Monday, September 29, 2014

Gun Metal Heart

Title: Gun Metal Heart
Author: Dana Haynes
Published: August 19th 2014 by Minotaur Books
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Genre: Thriller
Series: Daria Gibron #2

Once again, another author that does not receive the recognition that is deserved. I found Dana Haynes quite by accident when I read his book Crashers. After book two in the Crashers series, he made a slight detour and brought his readers up to date with Daria Gibron, an ex-Israeli spy.

I do not know how to describe her. She is neither good nor bad, but has a burning passion to keep the playing field fair. As an independent operative that is laying low in Italy, until she recovers her strength from her last anti-terrorism battle, until that is Diego, a bodyguard that has been hired to protect a scientist that has new aerospace technology, contacts her.

Not being able to say no when a trusted friend asks for help, Daria find herself in a battle with the White Scorpions, a Serbian paramilitary group.

I will be the first to tell you that I did not quite understand all of the political playing, but that did not take away from the story of Daria and Major Arcana a statuesque ice blonde that is every bit an equal to Daria in both cunning, wit and determination.

John Broom is back and it is a darn good thing since it is not just the Serbs and their cohorts but also a group of CIA operatives that Daria had a hand in humiliating that is determined to take Daria out in any brutal way possible.

This book is not for the squeamish. There is a great deal of blood, guts and gore, but at the same time, there is the most incredible dry humor that you will read in a book. It is descriptive, it is blatant and it is funny.

Daria is a contrast, she battles demons in her dreams and her waking world is no different, she uses sex for medicinal purposes, but she loves with a deep passion and if you are fortunate enough to be her friend, she will show you how tender her hard heart can be.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Riddles in Mathematics: A Book of Paradoxes

Title: Riddles in Mathematics: A Book of Paradoxes
Author: Eugene P Northrop
Published: This Edition: August 20th 2014 by Dover Publication. Originally published in 1944.
Format: ebook; paperback edition 288 pages
Genre: Educational
Source: Netgalley

No matter the publication date, some books still hold their fascination.

Originally published in 1944, this book of paradoxes and explanations has both entertained and baffled me. This is not a book to rush through or to even feel a need to finish in a reasonable amount of time. This is a book to be enjoyed. A book that will make you look at words, their full context and relationships, and not just jump to a conclusion. You will be exercising your brain with the stories, diagrams and details.

On numerous occasions, I wanted to slap myself on the forehead and say, “obviously, the answer was right there”, if I had actually spent time to draw it out or to not jump to a conclusion.

Loved the line: "Impossible? No, though perhaps improbable”.

Some of these twists are straight out of Sherlock Holmes, but then again, that is exactly what I like.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Bat Cannot Bat, A Stair Cannot Stare

Title: A Bat Cannot Bat, A Stair Cannot Stare
Author: Brian P Cleary
Illustrator: Martin Goneau
Published: January 1st 2014 by Millbrook Press
Format: Hardcover, Pgs 31
Genre: Children's Eductional
Ages: Age Level: 6 and up | Grade Level: 1 and up

This book is incredible. Meant to be read aloud, sitting side by side, you and your young reader will learn the differences between homonyms (a group of words that share the same spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings) and homophones (two or more words that are pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning). The illustrations along with the homonyms and homophones paired in color help you to understand the message that is being told. Be it as simple as a bat (an animal) cannot bat (a stick of wood) to the more complex base (the bottom of something) or bass (a low sound).

This book makes an excellent teaching tool that pairs both the words and the visuals to help explain the differences. Told in rhyme, you will find yourself learning and laughing to the story that is being told.

You also need to check out Brian P. Cleary’s Words Are CATegorical and Math is CATegorical books, where you can teach parts of English grammar and simple math structure. Think of this as a visual Schoolhouse Rocks for the next generation.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What if...?

Title: What if...?
Author and Illustrator: Anthony Browne
Published: October 3rd 2013 by Doubleday Childrens
Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
Genre: Children's
Ages: Age Range: 5 - 8 years; Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3

Helping children overcoming their fears can be hard on both the child and the parent. In the book, What If...? By Anthony Browne, young Joe is invited to a party at his friend’s house but he has lost the invitation and does not know which house he is to go to. As both Mom and Joe walk down the street in hopes of finding the festivities, Joe begins to vocalize his fears.

