Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review - The Story of Fish and Snail

Title: The Story of Fish & Snail
Author and Illustrator: Deborah Freedman
Publisher: Viking Juvenile (June 13, 2013)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 40
Genre: Children's
Source: Library
Ages: 3 - 5 - Preschool to Kindergarten

This book might need a little explaining to your young dreamers, but then again, it might be interesting to hear their take on Fish & Snail.

Living together in a book, Fish is full of adventure and Snail likes the slower pace, the pace that involves staying in one place and sharing stories with princesses and kittens. Fish was cut out for more and when he finds a new book to be part of, a book with pirates, he tries to convince his best friend to join him.

This is where you can explain to your young reader that it is okay for friends to fight, because that is exactly what these two best chums do. Their fight is so epic that Fish leaves the book. Now what is Snail to do? His best friend is gone.

Deborah Freedman writes a clever tale showing that story characters just might have a mind of their own and want to create their own adventures. Told with the use of pastels set against the black and white world of books not yet opened, the reader is soon mesmerized by a very special world within a world.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Review - Requiem

Title: Requiem
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperCollins (March 5, 2013)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 432
Genre: Young Adult
Series: Delirum #3 (#6 if you count the bonus books)

When I read the Delirium series, all I could think about was the Uglies series by Westerfeld, there are just too many plot similarities for me to keep them separate.

I loved Delirium, Pandemonium was only so-so and by the third book, I actually used it to help me fall asleep at night. Not a great recommendation, but that is the truth.

I know that the Lena and Alex plot was the main storyline, but I found them to be boring. Since I am far from being a teen, I suppose that I am more jaded than the teens that this book was written for, but the silly dance that these two did around each other was annoying.

Now Hana on the other hand, I loved her. This was the only part of the book that I paid attention to. She is stuck in a “safe” relationship with the mayor, but you see cracks. Hana may not be one hundred percent behind the resistance, but what she sees from the inside would make anyone wonder.

Told in a back and forth style, you see how the two young friends have grown. They are no longer the girls that would jog around town together. They each have their grown up roles to play.

This is one of those books that you will either love or hate. There seems to be no middle ground. Maybe it is an age thing; maybe it is a “been there done that” thing. I am still not sure. If I had to do it over again, I would have stuck with Uglies and never picked up the Delirium series. I know that is harsh, but to me, one is so much better than the other.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review - Diva Frosts a Cupcake

Title: The Diva Frosts a Cupcake
Author: Krista Davis
Publisher: Berkley (June 4, 2013)
Format: Paperback; Pgs 304
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: Library
Series: Domestic Diva #7

I am a dog lover, but it still boggles my mind how much others can be into their pets. That ongoing theme was running in my mind when I was reading this book.

Sophie and her best friend Nina are heading up the Cupcakes and Pupcakes fundraiser in Old Town when quite a few shenanigans take place. Instead of concentrating on raising funds for the animals shelter, the two ladies are running around town trying to figure out who stole a dog, how a valuable broach ended up where it did, how a baker who is in the middle of two feuding cupcake bakeries was murdered, why the wife of another cupcake store is convinced Sophie is after her man, and who is trying to poison whom with fava beans and a couple more goings on.

For being a cozy mystery, there is a lot packed into this book. It is a good thing that this is book number seven in the Domestic Diva series or you would also have to keep track of all the characters that are Krista Davis’s regulars.

I enjoy this series, the craziness that is Sophie’s life is comical, and the never-ending meals that she is preparing for those that just happen to stop by is mind-bending. I swear, when she peers into her pantry to see what to make, there must be a supermarket in there. That is the magic of being transported by a book; reality does not need to be an ingredient.

If you are looking to add another cozy series to your list, check out the Domestic Diva’s and see what Sophie, Nina and the ever-present Natasha are getting themselves into.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review - Empty Mansions

Title: Empty Mansions - The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
Author: Bill Dedman, Paul Clark Newell
Publisher: Ballantine Books (September 10, 2013)
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Non-Fiction

Looking at the cover of the ARC of Empty Mansions, you see a blurb that says “The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune”. I thought that from page one the reader would learn about this mysterious woman. That is not the case, the first one hundred and eight pages are about her father, W.A. Clark and his questionable business practices and his even more questionable relationship with the young woman that would eventually be Hugette’s mother.

