Friday, October 31, 2008

Book Review - Dating da Vinci by Malena Lott

Dating da Vinci
Author: Malena Lott
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Released: November 1, 2008

Synopsis

A linguist and English teacher, 36-year-old widow, and mother of two, Ramona Elise starts to fall for one of her students-a gorgeous 25-year-old Italian immigrant whose name just happens to be Leonardo da Vinci. She knows she shouldn't take him home, but he has nowhere to live and barely speaks English.

She helps him forge a new life in America, and he helps her to find joy again after grieving her beloved husband. Complications soon arise and Ramona finds her life shaken up a good deal more than she'd ever bargained for.

Review

I rather liked this story of a woman rising above her grief and coming to terms with not just her husband's death but also re-learning how to live and be her person after being half of a whole for so long. It’s somewhat inspiring and enjoyable. There were some things I didn’t like, but more on that later. Let me focus on the main issue – the Italian hunk (mamma mia!).

Da Vinci here is a sexy young man with a lovely accent who makes this older woman, a widow with 2 children, feel like the sexiest woman alive. And it was lovely to see how that changes Ramona for the better. Heck, just reading it cheered me up! And like da Vinci of old, he’s a jack of all trades. There’s also a clever play on words which da Vinci capitalizes on since you can find Mona Lisa by rearranging the words of Ramona Elise, sort of like finding the Mona Lisa in Ramona. This is apt since Ramona is a linguist and the whole story has countless mentions of words, their origins, meanings, Scrabble games, etc, which makes for enjoyable reading.

Before Ramona knows it, she and Da Vinci are considered a pair. But without resolving the doubts she has about her deceased husband’s love and fidelity, Ramona finds herself unable to move forward in her new relationship. This was particularly intriguing - Ramona's internal struggle; for she idolizes her husband and fears to find his feet of clay. Since this is something she feels she can't share with anyone, it's a burden she has to carry alone.

Oh, and let’s not forget the other man who professes romantic interest in Ramona, leaving her with two hot men to contend with! There are also some interesting side stories involving the Evangelical Moms, a fitness-guru of a narcissistic sister with her pageant-weary 5 year old, the Russian mail-order bride, a friend who finds herself saddled with her grandkid, and many more. So, it's just not Ramona's story but all theirs woven together with hers. Overall, the journey, filled with growth, love, sex, hope, sorrow, children, friends and family makes for some pleasurable reading.

Cons

I say “some pleasurable”, not totally or utterly. That’s because, as I’d mentioned above, I didn’t like some things. It’s mainly with the way narrative progresses, which it does in unexpected fast-forward jerks between consecutive chapters. What I mean to say is:  in one chapter we see Ramona bemoaning her weight issues. In the next chapter, things suddenly begin from a point of time 2 weeks (or some such) forward, all of which time Ramona has apparently spent jogging daily with da Vinci. It left me quite bewildered initially. But I soon got the hang of it, and didn't bother to assume the time line again between chapters as this keeps happening again and again.

Another thing that was initially understandable and which even had me sympathetic for a while was the difference the author makes between "The Grievers" and "The Normals" all through the story. Yes, I fall in the 'Normals' category and so perhaps, I don't "get" it, but after a while this constant labeling of people got on my nerves. While this is a story of a woman rising above tragic circumstances, I felt too much was made of this difference than I could personally digest.

Surprisingly, Ramona’s young sons take to the new hunk in their Mom’s life with little to no hostility which I did find quite surprising. The way they soon become one cozy family is to be read to be believed. But I still have my doubts. There could have been an interesting twist to the story there, but sadly, nothing is made of it.

In Short

Despite its heavy subject and some flaws, this is a sweet story with a positive message.

Buy the Book - here.
Visit the Author's site - here.
Visit the Publisher - here.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - Edition Six

Thirteen upcoming releases that appealed to me :
  1. Scarpetta (Kay Scarpetta) ~ Patricia Cornwell
  2. Your Heart Belongs to Me  ~ Dean Koontz
  3. The Bodies Left Behind: A Novel ~ Jeffery Deaver
  4. Where Serpents Sleep: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery  ~ C.S. Harris 
  5. The Fire Kimono (Sano Ichiro Novels) ~ Laura Joh Rowland
  6. Arctic Drift (A Dirk Pitt Novel, #20) ~ Clive Cussler 
  7. Twilight Collector's Edition (The Twilight Saga)  ~ Stephenie Meyer
  8. The World According to Bertie ~ Alexander Mccall Smith 
  9. The House on Tradd Street  ~ Karen White
  10. Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts: A Novel ~ Laura Benedict 
  11. The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Standard Edition ~ J. K. Rowling
  12. Plum Spooky (A Between-the-Numbers Novel) ~ Janet Evanovich 
  13. The Devil's Punchbowl: A Novel ~ Greg Iles
What's on your upcoming list? Do share!

 Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Book Review - Rubicon by Lawrence Alexander

Rubicon
Author: Lawrence Alexander
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: William Morrow

Synopsis

Bobby Hart, an idealistic young senator from California, thinks that he's escaped the political spotlight when he decides not to run for president. Then, on a secret mission to Germany, he discovers that there is going to be an assassination. He doesn't know who is the target, who is behind the plan, or where it will take place. All he knows is that it will happen before the election. And that it operates under the code name Rubicon.

Review

Without understanding the significance of the term 'Rubicon', it's not easy to understand what this novel's about. Wikipedia says - "Crossing the Rubicon" is a popular idiom meaning to pass a point of no return. It refers to Caesar's 49 BC crossing of the river Rubicon, which was considered an act of war."

I've been meaning to read this novel for quite some time now, but only last week actually got a chance to read it. I'm glad I did. It's highly compelling if only for the reason that its subject material is highly relevant to current happenings, politics-wise. It's all a bit exaggerated, of course. But there's no denying there's a hint of truth somewhere in it, although I'm sure supporters of the current administration will outright reject this book as pure conspiracy-fluff.

The basic question to which this entire book boils down to is this - To what limit can Executive power extend to? And for how long, before usurping the very Democracy it's supposed to protect?

The author develops the plot slickly and quickly, continuously keeping central character Senator Bobby Hart moving in an effort to uncover a startling conspiracy, one which is shockingly domestic while falsely and deliberately being attributed to international terrorism. The story raises many thought-provocative questions, the real life answers to which are very disturbing. The thinly veiled references to many real people also adds a whiff of truth to the entire undertaking. Makes for interesting reading, no matter how outlandish it seems at times.

