Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Gift of Love - Lori Foster


Families come in many configurations, and every one is unique, made up of the personalities of each member. But the love that connects families is universal. Whether it is the love of parents for their children, the love between a husband and wife, the love between siblings, a love that transcends generations, or even the love for a family member never met, the family ties that bind us are the strongest and deepest emotional connections we experience. Families influence a person's development, how they treat others, and how they view life. In The Gift of Love, eight exceptional writers offer a variety of unique perspectives on what family love means and how it impacts our lives in ways profound and often surprising.


Cole's Review:

Can I tell you how much I loved this book?!?!  It was so good.  Really, my only regret is that some of the stories are so short.  Almost half of the eight vignettes would make fabulous full length books.

Because each story is so short, it's a little hard to give you plot points on all of them without giving away the entire story but I'll try.

For The Love of Wendy - The tale of Jack a widowed father, as he realizes that he loves Brianna - his daughter Wendy's caretaker.

Ava's Haven - Olivia made some mistakes in her youth.  Now she runs a shelter and runs into the man that broke her heart but could be the one to piece it back together.

Atticus Gets A Mommy - Keenan is quadriplegic who makes his way through life with the help of Atticus his rhesus monkey.  He loves Diana but believes she deserves a "whole" man - something he doesn't believe he is.

The Redemption of Brodie Grant - Brodie comes back to town to attend his sister's wedding to a man he loathes.  Instead he finds himself attracted to the groom's sister.

The Wolf Watcher's Diet - Ella gets in a car accident and finds herself getting grabbed by a man.  A "big dog" rushes in to save her but accidentally bites her.  It turns out that this big dog is actually a wolf; a man she teaches with, named Luke.

A Fairy Precious Love - Honeysuckle lost her wings to a fairy blight, and must find a way to exist without them.

Second Time Around - Serena is a high school teacher who has her childhood crush, Heath's son in her class.  Heath had a bright future he gave up to become a single dad, but still can't forget Serena. 

The only thing that kept me from giving this book an "A" was the aforementioned desire to see full length versions of some of these stories.  While these stories were great - they lacked some of the detail that I wanted.

Grade: B

Hope In A Jar - Beth Harbison


From the New York Times bestselling author of Shoe Addicts Anonymous and Secrets of a Shoe Addict comes a tale of old friends, new loves, and the undeniable power of a little face cream.

Twenty years ago, Allie Denty was the pretty one and her best friend, Olivia Pelham, was the smart one. Throughout high school, they were inseparable . . . until a vicious rumor about Olivia---a rumor too close to the truth---ended their friendship.

Now, on the eve of their twentieth high school reunion, Allie finds herself suddenly single, a little chubby, and feeling old. Olivia, successful beauty editor in New York, realizes she’s lonely, and that she’s finally ready to face her demons.

Sometimes hope lives in the future; sometimes it comes from the past; and sometimes, when every stupid thing goes wrong, it comes from a prettily packaged jar filled with scented cream and promises.

Beth Harbison has done it again. A hilarious and touching novel about friendship, Love’s Baby Soft perfume, Watermelon Lip Smackers, bad run-ins with Sun-In, and the healing power of “Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific.” Hope in a jar: We all need it.

Cole's Review:
This book was a quick read, and you just couldn't help but have flashbacks to your own high school experience - the pretty girls, the smart girls...and the MEAN girls.
Allie's reunion is coming quickly and she is falling apart.  In order to help her boyfriend build his career, she's forsaken her own in favor of temp jobs; she's not enjoying her body image and then she comes home to find her boyfriend in bed with someone else!!  Her ex-best friend Olivia has moved beyond her rough childhood and become a beauty editor in NYC - who has come to realize that she has nothing she wants out of life.
Allie and Olivia's mutual friend Noah convinces them both to come to their 20th high school reunion - and the hijinks really begin when they try and stop Noah from doing something that they believe would ruin his life.
Grab this book and enjoy the last few "beach" days of the year.
Grade: B 

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Kitchen House - Kathleen Grissom


Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.

Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.

The Kitchen House is a tragic story of page-turning suspense, exploring the meaning of family, where love and loyalty prevail.

Cole's Review:

This books uses the dual narration of Lavinia and Belle.  As Lavinia grows, you get to experience her change in point of view; her maturing before our eyes.  Belle, on the other hand, tells us the much darker reality of how their farm is run and the bad things happening around her.

