Saturday, December 24, 2011

(91) MMA, trust funds and corrupt church officials

Title: Murder in the Irish Channel by Greg Herren
Publisher: Bold Stroke Books
240 pages
Genre: Mystery LGBT

Synopsis: It begins as a simple missing persons case—a young MMA fighter's mother has mysteriously disappeared. But as New Orleans private eye Chanse MacLeod starts digging around, he discovers that she is the leader of a group fighting the powerful Archdiocese of New Orleans over the closing of two churches. As the trail leads from corrupt church officials to powerful real estate developers to the world of cage fighting, Chanse soon realizes there are a lot of powerful people who want to make sure she stays gone—and don't have a problem with getting rid of a pesky gay private eye.

Review: There are many twists and turns in this book and I have to say I didn't see the outcome.  This series just gets better and better.  While this series isn't as racy as his Scotty series seems to be, its just as entertaining. I appreciate that Chanse's character isn't written over the top. His life is just as complex and mundane as the rest of us.  His assistant and occasional stripper Abby is a fabulous addition to this series. I love her spunk and drive.

The story takes place in New Orleans, post Katrina and the atmosphere and the descriptions of the city are masterfully done, even little details about the different Mardi Gras krewes make the atmosphere realistic. Makes me long to go back and get a po'boy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

(90) learning to work within the system

Title: Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope inside a Chinese Orphanage by Kay Bratt
Publisher: Mariner Books
352 Pages
Genre: non-fiction

Synopsis: Irrepressible memories. Vacant eyes. A child being dangled from a third story window. A boy tied to a chair. Children sleeping in layers of clothing to fight off the bitter cold. An infant dying from starvation. Some things your mind will never allow you to forget.

Silent Tears is the true story of the adversity and triumphs one woman faced as she fought against the Chinese bureaucracy to help that country’s orphaned children.

In 2003, Kay Bratt’s life changed dramatically. A wife and mother of two girls in South Carolina, Bratt relocated her family to rural China to support her husband as he took on a new management position for his American employer. Seeking a way to fill her days and overcome the isolation she experienced upon arriving in a foreign country, Bratt began volunteering at the local orphanage. Within months, her simple desire to make use of her time transformed into a heroic crusade to improve the living conditions and minimize the unnecessary deaths of Chinese orphans.

Silent Tears traces the emotional hurdles and daily frustrations faced by Ms. Bratt as she tried to change the social conditions for these marginalized children. The memoir vividly illustrates how she was able to pull from reservoirs of inner strength to pursue her mission day after day, leaving the reader with the resounding message that everyone really can make a difference.

Review: This book is not for the weak at heart.  The conditions in orphanages overseas can be heartbreaking and make many people want to storm in with our "American" righteousness and tell them they are doing it wrong and force them to do it a different way.  This of course never works and only seems to close more doors than it opens.

Kay Bratt learned to work within a very broken system.  She learned when she should walk away, and picked which battles to fight.  While it may be heartbreaking to read about the way these children are treated you need to look at the amount of good Kay brought to their lives.  Little changes often make the biggest impact.

Kay learned the culture of China, she learned how to work within the system to make little changes that made a big impact.  She learned quickly that sometimes you have to observe and step back from a situation and know that maybe just your presence makes a difference, much more than fighting a system that's been in place for years.

Kay Bratt has done a lot of good work for the orphans of China but there is so much work still left to be done not only in China but across the world.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Character or Plot

A weekly meme hosted by Booking Through Thursdays What’s more important to you? Real, three-dimensional, fleshed-out fascinating characters? Or an amazing, page-turning plot? (Yes, I know, they are both important. But if you had to pick one as being more important than the other?)

This is sort of one of those chicken and the egg questions to me...I would have to say that I need a good plot to keep me going even if the characters are fabulous.  If the plot isn't going anywhere but I know my characters life story so what...I'm not trying to be their friend I want to be entertained.  But then again if I have a good plot and lousy characters that could ruin it for me as which comes first not sure but if I had to pick I think I would go with plot.

My Favorite Books of 2011

I started this last year and thought I would continue the tradition.  This is my top 10 favorite books that I've read this year.  That does not necessarily mean that they were published this past year some may have been published long ago and some may not be published until 2012 but all the books on this list were read by me in 2011.

This list is in no particular order I just put them down as I remembered them. I don't want to list an author twice so if I've read more than one book by this author this year  that I also believe should be on this list I will put a star after their name.

  1. Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert
  2. Stolen by Margaret Peterson Haddix*
  3. Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
  4. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  5. Cutting  For Stone by Abraham Verghese
  6. Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison
  7. The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
  8. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  9. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  10. This is Us: the new all American Family by David Marin

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

(89) IVF and Murder

Title: A Perilous Conception by Larry Karp
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
250 pages
Genre: Mystery

I received this book as an advanced electronic galley from It was released Dec 6, 2011.

Synopsis: It’s 1976. Despite fierce international controversy over whether in vitro fertilization should ever be performed in humans, doctors around the world race to be first to produce a baby by this procedure. Dr. Colin Sanford, a brilliant, ambitious obstetrician in the Pacific Northwest city of Emerald, has a plan. He recruits Dr. Giselle Hearn, an experienced laboratory geneticist-embryologist at the University. Drs. Sanford and Hearn, working secretly, set out to put their names in history books.
Several months later, Dr. Sanford’s patient, Joyce Kennett, gives birth to a healthy boy, and Sanford prepares to make an announcement at a press conference. But before it convenes, Ms. Kennett’s marginally- schizophrenic husband kills Dr. Hearn and then himself. Police Detective Bernie Baumgartner’s investigation is hampered by pressure from influential people at the University who want to control sensationalism that might harm the institution. Tenacious Baumgartner suspects more at play...

Review: I had a tough time with this book.  I wanted to like it but it just wasn't happening for me.  I don't need to love the characters of a book to actually enjoy it but there should be someone that I can route for but I didn't even find that, with the exception of really liking the locksmith character who is a friend of Baumgartner and not really a main character to the book.

Dr. Sanfords character has a massive god complex which can be common given his profession but he begins to seriously grate on every nerve, Baumgartner is a cop before anything else. I can't even say he is a good cop since he breaks more rules than Stabler on Law and Order SVU. Plus he basically just ignores his wife which was random and not necessary to the plot.

The mystery isn't much of a mystery and you can figure out what is going on rather quickly.  There is a bit more of a twist toward the end of the book which made it start moving more quickly but in the end I was just left rather empty. Unfortunately the best thing I can say about this book is that if you want to know about the history of IVF there is plenty of that in here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Challenges for 2012

Its that time of year again...the time to decide what reading challenges I will attempt for 2012

1. Nordic Mystery Challenge 2012 - well this is a given since I'm hosting this challenge but I thought I would like is anyway.