Cons

There are plenty of cons with this novel. I'm just listing some major ones. But I reiterate, I liked the story despite all this.

Hart is the central character who puts it all together. But he gets all his information from people who've done the actual investigating. He just collates it together with some leaps of intuition and invariably comes up with the truth. This is a cheap shortcut, in my opinion.

** SPOILER ALERT **
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Another thing I found peculiar was this. Hart is a big thorn in the sides of these Rubicon people and they try to kill him. They come into his house with guns blazing, kill another guy, in the process wake up the neighborhood and so are forced to leave Hart alive. Huh?! Are competent assassins with silencers on their guns that hard to come by? The police find Hart's entire house is rigged with bugs, and yet there's not a single one in Hart's car or his phone? And why don't the Rubicon people install a car bomb, even though Hart's car is left in a parking garage for ages? What I'm trying to say is - Hart is a good guy whom the bad guys don't try very hard to kill. He's the one who keeps insisting there's a conspiracy while others are going, "what conspiracy?" Why wouldn't they try their constant, level best to kill the guy revealing their plot to the general public? That, I just couldn't understand.

In Short

While it is fiction, there's no doubt Lawrence Alexander knows how to weave enough facts with the fictional aspects to render a book which makes for very intriguing reading, especially in this election year.

Buy the Book - here.
More Info on the Author - here.
Visit the Publisher - here.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Matrimony Giveaway Winner

Thank you all for your participation in the giveaway of "Matrimony by Joshua Henkin".

One lucky reader will walk away with this book! Was it you? Don't ever miss out and subscribe to this blog's feed today. Just click here.

And now, Here's the lucky winner...

The lucky reader who won this book, and as chosen by Random.org, is none other than Commenter #10, Danielle who said...
In a world full of divorce and separations, I love to read a good book that tells how a couple makes it last for so many years. ldsmom2201 at yahoo dot com
Congratulations, Danielle! You'll be getting your autographed book directly from Joshua himself!

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Book Review - Murder Packs a Suitcase

Murder Packs a Suitcase
Author : Cynthia Baxter
Mass Market Paperback : 304 pages
Publisher: Bantam (October 28, 2008)

Synopsis

Thanks to her new job as travel writer for the New York magazine The Good Life,recently widowed Mallory is zipping around Orlando, assigned to rediscover the glory days of “old Florida.” It’s the first of what she hopes will be many exciting adventures . . . but she’s about to discover that the Sunshine State has a dark side.

Review

I'd previously read and enjoyed Cynthia Baxter's mysteries in the Reigning Cats & Dogs series, featuring vet-turned-sleuth Jessie Popper. This book marks the beginning of a new series, the Murder Packs a Suitcase mystery series, featuring travel writer Mallory Marlowe.

Baxter excels in creating a strong amateur sleuth / central female character whose inquisitiveness is only excelled by the complications she gets herself into. As usual, there's a plethora of red herrings which helps keep the investigation moving forwards. The mystery is a light-hearted one which seasoned mystery readers will easily guess at. Despite this, the journey towards the "whodunit" revelation is an enjoyable and entertaining one.

A large part of this is due to Mallory's assignment, which is discovering what's left of the "kitschy" Florida of the pre-Disneyfication days. This is a wonderful journey as readers accompany Mallory as she drives around Orlando and explores places like Gatorland, Shell World, Cypress Gardens and others on a journey of nostalgia. Having myself visited Florida long after Disneyfication, I had fun reading about Florida's 'good ole days', even though I hadn't heard of or visited the attractions which Mallory does and which, as research showed me, are all real places!

One of the other things I liked was how the various journalists on the press junket are all there to cover, and thus show to the readers, different aspects of Orlando tourism - from the perspective of the senior citizens, the budget-conscious traveler, the luxurious side of this colorful place and more. I just wish the author had shown how the other journalists made their articles relevant to their particular line of readers with some hints and tips. However we do get to read Mallory’s article for The Good Life, with tips and reviews of real Florida attractions.

All in all, an exotic and quirky read!

Or as Mallory would rate it -

Buy the Book - here.
Visit the Author's site - here.
Visit the Publisher - here.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Innovative Monday - Edition Sixteen

This is not just a bookshelf, but a bookshelf sofa?!! Check out the amazing,  

 BIBLIOCHAISE



La Bibliochaise is veneered in oak tinted wengé or tinted black, with a wax finish and leather cushions with removable covers in a wide range of colours. Contains 5 metres of books. [via]

If any of you hits the multi-million lottery, buy this one for me, will ya?! It's this bibliomaniac's dream sofa :)

What about you?
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Children's Book Review - AMERICA: The Making of a Nation

AMERICA: The Making of a Nation
Author: Charlie Samuels
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Library Binding: 30 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers


Synopsis
AMERICA takes a fresh and compelling look at the birth of our nation, with lavish illustrations and interactive novelty spreads on every page.

Revealed through the lens of an anonymous journal, readers will take a chronological journey through watershed moments of American History. From the Founding Fathers' signing of the Declaration of Independence through current events of the 21st century, AMERICA offers an in-depth look at the making of our nation in an accessible volume that will speak to readers of every age.

Chockfull of innovative novelty components, including lift-the-flap postcards, removable song lyrics, and even a foldout replica of the Declaration of Independence, AMERICA offers readers a captivating exploration of the ideals and values our nation was built upon.
Review

I have no hesitation in saying that although I'm way past the age of the intended reading audience, this book held be captivated and entranced with its vivid visuals, captivating tidbits about this great nation and a manner of explanation that's as friendly as it is non-preachy.

The author begins by saying how he found a suitcase in a corner of the attic that was full of mementos and treasures collected, which later on show up throughout the book, such as an eagle feather, postcards, etc. Beginning with a flap-open journal entry and ending with a time line created out of the rings of tree along with a copy of the Declaration of Independence that's inside a wax-sealed envelope bearing the stamp of the Liberty Bell, this book holds the readers spellbound.

