Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Inconvenient or mentally ill?

Title: Wildthorn by Jane Eagland
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
368 pages
Genre: YA fiction

I received an electronic copy of this book free from the publisher.  It is currently available in stores. 

Synopsis: They strip her naked, of everything-undo her whalebone corset, hook by hook. Locked away in Wildthorn Hall—a madhouse—they take her identity. She is now called Lucy Childs. She has no one; she has nothing. But, she is still seventeen-still Louisa Cosgrove, isn't she? Who has done this unthinkable deed? Louisa must free herself, in more ways than one, and muster up the courage to be her true self, all the while solving her own twisted mystery and falling into an unconventional love . . .

Originally published in the UK, this well-paced, provocative romance pushes on boundaries-both literal and figurative-and, do beware: it will bind you, too.

Review: I was excited to read this when I read a review on another Reader of Fictions Blog, I was not disappointed.  Flip flopping between the past and present we learn how Louisa may have found herself in an asylum and out of the way of her family.  A common way of getting inconvenient female members of the family  out of the way, after all who would believe a woman?

Louisa's father is a physician and her mother is overbearing and desperately wants Louisa to behave like a proper lady.  Louisa has other plans, she want to be a hero, and follow in her fathers footsteps.  Her brother is being groomed to be a physician as well, but school doesn't come as easy to him as it does Louisa, causing jealousy between the two.  When Louisa's father dies suddenly her dreams may die with him.  It is now up to her brother to help her fulfill her dreams of being a physician but old jealousy's die hard.

Now Louisa finds herself in an asylum.  She doesn't know how she got there and she doesn't know why they keep calling her by someone else's name but how do you convince someone you're not crazy? The conditions inside Wildthorn are far from ideal where staff take their anger and frustrations out on the girls in their care and the living conditions are far from ideal. Dirty mattresses, vermin, and archaic treatments to "help" them get better.  But Louisa is a smart girl and with help she may be able to change her situation.

While we eventually find out that Louisa is a lesbian this is really not a main theme of the story, it just is, and this fact is woven into the story and not made a big deal of.  Wildthorn is really more about Louisa and how she got to the Asylum, her life before and how she can get her life back. Wildthorn is a nice edition the young adult lgbt fiction out there.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Secrets and Lies

Title: Down River by John Hart
Publisher: St. Martin Press
384 pages
Genre: Mystery Thriller

Synopsis: Adam Chase is passionate and misunderstood, a fighter.  When narrowly acquitted of a murder charge, he disappears for five long years: not a clue, not a trace. Now, he's back and nobody knows why- not his family or the cops, not the women he left behind.  But Adam has his reasons.

When more bodies surface, Adam must unravel a web of deceit and violence so dense it staggers the imagination. Old secrets rise, lives collapse, and more than one person crosses the brink as author Hart probes the timeless destructive power of deception and revenge.

Review: I was so thrilled to have found this author when I read his most recent book, Last Child, so I picked up some of his earlier stuff.  I am still thrilled.  Hart keeps you on your toes at every turn and while I sort of predicted some things others were a complete surprise which is hard to do to me since I'm such a die hard mystery reader.  I'm so glad that there are writers out there that can still surprise me.

Greed runs rampant in the small county of Rowan when the electric company decides it wants to build a nuclear power plant that would create jobs and bring some much needed money into the suffering county.  The problem is that Adam Chase's family  owns most of the property along the river, it has been in their family for generations and his father refuses to sell.  Some people in the town applaud him while others are angry.  When a young woman is attacked on the property and bodies start turning up the question is whether this is all due to the millions at stake or is there something else going on out on the Red River Ranch?

Hart vividly portrays the reality that you can't run from your past it always seems to catch up to you, there is no way out but through and the only way through is forgiveness or letting go. His characters are as complex and flawed as we all are, everyone has their demons and even with the best intentions we often screw up.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Banned Book Week Sept 25 - Oct 2, 2010

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.  Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Here is list of books challenged, restricted, removed, or banned in 2009 and 2010.  Its amazing what books are on this!  I do find it interesting that the 2 books my daughter had to read for her HS summer reading are both on this list....Nickel and Dimed: on (not) getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich and The Tortilla Curtain by Coraghessan Boyle.
The Merriam Websters Dictionary is on this list!  Its incredible.  Here is a link to books challenged, restricted, removed or banned from previous years...