2. The LGBT Book Challenge - I loved this challenge and although I didn't read as many lgbt themed books as I may have the year before I did stumble across some good ones.

3. Adoption Reading Challenge - I'm torn about this one.  I think I might just do this on my own instead of actually joining the actual challenge.  So I will leave it on my challenges page but I won't be posting the links to the challenge wall.

4. Shelfari Reading challenge...I really fell down on this one this year...I spent so much time blogging that I didn't go back and link to the challenge site.  I am going to work on this for next year.

I don't know if I will join any other challenges I'll have to see how it goes.  Being in school and working full time is taking up a lot of my energy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

(88) Sometimes what you want is right in front of you

Title: Dangerous Pleasures by Fiona Zedde
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp
282 pages
Genre: Lesbian Fiction

Synopsis: Renee Matthews is starting over. Free of a demanding ex-husband who left her feeling worthless, she's ready for a purely physical connection, on her terms. Sex in the dark with a total stranger--a night of breathless passion without complications. An online ad leads to the first of many anonymous trysts. And when one partner takes her into a darker realm of pleasure, Renee discovers hungers she never knew she possessed.
Renee knows these encounters are risky. Nothing has ever compared to such exhilarating desire--certainly not her ex, or the "perfect" potential boyfriend her parents keep pushing her way. But as the excitement escalates, so does the danger. And walking away from her midnight lover may be more difficult than Renee ever expected. . .

Review: Renee and Mayson have been best friends since grade school, they do everything together, talk to each other all the time and are always looking out for each other.  Renee's ex-husband was verbally abusive and believed that Renee's relationship with Mayson was the demise of their relationship.  Renee is straight and Mayson is gay and they both look out for each other and haven't found the right person to spend their life with. Renee decides that what she needs is uncomplicated sex on her terms and decides to walk a line of danger by placing an ad on the internet. Mayson fearful for her friend makes a dramatic choice to interfere with Renee's choice to make sure she stays safe.  I'm not going to say more for fear of spoilers but I'm sure if you read it you can figure it out very quickly.

This book has very vivid descriptions of sensuality, sex and friendship and the fine line that divides it all.  I loved that the main characters were both women of color and the descriptions of their bodies wasn't your cookie cutter skinny, no curves.  There was a lot of straight sex in this book which made me wonder what I was reading a time or two and I think some of that could have been left to our imagination or not. I loved the two main characters and was left a little disappointed in the end when their union was so abruptly cut short by the end of the book.  Since I haven't read any of her other books I have nothing to compare this one to but it seems her other books are much more focused on the lesbian relationship while this book seemed to focus more on the friendship and Renee's heterosexual trysts.  I will have to point out that it would have been nice if the cover girl fit the genre of the book - since this is black lesbian fiction why is the girl on the cover so damn light?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Reading Challenge

I am starting a new reading challenge for 2012.  I am posting it now for people who want to start signing up.  I have fallen in love with Nordic Fiction and in the hope that more people will find these books I have decided to start my own Nordic Reading Challenge for 2012.

You won't be able to add links to the challenge page until January 2012 but leave a comment on the challenge page to let me know you are interested in participating.  Can't wait for new suggestions!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

(87)Vintage photos, fantastical adventures, and time loops

Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Publisher: Quirk Books
352 Pages
Genre: Fantasy YA

Synopsis: As a kid, Jacob formed a special bond with his grandfather over his bizarre tales and photos of levitating girls and invisible boys. Now at 16, he is reeling from the old man's unexpected death. Then Jacob is given a mysterious letter that propels him on a journey to the remote Welsh island where his grandfather grew up. There, he finds the children from the photographs--alive and well--despite the islanders’ assertion that all were killed decades ago. As Jacob begins to unravel more about his grandfather’s childhood, he suspects he is being trailed by a monster only he can see.

Review: There are so many mixed reviews on this book I find it fascinating.  I was intrigued just by looking at the cover.  When I found out that the story was based on old vintage photographs I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. I guess there truly is a book for everyone because I loved this book. I loved how Riggs developed characters and a whole story around these fabulous vintage photos.

When I first heard about this book I didn't know what to expect but this is pure fantastical fun. It reminds me a little of Big Fish by Daniel Wallace. The way the story is spun and how no one really believes the grandfather's tales of adventure. I know a lot of people thought the photos were distracting to the telling of the book but I found they only added to it. The descriptions were so vivid they weren't even needed but I think they added something to it.  They were so weird you could easily see how someone could spin a story out of them.  This is a great diversion from the vampires, werewolves and witches that seem to be the main theme of YA lit these days. I can't wait to see what is next for this peculiar bunch.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

(86) Noir Fiction set in India

Title: Miss Timmins' School for Girls: A Novel by Nayana Currimbhoy
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
512 pages
Genre: Fiction

Synopsis: A murder at a British boarding school in the hills of western India launches a young teacher on the journey of a lifetime In 1974, three weeks before her twenty-first birthday, Charulata Apte arrives at Miss Timmins' School for Girls in Panchgani. Shy, sheltered, and running from a scandal that disgraced her Brahmin family, Charu finds herself teaching Shakespeare to rich Indian girls in a boarding school still run like an outpost of the British Empire. In this small, foreign universe, Charu is drawn to the charismatic teacher Moira Prince, who introduces her to pot-smoking hippies, rock ‘n' roll, and freedoms she never knew existed. Then one monsoon night, a body is found at the bottom of a cliff, and the ordered worlds of school and town are thrown into chaos. When Charu is implicated in the murder—a case three intrepid schoolgirls take it upon themselves to solve—Charu's real education begins. A love story and a murder mystery, Miss Timmins' School for Girls is, ultimately, a coming-of-age tale set against the turbulence of the 1970s as it played out in one small corner of India.

Review: I had mixed feelings about this book.  I really liked it in the beginning but really struggled with it in the end. I'm not sure if this was due to the fact that my school term is ending and I have a bunch of other reading to do and papers to write or if it just fell flat at the end.  Coming of age story has been tossed around a few times in relation to this book but I'm not sure if that's accurate.  Its more of a film noire in book form.  The young innocent teacher discovers more about the world and it changes her.

Charu Apte is a young teacher from a small town who comes to a small private British school to teach English. She finds herself thrust into a world where the color of your skin is even more important than the rest of India and anything British is better.  Teachers are seated at lunch according to their race, whites with whites, then the mixed blood Indian's then the full Indians.  Charu is drawn to the unconventional Moira Prince (Prin) for short and the odd ball characters she hangs out with. Where she learns to smoke cigarettes, marijuana, drink and explores her forbidden feelings for Prin.  You don't read many lesbian subplots in Indian books so this was a nice change.