As a child, I was never a fan of History. It was all dates and full of names and numbers of people, years and places long gone by. Just a never-ending textbook full of facts. I just hated it! (or maybe it was just the teacher! I don't know) It was far too dry for me. Not so, this book! It makes exploring History fun, a sort of treasure hunt with lift-the-flap postcards, removable song lyrics, railway ticket stubs, peek-a-boo surprises of interesting facts, with maps, journal entires, dollar bills, flags, architectural plans and more jostling each other in a bid for the reader's attention. It's all arranged in a way that makes it look more like a scrapbook than a book. A scrapbook that takes you on a journey across time and country, introducing to prominent historical figures and events, and the odd but intriguing tidbit of little-known info. A book that's not just an introduction to this great nation, but filled with a contagious sort of national pride and ideals.

In Short

I had so much fun reading it and sharing it with Hubby (who was drawn in as I just wouldn't stop exclaiming or pulling out things from the book to read out aloud). And when he's old enough to read and understand this book, I hope to do the same with my son.

Buy the Book - here.
Book's Website - here.
Visit the Publisher - here.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Children's Book Review - The Penderwicks


The Penderwicks
Author: Jeanne Birdsall
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 272 pages

Review Contributor: Tanya of www.books4yourkids.com

I have wanted to read this book since it came out, and now that it is in paperback and the sequel has been published I am happy to say that I read it and loved it as much as I thought I would. This is definitely one of the best children's books published in 2005 and I don't know why it didn't win at least a Newbery Honor. Jeanne Birdsall has accomplished an amazing feat with The Penderwicks, and I believe she pulls it off because of the debt she owes to the classic children's books of her childhood, a debt that she repays by mentioning them, sometimes cryptically, throughout her wonderful book. She makes a nod to the queen of children's literature who was writing at the turn of the century, E. Nesbit, by referring to her characters from The Treasure Seekers, The Wouldbegoods and The New Treasure Seekers, The Bastables, motherless just like the Penderwick sisters. She also mentions Magic By the Lake by Edward Eager, who wrote the spectacular Half Magic.

This debt to the classics is evident in the characteristics that Ms Birdsall gives to her characters. Above all, the girls speak of pride and honor and they act out these qualities in the book in realistic ways. This is sort of an antiquated notion today. While our kids may have their pride challenged now and again on the playground, ball field, or infront of a video game, they are rarely called upon to act with honor. Perhaps because they are such a unit, the Penderwick sisters, Rosalind, who is twelve, Skye who is eleven, Jane who is ten have a strong sense of responsibility for each other and for the youngest, Batty, who is four. As with all good children's stories, some adults must be absent, like the deceased mother of the Penderwicks, which no doubt gives them their sense of responsibility for each other, as well as their father who takes long walks to study the plants, which gives them the opportunity to have adventures.

One of the true treats of this book are the characters of Skye and Jane. Skye is an explorer who, being the second of four, can remember the day she had to share her room with another sister and misses the solitude and tidiness of her old life.  She is also outspoken and uncensored with her sense of fairness. She is thrilled when, upon entering their vacation home, a cottage on the estate of Arundel (a town in England where the pastor and writer of fairy tales in the mid 1800s, most notably The Light Princess, George MacDonald, was once a pastor), she gets the cleanest, whitest, tidiest room. Jane, who thinks of almost nothing but the character that she created, Sabrina Starr, an adventurer, and the plots for stories she will write, is also a soccer star.

The other sisters, Rosalind and Batty, seemed more like brackets that held the other two in and gave them situations to play off of. Rosalind, by necessity, is the sensible, kind, thoughtful mother substitute. She does a little but too much herding and baking and watching out for her sisters for my taste, but all stories need a warm figure to comfort the children who get into scrapes. Churchie, the cook at the big house, never quite fits this bill. Also, Rosalind has a crush on Cagney, the teenager who is taking over for his uncle as estate gardener. This bothers me because, while I know it happens, I did not want my daughter getting crushes on boys, real boys, when she was twelve and I wouldn't let her read books that had that as a subject. While I greatly admire Ms Birdsall's novel, and while I do understand the added tension to the plot that a crush provides, and, while I think she handles the situation that the heartbreak that Rosalind suffers beautifully, I do wish she could have found something other character traits for Rosalind besides being motherly and baking brownies and having a crush - that another adult notices and comments on - on Cagney.

As for Batty, she is a great character and has some winning traits, like refusing to talk to people she doesn't like and being painfully shy and uncomfortable in the presence of people she is unfamiliar with. I just wish she had been a little bit older - five or six - since I felt like her character was functioning more on that level. However, she was a realistic enough creation that I kept picturing a little friend of mine who just turned six and shares many of Batty's endearing qualities, when I read of her. And, of course, there is Hound, the enormous dog, who is Batty's protector and playmate.

The rest of the plot involves Jeffrey, the only child of the owner of the estate of Arundel, Mrs. Tifton. Their back story is interesting and Jeffrey is a well written character - the inspiration for an imprisoned boy who needs rescuing by Sabrina Starr in Jane's latest installment of her saga. Mrs Tifton and her boyfriend Dexter are a bit two dimensional, but they need to be. There are so many other great characters in this novel that we only really need them as foils, and foils they are. Both Skye and Jane get their chance to tangle with them and come out a little sad and broken but triumphant.

I wish that there were a hundred more books like this on the shelves of the bookstore right now. I believe she plans to write five in this series. The second, The Penderwicks on Gardam, is available now in hardcover only. Hopefully, in the near future, I will have time to review some of the classics I have loved by E Nesbit, Edward Eager and others.

Buy the Book - here.
Visit the Author's site - here.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Easy Entertaining for Beginners

Easy Entertaining for Beginners
Author: Patricia Mendez
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Maple Heights Press

Description

You don't have to be professional chef or nervous wreck to host great casual at-home entertaining. You will have all of your questions answered, from what to serve to what to do. Even if you have never entertained in your life, you can have a terrific time putting together a superb celebration. Included are 13 delicious complete menus with easy-to-follow recipes, full color photographs, ideas for music, activities and drinks. Checklists ease readers step-by-step through every phase of planning, preparation, and presentation. You will gain confidence and have a terrific time putting together successful celebrations. Occasions include: My First Cocktail Party, Family Fiesta, Dinner with Close Friends, Guys Night Out, My First Thanksgiving and more!

About the Author

Patricia Mendez has catered and coordinated special events for 17 years in Southern California. She currently teaches Easy Entertaining for Beginners cooking classes. She has mentored many aspiring hosts and hostesses and when she is not teaching or writing she is throwing fun parties.