Each day, all across the country, one of our most  basic freedoms — the right to read — is in danger.  In communities large and small, censorship attempts every year threaten to undermine our freedom to read. Without our constant support, the First Amendment freedoms that we so often take for granted — the right to read, explore ideas, and express ourselves freely — are at risk.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Vampire Romance with a Moral

Title: The Keepers by Heather Graham
Publisher: Harlequin
288 pages
Genre: Paranormal Romance

This title will be released 10-1-10 - I received this as an advanced galley copy from the publisher.

Synopsis:At the core of New Orleans lie the otherworldly vampires and shape-shifters that hide in plain sight among mankind. As one of the Keepers, an elite group possessing superior skill and strength, Fiona MacDonald knows her duty is to secure balance in a place where one vampire’s bite could ignite a war between societies. When Detective Jagger DeFarge is called in at the discovery of a young woman’s body, drained of blood in a cemetery, both the specially talented detective and Fiona must join uneasy forces.

Jagger will stop at nothing to find the murderer— including working in close quarters with the sensual and suspicious Fiona. As more young women die, it becomes clear that this isn’t the work of an ordinary vampire. No one is safe.

But when the killer’s attention turns to Fiona, will Jagger risk the destruction of his own species to protect the woman he has come to love?

Review: I have a thing for New Orleans.  I fell in love with the city the first time I visited back in 1995.  I have been back several times both pre and post Katrina and I still can't get enough.  I'm a sucker for just about any book set in NOLA (no pun intended).  So when I saw this book set in NOLA I just had to try it.

Fiona is a Keeper whose job is to police the vamps of the city in case they aren't taking care of business but she has a tendency to overstep her position by putting herself on the front lines before she gives the vamps a chance to take care of business on their own.  Fiona doesn't trust vampires, so she can't figure out her growing attraction and trust of Detective and vampire, Jagger. Fiona's sister Caitlin is livid about Fiona's growing attraction to Jagger.  She feel that there shouldn't be "mixed" affairs, that it is too dangerous because the relationship between a werewolf and a vampire started a war that killed their parents.  So interwoven in this mystery romance you also find a lesson on prejudice and standing  up for your beliefs even if people disagree with you. I always like when books that I think of as "mind candy" surprise me.  I liked this book, it was fun and of course filled with gorgeous people who fall in love instantly but it also had an underlying message of tolerance.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Moving Forward

Title: Bow Grip by Ivan E Coyote
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
219 pages

Summary: Joey Cooper, a small-town mechanic, trades a beat-up old car for a brand new cello, he thinks he's in the market for a new hobby; for a man trying to pull himself back together after his wife left him (for another woman), music might be just what he needs. What he finds, though, is a lot more than he counted on, and a search for a cello instructor becomes, in a laid-back sort of way, a quest for personal fulfillment.

Review: Joey is just a small town guy who is trying to figure out life after his wife leaves him for another woman and his dreams for his future are dashed.  He trades a car for a cello because his mother and sister feel he needs to get a hobby and move on with his life.  When the man who he traded the car for gets in touch with him about the car breaking down Joey discovers a secret this man is hiding but before he can confront him he disappears.  Worried, Joey finds clues to the mans' past and goes in search of someone who may be able to help him.  While Joey is trying to help this other person he finds others who start to help him.  Helping him to see his way forward, and find that his dreams of the future and family may still be fulfilled they may just look different than he expected.  They also teach him more about himself, who he doesn't want to be and how to find forgiveness.  This is a great first novel for Ivan.  I hope that she writes more.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Clash of Cultures

Title: Dragon Chica by May-Li Chai
Publisher: Gemma Media
256 pages

This title will be released in October 2010.  I received this book as a free advanced electronic galley from the publisher.

Summary: Nea, a Chinese Cambodian teenage refugee from the Khmer Rouge, flees with what's left of her family to Texas when a miracle occurs. Struggling to get by in a strange new world, Nea's mother receives word that wealthy relatives have made it to America as well. The resolute little family stuffs Hefty bags full of belongings into the Ford and heads north. Ahead of them is the thrilling chance to help run the newly discovered family business, a Chinese restaurant in Nebraska.