After Prin is found dead at the bottom of a cliff the story turns more toward a murder mystery. Some of the girls from the school take it upon themselves to discover the mystery behind who killed the young teacher and during their investigation they uncover many deep secrets that may have led to her demise.

All in all it was a good book I found it just a bit tedious toward the end but that might have just been my frame of mind with all the other things I had on my plate.  I would recommend anyone give it a try.  I'm not usually a fan of Indian authors but I did enjoy this one.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

(85) A psychotic killer and new love

Title: Blue by Russ Gregory
Publisher: Bold Stroke Books
288 Pages
Genre: Gay Fiction/Mystery

I received this book as an advanced electronic galley from It was released on Oct. 11, 2011

Synopsis: One-hundred-and-three-year-old nursing home resident Ruth Brookes holds the key to an unsolved series of murders, and what she knows has never been more important. A psychotic killer is once again stalking gay men in the streets of Austin.

Meanwhile, Matt Bell has finally decided to break out of the social isolation he’s lived in since being shot by the still-at-large killer, and meets the handsome, broody, and shy Thatcher. Both men are fighting their own demons as the killings start again. Soon the body count is rising and their friends are dropping like flies.

Will Ruth give up her secrets in time to stop the madman before Matt and Thatcher find themselves in the crosshairs of his rifle? Only Ruth knows for sure, because life is seldom black and white—more often it is just shades of blue.

Review: I wish the book was as straight forward as the synopsis! I really liked this book but the beginning was a bit confusing. Too many characters were introduced without much reason as to why.  I started getting confused as to who was talking and who wasn't - even though the chapters indicated who was supposed to be talking there would be other characters voices thrown in.  Gregory seemed to pull it together about a third of the way in and the book took on a life of its own.

Who was killing the gay men in Austin? Could it be the gorgeous and broody Thatcher or is it someone else?  The police have no leads and can't tie all the murders together with the exception of ballistics.  Finally with the help of the FBI they start to piece together when the attacks usually occurred but not why there is often big gaps in time between shootings.

Its a great story once Gregory starts focusing on the main characters, and the main mystery.  The descriptions of the harrowing deaths of people from AIDS in the 80's is a painful reminder of what so many went through.  Its a good debut that could have used some fine tuning but hopefully he will work that out by his next book!

(84) Death camps & Survival

Title:  The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Memoir by Chil Rajchman
Publisher: Pegasus Books
138 pages
Genre: non-fiction

Synopsis: The extermination center Treblinka was located approximately 50 miles from Warsaw and became operational in June 1942. The sole purpose of the camp was the murder of Jews, a process which began immediately following disembarkation from the railway cars. The Nazis kept a few Jews temporarily alive to assist them in advancing the machinery of death. Rajchman was sent to Treblinka in 1942 at age 28.

Review: This is one of the most haunting and riveting books I have read about the holocaust. Rajchman escaped Treblinka after 11 of the most horrifying months. Starved, beaten and used as a barber to shave the heads of the women before they were gassed, or a "dentist" to extract the gold teeth from the mouths of the dead.  His account of the brutality, and sadism of his captors was horrifying.  Yes I've read accounts of camps before but none so vivid and detailed.  His details are almost detached as he watched men cover the pathways with sand to cover the blood so the next victims wouldn't see what was about to happen.  Having to sing to the cries and screams of Jews being gassed to death, removing bodies to be burned or buried. That this man had enough hope to participate in an uprising and escape, to go on living, after what he had seen and been forced to do is amazing.  Most would have broken under much less.  He survived to reveal what what happened, so that we can remember all those that were lost.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

(83) Ghosts and Witches

Title: The Night Strangers: A Novel by Chris Bohjalian
Publisher: Crown
400 pages
Genre: Fiction - Paranormal

I received this book as an advanced electronic galley from It is being released on Oct. 4, 2011

Synopsis: Chip and Emily Linton wanted to escape a nightmare. Months before, Chip had ditched the jet he piloted into Lake Champlain after both its engines failed. His decision led to disaster: More than three dozen passengers died and Linton himself had lapsed into a PSTD response that verges on insanity. Now, he, his wife, and twin 10-year-old daughters have escaped, or so they think, to a decrepit Victorian mansion in New Hampshire's sleepy White Mountains. Before long, however, the house and neighborhood around it become scenes of threatening paranormal visitations and the family is thrust into a realm where uncertainty is the only norm.

Review: First let me say that this is not your normal Chris Bohjalian book.  I had mixed feelings about this book. I have read many of Bohjalian's books and loved all of them but this one was only so so.  It wasn't that I don't like creepy ghost stories because I do. There were really two different story lines in this book, one regarding Chip and his demons, and the 2nd the herbalists of Bethel. I loved the story surrounding Chip. The beginning of this book was terrifying and wonderful. The creepiness factor of this story line alone would have been plenty.

I definitely loved the way Bohjanian wrote Chip's character in the first person, making us feel what he felt, the fear the worry and the angst.  Fabulous.  I've never read a book where you felt like you were in the drivers seat the same way this one made you feel.

As for the herbalists of Bethel, I felt this story line jumped the shark a bit.  I don't want to give too much away but there were parts of this story line that just were too over the top. It was those moments that went from scary to "really? I just can't believe that". In many of his other books the "bad" guys were ambiguous but in this one they were a little more concrete and that took something away from the story for me.  Its like a spooky story that scares the hell out of you until you see the monster and it looks like a person in a rubber mask.  It looses the scare factor and leaves you a little cold.

So on the whole I thought this detour from Bohjalian's normal books was good but it could have been better.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

(82) A vicious hate crime & learning to stand up for what is right

Title: LIE by Caroline Bock
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
224 pages
Genre: YA

I received this book as an advanced electronic galley through it was released 8/30/11

Synopsis: Everybody knows, nobody’s talking. . . .

Seventeen-year-old Skylar Thompson is being questioned by the police. Her boyfriend, Jimmy, stands accused of brutally assaulting two young El Salvadoran immigrants from a neighboring town, and she’s the prime witness. Skylar is keeping quiet about what she’s seen, but how long can she keep it up?

But Jimmy was her savior. . . .

When her mother died, he was the only person who made her feel safe, protected from the world. But when she begins to appreciate the enormity of what has happened, especially when Carlos Cortez, one of the victims, steps up to demand justice, she starts to have second thoughts about protecting Jimmy. Jimmy’s accomplice, Sean, is facing his own moral quandary. He’s out on bail and has been offered a plea in exchange for testifying against Jimmy.