Book Excerpt

MY FIRST COCKTAIL PARTY

When planning your first cocktail party, think simplicity.  I learned a valuable lesson with my first cocktail party.  I made too many different hors d’oeuvres (small bites or munchies).  I was tired by the time my party started, and I overwhelmed my guests with too much.  Live and learn.  Now, when I host a cocktail party, I follow the rule of simplicity.  Do a few things and do them well.  The tone for the party is more relaxed, and so am I.

Twelve to sixteen guests are a good, manageable number for a first cocktail party.  Start with one or two different cocktails, rather than having an open  bar.  This really simplifies serving drinks.  Choose a cocktail recipe that you can make a couple of hours before the party and serve in pitchers.  That way you are not spending all your time tending bar and can visit with your guests.  Offer beer and wine along with two or three nonalcoholic beverages, and have bottled water available as well.  Plan to serve six or seven choices of hors d’oevres, at about three or four pieces each per person.

A cocktail party doesn’t always need a special occasion, but it certainly is appropriate for one.  A birthday, an anniversary, or even a promotion are all good reasons to throw a cocktail party.   A beautiful table for the food will suffice for the extent of the decorations.  I use one or two tablecloths and will sometimes put a large, sturdy box (such as one from a case of beer) under the tablecloth so the food can be placed at different heights.  It is more appealing to look at than having one flat table with food on flat platters.  You can always add some fresh flowers, herbs, fruit, or candles in hurricane lamps.  (Be careful where you place candles, so on one can get burned when reaching for food on the table.)  If you have any pretty serving platters, or even cake stands, use them.

On the menu are small bites of shrimp ceviche (pronounced say-vee-chay) served in glasses with tostaditos.  A ceviche generally consists of raw fish marinated in lime or lemon juice.  The citric acid “cooks” the fish, which is served in a luxurious concoction of sweet and piquant flavors.  We are using cooked shrimp for this recipe, and the flavors of tomato, lime, and avocado, along with the crunchy cucumbers and jicama, are quite delicious.  The ahi tuna is marinated for extra flavor, seared on the grill or under a broiler, and served on crostini (toasted slices of French baguette) with a small dollop of Lime-cilantro Mayonnaise.  The Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms are prepared in advance and are served warm.  The rest of the menu consists of crudités (fresh, cut-up veggies) served with an artichoke dip, a cheese tray with assorted cheeses and crackers, and a selection of mini-desserts.

Follow the checklist and before you know it, your guests will be arriving.  Seven o’clock in the evening is a great start time.  As the host, be sure to introduce guests who may not know one another.  It can be awkward to be the new person at a gathering when everyone knows each other well.  You can encourage conversation when making introductions by trying to offer something your guests have in common.  For instance, you could say, “Mary, I would like you to meet John.”  “John, Mary was born and raised in your birthplace, New York City.”  Or offer a conversation starter with something interesting from your guest’s life, such as “Mary works as a nurse at Memorial Hospital” or “Mary has run the L.A. Marathon two times.”  You get the picture.  These attempts can encourage the start of a conversation for guests who are unfamiliar with each other.

Offer drinks and let your guests help themselves to the cold hor d’oeuvres on the table.  In 20 to 30 minutes, heat one or two baking sheets of the crosstini and assemble some of the hot ahi hor d’oeuvres.  Pass the tray to your guests and in another 15 minutes make a few more trays.  Repeat with the Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms.  This way, your warm hor d’oeuvres can be offered intermittently throughout the evening.  Enjoy yourself and have fun with your guests!

Acknowledgement

This excerpt was part of a virtual blog tour sponsored by Pump Up Your Book's Promotion.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wednesday Winnings - Some Giveaways

Author Ava Rose Johnson is giving away a box of her favorite candy along with a few other little goodies. Link

Author Marie Harte is giving away a box of Godiva chocolates. To be entered, all you have to do is send her an email telling her: Name a sexy monster you'd like to see play the hero in a book, and why. Link.

Author Lauren Blades is giving away a PDF copy of Sofia's Lobo. Deadline for entry: November 15, 2008. Link.

In Author Monica Ferris' giveaway, the winner gets his/her choice of one of the five prizes – plus a
copy of Blackwork, suitably autographed. To enter, you need to create a character! More details there.

Katrina is giving away any book she's read or mentioned. Get more details and enter before next Monday when a new giveaway starts!

Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of Lydia Bennet's Story at Diary of an Eccentric. (read my review here)

Another Sarah's Key Giveaway at Booking Mama's. Enter before Oct 31st.

**Edited to Add**  
Savvy Verse and Wit is giving away The Safety of Secrets by Delaune Michel over there.


If you have a book/literary contest/giveaway going on, just click "Submit Contest" on the top menu bar and fill out the form with the details.
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Monday, October 20, 2008

Innovative Monday - Edition Fifteen

Another Monday brings to you yet another intriguing book storage solution. This week it is -

The Rick Ivey Bookshelf


More of a fashion statement that serious storage, is my feeling about this. What do you think?
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Friday, October 17, 2008

Children's Book Review - Travels With My Family

Time for the weekly Friday Feature, a children's book review!

by David Homel and Marie-Louise Gay
Reading level: 3
Paperback: 119 pages

Review Contributor: Tanya of www.books4yourkids.com

Marie-Louise Gay is the author and illustrator of many picture books, including the "Stella" and "Sam" series. Her bright and gentle water colors, along with the quirky siblings, big sister Stella and little brother Sam, make for beautiful books  for the 2- 4 year old crowd and are also good beginning readers for older children. Gay also illustrates the "Houndsley and Catina" series of beginning reader books written by James Howe, of "Bunnicula" fame. Travels With My Family is her first chapter book, and, along with her husband (and traveling partner) David Homel, they have written a wonderful book, which I suspect is largely autobiographical as the author info notes that they have two sons and a cat named Miro.

The book consists of nine chapters, each one recounting a different vacation trip. However, as Charlie, the narrator and big brother to Max, states in the very first paragraph of the book, his parents don't go on on "normal" vacations that include hotels with swimming pools, amusement parks, giant water slides or miniature golf.  When Charlie's family travels, they go in a car with no air conditioning and their cat, Miro joins them and gets carsick. Instead of "fun" vacations, Charlie's family travels to Maine and gets a visit from hurricane Bob. From there they head to Tybee Island off the coast of Georgia where Max, who can't swim, is almost drowned when the family is stranded on a shrinking sand bar as the tide comes in. They also visit northern California, where Charlie rescues Max from a sneaker wave. Not having a change of clothes, Max is forced to sit wrapped in a table cloth in the laundromat in the town of Punta Reyes as his clothes dry. They also get stuck in a sand storm in Arizona, meet some crazy farm animals on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, have a heart stopping moment in the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and have some harrying adventures in Mexico, including a man who tries to fix their car engine with a spoon.

