Monday, July 25, 2011

(64) Bombs and Billions

Title: Slow Burn by Julie Garwood
Publisher: Ballantine Books
424 pages
Genre: Romance/mystery

Synopsis: An unpretentious beauty who radiates kindness, Kate MacKenna doesn’t have a bad bone in her body–or an enemy in the world. So why are bombs igniting everywhere she goes? The first explosion brings her face-to-face with a handsome Charleston police detective. The second sends her into the arms of her best friend’s brother–a Boston cop who’s a little too reckless and way too charming for comfort. But Dylan Buchanan won’t let emotion prevent him from doing his job: Someone is trying to kill Kate, and Dylan is the only one standing between her and the monster who wants her dead.

Review: Another well done Romance by Julie Garwood. I love the way she can mix, mystery, thrillers, and romance all in one.The men are all hot and the woman are strong yet in need of assistance. Garwood's characters are witty and realistic. And who else could come up with someone being saved from a bomb because of their wonderbra? Fabulous mind candy.

Mild Spoiler alert: 

The only part of the story that didn't suspend my disbelief was what Kate decides to do with the money she inherits from her nasty, money hungry Uncle.  For someone who has massive financial issues and friends with issues as well its a little unreasonable to think someone would just turn down millions of dollars, no matter how it was earned.

(63) Hero or Maverick

Title: The Bricklayer by Noah Boyd
Publisher: William Morrow
390 pages
Genre: Thriller

Synopsis: FBI deputy assistant director Kate Bannon tracks down Steve Vail, a maverick FBI agent who left the bureau for a new life as a Chicago bricklayer, because she needs Vail's help in apprehending a criminal gang, the Rubaco Pentad, with a grudge against the FBI. The Pentad follows up the murder of L.A. reporter Connie Lysander, who wrote a story critical of the FBI, with ever-increasing demands for money from the bureau to forestall future killings and the setting of sophisticated death traps. When an agent disappears while making a payoff to the gang, he becomes a prime suspect, despite Vail's reservations.

Review: This was an exciting, nonstop action thriller.  The writing isn't the highest quality and there were some places that could have been written better but it didn't matter because the characters and the story were just so fun.  Noah Boyd knows how to keep readers on the edge of their seat waiting to see what happens next and try to figure out the clues.  We are sure to see more of the "Bricklayer" in other adventures.

Steve Vail is like an investigator savant, he sees through things that others miss, he connects dots that others don't see and he doesn't like to play by the rules. Kate Bannon is on the fast track of her career with the FBI and her connection to Vail is unmistakable.  They work well as a team both on and off the job.  I'm eager to find out where Boyd takes this relationship.

The ending was a bit predictable but this book was still a great read.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

(62) Metaphors and Murder

Title: Through the Heart by Kate Morgenroth
Publisher: A Plume Book
312 Pages
Genre: Mystery

Synopsis: Bullied Nora is stuck in a dead-end job in Kansas, caring for her cancer-stricken mother. Spoiled rich boy Timothy walks into the coffee shop where Nora works, and it's mad love at first sight. A more unlikable pair of lovers is hard to imagine. She's spineless, he's brutally selfish, but they are united in their mutual distaste for their dreadful, if hopelessly stereotypical, families, who return their disdain. Alternating chapters—Timothy, Nora, and The Investigation—describe the course of their relationship and its consequences, one of which is a murder the morning of their wedding, the same murder that opens the book.

Review: I found this book to be entirely entertaining.  The mystery wasn't too mysterious but I like seeing both sides of the story.  It was like being a psychic fly on the wall of a budding new relationship. You got to see both sides of the story and see inside the world of both characters.  While their relationship seems doomed for failure they both seem to only seeing the rosy side of things.

Fast paced this book holds your attention and while it doesn't keep you guessing it does keep you reading, like a car accident you can't turn away.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

(61) The Perfect Man

Title: The Ideal Man by Julie Garwood
Publisher: Dutton Adult
336 Pages
Genre: Romance - Suspense

I received this book through netgalley.com as an advanced electronic ebook.  This title is set to be released August 9, 2011

Synopsis: Dr. Ellie Sullivan has just completed her Fellowship at a large urban hospital. While jogging in a park nearby, she witnesses the shooting of an FBI agent in pursuit of wanted criminals, a couple identified as the Landrys. The only person to see the shooter's face, Ellie is suddenly at the center of a criminal investigation.Agent Max Daniels takes over the Landry case. A no-nonsense lawman, he's definitely not the ideal man that Ellie has always imagined, yet she's attracted to him in a way she can't explain.

Ellie heads home to Winston Falls, South Carolina, to attend her sister's wedding. Shortly after she arrives, though, she receives a surprise visitor: Max Daniels. The Landrys have been captured, and she'll be called to testify. But they've been captured before, and each time the witnesses are scared into silence-or disappear before they can take the stand. Max vows to be Ellie's shadow until the trial, and it isn't long before sparks fly.