The truth must be told. . . .

Sean must decide whether or not to turn on his friend in order to save himself. But most important, both he and Skylar need to figure out why they would follow someone like Jimmy in the first place.

Review: The author flips back and forth between characters allowing you to hear their innermost thoughts, and reactions to what happened that fateful night.  The only voice that is missing is Jimmy, which I think is greatly missed.  All the characters revolve around Jimmy yet his voice is missing from the book, although one could argue that most of the characters are so enraptured by Jimmy that Jimmy has been thinking and speaking for them for so long that now they are getting their opportunity to speak and start to find themselves.

This is not an easy book to read. Its not the writing so much as the subject. It is a stark look at how people can delude themselves and how so many teens get wrapped up in what their friends are doing that they don't stop to think for themselves. It also takes a hard look, but not hard enough in my opinion, of racism. It is the story of doing what is right vs doing what others expect you to do. It is about knowing who you are and standing up for your beliefs.

I honestly didn't like this book at first and I couldn't figure out why.  I think it was the utter lack of anyone standing up for themselves, but just following along.  I realize that this has never been my issue for me or that of my children.  They stand up for what they believe even if it isn't popular.  Its not always easy.  It was kids like the one's in this book that I always had issues with in high school so its not hard to understand why I didn't like them.

By the end of the book I could understand its value and I really started to enjoy it and felt sorry for many of the characters.  There is no rosy ending to this book but there is some closure. I would recommend it to high school students and I think it could spark some interesting discussions.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Banned Book Week Sept 24 - Oct 1

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.  This event helps draw attention to censorship by spotlighting books that were actually or 
were attempted to be banned across the USA.

BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them. Thanks to librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community most of the books targeted were not banned.  I want to send a big thank you to all who help fight these bannings, uphold our First Amendment rights and draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints placed on the availability of information.
Below are books that were attempted to be banned for the past 3 years.  Pick one up and read it this week!

1) And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson - So Cute! Loved it.
2) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie;
3) Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley;
4) Crank, by Ellen Hopkins;
 5) The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins - Love it! Can't wait to read the rest of the series.  This was also my daughters 10th Grade summer reading book. 
 6)Lush, by Natasha Friend;
7) What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones;
8) Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich - Hated it. - didn't like the writing style, and thought that although the subject was interesting the author was very pretentious.  This was my other daughters required summer reading for 11th grade. 
9)Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie;
10) Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer - I actually really enjoyed this series. 

1) ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle;
2) And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson See Above
3) The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky;
4) To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee - Read this in high school and didn't get much out of it again a few years ago and fell in love with it.  
5) Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer - See above
 6)Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger;
7) My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult - Found this to be a great book, hard subject matter but fascinating.
 8) The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler - I have this on my shelf but haven't read it yet - the title drew me to it. Guess I should pull it down and read it this week. 
9) The Color Purple, by Alice Walker - Fabulous book 
10) The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

1) And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell - See above
2) His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman;
 3) ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle;
4) Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz;
5) Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya;
6) The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky;
 7) Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar;
 8) Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen;
9) The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini - My daughter was required to read this in 9th grade for Honors English - I decided to read it as well - glad I did, what a fabulous book.  She liked it as well. 
10) Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper

Thursday, September 22, 2011

(81) Standing out from the crowd

Title: Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand by William Aruda & Kristen Dixon
Publisher: Wiley
224 pages
Genre: Business

Synopsis: As a professional, your reputation is your most valuable career asset. Whether you're climbing the ladder at your current company or seeking a new job, in today's fast-paced work environment, you must proactively and continuously position yourself for success. Your credibility, visibility, personality, and personal style all make up your brand. Build and nurture your personal brand and you'll make yourself a must-have, can't-fail professional—and you'll do it without having to be someone you're not.

Career Distinction outlines the proven personal branding process and provides case studies of successful professionals that will help you not only survive, but thrive, in today's dynamic and ultracompetitive workplace. You'll learn to manage your brand with innovative tools that enable you to differentiate yourself and stand out from your peers.

The increasing pace of change in the business world gives you less time than ever to make your professional mark. Career Distinction demonstrates how to express who you are and the value you bring to your organization—branding you as an indispensable, memorable, and unique professional. Success takes more than just hard work; brand yourself and watch your career soar.

Review: I read this book for a class I'm taking for my Masters in Organizational Development and while the information wasn't necessarily new to me I like the way it was written.  This book is one of the most readable and engaging of the books on business and branding that I have read.

Career Distinction makes the case for thoroughly understanding yourself and how building your unique brand will bring value to your audience. Standing out from the crowd and being constantly sought out by potential employers is the payoff for putting these ideas in action.  I was particularly interested in the 360 degree assessment of how others perceive my personal and professional skills and attributes. Knowing how others perceive you is incredibly important to understanding yourself.  In the book there is a code to get your own free assessment but unfortunately the website has since changed and it doesn't seem to work.  My professor passed along to us the website for the free 15 day assessment which I will add later in the comment section.  This was an incredibly invaluable tool.  Its fascinating to see how others see you.

If you are looking at switching jobs or just want to learn how to better your career this is a great place to start. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

(80) Violent Crime in Sweden

Title: Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell 
Publisher: Vintage Crime
280 page
Genre: Mystery

Synopsis: It was a senselessly violent crime; on a cold night in a remote Swedish farm house an elderly farmer is bludgeoned to death, and his wife is left to die with a noose around her neck. And as if this didn't present enough problems for the Ystad police Inspector Kurt Wallander, the dying woman's last word is foreign, leaving the police the one tangible clue they have - and in the process, the match that could inflame Sweden's already smoldering anti-immigrant sentiments.

Unlike the situation with his ex-wife, his estranged daughter, or the beautiful but married young prosecutor who has piqued his interest, in this case Wallander finds a problem he can handle. He quickly becomes obsessed with solving the crime before the already tense situation explodes, but soon comes to realize that it will require all his reserves of energy and dedication to solve.

Review: I have found myself a little obsessed myself these days.  I have a fascination with Nordic mysteries.  I think one of the things that intrigues me so much is that they are so different than what I thought that part of the world was like.  Whenever I watch anything on Sweden or Norway it is always depicted as so idealistic.  Little crime, where you can leave your stroller on the street and it won't get nicked etc.  But these books depict another side, the darker side of these idealistic communities and I'm hooked.