You also see that Paul Clark Newell, Jr. is credited as a co-writer. Mr. Newell is a relative of Hugette but has very little input into the book. An occasional highlighted paragraph concerning a telephone conversation from twenty or more years previous does not make a co-author. To me, that came off as an unfulfilled enticement solely to give Bill Dedman more credibility.

What the reader is left with is hearsay and opinions since Huguette Clark was a recluse and granted no interviews while she was alive, and furthermore had little to no contact with her family for over fifty years.

Because of Hugette’s hobbies of dolls and dollhouses, she was thought of as simple-minded. This is what appeared to be the green light for those that she trusted to take advantage of her. Doctor’s, lawyer’s, hospital CEO’s, personal caregiver’s, supposed friends, all had their hands out and Hugette’s kind heart kept writing checks.

Her peculiar ways left her estate in shambles. Multimillion-dollar homes that were never lived in, the contents of safety deposit boxes sold due address errors and lack of payment, artwork stole right off her walls. The saddest part of all was that those around her were more interested in their payout than in her. She was only a check writer.

When you read this book, you are presented with two sides of this rather curious woman - the well traveled music lover who supported the arts and a generation of artists, and the eccentric woman who chose to live out her years in a hospital room with the curtain drawn battling to leave her remaining estate to the people she cared about and charities that honored her mother and sister.

At the end of the book, there is an extensive list of notes showing Mr. Dedman’s research, but did I come away knowing Hugette Clark any better? No, what I did come away knowing is that when large sums of money are in the mix, people and corporations are a bunch of thieves and no wonder Ms Clark chose to live her life on her terms.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

First Chapter First Paragraph - Sister's Choice

Title: Sister’s Choice
Author: Emilie Richards
Publisher: Mira (July 1, 2008)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 544
Genre: Romance
Source: Library
Series: Shenandoah Album #5

Hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea

Chapter 1

Most of the time Kendra Taylor found that spending time with her nieces helped fill an empty space inside her. When Alison or Hannah wrapped their chubby arms around her neck or planted a sloppy kiss on her cheek, her primary feeling was gratitude that she and their mother, her younger sister, had finally built a bridge across the abyss of their dysfunctional childhood.

But "most of the time" also meant there were moments, like this one, when Kendra found herself wishing for more than a day or even a week when she and her husband Isaac could enjoy the high-voltage electricity of children in their lives. Now, as she watched four year old Alison shove a red and white Santa Claus hat over her copper Orphan Annie curls, she felt a pang she knew too well.


Kendra and Jamie were never storybook sisters. But after a long estrangement, Jamie has offered Kendra and her husband their ultimate dream, a child of their own. Despite some lingering misgivings about her once-wayward younger sister, Kendra agrees, and Jamie, a promising architect and single mother, becomes a gestational surrogate for Kendra and Isaac.

In addition to this amazing gift of life, Jamie designs a house for the couple on Isaac's ancestral property along the Shenandoah River. She hopes Kendra will finally see the woman she has become. But when a medical crisis threatens Jamie's health and her budding relationship with Kendra's builder, the enigmatic Cash Rosslyn, Jamie learns that the most difficult choice in her life is still ahead, and its cost may be beyond calculation.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Mailbox Monday - Fifth Assassin

Currently on a Blog Tour with a New Host Each Month

Title: Fifth Assassin
Author: Brad Meltzer
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (January 15, 2013)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 448
Genre: Thriller
Series: Beecher White #2


From John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, there have been more than two dozen assassination attempts on the President of the United States.

Four have been successful.

But now, Beecher White discovers a killer in Washington, D.C., who's meticulously re-creating the crimes of these four men. Historians have branded them as four lone wolves.

But what if they were wrong?