I really enjoyed this book.  You are quickly drawn into these characters and those around them.  I felt for Lavinia as she realized that she wouln't be able to stay with her adoptive family of house and field workers, for Belle as she watched the man she loves love another woman, as they both struggle for "free papers" and what they should do if/when they get them.

I'll be honest...I haven't read a lot of books about slavery. If they were all this beautifully written- I'd read a lot more of them.
Grade: B

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

uncharted terriTORI, Tori Spelling


Welcome to Los Angeles, birthplace and residence of Tori Spelling.

It’s not every Hollywood starlet whose name greets you on a Virgin Airways flight into la-la land. But Tori Spelling has come to accept that her life is a spectacle. Her name is her brand, and business is booming. Too bad when your job is to be yourself, you can’t exactly take a break.

Having it all isn’t always easy—especially when you’re a perfectionist—but with the help of her unconventional family and friends, an underwear-clad spiritual cleansing or two, and faith in herself, she’s learning to find her happy ending. Because when you’re Tori Spelling, every day brings uncharted terriTORI.***


Sara's Review:

I enjoyed Tori's first two books, sTORI telling and Mommywood, so I was excited for this one to come out a few weeks ago. I was sixth on the waiting list at the library, so I was surprised to find out that it was already available just last week. I thought, "Those other ladies must have read it fast!". Um, now I know why. It's super short and if you've seen her show on Oxygen, then you've already seen about 75% of the book material. I found myself skimming large sections of it because I already knew what happened - I saw it months ago.

Overall, a disappointing read. I'd rather watch the show.

Grade: C

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What To Do When Someone Dies - Nicci French


'This is not my world. Something is wrong, askew. It is a Monday evening in October. I am Ellie Falkner, 34 years old and married to Greg Manning. Although two police officers have just come to my door and told me he is dead . . . '

It's devastating to hear that your husband has died in a horrific car accident. But to learn that he died with a mystery woman as his passenger is torment. Was Greg having an affair?

Drowning in grief, Ellie clings to Greg's innocence, and her determination to prove it to the world at large means she must find out who Milena Livingstone was and what she was doing in Greg's car. But in the process those around her begin to question her sanity ... and her motive. And the louder she shouts that Greg might have been murdered, the more suspicion falls on Ellie herself. Sometimes it's safer to keep silent when someone dies ...

Cole's Review:

I haven't read a Nicci French book in a while, but recall shear artistry in word choice and delightful mystery.  This book? disappoints.  Don't get me wrong, it's a good book.  Just not nearly as good as a Nicci French book should be.

The story is great.  Ellie's husband dies - with another woman in his car.  Was Greg cheating?  If so, when?  How do you prove his innocence or guilty when everyone presumes that he was cheating?  How far will Ellie go to find out about Milena - the other woman?  However, I got caught up a lot in the details.  So many of them didn't add up.  Ellie runs out of food and money...but still can go out drinking with all her friends.  There is reference to Ellie's family being nearby...but there is virtually no support or even reference to them again.  Milena's family shows no interest in finding out about her death.

I'd only recommend this book as an easy read at the beach or to keep you entertained if you get sick.

Grade: D

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Heart of the Matter, Emily Giffin


Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her mother’s warnings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life.

Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie---a boy who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance---and even, to some degree, friendships---believing that it is always safer not to expect too much.

Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.

In alternating, pitch-perfect points of view, Emily Giffin creates a moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most.


Sara's Review:

This book is not at all what I expected it to be - it's better. I loved Emily Giffin's Baby Proof and Something Borrowed, but was less a fan of the two follow up books - Something Blue and Love the One You're With. Nevertheless, I was eager to get my hands on this one and was stoked to be the sixth person in the library queue!

I completely loved this book. I know a lot of people don't agree. This particular subject (I don't want to spoil it, so you'll just have to read!) is tricky and touchy and uncomfortable. A lot of people have complained that there's no big action or drama to the plot line. For me, I think that's why the book worked - it is delicate and nuanced and so unlike most of the in-your-face drama we are so used to seeing on reality TV. This is how life really happens.

I found myself unable to put the book down. I simply had to know what happened next.

Grade: A

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Enemy's Cradle - Sara Young


Cyrla's neighbors have begun to whisper. Her cousin, Anneke, is pregnant and has passed the rigorous exams for admission to the Lebensborn, a maternity home for girls carrying German babies. But Anneke's soldier has disappeared, and Lebensborn babies are only ever released to their father's custody -- or taken away.