The family is reunited, but soon Nea discovers their miracle is not what she had expected. Tempers flare; local reception is lukewarm, if not downright hostile; fights erupt; and Nea's beloved sister Sourdi is growing up and away from her far too fast. Then the past - and a forbidden love- threaten to tear them all apart.

Review: This was a fabulous coming of age story and a story about the clashing of cultures.  The differences between big city vs small towns, Cambodian culture vs American culture and trying to fit in.  Nea is caught between worlds, the world of her parents and the new world they have brought her to in America. Her mother is happy to be in America and wants her children to take advantage of the opportunities it affords but she also wants them to adhere to their Cambodian culture.  The girls in the family are expected to work in the family restaurant while their brother doesn't have the same expectations.  Nea is supposed to be the dutiful daughter but she can't help standing up for herself instead of just smiling and not making waves.  Nea is a strong willed girl in a traditional Asian family trying to find her way and not disappoint her family too much.  May-lee really shows the struggles between the old generation and the new, of not only trying to fit in when you look different but even trying to fit in within your family as you grow up in a new culture with different beliefs.  Reminiscent of Amy Tan, May-lee has bridged the gap between Asians growing up in America and the expectations of their families to retain the old ways.  Wonderful.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hop, Hop, Hop, its friday!

Book Blogger HopIts blog hop Friday....today we are supposed to honor our favorite book bloggers.... in no particular order I will have to give a shout out to:

Reader of Fictions - Ramblings, Reviews and Rants of a Book Obsessed Librarian - I love this site...mostly young adult fiction books, which is fabulous for me since I like ya books and because I have enough teenagers to start my own high school.

Crazy for Books: I love this site for many reasons but helping get the word out about other book bloggers deserves an big thank you!

Pink Sheep Cafe: I just stumbled across this little gem of a site the other day.  Love it.  Love the background and I'm glad I found it.

Park Benches and Book Ends: I just found this site as well and know its going to be a keeper.

From London to Timbuktu

Title: Hacking Timbuktu by Steven Davies
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
272 pages

This book was received as a galley from the publisher. This title will be released November 2010. 

Summary: Danny is a  freelance IT specialist—that is, a hacker. He and his pal Omar are both skilled at parkour, or freerunning, a discipline designed to enable practitioners to travel between any two points regardless of obstacles. This is fortunate, because they're off on an adventure that's filled with obstacles, from locked doors to gangs of hostile pursuers. Together they follow a cryptic clue, find a missing map, figure out how to get to Timbuktu without buying a plane ticket, and join the life-and-death treasure hunt, exchanging wisecracks and solving the puzzle one step at a time.

Review: What a ride.  I wanted to be a 16 year old hacker on this adventure.  The parkour scenes were really well done, I almost didn't want them to find a treasure, I just wanted them to keep running! But even the hacking and treasure hunting scenes kept your on your toes.  Sort of a cross between a Jason Bourne and National Treasure movie only in book form, were the action never slows down but just keeps you turning the pages.  I could actually see the parkour moves in my head they were so well written and the descriptions of Africa and Dogon country were extremely vivid and very lifelike.  My greatest wish for this book is that it had a better ending, other than that I think that anyone who thinks that jumping across rooftops, scaling walls, balancing on ledges and of course searching for treasure would be fun will enjoy this ride.

In case you are wondering what Parkour is, its a non-competitive, physical discipline of French origin in which participants run along a route, attempting to negotiate obstacles in the most efficient way possible. Skills such as jumping and climbing, or the more specific parkour moves are employed. The goal of a practitioner of parkour, called if female, is to get from one place to another using only the human body and the objects in the environment. The obstacles can be anything in one's environment, but parkour is often seen practiced in urban areas because of the many suitable public structures available such as buildings and rails.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Honor Among Thieves

Title: Blue Belle by Andrew Vachss
Publisher: Vintage Books - A division of Random House, Inc
340 pages

Summary: Burke, the private-eye outlaw with a big problem with child molesters is back. When the yuppie-hating horse-playing ex-con takes on the Times Square world of porn and murder, he finds himself facing a deadly karateka (karate expert) named Mortay (Muerte) and falling for a full figured ex stripper who's learning to deal with her past as a child of incest.  Blue Belle often reads like a hardboiled detective novels. Short sentences. Punchy. Missing verbs. Though the dialogue has a cynical cast, there is not an ounce of moral ambiguity or irony - the evil child-molester/torturer/ killers versus Burke's family of misfits-with-hearts-of-gold, including a tough Asian matriarch, a tough would-be transsexual, a tough jack-of-all-shady-trades and a host of other gruff but goodhearted low-lifes, each with a redeeming mission in life.