Beecher is about to discover the truth: that during the course of a hundred years, all four assassins were secretly working together. What was their purpose? For whom do they really work? And why are they planning to kill the current President?

Beecher's about to find out. And most terrifyingly, he's about to come face-to-face with the fifth assassin

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday - Women of a Dangerous Age

Hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: Women of a Dangerous Age
Author: Fanny Blake
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (August 13, 2013)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 432
Genre: Women's Fiction


A novel about women, relationships and why it's never too late to change. Lou is married to a man who no longer loves her. It's time to move on, to begin a new business venture and to start her life over. To celebrate her new-found freedom, she travels to India, where, in front of the Taj Mahal, she befriends Ali after taking each other's photographs on 'that' bench. Ali is a serial mistress. But when she returns home, she discovers her latest lover is not the man she took him for. She too needs a new beginning. As Lou and Ali put their pasts behind them, they start to discover new possibilities for life and for love, until the shocking realisation that they have far more in common than they thought.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Review - Deadly Forecast

Title: Deadly Forecast
Author: Victoria Laurie
Publisher: NAL Hardcover (July 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 384
Genre: Supernatural Mystery
Source: Library
Series:Psychic Eye #11

Victoria Laurie writes two series that I read - Psychic Eye and Ghost Hunters, and from time to time when I think back on a book, I cannot differentiate which character it is. Is it MJ Holiday from Ghost Hunters or is it Abby Cooper from Psychic Eye. When I picked up this book and realized that both MJ and Abby would be sharing semi-equal billing, I thought I was going to be in trouble. How would I ever keep them separate?

I must commend Ms Laurie, I had no problem keeping the two straight, though MJ was a secondary character, her voice remained completely separate from Abby and the flow, though back and forth from chapter to chapter, remained clear and easy to follow.

Deadly Forecast, number eleven in the Psychic Eye series, begins with Abby and Dutch only two weeks away from their planned wedding day. Abby is still recovering from her hip injury and with the help of Fast Freddie, the name she has given her cane, she is determined to be able to walk down the aisle unassisted.

Abby is still working as a consultant to the FBI, but has been getting tingling feeling and resists getting involved in the latest bombing case. When a second bomb, strapped to a woman, goes off Abby’s senses tell her that Dutch is in danger and reluctantly she agrees to help.

As if human bombs are not bad enough, Abby’s sister Cat is turning into the wedding planner from heck. Cupids in trees, swans floating in ponds, unflattering dresses, butterflies and stallions. Abby’s dreams of a simple wedding are anything but a reality. She needs a break or an exit strategy, but being the killer’s next victim was not what she had in mind.

I found some sections of the book to be a little long and drawn out, but over all, the combination of Abby’s skills and MJ’s crew, worked well. MJ’s sidekick Gilly was not as overbearing as he has been in previous books and that is a good thing. All the usual characters make their appearances, the swearing humor became creative and once again, I have to applaud Ms Laurie for keeping the voices of two strong characters separate but allowing both to ring true to their individual series.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Review - Starting Now

Title: Starting Now
Author: Debbie Macomber
Publisher: Ballantine Books (April 2, 2013)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 352
Genre: Romance
Source: Library
Series: Blossom Street #9

Dreams change. That is the lesson that Libby Morgan is facing in Debbie Macomber’s newest book. Libby Morgan has worked hard to make partnership in her law firm. One day she is called into the senior partner’s office knowing full well that the offer was coming her way. By the time that she leaves his office, she is unemployed.

Months go by with no job offers, her friends try to help but with this economy, there is not much out there for a talented estate attorney. Wanting to fill her time, she decides to try her hand at knitting and learns that the local hospital accepts items for their neo-natal ward.

Upon their first delivery of knitted items, Libby and two young girls run into an attractive but rather cold-hearted doctor. The unexpected meeting and the news that he reveals to Libby changes both the direction and trajectory of her life.