Henning Mankell has created a great character in Kurt Wallander, the middle aged, divorced police officer.  In this book I think Wallander isn't just looking to solve a crime he is looking for himself.  Floundering after his divorce, trying to repair a relationship with his daughter, learning how to be a son to a man who he feels has been disappointed with him since he decided to become a police officer.  Throughout the investigation he learns more about himself and starts to see his father in a new light.  He's a good cop, just a bit lost at the moment.

I think thats one of the other aspects of these mysteries that I am drawn to.  The characters are all a bit flawed, and average.  They don't solve mysteries in the blink of an eye, random facts don't just jump out of the blue, they plod through these crimes uncovering evidence piece by piece in a very realistic fashion.  I will have to say if I ever drank as much coffee as these guys do though I don't think I would ever sleep.

So if you have a thing for flawed characters, crime solving and cold Wintry landscapes try some of these writers that are getting more exposure thanks to Stieg Larsons Millenium trilogy.

Friday, September 16, 2011

(79) Second Chance at Love

Title: Beautiful Disaster by Laura Spinelli
Publisher: Penguin Publishing
384 pages
Genre: Mystery, Romance

Synopsis: A story of love lost...and found.

Mia Wells's eco-friendly career goals are about to become a reality-but her life-altering moment is interrupted when an unexpected call ushers in her tremulous past. A man who's never left Mia's memory: Flynn, the enigmatic, passionate man whose disappearance broke her heart, has mysteriously resurfaced.

 Now back in her life and in the hospital, Flynn is gravely injured. Mia keeps a bedside vigil-terrified that he will die, awestruck at the prospect of his survival. In a story filled with sweetness and suspense, Mia's what-ifs are endless. And Flynn's return ignites an achingly powerful tale about the most enduring love, one that is greater than honor, or friendship, or the passing of time.

Review: I was grabbed by this book from the beginning and while it is a bit of a sappy story you have to remember it is a romance! I think Spinelli did a great job weaving the past and the present together so that you didn't feel jolted or lost when you changed time lines.  The characters were well developed and you found yourself routing for them from the very beginning.

Mia and Flynn's whirlwind romance begins when Mia is in college.  Mia's best friend and hyper-vigilant roommate takes an instant disliking to Flynn and will stop at nothing to get them apart.  It fascinated me how pushy the roommate was and how Mia's personality changes throughout the book but it wasn't until the end when I feel Mia really took control of her own life instead of letting others manipulate her.

There isn't much suspense but there are a few plot twists that may take people off guard.  I think this was a great debut.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pause for a Rant

I have read several tweets about this article "Authors Say Agents Try to “Straighten” Gay Characters in YA" and it makes me crazy! Why do gay characters need to be straightened or eliminated? Isn't it bad enough that the suicide rate for LGBT teens is higher than other groups?

Now not only are people going to shun them in real life but we are going to make it harder for them to identify with characters in fiction? Wake up people! This might actually help some of those kids.  I'm almost sad that they didn't post the name of the publishing company in their article maybe it would have shamed them into doing something different like take a look at their policies or the way in which publishing agents are doing their jobs.

Maybe these archaic policies or choices being made by agents are the reason I can't find any books with AA teen characters that aren't set in the hood or about basketball or some other sport.  Do they think all AA boys read is sports related books? Its crazy.  But thats a different rant.

Its time to get some diversity in publishing out there...and while I like being able to find LGBT book easily in their own section of book stores I also think that it eliminates many people who might read them from stumbling across something really good.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

(78) Serial killers and broken cops

Title: Bleeding Out by Baxter Clare
Publisher: Bella Books
306 pages
Genre: Lesbian Mystery

Synopsis: Lieutenant  Meet LA Franco - Better known as Frank who commands Homicide Squad #93 in the gang ravaged central Los Angeles area.

Described by one of her detectives as "Dirty Harry's personality stuffed into Martina Navratilova's body", Frank allows nothing into her bruised personal life except music, football, booze and exercise - all her drugs of choice. And just when she needs them most, they are all about to fail her....

Review: Frank is called into investigate the homicide of a young girl dumped at a school.  The girl had been brutally beaten and sodomized. During her investigation she finds more bodies and evidence that ties them all together.  Now she knows she is looking for a serial killer who is escalating in his violence.

While trying to find the killer she finds that pushing the pain away from the death of her long term partner isn't working as well anymore. When she is put on leave while IAD investigates Frank's shooting of a suspect she finds herself with too much time on her hands and a brain that won't stay still.

Frank is a very broken and troubled character. She gets the job done but her life is falling apart. The chapters all end with insight into the killer that Frank is looking for - the why behind what he does.  I liked it but it is very dark and Franks life reads like a what not to do cautionary tale.

Monday, September 5, 2011

(77) Mommie Darkest

Title: Hit List (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 20) by Laurell K. Hamilton
Publisher: Berkley Hardcover
336 pages
Genre: Horror

Synopsis: A serial killer is hunting the Pacific Northwest, murdering victims in a gruesome and spectacular way. The local police suspect "monsters" are involved, and have called in Anita Blake and Edward, U.S. Marshals who really know their monsters, to catch the killer.

Review: Old school Anita is back.  After the last book in this series I wasn't sure if I was going to read this one but I did and I was glad.  Anita has been away from her men and Jean Claude as she helps other Marshals in a serial killer case.  Of course being away has its down side, the metaphysics that allow Anita to heal and do some of the amazing things she does are going a little wacky because of the amount of times he has spent away.  But have no fear Edward has her back.  The bond between Edward and Anita has never been more apparent than it is in this book.  I loved that she brought them back together although I feel like Edward is starting to become more human as Anita becomes more "other".

My one dissatisfaction with this book is the end.  I'm not going to spoil it but lets just say I was expecting more of a fight.  There is an interesting twist which I'm sure will show up in another book regarding Olaf the serial killer who wants Anita as his own...although no one really knows what that means since she does resemble all the women that he has tortured and killed in the past.  Does he want to date her or kill her?

(76) Love Builds Families

Title: This is Us: the new all American Family by David Marin
Publisher: Exterminating Angel Press
288 pages
Genre: Memoir - Adoption

Synopsis:When David Marin fell in love with three abandoned children desperately in need of a home, there was only one thing he could do. Give up his relatively carefree life and learn how to become a parent. In the process, he found the future he had always wanted, but he also learned some hard lessons about single-parent adoption, the Kafkaesque side of Social Services, and America's anti-immigrant sentiment: Heartbreaking, funny, and inspiring, This Is US chronicles Marin’s quest to create a better life for these children—and for himself.

