Thursday, April 30, 2015

Aunt Dimity and the Summer King

Title: Aunt Dimity and the Summer King
Author: Nancy Atherton
Published: April 14th 2015 by Viking
Format: ebook; Hardcover, 240 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Aunt Dimity #20

Why does Lori stick her nose into things that are none of her business? That is what I was thinking throughout this entire book. She is becoming a character that is more annoying than endearing.

Early in the series, she was zany and found herself in one madcap adventure after another but now she has either become a stale characters or I have become bored with her. Nancy Atherton needs to broaden out this series and focus on the side characters more. Not necessarily lose Lori all together, but bring the people of the village more into the forefront.

A great deal of this book rehashes who each of the villagers are and their odd quirks. If you have been reading this series, all nineteen previous books, you already know who they are and there is no need to repeat what has already been said. Her twin boys should be about eight years old, but Lori constantly treats them as if they are four. Lori and Bill have recently become parents to a daughter and the weary reader will be told repeatedly how singularly fantastic this child is. By the way, thank goodness the word “diaper” was not being used in a drinking game since it would have involved taking approximately sixty-two shots.

Lori takes it into her own nosey ways to find out why two cottages in the village have not been sold. She is determined to find out whom or what are driving the buyers away. As she tries to unfold this mystery, she is also stressing over the arrival of her husband’s dreaded aunts. They are coming to Finch for the upcoming wedding of Willis, Sr., and their arrival is putting a damper on the festivities. Apparently, these women are awful, but by the end of the book, the table will be turned on these two and it does not involve extra strong martinis.

Deciding to take her daughter on a jaunt up a craggy trail, Lori meets the elusive Summer King. Arthur Hargreaves, the owner of Hillfont Abbey comes to her aid when the wheels literally come off the pram. They spend time together and this Hermit of Hillfont Abbey and his hoard of children and grandchildren that inhabit his family’s home enchant Lori. The Hargreaves have stayed to themselves ever since a feud began a century ago between Finch and neighboring Tillcote and Lori is finding out how deep this feud went and how Quentin Hargreaves, the original owner of Hillfont, was the puppet master behind the village of Finch.

Lori’s eyes may have been opened, but she loves Finch and its people so maybe she will be able to forgive what has happened in the past and love the Summer King for what he has created.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Life Unaware

Title: Life Unaware
Author: Cole Gibsen
Expected Publication: April 28th 2015 by Entangled: Teen
Format: ebook; Paperback, 320 pages
Genre: Young Adult
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Entangled Publishing LLC for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

Not all high school bullying books are created equal. Some actually add a couple of twists that have the reader bragging to her friends about how awesome this is and should be read not only for the awareness but for the idea of how change could be incorporated within their school districts.

Seventeen-year-old Regan Flay is your typical straight A cheerleader, student council, center of attention girl that picks her friends for their social value and her activities based on how they will look on her college resume. She will tell you that her life is hard, caffeine to wake up and Xanax to calm down, that being perfect and the daughter of a Congresswoman just puts her in a spotlight that she could not always control. Anxiety attacks are a sign of weakness and if anyone caught wind of this, her perfectly created world would be over. She did not understand that her actions toward others could have lasting effects. That is until the tables are turned and she becomes the victim of the bullying that she had showered down on others.

When she walks onto campus, she is consumed with thoughts of her cheerleading tryouts. She did not do as well as she had hoped but knows that she must make the squad again this year; this will guarantee her place in the campus hierarchy. She senses that something is different, it is common for people to be looking at her, but people are now looking at her with contempt and not the usual envy.

She never trusted Amber, the head cheerleader, but knew that she had to remain friends if she wanted to be on the squad. They each kept the others secrets. They shared too much. This was her down fall. Every text that they had shared has been printed out and now they were plastered on the lockers. Everyone that they had been mean to saw in writing what had been said. How did their private messages get out? Was she hacked? Was someone out to ruin her? How was she going to contain this and turn it around?

Regan’s best friend Payton is nowhere to be found. She is not answering her phone or responding to messages. How could her best friend abandon her like this? Is social preservation more important than their friendship? She was not going to show tears, tears were a weakness. With the tables turned and her now being the victim, how was she going to last a week let alone the rest of the school year? She was alone. She was broken and had to learn how to fix herself.