A note is left under the mat. Someone knows that Cyrla, sent from Poland years before for safekeeping with her Dutch relatives, is Jewish. The Nazis are imposing more and more restrictions; she won't be safe there for long.

And then in the space of an afternoon, life falls apart. Cyrla must choose between certain discovery in her cousin's home and taking Anneke's place in the Lebensborn -- Cyrla and Anneke are nearly identical. If she takes refuge in the enemy's lair, can Cyrla fool the doctors, nurses, guards, and other mothers-to-be? Can she escape before they discover she is not who she claims?

Mining a lost piece of history, Sara Young takes us deep into the lives of women living in the worst of times. Part love story and part elegy for the terrible choices we must often make to survive, My Enemy's Cradle keens for what we lose in war and sings for the hope we sometimes find.


Cole's Review:

My mom handed me this book this morning, saying that I had to read it.  A book about Nazis in WWII Germany and Holland?!?!  Uh, no thanks mom.  But, I trust her and gave the book a shot. I really glad I did.  While this is a fiction, the issues covered in the book are very real.

Cyrla is a young woman who has lacked stability in life.  She was sent from her home in Poland to life with her aunt, uncle and cousin - Anneke in Holland when the Nazi regime starts encroaching.  Soon, Anneke announces her pregnancy with a Nazi soldier and her shamed father gets her into a German maternity home.  All hell breaks loose when a note announces that someone knows Cyrla is Jewish, Anneke dies unexpectedly, and the man Cyrla loves pushes her to flee.

Cyrla isn't pregnant.  Can she feasibly take the place of Anneke in the maternity home?  Will she ever see her family again?  Can she trust anyone with her secrets?  

I really enjoyed this book (obviously...I read it in under a day!) and think that anyone interested in historical fiction would too.

Grade: B 

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Opposite of Me - Sarah Pekkanen


Twenty-nine-year-old Lindsey Rose has, for as long as she can remember, lived in the shadow of her ravishingly beautiful fraternal twin sister, Alex. Determined to get noticed, Lindsey is finally on the cusp of being named VP creative director of an elite New York advertising agency, after years of eighty-plus-hour weeks, migraines, and profound loneliness. But during the course of one devastating night, Lindsey’s carefully constructed life implodes. Humiliated, she flees the glitter of Manhattan and retreats to the time warp of her parents’ Maryland home. As her sister plans her lavish wedding to her Prince Charming, Lindsey struggles to maintain her identity as the smart, responsible twin while she furtively tries to piece her career back together. But things get more complicated when a long-held family secret is unleashed that forces both sisters to reconsider who they are and who they are meant to be.


Cole's Review:

I picked up this book and couldn't put it down.  This is the tale of Lindsey - a woman on the cusp of having everything she wanted...until office politics, a little bit of alcohol and some bad timing come into play.  Lindsey is her family's "smart one", while her twin sister Alex is the "pretty one" and she's very hesitant to let her family know she failed.  What to do?  LIE!!

And in the course of these lies - Lindsey encounters people that change her perspective on life, what she thinks she knows about being the "smart one", and finds a life she never knew she always wanted.

This book is funny, a bit bittersweet and I think everyone with a sibling should read it. (And then go hug said sibling!)

Grade: A

Worst Case, James Patterson


Best case: Survival
The son of one of New York's wealthiest families is snatched off the street and held hostage. His parents can't save him, because this kidnapper isn't demanding money. Instead, he quizzes his prisoner on the price others pay for his life of luxury. In this exam, wrong answers are fatal.

Worst case: Death
Detective Michael Bennett leads the investigation. With ten kids of his own, he can't begin to understand what could lead someone to target anyone's children. As another student disappears, another powerful family uses their leverage and connections to turn up the heat on the mayor, the press—anyone who will listen—to stop this killer. Their reach extends all the way to the FBI, which sends its top Abduction Specialist, Agent Emily Parker. Bennett's life—and love life—suddenly get even more complicated.

This case: Detective Michael Bennett is on it
Before Bennett has a chance to protest the FBI's intrusion on his case, the mastermind changes his routine. His plan leads up to the most devastating demonstration yet—one that could bring cataclysmic ruin to every inch of New York City.

