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Archive for June, 2009

gone-by-lisa-gardnerGONE

By Lisa Gardner

Bantam Hardcover, December 2006

Suspense

Buy Link for mass-market paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Gone-Lisa-Gardner/dp/0553588079

 

An abandoned car—motor running, door open, purse still on the seat. Sergeant Kincaid of The Oregon State Police has seen it before and it’s never good. It usually means a suicide. But in this case he’s wrong, as the kidnapper contacts the local news with his ransom demands. When ex FBI profiler, Pierce Quincy is called in, it’s not to profile the case, but because the missing person is his wife, Lorraine (Rainie), an ex-cop who now works freelance cases with her husband.

While dealing with an especially heartbreaking case of the rape and murder of a mother and her young daughter, Rainie becomes obsessed with the case, as well as similar ones. This leads to severe depression and a resumption of her drinking problem after fifteen years of sobriety. Quincy loves his wife, but sometimes love just isn’t enough and he moves out in an effort to shock Rainie into coming to her senses. Now she’s gone and he’ll do anything to get her back.

Neither Quincy nor Rainie have led charmed lives. Both have ghosts and enemies from the past. With the kidnapper continually making impossible demands, Quincy comes to believe it’s not about money, but is personal. Has one of the ghosts from Rainie’s past finally caught up with her and is now seeking revenge?

GONE starts with an interesting premise and the plot moves along pretty well for the most part. I read the book straight through, so it definitely held my interest. This was my first Quincy/Rainie story by Lisa Gardner, but I know there are others featuring this same hero/heroine. Perhaps if I’d read those first, I might have been more sympathetic to their plight. Unfortunately I just couldn’t seem to generate a lot of interest in these two. Rainie seemed more pathetic than courageous and Quincy, although great hero material, was just boring. I guessed the kidnapper’s identity very early on, but that wouldn’t have mattered if I’d cared more about the protagonists. 

The story is well written and the suspense fairly high, but I found the characters more boring than interesting and some of the scenes totally unbelievable. When a woman is bound—hands and feet, blindfolded and gagged, it’s just not realistic to believe she could come anywhere near close to besting her attacker. Even for a tough ex-cop, this would be ludicrous, especially after being so apathetic in the beginning. In another scene Rainie moves around and fights like someone in peak fit condition—this after a severe beating, messed up knee, no nourishment for several days and half freezing. Sorry, but I didn’t buy it.

If you love Lisa Gardner and her Quincy/Rainie characters, you’ll probably love this one as well. If you’ve never read any other stories featuring these same people, I suggest you read the other books featuring them before reading this one.

–Willow

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sala-coverSala: More Than A Survivor

Written by Marsha Cook

As Told By Sala Lewis

Fidele Publishing, 2008

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Sala-More-Survivor-Marsha-Casper/dp/1604141115/

Website: www.michiganavenuemedia.com

 

Born into the loving heart of a big, happy Polish family, Salucia (nicknamed Sala) has the kind of childhood most little girls only dream of. Short on money, but wealthy in love, her family of ten is knit together with strong values, laughter, and sacred Jewish traditions. But when Sala is just ten years old, her fairy tale childhood becomes a living nightmare and everything she has been raised to believe about faith, God and humanity is challenged.

With the Second World War raging throughout Europe and Hitler gaining in power, Sala watches as one by one, the young people of her neighborhood are taken away to Nazi work camps. When the day arrives for her beloved older sister, Dora, to go, Sala does not think her family will ever recover from the loss. Their once happy home becomes a quiet and somber place, reflecting the joyless tone of the near-deserted neighborhood. One day Sala returns from play to find her family home sealed up and her family vanished, their only crime — being Jewish. Thus begins Sala’s life in the Gestapo work camp; her tender childhood lost to years of cruelty and a process of dehumanization made bearable only by her faith in God and her miraculous reunion with Dora.

This was not an easy story to read. As a teen, my heart was broken by stories like The Hiding Place, and The Diary of Anne Frank. All these years later, Sala’s story left me feeling much the same way. It was sad and troubling to read of the despicable conditions which were forced on human beings by other so-called human beings. Nevertheless, it is a story that needs to be read and remembered, a story of a time when an entire race was terrorized on the whim of a madman. A time that in Sala’s own words must be remembered so as never to be repeated.