Review: David Marin's account of adopting three children from Foster care is a delight.  Witty, and laugh out loud funny in some places yet aggravating and sad in others.  David Marin had to jump through more hoops than the average adoptive parent because he was a single man.  Many social workers at DHS didn't want to place children with him and certainly didn't agree with placing three Latino children with a red haired man, never mind that David is half Puerto Rican.

He is stopped by cops, has set backs with the legal system and through it all he keeps his humor.  Its amazing and uplifting.  Then there are all the pitfalls to new parenting which as David is the first to admit, "small mammals know more about parenting" than he did.  But yet her persevered, through racism, bosses that pushed him out because of his want of family and social workers who did everything to get in his way.

Anyone who can go through that and still have the ability to be witty and humble is amazing.  His children are very lucky to have such a wonderful father.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

(75) Family Secrets & Little Known History

Title: Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
336 pages
Genre: Fiction - Historical ficition

Synopsis:  A fictionalized account of the 1942 Paris roundups and deportations, in which thousands of Jewish families were arrested, held at the Vélodrome d'Hiver outside the city, then transported to Auschwitz. Forty-five-year-old Julia Jarmond, American by birth, moved to Paris when she was 20 and is married to the arrogant, unfaithful Bertrand Tézac, with whom she has an 11-year-old daughter. Julia writes for an American magazine and her editor assigns her to cover the 60th anniversary of the Vél' d'Hiv' roundups. Julia soon learns that the apartment she and Bertrand plan to move into was acquired by Bertrand's family when its Jewish occupants were dispossessed and deported 60 years before. She resolves to find out what happened to the former occupants: Wladyslaw and Rywka Starzynski, parents of 10-year-old Sarah and four-year-old Michel. The more Julia discovers—especially about Sarah, the only member of the Starzynski family to survive.

Review: This little known period of history was fascinating to me.  I had no idea that this happened in France in 1942 and I'm devastated to learn about it now.  Why is it left out of history teachings on the Holocaust? While some reviews I read felt that this book lacked the culpability of the French people I have to disagree.  While the character Julia was investigating the Vel d'Hiv she found that most people didn't want to talk about it or even want her asking questions about it.  They wanted it hidden.  Even the monuments she uncovered didn't mention the French as the one's who rounded up the Jews just that it was the Nazi's.  I think that Julia's dismay to the lack of culpability and the way she doggedly goes after the story despite people trying to block her path saying that it should be left in the past and that no one would want to read about it is putting a subtle spotlight on a sad piece of history that France would like to forget they played a major role in.

The book alternated between 1942 and the present until the story gets tied together toward the end.  I loved the flow of the book and found it to be an easy and engrossing read.  If anything it makes me want to learn more about the Vel d'Hiv.  I haven't seen the movie version of this book that was recently released but I might have to go see it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

(74) Disabilites, death and war

Title: As the Crow Dies by Ken Casper
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
266 pages
Genre: Mystery

Synopsis:Vietnam took his legs. A murderer took his father. Somehow, Jason Crow has to take a stand.

Jason Crow comes home to Texas on clumsy, prosthetic legs, struggling with his lost dreams and the pitying curiosity of friends and strangers. But there's no time for him to brood, because his father has just been shot to death.

Unable to convince the police that his father was murdered, Jason begins his own investigation. In the process he uncovers family secrets that shake him to his core and make him question everyone and everything around him, including the love of Michiko, the beautiful Eurasian-American nurse he met in Japan.

While fighting his own insecurity as a double amputee, Jason must challenge forces capable of destroying him and those he loves to pursue the person who robbed him of his greatest hero: His dad.

Review: An interesting ride into the past.  I was only a child during the 70's and I lived in a big city so I don't know that we had as much racial tension as Jason does in his small town.  His father was business partners with a black man, his sister is dating a black man his brother is a draft dodging junkie and he is an ex-football star turned double amputee.  Life is not what Jason expected it to be.

This is a slow moving mystery that gives you a taste of what life was like back in the 70's during the war. I really liked the look back in time and the slow unfolding of the mystery as well as Jason's coming to terms with his disability.  This is a great debut for a new author.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

(73) Vampires, Alternate Universes, Curses and Revenge

Title: Lord of the Vampires by Gena Showalter (Royal House of Shadows #1)
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne
288 pages
Genre: Fantasy Romance

I received this as an advanced electronic book from This title was released August 23, 2011

Synopsis: Nicolai the Vampire is renowned for his virility, but in a cruel twist of fate “The Dark Seducer” has become a sex slave in the kingdom of Delfina—stripped of his precious timepiece and his memory. All that remains is a primal need for freedom, revenge—and the only woman who can help him.

When the wanton vampire summons Jane Parker, she is helpless to obey. She's drawn to his dark sexuality and into his magical realm. But for this human, all is not a fairy tale. For saving Nicolai could mean losing the only man she's ever craved.

Review: I love Gena Showalter so I was excited to see this book - what I didn't realize is that it is the first in a series with each characters story being told by a different author.  That being said I felt Showalter had too much to do in this book - establishing all the background to the story and then sliding into the story of Nicolai the eldest son and King of Elden.  There were many places that felt rushed, and at times I thought the book would end without any resolution to Nicolai's story.

There was plenty of hot steamy scenes which Showalter does so well but there were so many unknown factors that seemed to be tossed in almost as an aside.  I think this book is okay but there was so much potential for it to be great.  I'm not sure if Showalter was given a page limit but it seemed that way.  If the book had just been a tad longer I think she would have been able make things flow a little better.  Overall not a bad start to a new series, but not Showalters best.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

(72) The Ultimate Lesbian Road Trip

Title: Tats by Layce Gardner
Publisher: Bella Books
288 pages
Genre: Lesbian Fiction

Synopsis: Lee Hammond's girlfriend has moved on to other women. Deciding she's done the last of her now ex’s laundry, Lee hops on the Harley, ripe for adventure. One thunderstorm, a brief stint as a funeral crasher, two ruined shoes and several cheerleaders later, she's still planning to run away. Better yet, she's got one of the cheerleaders along for the ride.

Not just any cheerleader, either. Vivian Baxter is that cheerleader, the one that made Lee certain back in high school that she was never going to be like all the other girls.

Destination? Someplace not Oklahoma. Possibilities? As many as the wide open road can offer. Problems? None at all. Except perhaps Lee's ex, a hopping mad stripper who wants her Harley back.

Vivian's feminine wiles prove invaluable in solving their transportation problem just as her own past catches up to them. And Vivian's past has two legs, a lot of henchman and a very big gun. Lee and Vivian may never get out of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma may never be the same.