Sara's Review:

I listened to this book on CD during my commute to work. I do this a lot because it makes the time pass very quickly. I've listened to probably 50 books on CD over the last few years and this is the first one I've ever run into that had sound effects - fake laughs, even more fake crying, and other random, generally ridiculous low-rent sound effects. I found it incredibly distracting. Ugh.

That said, the book itself was decent. Not one of James Patterson's best, but certainly entertaining enough. The story is suspenseful if a tad bit unbelievable. He throws in a curve ball at the end that is pointless (at best) but otherwise the plot line is interesting and the characters witty.

Overall, I can think of half a dozen Patterson books I'd prefer to read, but if you're like me and you've already read through half his library, this one isn't a bad one to add to the list.

Grade: C

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Perfect Family - Pam Lewis


From the acclaimed author of Speak Softly, She Can Hear, a literary page-turner about a proper New England family and the dark secrets that undo them.

Pony Carteret -- the lovely headstrong youngest member of the Carteret family -- has always been a strong swimmer. So when she is discovered drowned at the family's summer home on Lake Aral, Vermont, her red hair tangled in an anchor chain and her baby abandoned on shore, her family is stunned by disbelief.

As the police conduct their investigation, Jasper Carteret, the patriarch, calls an urgent family meeting. Had any of her siblings known that Pony would be at the house that day? Was she having personal problems, was she depressed? Had she ever revealed the true identity of her baby's father? Neither sister -- Tinker, the family caretaker, nor Mira, the moody, thoughtful one -- has any information, and ultimately the police rule the drowning an accident.

But William Carteret, Pony's older brother, can't accept the explanation that his favorite sister's death was an accident. Determined to uncover the truth, he eventually learns the disturbing fact that a stranger had been present at the house the evening Pony died. Who was this man, what was he doing at the house, and why hasn't he stepped forward? As William digs deeper, his investigations quickly lead him to a new and more daunting series of questions, not only about the mysteries in Pony's life but also about the shadowy details of his deceased mother's past and even his own. Before long, he has opened a Pandora's box of family secrets, including one dangerous fact his mother has kept hidden for a generation.

Pam Lewis's Perfect Family is a masterful, atmospheric tale about the ways in which family secrets, no matter how long they're buried, can wield their tremendous power.


Cole's Review:

This book draws you in quickly, reading more like a family saga than a murder mystery at times.  The tension between various family members is palpable - a power struggle between father, Jasper and son, William; the overt sexuality of Pony and converse repression of Tinker.

Pony, the youngest daughter of the Carteret clan dies under odd circumstances, leaving her father and siblings to unravel her past and their own - discovering exactly how many secrets they were keeping from each other.  Truthfully, some of these secrets are believable...but a few were just a stretch instead of the author's intent of being jaw-dropping.

This is a quick and enjoyable read for those that can get past the goofy nicknames given to the girls in the family (Pony, Tinker and Mira).

Grade: C

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

61 Hours, Lee Child


savage snowstorm and a tour bus crash land Reacher in the middle of South Dakota—unprepared. For the snow, that is. But he’s ready, as only he can be, to risk his life to protect a courageous witness. If she’s going to live long enough to testify, she needs his help. There's a killer headed straight for her and he'll be in town soon...or maybe he’s already there...

Sara's Review:

For anyone who is looking for a series of books to read, you can't go wrong with Lee Child's Jack Reacher series. I've been reading them for several years and got my famously anti-reading husband hooked on them as well. 61 Hours is the 14th book in this series of stand-alone stories about an ex-military wanderer named Jack Reacher, who's a cross between James Bond and Jack Ryan.

The latest book came out the Tuesday before our vacation and we fought over who would get to read it first. As soon as my father-in-law realized we had it, he was bugging us to both to read faster so he could have his turn too!

The story is a bit slow, as the whole thing unfolds over a short 61 hour time period (shocker, right? HA!). My husband complained that there were too many descriptions of the snow, but for someone who loves to read, I found Child's many descriptions of the South Dakota winter beautifully written.

This one is hard to review without giving away too much of the plot, so I'll just say this: there was something I loved, something I totally hated, a baddie that I didn't see coming until just a few pages before and an ending that leaves you holding your breath.

Bet you want to borrow it from me now too, don'tcha?

