes her back to the original 1982 as well as an alternate one.

I was a bit disappointed in this book. I love the concept of this novel, but I didn't love the execution or the writing. Because the writing was a bit choppy, it took me awhile to get used to it. Also, I didn't love that both "years" weren't given equal billing. At first, Carson spent a lot of time exploring the alternate one, while the original 1982 was just left with a sentence or two. Of course, there were exceptions throughout the book and by the end she abandoned the alternate one all together. It just felt lopsided and I couldn't always tell what was going on. I think there were a few times where she didn't give enough clues to tell which "year" she was talking about.

The novel is written in the first person and is directed to her daughter, Minnow. That all fine and good until she gets to the sex parts where she leaves very little to the imagination. When you consider she's talking to her daughter (at times quite young), that's just icky. It could be just me, but I don't think any child wants to know how much sex or what kind of sex his/her parents engaged in.

Having said all of that, the story does contain some touching moments that were quite good. I don't have children and have never had to make the decision that Lisa did. However, I do know a few people who were in a similar position and this book made me see a side of their circumstances that I hadn't considered. In that way, I guess it opened my eyes a little and for that I'm grateful.

Because of Lisa's choices in her life, this book might not be for everyone.

I'm sorry, but I won't be recommending this book.

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins website.

For more about the author, please visit Lori Carson's blog.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

The Original 1982 by Lori Carson, William Morrow (HarperCollins), ©2013. ISBN 9780062245298(Trade paperback), 228p.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Death Sculptor by Chris Carter

In The Death Sculptor, a murderer leaves behind a bizarre calling card near the body of prosecutor, Derek Nicholson. The police know that the killer is trying to communicate with them, but it's not readily apparent what the message is. The police are stumped when another body turns up, with an equally disturbing calling card, and they can't find any connection to the first victim. Detective Robert Hunter, together with his partner Garcia and investigator Alice Beaumont, must decipher the message and stop the Death Sculptor.

I loved this book!!! It's creepy and seriously twisted. It's pretty scary to think that Carter was able to come up with something so disturbed. It's definitely not for the squeamish or the faint of heart. The details get quite gory, but fortunately these aren't the main focus. The psychological side to the story is the main attraction. While it's seems tamer on the surface, it can sometimes be just as terrifying as the violence.

There's lots to love about Detective Robert Hunter, the main character. He seems to possess a set of traits perfect for this type of work. He approaches the investigation by trying to get into the mind of the killer and does a lot of analysing. He's a loner, who seems to do little else other than work. He also enjoys a good whiskey, but doesn't drown his sorrows.

Even though it's the 4th book in the Robert Hunter series, it didn't read like part of a series and can be read as a standalone book.

I've read one other book by Carter, One by One. I loved it!!

The author's background is interesting and varied. He started off working for the District Attorney in Michigan on the Criminal Psychology team. Then spent numerous years in LA as a rock band musician before becoming a writer full time.

Highly recommended. I love Carter's work and I hope to read many more of his books.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's UK website.

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit Chris Carter's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster UK for this review copy.

The Death Sculptor by Chris Carter, Simon & Schuster ©2012. ISBN 9780857203007(Hardcover), 496p.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Doctor and the Diva by Adrienne McDonnell

In The Doctor and the Diva, Erika von Kessler, an opera singer and her husband, Peter, are struggling to have a baby. They consult Doctor Ravell, a Harvard-educated obstetrician, who is renowned for helping couples conceive. However, by this time, Erika is convinced that it's hopeless and she's desperate to go to Italy to pursue her operatic career. This story of love affairs, desires, and decisions, take the reader to various locals: Boston, South America, and Italy.

I loved this debut novel, which is based on a true story of the author's ancestor. It's so beautifully told with fantastic characters and wonderfully inviting locals. I loved that it was told from the various characters' viewpoints. The historical aspects were especially intriguing. McDonnell was able to convey details about the time period (early 1900s) that made me feel like I was actually there. The details and descriptions of Trinidad, Venezuela, and Italy were stunning.

The story itself was fascinating. I found it extremely interesting to read about fertility treatments at the time. I didn't realize that couples had options back then. I also loved reading about Erika's career and all of the details about the operas. I adore opera; too bad I can't listen and read at the same time because I have a number of CDs that would be perfect background music for this book.

I loved the characters, too. In some respect, I shouldn't have been able to relate to them. I don't have children and haven't had to make the agonizing decision between them and a career. But, somehow I did. I didn't always agree with their decisions, but I was able to understand why they made them. Thankfully, none of this stopped me from thoroughly enjoying this story.

One part I couldn't figure out was why Doctor Ravell failed to contact Erika for long periods of time, when he obviously had strong feelings for her.

Because of the subject matter, this book might not be for everyone.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book, please visit Penguin's website.

For more information about the author, please visit Adrienne McDonnell's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin for this review copy.

The Doctor and the Diva by Adrienne McDonnell, Viking (Penguin), ©2010. ISBN 9780670021888(Advance Uncorrected Proof), 422p.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Red Velvet Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

In Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, Hannah Swensen has been hired to bake some goodies for the grand opening of the recently renovated Albion Hotel. At the party, it's a surprise to everyone when Doctor Bev, Hannah's nemesis, turns up on the arm of a major investor in the project. It's even more of a surprise when one of the guests later falls off the roof. Before the police can determine what really happened, though, Doctor Bev is then found dead and Hannah quickly becomes the chief suspect. While baking up a storm, she has to solve the mystery and clear her name.

This book was just okay. I'm really glad that I had read the book just previous to this one Cinnamon Roll Murder (my review) because there are numerous references to that story in this one. It doesn't exactly pickup where that one left off, but it's close.

Even though I haven't read all of the books in the series, I've read a few and really enjoyed them. They felt substantial to me and not fluffy like other cozy mystery series. I loved the recipes and how the author incorporated the recipes into the story itself by having the characters make the recipes and eat the results. They were fun to read. However, I think I'm getting a bit tired of it all. It's starting to feel like the recipes/baking/eating are taking over the story and the mysteries are being forgotten until the very end.   At one point, I even forgot there was a mystery to solve.  As much as I love baking and eating, I just wish the characters would spend more time investigating and solving the mysteries.

While some of the recipes sound delicious, I wouldn't make any of them solely based on the fact that the instructions next to the ingredient "flour" says to "pack it down in the cup when you measure it". That's not the proper way to handle flour. Ever. Besides that, I find the recipes to be excessively wordy. They come across as homey and cutesy, which makes it feel like the recipes were actually written by the characters. However, I prefer my recipes to be concise and to the point.

Hard-core fans of this series will probably love this one. As for me, I think I'm going to give this series a rest. I might try one of Fluke's thrillers, though.

For more information about this book, please visit the Kensington Books website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Joanne Fluke's website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

Red Velvet Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke, Kensington Books, ©2013. ISBN 9780758280343(Trade paperback), 325p.