Of course, Joe comes up with all sorts of reasons for giving up and going home, but Mom is patient and when at last they reach their destination, it is Mom that just might be having second thoughts.

This is an excellent book for both parent and child when an upcoming event is causing anxiety and you both want to be reassured that everything will work out just fine.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

To Fudge or Not To Fudge

Title: To Fudge or Not To Fudge
Author: Nancy Coco
Published: ebook; Paperback, 352 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Candy Coated #2

I cannot quite put my finger on why I like this series, but I do.

In book number two of the Candy Coated series by Nancy Coco, Allie McMurphy is trying to get her hotel and fudge shop ready for the upcoming Lilac Festival. As she is taking her ever-present dog on a walk, the young pup is distracted and when Mal pops her head out of the bushes, she has part of a foot and shoe in her mouth.

Just want Allie needs, to be part of yet another murder mystery on Mackinac Island. Add to this her favorite instructor from culinary school is on island filming a cooking reality show and with a spot that has opened for another contestant he cajoles Allie to audition.

Of course, you know that this is not going to work out when yet another body is discovered and Allie’s Chef friend is found unconscious and the hotel camera shows Allie being the last to leave the area.

There is a lot of wild goings on especially when the local crazy lady stages a sit in because her dog is being held in the county jail until he passes a bone from one of the deceased. Two eligible bachelors are courting Allie and the reality show and cast are not all what they seem to be. Two high teas need to be organized, fudge demonstrations need to be performed and unexpectedly, Allie’s mother makes an appearance.

I would say that this is just another week in the life of an hotelier, but there is nothing normal in Allie’s life.

Not to say that there are not issue with this book. For instance, if Allie is wearing an ankle bracelet for home detention, how is she able to roam around the island? Also, with an island of less than 500 year around residents, how do they manage to have their own crime scene investigator? One final thought, if Allie is running a hotel, I do not recall her ever having guests. That part seems secondary to what is going on in her private life.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Swallow: A Ghost Story

Title: The Swallow: A Ghost Story
Author: Charis Cotter
Published: September 9th 2014 by Tundra Books
Format: ARC ebook; Hardcover, 320 pages
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Netgalley
Ages: Age Level: 9 - 12 | Grade Level: 4 - 7

Once you pick up this book, you cannot put it down.

Rose and Polly, two early teen girls interweave a friendship that has the reader wondering which parts are real and is it possible that Winnie is not the only ghost that needs to find peace.

Like a movie from M. Night Shyamalan, the reader falls under the spell of The Swallow. Two young girls meet through the wall of their adjoining attics and form a quick friendship. One wishes that she could see the ghosts that she reads about, the other wishes that the ghosts she sees would go away. One feels invisible, ignored and alone, the other wishes that her large family full of annoying siblings and foster children, would just go away and leave her alone. What appears on the surface as two girls wanting what the other has, turns darker when the realities of their lives are exposed.

Like the movie, The Sixth Sense, there were clues along the way, but until the very end, you do not see the clues for what they are. Either that or you did not want to believe what you were reading. Either way, the conclusion is so encompassing that you literally get lost in the book. Like the clouded bubble that is mentioned, this is how you feel. The world falls away from you until you are sitting in the attic with Polly and Rose hearing the sad truth unfold.

Though a ghost story, this book is not terrifying. It is tragic and powerful. It is a story of love and friendship and coming to terms with your purpose.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Happy and Merry

Title: Happy and Merry: Seven Heartwarming Holiday Essays
Author: Lisa Scottoline, Francesca Serritella
Published: October 26th 2012 by St. Martin's Press
Format: ebook, 28 pages
Genre: Essay

After reading Have a Nice Guilt Trip I went looking at Lisa and Francesca’s book listings and realized that somehow I had skipped one. Not sure how that had happened I quickly located to small book and quickly downloaded it.

Guess what?

At 28 pages, it is a republication of prior essays written by Lisa and Francesca in their on-going book series and Chick Wit column for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

At first, I was a little bothered that this was a complete reprint of what I had already read, until I started in on them again and found myself revising old friends and hearing the same stories that you do when you visit friends and family over the holidays.