Review: First time author Layce Gardner hits this one out of the park. I haven't laughed this hard at a book in a long time. My kids thought I was nuts because I would be laughing hysterically time and time again.  The characters are funny, real and yet there are still some moments that brought tears to my eyes.

I really had no idea what to expect from this book, I picked it up when I was on vacation thinking it was going to be a normal cheesy lesbian romance but I got so much more.  The wit and humor that go back and forth between the characters, the crazy situations they wind up in and the poignant moments make this book worth so much more than the cover might make you think.  This is the ultimate road trip but the main characters don't die in the end.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

(71) Small Towns with lots of skeletons

Title: Don't Look Back by Karin Fossum
Publisher: Harcourt
295 pages
Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Synopsis: English debut features older, widowed Inspector Konrad Sejer who is trying to solve a murder that took place in a small Norwegian village. Neighbors know neighbors and children play happily in the streets. But then the naked body of a teenage girl is found. Annie was strong, intelligent, and loved by everyone. What went wrong? Called in to investigate Inspector Sejer uncovers layer upon layer of distrust and lies beneath the town's seemingly perfect facade.

Review: I bought this book because it is the first of the Inspector Sejer series that was published in English.  I received an e-galley from Netgalley of the latest Fossum book, but wanted to get a feel for the characters before I jumped to the end of the series. I loved it's slow methodological pace. The case wasn't solved overnight and the characters didn't have all the answers.  In fact with no evidence they had to rely on interviews and more interviews to try to find anything that they could latch on to to solve the senseless death of a young well loved teenager.

This is another Norwegian import and the debut of Inspector Sejer in the US.  Unfortunately it is also 5th in the series so there are times when you know you are missing some back story but this doesn't affect the overall book.  If you liked the Killing on AMC you will like this.  Its not a mad race to the finish but with steady methodical police work the Inspector uncovers not only the mystery of who killed Annie but also why.

Monday, August 22, 2011

(70) Breaking Silence

Title: Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur
320 pages
Genre: Mystery

Synopsis: The Slabaugh family are model Amish farmers, prosperous and hardworking, with four children and a happy extended family. When the parents and an uncle are found dead in their barn, it appears to be a gruesome accident: methane gas asphyxiation caused by a poorly ventilated cesspit. But in the course of a routine autopsy, the coroner discovers that one of the victims suffered a head wound before death--clearly, foul play was involved. But who would want to make orphans of the Slabaughs' children? And is this murder somehow related to a recent string of shocking hate crimes against the Amish?

Having grown up Amish, Kate is determined to bring the killer to justice. Because the other series of attacks are designated hate crimes, the state sends in agent John Tomasetti, with whom Kate has a long and complex relationship. Together, they search for the link between the crimes--and uncover a dark secret at work beneath the placid surface of this idyllic Amish community.

Review: A dark tale with two plots that converge into one.  One is the hate crimes against the Amish that are taking place throughout the county and the other is the murder of the parents and Uncle of 4 Amish children.  Are the two related or just a crazy coincidence?

I really like this installment of Linda Castillo's series.  She could hold off on some of the descriptive gore but the characters are unique.  I am finally seeing some growth from the main character Kate as she struggles with her relationship with FBI agent John Tomasetti, but I would love for us to be introduced to her family.

This story does have a much darker tale than the other books and I can't really say anything else about it without revealing too much but it is a great story and the plot moves you along with an ending that I didn't totally see coming.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

(69) Hidden Pregnancies, Secrets, Dysfunctional Families

Title: These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf
Publisher: Mira
352 Pages
Genre: Mystery

Synopsis: These Things Hidden opens with the release of 21-year-old Allison Glenn from prison, where she has served five years for an unspecified but particularly horrible crime. Allison is reluctant to enter a halfway house in her hometown of Linden Falls, Iowa, where "even a heroin-addicted prostitute arrested for armed robbery and murder would get more compassion than I ever will." Allison, her family's former golden girl, secures a job at a local bookstore, but her efforts to resume some sort of normal life are undermined by her well-to-do parents' indifference, her sister's hatred, and the stigma of her conviction. Meanwhile, one little boy holds the key to the tragedy that led to Allison's imprisonment.

Review: I find myself stuck when it comes to writing this review...maybe because of the information the author gives in the back of the book regarding Safe Haven laws (where you can abandon your child at specified locations without fear of prosecution) These laws were meant to curtail the number of infant deaths by their parents hands but there is no statistical evidence that this actually works.  In fact women who kill their children are still killing their is usually done in an act of desperation and fear - no thought. I am highly against safe haven laws, they are bad for children and give women a pass for abandoning their child instead of creating a plan for their care.  Now I will get off my soap box and talk about the book...

Heather Gudenkauf does a good job of slowly revealing the details of this twisted tale.  Allison, the perfect child who was just released from prison is sent back to live in her home town which sets off a chain of events and tragedy that no one saw coming.

 Allison's parents are exactly the type of people most parents hope they will never be, judgmental, demanding, and cold. Brynn, Allison's sister lives in another town with her grandmother because she couldn't take the pressure after Allison left.  When Allison returns home to claim some of her stuff she finds that both she and her sister have been erased from her parents house as if they didn't exist. Charm's family consists of a step-father who is dying of lung cancer, a missing brother who she hasn't heard from in years and a mother who uses men like tissues.  Its no wonder that so much drama and unknown tragedy take place in this crazy town!
The only decent parent in town that we meet is Claire and her husband who are parenting their 5 year old adopted son who seems to have anxiety issues or some other undefined mental health issue that is never addressed.

This book is thought provoking and did contain a mystery that kept me flipping back and forth between ideas of what was going on.  I didn't really see the ending coming until it did.  Good read but I'm still not a fan of anonymously abandoning your child and actually if this child had been placed for adoption through regular channels half of the tragic consequences wouldn't have occurred.

Monday, August 15, 2011

(68) Russian Spys

Title: Agent X by Noah Boyd
Publisher: Harper
480 Pages
Genre: Mystery

Synopsis: Steve Vail, once an ace FBI agent, now a bricklayer (The Bricklayer), arrives in Washington to take Kate Bannon, the bureau’s assistant director, to an embassy soiree. But his romantic mission is sidelined by an urgent summons from the bureau: a Russian embassy staffer, code-named Calculus, is offering to name Americans feeding sensitive information to Russian intelligence. But no sooner than the bureau accepts the Russian’s terms, he is spirited off to Moscow, presumably to be tortured into admitting what he has done. Steve and Kate must identify the moles and reel them in before the Russians snuff them. But before that can happen, Vail must solve the many puzzles that Calculus uses to conceal information.

