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 netgalley.com 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 children...it 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 netgalley.com 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 M├śrck, 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.
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