Review: This is the third Burke novel.  Its always interesting for me to read books that were written before social media, cell phones and computers took over our lives.  Burke and his crime family rely on their wits, pay phones (not throw away cell phones) and messages passed through messengers.  Its incredible to me that we used to live this way, not having instant access to any and all information that we want and easy access to a phone.  I think I've seen maybe 4 pay phones in the last 2 years!

But back to the book, as always Burke finds himself with a woman that captures his attention, as he takes on a new job protecting the children of the streets.  This time it involves a "ghost van" that is killing child prostitutes and a karate master who is obsessed with killing all the other masters that he can find, calling them out one by one to kill them in front of their students.  Of course one of the best is Burke's crime brother Max who just had a child.  As Burke realizes that he has been kidding himself thinking he was a lone wolf he knows he has to pull out all stops to save his family.

These books are always gritty, rough and a bit dated but they are passionate and raw.  Burke is like an outlaw private detective, a Perry Mason of the New York underworld.  The underdog whose soft spot is helping those who can't help themselves, protecting the children that need his help since no one helped him when he was young.  Burke is a complex character and these books are a fascinating read.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Title: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
291 pages

Summary: Set in 1907 Wisconsin, Goolrick's fiction debut gets off to a slow, stylized start, but eventually generates some real suspense. When Catherine Land, who's survived a traumatic early life by using her wits and sexuality as weapons, happens on a newspaper ad from a well-to-do businessman in need of a "reliable wife," she invents a plan to benefit from his riches and his need. Her new husband, Ralph Truitt, discovers she's deceived him the moment she arrives in his remote hometown. Driven by a complex mix of emotions and simple animal attraction, he marries her anyway. After the wedding, Catherine helps Ralph search for his estranged son and, despite growing misgivings, begins to poison him with small doses of arsenic. Ralph sickens but doesn't die, and their story unfolds in ways neither they nor the reader expect.

Review:I found the beginning unnecessarily confusing but it did pick up and find a rhythm...a choppy rhythm but a rhythm nonetheless.  I found the characters intriguing even if the plot was a bit obvious, maybe I've read one too many romance novels for the plot to be a mystery.  I wasn't surprised at the the way things turned out but I was surprised by some of the choices the characters made and some of the ways in which they got to where I expected them to go.

There were some disturbing rambling thoughts in some of the characters heads, of obsessive lust, possessiveness and violence that I wasn't sure what to make of and found them to be over the top. Did I love it?  I'm still debating that but I think I enjoyed the adventure.  Since this is Goolrick's first novel I am interested in seeing what he does next.

Friday, September 10, 2010


It seems like yesterday that the whole country stood in horror watching as planes crashed into the twin towers in NYC and ultimately brought them crashing down.  In honor of those who worked there and in honor of those who died trying to save them I am posting information on one of the best books regarding 9/11 that I have read. Written by Pulitzer prize winning NY Times writer Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn.

Title: 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn
Publisher:Times Books
384 Pages

Summary: 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers, New York Times writers Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn vividly recreate the 102-minute span between the moment Flight 11 hit the first Twin Tower on the morning of September 11, 2001, and the moment the second tower collapsed, all from the perspective of those inside the buildings--the 12,000 who escaped, and the 2,749 who did not. It's becoming easier, years later, to forget the profound, visceral responses the Trade Center attacks evoked in the days and weeks following September 11. Using hundreds of interviews, countless transcripts of radio and phone communications, and exhaustive research, Dwyer and Flynn bring that flood of responses back--from heartbreak to bewilderment to fury. The randomness of death and survival is heartbreaking. One man, in the second tower, survived because he bolted from his desk the moment he heard the first plane hit; another, who stayed at his desk on the 97th floor, called his wife in his final moments to tell her to cancel a surprise trip he had planned. In many cases, the deaths of those who survived the initial attacks but were killed by the collapse of the towers were tragically avoidable. Building code exemptions, communication breakdowns between firefighters and police, and policies put in place by building management to keep everyone inside the towers in emergencies led, the authors argue, to the deaths of hundreds who might otherwise have survived.