So much more than just a story of survival, this story of raw, human courage blends glimpses into the hell of the Holocaust with heartwarming snippets of personal letters written by young Sala to herself as she struggles to make sense of the insanity her life has become. Her determination to hold on to her faith and to realize her dreams in the face of incredible odds is truly an inspiration. I was pleased that Sala’s story continued on, beyond the war, and I was given the opportunity to see her recreate her life and realize some of her childhood dreams.

Not eloquently written, the story’s beauty is in its simplicity. Written in an honest, straightforward style, this memoir reads like a very personal journal, the journal of a woman who has endured more hardship than most ever will, but who learns through that very hardship to celebrate victories and embrace life without questioning why.

More than a journal, Sala: More Than A Survivor is a journey, and one I really hope you will want to take.

–Honeybee

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two-little-girls-in-blueTwo Little Girls In Blue

By Mary Higgins Clark

Suspense

Simon and Schuster, Hardcover, 2006

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Two-Little-Girls-Blue-Novel/dp/0743264908

 

The house on Old Woods Road is a fixer upper, but it’s all Margaret and Steve Frawley could afford. With Steve’s great new job and his career on the upswing, the couple hope to slowly turn the run down old place into a nice home for themselves and their three-year-old twins. What they never imagined was returning home from a dinner party one night to find their babysitter sent to the hospital and police surrounding their home. A parent’s biggest nightmare come true. Twins, Kelly and Kathy have been kidnapped and the kidnappers are demanding eight million in ransom.

When Steve’s company agrees to pay the ransom, only Kelly comes home. Her twin, Kathy, reportedly died and her body dumped at sea. Kelly refutes this, but no one takes her seriously, except Margaret. Believing her daughters to be communicating telepathically, she’ll risk anything to prove Kathy is still alive. When Kelly implies Kathy is seriously ill, Margaret becomes more determined than ever to find her.

TWO LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE is an edge of your seat page-turner. The well thought out plot moves the story along at break neck speed. The suspense is terrifyingly genuine and being a mother, I felt every ounce of Margaret’s pain at discovering her daughters gone. I suffered with her when she was told of Kathy’s death and cheered her on when she went about trying to prove her daughter was still alive. The characters are alive, the writing superb, and I found the villains indisputably realistic to a chilling degree.

I found the hardcover of this book in a library sale along with a few other hard covers in the same genre and, loving suspense, paid my small fee and brought them home. Having a little free time, I decided to delve into my very first Mary Higgins Clark novel. And although my first, it certainly won’t be my last. Even with limited time, I finished the book in one day only putting it down for necessary chores. If you like suspense and haven’t had a chance to read this one by Mary Higgins Clark, I highly recommend you pick up a copy.

Willow

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mosaic-amygrantMosaic: Pieces Of My Life So Far

By: Amy Grant

Water Brook Press, 2007

ISBN: 978 1 4000 7360 3

Buy Link for paperback (Flying Dolphin Press, Oct. 7, 2008): http://www.amazon.com/Mosaic-Pieces-My-Life-Far/dp/0767929675

 

I have followed Amy Grant since my college days. I owned cassette tapes of most of her early recordings and even saw her in concert once. Her songs have always spoken to me. She is down home, earthy and real. I kind of lost track of her for several years, but I knew she had gotten divorced from Gary Chapman and remarried to country star Vince Gill. I must confess I wanted to read this book partly to get the details on her breakup, her children’s adjustment and the remarriage. The more I read the book the more I realized she wasn’t going to reveal much of that and then as I read her words I thought, Good for you Amy, you don’t owe me an explanation on your personal life or private pain. Who are we (fans) to think we have the right to know these things? Sorry Amy!

This book is not a novel nor is it an autobiography, but I feel it may be of interest to many readers and therefore worthy of a review on this site. It is, as the title says, pieces of her life. Instead of going into great personal detail of any one event Amy talks about memories of various people she has encountered in her life. Some are family members or people she has known her whole life and others are one time chance meetings with strangers that impacted her in some way. The book is not chronological but simply a mosaic fit together Amy style. Between chapters readers will find the lyrics of more than 30 songs as well as some poems and quotes. The center of the book features 16 pages of color photographs. There are also small black and white photos at the start of each chapter.