This book is ideal because it is a really well written, entertaining book for kids reading at a high second or third grade reading level and there are so few of these. It is really a travelogue more than a traditional chapter book with a plot, a climax and a resolution. Gay's illustrations lose some of their beauty in black and white, but they are a playful, welcome addition to the text. Travels With My Family is also a super book because all families take vacations, even if it is just a six hour drive to visit grandparents, so everyone can relate to these stories. As I was reading it, I was reminded of some of the crazy, but mostly fun, family vacations I have been on with my husband, kids and extended family (there were eighteen of us at a villa in Tuscany last summer) over the last five years. If you are reading this out loud to your kids, it's a great opportunity to reminisce. It's also the perfect inspiration to sit down and write out some of your own memories of family trips with your kids' help. Gay and Homel have written a sequel, On the Road Again: More Travels with my Family, in which they move the kids to the French countryside for a year. Currently it is only in hardcover.

If your child likes this book, don't miss Alison Lester's Are We There Yet?. While it is a picture book, it is a very detailed account of a family's three month trip driving around their home continent of Australia. Lester is the magnificent author/illustrator of Imagine and Magic Beach, two of my all-time favorite picture books, as well as chapter books I plan to review someday soon. 

Buy the Book - here.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Book Review - Art: The Definitive Visual Guide


Art: The Definitive Visual Guide
Hardcover: 612 pages
Publisher: DK ADULT (October 20, 2008)

Description

ART, the ultimate visual guide to 2,000 of the world's most revered paintings and sculptures, begins with a short section on how to look at paintings and sculpture, explaining the simple steps of formal analysis that swiftly become automatic and greatly increase and inform your enjoyment of art. The main part of the book is a 540-page chronological look at more than 700 artists. This section is subdivided into the main periods of art history with introductions to each period or art movement that explain the key elements and influences of the time. With several paintings by each major artist, this section is a joy to dip into or study in more depth. Key paintings are examined in detail to help you understand the artist’s intentions, style, and method. Thematic galleries are interspersed, showing how artists from different periods and places treat the same subject matter, such as landscape, nudes, or animals.

Review

Even a non-arty type like me can appreciate a book that's not just a visual delight, but a visual guide to Art through the centuries. One can't help but admire the beautiful, glossy photographs of evergreen art which fill the pages of this massive tome. Art students and artists will surely find this book to be much much more.

From prehistoric times to current, from cave paintings to modern masterpieces, this book has detailed timelines and the styles and artists who dominated a particular era. One can learn how to 'read' composition, subject matter, technique and style as key paintings are examined in intricate detail to help one understand the artist's intentions, style and method. Picture-packed pages explore common themes such as landscapes, nudes and animals. And the comprehensive glossary and index makes searching a breeze and give an in-depth look at the delights contained within.

Buy the Book - here.
Visit the Publisher - here.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Book Review - The Fire by Katerine Neville

The Fire
Author: Katherine Neville
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 14, 2008)

Synopsis

2003, Colorado: Alexandra Solarin is summoned home to her family’s ancestral Rocky Mountain hideaway for her mother’s birthday. Thirty years ago, her parents, Cat Velis and Alexander Solarin, believed that they had scattered the pieces of the Montglane Service around the world, burying with them the secrets of the power that comes with possessing it. But Alexandra arrives to find that her mother is missing and that a series of strategically placed clues, followed swiftly by the unexpected arrival of a mysterious assortment of houseguests, indicates that something sinister is afoot.

When she inadvertently discovers from her aunt, the chess grandmaster Lily Rad, that the most powerful piece of Charlemagne’s service has suddenly resurfaced and the Game has begun again, Alexandra is swept into a journey that takes her from Colorado to the Russian wilderness and at last into the heart of her own hometown: Washington D.C

Review

This is the sequel to what was an apparently super-hit novel, The Eight, released a decade or so ago. I haven't read the first one (indeed, I had never heard of it before receiving this book for review) and my feeling is that this second book would have made much more sense to me if I had read the first one.

Let me discuss the pros first. This book is a boiling cauldron filled to overflowing with the essences of history, mystery, chess and intrigue. The research that the author has gone into creating this book is awesome. The quotes, the history, the way it's all incorporated into the story is just stunning. The pace is rapid and the plotting intricate.

There are a lot of good elements in this story. The trouble, at least from my point of view, is that there are too many facets to this story for a reader to keep track of. Too many mysteries wrapped in conundrums wrapped in puzzles. The entire novel is a mix of too many cultures, too many time periods, too many characters, too many things happening on too many fronts simultaneously. I was frankly left bewildered time and again as many things didn't make sense to me at all.

The one basic question that plagued me was - there's a missing chess set and somehow live human beings are being called The White Queen, Black King etc? I mean, how did that come about? Who designates these so called queens and kings? Why is it happening in the first place? People don't age, everybody seems to talk in riddles, there's nothing straightforward about anything. And with the amount of peril surrounding them, you would expect at least the protagonist to be a bit more cautious. But no - that never happens!

It's the first time in my life I've ever been left so bewildered by a book. I would highly recommend readers read the first book in this series before even thinking of reading this one. Hopefully they'll be able to make more sense of this novel that I can.

Buy the Book - here.
Visit the Author's site - here.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Weekly Books Round-up (11 Oct)

1440404593 Shattered Reality
Author: Kimberly Cheryl

Description- This is my story, a mother's story, about the abuse of my daughter and my struggles to over come. I thought I could trust my family members. I thought I knew and could trust the legal system. I was wrong. As a parent, I couldn't find help for ME...what to expect on this journey with my daughter and her recovery. I didn't know how much pain I would suffer as well. This is my story and my struggle toward recovery. Some how, some way, I hope it gives you hope for your journey as well.

042522354X Bond of Darkness: A Novel of Texas Vampires
Author: Diane Whiteside

Description- For 150 years, Ethan Templeton has happily followed Don Rafael Perez, vampire patron of Texas. But now Ethan has fallen in love with Stephanie Darling—known as Steve—a Texas Ranger and mere mortal. Unfortunately, a future with Steve is impossible. Because if Ethan turns her into a vampire, the price is execution by Don Rafael—the only one allowed to create vampires in Texas.