This book is not actually necessary, but it is a good one to pull out during the holidays to unwind and enjoy.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Have a Nice Guilt Trip

Title: Have a Nice Guilt Trip
Author: Lisa Scottoline, Francesca Serritella
Published: July 8th 2014 by St. Martin's Press
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Genre: Essay's
Series: Reprints of their Chick Wit column, from The Sunday Inquirer's Arts&Entertainment section

My boyfriend, My boyfriend, My boyfriend – I get it Francesca, you have a boyfriend.

Not to say that Lisa does not get carried away with her dogs and her pipes, but still, the repetition of Francesca going on and on about her boyfriend was a bit off putting.

I love this series and it has become a tradition as I am taking my daughter back to college. The essay’s that are shared have mirrored parts of my life and I think, in some way, are preparing me for the future. Mother and daughter relationships are unique, we might not always see the world in the same way, but we want to do our best in handling them with love.

I cannot say that I loved one story more than another, each of Lisa’s made me laugh or cry or wonder. Maybe it is an age thing and I can relate to her experiences more. Francesca’s essay, on the other hand, did not appeal to me except for the writing on her grandmother and that was her best of the bunch. It was heartfelt and a wonderful good-bye to a woman that had been ever present.

Each year I wait for this series with both anticipation and dread. I look forward to the laughs and idiosyncrasies of life and the dread of knowing that yet again, I have to say good-bye to my daughter I’ll see you at Christmas.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mr. Miracle

Title: Mr. Miracle
Author: Debbie Macomber
Expected Publication: October 7th 2014 by Ballantine Books
Format: ARC Approx 250 pages
Genre: Holiday Romance
Source: Amazon Vine Program

This book hit a raw nerve for me, just having paid college fees for my daughter, I have to get this off my chest, colleges do not give books to students; they are expensive and each student is responsible for seeking out their own, I do not believe the excuse of grants that was given in this book, that is usually for the instructor and classroom space. Second, a person transferring from out of state has either to spend a year attaining residency or pay the outrageous out of state fees. Sorry, but this bothered me throughout the book and I just needed to rant.

Addie Folsom has come back home to Tacoma after finally admitting her failure in mining and realizing that working in a diner was getting her nowhere. She regrets leaving high school prior to graduating and needs one class so she enrolls at the local community college to acquire her much-desired diploma.

Harry Mills is an angel who has been sent to earth in human form as a college instructor placed in a rag tag class with the sole purpose of befriending Addie and guiding her towards Erich a childhood neighbor and the future love of her life.

Erich has recently been in an accident and with his mother and Addie’s mother heading out of town on a long planned cruise, Addie volunteers to help Erich until they return. Who did not see this coming? I am however, curious as to how a man with two broken wrists can take care of his bathroom needs, but then again, I tend to let my mind wander.

Told in the usual Macomber style of romance and fluff, the reader follows Harry’s bumbling as a first time emissary of heaven and Addie and Erich’s budding relationship.

When I look back at this book, I think that I am still bothered by the abrupt ending which is staying a lot since throughout the reading I kept dwelling on Debbie Macomber’s lack of knowledge of sending a person to college. However, I have already ranted about that and I will not go through it again.

I could not understand how the reader is in the middle of a party and within a couple of pages the book is over. Then I did a little research and have found out that the Hallmark channel is already filming this book as an upcoming holiday movie. Now, I am beginning to wonder about the chicken and egg thing. Did they write the movie first and then quickly threw a book together to fit around it? Maybe I am being skeptical, but I do wonder.

Mr. Miracle does appear to be the first in a series and if the students in Harry Mills’ class are any indication, Debbie Macomber has a franchise with just these people.

The book is a quick read, does not delve too deeply into either romance or religion and lovers of Macomber’s previous Mrs. Miracle books, will appreciate this new series. I just wish that there had more substance and research prior to publication.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mercy Snow

Title: Mercy Snow
Author: Tiffany Baker
Published: January 14th 2014 by Grand Central Publishing
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Genre: Fiction

I think it is a love hate relationship that I have with Tiffany Baker - I love her books, I get excited when I hear that she has a new one coming out, but at the same time, I dread them. Maybe it is me, maybe I become too invested in the characters, but by the end of the book, I find myself depressed. I adore the broken characters and even though I hope for the best, I know that they face the inevitable.