The book title is perfect for this journal style writing and the cover photo of Amy pictured in a casual skirt, barefoot and smiling captures the mood of the book. It is interesting the way Amy wove song lyrics, poems, thoughts and photos into this project.  Fans will be pleased to see that the book gives insight into the inspiration behind many of Amy’s popular songs. The format flows smoothly from memory to memory. She mentions memories from her childhood, vacations, her career, her own children, her husband, friends and fans. I read the book in bits and snatches reflecting on her descriptions and her faith. It’s not a book that demands to be read all at once, but rather a book you could enjoy over several days. Readers may bookmark some sections to come back to for a reread.

In Mosaic Amy humbly shares stories about her life, places she has been and people she has had the privilege to meet. She shares her thoughts on an encounter with a homeless man, a friend’s battle with cancer and a visit with an elderly fan. She shares family memories of birthdays, vacations, weddings and funerals.  Fame and music allowed Amy the opportunity to meet many famous people including, Reverend Billy Graham, Presidents Bush and Clinton, Tony Bennett, Kevin Costner, Michael Jordan, the Andretti family, and more. The book captures Amy’s special memories, Amy’s powerful music, and Amy’s deep faith.

Amy admits that there have been rough times in her life but in writing the book she doesn’t ask for sympathy or make excuses. She is human and admits to human struggles in her life. Her honest admission of her feelings of failure and even depression made her all the more human to me. I think all readers who have struggles in this life (which I think is all of us) will easily relate to this book. Family, faith and music are extremely important to Amy Grant and this book weaves them together in an uplifting fashion. Sharing pieces of your life means the happy and the sad, the fame and the failures. For Amy, these emotions have often been captured in her lyrics and now they are also shared in this book.

All in all I found this to be a moving book that gives a glimpse into the person behind the fame. Reading it might cause readers to look at their own life and think what they would include in their mosaic? As I read her writings, I paused to recall some of my good, my bad, my joys and my sorrows – so far. Self reflection is a good thing; disclosing it for others to read is courageous. Whether or not you call yourself an Amy Grant fan I suggest giving Mosaic a try. I enjoyed it so much I might even check her schedule and see about getting some tickets next time she comes to a city near me.

Pearl

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what-we-keepWhat We Keep

By: Elizabeth Berg

Ballantine Publishing, May 25, 1999

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/What-We-Keep-Ballantine-Readers/dp/0345423291/

I acquire books in many ways: A few are given to me as gifts, some I buy brand new, others I swap for at the used book store, occasionally I trade books with friends and many times I pick them up at yard sales. I am always on the lookout for a good read. I don’t know how I came across What We Keep by Elizabeth Berg nor do I remember how long I’ve had it sitting on my shelf. Inside the front cover is an address label for Helen B. Sawyer from the state of Vermont. I don’t know Helen and wonder when she put her label in the book. Did she take it on vacation and mistakenly leave it behind? Did she loan the book to a friend in hopes of getting it back? I will never know, but I set aside my twinge of guilt for reading her book realizing that if she thought it was worthy of a return label I should give it a try. I’m glad I did. I had never read any Elizabeth Berg books before this one, but I know I will be looking for her next time I visit a yard sale or book store.

What We Keep is a book about mothers and daughters, sisters and friends. It portrays evolving family dynamics, choices and changes. The book is mostly about a mother and her daughters, but my favorite relationship in the book is the one between the two sisters, Ginny and Sharla. Maybe it’s because I grew up sandwiched between sisters, but I always enjoy reading sister stories. In this case the relationship between the sisters comes across as very realistic. The story had some funny parts and in some sections I smiled to myself because I could see my sisters and I doing some of the very activities described by the author. The book is also sad and thought provoking. In this book the girls are having a carefree preteen summer until events align and the lazy days of a summer are interrupted by adult decisions that affect children in a life changing way. As the story unfolded I was captivated by the girl’s devotion to each other. Sure, they had their share of sibling rivalry and jealousy, but underneath it all they were fiercely devoted to each other. I love that relationship. On the surface it seems the Young’s have an ideal family but when free spirited Jasmine moves in next door, mother’s feelings of dullness and depression come to the surface.