But working together to stop a serial killer makes Ethan reconsider the price of forever, especially with Steve’s life suddenly in danger. He can’t help but think it’s worth the gamble—especially if it means he’ll save the life of the woman he loves. But will Steve agree—or will she refuse her one chance at eternal life, lust, and love?

Bond of Fire (volume 2 of the Texas Vampires Trilogy) was to be reissued in Berkley Mass Market in October 2008.  Instead, it will come out in December 2008.

0060548924 A Lion Among Men
Author: Gregory Maguire

Description- While civil war looms in Oz, a tetchy oracle named Yackle prepares for death. Before her final hour, a figure known as Brrr—the Cowardly Lion—arrives searching for information about Elphaba Thropp, the Wicked Witch of the West. Abandoned as a cub, his path from infancy is no Yellow Brick Road. In the wake of laws that oppress talking Animals, he avoids a jail sentence by agreeing to serve as a lackey to the warmongering Emperor of Oz.

A Lion Among Men chronicles a battle of wits hastened by the Emerald City's approaching armies. Can those tarnished by infamy escape their sobriquets to claim their own histories, to live honorably within their own skins before they're skinned alive?

The Union Trilogy
Author: Raymond Benson

Description- This October 2008, in the year of James Bond creator Ian Fleming's 100th birthday, Raymond Benson, the third author commissioned to pen the Bond novels between 1996 and 2002, will see the publication of an anthology of three of his out-of-print James Bond tales under the collective title, The Union Trilogy (Pegasus Books, ISBN 978-1-60598-007-2).

Following hot on the heels of Devil May Care, the latest official best-selling 007 novel written by Sebastian Faulks, and anticipating the November release of the 22nd James Bond motion picture, Quantum of Solace, the omnibus will be launched at the U.S. opening of the "Bond Bound" art exhibit of 007 book jacket covers at Bonhams Gallery in New York on October 18.

0979277205 Cooperative Village
Author: Frances Madeson

Description- Having flamed out in her job in the executive offices of Nurses in Neighborhoods NY (NINNY), the fictional Frances is keeping a low and lonely profile while considering how best to rise from her metaphorical ashes. Her hiatus abruptly ends, however, when she discovers Lana Plotsky, her elderly neighbor and fellow Cooperator, dead on the laundry room floor. As Frances can t just leave Mrs. Plotsky there, she improvises a solution, which in short (and outrageous) order subjects her to the purview of the USA Patriot Act!

Is her next stop Guantanamo Bay? Will she have to ship out before, or after, the shiva for Mrs. Plotsky? This delightfully over-the-top tale of life, love, and liberty in lower Manhattan spoofs an equal-opportunity cast of unforgettable characters who somehow miraculously manage to make their way, and mostly get along together, in the 21st-century American urban village they proudly call home: Cooperative Village.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Children's Book Review - Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant

Readers, please welcome Tanya who'll be contributing children's book reviews for my Friday feature! Below is her review of Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant.

Poppleton
Author: Cynthia Rylant, Mark Teague
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 56 pages
Publisher: Blue Sky Press



Review

I always knew that Cynthia Rylant was a prolific writer, but I never realized how many books by her I had read until I began writing reviews. And, again, I get to review a book with pictures by another one of my favorite illustrators. Mark Teague, who may be best known for illustrating the "How Do Dinosaurs" books by Jane Yolen, is a wonderful picture book author/illustrator in his own right. However, my all-time favorites are the books he did with Audrey Wood, The Flying Dragon Room and Sweet Dream Pie. The stories and illustrations are brilliantly imaginative and perfectly creatively matched. Don't forget, picture books are still appealing to and great reads for 2nd and even 3rd grade readers. Just because they are shorter than a 70 page chapter book doesn't mean they aren't worth reading. 

Poppleton is one of my all-time favorite characters, a pig I think I could be friends with. I would say his nearest literary relatives would have to be the inscrutable Frog and Toad, created by Arnold Lobel. While Frog and Toad play off each other, Poppleton can hold his own, despite his wonderful assortment of friends, Cherry Sue the llama, Filmore the goat and Hudson the mouse.

There are seven books in the series, each one having three chapters, although some of them are no longer in print. Each book begins with a map of the small town Poppleton lives in, and in every book the map and the characters on the map are different depending on the season. Most of the stories are about Poppleton and his relationships with his friends, although there are several about Poppleton and his habits and interests he pursues when he is alone. One of my favorite stories is "The Library," in which we follow Poppleton on his his weekly library visit which is always on Monday. We see him as he finds the right table, selects his books then unpacks his bag in preparation for a day of reading. He always brings his eyeglasses, his tissues, for sad stories, his lip balm, for dry parts, his pocket watch, and his book marker.

For economic reasons, buying beginning reader books isn't a good investment. Kids read them quickly and only a handful of times. However, kids are reading at this level for a period ranging from six months to a year, so you want to make sure they are interested in what they are reading and don't get burned out. Even though the word content is readability is of utmost importance during this stage, you don't always have to sacrifice a quality story and illustrations to meet those needs. The Poppleton books, along with all of Arnold Lobel's books, are great examples of interesting, thoughtful, entertaining stories in a beginning to read format. And that is the true sign of a gifted author - like a poet, they manage to convey a well crafted story with a minimum of words.

Buy the Book - here.
Visit the Author's site - here.
Visit the Publisher - here.

Thanks, Tanya, for that wonderfully detailed review! Check out more of her reviews at www.books4yourkids.com
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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Author Guest Post - Jim Murdoch

Jim Murdoch is the author of four novels, the first of which, Living with the Truth, was published in May 2008 and has received excellent reviews, some of which can be read on his website. The sequel, Stranger than Fiction, is due out at the beginning of 2009. He also authors the popular literary blog, The Truth About Lies.

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What it means to be a writer
I began writing poetry in my early teens when quite a bit of it found its way into print. I continued pottering away until I reached about thirty whereupon everything dried up and I thought that was me. With several hundred poems to my credit I resigned myself to being ordinary for the rest of my life. This is not to suggest that it's a bad thing to be ordinary, far from it, it's simply that my life up until that point had not been ordinary and I wasn't sure how to go about it. I tried – no one can accuse me of not trying – but I found I wasn't happy being ordinary; it didn't satisfy me the way being not ordinary had.