Grade: A

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Caught, Harlan Coben


17-year-old Haley McWaid is a good girl, the pride of her suburban New Jersey family, captain of the lacrosse team, headed off to college next year with all the hopes and dreams her doting parents can pin on her. Which is why, when her mother wakes one morning to find that Haley never came home the night before, and three months quickly pass without word from the girl, the community assumes the worst.

Wendy Tynes is a reporter on a mission, to identify and bring down sexual predators via elaborate—and nationally televised—sting operations. Working with local police on her news program Caught in the Act, Wendy and her team have publicly shamed dozens of men by the time she encounters her latest target. Dan Mercer is a social worker known as a friend to troubled teens, but his story soon becomes more complicated than Wendy could have imagined.

In a novel that challenges as much as it thrills, filled with the astonishing tension and unseen suburban machinations that have become Coben’s trademark, Caught tells the story of a missing girl, the community stunned by her loss, the predator who may have taken her, and the reporter who suddenly realizes she can’t trust her own instincts about this story—or the motives of the people around her.

Sara's Review:

I'd had this book on my e-Reader for awhile and finally got around to reading it while we were on vacation last week. I think the official synopsis of the book is a bit misleading, as the book is hardly about Hailey McWaid's disappearance at all - it's more about the man who allegedly took her.

Misdirections aside, I thought the book was pretty good. Harlan Coben is one of my favorite authors and he did not disappoint this time. The story is face-paced and twisting, with a twist that I didn't see coming at all. That is the hallmark of a good mystery novel in my opinion!

Grade: A

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bed of Roses - Nora Roberts

Since she was a little girl, Emma Grant has always loved romance. So it’s really no surprise that she has found her calling as a wedding florist. She gets to play with flowers every day and work with her three best friends in the process. She couldn’t ask for a better job.

And on the surface, Emma’s love life seems to be thriving. Slim and sultry, she brings color into every room she enters, just like the arrangements she creates. Men swarm around her, yet she still hasn’t found Mr. Right. And the last place she’s looking is right under her nose.

But that’s just where Jack Cooke is. He’s been best friends with Parker’s brother for years, which makes him practically family. The architect has begun to admit to himself that his feelings for Emma have developed into much more than friendship. And when Emma returns his passion — kiss for blistering kiss—things start to get complicated at Vows.

Jack has never been big on commitment. Emma yearns for a lifelong love affair. If the two are to find common ground, they must trust in their history — and in their hearts…


Cole's Review:

This is the second in Nora Robert's "Bride Quartet" and I utterly adored this book.  The characters are so heart-warming and rounded.  It would have been easy to be put off by Emma's perfection.  She smart, funny comes from money, is absolutely beautiful and is perky like nobody's business.  However, by showing Jack's agitation with her perkiness from time to time and the other girls envy at her dedication to working out - she comes across as amazingly likeable.

Didn't read Vision in White?!?!  No problem!  The beauty of this book is that, while the series will cumulatively show the relationships that the "Vows" girls enter into - it can be taken as a stand alone book and enjoyed as well.  I particularly like all the wedding hijinx that the girls encounter. Outside of the love story that is the center of this book - you'll get lots of chuckles at the MBs (monster brides), SMOB/Gs (step mother of the bride/groom), ex-boyfriends and wedding guests!

Next stop, Savor the Moment - the third book in the series!

Grade: A

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Vision in White - Nora Roberts


 #1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts presents her first trade original-a novel of love, friendship, and family-Book One in the Bride Quartet.

Wedding photographer Mackensie "Mac" Elliot is most at home behind the camera, but her focus is shattered moments before an important wedding rehearsal when she bumps into the bride-to-be's encounter that has them both seeing stars.

A stable, safe English teacher, Carter Maguire is definitely not Mac's type. But a casual fling might be just what she needs to take her mind off bridezillas. Of course, casual flings can turn into something more when you least expect it. And Mac will have to turn to her three best friends-and business partners-to see her way to her own happy ending.


Cole's Review:

Nora Roberts has written so much, that it's easy to identify her standard formula to romance writing - and this book definitely follows that formula. 

However, for all the girly-girls out there - this book hits the spot.  I dove right in and immediately fell for Mac & Carter, the fabulous photographer and hapless high school English teacher.  I also enjoyed their extended family, and there was just the right amount of tension; the "will they or won't they" before you get the fun, romantic ending that you can expect with Nora Robert's books.  I can't wait to read and review the remainder of this series!