The story flips back and forth between two perspectives. We hear from twelve year old Ginny who experiences the abandonment of her mother alternated with 47 year old Ginny who has been coaxed into flying to visit her mother, whom she hasn’t seen in 35 years. Ginny and Sharla were abandoned and betrayed together. Ginny and Sharla together travel the road to understanding and forgiveness. Both girls had given up on a relationship with their mother (Marion) years ago, but are making the trip nonetheless. It was Sharla’s idea to reconcile and Ginny only agrees to go because she suspects her sister might have cancer. Devoted as she is, she can’t let Sharla face mother alone after all these years. As Ginny’s flight wings its way west, she spends her time remembering her childhood: the time of happiness before things fell apart, the events that led to mother leaving and even her part in the prolonged estrangement. Most of the novel is told in flashbacks to childhood during the plane ride.

While reading the book I found myself sympathizing with Ginny and Sharla. I felt terribly sad that they went through their teen years without their mother. I really wanted them to reconcile with their mother early on. They desperately wanted her back at first, but she was off finding herself. As time passed they settled into a new routine and grew angry and distant. When mother felt ready to try again it was a case of not wanting the same things at the same time. I understood Marion’s plight but not her decision. I was angry with her choice but still felt compassion for her in her sorrow for her loneliness. She walked out and left her family and by the time she came back the circle had been closed and her efforts to regain a position in the family were not accepted. Of course the girls didn’t know the whole story and we eventually learn that what they thought to be true was tainted with a childlike perspective and purposeful omission of facts. In an effort to leave them one stable parent, mother took the blame for the breakup of the family. By not adding sordid details or mentioning their father’s actions the girls saw her as the sole villain. Father’s silence and her omission led the girls to place 100% of the blame at her feet. The truth comes out at the end of the story and looking back with a fresh perspective isn’t easy for the girls. Sometimes one has to look back to move ahead. The story reminds us that there are always two sides to every story and it is never too late to reconcile with a loved one.

I felt most of the characters were well developed and enjoyed getting to know them. For me the only drawback in character development in this book was father. Throughout most of the book he was just kind of there and pretty passive. We never really get a sense of his feelings, his struggles or his decisions. We learn things about him toward the end of the book ,but we don’t really know him. Since I didn’t know him or what he was thinking I could only be disappointed that he never admitted to his part in the breakup. It would have been nice to learn what he was thinking, as he sat in silence all these years. It seems cowardly of him to go to his grave content for his daughters to be alienated from their mother due to a partial truth. I may be taking it too far, but the revelation of his actions is something his adult daughters will now have to reconcile without the chance to talk to him: The hero dad they grew up with vs. the dad that played a real part in the destruction of the family. Nothing happens by itself and I think dad’s character could have been written a bit stronger and perhaps more insight given into his relationship with his wife and daughters.

Jasmine is a colorful character who adds a lot to the story. I enjoyed the addition of the teenaged character of Wayne to the story line and what it brought to the girl’s relationship. I was slightly disappointed that he didn’t reenter the story, as I was hoping we would at least get to see how his life turned out. I became sad when reading how dad tried to carry both roles after mother left. His attempts at cooking, shopping and listening were hard for the girls to accept because they so desperately wanted their mother for these duties. It was easy to understand how Ginny felt when her mom wasn’t there to go school shopping or to confide in the day she got her first period. The author drew the reader in by dealing sensitively with these emotions, which I believe are felt by all daughters who lose a mother.

This book touches on many issues affecting women in their relationships with each other. It explores the role of mother, sister, wife and friend. It touches on the hidden woman behind the happy smile, the artist within and the darkness of depression.

I found What We Keep to be an interesting story from start to finish. I enjoyed Berg’s descriptions in the story. I could visualize the town and the time period as she detailed houses, stores, clothing, cars and food of the 1950’s. It is a short book that could easily be read in one or two sittings. When I was about three quarters of the way finished, I thought I knew just how it would end. I was pleased to see that it was not as predictable as I thought. Although not a new release I think this would be an enjoyable summer novel for those who have not yet read it.