You'll note here that I have carefully avoided the use of the word extraordinary because I didn't feel extra-anything. I was just different. Perhaps to underline this I should state that I was brought up in central Scotland, in Burns country to be precise, and although my antecedent's achievements were rightly lauded, if only on his birthday and as an excuse to consume too much whisky,  young boys at my school were not exactly falling over themselves to come out as poets. And so I didn't. Like many before me I kept my writing to myself. After school this didn't change. The kinds of people I found myself working beside were the kinds of people I studied beside.

Of course, all of this happened in the days before the Internet, indeed, before the days of home computing. I honestly don't think young poets finding their feet these days appreciate what a godsend it is to be able to make contact with other poets with such ease.

Anyway, I wrote until it all dried up and then I tried to get by not doing. Which brings me to the question: what is a writer? It's a simple enough question but I've had opportunity to bring this up with two young writers recently. Both have been suffering from bouts of writer's block and feel ashamed frankly to refer to themselves as writers because they're not writing at the moment. One even went as far as to suggest he start calling himself a wroter.

A writer is a person whose natural response to life is to write about it, the better to understand it; they think in literary terms. I wrote in a novel once: "Writers don’t have real lives, they have ongoing research," and that's something I believe. Any professional writer will tell you that being "an author" involved far more than simply sitting down and writing. And sitting around thinking about writing is a necessary part of the process.

I've often compared writing to weight training. You eat (take in information), rest (absorb the information), exercise (write) then rest (think about what you've written) and repeat until the task is done. When you're not engaged in one aspect of writing you're probably – even unconsciously – engaged in another.

So, I got to thirty and stopped putting pen to paper, but I never stopped taking in information. Four years later, fit to burst, it all poured out into not one but two novels. I sat down one day to see if I could write and the next thing I knew I'd filled several pages and showed no sign of stopping. But why, after years and years of nothing but poetry (followed by nothing but nothing), did I start to write prose? I have an answer for that too: the subject dictates the format. I can say that now looking back because after the novels I wrote a collection of short stories, two plays, two more novels and a lot more poetry and they all have their own voices.

And, since that time I've also had fairly lengthy periods where nothing was happening but I'm not afraid of them any more. Ah, if we all had 20:20 hindsight, eh? I can also say, now I'm almost fifty, that for the first time in my life I'm comfortable calling myself a writer. That's been a long time coming.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Book Review - Lydia Bennet's Story

Lydia Bennet's Story : A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Odiwe
Paperback: 356 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks

Description

Lydia Bennet is the flirtatious, wild and free-wheeling youngest daughter. Her untamed expressiveness and vulnerability make her fascinating to readers who'll love this imaginative rendering of Lydia's life after her marriage to the villainous George Wickham. Will she mature or turn bitter? Can a girl like her really find true love?

In Lydia Bennet's Story we are taken back to Jane Austen's most beloved novel, Pride and Prejudice, to a Regency world seen through Lydia's eyes where pleasure and marriage are the only pursuits. But the road to matrimony is fraught with difficulties and even when she is convinced that she has met the man of her dreams, complications arise. When Lydia is reunited with the Bennets, Bingleys, and Darcys for a grand ball at Netherfield Park, the shocking truth about her husband may just cause the greatest scandal of all .

Review

Being an ardent fan of Pride and Prejudice, I've always read P&P sequels with much interest. This book is intriguing in that it finally gives Lydia Bennet, a character much maligned in the original story, a chance to have her own story told. For those who haven't read this book, Lydia is the youngest of five sisters and a most determined flirt. She elopes with and is finally married off to George Wickham who later turns out to be the villain of the story.

The first half of this book is given over to Lydia's growing obsession with Wickham and the elopement. This part is well-known but is more fleshed out and detailed. The second half details Lydia's growing disenchantment with her new husband and feckless marriage, especially when she visits her more happily-married sisters and begins to see glaring differences between their loving marriages and her own deteriorating one.

The book combines third-person narrative with excerpts taken from Lydia's diary. This diary bit was a complete surprise to me as I'd never thought Lydia to be of the diary-writing type. Also, at first I was confused by the glaring differences between events described in the narration and what Lydia writes down in her diary about the same events. I finally figured that's the author's way of showing how things are skewed and biased from Lydia's thoughtless perspective when compared to the actuality of the events.

The first half of the book did nothing to endear this character to me. But in the second half, Lydia grows up (just a bit, not a lot) and finally begins to show some maturity. This is the part where I actually began to like her. She doesn't get completely reformed - that I would have never believed. However it's interesting to see how Lydia is caught in her own trap. Having established she's the most reckless woman and the "most determined flirt" ever, she doesn't know quite how to break out of the tarnished mold which has now become her entire identity.

Cons

The way the book ends makes for interesting reading, but wasn't actually all that believable. The reason for that is - given Lydia's reputation and personal inclinations which have not been fully tamed by her disastrous life, it's really difficult to swallow that she could end up like she does. I know I sound really ambiguous. But I can't say more without giving away the ending.

I've already mentioned that I feel that Lydia was not a character who had the personality or the patience to scribble in a diary, pouring out her intimate thoughts in an inanimate object. This is largely because Lydia is a creature of impulse - doing things but not actually thinking about them. To write in a diary implies otherwise. That's the reason I don't find it particularly believable.

There were also some instances where I felt the language and phrases and even some instances to be too modern and overtly sexual to belong in a regency-era story, particularly something that's an extension of Jane Austen's whose books were the soul of gentility. As always, this had a jarring effect and broke the flow of the story for me.

In Short

The author nicely makes use of existing material on Lydia Bennet to incorporate, and later expand on, in her own style to craft a story that's overall fun and makes for light, entertaining reading. It has its flaws like every book, but manages to rise above it and suck the readers into the story. And that's the truly important part.

Buy the Book - here.
Visit the Author's site - here.
Visit the Publisher - here.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Missing by Shiloh Walker

Excerpt

The weird sense of deja vu exploded into something else entirely. Something that shook her to the core. His eyes narrowed and he reached up, caught her chin in his, staring at her.

She was pale and Cullen thought she looked every bit as shaken as he felt. “The dreams,” he muttered. He caught her face in his hands and forced her to look at him, staring into her pale gray eyes. The ugly, dark bruise around her left eye made her iris seem that much paler and as he watched, the pupil flared, enlarging until just a sliver of gray of visible.