Grade: B

Monday, May 10, 2010

Money to Burn, James Grippando


At twenty-nine, Michael Cantella is a rising star at Wall Street's premiere investment bank, Saxton Silvers. Everything is going according to plan until the love of his life, Ivy Layton, vanishes on their honeymoon in the Bahamas.

Fast forward seven years. It's the eve of his thirty-fifth birthday and Michael is still on track: successful career, beautiful new wife, piles of money. Reveling in his good fortune, Michael logs into his computer, enters his password, and pulls up his biggest investment account: zero balance. He tries another, and another. All of them zero. Someone has wiped him out. His only clue is a new email message: "Just as Planned. xo xo."

With these three words Michael's life as he knows it is liquidated along with his investment portfolio. Saxton Silvers is suddenly on the brink of bankruptcy and he's the leading suspect in its ruin. Michael is left alone, framed, and facing divorce with undercover FBI agents afoot, spyware on his computer, and mysterious emails from a "JBU." Embroiled in corporate espionage, he's desperate to clear his name and face the fact that several signs point to his first wife, Ivy, as a key player. But what if Ivy has come back from the dead, only to visit on Michael a fate worse than death?

Sara's Review:

I didn't technically read this book - I listened to it on CD during my hour-long commute. I do this a lot because it makes the time pass quickly. This book actually made me look forward to getting in the car for the drive to and from work! That's the hallmark of a great book!

The beginning of the book, setting up Cantella's swift downfall, felt a little bit forced. His current wife's reasons for leaving him seem shallow and shaky, but the book picks up quickly from there. I like to think that I can usually tell where a book is going fairly quickly, but this one kept me guessing up until the end. A few of the twists seemed silly but overall I thought it was very intriguing and not at all what I had expected (in a good way!). I highly recommend this one.

Grade: A

Monday, April 19, 2010

Treasure Hunt, John Lescroart


Mickey Dade hates deskwork, but that's all he's been doing at Wyatt Hunt's private investigative service, The Hunt Club. His itch to be active is answered when a body is discovered: It's Dominic Como, one of San Francisco's most high-profile activists—a charismatic man known as much for his expensive suits as his work on half a dozen nonprofit boards. One "person of interest" in the case is Como's business associate, Alicia Thorpe—young, gorgeous, and the sister of one of Mickey's friends.

As Mickey and Hunt are pulled into the case, they soon learn that the city's golden fund-raiser was involved in some highly suspect deals. And the lovely Alicia knows more about this—and more about Como—than she's letting on.


Sara's Review:

I'm a big fan of John Lescroart's Dismas Hardy series. I've read nearly every one over the course of the last few years. So I was excited to read one of the books in his newest series, The Hunt Club.

Sadly, I was disappointed. As interesting as the Hardy series is, The Hunt Club is equally as uninteresting. I didn't find any of the characters particularly moving or dimensional and the entire premise of the book is shaky at best. The writing tries to hard to throw you off the trail of the 'real' killer and in the end, the resolution (if you can call it that) is disappointing and predictable.

Not Lescroart's best showing in my humble opinion. If you've never read him, don't dismiss him all together - just stick with the Hardy series and be glad you didn't get your invitation to the Hunt Club.

Grade: F

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another Mother's Life, Rowan Coleman


Can you ever mend a shattered friendship?

For wealthy Alison James, moving with her family to her hometown of Farmington presents more than a case of relocation jitters. Fifteen years ago, she fled town, eloping with her best friend's boyfriend. Now, blessed with three children, but uneasy in her marriage, she wonders if that decision led her away from the life she was meant to lead.

Catherine Ashley, broke, the mother of two and almost divorced, can't help but wonder the same thing. Although she's content with her children, she finds herself returning again and again to those few weeks fifteen years ago when she fell deeply in love, only to be betrayed by her most trusted friend.

Now, once more living in the same town, Alison and Catherine are about to find out just how different their lives could still be. But this time around they are adults, and while their own happiness is at stake, so is their children's.


Sara's Review:

I borrowed this book from one of my sisters because the premise sounded interesting. Friendship, love, betrayal, unexpected reappearances? Sounded like the makings of a good book to me.

Too bad the best part of the book is the back cover. I was thoroughly disappointed. The 'betrayal story' is flimsy, the women tiresome, the man-in-the-middle a total loser. Neither of the women is particularly likable - Alison comes across as a shallow, selfish moron and Catherine is only marginally more empathetic as the 'scorned woman' who lets a teenage betrayal shape her entire future.