Review: For romance there is no one better than Julie Garwood.  Her stories are fun and although there is always a formula to romance novels it doesn't always have that formula feel.  There is just something about her heroines as well.  While they may need protecting they have a strength that doesn't make them feel like a damsel in distress. What can I say about the heroine...he is hunky gorgeous and saves the day, as all good heroes should.  The only problem I see with Julie Garwood's new book is that I finished it too quickly!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

(60) Vigilante Justice or just cold blooded murder?

Title: Striking Back by Mark Nykanen
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
295 pages
Genre: Mystery

I received this book through netgalley.com - their site states that it isn't due to be published until July 24 2013 but it is for sale on amazon.com already in kindle and paperback.  You figure that one out.

Synopsis: Los Angeles therapist Gwyn Sanders keeps her ugly family history to herself. More than twenty years ago, when she was still a teen, her violent stepfather died a grisly, mysterious death. Gwyn knows
all the secrets but she's not talking about the past-she's too busy trying to change the future by breaking the cycle of domestic violence. The men she counsels aren't saints, but maybe she can change the mindset that makes their lives-and the lives of the people closest to them-so miserable.

But when someone starts killing her controversial clients, Gwyn becomes LAPD's primary suspect. After all, there's the unsolved mystery of her stepfather's bizarre death. Maybe Gwyn has a hidden desire for justice that's far from therapeutic. Dr. Howard "Hark" Harken says he believes her. The forensic psychiatrist is an expert on serial killers, but a questionable death lingers in his own past-of a woman who bears an uncanny
resemblance to Gwyn.

Review: Fast paced and not completely predictable.  I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  The story held my attention and the characters didn't seem over the top with the exception of maybe the cartoonish cops that kept following Gwyn around.  They were a bit over the top but the rest of the characters were fairly well portrayed even the situations that they found themselves I could see happening.

For someone who always seems to know the end of the book by the first few chapters this one had me guessing a bit and not quite certain until the very end (I was torn between two of the characters).  If you like fast paced mysteries this one will keep your attention.  I would say its a great beach read.

Friday, July 15, 2011

(59) How to Choose Your Man...hold a bake off

Title: Smokin Seventeen by Janet Evanovitch
Publisher: Bantam
320 Pages
Genre: Fiction

Synopsis: Dead bodies are showing up in shallow graves on the empty construction lot of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. No one is sure who the killer is, or why the victims have been offed, but what is clear is that Stephanie’s name is on the killer’s list.

Short on time to find evidence proving the killer’s identity, Stephanie faces further complications when her family and friends decide that it’s time for her to choose between her longtime off-again-on-again boyfriend, Trenton cop Joe Morelli, and the bad boy in her life, security expert Ranger. Stephanie’s mom is encouraging Stephanie to dump them both and choose a former high school football star who’s just returned to town. Stephanie’s sidekick, Lula, is encouraging Stephanie to have a red-hot boudoir “bake-off.” And Grandma Bella, Morelli’s old-world grandmother, is encouraging Stephanie to move to a new state when she puts “the eye” on Stephanie.

With a cold-blooded killer after her, a handful of hot men, and a capture list that includes a dancing bear and a senior citizen vampire, Stephanie’s life looks like it’s about to go up in smoke.

Review: After finishing the second book in the Game of Thrones series I thought I would give myself a break with some mind candy.  This book seemed a bit too much like the last.  While there were many moments I chuckled and laughed out loud there were many more that lead me to believe I was reading the same book I just finished a few weeks ago.

Sizzling Sixteen had roaming cows, this had roaming Roosters, Sixteen had alligators, this one had vampire skips, Sixteen had hot sex with Morelli, Seventeen we switched to Ranger.  Its starting to get old.  I love these book but I need more.  Stephanie needs to make a decision or get better at her job because one more cluck-in-the-bucket extra crispy book like this one is going to make me turn to someone else.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

(58) A Song of Fire and Ice

Title: Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin (Game of Thrones Book 2)
Publisher: Bantam Books
969 pages
Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis: The Seven Kingdoms have come apart. Joffrey, Queen Cersei's sadistic son, ascends the Iron Throne following the death of Robert Baratheon, the Usurper, who won it in battle. Queen Cersei's family, the Lannisters, fight to hold it for him. Both the dour Stannis and the charismatic Renly Baratheon, Robert's brothers, also seek the throne. Robb Stark, declared King in the North, battles to avenge his father and retrieve his sister from Joffrey's court. Daenerys, the exiled last heir of the former ruling family, nurtures three dragons and seeks a way home. Meanwhile the Night's Watch, sworn to protect the realm from dangers north of the Wall, dwindle in numbers, even as barbarian forces gather and beings out of legend stalk the Haunted Forest.