–Pearl

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gone-tomorrowGone Tomorrow

Lee Child

Delacorte Press, 2009

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Gone-Tomorrow-Jack-Reacher-No/dp/0385340575/

Try as I might, it’s never been easy for me to turn lemons into lemonade. What can I say? I’m not a “glass half full” kind of gal. But if anything good can come out of a teacher spending the first three days of her summer vacation with torn ligaments and pulled back muscles, then I would have to say that one thing would be three full days of sitting, feet propped on a chair, and reading. Completely uninterrupted by household tasks. Completely guilt-free. And I would have to say that hands-down Lee Child’s GONE TOMORROW would be the perfect book.

If I am not a “glass half full” kind of gal, I am even less a fan of tough guy, blood and guts fiction, so when a friend recommended this book, I don’t mind telling you, I was skeptical.

The story opens with the novel’s hero, Jack Reacher, sitting in a New York City subway car at two o’clock in the morning. An ex-Military cop, Reacher is well trained in the arts of defense and survival. He knows what a suicide bomber looks like. And on that muggy, September morning he’s pretty sure he’s sitting across the aisle from one…

The first chapter of this book consists of four pulse-pounding, tightly written pages. By the time I reached the words Chapter Two I was thoroughly hooked. With his broad knowledge of all things Military and a super-keen eye for details, Lee Child creates a story full of compelling characters and provocative situations that continually shift, keeping the reader perpetually on edge. Mystery. Suspense. Political intrigue. GONE TOMORROW has it all.

Downsized from the army after thirteen years of service, Jack Reacher is smart, tough, and oh-so-sexy. But he is far from perfect, and it is his flaws that make him so endearing. Reacher sometimes feels his age. He makes mistakes. But he learns from them, and comes back tougher and more determined than ever. The novel’s secondary characters, Theresa Lee, a NYC cop with a conscience, John Sansom, a clean politician with a terrible secret, and Lila Hoth, a beautiful millionaire with ties to Al Quaeda, are cast dead-on in their roles without being stereotypical. They add flavor and credibility to this fast paced, NY City story.   

Judging from the inside flap, I’ve got some catching up to do. GONE TOMORROW is Lee Child’s thirteenth in the Jack Reacher series. I definitely won’t wait for another back injury to get reacquainted with my new favorite tough guy!

 …Honeybee

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browngirlsBrown Girls

By John Wesley Ireland

Suspense Thriller

May 17, 2009

Buy Link: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1937

Jack Nolan had his moment of fame having a best selling novel published at twenty-five and later writing the screenplay for the movie made from it. But Jack wasn’t thrilled with his new lifestyle or the hypocrisy of the people in it. His writing dried up. His agent was robbing him and his wife left, taking most everything his agent hadn’t. Jack went to the Cook Islands to get away and began taking freelance photos for the local newspaper. He stayed because he loves the islands. He loves the people.

When a tourist is found dead in one of the hotel swimming pools, no one seems to think it anything more than an accident, including the police. Jack isn’t so certain and his peaceful existence is about to explode. While he investigates the man’s death, a young girl disappears and Jack believes the crimes are connected. When the clues begin to add up, he finds himself dealing with the most monstrous criminals.

His personal life is disrupted as well by the arrival of an abused island girl to his home. Maina Rima’s family owns the land and the house where Jack lives and according to island custom she has the right to stay there. Jack isn’t thrilled with sharing his home with a roommate, but morally has no choice. Maina becomes a blessing in disguise, as she acts as his muse and he’s finally able to begin writing again. But Maina is hiding something that puts both her life and Jack’s in danger.

I’d love to say a lot more about this amazing book, but I don’t want to spoil the suspense for other readers. The author’s writing grabbed me with the first sentence and held me captive all the way to the last. A phenomenal writer, Mr. Ireland uses a scarcity of words that keeps the suspense high. Every line is significant—every word has importance. But even with that, his vivid descriptions of the islands and their people have a beautiful poetic flair that brings the scenes to life and absorbs the reader into the story. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes the genres of suspense, crime drama, mystery, or just a darn amazing read by an extraordinarily gifted writer. Don’t miss this one.

 —Willow

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