Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Most Wanted

Title: Most Wanted
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Published: April 12th 2016 by St. Martin's Press
Format: Hardcover, 438 pages
Genre: Fiction

Leave it to Lisa Scottoline to take a blessed event and add one twist that leads the reader down the path of “what-ifs” and “what’s next” and “is this really possible”.

Life seems to be perfect for Christine Nilsson and her husband, Marcus. Unable to conceive a child on their own, they consult a fertility specialist and use a donor. One morning as Christine is getting ready for her day, she glances at the television to see a news report on the arrest of a serial killer – a man that looks identical to the picture that she has of her donor. A man that is being charged with killing three nurses in two states. Is it possible that she is carrying a child with half of the genetic make-up of a killer?

This is the winding, and at times unrealistic, plot that Ms. Scottoline is taking her readers on. Homestead Bank refuses to answer her inquiries as to who Donor 3319 is. With Christine and her husband reacting differently, they each take separate paths to reach the answer that is tearing their marriage apart. Putting both her life and that of her unborn child at risk, Christine jumps head first into her own investigation and with the help of her best friend and a cantankerous attorney, she will stop at nothing to get the answers that she is desperately looking for.

The book is fast paced and emotional, but in the end, too many parts were improbable. There are the obvious ethical and moral dilemmas that might make for a good book club read, but in the end, the reader is still left shaking their head.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Red Bandanna: Welles Crowther, 9/11, and the Path to Purpose

Title: The Red Bandanna: Welles Crowther, 9/11, and the Path to Purpose
Author: Tom Rinaldi
Expected Publication: September 6th 2016 by Penguin Press
Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
Genre: Biography
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Group for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
This book has an incredibly slow start and if it does not lose its readers before they are a third of the way through, it will not reach its truest potential. It is not until this point that the powerful writing comes out. It is nice to see the young boy that Welles Crowther was, the six year old that a father had given a red bandanna to that turned into his signature, but it is the man that will stick with the reader. A man that had dreamed of being a firefighter, but went on to study finance at Boston College and was in Tower 2 on that fateful day of September 11th, 2001.

In a selfless fatal choice, this twenty-four year old man that no one knew by name but could be identified by his commanding voice and his red bandanna, led countless people down to safety, chose to run back up the stairwell to search for more survivors. A man that his family and friends loved and needed was not thinking about himself, he was doing what his heart was telling him was his purpose.

He was never the biggest or most talented kid on the team, but he had passion and leadership skills. He was the one that others turned to and when his voice called out to those trapped in the building to followed him -if you can stand up, stand up and help the ones that you can help. They sound like simple words, but that is what was needed – a leader.

To this day, Welles Crowther has made a lasting impact to his college and to those that he has touched. Lives have changed, and will continue to change, because of the choices that he had made. He could have thought of only himself and run out of that building, but that is not who he was. He may not have been a recognized firefighter at that moment, but he was as much of a hero as the men and women wearing their turnout gear that day.

In the end, “an event held just once before in the 141 years since the department’s founding”, Welles Crowther attained his lifelong desire and his family could not have been any prouder of the son that they had raised.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Pushing Up Daisies

Title: Pushing Up Daisies
Author: MC Beaton
Expected Publication: September 20th 2016 by Minotaur Books
Format: eBook; Hardcover, 288 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
Series: Agatha Raisin #27

After not enjoying the last couple of books in the Agatha Raisin series, I was surprised as to how much this book appealed to me. It was almost to the point that I had wondered if there was a ghostwriter. Multiple story lines that bounced back and forth effortlessly with pop culture references and even Mrs. Bloxby was given a first name.

We all know that Agatha has a tendency to be jealous, so when her best friend Mrs. Bloxby, wife of the vicar, starts taking better care of herself when a new man moves to Carsley, Agatha has to act quickly to get this situation under control. Gerald Devere, a retired New Scotland Yard detective with a curious past, seems to have appeared in the nick of time since Agatha needs help with a new investigation and what better way to keep an eye on him then to make him her newest hire.

Village allotments are warzones that create competition amongst the villagers and when the landowner threatens to plow them under to create housing, bodies start appearing and it is up to Agatha and her band of investigators to get to the bottom of all this nastiness. Revenge and sabotage seem to be the central themes of this book with the suspects being legion. Add in diamonds, great big red herrings and a fair amount of bed hopping, and you have an above average romp through Carsley.

I am still questioning who the real author is, but if they keep up this level of writing, who am I to complain.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Aunt Dimity and the Buried Treasure

Title: Aunt Dimity and the Buried Treasure
Author: Nancy Atherton
Published: May 24th 2016 by Viking
Format: Hardcover, 231 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Aunt Dimity Mystery #21

The Aunt Dimity books are already short for a novel – less than 250 pages – so when Nancy Atherton spends a good third of her books rehashing what the reader already knows, it make what should be a pleasant couple of hours a frustrating endeavor.

In Finch, “a sleepy speck of a village where nothing of note had ever happened”, residents can turn any simple thing into a drama. When new renters move into Ivy Cottage, the villagers see boxes marked “museum” and suddenly go into a tizzy that outsiders are determined to ruin their peaceful existence. This could not be further from the truth; still they begin to spin out of control until the ‘lurkers in the lane’ can talk Lori Shepherd into investigating.

Little did Lori know that the simple task of meeting James and Felicity Hobson and offering them a blender would throw an unexpected curve at her from no one other than Aunt Dimity Westwood herself. It appears that the dearly departed had quite a secret and now Lori is gallivanting to London to find an old friend of Dimity’s and to discover a hidden secret in her own backyard.