Review: I've always found it hard to review books in a series especially if they rely heavily on someone reading the previous books, like this one does.  After watching HBO's adaptation of Game of Thrones I was completely enthralled by these characters and had to find out what happened to them. Skipping book 1 since the HBO series was so close it was almost word for word, I went right to Book 2.  I was not disappointed and I didn't have any trouble following the plot.  The chapters skip around from character to character and I often found myself wanting to skip ahead to the next section about a particular character but I knew that if I did that I would lose the context of the books since even events that don't happen to a particular character seem to show up in their chapters.  I can't say enough about this series.  If you like fantasy, this is a fabulous series filled with murder, political plots, war, and sorcery.  I will caution these books are huge! I started out reading this one on my kindle even though I own the paperbacks just due to the size of the book - its hard to hold, but then switched to the paperback toward the end...I think I wanted to be able to look through the family lines and maps that were in the back of the book while I was reading which I was unable to do when reading it on the kindle.  So dive in and start reading...this series is supposed to be 7 books long, and the 5th book was just published.  If you want to get a taste of what this story is about watch the HBO series as I said it is so close to the book that it is almost like reading it...the only difference I saw was the ages of the children, they are much younger in the books than they are in the show.

Friday, July 8, 2011

(57) Saving Lives one child at a time

Title: Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison
Publisher: Penguin
224 Pages
Genre: non-fiction - foster care- adoption

Synopsis: It's 1988, and Harrison, a happily married mother of three, takes a job with Head Start, working with at-risk four-year-olds. Her heart goes out to the foster kids; before long, she and her husband take state training and adopt two sisters. Five children make a big family, but Harrison finds it tough to turn her back on needy children. She and her husband start accepting emergency care "hot-line" foster children, too; soon, Harrison quits her day job and becomes a full-time-overtime, really-foster parent. In addition to a stay-at-home mom's usual duties, Harrison is caring for children with serious emotional baggage and often complex medical problems. There are lawyers, therapists and social service people to meet with, plus the scheduling of visits to birth mothers, an emotional roller coaster for all parties. Birth mothers, she finds, are often "harder to hate than you might expect," and when an especially difficult child comes along, it's almost impossible to accept that even foster parents have their limitations.

Review: No one ever said parenting is easy and parenting someone else's children with emotional baggage is often overwhelming.  Kathy Harrison's account of being a foster parent is a very real no holds barred account of the heartbreak, overwhelming work and love it takes to be there for these children.  She in no way feels that she is perfect and doesn't hold herself up as some type of saint.  She readily admits her mistakes, confusion, and overwhelm at tackling the task of giving the kids who come into her care a stable and loving environment even if its just for one day.

Another Place mainly focuses on four of the foster children that Kathy took into her care.  Danny, a boy whose mentally ill mother can't care for him. Danny is mentally retarded and shows signs of being a sexual abuser and he's only eight. Sara, a sexually abuse little girl of six. She was quiet, angry and sexually inappropriate.  She would curse, throw tantrums, and act out. Lucy, a quiet girl whose mother couldn't be bothered parenting and used the foster care system as a babysitting service when she got overwhelmed until the state finally called her bluff and terminated her parental rights and placed Lucy for adoption.  Karen came to the Harrison's when she was an infant.  Kathy's home was the only home she knew and she had limited contact with her drug addicted mother.

Kathy also has 3 biological boys and 2 adopted girls but she opens her home to children who are broken, abused and have no where else to go.  Their stories are frightening, the trauma they deal with doesn't seem to end and yet Kathy keeps opening her door.  Its sometimes hard to remember how old the children are that she is describing in the book since their behaviors seem so much older and when you are reminded how young they are your heart breaks.

This book is not for the faint at heart but it is a fabulous look inside the reality of foster care.  It shows that not all foster homes are bad and that the people who put themselves out there for these children deal with a lot, more than most people can imagine.  Once I picked this book up I couldn't put it down until I was done. It was that riveting and that real.  I am in awe of Kathy Harrison and her family and I applaud those families who open their hearts to these broken children and try to heal them, by giving them love, hope and a family.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

(56) Never a dull moment in NJ

Title: Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich
Publisher: St. Martins Press
352 pages
Genre: Mystery

Synopsis: A personal case distracts the Trenton, N.J., bondswoman from tracking the usual group of eccentric skips--the kidnapping of her cousin, Vinnie, who's being held for ransom in the high six figures. As Stephanie, sidekick Lula, and office manager Connie soon realize, Vincent Plum Bail Bonds is seriously in the red due to Vinnie's gambling. Vinnie's also gotten caught up with local mobster Bobby Sunflower in a complicated scheme. Even though her sleazy cousin isn't her favorite person and chasing oddball felons isn't her ideal career, Stephanie knows family loyalty counts for something, plus she owes him for giving her a job all those years ago. So with Lula and Connie in tow--and romantic interests Morelli and Ranger lurking in the background-- Stephanie must save the day once again.

Review: I always consider Stephanie Plum novels as mind candy. I don't read too much into them and I don't expect depth just entertainment.  While this one fell a little short of its normal fun I did enjoy it.  Stephanie always seems to get herself into some kind of trouble especially with the help of her sidekick Lula.  I love Lula's diet adventures and her love of tight spandex clothing.  What more could I ask for on a 4th of July weekend.  Fun, witty, with some laugh out loud scenes.
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