When you reach your lowest point, it is surprising who comes to your aid. For Regan it was the boy that she despised. She had two options – either allow Nolan to be her only friend or use her anxiety pills as a way out. It was not as if others did not think that that was a better idea. They even suggested it on Facebook and it had seventy-six likes.

There were a couple of hints along the way as to who was behind this. The why was not at first apparent, but as you read along the pieces started to fit together. There are the grab you in the solar plexus moments and the grab the tissue moments, but by the end, you have understanding. You will know that words spoken and typed will forever be written on someone’s heart and it is up to you what another person carries with them.

One book may not change anything, but it is a start. How this school chose to transform what is written may put ideas into the minds of parents that are struggling with a way to make positive changes within their own schools.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Oh Say Can You Fudge

Title: Oh Say Can You Fudge
Author: Nancy Coco
Expected Publication: April 28th 2015 by Kensington
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Kensington for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.
Series: Candy Coated #3

There is way too much repetition in this book and I am not sure if it is poor writing or the fact that on a small island stories seem to be repeated too often. Either way, it became very annoying and had me rushing through the chapters so I did not have to hear the same story repeated to the next person entering the room.

Mackinac Island is known for its fudge and small tourist hotels. Allie McMurphy is now the manager and chief fudge maker for her family’s establishment. With her dog Mal (who seems to have her name mentioned way too often – by Kindle’s count over 300 times) they tend to find their way into too many sticky (see what I did there) situations.

This time there is an arsonist and bomb maker on this tiny turtle shaped island and as Allie is scrambling to get the fourth of July fireworks situated. One fire after another seems to pop up and it is the heroic puppy that always seems to save the day.

After ignoring a couple of phone calls from the pyro technician, Allie rushes out to the warehouse where the fireworks are being kept to see what all the commotion is about. As she see what she believes to be the dead body of Rodney Rivers, fireworks start going off in the building and she gets out just before the explosion takes place. This is only the first in a long line of increasingly dangerous arson incidents around the island and Allie and her band of hapless cohorts take on the search for the culprit or culprits. They have narrowed it down to ten suspects and now someone is on to their investigation and the attack has hit too close to home.

As far as cozies go, this is a humdrum series. The writing is too simplified. There is too much reiteration without moving the story forward and the characters all blur together. Situations are too inane (do authors not think about the names they give characters, finger printing a message board, bringing a cat in a carrier to a fireworks display) and I truly wonder how a series can be so wrapped around a small dog that appears smarter than the adults around her. To narrow it all down, Allie, who is the mastermind behind finding the perpetrator; literally caught him red handed in the middle of the book and did not put it all together. Too many hints were dropped and by the time I reached the end of the book, it was a relief that it was over

Why do I continue with this series – your guess is as good as mine.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Light of the World: A Memoir

Title: The Light of the World: A Memoir
Author: Elizabeth Alexander
Expected Publication: April 21st 2015 by Grand Central Publishing
Format: Hardcover, 224 pages
Genre: Memoir
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

They lived a lifetime in their sixteen years together.

Elizabeth Alexander a poet, essayist, playwright and teacher best known for her “Praise Song for the Day” delivered during the inauguration of President Barack Obama was married to Ficre Ghebreyesus of Asmara, Eritrea. An artist and photographer that put the best and the worst on canvas, a chef that walked across the killing fields at age sixteen and landed at the Caffe Adulis in New Haven, Connecticut. A man that loved hearth above all else. A man that at the age of fifty left this world too soon.

Light of the World is an ode to their life and love. A final embrace with a man that was loved and had loved deeply. At its core, Light of the World is a love story. A way to work through the insurmountable grief that a woman holds. An expression of a man so the world will not forget. A man that she was supposed to share the next 100 years with but only spent sixteen.

The strongest parts of them were united in their children. The days are long but the years are short goes a saying quoted by many. Two children a little less than 18 months apart that were the center of their world. Two children that were taught their familial rituals and blessings, and always felt the unwavering love of their father.

I do not want to admit my ignorance, but I will confess that I had to read this book with a dictionary on my lap. Ms. Alexander’s vocabulary usage is a step or twelve above my usual casual reading level but I did not find this to be a detriment, I actually enjoyed it.