Review: While some of the dialogue in this book is hokey I liked it better than the first book The Bricklayer. Instead of non-stop action it was more of a chess game trying to figure out the next move with teamwork and brain power, more of a big puzzle instead of a fast and furious shoot out.  Not to say there wasn't lots of shooting and superhuman calculation going on but even our faithful Steve Vail has to have some help.  If you are looking for a fast paced fun read this is one for you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

(67) Love Through Time

Title: Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
Publisher: Doubleday
360 Pages
Genre: Fiction

Synopsis: An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time.

On a burn ward, a man lies between living and dying, so disfigured that no one from his past life would even recognize him. His only comfort comes from imagining various inventive ways to end his misery. Then a woman named Marianne Engel walks into his hospital room, a wild-haired, schizophrenic sculptress on the lam from the psych ward upstairs, who insists that she knows him – that she has known him, in fact, for seven hundred years. She remembers vividly when they met, in another hospital ward at a convent in medieval Germany, when she was a nun and he was a wounded mercenary left to die. If he has forgotten this, he is not to worry: she will prove it to him.

And so Marianne Engel begins to tell him their story, carving away his disbelief and slowly drawing him into the orbit and power of a word he'd never uttered: love.

Review: I wasn't sure about this book when I first picked it up but it sucked me in quickly.  I had no idea where it was going because the book I bought had no synopsis on the back or inside.  I had seen it many times though and something about it just intrigued me.

When the narrator an ex porn star gets burned in a horrible car accident in fairly graphic detail I wasnt sure how long I was going to stick it out but I'm glad I did.  This book takes you on adventures to Italy, Germany and beyond, it is about love transcending time and finding that beauty doesn't always bring you happiness. It is really about life and how we choose to view it and how we choose to live it.  A fabulous book from a new author.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

(66) Greed and the good fight

Title: There are things I want you to know about Stieg Larsson and me by Eva Gabrielsson
Publisher: Seven Stories Press
210 pages
Genre: Memoir

Synopsis: Here is the real inside story—not the one about the Stieg Larsson, but rather the love story of a man and a woman whose lives came to be guided by politics and love, coffee and activism, writing and friendship. Only one person in the world knows that story well enough to tell it with authority. Her name is Eva Gabrielsson.

Eva Gabrielsson and Stieg Larsson shared everything, starting when they were both eighteen until his untimely death thirty-two years later at the age of fifty. In There Are Things I Want You to Know about Stieg Larsson and Me, Eva Gabrielsson accepts the daunting challenge of telling the story of their shared life steeped in love and sharpened in the struggle for justice and human rights. She chooses to tell it in short, spare, lyrical chapters, like snapshots, regaling Larsson’s readers with the inside account of how he wrote, why he wrote, who the sources were for Lisbeth and his other characters—graciously answering Stieg Larsson’s readers’ most pressing questions—and at the same time telling us the things we didn’t know we wanted to know—about love and loss, death, betrayal, and the mistreatment of women.

Review: I've been wanting to read this since I first heard about all the hubbub surrounding Stieg's estate. I am not surprised but sickened by the way Stiegs brother and father have acted toward Eva.  She is Stiegs widow and deserves to have inherited his estate, not that she wants it.  She isn't fighting for the money, she is fighting for the rights of his books.  If she gets this she can finish the 4th book which Stieg left half written, and she could make sure that his writings aren't sold or published in places that he would object to.  The idea that his family would treat her so poorly is despicable.

I hope that her activism and tragic story help to change the laws in Sweden to protect the rights of long term domestic partners who don't have children.  Its a wake up call for all domestic partners to make sure that your wishes are known if you are to pass away and that you protect your partner so that they will inherit whatever you wish them to have.

As for the book, well it was a bit disjointed but it did give an interesting peak inside the life of Stieg Larsson and how he came up with some of the things in his books.  I think getting an inside look into his life helps to see where the Millennium trilogy came from.  Eva is an angry woman with good reason.  What happened to her is what Stieg had fought against his entire life.  Men taking advantage of women and making them second class citizens.  His family by not acknowledging her status as his widow is doing exactly what Stieg abhorred.    I hope Eva's Viking avenging prayers come true.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Blog Hop Friday

“What is the one ARC you would love to get your hands on right now?”

  • The Night Eternal by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan (I just picked up the 2nd book of this series and I've heard that you will be dying to know what happens so I would happily grab an ARC of this book!

  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon (4rd in the Lord John Series) (I really love the Outlander series and this new spin off the Lord John Series is equally good. It is fascinating to read about a gay man in a time when being homosexual was a capital offense.  If his private life is ever discovered, everything he cares about will be destroyed.)
  • (65) Lost but not Out of the Game

    Title: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
    Publisher: Dutton Adult
    400 Pages
    Genre: Mystery

    I received an advanced reader copy of this book via This book is set to be released August 23, 2011.

    Synopsis: The Keeper of Lost Causes, the first installment of Adler- Olsen's Department Q series, features the deeply flawed chief detective Carl MØrck, who used to be a good homicide detective-one of Copenhagen's best. Then a bullet almost took his life. Two of his colleagues weren't so lucky, and Carl, who didn't draw his weapon, blames himself.

    So a promotion is the last thing Carl expects.

    But it all becomes clear when he sees his new office in the basement. Carl's been selected to run Department Q, a new special investigations division that turns out to be a department of one. With a stack of Copenhagen's coldest cases to keep him company, Carl's been put out to pasture. So he's as surprised as anyone when a case actually captures his interest. A missing politician vanished without a trace five years earlier. The world assumes she's dead. His colleagues snicker about the time he's wasting. But Carl may have the last laugh, and redeem himself in the process.

    Because she isn't dead . . . yet.

    Review: Look out Stieg there is a new Nordic writer in town.  While this book didn't feel as polished as The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo it was very good and the series has potential. It took me a little bit to realize that the alternating chapters were taking place in two different times but once I caught on it was a race against the clock. I found myself holding my breath in places hoping that Carl and his assistant would solve the case before time ran out.

    Carl is depressed and just doesn't care much about his job anymore.  The department knows it but they don't know how to get rid of him so they devise a plan to bring more money into the homicide department and stash Carl somewhere where he can't do much harm or much good.  They put him in charge of a new division investigating old cases that had political or media attention that didn't produce any results.

    Carl knows what the powers that be are doing and doesn't really care, he spends his time in his basement office smoking, surfing the internet or taking naps, that is until they give him an assistant who seems to slowly ignite his passion for his job once again.  Carl's new assistant is a quirky, mysterious man who seems to have a photographic memory, an interest in the law, and an interest in getting Carl out of his funk.  The two make an interesting, productive and amusing team.

    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.
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