Taige tried to jerk away and he wouldn’t let her. “You had the dreams, too, didn’t you?” he demanded.
Her voice shook as she reached up with one hand to jerk on his wrist, trying to break his hold. “Let go of me.”

Slowly, he shook his head. “You have,” he whispered, dismay spreading through him.

Dismay–and something else. She’d always held herself apart from him in those dreams. But through those dreams, he’d gotten to know her, gotten to know the woman she had become. She was pulling away from him not because she was angry at him, or because she didn’t want anything to do with him.

She pulled back because she still loved him.

releasing 11/4/08…

Want to read more?  Click here

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Book Giveaway - Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

Matrimony
Author: Joshua Henkin
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Vintage

Synopsis

It's the fall of 1986, and Julian Wainwright, an aspiring writer, arrives at Graymont College in New England. Here he meets Carter Heinz, with whom he develops a strong but ambivalent friendship, and beautiful Mia Mendelsohn, with whom he falls in love. Spurred on by a family tragedy, Julian and Mia's love affair will carry them to graduation and beyond, taking them through several college towns, over the next fifteen years. Starting at the height of the Reagan era and ending in the new millennium, Matrimony is a stunning novel of love and friendship, money and ambition, desire and tensions of faith. It is a richly detailed portrait of what it means to share a life with someone-to do it when you're young, and to try to do it afresh on the brink of middle age.

About the Author

Joshua Henkin is the author of the novel Swimming Across the Hudson, which was selected by the Los Angeles Times as a notable book of the year; his short stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in many journals and newspapers. He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, Brooklyn College, and the 92nd Street Y in New York City. He lives in Brooklyn; visit him online at www.joshuahenkin.com.

Photobucket

GIVEAWAY

The Prize

The Author has kindly offered to send an AUTOGRAPHED copy of this New York Times Notable book to one lucky reader of this blog!

To Enter

Just leave a comment at this post (WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS) telling me why you'd like to read this book. Simple!

Deadline   Midnight CST of October 27th.

Eligibility  US only.

Good luck!
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Innovative Monday - Edition Fourteen

Another Monday and time for another unusual book storage solution. This week's feature is the Joya Shelf.
Israel-based 16:54 Design Group's Joya Shelf securely suspends books or dvd's in an upright position, creating a clean-line, visual floating effect. When clustered, the collective top surface of the books or dvd's become another usable surface.

Again, not for the serious book collector, I'm thinking. But it's an interesting concept. I wonder though, will it be able to hold fat hardcovers such as the last Harry Potter?

What do you think?
[via]
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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Review - The Darker Side by Cody Mcfadyen

The Darker Side
Author: Cody Mcfadyen
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Bantam (September 30, 2008)
Synopsis
A lie, a long-ago affair, a dark desire—everyone has secrets they take to the grave. No one knew that better than FBI special agent Smoky Barrett. But what secret was a very private young woman keeping that led to her very public murder? And what kind of killer was so driven and so brazenly daring that he’d take her life on a commercial airliner thirty thousand feet in midair, a killer so accomplished that he’d leave only a small souvenir behind?

These are the questions that bring Smoky and her hand-picked team of experienced manhunters from L.A. to the autumn chill of Washington, D.C., by order of the FBI director himself—and at the special request of a high-powered grieving D.C. mother.

As a mother, Smoky knows the pain of losing a child—it nearly killed her once before. As a cop with her own twisted past, she takes every murder personally, which is both her greatest strength and her only weakness. Brilliant, merciless, righteous, the killer Smoky is hunting this time is on his own personal mission, whose cost in innocent human lives he’s only begun to collect. For in his eyes no one is innocent; everyone harbors a secret sin, including Smoky Barrett.

Soon Smoky will have to face what she’s so carefully hidden even from her own team—and confront a flawless killer who knows her flaws with murderous intimacy.

Review

I'll begin by saying this is the first Cody Mcfadyen book I've read. Those who've read him before can well  imagine what emotional upheaval I underwent I read this shocking story. I've been reading mystery, thriller and suspense stories for quite a few years now and used to considere myself pretty much jaded with the whole scary aspect of it. Having read this book, I find that I can't say that anymore. This is by far one of the most scary books I've read in a long, long time. That said, this book is not for the faint of hearts.

This is not just the story of some sicko serial killer. Pardon the awful pun, but that's been done to death in countless books. It's more the in-depth psychological aspect of it in tandem with a slick plot development and deeply flawed characters, that's the most terrifying aspect of this novel.

Central character and FBI agent, Smoky Barrett is scarred on the outside as well as inside. Her leadership skills are evident as is the way she's coping with her fractured life. Reading about her violent past and her present-day internal struggles made me feel like I was physically there, intruding upon something very private, very personal. In fact it got to a stage that, having read the dreadful things that had happened to this woman (and there's a lot there), I began to dread what awful thing would happen to her next in the pages of this novel. And it left me feeling just about wrung out emotionally.

The part of the book that I felt was the scariest and yet the most true was the central question raised by the villain - what secret are you hiding? Each of us has secrets - those we're willing to share and those that we take to the grave. It's that second part that's the most scary. The things that people are capable of carrying within themselves. And yet, we all have it. Asking this question of ourselves, and then seeing how the characters on the page react to it, gives it a surreal feeling.

Cons

But there are some things that just didn't gel with me. Seeing as how this is the first Smoky Barret story read (this is the third book in a series, btw), I wasn't exactly enamored of the "clicks", the jumps of intuition that seem to have become a personality trait of this character and that are somehow always accurate. I've always felt that to be a very "gimmicky" sort of thing to do and I generally don't like it, particularly when there's a mystery to be solved.

The novel wasn't as much a mystery as a case of "catch me if/when you can". The villain's always one step ahead and leaves clues to help Smoky and her team. As much as I see it, they only follow where the villain leads. That didn't leave a lot of detecting to do. Don't get me wrong - what they did was competent enough. Just not enough to satisfy my gumshoe urges.

In Short

Mcfadyen's writing is super-slick, and his characterizations are just too good. I just wish the detecting part of it had been equally good. Still, this is a novel that shook me up and that's saying something. In fact, I'm still conflicted about reading past and future books in this series.

Acknowledgement

This book was received for review as part of a virtual blog tour sponsored by Pump Up Your Book's Promotion.

Buy the Book - here.
Visit the Author's site - here.
Read an Excerpt - here.
Visit the Publisher - here.

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