There are parts that are rambling and repetitive. I will forgive the author for this since it is quite obvious that this memoir is cathartic. She is the holder of the stories and needs to remember the feelings. She needs to have Ficre in her life again. She needs to stay put and move on at the same time. She needs to create a place for herself and her sons again. A place that might have tattered edges, but they are shared edges.

I am not sure if this book will resonate with everyone. There are some parts that seem never ending. You can tell that Ms. Alexander does not want to let go. She was blessed, by love, by family, by community but mostly blessed with a heart that could take it all in and share it with others.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

NYPD Red 3

Title: NYPD Red 3
Author: James Patterson and Marshall Karp
Published: March 16th 2015 by Little, Brown & Company
Format: March 16th 2015 by Little, Brown & Company
Genre: Police Procedural
Series: NYPD Red

I tend to have a love hate relationship with James Patterson. I am finding that I am enjoying a couple of his series, but at the same time, I am embarrassed if anyone sees me reading one. I do not think that I am a book snob since I read a variety of books, but apparently, I am.

NYPD Red is a unique division of the New York Police Department that handles only high profile cases involving the wealthy and influential.

Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald have a past of their own, they had a hot and heavy month long romance during their academy training but both have moved on. Occasionally they rub open the scab and old feelings surface. More on Zach’s side than Kylie’s, but Kylie knows how to play this fiddle and she tends to play Zach when it suits her. She may be beautiful and intelligent, but underneath, I am not sure if I like her and I just wonder when she will go a bit too far with both her career and her partnership with Zach.

Now they are detectives and have been assigned to the disappearance of Hunter Alden, III. Jordan and MacDonald will tell you that the wealthy are their own version of odd, but when Hunter Alden, Jr., the father of Trip (H.A. III), seems reluctant to find his own son and derails the investigation at every turn, the two detectives are even more determined to solve this case.

Of course, it would not be a Patterson if there were not a conspiracy of some sort. However, what is behind the reasoning for the father’s reluctance is disgusting. Telling your son that it would be easier to make another child than make another billion dollars even had my skin crawling. Granted, the son is not without fault, but even though Trip’s plan went amuck, his intentions to expose his father had merit.

From time to time, Patterson and his co-authors push the envelope, but what is behind this is still a little too raw for some people. There is no pretty little bow at the end of this book and many readers will not like the conclusion, but it is what it is. Zach and Kylie must come to terms with what they cannot change if it can help more in the future.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Vanishing Girls

Title: Vanishing Girls
Author: Lauren Oliver
Published: Published March 10th 2015 by HarperCollins
Format: Hardcover, Pgs 357
Genre: YA / Psychological Thriller

Do not be one of those people that read the last chapters of this book. Do not look at reviews that will spoil this book for you. You have to read it for yourself. Form you own opinions as to what is going on and commit to reading the last twenty percent of this book in one sitting.

Now I am sure that others might have figured this book our earlier than I did, but I admit that there were parts that had me wondering; closer to confused, as to why certain characters were acting the way that they were, but I did not put all of the pieces together.

There are two storylines going on here. You have wild Dara and the practical more reserved Nick, sisters that are close in age and closer in relationship that is until an accident that Nick cannot remember that leaves beautiful Dara scarred. Now the sisters are estranged and when Dara disappears on her birthday, Nick thinks that Dara is pretending. Nick can hear her in her bedroom, can see her getting on the bus, and knows that she is in the house, but she ignores her when Nick knocks on her door or calls out to her.

Then you have nine-year-old Madeline Snow. She too has vanished but the story that her older sister tells is not adding up. Nick becomes obsessed with this missing child and knows that Dara too was hiding a secret before she too disappeared. Is it possible that Dara was involved in something and that is why they are both now missing?

The mind field of teenage sisters is difficult at best, but when you add in a neighbor boy that both girls become involved with, devastation is bound to occur. The book weaves the sisters’ story from flashbacks to present day leaving the reader fixated on who is talking and from which timeframe it is occurring so they can put the puzzle pieces together.