Ms. Baker draws full characters that seem to be stuck in a situation that they have very little to no control over, I do not want to say that they are victims of their circumstances, but there are no other words to describe them. Mercy Snow takes place in the paper mill town of Titan Fall, New Hampshire where the once thriving industry is in a down turn, the Androscoggin River is heavily polluted and the town has been hit with an accident involving a church bus and a much-loved young woman dead.

The McAllister family owns the mill and rules the town, but this accident has hit too close to home for them. Nate was in love with Suzie his whole life, but Suzie has a secret, she has seen Cal in town with another woman and now with Suzie is dead and the McAllister’s need to control this situation before everything is lost.

Enter the Snow children, Mercy, Hannah and Zeke. The last thing that this town wants is to be reminded of their father Pruitt and yet Mercy will not let go. She is determined to have this town remember her family and when the bones of Gert Snow are revealed and her relationship to the McAllister’s is brought to light.

There is not one character wasted in this book. Even Fergus the bus driver and his wife Hazel have intricate parts. At times, I think that Hazel took center stage and held all the pain that everyone was feeling.

There is magic in this book. The people, the places, the unspoken communication between Hannah and Gert, and the healing of the towns ailments. The answers were there and it did not begin with a red mitten, that is what might have caused the downfall, but it took a bunch of ragtag orphan’s to open the windows and bring light back to this town and the people and struggles that were being faced.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Dress Shop of Dreams

Title: The Dress Shop of Dreams
Author: Menna van Praag
Expected Publication: December 30th 2014 by Ballantine Books
Format: eBook; Paperback, 336 pages
Genre: Magical Realism
Source: Netgalley

Magical Realism, not a genre I am familiar with or one that I intentionally went looking for, but that is what I found from the first page of this book. I found myself sinking into the lives of Cora and all those that entered the little dress shop, a place of wonder that just seemed to know the right music to play when a person walked through the door.

At first, I was not too sure how everyone fit together, but as the story went along, I realized that I was reading a braid. I know that sound funny, but all the couples, or the people that should have been couples were interwoven in the most curious of ways.

Cora Carraway – Orphaned as a young girl and was raised by her grandmother in the dress shop. She has grown into a brilliant scientist who is now questioning the death of her parents. She spends her days lost in her own world where the only constant is numbers.

Ella Sparks – Cora’s grandmother. The owner of the dress shop, on All Saints’ Passage, who spends her days sewing beautiful dresses that make the owner’s realize their true potential (wear this dress and you’ll find what your missing: confidence, courage, power, love, beauty, magnificence….) by sewing a special little star into the seams of the dresses with her needle and red thread weaving possibility into their dreams.

Walt – Since he was four years old, Walt has been in love with Cora but she has never taken notice of him. He spends his days working in the bookshop that he has dreamed of his whole life and recently has taken a second job as the Night Reader on the local radio station narrating books that appeal to his female listeners, but embarrasses him.

Father Sebastian – Spends his days listening to the confessions of others but is hiding his own secret.

Dylan – Who is replying to the letters that Walt has been receiving at the station. This is the outlet that he needs to help him stay in touch, since so much of his time has been taken up caring for his ill father. Listening to the Night Reader has opened up emotions that he thought were long since dormant.

Officer Henry Dixon and his wife Francesca – Henry never stopped loving his wife and until that decisive moment, Henry had no idea why Francesca wanted to take their son Mateo back to Italy. Once all the words were said, the picture became clear and Henry loved her even more for it.

Milly – who closed herself off from the world, after the death of her husband, until she heard the Night Reader. With the perfect dress from the shop, she was going to make Walt fall in love with her. Little did she know, but her heart was really in love with someone else.

Intertwined with passages of the books that Walt is reading on air, the Dress Shop of Dreams takes the reader through the trials that each face in finding the one true person that they are meant to be with. Part romance, part magic, the Dress Shop of Dreams grabs the reader from the very first moment and holds on until the very last page, the very last word, when the writing in the journal that Walt’s mother had left for him is revealed. Walt has spent years trying to decipher the symbols in this journal. He knows that it has to be important, but he just cannot decode this message. That is until the right person discovers the answer. That is an awesome moment and the perfect ending to this wonderful book.