Mar 1, 2015

Sunday Salon: Watching the Winter Birds as I Read

Welcome to the Sunday Salon where bloggers share their reading each week. Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also visit It's Monday: What Are You Reading hosted by Book Journey, and Mailbox Monday.

Snowing again today, hopefully the last major snow of the year. Wishfult thinking, I know. The cardinals and finches are still coming to the feeder in front, with an occasional black-eyed junco, white-breasted nuthatch, and tufted titmouse. I have to clear out the snow in the open feeder, which is a mesh container, so the snow goes through if you sift it a little. 

I also got my morning fresh air and exercise by shoveling snow from the front path and the sidewalk. Now for some more coffee!

Three new books arrived that I have not announced as yet. Here they are:

Pleasantville book description: 
In this sophisticated thriller, lawyer Jay Porter, hero of Locke’s bestseller Black Water Rising, returns to fight one last case, only to become embroiled once again in a dangerous game of shadowy politics and a witness to how far those in power are willing to go to win.
Fifteen years after the events of Black Water Rising, Jay Porter is struggling to cope with catastrophic changes in his personal life and the disintegration of his environmental law practice. His victory against Cole Oil is still the crown jewel of his career, even if he hasn’t yet seen a dime thanks to appeals. But time has taken its toll. Tired and restless, he's ready to quit.
When a girl goes missing on Election Night, 1996, in the neighborhood of Pleasantville—a hamlet for upwardly-mobile blacks on the north side of Houston—Jay, a single father, is deeply disturbed. He’s been representing Pleasantville in the wake of a chemical fire, and the case is dragging on, raising doubts about his ability.
The missing girl was a volunteer for one of the local mayoral candidates, and her disappearance complicates an already heated campaign. When the nephew of one of the candidates, a Pleasantville local, is arrested, Jay reluctantly finds himself serving as a defense attorney. With a man’s life and his own reputation on the line, Jay is about to try his first murder in a case that will also put an electoral process on trial, exposing the dark side of power and those determined to keep it. (goodreads)

If I Fall, If I Die book description:
A heartfelt debut, by an exciting new voice in fiction.

Will has never been to the outside, at least not since he can remember. And he has certainly never gotten to know anyone other than his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who drowns in panic at the thought of opening the front door. Their little world comprises only the rooms in their home, each named for various exotic locales and filled with Will's art projects. Soon the confines of his world close in on Will. Despite his mother's protestations, Will ventures outside clad in a protective helmet and braces himself for danger. 

He eventually meets and befriends Jonah, a quiet boy who introduces Will to skateboarding. Will welcomes his new world with enthusiasm, his fears fading and his body hardening with each new bump, scrape, and fall. But life quickly gets complicated. When a local boy goes missing, Will and Jonah want to uncover what happened. They embark on an extraordinary adventure that pulls Will far from the confines of his closed-off world and into the throes of early adulthood and the dangers that everyday life offers.
 If I Fall, if I Die is full of dazzling prose, unforgettable characters, and a poignant and heartfelt depiction of coming of age. (goodreads)

World Gone By book description:
Set in Cuba and Ybor City, Florida, during World War II, in which Joe Coughlin must confront the cost of his criminal past and present.
Dennis Lehane vividly recreates the rise of the mob during a world at war, from a masterfully choreographed Ash Wednesday gun battle in the streets of Ybor City to a chilling, heartbreaking climax in a Cuban sugar cane field. 

World Gone By is a superb work of historical fiction from one of “the most interesting and accomplished American novelists” (Washington Post) writing today. (goodreads)

I have started at least two books which I decided not to finish, one a romance/women's fiction, and the other an historical, political thriller. However, a cozy on my Kindle caught my eye,
Death By a Honey Bee by Abigail Keem, the first in her mystery series.
so am enjoying that one while also reading a travel novel,
Phenomenal by Leigh Ann Henion. I'm enjoying both of these.

What are you reading this week?

Feb 27, 2015

Book Review: THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN by Lisa Jewell

Meme: Visit Book Beginnings at Rose City Reader for other books.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell, published August 12, 2014; Atria Books. Genre: contemporary novel, women's fiction.

Book beginning:

The damp heat came as a shock after the chill of the air conditioning that had cooled the care for the last two hours. Meg slammed the door behind her, pushed up the sleeves of her cotton top, pulled down her sunglasses and stared at the house. 

"Jesus Christ." 

Molly joined her on the pavement, and gawped from behind lime-green Ray-Bans. "Oh, my God."

Important themes: extreme hoarding syndrome, personality disorder, dysfunctional family relationships, and infidelity.

The plot: Lorelei made sure her husband Bill and her children Megan, Beth, and the twin bosy Rory and Rhys had an idyllic childhood, She upheld rituals, one being the Easter ritual of Easter eggs hunts, lamb dinner, wine for the adults. Thing were perfect but as the children grew older, Lorelei began to show the cracks in the seams of their perfect life.

She became more and more of a pack rat, a hoarder who insisted on all the Easter egg shiny wrappers kept year after year, for instance, who shopped regularly for dozens of unwanted goods that were never used, and who later even began to fill the house with newspapers and books. Nothing was ever thrown away, not even when they became soiled or were falling apart.

The lives of the children and her husband were also affected. And the house held a secret under all the trash that was only uncovered at the end of the book, after Lorelei's death. A secret that had affected Lorelei's life and impacted the rest of her family.

Recommendation: I was fascinated by this story of the gradual decay of a house and a woman who succumbed to her psychological hoarding disorder, who hid her secrets and only revealed them to an unknown email friend towards the end of her life. The characters learned acceptance of their own feelings and lives and were able to  live with each other's secrets and lives in the end.

I thought that the novel could have been a bit shorter as I was impatient for the story to wind down and the situations be resolved somewhat sooner. I admit I flipped through some of the final pages to get to the end. Overall, an interesting read that handles difficult subjects extremely well.

Objective rating: 4.5/5.

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book. 

Feb 25, 2015

Book Review: SHADY CROSS by James Hankins

Shady Cross by James Hankins, published February 24, 2015; Thomas and Mercer. Genre: suspense, thriller.

My comments: Small time crook Tom Stokes gets into big trouble when his motorcycle causes an accident on a deserted stretch of road. An oncoming car swerves to avoid Tom's motorcycle and goes off the road, smashing against a tree and killing its driver.

The driver is definitely dead, but Tom is surprised to find $350,000 in cash in the car. The money will solve his biggest problem - a loan shark sending toughs to recover their money from Tom. Tom's about to take off with the cash until he answers the dead man's cell phone and hears the tiny, scared voice of a child asking her father to hurry to ransom her from her threatening kidnappers.

Tom decides against his self-preservation instincts to find the child who is in danger and give over the ransom money, while dodging the police as well as the mafia types who are out for his blood.

Recommendation: An engrossing thriller that is also a character driven novel. Tom is someone you find yourself rooting for in spite of his shady past, his vacillations, and his many other faults. Tom is an unlikely and flawed hero who is saved by acts of heroism. A satisfying and suspenseful read that I recommend with a 5.0 rating.

Bestselling author James Hankins attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and received the Chris Columbus Screenwriting Award. He has written three popular thrillers, each of which spent time in the Kindle Top 100. Brothers and Bones received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and was named to their list of Best Books of 2013, while both Jack of Spades and Drawn were Amazon #1 bestsellers. He lives with his wife and sons just north of Boston.

Visit James Hankins: Website | Facebook | Twitter. Purchase links are Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble
For more reviews, click on James Hankins TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the author/publisher for an advanced reader's copy for review.

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