To say that this book is edgy and leaves the reader bewildered is an understatement. The final truth of this book will completely blow the reader away. An out of left field sucker punch to the gut is how I felt when I finished. I did not put all of the pieces together. I had questioned a couple of actions of certain characters, but still, the light did not dawn. I loved this book. Loved how it completely blindsided me and yet I did not feel betrayed by the author. An awesome book that I highly recommend.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Saving Cecil

Title: Saving Cecil
Author: Lee Mims
Published: April 8th 2015 by Midnight Ink
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Genre: Mystery
Source: Complimentary Copy from NetGalley and Midnight Ink
Series: Cleo Cooper #3

When I first started this book, I did not realize that it was the third in a series (Hiding Gladys and Trusting Viktor) so I was understandably confused. For me, there were big relationship holes and it was not until midway through that it was all explained. For the sake of others, if this is your first introduction to the Cleo Cooper series, I suggest that you start at the beginning – that is if the prior books explain Cleo a little better.

Cleo Cooper has been hired to do the geology work on a North Carolina farm to help bring up a gas deposit. While out on a site walk, she comes across the recently deceased body of a young man. A man that has been both shot with a distinctive arrow and stabbed. Thus begins a very dangerous couple of weeks that ends with a bomb on a wellhead and a half million dollar wedding.

Overall, I did not like the book. There was too much thrown in. Was this a book about past angers with the sheriff, a twenty five year old murder cover up, a romance with her ex, an estranged relationship with her father, old hurts, paleontology, geology, the science of drilling, mental health, wild boars or wedding planning?

I understand that Lee Mims is a geologist, but to be honest, that was the least interesting part of the book. Trying to explain drilling for gas and justifying fracking has its place, but this book was not it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Inside the O'Briens

Title: Inside the O'Briens
Author: Lisa Genova
Published: April 7th 2015 by Gallery Books
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Genre: Fiction
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Gallery Books for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

For me, the title was a bit of a play on words. Are we to look inside the O’Brien family or are we to look at the insidious gene mutation that is literally inside the O’Briens? Either way, this is a fascinating look at a family that is slowly being torn apart and put back together by a degenerative disease that is playing roulette with their lives.

Only forty-four years old, Joe O’Brien a police officer from the Charlestown, Massachusetts is beginning to think that something is not right. His body is jerking, he is becoming forgetful, and his temper is flaring. He is showing the same signs that his mother did before she went to the state mental institution. His problems are not hers, she was a raging alcoholic, and even the neighbors knew that and used her as local gossip. Joe’s problem has to be different, he does not drink to excess and he has a stressful job, that is all it is, job stress and four children. That is until he sees a neurologist and by a simple test he is diagnosed – Huntington’s Disease. A neurodegenerative disease with no cure that he has possibly handed down to each of his four children.

Each child has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease. Each child has to make the personal decision if they want to take a blood test that will reveal their fate. Each child is currently in their twenties and if they are gene positive, symptoms should not begin to appear for another ten to twenty years. Joe Jr. and his wife have been struggling for three years to get pregnant. Before Joe Sr. tells his family, Joey and his wife conceive. What could this mean for their unborn child?

Oldest daughter Meghan is a lead dancer with the Boston Ballet, if she is positive how will this affect her choices and career. Patrick is still finding himself and would a positive diagnosis totally derail him? Last is twenty one year old Katie. She has forever seen herself at the black sheep. She is a yoga instructor and sure that she is not living up to anyone’s expectation. Then she meets the love of her life and a whole new world opens. That is until Huntington’s Disease could derail everyone and everything that she hold dear.

Each child must make their own individual choice. They see what their parents are going through and each must come to their own decision. Will they take the test or will they live with the uncertainty? Will they live with love in their hearts and continue to be there for their father, a man that taught them to never give up and to stay in the fight. Can they help him live with dignity so he can then be their first and best example of how to face HD?

Told through the perspectives of Joe Sr. and Katie, Lisa Genova takes the reader through every scenario, every realization, every fear that the O’Brien’s must face. It is heartbreaking and heartwarming as you watch a family break apart and come back together. As you watch a grown son finally understanding a mother that he thought abandoned him. A comprehension dawning that she never left and loved him until the end.

By the last chapter, I found myself holding my hand over each page not wanting to risk that the final outcome would be revealed too soon. I did not want to rush, I wanted Katie’s reality to hit me full force like it was about to hit her.

I loved this book; I loved how their story was told. I loved how each person was an individual and that they as a family were not the sum total of the disease.

Fact: The mutation associated with Huntington’s disease (HD) was isolated in 1993. Ninety percent of people at risk for Huntington’s disease choose not to know.