Review: Drawn from thousands of radio transcripts, phone messages, e-mails and interviews with eyewitnesses, this 9/11 account comes from the perspective of those inside the World Trade Center from the moment the first plane hit at 8:46 a.m. to the collapse of the north tower at 10:28 a.m. This is one of the hardest and most memorable books I have read regarding what went on in the Towers after the planes hit.  The decisions people made, the miscommunication, and the heroic regular people who fought to help those who couldn't help themselves.  This book gave me chills, made me cry and made me proud of those whose lives were lost in the saving of others.  I know Jim Dwyer, I know how hard this book was for him to write as a native New Yorker.  I sat waited for the calls telling us he and his family were okay.  His daughters school was just blocks from ground zero. This book is very personal and I think could only have been written by someone who was so close to it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Edge of Your Seat

Title: The Last Child by John Hart
Publisher Minotaur Books
417 pages

Summary: (from publishers weekly) A year after 12-year-old Alyssa Merrimon disappeared on her way home from the library in an unnamed rural North Carolina town, her twin brother, Johnny, continues to search the town, street by street, even visiting the homes of known sex offenders, in this chilling novel from Edgar-winner Hart (Down River). Det. Clyde Hunt, the lead cop on Alyssa's case, keeps a watchful eye on Johnny and his mother, who has deteriorated since Alyssa's abduction and her husband's departure soon afterward. When a second girl is snatched, Johnny is even more determined to find his sister, convinced that the perpetrator is the same person who took Alyssa. But what he unearths is more sinister than anyone imagined, sending shock waves through the community and putting Johnny's own life in danger.

Review: I loved this book.  Its a quick read but keeps you on the edge of your seat. There are so many elements to the mystery that it just keeps you guessing and wanting to find out what happens but not wanting the book to end.  I love the main character.  The smart, brave and self reliant Johnny.  His dogged determination to find his sister and repair his family is heartbreaking and beautiful.  All the characters are so real and you can almost feel them breathing through the pages.  I can't say enough about this book so I'll stop...go out, buy it, pick it up from the library whatever but get this book!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

In Death

Title: Imitation in Death by Nora Roberts writing as JD Robb
Publisher: Berkley Books
342 pages

Synopsis:  Book 16 in the Eve Dallas death series.  In the year 2059 Eve Dallas NY homicide detective, married to multi-billionaire Rourke is drawn into a serial murder case where the killer likes imitating the most infamous serial killers in history.  Meanwhile her assistant is prepping to take her detective exam and is making Eve feel like a nervous mother, a feeling she is definitely not used to.

Review: After that horrid book I tried to read this was a great break.  If you are not already an Eve Dallas fan you should be.  Although these books are billed as romance they have all the suspense and gritty crime ridden dirt of a good mystery thriller.  Imitation in Death is not for the first time reader though, it often alludes to previous books and the relationships between the characters may leave new readers puzzled.

I love all their futuristic gadgets, particularly the auto chef which creates food at the touch of a button and cars that fly and can be automatically programmed to get drive you home safely.  No more drinking and driving!  Whoo hoo.  In all seriousness if you are looking for some mind candy after a stressful week pick up one of these books.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A First

The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits - I wanted to like this book for so many reasons.  First was the intriguing synopsis of the book on the inside cover about a young Mary Veal who disappears after field hockey practice only to reappear a few weeks later.  What happened when she was missing, was she abducted,or did she run away?  Mary says she can't remember anything , her therapist believes she is lying and writes a book about her that makes her life a nightmare.  Her family doesn't know what to think.  The second reason is rather shallow but I can't help it...I wanted to like it simply because the authors name is Heidi, silly I know but there are so few of us I feel like we need to stick together, but on this occasion I just can't.

I found this book so difficult to get into that I actually for the first time realized that Gretchen Rubin author of the Happiness Project (which I loved) was so right when she said that sometimes you just need to put the book down and move on.  Damn I'm practically swimming in books so its not like I'm lacking for reading material so for the first time I'm putting this one down half finished.  I just can't read any more. Heidi Julavits' writing style is just not for me.  It was work to read each sentence.  I don't need to be made to feel stupid just to enjoy a book.  Her prose was so purple in parts it was painful.  I often felt like I was climbing a mountain just getting to the next page.  Reading for pleasure isn't supposed to be so difficult.
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