Debbie Macomber’s books are relaxing summer reads. There is always a slight twist, but nothing high-end that the reader has to be prepared for. The slow meandering flow leads to a predictable conclusion full of young romance. Take a break from the world and settle in for a relaxing afternoon.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday - Crazy Rich

Hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: Crazy Rich: Power, Scandal and Tragedy Inside the Johnson & Johnson Dynasty
Author: Jerry Oppenheimer
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (August 13, 2013)
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Non-Fiction


From the founders of the international health-care behemoth Johnson & Johnson in the late 1800s to the contemporary Johnsons of today, such as billionaire New York Jets owner Robert Wood "Woody" Johnson IV, all is revealed in this scrupulously researched, unauthorized biography by New York Times bestselling author Jerry Oppenheimer. Often compared to the Kennedy clan because of the tragedies and scandals that had befallen both wealthy and powerful families, Crazy Rich, based on scores of exclusive, candid, on-the-record interviews, reveals how the dynasty's vast fortune was both intoxicating and toxic through the generations of a family that gave the world Band-Aids and Baby Oil. At the same time, they've been termed perhaps the most dysfunctional family in the fortune 500.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

First Chapter First Paragraph - The Diva Frosts a Cupcake

Title: The Diva Frosts a Cupcake
Author: Krista Davis
Publisher: Berkley (June 4, 2013)
Format: Paperback; Pgs 304
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: Library
Series: Domestic Diva #7

Hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea

Chapter 1

The creepy sensation of being watched overcame me. I was standing in line t buy coffee at a take-out window in Old Town, far too early in the morning for my taste. Shivering in the chilly spring weather, I gazed around and snuggled deeper into my rose-colored fleece pullover.


Sophie Winston and her BFF, Nina Reid Norwood, share a sweet spot for animals. So Sophie is delighted to help when Nina cooks up Cupcakes and Pupcakes—a fundraising event for animal shelters. All the local bakeries will be selling treats, with the profits going to pups and kitties in need. But Old Town is in for a whole batch of trouble when a cupcake war erupts between two bakeries…

Tongues wag and tempers rise when a partner leaves Sugar Baby Bakery and unveils her competing cupcakery, Sugar Mama, precisely as the fundraiser gets under way. Just as it seems nothing else can go wrong, Sugar Baby’s sole remaining employee is found dead. Suspicion falls on the feuding owners, but the scrumptious new guy in town is also raising some eyebrows. Now Sophie and Nina have to sift through the clues and discover who isn’t as sweet as they seem…

Monday, August 5, 2013

Review - Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body

Title: Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body
Author: MC Beaton
Publisher: Minotaur Books (October 12, 2010)
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 288
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: Library
Series: Agatha Raisin #21

On her way home from yet another disastrous vacation, Agatha arrives to find that there are no Christmas decorations around town, not even a Christmas tree. This is quite odd for the overly exuberant village. It appears that in her absence, John Sunday, the inspector for the Cotswold Health and Safety Board has deemed all the decorations, lighting and more, to be unsafe and has banned everything. Including items that directly affect the livelihoods of Carsley residences.

During a meeting in the neighboring town of Odley Cruesis attended by Agatha and Mrs. Bloxby, someone has decided to put a permanent end to the rein of Mr. Sunday.

Miriam Courtney, has asked Agatha to find out who killed John Sunday. Miriam made the mistake of publicly threatening him and now that he is dead, she is the most likely suspect. As Agatha digs deeper, there is no end to the number of people that wanted this horrible man dead and with fingers pointing in all directions Agatha is almost to her wits end.

Agatha is determined to get to the bottom of this and as she gets closer a second murder occurs, are the two related. There is no telling when the ladies of Carsley get their tail feathers in a twist.

To add more complication to her life, Sir Charles Fraith has something up his sleeve and it gets even more complicated when his butler decides to take matters into his own hands. It is once again up to Mrs. Bloxby to straighten everything out and guide each person down their correct path.

I enjoy the Agatha Raisin series, but after twenty-one books, they are predictable and all seem to blend together. At this point, I do not think that I will ever be able to differentiate one book from any of the others, but that is okay, Agatha is always good for a laugh or two and Mrs. Bloxby with be forever my favorite character.