“Some things are best left buried” is the ongoing theme of this book. It seems that bringing in a metal detector cannot only find treasures and reveal secrets; it can also right a wrong.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Damn Delicious: 100 Super Easy, Super Fast Recipes

Title: Damn Delicious: 100 Super Easy, Super Fast Recipes
Author: Chungah Rhee
Expected Publication: September 6th 2016 by Oxmoor House
Format: Softcover, 240 pages
Genre: Cooking
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Time, Inc Books for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
I have been a fan of Chungah Rhee’s blog postings for a couple years now and when I saw that she was putting her tried and true, plus a couple of new, recipes in a cookbook, I was eager to get my fingers on a copy and see both new recipes and her amazing photography. To be honest, I am not sure if all the photos in the book are hers, some are familiar, but I do know that what she has been showing on her blog are delicious to look at. One of the best things in this cookbook – each recipe is accompanied with a photo of what it will look like. That is a feature which is missing in so many other books and one that I look for specifically.

From her smarter shopping strategies, solutions and shortcuts to recipe keys to simple tips, her quick low fuss budget friendly recipes are simple enough that even a beginning cook or college student can quickly and easily have dinner on the table in no time.

Recipes cover breakfast, one-pot meals, better than takeout adaptations, salads, slow cooker, pasta, quick meat and fish suppers, foil wrapped for either the oven or BBQ, appetizers and sides, drinks and desserts – who could resist trying a 6 minute cookie in a mug made in a microwave oven.

Some of the food combinations might seem a bit strange, but give them a chance, Chungah Rhee will really surprise you with her creative use of ingredients that can be easily found in any supermarket. She also includes recipes that use leftovers, which is always a benefit.

Each recipe includes calorie and nutritional information. Plus, there is a page in the back with measurement equivalents and even metric conversations.

I am so glad that she included the Asian Garlic Noodles, this is one of my all-time favorite recipes that finds its way to my table a couple of times a month and do not turn your nose up at the Avocado Pasta, it might look strange, but it is delicious.

I have never had a failure with her blog recipes and with many of them here, I am sure that the new additions will be just as amazing and I for one am looking forward to a couple more additional to my weekly dinner repertoire.

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Man Called Ove

Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman
Published: July 15th 2014 by Atria Books
Format: Hardcover, 337 pages
Genre: Fiction

I am not usually good with translated books. Something always seems to be missing or the flow does not capture me. I went into A Man Called Ove apprehensively and came out a fan of Fredrik Backman.

Ove is the neighborhood curmudgeon, he maintains very strict rules as to the neighborhood appearance and with his daily walk, he has no problem pointing out any dereliction of duty. Cars, other than emergency vehicles, are not allowed to drive on the street, bicycles are to be put away in the shed, you must use proper tools for a job and above all, you must drive a Saab. Ove is a sad man, life has handed him one blow after another and he has decided that there is no reason to continue living. That is, until a family moves in to the house next to him and on moving day takes out his mailbox. Thus begins a sort of resurgence for Ove, a man who is not very good at dying suddenly finds friendship, love and an important to those around him.

I am not sure if "dramedy" is really a word, but it does describe this book very well. A man that has been battered by the world yet seemed to keep a very dry sense of humor. A man with a sour disposition but if you are willing to look past it, as did Parvaneh, you will see a battered puppy that just wants to be loved. Not everyone would have the patience with this man, but it does pay off for those that he allows in.

In bits and pieces, Ove’s story is told, not always in the most politically correct of terms, but that is not what he is here for. He is a straight to the point kind of man and if he has taken you on as a friend, even if you are “bent”, you will be protected in a way that no one ever (except for his beloved Sonja) had ever protected him.

This is a character driven book - even the cat has a very distinctive place and persona. Once you get to the end, you will find yourself missing each and every one of them. Fredrik Bachman is a new to me author and I will be seeking out his subsequent books – ‘My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry’, ‘Britt-Marie Was Here’ and ‘And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer’.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Murder in the Secret Garden

Title: Murder in the Secret Garden
Author: Ellery Adams
Expected Publication: August 2nd 2016 by Berkley
Format: eBook, Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
Series: Book Retreat Mystery #3

I do like the Book Retreat Mystery series by Ellery Adams even thought I do roll my eyes every time Jane Steward talks about her sons. There is just a strange dynamic there - incredibly over protective and sheltering in a silly way that no mother, from my experience, tends to be.

Jane Steward is a single mother to seven year old twin boys and also is the current guardian of Storyton Hall. A book centered anti- technology resort that encourages rest, relaxation and reading, in a remove valley of western Virginia. With the addition of her great aunt and uncle and the usual hotel staff, they tend to their guests, but yet, there always seems to be a murder afoot either on their ground or nearby.

The Medieval Herbalists, people who spend their free time studying, growing and using herbs, have decided that their annual gathering will take place at Storyton this year. What Jane did not know at the time was that there was a very specific reason why this location was picked. One of their guests has an ulterior motive and now there is a woman’s body floating down the river at the same time as the local duck race. Add to the first dead body issue, there will be more, Edwin Alcott has returned. Yep, the same Edwin that has a secret of his own and left Jane alone to figure out if he was a good guy or just a thief.

Jane is not the only one entrusted with the future of the hall. She has the fins, a group of men who work at the hall and use their talents to protect the Steward family. With bodies showing up that have been poisoned, the herbalists underfoot, a wedding, rumors of cheating, corporate secrets, a druid, Jane needing to be an advocate for her guests, blackmail, a missing manuscript, revenge and multiple layers of everyone’s story – Jane is in for the longest week of her life.

What is interesting about this series are the book titles and quotes sprinkled throughout. Ellery Adams keeps her readers engaged with multiple plot points so if one part seems a bit off, stay tuned because something new is coming up next. I recommend that you start with the first book in this series, ‘Murder in the Mystery Suite’, and enjoy the adventures of Jane Steward and Storyton Hall.