To be honest, I probably wouldn't have even finished the book if I hadn't been trapped on an airplane with nothing better to do.

Grade: D

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gone For Good, Harlan Coben


As a boy, Will Klein had a hero: his older brother, Ken. Then, on a warm suburban night in the Kleins’ affluent New Jersey neighborhood, a young woman—a girl Will had once loved—was found brutally murdered in her family’s basement. The prime suspect: Ken Klein. With the evidence against him overwhelming, Ken simply vanished. And when his shattered family never heard from Ken again, they were sure he was gone for good.

Now eleven years have passed. Will has found proof that Ken is alive. And this is just the first in a series of stunning revelations as Will is forced to confront startling truths about his brother, and even himself. As a violent mystery unwinds around him, Will knows he must press his search all the way to the end. Because the most powerful surprises are yet to come.

Sara's Review:

Harlan Coben has been one of my favorite authors ever since I stumbled upon his book Tell No One half a dozen years ago. Since then, I have slowly but surely been making my way through his long list of amazing books. This one was no exception.

You know how most tag lines on book covers are crap? This one's the exception. "More twists and turns than an amusement park ride" is no exaggeration. Just one you think you've got it all figured out - BAM! - huge plot twist and you're turning pages furiously, trying to get to the end! I was continually surprised, right down to the very last pages. If you like a good mystery without a lot of bloodshed and gore, you don't want to miss this one!

Grade: A

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Postmistress - Sarah Blake


"On the eve of the United States's entrance into World War II in 1940, Iris James, the postmistress of Franklin, a small town on Cape Cod, does the unthinkable: She doesn't deliver a letter.

In London, American radio gal Frankie Bard is working with Edward R. Murrow, reporting on the Blitz. One night in a bomb shelter, she meets a doctor from Cape Cod with a letter in his pocket, a letter Frankie vows to deliver when she returns from Germany and France, where she is to record the stories of war refugees desperately trying to escape.

The residents of Franklin think the war can't touch them- but as Frankie's radio broadcasts air, some know that the war is indeed coming. And when Frankie arrives at their doorstep, the two stories collide in a way no one could have foreseen."

Cole's Review:
I'm a history buff, Anglophile, resident of Massachusetts and both my grandfathers served during WWII.  To say that this book spoke to me is an understatement.
The book is told from the point of view of our three main characters - Iris, Frankie & Emma and set in both Europe and Massachusetts.  Ordinarily, I'm not a big fan of story with multiple points of view, but this book transitions from character to character extraordinarily well.  In a way - this book isn't a shocker.  Everyone who has sat through an American History class knows the general timeline of the war and many of us have heard stories from grandparents, great aunts/uncles, elderly neighbors, etc.  Instead, this book is a moving story of the people behind the war.  The people left behind; the media point of view; the uncertainty of our involvement in the war for quite awhile; that so much of life truly is a series of accidents.
The one flaw that is obvious to me (but might not to you) is that Sarah Blake is not a Massachusetts native.  She is describing Providencetown, but gave it the fictional name of Franklin.  Unfortunately, the town of Franklin really does exist - 35 miles from Boston, not on Cape Cod!
That said; I loved this book and would recommend it to just about everyone.
Grade: A

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

House Rules, Jodi Picoult


Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome. He's hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject — in his case, forensic analysis. He's always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do...and he's usually right. But then his town is rocked by a terrible murder and, for a change, the police come to Jacob with questions. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger's — not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, flat affect — can look a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel. Suddenly, Jacob and his family, who only want to fit in, feel the spotlight shining directly on them. For his mother, Emma, it's a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it's another indication of why nothing is normal because of Jacob. And over this small family the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?


Sara's Review:

Jodi Picoult is one of my all time favorite authors, so I couldn't wait to read her newest book! As always, her writing is beautiful and thought provoking. The story is told from several points of view - Jacob, his brother Theo, his mother Emma, and the detective investigating the murder. I am not normally a fan of multiple POV stories, but this one is movingly crafted. While I would never be so bold as to say I understand the challenges of autism after reading this book, I certainly feel much more aware of them. She does an amazing job of helping the reader understand how it might feel to live with it daily.

That said, I wasn't crazy about the actual storyline. It felt kind of lame and slow moving. The thing I love about Jodi Picoult books is the huge twist in the last 10 pages. I was completely blindsided by the twist in her last novel, Handle With Care, and was expecting more of the same here. Unfortunately, I saw the 'twist' about a quarter of the way through the book. I found the end to be unsatisfying, to say the least.

Lackluster twist aside, I would still recommend the book. And all her other books as well!

Grade: B

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Waking Up In The Land of Glitter - Kathy Cano-Murillo

Synopsis:With glue guns, glitter, twigs, or yarn, the ordinary can become extraordinary. . . especially at La Pachanga. Owned by Estrella "Star" Esteban's family, the restaurant has a rep for two things: good food and great art. La Pachanga brings people together-even when it looks like they couldn't be further apart. One ill-fated evening, Star jeopardizes her family's business, her relationship with her boyfriend, and her future career. To redeem herself, she agrees to participate in a national craft competition, teaming up with her best friend, Ofelia-a secretly troubled mother whose love for crafting borders on obsession-and local celebrity Chloe Chavez-a determined television personality with more than one skeleton in her professional closet. If these unlikely allies can set aside their differences, they'll find strength they never knew they had, and learn that friendship, like crafting, is truly an art form.


Cole's Review:

When I'm not stalking the aisles of a craft store, I have my nose in a book.  A book that combines both loves?  Even better!  The author, Kathy Cano-Murillo is a crafter that can be seen on DIY and HGTV, so I knew that if nothing else - there would be a few really interesting craft projects.

Right away, I was impressed with the detail in which each scene is described.  A series of unlikely events brings a group of women together to look for a second chance at love, life and joy in crafting.  Along the way - Star, her best friend Ofelia and television personality Chloe Chavez deal with 350 pounds of German glass glitter, conflicts with each other and the upcoming CraftOlympics.  The author uses a heavy dose of Spanish and Spanglish through the book.  Don't speak Spanish?  No problem - a glossary is at the back of the book.  The one thing that detracts from this book is that there are too many points of view. I counted seven different points of view in total.  It would have been easier to keep track of if just told from the point of view of our three heroines.

I laughed a lot and cried a time or two as well reading this book.  I'd recommend this book to anyone that enjoys crafting, and hope to see Kathy Cano-Murillo write more books.

Grade: B

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Geometry of Sisters , Luanne Rice


What is one sister without the other? Is it even possible to imagine?

New York Times
bestselling author Luanne Rice explores the complex emotional equations of love and loyalty that hold together three pairs of remarkable sisters. Here in the halls of Newport Academy, a unique private school that has attracted generations of rebels, outcasts, and visionaries, an unforgettable lesson in the eternal truths of sisterhood is about to begin….

After years away, Maura Shaw has returned to Newport, Rhode Island, to teach English at the academy. Behind her lies her life as the perfect Midwestern wife and mother, a life that seemed on the surface to be all she had ever wished for. That illusion vanished in a storm off Mackinac Island in the wake of an accident that engulfed Maura’s husband and her older daughter, Carrie. Now, with her son and younger daughter, she hopes to find a new beginning.

Newport has never failed to infuse Maura with a sense of mystery and hope. But for fourteen-year-old Beck, the move is a painful upheaval from everything she has ever loved—especially her sister, Carrie. Ever since her sister disappeared, Beck has retreated into the world of mathematics, where principles are permanent, unlike so many other things in life. Without Carrie, Beck has lost half of herself—the half that would have fit in at the elite private school she and her brother, Travis, will now attend. The half that made things right. Still, Beck clings to the hope that her sister will return to them.


Sara's Review:

My perception of Luanne Rice has always been that she writes fiction for more 'mature' audiences. I have no idea where that judgement came from, but it's prevented me from reading anything by her before. However, this book popped up as a recommendation from my local library and the title intrigued me. I come from a family of four girls, so naturally the idea of sisterhood appeals to me.

This book did not disappoint. While none of the story lines are ground-breaking (old love rekindled, the sinner repents, the lost child is found) the feeling of longing (for a mother, a sister, a lover) is palpable. I found myself pondering what could possibly make me walk away from my relationship with my mother, my sisters. And that is where I found the story to be just slightly disingenuous. Nothing could make me walk away from them - certainly not the reasons cited in the book. Which kind of makes the whole story feel just a little bit disappointing and predictable.

Overall, it was a decent read, but it doesn't necessarily change my opinion of the author. I might pick and choose over her other titles, but I won't be adding her to my 'Must Read' list.